Hypocrites Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton castigated the Republicans, in harsh terms, for suggesting a "nuclear option" to break up Democrat filibusters of judicial nominations just a few years ago. What Democrats termed "rulebreaking" then they are embracing today in invoking "reconciliation" on the health-care vote. Lord Acton weighed in on this phenomenon a long time ago.
There are irreconcilable differences between the position of Democrats in 2005 and the position of Democrats in 2010. Senator Barack Obama decried "a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever." He continued, "What I worry about would be you would essentially have still two chambers, the House and the Senate, but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side. And that's just not what the founders intended." Those were Barack Obama's principles when George W. Bush was president and the Republicans controlled the Senate.
The double standard isn't the only reason to decry the Demcrats for seeking to pass health-care reform through reconciliation, a procedure intended for use in budgetary matters that reduce the deficit. This last part is crucial. Have you heard it uttered recently that the president's plan cuts the deficit? The reason the president incessantly states that his health-care plan will reduce the deficit, when any third grader could tell you his math of adding 30 million people to the health-insurance rolls while reducing the deficit doesn't add up, is because that lie creates a rationale for going the reconciliation route. It is calculated deceit.
Reconcilation also gives cover to Democrats representing conservative states. Do you want to know the final vote on reconciliation? It will be 50-50, with Vice President Joe Biden casting the tie breaker. Democrats will do a head count beforehand, determining whose votes they absolutely need and whose votes are expendable. If the president needs Senators Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, or James Webb, they will be there for him. If the president doesn't need them to get to fifty votes, they will be allowed to vote against the bill as a means to save face in their home states. In passing the bill, the Democrats want to inflict the least possible harm on their members. Reconciliation provides them that luxury. Sixty votes, apart from being unattainable at this point, forces every Democrat to stand up and be counted--with dire consequences, in certain cases, for their future in elected office. Reconciliation gives them a politically opportunistic out.
What was stated on this blog five years ago with regard to the so-called "Nuclear Option" (all good Republicans pronounce this the "Nucular" option) applies as readily to the attempt to pass a $1 trillion health-care bill through a simple senate majority: "both actions violate the traditions" of the senate. But when did radicals trying to make the world anew ever pay deference to tradition?
A CNN/Opinion Dynamics poll finds that just 25 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a health-care bill similar to the ones already passed by the House and the Senate. Yet, the vast majorities of Democrats in Congress have already voted for such bills and will again. Who, but hard-left ideologues, do these votes represent? Certainly not the American people.
One of the many odious aspects of the president's health-care propsal is the reintroduction of federal price controls. This is a recipe for shortages and black markets. Do you remember the 1970s? President Nixon imposed price controls on such goods as oil. The result? Those surreal pictures of long lines at gas stations and "no gas" signs suggesting that America had decided to become Upper Volta for a decade.
Not having gas, as anyone who has run past empty can attest, really bites. You know what's worse? Long lines and "no care" signs at the hospital. That will be the likely result should the president's proposed Health Insurance Rate Authority become a reality. Queues and rationing are the reality in France, Britain, Canada, and, perhaps soon, in the United States, too.
When governments control prices, several outcomes are possible: 1. Industry captures the regulatory body and colludes to keep prices artificially high and/or exclude competition (The Interstate Commerce Commission, for a time, was more or less an example of this). 2. The government sticks it to industry (Hear the Left's cries of "Big Pharma," and the use of "health-insurance company" as if it were a euphemism for Hitler, and you get the sense that the proposed price controls will be vindictive in nature.), and shortages ensue because of the removal of incentives to provide the particular service. To mandate that the price of a product fall below its cost is a sure-fire way to create a shortage because the profit motive has been removed. Nobody goes into business to lose money. The resultant shortage of milk and rice from Hugo Chavez's price controls is an example of this principle in action. Ironically, one of the effects of price controls, because they induce shortages, is to dramatically inflate the price of products on the black market because of their short supply in the state-regulated market. Neither artificially propped-up prices nor artificially low prices is desirous.
"Both the House and Senate bills include significant reforms to make insurance fair, accessible, and affordable to all people, regardless of pre-existing conditions," reads the president's proposal. "One essential policy is 'rate review' meaning that health insurers must submit their proposed premium increases to the State authority or Secretary for review. The President's Proposal strengthens this policy by ensuring that, if a rate increase is unreasonable and unjustified, health insurers must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable. A new Health Insurance Rate Authority will be created to provide needed oversight at the Federal level and help States determine how rate review will be enforced and monitor insurance market behavior."
In other words the state, rather than the market, will determine price.
What rates are "reasonable" and "justified"? In the free market, buyers and sellers determine whether a price is "justified" and "reasonable." A transaction represents the voluntary exchange between two parties. If the seller's price is too high, buyers will go elsewhere and the market will compel the seller to lower his price to find buyers. If the buyer's offer is to small, the market will compel the buyer to raise his offer to find a seller.
