Tag: politics

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2014

For seven years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.

2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.

2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC

2013: Healthcare.gov, the Platinum Coin, the Shutdown Caucus, the National park Service, Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers.

For this year, I picked:

Jonathan Gruber: #3 was in the lead most of the year. Then #2 took over earlier this month. But the millionaire consultant from MIT has to take the top prize now. The thing about Gruber is not that he made comments that support Halbig. It’s not that he helped create Obamacare. It’s not even that he called the voters stupid. It’s that he revealed the ugly reality that undergirds of much of the progressive movement in this country: the belief that Americans are stupid, that leaders are wise and that the latter must lead the former to good choices through deception, obfuscation and coercion. The most common thing I read on liberal message boards after Grubergate was “Hey, he’s right!” There is a large section of the Left Wing that thinks we need to be ruled by a technocratic elite. Gruber pulled back the veil. And that he looked like a horse’s ass into the bargain was just gravy.

Lamenting Democrats: In the wake of yet another electoral shellacking, the professional whining class went into overdrive, trying to find something, anything to blame for their loss. Random articles about science topics would start with lamenting that evil Republicans were taking over the Senate. Robert Reich screamed that Republicans might use reconciliation to do stuff (reconciliation being a legitimate tactic up until November 3). A thousand articles sprang up about “how to talk to your crazy right-wing uncle/parents/cousin/neighbor/imaginary friend at Thanksgiving about Issue X” (hint: don’t).

I’ve been disappointed by elections. But I hope I never get to the point where the results of an election make me gnash my teeth and rend my garments in such hilarious fashion.

Barack Obama: The only reason his approval ratings aren’t at record lows is because of mindless Democrat loyalty. The economy continues to improve despite the Republicans rejecting every “jobs bill” he proposes. His party got crushed in the election. And his response to this was to … implement immigration reform through executive action (polls show Americans support the policy, but oppose the means). His White House is also becoming famous for what are called “bad optics” and would be called scandalous if Bush were doing it: fund-raising while the Ukraine is in turmoil, having a huge dinner while Ferguson is burning, golfing right after a press conference on an ISIS beheading. He has earned the low poll numbers. And earned a place on this list.

Jim Ardis: Earlier this year, Ardis persuaded a judge to launch a raid on a house because one of the inhabitants was … mocking him on Twitter. He apparently still thinks this was a fine idea. Jim Ardis … meet the Streisand Effect.

(One infuriating note: a judge has upheld the drug charges that resulted from the raid finding drugs in the house. Because warrants to arrest parody account holders are apparently just fine.)

Paul Krugman: Another year for Krugman, another set of factually-challenged opinion pieces apparently written by unpaid interns. My favorite was his assertion that Halbig represented “corruption” in the courts, a claim the indispensable Walter Olson demolishes here. As several bloggers noted, Krugman was a big supporter of the Platinum Coin Caper, where he said, essentially, that we should concentrate on the letter of the law, not the spirit, the opposite of what he’s saying now.

Note, also. This year is coming a cropper for things Krugmans believes in. The Picketty analysis of inequality appears to be badly flawed. And Keynesian ideas are failing all over the globe.

Dishonorable Mention: Wendy Davis, whoever is doing PR for the Ferguson Police, the Ferguson rioters, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Secret Service, Mary Landrieu, Everytown USA.

Now the Golden Drumsticks, awarded to those who best exemplified what is right with the world. Here are the past awards, the first round from West Virginia Rebel.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks

2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers

2011: Seal Team Six, Mark Kelly, The Arab Spring (ugh), the Technicians at Fukushima

2012: Down Ballots, The Sandy Responders, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Mathew Inman

2013: Francis I, Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, The American Military, The Institute for Justice

For this year, I picked:

Ebola Responders: In the face of a colossal healthcare crisis and one of the most terrifying diseases out there, Africa has been flooded with volunteers risking their lives to help. Hundreds of healthcare workers in Africa, including Humarr Khan, have been killed trying to comfort or save the dying. Even in this country, we’ve seen nurses and doctors work hard to care for Ebola victims, including two nurses who were infected in Dallas and mercifully saved by modern medicine.

Here’s a little thing about me: I tend to dislike movies about dystopias. Not because I think a dystopia won’t happen or because I’m ignorant about the dark side of human nature. I dislike them because they usually ignore the flip side of human nature: our capacity to be generous, brave and compassionate.

Francis I: He continues to shake up the religious world while adhering closely to Catholic doctrine. My initial impression of him remains unchanged. He is just a good man.

Rand Paul: Paul gave a speech earlier this year that was a rebuke to the neocons: defining a foreign policy that defends our interests while avoiding senseless overseas debacles. He is pushing the Republicans toward reforms of our criminal justice system, our surveillance state and our War on Drugs. I’m a bit worried whether he’ll hold up to the pressure of special interests, especially if he has Presidential aspirations. But right now, he’s doing good.

