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Archive for December, 2012

Missing the Point of Judicial Review

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 30th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

Missing the Point of Judicial Review
George Will, Washington Post
While accusing the Supreme Court’s conservative justices of “disdain for democracy,” Pamela S. Karlan proves herself talented at dispensing disdain. The Stanford law professor is, however, less talented at her chosen task of presenting a coherent understanding of judicial review. Still, her “Democracy and Disdain” in the November issue of the Harvard Law Review usefully illustrates progressivism’s consistent disdain for the Founders’ project of limiting government.The primary focus of her displeasure is, remarkably, Chief…

Reid & McConnell Seek Budget Deal
Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics
Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell agreed Friday to work through the weekend to develop a possible fiscal-cliff plan they hope could pass in both chambers of Congress before Dec. 31.The eleventh-hour effort was the upshot of an hour-long discussion at the White House among congressional leaders and President Obama. Speaker John Boehner told the group that the House, which is scheduled to return to work Sunday night, will act only after the Senate makes the next move.Should Congress fail to ratify legislation in time for Obama to sign it before midnight Monday, more than $500…

New Year’s Predictions for California
Steven Greenhut, OC Register
California's Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the recent election – voter-approved tax increases and two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy who can no longer block tax hikes. Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing-and-spending spree or will some semblance of a “moderate” Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it's hard to find good news for taxpayers or business…

They Never Blame Hillary
Aaron David Miller, Miami Herald
Washington can be a cruel and unforgiving place. Want a friend? Harry Truman once said. Get a dog. Or maybe he didn’t say it. But it’s a good point: In this town, nobody gets a free pass from the press, the pundits and the pols.Nobody, that is, until Hillary Clinton. At the end of her tenure as secretary of state, she alone has emerged virtually unscathed — the lone superstar of the president’s first term. A recent poll has her numbers well above the president’s and exceeded only by you guessed it — her husband, Bill. And those high…

A Package Deal for Iran and Syria
Jim Hoagland, Washington Post
Syria’s Alawite regime collapses from within and without. High-level defections march in step with rebel gains through the Sunni heartland. The Obama administration’s signature regional strategy — described in a Freudian slip by a French career diplomat here as “waiting from behind” — now badly trails events.

Do We Need More Elite High Schools?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 29th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

Do We Need More Elite High Schools?
Robert Samuelson, Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Anyone who writes a column always has second thoughts: columns you wrote but wish you hadn't; things you said that you might now modify or things you wish you'd said; and columns that, for some reason, went unwritten. As 2012 ends, let me atone for at least the last sin by writing about a book-length study called “Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools.” I intended to write about it earlier but kept delaying until it just slipped away.To be sure, it wasn't the year's most compelling issue: The lackluster economy, the…

All Reason Leaves the Republicans
Dick Polman, Philadelphia Inquirer
All sanity seems to have left the ranks of those in charge of the GOP. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the party is against everything and for nothing. That's not governing. That's just lobbing hand grenades. And the GOP is shrinking daily before our eyes.But those aren't my words. That stinging assessment comes courtesy of Mark McKinnon, a Texas-based Republican consultant and adviser to George W. Bush.At this point in the fiscal-cliff crisis, with House Republican ideologues seemingly so willing to plunge America over the precipice, there is indeed no need for me to…

Closing Tax Loopholes Isn’t Enough
Burman & Slemrod, New York Times
REPUBLICANS in Congress say they will do anything rather than raise tax rates. Apparently, that includes rushing headlong over the fiscal cliff and throwing the economy into a possible recession.When, in an effort to avert the now infamous tax increases and spending cuts to take effect on Tuesday, House Speaker John A. Boehner proposed his so-called Plan B — which would have nudged up tax rates only for those earning over $1 million a year — rank-and-file Republicans promptly rebelled, storming their party caucus with the rhetorical equivalents of pitchforks.

The Health Care Fight Is Far from Over
Henry Aaron, Brookings
The history of president Obama’s health reform bears an uncanny and disturbing similarity to the life cycle of a hurricane. With Sandy fresh in our memory, the similarity is not comforting.Hurricanes have three phases. The front wall of the storm brings high winds, lightening, and rain. Next, at the hurricane’s center, or eye, the wind drops and the air warms. If one is at sea, the water may turn calm and warm, bringing the illusion that the storm has ended. As the storm moves on, wind and rain return, often with increased force. Those fooled by the calm who leave safe…

“Stormin’ Norman,” 1934-2012
Mark Thompson, Time
For those who came of age during World War II, or post-9/11, the death Thursday of retired Army general H. Norman Schwarzkopf may not be of great moment. But for those of us who came of age during Vietnam, when that war veered from the discredited Gulf of Tonkin to the Tet Offensive to Kent State, he was a godsend.While there was trepidation before the Persian Gulf War began in January 1991 — a six-week bombing onslaught followed by a 96-hour ground campaign — it pitted a Cold War superpower against Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein (it was a mismatch that would have to be…

This Christmas, Joy Wrestles With Grief

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 27th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

This Christmas, Joy Wrestles With Grief
Michael Gerson, Washington Post
WASHINGTON — This is a Christmas season shadowed by sorrow. We know, of course, that human beings, even small ones, sometimes die in horrible, unfair ways. But all the horror and unfairness seemed to arrive at once in Newtown, where some parents wake on Christmas Day, if they slept at all, to mourn their absent children.These events brought to mind a sermon by William Sloane Coffin, delivered 10 days after his son Alex was killed in a car accident. “When parents die,” he said, “they take with them a large portion of the past. But when children die, they take away the future as…

Deficit Isn’t as Bad as They Want You to Think
Evan Soltas, Bloomberg
If those so-called deficit hawks would stop moralizing long enough to look at the data, they might find something surprising: That data almost entirely undermine their argument.Yes, the long-run path of spending on federal health programs remains a serious and legitimate source of concern. But the numbers show that our current fiscal deficit is well within control — as have been the deficits of the last five years.The right way to evaluate the U.S.'s current fiscal condition is not to look at at its budget deficit, which fluctuates sharply due to economic conditions. Rather, it is to…

Journalists Rush to Take Sides in Gun Debate
Byron York, DC Examiner
Should journalists be advocates for tougher gun control measures? It's a question worth asking as more and more reporters, commentators, and TV anchors are openly promoting stringent gun policies in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.It's not just the ranters on the left, like MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, who recently called National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre “the lobbyist for mass murderers.” O'Donnell is a controversialist who says things like that all the time. So is CNN's Piers Morgan, who told the Gun Owners of…

How The Gun Industry Profits From Violent Video Games

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 26th, 2012 12:09 am by HL

How The Gun Industry Profits From Violent Video Games
In a controversial diatribe on Friday, Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, blamed lax security, natural disasters, and, most of all, violent video games for the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT that claimed 27 lives. Despite the NRA’s public condemnation of violent entertainment, the New York Times explains, the […]

In a controversial diatribe on Friday, Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, blamed lax security, natural disasters, and, most of all, violent video games for the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT that claimed 27 lives. Despite the NRA’s public condemnation of violent entertainment, the New York Times explains, the gun industry is closely entwined with the gaming industry.

In one recent example of this relationship, the gaming company behind the Medal of Honor series launched a promotional website with links to the catalogs of two major gun manufacturers:

Links on the Medal of Honor site allowed visitors to click through on the Web sites of the game’s partners and peruse their catalogs.

“It was almost like a virtual showroom for guns,” said Ryan Smith, who contributes to the Gameological Society, an online gaming magazine. After Mr. Smith and other gaming enthusiasts criticized the site, Electronic Arts disabled the links, saying it had been unaware of them.

Gun manufacturers also grant video game companies licenses to depict real makes and models of weapons. Though these games are now taking heat from the gun lobby for encouraging violent behavior, they continue to serve as a valuable marketing tool for the industry.

The NRA’s scapegoating of virtual reality seems to be an attempt to deflect calls for more robust gun safety measures. Despite the NRA’s claims, there is no correlation between violent video games and violent behavior in real life. There is, however, ample evidence that societies with more guns have more gun violence.

Friedman: GOP Denial Is Destroying The Party And The Nation
The political obsessions of the Republican base — from denying global warming to defending assault weapons to opposing any tax increases under any conditions, to resisting any immigration reform — are making it impossible to be a Republican moderate, said Carville. And without more Republican moderates, there is no way to strike the kind of […]

The political obsessions of the Republican base — from denying global warming to defending assault weapons to opposing any tax increases under any conditions, to resisting any immigration reform — are making it impossible to be a Republican moderate, said Carville. And without more Republican moderates, there is no way to strike the kind of centrist bargains that have been at the heart of American progress — that got us where we are and are essential for where we need to go.

That’s NY Times columnist Tom Friedman in his latest column, “Send in the Clowns.” He notes:

… if Republicans continue to be led around by, and live in fear of, a base that denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook — a base that would rather see every American’s taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires — the party has no future. It can’t win with a base that is at war with math, physics, human biology, economics and common-sense gun laws all at the same time.

Nor can we stop catastrophic climate change without a Congress that will support strong action. The fossil-fuel-funded Tea Party is apparently content destroy the GOP, the nation’s future, and the climate — though not necessarily in that order.

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Washington Hits Rock Bottom

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 25th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

Washington Hits Rock Bottom
Andrew McCarthy, National Review
When your dissolute political establishment sinks to the point of being fit for lectures from Chinese Communists on spending restraint, and from erstwhile Soviet revanchists on foreign-affairs modesty, you are at rock bottom. Welcome to Washington.Remember two summers ago, the depths of the last Beltway debacle on out-of-control borrowing that charted the course for today’s latest Beltway debacle on spending and taxes. It was then that China’s rulers blasted Uncle Santa for our “debt addiction,” our failure to observe “the commonsense…

Will 2013 Mark the Beginning of U.S. Decline?
Simon Johnson, Bloomberg
“A modest man,” Winston Churchill supposedly quipped about Clement Attlee, his successor as prime minister, “but then he has so much to be modest about.” We should say the same about economists, particularly their ability to forecast anything in a useful and timely manner.Those predicting an imminent American economic decline have usually been no exception. This time, though, they may be on to something.

Stabilization Won’t Save Us
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, New York Times
The fiscal cliff is not really a “cliff”; the entire country won’t fall into the ocean if we hit it. Some automatic tax cuts will expire; the government will be forced to cut some expenditures. The cliff is really just a red herring.Likewise, any last-minute deal to avoid the spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1 isn’t likely to save us from economic turmoil. It would merely let us continue the policy mistakes we’ve been making for years, allowing us only to temporarily stabilize the economy rather than address…

GM Bailout Protected Wages, Not Jobs

Twas the Night Before Fiscliff
Bill Frezza, RealClearMarkets
Twas the night before Fiscliff, when all through the HouseNot a statesman was stirring, not even to grouse.Neither bills nor amendments have much of a prayerSince hope and change fever brought gridlock to bear.The citizens pondered in fear and in dread,What will happen if off the cliff we go instead?Obama was sure he set Boehner a trapTo force taxes higher, give rich folks a slap.

Public Support for Tax Increases Is a Myth

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 13th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

Public Support for Tax Increases Is a Myth
Hanna & Cortes, Roll Call
Myths are perpetuated in Washington, with conventional wisdom created by one person and bouncing off hundreds more in a self-reassuring circle of groupthink. But in real America, you can find the truth if you look hard enough.When the Democratic Party and the fourth branch of government, the mainstream media, unite on an issue, the result is a powerful megaphone of misrepresentation. During the present fiscal cliff negotiations, the most egregious myth perpetrated by the Democratic media complex is that the public supports raising taxes on the successful.

Can God Save Egypt?
Thomas Friedman, New York Times
When you fly along the Mediterranean today, what do you see below? To the north, you look down at a European supranational state system "” the European Union "” that is cracking up. And to the south, you look down at an Arab nation state system that is cracking up. It's an unnerving combination, and it's all the more reason for the U.S. to get its economic house in order and be a rock of global stability, because, I fear, the situation on the Arab side of the Mediterranean is about to get worse. Egypt, the anchor of the whole Arab world, is…

Government Gone Bad
John Stossel, FOX Business
Politicians claim they make our lives better by passing laws. But laws rarely improve life. They go wrong. Unintended consequences are inevitable.Most voters don't pay enough attention to notice. They read headlines. They watch the Rose Garden signing ceremonies and hear the pundits declare that progress was made. Bipartisanship! Something got  done. We assume a problem was solved.Intuition tells us that government is in the problem-solving business, and so the more laws passed, the better off we are. The possibility that fewer laws could leave us better off is hard to grasp….

Senate Retirees Say Goodbye as New Class Says Hello
Erin McPike, RCP
By Erin McPike – December 13, 2012With the Obama administration and the House GOP locked in a battle over the fiscal cliff, the Senate has started saying goodbye to some of its retiring veterans while transitioning incoming members into their new roles.A handful of the upper chamber’s moderates officially depart early next month, including Maine’s Olympia Snowe, a Republican; Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman, an Independent-Democrat; and North Dakota’s Kent Conrad, a Democrat. In exit interviews and floor speeches, they have blasted the bitter partisanship…

The Resurrection of Liberalism

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 12th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

The Resurrection of Liberalism
DeWayne Wickham, USA Today
When Benjamin Todd Jealous stepped on stage last week to receive one of the ideological left's most prestigious awards, he was greeted with thunderous applause from the assembled audience, a collection of this nation's most unrepentant liberals.Jealous came to the Nation Institute's annual gala to be honored with a $100,000 prize “for his unwavering dedication to civil and human rights.” When Jealous arrived, he found himself in the midst of a fawning crowd of liberal icons that included former TV talk show host Phil Donahue, Nation magazine publisher Katrina Vanden…

Pushing Same-Sex Marriage Ahead
Charles Lane, Washington Post
The arc of the moral universe is long, said abolitionist Theodore Parker. “My eye reaches but little ways. . . . And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”But few advocates of social change — in Parker’s time or ours — act as though justice really is inevitable. They try to hasten it.So it is for advocates of marriage equality, who, against once-impossible odds, have emerged from the political and legal wilderness.

Drinking the Kochs’ Kool-Aid

Will Childless Voters Enslave My Future Grandkids?
Bill Frezza, RCM
If demography is destiny, democracy is toast-at least those democracies where citizens can vote themselves a living at someone else's expense. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to see that governments' addiction to intergenerational income redistribution is not sustainable unless someone keeps supplying babies at an accelerating pace.The root cause of the economic disaster that lies ahead is the kamikaze drive of democratic governments to displace the functions of the family, including the care of relatives in their old age. Since time immemorial, in every human society…

The Left’s Domination of the Imaginative Arts
Ace, Ace of Spades
I wrote about this a while ago, before the election, and somehow I wound up on an old post discussing it again. It's worth noting again:When Joe Biden endorsed gay marriage in May, he cited Will & Grace as the single-most important driving force in transforming public opinion on the subject. In so doing he actually confirmed the long-standing fear of conservatives—that a coterie of Hollywood elites had undertaken an invidious and utterly successfully propaganda campaign, and had transmuted the cultural majority into a minority. Set aside the substance of the matter and…

Republican Mischief on Entitlements

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 11th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

Republican Mischief on Entitlements
Paul Begala, The Daily Beast
“Political speech and writing,” George Orwell wrote in a biting and brilliant critique, “are largely the defense of the indefensible.” The most political of writers bemoaned the fact that “political language””and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists””is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell was reacting to the desperate euphemisms employed by members of the British intelligentsia in his day who had…

The Republican Tax Panic

The Fiscal Cliff Is a Snooze
Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast
From the outside, it must appear that Washington is gripped by high drama as the country faces the daunting prospect of plunging over the fiscal cliff.Um, not exactly.We're as bored as the rest of the country. People aren't chatting about this at the coffee machine or arguing the angles over lunch. The cliff notes are just background noise, humming along at far lower volume than the roar that greeted Robert Griffin III's latest Redskins performance.

Big Money Played Destructive Role in 2012
Albert Hunt, Bloomberg
The fears that big money would corrupt the political process in 2012 weren't realized, the conventional wisdom says. The fat cats, unshackled by U.S. Supreme Court and lower court decisions, weren't able to buy the presidency or the Senate.True. It also misses the point. About $6 billion was spent on the campaign, and outside groups poured $1.3 billion into political races, according to data from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Next Civil Rights Landmark

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 9th, 2012 12:08 am by HL

The Next Civil Rights Landmark

Protesters in Egypt: This Is Just the Beginning
Evan Hill, The Atlantic
Amid bullets and flames, opposition activists clash with regime supporters over President Morsi's attempted expansion of executive authority.The blast echoed from somewhere near the front lines. A fragment — probably a shotgun pellet — ricocheted into Muhammad Abdel Aziz's face. He flinched and touched his cheek — no wound, this time. Earlier, three or four had gashed his chin and swelled one side of his jaw, spattering his striped shirt with blood.

Why Hillary Must Run in 2016
Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast
Is it too early to talk about 2016? Of course it is. It's preposterous. So I'm not talking about 2016. Instead, I'm talking about something much bigger: I'm talking, let us say, about the great march of history, the ineluctable links of causality, the tempora and the mores, the old mole working both underground and above. And in this context, this context of keeping history moving forward, Hillary Clinton has not just the chance to run in 2016. She has the obligation to do so. Her party, and her country, will need her then, to consolidate gains and prevent the backsliding…

Yesterday’s Revenue Can’t Support Tomorrow’s America
Ezra Klein, WP
Since 1950, federal revenue has averaged about 18 percent of gross domestic product — 17.8 percent of GDP, to be exact. A neat bit of trivia, but who cares?Lots of people, it seems. Republicans on the House Budget Committee, in a news release titled “The Impact of Looming Tax Increases,” emphasize that “federal revenue rose to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal year 2007, well above the 50-year historical average of 18 percent.” This proves, they say, that “tax relief did not cause today’s deficits.”

Shock Therapy for Obama’s Supersized Gov’t
Robert Robb, AZ Republic
I’ve been having irresponsible thoughts. Or at least I’ve been thinking more favorably about something I have previously denounced as irresponsible: not increasing the federal debt limit.There is no good end in sight for the non-negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. And the impasse goes far deeper than the question that preoccupies the public discussion about whether to increase the tax rates on the affluent.

A Nation of Singles

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 2nd, 2012 12:08 am by HL

A Nation of Singles
Jonathan Last, Weekly Standard
Unfortunately, by the time the window closed on the public's demographic curiosity no one really understood either of these shifts. Or where they came from. Or whether they were even particularly true. As is often the case, people tended to fixate on a relatively small, contingent part of America's changing demographic makeup and look past the bigger, more consequential part of the story.

Mitt Romney’s Oval Office Moment
Gail Collins, New York Times
You undoubtedly have heard that Barack Obama invited Romney for lunch this week, in what was described in many reports as a longstanding tradition of re-elected presidents having a good-fellowship meal with the person whose political dreams they had just shattered.“They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future,” said the official report.  “Their lunch menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.”

The Crisis of American Self-Government
Harvey Mansfield, WSJ
'We have now an American political party and a European one. Not all Americans who vote for the European party want to become Europeans. But it doesn't matter because that's what they're voting for. They're voting for dependency, for lack of ambition, and for insolvency.”Few have thought as hard, or as much, about how democracies can preserve individual liberty and national virtue as the eminent political scientist Harvey Mansfield. When it comes to assessing the state of the American experiment in self-government today, his diagnosis is grim, and he has never…

Nothing Like Being Re-elected
Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast
The financial plan that Tim Geithner advanced yesterday caught everyone by surprise in its suck-on-this boldness, so unusual for Obama in such situations. Up to $1.6 trillion in revenue; new stimulus spending; new mortgage help; and elimination of Congress' role in the debt limit! Wowza. What's behind this?First of all it looks like the White House just figured, and correctly: Let's not get bogged down in technicalities like Medicare reimbursement levels. It's of course inevitable that these negotiations will eventually get bogged down precisely in Medicare reimbursement…

Egypt Is Collapsing as Obama Embraces Muslim Brotherhood