Monthly Archives: March 2010

19 The Closing of the Liberal Frontier?

Gagagaga: Where does it stop? Thomas Hegghammer argues that general disgust at encroaching Western cultural decadence is far less important, as a cause of Islamist terrorism directed at the U.S., than the Palestinian issue:

To the extent that Westernization causes militancy, the violence it inspires is nearly always directed at other Muslims, typically against regimes in Arab countries, because these legislate over matters of public morality. Jihadists are idealists, but they are not so utopian as to think they can stop Westernization by attacking America. However, they do think that by installing Islamist local governments, those governments can take measures to limit social liberalization.

This seems a little pat. Just because outrage at Lady Gaga currently leads to attacks only on Target A doesn’t mean it will continue to do so in the future. If (as Reza Aslan, for one, suggests) Al Qaeda is best seen cynically as an organization bent on growth but flexible as to means, it should be able to switch to an “anti-Westernization” recruitment theme should the anti-Israel theme peter out. … Hegghammer soon retreats to the near-inarguable point that resolving the Palestinian issue would “likely” reduce recruitment. … 11:14 A.M.


Decimal, Schmecimal: Sunlight Foundation overstates Stupak group earmarks by a factor of 10. … 10:45  A.M.


Tomorrow’s Yesterday’s David Brooks column today: With the enactment of a form of universal health insurance, is the edifice of the modern American welfare state complete? Sure, there’s tinkering to be done: Add a public option? Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit? But is there some huge badly-needed state-provided benefit or entitlement that’s not now on offer?  Or is the job of New Deal Liberalism (Benefits Division) largely complete? … You have to wonder if this will have an impact like the closing of the frontier. Will the Democratic party turn inwards, directing its now-diminished energy and idealism into satisfying the smaller concerns of its interest groups? (And how will we tell the difference in California? Just kidding!) … Will this be like the moon landing–not the beginning of dramatic achievements for NASA, but the end, at least for a long time. … When the parties are competing domestically mainly on the issue of who can rev up the economy, will the relatively small differences between them (neither party’s socialist, neither is for killing Social Security or Medicare or–soon–Obamacare) yield more vicious campaigning, faculty politics style? … 1:51 P.M.


Maybe I can dramatize it this way: If CNN’s Jon Klein were a unionized L.A. teacher, he’d still have his job! … What’s that you say? You’re kidding. … Well, check back and see if he’s still there in a month. … 7:31 P.M.


9 There Will Be Dunning

A contribution site should be up any day now. Don’t worry, John! … 5:57 P.M.


Ron Kaye blames L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa’s disastrous proposal for an up-to-28% utility hike–in the middle of a brutal recession, when private sector workers are hurting but Department of Water and Power workers have recently gotten raises–on labor boss Brian D’Arcy. But does D’Arcy want to use the mayor’s “renewable” initiative to create thousands of questionable union “green” jobs--or does he just want the DWP to become a cash cow that funds the rest of government? Kaye has argued both. And I suppose that could be the answer. …  12:15 A.M.


The Perverse World of Democratic Party Values: I’ve mentioned that the state Democratic party is charging $60 for lunch with Arianna but only $20 for Los Lobos. It turns out they want $120 for dinner with AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka.  I guess that accurately reflects who’s boss in the Democratic party these days. … Arianna for $60 suddenly seems like a good deal.  … 12:18 A.M.


Saturday I spoke briefly to the the Alice B. Toklas GLBT PAC in San Francisco. They were very nice. It was kind of them to invite me to make a pitch.  But I would say they were somewhat less than fully supportive of  my message. I felt like I was one of those panhandlers in a subway car in New York.  The passengers just look straight ahead into space. … You figure they’d at least want to argue.  But debate isn’t on the agenda. Time to put it there. … 6:22 P.M.


I’m not a Tea Partier. I’m in a distinct anti-government mood, however, after the U.S. Postal Service  failed today to deliver an “Express Mail” letter that was mailed on Friday. Applying Kaus’s First Rule of Journalism:

a)  This confirms my belief– informed by a stint working at the Post Office– that if you put an ordinary nondescript  letter in the regular stream of mail it will promptly be delivered to the right address. Local mail carriers tend to know their customers and do a pretty good job. But if you pay extra for Special VIP Registered Certified Express Do-Not-Lose Service, your letter will  be lost. It’s so special they put it in a special place! And then forget it’s there.

b) The larger point!: Consumers of government services are in for a bad time during budget crises. Not only do government agencies cut back on hours and personnel (often a time-honored ploy to trigger citizen demands for rescinding the cuts) but the personnel that remain on the job have an incentive to provide lousy service, lest citizen/taxpayers conclude that their new, smaller budget is perfectly adequate. This incentive operates independent of unions. … P.S.: Private firms–at least in competitive industries–normally can’t milk more money from their customers by providing bad service. (An exception, as David Cutler points out, may be the private health insurance industry. If you run a health  insurance company and give great service, paying without hassle and on time, you may attract a lot of sick people as customers–and go broke.)

