Men and Women
Political leaders in Washington have offered universal condolences and shown true human decency in the wake of Arizona's tragedy.
Obama: "Such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society."
Boehner: "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve."
Rep. Eric Cantor also announced, "All legislation currently scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives next week is being postponed so that we can take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today's tragedy."
I expect our statesmen will continue to conduct themselves appropriately throughout the course of this crisis. It is important to remember that Rep. Giffords was only one of a dozen people injured or killed during this tragedy - one victim was a federal judge appointed by George H.W. Bush, another was a small girl.
But the most rank partisan outlets, such as the Washington Post (blaming handgun laws) and CNN (blaming Sarah Palin), have already begun to indict conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, etc. And this is the administration of Rahm Emmanuel: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Extremists will no doubt attempt to capitalize on this killing - decent people should remember that such shameless indictments reflect the indecency of the accuser rather than the accused.
Folks of good will on both sides of the aisle have suppressed the urge to politicize the assassination attempt on Rep Giffords - this despite evidence in youtube videos that the gunman held radical views which could be exploited by either the left or right.
Leave it to the Washington Post to break the silence and launch the first political salvo. Here's the WaPo's most recent headline:
Breaking News: Gunman who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords purchased gun legally
I haven't words to describe the shallow, despicable, groveling character exhibited by the Post in attempting to capitalize on an attempted murder mere hours after the fact in order to push a liberal anti-gun message. Is this the most important detail of the crime? Is this more relevant than his anti-establishment rants and invocations of Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto? If the paper were looking to inform, there are far juicier bits of info out there than his owning a gun (a given, since he is called a "gunman"). But, of course, the intended message is that legal gun sales cause assassinations - not crazy, commie-NAZI-sympathizers.
As is customary, the Washington Post exceeds expectations for liberal extremism and ethical bankruptcy.
Powerline has posted their annual birthday tribute to Elvis, which recalls the King's meeting with President Nixon. It's refreshing to read of patriotism and good will in a popular entertainer - virtues in equally short supply among celebrities both in Elvis' times and our own. Compare Elvis' "activism" with that of, say, John Lennon - it's like comparing Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga.
God bless all the recent talk on the Constitution. I agree with the GOP decision to read the Constitution as it now applies to Congress (rather than also reading repealed sections), as this stresses the purpose of the reading (as practical to their day-job rather than merely historic or academic). Others disagree. So be it - to hear conservatives in intellectual debate, and liberals in squirming discomfort, puts me in good cheer.
I recently criticized the NY Times for its ridiculous attempt to slander the GOP's focus on the Constitution. Others have now trounced the Grey Lady for its equally absurd "annotated guide" to the Constitution. As always, the NY Times serves (only) as a window into the mind of the far left.
P.S. David Cole has a seriously un-funny and witless attempt at sarcasm in the Washington Post: "The Conservative Constitution of the United States." Again, a window into the mind of the left - which is apparently as incapable of grasping conservatism as humor.
The city health department has released statistics that nearly 40% of pregnancies in New York City are terminated in abortion. If James Taranto's "Roe effect" is true, NYC is a prime example of the self-inflicted genocide among liberal (particularly black) populations. NYC nearly doubles the national abortion rate of 23%.
I previously lamented the world-wide "gendercide" effect of abortion on women. The lack of concern to this trend by women's groups is beyond condemnation. And with over 50% of pregnancies among blacks ending in abortion, the present black population of the U.S. would be 1/3 higher without abortion. Slavery was less lethal to the black population than abortion.
And it bears mention that Obama and most of the Democratic party support "post-birth abortion," having opposed laws requiring physicians to provide medical care to infants born alive during an attempted abortion. These are not leaders likely to reduce abortions among the ranks of their supporters.
So the word is that Mitch Daniels is getting more serious about running for President. I think that is a good thing, but I'm not optimistic about his chances of actually getting the Republican nomination - this apart from the suspicion has earned among social conservatives. There is a reason why the House Republican Pledge was so weak on health care policy and did not offer a serious and specific plan to bring the budget deficit under control. The House Republicans were giving the people what they thought the people wanted. Hearing about the kinds of long-term economic changes we need will be complicated, shocking and boring to much of the electorate. Candidates who try talking in detail about a serious reform agenda will find it some combination of difficult and dangerous. If you were a hack political consultant advising a presidential campaign, which message on health care would you advise a prospective presidential candidate to articulate?
1. Talk about repealing Obamacare. Especially talk about restoring the cuts to Medicare. Then talk about how you are for tort reform and against socialized medicine.
