"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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Obamacare and the Underlying Premises of the Constitution

The past week the Supreme Court heard argument essentially on two questions:  (1) is the individual mandate of Obamacare constitutional, i.e., can the federal government require a private citizen to enter into a contract with a private company to buy a particular service simply because the federal government thinks that it's a good thing for society as a whole?   And, (2), if it isn't constitutional, can the rest of Obamacare be salvaged under the rubric of severability?   Readers of this blog know that I think the answers are "no," and "no."

But there are two other reasons that were never before the Court why the Regular Guy thinks Obamacare is unconstitutional.  

Everyone admits that they haven't read the bill.   Democratic Congressmen who voted on Obamacare have admitted repeatedly that they didn't read it.   It's too complex, it's too long, no one has the time, even if you did read it cover-to-cover you wouldn't understand it, etc.   In my view, if a bill is so complex that the legislators who enact it can't understand it, then it was not the product of a rational legislative process as envisioned by the Founders.   Either we have a representative government, or we have a rubber-stamp for nameless bureaucrats, lobbyists and staffers.   If the latter, that's not what the Constitution requires, period.

No one knows what it will cost.   The touted cost of Obamacare was something on the order of $900 billion.   The most recent estimate from the CBO says it's something closer to $1.8 trillion over ten years.   Medicare estimates were famously off by tenfold or more.   In short, no one knows what Obamacare will cost.   That being the case, what exactly was enacted.   Every Act of Congress to appropriate our tax dollars for spending tacitly prioritizes -- we will spend X on this program rather than X on some other public good.    But here, no one knows what we're spending, so no one who voted on it knew what the tradeoffs were.   Again, the Constitution created Congress to be a deliberative body to make rational decisions about spending our public monies.   If the Obamacare majority literally did not know what they were voting on, then they can't have been acting deliberatively, and instead were acting irrationally.   In my view, that makes Obamacare null and void ab initio.  

Girl of the Day - Norah Jones

She turns 33 today.   Here's the song that caught my attention awhile back... not sure what she's been doing since:

Death Knell for Santorum Campaign

No one thought Rick Santorum would be the last man standing against Mitt Romney.   He's done a helluva job, and should be commended.   But it sure looks like the party is coalescing around Romney's candidacy.   Within the past few days, former President George H.W. Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio both endorsed Romney.   Today, perhaps the most important endorsement of all comes from Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan:

Rep. Paul Ryan endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on Fox and Friends this morning. Ryan said the primary process has been productive and constructive up to this point, but that it is time to unite around Romney.

"I am convinced if we drag this out to the summer, it's going to make it that much harder to beat Obama in the fall,"  Ryan said.

Santorum is still close in Wisconsin, and there's a chance he could pull it out.   But I think Ryan's endorsement will actually give Romney a big boost here, and lead to a double-digit win.   Santorum needed to win Michigan, Ohio or Wisconsin to stay viable.   He won't do it, and after Wisconsin there will be lots of calls for him to get out.   If he were to hang on through the end of April, he could then mount a charge of sorts in May, when the calendar is more favorable with primaries in the South and the most conservative Midwest states (Indiana and Nebraska).   But the math will make those too little too late and donors will probably say "why bother?"

Ryan, by the way, is now the de facto leader of the party, an enormously likeable and respected figure.   Would he accept the Vice Presidential nomination?   More to the point:   why would he?   Doesn't he have more power where he is?

The Contraception Fiasco and the Supreme Court

Benjamin Zycher, writing at NRO, makes an interesting point connecting the recent fiasco over HHS regulations (promulgated under the authority created by the Obamacare legislation) requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraception, abortifacients and sterilization services in their health insurance plans, and the Supreme Court's skepticism this week about the constitutionality of Obamacare generally:

One trivial thought that I have not seen elsewhere: I wonder if the Left/Obama/Kathleen Sebelius didn’t shoot themselves in the backside when they decided to apply a chainsaw to the religious liberty of the Catholic hospitals, etc. That episode, I think, brought out in sharp relief the unprecedented degree of coercion inexorably inherent in Obamacare, the eagerness with which the Left employs it, and the thoughtlessness with which the Left is willing to destroy the institutions of civil society as they pursue their political goals. They really believe that people of religious faith are simpletons standing in the way of ever-greater individual dependence upon Leviathan. And so I have a sense — but no direct evidence — that Kennedy and perhaps Roberts may have recoiled in horror from the prospect of Obamacare more deeply than otherwise might have been the case, as they were confronted with the prospective wholesale descent into economic fascism that is the very essence of Obamacare.

I think he's onto something here.   Think about it:

Scalia.... Catholic.
Alito.... Catholic.
Kennedy.... Catholic.
Thomas.... Catholic.
Roberts... Catholic.   

In other words, the Obama Administration, in their infinite wisdom, went out of their way to publicly affront the faith of the entire conservative majority of the Supreme Court a month before the Obamacare case was to be heard.     

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trayvon and the President

Ace over at the AoSHQ makes the following great poin about the Trayvon Martin caset:

We still don't know enough here to be confident of knowing anything.
What we do know is that Community Organizers have ratcheted up a Get Zimmerman campaign without knowing anything, and the media, of course, gleefully assisted.
The proper authorities should be permitted to come to a reasoned, evidenced decision, get this, without the threat of riots should they not decide as the Mob may prefer.
Obama ran partly on the idea that he was some kind of racial healer.
If he doesn't defuse this situation, and this city riots -- so much for that, eh?
Where's Obama's supposedly vaunted temperament and reason now? When reason and restraint are called for, he pitches emotion -- the last thing an already hyper-emotional case needs.

When the President of the United States intervenes in a local criminal matter in which very few facts are known, and says that the victim "looks like the son I never had," he's essentially taking sides.   That is incredibly inappropriate for a government official, and incredibly stupid for someone who supposedly taught Constitutional law.   If I were George Zimmerman's attorney, I'd be arguing that his civil rights to due process and equal protection under the law have already been violated when the President broadcasts what amounts to a pre-determination of his guilt.   

P.S.   This may seem unrelated, but doesn't this situation remind you of the President's gaffe with Medvedev? In both cases, he seems confused about what the proper role of a President is, and, ultimately, confused about the question of whom he serves. With Medvedev he seems to have forgotten that he's the President of the United States, not the Chairman of some U.N. initiative to reduce nuclear arsenals. With his comments about Trayvon Martin, he seems to have forgotten that he's the President for all Americans, not a community organizer, much less a race hustler a la Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. 

Girl of the Day - Elle MacPherson

Probably number four in the list of greatest SI swimsuit models ever, behind only Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley and Kathy Ireland.    She turns 48 today.   Tempus fugit, as the Regular Son would say after Latin class at the local Jesuit high school.   Needless to say, they don't have girls there, and, if they did, they wouldn't look like this.  

