Political Science

I still believe in Nate Silver’s argument for why Donald Trump will almost certainly not be the Republican nominee for President (basically, if he doesn’t blow up his own campaign, the party establishment will do it for him), but the strength of my belief has been shaken by the Donald’s surprising staying power in the polls and by the big-time professional political operatives who have gone to work for him. It’s getting a bit scary.

This raises the question of who Trump might pick for Vice President if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee. It’s fun to speculate, because the usual rule is that the running mate has to be crazier than the main candidate, and who that heck would that be?

Michele Bachmann seems to be auditioning for the role with some of her recent remarks (the satirists are already giving her the job), and former pro-wrestler and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura has indicated he’d be interested. And in breaking news, so has Charlie Sheen, who certainly meets the requirement, but I think he’s kidding.

The thing is though, the usual rules don’t apply to Donald Trump. The reason for picking someone crazy as a running mate is so they can act as the campaign attack dog, savaging opponents while allowing the presidential candidate to assume a dignified position above all the dirty fighting. But Trump likes the dirty fighting. In the Trump campaign, Trump is the attack dog.

I suppose it’s possible that Trump will follow the measured and careful advice of his high-priced political operatives and pick someone who balances out the ticket and helps with votes in critical states. But if Trump was the kind of guy who played it measured and careful, none of us would know his name. Trump is going to do something outlandish.

When he was sniffing around the presidency in 1999, Trump famously announced that he would fix U.S. trade policy by appointing himself as the country’s Trade Representative, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s thought of running for both President and Vice President.

That probably won’t happen. But at the same time, Trump loves the attention, so it’s hard to imagine him sharing the limelight with anyone else. Still, I think he’s got to pick someone, so who will it be?

Trump has a giant ego — the biggest, classiest, best ego — and he thinks he can run the country like he runs his company, so my prediction is that his second-in-command for the nation will be his second-in-command for his company: Donald Trump Jr. Because why wouldn’t he pick his eldest son to take over if he dies?

His other children, Ivanka and Eric, are too young to meet the presidential age qualification, but I expect that regardless of whether Junior gets the VP nod, if The Donald becomes The President, he’ll want some of his kids in the White House with him, if not in the Cabinet. Because that’s just how he rolls.

And in the unlikely even that he ever comes across this post, his honest response would probably be, “What’s wrong with that?”

Allen Clifton at Forward Progressives has a post complaining about Democratic candidates trying to run away from President Obama. He then goes on to list some of Obama’s accomplishments:

The same president who has presided over:

The creation of over 10 million jobs in less than 6 years.

Obama inherited an economic recession. Recessions end. Of course it got better. It would have gotten better under President McCain too. The U.S. economy has some pretty sound fundamentals. It recovers from slowdowns.

The finding, and killing, of Osama bin Ladin.

A fair, although minor, accomplishment.

A huge drop in the number of uninsured Americans.

Fair enough, I guess, although I’m not sure that reducing the number of uninsured Americans by requiring Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty is something to brag about. The roll-out of the exchanges did not go so well, and it will take a while for the full effects of the Affordable Care Act to become apparent. It won’t help to have health insurance if doctors and hospitals start going out of business.

Record stock levels.

Again, the stock market recovered from the recession, as it always does. Sarah Palin could have been sitting in the oval office for the last six years and the stock market would have still rebounded.

The saving of the American auto industry.

More like the saving of the inefficient Detroit-based part of the American auto industry at a cost of billions to taxpayers. It’s not that hard to save a failing business with a massive infusion of someone else’s cash. And it’s not clear that it’s necessary: If Detroit automakers had gone under, Americans would have still needed cars, and some other part of the auto industry would have expanded to supply them.

An unemployment rate that’s now below 6%.

Yet again, this was the inevitable, but unusually slow, recovery from the recession. Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog Bo could have been sitting in the oval office and unemployment would have improved.

The ending of discrimination against homosexuals in our military.

Seriously, this was a good thing. Well done, President Obama. Nobody should be running from this. Which brings us to the final item:

Same-sex marriage being on the verge of national legalization in the very near future.

What a strange thing to include on the list. The expansion of legalized same-sex marriage in the United States happened despite the opposition of President Obama. Obama was opposed to same-sex marriage for most of his political career, deciding to support it only recently.

Now let’s look at a few things Clifton left out of his list of accomplishments of the Obama presidency:

  • Despite campaign promises of greater transparency, the Obama administration has reduced cooperation with the press and stepped up prosecutions of leakers.
  • Used the NSA to spy on the press…and everyone else.
  • Refused to investigate torture under the Bush administration.
  • Despite campaign promises, has not closed Gitmo.
  • Despite campaign promises to rein in executive power, the Obama administration has actually expanded it.
  • Ordered the execution by drone strike of American citizens without due process.
  • Allowed the DEA to step up its war on effective treatment for chronic pain sufferers.
  • Continued federal raids on state-approved marijuana dispensaries.
  • Led us back into war in the middle east.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

Frankly, I don’t know how many of those items are enough to keep Democrats away — I don’t hear too many of them complaining about these issues — but President Obama has pretty much run away from just about everything that I liked about Candidate Obama.

An interesting discussion broke out in the blogosphere last week. It all started with Andrew Cohen in The Week, complaining about the legal fiction of “good faith.”

