Free Markets, Free People
My blogging credentials (such as they are) run back to 2002, and I can remember when Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs site was just a blip on the blogospheric map. After Rathergate, of course, that blip turned into a giant shining beacon. As you might expect, that sort of attention led to plenty of caterwauling from the lefties, and some pretty unfair accusations. At one point, I brilliantly defended Johnson from completely unjustified attacks by none other than everyone’s favorite harlequin, GreenSox Glennwald (seriously, go read this one just for the comments where I get into it with everyone’s favorite sycophant Mona; good stuff). Johnson was the king of the anti-anti-war right at that time, and the left’s long knives were emblazoned with his name.
Since the election of Barack Obama, however, Johnson has had an … er, falling out with his former brethren. For whatever reason, he’s taken to sniping at his former comrades in arms and resorted to that favorite tactic of the left in calling everyone a racist who doesn’t agree with him.
Such is life. Coalitions rarely last for very long, and divorces are typically nasty affairs where rude epithets are common. That Charles no longer wants to associate with those whom he once treated as his band of blogo-brothers is sad, but not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. Strange bedfellows abound in times of perceived danger.
Nevertheless, there was a time (called the “Bush Presidency”) when Johnson was the posterchild for all that was deemed wrong with the political right, especially the left’s fervent fantasies about racism run amuck. To be fair, such accusations typically found their quarry ruminating around LGF’s prodigious comment sections, but that was enough for the lords of tolerance to tar all non-statists as racist, warmongering, dead-enders with no sense of compassion or grace. That is, until Johnson decided to part ways with his former comrades.
Considering LGF’s place amongst the pantheon of the left’s most hated sites on Earth, you can imagine my surprise upon reading a paean to Charles Johnson in, of all places, the New York Times:
Charles Johnson has been writing a blog for almost as long as the word “blog” has existed. A bearish, gentle-voiced, ponytailed man who for three decades enjoyed a successful career as a jazz guitarist accompanying the likes of Al Jarreau and Stanley Clarke, Johnson has always had a geek’s penchant for self-education, and in that spirit he cultivated a side interest, and ultimately an expertise, in writing computer code. His Web log, which he named “Little Green Footballs” (a private joke whose derivation he has always refused to divulge), was begun in February 2001 mostly as a way to share advice and information with fellow code jockeys — his approach was similar in outlook, if vastly larger in its reach, to the guiding spirit in the days of ham radio. His final post on Sept. 10, 2001, was titled “Placement of Web Page Elements.” It read, in its entirety: “Here’s a well-executed academic study of where users expect things to be on a typical Web page.” It linked to, well, exactly what it said. The post attracted one comment, which read, in its entirety, “Fantastic article.”
He’s cute! He’s cuddly! He’s just a code monkey who likes Tab and Mountain Dew! Nothing to fear here!
By virtue of his willingness to do and share research, his personal embrace of a hawkish, populist anger and his extraordinary Web savvy, Johnson quickly turned Little Green Footballs (or L.G.F., as it is commonly known) into one of the most popular personal sites on the Web, and himself — the very model of a Los Angeles bohemian — into an avatar of the American right wing. With a daily audience in the hundreds of thousands, the career sideman had moved to the center of the stage.
Now it is eight years later, and Johnson, who is 56, sits in the ashes of an epic flame war that has destroyed his relationships with nearly every one of his old right-wing allies. People who have pledged their lives to fighting Islamic extremism, when asked about Charles Johnson now, unsheathe a word they do not throw around lightly: “evil.” Glenn Beck has taken the time to denounce him on air and at length. Johnson himself (Mad King Charles is one of his most frequent, and most printable, Web nicknames) has used his technical know-how to block thousands of his former readers not just from commenting on his site but even, in many cases, from viewing its home page. He recently moved into a gated community, partly out of fear, he said, that the venom directed at him in cyberspace might jump its boundaries and lead someone to do him physical harm. He has turned forcefully against Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, nearly every conservative icon you can name. And answering the question of what, or who, got to Charles Johnson has itself become a kind of boom genre on the Internet.
“It’s just so illogical,” Geller told me heatedly not long ago. “I loved him. I respected him. But the way he went after people was like a mental illness. There’s an evil to that, a maliciousness. He’s a traitor, a turncoat, a plant. We may not know for years what actually happened. You think he changed his mind?”
