Watcher’s Council post-Memorial Day edition

I’m reading and voting.  You don’t get to vote, but you do get to read all the good stuff from this week’s Watcher’s Council:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

The President who manages to embarrass a nation

You all saw that Mr. “I know Judaism better than the Jews” is now refusing to apologize for having referred to Polish, as opposed to Nazi, death camps.  What a maroon.

I always tell my kids (usually after they’ve said “Moooom, you’re embarrassing me”) that a person can only embarrass himself.  President Obama is the exception to this rule:  he is an embarrassment to himself, to Jews (most of whom, sadly, vote for him and let him get away with his self-aggrandizing garbage), and to Americans generally.

And while I’m ranting libertarian, if you live in California, vote NO on Prop. 29

One of the hardest fought propositions on the California ballot this June is Proposition 29 which is described on the ballot as a new law that “imposes additional tax on cigarettes for cancer research.”  Doesn’t that sound nice?  Those who smoke have to fund cancer research.  It’s an indirect version of “smoker heal thyself.”  Even better, because it makes cigarettes more expensive, maybe people will stop smoking.

The only problem is that things aren’t always as they seem.  First, the tax is $1 a pack, which is insufficient to deter any but the most poverty-stricken smoker.  Most smokers will just suck it up (figuratively and literally, I guess).  What the proposed tax would do is impose more costs on smokers . . . and, get this, it imposes the greatest cost on poor people.  In California, as elsewhere, smoking is a class thing.  The middle and upper classes don’t smoke.  Working classes and lower classes are being taxed for engaging in a sin that their economic betters frown upon.

One could still argue that, since the poor smoke, and are most affected by smoking’s harm, it’s appropriate that they pay for their sin by funding cancer research.  Except you can bet your bottom dollar the money is just going to get sucked into California’s financial black hole.  As those who oppose Prop. 29 explain, the loopholes in the initiative (and it’s a really, really long piece of proposed legislation, which nobody but fierce partisans will read) mean that most of the money, assuming it stays in state, goes to more bureaucratic infrastructure.

Here’s what the initiative’s opponent’s point out:

Prop. 29 is a $739 million annual new tax and spending mandate that creates an unaccountable, government bureaucracy filled with political appointees.

Doesn’t require new tax revenue be spent in California to create jobs.  Money can be spent out of state or even out of country.

Provides no new funds to treat cancer patients.

Spends $125 million annually on overhead, bureaucracy, buildings and real estate — money that could be used for cancer treatment.

Permits “conflicts of interest” by allowing organizations represented by Commissioners to receive taxpayer funding.

Allows for-profit corporations to receive $500+ million in taxpayer dollars annually.

Duplicates existing programs that already spend $6 billion annually on cancer research.

Establishes another flawed auto-pilot spending mandate like the High Speed Rail Commission — more waste, no taxpayer accountability.

Prohibits the Governor and Legislature from making changes to the initiative for 15 years, even in the case of fraud or waste.

(California Presidential Primary Election, Official Voter Information Guide)

Just how bad is Prop. 29?  It’s so bad that even the ultra-liberal Los Angeles Times came out against it.  After going on for a while offering general praise to taxes that penalize behavior by making the behavior too costly, and after lauding anything that stops smoking, the Times editors fess up:

Nevertheless, we oppose this ballot measure. The problem with Proposition 29, which would raise $735 million a year at the outset (gradually dropping off as more smokers quit), isn’t the tax but how the money it raises would be spent. Most of it, more than $500 million a year, would be directed to a new, independent quasi-public agency that would award grants for research on cancer and other smoking-related illnesses, such as heart and lung diseases. (The research itself would not need to be tobacco-related; a grantee could study, say, the effects of obesity on heart disease, or malignant melanoma caused by overexposure to the sun.)

Proposition 29 is well intentioned, but it just doesn’t make sense for the state to get into the medical research business to the tune of half a billion dollars a year when it has so many other important unmet needs. California can’t afford to retain its K-12 teachers, keep all its parks open, give public college students the courses they need to earn a degree or provide adequate home health aides for the infirm or medical care for the poor. If the state is going to raise a new $735 million, it should put the money in the general fund rather than dedicating it to an already well-funded research effort. Funding priorities shouldn’t be set at the ballot box.

It’s worth reading the rest of the editorial, because it does a good job spelling out what a foolish, redundant idea Prop. 29 is — and all of it on the back of California’s poorest citizens (and, this being California, non-citizens too).

What’s fascinating, too, is the way in which these liberal columnists freely acknowledge that financial rewards and punishments guide behavior — but they won’t acknowledge that these same rewards and punishments work best in the private sector.  To them, the only hand that should be doling out or withholding money is Uncle Sam’s (followed closely by Aunt California’s).

