The Year of the Constitution

Great essay from Kyle-Ann Shriver - 2010: The Year They Came For the Constitution
As 2010 fades into history, no living, sentient American will remember the year as anything other than the year when progressives came for the Constitution. And the same year in which the same Constitution provided for elections in the 50 states. The people exercised their constitutional right to vote many of the would-be tyrants out on their disgusting derrieres.
I have a shocking confession to make. While I have been voting Republican since I was 22 years old (don't ask me about my misbegotten votes for Dukakis and Ted Kennedy back when I lived in Boston in 1988, please), up until this year, I had been registered as a Democrat. The reason was so I could vote in the City's primaries, the only way I could have my voice heard in local politics. I've always been a little embarrassed by this, but took heart from the fact that the Prince of Darkness himself, Bob Novak, registered as a Dem for the same reason when he moved to DC after his kids had left home.

Anyway, after Obamacare passed, I re-registered as a Republican the next day. So disgusted was I, not only by the lying and cheating of Obamacare's proponent, but also by the near-coordination by the White House, the Congress, the media, and the academy in arguing for its passage, that I decided even voting in a local primary for state assemblyman was too much; that the corrupt Big Government stink would rub off even then.

The fact is, after this year, there is no way I would vote for or support a Democrat for office at any level, in any capacity, at any time, under any circumstance. Henceforth, I will vote for dead people, felons, and Oliver North before I will ever think of voting for a Democrat. Call it epistemic closure, if you want. I don't care. Democrats have definitively shown themselves to be more concerned with centralized government more so than with the Constitution or the free market, not to mention the consequences of their own legislative actions. I'll have nothing to do with them.

The New Breed: Julian Assange's Tea Partying Side

The on-going Julian Asssssange case continues to surprise. A sharp-eyed RS McCain found this surprising sound bite from the Hacker Conscience of the World's interview with Time:
The United States has some immutable traditions, which, to be fair, are based on the French Revolution and the European Enlightenment. The United States' Founding Fathers took those further, and the federalism of the United States also, of relatively powerful states trying to constrain federal government from becoming too centralized. Also added some important democratic controls and understandings. So there is a lot of good that has historically come from the United States.

But after World War II, during World War II, the federal government of the United States started sucking the resources to the center, and the power of states started to diminish. Interestingly, the First Amendment started overriding states' laws around that time, which I see as a function of increasing central power in the United States. I think the problems with the United States as a foreign power stem from, simply, its economic success, whereby it's, historically at least, a very rich country with a number of people and the desire left over as a result of

Let me explain this a bit better. The U.S. saw the French Revolution and it also saw the behavior of the U.K. and the other kings and dictatorships, so it intentionally produced a very weak President. The President was, however, given a lot of power for external relations, so as time has gone by, the presidency has managed to exercise its power through its foreign affairs function.
As McCain jokingly wonders, has Asssssange been reading Lew Rockwell or watching Glenn Beck? Or, volunteering for Ron Paul?

More likely he has been incubating in the works of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, the leading proponents of the "American Empire" theory of history. Johnson is a familiar figure among the nose-ringed poli-sci crowd on the Left, often sharing the stage with Noam Chomsky and other worthies. But, Bacevich is more unusual: a pro-military college professor best known for an outraged anti-Iraq War essay he wrote after his son was killed in action there. His books are worth reading if you are a conservative, even if he reaches shocking conclusions along the way, such as his claim that Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech was actually a misunderstood bit of visionary statecraft. Anyway, Bacevich is a big proponent of the "empire of military bases" critique of the US, but without the off-putting anti-American rhetoric that usually accompanies such analyses.

What people like him - and Asssssange - conveniently elide over is that the "empire of bases" was built with the goal of communist containment. You can argue whether these bases are necessary 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I don't think there's much of a argument as to their historic necessity, worries about the "military-industrial complex" notwithstanding.

BTW, McCain came across the above soundbite in a post by Bill Weinberg, who says "enough with the Julian Assange worship" and further declares that Assange's vision of constitutional history has a distinctly "teabagger" flavor and is racist to boot. Apparently, Weinberg actively supports a strong central government lording over the US, rather than a federal government with limited powers. That's nice to know, but I wish his fellow travelers on the left could be equally forthright as to their vision of DC's role in our lives.


The wages of the past two years of left-wing governance has been appalling with one exception: GITMO and the related issue of whether al-Qaeda terrorists should have civilian trials. Not only has the Obama Administration been adopting wholesale Bush-era policies, they are actually going backwards, thus showing not just the intellectual bankruptcy of the left, but also the essential opportunism of progressive idealists.

White House aides say they are working up an executive order to allow the U.S. to hold enemy combatants indefinitely. “One reason Mr. Obama has been forced to allow indefinite detention is because he seems unwilling to allow more military commission trials at Guantanamo,” according to the Journal.

That is an extraordinary turn of events. Mr. Obama ran for president by lacerating his predecessor for acting in ways that were, he said, lawless and unconstitutional, in violation of basic human rights, and an affront to international law, and in ways that discredited and disgraced America’s name around the globe. And now we learn that Mr. Upholder of International Law himself, Barack Obama, is going to continue his policy of holding enemy combatants indefinitely.

At least the Bush policy of military tribunals, which was based on wartime precedent and previous Supreme Court rulings, allowed suspects a lawyer and a trial by jury. When in 2006 the Supreme Court struck down military tribunals (in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), the Bush administration and Congress effectively rewrote the law, passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The administration was trying to find the right balance between indefinite detention on the one hand and not providing suspected terrorists with the full array of constitutional rights an American citizen possesses on the other. (The Supreme Court’s 2008 terribly misguided ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which for the first time in our history conferred a constitutional right to habeas corpus to alien enemies detained abroad by our military force in an ongoing war, made striking this balance far more complicated.)

