"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

U.S. 1, Italy 0

I'm not sure whether anyone cares.   I'm not sure whether I care.   But this is actually a pretty big deal in world soccer:

The Santorum Preference Cascade Recedes

Americans, perhaps because of the speed of mass media nowadays, tend to be susceptible to bubbles both in economics and politics.   The successive performance of the series of "not-Romney" candidates over the past six months, from Michelle Bachmann's success in the Iowa straw poll, to Rick Perry's entrance into the campaign, to Hermann Cain's meteoric rise and fall, to Newt Gingrich's zombie-like return from the dead, and finally to Rick Santorum's rise after the Iowa caucaus and then again after the mid-February caucuses, resemble nothing so much as a series of crazes, of mass hysteria, as Republican "investors" chase the next tulip (or the next Iraqi dinar re-val).    Every time, the hysteria fades, and Mitt Romney, the sensible-shoes candidate, surges back into the lead.  

At least that's how I read this graph from Gallup:

Girl of the Day - Foggy in Wisconsin (Need Some Nina Agdal!)

It's foggy in Wisconsin today, after a night of rain.   Up north they got a foot of late February snow.   On a very gloomy day, there's nothing like a little hint of sun:





There, that's better.

Prediction Fail!

Well, yesterday's predictions for the Michigan and Arizona primaries were close, but no cigar.   I wrote:  "Rick Santorum will narrowly edge out Mitt Romney in his home state of Michigan tonight, by something on the order of 40-38, with 12% going to Ron Paul and 8-9% going to Newt Gingrich, who is fading fast."   It turned out that Romney edge out Santorum, 41-38; Paul got his normal 12%; and Gingrich faded faster than I thought he would, getting only 6%.   The delegates from Michigan will split evenly between Santorum and Romney because of their close finish, but Romney will claim the momentum going into Super Tuesday.

I watched the concession speech Santorum gave last night, and Romney's victory speech, while I was running on the treadmill.   Both acquitted themselves well, and I particularly liked Santorum's section on energy policy, which I doubt most people have heard from him, since the MSM focuses so much on contraception and religious issues (which Santorum didn't talk about at all, at least as far as I could tell).   I don't know if there is animus between them, but Romney could do a good deal worse than Santorum as his VP candidate.   Choosing him would shore up the base of pro-Life conservatives, and Santorum would be a strong "attack dog" against Obama -- the typical VP role in an election.   Choosing him would also help across the upper Midwest, states Romney needs to win in November.   I think he'll ultimately choose Rubio as the first Hispanic VP candidate, in the hope that it helps him in Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida.   But that has its dangers too, since Rubio is largely unvetted on the national stage.   Santorum has warts, and a Mormon-Opus Dei slate would strike some in the MSM as "scary," but, then, Santorum's warts are known, and it may be that the country is ready for a national conversation on the role of faith in politics, particularly where they'll be opposed by the most aggressively anti-religion, secularist, elitist administration ever.  

Anyway, we're on to next week, where Santorum could come back and win Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and caucuses in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota.   If he does, the narrative will flip back to why Romney can't close the deal.   And then we'll be in for a long haul.

Watch for Romney to put a full-court advertising blitz on in Ohio.   If he wins there, he can probably claim that he's the presumptive nominee.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Predictions (bumped to the top)

Rick Santorum will narrowly edge out Mitt Romney in his home state of Michigan tonight, by something on the order of 40-38, with 12% going to Ron Paul and 8-9% going to Newt Gingrich, who is fading fast.   The spin after tonight will be that Santorum will have won by appealing to Democrats, including through robo-calls, etc.   But he will have momentum going into Super Tuesday next week.   And look for mounting calls for Gingrich to drop out and shift his support to Santorum as the main conservative challenger to the moderate Romney.  

Romney will win a big victory in Arizona, perhaps by 15% over Santorum.   Arizona is a winner-take-all state, so Romney will get all 29 delegates, and the spin after tonight will be that Romney has taken a big lead in the delegate count.   But there are 440 odd delegates at play next week, so this spin won't hold long.

Meanwhile, the MSM will spin that the Republicans are headed for disaster because they'll be beating each other up until the convention.    Don't believe it.    Americans have a short memory, and the negatives about Romney or Santorum (I still think a Romney-Santorum ticket is likely) will have been forgotten by convention time.   Meanwhile, the list of Obama failures grows:

the stimulus
Obamacare
the HHS mandate
the Keystone pipeline
Syria and Iran
Iraq and Afghanistan
the federal deficit ($1.3 trillion this year)
the federal debt  ($15.4 trillion overall, with $5 trillion added since Obama took office)
unemployment
Solyndra, LightSquared and crony capitalism
etc.


He's a weak President with a terrible record and an arrogant, unlikeable personality.   Obama has jumped the shark.    He's going to lose in November to Romney, or he's going to lose to Santorum, or he's going to lose to Generic Republican Yet-to-Be-Named.


***

UPDATE:  Hugh Hewitt makes the same point on his blog this morning:

The GOP is in very good shape though the brawling has left its two leading contenders bruised and bloodied.  They are both in better shape for all the traded punches, lots of lessons have been learned --think Romney's advance team is better prepared for the fall now than it was last week, or that the public isn't already clued into the Chicago gang's "contraception" cynicism?-- and the support will quickly go from steady to overwhelming as the country realizes it really cannot afford a second term of this incoherent, highly ideological and apparently stubborn and isolated pseudo-intellectual at 1600.

UPDATE 2: Kimberly Strassel in the WSJ has a good article about the race to define Santorum in Michigan by Romney's camp as a "Washington insider" or as an "extremist" on social issues.   At the end she adds a couple of paragraphs that portray Santorum on the stump:

The irony is that all this is coming at a time when Mr. Santorum has never looked so good on the stump. He's toned down his talk on social issues and is reassuring voters he doesn't intend to "impose" his views on the country. He's hitting hard on the economic message and reminding audiences that he was pushing big reforms before it was fashionable. At his own turn at the Troy event, he joked of the entitlement mess, "I saw it coming. And people were behind me . . . way behind me."
Most notably, he's honed his argument that Mr. Romney has too much baggage and too little nerve to provide a clear contrast with Mr. Obama. If Republicans nominate Mr. Romney, "We give up the issue of freedom of conscience! We give up the issue of bailouts! We give up the issue of cap-and-trade!" thundered Mr. Santorum. "Why would we do that? Why would we nominate someone who's uniquely unqualified to take on the biggest issues of the day?" By the end of his speech, many of the activists in the crowd were shouting "Go, Rick, go!"

The last part is key for me.   If Romney is nominated, which I think he will be ultimately, Republicans will weaken their ability to go after Obama on the biggest issue of the campaign -- the looming disaster of Obamacare.   Romney simply won't be able to make that case effectively because of his own signature health-care program in Massachusetts, which also contained an individual mandate.

Girl of the Day - Lucy Liu


I have to say that I was skeptical when Lucy Liu was added to the cast of our favorite cop show, Southland.   But she's been great this year as the partner of "Cooper," the tortured, closeted gay cop played brilliantly by Michael Cudlitz ("Bull" from Band of Brothers).   It's on Tuesday nights on TNT.  