David Brat and the Republican Candidates: “A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it—it keeps him upright.” – Robert A. Heinlein. I’m not sure what to make of Brat at this point, but I think his defeat of Cantor is an important reminder to the Republicans of what will happen if the get stupid again. Among the other Republicans running for office this year, there was barely a gaffe to be heard. In fact, the biggest War on Women complaint was about Mark Udall, criticized by his own supporters for talking too much about the War on Women. In general, they stuck to the bread and butter themes of the economy, Obamacare and big government. Let’s hope they deliver.

The Supreme Court: It’s always a mixed year from the Court, but this year they gave us good decisions in Riley, Hobby Lobby, Harris v. Quinn, McCullen v. Coakley, NLRB v. Noel Canning, Town of Greece v. Galloway, Schuette v. BAMN and McCutcheon. They continued their streak of unanimously rejecting Obama’s power grabs. You can check on this year’s key decisions here. There are a few I had issues with but most were solid.

Honorable Mentions: marijuana decriminalization efforts, Scott Walker, Charlie Baker (anyone who defeat Martha Coakley gets a mention), the American military

Put your nominees in the comments. And I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

The Gruber Chronicles

No doubt, you’ve heard a bit about the Jonathan Gruber videos emerging this week. Gruber came to light earlier this year for videos in which he argued that the supposed “scribal error” in Obamacare was intentional — i.e, that states that do not build exchanges shouldn’t get Obamacare subsidies. These new videos show him slagging the American voter, boasting about how they deceived the public on aspects of Obamacare and basically acting like an arrogant twerp.

There’s been a small wellspring of sympathy for him, since he’s now caught up in an unexpected controversy. Personally, I find it difficult to find a lot of sympathy for a man who was paid $400,000 to help deceitfully foist Obamacare on us, but whatever.

I don’t think Gruber’s comments, however angering they are, are going to make much difference. Obamacare passed and has survived at least one SCOTUS challenge. His comments on the subsidies are a good talking point on Halbig but SCOTUS is going to base their decision on Congressional intent, not the post-facto comments of some MIT windbag. No matter how involved he was in writing Obamacare, it is the intent of the legislators that matters.

But there is one aspect of the Gruber videos that is important. It proves that not only were critics of the law right, but that the Administration knew they were right and lied and obfuscated about the law. It’s not a “scandal” in the sense that anyone broke the law. But it’s a scandal in what it reveals about Obama, the Democrats and the so-called fact-checkers.

Take the CBO scoring. One of the big selling points of Obamacare, from day one, was that it would decrease the federal deficit. Critics pointed out that it only did this because of gimmicks — the taxes penalties fines taxes phased in a little faster than the subsidies. Critics pointed out that it depended on unlikely money-saving events, such as not enacting a “doc fix” (said doc fix having been promised to the AMA in return for their support of the bill). Critics pointed out that while it was technically balanced over the ten years, by year ten, Obamacare was running a deficit, a deficit that would only increase over the years. Critics also pointed out that CBO analysis, if you dug deep, made exactly these points. While they were required by law to score it the way they did, they noted, numerous times, the flaws in their projection.

When we pointed this out, we were called liars and tools of the insurance industry. Fact-checkers rated this claim as false. Of course, time has born out our complaints. But what the video shows is that the Administration was well aware of their deceit — how could they not be? This wasn’t a quirk; this was an act of deliberate deception. And they were laughing about it all the way back to their comfy positions in academia and industry.

Another big point is the so-called “cadillac tax”, which enacts a fee on healthcare plans that cost more than a certain amount (at least, for some people). When this plan was rolled out, critics pointed out that it was indexed to inflation, not healthcare costs. This would mean that, over time, more and more plans would qualify as “cadillac plans”. The result would be to effectively eliminate the tax deduction for health insurance.

Now one can make the case that the tax deduction is bad law. But that’s not the case the Obama Administration made because they knew eliminating the tax deduction for health insurance would be extremely unpopular and likely scuttle the entire bill. So they came up with a convoluted and tangled way of doing it. And when critics pointed this out, they were called liars and tools of the insurance industry (the insurance industry having written much of Obamacare).

Now that everyone is admitting to what Obamacare does, the President’s supporters are … blaming the stupidity of the voters for making these lies necessary. We’re being told this is standard operating procedure in Washington (it isn’t), that everyone does it (they don’t) and that the critics are being hypocrites (for … um, being right all along?)

We see this over and over again with this Administration. Here is my own attempt a one-act play that encapsulated the last six years:

Obama: My law does X.

Critics: The law also does Y and Z and it doesn’t do X very well.

Obama Supporters: Tea Partiers! Extremists! How dare you come here with your astroturf talking points!

“Fact Checkers”: Obama says the law does X. We rate your claim as false.

[Three years pass]

“Fact Checkers”: Actually, the law also does Y and Z and does’t do X very well.