Last Thoughts on Obamacare

The argument over severability yesterday included this wonderful statement by Justice Kennedy about whether it would be radical to overturn the entirety of the Obamacare legislation:

JUSTICE KENNEDY: When you say judicial restraint, you are echoing the earlier premise that it increases the judicial power if the judiciary strikes down other provisions of the Act. I suggest to you it might be quite the opposite. We would be exercising the judicial power if one Act was — one provision was stricken and the others remained to impose a risk on insurance companies that Congress had never intended. By reason of this Court, we would have a new regime that Congress did not provide for, did not consider. That, it seems to me, can be argued at least to be a more extreme exercise of judicial power than to strike -­ than striking the whole. . . . I just don’t accept the premise.

In fact, it would be extraordinarily radical for the Court not to strike down the entirety of Obamacare, if the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional.   As I explained yesterday, insurance companies cannot survive if they are obliged to cover everyone who wants a policy regardless of pre-existing conditions, but healthy people aren't obliged to purchase policies.   There will literally be no money available to pay for the health care of sick people who show up demanding coverage.   So, if the Court were to let Obamacare stand but invalidate the individual mandate, what the Court would be doing, in effect, would be tantamount to enacting a single-payer, nationalized, socialist health care system, because the only thing that would remain after insurance companies left the business would be the government Leviathan.   No one ran on that, no one voted for that, no one honestly announced their intention that a single-payer socialist system would be the result.   In short, if that resulted, you would have had a monstrous change in American society and the relationship between an individual and the federal government enacted by a single monarch -- Anthony Kennedy.   

In other words, there are two paths of judicial restraint.   One would be to let the individual mandate stand on the theory that Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause to do practically anything.  The other would be to invalidate it all, on the theory that the mandate is unconstitutional, and the rest of Obamacare is incoherent without it.   The path of judicial activism (truly judicial tyranny) is to strike down the mandate but leave the rest of the unsustainable carcass of Obamacare in place.

I think that's what Justice Kennedy is sensitive to.   I hope he does the right thing. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mad Men Redux - Zou Bizou Bizou

I still can't watch this all the way through without turning away.   Something in me abhors embarrassment, and that's what this scene is about.... the embarrassment of cynicism in the face of youth and idealism and freedom and sexiness; the embarrassment of self-consciousness in the face of unself-consciousness.   What a great, weird way to open the season for Mad Men:

Obamacare Update - Could They Really Be This Devious?

I have to admit I have thought of this before, but thought that no one could be this devious.   But Steven Den Beste lays out the case for the Machiavellian intent underlying Obamacare:

There are three basic questions that the Supreme Court is trying to decide.

1. Should they decide now, or wait? (That was argued on Monday.)
2. If they decide now, then is the individual mandate unconstitutional? (Today.)
3. If the mandate is unconstitutional, then is it severable from the rest of the law? In other words, if SCOTUS strikes down the individual mandate, does that invalidate the rest of the law? (Tomorrow.)

For Obama, the ideal outcome is 1. Now. 2. Unconstitutional. 3. It’s severable.

In other words, the mandate goes away but the rest of the law remains in force. That makes private health insurance economically unviable, and the insurance companies will all exit the business or they will go out of business. At which point the Democrats will try to implement “single payer”, a total nationalization of the entire health care industry, financed by a huge rise in taxes.

Single Payer is what they always wanted. The bill wasn’t originally written that way, though, because they knew that even with twin Democratic majorities, there was no chance of passing it. So they included the mandate instead.

If the mandate is struck down, then Congress will have to act. There won’t be any way to repeal the rest of the law because Obama will veto, and the Senate will sustain the veto. The only thing he will agree to is implementation of single payer.

That’s why the arguments yesterday and today were feeble: Obama wants to lose the first and second questions. Tomorrow’s argument is about severability, and that’s the one to watch.

Girl of the Day - Julia Stiles

One of our favorites from Dexter and the Bourne movies, Julia Stiles turns 31 today.    That seemed old when I was young, and seems young now that I'm old.  

Two Stories, One Story V

This will be brief, and is sent out to my liberal friends.  

The first story is the story of the individual mandate under Obamacare.   The central legal question is "can the federal government force an individual to buy health insurance?"   Writ large, the question is:  can the federal government force an individual to buy a product it thinks is good for the individual or for society as a whole?   Liberals say yes, the federal government has this power.  

The second story is the recent story of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student, who famously went to Capitol Hill to proclaim how she is a victim because her Catholic university won't provide her free birth control as part of its health insurance plan.   The argument we heard over and over from liberals was that birth control was a necessity for "women's health."   

Okay, let's put the two stories together.  

1.  Liberals say the federal government has the power to make individuals buy a product if buying the product is good for them and good for society.

2.  Liberals say that a particular product, birth control, is good for women and good for society.  

3.  Q.E.D.  Liberals necessarily believe that the federal government could mandate that women purchase birth control.  

My liberal friends out there... do you really want a federal government that can do that? 

Last Day of Argument on Obamacare

Today's last day of oral argument before the Supreme Court on the Obamacare case involves the question of whether the individual mandate, if found unconstitutional, is "severable" from the statute as a whole.   That is, could the Court find the mandate unconstitutional and yet leave the rest of the statute in place, including the guarantees that no insurer could turn down an insured for a pre-existing condition.

The answer ought to be no.    You can't take out the individual mandate and leave the rest of Obamacare in place.   It just won't work and, in fact, is incoherent without the mandate.   The reason this is so can be summed up in two two-word phrases that anyone who wants to understand this issue ought to know.  

The first is "adverse selection."   This is a basic principle in insurance economics.   The idea is that, if given the opportunity, people will choose to buy an insurance product in a way that maximizes their coverage while minimizing the premium they have to pay.    In the context of health insurance, this means that sicker people will generally be more likely to want to purchase health insurance, while younger, healthier people are less likely to want to purchase health insurance, with the result that the insurance companies have a harder time turning a profit on the insurance they write.  

In the context of Obamacare, what this means is that, if no insurer can turn down an insured because of a pre-existing condition, the incentives for healthy people will be to not buy insurance until they get sick, keep the premiums, and then buy insurance only when they are sick and start racking up medical bills.   Obviously an insurance company can't survive under these circumstances.   That is why the mandate is necessary, if you're going to require health insurance companies to issue policies to all comers -- you have to have healthy people paying premiums in order to finance health care for the sick people you no longer can turn away.  

The second term is "moral hazard."   Again, this is an economics term.   It refers to the basic fact of human nature that, if you put temptation in front of human beings, they will be tempted to do whatever maximizes their own immediate well-being, even if it means harming the larger society.   (By way of example, the structure of pension plans for public employees is fraught with moral hazards such as the ability of public employees to double dip or spike at the end of their careers.)  

In the context of Obamacare, what this means is that people would, in fact, decide not to have coverage while they are young and healthy, and then, because insurers can't turn them down because of pre-existing conditions, only get insurance when they get sick.   They will know on some level that what they are doing is screwing the rest of society, but they will choose a new car, or a new house, or a vacation, or just plain sloth (I'm looking at you, English grad students) over buying health insurance.   Again, the existence of this moral hazard is why you have to have the mandate if you are going to require insurance companies to issue health insurance to all comers without regard to pre-existing conditions.   

