Archive for Political Science Fiction

Quote of the week

Lisa Paul was outraged by that Arizona bill, and explains why:

Here’s why I’m so adamant about fighting any law or bill that would institutionalize discrimination — especially if it allows Conservative Christians to impose their religious mores on others. I’ve been down that road. When I first moved to California, I worked at a company that I later found out was run by an Evangelical Christian CEO. My boss was a devout Mormon. When I announced to my co-workers that I was engaged, my boss called me into his office and gave me what I later found out from other female employees (former) was “The Talk”. He asked me when I was getting married and said, “And, of course, your husband won’t want you working after that.” When I said, I certainly did plan to work after marriage. He began to question me about when I planned to have children and tell me that married women should be home. I really needed that job. It wasn’t just important to my career, we’d just bought our first house together and needed every cent for the mortgage. Remember, this was Liberal California — although thirty years ago it wasn’t as Liberal and Silicon Valley was very much more a Boys’ Club. Could I complain or sue? I didn’t think upper management would stand behind me given that the CEO didn’t seem like a truly Christ-like Christian. (He would lead us in prayer at the company party for a profitable quarter!) I certainly didn’t have the money for an attorney. Besides, if a boss wants you gone, even if you have great performance reviews, he can find a way to do it — especially if there is tacit approval at the top management levels for that sort of behavior.

There is always a way to fire someone. It may take legal guidance or worse, but there is always a way.

I went through some scary weeks wondering if I should pretend that I’d broken off the engagement, at least until I could get another job. I was sick to my stomach that we were going to lose our house. In a Deus Ex Machina development, that boss got another job a few weeks after that and so did I. But no one should have to reconfigure their lives or fear for their financial security or career longevity because someone else is trying to impose his religious views on you. (And by the way, THAT is religious discrimination, not laws that prevent you from oppressing others.) Now, in the scheme of things, I’m not in a group that encounters a lot of discrimination. I’m sure the LGBT community and African Americans are laughing at this — and it is just a fraction of the discrimination those groups face. But that one brush sure brought home the helplessness and fear that is unmitigated by any hope that the system might have your back. That’s why I believe we should fight against even the tiniest chipping away of any protections that stop such discrimination. If you’ve never been a victim of any kind of discrimination, you probably need to step back and listen more than you talk on this issue. Because you have NO idea. If I’d been working in an Arizona where SB 1062 was the law, it certainly would have allowed my firing on the grounds that the CEO and my boss’s religious beliefs stated that married women should not work outside the home!

Governor Brewer, for whatever reason — I assume by default that the “reasons” in such matters are at best dimly related to the real reasons — chose to veto that bill.

The doctrine in question, if I remember correctly, reads something like this: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” There’s no intermediate step that requires you to get up in that sinner’s face.

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Fingers faster than brain

Either that, or he meant to snub lesbians:

Tweet by Dan Patrick

Patrick, a Houston-area Republican who represents Texas Senate District 7 and who would like to be the next Lieutenant Governor, hurriedly pulled this tweet back and replaced it with one more to his liking.

Gaffe-tastic!

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For those who need a patron

A saint for our times, perhaps?

Since February 2004 San Precario, patron saint of precarious, casualised, sessional, intermittent, temporary, flexible, project, freelance and fractional workers, has appeared in various Italian cities. The saint appears in public spaces on occasions of rallies, marches, interventions, demonstrations, film festivals, fashion parades, and, being a saint, processions. Often he performs miracles. Although the first appearances are recorded on 29 February 2004, San Precario has multiplied and materialised in different disguises. Equitable in his choices, San Precario does not privilege one category of precarious worker over another, and he can appear in supermarkets in urban peripheries, in bookstores or, glammed up, at the Venice Film Festival. San Precario is also transgender, and it has appeared also as a female saint. A “cult” has spread rapidly and has led to the development of a distinct and colorful iconography, hagiography and rituals. Appropriating the Italian Catholic tradition of carrying saint statues in processions in urban spaces, the cult of San Precario functions at the same time as étournement, as a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), as carnival. It is also a tactic to make visible issues arising from the increasing casualisation of the work force. At a different level it can be considered a site of mythopoetic production.