The free market, in this limited sense, is self-regulating. It needs no external arbiter of wisemen to determine whether its transactions are unreasonable and unjustifiable. Everyday, in malls, box stores, and mom & pop outfits, the market casts its judgment on the fairness of prices. The free market is democratic. The market--buyers and sellers--determines price.
In contrast, regulatory boards such as the Health Insurance Rate Authority are totalitarian. Rather than a market of 300 million buyers and sellers determining price, a handful of wisemen dictate. Transactions aren't voluntary. They are determined from on high. The governed don't give their consent to such governing bodies. But that doesn't stop these unelected "experts" from governing.
When drivers ran out of gas four decades ago, the consequences included long walks home. When patients run out of medical treatments, the consequences will include death.
Those who don't remember the 1970s are condemned to repeat them.
When doctors told Danny Williams, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, that he had an urgent heart problem, he made an appointment in that renowned medical Mecca of the Great White North: Miami, Florida. "This was my heart, my choice and my health," a defensive Williams explained. "I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics." I don't begrudge Williams for getting the best possible health care for himself. I begrudge him for denying his fellow countrymen the best possible health care by embracing socialized medicine. If America moves toward Canada, where will Canadians move to when they need the very best medical treatment?
The first bullet point of President Obama's health-care proposal, unveiled yesterday, boasts that it "makes insurance more affordable." Underlines aside, the proposal later outlines several onerous taxes that the president seeks to impose on insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and health plans. That won't make health insurance more affordable. That will make it more expensive.
The president's problem is not poor salesmanship, but an inferior product. The American people are frustrated with medical costs spiraling out of control. The president taps into this legitimate concern to mask what is really a welfare bill. The president doesn't care about out-of-control costs. If he did, he wouldn't add to the burdens of consumers by taxing health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and the manufacturers of medical devices, who will pass the burden on to customers. What the president is interested in is socialism: giving free health care to 31 million Americans who don't have health care. He is using the universal concern over rising health-care costs as a Trojan Horse to sneak through a new welfare benefit for a small percentage of mostly low-income Americans who don't currently have health care.
The president could bring costs under control. He could expand coverage to those who don't have it. He can't do both.
President Obama's habit of highlighting through words and bullet points and underlines (I'm surprised he didn't go with ALLCAPS) how his plan contains cost is a tacit admission that he knows the American people want a plan that reins in costs. The fact that he seeks to impose new taxes on health care, provide insurance to more than 30 million people that don't currently have it, and mandate health insurance, which will artificially inflate demand and therefore price, demonstrates the dishonesty in the endeavor. He says one thing. He does the other.
"The President's Proposal increases the revenue from the assessment on this industry [pharmaceutical companies] which is $23 billion in the Senate bill by $10 billion over ten years," the 11-page document, certainly an improvement on the byzantine House and Senate bills, states. The president's proposal assesses health-insurance providers a $67 billion tax. There's a $20 billion excise tax on the manufacturers of medical devices. Quality health-insurance programs, derisively dubbed "Cadillac plans" by class warriors, get taxed, too.
How does all of this gibe with the president's underlined message that his program "makes insurance more affordable." It doesn't.
President Obama doesn't get it. It wasn't the manner in which he sold his health care plan, as he suggested in the state of the union speech, but the health care plan itself that alienated the American people. This morning, he advanced a new health-care plan that retains so much of what was offensive about the old House and Senate bills. Here are a few observations. Price controls are a sure-fire way to create shortages. Capping prices on specific medical procedures will make those procedures unprofitable. It will de-incentivize the reason for providing those procedures. Shortages, and a black-market, will ensue. Giving 31 million people insurance who currently don't have insurance will cause tax rates and the deficit to skyrocket. Raising taxes on pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and plans will inflate the cost of health care even further. By mandating health insurance, the president creates an artificial demand for a product which will necessarily cause the cost of that product to baloon because of the laws of supply and demand, which, unlike Obama's proposed health-care law, aren't up for a vote.
I attended CPAC for ten consecutive years. I am working on a similar streak of non-attendance. Should they invite me to speak on a panel with the likes of Jane Russell again, I will gladly reappear. Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll at the conference this weekend. This is shocking given the reception given to Paul by party conservatives just two years ago. It is unsurprising given the past tenacity of Paul's supporters in such non-binding votes. Jim Antle's take on Paul's victory is here. My take is that Ron Paul was a premature tea partier. Though his campaign for the presidency failed everywhere it was put to a vote, the Ron Paul Revolution anticipated the Tea Party movement in its focus on limited, constitutional government. Conservatives, tethered to the Bush presidency and thus unmoored from their principles, largely dismissed Ron Paul two years ago. Even if movement conservatives haven't fully embraced him--witness the booing his victory received at CPAC--they have largely come around--or, perhaps more accurately, come back--to his principles. A Democrat in the White House has had that effect on them.