I think there is no way that the Court can logically find the mandate severable from the rest of Obamacare.   That being the case, either the whole thing goes or, if Justice Kennedy thinks the mandate is the price we have to pay for more universal coverage, then the whole thing stays.

I think the whole thing will have to go as a legal matter, because the individual mandate is so obviously a step through the looking glass... if it is upheld, we no longer have a limited federal government of enumerated powers, but instead have a Leviathan that can make us do whatever it thinks is best for us.   Buy health insurance!   Buy life insurance!   Buy a gym membership!   Buy a Chevy Volt!   Buy diet soda!   If the federal government can make you buy health insurance, it can make you buy anything. 

More on this in my next post.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Supreme Court and the Mandate

Apparently the Obama Administration's Solicitor General didn't fare so well today in defending the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare:

A lot of people are expecting this decision to come down 5-4, with Anthony Kennedy providing the deciding vote between the conservative wing (Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts) and the liberal wing (Sotomayor, Ginsberg, Kagan, Breyer).   I'm not so sure.   Recently there have been two 9-0 decisions against the Obama Administration in important cases.   In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court unanimously acknowledged the existence of a "ministerial exception" that bans the government from interfering with religious organizations' right to choose their own ministers.  Then, in Sackett v. EPA, the Court held that landowners could sue the EPA over designations that their property constitutes "wetlands" under the Clean Water Act.   Both cases ultimately hinged on the Supreme Court wanting to reign in an Executive Branch that had overreached the limits of its power.  

The Obamacare case presents the exact same issue... is the power of the federal government limitless, or does the Constitution (and, hence, the Judiciary) place limits on the federal government's powers?   If the Commerce Clause lets the federal government tell a private citizen that he must buy a particular product -- health insurance -- what can't the Commerce Clause permit?

I predict the Obamacare mandate goes down by a 9-0 decision.   Justice Roberts will pull everyone together to be unanimous in a case that goes to the heart of what the Constitution means and, thus, goes to the heart of the Court's own powers.

Trayvon Update

Mainstream media's preferred narrative:   White Republican murders innocent little black boy for no reason because of racism created by Rush Limbaugh.

Potential alternative narrative:  Hispanic Democrat kills seventeen-year old black man in apparent self-defense because he was attacked.   

The facts as far as I can tell at this juncture support the second narrative much more than the first. 

But I repeat.   We.   Don't.   Know.   The.    Whole.   Story.   Yet.   

Girl of the Day - Last Tango in Paris Version (Maria Schneider)

In the old days in college, different groups would raise money by showing a movie.   They would have to rent an actual film, wait for it to arrive in the mail, and then arrange for a projector and a room, and then would charge students money to see the movie, usually a buck or two.   Sometimes a group would arrange to present a film series, usually of "arty" films (it's college, after all, where pretentiousness is the order of the day).   And thus it is that I remember seeing, at age 19 or 20, the French "art film"/porn film Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider.   I saw it in 1979 or so; it had come out in 1972, the same year Brando starred in The Godfather.   I doubt any actor ever had two bigger roles in a single year.   Undoubtedly many in the audience came for the porn, and were surprised at seeing a strange  dark psychological drama in French with subtitles.   I remember how uncomfortable watching it made me, both for the sex and the drama -- basically a slow suicide by a guilt-ridden, anguished Brando.   Now, of course, young college students watch movies (and porn) in the privacy of their own dorm rooms, on their laptops via the Internet.   I don't have any deep thoughts about that evolution/devolution at the moment, other than to note how weird it is. 

Anyway, I've never seen Maria Schneider in anything else since and it's her birthday.   She's 60 today.   That's weirder still.  


The Party of Decline

Here's just another story about how the Obama Administration is "retro-fitting" America for decline into a second-rate power in the 21st Century:

The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants as early as Tuesday, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.
The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

“This standard effectively bans new coal plants,” said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. “So I don’t see how that is an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

Fewer coal plants equals less supply of electricity equals higher prices for electricity.   That's Economics 101, and even Obama understands it.   The problem is:   that's actually what he wants.   Remember this?

Fewer coal plants.   Less drilling on federal lands and off-shore.   No new nuclear plants.   No new oil refineries.   We are putting ourselves on a path, not just to energy dependence, but to energy scarcity, which would mean an end to the standard of living we've grown accustomed to in America.  

Oh, but won't we get energy from "alternative" and "green" technologies?

Don't bet on it.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin and Media Spin

I have no brief for either side in the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.   I.   Don't.   Know.   What.   Happened.   It is not much different than any of the other hundreds and thousands of killings in America in the course of a year.   There are facts that are specific to the incident that have not come out yet.   So it makes no sense for people thousands of miles removed from the facts to pontificate about it.  Let law enforcement investigate it, bring charges if charges are warranted, try Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, if they choose to, and let a jury decide whether he is guilty or not.  

I do want to mention one aspect.   Once again, the American media is terrible.   They've taken this story and run with a pre-packaged narrative of "racism," even though Zimmerman is Hispanic, has many black friends, and was the neighborhood watch captain in a multi-racial neighborhood who was well-liked and respected by the black families that lived there.   He may very well be guilty of murder, or manslaughter, by having acted recklessly or negligently resulting in Martin's death.   But extrapolating this specific incident into a symbol of how young black men in "hoodies" are treated by racist white America is silly, and dangerous.  

One way the media does this is particularly egregious.   Martin was a big kid, well over six feet, and seventeen.   Zimmerman is significantly shorter, but older and pudgier.   The pictures below are the pictures the media has used repeatedly in reporting on this story:

The picture of Tayvon Martin is from several years ago when he was a cute little kid.   The picture of Zimmerman is also from several years ago -- it's a mugshot from when he had had a run-in with the law (for which the charges were later dropped).   In short, choices were made that tended to support a narrative of Martin being an innocent, unthreatening child, and Zimmerman being a thug.  

Here are different pictures of the two men the media could have chosen:  

This picture of Zimmerman shows an obviously more mature man with a friendly smile.   Meanwhile, the picture of Tayvon Martin on the right (from a Facebook posting) shows a young man who is very muscular, albeit slender, much bigger, and making somewhat menacing gestures (either simply teenager rudeness, or else gang-related).   Now, if the media had used these, they might have rightly been criticized for picking out a picture of Zimmerman that suggests he is an innocent, upstanding citizen, and a picture of Martin that suggests he is a thug.   But didn't they do the same thing in reverse?    And since they are making editorial selections about what kind of pictures they want to use, why exactly did they choose to opt for the pictures that would support a story of Martin as an innocent victim-child?   He obviously, at age seventeen, and more than six feet tall, isn't really a child anymore, is he?

Oh, and here is a face shot of Martin at age seventeen that the media hasn't opted to use much either:

Without being a jerk about it, lots of kids look a lot different when they are seventeen than they did when they were 12.   They tend to look more dangerous for the simple reason that a seventeen year-old by definition is more dangerous than a 12 year old.   The Regular Son, for instance, at six feet tall at age 15, looks like a man.   He looked differently when he was 10.   Most of this is common sense, not racism.   So when the media selects a picture of a person to use in a news story, and the picture they select shows him as significantly different than what he would have been like when the news event occurred, they aren't reporting the news accurately.   It's that simple.  