I do like that word “mythopoetic”: with twice the latitude of either myth or poem, it conceivably could pack four times the punch — a useful attribute for a saint whose feast day occurs only once every four years.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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For the spot in the middle

Doctor Taco, a former Oregon grinder now living out here on the Plains, has a very long and detailed analysis of the Mayor’s race — at least, of the top two candidates — and he’s come out for the incumbent:

The only additional power that a mayor has above the council is to nominate citizens to serve on various boards and committees, and even then these nominees must be voted in by the full council. Beyond this nominating power, the Mayor is not much more than an ordinary city councilor with additional powers as a figurehead or a cheerleader.

Mick Cornett’s time as Mayor is a case study in how to use the soft powers of the office to build coalitions and be a champion for Oklahoma City.

The suggestion here appears to be that Ed Shadid, more the activist type by nature, is perhaps less well suited to a more-ceremonial job. I’m not so sure.

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No picks

The Midland Reporter-Telegram, a Hearst-owned newspaper with about 15,000 daily circulation in West Texas, is officially out of the endorsement business:

The Reporter-Telegram Editorial Board will not be making endorsements for the March 4 primary elections. And that will be our policy moving forward.

This is, they say, a sign of the times:

The information out there in this day and age doesn’t necessarily require news organizations to do what we did five, 10, 20 or 50 years ago.

A reader shrugs:

I don’t care one way or the other. Whether it arises from a multi-person board or a single editor, a newspaper or magazine endorsement carries no more weight with me than that of any other reasonably informed individual. In fact, an explicit endorsement is much preferred from the more insidious implicit endorsements that often permeate a publication through biased reporting and slanted coverage of the candidates and campaigns. Figure out a way to end that and I’ll support your Nobel prize nomination.

Nobel Prize? In what? Alchemy?

It could be worse. During the Gaylord years, the Oklahoman was fond of sticking certain of its editorial endorsements on the front page, thinking this sort of thing mattered to the readership. (One of the advantages of their afternoon paper, the Oklahoma City Times, was that its front-page design didn’t lend itself to that sort of thing.)

David Letterman, once upon a time, shied away from embracing candidates: he said he didn’t want people thinking “Well, hell, Letterman likes the son of a bitch, let’s vote for him.” (If I remember correctly, this was in his 1984 Playboy interview.) This is an attitude I can endorse.

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An unqualified success

Rep. Robert E. Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, is leaving Congress to go practice law again. The Washington Post decided to send him off with a bit of snark:

Only four of Andrews’ hundreds of bills have ever passed the House of Representatives. But none of them passed the Senate, so none made it to the president’s desk.

Even in Congress, where the vast majority of bills fail, that is an unusually awful batting average. By those numbers, Andrews would be America’s least successful lawmaker of the past two decades.

Au contraire, Posties. Andrews should be counted among America’s most successful lawmakers, simply because he managed to concoct no ill-advised regulations, no new entitlements, no additions whatsoever to the Federal Register, in his 23 years in the House. This record, I submit, is enviable, and I would love to see his fellow Democrats — and, yes, even the Republicans — follow his example in years to come.

(Via Bill Quick.)

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And the door revolves once more

Cliff Branan, who represents Senate District 40 and therefore me, will be term-limited out of the Senate after this year, and already he’s planning his next gig: he’s running for Corporation Commissioner.

And he has some heavy hitters on his side:

Branan said co-chairs of his campaign include Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy Corp.; Greg Love, president of Love’s development companies,; Brian Bingman, president pro tem of the state Senate; and Harold Hamm, chief executive officer of Continental Resources.

Any of these guys — well, maybe not Bingman — could finance Branan’s campaign out of pocket change.

