Defunding Obamacare: principled, or pointless?

Robert Ariail, Townhall.com

For some time now, the Wall Street Journal editorial board has been warning about the futility of the strategy to defund Obamacare before it goes into effect in October.  The evening before Ted Cruz saddled up to fillibuster in the Senate, indulging the painful path to government shutdown, the Journal issued a preemptive, if qualified, “I told you so.”

We wish the GOP luck, since we support the policy if not the strategy. But however this charge into the fixed bayonets turns out, we hope the folks who planned it will take responsibility for what happens now.

The Journal points out that the leaders of the defund charge could not drum up solid GOP support, but only a “rump minority.”  And I think for good reason: Republican Representatives in swing districts can’t afford to take the blame for government shutdown.  A senator like Cruz does well to play to his base, with re-election five years away, if he’s not eying 2016.  Meanwhile, he and the defund (defeat) caucus are daring to doom vulnerable House Republicans by renewing the party’s image as overzealous shutters-down of government.  Democrats have been salivating for months.

As Michael Medved reminds us from time to time, there is no secret army of conservatives who will turn out in mass when the GOP takes its principled, suicidal stand.  That army doesn’t reside in swing districts; if anywhere, it would reside where the GOP will win by more than 20 points anyway.

Medved has posed this challenge on air over the past few weeks: what is the winning scenario for the defund campaign?  How do America or the Republican Party gain anything real out of this, whether in 2014 or for the foreseeable future?  President Obama has the bully pulpit, and the traction to outlast the GOP.  Even after the embarrassing Syrian escapade, the media’s irrational infatuation with the president is as recalcitrant as ever.

I’m firmly in the live-to-fight-another-day caucus.  I know the trite cries of “RINO” and admonitions to take a “principled stand” fly thick through the air these days.  So I take succor in the WSJ editorial’s biting claim to street cred:

These columns opposed ObamaCare before it was known by that name, and we may have even been the first to call it by that name. We also don’t need any lectures about principle from the Heritage Foundation that promoted RomneyCare and the individual mandate that is part of ObamaCare. Or from cable TV pundits who sold Republicans on Mitt Romney despite RomneyCare.

I’m not especially aware of Heritage’s transgression, but I feel the Journal on this one.

It’s refreshing to see cartoonist Robert Ariail’s no non-sense take on the situation.  The cliff image is all too prevalent these days, because we’ve been bouncing from cliff to cliff every few months.  It will be refreshing when posturing politicians stop clowning around, posing for “principle,” and actually get smart about saving the country.  Suck it up.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Robert Ariail, Townhall.com

 

 

 

 

Which Americans in denial about race?

The aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal dominated news and commentary last week.  As the pleas and prescriptions from all corners reverberate, what should Americans of conscience do?  Despite long standing calls to have a national conversation on race, many remain unwilling to confront the more difficult aspects.

Take this case in point.  On the Monday after the six woman Florida jury handed in a “not guilty” verdict, The Atlantic Wire serve up this combative headline: “Richard Cohen Shows Why Racism Makes You Do Dumb Things.”  Later that day, another headline-as-testy-retort: “No, Blacks Don’t ‘Benefit’ from Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.”  The Atlantic brand should bring to mind a measured–if passionate–patrician, East Coast progressivism.  Those were its roots, at least.  But with the headlines it runs these days, The Atlantic is clearly a plebeian outlet for snarky partisan sniping.

Somewhere on the Atlantic Coast. | Photo credit: oefe / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In responding to Richard Cohen, Elspeth Reeve fails to explain what it actually means for Cohen to say something “racist.”  It’s just an epithet meant to draw her readers into a denial of the violent crime problem in the African-American community.  She cites statistics indicating, in the past couple of decades, a steady decline in violent crimes nationally.  From this, she plucks the fact that violent crimes committed by African-Americans have also gone down.  In the world she paints, conservative commentators are crying wolf about a nonexistent epidemic.  This is a perverse inversion of what was happening six months ago.  Then, conservatives were citing declining national rates to dismiss the hysteria over an epidemic of gun-related homicides.  Now, this good news has become a liberal talking point.

Over the past week, conservative media have consistently hammered away at the issue Elspeth Reeve and her Atlantic Wire colleagues deny: African-Americans, particularly young men, commit violent crimes at a grossly disproportionate rate.  Blacks make up about 10 percent of the population, but are responsible for half of all violent crimes, including murders.  And about 90% of those murder victims are African-American.  It’s simple math then that nearly half of people murdered in America are black.

