Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Captioning: Shiver Me Bankers!

Tired of being rightly accused of supporting large, connected banks, Pelosi unveils her version of the "claw back" provision she wants included in next year's Democrat-sponsored government handouts to rich bankers. . . either that or she's announcing that she's become possessed?

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The Most Interesting Man In The Administration

People want him hung for his every word, even the prepositions.
He can speak idiot, in gibberish.
His incompetence is expanding faster than the universe.
He lives vicariously through Neil Kinnock.
He once had a non-awkward moment, just to see how it feels.
He could dismember you with his motorcade or his policies.
He is a big f*cking deal.
He is the most interesting man in the administration.

“I don’t always get to drink at beer summits, but when I do, I prefer Kool-Aid.
Stay Thirsty my friends.” [+]

ObamaCare and the Courts

By now you’ve heard a parade of diverse (read: all far left) law school professors tell you that the lawsuits filed by the state attorneys general are “frivolous.” I guess it doesn’t take much to be a law professor these days. “Frivolous” is a legal term which basically means so obviously wrong that you’re wasting the court’s time. For a lawyer to call these suits “frivolous” is pure propaganda, and tells you more about the lawyer than the law. Let’s talk about the two major claims and what their chances of success might be.
Issue One: Individual Mandates.
The first major challenge involves the requirement that individuals obtain insurance under threat of being fined. This is, in fact, the key to making ObamaCare work (to the extent that it does). This is what allows the Democrats to claim this bill provides “universal coverage,” even though it actually “provides” no coverage, and they are relying on the fines expected to be paid by 24 million Americans to finance the bill.

ObamaCare defenders argue that this is just like requiring drivers to get car insurance. But that argument is laughable. First, the analogy is flawed, as you only need to get insurance if you intend to drive. ObamaCare, on the other hand, requires you to buy insurance no matter what. More importantly, the ObamaCare defenders are comparing apples to oranges. It is the states, not Congress, that impose the car insurance requirements. States, unlike Congress, have the power to do that because they have the power to regulate intrastate activities. Congress has no such power; it may only regulate interstate activities. The fact that states can do something that is clearly within their power cannot be used to show that Congress has that same power.

Congress’ power to regulate comes from its power to regulate interstate commerce. Congress has the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper” to regulate interstate commerce.

Using this, ObamaCare supporters point to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, Gonzales v. Raich, in which the court held 6-3, that the federal government could make it a federal crime for Californians to grow marijuana at home for their own personal, medical use. According to the court, regulating local behavior is necessary and proper when doing so is an “essential part of a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated.”

But there are two problems with applying this to ObamaCare. First, while the drug trade clearly involves interstate commerce, and thus is subject to federal law, it is not at all clear that the same is true of "health care." Indeed, while parts of the health care industry are clearly engaged in interstate commerce, at its core, health care remains about patients and doctors, and that relationship does not touch upon interstate commerce. Thus, it's not clear that Raich can apply.

Secondly, even if the court finds such a connection, the situation in Raich still isn't comparable to ObamaCare. Indeed, in Raich it was obvious that allowing drug growers a safe harbor by claiming that they only sell locally, would all but wipe out Congressional efforts to stop the drug trade. But the same is not true with ObamaCare, where it’s not at all clear how one person not having insurance could in any way hurt other efforts to regulate health care?

So what the ObamaCare supporters argue is that the cumulative effects of the uninsured using emergency room facilities affect interstate commerce. But the Supreme Court rejected this very argument in U.S. v. Morrison, in 2000, where the court struck down part of the Violence Against Women Act. In U.S. v. Lopez, in 1995, the Supreme Court held that Congress could not make it a federal crime to possess a gun near a school zone, because possession of a gun near a school had nothing to do with interstate commerce. So when the Congress passed the VAWA, they specifically included findings that the cumulative effects of domestic violence are a burden on the economy and, thus, affect interstate commerce -- the same argument being advanced now. The Supreme Court rejected that argument in Morrison. There is no reason to believe the court will change its mind for ObamaCare.

Moreover, even if the court accepted this argument, ObamaCare still runs afoul of another issue that arises in constitutional law. The Supreme Court generally requires that laws be narrowly tailored to fit the harm they tend to address. In other words, if the use of the emergency room by the uninsured was the harm to be addressed, then the Supreme Court is unlikely to allow a solution that imposes broad-based requirements on all Americans, when the Congress could instead have found less invasive solutions.

Additionally, in each of the above cases, the court had serious heartburn about letting Congress regulate these activities. But ObamaCare goes even further than this: it regulates “inactivity.” I am not aware of any instance in which the court has ever allowed Congress to impose a penalty for failing to engage in interstate commerce.

So what does this mean? It’s hard to tell. Predicting how courts will decide issues, especially close issues like this one, is extremely difficult. There are dozens of side issues that could affect the outcome, and there are political considerations as well as legal considerations. Would the Supreme Court launch itself into something as far-reaching and contentious as this issue? Absolutely. Would it defer to Congress? That seems to be the default setting of the court these days, but not always.

Overall, I would say, the odds are even that this part will be overturned.
Issue Two: State Mandates.
The second major issue is the requirement that state governments expand Medicaid (the only actual extension of coverage in the bill). Most people assume Medicaid is a federal program, but that’s not entirely accurate. Medicaid is really a block grant, where the federal government gives money to the states provided that the states pass certain state laws. This is exactly like the highway bills you’ve probably heard about, where the feds agree to pay for the construction of new highways, if the state imposes a seat belt law. So in reality, the feds aren't imposing anything on the states, they are simply offering a bribe. But there is a catch.

In 1992, the Supreme Court held in New York v. United States, that the federal government can’t conscript states to act as its agents and it cannot “simply commandeer the State’s legislative processes.” What this came down to was that Congress could not cross the line from “encouragement to coercion.”

Thus, the anti-ObamaCare argument will be that Congress crossed that line from encouragement to coercion when it imposed these very high requirements (requiring states to spending billions of state tax dollars on expanding Medicaid eligibility and establishing these insurance exchanges) under threat of forcing the states to drop out of Medicaid if they refused.

I understand this argument, but I doubt the court will buy it. Unless the states can come up with evidence that they really could not drop Medicaid, i.e. that they truly had no choice, then it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will see ObamaCare as coercive.

Overall, I would say, the odds are about 10% that this part will be overturned.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are Those Enlistment Papers You're Holding?

The debate is on regarding gays in the military. As Congress enters the fray, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already softened "don't ask, don't tell" to "don't ask, don't tell--too loudly." But there is another aspect to the debate which must be considered. If openly gay persons are allowed to enter the military, what about benefits for their "partners?"

This is not only a valid question to be asking, but it's a complicated question as well. Heterosexual partners are either married or not. Those who are married are entitled to marital partner benefits. Co-habiting unmarried heterosexuals are not. How about those gay "partnerships?" This is vastly more complicated. Now we must be concerned with military law, state law, federal law, natural law, and the law of unintended consequences.

There's no question that the debate over gays in the military has generated considerable heat. The benefits issue could produce even more. And it won't be just the political and moral heat already in play. There are serious legal and constitutional issues to be addressed, along with the immense costs. To start with, if heterosexual married partners are granted benefits, how could those same benefits be denied to married gay military personnel? One word complicates that issue by quantum numbers--"married." Federal law prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. But that federal statute was designed largely to avoid forced recognition of gay marriage in states which do not allow it. Furthermore, the statute has yet to be fully tested for constitutionality as to "full faith and credit" provisions and the "equal protection of the laws" language in the US Constitution.

Assuming for the sake of argument that DOMA is the law of the land, it would seem to eliminate partner benefits for all gay military personnel since the military is a federal institution (let's not even get into the issue of state national guards which have been called up for national defense). This turns the original DOMA argument regarding interstate recognition of gay marriage on its head. DOMA is about federal law preventing states from being required to recognize the gay marriages of other states. Here, DOMA would be about the federal government recognizing multiple and highly-divergent state laws regarding marriage.

But federal law, unlike the Constitution, is only as permanent as the Congress making it. If the progressives and Democrats decide that gays in the military is a fine idea, then Congress could also amend federal law to exempt the military from DOMA. Still, that only eliminates part of the problem. If the military is exempted from DOMA, Congress would have to go one step farther and recognize gay marriage itself as a limited federal institution. Even in today's rush to federal gender confusion, it's unlikely that Congress would go that far. So that leaves the issue of the military having to provide marital benefits to personnel who were "married" in gay marriage states (so far, five states plus Washington DC).