None of this is meant to suggest that Zimmerman acted in self defense or in any way was justified.   I.   Just.   Don't.   Know.   Enough.   Facts.   

And neither does anyone at CNN or MSNBC or the New York Times.  

A Kinsleyan Gaffe by Obama

The liberal pundit Michael Kinsley (Bob Novak's nemesis on Crossfire a long time ago) famously noted that certain gaffes by politicians are gaffes because they inadvertently reveal the truth.     Here's one from today:

At the tail end of his 90 minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”
The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.
The exchange:
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

The truth revealed?   Obama (a) wants to do a deal gutting our missile defense systems with the Russians and, in particular, leaving Eastern Europe defenseless, because he's an anti-American, anti-military leftist; but (b) he can't do it now because it interferes with Priority #1, which is getting himself re-elected; so (c) he has to lie to the American people about (a) in order to make sure of (b).  

Now, I know Obama wasn't much of a lawyer.   Despite his Harvard Law "credential" and his supposed Chicago Law "professorship," there is literally no evidence of any actual legal work or legal scholarship he's ever done.   So perhaps we can't expect him to understand much about Basic Lawyering 101. But you'd think they might have taught him at Harvard the most basic thing a lawyer has to know... namely, who you're client is.

In Obama's case, as President, his client is the American people. He owes, to take the analogy a step further, fiduciary duties to the American people. One of those duties is the duty of undivided loyalty. Another is a duty of candor.Still another is not to act in his own self-interest against his client's best interests.

Here Obama essentially violates all of them, admitting that he's going to hide what he wants to do (something favorable for Russia and not so favorable for the U.S.) from his client, so that he can get re-elected.

Imagine a similar conversation between two attorneys engaged in litigation:

Plaintiff's Counsel: On all these issues, but particularly [settlement on terms that are bad for my client], this can be solved but it’s important for your boss to give me space.

Defense Counsel: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
Plaintiff's Counsel: This is my last election [as my firm's Management Committee chair]. After my election I have more flexibility.

Defense Counsel: I understand. I will transmit this information to [my senior partner].

Doesn't sound too good from an ethical perspective, now does it?

Girl of the Day - Jessica Pare

The Mad Men premiere last night was shocking, to me anyway, because it threw such a curveball to its audience.   Seventeen months ago, when we last saw Don Draper, he had just proposed to his secretary, Megan Calvert, a character who had been somewhat in the background throughout the fourth season.   She was a pretty young thing, sweet, spoke French, had a model's body, but a somewhat strange smile.   (As an aside, it's another strange aspect of modern society that you almost never see any actor or actress who doesn't have absolutely perfect teeth.... the miracle of orthodonture.)   Now, at least in the first episode of the fifth season, Megan (now Mrs. Draper), dominates the action.   What the hell?   From her sexy rendition of Zou-Be-Zou (Sophia Loren's novelty tune from the early 1960s) at Draper's 40th birthday, to her black lacy underwear for doing angry housework after the party, to her tearful confession to Peggy, plaintively asking "who doesn't like a birthday party?" (Draper, that's who), Megan -- played by Jessica Pare -- stole the show.   Wow.   I would have predicted that they never got married and she was off the show, or else relegated to a bit part.   But Matt Weiner, the show's creator, obviously saw something in her.   Last night was the payoff for that trust.   Seriously, the Zou-Be-Zou number might have been star-making for her.

P.S.   She also semi-reminds me of the Regular Wife.   :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Girl of the Day - Back to Rain

Well, the ridiculous spring in Wisconsin has come to a wet end.   We're back to normal... rain.   So it seems fitting to have a rainy Girl of the Day.   Here's Joan Crawford -- it's also her birthday -- in the 1932 film Rain

The film, by the way, is a pretty hard-boiled story of a prostitute who seduces a married minister (Walter Huston), who then commits suicide.  This is in the pre-censorship era of Hollywood talking pictures... the so-called "Hays Code" started being enforced in 1934.   After that, films were not supposed to do anything of the following, or risk censorship:

Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:
  1. Pointed profanity-by either title or lip-this includes the words "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," " damn," "Gawd," and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
  2. Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
  3. The illegal traffic in drugs;
  4. Any inference of sex perversion;
  5. White slavery;
  6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
  7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
  8. Scenes of actual childbirth-in fact or in silhouette;
  9. Children's sex organs;
  10. Ridicule of the clergy;
  11. Willful offense to any nation, race or creed.  
 Interesting to see how far we've come.   Or, depending on your perspective, how far we've fallen.  

Birthdays Today - Kurosawa and Gris

Two truly great artists were born today, the film director Akira Kurosawa and the painter Juan Gris.   Both were probably born at precisely the right time for their medium:  Kurosawa to be part of the post-World War II explosion of "art" films; Gris to be part of the early 20th century explosion of "modernist" art.   Here's a great piece from one of Kurosawa's great reimagining of Shakespeare (here, King Lear) in Ran:

And, here is a great cubist work by Gris, his 1912 portrait of Picasso:

"A Big F***ing Deal"

That's how Joe Biden described the passage of Obamacare two years ago today:

Funny, then, how if you go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/schedule, the President has no items on his agenda for today to commemorate the passage of his signature piece of legislation, a vast re-imagining of one-sixth of the American economy that has been the focal point of the left in America for three generations:

Hmmmm.... must be something embarrassing about it, huh?   Otherwise, in an election year, wouldn't a President running for re-election be going to the American people with an easy case, saying, I passed this great piece of legislation that everyone wanted?   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mark Steyn Nails It Again

It's no secret to readers of this blog that the Regular Guy has a man-crush on Mark Steyn.   I likes me some funny, and Steyn brings it, along with crystal clear vision of where we're at and where we're heading (Armageddon) if we don't wake up to the twin threats of fiscal incontinence and Islamic aggression.   Here he is on NRO discussing the latter in the context of the murder spree in France:

