Post from February, 2011

Anthology of Interest 2011, Part III

Friday, 25. February 2011 13:57

Lot’s of interesting things going on in the world. The Chinese have a saying, “may you live in interesting times.” It’s not something you say to people you wish well of. ;)

Labor Rally in the Rotunda

In Wisconsin labor battle news, the Wisconsin state assembly voted to pass Walker’s budget, which includes the elimination of some collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. It passed 51-17. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin state senate Democratic delegation is still AWOL somewhere in Illinois and defiant.

The labor battle that started in Wisconsin has spread to a number of other Western and Midwestern states. Indiana, Iowa and Ohio are now in the mix, both Indiana and Ohio with newly elected Republican Governors and recently formed Republican majorities in the state legislatures. While the protests have been fairly large and raucous, and sometimes nasty and violent, including a mass rally in Wisconsin’s state house rotunda, public opinion polling indicates the public is fairly divided on labor unions.

On the current labor unrest, there is a mixed bag in the polling world. A majority of the American public, 67%, are opposed to the “fleebagging” of the Wisconsin and Indiana Democrat state legislative delegations, and supportive of Governor Walker in Wisconsin, there is majority opposition to the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public unions, though I wonder how many Americans understand the distinction between public and private unions and how that impacts the budget. Still, numbers like that should give the GOP pause. However, there’s no question that support for labor unions has been in a free fall over the past twenty years, and that certainly has implications for the current battle.

Clearly both sides see a political opportunity here, as both Obama and Speaker Boehner have spoken out on the issue. The stakes are high, as Democrats depend on unions for their GOTV (get-out-the-vote) operations.

As far as the ideological debate goes, some have gone so far as to call for a banning of public unions, reversing JFK’s executive order from 50 years prior. Krauthhammer, concuring with Goldberg, sees this as a moment of blinding clarity. Krugman thinks its a crass partisan power grab. Others suggest it is hypocritical to focus on union influence in politics when wealthy entreprenuers such as David Koch can get a 20 minute conversation with Governor Walker…well, at least that’s who the caller claimed to be. Still, is the fact that a rich GOP doner can get Walker on the phone actual influence? We’ll talk about the difference between access and influence when we get to interest groups in section 3.

In a bit of older news, did Thucydides, the reputed Father of Realism, hate Realists?

Wither Libya? And is Saudia Arabia next?

$5.00 a gallon gasoline by 2012? Ho boy. Oil is approaching $120 a barrel. There’s no question the Mideast unrest is having a substantial effect on oil prices, but don’t underestimate the effect of Obama’s moratorium on Gulf oil drilling. Remember, candidate Obama was perfectly OK with increased eneregy prices if that’s what it took to reduce cabron emissions, and his Cap & Trade policy undoubtedly would have sent gas prices up had it been enacted.

Are we headed towards a government shut down? If so, who will be to blame? Republicans have urged Democrats to accept a $4 billion cut, but if they don’t the government may shut down. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. York believes the GOP shouldn’t fear a government shutdown. There are some indications Democrats are moving in the GOP direction, as reports indicate they are drafting their own proposal for cuts. I think alot of the “well, the GOP got blamed in the wake of the Gingrich / Clinton shutdown, so they’d be blamed this time” meme is fairly unconvincing. Not only is this a different electorate, 15 years later, but it is also a very different setting. The Gingrich / Clinton shutdown happened when 1) the GOP controlled both Houses in Congress, 2) the economy was booming and 3) Clinton had failed to pass health-care. None of that is true today. I don’t know who the public would blame for a government shutdown, and I’m not even sure they would be that upset about it. Certainly there is some polling that suggests that the public wants to see significant cuts in the budget.

Is Obama’s decision to not have the Justice Department defend DOMA in court a violation of his oath?

Five personality flaws that science will cure in our lifetime.

87% of movies would be better with Micahel Keaton in them? I certainly liked Batman. Multiplicity…eh, not so much.

What political and social lessons are there in The Forbidden Planet?

Shew! That’s a lot going on! Tune in next time for the ANTHOLOGY of INTEREST!!!!!

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The Power of Fascism

Thursday, 24. February 2011 22:48

Tonight in the reading group we discussed some of Jonah Goldberg’s arguments in Liberal Fascism, particularly his idea that fascism is defined as a forward-looking secular religion promoting totalitarianism. Not totalitarianism as we see it through the window to the past from the 21st century, but rather totalitarianism as Mussolini conceived it: Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato (Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State). I’ve always thought the beautiful but profoundly disturbing scence from Cabaret (1972, starring Michael York) illustrates nicely the powerful appeal of fascism as a state-based religion. Note how the scene begins focused on a youthful blond-haired and blue-eyed singer…and then the camera pans down to reveal the young man in the uniform of the Hitler Youth and he’s belting out the tunes of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” Then everyone joins in (except for the old man and York and friend, who leave), showing the mass appeal the fascist ideal (a martial morality) to the battered cultural psyche of the post-WWI Germany. The revival atmosphere is palpable.