The public transportation system isn't a great place to meet people. Indelibly etched in my olfactory receptor neuron is the smell of urine from the tunnel linking the outbound and inbound tracks of the Green Line at Boston's Park Street Station. But worse than the sights and smells of public transportation is when the sense of touch is engaged. This could involve a pervert brushing against you, with a crowded train providing the plausible deniability that it was an accident. Or it could involve a violent encounter with Epic Beard Man, aka Vietnam Tom, aka Touchdown Tommy, aka Tom Slick.
Six months after getting tazed by Oakland cops for mistaking Oakland-Almeda County Stadium for a BYOB facility, Epic Beard Man is back on YouTube for an epic battle with a fellow passenger on an Almeda County Transit bus line. The 67-year-old pugilist's performance against a younger man is impressive. If you haven't watched the profanity-laced busride beatdown, then join the ranks of the aware by watching it here.
More people have watched Epic Beard Man v. Mr. Amber Lance than watched Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto. Like a sci-fi geek repeatedly screening Star Wars in its opening weekend, I have watched the Epic Beard Man fight more than a dozen times. At first viewing, AC Transit Bus Fight is a 3:21 brawl. But careful viewers will recognize that there's more to this internet sensation than meets the eye. It's not just a fistfight. It's art.
There's foreshadowing in the obscene truth-in-advertising message emblazoned across Epic Beard Man's back. You can't say he didn't warn you. There's the irony in the younger, aggressor getting his comeuppance. There is conflict, which devolves into a classic race dispute as a result of a taunt. There are the unheralded side characters, who goad Amber Lance into taking on the older, but bigger, Epic Beard Man. After their hero has fallen, a rapacious spectator--spotting the bloodied man's bag (or was it EBM's bag?)--encourages a friend to "go through that s---!" There's the brilliant cell-phone-camera direction, which concludes the internet film by juxtaposing a dirty Oakland bus dripping with blood and the city sign upon the bench that announces that Oakland is "clean and safe." The director is certainly the Martin Scorsese of camera-phone films. And finally, there's the promise of a sequel, as Amber Lance repeatedly states: "I'm gonna kill that n----."
This movie is a western. It's Oakland setting gives that away. Like all good westerns, there's more going on than just the gun fight. The black and white protagonists are more nuanced shades of gray than traditional cowboy imagery of black and white hats. Epic Beard Man, though fending off a physical attack, instigated it by making a racially-charged inquiry regarding a spit shine. And though Amber Lance is a big mouth, one can't help but feel that forces external--the peer pressure of the mob hoping to witness a gun fight--compel him to act. His bravado stems from a fear of getting shown up. The irony is that his fear of getting shown up is what leads to his ultimate humiliation.
The bus-riding mob wears the black hat in this tale for taking pleasure from violence. Does not the other mob, then, the more than million watching but, unlike the passengers, not visible, wear the black hat as well? That's the final twist of AC Transit Bus Fight: we're watching ourselves. The web gawkers condemning the passengers for their vicarious thrill are themselves YouTubing the clip for kicks. Everyone likes a good scrap, even if they don't care to admit it.
Joseph Stack set his house afire and killed himself by flying a plane into an Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas yesterday. After tax issues apparently thwarted several of Stack's business ventures, he came to the conclusion, posted on his website, that, "Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer." No, it's not. The answer is Tax Masters.
Three Duke lacrosse players attempted to kill Crystal Gayle Magnum's boyfriend. They assaulted the gentleman, set his clothes on fire in a bathtub, and threatened to kill him in front of the police. But because the assailants come from a wealthy white boys institution, the racist, sexist, classist police have charged Crystal Gayle Magnum with this set of crimes. Can you believe it? First the Durham police department sets Ms. Magnum's rapists free, now they have falsely accused her of attempted murder when clearly Duke lacrosse players are responsible. Wendy Murphy, Nancy Grace, Mike Nifong--where are you to stop this injustice?
In the late 1970s, the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart was the domain of Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, and Chic. Then The Knack's "My Sharona" came along and became the top song of 1979. It conquered disco and rescued rock 'n' roll. Doug Fieger, the man who co-wrote and sang "My Sharona," died earlier this week. Read my piece @ the American Spectator on the rise, fall, and curious contemporary relevance of The Knack's "My Sharona."
Rep. William Delahunt, who declined to prosecute Amy Bishop when she aced her brother almost a quarter-century ago, is conveniently out of the country. Therefore, he's unable to comment on why he deemed a case an "accident" in which a woman discharged a firearm three times, killed her brother, attempted to rob a stranger at gunpoint, and engaged in a brief armed standoff with police.
