Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm always nervous when they change products I use

"Now with Richer Chamomile Flavor!"

But... it was always just 100% chamomile... Huh?

Sorry for the horrible cell phone photography, but the only ingredient listed on both the new and old packages is chamomile.

We shall see about the "richer chamomile flavor".

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Bircher Zombie Apocalypse

It's back. The John Birch Society, that is, and it is attempting to infect the Tea Party.

By all logic, the JBS should be dead.  They were bonkers, they were exposed, they were purged, and they were forgotten.  And yet, the contagion spreads.

This re-animated corpse is impossible to reason with.  It might be one thing if they disavowed their insane conspiracy theories, but they haven't.  They continue to engage in revisionist history about the Buckley-Welch purge, they still cling to Welch's theory of President Eisenhower as a Communist abettor, they entertain other crackpot ideas such as the "North American Union" conspiracy theory (PDF), and they promote the distinctly unconstitutional idea of state nullification of federal law (Word DOC). 

The bigger problem with the Birchers (and other conspiracy theorists such as the Birthers and the Fed Plunge Protection Team folks), is not only the communicability of their troublesome ideas, but that their existence undermines serious criticism of government policy, institutions, and wayward politicians.

The Tea Party movement suffers enough handicaps and impediments. If the JBS manages to blight the Tea Party it could very quickly be the undoing of the movement.

Somebody put this shambling relic out of its misery before it does any more damage to Conservatism.  And for heaven's sake, don't let them go to CPAC again.

Brief thoughts on Wikileaks

Is it just me, or is the administration's response to this State Dept-centric leak surpass its response to military leaks?  Does an attack on State hit a little closer to home?

At least we --presumably it was we, anyhow-- bothered to launch a DDOS attack against wikileaks' servers, which is more than we did before -- nothing.

Why is Assange still drawing breath?

The leakers in the government and the military have by any reasonable definition committed treason.  Can we start calling it treason, at least rhetorically, to emphasize the seriousness of the betrayals?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Congressional Health Benefits Are Not Hypocritical

Somehow, the Left got it in their minds that anti-single-payer & anti-Obamacare Congressmen accepting the health benefit that comes with their new jobs is hypocritical by virtue of it being government-run healthcare.  This misses the point by a mile.

The distinction is between government as an employer and government as a general overseer and manager of everything under the sun.  It is not improper for government-as-employer to offer health benefits.  (At least not any more improper than it is for any other employer.)

What these Congressmen oppose is the creation of (1) a government monopoly/socialization of health care, and/or (2) heavy-handed federal control and regulation such that health care may as well be fully socialized (e.g. Obamacare).

These Congressmen are opposed to a systemic government health care regime, not merely the compensation of government employees.

Frankly, this distinction is so obvious that those criticizing Republicans on this matter must be feigning ignorance.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Newsweek's Fatal Conceit

The Presidency is a big job. Back in 9th grade, my curmudgeonly civics teacher once enumerated and explained each Constitutional responsibility of the President, and after each one boomed, “Let's give him another job! The man has nothing else to do!”, then proceeded to describe the next Presidential duty. The list was pretty weighty.

So yes, the “modern Presidency” is a multitasking nightmare even under the best of circumstances. But the latest Newsweek cover and accompanying story betray a severe beating with the clue-stick that fell just short of imparting some crucial knowledge and insight.

The problem, Newsweek seems to have discerned, is that the President has too many things to worry about. Their graphic of ShivObama The Destroyer juggles war and peace (at least those are traditional areas of Presidential responsibility, shared with the Congress), an economy portrayed by a fistful of dollars, the housing market, medicine, and literally the whole world.

Let me go out on a limb here and say the President probably shouldn't be responsible for the entire world. Let's drop housing and medicine while we're at it. Purists will debate the extent of the Executive's role in the economy, but surely it can be said that the Executive has overreached in this realm as well.

It's almost as though Newsweek has stumbled upon the Fatal Conceit, that one man, or a relatively small number of men, cannot plan everything. And yet, they still fall short on the solution.