When I was a young man learning the law, I was taught about the “good faith” in which all public officials are always and forevermore presumed to be acting. This presumption, this so-called “implicit covenant,” is an axiomatic cornerstone of both civil and criminal law. And why not? Our courts are busy enough these days without requiring judges to peer into the motives and the biases of the parties moving through our justice systems.

What a tidy but self-defeating fiction the “good faith” presumption has revealed itself to be over my 25 years in the law. The more I study criminal justice, the clearer it is to me that public officials on every level of our justice system are wholly unworthy of the benefit of the doubt the law ascribes to their actions.

I first read those words over at a public defender where Gideon was a little surprised, not by the revelation, but by how long it took:

For Cohen, who’s been a lawyer for a long time and a distinguished legal writer, to come to this realization 25 years into his career is quite telling.

It reveals that we are all operating from the same basic assumption that the system, in the end, works: that everyone in it is doing the best they can do and that any injustices are the outliers. “The best system in the world” is the norm and the wrongful convictions and the prosecutorial misconduct are the inevitable bugs in a system manned by humans.

But if you’ve been reading this blog, or others, or have had any involvement with the system, you know that the assumption is false: it’s a fiction created to grant a sense of stability to the system.

Scott Greenfield has a problem with Andrew Cohen’s piece, and with some of the reaction to it, because apparently the presumption of good faith has a technical meaning in the arena of law. Scott’s not writing Intro to Law, so his explanation of what good faith means is a little vague, but I gather that the presumption of good faith specifies a default assumption that is supposed to be used when resolving legal disputes.

But that’s not a reason to question the good faith presumption.  Missing is an understanding of what it is and why it exists.  The law is replete with presumptions, the one most honored here being the presumption of innocence.  It means that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It reflects a fundamental policy choice, does a criminal defendant start from a position of innocence or guilt?  It proceeds to establish a baseline, where the burden of rebutting the presumption falls on the party that disagrees with it.  So the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt rather than the defendant having the burden of proving innocence.

[…]

But it’s just a starting point. Without starting points, the law would require litigants to reinvent the wheel from scratch every time.

The beauty of such presumptions is that they are rebuttable.  The law may presume a public official to act in good faith, but that merely informs the parties of who has the burden to dispute the presumption and the burden of proof.

In other words, if I have this right, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a judge is supposed to assume that public officials are acting in good faith, much as he is supposed to assume that a criminal defendant is innocent. He can’t just make up crazy ideas about why the public official is a scumbag any more than he can make up crazy ideas about why the defendant is guilty. I’ve never really thought about that before, but it seems to make sense. The basic idea seems to be that judges shouldn’t make stuff up without evidence. Hard to argue with that.

The real problem, according to Scott, is that judges aren’t taking seriously the possibility that the presumption of good faith can be rebutted.

This is the core distinction that is confused by the challenge to the presumption of good faith.  The problem is not that we begin with the presumption, but that our system suffers from inherent prejudice that prevents public officials, particularly judges, from correcting the bad faith of other public officials.

The fault Cohen complains of is undoubtedly real, but the cause isn’t the presumption of good faith.  The cause is the refusal of establishment stakeholders to care enough about the integrity of the system and their own self-respect to make hard decisions, to condemn wrongs of their fellow establishment stakeholders and to use their power to correct the faults.

I don’t know enough about the law to judge whether Scott is right about this, but it certainly makes sense.

However…

Not being a lawyer, and therefore not being aware of the legal presumption of good faith, I was thinking of something else when I read Gideon’s post and Cohen’s column. Law is not the only discipline in which it makes sense to talk about a “presumption of good faith.” The question of whether public officials are acting in good faith is an important issue in analyzing public policy and the nature of government.

I’m pretty sure that Radley Balko, who is also not a lawyer, was thinking along the same lines:

We tend to assume that public employees always act in the public interest — or at least we write our laws and structure our government in a way that assumes it. But there’s nothing transformational about a government paycheck that turns the name on the “payable to:” line into an altruist. This isn’t to say that government employees are especially evil or awful or terrible, only that they’re just as human and fallible as anyone else.

Back when I was a teenager around the end of the 1970’s, I was only just becoming concerned about nature of government, but one of the things that bothered me was the problem of bad cops. It seemed to me that whenever some community activist would complain about police brutality, defenders of the police would argue that the police were there to protect us from criminals and that they deserved our respect. It seemed to me, however, that they were ignoring an important problem: Sure, most cops protected us, but given the amount of trust and power we invest in police officers, that rare bad cop could do an awful lot of harm.

As it turns out, the problem was somewhat worse than I imagined.

When economists study the market, they make some rather cynical assumptions about how people behave. In particular, it is axiomatic in economic thinking to assume that people are selfish, in the sense that, given a choice, they will always choose whatever advances their own selfish interests.