The cover-up, whether perpetrated by Delahunt or the local police chief, led directly to the multiple victim public shooting in Huntsville, Alabama, where this fruit loop murdered three fellow academics. The more we learn about Bishop, the more it's evident that she shouldn't have been on the street, let alone in front of a classroom. Bishop made nuisance calls to the police on neighbors partaking in mundane activities. In 2002, she punched a mother in the head in front of her children for not handing over a booster seat at an International House of Pancakes. In 1993, she was a suspect in an attempted nail-bombing of a Harvard professor who had been critical of her. At the University of Alabama, students found her so bizarre that they complained to the administration and circulated a petition about Bishop's erratic classroom behavior. Bishop's own family found her far-left political hectoring and Obama obsessions alienating. And the strongest evidence of her instability? Bishop, the cousin of author John Irving, penned three unpublished novels.
It is no wonder that Bishop's colleagues denied her tenure. It is stupifying why Massachusetts officials, particularly Bill Delahunt, denied her a stay in the big house.
Presumably, the flap will blow over by Delahunt's return. That's what the congressman is counting on. And if it doesn't blow over, who's going to ask him probing questions anyhow? Certainly not the Democratic Party's courtier journalists at the Boston Globe. Why would they want to jeopardize the seven-term Congressman's reelection?
The paper's editorial page blamed "flawed police work" and "a blue wall of ignorance" for Delahunt's failure to prosecute this killer. Hidden amidst hundreds of words exculpating Delahunt, the Globe conceded that the flap doesn't reflect well on the current congressman. Ya think? But Braintree's current police chief suggests that police sought prosecution of Bishop, but got stymied after then district attorney Delahunt spoke with the town's police chief back in 1986.
Who--the police chief or the D.A.--said what in that conversation? Why did they say it? How--money or influence--did they come to the indefensible position that Bishop should be set free? These are the type of questions that need to be asked, even if the type of answers needed won't be forthcoming.
The Globe editorial page's lack of intellectual curiousity is fatal to journalists but is the lifeblood of local corrupt politicians. They count on New England's largest newspaper to give them a pass. And when the corrupt politicans are liberal Democrats, the Globe usually does.
Scott Brown continues to catch flak for saying during his initial press conference as a senator that the president's stimulus package hadn't created a single new job (let alone "saved" one). One year to the day of the bill's passage, a poll by CBS News/New York Times suggests that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Brown's take. Just six percent of respondents believe the stimulus package created jobs. The unemployment rate when the stimulus package passed? 7.6 percent. The unemployment rate today? 9.7 percent, down from 10 percent. As I noted one year ago when the president signed the stimulus package into law, "The package is more sedative than stimulus."
I caught Crazy Heart over the weekend. It's a decent movie starring Jeff Bridges about a fading country music star. The big problem was that I saw it last year when it was about a fading wrestler and starred Mickey Rourke. A fantastically unbelievable quirk in The Wrestler/Crazy Heart involved the aging, chemically dependent, down-on-his-luck wrestler/country music singer hooking up with Marisa Tomei/Maggie Gyllenhaal. Rourke and Tomei have a mere 12 years separating them, so the on-screen relationship is plausible. But Bridges was born in the forties and Gyllenhaal in the seventies. Their relationship, for reasons of age and beauty and stench, makes sense only if you are living in an older man's fantasy. As coincidence would have it, I came upon, via Instapundit, "Movie Couples Who Flunked Chemistry 101." The list doesn't include The Wrestler/Crazy Heart, but it gets ill-cast cinematic romances more or less right. Michael Douglas and Gwynneth Paltrow seemed oddly cast in "A Perfect Murder" to me too, but then again Michael Douglas seems oddly cast with Catherine Zeta Jones in real life. There's actually a movie out exploring this phenomenon. It's called "She's Out of My League." Alas, I have decided that I am out of it's league and will not be watching.
There should be truth in advertising--and logos. Years after they switched formats from music television to reality television, MTV is airbrushing the evidence of their initial raison d'etre from their iconic logo. Ironically, the fledgling network originally forced the logo's designers to insert the words ("music television") that they deleted under the logo 29 years later. Will Viacom executives next put a hit on Martha Quinn to erase all evidence of MTV's past? Music television is no more. MTV's logo is just late in catching up with the situation.
Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, one of many second-generation senators and one of the few Democrat moderates, announced his retirement Monday. With a $13 million war chest and approval ratings above sixty percent, Bayh's retirement transforms a relatively safe Democrat seat into a likely Republican pick-up. The entrance of Dan Coats, former holder of the seat, into the race precipitated Bayh's retirement. Though Coats certainly made the race more competitive, and conditions aren't ideal for Democrats, Bayh remained an attractive candidate who probably would have swam successfully against the Republican drift. It's the likelihood that Bayh would have held on to the seat, and the fact that every other Indiana Democrat can't win it, that stings Democrats most harshly. All Bayh had to do was run, and the Democrats would have probably held on to the seat. Probably.
Professional politicians are more sensitive to the political winds than even political prognosticators. The spate of high-profile Democrat retirements suggests that Democrats know what they can't say: 2010 stands to be a year every bit as devastating for Democrats as 1994, 1966, or 1946. Judge politicians not by what they say, but by what they do. What Democrats are doing is retiring, or not bothering to run in the first place. That speaks volumes, and since it's the actual politicians who are the experts, these actions deserve a more respectful hearing than the sideline predictions from political handicappers.
