Moving Pictures

We are moving Free Will HQ from San Francisco to Burlingame today. Probably won't have internet for a couple days, so blogging will be light to non-existent. In the meantime, here's a little Rush:

Blue Law Blues: CA Video Game Ban Struck Down

The most predictable Supreme Court decision of this term may have been the Court's ruling that, no, a state - even California! - can't ban the sale and rental of "violent" video games to minors AKA The Children. The only real surprise was that the dissent united Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Has that ever happened before?

States cannot ban the sale or rental of ultraviolent video games to children, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, rejecting such limits as a violation of young people's First Amendment rights and leaving it up to parents and the multibillion-dollar gaming industry to decide what kids can buy.

The high court, on a 7-2 vote, threw out California's 2005 law covering games sold or rented to those under 18, calling it an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia, said, "Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply."

Scalia, who pointed out the violence in a number of children's fairy tales, said that while states have legitimate power to protect children from harm, "that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."

Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision, with Breyer saying it makes no sense to legally block children's access to pornography yet allow them to buy or rent brutally violent video games.

You have to wonder how it is that CA managed to pass a video-game ban of any sort. The legislature was made up of liberals and progressives who try to cultivate a hip, edgy rep in order to better Rock The Vote. The governor who signed the law made his fortune selling violent entertainment to teenagers. And one of CA's few productive industries is the entertainment industry. Of course, Hollywood has found itself competing with videogames, which have been outgrossing movies for quite some time now, so maybe there was some Tinsel Town support for this sort of thing.

Mostly, though, there's the spectacle of state lawmakers going through the trouble to ban videogames when they had to know their ban would be struck down as unconstitutional. It's almost as if the point was to make a splash and garner a few headlines in 2005 without worrying about what happens in 2011.

Moving Day

Phase One of the move from San Francisco to Burlingame is complete. Still have a couple phases to go. In the mean time, here's some Def Leppard to tide you over. Like any respectable person, I think Pyromania was the band's masterpiece (it's flawless). But, here's a track from their Hysteria sessions:

I heard this on the radio for the first time in, oh, about 25 years. Really holds up well. It's almost like adult-contemporary heavy metal. I always love how the band complained about all the time they had to spend in the studio due to "Mutt" Lange's "the 100th take is the best" philosophy. Oh, I'm sorry. Did you have something else you were supposed to be doing? Anyway, all those hours in the studio in 1986 left you with a handful of tracks that are nigh indestructable, letting you tour behind them into infinity. I'd say it was time well spent.

Cold For Teacher: SF Art Teacher's Offensive Images

A recurring question among San Francisco officials is: "what can we do to get middle class people to send their kids to the City's schools?" My suggestion: stop doing things like hiring guys with child pornography on their computers to teach art. And if you insist on hiring such people, try to at least keep them from inserting sexual imagery into the art they work on with the kids. SF Unified School District failed on both of these counts:

The head of a children's art organization, arrested three weeks ago on suspicion of possessing child pornography, placed "offensive" tiles in murals he created at four city schools, San Francisco police said Friday.

About 100 "inappropriate" tiles have been found in murals at Sunset Elementary School and three other unnamed schools in the city, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.

Anthony Josef Norris, founder and director of Kid Serve Youth Murals, designed and worked on all the projects. The San Francisco man surrendered June 2 to the FBI after agents investigating a website known for child pornography traced the log-on name of "Spanky" to his home computer and discovered 600 pornographic images of children, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in federal court in San Francisco

Sheesh! The problem with SF schools is the lack of adult supervision, even among the adults.

Killing Time On The Internet

Sorry for the inconsistent posting. I've been wrapping up a labor intensive (yet low-$$) case and preparing to move out of the apartment building I've lived in for the past (gulp) 19 years. Anyway, here's some good posts by people who have more time than I do right now.

I'd say everyone from Mark Levin on down has had a good time trashing this truly dumb cover story in Time about whether the Constitution still matters. It of course begins with the classic "the Framers couldn't anticipate all the changes we've seen" formulation which is always a prelude for ditching the document entirely. Hey, idiot, the Framers couldn't even anticipate the cotton gin, let alone Lady Gaga. Anyway, the only mention of technology in the Constitution comes in the patents provision because machines have little to do with how humans organize themselves.

Michael Ledeen looks at one of the (many) underreported phenomenon of the Obama presidency: his tendency to make absolutely bone-headed gaffes, often while speaking from prepared remarks rather than off the cuff. Just today, he gave a speech in which screwed up the details of a recent Medal of Honor winner's death. Ledeen's theory is that, unlike previous administrations, Obama's speeches are vetted by a comparative handful of people most of whom are absolutely convinced of their superior intellect, even though their politically correct educations have left them less informed than a most autodidacts with a high school degree.

For some reason, one of the founders of Thrasher magazine walked up to the door of the Mission Police Station here in the City and shot himself in the head. I was never a skater myself, but Thrasher was, and for all I know still is, as good a source for underground music as MRR or Forced Exposure.

I wasn't planning to buy Ann Coulter's new book. I thought she fell off a little with Godless, especially those last 4 chapters on evolution. But John at Verum Serum has already read Demonic, and pronounces it to be excellent. It's a historical look at the mob psychology of the Left, starting with the French Revolution and moving forward to the present day. Ann is mostly known for her caustic humor and aggressive defense of conservative ideas, but she is also a great researcher, so this does seen like a worthwhile read.

Line of the day goes to the CBO's Doug Elmendorf: "We don't estimate speeches."

Ace of Spades debunks the "Rumors Rick Perry is gay" rumors.

On the other hand, check out this wild rumor-mongering from Hillbuzz. Barack Obama and Rahm Emmanuel frequented a Chicago gay bar called Man's Country. Kal Penn - that's the Harold & Kumar guy - got a job at the White House so he could be close to his BF the POTUS. And, my absolute favorite detail, Rev. Wright ran a down-low matchmaking service out of the basement of the Trinity Church (my gaydar goes into the red every time I see the Rev. btw).