Here she is in civvies:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Unacceptable

This letter, signed by, among others, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, captures the outrage Catholics and other people of faith feel at the Obama Administration's unacceptable incursion into Americans' religious liberty:

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying ―five day after pill‖ pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer. It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer. What matters is what services the policy covers.

As they say, read the whole thing.   The signatures run to 42 pages.... clergy, professors, doctors, lawyers, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Protestants, men, women.   A rising up.   

I've Got a Plan That Involves Saying "1%" Too

We are going to hear a lot this year about how we could solve all of our fiscal problems if we would just raise the taxes on the top 1% of income earners back to the Clinton Era rates (or raise them from 35% to 39.6%).   This is nonsense, of course; in 2009 the top 1% earned $1.3 trillion in income, so if we raised their income tax rate 4.6% we'd raise a grand total of $60 billion, assuming of course, that they didn't change their behavior when faced with higher income taxes (a bad assumption, as conservative economists have been telling people forever).  

However, I have a different 1% plan.   What if Republicans campaigned on this notion?   Let's enact a new tax law that says that the minimum federal income tax anyone can pay is 1%.    That is, your earned income tax credit and all of the other deductions that get us to the point where 49% of Americans pay no federal income tax -- let's wipe all those away, and institute a minimum 1%.   Is that too much for the privilege of being a citizen?   Is that going to impoverish anyone?   Is anyone going to starve if they get that tiny bit of skin in the game -- $200 for someone who makes $20,000?   I don't think so.   But let's compare how much that would raise.   The amount of income earned by people in the bottom 50% (I'm using this as a proxy for the 49% who pay no income tax) in 2009 was $1.05 trillion.    So my 1% plan would raise approximately $10 billion in taxes.   But (and here's the rub), we'd also be doing away with the $51 billion in earned income tax credits (in 2008) that are essentially negative income taxes paid by lower income individuals and families.  The upshot:  my 1% plan would raise almost the same amount as Obama's 1% plan, if not a little more.  

The difference would be that my plan would be premised on the notion that all citizens should really pay a "fair share," as opposed to the entirely absurd premise that a "fair share" means the few people we call "wealthy" pay a lot more and most of the rest of my fellow Americans pay nothing. 

Of course, neither plan would make a dent in our federal deficit.   They'd just make one side or the other feel better. 

Holy Cow! Cardinal Francis George of Chicago Brings the Hammer Down on Obamacare



I don't know what to say about this remarkable statement by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago about the Obamacare mandate regarding contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization and its impact on Catholic hospitals:

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the Church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down …

Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.
The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church....
If you haven’t already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir.   On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.

Wow!   There are perhaps a dozen Cardinals in the United States.   Think about it:  if there are 75 million Catholics, each Cardinal speaks for more Americans than the average Senator.   This is an extraordinarily strong statement of opposition, in extraordinary language -- the equation of Obamacare with the Soviet Union is an analogy with teeth.

The Obama Administration's cynical view that this issue is going to go away is foolishness writ large.   Indeed, Cardinal George addresses the Obama Administration's attempt to pretend that other "Catholic" organizations speak for Catholics, rather than listen to the bishops:

Theoretically, it is argued that there are Catholic voices that disagree with the teaching of the church and therefore with the bishops. There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. Perhaps this is the time for everyone to re-read the Acts of the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.

Again, wow!

Girl of the Day - Berenice Bejo



The Regular Wife and I saw The Artist a few weeks ago and loved it.   I'm not sure it ranks up there with the best Best Picture winners ever -- if you look at the period 1957-1962, for instance, you have The Bridge on the River Kwai, Gigi, Ben-Hur, The Apartment, West Side Story, and Lawrence of Arabia... wow!   And while Jean DuJardin won the Best Actor Oscar, the movie in my mind was driven by the unique look and personality of its leading lady, Berenice Bejo, who unaccountably was only nominated as a supporting actress (and didn't win).   She wuz robbed.





***

By the way, while I was looking at old Best Picture winners, it occurred to me to look for the best movies that were nominated but didn't win.   Imagine these non-winners (and the movies they lost to) in the competition this year:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Gone With the Wind), It's a Wonderful Life (The Best Years of Our Lives), Anatomy of a Murder (Ben-Hur), Judgment at Nuremburg (West Side Story), Dr. Strangelove (My Fair Lady), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Midnight Cowboy), Cabaret (The Godfather).   I can't say that there's any of those that ought to have won in those particular years.   But any of those second-place movies would easily win any recent Best Picture contest.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Girl of the Day - Still Snowy in Milwaukee!

It's still snowy in Milwaukee, after a winter of very little snow.   I was afraid the tulips were going to start coming up a week ago or so, but now we're back to winter.   So we'll continue with our "actresses in snow" motif, with a very young and cute Marilyn Monroe:

Insanity of Obama's Attitudes on Religion

Mario Loyola writing on the Corner captures the oddity of Obama's attitudes on religion in a pair of parallel aphorisms contrasting the President's HHS policy demanding that Catholic institutions subsidize contraception, sterilization and abortifacients (which has resulted in peaceful and cogent criticism at home) and the President's simultaneous apology to Muslims for the accidental burning of Korans in Afghanistan (which has resulted in violent and deadly riots abroad): 
So the president refuses to apologize for forcing Catholics to violate their religious beliefs or pay a tax penalty.  

But he immediately apologizes because a few of our soldiers inadvertently violated Muslims religious beliefs by trying to dispose of already-desecrated Korans.

In the name of their religion, American Catholics run hospitals, schools, universities, and numberless charities doing literally billions of dollars of good works around the world.

In the name of their religion, at least some Muslims feel the need to murder innocent people, a desire they have put into action numberless times over the past decades.

The contrast would seem pretty obvious.   But it's not obvious to our oblivious President.  

One interpretation would be that the President, raised in an Islamic country and first educated at Islamic schools in Indonesia, whose Christian churchgoing in Chicago with Jeremiah Wright seems self-evidently to have been a political maneuver to gain the allegiance of an important constituency on Chicago's South Side, simply has great sympathy with anti-American Islamists around the world, and little sympathy with Christian Catholics here at home.

The only other interpretation that comes to mind is:

He's insane.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

File This Under "What if He Had Said This About Muslims?"

Charles Blow of the New York Times tweeted during the Wednesday night GOP debate about Mitt Romney.   Apparently angry at Romney's comments on the sociological issues that come from so many single-parent families in America, Blow wrote as follows:


Now, I didn't know this, but apparently it is part of the Mormon faith to wear what they call "Temple garments," which are essentially underwear.   From what I've gleaned in a very casual moment of research, the idea is that they wear them close to their skin to remind themselves of their covenants with God.  Not unlike, say, a yarmulke for Jewish men, or a burkha for Muslim women.  

But can you imagine if, say, a commentator on Fox News had said something with the exact same grammatical structure about a Muslim:

"Stick that in your burkha!"