I hate smoking.  I think it stinks.  I know it’s unhealthy.  It accounts for a lot of litter.  If I had a magic wand, I’d make tobacco and the desire for tobacco vanish from this earth.  But I don’t have a magic wand.  If people want to be stupid, let them.  I do support laws that require smokers to stay away from me.  To the extent that smoke causes a positive harm — sending stinky, unhealthy particles my way — it seems to me I have more right to say to them “Don’t smoke around me,” than they have to say to me “I want to smoke and you have to put up with it.”  But as long as I’m protected in my right not to suffer from vicarious smoke, let ’em smoke.


I’m feeling more libertarian by the minute

I’ve never thought of myself as a libertarian.  Instead, I would characterize myself as a conservative with libertarian tendencies.  Why the distinction?  Because viscerally I viewed libertarians as fringe nutcases and because intellectually I did not, and do not, like libertarian foreign policy, especially when it comes to Israel.

Watching Progressives/Liberals/Democrats at work, though, is pushing me into more and more libertarian positions.  Take for example the latest Progressive lunacy out of New York:  no Super-Sizes there if Nanny Bloomberg has his way.  (I know that Bloomberg been both a Republican and a Democrat, and is now an Independent.  He can call himself whatever he wants, but his politics show that he’s a Progressive Nanny Stater.)

Yes, under Nanny Bloomberg, if you want a big, cheap soda, you can’t have one.  Instead, you’ll have to buy two smaller, more expensive sodas.  This is because New Yorkers are becoming fat — or so says Nanny Bloomberg.

First, a little quibble with the “becoming fat” bit.  I have real problems with blanket statements such as this.  As we’ve discussed at this blog before, science keeps changing the definition of what constitutes fat, and it’s a definition that has nothing to do with health and everything to do with playing a numbers game — usually one that provides a financial benefit to this proposing the numbers.

In today’s America, the BMI index is the body weight equivalent of affirmative action.  Think about it:  Affirmative action initially made some sense, although anyone with any smarts could see that it was a foolish idea and one that could be abused.  The theory was that people who had actually suffered disadvantages because of their race — especially disadvantages in education — could go to the head of the line.  It was a bit of a handicap or a shortcut.  The only way this approach to affirmative action could have worked, of course, was to limit it to a single generation of students.  It should have timed out after ten years at most.

Instead, though, affirmative action got institutionalized and became a numbers game.  The policy stopped being about whether people who had suffered genuine and wrongful disadvantages on account of race were being a given a fair shot, and instead became about which institution could boast that it had more minorities on board.  So we end up with the uber-middle class Elizabeth “Snow White” Warren getting hired far above her pay grade because she’s Native American, and we have the California higher education system threatening to poll people about their sex lives.  I can see it now, as UC Berkeley president sneers at the UC Davis president:  “We have more gays than you do.  Nyah, Nyah!

The BMI thing is the same.  Yes, we can eyeball certain people and say, “Gee, that person is really fat.”  But think about the fact that Marilyn Monroe would be considered obese nowadays.  And then think about the fact that what killed her wasn’t obesity but substance abuse.  There’s a message in there somewhere.  I’m not precisely sure what the message is, but I’m pretty dang sure that the message isn’t “Hey, Marilyn, you need to go on a diet.”  Indeed, looking at poor Judy Garland, who was consistently drugged into some semblance of skinniness, Marilyn is lucky that,with all her other tsurises, the Hollywood powers at least had the smarts not to put her on a diet.  She looked plenty good zaftig:

As for me, I’ve known healthy plump people and unhealthy skinny people. Being grossly fat brings big problems with it, but they’re only societal problems if we insist on socializing medicine. It’s called moral hazard. If we make it so that people don’t have to bear the costs of their own dangerous habits, they won’t change those habits. And perhaps they like those habits. A smoker might love smoking so much that he’s willing to risk shortening his life by one or two decades. Who am I to say that 60 short years are worth more than 80 deprived years? Please don’t smoke near me — I hate the smell — but go outside and smoke yourself to death, if that’s what you want to do.

Speaking of smoking, let’s legalize pot — or let’s make alcohol illegal.  It’s ridiculous to have one legal and the other not.  I’d certainly limit access to young people (not that doing so works well), because I believe that both pot and alcohol can interfere dangerously with a growing mind and body.  I’d continue to keep DUI as an offense, because I believe the government can regulate fairly heavily what level of capacity people have to have to drive.  And if for some bizarre reason a stoner attacked someone and ate off his face (which is really impossible to imagine a stoner doing), he’d go to jail.  Otherwise, the government should let people be stupid if they want to be stupid.

