Here's Saturday Night Live's take on the Obama trip to China this week.
(Hat tip: Exurban Jon.)
"Is Eric Holder attorney general of the United States or some unctuous motivational speaker?"
James Taranto raises a question or two about Eric Holder's Senate testimony this week.
The White House is a real meat grinder when it comes to personnel. You might have heard about the departure last week of White House Counsel Gregory Craig. Craig was in charge of the failed effort to close Gitmo by President Obama's January deadline.
Anyway, Craig is yesterday's news. His replacement is attorney Robert Bauer. Or, as he's been called in the news stories, Bob Bauer. Bauer is the husband of Anita Dunn, the White House communications chief who led the clumsy effort to stigmatize Fox News and who named Mao Tse Tung and Mother Teresa as two of her inspirations in a very bad speech.
The name "Bob Bauer" rang bells with me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. Then I saw this item at The Corner today:
No one should forget that it was Bauer, as the general counsel for the Obama presidential campaign, who wrote a letter to the Justice Department on October 17, 2008, asking that a special prosecutor investigate Republicans like John McCain for talking publicly about voter fraud. According to Bauer, such talk was not only evidence of a “partisan political agenda,” but supposedly intended to “suppress voting” by harassing voters and impeding “their exercise of their rights.”
The spurious claims made in the letter were pretty outrageous at the time, but what is even scarier is that we now have a White House counsel who has asserted that anyone who talks about voter fraud, including the type of massive voter-registration fraud committed by ACORN, should be investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department for voter intimidation.
AHA! That Bob Bauer. He was one of the inspirations for the headline on this occasional series of posts. The ACORN business was just one of his efforts to use the hammer of government to stifle Obama campaign critics. Here is what I wrote about him last year concerning an earlier incident: "The censorious antics by Obama campaign attorney Robert Bauer deserve further scrutiny and perhaps even official sanction." Read the entire post for more background and context. Suffice to say, no sanction or scrutiny was forthcoming, and it appears that Bauer's thuggish perfidy has been rewarded with a plum White House job -- or a place at the front of the meat grinder conveyor belt, take your pick.
Keep an eye on this man and this administration's worrisome posture toward the First Amendment.
I guess we're supposed to conclude that President Obama's bow to Japan's emperor was no big deal. I conclude that good, old-fashioned American anti-monarchical republicanism went by the boards a long time ago. Pity.
UC Berkeley economist and former Clinton Treasury Department official Brad DeLong suggests that the economy could get a lot more depressing before Happy Days Are Here Again:
For 2 1/4 years now I have been saying that there is no chance of a repeat of the Great Depression or anything like it--that we know what to do and how to do it and will do it if things turn south.
I don't think I can say that anymore. In my estimation the chances of another big downward shock to the U.S. economy--a shock that would carry us from the 1/3-of-a-Great-Depression we have now to 2/3 or more--are about 5%. And it now looks very much as if if such a shock hits the U.S. government will be unable to do a d----- thing about it. (Bowdlerization in the original.)
Click "read more" below for the rest of this post.
Just three years ago — in what Duane Patterson wryly notes was one of Barack Obama's rare speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate — the future president was all for trying 9/11 orchestrator Khalid Sheik Muhammad in a military tribunal. Today, "change" has come. KSM will be tried in a federal civil court — with the circus atmosphere, the danger to New York City, and vital intelligence revelations to the enemy that senseless legal path entails.
But in the clip below, Obama is making the case for a revised set of military tribunal rules for the "folks" in Guantamano that Congress approved in 2006, including provisions that he brags adhere to the Geneva Convention. Obama lauded the "real military procedures" with "all the bells and whistles" that would handle KSM. And, despite conservative criticism, these military tribunals won't give "all sorts of rights" to KSM. But it will be fair, and "that's good," Obama said, adding that "justice will be carried out in his case."
Of course, on the campaign trail, Obama would characterize a judicial process he helped pass in the Senate as one of the many evils carried out illegally by the Bush administration. And, naturally, our campus president has now thrown to the curb what he was once stirred to advocate on the floor of the Senate. Behold, though, Obama's once politically helpful pitch — when he pretended military tribunals were a good idea:
Minor technical problems around here on Friday have prevented more immediate comment on this horrible decision to try terrorists in civilian courts, from me and others — though Monkey Joel is all in favor of the decision.
On Twitter, Dave Weigel says the L.A. Times' Andrew Malcolm "doesn't really know anything about Japan." I don't know about that, but it's fairly clear Dave Weigel doesn't really know anything about America.