President Obama, because he appears unwilling to allow military commission trials at Guantanamo, seems to have settled on indefinite detention. This is a significant moral step backward.

I went to law school from 2004-2007. Those were the high water mark years for left-wing complaints about the "shredding of the Constitution" under the dark night of Bushite fascism. There were teach-ins, law review articles, and (worst of all) sarcastic comments during lectures. There was no doubt that the idea of holding captured terrorists in a modern prisoner of war camp in Cuba was literally a crime against humanity.

This was reflected in the overall public debate. Every goofball federal district judge who issued a pompous ruling about "civil rights" vis-a-vis military tribunals was elevated to Atticus Finch levels. GITMO, rendition, "black sites" or whatever were worth dozens of outraged news stories, plus thousands of link-filled blog posts. I know that Iraq was a bigger deal for "independents" in turning them against Republicans, but the complaints about GITMO and military tribunals were a close second. And, those complaints were one of the primary bloody shirts for motivating the Democrats' left-wing base. Apparently, none of this really mattered, except as a means to ride a few score of terrorists to congressional majorities.

I continue to shed no tears for the terrorists held at GITMO. If they are held there "for the duration," so be it. But, the idea that they should simply sit there and rot does nobody any favors. Forget whether or not we should try and convict them. Why in the world should Americans put up with Khalid Sheik Mohammed - the architect of the worst mass murder on American soil - being held in Cuba with no prospect of being punished for his crimes? That's an injustice, not against KSM - you should really care less - but against his victims.

It's a strange division in means that has developed in American politics. The Right wants to prosecute mass murderers for war crimes, and punish them appropriately, something that has historically been the prerogative of civilized nations. The Left simply does not want to prosecute these men, for what reason I have no idea. Perhaps it's due to the Left's related aversion to the death penalty? Or that they wanted no part of the Bush administration's anti-terror strategy to succeed? Or that they don't want the American public to be able to see its system work, and its enemies defeated?

Whatever it is, I don't think the Left's efforts have been admirable.

The Explainer: 4Chan v Jessi Slaughter Revisited has an excellent piece explaining the truth behind the nine most misunderstood stories of 2010. Along with the expected pop-culture stuff (Social Network), politics (Tea Partiers are not a joke), and media (no, Leno didn't get Conan fired), there's the truth behind one of the most baffling internet stories in recent years (I wrote about my bafflement here): the flame war between 4chan and Jessi Slaughter. See you're baffled already.

Anyway, the thumbnail is this. Jessi Slaughter is an 11 year-old girl in Florida. 4chan is some kind of message board known for its aggressive, anonymous denizens. Somehow, these two got hooked up, leading to Jessi posting some profanity laden videos on Youtube, her father joining in with a drunken rant, and 4chan tormenting the Slaughters with prank calls, pizza deliveries, and the like. What was baffling about this: how did the (presumably) adults at 4chan get hooked up with an 11 year old girl, and why did they care so much to attack her? Well, comes up with the rest of the story:

It was 4chan making sexual advances to, and then real-life death threats toward, an elementary school girl.

Let's back up for a moment.

4chan isn't entirely pedophiles, but it has a lot of pedophiles. Historians may never know whether it started with real pedophiles or simply hipsters making pedophile jokes in order to be shocking (they invented the "Pedobear" meme, a child-molestation themed mascot), but we know that the No. 1 job of 4chan moderators is trying to stem the tide of child porn (or "CP," as it's referred to in 4chan jargon) that floods the site. Surf /b/ for an hour, and you'll wind up with naked children thumbnails on your hard drive.

So the girl in the video, who goes by Jessi Slaughter, showed up on /b/ one night and, as they tend to do, /b/ tried to get the fifth-grade girl to strip. She refused to show enough skin and eventually took to her webcam to call /b/ a bunch of losers (4chan keeps no archives, but you can find the screen grabs of all this if you Google it and hate yourself).

Anonymous sprung into action. This is the type of cause Anonymous really gets into. Some of you may know them only for their attacks on Scientology or their defense of the WikiLeaks leakers. You probably don't know that for every one "good" deed, they perform several hundred like this. And by "like this," we mean they hunted down the personal information of an 11-year-old girl, including her home address and phone number, and began calling her house at all hours and making death threats. Hundreds and hundreds of 4chan posters jumped onboard, unified in their drive to terrorize a small child.

See, that makes sense! No mystery can survive the internet. (the whole Cracked piece is worth reading, btw).

Scenes From the Class Struggle

Line of the day comes from Colorado school janitor, Michelle Matthews, who supports the construction in Colorado of the first uranium processing facility in decades, and which is opposed by (naturally) the wealthy residents of Telluride (via Instapundit)

“People from Telluride don’t have any business around here,” said Ms. Mathews, 31, who works as a school janitor and ardently supports the idea of bringing back uranium jobs. “Not everyone wants to drive to Telluride to clean hotel rooms.”

When Todd Met Sallie: Reinventing the Romantic Comedy

I keep hearing that the romantic comedy genre is "dead," or at least suffering from a downturn in inspired story-telling. The real problem is movie makers have not yet been able to adjust to the immense social and cultural changes that have flowed from the Crash of '08 and ensuing Little Depression. But, that may be changing. Just imagine the pitch session for this story of opposites attracting:

When they were top executives at Citigroup Inc., Sallie Krawcheck and Todd Thomson had a well-known rivalry.