Contrast this with the ideas of classical liberalism – a zone of privacy, a respect for diversity, and a limited government. Fascism is in opposition on each point, and Cabaret depicts this quite well. Even a quiet luncheon gathering at a beer garden was not immune to the state-centered ideology that was fascism in pre-war Nazi Germany. Though nothing happens to the old man in the scene, you get the distinct impression that he’s going to have problems if he doesn’t toe the line. No diversity permitted, let alone celebrated. It is a powerful scene – the state involved in the culture so much that even a song sung at a local gathering re-inforces state loyalty (i.e. loyalty to the Nazi party) and defines the state as the ultimate expression of personhood. What’s interesting is how ‘progressive’ this ideology was — i.e. forward-thinking. German fascism’s idealized mythology of their cultural past is well known, but less well known is how much of the fascist ideology was couched in terms of looking to the future. The “Tomorrow belongs to Me” song (the Nazi Anthem) illustrates this fact nicely.

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E.T. 2 – The ExTinction

Wednesday, 23. February 2011 22:45

LOL. Not really…but pretty slick:

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Wither Egypt? Wither the Middle East?

Friday, 18. February 2011 10:57

As you should already know, Hasni Mubarack, the dictator of Egypt for the last 35 years, has stepped down amid the mass democratic demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere.

Wither Egypt? The concern from the U.S. perspective, beyond the general stability of the Middle East, is what kind of regime will take the place of Mubarack’s. Particularly, what role will the Muslim Brotherhood have in the new government? Some counsel engagement with the Brotherhood as a ‘moderate Islamist’ element when compared to the Wahhabists who have lead extremist movements in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. Others point to Brotherhood leaders like Youssef al-Qaradawi, who have employed eliminationist rhetoric towards Israel and have advocated for a multi-state Muslim alliance to check the power of the West and argue the Brotherhood must be marginalized in any new Egyptian regime.

Beyond the specific question of Egypt, the unrest in Tunisia and Bahrain are an indicator that other autocratic Middle Eastern regimes, like Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, have alot to worry about. Will Egypt prove to be the first domino to fall in a democratic revolution that sweeps across the Middle East? Fareed Zakaria offers a cautionary comparison to the historical revolutions in Sicily and France.

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SNOWPOCOLYPSE!!!!

Wednesday, 9. February 2011 13:29

SNOWMAGEDDON

SNOWVALANCHE

Me & Bob the Snowman

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The Hidden McBain Movie

Tuesday, 8. February 2011 13:51

An easter egg from the Simpsons folks? Cool.

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

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Best Super Bowl Ad

Monday, 7. February 2011 16:21

Since I see no need to talk about the game, here’s what I thought was the best Super Bowl ad last night. Quite funny and cute:

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Ronald Wilson Reagan

Monday, 7. February 2011 0:53

As we celebrate President Reagan’s centennial, a reminder of some of his greatest speeches and moments on video as president and before:

His “Time for Choosing” address for the Goldwater campaign embarked Reagan on a career path that would see him not only as Goldwater’s successor as the conservative Republican standard bearer, but in fact would see him realize the vision Goldwater was denied in defeat to Johnson.

Before that, he would endure a bitter defeat on the convention floor for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. However, his rousing impromtu speech lead many delegates to regret their decision to go with Ford in 1976.

Undeterred, Reagan ran again in 1980. The Republican party would correct their earlier mistake from four years earlier and nominate him over the establishment figure, George HW Bush. Reagan won not only the Republican nomination, but the presidency itself. He would win in 1980 over Jimmy Carter.

Reagan’s politics always had an optimistic and up-beat tone. He was wont to describe America as a shining example to the world, a City on a Hill (echoing Winthrop’s 1630 sermon, which was itself an invocation of the Gospel from Matthew – “”You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden”). With the nation well into an economic recovery, Reagan ran on his record of accomplishment and a new “dawn” of American exceptionalism. This is well-illustrated in his “Morning in America” ad campaign for the 1984 presidential race. He would win again, in a landslide, over Walter Mondale.

Here is his inaugural address in 1981. And then his second inaugural address in 1985.

For a glimpse of his political skill and deft wit, we need go no further than his “there you go again” quip at the debate with Mondale in 84. But a nice story on Reagan’s wit can be found here.

As for his landmark speeches and remarks, there is the most famous – the “Tear Down This Wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin which was a spur and a harbinger of the collapse of the Iron Curtain and presaged the end of the Soviet Union:

But even early in his presidency, Reagan was an implacable rhetorical and practical foe of the USSR. He rejected the predominant state deparment-oriented theory of Détente in relations with the USSR for a more vigorous and ideologically tough stance towards the USSR. This is evident in the “Evil Empire” speech where he takes aim directly at the Soviet Union. Many thought his posture was irresponsible…perhaps even dangerous. Others saw it as visionary. Reagan backed up his rhetoric by calling for and pushing for the Strategic Defense Initiative (derisively referred to as “Star Wars”…an attempt at scorn that failed when Reagan embraced the term):

Reagan’s political accumen, which earned him the title of “Great Communicator,” wasn’t merely on display in marshall speeches or political debates. Reagan and Clinton both had a capacity to capture a moment of American tragedy and connect with the American people beyond the mere perfunctory expressions of sorrow and sympathy. Best exemplifying this is the Challenger speech and the so-poignant quote from the poem “High Flight” that consoled us with the image of the lost astronauts slipping “the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” I remember watching it in school. Such a short but memorable eulogy.