And here's what I've been listening to this week: it's a Spanish punk band from East LA called Rayos X. The melting pot lives

And When She Went To The Cupboard...

Thomas Sowell on the endless tug-of-war over "reforming" the American welfare state (h/t the Free Will brother):
One of my earliest memories of revulsion against war came from seeing a photograph from the First World War when I was a teenager. It was nothing gory. Just a picture of a military officer, in an impressive uniform, talking to a puzzled and forlorn-looking old peasant woman with a cloth wrapped around her head.

He said simply: "Don't you understand, madam? The village is not there any more."

To many such people of that era, the village was the only world they knew. And to say that it had been destroyed in the carnage of war was to say that there was no way for them to go back home, that their whole world was gone.

Recently that image came back, in a wholly different context, while seeing pictures of American seniors carrying signs that read "Hands off my Social Security" and "Hands off my Medicare."

They want their Social Security and their Medicare to stay the way they are -- and their anger is directed against those who want to change the financial arrangements that pay for these benefits.

Their anger should be directed instead against those politicians who were irresponsible enough to set up these costly programs without putting aside enough money to pay for the promises that were made -- promises that now cannot be kept, regardless of which political party controls the government.

Someone needs to say to those who want Social Security and Medicare to continue on unchanged: "Don't you understand? The money is not there any more.

The amazing thing is that the "respectable" position continues to be that of the Democrats who speak of lock-boxes, and Social Security Trusts, and the promises made to the elderly; as if there was a big pot of money sitting around waiting to be disbursed to retirees. Yet these same Democrats - often the same people! - have also arranged to spend this money to fund current expenditures. And, all along, the "disreputable" position has been to point out that the system is unsustainable, that it needs to be restructured, and that providing for retirement need not be done through the mediating hand of the government.

Making things worse: the public debate does not focus on pointing out the essentially criminal fraud of the "respectable" position because the MSM that has arrogated to itself the position of the nation's public forum will inevitably focus on the "throw Grandma off the cliff" aspects of the debate, even when reformers go out of their way to exclude the over-55 set from their proposed reforms.

We are walking quickly towards disaster, but the best educated (hah!) among us are actively working to stay the course.
Interesting times &c.

Big Man Down: Clarence Clemons RIP

A sad day on the Backstreets, as Clarence Clemons has died:
Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, whose jovial onstage manner, soul-rooted style and brotherly relationship with Mr. Springsteen made him one of rock’s most beloved sidemen, died on Saturday at a hospital in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 69.

The cause was complications of a stroke he suffered last Sunday at his home in Singer Island, Fla., a spokeswoman for Mr. Springsteen said.

In a statement released Saturday night, Mr. Springsteen called Mr. Clemons “my great friend, my partner.”

“With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music,” he added. “His life, his memory and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

From the beginnings of the E Street Band in 1972, Mr. Clemons played a central part in Mr. Springsteen’s music, complementing the group’s electric guitar and driving rhythms in songs like “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with muscular, melodic saxophone hooks that echoed doo-wop, soul and early rock ’n’ roll.

But equally important to the group’s image was the sense of affection and unbreakable camaraderie between Mr. Springsteen and his sax man. Few E Street Band shows were complete without a shaggy-dog story about the stormy night the two men met at a bar in Asbury Park, N.J., or a long bear hug between them at the end of the night.

In addition to his musical endeavors, Clemons also played college football, tried out for the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns, worked as a youth counselor, and beat Fidel Castro in a game of pool. In other words, he really lived, something that will no doubt be brought up at his funeral.

Other members of the E Street Band - I'm thinking especially of Roy Bittan and Little Steven - may have had a bigger influence on the Springsteen sound, but no one else had the same charisma and personality as Clemons. And that's not to cut down on his musical chops. If you put together a list of classic rock & roll sax solos, I'll bet he would have played at least half of them. His work on the Born To Run album alone should be enough to ensure his musical immortality. I honestly don't see how he can be replaced, or even if there was anyone you could find who would be willing to take his place.

Mad Dog: Keeping the Libyan War Going

You just have to laugh at this stuff. The Obama administration is taking to new heights its argument that American involvement in the Libyan Air War is not the sort of bellicose behavior that will run afoul of the War Powers Act. The NY Times reports that Obama's own lawyers told him the US was at war with Libya causing him to ... seek out new lawyers who would tell him what he wants to hear.

President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team — including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh — who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

Just to add to the hilarity, Koh was one of the leading lights of the unitary executive critique that was so fashionable during the dread Bush Administration. Now he's making goofy hair-splitting arguments about how we are warring but are not "at war." Ridiculous. Maybe Americans aren't looking through the cross-hairs, but we are certainly providing logistical and material support that is much more important to the war effort than whomever is at the tip of the spear. As others have pointed out, if there was a country attacking the US in an effort to force Obama from office, and there was a third country offering material support (and even hovering off-shore) is there any doubt we would consider ourselves to be at war with them?

The worst of it is that this was all so unnecessary. The original sin of the Libyan Intervention was not going in without congressional approval. It was the inexcusable two-week delay when the rebels - remember them? - were at the gates of Tripoli and Qaddafi was on the ropes. A quick intervention then would have toppled the Mad Dog. Instead, Obama's dithering saved him, and now we are left with a bloody stalemate abroad and tortured definitions of "war" at home.

Blue On Blue: Jerry Brown Vetoes the Democrats' Budget

Watch out for the Zen Priest. You never know when he's going to turn on you. Gov. Brown has vetoed CA's latest budget deal (something the Governator never managed to do). As the budget was drafted entirely by Democrats, this came as an unpleasant surprise to some. Nothing like some internecine war between goofball liberals. Mmmmm... internecine

With just two weeks left until the start of the fiscal year, California's budget plans stalled Thursday after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a spending proposal by Democratic legislators, saying it was inadequate, and insisted that Republicans compromise on taxes.