Critics: We told you!

Obama Supporters: Shut up! Y and Z are great policies! Obama had to lie about it because you’re so fucking stupid!

The gripping hand here is that this will not make any difference. Most of the vast American public could give two shits about Jonathan Gruber. This will not have any impact on the Halbig case or any other legal challenges nor will it play a role in any attempts to fix or repeal Obamacare. It will persuade few to repeal the bill who don’t already want to. It’s mostly Washington insider stuff. I find myself agreeing with Tyler Cowen: let’s put all this energy into explaining why these policies are so bad rather than whether Gruber is an arrogant prick or the devil incarnate.

Gruber is nothing. Obamacare is everything. We can do something about the latter. And now we can use the Administrations own words to help make it happen.

What Now?

So now that the Republicans have taken back both houses of Congress, what should they do for the next two years? Nothing, argues National Review:

The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them hostage to their opponents in the Democratic party and the media. It empowers Senator Harry Reid, whose dethroning was in large measure the point of the election. If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can — and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.

They’ll say that anyway. If the Republicans proposed poached eggs for breakfast, the Democrats would denounce them as dangerous extremists. And I don’t think NRO actually believes this argument because they later say Republicans should force the Democrats to filibuster/veto popular legislation.

Even if Republicans passed this foolish test, it would do little for them. If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?

Which brings us to the alternative course: building the case for Republican governance after 2016. That means being a responsible party, to be sure, just as the conventional wisdom has it. But part of that responsibility involves explaining what Republicans stand for — what, that is, they would do if they had the White House.

So the Republicans shouldn’t govern. Instead, they should gear up for 2016 to take the White House and Congress at which point they will … what? … concentrate on keeping power?

I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about the Republican Party one way or the other. Whether governing hurts or helps their prospects in 2016 is irrelevant to me and should be irrelevant to people who are not actual party operatives. We had a unified Republican government for six years and the result was the most massive expansion of government power since the New Deal.

No. What we want from the Republicans is progress. What we want is for them to turn back the tide of government expansion. What we want is for them to … what’s that word … govern? The Republicans are on probation right now. It’s up for them to prove themselves worthy of getting power back.

There is precedent for governing and winning elections at the same time: Republicans worked with President Clinton and kept Congress and won the White House twice as a result. But they didn’t win because they grandstanded. The won because the accomplished things — welfare reform, spending restraint, NAFTA — that made them worthy of winning all three branches of government.

Nick Gillespie:

Yet Republicans mistake the meaning of the midterms at their own peril. These elections were a particularly frank repudiation of Barack Obama and the past six years of failed stimulus, disastrous foreign policy, and rotten economic news. Even the president’s historic health-care reform remains a negative with voters. But if the GOP thinks it has a mandate to return to the equally unpopular bailout economics and social conservatism of the George W. Bush years, it too will be sent packing as early as the next election.

You should read Nick’s entire piece, which breaks down the polling to show a decisive shift against big-government, in every respect.

It’s not enough for the Republicans to not be Obama. “Not Obama” isn’t going to be a candidate in 2016. In fact, Obama won’t be a candidate in 2016 (savor that relief for a moment). If the Republicans want to earn our votes in 2016, they need to accomplish things. They need to prove themselves worthy. They need to show that they can get government out our hair, despite the man in the White House.

How does this break down into nuts and bolts? On the day after the election, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell laid out an agenda for the next two years. It includes approving the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and fast track trade authority. It also includes three changes to Obamacare: raising to 40 the hours needed to qualify as a full-time employee for the employer mandate, exempting veterans from counting toward the 50-employee mark that triggers the coverage mandate and repealing the medical device tax.

These are all OK ideas and some of them — like fast track trade authority — are supported by the President. But it’s kind of small potatoes. It’ll make a nice first month, but it’s not exactly the Contract with America. I would prefer something a bit bolder.

This would involved finding things that the Democrats or the President will support. There’s a strain of thought among conservatives, exemplified by the NRO piece above, that working with Democrats will give “legitimacy” to Obama. Nuts to that. The country needs things done. And if we can the President on board, great.

But the Republicans should also pass legislation they know will be filibustered or vetoed. This could give the Democrats something to talk about in 2016 (“look at the extreme legislation we blocked!”). But I think it more likely, if Republicans are smart … OK, if they’re not too dumb … OK, if they’re not completely stupid … that it would give the Republicans something to run on in 2016. It would give the American people something to vote for, not just something to vote against. When the Republicans have run on a positive agenda — Reagan in 1980, Newt in 1994 — they have done well.

As for specific issues: the first on that list would be entitlement reform. The President has indicated that he is open to it. It’s time to call his bluff. The deficit has been shrinking in recent years but will soon begin to blow up as the bill for Baby Boomer retirees comes do. The time to act is now, before we are back in the land of trillion dollar deficits.

