Two Tuesday Quotations

“Democratic and aristocratic states are not in their own nature free. Political liberty is to be found only in moderate governments; and even in these it is not always found. It is there only when there is no abuse of power. But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go.”

-Montesquieu, from ‘The Spirit Of The Laws

 “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

From the ‘Declaration Of Independence’

Sliders And Wings Can Be Avant-Garde Things: Some Sunday Links

Clifford Stoll writing in Newsweek back in February, 1995:

Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.’

I’d buy that for a dollar.

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Ken White at Popehat has done some work in debunking many ‘ifs, ands, and buts’ qualifying media representations of 1st amendment speech protections lately.

How To Spot And Critique Censorship Tropes In The Media’s Coverage Of Free Speech Controversies:’

‘In discussing our First Amendment rights, the media routinely begs the question — it adopts stock phrases and concepts that presume that censorship is desirable or constitutional, and then tries to pass the result off as neutral analysis. This promotes civic ignorance and empowers deliberate censors.’

Sometimes, it’s an ‘anti-mentor’ who can help you see the light.

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This blog is hankering for some Chili’s.  Chili’s in Jersey City, that is.

It appears to be mere chain-food for tourists and some locals.

But what does it mean as an experience?  How should I live?  How can I escape the culinary cul-de-sacs of suburban life and finally see what it means to be living?

Dear reader, that’s where the New Yorker comes in.

Let’s get a writer in there to dissect the tchocthkes, and introspect on the Self in the suburbs and the many interior lives of tourists moving through the modern world.

Let’s send a neuroscience grad student in there to see what the diners’ brain scans might say about uniformity of dining experience and how we might form memories.

The Woes Of Harrisburg-Boondogglin’ Away

From The City Journal: ‘The Lessons Of Harrisburg

It’s a little strange having spent many years growing-up near a place, and then hearing how badly it’s been managed:

‘A Pennsylvania newspaper once described Reed as a mayor who “never met a bond deal he didn’t like.” Give a politician the chance to pile up debt on favored projects without answering directly to voters, and no one should be surprised if he takes advantage of it. That’s why the history of state and local finance is filled with reform moments.’

Much of this transcends party politics and goes more to political power, bad management and collective fiddling…

As previously posted:

Full post here.

‘The Harrisburg School District, so impoverished that the state is helping it dig out of its financial and academic woes, has hit a mother lode of tax dollars, evidently due to several years of financial ineptitude.

In early October the district discovered it had nearly $12 million it didn’t know it had until someone started looking closely at the books.’

Perhaps that money will be put to better use than the incinerator and the Wild West museum boondoggle. Perhaps not.

Under new management again, Harrisburg might have a chance to not be as poorly run as Detroit.

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at similarly bankrupt Jefferson County, Alabama, where Birmingham is located:

‘Will the market still lend to cities after they’ve gone bankrupt?’

Promises made for public employees simply cannot be met in many cases.

Reason used Harrisburg as a model for fiscal failure.

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As to my leanings:

It’s no surprise that Obama’s political and ideological allies are going to hold up California as a cultural/political model.  This lines up with a rather progressive vision of how society ought to be:  Dynamic, creative, tech driven, egalitarian/collectivist if not nearing planned models of equality.  Such a society has generous social programs, high taxes, and lots of environmental laws on the books.  Public sector unions are big and politically powerful and diversity for its own sake is often held as the highest ideal around.

At the end of the day, it’s a lot more to do with political ideology, money, and over-promising; and much less to do science, art, the next social program etc.

During the last election, a similar vision was sold to the broader electorate as the best way forward for America, for the ’middle-class,’ for the old democratic union base, for black folks, for minorities, for Northeastern democrats and the gentry liberal/multicultural elite in our cities, for the 60′s boomer idealists/NPR class/liberal youth vote in and around many universities and in the suburbs.

And from Michael Lewis’ piece in Vanity Fair, interviewing Vallejo, California mayor, it can get ugly:

“We’re all going to be rich,” he says. “We’re all going to live forever. All the forces in the state are lined up to preserve the status quo. To preserve the delusion. And here—this place—is where the reality hits.”

You can’t outrun that.

Related On This Site:  Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’.

How much of a role does government have to play?:  Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’

A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

California’s anti-immigration, anti-union Democrat: Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

Repost-From The Volokh Conspiracy: Multiculturalism As A Traditional American Value

Full post here.

Two questions:

1. Can you separate multiculturalism from cultural relativism…or are there deeper ideas to which multiculturalism can appeal outside of “value” speak?

2. Doesn’t multiculturalism reward tribal/separatist tendencies within a potentially dangerous idealism, harboring radical elements?

I had an emailer suggest that many of the tendencies you typically might find outside of multiculturalism i.e. racist, nationalist, totalitarian impulses…lie waiting to be expressed within multiculturalism…we’re humans after all.

Do you find Volokh’s utilitarian argument compelling…have we been multicultural all along?

Monument to Multiculturalism at Union Station

…in Toronto

Some Sunday Obamacare Links

Megan McArdle at Bloomberg: ‘Obamacare Insurers Are Suffering. That Won’t End Well.

As to the recent noise made by UnitedHealth:

‘That said, strategic positioning is obviously far from the whole story, or even the majority of it. UnitedHealth really is losing money on these policies right now. It really is seeing something that looks dangerously like adverse selection.’