The Wall Street Journal has run a number of excellent editorials on the problem.  Black conservative Jason Riley opened the salvo by reminding us how far back the problem goes.  Consider his quoting of a prominent black civil rights leader:

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

And this week, Shelby Steele–another Black intellectual off of the liberal reservation–explicated on the concept of “poetic truth,” a cudgel with which today’s morally diminished civil rights leaders try to exercise influence.  Steele authored one of the more compelling books I’ve read.  It’s full title says it all: White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.

Reading the testy headlines of the The Atlantic Wire, I was reminded of Dr. Steele’s thesis, inasmuch as I understood it.  It’s true, whites helped destroy the promise of civil rights.  It wasn’t bigots in the American South.  Rather, it was privileged whites–read, East Coast progressives–who had luxury enough to quench their feelings of guilt by demanding untenable social policies.

As Steele recounts his college years in White Guilt, it was spoiled white teenagers and militant black youth who worked together to occupy university lecture halls and chancellor’s offices across the country.  Today’s privileged, well-connected, young and idealistic white elites–politically progressive through and through–indulge the same luxury their parents and grandparents did before them.  They can afford to imagine a common cause with minorities.  They can afford to indulge white guilt fantasies with little consequence.  It is the marginalized who can’t.

How does one have real solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed?  President Obama had a good point in last Friday’s speech.  He implored, “. . . we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys.”

It turns out, some people have already done that thinking.  The answer doesn’t lie in next entitlement program, or supporting the right to wear a hoodie.  The answer is cultural capital, earned success, a flourishing moral ecology, traditional family values, an opportunity society.  This is not racism or hate speech.  George W. Bush put it well when he warned against the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  How does America, as one nation, raise those expectations for young African-American men?  That is the challenge.

Arizona Dems’ unreasoned defense of gun buybacks

(Wikimedia)

I have to say, the Boston bombing earlier this week makes these days sad and sobering.  Breaching insanity-as-usual, there is for a time, something approaching a public consensus on the reality of evil.

Of course, it is one thing to admit evil exists; it’s another thing to take action that combats it.  Gun buybacks definitely aren’t one of those things.  Today an AP headline tells of an amusing way to deal with them: “Ariz. bill passed makes cities sell turned-in guns.”

The law in Arizona already requires that cities sell confiscated weapons.  All the new bill does is extend this to buyback guns as well.  This move exposes the absurdity of the buyback project.  The number of guns removed by buybacks are hopelessly miniscule compared to the stock in circulation.  And, only upright, conscientious citizens think of turning their guns over to law enforcement.  This increases the ratio of bad guys with guns to good guys with guns.  So buybacks are a losing proposition on two counts.  Inasmuch as cities decide to conduct these exercises in futility, why shouldn’t the state mandate that they recoup some of the cost?

Okay, so this is a slap in the face of liberal feel-good activism.  But the rejoinder by Democrats is unworthy of being called reasonable or logical:

Democrats argued that Republicans complain about the federal government when it requires the state to take action, yet they’re quick to force local governments to do what they want. “We hate it when the federal government mandates it to the state, and we’re doing the same thing,” said Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma. They also complained about victims having to deal with the knowledge that a gun that killed a loved one could end up back on the streets.

This appears to be some sort of appeal to a double-standard.  But there’s a huge distinction between unwanted federal meddling and the state prescribing laws for the cities that are organized directly under its authority.  That distinction is the simple difference between the constitutions of the U.S. and Arizona respectively.  The Democratic senator is actually complaining about the compulsory nature of laws themselves rather than any hypocrisy Republicans might harbor.  But this is highly inconsistent coming from a party that thrives in direct proportion to the increase of government regulations, budgets, and lawsuits.

The complaint about guns ending up back on the streets is a non sequitur.  That happens already, in spite of the new bill being passed.  In fact, any gun that killed a person is more likely to have been seized than bought back.  How often does a person commit murder with a gun and then sell the weapon to law enforcement?  And if that were to happen, what is the likelihood the victim’s family would actually know or care about the ultimate fate of the gun?  Arizona Democrats sure are testing the limits of the emotional appeal.  Break out the tiny violins.

But what is most remarkable of all is that the AP reporter quotes these Democrats matter of fact, as if their statements actually made sense.

