State of the Union

Weakly, Standard . . .

The Jay Cost post from The Weekly Standard that Rod links to argues, as the title indicates, that “liberals” were “surprised by the Supreme Court,” and many perhaps were. In the body of the post, he noted Bob Shrum’s delusions about John Kerry’s prospects in 2004 and says, “I imagine a lot of liberals felt a similar letdown reading the transcript of Tuesday’s arguments on Obamacare.” He later states, that “the Court might very well uphold the law, but it will not nearly be the slamdunk that almost all liberals thought it would be.”

I am confused as to why Cost is only imagining the letdown that liberals felt instead of, you know, checking with some actual liberal commentators and blogs. They aren’t that hard to find. And I would like to see a source for the claim that “almost all liberals” thought that a win in the Supreme Court would be a “slam dunk”

With a minimal effort I found a post from John Cole stating “I’m really completely uninterested in the actual arguments being made in the ACA case before SCOTUS. It just doesn’t matter what the law is, as these guys have proven time and again that they’ll do whatever they want.” Here’s Paul Krugman stating that, “while most legal experts seem to think that the case for striking the law down is very weak, these days everything is political.” Another liberal blogger I found wrote that “only one thing is relevant to this case for the Court’s Wingnut Four: the needs of movement conservatism.”

It doesn’t sound like these guys thought that Obamacare would be a “slam dunk” in the Supreme Court, but it is possible the three that I quote are unrepresentative of liberal opinion. However, it takes only a minimal effort to find weak spots in Cost’s argument.

Cost also makes the following observation:

The problem for the left is that they do not have a lot of interaction with conservatives, whose intellects are often disparaged, ideas are openly mocked, and intentions regularly questioned. Conservative ideas rarely make it onto the pages of most middle- and high-brow publications of news and opinion the left frequents. So, liberals regularly find themselves surprised when their ideas face pushback.

It would seem that Cost is the one enclosed in a bubble.

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It’s All About Race Now

If it had been a white teenager who was shot, and a 28-year-old black guy who shot him, the black guy would have been arrested.

So assert those demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

And they may be right.

Yet if Trayvon had been shot dead by a black neighborhood watch volunteer, Jesse Jackson would not have been in a pulpit in Sanford, Fla., howling that he had been “murdered and martyred.”

Maxine Waters would not be screaming “hate crime.”

Rep. Hank Johnson would not be raging that Trayvon had been “executed.” And ex-Black Panther Bobby Rush would not have been wearing a hoodie in the well of the House.

Which tells you what this whipped-up hysteria is all about.

It is not about finding the truth about what happened that night in Sanford when Zimmerman followed Trayvon in his SUV, and the two wound up in a fight, with Trayvon dead.

It is about the exacerbation of and the exploitation of racial conflict. Read More…

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Rand Paul vs. the Export-Import Bank

The senator from Kentucky channels Tim Carney:

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The Onion Gets 4th Generation War

In matters strategic, as in so much else, the satirical newspaper is far ahead of our neoconservative and neo-liberal policy establishment. Consider “U.S. Military Desperate to Be Handed One Solid War It Can Knock Out of the Park“:

“Given all these messy, ambiguous conflicts we’ve been fighting against enemies you can’t even put your finger on, what we could really use right now is a plain old war against a clear-cut bad guy employing conventional tactics and weaponry,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “No roadside bombs or plainclothes militants hiding out among innocent civilians—just a fair fight where two sides shoot at each other and someone wins. That’s it.”

“If Congress or our commander in chief could pull a few strings to make that happen, I swear we could totally nail a war like that, no question,” Dempsey added. “The sort of thing where you go in, blow up a number of actual tanks and jets, declare victory, plant a flag, and then exit—that’s all we’re asking for.”

Citing the country’s long history of winning wars against sovereign nations with actual standing armies, the Pentagon’s top brass repeatedly assured reporters they would “completely wipe the floor” with such an opponent if given the chance, and promised they would make America “very, very proud.”

The world won’t give us the wars we want but, so the likes of Mitt Romney assure us, we can’t possibly reduce the defense budget. If we don’t build more aircraft carriers and joint-strike fighters, how can the U.S. ever win the next re-enactment of World War II? And wouldn’t a half-dozen more aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines have stopped 9/11?

On a related note see William Lind’s column in the current TAC for a demolition of the Pentagon’s anti-China hype. If the U.S. ever did fight another “third generation” war with a major state, even victory would mean strategic defeat, opening vast new territory for non-state actors of all kinds. (You can read Lind every month by subscribing to The American Conservative here, or try our Kindle edition.)

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If The Mandate Falls The Terrorists Win

TAC readers probably could have seen this one coming.

Lawfare has a mock amicus brief written by Philip Bobbitt, Columbia legal scholar and member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Law, defending the individual mandate on national security grounds. He contends our responsibility for mutual “protection” justifies the law, and that its data-gathering aspects are an essential epidemiological response to the threat of bioterrorism:

… the steady advance of biotechnology that makes biotoxins and viruses cheaper to create and easier to weaponize, and brings their deployment within the technical capabilities of many thousands of persons.  Various technical complexities, however, mean that we have, for a while, a period in which it is unlikely that mass casualties will result from a biological attack.