So close, Newsweek:

It’s hard to imagine how the office could sizably shrink, allowing the president to return to a more aloof, strategic role. Academics in Eisenhower’s day imagined two presidential figures, one for serious decision making and one relegated to the office’s ceremonial duties. Modern scholars see other solutions within the Constitution. “Presidents ought to give more thought to their cabinet choices, and then give them a little more deference,” says Marc Landy, a professor of political science at Boston College. The simplest experiment could involve reducing the West Wing staff, thus relying more—by necessity—on outside agencies.

(Wait, I thought Obama's problem was aloofness. Never mind, I guess.)

It's difficult to see how a ceremonial President would really free up enough time for the executive President to take care of the medicine, housing, energy, trade, etc., up to and including the whole world.

As to the dilution of executive power into the cabinet, anyone with the most cursory knowledge of Constitutional history must be aware of why we have a unitary executive. Consider the words of James Wilson, Founding Father, Constitutional signatory, and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court:

The next good quality that I remark is, that the executive authority is one. By this means we obtain very important advantages. We may discover from history, from reason, and from experience, the security which this furnishes. The executive power is better to be trusted when it has no screen. Sir, we have a responsibility in the person of our President; he cannot act improperly, and hide either his negligence or inattention; he cannot roll upon any other person the weight of his criminality; no appointment can take place without his nomination; and he is responsible for every nomination he makes. We secure vigor. We well know what numerous executives are. We know there is neither vigor, decision, nor responsibility, in them. Add to all this, that officer is placed high, and is possessed of power far from being contemptible; yet not a single privilege is annexed to his character; far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.

The only real solution is for the Presidency to do less, which seems to be the only option Newsweek and the Left have discarded.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Caddell and Schoen must have smoked some bad granola

Caddell and Schoen must have smoked some bad granola before suggesting that Obama not run for re-election.  There are two fundamental problems with this idea; firstly, Obama would never do that, and secondly, it wouldn’t accomplish what Caddell and Schoen think it would.

Obama doesn’t understand why Democrats got pummeled in November.  He seems to think it’s (1) a function of the economic environment, and (2) not accomplishing transformational change fast enough.  As to the first, that is surely a factor, but it is a factor that he and the Congress exacerbated with their agenda of, well, transformational change.  Obama’s excuse of insufficient change is ridiculous because, in the words of NR’s Victor Davis Hanson, “It’s as if Bush had explained his nosedive in the polls by his failure to invade Syria and Iran or expand Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.”

Obama does have reason to be confused.  Despite ongoing insistence that Obama campaigned as a moderate, anybody with the sense to consider his positions knew he was campaigning more or less openly as a small-s socialist of the vaguely euro-Fabian variety.  He favored wealth redistribution through a negative tax rate.  He professed a philosophy of raising certain taxes for purposes of “fairness” even when it was stipulated that raising that tax would bring in less money to the government. On his 2008 campaign website he proposed banning “scab” employees, which, in conjunction with his support for EFCA/”Card Check”, would give unions a stranglehold over capital.  As a candidate, he supported the Global Poverty Act, a massive trillion dollar international redistribution scheme.  Even before the total collapse of the auto industry, Obama was promoting dirigiste re-tooling loans to the Big Three.  And this is without examining the shady characters from his past, or relying on offhanded remarks to plumbers -- these are merely some of the items he actually campaigned on.

So Obama campaigned as a socialist (- again, small “s”), was elected, and proceeded to govern as a socialist in keeping with his campaign promises.  Surely the electorate knew what it was voting for, no?  And yet, the people grumbled.  It should then come as no surprise that Obama doesn’t “get it”, and from Obama’s recent media appearances it is fairly clear that this is still the case.

Schoen & Caddell:
If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.

This is a little too messianic for my tastes.  If only the President would sacrifice himself, the Republic could be saved!

S & C
Obama can restore the promise of the election by forging a government of national unity, welcoming business leaders, Republicans and independents into the fold. But if he is to bring Democrats and Republicans together, the president cannot be seen as an advocate of a particular party, but as somebody who stands above politics, seeking to forge consensus.