Despite a multitude of "iceberg ahead" warnings, the Cook Political Report's Senate map shows just three seats currently held by the Democrats leaning Republican. Stuart Rothenberg sees Democrats losing four seats. Such prognosticators, one suspects, err on the side of caution because making projections of a landslide, no matter how accurate on election day, paint one as a kook before it. Better make safe, conservative estimates until a few days before the vote, as pundits did in the Scott Brown race, and then "predict" what's already a foregone conclusion.
A Republican landslide? My political Magic-8 Ball says "all signs point to yes." Looking at the races in the Senate, Republicans stand an even chance of matching their massive seven seat gain of 1994 and an outside shot of making the Senate a 50-50 split.
Leaving Indiana aside, in seats currently held by Democrats, Rasmussen has Republicans ahead in Illinois (46-40), Delaware (56-27), Nevada (47-39), Arkansas (52-33), Colorado (51-37), North Dakota (71-17), Pennsylvania (47-38), and Wisconsin (47-43). It's telling that Republicans are behind in none of the races where the party currently holds a senate seat. Atop all this, there are races where Democrats currently lead, such as California and Connecticut, but will ultimately be competitive. The professionals ignore all this and make weak predictions of a few seats swinging to the Republicans.
Rothenberg, for instance, lists Barbara Boxer's California seat as "safe." Yet, her weak standing with voters has encouraged a crop of healthy Republicans to vie for her seat, including Carly Fiorina, the well-funded former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Boxer barely edging Fiorina 46-42. That doesn't seem "safe" to me, particularly in an environment in which Republicans are motivated and Democrats lethargic. Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln trails by double-digits to each of her five potential Republican challengers. Charlie Cook sees the race as a toss up. Conditions can and will change by November 2, 2010. But on February 16, 2010, Blanche Lincoln looks like a loser.
It's February, not November. The economy, presidential approval ratings, and much else can improve for the Democrats between the present and the future. But less than a month after Scott Brown turned the bluest Senate seat in America red, notions that the Democrats will lose three or four seats in November are, at this moment, delusional. If Democrats aren't safe in Massachusetts, where are they safe?
Democrats started 2010 with a filibuster-proof majority. There is a chance that they end it looking to Joe Biden to cast deciding votes. Such an outcome is at least as likely as the forecast that Republicans pick up a mere three seats.
Rep. Bill Delahunt had it bad before this weekend. The Quincy, Massachusetts Democrat hasn't bothered to raise much money for his reelection, represents one of the Brownest parts of the bluest state, faces possible redistricting in two years, and has enticed several credible Republican challengers to run against him. Delahunt's seat is one of several prospects, including both New Hampshire districts, for New England Republicans (who currently hold zero House seats) to pick up in November's election. Now comes word that a telephone call from Bill Delahunt, then district attorney of Norfolk County, precipitated the dismissal of the case against Amy Bishop, then accused of killing her brother in Braintree, Massachusetts. Bishop, a biology professor, was charged Friday with triple capital murder in Huntsville, Alabama, a workplace tragedy that might have been averted had Massachusetts locked up this woman twenty-four-years ago. To paraphrase Desi Arnez, Bill Delahunt has a lot of 'splaining to do. Or, he could just retire, an option he tells the Boston Globe that he is considering.
Amy Bishop Anderson allegedly murdered her brother in Massachusetts in 1986. The authorities let her walk and "lost" the case files. That's the way we roll in the Bay State. Twenty-four-years later, Amy Bishop gunned down her colleagues at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. The authorities charged her with capital murder and seek the death penalty. That's the way they roll in the Cotton State.
The Grio asks, "Where's the Diversity at the Winter Olympics?" I ask, "Who cares?" I refer to diversity and the Winter Olympics. Do you think they had a Winter Olympics in Athens? I like hockey, and Lindsey Vonn is hot and all. But what twisted European combined skiing and shooting into one sport? And what's the significance of a gold medal in, say, men's figure skating when a few hundred people on a planet of six billion-plus bother to compete in the sport? It's not as basic as, say, a running race--something in which virtually everyone at one time in their lives has competed. Speaking of which, will The Grio wonder about diversity at the Summer Olympics when the white people continue their quest for a sub 10-second 100-meter dash?
Anecdotal evidence such as a heat wave is proof of the doctrines of the Church of Global Warming to its congregants. A Blizzard, strangely, is too. The New York Times today explains, "Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events." Most people, thankfully, are not that stupid yet.