This period of respite will shift as the techniques of microbiological recombination become more widespread.  It will be possible for well informed persons to alter the molecular structure of viruses in nature, producing a lethal infectious disease that, once exposed to human beings, can spread by contagion.

. . .

The consequence of these developments is that the healthcare of all persons living in America is bound together: the protection of every American is no stronger than the weakest protection of any American.  Yet the most frequent reason cited by persons who do not present themselves to hospitals for treatment is a lack of medical insurance.  Without such presentment, medical authorities are unable to accumulate the data necessary to warn of a biological attack in the timeliest way.  In the case of the anthrax attacks of 2001, the determining factor whether the victims lived or died was whether the treating physicians recognized the cause of infection.  Unalerted, many did not; their patients died.

. . .

Congress has determined that it is necessary to create a national network of disease reporting, an intangible successor to the national Highway network. To deny Congress the power to implement an essential part of this strategy–a strategy to preclude the consequences of  biological attacks through reporting of presentments–would jeopardize such a monitoring and reporting system. (link)

Much of the debate over Obamacare has concerned whether the law is a mandate or a tax, and there’s some truth to both sides. But Bobbitt’s brief shows the healthcare package in a different light; Obamacare-as-surveillance.

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Justice Kennedy: Obamacare without Mandate an “Extreme Proposition”

According to the LA Times’ SCOTUS correspondent, the justices are “poised to strike down” the health care law entirely. There’s quite a photo along with the piece of some of the demonstrators outside the court.

“One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.

Agreeing, Justice Anthony Kennedy said it would be an “extreme proposition” to allow the various insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down.

Meanwhile, the court’s liberal justices argued for restraint. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court should do a “salvage job,” not undertake a “wrecking operation.” But she looked to be out-voted.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or fall in total. Along with Justice Clarence Thomas, they would have a majority to strike down the entire statute as unconstitutional. (link)

The headline’s a bit of a reach but those two words from Justice Kennedy, the main swing vote on the court, justify it. Yet it wasn’t just the liberal justices that expressed concerns about addressing the law’s other provisions separately:

The dilemma could be captured perfectly in two separate comments by Justice Antonin Scalia — first, that it “just couldn’t be right” that all of the myriad provisions of the law unrelated to the mandate had to fall with it, but, later, that if the Court were to strike out the mandate, “then the statute’s gone.”  Much of the lively argument focused on just what role the Court would more properly perform in trying to sort out the consequences of nullifying the requirement that virtually every American have health insurance by the year 2014. (SCOTUS Blog)

Ross Douthat bets on Kennedy going the other way (his post went up before today’s hearings though) in his post about the political ramifications of Obamacare-sans-mandate:

Obviously, eliminating the insurance mandate would create various policy headaches, because the legislation isn’t designed to work without one. (This is presumably why the Obama White House has taken the risky course of arguing that the mandate isn’t severable from the rest of the law.)

But there are a number of potential workarounds available, many of which wouldn’t be seen as such an aggressive imposition on private liberty. My colleague Reed Abelson ran through some of these alternatives  on Tuesday, noting that even “some of those who favor the mandate say, at least privately, that they do not believe it is quite the linchpin to the law’s success as the heated rhetoric and flurry of legal briefs might suggest.” The policy difficulties, in other words, might be worth the political advantages of no longer having to defend the mandate in the court of public opinion.

Andrew Sullivan says those workarounds “don’t sound that plausible.”

Noah on the mandate vs. tax distinction here.

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Hilton Kramer, RIP

The former New York Times art critic and founder of the New Criterion died yesterday. We’ve posted Jeffrey Hart’s review of Kramer’s The Triumph of Modernism: The Art World, 1985-2005 in memory of this “luminously intelligent” cultural thinker.

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Idiot Wind, Blowing Every Time You Move Your Mouth . . .

Geraldo Rivera reached a new low when he blamed the hoodie for the killing of Trayvon Martin, and he has now apologized for saying so. But the race to the bottom is never ending and to prove it today Rush Limbaugh and Dan Riehl and a blog called “Jammie Wearing Fools” plunged even lower by noting that the Obama campaign is cashing in on Martin’s death by selling (or “pimping” as JWF put it) hoodies. JWF has a garbled link (ungarbled here) to the Obama 2012 twitter page noting the hoodie. But the page also has a tweet hawking t-shirts for kids today and I imagine promoting Obama 2012 merchandise is a regular feature.

Limbaugh bloviated:

The Obama reelect campaign — Obama 2012 — is now selling hoodies that say, “Obama 2012” on them.  The Barack Obama reelection effort is exploiting the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, in order (obviously, here) to secure votes (as though he needs them) from African-Americans.  Hoodies, 2012!