A lot of Republicans worry that overhauling Medicare and Social Security will open them up to attack from the Democrats. But here’s the thing: that’s going to happen anyway. The number of elections that have not included a Democrat “mediscare” campaign over the last forty years is precisely zero. The Democrats are going to demonize Republicans anyway. At the very least we could get something out of it. And if it costs the Republicans some seats, so be it. It would be worth it to slice trillions off our debt.

The counter-argument is they should wait until the Republicans have the White House as well. That way, they won’t have to compromise with Democrats and accept a tax hike or defense spending cuts in return for entitlement reform. I find that hope ridiculously optimistic. It assumes that Republicans will take the White House and keep the Senate. And it assumes that they will take the political risk of entitlement reform once they have full power, which I find unlikely.

Act now. At the very least, call the President’s bluff. Then you’ll have something to run on in 2016.

The second priority should be regulatory reform, which is sucking a couple of trillion dollars out of the economy. Probably the most important regulatory reform is the repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley, which is strangling our economy, halting IPOs and a nightmare for businesses. It’s the poisonous spider at the center of the web of economic malaise. President Obama will probably oppose this. Good! Make him stand with the bureaucrats and trial lawyers! Over 60% of the American people think regulation is too onerous, including many independents. This is a winning issue for Republicans.

Third would be an overhaul of the patent and copyright laws which are strangling innovation. The Republicans are open to this and the President is too, despite fierce opposition from trial lawyers. Reform could be passed in the first few months of 2015.

Fourth, an overhaul of our drug policy, specifically a recognition of state laws on medical and recreational marijuana. The President has occasionally made noises on this and a majority of Americans now favor pot legalization. The Republicans can get ahead of the Democrats on this by embracing a federalist approach: states that keep pot illegal will still have the aide of the DEA in keeping it illegal; states that make it legal will be left alone. I have little hope the Republicans will do this, but it would be a great step for them.

Fifth, an overhaul of Obama’s anti-terror powers. Justin Amash and Rand Paul give me hope that the GOP may be open to this. The best thing about reigning in Obama’s police state would be exposing the lie that the Democrats are the party of civil liberties and personal freedom.

That’s just for starters. There are other things: more spending cuts, reigning in Obama’s foreign policy and executive power excesses, a symbolic repeal of Obamacare (symbolic because it will be vetoed). But I see the above as doable and I see it as proving the GOP’s supposed small-government bona fides. If they’re serious, they will do something along these lines.

I have no doubt that the Republicans will run into opposition from the President. In fact, his petulant press conference seemed to promise that he would do what he wants on issues like immigration and only invite cooperation on his agenda. We’ll see what happens behind closed doors. This President has, on occasion, compromised with Republicans. But he has also been willing to take a my-way-or-the-highway approach, particularly when he had Congress for the first two years (Republicans were invited only to tweak details of Democratic legislation; kind of like being asked which arm you want the shark to bite off).

But if the President is determined to pursue his agenda and won’t cooperate, then pass the legislation anyway. Force him to veto it. Force him to oppose. Force his party to go on record as the party of bigger taxes, more government and no reform. Force him to tie his former Secretary of State and Heir Apparent to his unpopular agenda.

That’s something you can run in 2016. That’s something that might bring my vote in 2016. Until then, I will remain skeptical of the GOP and their commitment to small government.

The Evil Koch Brothers and Their Evil Compassion

This should blow a few Left Wing minds:

Koch Industries, in partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is financing a program to provide scholarships and training for public defenders. The grant will also pay for a review of indigent defense programs to see what works in providing legal representation to those who can’t afford it.

Charles G. Koch, the chairman of Koch Industries, said in a statement that the grant was a way “to make the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to counsel a reality for all Americans, especially those who are the most disadvantaged in our society.”

The company’s interest grew out of its own experience during a criminal case in Texas and underscores a growing area of common ground between conservatives and progressives on criminal justice issues like sentencing reform.

The liberal echosphere has demonized the Koch’s for so long that I expect the response to this to be a) denial; b) animosity toward the NACDL. At least once a month I point out to some Koch-knocker that the Koch’s have long supported civil liberties, gay rights, the arts and sciences only to have proof demanded over and over and over again. The idea of the Koch brothers as Satan is so embedded with some political factions that they simply can’t process reality.

Eric Hoffer once said the following: “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” Whether it’s the Koch Brothers, the NRA, the Tea Party or Big Oil, the Democratic Party can not survive without someone to demonize. Even if that someone is doing more to help poor people and right injustices than they are.

Massholes Prepares to Elect a Masshole; Texans Reject An Idiot; Reich Has No Shame

A few more notes on the upcoming election.

First, the Massachusetts gubernatorial race is a tight one between Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker. I’ve mentioned Coakley before. I don’t generally like the term fascist but … gee, what do you say about a person who persecutes innocent people based on discredited testimony and junk science but thinks cops who rape toddlers with curling irons should be let out on their own recognizance? What do you say about someone who embraces trafficking hysteria and makes such appalling arguments for the destruction of civil liberties that she is routinely laughed out of court by hard-bitten conservative justices? If Massachusetts elects a power-hungry power worshipper like Coakley, they deserve what they’re going to get.