Giving the benefit of the doubt to President Obama is Peggy Noonan's specialty. We need that on the right, so I'm reluctant to begrudge it. She would help her case, however, if she wasn't so naive. Concerning the president's alarming re-dithering on his dithering about what he wants to do in Afghanistan, Noonan writes:
The president is not, apparently, holding serious discussions with the most informed and concerned Republicans from Capitol Hill and what used to be called the foreign-policy establishment, and this, if true, is bad. The cliché that politics stops at the water's edge is a fiction worth preserving. It's a story that ought to be true and sometimes is true. There seems to be something in this president that resists really including the opposition. Maybe it's too great a sense of self-sufficiency, or maybe he's bowing to the reigning premise that we live in a poisonously partisan age, that the old forms and ways no longer apply. But why bow to that? To bow to it is to make it truer. The opposition is full of patriots who wish their country well. Bow to that.
I keep searching for incidents in which Obama or his team is willing, in even the slightest way, to give respect (let alone "bow") to the opinions of "the opposition." He's blown off every Republican idea on health care, and has even dismissed the concerns of Blue Dog Democrats. And on Afghanistan, Obama is apparently not even willing to give respect to the opinions of his hand-picked commander in that theater.
Love ya, Peggy. But open your eyes! Noonan means well, always. But there are few national columnists who so project their own sunny outlook and disposition on those who don't share her core views. If Noonan wasn't a Reagan staffer, I swear she'd have imbued the most gracious intent on Gorby's "glasnost," pretending that he didn't want to preserve the communist Soviet Union and its empire while making facile gestures toward quasi-freedom (exploited, happily, by that regime's subjects who pushed down The Berlin Wall and raised the Iron Curtain).
Noonan keeps believing that Obama is John F. Kennedy, and projects his clear-eyed vision and practicality on Obama. This is folly. JFK would be classified as a Reaganite on domestic policy and a "neocon" in foreign policy. The only "Democrat" who adheres to even half of that agenda these days is Joe Lieberman, who had to run as an independent to retain his seat because the "mainstream" left-wing of his party ran him off from polite company.
Let's be clear: On the war front, Obama is conducting a damaging and endless campus pow-wow. On the domestic front, he's a reckless leftist ideologue. However, on the topic in question, Noonan — as is her way — is accommodating, but realistic and precise.
All will depend on the outcome. If his decision is sound and ends in success, history will not say he was indecisive and Hamlet-like. If his decision results in failure, history will not celebrate his wonderfully cerebral deliberative style.
No kidding. Like all patriots, I'm hoping for the former, but express my concerns. My derisive comments not withstanding, Noonan's piece is worth a read. I keep waiting (knowing it will be a while) until Noonan sees the light — and sees this president for who his history and actions prove him to be, instead of naively projecting upon Obama her own better angels.
Joel and I tackle the Fort Hood massacre in this week's Scripps-Howard column, specifically this notion that Major Nidal Hasan's killing-spree could inspire a backlash against Muslims in the military and in society. Joel thinks there might be something to it (so does Montel Williams, although I don't think Joel is worried about concentration camps). But I think it's all hooey. We need to confront facts, not phony fears.
Fear not American Muslims, or Americans in general. In the wake of the bloodiest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in a little more than eight years, the Obama administration is working hard to make sure something that has never happened in the United States — a "wave of anti-Muslim sentiment" — doesn't happen this time around. From the pie hole of our Homeland Security secretary, who, fate would have it, was visiting the UAE this week:
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- The U.S. Homeland Security secretary says she is working to prevent a possible wave of anti-Muslim sentiment after the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas.
Janet Napolitano says her agency is working with groups across the United States to try to deflect any backlash against American Muslims following Thursday's rampage by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim who reportedly expressed growing dismay over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If there was no "wave of anti-Muslim sentiment" after murderous Islamists slaughtered 3,000 people (including Muslims) on American soil after 9/11, are Americans really going to unleash a "wave" of dangerous "sentiment" when an American Muslim shouts "Allahu Ahkbar" while murdering American soldiers at Fort Hood? Here's a suggestion for our government: How about working a bit harder to keep Islamists bent on jihad out of our military? Shouldn't protecting the "homeland" from disturbed, dangerous-mosque-attenting, anti-American monsters like Nidal Malik Hasan be on the front burner right now?
As Mark Steyn put it in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, after it was known that Hasan has survived his attack:
Non-Muslims 13, Muslims 0.
Like Steyn, I expect that scoreboard to remain lopsided. As John Hinderaker wrote at Powerline: "The Arabs must think we are stark, raving mad--a proposition that, as to the administration, is hard to argue with."
The House of Representatives on Saturday night passed the Pelosi-Obama health care bill, 220-215. One Republican congressman, Anh Cao of Louisiana, voted for the bill. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against.
Cao explains himself at his Web site:
“Tonight, I voted to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortion and to deliver access to affordable health care to the people of Louisiana.
Cao said: “I read the versions of the House [health reform] bill. I listened to the countless stories of Orleans and Jefferson Parish citizens whose health care costs are exploding – if they are able to obtain health care at all. Louisianans needs real options for primary care, for mental health care, and for expanded health care for seniors and children.
Cao said: “Today, I obtained a commitment from President Obama that he and I will work together to address the critical health care issues of Louisiana including the FMAP crisis and community disaster loan forgiveness, as well as issues related to Charity and Methodist Hospitals. And, I call on my constituents to support me as I work with him on these issues.
