As we draw close to November, “voting rights” is a subject much in the news, with several states attempting to ensure that voters (a) are eligible to vote in that state and (b) do not vote multiple times. By a wide measure, most Americans agree that presenting valid identification as proof of voting eligibility is a pretty good idea.

But as The Atlantic reports, there is passionate resistance from people who believe ID is a right-wing conspiracy to suppress the votes of people who’d more naturally vote for the left—or at least that’s the argument:

A flurry of last-minute court decisions is upending voting rules in key states less than a month before the midterm congressional elections.

The Supreme Court on Thursday night blocked a restrictive voter ID law in Wisconsin after opponents said it would cause “chaos” at the polls and noted that ballot forms had already been sent out to voters that did not make clear they needed to provide identification. The brief order by Justice Elena Kagan overturned a September decision by an appellate court, over the opposition of conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

Also on Thursday night, a lower federal trial court struck down a 2011 voter ID law in Texas with a scathing opinion determining that the statute, which was designed to combat voter fraud, “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”

To some people, me especially included, it seems like a prima facie case of racism to suggest that brown and black people are incapable of securing identification. Call it the hard bigotry of no expectations.

So who is “eligible” to vote? Here, again, is The Atlantic to explain:

What, then, about the right to vote? The phrase appears for the first time in the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that states shall lose congressional representation “when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime.”

That language appears in Article 14, and since it was written and passed almost 150 years ago, two subsequent Amendments (the 19th and 26th) have extended voting rights to women and lowered the voting age to 18.

There has never been an Amendment extending voting rights to non citizens. Which quite reasonably suggests that proof of citizenship is required.

How does one prove citizenship? The first time you apply for a passport, which is something granted only to citizens, you have to provide a birth certificate. And by the way, traveling somewhere where you need a passport requires valid identification, too. As does, for that matter, getting a Social Security number, opening a bank account, entering a federal building, enrolling in school, landing a job, receiving welfare benefits, checking into a hotel, renting an apartment, being stopped for jaywalking, etc.

So what’s the big deal about showing ID before registering to vote and then voting? I have my suspicions, but why bother naming them or arguing about the matter when there’s a reasonable solution, one that can be applied on a state-by-state basis?

Though the Second Amendment explicitly grants us the “right to keep and bear arms,” every state erects various obstacles to the exercise of this right. New York and California, for example, have restricted rights in a way that makes it difficult to purchase a gun, let alone keep and bear one. Vermont and New Hampshire, on the other hand, have few restrictions, allowing almost all non-felonious/dangerous citizens to buy and bear guns.

So let’s require by statute that each state/municipality apply the same rules to voting as it does to the purchase of a handgun. Both are constitutional rights, but only one is subject to onerous, disqualifying restrictions. Why, because guns are dangerous in the wrong hands? No one would deny that.

But the operative words are “wrong hands,” which apply also to the ballot box. The danger to the body politic from voter fraud is in its own way every bit as destructive as a thug with a .38.

In general, those who favor the least restrictive voting rights tend to favor the most restrictive gun rights, and on the other side the obverse is true. Which means this immodest proposal comes with built-in political stabilizers and—if we haven’t yet given up looking for ways to bridge the widening divide—unavoidable compromise.

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I’ve noticed that people who back when shook their fist at Dylan’s lyric, “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,” didn’t take too well to being on the other side of the generational equation. (They’re most often the same people who still get chills over Blowin’ in the Wind.)

Similarly, I’m looking forward to when Amanda Marcotte has a teenage daughter. Hilarity, I’m betting, will not ensue.


ObamaCare is the Maginot Line

September 28, 2014

The Maginot Line was a series of fortifications, devised by the eponymous André Maginot, that was intended to protect France from the kind of German invasion the country suffered in World War I. It took ten years to construct—and six weeks for the Germans to just basically sidestep the obstacles and enter France through Belgium and the low countries. I’ve never read, presumably because one wasn’t written, what would be a self-evidently ridiculous defense of the infamous line by the French commentariat.