More logically than in the case of states recognizing each others' gay marriage laws, the word "marriage" for the military could be interpreted differently by Congressional statue alone. For the military, Congress could grant benefits more broadly for those married in states where the word "marriage" is used, and the same benefits for those who were joined in domestic bliss under state statutes in which domestic partnerships and marriage are identical except for the single word "marriage."

That still leaves those military personnel who are from neither type of state, but were perhaps married by some liberal cleric who has declared valid the marriage that is neither a legally-recognized marriage nor a domestic partnership. How would Congress define that relationship if it wants to grant those personnel marital benefits? Either it would have to allow military personnel free reign to decide individually whether their co-habitants should or should not be treated as dependent cohabitors, or Congress could define it with some very lengthy and torturous language of its own.

If Congress stopped anywhere short of granting "marital" dependent status to all cohabitors who choose to consider themselves "married" for benefit purposes, the issue of equal protection of the laws would be raised (as in the non-military issues being litigated in the California Prop 8 case). The question would immediately be raised as to why a "married" couple from Vermont or Massachusetts should be granted benefits, when a domestic partnership couple from New York or California or a happy gay couple from Louisiana should not.

In the non-military government world, the progressives, led by Messiah Obama, have already blurred distinctions between married heterosexuals and cohabiting homosexuals. He has extended visitation and dependent-care benefits to same-sex couples. The State Department has granted full marital benefits to gay diplomats, including the right of their partners to hold diplomatic passports and for paid travel to and from foreign postings. The traditional marital benefits which are slowly being eroded and abandoned in the civilian forum would likely occur in small doses in the military once openly-gay personnel are accepted (assuming that Congress actually does so).

Another area that would be a genuine and serious arena of discord is the logical recruiting tactic of offering benefits to the legal dependents of heterosexual marriages. Many young men and women who had not seriously considered military service have been recruited by gaining that benefit, particularly in the currently poor civilian job market. Sauce for the goose and the gander is logically sauce for the goose and the goose, and the gander and the gander. Benefits for dependents would be as strong a magnet for gays as it is for straights.

Naturally, the progressives argue that this is a red herring issue. The only issue is "fairness and equality" in the noble service of the country. They claim that this issue is only about "don't ask, don't tell," and that opponents are merely raising the issue of benefits to distract attention from the underlying "homophobia" of "ignorant bigots." Well, of course they would say that. These are the same people who tell us that Obamacare is simply about "equal medical treatment for everyone," and don't worry about the enormous costs and economic collapse it is likely to produce, let alone the unprecedented expansion of government. Concentrate solely on the salvation of all those uninsured innocents, and think happy thoughts.

And then there's the issue of the dependent children of gay cohabitations. Whoa--I'm not getting into that. This mess is complicated enough, and the issue of children (and divorces) of gay relationships, "marriages," and domestic partnerships have already tied up enough courts without tying up this site as well.
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Question: To Boldly Go. . .

It's time to get your nerd on! Slap on that pocket protector and the uniform your mom made for you, and riddle me this Herbert, what was your favorite Star Trek episode. Bonus points if you can also name your favorite TNG episode. Oh, and don't forget the why. . . never forget the why. Live long and prosper my friends! [+] Read More...

Health Care PR Failing Already

As the Democrats continue their desperate attempts to convince themselves that they haven’t ended their careers by voting for ObamaCare, the evidence is becoming more pronounced that they are in serious trouble. Indeed, after a week of euphoria in the mainstream media, reality is starting to set in.
Gallup Poll Updated -- Bounce Denied
As you probably heard ad nauseam, Gallup had an overnight poll that showed the support for ObamaCare rising to 49% versus opposition of 40%. Article after article heralded this as the coming of a new age of support for ObamaCare and the salvation of the Democrats. But as I pointed out on Sunday, there were many reasons to doubt that result. Now we have even more direct proof. Buzzed by their success in proving that the public had come around, Gallup set out to cement its finding and usher in the Age of the Donkey. But guess what? Here’s what they found: 50% opposed, 47% in favor. That’s a little higher opposition than Gallup had been showing before the bounce. Thus, a week after passage, ObamaCare actually suffered a loss of support according to Gallup of around 4%.
Obama Don’t Bounce
Interestingly, yesterday, many of the cheerleaders in the punditocracy started coming around to the Commentarama view that maybe Obama didn’t get a bounce after all. The Politico did an interesting article on this where they talked to various pollsters who had predicted anywhere from a 5% to a 10% bounce for Obama in the polls, which they predicted would be just the momentum he needed to get the rest of his agenda through the demoralized Republicans in Congress.

Yet, with the exception of Obama’s own pollster, who wouldn’t provide numbers, everyone they surveyed was surprised to find the “bounce” to be between 2% to 3%, AND they were even more surprised to see that it already faded. Of course, if they’d read Commentarama, they would have known this already.

What makes this whole bounce issue even more interesting is that it outlines the real problem for Obama (and the Democrats). His 3% bounces represent increases in Democratic support from 85% to 90-92%, which then fade a couple days later. He is getting nothing out of Republicans or independents. Basically, they have stopped listening to him. That’s electoral doom. That’s also why his popularity rating has not only continued to fall, but he hasn’t even had the periodic upsurges that all other Presidents have enjoyed -- basically, the non-Democratic public has simply tuned him out.

Thus, any attempt to claim momentum out of this is little more than folly. Which makes statements by people like Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institute so laughable. He admits that he expected a bigger bounce, but he still claims this was “a unique victory” for Obama and that “now [people] are taking him very seriously.” Yeah, except that politics is about momentum, and momentum comes from public support, and the public hasn’t changed their minds. Sorry Stephen, wishing something to be true doesn’t make it so.
The False Social Security/Medicare Analogy
Finally, let’s address this “Social Security/Medicare became popular” argument the Democrats are pushing. They argue that both Social Security and Medicare were “controversial” when they were passed, but they became popular. Thus, ObamaCare will become popular as well. But this is simply a bad analogy:

First, while Social Security and Medicare were “controversial,” they also had wide bi-partisan support, both in Congress and among the public. That’s not true with ObamaCare.

Secondly, Social Security and Medicare did not discriminate, everyone in the country would be eligible. ObamaCare will only benefit a handful of poor people and some ultra-rich multinational companies. Everyone else now works for them. ObamaCare simply has no broad-based benefit that will accrue to the public.

Third, when Social Security and Medicare went into effect, it was obvious how they would benefit people, and they understood that the benefits to them would exceed the costs. ObamaCare’s benefits are hidden and won’t kick in for a very long time, while the punishments kick in now. Add in the over promises that won’t be delivered upon and you have a recipe for an angry public.

Fourth, Social Security and Medicare were essentially just tax increases which were used to make entitlement payments. They were not disruptive to society. ObamaCare will send shockwaves through 16% of our economy and will disrupt the relationship people have with their doctors and with their employers. It would have been smarter to just tax people and hand out private insurance to poor people.

Finally, the relationship between the Democratic Party and the public has changed since Social Security and Medicare passed. At that time, the Democratic Party was a national party with broad based support. Today, it’s a minority party cobbled together by small interest groups, who rely on low public turn out to stay in power. Thus, there is no broad based core of public support to sway the rest of us.

So don't buy into this argument.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why The Sociologists Have It All Wrong

Sunday seemed like a good day to talk about the role of religion in America as it has impacted our economic success. The Democrats and the sociologists want to remove religion from our lives and denigrate our uniquely American blend of religion and the work-ethic.

John Lamont at First Things refers to the large role that religion plays in the American psyche as "the Prophet motive." I like that. It elicits the true feeling that being rich is not evil, and being poor is not a virtue. The issue is, "how did you get there and what are you doing about it?" It also explains why the left is so determined to paint religious people as ignorant savages for misunderstanding the march of history. Society, they say, is the history of untutored farmers with their primitive beliefs advancing to the industrial and technical forms which require great intellect and don't need religion.

I've written in the past about American exceptionalism, and this is one facet of that exceptionalism which disproves the points of the elitists and sociologists. What they have said about the advance from the agrarian society to the industrial and technical society is largely true of Europe. But their analysis completely fails to address the very different state of religion in America and religion in Europe, then and now. The "secularization thesis" was originally formed by Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Bryan Wilson. They stated that as nations modernized and gained scientific knowledge, they slowly rejected religion. The ancient farmer prayed to God for rain and healthy crops, the scientific farmer used irrigation and fertilizers. When less advanced society members got an infection, they prayed for healing. The modern human takes antibiotics.