If the guy still thinks he’s right, and doesn’t understand why (or even that) the electorate rejected his policies, he’s not going to be eager to compromise on ideological matters.  Moreover, certain big issues are ones where compromise is fundamentally impossible, where completely opposite plans cannot be reconciled.

And if he still thinks he’s right, and still thinks that the voters want his particular variety of change, he’s not going to step aside in order to travel this path.  Caddell’s and Schoen’s plan will die in its crib from the twin ailments of unworkability and unlikeliness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Robinson's Tortured Logic on Torture

The Morning Joe crew was rehashing the GWB interview and started talking about waterboarding. Without much apparent appreciation for his own hypocrisy, Eugene Robinson said of Dubya's use of waterboarding, "I don't think that's forgivable", but when pressed said he'd use torture to save the life of his own child in a ticking time bomb scenario.

Waterboarding for me, but not for thee. "Unforgivable" indeed.

Scarborough then asked the rhetorical question of why waterboarding was more morally objectionable than drone strikes with significant collateral damage.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Victory's Thousand Fathers

 John F. Kennedy, 1961:
Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan.

An old high school classmate of mine who happens to be a Democratic campaign staffer called me late on election night.  Among other things he said, he wanted to congratulate me on the Republican victories - with the caveat that they'd be winning a lot of those back in two years.

I appreciated the call, and had a good conversation with my friend, but I was a little discombobulated by the congratulations -- as if I had anything to do with the victories.  President Kennedy may have been lamenting the Bay of Pigs fiasco in the quote above, but this time Republicans are dealing with the more positive side of the coin.  Everybody seems to have contributed to the GOP victory.

In this election, I was mostly a spectator, akin to a sports fan whose team just won a big game.  In common parlance, "we" won, but in reality, "the guys we root for" won.

But elections are different from athletic contests.  Exogenous events have a meaningful impact on electoral outcomes.  Political campaigns necessarily rely on interplay with their fans/audience for their success, whereas a sports team needs to perform well in its narrow skill set, and should ignore the audience during game play.

Yet we act as though campaigns are sports teams, and a lot of folks are cashing their victory bonus checks and trying on their metaphorical championship rings.  Did the exact same Republican consultants who were supposedly blameless for the 2006 and 2008 catastrophes suddenly become geniuses? Nah.

Frankly, I was a little underwhelmed by Republican performances.  By some Cook-PVI inspired logic, all we really did was get back to the equilibrium political position in the country.  The fact that we didn't do better than we did speaks poorly of our party infrastructure and campaign capabilities.

Was there every any real doubt that Republicans would take the House?  It should have been obvious before the first poll was taken (and certainly well before the media caught on) that this would be a big swing year.  What do we have to show for it? Well, we managed not to trip over our own feet too much and picked up the House.  The swing was huge, but we were starting from the nadir of the 06-08 losses.


To extend the broken sports metaphor, it goes all the way back to "pre-season".  How many seats did we leave on the table due to poor candidate recruitment and poor candidate quality?  How many losses (or narrow wins) were the result of ignoring fundamentals?  How many seats did we lose because of petty intraparty squabbles and tribalistic behavior?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ignore late polls and the stock market

Polls: Weekend polls are notoriously unreliable.  The sample is biased against people who have social lives on Friday and Saturday nights.  Sunday night might be considered a little better, but this time we're talking about Halloween.  Any poll conducted after Thursday night is to be ignored.

Stocks: The market has known for weeks now that the GOP will win the House and will probably fall at least one or two short in the Senate.  This is baked into the cake.  If this electoral outcome happens, no movement in stocks, either to the plus or minus, can be viewed as indicative of market approval or disapproval of the outcome.  If the DJIA goes up, I don't want to see Republicans gloating.  If it goes down, I don't want to see Dems doing the same.

The only caveat to this is if something unexpected happens.  If the GOP takes the Senate, or has an extraordinary showing the House that removes the likes of Barney Frank et al., then I might expect a modest pop in the stock market.  Likewise, if said wave election does not occur, then I would expect a sell-off of massive proportions.

In other news, my PA-related election predictions are up at the 'Cooler, and I put the California Senate race in the Hope for Change category.