The killer of French schoolchildren and soldiers turns out to be a man called Mohammed Merah. The story can now proceed according to time-honored tradition:
Stage One: The strange compulsion to assure us that the killer is a “right wing conservative extremist"... The insistence that the killer was emblematic of an epidemic of right-wing hate sweeping the planet is, regrettably, no longer operative. Instead, the killer isn’t representative of anything at all.
So on to Stage Two: Okay, he may be called Mohammed but he’s a “lone wolf.” Sure, he says he was trained by al-Qaeda, but what does he know? Don’t worry, folks, he’s just a lone wolf like Major Hasan and Faisal Shahzad and all the other card-carrying members of the Amalgamated Union of Lone Wolves. All jihad is local.
On to Stage Three: Okay, even if there are enough lone wolves around to form their own Radio City Rockette line, it’s still nothing to do with Islam. I’m sad to see the usually perceptive Ed West of the London Telegraph planting his flag on this wobbling blancmange.
And then, of course, Stage Four: The backlash that never happens. Because apparently the really bad thing about actual dead Jews is that it might lead to dead non-Jews: “French Muslims Fear Backlash After Shooting.” Likewise, after Major Hasan’s mountain of dead infidels, “Shooting Raises Fears For Muslims In US Army.” Likewise, after the London Tube slaughter, “British Muslims Fear Repercussions After Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.” Oh, no, wait, that’s a parody, though it’s hard to tell.
Look, pace Ed West, isn’t it just a teensy-weensy little bit to do with Islam? Or at any rate the internal contradictions of one-way multiculturalism? No, it’s not a competition. Most times in today’s Europe, the guys beating, burning and killing Jews will be Muslims. Once in a while, it will be somebody else killing the schoolkids. But is it so hard to acknowledge that rapid, transformative, mass Muslim immigration might not be the most obvious aid to social tranquility? That it might possibly pose challenges that would otherwise not have existed — for uncovered women in Oslo, for gays in Amsterdam, for Jews everywhere? Is it so difficult to wonder if, for these and other groups living in a long-shot social experiment devised by their rulers, the price of putting an Islamic crescent in the diversity quilt might be too high? What’s left of Jewish life in Europe is being extinguished remorselessly, one vandalized cemetery, one subway attack at a time. How many Jewish children will be at that school in Toulouse a decade hence? A society that becomes more Muslim eventually becomes less everything else.

Karl Rove, Film Reviewer

Karl Rove has a good piece in the WSJ about Obama's 17-minute, Tom Hanks-narrated campaign film:

Almost as important as what the film says is what it doesn't. There's not a word about the failure of the president's stimulus to produce the jobs he pledged—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer Americans are working today (132.7 million) than when Mr. Obama was sworn in (133.6 million).

There's nothing about his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term—according to Treasury's Bureau of Public Debt, the administration has piled up more debt in three years and two months ($4.93 trillion) than his predecessor did in eight years ($4.8 trillion).

Nothing is said about the centerpieces of last year's State of the Union—green energy jobs (Solyndra anyone?) and high-speed rail (fizzled). Nada on the president's promises about how ObamaCare would lower premiums and lower the deficit while allowing people to keep their existing coverage (all untrue).

As they say, read the whole thing.   To me, the things that will hurt the President the most will not be his failures on the economy or the deficit.   Nor will they be increased danger abroad (read:  Iran).   Rather, I think the real problem with the President is simply the distance he has fallen from the promise of idealism, "hope and change," bi-partisanship, and civility.   This is a nasty, hardball, Chicago-style Presidency, and even the true believers can see that.   What must independents think?   People don't like being sold a bill of goods.   He made fools of us once.   Will we let him do it twice?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Does Santorum Still Have a Chance?

Yes, but it's a slim one after his thumping in Illinois last night.   The polls predicted a 15 point victory for Romney; the Regular Guy had predicted a single-digit result; but the 12 point victory by Romney was pretty impressive.    Here's the thread-the-needle road to victory for Santorum.   I'd give this about a 2% chance at this point:

1.  Win Louisiana on Saturday.
2.  Gingrich drops out.
3.  Win Wisconsin convincingly on April 3rd and do well enough in Maryland and DC to actually win the day in terms of delegates.
4.  Win Pennsylvania on April 24th convincingly and win at least one other state, preferably New York.   (The other states include Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware, all of which are probably too liberal for Santorum.   New York ironically might be the least liberal of those states.)
5.   Be at least semi-viable going into May, when the calendar is more favorable, including contests in the South (NC, Arkansas, Kentucky, WV, Texas) and Midwest (Indiana, Nebraska).
6.  Generate enough momentum to make a run at the big enchilada in early June.... California, a winner-take-all state.

I frankly expect the reverse to happen.    Santorum will win Louisiana, and Gingrich will get out, but Romney will start picking up endorsements, including, I expect, from three of the following four men:  Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Tommy Thompson and Ron Johnson.   And then Romney will win Wisconsin convincingly and the pressure will be on for Santorum to bow out.   He may limp along to Pennsylvania, win his home state on April 24th (and nothing else), and then get out with a ringing final speech that will set him up for a future in the party.  

Romney Not Bad

Having supported Santorum for the past few weeks, and still preferring him to Romney, it's important to recall that Romney would still be infinitely better than Obama.   Here's a clip that shows why:

Not bad by Romney. A pretty good aphorism in response: "If you want free stuff, vote for the other guy." But he might have done even better by making the point that the notion of the government giving you "free" anything is magical thinking. What the young lady who asked the question really wants is for someone else to work and pay taxes to pay for her stuff. So it's free to her, I suppose, but it's not "free" to the person who has to pay for it.

And then it really does become a moral question. Not the one Romney articulates, although I don't disagree -- that it's immoral to borrow $1 trillion a year to spend on government programs.

And not the question the MSM wants this issue to turn into -- whether sex itself is moral or immoral.

The real moral question always gets obfuscated because we have the middlemen of government insulating us from the reality of our own positions. The real moral question is... by what right do you confiscate someone else's earned income using force (police and the threat of imprisonment) so that you can use their money for your own purposes?

That's the moral question at the heart of the argument between conservatives and the liberals/radicals who support Obama.   It's an argument of free individuals versus the coercion of statists.

Girl of the Day - Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence got rave reviews for the indie film Winter's Bone a couple of years ago, for which she got an Academy Award nomination.   So she's a real actress.   Let's see how she likes being a enormous worldwide movie star.    Next week The Hunger Games opens, and if the Regular Daughter (No. 2) is any indication, it's going to be HUGE.

Birthdays Today - Ferris Bueller

It's this guy's birthday today:

He's fifty.   Feel old yet?

Two Stories, One Story IV

Two stories in yesterday's headlines were really part of the same story.   The first story was Paul Ryan issuing the House Republicans' proposed budget, a plan that reforms the tax code to simplify it (two rates at 10% and 25%, fewer deductions) and to spur growth (cutting capital gains and corporate tax rates), reforms Medicare (retaining the program for people over 55 while shifting it to a market-based approach for people younger than that), and putting the budget on pace to balance.   Over the 10 year budget window, it would cut $5.3 trillion from the Obama proposal.


The second story is something of a dubious achievement:  yesterday the deficits racked up by the Obama administration in 38 months exceeded the deficits of the Bush administration over eight years that included the aftermath of 9/11 and two wars.  

The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office.

The latest posting from the Bureau of Public Debt at the Treasury Department shows the National Debt now stands at $15.566 trillion. It was $10.626 trillion on President Bush's last day in office, which coincided with President Obama's first day.

The National Debt also now exceeds 100% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the total value of goods and services.
Can Americans really re-elect a man who blithely will have presided over four straight years of trillion-dollar plus budget deficits?   Who has added more than $5 trillion to the deficit?  A man who proposes more of the same as far into the future as the eye can see?    I hope we are not that foolish.


So... two stories, one story:   this is a yarn about a responsible adult and a petulant child.   A story about the man who would fix things and the boy who breaks his toys in a fit.   A man who knows that money doesn't grow on trees and a baby who thinks golden unicorns will come from the sky to save him.  