 6:35 P.M.


28 It’s On!

I just received the official candidates’ notice from the California Secretary of State’s office. It’s on. 

There are serious issues to be raised, and I will do my best to raise them. 

Is there really no place in the Democratic party for voters who believe in “affirmative government”–including health care reform– but have doubts about the power of public employee unions, including the unions that protect bad teachers?

Is there no place for voters who recognize the immense contributions of immigrants but  have doubts giving amnesty before we secure our borders? …

If you share my doubts about current Democratic dogma on these issues, and others, I hope you will join with this effort.

A campaign web site will be up shortly. I’ll link to it from this blog. (  The primary is June 8, more than two months away. An eternity in internet time!   Thanks.  5:37 P.M.


4 It’s All Going According to Plan

Working to set up my campaign web site,  which will include ways to contribute and volunteer. … Waiting for a response from the state Democratic convention, where I’ve asked for an “appropriate” speaking slot. …  Being ignored by the L.A. Times. … It’s all going according to plan! …

P.S.:  The Times mentions “demographic groups traditionally less interested in politics, particularly residents of Southern California ….” Yikes. That’s a big “demographic group” to be bored with politics. I blame … the L.A. Times, which has been making politics in Southern California boring for half a century. … 10:07 P’.M.


Thorough piece by David Hogberg on the “20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedoms.”  The trouble–from Hogberg’s point of view–is that the list is not that scary. Nothing worth abandoning universal health care over.  …  “Death panels”= scary! … Inability to buy “insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage” = not so scary. … 10:17 P.M.


“Unsustainable” is the new “comprehensive”–a word reformers have begun to deploy in mysterious unison, in the apparent belief that it is magically convincing to voters (as in, “The current health care system is unsustainable”). ‘ Like “comprehensive,” the word is in reality a sure-fire turnoff.  … “Comprehensive” scares voters with the thought that they are being governed by know-it-all,we’ve-thought-of-everything professors. It leads them to worry what the grand plan is hiding and to search for more incremental solutions. …  “Unsustainable” is a get-up-and-get-a-beer word–as in, you get up and get a beer in order to ponder the complex question of whether the system really is “unsustainable.” I mean, you’re getting by, even if you worry about health coverage and all these experts are saying we’ll go broke in 15 years. It’s hard to see why things couldn’t continue the way they are going for a long time. … It would be more convincing if reform proponents simply said, “This will be a better system and here’s why …” 10:53 P.M.


13 Brian Williams feels the CW in his gut!

The lede of Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News top story, on the health care bill:

It’s as close to universal health care as America will likely ever come …

How the hell does he know? …  Sorry, Mr. Noah! … P.S.: I like Williams–hard to dislike him– but he has a habit of filling in the interstices of the news with insights from his gut, which is not infallible.  …

How the Hell Does He Know, Part II:  Non-bankable pollster John Zogby declares:

With the passage of healthcare reform, the battle lines are firmly drawn for the congressional elections in November.

Hmm. The Feiler Faster Thesis says we don’t know what the battle lines will be in November–that’s multiple eternities from now. Certainly they aren’t “firmly drawn.” … My guess would be that health care will now fade from consciousness with surprising rapidity. (Yes, I’ve been wrong about this sort of thing before–see 9/12/01 entry.) … 7:42 P.M.


Toughest Job in Town: Who’s the guy assigned to keep Obama’s ego in check? … Tip: Start by reminding Obama that he won the vote in part by leveraging his weakness–pleading with Democratic Congressmen to save his Presidency. … 8:20 P.M.


My Twitter feed is here.  … Email is:  …

10 Not-So-Sudden Victory

What is repulsive is not that one man should earn more than others, for where community of environment, and a common education and habit of life, have bred a common tradition of respect and consideration, these details of the counting house are forgottten or ignored, It is that some classes should be excluded from the heritage of civilization which others enjoy, and that the fact of human fellowship, which is ultimate and profound, should be obscured by economic contrasts, which are trivial and superficial. [R.H. Tawney]

Congratulations to all the Dems–not just the elected ones–who worked to pass the health care bill.  It’s a big achievement. Thanks to Speaker Pelosi. Thanks to Senator Feinstein. Thanks to Senator Boxer. Thanks to all the members of the tireless liberal MSM!

