Patterico's Pontifications

9/29/2014

Weighing Out Mitt Romney

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:17 pm

[guest post by Dana]

So, Mitt Romney: will he or won’t he? He certainly remains popular and admits he is “carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run.”

Ross Douthat, while hoping Mitt doesn’t run, points out why he is back in the spotlight:

Part of the answer can be found in Henry Olsen’s helpful analysis, from earlier this year, of how exactly Republican presidential primaries tend to shake out. Olsen offered a four-group typology of G.O.P. primary voters — secular conservatives, religious conservatives, moderate conservatives and Rockefeller-Republican centrists — and argued that the nomination almost always goes to the candidate who can rally the moderate conservatives and co-opt elements from the other constituencies while fending of challenges from the right and (sometimes, though less often) the center. There are different ways to do this (as evidenced by George W. Bush and John McCain’s very different paths to the nomination), but the trick doesn’t change that much from cycle to cycle — you want to seem conservative enough but not too right-wing, electable but not a liberal sellout, a safe choice for donors who also makes the party’s activists feel respected. You don’t win by running against those activists (as McCain did in 2000, and Jon Huntsman did in 2012), and you also don’t win by running as an ideological insurgent; you win by straddling dispositional and ideological conservatism, raising lots of money, and promising the best chance of victory in November.

Or shorter, per commenter Dustin: “The GOP doesn’t have to live up to any standard… it just has to be less awful than the opponent.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin offers 15 reasons why Mitt should not run. Readers can decide for themselves the validity of her claims. Here is a sampling:

7. It is hard for him to make the argument that Hillary Clinton has been around forever and it’s time for someone new.

8. In promoting an anti-elitism message, the GOP has the upper hand against Hillary — unless Romney runs.

9. There are a number of fresher, more interesting candidates who would likely shy away from running against him (e.g. Rep. Paul Ryan). Even if others do run, Romney would suck up donors and operatives who would otherwise gravitate to a fresher, more electable figure.

12. With the exception of the first presidential debate against Obama, he seemed to lack the skill and desire to go for the jugular. Anyone going up against the Clintons will need that.

14. He is not well situated to break off parts of the Democratic coalition (minorities, women, young voters).

15. He is likely to widen, not shrink, the gap between the establishment and the tea party sides of the GOP.

In the meantime, Ted Cruz is playing it close to the vest, Rand Paul is waiting for his wife’s full support (and trying to figure out how to distance himself from his father), and Rick Perry is still trying to find his footing and make a comeback after the disappointment of 2012.

–Dana

President Obama Lays Blame

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:29 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In an interview with 60 Minutes last night, President Obama threw the intelligence community under the bus when discussing the swift and seemingly sudden rise of ISIS:

“Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said.

His accusation did not sit well with a former intelligence officer:

“Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.” Or both.

Sen. John McCain also pushed back today:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told USA TODAY on Monday that intelligence agencies in fact forecast the rise of ISIS, and described Obama’s comments as “the dog ate my homework kind of routine.”

McCain blamed the expansion of the Islamic State on the U.S. failure to keep a residual force in Iraq after the end of combat operations.

“When the president decided we were not going to leave a sustaining force in Iraq … those of us who knew the area well knew the situation was going to deteriorate,” McCain said.

And jumping in to defend his boss, Josh Earnest sought to clarify that the president was not blaming intelligence officials:

Intelligence analysis is “a difficult business, and, ultimately, at the end, becomes a prediction,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

At the White House, Earnest said that the president retains confidence in Clapper and the intelligence community.

“Ultimately, the president is commander-in-chief,” Earnest said. “And he’s the one who takes responsibility for ensuring that we have the kinds of policies in place that are required to protect our interests around the globe.”

–Dana

Added: Video of Josh Earnest attempting to deflect and spin the pressing questions from reporter Jon Karl who refuses to be put off (start at 26:00):

John Kerry 2014 vs. John Kerry 1971

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 am

Harry Shearer has this satirical debate between John Kerry 1971 and John Kerry 2014 on the reasons to go to war. The clip contrasts actual audio clips of John Kerry from 2014 supporting our action in Iraq, vs. actual clips of John Kerry 1971 protesting Vietnam:

It’s humorous enough on its own, but I was struck by this passage, beginning at 5:07:

There is no negotiation with ISIL. There is nothing to negotiate. They’re not offering anyone health care of any kind. They’re not offering education of any kind. For a whole idea, or philosophy or cult, whatever you want to call it, that frankly comes out of the Stone Age.

He finally gets around to commplaining that ISIS is “cold-blooded kiddlers” (I think he means killers), but his first complaint is that . . . they aren’t offering anyone government health care or education.

Well, of course you can’t negotiate with anyone like that!

Doctors Still Tough to Find Under ObamaCare in California

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:55 am

L.A. Times (you heard me):

Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year.

The state’s largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans.

More satisfied customers.