So how come American religion has grown as it reached ever higher levels of education, industrialization and technology, eventually dwarfing the rest of the world? Like the fake evidence produced a few years back to prove that there were far fewer guns per capita in 1776 than in 1996, the secularizers have claimed that America was institutionally religious from its beginnings, and that religion has been in decline in America ever since. Sorry--bad statistics. On the day the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence, less than one-fifth of Americans were members of a church. By the mid-nineteenth century (the industrial revolution), the number had risen to more than a third. Today, church membership encompasses more than half of Americans, and those who say they are "religious" approaches 90 percent.

Since America obviously doesn't fit the theories of the secularists and sociologists, there must be a rational explanation that could account for the gross difference between Europe and America. I'll get to their analysis in a minute. Right now, I'll analyze what I consider to be the real explanation of the difference.

As Europe evolved, it did not become religious. It was already religious. Unlike America, an established religion was there before post-Middle Ages Europe became an entity resembling the current collection of modern states. The one unifying force that held the primitive feudal societies together was the Christian Church (and more specifically, the Catholic Church). Almost alone, monks and scribes recorded history and preserved the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans as Europe descended into chaos. It was almost inevitable that the Church would be a great power as civilization came back to life, and that government would be closely intertwined with religion.

Local kings came and went, primitive kingdoms rose and fell, but there was always the Church and until the time of Luther, the Pope. The Holy Roman Empire (successor to the barbarian empires) derived its authority from Rome. Emperors were brought to their knees if they defied Papal authority. As more than one wag has pointed out, the Holy Roman Empire wasn't holy, Roman, or much of an empire. But it was most definitely Catholic.

Religion wasn't merely an aspect of European life by the time of Charlemagne. It was life, and it applied from the lowest to the highest members of society. No matter what their personal beliefs, those in power relied on the Church universal to legitimate their high offices. And so, the Church became evermore institutionalized, and the state became evermore involved in promoting religion. Great cathedrals were as important as great palaces. In one way or another, all kings claimed they derived their power from God through the Church.

Luther changed the concept, but he didn't change the underpinnings. Luther merely rejected the church universal and replaced it with the church territorial. But nobody was yet claiming that Christianity was not an inherent part of the legitimate exercise of power. All kings, princes, dukes, emperors and the lesser nobility still claimed their power derived from God, and their state its legitimacy from the same source. Protestants were put to the torch in Catholic lands, and Catholics were tortured or exiled in Protestant lands, but in one form or another, there was always the Church. Each proto-nation chose a faith, and it became the official religion of that nation. Even in states where other religions were allowed, all were required to swear fealty to and support of the national Church.

Henry VIII of England wanted a divorce, and the Pope wouldn't give him one. So did Henry eliminate the Church? You all know that answer. He merely changed the form and became the official head of the Church in England, no longer subservient to the Pope. Henry never abandoned his proud title of "Defender of the Faith," he just claimed that the religion of Rome was no longer the right faith to defend. His daughter, Mary ("Bloody Mary") reestablished the Roman Church and lit up the sky with burning heretics. Upon her death, Elizabeth I de-established the Catholic Church, and took on the title of head of the Church of England, firmly established it, but allowed Catholics to practice privately (after she bumped a few of them off).

As the humanist movement advanced, and industrialization and technology came in, most European states became less and less religious, but the official churches remained (even to today in many European nations). The sociologists got it partly right. But they missed how much imposed religion actually weakens genuine belief. When religion becomes nothing but imposed form and required ritual, faith becomes secondary and eventually nonexistent. As Europe advanced technologically and scientifically, religion became about as important as the Sunday bath. And most of all, the established Church became an impediment to free thought. An established Church brooks no opposition, so those who believed the earth revolved around the sun, or that the earth was round and could be circumnavigated were suppressed. When the dissidents were proven right, the established Church lost its intellectual authority, and ultimately, over a long period of time, its religious power.

Americans figured this out early in their development, and took actions to promote belief by eliminating state-imposed religion. Prior to the Revolution, the colonies nearly all had official established religions. But after the time of the Puritans, few unofficial religions were seriously suppressed. Religion grew, even though the established churches seemed to be losing membership at an alarming rate.

And here's where the uniquely American confluence of religion and economic success comes into play. As the established churches began to disestablish, and the Constitution forbade the imposition of a federal Church, religions had to compete with each other. And compete they did. As Lamont describes the rational-choice school's view: "When a religion enjoys a monopoly in a given market, its leaders, lacking the spur of competition, will not try very hard to make religious practice an attractive option. But when a competitive market in religions replaces a monopoly, not only will the spur of competition be present, there also will be a process of natural selection among religions, with the more attractive religions gaining at the expense of the less attractive ones." Now how many of you ever considered a "market approach" to religion? But it actually worked.

"Heresy" lost its sting. Christianity thrived, in many forms, but until the last few decades, every church still held onto basic concepts, not the least of which was the divinity of Christ. And as the mainstream churches lost sight of that, they bled (and continue to bleed) membership while more traditional churches hold their own, and newer more vibrant forms of Christ-centered religion emerge.

Except for a few very clever religion-debasing pastors who exploited religion as a money-making commodity, the vast majority of church attenders and church founders didn't think in terms of religion being a beneficiary of free market economics, but it was, whether they recognized it or not. And that door swung both ways. The success of the churches that form the very vibrant faith of Americans works very nicely with the economic form of free choice. Choice, freedom, creativity, industriousness and deep faith have formed a nation that is both religious and the economic wonder of the world. The churches can suggest a myriad of economic solutions to economic issues, but no church can impose those solutions. The success of freedom of religion has strongly influenced the success of the free economy that has served us so well until government (the new state religion) began to impose its own secular state religion.

The free market approach can't explain everything about religion's steady hold on Americans, however. Canada eliminated state religion at about the same time as America, yet is is a far more secularist and non-religious nation. And most of Western Europe eliminated state-imposed religion over the past century. For multiple reasons, including the Founders insistence on the right to contract as a basic right, Americans have come to view their religion as a private contract, with a sanctity all its own, between themselves and God, without any need to consider the government, family, or community connections anywhere during the process. It has its odd tergiversations, such as Protestant cults which concentrate on handling poisonous serpents and Catholics who believe in abortion. But overall, the concentration is on a common faith. Religion in Canada and Western Europe, on the other hand, is very weak, and those who are from families of a certain belief rarely change their membership.

America was also a beneficiary of the "Puritan work-ethic." The early settlers in America saw enterprise and religion as hard work. Things don't just come to you, and they can only be beneficial if you are diligent in their pursuit. Laziness and acceptance of "things as they are" were among the great sins that the Puritans left England to escape. By the time the Puritans were long gone, the attitude remained. Neither religion nor wealth were easy things to grasp, and required thought and planning. More importantly, if the old way didn't work, and a new one did, Americans were free to change without anybody's permission.

Americans also enthusiastically embraced the Adam Smith doctrine of the "invisible hand" of the market contained in The Wealth of Nations. Already a religious lot, an "invisible hand" didn't seem all that different from a supernatural and invisible God who influenced human activity without making personal appearances. Try as they might, secularists have found it very hard to shake that belief, and religious people are free to think that the massive mistakes of "intellectually-gifted" big government planners are proof that man proposes, God disposes. They've certainly proven it to me, and I pray daily for the government planners to disappear into oblivion.

Naturally, the free market/free religion analysis is imperfect, but contains more truth than falsity. The sociological approach, on the other hand, is riddled with falsities and inconsistencies. The biggest one is that Americans are religious because of social pressure. Some are, most are not. To start with, it's hard to impose uniform social pressure on any but the smallest and most cohesive of communities. You're much more likely to see a Catholic American turn Protestant or vice versa simply because the social pressure said he couldn't do that. Social pressure has not worked out at all well for the mainstream church leadership. The more they abandon church doctrine, impose abnormal "norms," re-write scripture, and deny the importance of the divinity of Christ, the more they lose membership and cause the rise of Christ-centered movements which will read scripture their own way, thank you very much. The mainstream should be able to exert immense social pressure, but instead the mainstream is becoming the fringe.