I can’t think of a more appropriate response than to say that these people are being  incredibly stupid. The Obama 2012 store sells lots of items. And with a little help from something called a “search engine” I discovered that the Ron Paul store also sells a hoodie. If that isn’t shocking enough, the Romney campaign also has a “Believe in America” hoodie for sale.

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John Carter and the Space Jews (How Not to Resurrect a Sci-Fi Lodestar)

While the rest of America was at The Hunger Games, Disney’s stillborn bid to boost a much older touchstone of popular fiction was all but forgotten. It was recently revealed that the company was taking a $200 million loss on John Carter, an adaptation cobbled from parts of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous early 20th-Century science fiction franchise about a Confederate cavalryman who becomes a Martian warlord. Public indifference aside the movie’s reception has been mixed, with some critics praising the movie’s sense of “wonder” while others belittled its hackneyed, stuffy grandiosity and Gilded Age scientific understanding – among other things, Burroughs popularized the notion that Mars was enlaced in canals.

Whatever Burroughs lacked in literary notoriety or financial security – there’s a reason for his prodigious output from 1911 to the early 1940s – he was a prescient businessman, becoming one of the first writers to incorporate. His aggressive marketing and licensing of the Tarzan phenomenon included several movies, a comic strip, countless retail products and something called the “Tarzan Clans of America.” In many ways, Disney is reading from Burroughs’ playbook as they market to a world of fan groups and lifestyle subcultures with product tie-ins and an abundance of creative marketing tactics. Walt Disney Studios could have used someone as fastidious as Burroughs when their production president, chairman and marketing chief all changed right as the movie was getting off the ground. The corresponding advertising went from some mysterious figures in a Martian landscape shrouded with dust…

Read More…

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Teen People, for Conservatives

Ever wondered what Seventeen would look like if it were written by right-wing flacks?

… No?

Well, there’s a new quarterly slick in town that aims to answer that very question, The Conservative Teen (Tagline: “Fostering Conservative Values: Countering Liberal Bias”).

Even though most of the magazine’s contributors haven’t been members of its target demographic since Alice Cooper charted or Jimmy Carter was president, they shouldn’t have trouble connecting with today’s young people, being credentialed from such sterling bastions of youthful intellectual vivaciousness as The Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, and Media Research Center. Young people like things like “culture” and “media” right?

Publisher William R Smith writes,

“Do you have a teenage child or grandchild? Are you concerned about their future and the kind of America they will inherit? The liberal agenda has long dominated our educational institutions, news media, and entertainment industries and so it’s imperative we counter by teaching our teen children conservative values. For just $19.95, your teen can receive 4 quarterly issues of The Conservative Teen. Written by industry professionals and leading academic experts, this unique publication is full of high-quality content emphasizing the full spectrum of conservative principles.

Our goal at The Conservative Teen is to foster the next generation of conservatives. A subscription to our magazine will ensure your teen builds honorable moral character and an in-depth understanding of all issues from the conservative perspective.”

Woe betide ye, Millenials! Your depravity and moral rootlessness hath offended the Almighty and imperiled the American way of life! Turn away from your blogs and your cable TV! Lay waste to your RSS readers and sow conservative media commentary in its barren furrows! Smite the deceivers! Forget the lamestream news, what you really need is an article about “How to Draw Obama,” and “Ronald Reagan: Our First Black President.”

This is the wrong way to introduce conservatism to young people, and marketing the magazine to parents to purchase for their children to read, as Smith did in the publisher’s letter, is the wrong approach to take in a world where the media business requires ever-greater levels of interaction with your readers. Most of the viewable articles are trash, but the cover story, “Welcome to the Debt-Paying Generation” is worth noting (though you have to subscribe to actually get the story). Veronique de Rugy has written recently about the wealth transfer from young to old via federal entitlements. There is thus a strong emotional appeal to young people based on conservative principles, to which Smith is hip, no doubt. That’s a good thing for conservatism, though the argument must be made carefully and in a way that doesn’t encourage resentment towards the elderly.

Altogether, the magazine suffers from the lack of respect it shows its audience. Smith doesn’t see them seeking out the magazine themselves anyway, so why engage them on their own level, why challenge them, or deal with, say, George W. Bush’s eight years of dragging conservatism through the mud? If Mom’s cutting the checks, who cares if Junior enjoys the magazine? I call this the Highlights model.

A representative quote: “There are a couple of lessons we can glean from J.R.R. Tolkein’s Fellowship who banded together for a quest to save Middle Earth. First, while the fellowship was small, they were not alone. And while you might feel alone sometimes, in a school filled with kids who will mock you for avoiding under-age drinking and premarital sex and an ‘anything goes’ lifestyle, you’re not. The conservative movement is much bigger than polling shows, as the rise of the Tea Party clearly illustrates.”

Also, I’m hesitant to include this, but who is William R. Smith? Is he the same William R. Smith as this mystery truck driver-turned-Democratic congressional candidate?

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