9/28/2014

My Musical Dream

Filed under: General,Music — Patterico @ 1:37 pm

Picture this, fellow music nerds. In this dream I had, I experience the following moment: The Bangles have left the stage. Before Aimee Mann comes out to sing with Susanna Hoffs — and before we hear from Chris Stamey of the dBs — we have on stage Jon Auer from the Posies, and Jason Falkner, formerly of Jellyfish and The Grays. Auer and Falkner are standing in front of the microphones, ready to sing the next song. Behind them, holding an electric guitar, is Mitch Easter, legendary producer of REM and front man for Let’s Active. At the drums is Jody Stephens, the only living member of Big Star. But . . . where is the bassist? There’s none on the stage. Ken Stringfellow, who plays bass, walks diffidently onto the stage and picks up a bass, his body language saying: this isn’t really a song I was going to play, but whatever. And then, the real bassist comes running onto the stage and takes the bass guitar from Stringfellow. That bassist is Mike Mills, the bassist from REM.

Yes, it’s a crazy dream to have: all these music legends on a single stage. But it wasn’t a dream. It was last night’s performance at the Wilshire Ebell Theater — a star-studded tribute to Big Star, presented as a benefit for the Autism Think Tank.

Someone has many (maybe all) of last night’s songs on his YouTube channel, filmed from a seat far better than the ones occupied by myself and Mrs. P. When I found this treasure trove this morning, I immediately looked for a video of the most magical moment of the night. And I found it. After the songs listed on the program were finished, Chris Stamey came to the stage and said that they had one more song to perform, but that legally, they had to turn off the PA system (the Wilshire Ebell is in a residential neighborhood). But they would do the song acoustically, without any amplification, and if everyone was quiet, they ought to be able to hear just fine.

And then, they played this:

I had thought this moment would live on only in my memory. Thanks to the Internet and YouTube, it also lives on right here. Watch the video. It’s worth your time.

If you like that, I have a couple more beneath the fold.

(more…)

9/27/2014

Do We Truly Consent to Be Governed?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:11 pm

One issue that I knew would come up in the comments to the post about The Tale of the Slave is the concept of the social contract and the alleged consent of the governed.

For most of my life, I accepted rather unquestioningly the notion that there is a “social contract.” Sure, it’s obviously impractical to have every person in a country explicitly consent to be governed by some authority. But, as John Locke argued, lack of explicit consent does not make the government illegitimate — because there are ways that we display our tacit consent to be governed. We accept and use the benefits that we receive from government, such as driving on government roads. We vote (at least many of us do), which is a display of our desire to affect public decisionmaking. All of these actions show that we are engaged in a “social contract” — and that our government (to quote Jefferson’s words from the Declaration of Independence) is one “deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed.”

And without the concept of “tacit consent” or the “social contract,” there would be a free-rider problem. If we had no justification to tax citizens to provide for necessaries such as the common defense and fighting crime, only some would pay for that which is necessary for all.

That’s the argument that I have accepted most of my life. And, to be clear: I’m not dead convinced that this argument is absolutely wrong, at least in theory. But as I watch our country moving away from our original “social contract,” the Constitution, I’d like to challenge some of these assumptions.

The argument that accepting government benefits means accepting the government itself proves too much. Let’s invoke Godwin’s Law right off the bat: if you drove on the Nazis’ roads, did that mean you accepted Hitler’s legitimacy? Under this ridiculous theory, anyone who accepts any government “benefit” from any totalitarian regime necessarily recognizes that government’s legitimacy. To state this argument is to reject it.

The other problem I have with tacit consent resting on government “benefits” is that there is a socialist assumption built into the argument: that we could not enjoy these benefits if the free market were allowed to handle the situation that the government has taken over. Take the roads, for example. The assumption, I guess, is that if the government didn’t build roads, people would just stand around in the fields looking at each other and shrugging. Somehow, I think the free market could come up with a way to build roads, if it came right down to it.

Another argument says that if you don’t like your own country, you are free to move to another. If you stay, that means you accept the “social contract” — whether your signature can be found on a document or not. Really? What other contract on earth requires you to pick up all your belongings, uproot yourself and your family, and move to another part of the world — just to show that you don’t consent to the “contract”? Courts won’t enforce a contract for the sale of land without a signature. Why, then, would we consider people bound to a “social contract” with no signature — especially when that “social contract” involves the prospect of confiscatory taxation, and even possibly involuntary conscription to fight a war we don’t believe in?

Ah, but what about the vote as tacit consent? Nice try, but no sale. Imagine you told me that I could withdraw my consent to be taxed and subjected to laws I disagree with, simply by refusing to vote. Guess what? I will never vote again. As it stands right now, my vote is generally an act of self-defense. I’m either voting against some ridiculous bond issue that is going to cost me and my children money — or I’m voting for the person who is least likely to increase government and ruin my children’s future (which is the same as saying I am voting against the person who is most likely to screw my family). I usually don’t like the person I am voting for, and I usually expect that their decisions will be ones I would never make and consider absurd — but hopefully slightly less absurd than the decisions that would be made by his opponent. Does this mean I “support” the candidate I am voting for? Hardly ever.