It is also important to remember that market-based analyses can't fill all the holes. That which is unknowable is unknowable. But there is much to be said for freedom of religion being a parallel development with freedom of enterprise. It even leaves atheists free to believe religiously in free-market economics, and for liberation theology devotees to support economic determinism and Marxism. The ultimate result for all of them rests with fate, or historical progression, or inexplicable circumstances. I lean toward the invisible hand in the celestial realm, aka God. And I'm bloody well free to do so.
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Why The Democrats Are Doomed

Over the past few days, the media has been struggling to tell you that everyone around you really loves ObamaCare, that it really will make things better if we just click our heels together and wish it so, and that the Democrats really won by passing the bill. But you know better. You know that the Democrats are in serious trouble. Here’s a little proof.
1. For Whom The Poll Tolls.
Immediately after passage, pollster Gallup ran out and conducted an overnight poll which showed slightly more supporters than opponents of ObamaCare. A deluge of articles followed arguing that the public had changed its mind, now that the Democrats had shown that they could actually pass this. But there are three problems with this.

First, overnight polls are unreliable. They catch idiosyncratic segments of the population. Moreover, they overestimate support because people are more likely to be reacting to the overwhelmingly positive portrayal of the plan by the media that day. You may recall the media spewing forth saturation coverage of Pelosi’s “great achievement.”

Secondly, they are comparing Gallup’s overnight poll to other companies’ polls, not Gallup’s prior polls. Gallup showed support and opposition in a statistical dead heat before the magic poll. This was about 9-10% more favorable than other reliable polls, like Rasmussen, found. Thus, comparing Gallup’s magic poll to these other polls produces an apparent 12% surge. Yippee! But that’s not statistically proper, as this is the proverbial comparing of apples to oranges. If you look only at Gallup’s polls, you only get a 3% “surge,” which is equal to all of Obama’s prior bounces. (This represents Democratic support going from 85% to 90%.)

Third, even if you assume Gallup is correct, Gallup still doesn’t show 50% support for ObamaCare. That’s not an endorsement.

Moreover, check out the following chart which shows an amalgamation of polls, with the data points marked. You’ll see that opposition has been growing over time:

This is very bad news for the Democrats because this means that the more people learned, the less they liked. Thus, the chances of improving support by “educating” the public are slim and none.
2. The Death of A Thousand Job and Benefit Cuts.
Making it even hard to “educate” the public, the Democrats worst nightmares are starting already. The Democrats’ biggest fear has been that companies would start dumping employees and killing their benefits plans. Remember, the one thing that kept the public from blowing up the Congress was the promise that you could keep the plan you have and the doctor you like.

So what happened this week? Several companies immediately announced the consequences that their workers would bear as a result of this bill. Apparently, unreported in the media, insurers are already notifying companies that they will be raising rates. In response, AT&T announced that it would be cutting employee benefits plans. Equipment maker Medtronic announced that it would be laying off 1,000 workers because new taxes imposed on its products had cut expected demand. Others have begun making similar announcements.

A series of companies from Caterpillar to John Deere to Valero Energy to 3M to AK Steel, have all announced expenses in the range of $100 million each (this is actually the end of a deduction), which will likely result in them cutting off prescription benefits to their retirees. (AT&T’s charge is one billion dollars.) I note the irony that many of these, Caterpillar in particular, have been heavy supporters of Obama and ObamaCare, and most are unionized.

Young women everywhere (Obama’s biggest supporters outside of blacks) are about to discover the tax on tanning and certain beauty aids. So are vitamin freaks and anyone who wants over the counter medications, like aspirin or allergy medication or even certain baby foods. Some restaurants have announced surcharges to cover their waitstaff’s new benefits. These are real world effects that will be felt by everyone in the country. And since these are repeat purchases, it is unlikely that this affront will be forgotten by November.
3. You Are Wrong Morton Kondracke.
Mort wrote an article trying to explain why the Democrats gained from passing the bill. He claims the Democratic base is now much more excited than it was before. Of course, there is no evidence of this (see 3% bounce above). But what’s more interesting, Mort also dissects the opposition numbers. According to Mort 13% of the opposition comes from people who claim the law isn’t liberal enough. He thus adds those to the support category and concludes that a large majority of the public really likes this bill. Aside from the statistical error of what he’s done, he’s missing the fact that this directly contradicts his assertion about the Democratic base. That 13% are the activists. If they oppose the bill, then there is no way they will suddenly become excited by its passage.
4. Whitey Strikes Back.
What caused the 1994 Republican sweep more than anything, was white males fleeing the Democratic Party. Indeed, their support among white men fell to 38%. The Democrats’ subsequent stupid attacks on white males as “angry white men,” kept the ceiling at 38%. Obama made some headway against this, pulling in the support of 41% of white males. This is likely what pushed him over the top. But white males have left again. Even worse, white male support for Democrats is down to 35%, a number even lower than 1994. White women offer 46% support, which is about 2% less than they gave in 1994. These numbers mean disaster of greater than 1994 proportions for the Democrats.
5. Congressional Disapproval Is Unprecedented.
Finally, there is one more interesting point. The media loves to point out that all Congresses are hated. I generally ignore these polls because they are meaningless. They are too generic and it’s too easy to say you don’t like the institution while continuing to vote for your representative. But here is something interesting.

The following chart shows the public’s support for Congress from 1990-2007. Notice that it only dipped below 20% twice, during both of the two bubble-burst recessions. Other than that, it actually climbed as high as 60% before the Democrats started to return in numbers in 2004.

Now look at the following chart, which shows Congressional approval from 2008 to the present. Notice that the high point was 30% and most of the time was spent below 20%. It currently sits around 15%.

So while the media tries to pass this off as “everyone always hates Congress,” the level of hate is truly unprecedented, as is the duration of this level of disapproval.

And that is why the Democrats are doomed.

**Update: Gallup has reported that Obama's popularity has hit a new low according to their polls -- 46% v. 46%. That's hardly the stuff of a bounce.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Captioning: Trained Seal of Approval

The shocking truth can now be told. The real Nancy Pelosi died tragically as a result of a defective implant on a male stripper. To keep the party faithful from losing faith until they could get ObamaCare passed, the leadership replaced Pelosi with a body-double. . . a similar looking trained seal. Here the Democrats are feeding the Pelosi seal, as an off-camera Harry Reid throws her a couple of fish.

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Go, And Sin No More

A minor kerfuffle is developing over the unpleasant divorce of writer David Frum and the American Enterprise Institute. We've mentioned Frum a few times at this site. He is not everybody's conservative choice for writer of the year, but did he deserve to be kicked out of the AEI. Or for that matter, was he kicked out? Technically, he resigned, but we all know that can mean many things.

Frum is probably best-known for his stint at the Wall Street Journal and his "Diary" which was a regular feature at National Review, and was widely syndicated. Canadian by birth, he was active in American politics for many years prior to becoming a naturalized citizen in 2007. He became a well-published writer and pundit through the 80's and 90's, and in 2001-2002 he was a speech writer for president George Bush on economic policy. He remained a regular writer at National Review until deciding to launch his own political blog,, in November of 2008. It was dedicated to drawing younger voters into the Republican Party. In late 2009, he re-named the blog

His resume is considerably larger than that, but it outlines him fairly well. The current flap is built around his tenure as a paid writer for the American Enterprise Institute, which lasted from 2003 to March 25, 2010. Frum had been a highly vocal critic of Republican strategy during the health care debate, and the final Democratic victory on the issue has caused some extremely contentious arguments among Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans. So in mid-March, AEI informed Frum that he would no longer be a paid contributor to their publications, but could stay on as an unpaid contributor. Frum declined the offer, and thus the argument over whether he was fired or resigned under pressure.

I suppose I could be considered a movement conservative, so I certainly have had my angry disagreements with many of Frum's writings. But I have also made it clear on this blog that I don't much care for lockstep conservatives who impose purity tests and discourage lively debate from within the conservative movement. AEI has long been a purveyor of divergent conservative viewpoints, and often hires academics who have been shunned by their leftist colleagues who require lockstep agreement of a different kind. This was no time to go weak in the knees on healthy differences of opinion, and I think it may very well serve the purposes of the left better than those of the right. Democrats are itching to exploit every seeming breakdown of the conservative movement, and they just got handed a propaganda tool.