The whole Obama drug use thing high lights the rank hypocrisy that results from having the government get involved in things such as pot use.  Obama was a heavy, hard-core, regular pot user, who also used cocaine and thought about trying out heroin.  In 2008, the media lied to protect him.  The better thing would have been to castigate his behavior if the media was genuinely opposed, or to castigate America’s drug laws.  Instead, as I said, the media just lied — and, funnily enough, the lie was that Obama lied.  That I believe.  Obama lies about everything.

I’ve gotta run, so this rant is over, although there’s a lot more I could say.  The bottom line is that it’s not the government’s job to make people smart. You cannot force people into a higher echelon of functioning. You can encourage people to better themselves. You can set economic, lifestyle and even moral goals. You can take barriers out of people’s paths.  But what you cannot do is make dumb people smart or turn klutzes into ballerinas. As Kurt Vonnegut knew before he went off the liberal deep end, all that government can do to force total equality and human perfect is bring higher level people down, until everyone is crawling in the gutter, watched over by a few party apparatchiks who know best.

That must be a truly unique buzz cut the President is getting

I know a bit about really short buzz cuts.  On the kids’ swim team, when swim season starts, all the boys get buzzed.  They do it to each other, and they do a pretty darn good job:  take clippers, run them over person’s head, sweep up the mess.  It’s not complicated.

Our President has a very short buzz cut.  I’d guess that it’s the number 1 on the clipper.  Take clippers, run them over the President’s head, sweep up the mess.  Anyone could do it — and, in a military city such as Washington, D.C., I bet that there are a lot of barbers with good experience at tight clips.

This makes it hard to believe a report that has recently surfaced to the effect that the President, using money from his own pocket and carbon emissions from everyone’s environment, flies his Chicago barber out to D.C. every two weeks:

Reports have surfaced that President Barack Obama is very loyal to his barber. The President is a man of the common people, the report tells its listeners. He hangs out with regular folks, like his barber for example.  The President has been using the same Chicago based barber, who goes by the name Zariff, for the past 17 years.   According to German Public Radio, the President flies Zariff from Chicago to DC for a trim every two weeks.  The president allegedly personally funds these trips. President Obama obviously also does not care much about the massive carbon footprint his haircuts are leaving on our planet which, we are told, is tipping precariously.

Maybe this is just Zariff trying to buff up his image. After all, back when Obama was elected, Zariff was already agitating for a continued barber-client relationship.

I’m no Obama fan, but this story really strains credulity. If it’s true, though, then it’s a great addition to the “Obama is a very strange man and a profligate user of resources that he would deny to others” category.

Is this what a Chicago buzz cut looks like?

Unexpectedly honest Politico article acknowledges media bias against Republicans

I’m impressed, both that these Politico writers wrote about the bias and that Politico published their article:

Republicans cry “bias” so often it feels like a campaign theme. It is, largely because it fires up conservatives and diminishes the punch of legitimate investigative or narrative journalism. But it also is because it often rings true, even to people who don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh – or Haley Barbour.

And the imbalance can do slow, low-grade but unmistakable damage to Romney: Swing voters are just getting to know him. And coverage suggesting he is mean or extravagant can soak in, even though voters who took the time to weigh the details might dismiss the storyline.

It’s certainly hard to argue that the Romneys’ horse-riding habits today are worse than the Maraniss revelations, which have gotten little mainstream coverage.

And the horse-riding story came a few weeks after a second story that made Republicans see red – another front-pager, this time in the Washington Post, that hit Mitt Romney for bullying a kid who might have been gay, in high school nearly a half-century ago. The clear implication to readers: Romney was a mean, insensitive jerk.

Maraniss works for the Post and his pot-smoking scoop, which included details of Obama’s college-era dope-smoking club and waste-no-weed rules for inhaling it, never made the front of his own paper.

Kudos to Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen for making a decent effort to understand that there are two sides to the story, and that the story is definitely being told differently depending on which side the MSM dislikes.

Tired Open Thread

Apologies for not writing more today, but I’m just a little tired.  I seem to have used up my energy on running the household, and don’t seem to have anything left for blogging.  I see no reason, though, why I won’t regroup tomorrow.  I am assuming now that I’ll be in fine fettle then.

Maryland judge confused about Free Speech and the marketplace of ideas

I bet all of you all remember “Everyone Blog About Bret Kimberlin Day.”  After all, it took place less than a week ago.  For those unfamiliar with it, this is the way it worked:

Conservatives bloggers learned that Brett Kimberlin, using both the legal system and a bit of self-help, was harassing those bloggers who brought attention to a past that included planting bombs (one of which so terribly maimed a man that the man later committed suicide), drug dealing, and imprisonment.  They also brought to light a series of current unsavory associations with far-Left and some not-so-far Left organizations.