Here in Illinois, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor was compelled to withdraw from the race amidst abuse rumors, steroid-use admissions, and allegations of a past paramour doubling as a hooker. An appropriate resume for vice governor, maybe, but lieutenant governor? Then again, what are the qualifications for a lieutenant governor? This headache for Illinois Democrats caused one top Illinois Democrat to think clearly. Why not abolish the office of lieutenant governor? That's what Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan proposes. It is a sound idea. In Illinois, the lieutenant governor gets paid over $100,000 and enjoys an office budget in excess of $2 million. What does a lieutenant governor do? Your guess is as good as mine. When the Eastern District of Massachusetts cut the chord to become Maine, the new state basically adopted the motherland's constitution save for one detail: it eliminated the job of lieutenant governor. Almost two centuries later, other states are finally catching up to Maine's wisdom.
I am conducting research at the University of Chicago, which takes me to the Hyde Park neighborhood--heart of State Senator Barack Obama's district. "My Momma Loves Obama" t-shirts and smiling pictures of the president grace storefronts. Obama bumperstickers seem obligatory. In the morning I conducted research at one of America's most prestigious universities. In the afternoon I ate jerk chicken, rice, beans, plantain, and candied yams. A crosssection of urban underclass and academic elites, Hyde Park strikes me as President Obama's national constituency in microcosm. Perhaps his intense appeal to such seemingly disparate groups has its roots in his tenure as a state senator, where he learned how to please poor blacks and rich whites.
If I were Obama, it's not the 44 percent approval rating that would keep me up at night. It's the 29 percent approval rating among independents that would worry me. The Marist poll shows Democrats and Republicans seeing things from a very different perspective: 81 percent of Democrats approve of the president's job performance, 80 percent of Republicans disapprove. If you wonder why the Dems and the GOP can't work together on Capitol Hill, think about how discordant the views of garden variety Democrats and Republicans are. Hope and change can get you elected. But if you can't deliver hope and change while governing, the electorate may hope for change next time around.
Patrick Kennedy has labeled the man who now sits in the senate seat his father held for 47 years a "joke." Does not that designation fit the eight-term Congressman better than it does Scott Brown? Read my piece @ the American Spectator and discover why Rhode Islanders don't find the joke of sending a mentally-ill recovering drug addict to Congress very funny anymore.
The Super Bowl was a great game from start to finish. Sean Payton's decision to go for an onside kick to start the second half makes you wonder why more coaches don't make that gamble. The Colts offense is hard to stop whichever side of the fifty yard line they begin their drive on. What happens at the bottom of the pile stays at the bottom of the pile. The game catapults Drew Brees into a marquee quarterback and Sean Payton into a marquee coach. The onside kick, the 2-point conversion challenge, and even, ultimately, the 4th-and-goal decision worked out (albeit not initially). Overlooked was how the Saints largely transformed Reggie Wayne into the invisible man. The 2-to-1 passing plays-to-rushing plays ratio shows you how this NFL is from the NFL of even a decade ago. I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of a Gary Brackett or Jonathan Vilma hit. A Pick Six may be the most exciting play in all of sports. The commercials largely lacked imagination. But the casting was superb. If you watched close enough, you saw Abe Vigoda, Muno, and the Chocolate Rain guy. Thankfully, Danica Patrick's roles weren't restricted to cameos. The Who rocked the Halftime Show. I liked Daltrey's altered vocals on Baba O'Riley and Townshend going "over" on the windill power chord over-under. Finally, Wayne Sash wins the Super Bowl pool not only by correctly picking the Saints and the Under, but by nailing the 48-point total. Congratulations Wayne, and my condolences to your bookie.
The First Amenment explicitly protects "speech." Nevertheless, suceeding generations of judges have loosely interpreted "speech" to cover such non-speaking activities as dirty pictures and nude dancing. Contrast this expansive definition of speech with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's waiving of a 25-year-old man's conviction of sending sexually obscene text messages to a 13-year-old girl. The court ruled late yesterday afternoon--when most of the news media had left the office for the weekend--that because Massachusetts law specifically outlaws handwritten notes to minors, but doesn't explicitly mention text messages, the man's texts, which included his declaration that he'd like to teach the 13-year-old (really an undercover cop) how to perform a sex act, weren't covered by existing anti-perv laws.
One sure bet for the Super Bowl? The Who will play Baba O'Riley at halftime. Can't wait until the band takes the field Sunday? Check out my Who top-ten list that I now find questionable and conventional, my monster-post tribute to the Who that still holds up, and the Wholiday established by yours truly that is certain to become as big as Christmas. Here's my favorite halftime show. Hopefully, The Who measures up. What does it say about the state of pop culture that the NFL taps a rock group 35 years past its prime to headline its halftime show?