"California is facing a fiscal crisis, and very strong medicine must be taken," Brown said while rejecting the budget that Democratic legislators passed Wednesday as an alternative to his plan. "I don't want to see more billions of borrowing, legal maneuvers that are questionable and a budget that will not stand the test of time."

Brown blamed Republican lawmakers for "obstructing" a vote by Californians on his plan to extend and raise taxes to balance the budget and prevent deeper cuts to education and courts. But it was Democratic legislative leaders who reacted angrily to Brown's action, saying they were "deeply dismayed."

The leaders, who spent most of the year taking direction on a budget strategy from the governor, appeared blindsided by the governor's veto, which marked the first time in California history that a governor had taken such action.

"His decision is apparently part of some elaborate strategy to force a confrontation," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, adding that Brown's continual push for his budget plan "ring(s) hollow if he is unable to deliver Republican votes."

One thing I will say in Brown's favor: he is a true believer. He wants to save progressive governance in California, but doesn't seem to want to go along with the sort of budget gimmicks that have become all too prevalent as the government has grown and the tax break has shrunk.

Some people are politically liberal because they genuinely want to help the downtrodden. Most liberals, though, want to remake American society with themselves at the top dispensing favors in the name of "social justice." Brown has long been among the former, which has put him at odds with most Democrats who are firmly in the latter camp.

Look, I don't want Brown or the Legislature to succeed. But, the Democratic party - and California - would be much better off if there were more libs with Brown's integrity.

Set Up Man: Throwing Anthony Weiner Out of Congress

With Anthony Weiner's resignation in hand, the Weiner-gate saga (if you can call it that) is almost over. Weiner was doomed once the MSM picked up on the story after right-wing bloggers covered the story over the Memorial Day weekend (was it that long ago?). It was an incredibly quick fall for someone who was one of the most prominent Democrats in Congress and certainly one of the most vocal proponents of progressive politics. Make no mistake, the loss of Weiner is a real blow, as compared to the sort of back-benchers like Chris Lee and Mark Foley who are typical of GOP scandals.

Lee Strahan notes, however, that there are still gaps in our knowledge, not just about what Weiner was up to, but also where lies the genesis of the tweet that shook the world. Specifically, two of the teen-agers whom Weiner sexted up have disappeared from the scene. Not only that, there remains an aura of mystery about the guy who originally re-tweeted the d**k-pic.

One of the strangest aspects of the #Weinergate story is that they are three people that are fairly central to the story that nobody seems to be able to locate. Neither the prescient Weiner-obsessed whistleblower PatriotUSA76, nor the two high school girls named “Betty and Veronica” in Tommy Christopher’s original piece reporting on the two.

I’ve discussed the situation with Patriot a number of times, so the update is – still, nobody seems to have ever spoken to them on the phone. Nobody knows who they are and there are contradictions in their story.

I had reporters calling me all weekend to try and find Betty and Veronica. These are people from major press organizations with big resources behind them. No sign of Betty or Veronica. Tommy Christopher says he spoke to Betty’s Mom on the phone and did other things to confirm their identities and it would be a fatal career move to just lie about that, so it’s hard to believe that that’s what happened. On the other hand, nobody else has seen this proof as far as I know (perhaps Colby Hall, the managing editor?) and Tommy has been very belligerently defensive about his reporting. And again, reporters have put dozens of hours into searching records and knocking on door with no trace.

Significantly, Betty seems to be connected at least four people central to Weinergate – Weiner followed her, she talked on Twitter with stripper @GingerLee, Betty contacted the 17 year old girl in Delaware, and she had some interactions with PatriotUSA76. It also seems like @GennetteC knew about her.

It’s weird and it’s weird in a way that’s not normal, either. When else has this happened? I can’t remember another story with 3 (or more, really) phantom people. The fact that Weiner is guilty of doing what Patriot long suspected him of doing makes it more weird, not less weird.

I'm not going to say there was a vast right-wing conspiracy to bring down Anthony Weiner. He brought himself down. But, I will say that he got a push, and a mighty big one at that. I can guarantee right now that there are people on Capitol Hill who were not surprised to find out that Weiner had been caught texting his penis to college girls. Maybe they didn't specifically know about his Twitter habits, but I'll bet the gossip on Weiner was (1) horn dog (2) likes to talk dirty (3) vainglorious. You all saw those photos he took in the gym. You're telling me no one knew about that?

Anyway, Weiner's colleagues - at least some - had to know. People in the media - at least some - had to know. But, as with John Edwards, progressive omerta protected him. And, just as with Edwards, it's no longer possible to suppress this sort of news. All you can do is keep it off cable, the networks, and the newspapers. But progressives' thin blue line can only take you so far. At some point, word must have gotten around to people on the right, whether on Capitol Hill or elsewhere, that something was up with Anthony Weiner. After that, it was a short journey to Andrew Breitbart and all the rest. That's where Mickey Kaus's concept of the undernews - where there is a story that the Establishment pretends doesn't exist so long it is not in the "major" media - captures how information travels in the 21st century.

In this case, the two most important people who brought information to light were "Dan Wolfe" and Megan Broussard. Wolfe was the guy who was monitoring Weiner's twitter feed, ostensibly to protect vulnerable young women from a predatory congressman. Broussard was the woman who seems to have been the source of many of the most embarrassing photos of the congressman, the photos that Breitbart began releasing one by one after Weiner and his enablers in the media had spent a solid week rationalizing what he had done. Pretty nice that "Wolfe" and Broussard were able to become privy to Weiner's secret life as an exhibitionist. Also pretty nice that they were able to forward that information to the one guy they could count on to use their material to maximum effect.