Mr. Thomson, Citigroup's swaggering young chief financial officer, would regularly challenge Ms. Krawcheck's performance numbers during her presentations to the management committee, according to Citigroup executives. Ms. Krawcheck, the high-profile head of the Smith Barney unit, would visibly roll her eyes during Mr. Thomson's flashy speeches, in which he would sometimes wear a leather jacket and blare rock music. Both were part of the horse race to succeed Citigroup founder Sanford I. Weill as CEO.

Why, they're the perfect odd couple!

Naturally, he's got the "athletic good looks, a talent for dissecting balance sheets, and a flair for cultivating the rich and powerful" that we would demand for our romantic comedy bad boy, while she's the "studious" type who would be the adult in the room. I am picturing a Citigroup X-mas party, where Todd - no doubt fresh from shagging a secretary - tells Sallie to "loosen up, bay-be!" after which she snorts derisively and climbs into a helicopter taking her to another board meeting, followed by a lonely Christmas dinner from room service.

Of course, Krawcheck and Thompson are not actually involved with one another. Not yet anyway. Right now, he's trying to poach some of her employees for his new hedge fund, while she's going to court to stop him. In Hollywood they call this "Act One." More important, you've got a story that practically tells itself. She needs a man, while he needs someone to tame him. It's romance among the ticker tape while Wall Street burns down around them, and Sallie models one outfit after another (you don't really have a romantic comedy unless the female lead can credibly be called a "style icon"). Look for it in theaters February 2012.

Back On The Block

The Free Will Family is back from its vacation at Lake Tahoe. Don't want to bore you with holiday snaps, but do want to share some lessons learned:

1. if you live in San Francisco, you have to get used to the fact that it just never snows here. Before last week, it had literally been years since I'd seen snow, and even then I had to visit my parents in Virginia for a snow dose.

2. When you drive into the Sierras to get to Tahoe, you really do cross an invisible threshold into another world - endless miles of mountain peaks and pine trees with drifts of snow as far as the eye can see. My not-quite two year old daughter, who has spent virtually her entire short life in the Big City, had a look of intense curiosity on her face as she looked out on to the white winter fastness. I swear that looking out into the California wilderness increased her IQ by 20 points. If I were the sentimental type, this is when I would start saying things like "That Look In My Daughter's Eyes Made the Whole Trip Worth It" and "That's What It's All About," but I'm not sentimental at all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to wipe some dust out of my eye.

3. Really, it's easy to see why so many Californians are environmentalists of one degree or another. For all of its reputation as a hip "advanced" civilization, virtually the entire state is either rural or undeveloped wilderness. Not only that, the state's wilderness comprises some of the most beautiful and dramatic natural scenery in the country. Of course, people are protective of it.

4. That doesn't mean they aren't irrational about these sorts of things. California is doubling down on its cap & trade system, despite the Sierras, and other "protected" areas, being hundreds of miles from any smoke belching factories.

5. And, there are plenty of folks who haven't gotten the memo. Tahoe was filled with SUVs, pick-ups, and other culturally verboten vehicles. But, there's a reason for that: if you are going to exercise your god-given right to ski in Tahoe and commune with nature, you'd be crazy to try to do it in a Prius. For all of winter's beauty, it's also dangerous. We drove up Rt. 50 in a snow storm. The roads to Tahoe are narrow enough as it is - I doubt they've been widened in decades - but add an inch of snow, the CHiP's snow removal equipment, plus dozens of cars pulled over to the side putting on chains, and you've got a real obstacle course.

6. We drove over to Carson City, which is about 30 minutes from Tahoe, and is the capitol of Nevada. Can't say it's too inspiring to see a state capitol building with a casino looming over it on the next block. It's also not too inspiring when you look around the political capital of the whole state of Nevada and find yourself mentally comparing it to Needles.

7. On the other hand, the Nevada side of Rt. 50 is much wider and more modern than the California side. That's the thing about California. People say they're "pro-environment," but then have to spend their winter vacations driving their $50,000 SUVs up a road that is the same size as the one their grandparents used.

8. Modern road trips have gotten ridiculously civilized. There's always a McDonalds or a Starbucks around the bend. That might not matter so much when you're a young guy, but when you have a kid and a wife with certain, ah, minimum demands for comfort, you can appreciate it.

9. There's no place like home.

Jesus Christ Is Born

Merry Christmas

Lazy Calm

The Free Will family will be taking a vacation this week. Blogging will be light-to-non existent. Here's some Cocteau Twins to tide you over:

Taking A Leak: The Latest on Julian Asssssange

Like everyone else, I've been furious that Julian Asssssange has been able to travel the world releasing sensitive American documents with impunity. But, I've also grown to agree that many of his State Department leaks (the military leaks were contemptible, inasmuch as the Left was eagerly hoping to find - finally! - evidence of war crimes) were actually useful for providing a truer vision of American diplomacy and the world order than we do from official communiques or the American MSM:

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deserves a medal rather than prison. “He and WikiLeaks have done America a massive favour,” he writes, “by inadvertently debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy.”

He’s right. And I suspect Rachman’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek when he says Assange should be rewarded. If the United States wanted all that information made public, the government hardly needed his help getting it out there.

Anyway, Rachman points out that many rightists in China and Russia, and leftists in Europe and Latin America, assume that whatever American foreign-policy officials say in public is a lie. I’d add that Arabs on both the “left” and the “right” do, too. Not all of them, surely, but perhaps a majority. I’ve met people in the Middle East who actually like parts of the American rationale for the war in Iraq — that the promotion of democracy in the Arab world might leech out its toxins — they just don’t believe the U.S. was actually serious.