Cao said: “I have always said that I would put aside partisan wrangling to do the business of the people. My vote tonight was based on my priority of doing what is best for my constituents."
Apart from Cao, who probably shouldn't get too comfortable in Washington, nobody seems to be satisfied with the outcome. Here is my round-up of reaction from around the conservative and liberal blogospheres.
Click "Read more" below for more reaction from Saturday night and Sunday morning
So the House today debated an amendment (Update: The amendment passed) to Nancy Pelosi's abominable 2,000-page health care bill that would bar federal funding of elective abortions. Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak offered the amendment as a compromise to protect Blue Dog Democrats from the wrath of their constituents after they vote for this legislative nightmare.
Here is an interesting response on Twitter from a certain Duncan Black:
Stupak (n) - The sepsis commonly experienced after unsafe back alley abortions
A new word! How charming.
(Earlier, Black tweeted that Stupak is "ripe for santoruming, dan savage style." What does that mean, you ask? Click here for an explanation and here for a definition, but be advised that neither is the least bit polite. Oh, no, not polite at all.)
All of this just goes to show -- yet again! -- that Atrios was right.
We've had quite a bit of discussion about the implications of this week's elections in the comments to this thread on the Monkeys. It's been mostly me and Deregulator going round and round with Joel and Khabalox, and others who dispute our take (including other Monkeys). That's fine. I love a good debate, as I'm sure Rick does, too.
I'm still inclined to think my first comment on that thread is correct. To refresh all our memories, I wrote:
So, since elections matter, what will the first post-Obama Election Day tell us? Quite a bit. For instance:
- This is still a center-right country;
- Obama's election was a fluke, and there was no grand political realignment to the left;
- Obama voters, by and large, were seduced by the cult of personality — which doesn't last, nor does it translate to other Democrats;
- Obama's polices are not popular, and moderate Democrats had better get the message or be turned out in 2010;
- Obama's appeal to independent voters, especially in Virginia, is evaporating; and
- The tea party movement is not just an isolated, Astroturfed temper tantrum, but a genuine political force (as long as they stay motivated).
We'll see in time if I'm right, but I like my chances. I bring this all up again because of an interesting post by Peter Wehner at Commentary's Contentions blog titled "Revisiting Liberalism's Moment." After Tuesday's election returns, Wehner stumbled across his May 6 issue of the The New Republic — the standard of mainstream liberal thought. It ran a cover story in the glow of Obama's high-flying, post-election approval numbers titled "Liberalism’s Moment: Barack Obama’s New Theory of the State." As Wehner notes, the piece by Franklin Foer and Noam Scheiber concludes this way:
Obama has groped toward a form of liberal activism that is eminently saleable in this country — both with the average voter, easily spooked by charges of creeping statism, and the constellation of political interests in Washington. Any economic program that lays out ambitious goals and actually has a chance of achieving them would have much to recommend it on those grounds alone. Better still, it may be the bold, persistent experimentation that the moment demands.
"Groped" is an apt word. "Saleable" ... not so much. And while in May it seemed that Obama had all the votes he thought he needed in Congress, that "bold, persistent experimentation" is becoming increasingly less popular — not only among the public, but among Democrats in Congress. The "moment," it seems, demands a less "bold" and leftist tack.
That was pretty much my original point in the aforementioned thread — which naturally (and happily) lead down wandering, off-point paths thanks to our vigorous and loyal readers. But, again, Wehner nicely summarizes:
Six months ago progressives were talking about “liberalism’s moment.” Silly books with silly titles — The Death of Conservatism comes to mind — were being published. Today liberals are unnerved. They see the country becoming more conservative, their agenda becoming more unpopular, Democrats losing races in states they normally own, Republican candidates winning independents by a 2-to-1 margin, and all the ingredients combining for a disastrous midterm election.
It's still an open question as to how disastrous that midterm election is going to be for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who misjudged the "mandate" of Obama's election. Many Democrats in Congress may prove troublesome to control as they see the lights come up for closing time at the Kool-Aid Cafe. Again, in time, we'll see. As of this writing, Pelosi is still on schedule to have a Saturday vote on the over-the-cliff health care bill. As Wehner puts it:
Things can, of course, change again. But there’s no question that this has been a brutal year for the hopes of liberals. Reality has shattered the mythology surrounding Barack Obama. And liberals must wonder what has brought them to this pass so quickly, after so much hope was invested in their young, elegant prince.
Yes. Forgive me. I'm belaboring the point: In the span of 12 months we've gone from a " 'New' New Deal," — the reordering of the political landscape not seen since FDR — to ... well ... something quite a bit less transformative than that.
A majority of Americans got on board Obama's sparkling "Hope and Change" bus in November 2008, but have finally noticed that those who took the wheel are leftists drunk with power. And they are saying — even screaming! — "pull over."