Dispelling 3 myths about the Iraq War

Jerome Delay/AP via NPR

 

Yahoo News commemorated the ten year anniversary of the Iraq War with this recent leading headline: “Iraq War Vet Pens Last Letter to Bush and Cheney.”

Per the epistle–authored by a dying vet in hospice care–Bush and Cheney are guilty of “war crimes,” “plunder,” “lies, manipulation, and thirst for wealth and power.”  In his eyes, this dynamic duo “stole the future” of veterans, sacrificing them for “little more than the greed of oil companies . . . oil sheiks . . . and insane visions of empire.”  Charming tale.  Regrettably, journalist Dylan Stableford reports these claims with virtually no comment.  That’s how they roll at the Yahoo News blogs.  Parrot liberals, ignore or spin conservatives.

This particular, gratuitous airing of invective compels a response.  So here I’ll dispel three commonly-believed fictions about the Iraq War.

“Bush lied, people died!”

With these words, you can just imagine the shrill cries of Code Pink ladies now.  The question is, which deaths were Bush’s fault?  Most Iraqi civilians died at the hands of insurgents or inter-sectarian strife, not Coalition forces.  Yes, over 4,000 American soldiers died, with many more seriously injured.  With all due respect, this should not be an unexpected outcome for those who voluntarily join the armed services.  All the more that we’re grateful for their service.  That said, it’s just not evident that President Bush did something heinous in exercising Congressionally-authorized use of military force to protect America.

Speaking of authorization, what part of the invasion rationale was a lie?  Max Boot pointed out recently that every intelligence agency worth its salt suspected Iraq of harboring weapons of mass destruction.  This is because Saddam Hussein wanted everyone to think he had them, including potential usurpers within his own regime.  This is the particular problem of one man dictatorships.  It’s only a matter of time before such an actor miscalculates, hurting his country, his neighbors, and in this case, himself.  Returning to the charge of lying, a lie requires intent of deceit.  And again, that’s not at all clear with Bush and company.

“Blood for oil”

This charge gets to the motivation for the invasion.  There are some interesting circumstances, such as the Bush family’s Saudi connections and the shortcuts taken by Cheney-affiliated reconstruction contractor Halliburton.  These could make for interesting premises, but as with most conspiracy theories, there’s nothing outside of a tinfoil hat to connect the dots.  Such speculation crumbles in light of the facts.

I’ll unfurl this with a personal detour.  I was an undergraduate studying international relations at the time the Iraq War started.  In fact, I was taking a political science course on national security.  Just prior to the invasion, we read the then-recently released hardcover The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.  The author, former CIA analyst Ken Pollack, was with the Brookings Institution.  And oddly enough, the book jacket featured advanced praise from future Newsweek and TIME editor Fareed Zakaria.

Suffice to say, I learned a thing or two about war.  When it comes to why wars start, the reason is simple.  It’s not about land, wealth, or religion.  The, greatest empirically correlated factor is that both sides think they can win.  This is where miscalculation comes into play.  Saddam was widely seen as an “irrational actor.”  Given his reckless history and total lack of cooperation, the security community consensus was that it was prudent to take him out.

This won’t allay the critic who still points to all the oil in the Persian Gulf region.  I agree, oil is a big factor!  But the motive isn’t “greed,” it’s global stability.  Europe, an indispensable contributor to global economic well-being, has the most to lose from a destabilized Middle East.  By contrast, the U.S. only gets 13% of its oil from there.  But because of Europe’s vulnerability, you would feel the hurt if things really went south in the Persian Gulf.

“The Wrong War”

Finally, there is the idea that compared to Afghanistan, Iraq was the wrong war.  This assumes that, like Afghanistan, the Iraq invasion was a response to the September 11 attacks.  But those attacks were only invoked in 5 of 23 justifications of the 2002 authorization for use of military force.  And there’s the false dichotomy that we had to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq, but not both.  Certainly, I agree that both wars could have been executed much better!  But this does not inherently make Iraq “the wrong war.”

A second dichotomy critics force is that, if we hadn’t gone into Iraq, there’d have been billions of dollars freed to invest in American education and infrastructure.  If Barack Obama is The Messiah, then those who spouted this view pre-2008 were John the Baptist!  The Iraq War was budgeted as emergency spending, and the money wouldn’t have been spent otherwise.  The counterfactual of domestic spending nirvana is false.