And let’s not forget the most ridiculous theories of all. Surely somewhere in all these leaked files there’d be references to a war for oil in Iraq if the war was, in fact, about oil. Likewise, if 9/11 was an inside job — or a joint Mossad–al-Qaeda job — there should be at least some suggestive evidence in all those classified documents. If the U.S. government lied, rather than guessed wrong, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, or if NATO invaded Afghanistan to install a pipeline, this information would have to be written down somewhere. The State and Defense department bureaucracies are far too vast to have no records of what they’re up to.

But, isn't it curious how the Obama Administration was "powerless" when Asssssange was publishing the "war crimes" (sheee-yeah right!) leaks, but is suddenly all gung-ho now that he has revealed the true state of affairs in the world's foreign ministries.

Asssssange, meanwhile, continues to grapple with the lame Swedish "rape" prosecution. In perhaps the unkindest cut, the entire 84-page report setting out the facts alleged by his accusers has been leaked and published in the NY Times:

Ms. A told the police that arrangements had been made for Mr. Assange to begin his visit to Sweden by staying at her Stockholm apartment for a few days while she was out of town. But the report said she returned Aug. 13, sooner than expected and, over dinner with Mr. Assange, agreed to allow him to stay in the apartment.

The details of their sexual encounter that night were redacted from the copy of the police report obtained by The Times. But The Guardian reported Saturday that Ms. A told the police that Mr. Assange had stroked her leg, then pulled off her clothes and snapped her necklace. The report quotes her as saying that she “tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again.”

According to The Guardian, Ms. A told the police that Mr. Assange pinned her arms and legs to stop her from reaching for a condom. Eventually one was used — but, she told her police interviewer, he appeared to have “done something” with it, resulting in its tearing.

Ms. W, 25, lives in the town of Enkoping, about 30 miles north of Stockholm. A few weeks before Mr. Assange arrived in Sweden, she saw him on television, according to the police interview in The Times’s version of the police report, and found him “interesting, brave and worthy of admiration.” When she discovered that he would be speaking in Stockholm, she contacted Ms. A to volunteer her help.

Her offer was not taken up, but she decided to attend the lecture anyway, where she met Ms. A in person. After the speech, she told the police, she sat next to Mr. Assange at a group dinner. He flirtatiously fed her bread and cheese, she said, and put his arm around her.

The group dispersed after dinner, leaving Mr. Assange and Ms. W alone, the police report said. They decided to go to a movie, where, the report said, the couple began caressing, then moved to a back row, where they continued. Two days later, Ms. W and Mr. Assange met again and walked around the city’s old town together, according to the police report. It said they decided to go by train to Enkoping after Mr. Assange balked at staying in a Stockholm hotel. Ms. W then bought his rail ticket, for about $16, after Mr. Assange told her that he did not have any money, and that he feared he could be traced if he used a credit card.

The unredacted police report obtained by The Guardian says that after arriving at her apartment the two had sex using a condom. In the report, she described waking up to find him having sex with her again, without a condom. Later that morning, Ms. W told the police, Mr. Assange “ordered her to get some water and orange juice for him.” She said “she didn’t like being ordered around in her own home but got it anyway.”

Jesus, this is lame. If this really is a CIA/Swedish black ops maneuver, we are a long way away from poison tipped umbrellas, or even kidnappings in Milan. If, as is more likely, this is a case of morning after regrets from a couple flakey strumpets, we are a long way away from "no means no" and "Take Back the Night" rallies.

Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, and the other leakers in the military and State Department continue to languish in obscurity when in fact they are the ones who should be getting hounded by the government and the press. By rights, they should be getting the full Asssssange treatment, but instead languish in obscurity.

The Dust Blows Forward 'N The Dust Blows Back: Captain Beefheart Dies

Captain Beefheart, avant garde rocker, died today aged 69.

Real name Don Van Vliet, the singer passed away at a California hospital due to complications from multiple sclerosis, reports Entertainment Weekly.

Beefheart is best known for being an iconic experimental musician, from 1967 through to the early '80s.

He famously enjoyed challenging his fans and expectations about rock 'n' roll. In 1978 he said:

"People like music to be in tune because they've heard it in tune all the time.

"I really tried to break that down."

Beefheart not only left an impression on his fans, but other musicians too.

According to Spin magazine, his 1969 album "Trout Mask Replica" inspired everyone from Tom Waits and John Lennon, to Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey.

Beefheart retired from making music in 1982.

His overall record sales were low compared to the large influence his music had on others.

He spent most of the 80s focusing on his visual artwork.

The Captain was - along with the Velvets and Zappa - one of the original avant-garde rockers; a guy from the California desert who mixed Howlin' Wolf-style blues, free jazz, and goofy poetry into an instantly recognizable sound. Here he is with his classic Trout Mask Replica era Magic Band

OK, so it's not Paul Anka. That's the whole point. He was the guy you listened to if you didn't want to be a square or a hippie*. And, he was worth listening to at least for his inspired word play. Just look at the track listing for Lick My Decals Off, Baby. (one of the great album titles)

Side one:

  1. "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" – 2:38
  2. "Doctor Dark" – 2:46
  3. "I Love You, You Big Dummy" – 2:54
  4. "Peon" – 2:24
  5. "Bellerin' Plain" – 3:35
  6. "Woe-is-uh-Me-Bop" – 2:06
  7. "Japan in a Dishpan" – 3:00

Side two:

  1. "I Wanna Find a Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go" – 1:53
  2. "Petrified Forest" – 1:40
  3. "One Red Rose That I Mean" – 1:52
  4. "The Buggy Boogie Woogie" – 2:19
  5. "The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)" – 2:11
  6. "Space-Age Couple" – 2:32
  7. "The Clouds Are Full of Wine (not Whiskey or Rye)" – 2:50
  8. "Flash Gordon's Ape" – 4:15

Honestly, don't you at least want to hear what a song with a title like "I Wanna Find a Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go" sounds like?