I still think it’s crucial to advocate that the ACA, poorly written and hastily passed with one-party consent, is a law designed to plan over 1/6 of the American economy from one location, taking money earned by some and redistributing that money (time + labor) to others by way of a huge bureaucracy, politicians, and other interested parties.

The things you might dislike about health-care access now, in all probability, will increase: Huge networks, murky billing and rising prices.  Some people will have access to care they previously didn’t but with awful cost/benefit outcomes.

We’ve taken many of the failures of the old system, the employer-based, jerry-rigged one, and vastly expanded Medicaid on top of it. This has also taken much choice, incentive, and opportunity away from the hardest working people, while trying to give the hardest working people’s stuff to the people who have less stuff.

This blog believes there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The promises made reeked at the time (bending the cost-curve downwards), and a lot of numbers were tossed around to sway public opinion, and get the thing passed.

Such promises cannot possibly be met, and when they’re not, it’s reasonable to expect the people who made the promises will be all too happy to then regulate, ration, and control the system they’ve built, and huge parts of the economy, the political economy, and our lives.

They have the knowledge to do so, as far as they’re concerned.

Jim Pethokoukis quotes Robert Laszewski:

‘When are Obamacare apologists going to stop spinning the insurance exchange enrollment as some big victory that is running smoothly? Yes, Obamacare has brought the number of those uninsured down — because of the Medicaid expansion in those states that have taken it and because the poorest people eligible for the biggest exchange subsidies and lowest deductibles have found the program attractive. But that Obamacare has been a huge failure among the working class and middle-class — not to mention those who make too much for subsidies and have to pay the full cost for their expensive plans–has once again been confirmed.’

Previously: Charlie Martin here:

‘Whatever solution we look for though, the really important point is this: the whole basis of Obamacare, the notion that we can have more people, getting more benefits, and pay less, is just impossible. The arithmetic doesn’t work. And if you think that’s “unfair,” I’m sorry.’

Everyone equally more miserable, really:

Still not a right:  From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?A Few Health Care Links-03/18/2010Peter Suderman At The WSJ: ‘Obamacare And The Medicaid Mess’From KeithHennessey.Com: ‘How To Repeal Obamacare’

The American Response To ISIS-Not So Strategic

I can claim no expertise on the matter; except that of a moderately informed American citizen trying to keep up…

Key points:  ISIS clearly represents a form of radical Islam; one with fascistic and Western elements, yes, but Islam-inspired nonetheless. To my knowledge, there are no non-Muslim, nor non-Muslim-aspiring converts and self-radicalizers joining this fight, nor seeking to advance ISIS aims.

I do not believe people in the West are at war with Islam, perhaps that’s not as obvious as it should be in certain quarters, but in other quarters it should be just as obvious the West has been in a form of warfare with radical, guerilla-style, Islamic-inspired terrorist groups for some time. These groups keep emerging out of Islamic societies, capable of attacking Western societies, and even radicalizing a few Muslims within Western societies.

Some of these radicals have been forged (supported even) out of direct contact with American military engagement in the past and present, and also other Western/Russian engagement, too. Some such radicals can even be born within, or travel freely to and from, Western societies and the front lines of their ordained battlefield, as many Muslims are voting with their feet; seeking more freedom, opportunity, and security than their own societies can provide, becoming immigrants, economic migrants, and in some cases, benefit-seekers, and in a few, rarer cases…radicalized terrorists and murderers.

Deeper down, though, it seems these radicals are being born out of the conflict within Muslim societies and those societies’ contacts/conflicts with both the West and what is generally called ‘modernity.’  Islam and Islamic societies are having a pretty rough time with so much change, and most Muslims’ view of how society ought to be, and what the good society is, and what will happen in the future, differs greatly from what many in the West live and propose.

So, how does the West respond, and according to which leaders and ideas?

As to ISIS, Grame Wood’s piece and interview seem like a decent place to start:

Here he is in a VICE interview on the same subject:

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As to the American response, I’m quite sympathetic to viewing the President thusly:  Take the easy path of blaming your ideological enemies at home when the fruits of your foreign-policy decisions are borne.  Elide over the radical Islamic nature of the threat which can cost people their lives and likely prohibits reasonable policy-making.  Gloss over the humanitarian disaster Syria’s become, largely on your watch.

If necessary, double-down on your own policy positions and political coalitions (climate change is the real threat, peace is next, the Syrian mess will be solved by humanitarian means alone, that’s what ‘good’ people do).

Jonah Goldberg here.  Walter Russell Mead here.

‘From the standpoint of American interests and of the well being of the Syrians, the primary responsibility that the United States has toward the people of Syria is not to offer asylum to something like 0.25 percent of its refugee population. The primary duty of this country was to prevent such a disaster from happening and, failing that, to support in-country safe havens and relief operations. No doubt President Obama and the unthinking press zealots who applaud his every move prefer a conversation about why ordinary Americans are racist xenophobes to one about why President Obama’s Syria policy has created an immense and still expanding disaster.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Which map are you using to understand this conflict?:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Ebrahim Moosa At Bloggingheads Discusses Islamic Reform

al-Zawahiri’s Egypt, a good backstory: Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

From Reason: ‘Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted During Lecture’

Many libertarians stand firm on freedom of speech:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra LevantFrom Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk. Hitchens was not a fan of religion.