Whatever CBO says or doesn’t say, I don’t for one minute believe that the bill’s new, highly subsidized system of insurance “exchanges”– allowing millions of less affluent citizens to gain access to ever-more-complicated medical technology–will  “bend the curve” of health care costs downwards or help the nation’s deficit situation.   I’d be surprised if even a third of the Democrats who voted for the bill believe it.   I suspect most of them support the bill for the same reasons most Democrats do–as a crucial step in preventing trivial and superficial economic contrasts from translating into ultimate and profound life and death decisions.

They–we–know there will almost certainly be a big additional bill to pay down the road. It will be even bigger if, as we can hope and expect, government attempts to restrict potentially useful treatments in the name of economy prove unsustainably unpopular. But it will be easier to pay this bill once everyone is in the same system–when old people can’t argue that their care is being cut in order to insure the young, etc..  We will all be figuring out how to pay for ourselves.

P.S.: The exchanges may not work either! Maybe future Congresses will decide to add a “public option,” or scrap them entirely in favor of a Medicare-like system that eliminates the insurance company middlemen. But they might work. It makes sense to try them first.

P.P.S.:  Good time for this song again. 12:52 A.M.


23 kausfiles is Alive, Alive!

It looks like I have enough signatures to make the ballot. Thanks to all those who have helped. You know who you are. I won’t tell Barbara! … 5:01 P.M.


Impatient for results of Gawker Kaus Oppo Research Project. Would save me from having to hire someone to tell me the dirt on me. But they are taking their sweet time. … Note to Nick Denton: Is it that I don’t attract enough hits? Sorry! You will have to get Julia Allison to run for Senate. … 3:35 P.M.


Government of the unions, by the unions, and  … : Are low and middle-income L.A. residents about to be hit with a big–up to 28%–utility rate increase in order to create questionable “green”  jobs for government employee unions?  Bill Boyarsky at LAObserved:

It is unclear how this money would be spent. David Zahniser and Phil Willon reported in the Times that the money “would help pay for new environmental initiatives, including more aggressive conservation programs and a solar initiative designed to create 16,000 jobs.” What kind of jobs? The presence of union officials at the mayor’s side is a pretty good sign that they would be union jobs at the Department of Water and Power, whose employees are being spared the layoffs ripping through the rest of city government.

Villaraigosa said the Water and Power Department would hire “green doctors” to evaluate the energy efficiency of homes. The “doctor” would also help residents buy energy efficient lightbulbs and refrigerators. in my opinion, the guy at the hardware stores knows enough about energy efficient bulbs, and Costco will be glad to sell me an energy efficient refrigerator without the city’s help.

Update: Ex-Daily News editor Ron Kaye is all over this issue.  He says the plan resembles an earlier, rejected ballot measure in that it 

requires  the DWP to own and maintain all major rooftop solar installations in the city to create even more IBEW jobs even though it dramatically increases costs to the public, stifles the growing private solar industry …

As a Dem who thinks we need effective, “affirmative government,” I stand  in solidarity with Willie Brown:

Over the years, however, the civil service system has changed from one that protects jobs to one that runs the show.

The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.

But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits to private-sector levels while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers. …[snip]

Either we do something about it at the ballot box, or a judge will do something about in Bankruptcy Court.

Brown can say that because he’s no longer running for office. He notes: “Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders.” [E.A.] …  On the other hand,  if you don’t have a career ….  3:48 P.M.


Jill Stewart:  Meg Whitman used to be a hottie, could use a makeover. … Stewart cites late ex-Chief Justice Rose Bird’s epic glam redo. But did that help Bird (who lost her retention election)? I don’t think so. …  3:27 P.M.


Made first call to try to get into the Democratic state convention on April 16-18. Left message. … They’re charging $60 for Arianna but only $20 for Los Lobos. … 3:22 P.M.


Ricochet, a new podcast featuring Rob Long,  Scott Immergut and Mark Steyn, among others, interviews me here.  Fun! If only one of them were a Democrat. …  3:07 P.M.


Pelosi is  deciding which members of her caucus “will be given absolution to vote no” on health care? I didn’t know she had that luxury.  … Do Dem leaders really have votes to spare, or is this a story ordered up by a NYT editor on clever conceptual grounds disconnected from actual vote-counting reality? … 1:33 P.M.