Ted Kennedy waited several years before delivering a speech on the senate floor. Kennedy's replacememt, Paul Kirk, will give his "farewell" speech to the senate today despite sitting in the august body for less than six months. What's the over/under on the number of senators present in the chamber to hear Senator Nobody's farewell address? Later today, after much delay, Scott Brown will be sworn in to the senate seat once held by Lodges and Kennedys. If a Republican sitting in John F. Kennedy's senate seat is too much for some Democrats to take, there is the added sting of Brown inheriting Ted Kennedy's office in the Russell Building. The Massachusetts secretary of state, who has delayed Brown's certification, has taken the unusual step of sniping at Brown in a partisan manner as he has finally given his imprimatur to Brown's victory. "I'd like to call on Senator Brown now to respect the rights of the majority," Bill Galvin proclaimed. "I hope that we will be able to see an up or down vote on all the nominations of President Obama and that the rights of the majority that are being respected here will be respected by the United States Senate and Senator Brown." The secretary of state might want to heed his own advice. He certified Nikki Tsongas's victory two days after she won a special election. He dithered for more than two weeks, and would have held it up even further if not for the public uproar, after Brown's special election triumph. Galvin's disregard for the "rights of the majority" of Bay Staters was not without consequence. With Paul Kirk's vote, and Brown blocked from taking the senate seat Massachusetts voters awarded him, Democrats were able to raise the debt ceiling by almost $2 trillion dollars.
Of the many missteps of the Obama administration, the one that they surprisingly haven't gotten called out on the carpet for is the decision to raise income tax rates. This may have something to do with the fact that Obama was open about this as a candidate--and he did get elected, after all. This may also have something to do with semantics. You see, Democrats aren't raising taxes. They're just letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Employing such slippery verbiage, apparently, allows the Democrats to say they didn't raise taxes without feeling as though they told a lie. So, in 2011, the top rates will move from 35 to 40 percent and taxes on capital gains and dividends will spike from 15 to 20 percent. When an economic downturn--I know GDP is up but jobs are still down--has subtracted from an economy, tax increases make things worse by subtracting even more. That's bad policy. Ask George H.W. Bush, Franklin Roosevelt, or Herbert Hoover how raising taxes during a downturn worked out for them.
Chicagoland readers! I will be speaking at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois on February 9th on the topic of the American Left. The lecture will be held in Munroe 114-116 at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. That means come out and hear me talk. The sponsors of the event are Young America's Foundation and the DePaul College Republicans.
The Super Bowl is five days away, which means another FlynnFiles Super Bowl Pool. Here's how it works. Pick the team that you think will beat the spread. So, to cover the Colts need to win by at least five and the Saints can lose by five or less. Then pick whether you think the point total will go over 56.5 points or under 56.5 points. Then, as the tiebreaker, pick what you think the point total will be. Make your picks in the comments section. Here are mine:
New Orleans Saints -5
Point Total: 61
Make your picks below and I will announce the winner in a special Super Bowl post on Monday.
Free James O'Keefe, Stan Dai, Joe Basel, and Robert Flanagan. The bailed-out quartet face a federal trial in New Orleans for the crime of being hilarious. Should the prosecution need evidence buttressing their case, here are Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C showing that these guys have a good sense of humor. Can I get a witness?
The New York Times ignored James O'Keefe when he exposed ACORN's shady operations for all the world to see. But when O'Keefe got nabbed for a videotaped prank in Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office, he is suddenly frontpage news. All the news that fits they print. All that clashes with their Manhattanite worldview they carefully excise.
In its attempt to paint O'Keefe and company as dangerous right-wingers, the Times actually succeeds in making them folk heroes. Of particular interest is my friend and old Leadership Institute colleague Ben Wetmore. "And then there was Ben Wetmore, 28, who was not arrested but who allowed Mr. Dai, Mr. O'Keefe and Mr. Basel to stay at his house in New Orleans this month," the Times points out. "The authorities have not indicated that Mr. Wetmore, a Loyola law student, was connected to the incident at Ms. Landrieu's office, but he has nonetheless played a vital role in Mr. O'Keefe's career, as well as that of Mr. Basel and other activists." In the Times' narrative, Ben is the puppeteer manipulating the strings behind the scenes. But he is front and center in several of O'Keefe's videos. No account of successful conservative activism in the adversary press is complete unless there is the suggestion of conspiracies and cabals.
O'Keefe describes Wetmore as a "genius"--a tag I never associated with Ben until a few lines later in the Times story, when I read this: "Mr. O'Keefe declined several interview requests, and Mr. Wetmore responded to an e-mail message by sending photographs of Jayson Blair, a reporter for The New York Times who resigned after admitting to plagiarism and fabrication." That goes down as the most clever "no comment" in history.
Though O'Keefe declined participation in the Times story, he is not shrinking from the media assault. "It has been amazing to witness the journalistic malpractice committed by many of the organizations covering this story," O'Keefe explained on Big Government.com. "MSNBC falsely claimed that I violated a non-existent 'gag order.' The Associated Press incorrectly reported that I 'broke in' to an office which is open to the public. The Washington Post has now had to print corrections in two stories on me."
Is holding a campus affirmative-action bakesale, with pricing based on the customer's race, an indictable offense? Does it break the law to satirically petition Bostonians--all too ready to fall for the joke--on whether they would like to adopt a Gitmo detainee? What's the sentencing guidelines for getting a Planned Parenthood employee to accept a donation to specifically fund abortions for black babies? Liberals haven't been able to sic the law on O'Keefe and company for these hilarious stunts, which is why there is so much pent-up energy on the Left to paint him as a 21st-Century E. Howard Hunt because of his latest caper aimed at highlighting Senator Landrieu's avoidance of the phonecalls of constituents angry over her support of ObamaCare.