I’m starting to believe that the Wendy Davis campaign is a false flag operation by pro-life activists. How else to explain how it has become such a hilarious implosion. Last week, she accused her disabled opponent of not caring about disabled people. When criticized, she had a “some of my best friends are in wheelchairs” press conference. This week, she’s decided she can win because of dildos and interracial marriage.

I guess it makes as much sense as thinking you’re going to ride pro-choice sentiment into Austin.

That post criticizes Greg Abbott for not saying whether he would support a ban on interracial marriage and for arguing in the courts in favor of Texas’ restrictive laws on sex toys. What the author doesn’t seem to realize is that Abbott is talking about his role as attorney general. As attorney general, he won’t deal with an interracial marriage case because the Courts have already struck down anti-miscegenation laws unanimously. I seriously doubt that Abbott, who is married to a woman of another race, would support restoring the interracial marriage ban.

As for the dildos case … again, Abbott was acting as attorney general. As attorney general, he has to represent the state and defend those laws, whatever he thinks of them. I have argued in this space before that I don’t think the executive should defend laws that are blatantly unconstitutional, such as a ban on free speech. But (1) that decision is left to the President (or the governor, in this case). The attorney general pushes the President’s position, no matter what he thinks of it or he resigns; (2) Texas’ dildo laws, while stupid, aren’t exactly the suspension of habeas corpus.

Wheelchairs, mixed races and dildos. The Davis campaign think they are onto a winner. I think their offices need to be checked for nitrous oxide leaks.

Finally, I won’t post the video, but I will link you to Hot Air’s post on a Move On video, featuring Robert Reich, the Littlest Communist in Washington. Reich argues that Republicans are going to use a little known procedure called reconciliation to advance … well, the usual Left Wing mythical playbook: tax cuts for the rich, the end of healthcare, fossil fuel interests, deregulation and OMG, it will be the END OF THE FUCKING WORLD!

Those of you with memories longer than an episode of The Big Bang Theory will recognize this “little-know procedure” as the way Obamacare was passed. The hypocrisy of Move On, their belief that voters are stupid, their condescension … well, it would be surprising if it were someone other than MoveOn.

Right now, the Republicans hold a lead in the polls and look likely to take the Senate. Democrats, who two years ago mocked Republicans for claiming the polls were skewed, are claiming the polls are skewed. Maybe they are, but there is one indicator that tells me that the Democrat are about to lose the Senate and possibly the White House in 2016.


When I started blogging, way back in 2004, I noticed a pattern. If someone disagreed with me forcefully but respectfully, it was usually a conservative. If someone called me a fag, accused me wanting to suck George Bush’s dick, asked me how much money I was getting from the NRA and hoped I got beaten up in a dark alley, it was almost always a liberal (usually for something I’d written at Moorewatch).

That script flipped in 2006 and especially in 2008 after Obama’s election. Disagreements from liberals were … well, never respectful but better than they had been in 2004. It was disagreement from conservative that got nasty (although never as nasty as the liberals were in 2004). It was perfect illustration of Jane’s Law:

The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.

It’s changing again. It has been for the last year, maybe longer. If I have the temerity to dispute liberal talking points on a liberal board, I get pilloried, called names and sometimes banned. Liberal tweeters are on a hair-trigger for screaming and blocking those who disagree with them. Meanwhile, the commentary on conservative boards has been growing steadily more constructive and upbeat.

The liberals are scared. They think they are going to lose power and, even worse, those evil evil Republicans are going to get it. Actually, it might be even worse: a Republican party with libertarian tendencies, if you can imagine such a thing. Talking to liberals, you would be forgiven if you didn’t realize that Republicans — a few, at least — are the one driving the bus on criminal justice reform, police demilitarization, civil liberties and the end of crony capitalism. No, it’s all about teh gays (which no Republicans care about any more) and teh guns and teh abortions.

We have a few weeks before the election and politics can change very fast. But from where I’m standing, it looks like a good year for the GOP.

I just hope they don’t fuck it up again.

We Don’t Need a Czar and We Don’t Need a Murthy Either

Having seen their attempts to blame Ebola on Republican budget cuts go up in flames, the Democrats have stumbled upon a new meme: this outbreak is the fault of Republicans because they’ve blocked Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General.

CNN host Candy Crowley on Sunday challenged Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) while asking him how Republican decisions may have negatively impacted the United States’ ability to address Ebola.

Crowley asked how the sequester hurt funding for the Centers for Disease Control and how the National Rifle Association’s opposition to President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, also hurt the American response.