So the election comes down to whether America is a responsible adult nation anymore, or whether we are spoiled children.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Illinois Primary Update

Cognitive dissonance in polling.   ARG and PPP both have Romney up about 15 points in Illinois.   But both took those polls over the weekend, which happened to be (a) St. Patrick's Day; (b) the first weekend of the NCAA tournament; and (c) the most beautiful weekend in March I've ever seen in the upper Midwest.   So I tend to think that the demographic skew toward people who want to talk to pollsters on the phone over that particular weekend is large.    I don't trust them.

Meanwhile, something interesting is happening in the Gallup national tracking poll:

I get the impression that things are much closer than people think between Romney and Santorum in Illinois, and that the narrative after tonight will be another close Romney win, more talk about why he can't close the deal, and Santorum crowing about how he comes this close while being outspent.

By the way, from a GOP perspective, the more the narrative becomes Romney is buying the election by outspending his rivals, the worse it is for November.

Girls of the Day - 21 Jump Street Version

The Regular Son and I caught 21 Jump Street last weekend.   Short review:   very vulgar, very funny.   About on par with Superbad in terms of both.   Great stuff.  

Anyway, it's mostly a vehicle for the male-bonding leads, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, but each has a "love interest" of sorts, neither of which is age-appropriate for twenty-something cops pretending to be high school students (probably intentionally as part of the "edgy" humor).   For Hill it's a high-school girl, Molly, played by Brie Larson:

For Tatum, it's his chemistry teacher, played by Ellie Kemper:

Slow Joe Strikes Again

It would be hard to get a combination of sheer stupidity and arrogance crystallized and concentrated in anyone to a greater degree than it is in our Vice President, Joe Biden.   Here's his latest idiocy:
Vice President Joseph Biden on Monday night upped the ante around the already quite-dramatic assassination of Osama bin Laden.

From the pool report of Biden's comments during a fundraising event in New Jersey come these quotes.
You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.

President Bush ordered Special Forces into Afghanistan weeks after 9/11.   Read Horse Soldiers if you want audacious.    President Bush ordered the surge in Iraq at a time when the entire Democratic Party (and many Republicans) wanted to cut and run.   That was audacious.   Obama ordering the raid that got Osama... not so much.

Look, don't get me wrong.   It was great that the Seals got bin Laden.   But President Obama's role in that was literally a formality.   Any President, given good intelligence that the location of Osama bin Laden was known to a sufficient degree of probability, would have made the same call.   Bush.   Gore.   Kerry.   Clinton.   I would have made the same call.   You would have made the same call.   Part of this is based on the nature of the decision... by the time it even gets to the President's desk, the intelligence has been checked and re-checked and re-re-checked, and the plan has been checked and re-checked and re-re-checked at multiple levels by people with much greater familiarity (of necessity) with the facts, capabilities, and tactics than the President.  

As for Slow Joe... 500 years, really?   You mean Washington Crossing the Delaware wasn't more audacious?   Lee's invasion of the North culminating in Gettysburg?   Sherman's March?   The Doolittle Raid?   D-Day?   The decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?   The Raid on Entebbe?  

And yet these people think they're so much smarter than the rest of us rubes.

Illinois Primary Today

This is an interesting primary in terms of how to spin it afterwards.   The latest polls suggest a huge Romney win, something on the order of 15%.   If Santorum could make it somewhat close, he could spin it as a moral victory, which would then carry him into the Louisiana primary on Saturday, where he would be expected to win.   If Romney has a blow-out win, on the other hand, that would solidify his narrative of inevitability.   Which is pretty strong anyway.   The scenario for Santorum remains:  make it close in Illinois; win Louisiana; win Wisconsin on April 3rd.   Then see where we are.   

Weirdly, the Wisconsin primary (where the Regular Family lives) may turn out to be the Last Stand for non-Romneys.   Buckle up.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Romney, Organization and Playing the Game

One of my faults in terms of my career and financial success my whole life has been an unwillingness/incapacity to "play the game."   The Regular Son, somewhat unfortunately, somewhat fortunately, shares this failing.   The compensating gains for me have been a great marriage, a great set of kids, more time with my family, less time doing bullshit, more time to do the things I want to do (such as they are), etc.   Life is tradeoffs.

I'm thinking about "playing the game" in the context of the Presidential election because I noticed something funny over the weekend.   Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rico primary.   Now Puerto Ricans are American citizens, just as American as you are or I am.   But, regardless of the fact of citizenship for individual Puerto Ricans, it remains a fact that Puerto Rico is not a state and has no electoral college votes.   Puerto Rico literally does not matter at all in terms of winning the Presidency.    Yet Romney's 22 delegates from Puerto Rico will have just as important a role in picking the Republican Presidential candidate as, say, delegates from Ohio, a must-win, swing state. 

So I went back and looked at the results to date.   Romney has won a total of 56 delegates in sweeping the following non-states:  American Samoa, Guam, the American Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Marianas.   That's over 10% of his total delegates and roughly 20% of his current lead over Rick Santorum. 

Romney's organization and intelligence in going after delegates in these non-states is admirable.   Santorum's unwillingness to play the game of amassing delegates is also admirable, though in a different way.    But it is very weird that, if the convention becomes close, delegates from Guam or Samoa or some other non-state could push Romney over the top. 

Girl of the Day - Ursula Andress

We tend to think of the 1950s and early 1960s as a more innocent time.   This is the kind of simplistic narrative that the mainstream media specializes in... we were innocent until the JFK assassination, and then we weren't.   I've always been suspicious of narratives of The Fall (and even more suspicious of narratives that we can recreate Eden, utopia, the Great Society, the Worker's Paradise, whatever you want to talk about).   People have always been the way people have always been.   There never was an Age of Innocence and there never will be.

Which is a pretentious way of discussing the Ur-Bond girl from the early 1960s, Ursula Andress.   Not much by way of innocence in this iconic photograph:

Ursula Andress turns 76 today.  

The Future of Education

I've lamented publicly on this blog about the anachronistic structure of college education, in which young people are forced to spend extortionate sums in tuition to get a college degree when the knowledge they are supposedly there to learn is available for free online.  

I've also lamented privately about the fact that the Regular Son leaves for college in a little over three years, and the revolution (inevitable... that which can't continue, won't) in college education won't have happened yet.

Well, maybe.   Here's an article from NRO that dissects the economic fallacies driving college tuition increases.   At the end they note these promising developments:

There have been a number of promising recent developments in higher education. The most impressive may be the rise of Western Governors University, a highly innovative institution built around entirely online delivery and a competency-based degree — i.e., WGU grants credits based on test performance, and does not require class attendance. A WGU student who is already very knowledgeable about software programming, having worked as a coder before starting work on her degree, might secure a credit in computer science by passing a final exam without actually taking a course. In essence, WGU offers the equivalent of a CPA exam for every subject.