This assumption has proven useful in thinking about the behavior of the free market: Consumers want good deals, employers want hard work at a low wage, employees want light work at high wages, and investors want to make as large a profit as they can. Surprisingly, economic theory tells us that even with all this selfishness, the incentives within an ideal free market will encourage people to produce the goods and services that will most improve the lives of consumers. As Adam Smith wrote, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

You may notice that I referred to an ideal free market. The reasoning leading to the conclusion that markets optimize production and consumption only works if markets meet certain ideal criteria. (The the economics equivalent of the physics assumption that everything is spherical and frictionless.) Real markets are not ideal markets, of course, and there are complications — transaction costs, information asymmetry, monopoly power, externalities — all of which economists refer to as market failures. And in most cases of market failures, economists (and everyone else) used to assume that the government should step in to correct the problem. Exactly how the government would fix things was not explored.

In the latter half of the last century, however, economists began examining the behavior of government using the same analytical tools that they used for the market. In particular, they assumed that the people making up the government were no less selfish than the people who made up the free market. So instead of assuming that the government would just fix problems, they assumed that everyone involved — voters, elected officials, bureaucrats, and special interests — would selfishly look out for themselves. This was called public choice theory.

People seem to have a hard time thinking this way. Even after years of skepticism about the wonders of government, I still catch myself trusting it too much.

Take net neutrality, the concept that internet service providers should carry all kinds of content at the same speed for the same price, as opposed to offering to carry some content under better terms in return for payments. Advocates for net neutrality, such as the Save the Internet Campaign, believe that this would be disastrous because it would allow internet companies to discriminate against certain sites or content, it would raise costs, and it would stifle innovation. Simplifying a bit, phone and cable companies would act in their own interest, and not in the interests of internet consumers. The market would have failed.

That may be. But if you click through to the “Take Action” page, the very first recommendation is to contact the FCC:

Net Neutrality is on life support. To save it we need to turn up the heat on the Federal Communications Commission and Chairman Tom Wheeler. We must stop the FCC from passing rules that would break the Internet and allow discrimination online. The agency needs to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service, which would pave the way to long-lasting Net Neutrality rules.

Save the Internet doesn’t want phone and cable companies to control their own pricing policies because they think the folks who run phone and cable companies are scumbags. So they want the FCC to control internet service pricing policies. But here’s the thing: What is their reason for assuming that the folks who run the FCC aren’t also scumbags? Why do they believe that Comcast and AT&T will selfishly advance their own prosperity, but the FCC will benevolently protect the interests of ordinary people?

We know how government appointments are filled, and the process is not reassuring. Current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was a lobbyist for the cable television and internet industry and he appears to have been appointed in part because of his fundraising efforts on behalf of President Obama’s election campaign. That’s not a selection process that seems particularly designed to choose administrators based on their honesty, altruism, or appreciation for the needs of the citizens.

This is a problem that people on the political left tend to overlook as they continue to recommend more and more government intervention to combat the inequities of the free market in pursuit of social justice. People on the political right, on the other hand, are inherently skeptical of attempts to solve the world’s problems with “big government.”

Except when they aren’t. Which is to say that conservatives seem to forget all about these problems when it comes to the military and law enforcement.

There are some bad people in our society, bad actors, who lie, cheat, rob, rape, and kill, and we need to protect our society from them. So we create a system of justice, with police departments and prosecutors and courts and prisons, and we give it money and special powers to investigate crimes and punish offenders. But there’s a problem — one that I’ve started to think of as the fundamental problem of policing — which is that the people to whom we give this power are chosen from the same pool of humanity which produces the criminals. We thus face the challenge of designing a system of justice that will protect us from bad people even though parts of it will, at times, be run by bad people.

It’s not just the very bad people, however. The theory tends to assume that most people will behave selfishly most of the time, and there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that it’s wrong. This points to what I guess could be called the fundamental problem of government: What’s the best way to build a government given that its officials and functionaries are drawn from the same pool of humanity they are governing? I don’t have a precise answer, but I’m pretty sure that giving them gobs of power with little accountability is a bad idea.

That’s what I was thinking when I read Andrew Cohen’s column — that this was about policy and trust, not a formal legal presumption — and I’m pretty sure it was what Radley Balko had in mind as well. I thought that’s what Cohen and Gideon had in mind too, but now that I’ve read Scott’s post, I’m not so sure.

Frankly though, I’m not so sure what Scott has in mind either, because bits like this don’t sound like he’s talking solely about the legal issues:

We tend to favor survival, and that relies on bridges not falling down and traffic signals that prevent the selfish jerk in the Esplanade from t-boning the Prius.  We go to sleep at night because we believe the police are out there preventing some really bad dude from breaking into our homes and slitting our throats.

Trust is a valuable thing to have, because it saves us a lot of trouble. You only have to look at a few broken-down third world countries to see what happens when nobody can really trust anyone else. But it’s something that has to be built up and maintained. You can’t just make policy founded on the hope that everyone can be trusted to act in good faith.

There is nothing wrong with the presumption of good faith, and our nation would cease to function without it.  What is wrong, and deeply wrong, is that those empowered to decide whether the presumption is rebutted lack the fortitude to serve the public, honor the Constitution and protect society.

In other words, we’re trusting too much that those who are “empowered to decide” will act in good faith.

The official Whitehouse web page on the State of the Union speech asks as to give our responses, so as is the tradition at Windypundit, I have a few thoughts. In a break from tradition, however, instead of posting the whole speech, I’ll just post a few excerpts

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

Your mileage may vary.

So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.

Hey, the state of the union is strong. Who saw that coming?