“We haven’t had a Surgeon General — who is the nation’s leading public health official, at least the voice of it — for a year. Some Democrats and some Republicans had opposed the particular surgeon general the president had nominated. Do you think it would have helped A. If NIH and CDC had had a little more money and B. Had there been a surgeon general to kind of calm what has been the fear of Ebola?” Crowley asked on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

(Note that Crowley repeats the BS meme that Republicans have gutted NIH/CDC funding.)

First of all, the claim that we do not have a Surgeon General is bullshit, no matter how often the left repeats it. Boris Lushniak has been acting Surgeon General for the last year. Lushniak spent 16 years at the CDC, including work with their anthrax team. He’s qualified to deal with the the current crisis. In fact, I think he’s more qualified to deal with the current crisis than Obama’s nominee, who was nominated mostly for founding the political advocacy group “Doctors for Obama” (now “Doctors for America”) and his support of advancing gun control as a healthcare issue.

(Of course, Murthy’s lack of qualifications is probably seen as a qualification. Obama named an Ebola czar this weekend: a career Democratic political operative. Vox immediately defended the choice, saying we need a manager, not a doctor. Because, you know, if you have a rare and dangerous tropical disease, what you really want is a manager. Personally, I don’t think we need another czar for anything, certainly not for Ebola. Handling this is the job of CDC. Or maybe we should put these guys in charge.)

Second, I’m not sure what the Surgeon General is supposed to do here. The main thing we need is for the public to be aware of the danger and what to do if they might have Ebola. And we need hospitals to have better isolation procedures. I guess the Surgeon General could help with a public information campaign. But I don’t see that this would desperately need the particular skills of Murthy.

That having been said, the Republicans should let the Murthy nomination move forward. I’m tired of this filibustering, especially for a fairly unimportant position. Murthy may or may not be an anti-gun nut, but he’s Obama’s anti-gun nut so let Obama own up to whatever foolishness he says or does.

Punting Power

This is pure BS:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told This Week he’d “bring the Congress back” to vote on a new resolution authorizing military force against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but only if President Barack Obama requested one. Congress has received heaps of criticism for staying out of town during the airstrikes against ISIS, with some suggesting they’re happy to avoid a contentious vote on the issue.

Boehner reprised his line that typically the president initiated the resolution, a position of faux-politesse that the Daily Show already mocked last week. This led George Sephanopoulos [sic] to wonder if Boehner was avoiding the vote because it might split his party ahead of the midterms, something he said was whispered to ABC News political reporter Jeff Zeleny.

Boehner further opines that the existing AUMF is enough for Obama to act on.

One of the reasons Barack Obama has been allowed to usurp so much power is because Congress has allowed him to. Almost all legislative powers reside with Congress, yet they stand around while he rules by executive order, rewrites the laws to his purpose and starts wars on his own. The war-making power lies with Congress. Yet, for the second time, they are allowing the President to start bombing another country. Yes, the President is supposed to ask for their authorization. But they are supposed to assert their authority on this. They should be meeting right now either to give the President the authority to attack Syria or to refuse it. And if he won’t comply, they can exercise the power of the purse to cut the funding.

Stephanopoulos sideswipes the issue by noting this would potentially split the Republican Party. There is a significant fraction that would oppose this but they are still a small minority. The real issue is that the Republicans — like everyone else — have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, ISIS is horrific: a radical Islamist regime that is imposing severe sharia over the regions they control, murdering ethnic and religious minorities and spreading terror over the region. On the other hand, do we really need another boondoggle in the Middle East? Do we really want to spend the treasure and lives needed, even assuming we can destroy ISIS?

It’s a hard debate. I can see why Congress wants to avoid it. But having hard debates is part of their fucking job description. The Civil Rights debate was hard too. So was the Vietnam War. Balancing the budget in the 90’s was hard. But those Congresses argued, debated and eventually voted. They did their job. And they were held responsible for it, a nation that terrifies our current leaders.

This is pure cowardice. It’s the same cowardice the Congress showed in 2003 when, rather than declare war on Iraq, they punted that authority to the President. They didn’t want to oppose it. But they didn’t want to take responsibility if it went wrong. And sure enough, when it went wrong, the Democrats said, “Well, we didn’t declare war on Iraq; we left that decision to Bush!”

Make a decision, guys. Have the debate. We’re dropping bombs on two countries and have over four hundred boots on the ground. If this goes wrong, it’s still on you for failing to stop it. Get your lazy asses back to Washington and do your damned job.

Government Doesn’t Fix Inequality Because it Can’t

Vox has one of their usual questions today, asking why our government doesn’t “fix” inequality.