Yet that’s what we read often about ObamaCare from the likes of Ezra Klein, who at Vox insists that “Obama’s signature accomplishment is succeeding beyond all reasonable expectation,” and from Salon, where “ObamaCare is working” has become almost a mantra. My bet is that none of OCare’s most vociferous defenders are themselves tied to an OCare plan.

I am already on record as hating, loathing, despising my individual policy’s forced migration to ObamaCare—aka Covered California in my state—which deprived me of every doctor I’d had for 30 years.

Though I’ve been paying up the wazoo for my coverage since January 1, I had yet to see a doctor this year—because I didn’t have one. So when I decided the other day not to forego my annual exam, I consulted the Anthem/CoveredCA website. After three hours, having culled my list of internists within 20 miles of me through some rudimentary Googling, I began making calls.

Half weren’t even on the plan. Many had retired. A third of those remaining weren’t actually internists; some were nephrologists, some oncologists, some gastroenterologists, etc. So I began a second list and at last found a doctor who agreed to see me. She appears to have been in practice only a year or two.

Coincidentally, the Los Angeles Times today continued its welcome coverage of ObamaCare’s problems with a story that mirrors my experience.

Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year.

The state’s largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans.

This comes as insurers prepare to enroll hundreds of thousands of new patients this fall and get 1.2 million Californians to renew their policies under the Affordable Care Act.

Even as California’s enrollment grows, many patients continue to complain about being offered fewer choices of doctors and having no easy way to find the ones that are available.

In a world of lowered expectations, where declining unemployment rates are hailed even though the decline is attributable almost entirely to workers dropping out of the labor market, it makes sense to consider ObamaCare a success just for the fact that people have insurance, regardless of whether they have competent medical care.

On paper, my own plan, which Anthem assured me was not on the exchange “because you’re not getting a subsidy,” is terrific. But its lack of access to real, licensed, experienced, capable medicos is a scandal. It’s like having floor seats at Staples Center. . .on nights when there’s no game.

Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, said the continued emphasis on narrow networks and a lack of clear information portend another challenging year for consumers.

It’s been a low priority for insurance companies to maintain these provider directories, and states really aren’t pushing back on narrow networks,” Corlette said.

Covered California endorses the industry’s narrow network strategy as a way to keep premiums affordable. The state has credited it for helping produce two straight years of lower-than-expected premiums for individual coverage. Rates for 2015 are expected to increase 4.2%, on average.

ObamaCare is the Maginot Line. And someday those who still defend it will be viewed with the contempt we have for Marshal Pétain, who at least got a gig out of the debacle.

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Secretary of State John Kerry is now appealing to a higher authority in order to stoke our fears of “climate change” and urge us to adopt draconian actions.

Confronting climate change is, in the long run, one of the greatest challenges that we face, and you can see this duty or responsibility laid out in Scriptures clearly, beginning in Genesis. And Muslim-majority countries are among the most vulnerable.

Kerry says a lot of stupid things. In fact, he can make Joe Biden seem like Cicero. But he’s our secretary of state, in large measure responsible for our relations with other countries—not least the Muslim countries to which we’re beholden for the oil we import. Like all his predecessors, he has to avoid antagonizing them.

Yet by citing environmental destruction in the Muslim world as moral ballast for his climate-change agenda, he couldn’t have found a less approving audience than the Saudi royal family.

What he’s apparently failed to notice is that the battle against “climate change” centers on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those that come from fossil fuels—as in petroleum products, the kind Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors pump out of the ground to account for pretty much their entire GDP.

So Kerry is advocating policies that, if implemented, would quickly turn Saudi Arabia into Detroit and put its royal heads literally on the chopping block. That he’d advocate such policies in Davos is one thing. That he blithely dragged Muslims into the conversation would be a lot funnier if it didn’t also raise the question: Is there nothing about how the real world works that John Kerry understands?