2. Talk about repealing Obamacare but also talk about how you are for policies that will cause most of the viewers to lose their employer-provided health insurance and transition them to buying policies on the individual market, but that those policies will leave them with more take home pay and better health care security. Also explain about how you plan to cut projected spending on Medicare and convert Medicare into a voucher to buy private insurance, and that while this plan is tough, it will give the elderly better care and more choices than the death panels that will come from centrally rationed care.
The first path is far easier on many levels. It pushes familiar buttons. It is reassuring. The only people who seem to risk losing anything are trial lawyers (you know like John Edwards.) The second approach is more responsible on policy but much more difficult politically. Most people like their employer-provided health insurance (except for the premium increases.) From what they know, buying comparable health insurance on the individual market is much more expensive. Cutting Medicare and then giving old people some money to buy health insurance just sounds crazy. There are explanations of how our system of comprehensive health care prepayment (which we call "insurance") makes health care more expensive. There are explanations for how kinds of health insurance with lower premiums where you pay for routine costs will leave you with more money and at least equal health care security. There are explanations for how a defined contribution version of Medicare will give the elderly better care and better (though never perfect) options than the death panels that are the outcome of government-run medicine. You have two minutes to make the explanations and please stop talking when you see the light turn red. The majority of the audience comes in having no idea what you are talking about. They know Republican are for tort reform and interstate purchase and restoring the cuts to Medicare. Now you say you want to uproot what they have always heard was the greatest health care system in the world.
McCain actually had a pretty good health care plan in 2008 but he only mentioned in passing and only barely tried to defend it from attacks. Explaining or defending his health care plan would have taken too much time away from taking cheap shots at Romney's decision to go into private business, complaining about earmarks, and pretending that he hadn't been for amnesty before he was against it. Anyway, it was complicated, couldn't be condensed to a slogan like "drill baby drill" and maybe McCain just didn't give a damn.
Daniels seems a lot more serious about domestic economic policy and he has more going for him than just seriousness. A lot of the ideas behind market-driven health care reform seem counterintuitive given the experiences of most Americans. Daniels has already instituted at least one health care policy that saved the government money while increasing the take home pay and maintaining the health care security of recipients. Being able to point to real world outcomes is at least as good as the best explanation.
But even with a record of success, increasing public understanding of the health care and entitlement reforms we need will include an enormous upfront investment in expanding public understanding. It would be enormously helpful if a high profile presidential candidate didn't take the easy way out and instead worked at expanding public understanding of reformist health care and entitlement policies. Such an approach would have costs in the short-term and those costs might mean reducing one's chances of being nominated in 2012. But not taking the easy way out will make it easier for public figures in the future to talk about and advance similar policies. The more people who connect HSAs with more money in their pockets the better. The more people who connect a conservative version of Medicare with better care and more choices and no death panels the better. It would be great if every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination emphasized responsible plans for dealing with the scope of our economic problems. To have even one candidate do such a thing would be an improvement over 2008.
Run Mitch Run.
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Those two extraordinary constitutional scholars Matt Franck and Matt Spalding rightly take the Republicans to task for reading a redacted Constitution. Adherence to constitutionalism is no easy task! See Peter Schramm's articulation below for what is at stake.
We will never transcend the crisis of slavery, nor the constitutional crisis that faces us, until those in leadership can explain the Constitution. Next lesson: The Declaration.
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Pretty good New York Times article on Mitch Daniels. I fear that Daniels is sounding so honest and sensible because he is not running for President or that he is just too honest and sensible to be elected President.
Justice Scalia has accepted an invitation by Tea Party heroine Michele Bachmann to speak before incoming House members about the Constitution and separation of powers. The idea of a Supreme Court Justice speaking to a bipartisan assemblage of new members of Congress seems not only inoffensive, but highly commendable. As a matter of education, a Justice may provide insight both into the Constitution and the inter-relation of the diverse branches of government. And as to fraternity, a Justice welcomed to Congress presents a desirable example of the cordiality and respect due among peers.
Yet the left is in an uproar. A law professor at GW called it "exceedingly poor judgment" on Scalia's part. One must wonder, if the Supreme Court is the only interpreter of the Constitution (as the left contends), why is it offensive for Justices to explain the methods of their arbitration to legislators? Should Congress not only eschew constitutional interpretation, but also constitutional familiarity? Is ignorance a new congressional virtue?
Of course, the left is simply miserable with all the recent talk of the Constitution - and they have responded accordingly to Scalia's indication that he intends not merely to keep reading the over-100-years-old document, but to actually teach its meaning to others (in government, no less). Nothing is so dangerous to modern liberalism as education.