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs — but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs — but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

Two things: First, corporate profits are paid to shareholders, where they are counted as income. So somebody must be getting the money.

Second, most economists believe that the income statistics understate the welfare increase due to advancing technology. Our phones are better, our cars are better, our computers are better. These things are hard to convert to a dollar value, so in the interest of reliable measurement, they are left out of the calculation. I’m not saying it’s tons better, but it’s better.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

Remember those phrases. I have a feeling I’ll be mentioning them again.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion — mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

I’m not sure exactly what he’s talking about, but that sort of statement about deficit reduction usually just means that our current plan for the next ten years is to spend $4 trillion less than our previous plan for the next ten years. It doesn’t mean we’ll actually spend less than we have been, and anyway it’s all kind of theoretical at this point.

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.

Actually, there’s some evidence it’s increasing some costs…which is, I guess, not incompatible with slowing the growth…well played Mr President, well played.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

God, it’s always about manufacturing with politicians! Like the rest of us don’t count. Only about 9 percent of the people have manufacturing jobs. Does anybody remember “make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few” from only a few paragraphs back? I guess sometimes government does work just for the few.

So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.

Industrial policy. Because that always works.

Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar.

Yes. I agree. If we’re going to invest in research, it should be in the kind of basic science that benefits everybody. That’s generally the sort of thing where a little government investment can go a long way.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.

That’s not quite how the science works. It’s almost impossible to attribute a single weather event — such as a hurricane or a drought — to climate change. Sometimes, the weather just does what it does. It really could just be a freak coincidence. Global warming is proven by statistics, not anecdotes.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

Actually, lower energy bills should be their own reward. If that’s not good enough, perhaps it’s time to increase the cost of energy.

So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.

Hey, giving out public construction contracts! Obama really is from Chicago! I guess sometimes government does work just for the few.

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Why would we be against that? Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

I wish I knew what he was talking about here. Government promotion of the idea that banks should loan money to everyone who wants a home was a big cause of the mortgage crisis.

And that has to start at the earliest possible age. Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That’s something we should be able to do.

Hey, more jobs for teachers! I guess sometimes government does work just for the few. I mean, this may not be a bad idea, but it’s also a handout to Democratic supporters.

So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

You could also let the banks take more risk on student loans and restore the right of college students to declare bankruptcy. You’ll get more bang for your bucks when the people providing the bucks have more skin in the game.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made — putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

The reduction in immigration is almost certainly because our economy tanked, not because of Obama’s odious border enforcement.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

Again, there is no frickin’ line. Not unless you actually start letting them in. Although maybe that’s what he means with this part:

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

…Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.We should be able to get that done.

The key phrase being “no one who works.” The general rule of demand is that people buy less of something when its price goes up, so raising the minimum wage should reduce the number of available jobs. As it happens, however, econometrics studies have found little if any effect on jobs from raising the minimum wage (probably because low labor mobility forces workers to take below-market jobs). But if we keep raising it, eventually we’ll get it high enough to start killing jobs. I hope this isn’t the time.

In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.

What, other than class warfare, do those things have to do with each other? CEO’s get lots of money for a variety of reasons, not all of them good, but that’s a problem of corporate governance that has little to do with minimum wage policies.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Propping up failed cities is not a good policy. Cities with shrinking populations should make adjustments to what they’ve become.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.

The homes are vacant because people don’t want to live there. Why fight it? Tear down the vacant homes and turn them into parks. Or let neighbors buy them to expand their plots, as larger play areas for children or as small farms for locally-grown food. Or maybe car parks. Really, just do whatever works when population density declines.

And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.

These cities are emptying out. They don’t need housing.

We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.

No. Please don’t. It will just distort business decision making to try to score some tax relief, probably by gaming the system. Also, if you do this, then businesses that did the hard work of hiring and investing last year will then be forced have to compete against businesses that got a government handout this year. That’s not fair.

Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Obama has promised transparency before, and he failed to deliver. Heck, he’s actively fought transparency. The only prosecutions of those involved in torture under the Bush administration have been those who blew the whistle on it.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.And that’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.

That doesn’t sound good…

But now Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.

He says “secure our networks.” I hear “control our networks.”

Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

Free trade is always good. If that’s what this is (and the whining from the protectionist left suggests it is) then it’s a good thing.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all — not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to the global economy; by empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve, and helping communities to feed, and power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.

That all sounds real good. I hope it happens.

In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.

More freedom in the world. Sounds great. See if you can send a little of that freedom our way while you’re at it.

Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.

Then stop violating our rights. That would be doing your part!

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource: our children.

Protecting the children. That never ends well, legislatively speaking. In this case, it’s gun control:

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

If you want to get “weapons of war…off our streets” then stop giving them to police departments!  These guys and especially these guys are not outgunned. And neither was this guy, or these guys. If you want to get weapons of war off the streets, you go first. Reverse the trend toward increasingly militarized police forces.

But as Americans, we all share the same proud title — we are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe.

It also describes the rights we’re supposed to have and the freedoms that the government is supposed to protect.

It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.

I suppose it does. My chapter would not include the War on Drugs, grabby TSA agents, vast armies of border guards, or cops and other government officials that hate us for our freedoms.