Imagine getting mugged

I truly appreciate it when someone has good reasons to disagree with me.  But there are those who hold popular positions without really thinking through the implications.  Nothing exemplifies this more for me than John Lennon’s syrupy song Imagine.  Some think it’s nice to be a dreamer and imagine that there could be a better world.  The problem comes when they want to foist an impossible dream on others.  As long as humans inhabit the Earth, it will be a dangerous place.  In light of this, sometimes unpleasant choices have to be made.  Don’t rewrite the facts to fit your feelings.

I appreciate the grit in Irving Kristol’s definition of a neoconservative: “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.”

Gross media bias against traditional marriage

Yahoo’s The Ticket ran a story with this headline today: “Argument against gay marriage in California hinges on accidental pregnancies.”  Word ford word, this is the most biased caption I’ve ever encountered.  Consider this alternative: “Legal case for traditional marriage in California rests on biological distinctions.”

The text of the article quotes brilliant conservative casemaker Paul Clement as referring to “unplanned and unintended offspring.”  Perhaps after having read the War on Women Writing Style Manual, some editor at Yahoo News chose to represent this as “accidental pregnancies.”  Accidental, as in the cringe-inducing “Sweetie, you were an accident.”  And pregnancies, as in, “Oh no, the government wants to mess with womens’ wombs again.”  The headline is clearly crafted for those who think laws are meant to preserve their moral autonomy rather than serve the continuation of civilization.

The news copy writer, Liz Goodwin, describes Clement and his colleagues as “opponents to gay marriage.”  This antagonistic characterization facilitates the readers’ conflation of social and legal sanction.  One can oppose legal recognition of same sex marriage while still supporting the right of two people of the same sex to pursue a life together, have a public wedding ceremony, obtain a civil union, and be entitled to federal and state benefits.  Goodwin seems less interested in making this important distinction than in stoking the outrage of social liberals.

The article goes on to chronicle “the government’s right to ban gay marriage” since the 1970s.  What ban?  Were same sex marriages banned in 1950 and in 1900 as well?  No, as with abortion at the time the Constitution was adopted, the thing was practically unheard of.

Towards the end of the piece, Goodwin offers a slippery slope analysis of legal reasoning like Clement’s.  The fear is that the success of such an argument could justify further marriage restrictions based on infertility or being beyond childbearing age.  This is absurd.  Those kind of determinations would be impractically intrusive and a waste of government time, money, and energy.  Not unlike a recent proposal by Missouri Democrats to ban the possession of assault rifles.

Note that in Goodwin’s story, the slippery slope is a one way deal.  But consider the opposite.  If we expand the meaning of marriage to include same sex couples, what really stops us from honoring polygamous marriages or even more unconventional arrangements?

Leave it to liberals to fail to make the proper distinctions.  The Justice Department has gone after the Defense of Marriage Act on the basis of expanding federal entitlement benefits.  But marriage is not about entitlement benefits.  Per an amicus briefing, the Department declared, “Marriage is far more than a societal means of dealing with unintended pregnancies.”  Since when did we decide that government should have its imprint on all those other things marriage is also about?

The most sensible understanding of the state’s role in marriage is that it has a vested interest in seeing as many children as possible raised in stable homes with both of their natural parents.  Sometimes that’s not feasible, and an alternative like adoption may be required.  Let caring and committed gay couples do that if they wish.  But if the state wants to expand entitlement benefits to a new class of relationship, it needn’t redefine marriage.  Civil unions should do the job just fine.  To redefine marriage on a passionate but arbitrary conviction that it’s a civil rights issue would send a disasterous signal that marriage is about having your personal feelings validated by the government.  And that, anyone should be able to see, is ridiculous.

Sequester: Obama forces the balance

20130302.cogitduck028

The federal budget sequestration saga culminated with a geeky–if odd–bang on Friday.  After days of touring the country and sounding alarms, President Obama denied he was feeding fears of fiscal “apocalypse,” felt compelled to concede, “I am not a dictator,” and confessed he could not change Republicans’ will through a “Jedi mind meld.”

In his Saturday radio address, the President acknowledged that Americans are tired of having to “careen from one manufactured crisis to another.”  It’s good to remember who is in the drivers’ seat.  It was President Obama who signed the legislation that triggered the sequester.  In light of this fact, Cosmoscon recently supplied a fitting name for the White House’s trite theatrics: Obamaquester.

In the days leading up to sequestration, the media indulged dire headlines.  Yahoo News’s leading caption warned Thursday, “Deep cuts to Begin.”  LiveScience jarred us with “Sequester cuts could hit scientists hard.”  The National Parks Service warned that bathrooms would go uncleaned, sending Mother Jones in a panic.  And the Navy announced the Blue Angels would cancel shows.  Mother Jones probably could care less for that jingoistic propaganda outfit.

The media has not been totally obeisant to White House talking points.  Clicking through Yahoo’s “Deep Cuts” reveals news copy weary of alarmism.  The Christian Science Monitor’s Decoder Wire challenged Obama’s characterization of “automatic” spending cuts.  Yet, as with many other media sources, it was reluctant to put the actual cuts in perspective.

Fortunately, the fiscal conservatives on WordPress have been on top of it.  The Southern Voice supplied a great Heritage Foundation graphic emphasizing that only budget growth shrinks under sequester, not the budget itself.  International Liberty highlighted effective sequester editorial cartoons.  I found Mike Ramirez’s pie picture to be an invaluable graphic.

The Moon in Daylight shared a great gamer’s analogy for Obama’s political strategy.  The President is a “munchkin mini-maxer.”  That is, he is a player who unscrupulously exploits a loophole in the rules or a coding glitch.  Instead of “investing” all his skill into a well-rounded array of abilities like negotiation, initiative, or magnanimity, Obama has pooled all his skill points into demagoguery.

This singular focus yielded political absurdity the day sequestration went into effect.  Besides denying that he was a dictator, he confessed “I’d like to think that I’ve still got some persuasive power left.”  And once Obama issued the “Jedi mind meld” snafu, the White House Office of Perpetual Campaigning parlayed it into a geeky-hip social media meme.  Should we expect less from the country’s premier community organizer?

One White House tweet implies tax hikes will “bring balance to the Force.”  But we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.  With a sluggish recovery, and over $600,000,000,000 in new revenue to pour in from the fiscal cliff deal, our economy needs more taxes like Luke Skywalker needed his hand chopped off by a lightsaber.  If the politics of sequester have to stoop to science fiction references, then it’s more fitting to say that our one-track president, with his incessant campaigning for tax hikes, “brings force to the balance.”  Politically, what Obama wants most and at all costs is to raise taxes for the sake of raising taxes.

What’s wrong with this cartoon?

Stuart Carlson via Go Comics

Here’s a simplistic take on President Obama’s State of the Union speech.  Carlson, the cartoonist, sympathetically depicts Obama as calm and optimistic.  Meanwhile, Republicans are shown as afraid to work on the nation’s problems.

But why should we buy Carlson’s conception of what our country’s problems are?  Serious issues, like the national debt and our values crisis, are missing from the junk pile.  And of the concerns listed in the cartoon, some are hardly worth addressing, at least on the federal level.  Gun violence has declined drastically compared to twenty and thirty years ago.  “Mental health crisis” is more apt to a mountain of national dysfunction than “guns.”

Carlson’s cartoon reinforces the myopic notion that big government activism is the way to solve national problems.  But why propose a new federal preschool initiative when the extant Head Start program has been found to be of questionable value?  Like the manufacturing hubs proposal, it’s just another reinvention of the wheel, adding to the accretion of federal programs that don’t do what they’re supposed to.

The policy proposals laid out last week were predictable.  And so has been media coverage.  A report by Rachel Rose Hartman of Yahoo does little more than relay the White House’s talking points unchallenged.  Fair enough, we can recount all the times Yahoo reporters have uncritically parroted Republican initiatives.  On one hand.

Consider also an AP fact check of Tuesday’s speech.  In contrast to his challenges of Obama’s statements, fact checker Calvin Woodward goes out of his way to thoroughly stomp on Marco Rubio’s mention of a balanced budget amendment.  Dismissing it as unserious, he conveniently forgets that such an amendment failed to pass Congress by one vote as recently as the Clinton presidency.  He beefs that federal revenues declined during the recession, but ignores that they’ve since recovered.  And he launches a lengthy apologetic as to the necessity of deficit spending at the federal level.  We can only imagine the AP giving such generous balance to a Republican president.

As Kohaleth observed, “Nothing is new under the sun.” Mr. Obama wasted the bully pulpit again. Rather than make a genuine effort to unite the nation and move it forward, he did what he knows how to do best: deploy emotional rhetoric to build political advantage for his own party.  The President remains a one trick pony.  Media and the public they serve are largely lost in the pomp of the speech.  The only paean we can honestly deliver is one that declares Obama’s speech another pale and uninspired echo of “Hope and Change.”

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