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Quote of the week

I know, it’s only Wednesday, but we’re not going to top this description of a quadrennial revulsion:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

A friend of mine, before the “event,” said that she didn’t subject herself to such things anymore:

I used to, believing “This is something grownups are supposed to do.” Now I look to see what’s on Cartoon Network instead.

Which makes perfect sense, since Cartoon Network, unlike the participants in SOTU, has effective adult supervision.

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Noses to be removed

And faces to be spited:

State lawmakers are considering throwing out marriage in Oklahoma.

The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it’s an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it’s what Oklahomans want.

“[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all,” Turner said.

If nothing else, this is consistent with Governor Fallin’s decision to deny spousal benefits to National Guard members, gay or straight.

And it’s a challenge to those who say that the states shouldn’t be in the marriage business in the first place. To some extent, I am sympathetic to that position; however, Turner is radiating that strange Soonerland vibe that says “Yeah, this is going to be swatted in the courts, but we don’t care.

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Roth waxing again

With Doctor No saying no to the last two years of his term, all of a sudden there’s some political news in the state that doesn’t involve gay couples, Satan, or Satanic gay couples.

Congressman James Lankford, never, ever short of ambition, has already announced for Tom Coburn’s Senate seat. And he has name recognition in one-fifth of the state, which surely will help. (Folks down in Little Dixie will go “Who?”)

A more interesting race, I surmise, will involve the selection of Lankford’s replacement. Tom Guild, the previous Democratic sacrificial lamb, has yet to say anything. Meanwhile, former Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth has let it be known that he’s around:

“I have always said, that public service feeds my soul,” Roth said. “The citizens of Oklahoma have given me the honor of serving them in public office, and I look forward to discussing the possibility of serving the citizens of this great state, once again, with my friends and family over the coming days and weeks. I do believe our democracy is best when it includes all people.”

The one possibly worrisome aspect of Roth — when he was on the Corp Comm, he seemed awfully buddy-buddy with Chesapeake’s Aubrey McClendon — may or may not have evaporated with McClendon’s departure from CHK. Still, who among the Republicans can beat him? Maybe another Commissioner:

Edmond businesswoman and Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas said today she will seek the Republican nomination for Congress in the 5th District… “My roots here in Oklahoma’s Fifth District run deep, with connections in communities from Shawnee to Bethany,” said Douglas. “All across the district, conservatives like me believe in the same things: lower taxes, limited government, and protecting our Constitutional freedoms.”

The 5th is very Republican — R+13, last I looked — but a Roth/Douglas matchup might be pretty close, and maybe even entertaining.

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It does not say “Please re-Mitt”

So how, exactly, would things be different today if a few hundred thousand more people had pulled the lever, or the dysfunctional equivalent thereof, for Mitt Romney? Not a whole lot, says Bill Quick:

I’d be hard-pressed to figure out how our post-2012 governance would have differed under Romney versus what we did end up with.

I mean, do you honestly think that Romneycare — whoops, I mean Obamacare — would have been repealed by now? Or that the Senate would not have passed scamnesty for illegals, and the House wouldn’t desperately be trying to figure out how to do likewise? Or that the NSA wouldn’t still be scooping up every conceivable bit of data about every American it can get its hands on?

Jim Hightower, from the way-left side of the fence, called this one a long time ago: “Some people say we need a third party in this country. I think we could use a second one.”

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Burning down the House

One chamber of legislative ne’er-do-wells is apparently enough:

Senate Joint Resolution 43, filed by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, would allow voters to create a constitutional amendment creating a unicameral legislature consisting of 48 legislators, effectively dissolving the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Because, you know, he’s not going to jeopardize his job by asking for the Senate to be killed.

Anderson says he wants to save a few bucks, not the worst idea in the world, though it would have been nice if he’d said something about Reynolds v. Sims, in which the Supreme Court decided that legislative houses in the states had to be divided into equal population districts. (Before this 1964 decision, each county would have at least one House member, regardless of population.) In effect, this makes one chamber in each and every bicameral state legislature — all 49 of them — largely irrelevant. Then again, Reynolds was decided three years before Anderson was born, so it’s probably not uppermost in his mind.