I may have been a little harsh in yesterday’s prediction that “the next four years are going to suck.” That’s what I get for concentrating too much on the Presidential race. It turned out there was some good news last night.

First of all, the Republican rape guy lost. Actually, both Republican rape guys lost. I don’t think Richard Mourdock meant what he said in quite the way people took it, but following on the heels of Todd Akin‘s idiotic “legitimate rape” remark, he probably didn’t stand a chance.

Second, Californians voted to modify their “three strikes” law to require the third felony to a be serious one, just like the first two. No more 25-year prison sentences for shoplifting.

Third, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington passed ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voters rejected a measure that would have prohibited same-sex marriages. This is the civil rights movement of my time, and it’s exciting to see it make so much progress.

Fourth, voters in Colorado and Washington passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana. They’re not just talking about medical marijuana,either. They legalized marijuana for recreational use. This is a huge blow against the war on drugs, and I can only hope for more.

Fifth, Gary Johnson got over 1.1 million votes, making him the most successful Libertarian presidential candidate in recent years. That’s not the 5% Libertarians were hoping for, so the news media will probably still ignore the Libertarian party in the next election, but maybe they’ll pay more attention to Johnson next time he runs for something.

Despite that, Gary Johnson is not the most successful Libertarian candidate in this election because…

Sixth, in a stunning development, Houston criminal defense lawyer (and friend of the blog) Mark Bennett received an astounding 1.3 million votes in his run for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. I think most of those people were voting against the Republican in a race without a Democrat, but still, that’s a hell of a fine showing.

I do still stand by this bit I wrote yesterday:

Neither of these men loves liberty, and we’ll be stuck with one of them for the next four years.

It looks like we’re stuck with Barack Obama.

Medical marijuana has been legal under California for a while now, but it remains illegal under federal law, and the Obama administration has been conducting armed raids on marijuana grow operations since he was elected. When I heard that marijuana had been legalized in two states, my first question was whether Obama would (a) respect the will of the people of those states, or (b) be a dick about it.

The answer came swiftly:

The U.S. Department of Justice reacted to the measure’s passage in Colorado by saying its enforcement policies remain unchanged, adding: “We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”

So it looks like plan (b). He’s going to be a dick about it.

Here’s my prediction for the result of the 2012 Presidential election: The next four years are going to suck.

The polls are about even (heh, even in the pointless Dixville Notch first vote), which partisans on both sides are trying to spin as a win for their side. Some of them may even be right. I don’t know and I don’t care enough to try to figure it out. A day from now we’ll all know. I can wait to find out. The suspense isn’t killing me. I’m not voting for either of them.

On the day Barack Obama was inaugurated, I called it “the highpoint of the Obama Presidency.” It wasn’t really a slam at Obama; I just meant that now that he actually had to do the job he would probably not be able to live up to the dreams and hopes of his supporters. I didn’t realize how prophetic it would turn out to be. Although I expected not to like some of Obama’s economic moves, I was hoping he’d undo some of the Bush administration’s damage to our civil liberties. That turned out to be a foolish dream on my part.

Obama had complained about the excesses of Executive power when he was campaigning, but once all that shiny power was his, he didn’t give up an ounce of it. In fact, he took it up a notch by ordering the murder of an American citizen without a trial. And all those Bush guys we hated…Barack Obama didn’t do a thing to bring them to justice. His Justice Department went after people who leaked stuff about Bush, and his administration is stepping up the war on leakers. Almost everything that was awful about the Bush administration — spying on American citizens, drone strikes, the immigration mess, the war on drugs — has stayed the same or gotten worse under President Obama.

Four years ago, despite my disagreement with some of his policies, I wished Obama well. But after watching his Justice Department support every infringement on our Fourth Amendment rights, after hearing him chuckle at the plight of the victims of the drug war, after finding out about the secret kill lists and the drone strikes against innocents in Pakistan…after all that, I’ve discovered that thinking about the Obama administration’s record makes me surprisingly angry. Another four years of this will not be good for my blood pressure.

That’s not so say I’m hoping for a Romney victory.

Unlike with Obama, I’m not angry at Mitt Romney. Not because I like his policies or think he’s a great guy. He just hasn’t been President yet, so he hasn’t pissed me off. If he wins today, I’m sure he’ll do something about that. Of all the bad things I just mentioned about Obama, I don’t think Romney has ever disagreed with any of them. If anything, he has accused Obama of being soft on those issues. To hear him talk about it, President Romney would give us more drone strikes, more war on drugs, more immigration abuse, and more of a police state.

Since Romney is technically a Republican, and since they are supposedly the party of free market capitalism, it’s possible that a Romney administration might, if we’re lucky, pursue a few economic policies that will improve the economy, such as reducing government spending and burdensome regulations, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Cutting government spending is hard, and once Romney is in charge, is he really going to cut his own budget? The last Republican sure didn’t. And if it’s not done right, deregulation is just another form of market distortion to help out political allies.

Romney has also been cozying up to the religious right’s social conservative agenda with his opposition to gay marriage and to birth control and to pornography. He’s made a lot of promises, and if history is any guide, he’ll pay those off before he tries to improve the economy.

