Joe Klein Makes Stuff Up

Award winning columnist Joe Klein  writes the following:

As Karen notes below, Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma–who, with James Inhofe, constitute the most extreme Senate delegation from any state–prayed for the incapacitation or death of a Democratic Senator so that health care would be blocked.

Sounds absolutely terrible, doesn’t it?  This Coburn guy must be a really terrible fellow… Except, of course, that’s not what Coburn said.  Here are his actual words:

What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight.

Now you can certainly interpret those words as Klein did, but when you’re a respected journalist you don’t get to simply assume the worst about people and move on.  You’re supposed to provide as accurate and balanced reading of events as possible — even if you’re just blogging.

Klein, of course, is a huge fan of health care “reform.”  One of his favorite provisions is the individual mandate, which he argues will force young, healthy people to buy insurance they wouldn’t otherwise purchase, lowering costs for everyone else.  What he doesn’t mention is a less popular, but economically equivalent way of achieving the same outcome:  instead of forcing young people to purchase something they don’t want, we could just have an “under 30 tax” and distribute the proceeds to the rest of the population.  That way people who are early in their careers and suffering under a mound of student debt could be saddled with yet another financial obligation, for the benefit of those with much higher salaries.  I know the AARP thinks it’s a great idea.

Legal vs Moral

The law says I can walk away from my house, even if I can afford to make payments.  Is is ethical to do so?  I say no:

So no, I don’t see jerks who speculate on houses and then walk away from their mortgages because they’d rather spend the money on cruises as heroes of the working class, striking a well-deserved blow against the banks for the rest of us.  I see them as the folks who are doing their best to ruin a very good thing for the rest of us.

Lobbying the Wrong Branch of Government

We shouldn’t do this, but we should get our elected representatives to say so, not unelected judges.  And it should be our elected representatives, not judges, who decide how much people should be compensated in cases like this.  Unfortunately, by choosing to lobby the judiciary the New York Times is taking pressure off of where it needs to be — Congress.

Sorry, But We’re Not Interested in Providing Clear Guidance at this Time

The FDA has decided to ban flavored cigarettes.  The question many are asking is does the ban cover flavored cigars too?  Here’s how the FDA handled that question:

The distinction between cigarettes and cigars has long revolved around the wrapping. Cigarettes are made of tobacco wrapped in paper, and cigars are made of tobacco wrapped in tobacco or paper constituted from tobacco. The tobacco inside the products also generally differs.

Dr. Deyton was asked several times if Tuesday’s ban applied to any little cigars or cigarillos. “According to the law, if something is wrapped in a tobacco leaf, that would not be considered,” he said and then stopped and added: “Hold on just a second.”

After a delay, Catherine Lorraine, a lawyer in the agency’s tobacco center, got on the call and said that if consumers believe a product is a cigarette, then the law defines it as a cigarette no matter how it is wrapped or labeled.

“We will be looking at products on an individual basis to determine if it meets that aspect of the legislation,” Ms. Lorraine said.

That’s right folks: the FDA lawyers are saying that subjective consumer impressions — and not the objective characteristics of the product — determine whether sale is legal.


It really is whiplash inducing to go from reading the Wall Street Journal as my daily paper to occasionally picking up the New York Times at the BART station.

From a Times story on Acorn:

WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to deny federal money to the community-organizing group Acorn after a video emerged in which employees of the group gave advice to two conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp who said they wanted buy a house in Baltimore and start a brothel.

Bolstered by conservative media outlets, Republicans have been on a crusade against the organization for months, accusing it of improperly influencing elections and being protected by Democrats who were the beneficiaries of the group’s political activities. Matters came to a head in the past week after the Acorn workers were videotaped.

Of course, the article contains no mention of the fact that the Baltimore Acorn office continued to provide advice even after it became clear that the “pimp” was looking to house child prostitutes.

From an article on a new Marine recruiting ad:

[The ad] also makes no effort to show the emotional or mental challenges involved in being a Marine, like coping with combat stress or death.

I guess you just couldn’t resist, could you?

Protecting the Few at the Expense of the Many

President Obama, at the behest of the United Steelworkers union, will be adding a 35 percent tariff on tires imported from China.

The basic idea behind trade is that certain countries are better at certain things; international trade allows each country to specialize in what it’s best at.  Alternately — and this is what we’re choosing here — you can prop up industries where your nation is non-competitive instead of trying to spread into industries where you have a competitive advantage.

Here’s a great quote from the article:

Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who had pressed for the tariffs, also praised the decision.

He said in a statement, “If American workers and manufacturers are going to compete in the global market, they need to have a government that uses trade enforcement tools.”

Allow me to translate:  “Because American companies and workers are inherently inferior to foreign companies and foreign workers, they require a crutch from their government.”

Thanks guys!  Now not only will my tires cost more, but China will likely impose retaliatory tariffs that target an industry where we do have a competitive advantage.  Those guys, of course, don’t deserve protection because they didn’t pay their congressman enough money.

On Civility

Is it acceptable to holler “YOU LIE” at the President of the United States during a joint session of Congress?  No folks, it is not.  Not shouting like a jackass at people in the middle of their speech, especially when they’re the President, is simply part of being raised properly.

There’s a significant group that has discovered you can make fistfuls of cash by marketing outrage as a from of entertainment (read: Fox “News”).  These people, for the sake of padding their bank accounts, have chosen to identify themselves as Republicans and play on some very justified conservative disillusionment.  We should not make the mistake of believing that they have they best interest of this country at heart, and we certainly should not copy their behavior and bring it to our nation’s capital.

If the current health care plan passes it will have a significant negative impact, especially in the area of health care innovation.  We should not, however, make the mistake of believing that the significant portion of the country that is passionately advocating such are proposal is doing so in anything other than good faith.

I’ll close with a quote by C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity:

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.

Because We Lie To Your Face

The health care debate has been just horrible, with both sides playing to the lowest common denominator, and making all sorts of bad-faith accusations against the other side.  Megan McArdle says it quite well:

I’m sad that libertarians and conservatives are casting this as some sort of massive conspiracy of power-mad idiots, when there’s obviously a very large left-wing policy apparatus built up around health care that knows a thing or two, and virtually all of the progressives advocating this are for it because they are worried about people who can’t get basic health care.  I’m sad that liberals are casting their opposition as being mostly about racism and hatred of the poor.

In all of this, I find myself upset the most by what’s coming out of the Republican camp.  Part of that is because I think Keith Olbermann notwithstanding, there’s really no left wing equivalent to guys like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reily.  The bigger part, however, is because this is my team.  When the other guys act like jackasses, I think to myself “that’s why I’m not on their team.”  When major figures from the party I identify with attempt to advance their cause primarily through intellectual dishonesty, I start to get a little upset.  And worried.

This, a survey sent out by the Washington State Republican Party, pretty much sums up my point.

A survey sent out by the Washington State Republican Party.

A survey sent out by the Washington State Republican Party.

Here’s a question to my fellow conservatives:  why is this ok?  Why do we tolerate members of our own party distributing this swill?  It’s time for a little self-policing, or the electorate will do the policing for us.  “Because we lie to your face” is not a good answer to the “why should I elect you?” question.

The Party of Big Government

The Republicans have issued a Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights, itemizing a list of services that the government should, under all circumstances, provide to seniors.  That’s right folks:  meet the new Republican party, completely unmoored from anything resembling intellectual underpinnings, now bringing you a spirited defense of big government entitlements.