The straw that broke the camel's back was Frum's position that Republicans were responsible for the passage of the leviathan health care bill by failing to negotiate with Democrats in good faith. From my viewpoint, that is nonsense on stilts, but is it really a sound reason for banishing a thoughtful conservative from AEI? Some powerful forces at AEI felt that Frum's position was tantamount to rubbing salt into an open wound. It doesn't help that Frum has also criticized certain conservative icons such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. He has also stated that he believes Glen Beck to be "a political disaster for the Right." I don't know about a "disaster," but Beck has received plenty of criticism from other conservative quarters, and Beck is often way too over-the-top for my tastes. I don't want Fox to fire Beck, and I'm not too thrilled about AEI de-hiring Frum.

Frum often seems to have a better recognition of the changing demographics and current needs of the broad conservative movement than some old-fashioned conservatives. He gets the issue, but he does often come up with overly accomodationist solutions. He really does have the mistaken belief that Democrats will negotiate in good faith, which is a view that requires believing that the Democratic leadership is the realistic and practical liberal leadership of old. He also has a more moderate/libertarian view of social issues than the rock-ribbed conservatives. I find much of that refreshing, and as long as those views are aimed at getting government out of our private lives, I'm with him. But he is certainly more willing to cave in on cultural issues than I am. So what?

As writer John R. Guardino said on NewsRealBlog, "[Frum's] larger-scale point it seems to me, is unassailable: We conservatives and Republicans need to be far more sophisticated and savvy if ever we are to win politically and govern effectively." It's a point of view that should be given considerable thought, not automatic rejection. Look at the young Turks in the Republican Party. Do they look or sound like the old-timers? Yet they have strongly advanced the conservative position on nearly every issue. Consider Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Eric Cantor of Virginia during the health care debates. The old crocodiles of the Republican right had their sound parliamentary rules and their integrity, but these guys had that plus youth, energy, and the ability to rouse conservatives with their enthusiasm for freedom and their disdain for dishonest accounting. How excited do you get by Orin Hatch or Mitch McConnell? Sure, they were on the right side of the health care debate, but they were putting Americans to sleep. Enter Ryan and Cantor.

Frum has been attacked for his "cocktail party conservatism." Well, he fought tooth and nail for the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts. But using the criticism now being launched at him, he was a very important player in convincing president Bush to withdraw the nomination of crony Harriet Miers, whom Frum described as "far too fond of the Washington cocktail party." Frum has been accused of being too friendly with the moderate-liberal wing of the Republican Party. Sometimes, maybe. But Frum put his reputation on the line by taking on conservative icon Jack Kemp from the right on Kemp's big-government advancement of "enterprise zones." That hardly comprised a cave-in to the liberals, and certainly earned Frum some enmity from the Old Guard. Frum was a major player in pushing the Bush tax-cuts, but left when Bush seemed to have forgotten the other half of the Laffer curve--cutting expenditures.

Frum's greatest flaw, following his naive belief in Democratic good faith, is his inability to disagree with a Rush Limbaugh without sounding like an anti-Rushbo zealot. Frum forgets that he is in the political business, and Rush is in the political entertainment business. They complement each other, and shouldn't be enemies. As for AEI, why pick Frum to exile? The board of AEI still has two fellows who helped to write McCain-Feingold. They're still paid employees of AEI, so why get rid of Frum?

This may be something as simple as Frum picking the wrong fight at the wrong time in the wrong place. Many of his criticisms of the Republican handling of the health care fiasco have validity. Some don't. But he certainly didn't say anything revolutionary or outside mainstream conservative principles. The anger-level among conservative opponents of the health care bill is very high indeed, and somebody within the fold was likely to become a target of misplaced revenge. In this case, it appears to have been David Frum. I disagree with much of what Frum has to say, but I'll defend to the death his right to say it. AEI apparently won't.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Behold--the Mighty Chron! This picture of the San Francisco Chronicle Building was taken shortly after it was finished in the early 20s. It replaced the old building which had been largely destroyed by the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. Still located at Fifth and Mission Streets, it hasn't changed appreciably since the photo was taken.

Its headlines haven't improved much since then. It was a running joke for years that five out of seven Chronicle headlines would have the word "big" in them. When I first arrived in town in 1962 as a wet behind the ears freshman at Berkeley, I picked up the Sunday Chronicle. There was a large photograph on the front page of King Kong clinging to the spire of the Empire State Building, with the headline "Camp--A New Dimension." Well, at least it wasn't a big new dimension, so I guess that was something.

If you've seen the movie All The President's Men, you may remember the scene in which some investigative reporters go into the office of managing editor Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post. They have some cockamamie story based on lousy information and defective sources. Bradlee growls: "Go sell it to the San Francisco Chronicle. They'll print anything." The paper became very liberal by the mid-60s, and competed with the ultraliberal Examiner. In the long run, Hearst Corporation money and a few price wars left the Chronicle teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. A few years back, Hearst's maneuvers worked, the Examiner was sold to a local political family, and the Chronicle was taken over by the Hearst Corporation as the Examiner in disguise.

And now, for a Chronicle headline from late last week leading a story about Obamacare: "Costly Bill Seen as Saving Money." The first paragraph read: "Many people find it hard to understand how the health-care legislation heading for a decisive vote Sunday can cost $940 billion and cut the horrendous federal deficit at the same time." Yep, and I'm one of them. The headline should have read: "Big Lie About Obamacare." I don't have to belabor the story itself, since most of our readers know a red herring when they see one. I just wanted those of you who wonder why San Franciscans are generally certifiable to realize where many of them get their information.

NOTE: Republican newcomer Meg Whitman now has a big lead over her Republican rivals for the June California primary. But polls also indicate for now that she's slightly ahead of the once and possibly future governor, Democrat Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown. Early in the preliminary maneuvers for the nominations of the two parties, Republicans worried about the huge $14 million dollar war chest that Brown had accumulated even prior to announcing his candidacy formally. That war chest is beginning to look like a child's piggy bank. Whitman has already spent $46 million on her primary campaign, much of it her own money. And according to inside sources, she has not yet begun to spend.

As the fates of Democrats seem shakier all the time, Whitman now has not only her own considerable bankroll, but the money from those big bucks sources which have remained largely on the sidelines in recent elections is coming into her campaign coffers. Labor's contributions to the Brown campaign have already gone into the Democrat coffers, though there will be much more to come as forced dues are used for political purposes instead of the legal use for membership protection. It looks like the Hollywood crowd is going to have to conduct plenty of fundraisers and kick in some of their own money if Brown has any chance of catching up with Whitman at the bank.

Brown has already started talking about the horror of Republicans attempting to buy high office with their own money. Sour grapes. He doesn't have that kind of personal wealth, and she does. Yet somehow Brown hasn't mentioned Democrat Al Checchi spending $40 million of his own money in an unsuccessful primary run in 1998, or Democrat State Controller Steve Westly spending $42 million of his own money on his failed bid for governor in 2006. Trust me, Whitman will do exactly that when the right time comes.

So the wishful-thinkers at the mainstream media are now buzzing about "over-exposure" in relation to Whitman. Considering that just a few months ago, nobody in California had ever heard of her, it seems like a weak dream. Besides, it worked for Obama, didn't it? Whitman's face and ads are everywhere. And her lead over her main Republican rival, Steve Poizner, seems to increase every time one of those ads runs. Likewise, she has gone from being "who?" to running ahead of Brown who has had family name-recognition since his father was governor in the late 50s and early 60s. He has never been out of the public eye, as California Secretary of State, Governor, Mayor of Oakland, and currently California Attorney General. For Whitman, public exposure is almost everything. And so far, it's working.

My personal view is that if Whitman is going to be harmed in the long-run by her aggressive campaigning it will be if it starts to appear that she's "piling on" her Republican rival. Poizner is a gazillionaire as well, so it's not as if she's beating up on the little guy. But there comes a point where it's time to tone down the criticisms of her Republican colleague and start to focus on the big picture--defeating Jerry Brown. The more exposure she (and Brown) get, the better for her.

NOTE: Our new police chief is gaining lots of points with the locals (including me, by the way). After years of a police force run by a woman who doesn't look like she could ever have taken down an out-of-shape five year old, we have a chief who actually cares about law enforcement more than diversity training. Chief George Gascon was chosen for his efficiency, but it didn't hurt that he had been somewhat liberal in his past positions in other cities. I think San Francisco mugged him by proving what happens if you put liberal police theory into practice.

He has also proven himself to be a plain-spoken advocate of reform that will give the SFPD the ability to be actual police in a city that enforces the law. He has made it clear he will stand by his cops instead of running for cover every time the ACLU or the NAACP shouts "racism" or "police brutality." He proposes ordinances that run against the grain of the leftist Board of Supervisors (most recently an anti-bum ordinance forbidding sitting or lying on public sidewalks). He has gotten into many heated debates with crypto-commie Supervisor Chris Daly, most recently over police use of tasers.

Best of all, if he has an issue that would improve law enforcement, he doesn't wait for anyone's permission to go public with it. He took on Supervisor Mirkarimi when the Supe opposed reestablishing foot patrols in the neighborhoods. Gascon was very pointed in his criticism of a weak-kneed Board that knows nothing about law enforcement. The battle was ugly, but the people supported Gascon, who is now being rather gracious toward Mirkarimi since the foot patrols will be on the June ballot.

Naturally, the San Francisco Police Commission is also comprised of non-working cops and leftist citizens. Police Commissioner Petra De Jesus bitched loudly that Gascon regularly brought issues to the newspapers, TV and directly to the public without having his comments vetted by the Commission first. Gee--I wonder why. The immediate public reaction to De Jesus's wail was to tell her to shut up and let the man talk. She has been amazingly quiet ever since, perhaps for the first time in her big-mouth life.

More importantly, the loyalty flows both directions. For instance, once Gascon began his campaigns to get the people involved, Park Precinct Captain Teresa Barrett (located in Mirkarami's district) contacted the media to support the foot-patrols. Mirkarimi went ballistic, but realized he'd been out-maneuvered, and called for meetings which resulted in the ballot measure. Mirkarimi expected his usual armchair liberals to show up for the meetings, but was greeted instead with a whole lot of angry local citizens who supported the chief and the captain. Even in San Francisco, the people can scare the professional politicians.

NOTE: The Regents of the University of California have issued an apology (for what and to whom is unclear) in the wake of a hanging noose, a swastika etched in a Jewish student's door, and anti-gay slurs scribbled on university walls. They've acknowledged the problem, but are unable to identify why it's happening. But they think they might have an answer. There are too many white, Jewish, and Asian students at the elite campuses. "We as a board failed to provide a nurturing environment. We didn't intend to, but we have failed." A nurturing environment! ? ! ? Is that what an elite university is supposed to produce? That's what mommies of small infants are supposed to provide. I thought the university was supposed to nurture intellectual discipline and coherent thought among self-sufficient young adults who have top-notch academic qualifications.

So how's that diversity crap working out for you, Regents? When I attended Berkeley, the student body was largely white because the population was largely white. But an important note to all of this is that the percentage of black students attending and succeeding at the university was considerably higher than it is today. Asians were not a big portion of the student population, but they were still heavily "over-represented" and in a school where academic excellence was the only criterion, nobody complained. Then, as now, the children of legal immigrants and native-born Hispanics (including my lifelong best friend) was in almost direct proportion to the population. Everybody pulled together, racial incidents were rare and racial animosity was even rarer. The attitude toward open homosexuals was tolerant. Not faux tolerant. Genuinely tolerant.

After years of affirmative action, diversity-promotion, and special treatment for selected minorities (today, almost exclusively black, foreign-born and/or illegal immigrant Hispanic, militantly GLBT, and Muslim), the hatred in the air is palpable. Although Prop 209 forbade affirmative action, quotas and special categories based on race, the Regents and university administrators since passage have largely devoted their efforts to ignoring the law. Why does Berkeley alone have a highly-paid diversity officer with two highly-paid assistant diversity officers and a full staff if the law says "academic qualifications only?"

Berkeley has actually been fairly quiet compared to UC San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Davis. Said one regent: "The numbers [of selected minorities] are low because UC's admission system focuses so narrowly on test scores, grades, and academic extracurricular activities prior to admission that it often misses qualified students with a broader background of talents and interests." Aw, baloney. What other interests and talents? Acting sufficiently ethnic? Composing hymns to Obama? Organizing illegal voter drives? Promoting gangsta rap? (never mind, that one's for Columbia and the likes of pseudo-professor Marc Lamont Hill) The criteria for admission to the University of California are exactly right, and pretending otherwise is just disingenuous. The real problem is that the race hucksters and diversity pimps have been ignoring those criteria for years, creating racial animosities and resentments.

For instance, David Ritcherson, co-chairman of the Black Student Union at UC San Diego, said "black students have felt unwelcome at his school for years, not just weeks." Well, Mr. Ritcherson, if you hadn't formed a separatist black organization pushing for unearned admissions and special treatment while calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist, perhaps they might be more accepting of you. I know we certainly were back in the 60s when we knew that any black student there had been admitted on his or her academic achievements, not his or her color. Did you expect racial tolerance and equality while promoting black radical agendas?

Regent Yudov called for "alumni, friends of the university, and for all concerned Californians to raise scholarship funds for underrepresented minorities." And once again, that phony and dishonest expression "underrepresented minorities" becomes an excuse to spend more money, private and public, to promote the very "diversity" that has caused most of the racial unrest in the first place. Why not simply be honest and say: "Let's make sure we can raise enough money to insure the admission of unqualified students who are not Asian or Jewish (both minority, neither 'underrepresented')."

This UC alumnus contributes to Alumni scholarships. And I specifically contribute only to those which reward hard work, academic achievement, and contain no earmarks for race or ethnicity. I'm certainly not going to contribute money to any scholarship which will be devoted to admitting students who will spend the university's vast resources and top-quality facilities to learn how to spell racist correctly.
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Question: Spring Is In The Air

Spring, for those who don't know, is one of the four seasons, along with Summer, Ski and that other one. It's the season the Easter Bunny hides eggs in your house. . . for some strange reason. And the birds and the bees turn to whatever it is they do. What do you like best about Spring? [+] Read More...

Film Friday: Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of those strange movies that grows on you. When I first saw it, late, late, late one night, I thought it stank. I didn’t like the music. I didn’t like the actors. I thought the whole thing was done on the cheap. But I gave it a second chance, and before it was over, I was hooked. It's now become one of my favorite musicals.

** spoiler alert **

Directed by Norman Jewison, Jesus Christ Superstar is the big screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical of the same name, which is a musical based on the crucifixion of Jesus. Sounds like a hoot, right? Well, it gets worse. Jewison decided to go with minimal sets, minimal costumes, and unknown actors. Thus, the sets are little more than ruins and the costumes look like the casual clothes the actors wore to the first rehearsal. Moreover, where props are added, Jewison uses modern props, e.g. machine guns. Also, the soundtrack mixes some of Webber’s “kitschiest” bits with 1970s rock. What could possibly go wrong?

Interestingly, it is these choices that make the film. The minimal sets turn out to be a genius stroke. By giving us only hints of how these familiar buildings looked, Jewison lets the filmgoer fill in the details with their own views of how these places must have looked. This brings the viewer in and produces sets that are much more personal than if a team of workers constructed phony facades. Moreover, because the landscapes are spectacular -- it was filmed in Israel -- you spend the entire film lost in the impressive scenery, which easily takes you back 2000 years.

The music turns out to be a brilliant choice too. Whereas most musicals repeat one sound over and over, and which rarely lends itself to song that will work outside the musical, Superstar's use of rock music gives these songs a life beyond the film. Moreover, the choice of rock music lends the film a seriousness which the traditional vaudeville-like music of musicals can’t touch. When you have a guy pounding away at a piano stretching out his “A’s” (as in “raaaag time baaaaaaaand”) you just can’t deal with serious themes. But Superstar's songs are serious and philosophical, sometimes just plain beautiful. My personal favorite is “Could We Start Again Please,” which builds amazingly, though the most famous is “I Don't Know How To Love Him,” sung by Yvonne Elliman, who plays Mary Magdalene and went on to sing the hit “If I Can’t Have You” from Saturday Night Fever.

The story itself is quite good, though it upsets some people. Indeed, when Superstar came out, it was highly controversial, though its success has tempered the criticism today. At the time, some Jews claimed some of the lyrics were anti-Semitic. Catholics and Protestants were upset that Jesus was portrayed as possibly being interested in sex, though this is only hinted at, that Judas was portrayed too sympathetically, that Judas asserts that Jesus is just a man, and some considered it blasphemous that Jesus wasn’t shown being resurrected. Some also objected to having Jesus and the gang portrayed by dirty hippies, and that Judas was played by a black actor. Oh well.

If you require Biblical stories to be humorless, with one-dimensional characters, then this movie is not for you.