Of course, nobody really knows what Romney will do if he wins. He’s famous for changing his positions on issues. He seems to just tell people what they want to hear, even if it’s completely different from what the last group wanted to hear. To a remarkable degree, this doesn’t seem to bother him. It’s as if he has no core beliefs, no center. He’s a hollow man, driven only by personal ambition. Mitt Romney’s vision for America consists solely of the burning idea that he should be in charge of it. If that happens, he could do anything.

So, however it goes today, I’m not going to be happy with the result. Neither of these men loves liberty, and we’ll be stuck with one of them for the next four years.

Oh, and if you read this because you actually wanted to know my prediction for how the election would turn out, here goes: I predict Obama wins, but not by as much of a margin as last time, especially the popular vote. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio. Probably not Florida.

(That title is a bit dog-bites-man, isn’t it?)

I’m amused, puzzled, and a bit angered by the stupidity of lefty/liberal/progressive hatred for all things Koch. Mike Elk’s ridiculous piece at In These Times is a particularly confused example:

Much has been written about the owners of Koch Industries, brothers David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, trying to control the political process through hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to right-wing causes and candidates. Now, an In These Times investigation reveals that the billionaires have broken out another tactic to influence the 2012 elections: attempting to control their workers’ votes.

Controlling their workers votes? That sounds bad. Illegal even. How are they doing that?

In a voter information packet obtained by In These Times, the Koch Industries corporate leadership informed tens of thousands of employees at its subsidiary, Georgia Pacific, that their livelihood could depend on the 2012 election and that the company supports Mitt Romney for president.

Elk goes on to quote from the mailing:

If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.

Enclosed with the letter was a flyer listing Koch-endorsed candidates, beginning with Romney. Robertson’s letter explained: “At the request of many employees, we have also provided a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee.”

The packet also included an anti-Obama editorial by Charles Koch and a pro-Romney editorial by David Koch. The letter went on to say, “We believe any decision about which candidates to support is–as always–yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are most important to you. Second, we do not support candidates based on their political affiliation.”

In other words those dastardly Koch brothers are trying to “control their workers’ votes” by talking to them. In this case, by talking to them about political issues — subsidies, regulations, disruption of free trade — that may directly hurt Koch Industries and therefore put employees out of work. The bastards! How dare they keep employees informed about the business environment!

The Koch’s in-house campaigning for the GOP is part of a larger trend of corporations exercising new freedoms under Citizens United. The Supreme Court decision overturned previous FEC laws prohibiting employers from expressing electoral opinions directly to their employees.

This is what the liberal reaction to the Citizens United ruling comes down to: Fear that business leaders will be able to talk about politics with their employees.

(Note the all-too-typical hypocrisy: In These Times is a progressive magazine that exists entirely to express political opinions. You can be damned sure that its employees know their bosses’ politics.)

Elk isn’t just concerned about what the Koch’s are saying, he also accuses them of trying to suppress their employees’ freedom of speech.

In September, a number of unionized employees at Georgia Pacific’s Toledo, Ore. plant posed for a photo in front of their union hall with Democratic state Senate candidate Arnie Roblan. When the Koch Industries voter information packet arrived in the workers’ mailboxes a few weeks later, they saw that Roblan was not on the list of Koch-endorsed candidates in Oregon.

It was then, says Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) Vice President Greg Pallesen, that he started receiving some of the strangest phone calls from workers he’s fielded in his 30-plus years of union involvement. The unionized workers in the photo were worried that they might be fired from their jobs if the image got out on the Internet, because in the backdrop of the photo, the Georgia Pacific plant could be seen.

And? And? …Well, nothing, really. If anything bad ever happened to those workers, Elk doesn’t mention it. But, you know, they were worried, so therefore the Koch brothers are evil.

Georgia Pacific workers say that in general, they are not sure where the boundaries of the social media policy lie. AWWPW Local 5 President Jim Pierce, who works at Georgia Pacific paper mill, in Camas, Washington, is wary of commenting online about the outspoken Koch Brothers’ political beliefs.

“Even if I was at my own home, I can’t put something up [on Facebook] against the Koch Brothers,” says Pierce. “I don’t post anything about the Koch Brothers. I could lose my job.”

So, he’s in fear for his job…and yet he feels free to say things like this to reporters. And as far as Elk tells us, nothing happened to him either.

Social media policies are a modern extension of traditional policies controlling who speaks on the company’s behalf. Companies can get in a lot of trouble if random employees start making promises to customers that they’re not authorized to make, or making statements to the press about sensitive internal matters. Companies also don’t want employees doing things that conflict with the company’s business goals and the purpose of the employee’s job. If you sell cars for Lexus by day, you shouldn’t be badmouthing Lexus cars by night on your Facebook page, and you especially shouldn’t be calling your customers idiots for buying them. That’s why employee handbooks include stuff like this.

(This gets more complicated when the issue is one of public policy — can BP employees complain about global warming? — and it can be downright illegal when companies try to keep employees from talking about working conditions, because that would interfere withthe ability of workers to organize and form unions. Elk tells us that the union has two NLRB complaints against the company’s social media policy, so it’s not implausible that that policy goes too far, some of them do. Koch industries could well be doing something wrong if they are trying to suppress such speech.)

Elk also mentions a possible case of retaliation that sounds plausible:

When McKinney applied for a foreman job at the plant in May, he says, his supervisor informed him that a higher-up said he wouldn’t get the job because he was “too political.” “They said I should be aware of what I am posting online,” says McKinney. A subsequent August evaluation of McKinney noted that “supervisors feel Travis gets caught up in the politics of the day which can be distraction.”

McKinney says it wasn’t hard to deduce what they meant. He was quoted in the 2011 Nation article I wrote with Mark Ames…

That doesn’t sound very nice. Then again, if you complain to the news media about your employer’s policies, perhaps they are justified in not giving you a job where you would have to implement those policies.

So far, this is all just standard-issue progressive Koch-hate, possibly with some justification if there has been retaliation over labor issues. But then Elk veers off into deranged political hackery:

In addition to the social media policy, Georgia Pacific also demands that workers seek approval from supervisors before running for local elected office or serving on the boards of nonprofits. Koch Industries claims such approval is necessary to prevent conflicts of interest. These policies could potentially prohibit Georgia Pacific employees from running for local office in communities that seek to more strictly regulate the company.

“I was kind of disturbed that they would infringe on my personal right to run for office,” says Georgia Pacific employee Larry Wagoner of Washougal, Wash. ” I was in the running for City Council this year. I asked someone in the HR department, ‘What if I wanted to run for Congress?’ She said you would just have to stop working here.” Wagoner adds that he is pretty sure this was a misinterpretation of company policy. But it serves as an example of the fuzzy boundaries of the policies and their potential chilling effect.

Provisions like this are also pretty common in employment policies, for exactly the reason given: Conflict of interest. Is Koch Industries supposed to have people working for it that are also holding offices where they can work against it? This is not just about Koch protecting its interests, it’s also about obeying laws about campaign finance and public corruption and avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

You can see how crazy this is. Elk started his article by complaining that the evil Koch brothers were having too much influence over the political process, but he ends it by complaining that Koch Industries doesn’t make it easy enough for its employees should run for elected offices. Obviously, Elk is only imagining non-management employees running for office, people who he assumes are good progressive pro-labor folks like himself. If some Koch VP got elected, people like Elk would be the first ones screaming that he’s a stooge for the Koch brothers.

I get a lot of political email these days, especially from the Obama campaign. Yesterday, for example, I got one from Stephanie Cutter, one of Obama’s campaign managers.

Over the course of this election, we’ve seen that both Romney and Ryan avoid telling the truth about their plans and how they’d actually affect the middle class. It doesn’t matter if they’re talking about taxes, health care, Medicare, education, or clean energy — the Romney-Ryan status quo is to misrepresent their positions and their practical effects.

But Stephanie isn’t above telling a few lies herself:

One of the few specific policy proposals that Romney offered at the debate was to fire Big Bird to cut the deficit. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Except she kinda did.

PBS only receives about 15% of its funding from the government, so eliminating their federal funding would not be much of a hardship. They might have to cut some programming, but surely not Sesame Street, their most well-known show. And even if they did such a crazy thing, PBS doesn’t own Sesame Street. Big Bird’s employer is actually the Sesame Workshop, a non-profit corporation that makes a lot of money through licensing of its famous characters all over the world. If one of the television networks that carries their video product lost a bit of its funding, they’d still be able to get their product out. Nobody’s firing Big Bird.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why Republicans have a bug up their ass about PBS. I agree that in an age of cable television and the Internet, we really don’t need publicly-subsidized television, but we’re talking about a very small amount of money. If Romney were serious about reducing government spending, he be talking about cutting energy and agricultural subsidies.

Remember when I signed up as a Republican so I could vote for Ron Paul in the Illinois primary?

Apparently Republicans are very rare in this town. So rare, in fact, that I’ve received a letter from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners asking me to apply to be an election judge representing the Republican party. It’s a form letter, and I suspect most registered Republicans must have received one, but it’s a new one on me.

I’m tempted, just for the experience. I’m not sure they’d actually pick me, though. Then again, I assume they wouldn’t have asked if they were swamped with candidates. I’d get a blog post out of it, but it looks like a lot of work — the election judge’s work day starts at 5am — and I’d have to use a vacation day.

Also, I’m not sure how much I want to associate myself with the Republican party. They didn’t pick my guy, so I won’t be voting for them this year.

Still, I like the idea of going around all day saying “I’ll be the judge of that!”

Imagine how awesome it must be to live in Alabama, where voters get to choose their next Chief Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court.

On the one hand, there’s the Republican candidate, Roy Moore. He had the job before, at least until a few years ago when he was kicked off the bench. He’s the judge who insisted on having a copy of the Ten Commandments displayed in his courtroom. When a federal court ordered it removed, he refused, and the Alabama Court of the Judiciary responded by removing him from the post.

Moore is also not too fond of teh gay:

To disfavor practicing homosexuals in custody matters is not invidious discrimination, nor is it legislating personal morality. On the contrary, disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law, which is the duty of its public servants… The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle… Homosexual behavior is a ground for divorce, an act of sexual misconduct punishable as a crime in Alabama, a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.

So that’s the Republican.

Then there’s his opponent, Democrat Harry Lyon, who favors mandatory random drug testing for all high school students, in public and private schools. Also, one day while discussing the illegal immigration problem, this came out of his mouth:

“My idea is to bring attention to the problem and let the Legislature [and courts] decide,” Lyon said. “I’d give them 90 days to make arrangements to make them leave and if after that, you’d have to go to public execution.”