Moreover, WGU charges its students based not on the number of credits they complete, but rather on an “all you can eat” basis over two semesters: If you can demonstrate competency in seven or eight semesters’ worth of credits in only two semesters, you pay the price for two. The beauty of the WGU model is that it allows students to seek instruction anywhere they can find it — they can read independently, study with a tutor, enroll in some other school, etc. — while turning to WGU to certify that they’ve mastered the relevant material.

In a somewhat similar vein, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has sponsored MITx, a program through which students who take free online courses offered by MIT can, for a modest fee, secure an MITx credential by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the material.

There is nothing magical about greenswards on college quads.   There are public parks where you can get your natural beauty for free.   There is nothing magical about spending four years on a college campus.   Most people can learn whatever they need from college in two years or less.   You can already "test out" of college courses by taking AP classes in high school.   Why couldn't you just "test out" of college altogether?  

And there is nothing magical anymore about college libraries.   It used to be that you went to a university because that's where the books were.   You had to go there to get access to knowledge, and they could charge a premium because there were "barriers to entry" as the economists would say.   Now access to knowledge involves precious little in terms of transaction costs -- it's a frictionless click of a mouse away.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Greatest Living American?

Probably not.   Not when there are decorated soldiers among us who fought heroically in our country's wars.   But I'd be hard-pressed to name a better elected public servant than Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan:

Girl of the Day - Summertime! Version (More Kate Upton)

It's pushing seventy degrees and sunny here in Milwaukee on a Friday afternoon.   Best early spring ever in Wisconsin, at least in the 23 years I've been here.   (Crap, has it been that long?)   So, in honor of the sunshine, let's indulge:

Horrifying or Hilarious?

We report.   You decide.

Too Young

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Clarity v. Demagoguery

The Catholic bishops U.S. conference released a statement yesterday on the HHS mandate controversy that is remarkable in its moral clarity and most remarkable, in my view, for the following paragraph, which stands as an indictment of the demagoguery that the Democratic Party has engaged in ever since the Obama Administration chose to pick this fight:  

We wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Regular Son Reviews.... Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball (Guest Post)

I've found that you can plot out almost any "classic" rock and roll artist's career with this formula: First they struggle to get their foot in the door, then they struggle to sit down in the living room and turn on the TV. Then something clicks, or a leviathan of a marketing campaign propels them to a breakthrough, and then comes three years in which they are, as The Regular Guy would say, "exploding with creativity"'. But then they lose the drive, the passion, the fire under their ass, they've got one too many "yes men" or just run out of inspiration, and you wind up with Bob Dylan's "Self-Portrait". (Or, in the Boss's case, 1992's infamous double release of "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town".) Then, once they've taken the bait and bitten the hook of success-induced complacency, they tend to flop around a little bit on the pier, someone says, "Oh, wait, this fish isn't dead," they make a "comeback" record (e.g. "Blood on the Tracks" or 2002's "The Rising"). And eventually they wind up in the filet of selectively reflective Michael Jackson-style posthumous albums.

So where does Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" fit in?

OK, my problem with all of our beloved Brucie's 2000s albums--or, for that matter, just about anything since the last synth-soaked notes of "Dancing in the Dark"--was that it was all just so boring. Repetitive, complacent, punchless, boring. I can see it now--a gray-haired, spray-tanned Springsteen still wearing his schvanzola-compressing jeans from 1984, directing an E Street Band that has become less a band than a jobs program, saying, "OK boys, everybody come in on count 1, G-G-G-G. That's you, all seventeen acoustic guitars, the whole violin section--Max, make sure to use that annoying cymbal the whole time--and just sorta play noise till the end. And what the hell, throw in a C chord after the fifth chorus. Alright? Alright. I'm working on a dream..."

Whatever happened to the Springsteen who put a Gerschwinesque piano intro on the beginning of a 10-minute song just because he could? Who played "Kitty's Back" for 17 minutes at London in '75 and didn't repeat a single riff? Who avoided traditional song structure like the Plague? (See "Thundercrack".)

But the first thing you hear on "Wrecking Ball" is a freakin' disco-synth (followed by three minutes of scrambled metaphors and liberal pseudo-weltschmirtz) succeeded by penny-whistles, electronic drums, gospel choirs, horn sections, proletarianistic whistling numbers, a loop of the "I'm a soool-diiier" rant, not to mention a downright gangsta sixteen-bar rap on "Rocky Ground", and what's this? Is that a break with ONE INSTRUMENT PLAYING AT A TIME?!?!?!?

All I can say is, at least he's trying again.

But seriously, we need to be open to Springsteen's musical exploration just like he is. I mean, he's not going to write another BTR. Or Darkness. Or The River. Or WIESS. Those were young men's records, and the dude's sixty-three. And as objectively viewed pieces of music, all this new stuff--yes, even the rapper--tends to work. Yes, you'll have to wade through more libbie naivete than at the recall petition signings outside my local pool, but after listening to Prezidizzle Obizzle's SOTU, I think we can handle a pasty-faced old rich guy singing about the "plight of the workin' man".

"Wrecking Ball" and "Land of Hope and Dreams" are pretty traditional E Street powerhouses, and "We Take Care of Our Own" is kinda BITUSA-sounding, but the rest of them don't even utilize E Street band members, and--dare I?--maybe that's a good thing. Maybe this new producer is a good thing. Maybe even the rap influences. I think the ESB had turned from a tight, lean, muscular musical machine to a bloated, overarranged headache-inducer. From what I know, there weren't any set guidelines for what WB should sound like, and we wound up with a diverse, varied, ambitious, daring collection of songs.
But can we really say Bruce is resurgent? I've always said the Boss was a tried-and-true ballad singer, and "Jack of All Trades", "This Depression", and "You've Got It" are all snoozers. The stuff that hits home is the uptempo, folky, celtic, even hip-hoppy stuff that you've gotta view not as traditional E Street anthems, but as if you didn't know it was the same guy who wrote "Rosalita".

You'll notice that the title track and the penultimate song (which is graced with the last appearance of The Big Man) are the closest thing to "Badlands" and "The Promised Land" you'll see here. And they just don't measure up. He ain't got "It ain't no sin/to be glad you're alive" in him no more. But here, we see an old man finding his subject matter again--pondering mortality, age, death, what a good life is, what a bad life is, etc. He's gone from yearning to reflection, from the songs being a vehicle for the lyrics to the lyrics being a part of the songs. No, it's no "Jungleland", but it shows us that we may just have a live fish floppin' around on the grill.

Moral Cretins

Sometimes you think that the difference between liberals and conservatives is semantics.   Sometimes you think it's a difference in approach to solving problems or reaching common goals.   You think that there is, at the very least, a common vocabulary that would allow discussion, reasoning, debate.  

Other times, though, you realize that the difference is so fundamental that there really isn't much left to talk about.    Either they are monsters, or else the most fundamental beliefs we have are nonsense. 

Here, for instance, is an article from the Weekly Standard about the profession of "medical ethics" regarding a mother's right to "choose" to abort her child even after it's born:

.... a pair of medical ethicists took to their profession’s bible, the Journal of Medical Ethics, and published an essay with a misleadingly inconclusive title: “After-birth Abortion: Why should the baby live?” It was a misleading title because the authors believe the answer to the question is: “Beats me.” 