This is not a complaint, btw. The left does this all the time. (if you read Robert Novak's version of the Plamegate story, you realize that - initially, at least - it was ginned up by Joe Wilson and David Corn). But, it looks like conservatives have developed their own cadre of guerilla journalists and activists who have targeted the left's heroes.

UPDATE: Wow. The NY Times now has a story reporting that the two high school girls ("Betty and Veronica") likely don't exist. Not that this proves any conspiracy. These two were among the few as Weiner defenders who came forward during the time when the left and the media were trying to exonerate Weiner as the victim of a Breitbart smear.

Cut Rate: CA Dems Prepare the Dreaded "All Cuts" budget

The best educated lawmakers in the United States are preparing to vote on a budget without any Republican participation. As they have not been able to pass a tax increase, or put a tax proposition on the ballot, this will be the "all cuts" budget that Gov. Brown has been threatening. Ahh, feel that sweet, sweet austerity:

Democrats at the state Capitol, unable so far to win the four Republican votes needed to pass Gov. Jerry Brown's budget, introduced an alternative plan Tuesday that would close the state's remaining $9.6 billion deficit and could be approved on a majority vote, without GOP support.

Facing today's constitutional deadline to adopt a balanced spending plan, Democrats pushed forth a plan that avoids the tax extensions and increases sought by Brown, and instead delays some payments to schools, makes further spending cuts and raises certain fees.

Democratic leaders said both houses would vote on the new plan today, barring a last-minute deal with GOP legislators. Lawmakers, who almost always miss the budget deadline, this year face the prospect of permanently losing their pay for each day the budget is late.

The Democrats' proposal would further cut the University of California and California State University systems - after the $1 billion reduction approved in March - delay billions of dollars in payments to K-12 schools, and increase vehicle registration fees by $12 a year, along with other measures.

Hey, you know what, knock yourselves out. I'll be the first to be delighted should the "cuts" budget be the factor that finally brings California back from the brink.

But, the funny thing about these "cuts:" they are falling disproportionately on education and public safety, i.e. the things that people actually want the government to do. Meanwhile, I think we can assume that the welfare checks will keep going out, pensions will continue to accrue, the Air Resources Board and other agencies will continue to duplicate the work of federal agencies, the high speed rail will go forward, etc. Not sure if people will make the connection (the smart people left the state long ago), but there you go.

Is There A Connection? CA's Lawmakers Are Highest Educated, Least Accomplished In The US

It's another one of those "studies" intended to prove that liberals are super-smart. In this case, the Chronicle of Higher Education has concluded that California's lawmakers - most of whom are liberals - are the best educated in the nation, based on the dubious metric of having graduated from college.

A study shows California lawmakers are the nation's most educated.

The Washington, D.C.-based Chronicle of Higher Education says 90 percent of California's legislators have at least a bachelor's degree and 84 percent went to a public college.

Virginia is the second most-educated legislature, followed by Nebraska, New York and Florida.

The study released Monday compares education levels of all 50 state legislatures.

The Sacramento Bee says Arkansas has the least-educated statehouse: 25 percent of its members didn't attend college

Best educated, yet they have failed spectacularly. CA lawmakers have done everything the intelligencia has told them to do: raise taxes, take on astounding debt, go "green," build high speed rail, fight against climate change, and tax & regulate the hell out of the productive members of society. They have paid out no-questions-asked welfare to fully one-third of the dependency class in the US. The result has been a fiasco. The highest unemployment rate in the country, a permanent budget crisis, and a real danger of default on the horizon.

Meanwhile, our "best educated" can't perform the basic functions of government. We can't/won't build new prisons. We can't/won't do anything about "our crumbling infrastructure" - always a big problem when Republicans are in office, tied up in red tape when Dems are in charge. We can't/won't do anything about the failing public schools that doesn't involve simply paying more $$ for further failures. We can't/won't secure the state's water supply. Etc.

Mostly, our "best educated" won't do the things that will pull the state out of its slump: lower taxes, shrink government, and throw out all of the anti-business green initiatives that seem to infest every level of government. Not only will they not do these things, they will disparage the intellect of anyone who suggests that the "Reagan Way" works better than the "Brown Way." In other words, we're the dummies! I tell you, you need to go to college to understand that.

Arkansas, btw, has the "least educated" lawmakers because 25% lack college degrees. Yet, somehow they persevered and managed to get elected to public office. Also, their state is not known for chronic unemployment and fiscal disaster. Again, who are the dummies?

Eurovision: VDH Observes America From Afar

Paragraph of the day honors go to Victor Davis Hanson who is traveling in Europe, giving him a bit of distance to observe the American scene.
6. Go to Europe and see the leftwing desired future for America: dense urban apartment living by design rather than by necessity; one smart car; no backyard or 3rd bedroom; dependence on mass transit; political graffiti everywhere demanding more union benefits or social entitlements; entourages of horn-blaring, police-escorted technocrats racing through the streets on the hour; gated inherited homes of an aristocratic technocracy on the Mediterranean coast, Rhine, Danube, etc., exempt from much socialist and environmental law; $10 a gallon gas; sky-high power bills; racial segregation coupled with elite praise of illegal immigration and diversity; and unexamined groupthink on green issues, entitlements and the culpability of the U.S. Drink it all in and you have the liberal agenda for an America to be.
This is one of 10 observations he makes from his European perch. Read the whole thing.


Can't say I was paying attention to what Killing Joke was doing in 1996 (they'd peaked a decade earlier), but this is a pretty good tune.

Bachmann Overdrive

Today's WSJ Weekend Interview featured Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann. As most MSM stories about Bachmann emphasize either that she's "extreme," "stupid" or "crazy," this is a rare opportunity to find out what her program is.