So where does this consent come from? What justification does this government have to tax me to pay for the health care of people who are leeches on society? Or, on a more mundane level, what right does this government have to tell me whether I can use my iPhone to call an Uber car and share the ride with other people to make it cheaper?

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t sign a contract.

Again, I’m not sure I absolutely reject the idea of a social contract, but the arguments against are not so easily dismissed as I assumed for most of my life. And those arguments seem to gain force given that we have discarded the Constutition.

The closest thing we ever had to a true social contract was the Constitution of the United States. That was a governing document that actually was signed by representatives of the People. True, the time came when all those signatories were dead, but the document did provide a mechanism for its alteration, which provided a way for the People themselves to have their say in what the Constitution means. But now, unelected judges say what the Constitution means — and their diktats bear no relationship to the words written in the document. What’s more, we are increasingly governed by a President who does not consider himself bound by the Constitution, but rather by his sense of what he can get away with. (I’m sure that formulation has been used by others, but it rings so true that I feel like it is original with me.)

More and more, I find myself wondering: what legitimacy does this government have? And, more and more, the answer seems to be: none.

What it does have, is power. If I run afoul of it, I can be locked in a cage. If I criticize it, I can be audited by the IRS.

But legitimacy? With a dead Constitution, tell me the source of this government’s legitimacy. I don’t see it.

Saturday Afternoon Music

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:59 pm

Musical magic in a hotel room.

9/26/2014

Beheading In Oklahoma

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:56 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Horrible.

A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police said Friday.

Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said police are waiting until Alton Nolen, 30, is conscious to arrest him in Thursday’s attack and have asked the FBI to help investigate after co-workers at Vaughan Foods in the south Oklahoma City suburb told authorities that he recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam.

Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, Lewis said.

Reports say that Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the company’s chief operating officer, shot Nolen.

Nolen had a record and is currently on probation for assault and battery on a police officer. According to classmates, Nolen converted to Islam in 2011 while serving time in prison.

From a local report:

A classmate of Nolen’s, who didn’t wish to be identified, told this newspaper that he spoke to a close family member of Nolen’s today.

He told this newspaper that according to the family member, Nolen was telling coworkers Thursday of an Islamic teaching that said women should be stoned for an offense, and that an argument followed the mark, Nolen was later fired and returned later Thursday, when he beheaded Colleen Hufford, the family member said.

Earlier this month a woman in North London was also beheaded by a recent convert to Islam.

–Dana

How Important Is Your Vote? The Tale of the Slave

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:46 am

It’s Friday and the news is stupid. Let’s have a philosophical bull session. Today let’s consider the Tale of the Slave, from Robert Nozick’s book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” — and consider what implications it has for those who consider the vote sacred:

Consider the following sequence of cases, which we shall call the Tale of the Slave, and imagine it is about you.

1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master’s whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3.The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three-sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

Nozick at this point pauses to reflect on what he’s saying here:

Let us pause in this sequence of cases to take stock. If the master contracts this transfer of power so that he cannot withdraw it, you have a change of master. You now have 10,000 masters instead of just one; rather you have one 10,000-headed master. Perhaps the 10,000 even will be kindlier than the benevolent master in case 2. Still, they are your master. However, still more can be done. A kindly single master (as in case 2) might allow his slave(s) to speak up and try to persuade him to make a certain decision. The 10,000-headed monster can do this also.

Nozick then takes us back to his progression:

7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the vast range of their powers.

8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happened; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?

The point, I think, is clear: we all have a vote on various issues of the day — and our vote is all but guaranteed to have no effect on the outcome. Yet the government arrogates to itself the right to tax us for absurd ends, whether it’s taking our money to pay people who are unwilling to work, or arming Syrian rebels who are likely to use those arms against us one day. In essence, aren’t we being forced to work to pay for things we disagree with? And how is that different from slavery?

I know there are many here who believe the vote is very important. I offer this tale as a polite and friendly challenge. Discuss it in that spirit. I wouldn’t bring it up if I weren’t particularly interested in what those folks have to say.

BONUS DEBATE POINT: Feel free to raise and discuss the issue of the consent of the governed. I plan to address that in a future post or posts.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit and Hot Air for the links. I have a related follow-up post about whether we truly consent to be governed by this government, here.

GOP to Obama: Do Not Try to Confirm New AG in Lame Duck Session

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:41 am

Looks like the GOP thinks it’s winning the Senate in November — because they’re warning Obama not to replace Eric Holder in the lame-duck session:

Conservatives are warning President Obama against using a lame-duck session of Congress to push through Attorney General Eric Holder’s replacement, even as the White House signals its intention to fill the post quickly.

. . . .

But even if, as many predict, Republicans reclaim control of the Senate in the approaching midterm elections, they would be largely powerless to block Democrats from using their current majority to confirm an attorney general before the new Congress is gaveled into session in January.

“Rather than rush a nominee through the Senate in a lame-duck session, I hope the president will now take his time to nominate a qualified individual who can start fresh relationships with Congress so that we can solve the problems facing our country,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hope all you like, sir. He’ll do it anyway, and you’ll sit there and take it.

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