In order to expand the scope of available targets for Kimberlin, thereby substantially reducing his ability to harass any one blogger, conservative bloggers engaged in a blog burst.  Most of them did precisely what the original bloggers involved had done:  they relayed, in straightforward fashion, accurate facts about Kimberlin’s life and associations.  Although I have no specific information on the subject, it appears that some of these bloggers may have gotten carried away and made threats.  Credible threats constitute an illegal activity.

In the normal world, the law goes after the person making the threats.  In Maryland, though, with Kimberlin leading the charge, and Judge Cornelius Vaughey (Ret.) wielding the pen, the person who asked others to tell the truth is imprisoned.  I know this sounds unbelievable in a country ostensibly bounded by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech but, until any contrary information is released, this seems to be exactly what happened to blogger Aaron Worthing, who was one of the first to spread the facts about Kimberlin.  Patterico explains:

Aaron Walker (aka Worthing) was arrested today in a Maryland courtroom. Several days ago, convicted bomber and perjurer Brett Kimberlin had obtained a “peace order” against Walker, and today Walker was arrested for violating the order. My information is that the judge claimed that Walker violated the provision against electronic communication with Kimberlin, because Aaron blogged about Kimberlin — thus “inciting” others to contact Kimberlin.

In other words, as best as I can tell, Aaron Walker was arrested today in the United States of America for blogging about a public figure.

Go to the Patterico link, please, to get the whole picture.

What happened to Aaron Walker/Worthing isn’t just one bad thing happening to one person.  It is a test case.  Patterico again:

One wonders if this is his [Kimberlin’s] new strategy: he sues you for your blogging, and simultaneously obtains a peace order saying you harassed him. If you blog about him again, he gets a judge to rubber stamp a criminal complaint for violating the peace order.

Now, if you don’t show up for the lawsuit, he gets a default judgment. If you do, you get arrested for blogging.

Catch 22. And a nice scam if you can get judges gullible enough to go along with it.

This is, I had thought, the United States of America. I thought we had freedom of speech here.

It will take a few days to nail down with precision what happened. But if the account I have given here turns out to be correct — if the basis of the arrest today was that Aaron incited others by blogging about a public figure — I want all lovers of the First Amendment to stand tall and ride to Aaron’s defense.

Because they’re not done. They claim they’re just getting started:

Incidentally, I suspect that Vaughey was just a patsy.  He’s a retired judge, whose tenure on the Court really predated the internet era.  It’s probably that he really did not understand the dynamics here.

Watcher’s Council winners for May 25, 2012

Before I get to the winners from last week’s Watcher’s Council vote, I’d like to suggest that you toodle over to the Watcher’s of Weasels site yourself, to check out this week’s forum question:  “Prediction — What Will Happen in the Trayvon Martin Case?”  I had nothing to add, since everyone said things better than I could have, but you’ll find a nice selection of predictions, some of which you may like.

And with that, let’s get to last week’s winners:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

I figured out what Chris Hayes’ problem with the troops is — they don’t sing enough

Chris Hayes got himself a great spanking because of his inability to acknowledge military heroism:

CHRIS HAYES: Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow.  Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke [sic, actually Beck], who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible].  Um, I, I, ah, back sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word “hero”?  I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

Chastened, he issued a non-apology apology, in which he basically said “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” while clearly muttering to himself, “but I’m still right about war-mongering”:

“On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word “hero” to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don’t think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I’ve set for myself,” Chris Hayes, host of “Up With Chris Hayes,” said in a statement. “I am deeply sorry for that.”

I figured out today what would help Hayes issue a real, heartfelt apology, one that shows he truly understands the heroism our troops show every day, when they’re training, when they on ships, when they’re on the battlefield — indeed, the moment they take the oath to defend this country and this Constitution.  Our Armed Forces need to sing.

“Sing?!” you ask.  Yes, sing (or maybe write a little).  I have it on the best authority, from quite possibly the smartest man in America.  Singers (and writers) are “heroes”:

President Barack Obama gave the United States’ top civilian honor on Tuesday to musician Bob Dylan, novelist Toni Morrison and 11 other people he described as his heroes because of their powerful words, songs and actions.

“What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people – not in short, blinding bursts, but steadily, over the course of a lifetime,” Obama said, presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom awards in a packed ceremony at the White House.

“They have enriched our lives and they have changed our lives for the better,” he said.


The president chooses the honorees.

“So many of these people are my heroes individually,” Obama said during the ceremony, recalling how he read Morrison’s novel “Song of Solomon” as a young man when he was “not just trying to figure out how to write, but also how to be and how to think.”

“And I remember in college listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up because he captured something about this country that was so vital,” he said. “Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways.”

If our troops could just march into battle singing songs that inspire Barack Obama, they too could be heroes in the eyes of some little MSNBC wanker.  Or maybe not — because I bet that, if they go in battle singing, they’re singing something like this: