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To some folks' consternation, the "ban" on incandescent lightbulbs goes into effect in a few hours. Imagine a government policy which discourages and thereby disrupts the supply of a particular commodity: Is the policy analogous to a ban?
As I understand it, the "incandescent lightbulb ban" obliges manufacturers of lightbulbs (of any kind) to meet certain prerequisites ("efficiency"). Because it wouldn't be economical for manufacturers to produce compliant incandescent bulbs, the manufacturers in practice simply shut down production and make compliant bulbs of other kinds. The "ban" is thus mediated by private entrepeneurial choice: The regulation doesn't ban incandescent bulbs, it just creates a regulatory framework in which the product becomes unavailable in the marketplace.
Now imagine that a state government imposes a regulation that medical facilities wishing to offer abortion must meet certain prerequisites ("health and safety," informed consent," etc.), and it would not be economical* for clinics to comply. The "ban" is thus mediated by private entrepeneurial choice: The regulation doesn't ban abortion, it just creates a regulatory framework in which the service becomes unavailable in the marketplace. Has the state banned abortion?
* Absent market distortions not present in the lightbulb debate—fanatical pro-abortion ideology could lead some outfits like PP to operate at a loss in some states.
Season's greetings to all readers!
and when the "Lie of the Year," isn't a lie at all, it's only PolitiFact's reputation that dies.
In case you weren't following this, PolitiFact has heaped upon itself disgrace, after picking the claim that the Ryan Plan would "end Medicare as we know it," as the Lie of the Year. The choice was met with criticism from both ends of the political spectrum--criticism which editor Bill Adair chose to effectively ignore, and meet with insipid, smug, pretentious nonsense:
This is life in our echo chamber nation. We protect ourselves from opinions we don't like and seek reinforcement from like-minded allies.
The paradox of the Internet age is that never before have we had access to more ideas and different thoughts. And yet, many of us retreat into comfy parlors where everyone agrees and the other side is always wrong. Each side can manufacture its truths and get the chorus to sing along.
No, Mr. Adair, the problem is not the partisan echo-chamber (the partisan echo-chamber is a problem, but not here), or the fact that Ryan tried to have his supporters rig the poll, or the fact that the poll was meaningless, or that people were offended. The problem is that the lie that was chosen, wasn't a lie. The so-called Path to Prosperity would in fact change Medicare as we know it. Maybe you think that's a good thing, but that is what Ryan's plan would do.
The fact that three other fact checkers got it wrong, doesn't make it right. Truth is truth. In PolitiFact's attempt to be nonpartisan, they have not only committed an act of rank partisanship, but wounded their credibility as a serious outfit--maybe mortally so.
An eleventh thing that didn't change with the guard might have been "Signing statements are still valid," or, to be more precise, "Signing statements are still not inherently invalid." You may remember that half-baked sloganeering about things wot Bush done was a major component of the Democratic primary last time around, and candidates gleefully fulminated against any practice of the Bush administration to which a name could be put—signing statements, for example. Thus, while I have no problem with President Obama issuing signing statements as a Constitutional matter, I must say that, like Cap'n Ed, I'm puzzled about how President Obama doesn't have a problem with what Senator Obama decried.
Added: Here's Obama's signing statement. There's nothing problematic in it—it looks a lot like the sort of signing statement issued by President Bush—save for the total absence of an explanation as to how it squares with Senator Obama's views! You can change your mind, but it's common courtesy to say why. A few years ago, I speculated that if the Democratic candidate won the 2008 election, their use of tools then decried as Bush administration black magic might renormalize those tools in the public mind. It doesn't seem to have happened that way—see this.
One of our finest public intellectuals, men of letters, and all-around freedom fighters has died, losing his battle to cancer, at age 62. Right on so many issues (Iraq, the war on terror, Orwell), and wrong on many issues (faith, the Clintons), he was one of those who you enjoyed to read, even when you disagreed with the whole thing. A legend and an icon. We won't know whether Hitchens made his peace with God in his final moments, but nevertheless, I say RIP, and my prayers go out to his family.
Sir Ludovic Kennedy once recalled watching the Bismarck sink. As a sailor, he said, you hate to see a ship go down, even an enemy; there's a respect, even (perhaps especially) for the deadliest of opponents. Like the Bismarck, Christopher Hitchens was fast, lethal, elegant, battleship gray... Full of seamen, too; he had enormous balls: While most people were exchanging easily-formed opinions about waterboarding, Hitchens went and had it done to him and reported back. If you were going to go up against Christopher Hitchens, you loaded for bear or prepared to be mauled.
He never wasted a reader's time, he was often exceedingly funny, and he was always worth reading even when he infuriated the heck out of you. With his untimely death, the world is a significantly safer place for wafflers, blatherers, and half-baked opinions.
"Rabbi Joshua Hammerman"'s ostensibly vile Jewish World article My Tim Tebow Problem has riled up a number of folks (e.g. 1, 2, 3), but I think it's neat that Jewish World has obviously started an article exchange program with The Onion, and I look forward to the latter's publication of the article they took in trade for this one.
The fuss is remarkably silly. As a general matter, the bill says (§1032) that when a person who is determined "to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda," and "to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners," and "who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40), the military may hold that person "pending disposition under the law of war." (The preceding section explains more about that.) But the bill continues: "The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States" or "to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution" (emphasis added).
I find myself continually confused by conservative critics of Obama, who accuse Obama of being both a power-mad radical bent on wrecking the country, and a bystander, who simply sits back and does nothing. Which one is it? Besides the fact that President Obama has made good faith efforts to get the Supercommittee to come to a deal, and that the ultimate legal power to create the deal rests with Congress, I'm not really sure what else Christie thinks Obama should've done. I'll bet a hefty sum that if Obama had tried to do it Christie's way, the same people would accuse him of abusing his power, and strong-arming Congress, or silencing conservative dissent, or something like that. It's not just the ignorance that's troubling--it's the unseriousness of it all.
HT: Althouse (forgot to add the link)
In a nutshell, here's what the Supreme Court ordered this morning in several Obamacare-related grants. The court is going to hear several hours of argument on the following questions: (1) Is the mandate severable? (2) "Whether Congress had the power under Article I … to enact the minimum coverage provision" of PaPACA.Pet. in 11-398. (3) "[w]hether the suit … challeng[ing] the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordabl...e Care Act is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act…."Nov. 13 2011 Order in 11-398. (4) "Does Congress exceed its enumerated powers and violate basic principles of federalism when it coerces States into accepting onerous conditions that it could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under the single largest grant-in-aid program, or does the limitation on Congress‘s spending power that this Court recognized in South Dakota v. Dole no longer apply?"Pet. in 11-400. (citation deleted). Now you're up to speed.
As I've mentioned before that I find it hard to count five votes for striking PaPACA down, but I must add that if comes out 5-4, I expect to see a slew of people condemning the decision as not only a horrible mistake but in fact illegitimate. If it's struck down, the leftosphere will go berserk charging that Thomas should have recused himself, and if it's upheld, the rightosphere will go berserk charging that Kagan should have recused herself! These narratives are already in the can, folks.
The Ohio result actually reflects a failure of conservative activists to understand what motivates the electorate. The conservative movement holds an ideological and generally principled opposition to government. Most Republican voters[, however,] don’t share that. They oppose government programs that seem to benefit people other than themselves.
. . . .
Republicans successfully mobilized public opposition to health care reform by portraying it as an attempt to take health care away from people like you and give it to the undeserving "them." Conservatives deliriously interpreted this as a triumph of anti-government ideology asserting itself. But as Republicans discovered when they voted for a budget to slash Medicare, the public remains staunchly opposed to cutting programs for people like themselves
Added: And then there's this from Ramesh Ponnuru.
You'd think so, but apparently not.
Justice Thomas has written a dissent from a denial of cert that's well worth a read. I must say, however, that Justice Thomas is quite the optimist if he believes that the court had "an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause jurisprudence in shambles." To be sure, his dissent is wonderfully written and skewers a jurisprudence that has indeed gone "hopelessly awry." At the same time, however, it seems quite obvious to me that the reason for that shambles is that the court is deeply divided, and that accordingly, barring an Owen Roberts-style switchup, each establishment case that the court decides before new appointments bring a majority for one view of the clause or another can only make the law less clear not more. That has been the experience of the last three decades (as Thomas recounts), and it is hard to imagine why it would be different now. Until that's fixed, perhaps the best policy is for the court to avoid muddying the waters even further.
Hufflepuff offers this; with no ado at all, let's dig straight in:
The 1% is using the super-secret Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. the Super Committee), to reach directly into the pockets of the 99% and steal hundreds of billions of dollars from them. [Nonsense. Hey, if they can start with conclusory assertions, so can I! At any rate, this is the nauseating meme we're going to have to get used to for a while: The lexicon of "Occupy" and their preposterous claim to represent "the 99%," which they of course do not. Look on the bright side: For a while, "neocon" was the ubiquitous slur of choice for conservatives, but when did you last hear that one? To everything there's a season.] This committee has unprecedented power. [The "supercommittee" has no significant power whatsoever. When it was first created, I castigated the critics who claimed it was powerful and dangerous because, I argued, it had no more power than any individual member of Congress: It could propose legislation. No more. Well, that's not quite true, I'll admit. It can, in a sense, do something that no individual member may accomplish: it can not only propose legislation but also secure a vote on that legislation. So in that sense, it may be literally true that the committee has "unprecedented" power—but if "unprecedented" is used to imply that the committee is powerful, as it undoubtedly is, that is not the case.] It has been meeting behind closed doors for weeks. [So what?] Finally, though, its plans are leaking out, and they are not pretty.
In order to spare defense contractors [who make weapons that we need], the pharmaceutical industry [which makes drugs that we need], and other fat cats [who make and finance other, uh, "phat" things that we need], while appeasing the credit agencies, whose AAA ratings to crony-clients helped crash the economy, the Supercommittee has proposed slashing benefits for current and future beneficiaries of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, notwithstanding that the current deficit has nothing to do with these programs. [Read that again. Right, of course: Our current deficit has nothing to do with the trillions of dollars we spend every year on those programs. To justify this literally absurd claim, watch what they do next:]
. . . .
The following chart shows the causes of our current deficits:
[See? It's not entitlements that "cause" our deficit, it's "tax expenditures": The cause of our deficit isn't how much we spend, but how much we refuse to exact in taxation. Like their fictitious graph, it makes perfect sense if you shut up and stop thinking about it. Now, why do I say fictitious? Two reasons: First, the obvious one just mentioned, and second, the fact that their graph doesn't even purport to "show the causes of our current deficits": Notice that it begins in 2009 and goes out ten years. It's a projection, i.e. a more or less informed fiction (less, in fact: There's no credible way to accurately project tax revenues or the effect of the economic downturn ten years out, although liberal tax theories often pretend otherwise by fictitiously assuming that everything except rates will remain constant).
Of course, a nice thing about making up numbers is that no one can say that your numbers are wrong, but what we can do is look at the picture as we have seen over the last few years and judge the projection in relation to it. So here are federal outlays, receipts, and welfare spending over the last few years:
But don't worry folks—don't you believe your lyin' eyes! The current deficit has nothing to do with them programs comprising a large percentage of all spending!]
. . . .
The secretive and unaccountable Super Committee is meeting behind closed doors and proposing devastating cuts that would be shouldered by the 99%. [We've got to repeat this again: The "supercommittee" is accountable to Congress. It is a committee convened to propose legislation; it has zero power to pass legislation. It can do nothing without Congress' assent. "Unaccountable"?] …
… The 1 percent may have most of the money, but the 99 percent have the votes. It is time for the 99% to tell them in no uncertain terms, Hands Off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! You don't speak for the 99%, pal, and neither does OWS.
Ron Rosenbaum takes apart the stupid "Shakespeare didn't really write the plays" nonsense club, and the stupid movie that goes along with it.
That's the evocative phrase used by a fellow I was talking to recently, and it's a good lens through which to view the locution "such-and-such threatens to take us back." It is wheeled out in political contexts by those who say that conservative reforms would "take us back a century," for example, or "repeal the new deal," etc., and in the ecclesial context by those who say that various proposals (especially those that fall under the heading "the reform of the reform") would "take us back to before Vatican II."
The trope is exhausted, and I'm tired of it too. There is no going back; even if we erected the same juridical framework we had a century ago, to the letter, we would not be transported back to that world, because the world has moved on. And that's where the irrevocability of everything comes into play: The same bell, when installed in a a new bell tower, will have a different ring. Do people really believe that our progress towards women's equality, for example, has to do solely with legal machinery such as Title VII, rather than broad-scale changes in our culture? Only by making such an assumption could they insist that it would all be undone by repeal. (Such laws of course promoted the change, but it's one-way: Their enactment promoted change but their repeal won't undo it.) If anyone actually believes that, they're wrong, for the same reason that the so-called "tenthers" will be disappointed to discover that even reversion to EC Knight and National League of Cities will not reverse the federalized mindset of modern politics; the legal framework can be changed, but society has changed and those changes can't be called back by mere statutes.
So time move relentlessly forward. But that doesn't mean that mistakes aren't made along the way, mistakes that we can try to correct as we move forward—sometimes by recovering things we dropped along the way, sometimes by taking out and dusting off ornaments that were put in the trunk along the way. Of course, the folks who really wanted that stuff in the trunk aren't happy, but that doesn't mean we're "going back" by taking them out.
One problem with the progressive paradigm is that it can seem agnostic to destination. If we're moving forward, that's progress, right? Well, at risk of getting into teleological problems, we should care about where we're going, because we are going to get there. So we should think about where the road leads (thus which road we want to be on) and measure progress in terms of distance thence. And if we one day realize that we have taken a wrong turn and driven several miles on a road toward somewhere other than our destination—toward Hell or Hull or Halifax—progress doesn't mean forging ahead, it means turning about smartly and getting back to the right road.
MP: Straight talk on altar girls (Oct. 19, 2011)