Or to a Jew:

"Put that in your yarmulke!"

You can't.

If we were Democrats, and if Charles Blow was a Republican, we'd be outside the NYT building chanting, "Charles Blow, Has Got to Go!"   But we don't do that sort of thing.   And so the parade of double standards continues.

Girl of the Day - Return to Normalcy

After a winter of practically no snow, we suddenly got a late February dump of 6-7 inches last night.   So things have returned to normal in Wisconsin, and so we might as well return to normal with the Regular Guy Believes with one of our favorites, Audrey Hepburn:

 

File This Under "What If a Republican Presidential Candidate Said This?"

What if Rick Perry or Rick Santorum had said this?
President Obama admitted today that he does not have a "silver bullet" solution for skyrocketing gas prices, but he proposed alternative energy sources such as "a plant-like substance, algae" as a way of cutting dependence on oil by 17 percent.
"We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance, algae -- you've got a bunch of algae out here," Obama said at the University of Miami today. "If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we'll be doing alright. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in America." 
Really?  See, I learned in, oh, fifth grade or so that there is this mechanism the earth has of turning plants (like, for instance, algae) into energy.   It takes millions of years, but at the end of it you have readily usable, liquid energy that you can literally just pump right out of the ground.

My fifth grade teacher had a word for it.   Oh, yes, now I remember.

Oil.

If a Republican candidate said anything remotely this goofy, he'd be ridiculed, and the press would be talking about how he had made a gaffe.

But Prezidizzle Obizzle can apparently say whatever pops into his head.   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Santorum on No Child Left Behind

Rick Santorum took some heat in last night's debate for conceding that he had made a mistake in "taking one for the team" in voting for the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.   Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are today making a big deal about how that shows that Santorum lacks principle.   Really?   First, of course, let's recall that Romney at the time was a pro-choice businessman who was getting ready to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, not a sitting U.S. Senator having to actually make decisions on bills.   And Paul is a powerless curmudgeon in the House who seems to think politics consists of taking positions that no one else agrees with.  

Second, let's look at who else voted for NLCB:

Senator George Allen (R-Va.)
Senator Sam Brownback (R - Kan.)
Senator Jim Bunning (R - Ken.)
Senator Thad Cochran (R - MS)
Senator Bill Frist (R - TN)
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Senators Shelby and Sessions (R- AL)
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC)

Hardly a who's who of squishy moderate Republicans, is it? Does anybody really think that pro-choice-soon-to-flip-and-be-pro-Life Mitt Romney of Massachusetts would have voted against the No Child Left Behind Act as a matter of principle? Can you even say it with a straight face?

The Regular Son Weighs in on Patriotism



The Regular Son attends a Jesuit high school where they are doing a student-painted mural of great world leaders under the theme of "ism's."   You know, individualism, modernism, pacifism, idealism, etc.   He, along with some more sensible teachers, have already talked the organizers out of doing portraits of Hitler and Stalin for Nazism and Communism -- what were they thinking? -- and now he's trying (or rather, the Regular Guy is surreptitiously trying) to get the school to include "Patriotism" in the mural, with a portrait of Joshua Chamberlain.   Chamberlain, you will recall, was the colonel of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top who led a bayonet charge on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg that perhaps saved the battle, saved the war, and saved the nation.   He won the Congressional Medal of Honor.   (He was also an English and Theology professor at Bowdoin College in Maine.)

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of being able to post the Regular Son's pencil sketch of Joshua Chamberlain.    Chalk it up to being a proud father.

Girl of the Day - Katherine McPhee


My ten year old daughter is watching Smash, with Katherine McPhee.   According to the Regular Wife, it's a little too risque for her, but it's about becoming famous, and being a star, and being on Broadway, and being a great singer and dancer, etc.   So we can't keep her away from it.   (She also is more tech-savvy than the rest of the kids, and so learned, practically in the womb, how to work the DVR.   I can't tell you how many Jersey Shore recordings I've had to cancel!)

Anyway, there is occasionally punditry about how feminism and traditional family values are competing ideologically for young girls, with one strand of the culture telling them to value careers and the other to value motherhood and domesticity.   I actually think the most pernicious strand of our culture for young girls is what I'll call the "entertainment industry complex"  (after the Eisenhower era's "military-industrial complex").   This is the enormously powerful, nearly constant hammering by the media (Disney Channel especially) that a young girl's "dreams" should always be about becoming a "star" and becoming "famous" through gaining entry into the world of the entertainment industry.  Sure you have TV shows with women who are police officers and lawyers and doctors.   But you never have shows where young girls aspire to those roles (or to be an engineer or a scientist or a businesswoman or an entrepreneur).  

This can't help but have bad effects -- in a way, the entertainment industry and becoming a "star" is sort of like the academia industry and becoming a "college professor".... because people fantasize about themselves being in that role, and because the work itself is pleasurable and "intellectual" or "artistic," far too many young people chase far too few jobs.   There's an enormous amount of talent out there, but most of it ends up wasted, and could have been put to better use.

Anyway, the Regular Guy tries to offset the culture by talking up being a scientist or a doctor or an engineer to the Regular Daughters.   Kind of a losing battle at this point.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Here's How the Mainstream Media Thinks... And It's Not So Different From How A Lot of Americans Think

The mainstream media apparently thinks something like the following:

A 0% chance of Rick Santorum or the Catholic Church taking away your ability as an individual to purchase birth control is scary.

But a 100% chance of Barack Obama and the federal government forcing Catholics to purchase birth control (through insurance premiums) is just ducky.

This brand of liberal logic sounds familiar to me, because I hear it all the time from suburban parents.   An infinitessimal chance that your child will be kidnapped by a stranger requires endless nanny-state interventions in things like Halloween.   But a significant likelihood that public school sex education instruction and condom dispensing creates a climate where your children will engage in premarital sex... that's just good public health service.

We are a country that is way too susceptible to media-created boogeymen, and way too oblivious to real dangers around us.

Girl of the Day - More Nina Agdal

If I've posted a blog entry called "The Law of Chastity," am I allowed to put up another shot of Nina Agdal from SI's swimsuit issue?




Hell, it's my blog.   Don't like it?   Get your own.

Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middle-Classness


Oh, and if we're going to be attacking Rick Santorum's Catholicism, it would be nice if the mainstream media took a peak at the Trinity Church of Christ's website.   That's the church in Chicago where Obama spent twenty years listening to the sermons of Jeremiah Wright.   One of it's key values -- which it calls the "Black Value System" -- is to "disavow the pursuit of middle-classness."   Hmmmmm.... what are the odds that George Stephanopoulus asks the president about that in a debate?

***

This is not to say that it would necessarily be fair to pull things out of context (as I do above) to attack Wright or Trinity.    Here, for instance, is a Youtube video of Wright talking very sensibly about Bible Study classes at the church in the 1970s:





The point is simply that, where you can count on the MSM to unfairly attack Santorum and leave out the context of things he says about his faith, you can also count on them to ignore Wright entirely.  

The Law of Chastity

Who said this?


Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.
Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.