Republicans should have been better prepared. While it might have made sense to read the Constitution as currently amended (thus omitting the 3/5 clause, etc.), this would also be a good time to play offense on these clauses. Rush today distorted the issue by calling the anti-3/5 clausers "abolitionists"--the liberals of the time. But maybe I missed his irony.
Republicans (or the portion of them that believes in the fundamental documents) should read from as well the Declaration, the Federalist (the whole thing, perhaps on the anniversaries of their original publication), and the great speeches of Washington and Lincoln. The ridicule from the Democrats, the NY Times, and E.J. Dionne would be sufficient to make conservatives' point, but it gives conservatives on the Hill, in the think-tanks, and on blogsites such as this a chance to expand the public debate and understanding about our fundamental legal and political documents.
Conservatives have exposed and could disarm the liberal progressives, because of course the left originated in Woodrow Wilson's denunciation of the Declaration's natural rights and the Constitution based on them. This 18th century understanding should be brought up to date, Wilson contended, by 20th century evolutionary biology, thus leaving our rights in perpetual flux. And, as FDR declared, Wilson was the Democrats' "commander-in-chief." And so he remains.
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If the New York Times' editorial page is the voce of liberal America, its reaction to the incoming House GOP's focus on the Constitution is telling. The editors' cannot find words to express their contempt for the GOP's intent to open the new session by reading aloud the Constitution and requiring that every bill cite its constitutional authority. These proposals are called a "theatrical production of unusual pomposity," a "Beltway insider ritual of self-glorification," "empty gestures," "presumptuous and self-righteous," "simply eyewash" and "vacuous fundamentalism."
First, the editors mockingly ask if Republicans are "suggest[ing] that they care more deeply about the Constitution than anyone else and will follow it more closely?" Well, the Democrats haven't set the bar very high.
Second, the editors mock Republicans for "suggesting that they alone understand the true meaning of a text that the founders wisely left open to generations of reinterpretation." Ironically, this revisionist ode to the "living Constitution" expresses exquisitely that Republicans do indeed understand the text better than the NY Times and their leftist allies. The Founders established a formidable amendment process for future generations - not a license for casual reinterpretation. The editors invoke the three-fifths clause as proof of their assertions (and Republican racism, of course), even though, ironically again, the example proves exactly the opposite - the three-fifths clause was corrected by the 13th and 14th Amendments - not "reinterpretation."
Finally, the editors chide House Republicans for forgetting that "it is the judiciary that ultimately decides when a law is unconstitutional, not the transitory occupant of the speaker's chair." Of course, this is entirely untrue. It is the transitory strategy of the left to rely upon courts to impose a liberal agenda whenever America rejects such policy in Congress. Let the courts shift to the right and see how long the NY Times maintains this view of the courts. Congress has an absolute duty to ensure it acts within the scope of the powers vested therein by the Constitution.
Whether born of ignorance or hostility, the left's partisan view of the Constitution and its role in American politics is surely at odds with the Founders' view, the Republican view and, I expect, the view of the American people.
P.S. Powerline takes a similar view.
CNN is reporting that a study purporting to connect autism to vaccinations was an "elaborate fraud":
The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80 percent by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.
I wonder what Jim Carrey and the rest of the anti-vaccination fanatics think about this revelation?
Rumor has it that the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, is up for a job at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.
Jonah Goldberg suggests that since, constitutionally speaking, the House of Representatives and the Senate constitute "Congress," "we should call them all congressmen," giving the same title to the members of both houses.
I say we call them all "Ma'am."
Quote of the Day
From Alan Abelson's column in the latest Barron's:
The annual tab for homeowners' insurance is up some 108% since the turn of the century. During this period, yearly taxes on real estate have climbed 77%. A gallon of heating oil costs a whopping 150% more. The average electricity bill is 50% higher. And filling up your rig at the friendly neighborhood service station is more that twice as much per gallon. Monthly Medicare Part B premiums have climbed 143%. A humble potato goes for 67% more than it did 10 years ago, an equally humble egg 93% more, and the price of a loaf of plain old white bread is up a decidedly unappetizing 50%.
How long will it be before some countries try to put the latest in brain science to evil use? Consider this study:
The story of SM, a 44-year-old woman whose rare genetic condition has selectively destroyed the brain's twinned set of amygdala, shows the clear downside of a life without fear. . . .
This fearlessness may be fine in the safety of one's living room, but it turns out that SM makes her own horror films in real life. She walks through bad neighborhoods alone at night, approaches shady strangers without guile, and has been repeatedly threatened with death.
Much of the discussion of the abuse of biology has to do with destroying or modifying embryos' genetic code. As we learn more about the brain, surgery might become another option. Would a nation try to create an army full of men who literally are incapable of fear?