Now before I get into this, I should say that I’m not entirely convinced that inequality is a problem needing fixing. Piketty’s book has been found to have some dubious data and his conclusion — that capital always grows faster than the economy — seems incredibly shaky and simplistic. The contention that inequality is increasing is subject to three assumptions that are all dubious. First, that the cost-of-living is being accounted for correctly. If it has been over-estimated — and there are reasons to believe it has been — then the wages of the middle class have actually grown. Second, most of these calculations are based on pre-tax wages. But wages are only a part of the compensation people get for working nowadays (in my grants, about 20% of the cost of hiring someone is in benefits, not wages and many countries have socialized medicine and other socialized benefits). Moreover, our tax system has been specifically canted to reduce income inequality by paying negative taxes to the poor and charging heavy rates on the wealthy. And most other tax systems are steeply progressive. Finally, a lot of this is based on “per household” data but households have been shrinking (quite drastically in Western Europe).

But let’s say that rising inequality really exists and is a bad thing. Why doesn’t government do anything about it? Please tell us, oh wise Vox:

The decline of labor unions has decreased the political importance of poor voters, because unions were an important “get-out-the-vote” machine. A recent study by Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler finds that the decline in union strength has reduced low-income and middle-income turnout. But labor’s influence (or lack thereof) is also important when the voting is done. Research finds that policy outcomes in the United States are heavily mediated by lobbying between interest groups, so organization matters.

Martin Gilens writes, “Given the fact that most Americans have little independent influence on policy outcomes, interest groups like unions may be the only way to forward their economic interests and preference.” His research indicates that unions regularly lobby in favor of policies broadly supported by Americans across the income spectrum, in contrast to business groups, which lobby in favor of policies only supported by the wealthy.

So … special interests. In fact, all five of Vox’s explanation for why government hasn’t dealt with inequality boil down to what I talked about recently — the need of the Left to see their opponents as mentally ill or mislead in some way. So, according to Vox, we overestimate income mobility, inequality ruins the camaraderie of society, we’re not voting enough, special interests control our government and we’re afraid of black people (seriously). If only we were as wise and informed as Vox, we’d embrace a grand redistribution scheme.

It never occurs to them that the reason people don’t support redistribution schemes is because they know that the government would inevitably fuck it up. A couple of weeks ago, George Will issued this you-really-should-read-the-whole-thing cri de coeur:

Resistance to taxation, although normal and healthy, is today also related to the belief that government is thoroughly sunk in self-dealing, indiscriminate meddling and the lunatic spending that lards police forces with devices designed for conquering Fallujah. People know that no normal person can know one-tenth of 1 percent of what the government is doing.

Contempt for government cannot be hermetically sealed; it seeps into everything . Which is why cupcake regulations have foreign policy consequences. Americans, inundated with evidence that government is becoming dumber and more presumptuous, think it cannot be trusted to decipher foreign problems and apply force intelligently.

The collapse of confidence in government is not primarily because many conspicuous leaders are conspicuously dimwitted, although when Joe Biden refers to “the nation of Africa,” or Harry Reid disparages the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision as rendered by “five white men” (who included Clarence Thomas), Americans understand that their increasingly ludicrous government lacks adult supervision. What they might not understand is that Reids and Bidens come with government so bereft of restraint and so disoriented by delusions of grandeur that it gives fighting knives to police and grief to purveyors of noncompliant cupcakes.

Bingo. Every day, we get examples of how incompetent our government is. From funding companies that can’t make solar cells to bungling wars to a disastrous website launch. In a comment to the last post, Xetrov linked a story about how the government is going to have to un-deport some people because it screwed up their deportation. They can’t even kick illegals out of the country without creating a mess.

So why on Earth would the American people trust this bumbling leviathan to redistribute wealth? And, more to the point, why should they do so when there is every reason to believe that our government has made inequality far far worse.

One of Piketty’s claims is that occasional disasters like world wars and economic crises level the playing field, reducing income inequality. Well, we recently had a disaster that should have leveled the playing field — the mortgage bubble and subsequent financial crisis. And what did the government do? By bi-partisan consensus, it bailed out the wealthy bankers and left the rest of us holding the bag.

How does the government deal with global warming? By making our appliances more expensive and shelling out billions to fund companies run by wealthy friends of the President.

How does it stimulate the economy? By borrowing money and spending it on boondoggles run by the wealthy and powerful.

What about job training? Ed Morrissey recently ran a great post showing that only does federal job training fail to place people in jobs, it often leaves them with thousands of dollars of debt from paying for expensive classes that gave them training no one needed.

What about higher education? As I’ve documented on this blog, our government doles out predatory loans that can not be discharged in bankruptcy. These loans help fund seven-figure salaries for university Presidents. (Incidentally, one of the few people who’s doing something about the cost of college? Mitch Daniels, former Republican governor, now President of Purdue).

In the 1960’s, government gave us “urban renewal”, a process by which they bulldozed functional but poor neighborhoods and gave rich developers money to build slums. And as Ta-Nehisi Coates showed, they redlined black neighborhoods to keep federally-guaranteed loans away from working class black people.

This is the government you want to redistribute wealth?