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Quote of the week

We used to call them “grammar schools.” Grammar, of course, is no longer au courant as an area of study, inasmuch as it presumes that some people’s language might be superior to the language of others. But that’s not the greatest loss:

The problem is one of fundamentals. American schools — grammar schools — once taught the fundamentals of the American approach to government: individual freedom; constitutionally limited government; the sanctity of free enterprise and private property; the guarantees of the Bill of Rights. Schoolchildren learned about the insights of John Locke and Adam Smith, and why they constituted important advances in human thought. Without those things, comprehending the American way of governance sufficiently well to articulate it is impossible — and a large majority of Americans lacks those things today.

He who lacks appreciation for the moral imperative and the practical case for freedom will fall back to other “values.” He’ll defend whatever crumbs he can beg from the Omnipotent State as his “by right,” even if they must be snatched from the mouths of persons just like him. He might never discover what he’s been denied. He might never learn the principles that built the country he inherited … and which he and so many others lack the wit, and possibly the will, to sustain.

I would add only that those who survive a secondary education these days are likely no wiser than those who learned nothing in the primary.

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Meanwhile on 23rd Street

In this state, at least, you can’t spell “gubernatorial” without “goober”:

Though I hold conservative positions on many issues, I am no fan of Gov. [Mary] Fallin, who is a small-scale version of the all-image, little-substance-and-even-less-ability politician dominating many levels of government today and writ largest at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

But has Mr. [Randy] Brogdon done anything since his 2010 bid for the nomination managed to scare up a whopping 39% of the vote to suggest he can defeat Gov. Fallin, who now wields the mighty mallet of incumbency? No, unless being appointed the Deputy Commissioner of the Fraud and Investigations Unit by Insurance Commissioner John Doak has mystical powers of which I am unaware.

At least you can figure Brogdon is, or has been, well-armed.

Still, Brogdon vs. Fallin is just the primary. (My guess: Brogdon prods her on income-tax relief; Fallin sits there, smiles really pretty and all, crosses her legs, and says that she never promised anyone a rose garden.) Whoever survives that circus gets to face Joe Dorman, whom we’ve already discussed:

[T]echnically, Rep. Dorman, you’re suggesting organs be harvested from living people. That sound you heard was Christian Szell saying, “Ew.”

This particular seat, unlike most in state government, is actually attainable by Democrats; let’s hope they find someone with less amusement potential than Dorman between now and the primary (which is the 24th of June; candidate filing is 9-11 April).

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Quote of the week

Josh, who writes pony stories under a pseudonym, also occasionally comes up with more generalized commentary:

Those Greenpeace ‘activists’. You can’t believe how much of a show they’re making of it over here. They are viewed as heroes of some sort or something. Jesus Christ. Those five people don’t have a right to be called Britons. They are a plight of my nation. Instead of working and providing for their families, and contributing to the society they live in, they decided to focus their attention on some meaningless global issues, and all while invading another country’s ship, no less! That’s like Yankees deciding they have the right to meddle in other nations’ affairs. Jeez, we’re Brits. We need to remain moderate. Moderation is what makes our nation. Now that I see Brits marching on parades, and taking part in ridiculous acts like invading some ship for the sake of some Arctic whatever, I have a sour feeling that this nation’s decadence is reaching its peak. Ironically enough, Scots are mobilising in terms of national identity, something that the English have failed to do for a while already.

I wonder when people will stop chiming in other people’s affairs and just live their lives and focus on the small things. I don’t see people from, say, Switzerland, giving a damn about the global affairs. Way to go! I’m honest here. They are the nation to be taken as an example. Good job, Switzerland. Good job.

One point Josh didn’t make, but could have: were Vladimir Putin just slightly less concerned with Russia’s public image — the Olympics are coming up, after all — the activists would still be languishing in St. Petersburg’s jails.

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The frognosticator

Vaguely amphibian political consultant Dick Morris is making predictions again:

Morris says Republicans will capture the Senate in 2014. “We need six seats to win the Senate,” he says. “Three of them, as I’ve said, are easy pickups: West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. All three of them have retiring Democratic incumbents, very strong Republican candidates and very weak Democrats running for the seat.” Morris said the real test will come in four crucial states: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina.

You may remember Morris’ last bold prediction: Romney 325, Obama 213.

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Fueling concerns

If you think things here are being run into the ground, you might want to keep in mind that there is incompetence and venality beyond even the Washington standard. Look, for example, at Caracas. Leopoldo Martínez, leader of the Venezuelan opposition, wrote in the WSJ this week:

According to his government’s own figures, inflation currently stands at 54%, the highest in the Americas. Much as Chávez did, Mr. [Nicolás] Maduro has plundered Venezuela’s oil industry, which accounts for 95% of export earnings, by providing billions of dollars in oil subsidies to Cuba and other regime allies. Despite the regime’s much trumpeted commitment to wealth redistribution, the country is plagued by shortages of basic goods like cooking oil, milk and corn flour, while concerns over a government debt default have led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating to B-.

B-minus? Even Illinois is better than that.

(WSJ extract courtesy of Fausta’s blog.)

One of those oil subsidies is reserved for the Venezuelan public:

The idea of Venezuelans paying more for gasoline was first floated in early December, when Vice President Jorge Arreaza said it was time start discussing raising gas prices. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that the country having the world’s cheapest gas wasn’t a point of pride. Finally, last week Maduro himself said he favored gradually raising prices over three years.

“As an oil nation, Venezuelans should have a special price advantage for hydrocarbons compared to the international market,” the former bus driver told newly elected mayors on Dec. 18. “But it has to be an advantage, not a disadvantage. What converts it into a disadvantage is when the tip you give is more than what it cost to fill the tank.”

There are “special price advantages,” and then there is this: a gallon of gas costs about 90 cents in Kuwait, about 50 cents in Saudi Arabia — and about five cents in Venezuela, a price which has remained relatively constant for a decade and a half. There is, of course, a reason for that:

In 1989 the price of gasoline was raised, prompting deadly rioting that went on for days and killed over 300 people.

“Well, yeah,” some will cry, “but they have free health care.” Not so fast, Chucky.

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More season’s greasings

One more 6×9 card in the mail. Collin Walke and his wife have no children, but they do have two dogs. Text on the address side: “Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings of love, joy and peace.” For a minute there, I almost thought he was a Republican, just by dint of mentioning the C-word.

But no: Walke’s a Democrat, running for House District 87, currently represented by Republican Jason Nelson. (See previous edition.) Still a couple of days to go.

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Quote of the week

Ace riffs on l’affaire Phil Robertson, and points out where we’re going wrong:

Yes, A&E has the right to suspend Phil Robertson. A&E also has the right to stand up for a broad and generous principle of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

Why does no one speak of that right? Sure, they have the right to act hostilely towards the spirit of the First Amendment and use coercive power to hammer people into only speaking the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

They also have the right to stick up for people’s right to dissent, to be “weird,” to have unpopular thoughts and heterodox beliefs. And as a media company, they really ought to have an interest in doing so.

Why does no one ever mention this? Why does no one ever push companies to recognize that right, rather than the other one?

It is well-conceded that an employer has the right to fire you for some heterodox belief or some oddball sexual habit, but an employer similarly has the right to foster an environment of self-expression and freedom, and yet no one seems to talk about a company’s capacity to be a Good Actor in the realm of free expression.

Of course not. The people who do support free expression would never dream of screaming at the top of their lungs about boycotts and such. But maybe it’s time they should:

[T]his War on Individuality hurts everyone who considers himself an individual.

It is time to tell these people, with no politeness whatsoever, to Shut the Fuck Up and stop making life awful for everyone else.

They are enemies of freedom — of freedom of conscience, of freedom of thought, of freedom of expression; of freedom, generally — and should be hectored, harassed, and humiliated as such.

They are retrograde simpleton bullies, and bullies requiring the bracing lesson of a punch to the face.

In the meantime, I’ll wait for someone to show me the specific clause in the Constitution that says he has the right to go through life without ever hearing anything that conflicts with his views.

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Turmoil in Turkey continues

Istanbul chief of police Huseyin Capkin has been fired:

Istanbul’s police chief has been sacked in the aftermath of mass arrests on Tuesday by officers investigating corruption claims, reports say.

Huseyin Capkin’s dismissal comes a day after several senior officers, including his deputies, were removed.

Some 52 people, including three sons of ministers, were arrested in the dawn raids which prompted the dismissals.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denounced the inquiry as a “dirty operation” against his government.

In the absence of obvious explanations, there are speculations:

Many believe the arrests and firings reflect a feud within Turkey’s ruling AK Party between those who back Mr Erdoğan, and supporters of Fethullah Gülen, an influential Islamic scholar living in self-imposed exile in the US.

Members of Mr Gülen’s Hizmet movement are said to hold influential positions in institutions such as the police, the judiciary and the AK Party itself.

“Hizmet” — “service to the common good” — would seem at least slightly incompatible with Islam as we know it, but I admit to having read very little of Gülen’s work.

Meanwhile, where there is turmoil, there are jokes:

“How Turkey has regressed,” says Jerry at Commonsense & Wonder.

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Season’s greasings

In the mail yesterday: cards of a sort from local politicians, complete with obligatory Family Pictures.

Jason Nelson, who currently represents House District 87, sent a 6×9 card with “Merry Christmas” on one side and a Bible verse (Isaiah 9:6) on the other.

John Handy Edwards, who hopes to replace the term-limited Cliff Branan in Senate District 40 in 2015, sent a 6.875×10 card, folded once, with “Happy Holidays” on the outside and “Sending warm wishes from our family to yours this season” within.

More as they arrive, if more arrive.

Why, no, I didn’t mention their party affiliations. Did I need to?

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Demote the general welfare

Should we declare victory in the War on Poverty and bring the boys home from Washington? It has a certain visceral appeal, but it might not work the way we think it would:

The money isn’t being spent on the poor, but it is being spent to prevent poverty; some people’s poverty, anyway. The bureaucrats who administer the anti-poverty programs are themselves the objects. Their jobs coordinating one of the hundreds of jobs programs is itself a jobs program. That’s not sarcasm or hyperbole. Really, there isn’t any other place for them, and they won’t be allowed to live in the condition they would end up in if not for that government job.

They have no marketable skill, and at 45 they can’t now learn anything that will earn them a middle class living. If that seems unkind or offensive, express it this way: the private economy has no place for them. Firing them en masse won’t unleash a bounty of entrepreneurship, as the former grant administration compliance auditor pushes his own weenie cart, selling dogs to the former diversity coordination outreach specialist who now builds houses. Though maybe tearing down empty houses would be a better business model today.

Short of hiring them to dig holes, and then reassigning the Department of Education to fill them back up, it’s difficult to come up with a way to dispose of these folks humanely.

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Quote of the week

That whole “separation of church and state” business, if you ask me, has it exactly sideways. Christ spoke of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; today’s Caesars are keen to have the population rendered, once their ability to mulct us fails for lack of further mulctables.

Francis W. Porretto, having noted this sort of thing before, has pretty much had it up to here with professions of [some sort of] faith as part of political campaigns:

The various Christian denominations differ on a number of things, most notably abortion, divorce, and sexual conduct. However, they are united around the Noachite Commandments:

Then someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and your mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 19:16-19]

Government’s penchants for theft and false witness should make any sincere Christian extremely uneasy about contact with it, approaching absolutely unwilling to be involved with it at any level. Make no mistake: to confiscate from unwilling Peter is theft no matter whether or not any of the proceeds reach Paul. The insertion of government, the supposedly disinterested servant of the “general welfare,” as the confiscator makes no difference whatsoever.

There’s a Catholic doctrine about “occasions of sin,” circumstances which are likely to lure the faithful into transgressions. Getting oneself parked in one of the seats of power, whether for graft or simply grasp, does not augur well for the future of one’s soul.

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The Turn the Other Cheek Act

Attending to your own defense — “taking the law into your own hands!” shriek the fearful — is a process some people are simply not prepared to comprehend. Jennifer offers an explanation:

When did we become a society that regards morally justifiable violence as something repugnant? Something from which we should shield our children? We can celebrate athletes with rap sheets a mile long just as long as they put the ball in the right place again and again. We buy the shoes they tell us to buy. Why does the media vilify a neighborhood watch volunteer while venerating the thugs in jerseys?

I think I know part of the answer. As a society, we’ve separated ourselves from personal responsibility and community. Our reality comes from TV and not from interpersonal relationships. We’ve insulated ourselves from the consequences of our actions. It’s no longer our own fault if we get fat. It’s the fast food, here take a pill. Unplanned pregnancy? Just terminate it. Fail at business? Someone else is there to bail you out. And so on. It’s gotten to the point that it causes cognitive dissonance when someone takes matters into their own hands. The police are supposed to protect us, right? Sure. And our meat comes from the grocer too.

It doesn’t help that the highest form of existence acknowledged these days is victimhood: it’s much more socially acceptable to claim that everything and everybody is against you, even — maybe especially — if it’s your own damn fault.

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Press Escape to continue

A lone Republican, noticing the absence of the horse, calls for more security measures affecting the stable door:

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) on Tuesday proposed legislation that would prevent the federal government from deploying new websites that don’t adequately protect personal data.

His Safe and Secure Federal Websites Act, H.R. 3635 [pdf], would also require existing websites to show they [are] safe and secure. If a website fails to meet that standard, the government would have to take it offline until it is repaired.

This is, of course, a shot across the bow of healthcare.gov, which was introduced with no discernible security and the functionality of GeoCities.

“In its haste to implement ObamaCare, the White House has acted with reckless disregard when it comes to protecting the public from hackers,” Bentivolio said Tuesday. “With this website, they have jeopardized not only the personal information of users attempting to obtain health insurance, but also potentially compromised dozens of other federal agencies and their systems.”

What “haste”? They had three whole years to develop this thing. And you have to figure that by now anyone’s private information, yours, mine or the government’s — which latter is therefore yours and mine — has already been picked up by NSA, awaiting bids from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg.

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You owe us stormage

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, has called for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give up the hurricane-forecasting business, on the basis that, well, NOAA’s not been very good at it of late:

In May, the agency predicted an “active or extremely active” hurricane season, forecasting that there would be 7-11 hurricanes, 3-6 major hurricanes, and 13-20 named storms.

The year’s final tally: 2 hurricanes, no major hurricanes, and 13 named storms… not even “close enough for government work.”

This marked the 7th time in the past ten years that NOAA’s hurricane forecast has been wrong and its epic failure this year rivals even its disastrous forecast in 2005, when it predicted there would be 7-9 hurricanes and there ended up being 15.

There is, of course, a “climate change” angle:

NOAA isn’t alone in undermining [its] credibility by suggesting a greater level of certainty than it possesses.

For years now, we’ve been told that there is a scientific consensus that our burning of fossil fuels is creating dangerous warming of the planet.

Now the public has learned that we’re in the midst of a 17-year “pause” in global warming that not one of the 73 climate models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Climate on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report predicted.

Now I see this as more of a hierarchical problem: the higher up you go, the more likely your results are going to be somewhat politicized. The National Weather Service, down a level from NOAA, works hard not to become emotionally involved with its models.

Still, if the National Center is so upset with dubious government-approved numbers, they should be going after the major Washington dissemblers like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose books have been cooked for so long they’re downright mushy.

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The sharp stick of politics

Dave Schuler quotes Megan McArdle:

[I]f you want to make the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act viable for the long term, you’re going to need the support of folks like Hobby Lobby as much as you need low premiums. There are many religious people in America, and if you want to keep stirring up active opposition to the law, one good way is to suggest that this law forces them to pay for something they are convinced is morally wrong. (Hobby Lobby’s objection is not to contraception in general, but specifically to products that could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.) If you want to still be fighting Obamacare in the trenches 40 years from now, the best way I can think of is appending it to the argument over abortion.

But McArdle, says Schuler, is missing a very pointed point:

… which is that part of the problem with our political system today is that accomplishing something material doesn’t necessarily produce political gain but poking a stick in your opponent’s eye does. And it feels so good.

There is a hierarchy of values at work here. Having an issue is better than solving a problem. Hurting your political opponent is better than reaching a mutually agreeable solution. Holding tough is better than compromise.

With that hierarchy in mind, it’s clear that appending Obamacare to the argument over abortion is a feature rather than a bug.

Of course, with sticks flying in every direction, we should not be surprised to find incidence of blindness.

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The first rule of the ruling class

A reminder from Bill Quick:

Conservatives in government are in government first, and conservatives second. Their power comes from being in government, rather than in being conservative.

And, according to the vast majority of consensus opinion, right, left, and middle, in government, the task is to use government to do things. That’s what they all mean when they say they want to make government work. Because they sure as hell don’t mean that they want to make themselves work.

I’d just bet the smallish sum I sent to a local shelter this week will do more immediate good than the decidedly larger sum that various levels of government vacuumed out of my paycheck this week, if only for reasons of lower overhead.

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We like your plan just fine

Our Insurance Commissioner weighs in:

The number of health insurance policies canceled in Oklahoma as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been minimized due to the efforts of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak.

“Here in Oklahoma, my office has always focused on the consumer,” said Doak. “We recognized the possibility of cancellations early on and worked with the state’s largest health insurance companies to lessen the consumer impact. That collaboration led to our approval of their requests to modify policy renewal dates, which allowed a majority of Oklahoma policyholders to keep their existing coverage through 2014.”

Technically, this does not extend their existing coverage, but does permit renewals at some figure resembling the previous premium.

Doak, of course, is not impressed by the administration’s shenaniganza:

“After yet another failed initiative, President Obama is just passing the buck,” said Doak. “How can the federal government make this decision without offering any guidance to the state insurance departments or the insurance carriers? Cancellation notices have already gone out. Rates and plans have already been approved. How is this supposed to work? There are a lot of unanswered questions right now. This is what you get when you pass a bill you haven’t read.”

This is consistent with the NAIC statement earlier yesterday. Very consistent.

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Click here for Communism

To you, it’s a $20 ticket for not buckling your seat belt. To Mark French, it’s much, much more:

He says it’s about government overreach, and he says that leads to such things as Obamacare, gun control and government deciding how large a soda pop you can purchase.

“Where does it end?” French asks. “It doesn’t, there’s no end to it.”

Americans have to draw a line in the sand at some point, French says, and the seat belt ticket gave him his line.

“Why is a seat belt required to be worn to keep us safe in a car, but not on a bus?” French wrote in an email encouraging local residents to show up in the courtroom to support his cause. “Why are we allowed to rock climb, snow ski, water ski, hang glide, hunt and eat candy bars? Why is it not unlawful to refuse medical advice? Are we ready to be told by government that we cannot drink an extra large pop?”

I was more or less sympathetic toward the guy until I read this:

Traveling in the opposite direction from the east, Montana Highway Patrolman Steve Spurr testified he observed a white car with no front license plate pass him. The rear plate, Spurr said, had a protective cover that made it difficult to see the plate number. Both are traffic violations.

There’s a lot to be said in favor of subverting the system — but being clumsily obvious about it will not help.

(Via Fark.)

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