The coming year will mark the 150th anniversary of the onset of the conflict,
which is usually dated to April 12, 1861...." So far so good, but Ken Masugi explains, in effect, how Dionne and others can have their facts straight, but come to the wrong conclusion.
Many Muslim countries have "blasphemy laws" on the books which criminalize (usually with death) any speech or deed which offends the religious sensibilities of a Muslim. Western apologists usually rebut that very few people are actually put to death - but their defense usually fails to provide the all-important context: most people (non-Muslims) accused of blasphemy are quickly murdered by rioters or other Islamic jihadists.
Today, however, it seems one needn't speak blasphemy, but merely speak about blasphemy, in order to be summarily killed by jihadists. Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab and a leading politician in Pakistan's ruling party, was assassinated this morning after calling for moderation in blasphemy laws.
Naturally, these same laws are promulgated in the UN, where Islamic countries have successfully codified resolutions against the "defamation of religion," with the blessings of the world's leftist progressives. The latter have the dual enjoyment of favoring themselves noble for supporting religious tolerance while secretly knowing that they will be exempt from the oppression and abuse awaiting their Western religious opponents. International blasphemy laws ultimately suppress minority rights of worship and thought in Muslim countries - and those who escape murder will be, legally, imprisoned for the crime of being non-Muslim. (During one of the many Islamic terror attacks - Iraq, Nigeria, Egypt - over Christmas, witnesses walked on the dead while singing jihadi chants. These are the people entrusted to decide what Christian conduct offends Islam?)
American liberals reacted to today's news by equating blasphemy laws with the Smithsonian's decision to remove offensive artwork after Christians objected. This is what passes for insight and wit on the left. Perhaps a better comparison would have been the Democrat's adored "hate crimes," which criminalizes thoughts (say, religious) which others (say, progressive atheists) find offensive. There is a reason gay-rights advocates in politics so dearly love the idea of criminalizing thought - vengeance.
Oppression and vengeance are the only goals of laws which punish religious expression.
Big Journalism lists "The 10 Most Underreported Stories for 2010," a collection of damning stories which should have caused heads to roll - except that they uniformly looked bad for liberal Democrats and were thus suppressed by the MSM.
You won't see the stories below in the pages of the NYT or on the screens of NBC. You won't hear them discussed at the water cooler. They're the stories that show without any doubt the cards held by those who wish to enslave the masses to the god of government. A theocracy, to be sure, but one that holds up the state above all else.
Powerline suggests an 11th story: "the exposure of the 'Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressmen' story as a vicious con job." Powerline chronicled the cover-up in an 18-part series entitled, "Don't leave it to Cleaver".
I would add several matters of Obama's foreign policy to the list: the Cairo-speech and subsequent apology tour of the Mid-East, the decline of Obama's popularity abroad following his betrayals of Poland, Czech, Israel, etc., the alignment of the U.S. with regional dictators in an attempted coup of Honduras and the abdication of U.S. support for democratic reform in places such as Iran and Lebanon.
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Literature, Poetry, and Books
Some schmuck is putting out a new edition of Huckleberry Finn that replaces the word "nigger" with "slave."
"This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind," said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he's spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. "Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."
So there is a little post-Christmas gift with the new issue of National Affairs. Lots of good stuff, and Henry Olsen continues his project of trying to think through the problem of forming a majority around a conservative policy agenda. I basically agree with most of it, but I would add that in the medium term, Republicans cannot rely on winning just by maximizing their votes among the white working-class. Republicans won 60 percent of the House vote among whites but that is historically abnormal and at least some of the margin among whites is attributable to the combination of the lousy labor market, sluggish growth, and the undivided Democratic control of the elected branches. Republicans need to find ways to win over larger shares of nonwhite voters and do so under conditions less favorable than those we had in 2010. The thing is that many of Olsen's policy suggestions for winning over persuadable working-class whites also make sense for winning over working-class and middle-class nonwhites. Some takeaways:
1. Opinion polls understate the number of ideological liberals. A significant fraction of the public thinks that moderation is that portion of the ideological terrain between Joe Lieberman and Howard Zinn.