Beefheart was inevitably "embraced" by the Europeans, even as he was "rejected" in his own country. Meh. Those Euro-weenies need to be descended from a member of the House of Lords, and go through years of art school to do a fraction of what the Captain - did he even finish high school? - accomplished. As strange as he was, he was that classic American archetype: the self-invented original who seemed to arise fully formed from the great American wilderness. Good bye, Captain.

*if you want to hear him do some semi-"regular" music listen to Hot Rats, the album he made with Frank Zappa.

Sweet Spot: The GOP Is Winning the Lame Duck Congress

Looks like the 111th Congress will soon be drawing to a close with a few hot-button issues left unresolved. So far, we've really been hitting the Free Will sweet spot in terms of achieving conservative/Tea Party goals:

The Bush tax rates are going to be signed into law by a pouting President Obama. For all the right wing caterwauling, this is a remarkable achievement in terms of policy and politics. Here, let me bring in Powerline to explain:

For some years, we have assumed that 2011 would see a massive tax increase. That this will not happen is a great benefit to both taxpayers and the economy. That the Republicans could achieve this result despite not controlling any of the three entities involved in the negotiations--the House, the Senate and the White House--is rather remarkable. I think it was made possible by the fact that many Democrats, including President Obama, recognized the damage that a tax increase would do to the economy.

For this reason, the symbolic value of the agreement for conservatives is huge. For nine years, Democrats have gnashed their teeth at the "Bush tax cuts" and have vowed to reverse them. Democrats have now controlled Congress for four years, and have made no effort to do so. When they couldn't put off the issue any longer, what happened? A majority of House Democrats and a large majority of Senate Democrats voted to perpetuate the Bush administration's tax policies. By doing so, the Democrats have implicitly admitted (in some cases, the admission was explicit) that the Republicans were right all along: the sort of punitive tax burden for which the Left hungers is economic poison.

I'm not a smoker, but if I were, I would light a cigar to celebrate the day when Congressional Democrats and the leader of their party's left wing, Barack Obama, gave in to reality and endorsed the Bush tax cuts.

I don't think we've paid enough attention to that last one. Democrats have been righteously denouncing tax cuts since the Reagan era. We've heard over and over the last two years that tax cuts are part of the tired old routine that no longer works. But, it turns out that the tired old routine was being performed by Democrats who, when given absolute freedom and opportunity to let the Bush tax rates expire, shrank away. This really is a great moment, the domestic equivalent of winning the Surge.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid has pulled the trillion dollar ominous omnibus budget, and will continue to fund the government through continuing resolutions. Some say this is the appropriators' last hurrah. We'll see:

Tonight may indeed may be a “seminal moment,” as McCain said. This was to be the appropriators’ last hurrah. In the end, they couldn’t see it through, and it’s not going to get any better for them next year.

Why did it go down? You had Jim DeMint rallying outside opposition, and pushing Reid’s back against the wall procedurally with the threat to have the whole monstrosity read on the floor; that was time Reid presumably couldn’t afford to waste given everything else he wants to jam through.

Then, you had Mitch McConnell on the phone all day with Republican appropriators–Reid’s base of support on the bill–twisting their arms to come out against it. My understanding is that by the end he had all the appropriators committed against it, with the exception of two who were undecided. McConnell told the appropriators that passing this bill, and passing it this way, would represent a rejection of everything the mid-term election was about, and ultimately he prevailed. Again and again over the last two years, McConnell has done what a minority leader needs to do–keep his troops united.

And, finally, there was McCain. He was out there, too. On “Hannity” last night, he sounded like a tea-partier, urging people to use social media and to flood the phone lines in opposition. It must have been particularly sweet for him, after all these years battling appropriators, doing a victory jig all over the bill on the senate floor a little while ago.

Again, we'll see. The best part is that the omnibus had a billion dollars worth of Obamacare funding in it, which will now be left for the next Congress to appropriate, if they can.

Next on tap are votes on START, DADT, and the DREAM Act. With one exception, these are minor matters that shouldn't ruin anybody's Christmas

START looks to be heading towards passage. Some Cold Warriors are muttering darkly about this, as well they might. But, this drive to pass START is like waiting in line for Paul McCartney tickets. Yeah, it might be relevant, but the real excitement is decades in the past. Conservatives complaining about START should really be asking why Democrats seem hell-bent on silently acquiescing to a nuclear Iran.

DADT? The best reason to pass this is so we no longer have to watch querelous news stories about dedicated gay soldiers being drummed out of the service. (after they "told"). I am sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn't abide liberals using the military to play-act a civil rights melodrama. But, I'm comfortable betting that the number of gays who will join the military when they can serve openly will be so small as to render the military readiness argument moot. The real question is, what issue will anti-war leftists use as a proxy to protest the military once DADT is no longer in place?

Unlike START and DADT, the DREAM Act is a big deal, would affect everybody, and would be a disaster if passed. That's the hill to die on.

Clearing The Decks

Sorry, but I'm beavering away at work trying to get some stuff out the door before I head out for a few days vacation next week. Blogging will be light.

More Shocking News: Parents Tend To Pull Their Kids Out of Oakland Public Schools

From the San Francisco Chronicle, last seen front-paging the "shocking" news that Obamacare and other government meddling has resulted in increased health care premiums, comes another above-the-fold stunner: Top Students Are Fleeing the Oakland public school system, often just before they are scheduled to enter middle school. Why? Whyyyy??

One of every four Oakland students - including 40 percent of its highest achievers - fled the district's public schools after finishing fifth grade in the spring, shunning the city's middle schools in favor of private, suburban or charter schools.

The exodus, which crosses all ethnicities and income levels, meant a loss of at least $6 million in state revenue. But perhaps more importantly, it shows the staggering brain drain that consistently leaves middle schools heavily weighted with struggling students.

It's a confounding problem for Oakland administrators: How can they improve the middle schools' test scores when the brightest students leave?

The Chron and everyone else tries to dress this controversy - if you can call it that - with furrow browed talk about how this touches on matters of race, class, and culture, along with (ahem) worries about safety*. But, we all know what's going on here. People are willing to go along with the idealistic communitarian theory of public school for when their kids are going to the neighborhood elementary school, but when it's time to start your real education in middle school, suddenly you start to care a whole lot more about what type of kids are going to be sitting next to yours. Liberals may believe some crazy things, but even they know that their kids' safety and education is more important than living up to some abstract ideal about public education in a system that simply can't manage to accomplish its one stated goal.

You'd think, by the way, that these folks' negative experience with public school education - where the choice is sending your kid to a mediocre school, or shelling out thousands of dollars to a private school - would maybe teach them a lesson about the possible outcome for, say, a government-run health care system. But, people just aren't trained to make those sorts of connections.

*that's liberal parent speak for "I don't want my kid to get beaten up by one of the downtrodden masses."

Cutting Crew: Why The "Tax Cut" Debate Should Not Distract Us From The Cause

The Bush Tax Rate Extension/Unemployment Insurance "deal" is making its way through Congress for a date with the Presidential Pen. The Left continues to howl over their lost redistributionist schemes. But, there are plenty of folks on the Right who are similarly upset. Objections seem to fall into two camps:

1. this is a pork bill, not a tax bill

2. this is Stimulus/TARP, Phase Two

The second complaint, articulated by Charles Krauthammer, relies on believing that the extension of the Bush tax rates amounts to adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. Sorry, but conceptually this does not work. We don't "borrow" anything to "pay for" tax cuts. The government sets the tax rate, and people pay the tax. That's all. It's the endless spending that causes deficits.

As for the first complaint, I have to agree. There is a lot of pork, which is why this deal is a real nose-holder. But, how out of bounds is this? Republicans trading a win on tax policy for some ethanol credits and unemployment benefits? Wow, that's never happened in the history of the world. Oh, wait, yes it has; like, every freakin' year.

In 2001 there was a big policy battle over cutting the top income tax rates from the Clinton levels. President Bush and a Republican Congress enacted a law, with support from moderate Democrats, cutting income tax rates for all income taxpayers.

In 2003 President Bush won that battle convincingly by repackaging the top individual rates as small business rates. The debate then shifted to a big partisan policy battle over reducing the double taxation of dividends. The results of the Bush years were lower tax rates for all income taxpayers and lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

In 2008-2010 President Obama and huge Democratic majorities tried to undo these policy victories. They tried to raise tax rates on income and capital. They failed, and that failure will extend through President Obama’s first/only term. If someone had told me, the day after Election Day 2008, that tax rates on income and capital would not increase for the next four years, I would have laughed at them. Now it’s about to come true, and Presidents Obama and Clinton are helping make it happen.

And some want to oppose it because it’s not enough?

Exactly right. This idea that we should just let the tax rates go up and then "fix it" in January is crazy. Once they're up, I'd like to see how the GOP, which will only control the House, is able bring them back down on command.

A bigger problem for me is how much drama this horse trading over tax rates has generated. Debates and trade-offs over tax policy are evergreen in government. No matter what the Tea Party or Jim DeMint might say, we are always going to be arguing over the "correct" rate of tax and whether said rate is fair. It is the nature of a constitutional republic. Conservatives are letting themselves grow fractious over tax rates, when there is so much else wrong in the federal government that needs the sort of vigorous attention the tax deal has gotten:

1. we still have two nationalized car companies, and the government is directing the manner in which these companies do business.

2. we still have a nationalized insurance company in AIG. There's a "plan" to get out, but no one seems to be in a hurry to implement it.

3. we are promising to use our position in the IMF to bail out Europe.

4. we still have two nationalized mortgage companies in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae through which the Democratic Party exercises a de facto national housing policy.

5. We apparently can't keep sensitive diplomatic and military communications off of the Internet

6. we still have Obamacare, which is being implemented as we speak

7. we have a Social Security system hurtling towards insolvency, and whose "trust fund" was raided by progressives years ago.

8. we have a Medicare and Medicaid system that are similarly approaching insolvency.

9. we have a perpetual energy crisis yet we can't explore off our coasts, in our wilderness, or anywhere else you can imagine. We also can't develop nuclear power, the one form of "green" energy that we know will work

10. we have a perpetual immigrations crisis, including the development of a real bi-lingual culture in some parts of the country.

11. We have a debt overhang that amounts to tens of trillions of dollars

12. fill in your favorite here:_____________________.

The fact is, a $56 billion unemployment extension, or a $5 billion ethanol subsidy is nothing compared to these problems. I don't know about you, but I think the Tea Party candidates were voted into office to deal with the rapid and unasked for socialization of the United States over the last two years, not with the sort of tax policy arguments that would happen know matter what the year might be.

Brick By Brick: Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional

That was fast. A federal judge in Virginia has declared the individual mandate in Obamacare to be unconstitutional for violating the Commerce Clause. Cue the violins:

A federal judge rejected a key provision of the Obama administration's health care law as unconstitutional Monday, ruling the government cannot require people to buy insurance, in a dispute that both sides agree will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two other federal judges in Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida.

The government had argued the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives the government the power to require individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty, a provision due to take effect in 2014.

But Hudson sided with Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli in saying the mandate overstepped the Constitution.

"This case, however, turns on atypical and uncharted applications of constitutional law interwoven with subtle political undercurrents," Hudson wrote. "The outcome of this case has significant public policy implications. And the final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court."

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

No word from the White House and congressional Democrats, yet. Of course, there will be an appeal. But, I feel comfortable making a few other predictions as well.

I can guarantee that we are going to be hearing all about Judge Hudson now. If he ever owned pharmaceutical stock, we'll know by the time Wolf Blitzer is ready to start reading the news. If any of his relatives or, God forbid, his wife has worked in the medical field, we'll know. If he ever represented an insurance company while in private practice, we'll know. His inevitable Federalist Society membership will gain wide currency. At some point, Chuck Schumer, or some other worthy, will bellow something about Citizen United. I can say the same about Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli, whose expense accounts are no doubt being prepared for leaking even as we speak.

What we won't hear: a substantive argument why the individual mandate is constitutional despite its never before being used in federal legislation before. No, it's going to all "Tea Parties" and "the embattled middle class" and "bending the cost curve" and so on. For all the claims that constitutional law is filled with inexplicable legal arcana, the fact is that the Commerce Clause is easy to understand: the feds can regulate economic activity that crosses state lines, but it's not enough to simply label something "economic activity" just because there is a market out there. (federal legislation banning guns from schools was overturned on this ground). The high school graduates who make up a majority of the public understand this by instinct, even as progressives and their wards try to distract people from profound constitutional questions with sob stories about people wearing their dead sister's dentures.

This is obviously something that can only be resolved by the US Supreme Court, which will probably have to overturn some of the New Deal-era court rulings (especially Wickard v Filburn, the Roe v Wade of Commerce Clause jurisprudence) that have provided the legal framework for much of the American welfare state. Stay tuned.

Shocking News: California Health Insurance Companies Raise Rates To Comply With Government Mandates

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page, above-the-fold story the other day about a shocking new phenomenon: California insurance companies are raising health insurance premiums (some for the second time this year) to adjust for changes mandated by Obamacare and some new state laws. Liberals, poli-sci majors, and community organizers are baffled as to how this could have happened.

Some health insurers are bumping up rates yet again to reflect changes mandated by the new federal health overhaul law as well as state reforms that will go into effect Jan. 1.

Blue Shield of California, for example, has sent letters informing customers with individual policies that their premiums will go up in the low single digits because of the federal law.

Some of those same policyholders also could see their rates go up as much as an additional 17.7 percent to account for a new state law that will prohibit insurers from charging women more for insurance than men.

For consumers, many of whom already have been hit this year with hefty premium increases to accommodate higher medical costs, the additional raise attributed to health reform will further strain their budgets.

Gee, ya think?

California, which can never seem to leave well enough in the quest for progress and equality, passed a law last year forbidding insurance company acturialists from taking into account gender in setting premiums. Women, you see, (and might expect) tend to use more health care services than men. But, we wouldn't want women to have to pay more! The Chronicle tries to explain this away:
While women tend to use more services in their younger years, the difference often evens out as people age.
Well, that settles that. Naturally, staff writer Victoria Colliver does not cite anybody or anything to support this. I guess it's one of those bits of information that "everyone" knows.

If you don't mind my making the personal political for a second, I have received a notice of premium increase from Kaiser. My monthly premiums (for just my daughter and me) have gone up about 15%, with Kaiser gallantly crediting Obamacare and the "gender parity" law for much of the increase. That's a real kick in the wallet, and really makes you start to wonder if paying monthly premiums in the amount of hundreds of dollars is really worth it, especially when the Free Will budget is already straining from just my rent and student loans. I would imagine I am not unique in feeling this way. Hey, liberals and Obama fanboys, riddle me this? Where's that utopia you guys were talking about?

I am not gonna sit around and act shocked by all this. It was easy to predict that Obamacare would result in increased premiums, not decreases, contrary to what everybody from the President on down said. But, for those "independents" and Blue Dog Democrat types who actually thought health care reform might be a net positive, I have to wonder if this will finally break their habit of looking to Big Government liberalism for succor. If this doesn't cure then of that, nothing will.


Apropos of nothing, here's Pete Maravich going through some odd drills with Red Auerbach.

Amazing stuff. Also amazing is the glimpse into the not-too-distant pre-Sportscenter past when the greatest coach of the era was a cigar-chomping wise guy (as opposed to our current era's smug "zen priest"); and the team from New Orleans was called the "Jazz," which made a helluva lot more sense.

We Do Need Some Education: David Gilmour's Son Acts a Right Prat

The new face of today's Revolution!ary Youth: Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's son, last seen desecrating a monument to British war dead during the recent Tuition Strikes. Dad seems to have made a few phone calls about whether son would enjoy actually paying tuition, as Jr. is now apologizing cravenly:

The son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour issued a public apology Friday for climbing atop of one of Britain's most important war memorials during violent student demonstrations against rising university fees.