Right at the top, the ethicists summarized the point of their article. “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” 

The argument made by the authors​—​Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both of them affliliated with prestigious universities in Australia and ethicists of pristine reputation​—​runs as follows. Let’s suppose a woman gets pregnant. She decides to go ahead and have the baby on the assumption that her personal circumstances, and her views on such things as baby-raising, will remain the same through the day she gives birth and beyond.

Then she gives birth. Perhaps the baby is disabled or suffers a disease. Perhaps her boyfriend or (if she’s old-fashioned) her husband abandons her, leaving her in financial peril. Or perhaps she’s decided that she’s just not the mothering kind, for, as the authors write, “having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children, regardless of the condition of the fetus.”

The authors point out that each of these conditions​—​the baby is sick or suffering, the baby will be a financial hardship, the baby will be personally troublesome​​—​​is now “largely accepted” as a good reason for a mother to abort her baby before he’s born. So why not after?
That such an argument could be published and accepted as "scholarly" is extraordinarily damning, both to the authors, and to the "profession" they profess.   Medical ethics, apparently, is fundamentally unethical, fundamentally immoral, even inhumane.    Who could write such things?   What society would tolerate such writings by "scholars"?   Do they have no decency?   No shame at all? 

War on Women

The Democratic Party apparently thinks Republicans are waging a "war on women" because some of us think that a Catholic college ought not have to pay for free contraception for a privileged white adult law student.    Anyway, they're trying to raise money through these scare tactics:

The Sadra Fluke episode hasn't done much for Democrats in terms of public opinion -- Obama has slipped a bit with women since it occurred -- a little-appreciated truth about their social issue portfolio more broadly. But when it comes to fundraising, there's no better way of opening liberals' wallets for their campaigns.

The Dems clearly get this, and they've left no drop unmilked with the Fluke incident. I noted yesterday that I've received 23 fundraising emails on the topic from just the two Democratic congressional committees (the DCCC and the DSCC). You know that silly game Republicans play with flag-burning amendments? The Democrats' version is the "war on women."

Today I've received the 24th, and it is a hysterical wonder to behold. Supposedly penned by Rep. Diana Degette -- more likely by some nameless staffer at the DCCC, and that's giving Degette the benefit of the doubt -- this email manages to use the phrase "Republican war on women" or a close variant four times in just 254 words.

You want to talk about a real war on women?   Here are some facts:

1. The percentage of black mothers who are unmarried in 2009 was 72.8%
2.  Studies consistently show an almost direct correlation between unwed motherhood and poverty.
3.   In 1970, the percentage of black mothers who were unmarried was only 37%.
4.   In 1960 (extrapolating from the data for all mothers), a rough estimate would be that something like 15% of black mothers were unmarried.
5.   What intervened?   The massive intervention of liberalism in the black family through AFDC and the "Great Society" programs instituted in the 1960s.
6.   What else could have caused it?   Bad public school education systems in large cities (run by Democrats).   Bad and corrupt city governments in large cities (invariably run by Democrats, see, e.g., Detroit).   Loss of good manufacturing jobs due to bad economic policies (environmentalism, hyper-regulation, high taxation... all instituted  by Democrats).
7.   Anything else?   Well.... there also was this little thing called the Sexual Revolution with the Pill, abortion on demand, etc.   Again, pushed by Democrats.  

You get the picture.   There has been a war on women and, worse, a war on black women in particular.   But it isn't Republicans who've been waging that war.   It's Democratic hypocrites.

Santorum and Women

Much has been said by the MSM pundit class about how Rick Santorum's doctrinal Catholic position on birth control and abortion will hurt him with women.    The liberal chatterers have even taken to calling the fairly sensible position that Catholics ought to be permitted to practice their faith, including Catholic institutions, regarding matters of Life and sexual morality, a "War on Women."

Well, as I am wont to say, I know a few women myself, and many of them are Catholic and have positions on these issues identical to Santorum's.   It may simply be that the MSM pundits don't have a wide enough scope of friendships with people who think differently than they do.   Anyway, the exit polls in Mississippi suggest that women don't vote in a monolith, and that Santorum actually does pretty well with a particular segment of women... married women.

Specifically, Santorum carried married women over Gingrich by 41-25 in Mississippi, while losing unmarried women to Gingrich by 32-31.    He won women overall in the state by 35-29 over Gingrich, and carried the state despite losing men to Gingrich by 34-31.   The results from Alabama were similar:  Santorum carried married women over Gingrich by 38-20.  

What conclusions do I draw?   Married women (who presumably are also more mature) admire Santorum's obvious faithfulness (in both meanings of the term); they like the fact that he seems to enjoy having a lot of children; they like his traditional morality.   They don't like Gingrich's serial marriages and philanderings.

The point of this is that pundits are fools who don't really understand women very well.   Grown-up women (for instance, women with daughters) are likely to find Santorum's fidelity and traditional morality appealing.  

And, something that the chattering classes probably can't see, because they hate Santorum's politics so much.... he's also a big, tall (6'4"), handsome, strapping guy.  

In other words, he probably plays a lot better to the suburban mommies than the pundits think.  

Double Standard Alert

I told my son yesterday that the double standards in the mainstream media are so numerous that it almost gets tedious to keep pointing them out.   You can spend all day playing the "what if a Republican had said that?"   Or:  "what if so-and-so had said that about Muslims?"

This story falls into the second category and highlights one of my big pet peeves, namely, the way in which anti-Catholic bigotry has become acceptable in a way that bigotry of nearly any other variety is not.   Just read the whole thing... it's both hilarious and shocking.

The Cost of Obamacare

The CBO released a new estimate of the cost of Obamacare that Philip Klein helpfully explains:

Democrats employed many accounting tricks when they were pushing through the national health care legislation, the most egregious of which was to delay full implementation of the law until 2014, so it would appear cheaper under the CBO's standard ten-year budget window and, at least on paper, meet Obama's pledge that the legislation would cost "around $900 billion over 10 years." When the final CBO score came out before passage, critics noted that the true 10 year cost would be far higher than advertised once projections accounted for full implementation.

Today, the CBO released new projections from 2013 extending through 2022, and the results are as critics expected: the ten-year cost of the law's core provisions to expand health insurance coverage has now ballooned to $1.76 trillion. That's because we now have estimates for Obamacare's first nine years of full implementation, rather than the mere six when it was signed into law. Only next year will we get a true ten-year cost estimate, if the law isn't overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by then. Given that in 2022, the last year available, the gross cost of the coverage expansions are $265 billion, we're likely looking at about $2 trillion over the first decade, or more than double what Obama advertised.

Of course, the real answer is.... we have no idea what the cost is going to be.   We have no idea how people are going to react when the law goes into effect in 2014, how businesses are going to react.   The unintended consequences of this monstrosity -- the Catholic institutions' birth control flap was only the tip of the iceberg -- are, tautologically, unpredictable.

The cost in terms of Americans' freedom is, sadly, all too predictable.   To mix metaphors, Leviathan slouches toward Bethlehem.