2. If they want to really influence policy, conservatives will have to present themselves as the best stewards of the safety net. That means they will have to articulate a vision of the safety net that is sustainable without imposing a crushing tax burden and that the safety net (along with the tax code) will be pro-work and pro-family. Support for some kind of safety net shouldn't seem grudging. The key persuadable voters aren't going to trust you with reforming the safety net if you seem to think it is unconstitutional and you are just going along with its existence until you can abolish Unemployment Insurance, Social Security etc. They also won't trust you if they think that your support for the safety net is some kind of election year hustle. Check out Sharron Angle first talking about "privatizing" Social Security, then talking some confusing nonsense about lockboxes. She came across as both radical and dishonest. The shame is that there was some reasonable policy in there somewhere, but Angle first sounds like she just wants to get rid of Social Security, then there is all the bluster about saving Social Security. The general public might trust conservatives to reform the welfare state, but only if the public trusts that conservatives' real goal isn't to eventually leave people on their own. That means conservatives need to be very careful in their public rhetoric and in having well thought out policy proposals. Check out Marco Rubio for one possible approach. Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan are also pretty good (though Ryan's and Rubio's Social Security proposals differ in important ways - there doesn't have to be one right answer.)
I intended to comment on today's NY Times' article, "Europe's Young Grow Agitated Over Future Prospects," but the Powerline boys got to it first in "Europe's Doomed Generation."
In short, despite bundles of university diplomas (paid for by the state) and continuously lessening competition (due to plummeting birth rates), Europe's youth (particularly in the south) cannot find work. Unemployment in Italy is 23%, Spain has reached 40% and "underemployment" - taking part-time or non/low-paying jobs - is ubiquitous among the young.
A basic cause of the economic crisis, as the Times eventually notes, is
labor union leaders ... and the left-wing parties with which they have been historically close.... They are seen as exacerbating a two-tier labor market by protecting a caste of tenured older workers rather than helping younger workers enter the market. ... Yet in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, any change in national contracts involves complex negotiations among governments, labor unions and businesses -- a delicate dance in which each faction fights furiously for its interests. Because older workers tend to be voters, labor reform remains a third rail to most politicians.
Powerline sums up:
That is what happens when government inserts itself into every employment decision and when labor unions are given quasi-official powers and status. The result is economic disaster, a disaster first suffered by the young. What has happened in Europe, especially Southern Europe, is a flashing red alert, warning the United States not to follow the same path of government interventionism and union empowerment. Yet that is exactly the direction in which the Obama administration is trying to take us. It is deeply ironic that Obama came to office in part because of support from young voters who are too ill-informed to see the effects that his policies, if implemented, would have on them
Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI lamented "the great challenges facing humankind in our time," particularly noting threats to "religious freedom." Benedict also acknowledged the "two opposite trends, both negative extremes," which bring about religious persecution:
on one side secularism, which often in hidden ways marginalizes religion to confine it to the private sphere; on the other side fundamentalism, which in turn would like to impose itself on all by force.
While the Pope didn't specifically mention persecution against Christians, this reality is particularly egregious in atheist (secular) and Islamic (fundamentalist) nations during the Christmas season. The treatment of minorities continues to be a tell-tale sign of the difference between moderate, Western democracies in the Christian parts of the world and those nations on the extremes mentioned above. The veracity of the Pope's linking of secularism and fundamentalism is well-reflected in the striking similarity and compatibility of communism and militant Islam.
The Pope is performing a global mission similar to that of southern evangelicals in America who raised an alarm about the plight of Christians in Sudan about 10 years ago. Christian persecution goes unmentioned in the American media and among many liberal organizations ostensibly devoted to all human rights violations - political correctness apparently demands that they turn the Christian's other cheek, even when the Christian would prefer otherwise.
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Several big-gun conservative organizations, including Family Research Council, have vowed to boycott this year's Conservative Political Action Conference due to the admission as a "participating organization" of GOProud, a conservative gay group.
Contrary to the left's summation of this infighting as an expression of conservative bigotry, there's an interesting struggle to define and identify the meaning of "conservative." GOProud's website opens with a joint statement with Club for Growth, and their mission states:
GOProud represents gay conservatives and their allies. GOProud is committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy. GOProud promotes our traditional conservative agenda by influencing politics and policy at the federal level.
Not a lot of focus on gay-themed issues. And GOProud Chairman Chris Barron did conservatism well in a recent appearance on MSNBC with the despicable Cenk Uyger.
FRC and the other protestors rebut that conservatism requires all three of Reagan's legs: economic, foreign (national defense) and social. 2 out of 3 is bad. Could a pro-choice group qualify as conservative by opposing Obama-care and higher taxes?
Surely there must be room for diversity within the big tent, while some principles must remain non-negotiable. Do DADT, gay-marriage and the like qualify as contradicting core foundations of the movement?
As an aside, Democrats certainly love this conflict, as they'd like to ensure that all minorities - sexual, gender, racial, economic, etc. - de facto identify with and default to the Democratic party. It would be a mistake to allow this strategy to flourish, and the GOP should forcefully unveil this tactic as mere rabble-rousing - the sowing of dissention and proselytization of victimization.