In the world today, Satan has led many people to believe that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is acceptable. But in God's sight, it is a serious sin. It is an abuse of the power He has given us to create life.

If you guessed Rick Santorum, you're wrong.

If you guessed the Catholic Church, or Opus Dei, or Pope Benedict, you're wrong.

If you guessed the Church of Latter Day Saints, the church that Mitt Romney belongs to, you win a kewpie doll.

That's right, the religion Mitt Romney believes in espouses beliefs that are virtually indistinguishable from the beliefs of Rick Santorum and the Catholic Church on matters of sexuality.   Here, for instance, is the LDS Church's teaching on abortion:   "Human life is a sacred gift from God. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church."

The point here is not to criticize Mitt Romney.   Far from it.   The teachings of the Mormon Church quoted above are just fine with me.   It's simply to suggest that criticizing Rick Santorum's religious beliefs isn't a rational criticism of those beliefs as being somehow different from mainstream Christian beliefs; it's an irrational reaction against a caricature of the Catholic Church.   It's bigotry, pure and simple. 

It's Not "Presidents' Day"... It's Washington's Birthday


George Washington was the indispensable man for the American Revolution, the Constitution, and the beginning of our Republic.   No one else could have filled the role; without Washington, we might have had a Napoleon, or worse.   So let's not talk about "President's Day" today.   It's Washington's Birthday, period, full stop.   It ought to be a national holiday by itself; children ought to write essays for the local newspapers about him; stories about Washington ought to be told by fathers to their sons (and daughters) with a tear in the eye, a la Shakespeare:  "This story shall the good man teach his son."

This is what I said last year on February 22nd, and it still holds:

Look, I don't quibble with the fact that we have a Martin Luther King Day.  It's a good thing.   But I feel very strongly that, if we are going to have a Martin Luther King Day, we also ought to have an Abraham Lincoln Day and a George Washington Day.   King was a great man; Lincoln and Washington were greater men, and there really shouldn't be any dispute about that.   So let's cut out all this crap about "Presidents' Day" -- I'm not celebrating Millard Freaking Fillmore, for Christ's sake -- and go back to Lincoln's Birthday on February 12th and Washington's Birthday on February 22nd.   That's the way it ought to be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Pill Has Been Powerful... But For Whom?

The Regular Guy has often pontificated, based on self-examination of my own wayward youth, that the Pill and the availability of abortion on demand have largely benefited the natural predilections of young men toward predatory sexual behavior by removing the consequences of that behavior and taking away the leverage young women used to have to control young men (namely, saying "no" because saying "yes" would mean getting pregnant and getting pregnant would mean getting married).   In other words, what women's rights advocates advocated has largely harmed women and helped men; sexual liberation has essentially been about liberating young men from responsibility.

Anyway, there is a great article up at NRO on the topic.   Here's a piece, but read the whole thing:

The Pill, together with abortion as backup, appeared to provide full insurance against pregnancy risks. But as economists well know, full insurance tends to induce greater risk-taking: As people perceive sex to be safer, they pursue more of it. This applies especially to people who would otherwise be most vulnerable to the risks of unwanted pregnancy: the young, the unmarried, and those unable to care for a child. While a tight causal argument is difficult to make, correlations alone do not augur in favor of the Pill: The rapidly increasing sexual activity of the Pill era correlates with a staggering increase in non-marital births — less than 5 percent of births in 1960 were to unmarried mothers, compared with roughly 40 percent today. A counterintuitive result, perhaps, but a fairly human one nonetheless.

And this points to an unresolved difficulty with the contraceptive revolution, which was supposed to serve women above all: Women on the whole disproportionately bear the burden of the new sexual regime. They are expected to dose themselves with a Group 1 carcinogen for approximately two-thirds of their fertile years. They sustain greater emotional costs from casual sex. They are at greater risk of contracting STDs and disproportionately suffer from their long-term consequences, such as cervical cancer and fertility loss.  And even after 50 years with the Pill, as many as half of all pregnancies are still unintended. Women, not men, must make the heart-wrenching choice between abortion, reckoned a tragic outcome even by its supporters, and bearing a child with little to no paternal support. After all, since children were negotiated out of the bargain by the availability of contraception and abortion, men have secured a strong rationale to simply ignore or reject pregnancies that result from uncommitted sexual relations. Nobel-laureate economist George Akerlof predicted nearly two decades ago that this would lead directly to the feminization of poverty, as it ruefully has.

These traumas take their toll. A stunning paper by leading labor economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers documented recently that women’s self-reported happiness has declined both overall, and relative to that of men, since the early 1970s. Where women used to report higher happiness than men, they now report less. Stevenson and Wolfers ask, “Did men garner a disproportionate share of the benefits of the women’s movement?” Good question indeed. One may well wonder if the bargain advocated by the feminist elites has made much sense in the end: Were gains for elite women purchased with the currency of a new sexual ethic that has damaged women more generally?

Anti-Catholicism from Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews, the MSNBC commentator, is apparently a self-hating Catholic, because he commented recently that anti-gay bigots are attracted to the Catholic Church:

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Earlier tonight, you were talking about Nixon and the Southern Strategy and bigotry and things like that you and you said, quote, “If you’re really anti-gay, you become a Catholic now.” [Audience laughs.] I was wondering if you were saying that bigots become Catholic now and if you wanted to expand or apologize for that? [Audience laughs.]
MATTHEWS: I think there are people who have chosen to convert to the Catholic faith because they don’t like the liberal positions taken by their sectarian groups. That’s a fact. So, you can write that down. No, you can write that down. 
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So, you’re saying Catholicism is drawing bigots? Is that what you’re saying?
MATTHEWS: I’m saying that some people who are bigoted against gay people have changed religions. Yes. You got it right.

I guess this kind of rhetoric is acceptable at MSNBC.   I can't help thinking that some guy got fired from ESPN for what was either a casual joking slur or else a pure accident in referring to the Knicks point guard, Jeremy Lin's Chinese-Taiwanese heritage.   And I can't help thinking that a similar sentence about Muslims would elicit a firestorm of protest (can you imagine Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann's reaction if Charles Krauthammer, for instance, uttered a sentence like "If you're really anti-semitic now, you become a Muslim").

But, once again, I guess it's OK to denigrate Catholics.  

Girls of the Day - One Last Post on How Downton Abbey Jumped the Shark



I still keep coming back to how I think Downton Abbey jumped the shark.    It all has to do with decisions the writers made to take the easy way out.  

Let's start with Edith, who gets the least attention from the writers.   In Season 1 she almost was going to be married to Sir Anthony Strahlen, and older, wealthy man, until her sister Mary screwed it up by falsely saying in a loud voice (loud enough for Sir Anthony to hear) that Edith was only toying with this older man whom she actually found ridiculous.   On the contrary, Edith actually loved and respected Sir Anthony.   Let's say that instead of taking that easy way out the writers actually had Edith marry Sir Anthony.   First, that would have been more interesting to have the spinster sister, the ugly duckling, actually get married first and have money and status and power of her own.   Second, I think that would have set up a lot of interesting story lines for Edith (who now will be having sex and children, unlike her sisters)... for instance, I could imagine a kind of Dorothea Brooke/Casaubon story of gradual marital disillusionment.   That would have been adult, compelling drama.

Now let's talk about Sybil, the beautiful youngest daughter who ends up married to the radical Marxist chauffer and moving to Ireland.   I think the daugher with the left-wing/suffragette tendencies is a cliche, and it played that way throughout the two seasons -- I never really got the sense that she really believed anything she was saying.   But what if, instead of being a Marxist... or in addition to it... Branson the chauffer, who we know knows a thing or two about cars... gradually starts a successful automobile repair/dealership/factory on the side in town, starts making real money, branches out, and all of a sudden is a commercial success in a growing industry.   That would create conflict for his character (because his commercial success would be at odds with his socialist sympathies), and conflict with the family (because he's making his own money while they either inherited it or married it).   Other than the first season (and not for long), when there was initial conflict between Matthew as a middle-class lawyer and the Crawleys as aristocrats, there hasn't really been much conflict between the dying aristocracy and the growing-more-powerful middle class Britain.   (Richard Carlisle doesn't count, because he's a fabulously wealthy newspaper magnate.)   This has been a consistent missed opportunity for the series.   Again, that kind of real class conflict would have been adult, compelling drama.

Finally, let's talk about Mary.   The biggest jump-the-shark moment in the series slipped by us, but has really colored the series ever since -- the entirely incredible moment early in the first season when Kemal Pamuk, a strapping, dashing young Turk, has a heart attack and dies while having sex with Mary.   Come on, really?   And then Mary, who had sex with a visiting Turk she had barely met, never has sex again for the next eight years?   Wouldn't the story have been much better if she had liked the sex with Pamuk, Pamuk had lived and hung about occasionally over the rest of the series, along with other men, and that the conflict in her character, the secret, wasn't that she had had sex once and the man died, but that she had had sex more than once, liked it, and nevertheless had to suffer under the social and family expectations of virginity at that time, all the while loving (but not really being all that attracted to) Matthew, whom everyone expects she must marry?   (Note: part of the reason I say this is because, viewed objectively, Mary is way too hot for Matthew, who has become a bit of a cold fish.)

In short, you could make a slowly deteriorating marriage, a slowly building commercial success, and a woman slowly awakening to her sexuality work over a number of seasons on TV.   What they've done instead is leave Downton Abbey in a spot where it's hard to imagine how the third season will be interesting.

In other words, the Regular Guy could write this shit better than the BBC jerks they have writing it.

Ah, well.  

Double Standards - Santorum, Obama, Belief and Hypocrisy

William McGurn of the WSJ identifies two double standards at play in analyzing how the mainstream media reacts to Rick Santorum's social conservatism:

When Barack Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he declared that marriage is between a man and a woman. For the most part, his position was treated as a nonissue.

Now Rick Santorum is campaigning for president. He too says that marriage is between a man and a woman. What a different reaction he gets.

There's no mystery why. Mr. Santorum is attacked because everyone understands that he means what he says.

President Obama, by contrast, gets a pass because everyone understands—nudge nudge, wink wink—that he's not telling the truth. The press understands that this is just one of those things a Democratic candidate has to say so he doesn't rile up the great unwashed.

***

 When Mr. Obama used a prayer breakfast earlier this month to suggest that the Gospel of Luke was a call for raising taxes on the wealthy, the press corps yawned. When Mr. Santorum complained about the "phony theology" behind the president's worldview, suddenly it landed on every front page and lead every news show.
None of this comes as any surprise to the Regular Guy.  The set of unspoken signals that Obama puts out says to liberal elites "I'm one of you, I won't do anything that you would think was uncool."    They know that he is a hypocrite, in other words, which is a good thing to them, because that means that he really doesn't believe those retrograde religious beliefs he pretends to believe.   By contrast, the set of  signals Santorum puts out says to liberal elites "I'm not one of you, I'm not cool, and I don't care what you think."   They know that he's not a hypocrite, and that terrifies them.   Their actual positions don't matter so much as the secret handshake-tribalism that defines them as part of the secular elite or as part of the unwashed middle America of "bitter clingers."  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Drudge Report Hammering Santorum


The Drudge Report is hammering Santorum for what, in context, were fairly innocuous comments about President Obama, criticizing his radical environmentalism as a "strange theology... not based on the Bible."   This, of course, is both fair criticism and accurate -- environmentalism is a form of theology (hell, hasn't Drudge ever heard of loony lefty environmentalist whackos talking about "Gaia"?) -- and it has long been a standard trope of conservative rhetoric to criticize radical environmentalism on these grounds.   Drudge nevertheless reads Santorum as questioning Obama's religion.   And then, of course, a Santorum spokeswoman misspoke -- irony alert! -- and said that Santorum had only been criticizing Obama's radical Islamic policies, where in context she plainly meant to say his radical environmentalist policies.  

Drudge is a conservative website, of course, perhaps the most visited on the Internet.   What's up with him being so hard on Santorum?  

It's simple.   Drudge has been an important voice in conservatism.   But he is also gay.   It seems pretty obvious to me that, while he's happy to support conservative Republicans generally, he's going to have a natural antipathy toward Santorum as a gay man, because of Santorum's Catholicism.  

Ah, well.   It is what it is.   You can't please everyone, and there is always going to be tension between the church's teachings on homosexuality and gays whose lifestyles are contrary to those teachings.   One would hope that Santorum would have the sense to express his Catholicism in a charitable way without malice toward gays (I think he can), and that Drudge would remember Reagan's 11th Commandment.  

We'll see. 

Experience and Presidential Candidates

Let's review:

Reagan - at the time he was nominated by the GOP in 1980, his experience in government was 8 years as Governor of California.   He had run for President in 1976, losing a close primary race to an incumbent President, Gerald Ford.

GHW Bush - at the time he was nominated by the GOP in 1988, he had been a two-term Congressman, UN Ambassador, Director of the CIA, Ambassador to China, Chairman of the National Republican Party, and Vice-President for eight years.  

Dole - at the time he was nominated in 1996, he had been a U.S. Senator from Kansas for 28 years, and before that a four-term Congressman.

GW Bush - at the time he was nominated in 2000, he had been Governor of Texas for six years.

McCain - at the time he was nominated in 2008, he had been Senator from Arizona for 22 years, and before that had been a two-term Congressman.

Looking at this list, a quick and dirty analysis leads me to conclude that every successful candidate over the past 32 years had some significant executive branch experience, either as a state governor or as Vice President.   The unsuccessful candidates, meanwhile, had the longest governmental careers, but all in the legislature.   Of the successful candidates, the two best, Reagan and GW Bush, both had relatively short political careers as Governors of large states.  

So let's compare the current candidates.   Santorum exclusively has experience in the legislative branch, although not as long as either Dole or McCain.   But his experience in the Senate is also qualitatively somewhat different, as I don't see anything in his record that suggests that he "went native" and allied himself with liberals on issues, the way both Dole and McCain occasionally did.

Meanwhile, Romney's four years of executive experience as Governor of Massachusetts is both shorter than Reagan and GW Bush's, and in a smaller and less consequential state.   Romney does have significantly more business experience than any GOP candidate, probably ever.   (It's an inapt comparison, but you could make a case that Eisenhower's experience running the ETO during World War II was the only other time when the GOP has nominated a candidate whose primary life experience was not in politics.... although you could just as easily argue that running the ETO  was a political position par excellence.   It's also worth noting that this will be the first time when the GOP will nominate someone without at least some military experience... Reagan rose to the rank of Captain during World War II, but served exclusively stateside making training films, while GW Bush as we all know was a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard.   Neither Romney nor Santorum has any military background.)

I don't know what all this means.   Maybe it means that Romney's resume really does make him better suited to run successfully.   Maybe it means that both our candidates are pretty weak.  

It is worth noting that either Santorum or Romney has resumes and experience that are substantially stronger than Barack Obama's was when he ran for President in2008.

On Social Conservatism and Electability

There are criticisms floating around the blogosphere and the mainstream media that Rick Santorum can't win the Presidential election over Barack Obama because he's a social conservative -- which, boiled down, means he's pro-Life, anti-gay marriage, pro-school choice, anti-teen sex, and church-going.   Hmmmmm.... let's recap.   There have been five GOP candidates for President since 1980 -- Reagan, GHW Bush, Dole, GW Bush and McCain.   If you ranked them on how socially conservative they were, you'd probably say GW Bush, Reagan, GHW Bush, Dole and McCain, in that order.    Notice anything?   The more socially conservative the candidate, the better he does.    The candidates who ran as unabashed pro-Life Christians, Reagan and GW Bush, both were 2-0.   GHW Bush won once, but that was on Reagan's coattails in 1988; he lost the next time out.   And Dole and McCain, both fairly "moderate" Republicans in their social policies, both got wiped out.

Oh, and by the way, another thing... there are a lot of people commenting on how Rick Santorum got blown out in his 2006 re-election campaign for Senator from Pennsylvania.    Some people say that is proof that a social conservative can't win.   But does anyone recall that the Democrat who beat him was Bob Casey, Jr., one of the few prominent pro-Life Catholic Democrats, who therefore neutralized Santorum's appeal to Pennsylvania Catholics and pro-Life Democrats?   And Santorum also lost because he stressed the importance of the War on Terror and, in particular, the danger of Iran, at a period before the Surge when the Iraq War was incredibly unpopular.   Santorum turned out to be right on that issue, while the people who voted against him were wrong.   How does that show that he's unelectable in 2012? 

Girls of the Day - Downton Abbey Done, Waiting on Mad Men (Jessica Pare and January Jones)

The semi-disappointing second season of Downton Abbey now complete, the Regular Wife and I are looking forward to the March 25th premiere of the fifth season of Mad Men, a show that is consistently brilliant in its writing and has much more interesting and realistic plot-lines and romances.   What will happen with Don Draper's new wife, played by Jessica Pare? 






She's extra nice, but it's hard to believe he's just going to leave January Jones in the dust.



By the way, Jessica Pare kind of reminds me of the Regular Wife.  :)

It's Official - Downton Abbey Jumped the Shark... Carrying a Ouija Board


Don't get me wrong.   We still love Downton Abbey, and we'll watch it next year when it comes back and Mary and Matthew go through a time warp and have amnesia and have to fend off Martians and learn to love all over again and Mr. Bates is finally exonerated and released from prison only to be struck blind and be lost at sea and Sybil and Branson will have seventeen Irish brats, all of whom join the IRA and William will begin visiting Daisy in her sleep and haunting Downton Abbey's halls, looking for a tray to carry aperitifs... well, you get the picture.   The soap opera that the show became in the second season got even soapier last night when, at the penultimate moment, Anna and Daisy somehow (oooh... spooky!) got the Ouija board the downstairs staff had been playing with to say something like "I want them to be together," and we're supposed to believe it's Lavinia Swire, Matthew's erstwhile fiancee, speaking from beyond the grave (she died in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919) to get Matthew to finally get off the schneid and marry Mary.   So I guess we're now supposed to believe that the dead really do speak through a Ouija board (since otherwise it doesn't make sense, as both Anna and Daisy were far too preoccupied with their own problems to bother to pointlessly produce a vague statement from the Great Beyond purely to tease the other, and are both far too nice as characters to do such a thing, or to be the target of the other).    Sheesh!   Talk about your "willing suspension of disbelief"!

Where can they possibly go next year when the driving force of the show was to get Matthew and Mary together?   Maybe they go back to being less soap opera-y?   I can imagine some interesting shows about Matthew getting involved in politics (he used to be a lawyer), or Branson and Sybil getting involved in Irish politics, or Edith finally having a real romance.   Probably not... apparently they are going to go the full-on, snarky old lady comedy relief route with Shirley Maclaine joining as Cora's American mother coming to England to visit the great-grandchildren.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Girls of the Day - Pitchers and Catchers Report Issue

Not sure who these girls are, but the Regular Son would like to meet them and take them to a Cardinals game:


OK.  So maybe not for a few more years.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tomorrow - P and C R!

Pitchers.   And.   Catchers.   Report.   




Greatest four words in the English language.  

First Amendment Violation or Fifth Amendment Violation... Choose Your Poison

The reaction to the Obama Administration's mandate on religious employers to provide birth control, sterilization and abortifacients to their employees under Obamacare's mandated coverages has rightly been condemned as an attack on the employers' First Amendment religious liberty.   But consider the flip side.   Obama's supposed "fix" to this issue was to mandate that the insurance company's provide the same coverage for free (on the stupid theory that the religious employer's premiums wouldn't still ultimately be paying for the "preventive" services).   Is this any better from a constitutional perspective?

Let's assume as a convenient fiction that Big Insurance Co. has a warehouse filled with birth control pills, IUDs, condoms, morning-after pills, and sundry other products that Obamacare mandated that they provide to its insureds as part of "preventive health services." The items are contained in packages that are boxed and stacked on pallets. They constitute "property" for Big Insurance Co., in that they are valuable -- Big Insurance Co. bought them from Big Pharma Co. or Big Medical Device Inc. and now intends to sell them to Mrs. and Miss Insured in exchange for their premiums.

(By the way, did you ever notice that the Administration always frames this as an issue concerning women's health care services... I guess they don't want to have to defend the proposition that Joe Taxpayer should be taxed to pay for the rubbers of some dude down the street.  But I digress... )

Now imagine that the federal government, instead of mandating that Insurance Co. has to give the birth control pills and devices away for free to its Insureds, just decides to confiscate all of this valuable property from Insurance Co. so that the federal government can give away these valuable items to its now happy constituents.

Wouldn't everyone, including the Supreme Court, immediately recognize this as an unconstitutional taking of property, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment?

And... what's the difference between this scenario and what is happening now?

Birthdays Today - 32 and 23

In a weird coincidence, Jim Brown and Michael Jordan were both born today -- Brown is 76, Jordan turns 49.    Are they the two greatest American athletes of the 20th Century.   I think undoubtedly, if you consider football and basketball to be the sports that require the most athletic ability.   OK, then, which of them is the greater athlete.   Brown, the running back:



Or Jordan, the high-wire basketball player:



For my money, it's Brown.   Jordan was a great basketball player, the best ever, but he failed at his attempt to play pro baseball.   Brown, meanwhile, was a very good college basketball player who undoubtedly could have played in the NBA, and was arguably one of the greatest college lacrosse players ever, even though he only took the game up after he got to Syracuse as a way of staying in shape in the spring.

Duck Soup Tomorrow

Taking the kids to see the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup tomorrow.   It will be interesting to see how they react to it.   To me, it's some of the funniest stuff ever put on film:



Disgrace -- More From Tim Geithner

Here's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner again, this time tangling with Paul Ryan (memo to Obama:  messing with Paul Ryan is always a bad idea):





Again, this quote needs to be in GOP ads all over the country:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, speaking on behalf of the Obama White House, to Rep. Paul Ryan: "You are right to say we're not coming before you today to say 'we have a definitive solution to that long term problem.'  What we do know is, we don't like yours."

Disgraceful.

Girl of the Day - Nina Agdal

Just so you don't conclude that I'm a dirty old man with a crush on Kate Upton, here's a different SI swimsuit model, whose image I present chastely and objectively for your review:

Fifty Years Ago in Film

The Regular Guy goes to a lot of movies, lately mostly with the Regular Son.   I'm always looking for really good movies to see with him, on the theory that being exposed to good movies will raise his tastes and awareness above the Call of Duty/slasher film/juvenile comedy level of most high-school boys.   So we've seen Margin Call, Moneyball, The Descendants, Tinger Tailor Soldier Spy, as well as great old movies on the big screen at a local bijou that runs them on Saturdays at noon.   But when you look back fifty years at the movies that were out in 1962, you realize that the Golden Age for film is probably over.   Consider the films we could have seen that year:


There are at least five movies here that would win the Academy Award this year:  Days of Wine and Roses, Lawrence of Arabia (which would win any year it was up), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Manchurian Candidate, and To Kill a Mockingbird.   Instead, we have a lot of movies based on TV shows that baby-boomers watched when they were kids, or action movies based on kids' toys (like Transformers).   Yuck!

Oh, and notice anything about that list above from 1962.... not a single movie is a sequel.

Kennedy v. Santorum

The cognitive dissonance among Democrats this fall if Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee will be deafening.   Consider:  one of the articles of the liberal creed is that any question of the liberal icon JFK's Catholicism when he ran for President was an unfortunate vestige of earlier American know-nothingism, to be derided along with Jim Crow and McCarthyism as diseases of the troglodyte right-wing.   But the Democrats will be attacking Rick Santorum for holding beliefs on abortion, contraception, marriage, etc., that are simply mainstream Catholic doctrine.   So why will JFK's Catholicism be celebrated, while Santorum's Catholicism will be denigrated?   It's too easy to say that it's because JFK was liberal and Santorum is conservative, although that's certainly a huge part of it.   

No, I think the reality is that liberals feel comfortable with JFK's Catholicism because they know he really didn't believe it, and didn't live his life according to its doctrines.   He was a modern sexual libertine, a secularist.   Santorum makes liberal uncomfortable because he actually believes and lives his faith.

The Sham of the Obama Budget

The Obama budget for FY 2012 was voted down in the Democrat-led Senate 97-0.   So the Obama budget for FY 2012, just released last week, is obviously a sham, a political document based on spending cuts that are either accounting gimmicks or non-starters (defense cuts, the doctor "fix" for Medicare reimbursements), and based on rosy scenarios about future economic growth.   Its whole purpose is simply to tee up the President's demogoguery for the fall, when he'll claim that he would have created millions of new jobs if only the Republicans had passed his budget, and the only reason the Republicans didn't agree was because they refused to raise taxes on billionaires like Warren Buffett.   That's the campaign in a nutshell.

But the budget is truly a sham for a bigger reason -- it does nothing to tackle long-term entitlement spending that will bankrupt us.   Indeed, Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, admitted it yesterday in testimony in the Senate:




Let's get that quote right and highlight it:

"You are right... even if Congress were to enact this budget, we would still be left with, in the outer decades as millions of Americans retire, what are still unsustainable commitments in Medicare and Medicaid."

One Term Proposition

The three-year anniversary of the stimulus package.   I don't expect a lot of celebration, for the obvious reasons:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Economy and Employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the source for the unemployment figures you see the first Friday of every month, has a lot of interesting ways to look at employment in the U.S. with the click of a button.  

For instance, one of the problems with thinking about unemployment figures is that the percentages depend on who is counted as being part of the labor force; if more people drop out of the labor force by stopping looking for work, the unemployment figure will go down, even though there aren't really more people working.  

Similarly, simply to keep pace with population growth, the economy has to add hundreds of thousands of jobs a month -- by way of example, the civilian noninstitutional population in January 2002 was 216 million, today it is 242 million, which means that in the last ten years the country has added 26 million people.   If 60% of those people are seeking work, that means we needed to add nearly 16 million jobs in 10 years just to keep pace, or about 130,000 per month.  

One statistic that allows you to understand what's happening in the economy while ignoring the vagaries of the "labor force" and correcting for population growth is the employment to population ratio -- perhaps the simplest statistic, simply what percentage of people have jobs.   If you look at this statistic, you see that any talk about how the economy is rebounding is just spin from politicians (read: Obama) who are trying to snow you:


Why Obama Did It

Why did Obama pick a fight with the Catholic Church on insurance coverage for contraception?   I think this Gallup poll may provide the answer:


The key statistic is the data for people in the age group 18-29, the young voter.   Obama's approval rating jumped a statistically significant 10%, from 50% to 60%, in that demographic in one week, where the only thing that changed politically was that the Obamacare mandate became a big issue.  

What do  we know about that group?   They are more likely to be unmarried.   They are more likely to be sexually active with more than one partner.   They are less likely to want children.   They are less likely to be regular churchgoers, and so less likely to care about or even understand the importance of religious liberty.   Indoctrinated by the media over the course of their entire lives, they are more likely to view conservative attitudes toward sexuality as "hangups"; they aren't experienced enough in life to understand the importance of moral values to marriage, child-raising and long-term happiness.   And, perhaps most importantly, they are much less likely to understand that the promise of "free" contraception is a ruse; they aren't experienced enough to understand that nothing is "free," and that, in the end, they are the ones who pay for it through lower salaries when their employers have to pay higher health insurance premiums.  

I think the Obama campaign team chose this fight consciously based on internal polling that it would be a winner among a demographic they would like to energize in 2012.   In other words, I think they did it cynically, choosing short-term political gain over the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom.

I believe that the Obama strategy is going to be to shore up their base -- young people, blacks, unions, and the dependent elderly -- through scare tactics about evil Republican plans to take away their birth control, their union bargaining rights and their Medicare.   Then I think they'll go extremely negative on race in an attempt to suppress the overall vote.

Strap in, my fellow Americans.   We're in for a wild ride.

Girl of the Day - Kate Upton Redux

I hate to shamelessly plug the SI swimsuit issue, but this video of Kate Upton doing the Dougie last year at an LA Clippers game is, well, scrumptious:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Traps


I've heard some chitter chatter on the Internet about how the Obama campaign has "set a trap" on contraception for Republicans and, specifically, Rick Santorum should he be the nominee.   Well, maybe.   But it could be that Obama is trapping himself.   Consider:   the only way to attack Santorum on contraception would be to make the argument that his religion, Catholicism, is somehow weird or out of the mainstream.   By itself that may harm Obama more than it harms Santorum, particularly in northern Midwest states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania with high concentrations of Catholics.   (The same may or may not be true for states like Florida and New Mexico, with high concentrations of Hispanic Catholics.).  

But doesn't it also bring back into play the weirdness of Obama's own religion?   If Obama gets to comment on Santorum's religious beliefs and bring them into play (which he certainly has through the Obamacare contraception mandate), isn't it obvious that Jeremiah Wright comes back into play as an issue?   McCain never used the issue in 2008, but wouldn't there be a compelling case that Catholicism's ideas about contraception are not nearly as bizarre as Wright's ideas:

  • September 2001: “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”
  • September 2001: “We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.”
  • September 2001: “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own backyard. America is chickens coming home to roost.”
  • April 2003: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing God Bless America. No! No No! God damn America … for killing innocent people. God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme.”
  •  “Fact number one: We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college. … Fact number two: Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run.”
  •  "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you."
  •  “We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional killers. … We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. … We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. … We care nothing about human life if the ends justify the means. And … And … And! God! Has got! To be sick! Of this shit!”

SNL Parody of Downton Abbey

Pretty funny.

Wow.

From Rasmussen, just posted:


The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters finds Santorum with 39% support to the former Massachusetts governor’s 27%. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich follows from a distance with 15% of the vote, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul runs last with 10%. Three percent (3%) like some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

Just over a week ago, it was Romney leading the pack with 34% after his win in the Florida Primary, followed by Gingrich 27%, Santorum 18% and Paul 11%.  But then last week Santorum swept GOP caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and a non-binding primary in Missouri as Gingrich continues to stumble in the race to be the conservative alternative to Romney.

Perhaps more tellingly, Santorum now trounces Romney 55% to 34% in a one-on-one matchup among likely GOP primary voters. This is the first time any challenger has led Romney nationally in a head-to-head match-up. Santorum also leads Romney head-to-head in  Michigan.

As crazy as this sounds, Santorum can close the deal in the next three weeks.   He needs a good performance in next week's Phoenix debate, a win in Michigan on February 28, another good performance in the March 1 debate, and then several wins (including Ohio) the week after on Super Tuesday.   If he does that, Romney's rationale (electability) will vanish, Gingrich's rationale (being the best conservative alternative) will vanish.

Did anybody see this coming?


***


By the way, the Super Tuesday primaries are Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.  Of those eleven states, I would characterize seven of them as being staunchly conservative (all but Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia).   But Santorum isn't on the ballot in Virginia, Massachusetts is Romney's home state, and Vermont is a quasi-socialist/quasi-Canadian mini-state that Republicans won't win.   So Romney's victories in those states will be discounted.   If Santorum wins Michigan and then wins Ohio, and if he can pull off victories in the other "conservative" states -- on the theory that Gingrich's support by then will have collapsed, and Newt might even have left the race in a "king-maker" move to gut Romney's campaign -- he could be the de facto nominee on March 7th.  

Again, did anyone see this coming?  

Smart Play

Rick Santorum is aware that now he has closed on Mitt Romney in the polls, there will be more scrutiny and likely negative ads from the Romney camp.   So he's doing something smart -- he's putting out a humorous ad entitled "Rombo" in which a machine-gun wielding Romney lookalike is shooting mud balls at Santorum (and missing).   What this does is make Romney's negative ads the issue, and perhaps inoculate Santorum against them when they come (and they will).   And, because it's semi-funny, he won't get perceived as bitter and angry the way Gingrich was when he responded to Romney's attack ads:




I remember a campaign twenty plus years ago in Wisconsin where a little-known candidate used humor against his better-known opponents in a race where the major candidates were slinging mud at each other.   The little-known candidate with the funny ads ended up winning.   His name was Russ Feingold.

The more Santorum can come off as a sunny Republican who doesn't get angry, the better off he will be.   I'm not sure he can pull it off -- in the beginning of the race he often came off as pretty much of a sourpuss -- but maybe he's learned his lesson.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act... of 1993

Good article on WSJ about how the Obamacare mandate not only violates the Constitution, but also is illegal under federal law, namely, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993:

The birth-control coverage mandate violates the First Amendment's bar against the "free exercise" of religion. But it also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That statute, passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It was enacted in response to a 1990 Supreme Court opinion, Employment Division v. Smith.

That case limited the protections available under the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion to those government actions that explicitly targeted religious practices, by subjecting them to difficult-to-satisfy strict judicial scrutiny. Other governmental actions, even if burdening religious activities, were held subject to a more deferential test.

The 1993 law restored the same protections of religious freedom that had been understood to exist pre-Smith. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act states that the federal government may "substantially burden" a person's "exercise of religion" only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person "is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest" and "is the least restrictive means of furthering" that interest.

The law also provides that any later statutory override of its protections must be explicit. But there is nothing in the ObamaCare legislation that explicitly or even implicitly overrides the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The birth-control mandate proposed by Health and Human Services is thus illegal.

Basic Economics

Michael Boskin, writing in the Wall Street Journal, makes an essential point about Obama's socialist tendencies to think the government should (or can) target investments to particular industries:

Despite his record of picking losers—witness the failed "clean energy" projects Solyndra, Ener1 and Beacon Power—Mr. Obama appears determined to continue pushing his brew of federal spending, regulations, mandates, special waivers, loan guarantees, subsidies and tax breaks for companies he deems worthy.

Favoring key constituencies with taxpayer money appeals to politicians, who can claim to be helping the overall economy, but it usually does far more harm than good. It crowds out valuable competing investment efforts financed by private investors, and it warps decisions by bureaucratic diktats susceptible to political cronyism. Former Obama adviser Larry Summers echoed most economists' view when he warned the administration against federal loan guarantees to Solyndra, writing in a 2009 email that "the government is a crappy venture capitalist."


Look, this is pretty basic economics.   If an industry has sufficient potential to be profitable, private investors will fund its development by putting their capital at risk; that's what they do.   If an industry needs government subsidies, by definition private investors have concluded that it does not have the potential to be profitable, and have refused to risk their capital.   So, by definition, industries in which the government must offer subsidies are industries which are either too risky or else too quixotic (like, for instance, the solar energy industry).  

Unless, that is, your definition of "profitable" is funneling money to your own left-liberal constituencies and contributors.   Which is what Obama appears to be doing with "investments" in companies like Solyndra and LightSquared.