Thursday, July 27, 2017

Alexis de Tocqueville on Free Health Care

A meme on Facebook by The Other 98% reads:
What the fuck is wrong with Americans who aren't on board with free healthcare[?]  I'm Canadian and I don't care that I pay taxes so a little boy in Alberta can have open heart surgery, or an elderly man in Nova Scotia can get the heart medication that he desperately needs. It's called taking care of your people. I'm glad I pay so that people can have a good quality of life.  It's called being a decent fucking human being.
That all sounds good and straightforward, except for some overlooked questions:

First and foremost, we appreciate the anger (What the fuck, fucking) in the message, designed to make all people who don't agree with you shut up. Having said that, let us proceed:

• Should the United States and Canada (plus Australia?) offer health care or should the individual states and provinces (Texas, Massachusets, Alberta, Nova Scotia) do so — if not the individual counties or townships?

• Take Europe, which is always being dragged out for comparison: Isn't it true that there is no EU health care (or EU education department, for that matter) to speak of, that that is a matter (those are matters) to be handled by the individual member nations?

 • What is the underlying message of this meme (and of the left's raison d'être)? Isn't it that, without the presence of the state, without the presence of its politicians, and without the presence of its bureaucrats, the citizens are too dumb, too poor, too victimized, and/or too greedy to take care of each other and survive?

 • What, then, is the underlying message if not that people (of whatever country) are children — poor innocent victims to be protected or spoiled brats to be punished?

So what are people (Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans)?
Are they children or are they grown-up citizens
who can be counted on to take care of their neighbors?

In the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville said that the more local a government is, the more appropriate the solutions it engenders for the (limited number of) citizens it is concerned with:
Every central government worships uniformity: uniformity relieves it from inquiry into an infinity of details. … After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the government then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence: it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. …

 … In the American townships power has been distributed with admirable skill, for the purpose of interesting the greatest possible number of persons in the common weal. … The existence of the townships … is, in general, a happy one. Their government is suited to their tastes, and chosen by themselves. In the midst of the profound peace and general comfort that reign in America, the commotions of municipal life are infrequent. The conduct of local business is easy. … NOTHING is more striking to a European traveler in the United States than the absence of what we term the [central] government, or the administration.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Why anyone would care about the opinions of a basket of deplorables is beyond me; Clearly, the Huffpost's “Listen to America Tour” never would have happened had Hillary Clinton been elected

Give the mainstream media points for trying, notes Benny Huang — with perhaps a soupçon of sarcasm.
[The Huffington Post] announced last week that it will send a team of journalists on a tour of middle America to “hear concerns from across the nation.” They’re calling it their “Listen to America Tour.” I’ll give them points for trying.

The tour, which will stop in 22 states over a period of seven weeks, is intended to discover “what we share as Americans, rather than what divides us.” The route largely avoids the coasts though it does veer into North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Heavily represented are southern, midwestern, and Rocky Mountain states.

Wow. Just wow.

Conservatives like to complain that the media are too elitist and too focused on a few coastal metropolises.

 … Editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen strongly hinted that the purpose of the project is to meet and engage with Trump voters in order to learn what makes them tick. “For journalists, listening is more important than ever,” she wrote.
“Why? First, trust in the news media is at an all-time low. We want to address that head-on, and build trust in the work we do, by visiting communities that are largely ignored by national media. We’ll listen to what’s most important to them, and help tell those stories to the vast HuffPost audience. Second, political divisions between us seem starker than ever. But at HuffPost, we believe there’s still so much that unites us as citizens.”
Clearly, the “Listen to America Tour” never would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected last November. This is Huffpost’s attempt at striking a conciliatory tone with a lot of people who feel alienated by the mainstream media. It’s as if they’re saying, “We hear you, flyover country.”

And that’s a good thing…right?

Sure it is. Yet I can’t imagine this particular leopard changing its spots. We’re talking about a media organization that, in the heat of a presidential campaign, added an editor’s note to the end of all of its Trump-related stories reading:
“Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”
That was 2016. In 2017, Huffpost’s editor-in-chief wants her reporters to meet Trump’s base and to listen to their concerns. Why anyone would care about the opinions of a basket of deplorables is beyond me but perhaps Polgreen is sincere. After all, she has only been editor-in-chief since the grande dame Arianna Huffington stepped down in December. She’s even said that she wants to win over the Trump crowd. Could it be true?

I have my doubts. I can’t see Huffpost finding the pulse of non-coastal America because it has done such a poor job of it in the past. It’s not as if Huffpost and other big media outlets don’t write stories about flyover country. Sometimes they do, though it’s usually to ridicule, to wrinkle their noses at red state backwardness, or to stare with gaping mouths at things that strike them as weird.

 … This is Huffpost after all, and its editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen is a lesbian with closely cropped hair who wears ties and button-down shirts. Judging by Huffpost’s content, I’d say that she’s basically a homosexual activist masquerading as a journalist, much like CNN’s Don Lemon or the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart.

… There will be more of these stories. I predict with a high degree of certainty that Huffpost’s planned bus tour will swoop into towns across America and seek out people to give voice to the narratives that the reporters themselves have already written in their minds. That’s not “listening.” In fact, it’s kind of the opposite of listening. It’s lecturing. Oh sure, they’ll find locals to speak for them. A little downhome twang gives a story a lot of authenticity.

 … I think we can expect a number of what I call “It’s hard being X in Y” stories—that is, stories about members of allegedly marginalized groups who have suffered the misfortune of finding themselves in places that don’t fully accept them.

 … These stories are ubiquitous in the media, so common in fact that they’ve become formulaic—it’s hard being “gay” in the Utah, it’s hard being an atheist in the Bible Belt, it’s hard being a broadminded liberal in a narrowminded small town, etc. I keep waiting for stories about evangelical Christians facing prejudice in Boston or Trump supporters being physically attacked in California but mainstream reporters never seem interested in those. These “It’s hard being X in Y” stories serve as recurring reminders of who ranks where on the victim hierarchy. Some groups—Christians, white people, conservatives—don’t rank anywhere. They aren’t allowed to.

 … Truth be told, I don’t really want Huffpost telling stories from middle America; not if they’re going to filter them through their own biases. If they’re just going to blow into town long enough to shame a local church for its teaching on homosexuality, to support and defend lawbreaking illegal aliens, or to poke fun at people who don’t believe in Darwinian evolution, I would prefer that they just stay home. And no, it doesn’t matter if they throw in a few stories about out-of-work coal miners to give the appearance of balance.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

European nations treat their people like sheep; the USA treats its people more like goats, although the would-be shepherds keep pushing

Kate Paulk explains The Difference Between Citizens And Subjects (obrigado per Sarah Hoyt):
It’s the little things like this that point to the mindset under them. Or as Pratchett memorably put it in Small Gods: “Sheep are stupid and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led.” European nations treat their people like sheep. The USA treats its people more like goats, although the would-be shepherds keep pushing. Pratchett did not add that trying to drive goats will often earn the would-be driver a kick in the nadgers, but it’s worth remembering. Because Americans are goats. We can be led by the right people for the right reasons. Try to drive us, and you will find your family jewels suffering.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What the free market solution encourages between employers and employees is trust, cooperation, and mutual accountability

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before
writes Carine Martinez-Gouhier.
Texas makes everybody better off by reducing government intervention in their lives. Because of this success, other states emulate the Lone Star state. Then proponents of big government in Washington, D.C. get nervous and start attacking Texans as impractical ideologues that don’t care about workers, the poor, or people in general.

 … [And yet] the benefits of Texas’ approach are undeniable. The solution encourages trust, cooperation, and mutual accountability between employers and employees. Employers that choose to offer a private benefit plan are not relieved from their liability for possible negligence as they would be under the state system. The exposure creates an incentive for the employer to proactively make the workplace safer to prevent as many work-related injuries or illnesses as possible. In exchange, employees are often expected to quickly report injuries so that medical care can start early, as well as facilitate employees’ recoveries and timely returns to work. 

 … The more businesses can compete for employees, the more workers benefit.

Of course, employers benefit too. When employers are free to shop for benefit plans, insurance companies have to compete for employers’ business, which tends to drive prices down. Insurance companies can also offer solutions tailored to an employer’s specific activity, instead of offering an expensive one-size-fits-all solution. Lower costs mean employers can focus on better care for injured workers too and also provide a strong incentive for them to keep workers away from harm. Overall, employers and employees interact far more in nonsubscription than in the state system.
Carine Martinez-Gouhier is a policy analyst and the managing editor of the Center for Economic Freedom at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What the Two Rules of Modern Journalism Seem to Be These Days

    In the New York Times, Joshua Green complains about the (alleged) fact that No One Cares About Russia in the World Breitbart Made (thanks to Instapundit):
Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative.

… There have been mileposts along the way: the populist revolt on the right that killed bipartisan immigration reform in 2013, the toppling of House Speaker John Boehner in 2015. And, of course, the rise of Mr. Trump, whose attacks on the mainstream media have conditioned his supporters to dismiss as “fake news” any reporting that is critical of him or his administration — Mr. Trump has even criticized the coverage of his son’s Russia liaison, where the basic facts aren’t in dispute, as coming from the “fake media.”

 … One reason that an alternative view of reality has taken such deep root among Republicans is that they seem to be focusing more on the broader culture. … If you’re not a Republican, watching Republicans react to the news can feel a bit like witnessing a mass hallucination. Even more so when some emissary from the alternate Republican universe like Kellyanne Conway teleports onto CNN or another mainstream outlet to state her case.
    What test will it take, asks the author of the forthcoming “Devil’s Bargain” (Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency), in order to measure "just what it takes to snap out of a mass hallucination"?

    In response to Joshua Green's column bemoaning Republicans' "mass hallucination" ("No One Cares About Russia in the World Breitbart Made," July 15, aka The World Through Breitbart-Vision, July 16), I have a few questions:

    If the New York Times is concerned about American statesmen colluding with, and being stooges for, the Russians, why did you not raise an uproar about the U.S. president who whispered to the Russian leader that he would have "more flexibility" toward Moscow after the next election?

    If you are concerned with American politicians who sell out national security for money, how about the secretary of state involved in a uranium deal with the Kremlin, after which the pol's spouse and/or foundation became the recipients of hundreds of thousands of rubles?

    If you are concerned with elected officials creating shady back channels to foreign countries (indeed, to adversaries), how about the time the White House gave not $1.7 million, not $170 million, but $1.7 billion (all or most of it in cash) to the ayatollahs of a country of terrorism supporters who regularly whip up rallies with shouts of "Death to America"?

    What accounts for the difference?

    Isn't it that Trump and the Bushes et al are rightists and Republicans — who therefore must be demonized and countered at every step of the way — while the likes of Barack Obama and the Clintons are leftists and Democrats, who, as demi-Gods, are unworthy of investigations and, indeed, hardly any negative coverage whatsoever?

    Unless Republicans are hallucinating, the two rules for modern journalism seem to be:

    Rule 1:  The words and deeds of politicians, leaders, and the powerful must be duly met with skepticism, put into doubt, fact-checked, countered, and opposed.

    Rule 2:  Rule 1 only applies to people on the right and to Republicans.

    (With Democrats, the attitude seems to be more in the vein of "Kindly tell us your glorious plans for fundamentally transforming the United States of America and taking our country to a radiant new future.")

    My final question to you is: 

    What is it about double standards that they do not teach at the Columbia School of Journalism?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Some Thoughts on American Patriotism…

Some Thoughts on American Patriotism…
 …/… Following 911, I expected French friends and acquaintances of mine who came back from visits to the U.S. to return with some sense of respect or admiration. Don't kid yourselves! Many shared the same tone of exasperation and disbelief in their voices: How can one be so patriotic (that is, so superstitious)?

It was a rhetorical question, and some were surprised that I answered it. My answer was that I didn't know what they are talking about. What happens when one goes to the United States? One sees a lot of flags and… That's about it. Ain't that right? One does not see hysterical demonstrations walking down the avenues. One does not see signs reading "Down with the Taliban" or "Death to Iraq". One does not hear the "cowboys" shout "Vive la guerre!" I have not seen many Americans set fire to Iraqi or Afghan (or Vietnamese) flags. I don't remember seeing any throw tomatoes or molotov cocktails on the Soviet or Chinese embassies.

 …/… We have seen many a time on this weblog that by simply doing a little digging, it appears that so-called humanistic activists (whether in the shape of intellectuals, groups, national leaders, or countries) are not as neutral, idealistic, and lucid as they seem to believe themselves, but present many an inconsistency, often more than the Americans they criticize. Thus it is with patriotism as well. In contrast to the irony expressed when dealing with American patriotism (and that of other Western countries), they seem often to lose all their marbles when confronted with the national pride of developing countries. They can only marvel when third-world countries (or, rather, their unelected leaders) evoke "national aspirations" and the construction and the future of their nations.

In the aftermath of 911, then, Americans unfurled the Stars and Stripes, voiced their support for the acting president, and pulled up their sleeves to go to work. Insofar as this character trait is supposed to provoke ridicule, I find it rather solemn and low key. And there is nothing new about this. In fact, the journalist Arthur Higbee, a Pacific War veteran, wrote in the International Herald Tribune that after Pearl Harbour, America's attitude was even more low key.
Very few people hung out flags, and nobody wore a flag lapelpin. No flag-waving was needed. The tone of the nation was one of grim determination. Recruiting offices were overflowing.
"Grim determination": there is a better description of patriotic America, today and in the past, than Dana Burde's pacifist caricature which was praised by Le Monde ("the loud cries demanding war and vengeance, combined with media censorship, have almost drowned out the few voices of the left" [the only voices filled with reason and understanding, of course, you realize]) — a caricature which has been eagerly repeated day in and day out in the French media, in the European media, and in the Arab media for years.

But it is not only in wartime that American patriotism is low-key. While many countries favor solemn military parades on their national holidays, or at least a predominant role for the military, the Fourth of July is, above all things, a party. Oh, of course there is the flag ceremony, with a handful of military people present from each service — army, navy, air force, marines — but it's above all a party, with barbecueing (hotdogs, burgers, spare ribs, etc), games, and fireworks.

And if the military — and veterans — have a special place at the festivities, whether on July Fourth or other holidays, they are only a piece of the puzzle which also includes bands, pompon girls, floats, ethnic pride groups, cowboys, Indians, and clowns — I've seen a parade where the marching soldiers were preceded, followed, and surrounded by dozens of clowns. (Try that on the Champs-Élysées, in Red Square, on at Tien An Men!)

As I write this — 4 juillet oblige — I am listening to the Jingle Cats sing The Star-Spangled Banner and Yankee Doodle Dandy. For some reason, I have trouble imagining a lucid Frenchman, a down-to-earth Russian, or a wise Chinese person setting their national anthems to cats' meows. Non, their wailing takes other, less enjoyable, directions.

Wailing Europeans and other Uncle Sam detractors ought to make sure they keep their droning continuous and never-ending. Because, if instead of endlessly lamenting the distressing state of Americans' patriotism, they were to shut up and try and study it a little more closely and a little more rationally, they might come to believe that Yankee patriotism is not so mystical, or frightening, or perilous, as is commonly believed. Then they would have less to wail about. Can you imagine that!? Wouldn't that be awful?!