If she were to take her shot, she'd run on an economic package reminiscent of Jack Kemp, the late congressman who championed supply-side economics and was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "In my perfect world," she explains, "we'd take the 35% corporate tax rate down to nine so that we're the most competitive in the industrialized world. Zero out capital gains. Zero out the alternative minimum tax. Zero out the death tax."

The 3.8 million-word U.S. tax code may be irreparable, she says, a view she's held since working as a tax attorney at the IRS 20 years ago. "I love the FAIR tax. If we were starting over from scratch, I would favor a national sales tax." But she's not a sponsor of the FAIR tax bill because she fears that enacting it won't end the income tax, and "we would end up with a dual tax, a national sales tax and an income tax."

Her main goal is to get tax rates down with a broad-based income tax that everyone pays and that "gets rid of all the deductions." A system in which 47% of Americans don't pay any tax is ruinous for a democracy, she says, "because there is no tie to the government benefits that people demand. I think everyone should have to pay something."

On the stump she emphasizes an "America-centered energy policy" based on "drilling and mining for our rich resources here." And she believes that repealing ObamaCare is a precondition to restoring a prosperous economy. "You cannot have a pro-growth economy and advise, simultaneously, socialized medicine."

Her big challenge is whether the country is ready to support deep spending cuts. On this issue, she carries a sharper blade than everyone except Ron Paul. She voted for the Paul Ryan budget—but "with an asterisk." Why? "The asterisk is that we've got a huge messaging problem [on Medicare]. It needs to be called the 55-and-Under Plan. I can't tell you the number of 78-year-old women who think we're going to pull the rug out from under them."

Should someone who's only been in Congress since 2006 run for president? I'd like to know why the hell not. On the one hand, I keep hearing that the government has gotten so big that is has become an existential threat. On the other hand, the GOP establishment seems to think that the best person to lead us out of this mess is someone like Mitt Romney, last seen passing health care reform and speaking in favor of climate change legislation. Speaking for myself, that's not what I want to hear about this year (or any year). Bachmann, at least, seems to take the Tea Party message of shrinking government to heart. Could it be that she has a better sense of what might be a winning message than someone whose main claim is that it's his "turn?"

I keep hearing that Bachmann is "stupid." Could be. After all, only stupid people managed to win an election as a conservative Republican in Minnesota in 2006. Only stupid people have since successfully defended their seats from determined leftists who think nothing of spending $10 million to unseat someone they consider too stupid to live. And, only idiots work as tax attorneys, of course. Rule of thumb: if Democrats say someone is stupid, it usually means they are scared that mainstream America is getting ready to embrace that person before the left can label them stupidextremecrazywanttokillgrandma. Maybe Republicans don't want to vote for Bachmann, but it's clear that Democrats really don't want Republicans, let alone regular Americans, to vote for her. Should we really be so obliging to the left?

Red Face(d)book

Kids today. Here's what Mark Zuckerberg had to say when asked how Facebook's plans to expand into China would affect the company's open communication platform:
"I don't want Facebook to be an American company," he said. "I don't want it to be this company that just spreads American values all across the world. ...For example, we have this notion of free speech that we really love and support at Facebook, and that's one of the main things that we're trying to push with openness. But different countries have their different standards around that. ...My view on this is that you want to be really culturally sensitive and understand the way that people actually think."
Nice to know that this is the sort of deep thinking that billionaire Obama supporters are coming up with. Free speech, you see, is this quaint "notion" (like American Exceptionalism, probably) that shouldn't have any effect on Facebook's business, even though it's the most important factor in its success. If people at Facebook sit around wondering why they've had so much trouble building trust, they may want to reconsider their blithe attitudes about basic values like privacy and free speech.

Only Discharge can clear this up:

Newtineers: Newt Gingrich's Senior Staff Resigns En Masse

Can't remember something like this ever happening before: Newt Gingrich's campaign staff resigned en masse. Is there anyone in America who honestly thinks Gingrich can/should be president?

Newt Gingrich’s top staff quit en masse Thursday, throwing into question whether his already troubled presidential campaign can continue.

Two sources close to the situation confirmed that campaign manager Rob Johnson, strategists Sam Dawson and Dave Carney, spokesman Rick Tyler, and consultants Katon Dawson in South Carolina and Craig Schoenfeld in Iowa have all quit to protest what one called a "different vision" for the campaign.

The sources said Gingrich was staying in the race.

The mass resignation was, one source said, “a team decision.”

“We just had a different direction in which we wanted to take the campaign,” said a second source.

Gingrich was intent on using technology and standing out at debates to get traction while his advisers believed he needed to run a campaign that incorporated both traditional, grassroots techniques as well as new ideas.

One official said the last straw came when Gingrich went forward with taking a long-planned cruise with his wife last week in the Greek isles.

There's some scuttlebutt that everyone bailed on Gingrich because his wife was taking too active a role in making strategic decisions like when to go on Greek vacations. I'll agree that his wife was a problem, but not because she is his closest adviser. That's a dynamic that's present in virtually every political marriage these days. No, her problem was the manner in which she became his wife, namely by beginning public life as Gingrich's mistress. I'm no evangelical, but I just don't see how marrying your mistress is an admirable act, no matter how beautiful or classy she might be.

Still, the real reason for Gingrich's troubles can be laid at the candidate's door, not that of his wife's. Gingrich is an engaging Big Picture guy with a real intellectual veneer, but he tends to get caught up in solutions searching for a problem like Global Warming. And for all of his verbal flair, he has a remarkable ability to say the "right" thing the wrong way. When Gingrich declared Paul Ryan's Medicare plan to be "right-wing social engineering," the problem wasn't in the substance - does being conservative now mean accepting Medicare as a permanent fact of life? - but in the expression. Just as Gingrich once undercut the 1994 Revolution with some highly ill-considered speculation about putting poor kids in orphanages, he undercut his own campaign by providing Democrats with an instant bumpersticker slogan. A Gingrich campaign would have had a lot of those.

And speaking of the Nineties, does anyone have happy memories of the Gingrich Speakership? Sure, it was great to have a Republican majority for the first time in 40 years. But I'd say the missed opportunities outnumber the genuine successes like welfare reform. One of the most depressing things I read in the last few years was a passage from Bob Novak's Prince of Darkness in which he interviewed Bob Livingston soon after the dramatic 1994 congressional election, and realized that the appropriators in the GOP caucus would have a lot more power than the conservative freshmen who gave the Old Bulls their majority. We never had a chance! (and remember how conservative 1994 stars like JC Watts, Steve Largent and Dick Armey fell by the wayside, one by one?) Yet, we had to spend the better part of a decade defending Gingrich. All those leftists railing against "cold hearted" conservatives, but all we got out of it was the profligate DeLay congresses of the Bush era.

Gingrich (and us) will always have 1994. Those were heady days, but they were too short because the window for conservative governance can be pitifully small. Gingrich was able to reach the mountaintop but once he was there he largely squandered his chance. We simply can't risk that kind of a result in 2012.

Brown on Black: Hispanic Gangs Target Black Americans

Federal prosecutors have charged an LA-based Latino street gang with a conspiracy to drive African-Americans from the town of Azusa. Among other things, the gang targeted blacks (who were about 4% of the town's population) for robberies, beatings, and property crimes. Things were so bad that Azusas was known as the "hate capital of the valley." How long did this conspiracy last? 20 years! I've heard justice moves slowly, but come on!
Members of a Latino gang affiliated with the Mexican Mafia conspired for nearly 20 years to drive African-Americans out of the Southern California city of Azusa through violence and intimidation, federal authorities alleged Tuesday.

Fifty-one alleged members of the Azusa 13 gang were indicted on racketeering and conspiracy charges; six were accused of conspiring to violate the civil rights of African-Americans. The case marks the second time federal civil-rights laws have been used against a gang, authorities said.

"The Azusa 13 gang waged a campaign of hate during a two-decade crime spree in which African-Americans were harassed and attacked," U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. said in a written statement Tuesday. "We hope that this federal case will signal the end of this racist behavior and will help vindicate all of the victims who have suffered over the years."

Thirty-nine of the defendants were in custody Tuesday. Authorities were still searching for 12 other suspects. Lawyers for some of the defendants couldn't immediately be reached.

While racial tensions among gangs have long been a part of turf wars in Southern California, none of the victims of the Azusa gang's alleged racial harassment were part of any rival gangs or criminal enterprise, authorities said. They were targeted simply because they were black, authorities said.

Unbelievable stuff. What were bedwetting liberals saying about white Tea Partiers? That we were one-sheet removed from a Klan rally? Meanwhile, African-Americans are actually targets of violence by one racial group because they are black, and it takes 20 years (!) to do anything about it? Do I have that straight?

It's a cruel world, but I honestly believe that America has made great strides in racial matters since the 1960's. But just as we are emerging from one font of injustice, we seem to have imported a new group of racist a**holes who are even worse. (can we all assume that a bunch of gang members with ties to the Mexican mafia may not be native-born Americans?) But, even though the victims were American citizens targeted over a period of decades, no one seems to have been spurred to quick action, no doubt because the perpetrators were another minority, rather than part of the supposed "oppressor" class of whites.

Conservatives are at least in favor of enforcing the law and treating everybody equally under the law. It's liberals who are soft on crime, and reluctant to acknowledge the racist behaviors of "oppressed" minorities, not to mention the criminal element among the immigrant community. Yet we are the ones who are labeled as racist. If black Americans ever realize how much they have been abused by their liberal protectors, they will be on the path to true freedom.

The Doctor Is Out: CA Faces Doctor Shortage

In yet another metric of decline, CA is facing a shortage of primary care doctors as MD's flee a once-lucrative and prestigious profession:

Retiring doctors, low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, and the federal health care reform law are exacerbating California's shortage of primary care physicians, Bay Area health care providers and medical associations say.

Already, only a quarter of California's counties meet the recommended ratio of 60 to 80 primary care doctors for every 100,000 residents, according to the California Medical Association. (In the Bay Area, there are 78 primary care physicians for every 100,000 residents.)

“We are very much worried about the shortage in general,” said Callie Langton, health care workforce policy expert at the California Academy of Family Physicians. “Twenty years ago, a lot more physicians were going into primary care, and the replacement rate is not high.”

Nearly a third of doctors are 60 or older and are close to retirement, but only 42 percent of medical students are going into primary care. According to the California Medical Association and the California Healthcare Foundation, the number of young doctors pursuing primary care decreased over the past decade because the it's one of the lowest paid medical specialties.

Family practitioners earn an average of $143,000, while anesthesiologists and surgeons can earn well over $200,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Amazingly, we seem to know why no one dreams of being a doctor any more. Obamacare and the low reimbursement rates from government medical programs that are supposed to "guarantee" health care for all.

While the number of primary care doctors is shrinking, the demand for the care they provide is about to soar, thanks to the federal health care reform law.

Under the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, as many as 6 million more Californians will be able to obtain health insurance coverage, with nearly half eligible for coverage under Medi-Cal. Many of the newly insured will try to seek treatment from primary care physicians and family practice doctors, who provide the kind of cradle-to-grave, coordinated care that emphasizes preventive medicine, which can help reduce health care costs.

But fewer physicians than ever — just 57 percent — say they are now willing to accept new Medi-Cal patients, according to the California Healthcare Foundation. Many doctors say the reimbursement rate — that is, the amount of money the state pays them for treating patients — is too low. California sets the rate, which is the fourth lowest among all 50 states, according to the California Medical Association.

Great. So the government promises health care for all, but then makes it so miserable on the doctors that the health care available is greatly reduced. If Republicans propose any sort of change in this perverse system, we are accused of wanting to kill Grandma. But liberals have no problem reducing payments to doctors (and congratulate one another on their green eye-shade act) which effectively leads to the same result.

We've had to spend a little too much time focusing on the Anthony Weiner scandal. While I agree that it's scandalous that one of the Democratic Party's stars was carrying on sexting relationships with young women, the real scandal is his (and every other Dems') liberalism. Health care reform is slowly destroying America's health care system, and liberals are ready to defend the destruction they have wrought. No doubt the coming doctor shortage will inspire another round of tinkering, accompanied by the usual "passionate" advocacy by the Left.

MS-13 Mystery Theater: Gang Member Murders Baby in

The most disgusting thing to happen in the last 24 hours was not the dissemination of a picture of a shirtless Anthony Weiner. (my eyes!) It was this case, supposedly of "mistaken identity," in East Palo Alto where gang member shot a baby in the head:

East Palo Alto police have arrested a 17-year-old boy in the fatal shooting of a 3-month-old baby, a killing that investigators said stemmed from a case of mistaken identity.

The teenager was out for revenge after being beaten up May 31 by Sureño gang members in Redwood City, police said at a news conference today. At about 1 a.m. Sunday, he thought he saw one of the gang members getting into a car on the 400 block of Wisteria Drive in East Palo Alto, said acting police Capt. Jeff Liu.

In the car, however, was a family of four leaving a baby shower, not the gang members who had fought with the teenager. The suspect opened fire, killing 3-month-old Izak Jesus Garcia-Lopez and wounding the boy's parents.

Izak's mother, Ivonne Garcia-Lopez, was shot in the leg as she threw her body in front of her 4-year-old son, Isaiah. When the shooting stopped, she saw that her baby had been shot in the head.

"He was such a precious angel," Garcia-Lopez, 28, said at the news conference, sobbing. "He is my everything. I was making my own little family and we were happy, and this person came into my life and destroyed it. They killed my baby and they destroyed my soul, too."

Mistaken identity?? A husband and wife and their two little kids? Maybe his gun was hacked.

The shooter is only identified as a "teenager" because, naturally, we can't identify juveniles as being criminal suspects. I'm sure his immigration status, or lack there of, will also be a jealously guarded secret.

Mellon Head: The NY Times Covers the John Edwards-Bunnie Mellon Story

The NY Times had a (not very big) story in today's paper about "Bunnie" Mellon, the billionaire dowager who gave John Edwards millions of dollars to hide his pregnant mistress during the 2008 campaign. As the story describes events that occurred 3-4 years ago, and comes 3 years after the National Enquirer ran Edwards to ground (after a solid year of being the sole media outlet outside of Kausfiles to cover the Edwards story at all), 18 months after Andrew Young's The Politician described the events in detail, and one year after I blogged about "Bunnie Money"...I'd say the Times is late to this story.
Mrs. Mellon, a Democrat in a world of Republicans, first met Mr. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, through Mr. Huffman five years ago. She expressed an interest in Mr. Edwards because he reminded her of President John F. Kennedy, she told the decorator. And he arranged a first meeting, over tea, at her estate, Oak Spring Farms, in Upperville, Va.

Mr. Edwards ingratiated himself with Mrs. Mellon to the point where she gave him millions of dollars as well as a gold necklace as a good-luck charm for the campaign trail, according to a tell-all memoir by Andrew Young, Mr. Edwards’s former aide, who is also an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.

In May 2007, when Mr. Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, told Mr. Edwards she was pregnant, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Young began looking for people who could give them money to help conceal the affair, the indictment said.

About the same time, it said, Mrs. Mellon wrote a note to Mr. Young, saying: “I was sitting alone in a grim mood — furious that the press attacked Senator Edwards on the price of a haircut. But it inspired me — from now on, all haircuts, etc. that are necessary and important for his campaign — please send the bills to me. ... It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.”

At that point, the indictment said, Mrs. Mellon had already contributed the maximum permitted by law — $2,300 — to Mr. Edwards’s campaign.

Over the next eight months, the indictment said, Mrs. Mellon sent checks for Mr. Edwards through Mr. Huffman totaling $725,000, “falsely” referring in memo lines to things like “chairs,” “antique Charleston table” and “bookcase.” (Mr. Huffman refused to discuss this aspect of the case.)

Forget campaign finance violations, when is the trustee of the Mellon Trust going to sue Edwards for elder abuse?

In the wake of Edwards's indictment, John at Powerline and Steven Hayward have written that prosecuting Edwards was prosecutorial overkill, and not supported by federal election law. There's nothing illegal about a one party giving another $6 million to hide their mistress, goes the reasoning. All I can say is, read The Politician. Mellon was giving Edwards millions of dollars for his campaign, not for his mistress. (I doubt she had any idea Rhielle Hunter existed). Her money was being laundered through Edwards's campaign, either by Young or the late Fred Baron. At some point reading The Politician you start to wonder, hey, how is that people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell have to justify really penny-ante "violations" like whether the right RNC office saved the right Neiman Marcus receipts, while John Edwards can use hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single source to hide his pregnant mistress from the media? Well, Mellon's money was a gift! Of course! Why hasn't anyone else thought of this before? Well, no one's thought of it before because that would eviscerate the campaign finance laws.

I'll join with anyone out there who says the present system for financing elections is an incumbent protection racket that has done nothing to keep $$ out of politics. But, the laws are on the books and Edwards is subject to them, same as evil Republicans (whose campaign "violations" are usually reported on the weekend before elections, rather than years after the fact).

Mohel Man: SF's Anti-Circumcision Campaign Takes a Dark Turn

We all had a laugh when some hopeless ninnies managed to put a circumcision ban on San Francisco's November ballot. They've apparently put out some kind of campaign comic book that is filled with laughably anti-semitic imagery. Zombie has the details

As you may have heard by now, San Francisco will be voting this November on whether or not to ban circumcision in the city.

Defenders of the measure say it’s all about “human rights” and “protecting babies” from unnecessary procedures.

But critics suspected there was something vaguely anti-Semitic about the whole proposal, since among Jews (and Muslims, as well) circumcising male babies is a religious duty, not just a mistaken medical procedure.

Ban proponents insisted their proposal had nothing to do with Jews — really, it’s all about the rights of children.

Well, any doubt that they were lying have now been dispelled, with the publication of new campaign literature for the upcoming circumcision ban. The campaign comic book, called “Foreskin Man,” after its baby-saving superhero, features a litany of evil Jews doing battle with blond Nordic saviors.

Yes, really.

(Oh, and did I mention the artist’s last name is Hess? A relative of Rudolph, perhaps?)

And here's a choice set of panels. Hard to believe anyone would think this would be persuasive to anyone outside the lunatic fringe.

As I said earlier, the most ardent anti-circ people I've met tend to be Europeans (and their Euro-phile waterboys) who see circumcision as an American barbarity on par with gun ownership and supporting Israel. That's not to say that everyone who's anti-circ is also anti-semitic, but I will say that it's as easy to meet an anti-semite in the Euro crowd as it is to meet a racist among the Boers.

As for the circumcision ban, I am going to predict it will fail miserably at the ballot box*, even without an assist from these goofy comics. People in SF have to vote on a bunch of dumb stuff, not because they favor it, but because it's so damn easy to get initiatives on to the ballot. This ban would criminalize a religious practice (up to one year in jail!) that is hardly outside of the mainstream. Even if the ban passes, it will never be enforced.

*sadly, Free Will is not going to be able to vote on this weighty matter, as FWHQ is heading out to the 'burbs in about a month.

Volt Face

As a follow-on to my call for the Right to repeat endlessly that we won the Iraq War, we also need to start repeating that, no, the auto bailouts didn't "work," except in the very limited sense you can throw enough $$ into anything and keep it going.

On June 1, 2009, General Motors filed for bankruptcy, backed by $30 billion in support from the federal government. The same day, in the same New York courthouse, a judge approved Chrysler’s plan to forge an alliance with Fiat and emerge from bankruptcy as a restructured business with an uncertain future.

Two years later, all three American automakers have returned to profitability, the industry has added new shifts and 115,000 jobs, and GM and Chrysler have returned more than 50 percent of the government’s investment. The industry is mounting one of the most improbable turnarounds in recent history.

That's The Indispensable Man himself writing in the Washington Post. The Obama Administration is crowing about how they "saved" the American auto industry while simultaneously admitting that they have lost $16 billion saving 75,000 auto jobs (actually union dues paying sinecures). If they admit to $16B, then the real number must be quite something. Even worse, we are intentionally losing money on the government's stock holdings because the Obamites don't want to be holding a Government Motors stock position going into 2012.

There is a lot to this point, but it’s not really so simple. You can’t compare all of these net tax receipts (or more broadly, economic activity) to what would happen in “the world as it is today, minus GM.”

First, in the event of a bankruptcy, you don’t burn down the factories, erase all the source code on all the hard disks, make it illegal to use the brand name Chevrolet, and execute all of the employees. Others take ownership of the assets, and the employees go on with their lives. Some of these assets will be put to use generating revenues, profits, and taxes, and some of these former employees will get jobs or start businesses, and generate revenues, profits, and taxes. In order to measure the effect of the bailout over, say, five or ten years, you have to compare the actual taxes collected to what would happened over this same period in the counterfactual case where the bankruptcy was allowed to proceed. What owners would have bought the factories and IP assets, and what would they have done with them? What businesses would the former employees have started? Who would have moved to Arizona and retired? What new industry clusters will evolve in Arizona because of this transfer of people?

Second, some of the profit GM makes today would have been made by other companies that picked up some of the slack if the company lost market share after a bankruptcy. They would pay taxes on these profits, and as far as government receipts are concerned, money is money. How would auto industry structure evolve over time given whatever changes happened to the assets currently owned by the legal entity GM, or the employees currently paid by it?

Anybody who tells you they can answer all of these questions reliably is full of it.

And that doesn’t even start to get to the really long-run considerations of what effects this has on rule of law and moral hazard (or if you want to make the case for the bailout, social solidarity and degradation of the working class).

As others have pointed out, if the point was to "help" the auto workers, it would have been cheaper to give GM's 75,000 pre-BK employees $250,000 to start over. That's the In Our Hands plan. But that wasn't the point of the bailouts. The point was to reward allies, preserve the Wagner Act, and expand the government's sway over heavy industry. Sure, GM and Chrysler are still in business and their factories are still pumping out cars, but it's still an open question whether the bailed out will return to profitability.

Not only that, a very specific part of the bail out doesn't seem to be working at all. Back in 2009, we were hearing all about how GM was developing the Chevy Volt, that this was the car of the future, and that we should bail out GM to give them a chance to bring this Green Wonder Car to market. Have you ever seen a Chevy Volt on the road? I live in San Francisco, a "green" city filled with hybrids, whether Prius's, Camry's, Lexus HS's, Ford Escape's, or what have you. It's very easy for me to just walk around my neighborhood and encounter all manner of exotic cars: Bentleys, Maseratis, Lotuses, Porsche Panameras, Teslas. Even Ferrari's are a fairly common sight (by that I mean one or two per week).

I have seen one Chevy Volt.

Now, I'm just one guy living in one neighborhood in one city. But, if there's one place in the United States that you would expect to buy into the GM bailout via the Volt, this would be it. They're not buying it.

The government has lost billions on GM.

The Volt is not "saving" the planet.

We are going to have to bailout GM again.

It shouldn't be difficult for the Right to repeat these very basic facts.

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