Poor code monkey. So lonely and misunderstood. How awful those righties are for abandoning such a crafty, neo-hippie (who finally found his way back home to his “bohemian” roots). It really is a shame that the right is so horribly intolerant that they call Johnson bad names like “evil” and “traitor”. What’s wrong with those jerks anyway?
You can read the rest for yourself. Suffice it to say, the irony of that bastion of MSM groupthink called the New York Times writing a glowing 1,000+ word article in defense of Charles Johnson and LGF is so thick I could feed off it for weeks. Recall that LGF was one the prime agents in exposing the fraud of MSM-mainstay Dan Rather and you might just string that irony-stew out for a couple of months.
Wait, what …?
It’s still open?
But I thought …
Wasn’t this the day the Obama administration promised it would be closed?
And what else?
The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trials nearly 50 detainees at the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba because a high-level task force has concluded that they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release, an administration official said on Thursday.
So the Obama administration has essentially agreed with the Bush administration about holding certain detainees without a trial and the “symbol of American shame” remains open in order to do that?
Hope and change.
It is so obvious it frustrates me that others are too ideologically or politically blind to admit it. The reason the Democrats are in the shape they’re in today has to do with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and his obvious lack of leadership.
Let me give you the latest example found in a Politico article today. It is, in fact, all about why the legislative agenda is in trouble and Democrats are skittish.
Congressional Democrats — stunned out of silence by Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts — say they’re done swallowing their anger with President Barack Obama and ready to go public with their gripes.
If the sentiment isn’t quite heads-must-roll, it’s getting there.
Hill Democrats are demanding that Obama’s brain trust — especially senior adviser David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — shelve their grand legislative ambitions to focus on the economic issues that will determine the fates of shaky Democratic majorities in both houses.
And they want the White House to step up — quickly — to help shape the party’s message and steer it through the wreckage of health care reform.
Shorter version: “Where’s the leadership from the President?”
It is the same question the Democrats have been asking all year. Left to their own devices, Congressional Democrats have made a hash out of this legislative year. But they’ve been given no choice. Other than a general agenda, Obama has mostly been AWOL when it came to the details of his policies and the direction Congressional Democrats should take. Consequently the process has been left to the very disparate Democratic caucus to formulate and attempt to pass legislation. No leadership on what the legislation should and shouldn’t contain, no attempt to win over those who may or may not agree, no direction and help in fashioning and passing the bills.
And now you have Democrats asking, out loud, for the sort of leadership they require to pass this president’s agenda. And they’re simply not getting it. In fact, the White House’s reaction is classic:
The problem, from the perspective of the White House, is that fractious Democrats provide all the political direction of a nine-needled compass — and often send contradictory messages about how they want him to proceed.
Good Lord! Leaders don’t wait for those they lead to tell him or her “how they want him to proceed”, followers do. What part of “you’re in charge” doesn’t Obama get? They’re sending “contradictory messages” because there’s a leadership vacuum and no one is stepping forward to fill it.
The so-called leader is waiting for those to whom he is supposed to give direction to give him direction. Leaders step forward and give direction. They don’t wait on it from those they’re supposed to lead.
And you wonder why this year has been a disaster for Democrats?
Don’t expect it to get any better – it appears Obama, or “the White House”, actually feel this is what leaders do.
The Democrats and the NY Times are howling about the SCOTUS decision which effectively rendered the anti-First Amendment McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law moot.
Essentially their argument boils down to “the public is too stupid to be able to separate the political wheat from the chaff and must be protected from political advertising by corporate entities with an agenda”.
Of course, advertising by politicians with an agenda is just peachy keen.
Reality: anyone or any group which advertised during a political campaign has an agenda. In America, per the 1st Amendment, they have the freedom to pursue it. Or should have that freedom, anyway. McCain-Feingold limited or prohibited that freedom and what SCOTUS did to overturn those prohibitions is long overdue.
Judge Andrew Napalitano gives us a good rundown of the ruling:
The Supreme Court today invalidated its own 20 year old ruling on group political contributions and it also invalidated a portion of the McCain-Feingold Campaign finance law. The 20 year old ruling had prohibited all political expenditures by groups such as corporations, labor unions, and advocacy groups (like the NRA and Planned Parenthood). Ruling that all persons, individually and in groups, have the same unfettered free speech rights, the Court blasted Congress for suppression of that speech. Thus, from today forward, all groups are free to spend their own money on their own political campaigns and to mention the names of the candidates.