He also gave an interview, partially transcribed here:

Tim Lennox: “‘It would only take five or 10 getting killed and broadcast on CNN for it to send a clear message not to fool, or not to step foot rather, in Alabama.’ Is that an accurate quote?”

Harry Lyon: “That’s an accurate quote. You have have to get tough on things like this. We’re losing 35 to 50 soldiers a day in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a tough proposal, but the legislature would have to approve it.”

Lyon: “If I were an illegal alien in Alabama and I read that in the newspaper, I wouldn’t wait around for laws to be passed, I would be going back to my homeland. They broke in here, they violated our laws. It’s no different than breaking into your house.”

And then somewhat later:

Lyon: “Now, I can assure you that proposal would fly right through the Alabama legislature is one of these illegal immigrants were to blow up the Galleria, OK?”

Lennox: “Well, but there’s no indication that any immigrants in Alabama, illegal or otherwise, have done anything along these lines–“

Lyon: “Well, there’s no indication about 9/11 until the buildings came down.”

Lennox: “I mean, are you suggesting that this is a real concern of yours?”

Lyon: “Absolutely. These people are not here legally, they are here illegally. What do they care about the laws of Alabama, or the United States? Slap in our face.”

He now claims he was being facetious (see the comments), but you can watch the actual interview (starts around 6:00, the second part comes around 19:50) and decide for yourself.

Roy Moore’s campaign page is here (warning: plays audio on load).

Harry Lyon’s criminal defense firm web site is here (although I wouldn’t recommend him if you’re worried about collateral immigration issues).

(Hat tip: Ed Brayton)

Today I did something that probably would have disappointed my father if he were still alive: I voted in the Republican primary.

My father was a yellow dog Democrat. Oh, there were a few Democrats he wouldn’t vote for — such as Tip O’Neill, whom he considered corrupt — but he would never have voted for a Republican. In his declining years, he hated George W. Bush most of all. Whenever I took him to the VA hospital, he always insisted I position his wheelchair in the waiting room so he wouldn’t have to see Bush’s portrait on the wall. I was glad he lived to see Bush depart the Whitehouse.

Of course, as regular readers could probably guess, I voted for Ron Paul. His positions on several issues differ from mine in some important ways, but he comes a lot closer to my views than anyone else in the Republican party, and I long ago lost all respect for the current occupant of the Whitehouse. Paul hasn’t got a chance in hell of winning, but I hope he’ll have more influence after this. More importantly, I hope his libertarian ideas of freedom will become more popular, and that future candidates will make more of an effort to win the votes of people who hold libertarian values.

I also just like messing with Republicans.

I don’t know if I could explain my vote in a way my dad would have understood. But I do know that the reason my dad hated George Bush so much is because he got our country into these painful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Barack Obama has turned out to be every bit the warmonger Bush was. I don’t think my dad would agree with many of Ron Paul’s other policies, but I’d like to think he’d be okay with me voting for the only candidate of either party who wants to end the wars.

Even if he is a Republican.

Oh my God. Seriously? Houston criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett has just announced on his blog that he’s running for office as a Judge on the Texas Court of Appeals. It even brought Old Man Greenfield out of retirement.

The good news is that he’d be a great person to have on the bench. The bad news is that he’s running on the Libertarian ticket. To which I can only respond:

Mark, my friend. You’re running as a Libertarian? Do you realize they are insane? Are you insane? You haven’t got a chance. Not prayer, not a hope. If I hooked up an electron microscope to the Times Square JumboTron, it wouldn’t be powerful enough to see the infinitesimally small possibility that the voters would pick a Libertarian, let alone a Libertarian criminal defense lawyer. It just can’t work.

So how can I help?

Update: A couple of weeks ago, in response to Scott Greenfield’s announcement that he was shuttering his blog, Mark Bennett wrote:

…some day–probably very soon–someone will publicly say something so outrageously stupid, illogical, unethical or ugly that it will pull Scott back in.

Congratulations, Mark, on being the one!

I’m always late to this party — it’s become a Twitter thing — but as has been my occasional custom, here are a few thoughts about the President’s State of the Union address. Obama should, of course, be judged more by his actions than by what he says, but as with anyone in authority, understanding his thoughts and ideas is helpful.

Arguably, the State of the Union speech is just a big show, and that Obama’s less well-planned statements are more revealing, but I think the speech is worth looking at for two reasons. First, this is Obama at his most considered and prepared, with his whole team participating, so you’re seeing his governing philosophy presented at its best. Second, precisely because it’s been so carefully prepared, this is one speech he can’t back away from.

This is the entire text, taken from the official White House transcript, although I have reformatted it slightly and removed all the notations of when the audience applauded, because that’s the silliest possible way to evaluate this speech.

It begins the customary way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

(more…)

The title is not about Mitt Romney winning the Iowa caucus, it’s about Rick Santorum coming in second. I explain my reaction over at Nobody’s Business in this post. If nothing else, watch the three minute video in which Santorum explains why freedom is bad and ask yourself if this is the guy you want to have the power to detain Americans without a trial.

It’s not too early to start drinking, is it?