Of course, the closing of the Reagan decade–or at least his own presidency (many see GHW Bush’s victory in 88 as Reagan’s vicarious third term)–was capped with the farewell address in 1988.

And, finally, here’s a nice tribute made shortly after his death:

Ronald Wilson Reagan, president and American Colossus. Happy 100th birthday, Mr. President.

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Four Loco + FDA = Ethanol

Thursday, 3. February 2011 17:11

Interesting take from Mary Catherine Hamm:

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Anthology of Interest 2011, Part II

Wednesday, 2. February 2011 15:57

National Geographic: The Infinite Regress Photo.

Health Care is going no where, as far as current politics is concerned. The Wall Street Journal thinks Progressives should worry about the Obamacare legal trouble. Keith Hennessey strategizes on how to repeal Obamacare. The NY Post’s Michael Walsh describes it as a house of cards. Ezra Klein says now wait a minute.

5 complaints about modern life that are statistically B.S.

Was the lack of severability for the mandate and the rest of Obamacare a colossal mistake?

The protests in Egypt take a turn for the worse.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper took a few haymakers as protesters attacked journalists in Cairo.

Third Rock from the Sun and Inception star Joseph Gordon-Levitt will have a part in The Dark Knight Rising, the third (and final?) installment of the Nolan Batman franchise.

A classic rewind: George Carlin on politicians and why he doesn’t vote. For those of you who’ve never heard of Carlin, he’s kinda famous for his racy language, so be forewarned!

Hmmm. Is Egypt the Pro Bowl of revolutions?

Is the Senate going to flip to the Republicans in 2012?

Speaking of Republicans, it’s Ronald Reagan’s Centential! Ed Feulner at RCP discusses Reagan’s true legacy.

And for a palate cleanser: It’s Too Late to Apologize – A Declaration

These questions and more next time on Anthology [echo]…[echo] of Interest [echo]…[echo]!!!

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Obamacare Ruled Unconstituional

Tuesday, 1. February 2011 16:13

A federal court in Florida has ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), popularly known as “Obamacare,” unconstitutional in a recent ruling. You can read the full 78 page rulling here or here. The ruliing hinges on the judge having found the ‘mandate’ in the PPACA for citizens to purchase insurance (failure to do so would result in fines/penalties) to exceed the authority Congress has under the Commerce Clause to enact national legislation. Unlike a previous rulling Obamacare is unconstituional issued by a Virginia federal court, Vinson ruled that the mandate’s unconstitutionality invalidates the entire PPACA.

Avik Roy, of National Review, sees the ruling as a landmark for liberty and bodes ill for the legislation in future court proceedings. Jeff Cohn, of the New Republic, asserts the decision is inherently political in nature. The White House has labeled the decision judicial activism. Allahpundit doesn’t think it matters much.

The essential argument in Vinson’s opinion is that, while the federal courts have found that the Commerce Clause permits wide latitude to Congress to enact legislation on the basis of broadly-defined interstate commerece and even where the activity is only of tangential impact on commerce as a whole (see, for example, the decision in Wickard v. Fliburn, where the USSC found that growing wheat on your land to feed your own chickens was a part of interstate commerce, since that wheat could have been purchases across state lines), Obamacare penalizes citizens for failing to act – i.e. purchase health insurance. Describing it as a “radical departure” from current case law, Vinson argues that if inactivity falls within the bounds of the Commerce Clause, then it would mean that Congress’s power to enact national legislation is unlimited.

Defenders of the legislation argued that health care is unique, that it entails a market where no one can opt out (everyone will have to use health care services at some point) and that the failure to purchase insurance transfers the cost of their health care to other citizens (hospitals cannot refuse emergency health services to anyone). Vinson, however, points out that there are alot of goods and services that everyone must purchase at some point (homes, food, water, etc.) and that the mandate falls on all citizens (whereas not all citizens will impose the kind of health care costs envisioned by the law’s proponents even if they lack health insurance).

While this ruling is just one of several first steps in testing Obamacare’s constitutionality in court, it is yet one more blow to a Obama’s landmark first-term legislation that, along with bad poll numbers and fierce partisan opposition, will keep this issue at the forefront of our national policy debate and there is no question that its ultimate fate remains uncertain.

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Institutional Memory

Tuesday, 1. February 2011 13:55

It’s a good thing:


Congress Forgets How To Pass A Law

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