Nicole Gelinas has an op-ed appearing on the Washington Examiner's site today about the global fallout of the 2008 financial collapse. (The piece is adapted from a longer article in the new issue of City Journal, but it isn't online yet.) I asked Gelinas about globalization in our podcast interview.
Here's an excerpt of the Examiner piece, which elaborates on some of what we discussed:
The best regulations would make each nation's financial system and economy more robust to inevitable financial industry failures. Such regulations include stronger, uniform borrowing limits for financial firms and markets, so that firms cannot make hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of promises with negligible cash down.
But global politics is obscuring this reality. The French and the Germans long ago determined that the financial crisis had sprung from "Anglo-Saxon" recklessness. "The U.S. will lose its status as the superpower of the world finance system," Germany's finance minister said in October 2008. French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised that la crise would bring an end to financial "laissez-faire." It seemed inevitable that the world would get much more regulatory "harmonization."
But there is no harmonious world, only a collection of competing nations. The biggest problem with the most sensible financial regulatory fixes (and this is true of the not-so-sensible ones, too) is that each hurts one nation more than it hurts others.
Read (and listen to!) the whole thing.
Ben and Joel are joined for this episode by Nicole Gelinas, contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal and author of the forthcoming After The Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street and Washington (Encounter). Gelinas's writing on what led up to the 2008 financial collapse and what's happened in the aftermath cuts through the cant and clichés of conventional wisdom.
Among the questions we discuss:
• Have Republicans missed the boat on minimal regulation?
• What does "proper regulation" look like?
• Why do Americans oppose bailouts?
• Is globalization limiting America's economic recovery?
• What's the next bubble?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "We're in the Money" - Golddiggers 1933
• "Fork in the Road" - Neil Young
• "The Great Bank Robbery" - Jerry Van Rooyen
• "Gimme Some Money" - Spinal Tap
• "The Big Money" - Rush
• "You Can See Me" - Supergrass
• "Utopian Steak" - The Joel Mathis Experience
Ashbrook Center President Peter Schramm shares his trenchant analysis of today's elections in New York, New Jersey and Virginia at No Left Turns:
This New York Times article on Iowa and the "sense of disappointment" that has settled in regarding Obama may be more revealing of the true problem. The Dems will lose in Virginia and NY23, and if they can't get the vote out in NJ--where Corzine has attached himself to Obama rather explictly--then Corzine will lose and today's votes will have to be seen as a referendum on the Obama administration. This is why we don't study physics.
Well, that, and the fact that most political philosophy students are terrible mathematicians. But let that pass.
I haven't followed the New York congressional race as closely as some. Jonah Goldberg made what I took to be a sensible observation about the meaning of that race at the Corner earlier today:
NY-23 is definitely a historically Republican district, that doesn't mean it's a historically conservative one. More and more I hear analysts and pundits talk about what a conservative district it is (Bill Hemmer on Fox just said that it's been "conservative" for more than a century). It voted for Obama by a wide margin. The seat is empty precisely because Obama thought he could flip if he got the incumbent out. The point is important because a lot folks (though probably not Hemmer) want to write off the importance of a Hoffman victory by saying "Well, the district's always been conservative." No, it's always been Republican, but it threw aside the liberal Republican and supported (if he wins) the avowed conservative. That's significant.
If Hoffman wins, chalk one up for the Tea Party people. (You know, the sore losers.)
And that's what worries me. Maybe it's because I haven't followed NY-23 as attentively as I've been following other news from upstate New York, but I have some nagging doubts about Doug Hoffman. By now everyone knows what erstwhile Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava is and isn't. I'm less certain who Hoffman is and what he stands for. (This HuffPo piece -- I know, I know -- picking apart Hoffman's literature didn't help him in my estimation.)
Hoffman is not a professional politician, which has advantages and disadvantages. If he wins, I hope he has the principles to guide him through the maelstrom.
Update: At RealClearPolitics' Horse Race Blog, Jay Cost explains why the outcome of the NY-23 election means "Nothing, nothing, and nothing!" You will notice how he has little to say about Hoffman, except to note his good fortune to live in a particular part of New York and to have faced a terrible candidate in Dede Scozzafava.
Despite its reputation, the regime at the Pentagon facility on Cuba's southern coast offers privileges that would not be enjoyed at the federal "supermax" prison at Florence, Colorado, the likely alternative for the most dangerous al-Qaeda suspects. ...
The 221 remaining inmates receive between four and 20 hours outdoor recreation in the Caribbean sun and anything from weekly to almost unlimited access to DVDs and receive three newspapers (USA Today, plus one Egyptian and one Saudi Arabian title) twice a week. Every bed has an arrow pointing towards Mecca and every cell a prayer rug.
Adm Copeman said "generally speaking the rules are about the same" for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and the 15 other "high value detainees", who are held at Camp 7, which is out of bounds to the media.
So ... even the "worst of the worst," KSM, has it pretty good. Free DVDs? I pay Netflix $20 a month for my movie fix. Damn. How good is it over at Club Gitmo? Read on:
CLICK ON "READ MORE" BENEATH THE ICONS BELOW TO ... ER ... READ MORE.