The lyrics are witty and clever, often with interesting bits of humor thrown in. The actors are excellent, though it takes a while to realize how perfect they truly are for the roles. Ted Neely, who plays Jesus, is infinitely better than “Thorazine Jesus” played by Willem Defoe. This Jesus has passion and he doesn’t confuse “meek” with “Holy.” Elliman plays a wonderfully conflicted Mary Magdalene, who loves Jesus, but doubts her ability to be worthy of him. And Judas. . . what can you say about Judas?

Many of the detractors hate this version of Judas. They claim he’s too sympathetic -- they apparently want the Snidely Whiplash version who foams at the mouth from start to finish. But Carl Anderson gives us a complex Judas, who presents both a believable betrayal and a believable contrition. Anderson begins by accusing Jesus of having lost his way. He sees Jesus as a man who is drunk with all the adulation, and who has deluded himself into believing he’s God. This allows Judas to fall under the spell of the Priests who tell him that they want to stop Jesus for the good of the Jews. But the moment he betrays Jesus, Anderson really turns up the volume, giving us an amazing guilt-ridden tantrum, followed by hopelessness personified, and finally suicide. In the end, Judas re-appears in the cleverest number ever to feature a tasseled white jumpsuit.

There is real emotion behind these actors. Their dancing is excellent, and their singing, which at first seems strange as it is an unusual style for musicals, really makes the movie stand out. In fact, I’ve heard other, more famous singers take on these rolls (there have been several versions of the soundtrack released and at least one remake), and those actors added a level of gloss that felt fake and made the roles less real. . . less emotional.

What the critics miss about Jesus Christ Superstar is that the movie approaches its subject matter with incredible care and a real love. Jesus is tested, but regains his faith. Those who have faith in him are rewarded. Those who have betrayed him suffer their own damnation. Yet, each of the characters is treated fairly, good guy or bad, and the actors play them with full belief in them as real people, not as props to hit certain plot points. Finally, the ending is so jarring that it does a good job of imparting the anguish with which the real story ends.

So if you haven’t see this movie, I highly recommend it, and Easter is a great time for it. If you saw it once and didn’t like it, give it a second try.

Finally, I mention the remake. Don’t watch it. They use the setting of a London street gang, and it’s highly politically correct. Moreover, the songs all have a nasty edge, particular the King Herod part, and the characters seem much more one-dimensional and, often, hateful.

Check out the new film site -- CommentaramaFilms!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Associated Press Joins The Democratic Party

If you regularly check out the news, you can’t help but notice that the Associated Press is in the tank for the Democratic Party. It’s been obvious for a while. But in the past couple days, it’s gotten so bad that their writers should be required to wear cheerleader uniforms with little donkeys on them. Check this out. . .

One of the first signs that the AP had moved to direct cheerleading was its gushing about ObamaCare. Remember, they claim to be a fact reporting organization, not an opinion generating organization. Yet, many of their articles have repeated the following: “after century long fight, US finally enacts health care,” even though nothing about this statement is true. Universal health care was not mentioned in political circles until the 1930s. So we’re nowhere near a century yet. Secondly, almost every single Congress between 1930 and today has passed some form of “comprehensive health care reform.” Apparently, the AP thinks all those laws created themselves. And just as importantly, ObamaCare is not universal. ObamaCare simply imposes the requirement that you get health insurance, it doesn’t actually cover anyone. Indeed, they expect that 22 million Americans will remain without insurance.

To reinforce this false narrative, every AP article apparently is required to maximize the use of the word “historic.” Some use it so much that their sentences begin to look a little like this: “Hitler’s historic victory is truly historic said the historic chancellor as he made history, and the AP supports his historic efforts.” Wait, I thought "historic" meant "good"? Hmmm.

To go along with the false sense of history, the left needs heroes. In that regard, the AP has produced a half dozen articles calling Pelosi the greatest speaker in 100 years. One article even said, whether you agree with her policies or not, you must acknowledge this fact. In truth, I don’t need to acknowledge that “fact” because I’m not stupid. Pelosi had super majorities in both Houses and the Presidency to support her, yet it took her more than a year to come up with a horribly flawed bill that neither side likes and which will be repealed after the public wipes out her party in November. Greatest speaker? Yeah, sure.

They’ve also called her "the most powerful woman in 100 years," because the left loves 100 year histories and five year plans. I wonder who this powerful woman was 100 years ago? In any event, Pelosi is little more than a glorified baby-sitter, and this declaration of greatness will come as a shock to women like Margaret Thatcher, Gold Meir, Indira Gandhi, or any other female head of state who’s held actual power.

They’re revising Obama’s history already too. When AP writers are at home alone at night, they touch themselves in certain places as they think about Obama’s oratory. But his recent efforts have left them a bit flaccid. So now they’re re-writing history to suit their needs. For example, there was an article yesterday on how Obama achieved this miracle, which read like the worst sentimentalistic sports movie of all time, right down to the “win one for the Gipper” speech.

And to throw in a little more sentimentalism, the AP tells us that what kept Obama going was the 10 letters a day Obama got from real Americans (no doubt, crippled orphans. . . "please sir, may I have health care?"). . . no mention of the 100,000 calls a day opposed.

Do you remember that health pow-wow where Paul Ryan exposed our moronic President as a Biden-grade fool? You know the one. . . it caused Obama’s popularity to fall two more points and shaved five points off the public’s support for ObamaCare. Well, according to the AP, that was the turning point that “won the public over.” The AP also tells us that we were impressed with the openness with which the Democrats were willing to proceed. Yep, anything you heard about backroom deals and closed door meetings apparently didn’t happen.

But playing this bill up too much would be a mistake, because the AP knows deep down that ObamaCare is a doomed clusterfudge of epic proportions. So they are cautioning us that the bill isn’t perfect. It now turns out that the bill will leave 22 million Americans without coverage, not the 7 million claimed by the same AP author as recently as the day before the vote. I guess he went home and did some math? Also, some very, very, very, very few people (48% of the population) might find their rates going up. Oh, and there might not be enough doctors. And it's all the uber-powerful Republicans' fault...

Oh, do you remember Lawhawk telling you about two Democrats -- Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa -- who sold their votes to Pelosi? Apparently, Lawhawk was wrong. Indeed, the AP just happened to put out an article yesterday assuring us that while these two will indeed lose in November, it’s because voters are angry about a drought. . . nothing about health care to see here. Move along.

The AP then turns on the full court press with a series of “fact” checking articles in which they go out of their way to confirm the Democratic arguments as "facts", despite the fact the bill says the opposite.

The AP has also been busy demonizing its opponents. . . oops, the bill’s opponents. Did you know that Republican “talking points” are “myths” and that the hatemongers who oppose the bill won’t stop using “overheated rhetoric” even though the bill has been passed? The bastards. Oh, and did you know that the "individual mandates were a Republican idea"? What's next? Cannibalism and syphilis?

Moreover, the poor GOP apparently is facing a real split over the danger of opposing such a popular program. Of course, the only “GOP” person they can find who opposes repealing this monster is surrender-monkey David Frum, who I believe was once caught sniffing Nancy Pelosi. . . wait, that was Rham Emanuel. Frum v. the GOP = split. Hmm?

Of course, there have been a plethora of articles all quoting a diverse assortment of far left law school professors who claim that the evil Republican State attorneys general who have sued to stop this monster are “grandstanding” and that their cases are “frivolous.” I’ll take these ridiculous assertions apart next week. Apparently, it doesn’t take much in the way of legal knowledge to be a law professor these days.

But why stop with the hopelessly torn GOP establishment? Did you know that Republican voters are nuts? According to a new poll by the “unbiased” (read: “Democratic operative”) pollster Harris, most Republicans think Obama is a Muslim and a good 20% think he’s the anti-Christ. As if Satan would have anything to do with this effete loser.

Moreover, those horrid teabaggers are just like the hopelessly torn, obstructionist Republicans, according to more obscure Democratic polls. And what happens when such bad people are allowed to exist? Well, unverified death threats to the children of Democratic Representatives. . . who must not love their kids because they aren’t taking any precautions? The horror. And it's the Republicans using code words that are stirring this up. And let’s not forget how some teabaggers used the words “nigger” and “faggot” and made saints cry, which is almost as bad as killing children. The AP certainly hasn’t forgotten this, as it keeps putting out more and more stories on the matter. Of course, they have yet to talk to anyone other than the Democrats who made the allegations, but do you expect any better from such a slipshod, biased organization as the AP?

So the next time you see a by-line by the “AP,” read it for a laugh, but don’t expect to get anything more than Democratic talking points. Pathetic.

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What Are Pro-Life Democrats?