Charlie Gilmour, 21, said he was sorry for the "terrible insult" to the thousands who died for the country. Gilmour — a Cambridge University history student — said he did not realize that the monument he climbed was the Cenotaph, which commemorates Britain's war dead.

"I feel nothing but shame," he said. "My intention was not to attack or defile the Cenotaph. Running along with a crowd of people who had just been violently repelled by the police, I got caught up in the spirit of the moment."

Yes, Gilmour is a "rock guitarist." He is also an incredibly wealthy man whose band, I'll bet, has made more money than Michael Jackson and Madonna put together. Charlie is practically the stereotype of the child of privilege playing at Revolution! to the applause of the media and his fellow students. At least he was man enough to apologize immediately.

UPDATE: just read through the linked article again. This ponce who didn't know he was climbing on a war memorial is a history student. Geez. Even if he's been getting free tuition up to now, he's been ripped off.

Running With Scissors: The Continuing Tax Debate

Conservatives, including the talk radio guys and members of the DeMint/Bachmann caucus, continue to complain about last Monday's tax deal extending the Bush tax rates. I think these are good faith disagreements. An informal survey of my Tea Party friends here in SF (it took 5 minutes) tells me that the extension of unemployment benefits really sticks in their craw, much more so than temporary nature of the tax rate extension. Still, I continue to be unmoved by the cries that "they could have asked for 'permanent' tax cuts!" and "they could have gotten so much more!" Look at it from the perspective of the GOP leadership in Congress:

1. the assignment was to extend the Bush tax rates. Mission accomplished. No one was talking seriously about tax cuts starting 01/01/11.

2. we are still in the fading days of the already infamous 111th Congress. The Democrats have huge majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet, the president bent to Republican demands on tax policy in a way that was more conservative than liberal, regardless of how many times Obama declares the payroll cuts to be "stimulus." If Democrats really cared about the middle class as much as they claim, they could have passed whatever tax plan they wanted. But, they didn't. That's not Mitch McConnell's fault.

4. Yes, Republicans won a historic victory last November. Voters are clearly engaged in matters of tax and spending. But, if you are an old-timer like McConnell or Boehner, you can remember other times when you won major elections and then - when your party made the mere mention of reforming entitlements and cutting spending - those conservative voters mysteriously disappeared, replaced by quailing moderates worried about "partisanship," "racism," and "The Children."

When George W Bush tried to pass social security reform, he did it virtually alone. Where were all the fiscal conservative voters back then? I don't know, but I do remember the Democrats' inevitable demagoguery over "Republicans want grandma to eat dog food." I could say the same about Fannie/Freddie reform, efforts to defund PBS/NPR, closing the Department of Education, etc.

Look at what happened in California. I've been critical of the Governator. He rode into office on a real mandate to shrink California government. Yes, he frittered away his mandate over pointless "negotiations" with state Democrats. But, when the time came in 2005 for the voters to pass some reforms he proposed, all those fiscal conservative voters disappeared. Instead, the airwaves were filled with ads from the nurses union and other public sector unions, all with the same message: Republicans are destroying the state! And it worked! Schwarzenegger's propositions all failed and that was that for reform. Ever since then, he has found applause and good press passing progressive legislation like cap & trade and high speed rail, not tax cuts or free market reforms. And, it's Democrats who have destroyed the state for real, rather than on teevee as the Republicans are always supposed to be doing, but never quite accomplish.

The fact is the the recent volatility in American politics has been due to the voters' continued lurches from right to left and then right again. Voters have shown themselves to be fiscally conservative more in theory than in fact. Maybe the recent explosion in spending and debt has effected a permanent change in voter attitudes, but I feel like we've been here before. As others have noted, the government has been growing steadily since 1932, even during the Reagan years. Yeah, you can blame cowardly politicians, but it's the voters who feed that fear.

Voters may not trust the Republican leadership. But, the leadership may still have reason to not trust voters to be there when the grim business of breaking up the welfare state begins.

The Stupid Party: How Not To Govern From The Right

For all the conservatives complaining about the good-not-great tax deal, I would point out that there are worse ways for Republicans to govern. Exhibit A, as always, is the Governator who - with just three weeks left in his administration - has announced the need to end California's perpetual budget crisis through massive spending cuts. Wow, great timing:

Outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a last-ditch effort Monday to help close California's budget deficit by proposing deep cuts to social services and prisons, ideas that had been rejected by lawmakers in previous budget negotiations.

The Republican governor on Monday declared a fiscal emergency and called the Legislature into a special session to deal with part of the deficit, which is $25.4 billion over the next 18 months.

He called for spending cuts and other solutions worth $1.9 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends in June, and $7.9 billion more in the next fiscal year, which takes Schwarzenegger's proposal well into the term of Gov.-elect Jerry Brown.

Schwarzenegger was not concerned about overlapping with the incoming Democrat, who takes over Jan. 3.

I think Professor Bainbridge gets this right:

You know the expression about locking the barn door after the horse has bolted? Here's a Star Wars version:

Pulling the fire alarms on Alderaan five minutes after the Death Star shoots.

It's easy to blame Schwarzenegger alone, but he was guided by Republican establishment types like Pete Wilson. Where were these guys during the past three years when the Governator was negotiating "debt & taxes" deals with the legislature?

Democrats at least manage to rally around the cry of "protecting Pat Brown's legacy." Why haven't state Republicans been trying to save Governor Reagan's legacy?

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