Ben minus Joel is joined by a finite group of Infinite Monkeys -- David Burkhart, Robb Leatherwood and Jim Lakely -- to discuss the pros and cons of network neutrality and to preview the Autumn of Apple.
We had originally planned to talk about medical marijuana, which might or might not explain Ben's introduction. But the net neutrality discussion turned into a real knockdown, drag-out among Lakely -- who is co-director of the Heartland Institute's Center on the Digital Economy and managing editor of Infotech and Telecom News -- Leatherwood and Burkhart, both of whom have professional backgrounds in information technology.
If you have no idea why net neutrality is controversial or why you should care about the issue, you must listen to this episode.
After listening to the discussion, however, you may find yourself in need of a drink. Ben and David talk about applejack, calvados, pommeau and various apple-infused cocktails in a sequel to the Winter of Apple.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Capitalism" - Oingo Boingo
• "The Internet is for Porn" - Lea DeLaria (from Avenue Q Swings)
• "I'm Free" - The Rolling Stones
• "Touch of Grey" - Grateful Dead
• "Applejack" - Dolly Parton
• "Applejack" - Dave Appell & The Applejacks
Because we haven't argued enough in the comments of this global warming post, why not hit the subject again? Yet another green weenie from Not So Jolly Old England, Lord Stern of Brentford, says we need to give up eating meat if we're going to save the planet.
That's right. It's not enough to give up our cars, our industries, our economies, our light bulbs, and even the freedom to have as many children that God may bless upon you. Because of all the water and grain necessary to produce meat — not to mention the methane cows emit from their arse, which is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide emissions — we need to give up the freedom to eat red meat, too.
In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.
Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.
That would be the same Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that Obama and the Democrats in Congress want the United States to adhere to as a binding treaty. Rejecting Kyoto was an insult to the "international community," and that's just not going to be repeated on Obama's watch. If we have to see enormous increases in the price of food — not to mention destroying the beef industry in the United State and worldwide — that's just too bad. Individual freedom must be sacrificed for the "common good," based on the myth that we're going to make the planet uninhabitable within our lifetimes.
There seems to no area of life that the environmental movement does not want to control, and we seem to be moving slowly but inexorably from mere encouragement to be "responsible" to outright coercion by the force of government. It's been said that "green is the new "red," and it's hard to argue with that.
I get the sinking feeling that the green movement will not be satisfied until civilization is rolled back to the "sustainable" Dark Ages, where at least everyone shared misery rather evenly.
Joe Queenan has some tough words for Barack Obama's liberal critics in Monday's Wall Street Journal:
In demanding that the president man up and do the will of the people—as defined by last night's polls—critics are insisting that the president dance with the one who brung him. Well, he is dancing with the one who brung him. Barack Obama got elected president in large part because an awful lot of blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania and Ohio and the border states voted for him. He didn't get elected simply because of liberals in Malibu and Massachusetts. So, in reality, Mr. Obama already has manned up. He's told the left wing of the Democratic Party that he's running the show, not them. Not comfortable with that? Go blog about it.
Er... over to you, Joel?
Hmmm. I'm trying to decide whether stuff like this falls under the category of annoying rhetorical trope or disturbing trend? Here's Joe Klein blogging at Time about Fox News:
Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue.
But I don't understand why the White House would give such poisonous helium balloons as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity the opportunity for still greater spasms of self-inflation by declaring war on Fox.
Yeah, yeah. Fox bad, blah blah blah. What's with the sedition crack? I noticed this theme popping up in April, when the tea parties started to take off. I made note of it again a couple of weeks ago when some guy named Matt Osborne posted a long and terribly earnest screed on treason and sedition at the Huffington Post.
Now Klein invokes sedition, almost as a throwaway line. What Fox News does, he says, "borders on" a notoriously subjective "crime" that has been wildly abused for partisan gain in this country. It could be Klein doesn't know what he's talking about, or it could be he'd really like to see Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and Ailes hauled away in shackles, or it could be some combination of the two. All I know is, dissent isn't patriotic anymore.
"Scratch a civil libertarian, find a censor," I wrote about the Osborne post. I'm beginning to wonder if that should be the name of a new regular feature, alongside "Gun/Badge/Judgment" and "La Prensa said..." Am I wrong? Maybe I am. But surely Atrios was right.
There’s a solid argument to be made against hate crimes of any sort: We shouldn’t be singling out any group of people as a “protected class.” I respect that argument. But as a legal and practical matter, we’ve long recognized that there are groups of people who are particularly vulnerable to being victimized and that society has an interest in discouraging acts against those people.
In any case, it’s worth remembering the Republicans controlled Congress and the presidency for much of this decade. If they felt that “hate crimes” legislation is generally bad, they certainly could’ve made an effort to repeal the law. As far as I know, they didn’t. Draw your own conclusions.
I conclude that Republicans were too busy larding up spending bills with earmarks and passing new entitlements to pay attention.
Congress passed the first federal hate crimes law in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. One justification for that law, much like the rationale for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was that federal intervention was necessary where the states failed or refused to act. That's why Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce court-ordered desegregation, because state governors refused. And that's why the
Civil Voting Rights Act singled out certain states and districts within states, because of the pervasive history of discrimination in those places.
No similar rationale exists today for a federal hate crimes law.
The federal legislation aimed at protecting gays and lesbians from hate-motivated crimes is named after Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming man who was murdered in 1998 perhaps because of his homosexuality, and James Byrd, the black man dragged to his death the same year by three white racists in Texas. In both cases, the animals who committed the crimes were caught, prosecuted, and sent to prison. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson are serving two consecutive life terms for Shepard's murder. Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King are sitting on death row for Byrd's murder and Shawn Allen Berry will spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the killing.
Was there a miscarriage of justice in either of those cases that I'm unaware of? Or is this yet another case of Congress cynically abusing its authority to pile federal laws atop of state laws?
In other words, if it were the case that state and local prosecutors were ignoring or downplaying crimes against certain groups of people, there might be a rationale for a bigger and more robust federal hate crimes law. But they aren't and there isn't.
My take is a somewhat condensed version of my comment on the Americans with Disabilities Act, with an appropriate nod to federalism, to which Joel responds as follows:
"What about the ADA?" my conservative friend asks. Well, what about it? The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law; as long as actual legalization of medical marijuana is done at the state level, federal lawsuits by a few stoned chuckleheads seeking to enrich themselves through the legal system are unlikely to be successful. When weighing the balance between real freedom and a hypothetical fear of lawsuits, freedom should win.
I wish it were merely a "hypothetical fear" of lawsuits. But in addition to the drug and alcohol-related ADA suits I cited in Monday's post and in the column, there is the vast history of abusive, serial lawsuits that unscrupulous trial lawyers working with equally unscrupulous plaintiffs have used to win quick and easy payoffs from beleaguered businesses.
Just as you can't have a welfare state and open borders, you can't have a lawsuit-happy disability-accommodating regime and liberal narcotics laws. Let me put it in a way that might sound crude, even callous: I would very much like for chronically ill and dying patients to have any drug they like and as much as they like to alleviate their suffering. Let them get stoned as often as they please. Let them be subsidized if need be. But people who take advantage of compassionate laws to enrich themselves or to feed their habits should be stoned to death and their attorneys should be doused with gasoline, set alight and promptly disbarred.
In that order.
Joel also points to public opinion polls showing wide popular support for legalization. I don't disagree. Wesley Smith and Matt Franck point out some of the pitfalls of the Justice Department's selective enforcement of federal narcotics laws. Clearly, Congress should act. I agree with Ramesh Ponnuru's take:
We have so many criminal laws that they cannot reasonably be equally enforced, so priorities have to be set. De-emphasizing medical marijuana is a reasonable part of that effort.... The guidelines ought to de-emphasize medical-marijuana prosecutions across-the-board, not just in states that have legalized the practice.
But, as I write in the column, "if the trend is toward decriminalization, it should come with a hefty dose of personal responsibility and protections for employers from unscrupulous users."
Over at Sam Karnick's American Culture, our Dr. Zaius dissects CNN's comical analysis of conservative talk radio. Zaius has fun with the cable network's condescending anthropological expedition into the darkest heart of right-wing savage land. "From the tone of Part One, you almost expect the sparkly CNN reporter to beat her way through the topical jungle of Palm Beach, enter the EIB studios and ask: 'Dr. Limbaugh, I presume?'" writes Zaius. (Or even more fitting: "Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate...")
He continues: "This series promises to reveal more about CNN and the ignorant snobs in the MSM — who see conservative talk radio as a mysterious 'Dark Continent' — than it does about those who listen."
Just so! Naturally, CNN interviewed a shrink, who analyzes conservative talk show hosts and their listeners and reaches some predictable conclusions: Talkers like Rush Limbaugh are just bullies and listeners are like the Vichy French. Or something.
"This segment... is not only a reflection of the network's cluelessness," Zaius concludes, "but about how it assessed its own audience." I'm not the connoisseur of talk radio that I used to be, and I haven't watched CNN since the vice presidential debate last year, but I'd say network's reporting is more insulting to the intelligence of its audience than the most incendiary hour of the worst talk show host in the United States. Thank goodness Zaius watched so we don't have to.
Gov. Sean Parnell, who succeeded Palin upon her resignation last summer, joined [Alaska Attorney General Dan] Sullivan at the Wednesday news conference in which they said the Endangered Species Act was being used as a way to shut down resource development along Alaska's northern coast. ...
The listing of polar bears by the federal government was wrong on several accounts, Sullivan said.
It used speculative scientific models that went too far into the future and failed to take into account what is already successfully being done to protect them, he said.
"The listing of the polar bears under the ESA is unprecedented," Sullivan said. "We are doing and others have been doing a good job in protecting the species."
When the listing of an animal on the endangered species list is based on politics and not science, it takes a change in politics (or the bureaucracy) to get it de-listed. So Alaska shouldn't hold its breath.
Got so busy with other work, I forgot to mention that an oped I penned in my duties with The Heartland Institute was published in today's Washington Examiner. I'd like to thank the academy, and the editors of that fine paper's opinion pages, for this honor.
The subject is Net Neutrality, which has finally gotten the attention of Dragon Slayer Glenn Beck. And considering his track record, that's a very good development. Here's a taste, but you can click here to read the whole thing:
Advocates of imposing "network neutrality" say it's necessary to ensure a "free" and "open" Internet and rescue the public from nefarious corporations that "control" technology.
Few proposals in Washington have been sold employing such deceptive language -- and that's saying something. But few public policy ideas can boast the unashamedly socialist pedigree of net neutrality. ...
The concept can be traced to an iconoclastic figure, Richard Stallman, a self-described software freedom activist who introduced the term "copyleft" in the mid-1980s. In his 2002 essay "Free Software, Free Society," Stallman fiercely attacks the idea that intellectual property rights are one of the keystones of individual liberty, so important that patents and copyrights are affirmatively protected in the body of the Constitution. ...
Most bold and radical of the neutralists is Robert W. McChesney, founder of Free Press -- the leading advocacy group in Washington pushing for net neutrality. In an August interview with a Canadian Marxist online publication called the Bullet, McChesney rejoices that net neutrality can finally bring about the Marxist "revolution."
"At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies," McChesney said. "We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control."
Looks like America — or a bit more than half of it — is not on board with the attempts by Obama and the Congressional Democrats to cram their agenda of down our throats.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – For the first time since he took over in the White House, Americans don't see eye to eye with President Barack Obama on the important issues, according to a new national poll. But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey does indicate that a majority approve of how Obama's handling his duties as president.
According to the poll, which was released Tuesday, 48 percent of people questioned say that they agree with Obama on the issues that matter most to them, with 51 percent saying no. That's a switch from April, when 57 percent said they agreed with the president on important issues, with 41 percent disagreeing.
I love that "for the first time" bit in CNN's lead, as if vast majorities of Americans have embraced this radical left agenda until just recently. (Keep softening the blow to Obama, CNN, like a "real" news outlet should.) A 10 point rise in "disagree" in just six months is pretty dramatic — startling, really, considering all the talk of the Obama team's peerless political skill. Of course, this appears to be the first poll CNN has taken on this question since April, and a lot has changed since then — such as the kind of radical plans for "change" that sparked town hall rage this summer. If we presume that most Republicans weren't on board with Obama from the get-go, it means the president is turning off a lot of independents and even Democratic voters. And who's among the most disenchanted?
"Obama continues to do poorly among senior citizens," says [CNN Polling Director Keating] Holland. "Most Americans over the age of 65 disapprove of how he is handling his job as president."
Must be because they are racist. Or only watch Fox News. Or maybe they don't like the idea of having their health care rationed away to nearly nothing — take some painkillers, granny! — when they need it most. Those old farts vote in huge numbers, proportionately. And this poll gives more weight to a cascade of data predicting big trouble for Obama's party when elections roll around next year.
That explains why Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are in such a hurry. We'll see in time whether the entire Democratic caucus is willing to play chicken with an angry electorate.
Jonathan Turley writes in USA Today about the Obama administration's wrong-headed decision to sign on to the U.N. Human Rights Council's efforts to restrict free speech.
"The public and private curtailment on religious criticism threatens religious and secular speakers alike. However, the fear is that, when speech becomes sacrilegious, only the religious will have true free speech," Turley argues. "It is a danger that has become all the more real after the decision of the Obama administration to join in the effort to craft a new faith-based speech standard. It is now up to Congress and the public to be heard before the world leaves free speech with little more than a hope and a prayer."
This was originally just going to be a comment beneath the previous Rush and the Rams thread, but I started to babble on, so now it's a full post. Concerning previous comments that (roughly) this is the "free market" at work, Rush has no right to own an NFL team, etc. ... Ramesh Ponnuru gets to the crux of the matter, and why it's outrageous, at The Washington Post's forum:
In his gleeful column about Limbaugh's failed attempt to become an owner of the Rams, Eugene Robinson writes: "In announcing that Limbaugh was no longer associated with his bid for the Rams, Checketts said it was 'clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction.' That's the way the free market works in this great country of ours. I know that Rush will join me in a chorus of 'God Bless America.'"
Nice try. Since nobody is talking about using government regulation to keep Limbaugh from suffering from a smear campaign or its fallout, conservatives' belief in the free market is entirely irrelevant to the controversy. (People acting under no government compulsion make foolish and even wicked decisions all the time. Has any conservative ever denied this obvious truth?)
Conservatives' criticism has been directed at the invented quotes that much of the media have used to portray Limbaugh as a racist: the vile claims that he approved the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and favors slavery. Incredibly, Robinson does not mention these journalistic fabrications.
And it's much the most interesting facet of this story. Much of the press was willing to believe that Limbaugh believes these hateful things, and even broadcast them--and that millions of American conservatives listen daily to this type of filth. This is what a lot of liberal journalists think about their conservative fellow citizens. Is it any wonder their coverage is so frequently unfair?
As Limbaugh himself noted on his radio show yesterday, this is not really even about him. He is just a conduit for the liberal establishment's attack on conservatism, which they believe to be racist at its core. Whether or not most liberals actually believe that, the leading lights of liberalism that get on news chat shows and write columns are quick use race as a club to shut down debate and discredit their political opponents. One look no farther than attempts to portray criticism of Obama as having no grounding in principle, but in racism.
As but the latest example, Michael Wilbon, a sports columnist I used to greatly admire in The Washington Post, did not use his column yesterday to walk back from his unfair characterization of Rush. Instead, he doubled down.
But Limbaugh has [a] long history of the same insults and race baiting, to the point of declaring he hoped the president of the United States, a black man, fails. I never understood why someone with Limbaugh's gift for communication was so nasty and, in my opinion, gave cover to bigots everywhere under the guise of conservatism. Clearly, I'm not alone.
So ... Limbaugh, as principled a conservative as you can find — one who even opposed John McCain for president (until the only other option was Obama) — opposes the ultra-liberal Obama because he is black. Must be the only explanation. (Sigh.) This from a man who admits he doesn't listen to Limbaugh — but everyone he knows tells him that Rush is a racist, so it must be true. (How much do you want to bet Wilbon has few if any friends who have listened non-stop to a single hour of Rush's show, let alone a week's worth?)
Certainly, Rush Limbaugh does not have a "right" to be a minority owner of an NFL team. And there is no "right" that protects him from being unfairly called a racist (though libel laws do give him the right to seek judicial punishment for the slander). Yet we should all agree that what has happened to him this week was a terrible wrong. In a just society, those who peddled the lies about what Rush said should be thumped out of the public commentariat. There are no accusations more damning in American society than to be unfairly portrayed as a racist, especially if one makes his living as a public commentator. And to be falsely accused of saying on the air that the assassin of MLK deserves a Medal of Honor? To say that slavery "wasn't all bad"? Egad! Yet I've heard no one who peddled those vicious libel fully take it back (Excising the quotes from stories with an "editor's note" stating Limbaugh "claims" he never said it, or that it can't be proven is almost as shameful as the original smear).
Of course, the two loudest howlers against Rush — Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — continue to enjoy fawning media attention despite their own long history of race hustling and perpetuating mythical "race crimes" (See: Rape Case, Duke Lacrosse; Brawley, Tawana). They are never even asked to apologize, let alone have it in them to do it.
So, yes. My wish is about as likely to come true as I am to be signed by an NFL team. But I will cling to it nonetheless.
I'm more exercised by the harm school administrators and their stupid policies do to kids than I am bothered by news that Rush Limbaugh won't get to own a piece of the St. Louis Rams. But I'm still plenty bothered.
Limbaugh was slandered and libeled. Without question. Cable news networks aired wholly fabricated quotations attributed to the conservative radio talk show host. Worse, when those networks were called on the fabrications, they refused to retract or apologize. CNN's Rick Sanchez aired the phony quotes. Sanchez later said that although the phony quotes were "in dispute," Limbaugh had said plenty of offensive things. So there!
John Hinderaker at Powerline observes: "It is worth noting, as a kind of macabre footnote, that CNN found it worthwhile to 'fact check' Saturday Night Live when that program had the temerity to ridicule CNN's President, The One. Maybe CNN could become a respected news organization if it tried to fact check news stories as well as comedy skits, starting with--is this too much to ask?--its own broadcasts."
And Mark Steyn asks: "Can Rush buy the St Louis Rams if he gets Roman Polanski to front the deal?"
Incidentally, Steyn points to an excellent piece by Toby Harden in the London Telegraph, who writes:
The irony is, of course, that the people reporting this as fact are the same types who are always denouncing bloggers and the internet as forces of evil intent on destroying proper journalism – proper journalism being the kind that involves checking facts. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, however, it seems to be enough that the intention (i.e. to show the talk radio host is a racist) is considered pure.
Even those who have been primary movers in spreading these malicious falsehoods – which would lead to payouts of hundreds of thousands in British libel courts if lawsuits were ever filed there – are brazenly unapologetic.
Thus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell pens this column containing the slavery quote and then follows up with another column with a kind-of-sort-of-well-not-really-at-all mea culpa in which he states that the quote seemed “so in character with the many things that Limbaugh has said before that we didn’t verify it beyond the book”.
OK, so it sounded right and it was on the internet or in a book or something so it was fine to just go ahead and print it as stone-cold fact without any attribution? I wonder which journalism school teaches that?
None of them. And all of them.