The Court also threw out the portion of McCain-Feingold that had permitted persons to contribute to Political Action Committees (PACs), but barred those PACs from using those funds in the sixty day period preceding an election. Since that sixty day period preceding the election is the most vital in any campaign, the Court held that the prohibition on expenditures during that time was a violation of the free speech guaranteed to all persons, individually and in groups, by the First Amendment.
Thus, as a result of the ruling today, all groups may spend their own money as they wish on their own campaigns, but they still may not–as groups–contribute directly to political campaigns. The direct political contribution prohibition in McCain-Feingold was not challenged in this case, thus its constitutionality was not an issue before the Court. Groups will thus effectively be running and financing their own campaigns for candidates on their own.
That means the FEC no longer has a say in what is or isn’t appropriate or who can or can’t run what during an election season. Apparently, according to Napalitano, one of the questions asked by Justice Scalia which elicited an answer from the FEC infuriated most of the justices:
During the course of oral argument on this case in October in the Supreme Court, one of the FEC’s lawyers replied to a question from Justice Antonin Scalia to the effect that the FEC could ban books if they were paid for by corporations, labor unions, or advocacy groups. This highly un-American statement in the Supreme Court–that the federal government can ban books–infuriated a few of the justices.
Anyone reading this want to raise their hand and back book banning?
Democrats are concentrating their ire on the fact that the court found that a corporation has the same right to express itself as an individual. It is another battle in their long war against corporate America. It’s not an effective or particularly compelling argument. A PAC isn’t an individual but enjoyed the same advertising rights as an individual. Why shouldn’t a corporation enjoy them as well? So don’t get balled up in their nonsense argument. The fact remains that free speech doesn’t discriminate. It means free speech for all, regardless of what group or entity represented.
This is a long overdue dismantling of a anti-liberty law. Most people understand that fundamental truth. And most people also understand that government should not be in the business of deciding who can or can’t speak out during a political campaign. In fact, the fundamental purpose of the 1st Amendment was the protection of political speech. Congress seems to have lost sight of that.
Any argument for the reinstatement of this law or any law which resembles it is an argument to limit political speech. While you may not be happy with the fact that you’ll now see even more advertising than before, it is a fundamental victory for liberty and those that love liberty should applaud it.
Since it’s in my backyard, I’ve been curious about the national Tea Party Convention scheduled for Nashville from February 6 to February 8.
My initial hope was to do some coverage of it for QandO, perhaps with some video. I contacted the organizer Judson Phillips, who politely let me know that press credentials were extremely limited. Undeterred, I replied, asking if I would be allowed to do video and such if I paid the rather large entrance fee ($549). No answer, I’m afraid, probably because right after that inquiry the event sold out.
I didn’t take it askance, because I’m sure he’s got his hands full. And I fully understand his desire to have some measure of control over press coverage, given the often biased coverage of Tea Party events in the legacy media.
This morning I noticed that he also turned down Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit). That was downright silly. If I had to choose one person with the right combination of strong understanding of the Tea Party cause and a very large megaphone, it would be Glenn.
Glenn pointed to an article on Politico detailing the trevails faced by the organizer. The event was intended to be for-profit, which apparently Judson didn’t work very hard to communicate to the sponsors, one of which pulled out after learning the details.
The for-profit thing seems to have run into trouble too, as it appears that despite selling out, the event might lose money. It makes me wonder how much experience the organizer has. I’ve done events with several hundred people. It takes massive amounts of planning. Getting the details right can be costly and staggering in terms of time. Plus he’s picked the Opryland Hotel, where I have a bit of past experience. They are expensive, and are they charge for things you might not expect; I wouldn’t be surprised to see a line item on their invoice for air breathed by the attendees.
It appears that part of the problem is a contradiction at the heart of the event. It’s billed as a “working convention”, which implies that it’s not about getting publicity. But having Sarah Palin as a headliner pretty much guarantees a lot of attention. Given that the attention will be there no matter what, if I were the organizer, I’d be working hard to make it favorable. Sympathetic bloggers such as Glenn are an obvious way to do that.
I want to see the Tea Party movement do well. I also recognize that the generally amateur nature of the movement has been a part of its charm, because it contrasts so strongly with the dreary professionals who dominate politics.
But the downside of amateur efforts is the potential for mistakes that pros wouldn’t make. I think we’re seeing some of them in this case. Given the distaste of the legacy media (and legacy politicians) for the Tea Party movement, they’ll use any opportunity to make it look bad. I’m afraid this national convention is shaping up to be just such an opportunity.
The proposed bank regulations, all driven by President Obama’s war on Wall Street, would limit big bank’s trading and size. Obama claims that the nation will never again be held hostage by institutions deemed “too big to fail”.
Well, here’s a clue – the only ones who claimed they were too big to fail and threw all that money at them are the same ones now trying to regulate them into noncompetitiveness. You’d almost think this was part of a plan if you didn’t believe they weren’t smart enough or quick enough to do such a thing. But, as they’ve claimed, they won’t let a crisis go to waste.
In fact, this is another battle in the long class war against the rich. Nothing symbolizes the “rich” like Wall Street. And nothing serves Democrats in trouble better than a populist cause (or at least one they deem to be populist). So while voters continue to send messages to the Democrats via VA, NJ and MA, health care reform implodes and the President’s job approval rating tanks, he’s warring on the institutions which are critical to the economic recovery of the nation.
How freakin’ tone deaf can one be?
Mayor Bloomberg has some immediate local issues that concern him – possible layoffs and the erosion of the tax base. But he also recognizes that handicapping US banks when no such handicaps exist for foreign banks, hurts their long term competitiveness and will therefore have negative long term consequences.
Obama’s proposals would prevent banks or financial institutions that own banks from investing in, owning or sponsoring a hedge fund or private equity fund.
He called for a new cap on the size of banks in relation to the overall financial sector that would take into account not only bank deposits, which are already capped, but also liabilities and other non-deposit funding sources.
The proposed rules also would bar institutions from proprietary trading operations that are for their own profit and unrelated to serving customers
According to sources, Geithner says the proposed regulations “do not necessarily get at the root of the problems and excesses that fueled the recent financial meltdown.”
He’s not alone in that criticism:
Lawrence White, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a former regulator, said Obama’s proposals were “a solution to the wrong problem.”
“They have this rhetoric that it was proprietary trading that was the problem,” White said. “That’s wrong.”
Of course the Obama war on Wall Street is certainly having an effect – bank shares have declined as has the dollar against other currencies.
If you don’t get the idea that this is mostly an ideologically driven “war” trying to cash in on populist anger at a time when nothing is going well for the administration, you’re not paying attention. It also points to an “war of choice” based in a very poor understanding of economics and the fact that we’re engaged in a global economy where competitiveness is critical. If these regulations pass and when the recovery falters because banks are hobbled and noncompetitive, I’m sure that somehow the White House will again play the “greed” card out in a effort to hide the effects of their own short-sighted and ideologically driven economic malpractice.
That’s what the Democrats think about the voters of Massachusett(e)s who voted for Scott Brown and against HCR. And that’s why, per their brain trust, they’re going the reconciliation route. Screw-the-proles politics at its finest (via HotAir):
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tells National Review Online that House Democrats are planning to use of the budget-reconciliation process in order to pass Obamacare. “They’re meeting with each other this weekend to pursue it,” says Ryan. “I’ve spoken with many Democrats and the message is this: They’re not ready to give up. They’ve waited their entire adult lives for this moment and they aren’t ready to let 100,000 pesky votes in Massachusetts get in the way of fulfilling their destiny. They’ll look at every option and spend the next four or five days figuring it out.”
If the Democrats pass a health-care bill through reconciliation, it means they would need only 51 votes in the Senate for final passage. To start the process, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) would need to bring a new health-care bill to the House budget committee with reconciliation instructions, with the Senate doing the same. “They’d have to go back to the beginning of the process,” says Ryan. “They’d need to affix reconciliation instructions to a new bill.” Doing so, he says, wouldn’t be too hard. “There’s nothing we can do to stop this from a technical standpoint, since all they need is a simple majority vote and our ratio on the committee is terrible. What we can do in the budget committee is pass resolutions for the Rules committee to insist on certain changes in the bill and create a ‘vote-a-rama’ atmosphere.”
Got that? Your votes don’t matter. Your voice has not been heard. You are merely an impediment to Democrats bound for history, who have no interest in what you want. Say it with me: they only care about what they want you to want.
Just remember: this ain’t over, it’s just the beginning.