A long time ago, as a young man far, far away, I stepped off a train in Marseille, France, with my then girlfriend, a long-haired blonde, both of us wearing down jackets and, of course, backpacks. (I also carried my guitar for accompanying her, something we did quite lucratively in streets, subways, and clubs, thanks to her amazing voice.) I forget where we were coming from or going to, but for the next few days we’d be in Marseille and in need of a cheap hotel.

As we walked along the platform toward the street, a middle-aged woman ran up to me and in a fevered whisper leaned in to ask, “Juif?”—Jew. Naïve as I was, I said “Oui, pourquoi?”

Because, she explained, Marseille was filled with Arabs and, outside of certain areas, not safe for Jews. I laughed—scoffed, actually—as if such a thing could be true so many years after the end of WWII (though not, in retrospect, as many years as it seemed to me at the time). Right on cue, three Arabs in full dress passed.

Aside from a somewhat prominent proboscis, I’d never considered myself particularly “Jewish looking”—and in 21 years my ethnicity had never been either an asset or a burden—so I asked how she’d pegged me as a Jew.

Her eyes widened as she shot me a look that roughly translated to: You idiot. (Indeed, some weeks later we arrived in Morocco, where young Arab men constantly asked me “Juif”? And I, in my still touching naiveté, always answered, with pride, Oui.)

The woman insisted that we follow her to a “safer” part of town, and I insisted it wouldn’t be necessary; we’d be fine anywhere we decided to stay. Besides, I assumed that “safer” meant nicer, and our budget didn’t accommodate nice.

When at last she recognized that I wouldn’t listen to reason, she broke away, throwing up her hands in exasperation. My girlfriend, who didn’t speak French, asked what all the commotion was about. I said it was the ravings of some mad old woman.

Well, I thought of that not-so-mad and not-so-old woman and her ravings this morning when I read this story about a French girl, 16, arrested on her way to join ISIS in Syria. Ponder this terrifying nugget:

Among the youngest French people ICM surveyed — ages 18 to 24 — the favorability rate for Islamic State was even higher: 27%.

I also thought of that woman as I read this story about the precipitous increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence across France.

Just as I thought of her when I read this story about rising anti-Semitism all across Europe.

For decades now France has had the third largest Jewish population in the world, behind the U.S. and Israel. But for how long? Jews are history’s canary in the coalmine, and they’re abandoning France in record numbers. Meanwhile France, a frequent battlefield in civilizational wars, is becoming increasingly Islamized. This does not seem like a recipe for ushering in another belle époque.

The last words that woman said to me before hitting the wall of my stubbornness seem unusually prescient: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

No, I didn’t. But she was old enough to know better—to know that those few, those happy few, years were a holiday from history made fewer by naïve people like me who wanted to believe what we wanted to believe, all evidence to the contrary.

Unlike my naiveté back then, naiveté today is fatal.

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How rich is this? The man who accused Americans of being “a nation of cowards” when it comes to talking about race is playing the race card. Again.

Eric Holder, the US attorney general, has accused some of the Obama administration’s conservative opponents of being motivated by “racial animus,” suggesting that both he and President Obama are treated differently because they are black.

As future Psych 101 textbooks will describe in detail, this is what’s known in the trade as projection. And it of course validates why anyone who doesn’t feel unencumbered affection for the policies of the president and his attorney general might feel a wee bit cowardly about expressing such an opinion.

For that matter, the bravest people in this country are black Americans who criticize the administration publicly. Being called a “boot lickin’ Uncle Tom” can’t be pleasant.

But this isn’t new behavior from either Holder or the president. Back in 2006, when he was two years into his term as a U.S. Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama exhorted blacks in Maryland to vote for the white opponent of African-American Republican Michael Steele in the state’s senate race.

“You don’t vote for somebody because of what they look like,” Obama said. “You vote for somebody because of what they stand for.”

(Attention Eric Holder: What he said is true.)

But a day later, in Tennessee, Obama urged blacks to vote for Harold Ford Jr. in his Senate race against a white man “because I’m feeling lonely in Washington.” Ford is black.

Apparently the race card is wild.