If your name is Abbie Hoffman or Michael Moore, the media proclaims you a lovable gadfly. If you are James O'Keefe, you are a Watergate burglar reincarnate.
Nowhere does the reality fall so far short of the hope regarding Barack Obama's presidency than on the deficit. "And we are now looking at a deficit of well over half a trillion dollars," candidate Obama complained. "So one of the things that I think we have to recognize is pursuing the same kinds of policies that we pursued over the last eight years is not going to bring down the deficit. And, frankly, Sen. McCain voted for four out of five of President Bush's budgets. We've got to take this in a new direction, that's what I propose as president." The direction he proposed and the direction he pursues point in the opposite direction. To put Obama's proposed $1.6 trillion deficit in perspective, it is as large as the entire budget under Bill Clinton in 1998. This deficit constitutes 11 percent of the U.S. economy. The overall debt will eclipse the GDP in this calendar year. President Obama's much touted "spending freeze," which boasts saving a whole $20 billion next year, amounts to roughly 1/80th of the deficit. The operation requires a chainsaw and the surgeon is using a nail file.
In 2004, Democrats nearly put John Edwards a heartbeat away from the presidency. In 2004 and 2008, millions of Democrats voted to nominate Edwards for president. Two years later, a former Edwards aide alleges possession of a sex tape involving the former North Carolina senator and Edwards himself has finally admitted that he lied when he denied paternity of a child mothered by a woman with whom he denied carrying on an affair (as his wife endured terminal cancer). Republicans saw in Edwards a sleazy ambulance-chasing lawyer. Democrats saw a future president.
"The Catcher in the Rye" is an alright book. That J.D. Salinger's classic didn't speak to me the way it did to so many others problaby had to do with the fact that I read it in a public high school. I couldn't identify with Holden Caulfield, a prep-school castaway who despises his parents and sees a phony in everyone he meets. Rich kids can afford to hate their parents. In the public schools, where "The Catcher in the Rye" is primarily taught, Holden Caulfield is as real as James's Giant Peach.
The denizens of prep schools grow up to become literary critics and architects of curricula, which helps explain the staying power of "The Catcher in the Rye." It didn't speak to me, but clearly it spoke to someone. The book has sold more than 60,000,000 copies.
"The Catcher in the Rye" is probably better read as a cultural artifact than a novel. It prefaced important postwar trends. In its teen angst and alienation, "The Catcher in the Rye" set the template for the '50s youth rebellion of "Blackboard Jungle" and "Rebel Without a Cause" and the '60s "turn on, tune in, drop out" ethos.
It is that ethos that its author ultimately bought into. We talk about J.D. Salinger primarily because J.D. Salinger did not want us to talk about him. Just as part of his fame stemmed from the fact that he ran from fame, his refusal to publish anything for the last 45 years of his life amplified interest in what stories or novels might lay hidden in his safe. Death is a great career move for rock stars. Disappearance works for writers.
Salinger was a man against his times. We live in an age when people release naked videotapes of themselves to get famous, when celebrity hounds crash White House dinner parties and stage elaborate child-death hoaxes for the want of a reality television show, and when exhibitionists detail the most mundane matters of their life in internet "tweets." Salinger rejected all that, and as a result readers are ironically as interested in his biography as they are in his books.
Eric Hoffer once told Eric Sevareid, "Fame means to be known by people who don't know you." Meeting strangers who believe themselves to be your friend can be a pretty jarring experience. One senses that J.D. Salinger saw things that way. That one of his fans, toting a gun and a copy of his most famous book, shot down John Lennon confirms Salinger's aversion to celebrity.
A healthy reaction to the glare of the public spotlight is to exit stage right. What's truly anti-social is the rush toward gossip columnists and paparazzi. That the former is rare and the latter common confuses us into mistaking the anti-social for the social and the social for the anti-social. There is also something typically parochial about the response of cosmopolitans to Salinger migrating from East 57th Street, Manhattan to Cornish, New Hampshire. What kind of a madman trades in cockroaches, congestion, and crime for covered bridges and country living?
Shunning fame and shunning people are not the same thing. According to the New York Times, Salinger participated in town meetings, shopped at the local supermarket, occasionally attended parties, frequented the library, and regularly shelled out $12 to eat at the Congregationalist Church's roast beef dinners. In other words, though Salinger may have been an eccentric on numerous levels, he interacted with his neighbors the way most Americans do and shied away from interacting with strangers the way most prestigious authors are compelled to do. That such a life struck so many scholars and scribes as alien and unusual says more about them than it does about the author of "The Catcher in the Rye." Howard Hughes with a typewriter J.D. Salinger clearly wasn't.