As noted in other posts, the Democrats have mostly given up on some kind of cram-it-down-the-throat option for healthcare legislation. They’re going to seat Scott Brown, and various Democrats such as Barney Frank have noticed that trying to outmanuveur the Republicans with tricks smacks of desperation, not to mention setting themselves up to get slaughtered in the fall.
So what is their strategy at this point? I’m not sure it’s well thought out, but from what I can tell, it’s simply this: wait for the furor to die down, and get back to business as usual. At least among the leaders, there’s no indication that they’ve given up.
For example, Nancy Pelosi says she doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate version in the House. Nevertheless, her bottom line is still “We have to get a bill passed….” And then she follows that up with “We’re in no rush.” She must therefore feel that slowing down at this point has better chances than to keep pressing the urgency button.
As another example, here’s Obama in the New York Times (found via The Corner):
“Well, if you’ve got insurance companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars scaring the daylights out of people into thinking that somehow this is a government takeover of health care, that it’s unpaid for, that it means huge new taxes on them, that it’s going to mean higher premiums — if that’s the information you’re getting, shoot, I’d be against it, too,” the president told me. “Once this thing is passed and signed, then suddenly The New York Times and other newspapers are going to have a big article saying what does this mean for you, and people will take a look at it and say, ‘You know what, this is a lot better deal than I thought.’ And I think that will serve Harry very well.”
This is either delusional or outright lying. It is a large expansion of government control of healthcare, it could very well lead to a takeover (and various Democrats have admitted that), it isn’t paid for, it probably does mean higher premiums for many, especially those with so-called Cadillac plans, and it does mean a new tax because the penalty for not satisfying the mandate has been classified as a tax.
If Obama really believes what he says above, then he’s trying to play a longer term game of letting the dust settle and hoping against hope that the natural attraction of many people for something-for-nothing will kick in. I don’t see how that works; if his umptyump speeches so far have not gotten his message across, what hope does he have of doing it now, when opinions have mostly solidified?
The waiting game also carries huge risk for Democrats. The longer the healthcare game plays out, the closer we are to the elections and the more anger they are likely to engender in the electorate. With Brown’s election plus miscellaneous sudden retirements, it’s already apparent that incumbent Democrats are in big trouble. Do the Democratic leaders think it just can’t get much worse? I think it can.
Perhaps the go-slow game has become their default strategy because Obama and company have no good options at this point. Obama first squandered much political capital by passing a leftist and highly political response to economic problems in the form of the stimulus widely referred to as Porkulus. Then he squandered the attention span of the electorate by over-exposing himself with lackluster speeches about his desired laws, chiefly healthcare. Then he shattered the image of some kind of magical touch by gambling and losing twice in Copenhagen and once in Massachusetts.
One year ago Obama was almost a blank slate. He could have defined himself just about any way he wanted, riffing off his generic hope/change mantra.
He chose to define himself as a vigorous proponent of policies far left to those of the typical American. He inadvertantly defined himself as someone prone to wild gambles because he has no better ideas on how to get what he wants.
Anyone who works in marketing will tell you that it’s ten times as hard to change an existing perception of a product or service as it is to establish a new reputation for something previously unknown. That dynamic works in politics too. Obama is now defined in the public’s eye. Changing his own image in any signficant way is very, very hard, and perhaps impossible for someone as out of touch as he appears to be. Therefore his ability to bend the healthcare debate in his direction looks to me to be just about nil.
I conclude that:
1. The Democrats have indeed decided to go slower on healthcare, simply because they’ve had their face rubbed in the fact that the level of anger and pushback right now is too high to overcome.
2. They have not given up; they truly believe it’s the key to their long-term dominance of the electorate.
3. They don’t have a clue what to do with the current level of anger, and they were caught flat-footed by Brown’s victory.
4. The best they can think of is just to wait, hoping for the anger to die down and some tactic to become apparent that will allow them to move foreward.
5. That strategy is almost certain to fail, and carries grave risk for them.
We’re seeing Democrats like Evan Bayh start feeling out the options for walking back on healthcare, and by extension on other leftist causes such as cap-and-trade. It will only take a few such high-profile defections to begin a rush to the exits. At that point, Obama and Pelosi can be as delusional as they like, but they’ll just end up sitting around making up strategies they don’t have the ability to carry out.
** Update 2:04 PM CST **
Asked today if health care was on the back burner, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “The president believes it is the exact right thing to do by giving this some time, by letting the dust settle, if you will, and looking for the best path forward.”