As for me, for some reason, I prefer the laughter and the joy of the American spirit.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!
Read the whole thing

Monday, July 03, 2017

Conservatives don’t oppose a government-dominated health system because we are heartless; This fight isn’t about having the cheapest health care, but the best

We will soon have to decide if we want a market oriented health care system, or a government dominated system
writes Darrick Johnson as the Resurgent contributor (who likes — a minimum — three spaces between sentences) tackles The Cruel Hopelessness Of “Single Payer”.
In the current debate over the Affordable Care Act, we really are in the midst of a great proxy war over single payer health care.   Sure, its not on the table with this Congress, and Obamacare, while a bureaucratic monstrosity, isn’t single payer.   But the debate surrounding GOP efforts to repeal, or at least reform the law is really a precursor to a national debate over single payer.

Regardless of the fate of the GOP pseudo-repeal bill, we are at a crossroads.  Obamacare is collapsing.   It was never intended to be permanent.  It was always a compromise, a bridge to complete, government sponsored, single payer health care.  We will soon have to decide if we want a market oriented health care system, or a government dominated system.

Every left-wing opinion piece on health care starts with the premise that medicine shouldn’t cost anything, and anytime it does, it’s a evidence of a failed system.  They point to Canada, the UK, and European states where the socialist dreams of medicine are, we are told, coming true.  Obamacare’s failures, they say, should drive us closer to “single payer”, not farther away.

 … Let’s look at two hypothetical examples, one, representing a worst-case scenario for free market health care, and one, representing a worst-case scenario for socialized medicine.
Read the differences between the Jones family and the Smith family, and see how it relates to the very real nightmare of the Gard family in the UK.
No system will be perfect.  Health care is vitally important to each of us, therefore it will be expensive; it is the definition of inelastic demand.    We don’t all have the financial ability to pay for what we might need, be it through insurance, or our own money.    But if faced with the choice of two terrible scenarios, – the Smith family’s hopeless “free” health care, the Gard family’s real life nightmare, or the Jones family’s expensive, but attainable care, wouldn’t you rather be the Jones family?   At least they can fight.  At least they can try.  At least there is hope.

Conservatives don’t oppose single payer because we are heartless.   This fight isn’t mainly about tax rates, or deficits, though single payer is catastrophic for both.   It’s about having not the cheapest health care, but the best.    So that when you need a hospital bed, the market makes sure you don’t have to wait until it’s too late.  So that when you have a rare disease, there is hope that the market found it worthwhile to develop a treatment.   That might mean that when you have medical issues, money is a worry.   You get scary bills.   But you have hope.   If the treatment is available, but the money is not, that can be fixed.   If the health care is free, but the government doesn’t permit you to receive it…well, that’s a cruelty we don’t want to see replicated in the United States.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Twitter Blocked by a Washington Post Journalist re the Left's Cultural Bullying Atmosphere: Badge of Honor?

While reading Mary Katharine Ham's take on how the Aftermath Of Alexandria Shooting Showed The Left’s Cultural Bullying At Its Worst, we tried to access the following hyperlink:
 … in the wake of Handel’s solid win, which snatched the #Resistance’s longed-for victory, Washington Post writer Dave Weigel scolded Republicans for “dunking” on Democrats despite everyone’s one-day indulgence of “come together” rhetoric, as if four hours of praise-hands emoji and super-hot memes on Twitter is part of the “climate of hate.”
It turns out No Pasarán has been blocked.

Blocked on Twitter by Dave Weigel. Echoing Tyler O'Neil, we get more from Mary Katharine Ham:
Rep. Mo Brooks faced the question about his Second Amendment views just minutes after someone literally tried to murder him. Can we take a moment to think about how utterly crass this is? Imagine an abortion bomber blowing up a Planned Parenthood grand opening in Washington DC, injuring members of Congress in attendance. Then imagine most national news coverage including this question for their colleagues who escaped maiming: “Shouldn’t you probably consider changing your views on abortion? Maybe pass some common-sense limits on it?”

… Less than 48 hours after a multiple assassination attempt on members of Congress, there were no media vans or cameras at the Alexandria baseball field where it occurred. Just for perspective, when Republican staffer Elizabeth Lauten committed the offense of writing something critical of President Obama’s daughters on her private Facebook page, news cameras were camped on her parents’ lawn staking her out for the better part of a week.

When the press was covering the shooting, it was mostly a gauzy, imprecise discussion of how “rhetoric” might have caused it, which means we’re in the business of determining whose rhetoric to stifle to prevent further violence. Wouldn’t you know it? The answer was… Donald Trump’s rhetoric, which has the magical power to compel a Bernie volunteer to shoot a long-time Trump-supporting Republican.

… My, how quickly we move in the news cycle from Republicans literally shot to Republican overreach about Republicans being literally shot.

… What perverse standards. A Republican congressman is fighting for his life in a hospital thanks to a partisan attacker, but let’s examine on national TV several times over how he kind of had it coming because of his politics.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

"Out With Jesus": During His 12 Years in Power, Hitler Tried to Ban the Tradition of Christmas

Jesus being a Jew, Adolf Hitler did not want his master race to continue celebrating his birthday, and consequently, the Führer spent his 12 years in the chancellery trying to transform the Christmas holiday into a Nazi-themed celebration devoted to the Aryan race and old Germanic traditions.  Thus writes Emrah Sütcü in the Danish monthly, Historie, putting the lie to the fact that Hitler and the Nazis had in any way a connection to the Christian religion.

Related: • Worshipping Little Else But the Aryan Race, Hitler Abhorred the Christian Faith and Wanted to Replace Christmas with the Pagans' Yuletide

 • 卐mas Caroling: The Extremes Hitler Wanted to Go To in Order to Replace Christianity with the "Religion" of National Socialism

How Hitler's Nazi propaganda machine tried to take Christ out of Christmas

Adolf Hitler in Religious Surroundings: Is There Really Evidence That the Führer Was a Christian? — an in-depth, dispassionate look at the evidence brought by a couple of commentators claiming that Christianity was an integral part of Nazism…

Hitler ville stjæle julen fra Jesus

Nazisterne hadede julen. Derfor forsøgte de med alle midler at forvandle den kristne højtid til en fejring af den ariske race.

Julen skulle fejre arierne

Jesus var jøde. Og en fejring af hans fødselsdag var ikke noget for det tyske herrefolk, mente Adolf Hitler.

I perioden fra 1933, hvor han kom til magten i Tyskland, til 2. verdenskrigs afslutning i 1945 kæmpede Hitlers topfolk indædt for at forvandle den populære kristne helligdag til en nazistisk højtid, som fejrede den ariske race og de oldgermanske traditioner.

Julefred er kun for tyskerne

Først og fremmeset havde nazisterne det svært med julens forsonende budskab om fred på Jorden. Den stemte dårligt overens med ambitionerne om at erobre resten af Europa.
I en artikel fra 1937 understreger Hannes Kremer, et ledende medlem af Hitlers propagandaministerium, at tyskerne bør afvise julen som "en højtid for en teoretisk fred for hele menneskeheden".

I stedet bør være en "højtid for reel hjemmelig og national fred" og altså kun handle om at sikre fred for tyskerne.
En fred, som tilsyneladende kun kunne sikres ved at udrydde nationens fjender i form af bl.a. jøder, kommunister og homoseksuelle.

"Ud med Jesus"

Næste skridt var at køre den jødiske Jesus ud på et sidespor. Til alt held for nazisterne havde tyskerne, længe inden de blev kristne, fejret vintersolhverv omkring juletid.

Himmler omskrev julesalmer

Julesange og salmer, der nævnte Jesus, blev omskrevet, så de i stedet hyldede nationalsocialismen. Blandt sangskribenterne var ingen ringere end SS-chefen Heinrich Himmler.


Hagekorset skulle op på juletræet

Juletræet havde nazisterne ikke noget problem med, for det har faktisk rødder i hedenske, germanske traditioner. Til gengæld var Hitler ikke glad for den stjerne, som blev placeret på toppen af træet.
I stedet for stjernen - som enten kunne symbolisere den jødiske Davidsstjerne eller kommunismens røde stjerne - skulle tyskerne sætte enten et hagekors, et germansk solhjul eller en oldnordisk rune øverst på juletræet, mente nazisterne.

Julepynt fra Nazityskland, som er blevet bevaret for eftertiden, inkluderer bl.a. kugler med slagord som fx "Sieg Heil" og symboler som bl.a. hagekors, jernkors og ørne.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gerrymandering, like most things that Democrats complain about, is something that they invented, popularized, and insisted upon for years before deciding that it’s an affront to dignity and civil rights

Jon Ossoff’s multi-million dollar loss in Georgia’s recent special election has been blamed on a lot of factors besides the lousy candidate
notes Benny Huang on the Constitution website.
Ossoff himself blamed “unchecked anonymous money.” Pundit Rachel Maddow blamed the weather. DNC chairman Tom Perez blamed gerrymandering, calling Georgia’s sixth congressional “beet red” before adding “That was Newt Gingrich’s old seat, heavily gerrymandered by Georgia.”

Oh, puh-leeze. There are a lot of ridiculously shaped, blatantly skewed districts in this country but Georgia’s sixth is not one of them. Its outline is not particularly remarkable and its demographics “look like America” which is something I thought liberals liked. The district is 71% white, 14% black and 13% Hispanic. Party registration favors the Republicans by nine points which is not insurmountable nor is it prima facie evidence of gerrymandering. The reason that liberal Democrats have been losing this district with regularity is because their policies have so thoroughly alienated the white middle class. To blame Ossoff’s loss on gerrymandering is sour grapes, nothing more.

Gerrymandering, like most things that Democrats complain about, is something that they invented, popularized, and insisted upon for years before deciding that it’s an affront to dignity and civil rights. The very word “gerrymandering” can be traced back to the 19th Century Massachusetts Governor Eldridge Gerry. The Massachusetts legislature drew some truly bizarre state senate districts in an obvious attempt to favor Gerry’s Democratic-Republican Party (who are today called simply Democrats) at the expense of the Federalist opposition. Ever since that time, politicians have been choosing their own voters by drawing lines around people inclined to vote for them.

So there are a lot of good reasons to hate gerrymandering. It wreaks of corruption and it ensures that incumbents don’t actually have to compete. If it were up to me districts would be drawn without regard to their inhabitants. Some districts might turn out bright red and others deep blue but most would be some shade of purple and all would obtain their political character by happenstance.

Like nearly every issue in American politics, gerrymandering also has a racial angle. While gerrymandering isn’t particularly new, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a maze of subsequent case law have made it practically mandatory in states with substantial minority populations. Certain portions of the VRA which have since been struck down as unconstitutional mandated that southern states first submit any changes in election laws, including electoral maps, to the Department of Justice for its approval. In time, the DOJ came to demand that states create “majority-minority” districts—that is, districts in which whites are a minority. This was considered the only way to give minorities a voice.

The DOJ’s directives set a terrible precedent, namely that our elected officials represent races rather than districts and their citizens. This insidious trend amounts to an abandonment of the “one man, one vote” principle in favor of a racial spoils system. It also turns gerrymandering into a positive good–If state legislatures don’t feel like drawing districts that look like shadow puppets the forces of enlightenment will compel them to do exactly that.

Majority-minority districts now exist in most states that aren’t lily white and most of these districts habitually send complete bozos to Washington. Representative Alcee Hastings, for example, probably wouldn’t be able to win election in a non-gerrymandered district because he’s a former federal judge who was impeached and removed for bribery and perjury. But because his Florida district was drawn specifically to elect a minority representative, and because his constituents seem not to care that he’s a corruptocrat, Hastings has a seat in the House of Representatives. Representative Luis Gutierrez, who thinks his job is to represent the illegal alien population in Congress, wouldn’t be in Congress today if his ridiculously-shaped Illinois district weren’t ready-made to elect a far-left Latino. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, who thinks that American astronauts planted Old Glory on Mars, would certainly not be in Congress today if the map weren’t rigged in her favor. And so on.

North Carolina butted heads with the federal government in the 1990s over exactly how to stay on the right side of the DOJ’s unconstitutional veto authority. After the 1990 Census, which awarded North Carolina an additional congressional seat, the legislature in Raleigh set about drawing a new electoral map. It submitted its map to the DOJ for its approval as required by the unconstitutional portion of the VRA. The DOJ, which was then headed by ultra-progressive Janet Reno, responded with a mandate to create a second majority-minority district in the state. North Carolina dutifully complied, creating the 12th district which was as ugly as a modern art masterpiece. It’s truly the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen though that’s to be expected when people create districts for the sole purpose of lumping all the black people together.

A few North Carolinians sued appellate state and federal officers in a case called Shaw v. Reno, claiming that the wacky DOJ-approved redistricting plan violated their equal protection rights. Though the results of the case were mixed, the Supreme Court did decide that packing minorities into majority-minority districts is a practice that must pass a strict scrutiny test and cannot be done solely for racial reasons. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who wrote for the majority, said that the bedraggled 12th district “bears an uncomfortable resemblance to political apartheid.” She’s right about that but it should be remembered that progressive opinion was, in this case at least, on the side of political apartheid.

My how things change. Since Shaw v. Reno, liberals have decided that “packing” minorities into a single district—which used to be the un-racist thing—is now racist. Containing the black vote within one district necessarily creates a slew of conservative white districts around it. Those white guys’ seats are just as safe as the minority congressman’s and they have no incentive to woo minority or liberal voters–and we can’t have that! 

What exactly do these race-obsessed agitators want? I only ask because I’m really sick of their incessant whining. I think what they want is to have plenty of blatantly gerrymandered majority-minority districts that are nice and safe for their race and their party but at the same time they want the other districts around the gerrymandered ones to remain competitive. That way black and Hispanic leftists will always have their voice in Congress no matter which way the winds shift but they will also have the opportunity to win additional seats. Anything less is somehow racist.

Clearly they want to have their cake and eat it too. Consider a recent federal court decision that invalidated Texas’ proposed redistricting plan. The map was drawn by a Republican-majority legislature so it was automatically suspect. Two judges, Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia, ruled that gerrymandering cannot be used to reduce the influence of minority voters, whether by “packing” or its opposite, “cracking.”

This is the very definition of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. When minority voters are all grouped together in one district liberals cry foul. When they’re spread out, liberals cry foul. It seems unlikely that two diametrically opposed methods (“packing” and “cracking”) could even achieve the same effect but that’s what liberals want us to believe. Aren’t these people simply attributing nefarious motives to any plan drawn up by their political opposition?
It would seem that the only way to draw districts that neither “pack” nor “crack” is to take the colorblind approach which is fine by me. I’m all for that. But even that may not work because judges are apparently mind-readers and may discern racism if there are too many or too few minorities in any particular district, which there are bound to be. The question remains: what exactly is the correct number and how can we achieve that number without drawing districts based on race which the Supreme Court found constitutionally suspect in Shaw v. Reno?

The other problem with the colorblind approach is that it’s exactly the opposite of what the Department of Justice mandated for decades. It was Bill Clinton’s DOJ, after all, that ordered North Carolina to add another majority-minority district to its map. Even if states stopped packing today, the basic color-conscious outlines imposed by an overbearing federal government would probably remain for years.

I believe that the real reason liberals constantly complain about gerrymandering—and often sue people over it—is not because they have any principled opposition to it. No, they simply want to create bad headlines for the opposition. Every time a Republican-dominated legislature has to defend its electoral map in court, Democrats get to accuse those who drafted it of crypto-racism. Even if the Democrats lose their case, the damage to the Republicans has already been done.

For my part, I would like to see an end to gerrymandering of all kinds, whether based on race, party, or anything else. When it comes to congressional districts, boring shapes suit me just fine. But as long as there are litigators and liberal Democrats around I know that that won’t happen.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Centennial: Rare Photos from 1917-1918 Show American Troops in World War I

In the wake of the appearance of a new World War I book marking the centennial of the United States entry in the European conflict, the Bruno Cabanes book Les Américains dans la Grande Guerre (The American People in the Great War), Géo Magazine presents a dozen of the book's rarely seen 145 photographs.

Note: if you squint just right, you should be able to make your eyes superimpose the two parts of the second photograph below in just the right way — remember the View-Master as well as Magic Eye's 3-D party books from the 1990s? — in order to make it into a three-dimensional picture.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Administrative State Has Been Gutting Much of the Bill of Rights for Over a Century

What’s the greatest threat to liberty in America?
asks John Tierney in the Wall Street Journal.
Liberals rail at Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and his hostility toward the press, while conservatives vow to reverse Barack Obama’s regulatory assault on religion, education and business. Philip Hamburger says both sides are thinking too small.

Like the blind men in the fable who try to describe an elephant by feeling different parts of its body, they’re not perceiving the whole problem: the enormous rogue beast known as the administrative state.

Sometimes called the regulatory state or the deep state, it is a government within the government, run by the president and the dozens of federal agencies that assume powers once claimed only by kings. In place of royal decrees, they issue rules and send out “guidance” letters like the one from an Education Department official in 2011 that stripped college students of due process when accused of sexual misconduct.

Unelected bureaucrats not only write their own laws, they also interpret these laws and enforce them in their own courts with their own judges. All this is in blatant violation of the Constitution, says Mr. Hamburger, 60, a constitutional scholar and winner of the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Prize last year for his scholarly 2014 book, “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?” (Spoiler alert: Yes.)

“Essentially, much of the Bill of Rights has been gutted,” he says, sitting in his office at Columbia Law School. “The government can choose to proceed against you in a trial in court with constitutional processes, or it can use an administrative proceeding where you don’t have the right to be heard by a real judge or a jury and you don’t have the full due process of law. Our fundamental procedural freedoms, which once were guarantees, have become mere options.” ​

In volume and complexity, the edicts from federal agencies exceed the laws passed by Congress by orders of magnitude. “The administrative state has become the government’s predominant mode of contact with citizens,” Mr. Hamburger says. “Ultimately this is not about the politics of left or right. Unlawful government power should worry everybody.”

Defenders of agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency often describe them as the only practical way to regulate today’s complex world. The Founding Fathers, they argue, could not have imagined the challenges that face a large and technologically advanced society, so Congress and the judiciary have wisely delegated their duties by giving new powers to experts in executive-branch agencies.

Mr. Hamburger doesn’t buy it. In his view, not only is such delegation unconstitutional, it’s nothing new. The founders, far from being naive about the need for expert guidance, limited executive powers precisely because of the abuses of 17th-century kings like James I.

James, who reigned in England from 1603 through 1625, claimed that divinely granted “absolute power” authorized him to suspend laws enacted by Parliament or dispense with them for any favored person. Mr. Hamburger likens this royal “dispensing” power to modern agency “waivers,” like the ones from the Obama administration exempting McDonald’s and other corporations from complying with provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

James also made his own laws, bypassing Parliament and the courts by issuing proclamations and using his “royal prerogative” to establish commissions and tribunals. He exploited the infamous Star Chamber, a court that got its name from the gilded stars on its ceiling.

“The Hollywood version of the Star Chamber is a torture chamber where the walls were speckled with blood,” Mr. Hamburger says. “But torture was a very minor part of its business. It was very bureaucratic. Like modern administrative agencies, it commissioned expert reports, issued decrees and enforced them. It had regulations controlling the press, and it issued rules for urban development, environmental matters and various industries.”

James’s claims were rebuffed by England’s chief justice, Edward Coke, who in 1610 declared that the king “by his proclamation cannot create any offense which was not an offense before.” The king eventually dismissed Coke, and expansive royal powers continued to be exercised by James and his successor, Charles I. The angry backlash ultimately prompted Parliament to abolish the Star Chamber and helped provoke a civil war that ended with the beheading of Charles in 1649.

A subsequent king, James II, took the throne in 1685 and tried to reassert the prerogative power. But he was dethroned in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which was followed by Parliament’s adoption of a bill of rights limiting the monarch and reasserting the primacy of Parliament and the courts. That history inspired the American Constitution’s limits on the executive branch, which James Madison explained as a protection against “the danger to liberty from the overgrown and all-grasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate.”

“The framers of the Constitution were very clear about this,” Mr. Hamburger says, rummaging in a drawer for a pocket edition. He opens to the first page, featuring the Preamble and Article 1, which begins: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress.”

“That first word is crucial,” he says. “The very first substantive word of the Constitution is ‘all.’ That makes it an exclusive vesting of the legislative powers in an elected legislature. Congress cannot delegate the legislative powers to an agency, just as judges cannot delegate their power to an agency.”

Those restrictions on executive power have been disappearing since the late 19th century, starting with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887. Centralized power appealed to big business—railroads found commissioners easier to manipulate than legislators—as well as to American intellectuals who’d studied public policy at German universities. Unlike Britain, Germany had rejected constitutional restraints in favor of a Prussian model that gave administrative agencies the prerogative powers of the king.

Mr. Hamburger believes it’s no coincidence that the growth of America’s administrative state coincided with the addition to the electorate of Catholic immigrants, blacks and other minorities. WASP progressives like Woodrow Wilson considered these groups an obstacle to reform.

“The bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical, and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes,” Wilson complained, noting in particular the difficulty of winning over the minds “of Irishmen, of Germans, of Negroes.” His solution was to push his agenda using federal agencies staffed by experts of his own caste—what Mr. Hamburger calls the “knowledge class.” Wilson was the only president ever to hold a doctorate.

“There’s been something of a bait and switch,” Mr. Hamburger says. “We talk about the importance of expanding voting rights, but behind the scenes there’s been a transfer of power from voters to members of the knowledge class. A large part of the knowledge class, Republicans as well as Democrats, went out of their way to make the administrative state work.”

Mr. Hamburger was born into the knowledge class. He grew up in a book-filled house near New Haven, Conn. His father was a Yale law professor and his mother a researcher in economics and intellectual history. During his father’s sabbaticals in London, Philip acquired a passion for 17th-century English history and spent long hours studying manuscripts at the British Museum. That’s where he learned about the royal prerogative.

He went to Princeton and then Yale Law School, where he avoided courses on administrative law, which struck him as “tedious beyond belief.” He became slightly more interested during a stint as a corporate lawyer specializing in taxes—he could see the sweeping powers wielded by the Internal Revenue Service—but the topic didn’t engage him until midway through his academic career.

While at the University of Chicago, he heard of a colleague’s inability to publish a research paper because the study had not been approved ahead of time by a federally mandated institutional review board. That sounded like an unconstitutional suppression of free speech, and it reminded Mr. Hamburger of those manuscripts at the British Museum.

Why the return of the royal prerogative? “The answer rests ultimately on human nature,” Mr. Hamburger writes in “The Administrative Threat,” a new short book aimed at a general readership. “Ever tempted to exert more power with less effort, rulers are rarely content to govern merely through the law.”

Instead, presidents govern by interpreting statutes in ways lawmakers never imagined. Barack Obama openly boasted of his intention to bypass Congress: “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” Unable to persuade a Congress controlled by his own party to regulate carbon dioxide, Mr. Obama did it himself in 2009 by having the EPA declare it a pollutant covered by a decades-old law. (In 2007 the Supreme Court had affirmed the EPA’s authority to do so.)

Similarly, the Title IX legislation passed in 1972 was intended mainly to protect women in higher education from employment discrimination. Under Mr. Obama, Education Department bureaucrats used it to issue orders about bathrooms for transgender students at public schools and to mandate campus tribunals to adjudicate sexual misconduct—including “verbal misconduct,” or speech—that are in many ways less fair to the accused than the Star Chamber.

At this point, the idea of restraining the executive branch may seem quixotic, but Mr. Hamburger says there are practical ways to do so. One would be to make government officials financially accountable for their excesses, as they were in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they could be sued individually for damages. Today they’re protected thanks to “qualified immunity,” a doctrine Mr. Hamburger thinks should be narrowed.

“One does have to worry about frivolous lawsuits against government officers who have to make quick decisions in the field, like police officers,” he says. “But someone sitting behind a desk at the EPA or the SEC has plenty of time to consult lawyers before acting. There’s no reason to give them qualified immunity. They’ll be more careful not to exceed their constitutional authority if they have to weigh the risk of losing their own money.”

Another way of restraining agencies—one President Trump could adopt on his own—would be to require them to submit new rules to Congress for approval instead of imposing them by fiat. The president could also order at least some agencies to resolve disputes in regular courts instead of using administrative judges, who are departmental employees. Meanwhile, Congress could reclaim its legislative power by going through regulations, agency by agency, and deciding which ones to enact into law.

Mr. Hamburger’s chief hope for reform lies in the courts, which in earlier eras rebuffed the executive branch’s power grabs. Those rulings so frustrated both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt that they threatened retaliation—such as FDR’s plan to pack the Supreme Court by expanding its size. Eventually judges surrendered and validated sweeping executive powers. Mr. Hamburger calls it “one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the federal judiciary.”

The Supreme Court capitulated further in decisions like Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council (1984), which requires judges to defer to any “reasonable interpretation” of an ambiguous statute by a federal agency. “Chevron deference should be called Chevron bias,” Mr. Hamburger says. “It requires judges to abandon due process and independent judgment. The courts have corrupted their processes by saying that when the government is a party in case, they will be systematically biased—they will favor the more powerful party.”

Mr. Hamburger sees a good chance that the high court will limit and eventually abandon the Chevron doctrine, and he expects other litigation giving the judiciary a chance to reassert its powers and protect constitutional rights. “Slowly, step by step, we can persuade judges to recognize the risks of what they’ve done so far and to grapple with this very dangerous type of power,” he says. The judiciary, like academia, has many liberals who have been sympathetic to the growth of executive power, but their perspective may be changing.

“Administrative power is like off-road driving,” Mr. Hamburger continues. “It’s exhilarating to operate off-road when you’re in the driver’s seat, but it’s a little unnerving for everyone else.”
He says he observed this effect during a recent conversation with a prominent legal scholar. The colleague, a longtime defender of administrative law, was discussing the topic shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

The colleague told Mr. Hamburger: “I am beginning to see the merit of your ideas.”