Well, to start with, they're Democrats. I'm not belaboring the obvious. It is vital to remember that "pro-life Democrats" add numbers to the entire Democratic majority. Single-issue abortion opponents tend to forget that simple fact, and it cost them dearly. Bart Stupak just proved that in order to remain a loyal Democrat, he was willing to take the most ridiculous of promises from a lying president in exchange for his yes vote on a health care bill that will quickly begin funding abortions.

My home state was sold out by two Democrats who exchanged their votes for a temporary 25% increase in water allocation to their water-starved and jobs-starved Central Valley districts. Stupak sold out for a meaningless executive order which may not even come to pass. They can try to cover their cowardice with proclamations of "doing it for their constituents," but the real fact is they did it because they're Democrats. Look at Stupak carefully. If he hadn't taken his early anti-abortion funding stand, would any moderate to conservative citizen have considered voting for him? Did anybody notice that Stupak enthusiastically embraced the socialist takeover of American health care, except for the abortion funding?

This is the danger of single-issue myopia and support for anti-abortion candidates who belong to a party that is dedicated to the dismantling of the Constitution and government control of our lives. They will ultimately prove unable to shed their political loyalties completely, and will cave in when given even the thinnest thread to hang onto from their leaders. Stupak might just as well have said "you knew I was a snake before you brought me in."

My point here is that for conservatives, it is far safer to trust a moderately pro-choice Republican than a nominal anti-abortion Democrat. Anti-abortion Democrats will support the statist Democratic Party over almost anything, including their own alleged principles. Look at the history of Democrats who used anti-abortion rhetoric, only to toss it to the winds when political opportunity came their way. Start with the early Bill Clinton. As a governor in a state and region which was largely anti-abortion, he spoke out against abortion itself, not merely funding of abortion. But as he wended his way to the presidential nomination, he realized he needed the votes of the pro-abortion states, so he turned the anti-abortion rhetoric down nearly to zero. In that inimitable Clintonesque way, he ultimately took the ridiculous position that supporting federally-funded unrestricted abortion would make abortion "legal, safe and rare."

For those of you who think of Joseph Lieberman as your "favorite Democrat," remind yourselves of this. Joe Lieberman is a devout orthodox Jew. He bravely stood against his party on abortion because of his religious convictions. And he took more than one serious hit for it from within his own party. And then the siren song began to be played. "Joe, you could be vice-president of the United States. Just stop opposing abortion." And Joe did just that. After a few closed-door sessions, Joe found out that orthodox Jews don't actually oppose abortion, they support a woman's right to choose. Most of my orthodox and conservative Jewish friends were mystified, but then they hadn't just been offered the vice-presidency (or they weren't Democrats).

Some of the pro-life Democrats simply switched sides, with little explanation beyond their belief in socialized medicine as being more important than a few million unborn babies. This gang includes Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. In the past, such illustrious Democrats as Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy were originally pro-life, but found political expediency to override any objections they might have to abortion. And let us not forget Al Gore's vote for legislation that would have defined an unborn baby as a person protected under the 14th Amendment. He relented in fairly short order when the possibility of the presidency loomed before him.

Dennis Kucinich (believe it or not) was anti-abortion until he sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2004. Oops, switch. He still opposed abortion funding until he got a ride on Air Force One. Another notable, if less well-known switcheroo was that of Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. He was a board member of Democrats for Life of America. He was elected largely on the single-issue votes and money of National Right to Life. He got caught lying when he introduced an "abortion reduction bill" that paid lip service to reducing abortion while providing vastly increased funding to the largest abortion provider in America--Planned Parenthood. He didn't even have the decency to resign from Democrats for Life of America, so they kicked him out. As Al Gore brilliantly announced a few years back, "a leopard can't change its [Democrat] stripes."

So why would a big government, Constitution-disdaining Democrat run as anti-abortion (or in some cases, anti-gun control)? The most common answer is that he or she really doesn't care that much about the issue, but it's hot-button in that district. A candidate could simply adopt that issue as his or her own, and dodge the other issues or waffle on them. Or maybe the candidate actually believes in the issue, but is so weak about it that a promise, any promise, no matter how weak, will convince the candidate to change his vote in exchange for some "greater good" (in Stupak's view, a foggy promise of a meaningless executive order overrides his objections to abortion so that he can get that socialized medicine he really wants).

In addition, as illustrated by multiple examples above, any Democrat who wants to rise to a level above the local district had better be ready to make major compromises on the single or double issues that originally got him or her elected. No truly pro-life Democrat candidate is going anywhere unless willing to abandon pro-life or the pretense of pro-life at some point. Anyone who votes for a pro-life (or pro-gun) Democrat is automatically voting for the overall liberal/socialist agenda of the Democratic Party. And for their efforts, they're likely to see their Democratic representative cave in on their single issue when the going gets tough. Nothing could prove that better than the vote last Sunday.

Turning the coin over, you will now see why I tend to believe that a moderate pro-choice Republican is preferable to a seemingly pro-life Democrat. Certainly our preference is for pro-life, conservative Republicans. But there's that single-issue problem again. (Cautionary note: I never include RINOs in my definition of "moderates," but for purposes of this discussion, they might even be included). Just as voting for a Democrat includes voting for the Democratic agenda, so voting for a Republican includes voting for the Republican agenda.

As a majority party, the party agenda becomes evermore important. In another time, with a Republican majority and a Republican President, the Stupaks in Congress might not have been nearly so willing to abandon their stated principles. But some Republican moderates (and possibly even some RINOs) might be convinced to change their views when the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, and the President are all Republicans with the ability to pass out those goodies that the Democrats now control. Numbers count, and only when the two majority Congressional caucuses are in the "R" column can those goodies be dispensed and those political futures secured.

Just as abortion is a credo which all aspiring Democrats must embrace, so is anti-late term abortion in the Republican Party. Ditto for federal funding of abortions. So have general Republican principles on important issues ever affected the votes or political campaigns of Republicans? Mitt Romney is one example. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney took a nominal pro-choice stand. But he wanted to be the president of the United States. Oops, switch. He had no chance of national Republican support for his candidacy if he stuck to his pro-choice rhetoric. (Side note: Romney now has another albatross around his neck. The just-passed Senate health care reconciliation bill is nearly identical to the Massachusetts plan that Romney supported. He's got some 'splaining to do on that as well).

Rudy Giuliani was pure RINO when it came to partial-birth abortion. Right up until he was bitten by the presidential bug. Although he still hasn't become pro-life, he now condemns partial-birth abortion. His exact words when he first made the switch are telling. When asked during his presidential run how he would feel if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Giuliani replied: "It'd be OK." In 1996, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia ran as pro-choice. Today he is pro-life, and campaigns for fellow Republicans who are also pro-life. And while he was at it, Isakson turned anti-gay marriage and pro-gun ownership.

So look at it this way. A pro-life Republican has no incentive whatsoever under a Democratic or Republican administration to change his views. A pro-life Democrat does when the Democrats are in control. A moderate pro-choice Republican might have a reason to switch in a Republican Congress, but none have any incentive at all to support federal funding in any form. Whatever their personal views, pro-life Democrats have an incentive to vote pro-choice in a Democratic majority, and pro-choice Republicans would have an incentive to vote pro-life in a Republican majority. Numbers count.

Any pro-life Democrat will ultimately be forced by circumstances into supporting the Party's overwhelmingly pro-choice candidates. Any pro-choice Republican will ultimately be forced by circumstances into supporting the Party's overwhelmingly anti-abortion on demand candidates. Those who seriously and consistently oppose the general Party principles and beliefs will find themselves without support from their own party, and either out of office or switching parties. The Democrats have known and imposed this reality for many years. The current Republican leadership is learning, fast.

As Adam Graham, a writer on PajamasMedia has said very well: "The goal of pro-life activists shouldn't be to elect dishonest and self-serving Republicans who only see the light after feeling the heat. The goal should be to elect sincere, committed statesmen who take a pro-life stance. However, to avoid the waste of money, credibility and patience brought about by pro-life sunshine soldiers like [Democrats] Bart Stupak, Ben Nelson and Tim Ryan, pro-lifers would do best to invest their efforts in the Republican Party only."

I'll close this post with a quote from Shakespeare aimed directly at the Bart Stupaks of this world: "How many cowards whose hearts are all as false as stairs of sand wear yet upon their chins the beards of Hercules and frowning Mars, who have inward searched, have livers white as milk." (The Merchant of Venice).
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