Look at the story below on Chelsea Clinton’s ridiculous salary at NBC. One of my points was that this is not unusual. Our political elite make tons of money telling us how they are going to make society fairer. Sometimes literally. Paul Krugman is getting $250,000 to teach about income inequality at CUNY (in an industry that employs thousands upon thousands of adjunct professors who do most of the teaching and are paid a pittance for it). And the Left vigorously defended how “fair” it was!

In the end, redistribution usually ends up the same way — with a massive class of “equal” serfs and a small class of “more equal” rulers. If you don’t believe that … all you have to do is look at the current system. Vox, like most liberals, is just surprised that the American people are smart enough to realize this.

Clinton Life

I must admit, I always had a soft spot for Chelsea Clinton. Not that I liked her or anything but that I felt bad for someone thrust into the national spotlight during the most awkward years of her life (Rush Limbaugh, on his TV show, famously said the Clinton White House had finally gotten a dog and then showed an unflattering picture of the then 13-year-old Chelsea). There was a story that circulated toward the end of the Clinton years about her drinking in Colorado and being a bit wild. And my reaction was, “Well, good for her.”

However, my sympathy does not extend to what looks to me like blatant corruption:

Chelsea Clinton has left her job as a special correspondent for NBC News, a position that she has held since November 2011, the network has confirmed. In a statement on the departure, NBC News senior vice president Alex Wallace said, “We are thankful for all of Chelsea’s contributions to NBC News over the past 3 years. Chelsea’s storytelling inspired people across the country and showcased the real power we have as individuals to make a difference in our communities. While she will be missed, we look forward to working with her in the future.”

Like me, you’re probably thinking: “what contributions?” Clinton did some occasional reporting for NBC but it amounted to maybe an hour total over the last three years. For that contributions, she was paid a nominal salary of … holy shit.

Those stories were neither sufficiently frequent nor momentous to earn Clinton the respect of her colleagues and the NBC News brain trust. Her standing within the network appeared to suffer a hit when Politico revealed earlier this year that she had been earning annual pay in the range of $600,000 — or nearly $27,000 for each minute of airtime. That was far above the pay level of an average network correspondent, even one with years of experience; Clinton was a rookie in the craft at the time of her first piece for NBC News in 2011.

Clinton is not the only scion of a political dynasty getting such a gig, although I’m dubious that the others are as lucrative. Jenna Bush and Meghan McCain also got commentary bits. But then again, neither of their dads is likely to President in the near future; Chelsea’s mom at least has a shot at it. The only thing remotely comparable I can think of in recent years was Bristol Palin’s six-figure gig promoting abstinence. But even that was a third of what Chelsea was making.

Is this bribery? It looks like it …. but … it’s actually not that unusual. The media-politics gravy train is absolutely loaded with this kind of bullshit. Politicians, their aides, their lawyers, their kids and their allies walk right out of the halls of power into well-paying commentary gigs and jobs. And then frequently walk right back into power. Many of them get five- and six-figure speaking fees, including Hillary Clinton. Many get massive salaries on corporate boards or university faculty. And, as I’ve noted before, no matter how wrong they’ve been, no matter how much they’ve fucked up, no matter what disastrous policy they’ve led this country into, the train of speaking fees, commentary gigs, board appointments and academic appointments never stops. If you’ve wrecked the country, that’s just proof that you need to be a Professor at Harvard with a column in the Washington Post.

We really do have a ruling class in this country. And Chelsea is just the latest iteration. The absurd level of the bribery — a per minute salary 30 times greater than that of Alex Rodriguez — rubs our noses in it. But the unusual thing about this is that it’s not that unusual.

Home of the Whopper

So this is happening:

Burger King may be the home of the Whopper, but Canada may be the new home of Burger King.

The restaurant operator said on Sunday that it was in talks to buy Tim Hortons, the Canadian doughnut-and-coffee chain, in a potential deal that would create one of the world’s biggest fast-food businesses.

If completed, the deal would mean Burger King’s corporate headquarters would move to Canada, raising the specter of yet another American company switching its national citizenship to lower its tax bill.

As you can image, the Left Wing is going apeshit, accusing Burger King of being unpatriotic and putting shareholders in front of communities, people, employees, the environment, the cosmos, God, king and country.

But Burger King is hardly the only company contemplating this kind of tax inversion. Numerous companies have over $2 trillion overseas that they won’t repatriate because our government, rather uniquely, double taxes overseas earnings. We also have an unholy mess of a corporate tax system which has a nominally high rate but many loopholes. The system is so bad that Canada — with all its maple syrup, hockey and French — is now considered a tax haven.

(Also note that this move would just change Burger King’s tax burden. It won’t change anything else like how many people they employ or what they pay them. So the supposed “betrayal” is simply a lowering of their tax burden. To BK’s critics, a company’s primary patriotic duty is apparently to pay as much in taxes as possible.)

But it’s much more fun to gnash your teeth about the evil machinations of a big corporation that to, you know, work the problem that Republicans have been talking about for years.