Date ►►► March 31, 2009

The Great Dictator, part Deux

Hatched by Dafydd

In the Great Dictator -- which won the Watcher's Council award for non-members, only the second time we've ever managed that! -- we wrote:

But the Great Dictator of 2009 may turn out to be glib huckster from Hawaii by way of Chicago named Barack H. Obama; for the administration appears poised to enact rules that could end up completely controlling all executive compensation for every major company that has anything to do with financial matters, or is publicly held, or has any sort of requirement to report anything at all to the SEC -- even including companies that never took a dime of TARP or stimulus money.

Today, we read the following chilling report of our Childe President finding he has some new powers, hitherto unknown to be in the Constitution:

President Barack Obama asserted unprecedented government control over the auto industry Monday, rejecting turnaround plans from General Motors and Chrysler and raising the prospect of controlled bankruptcy for either ailing auto giant. Eager to reassure consumers, Obama also announced the federal government would immediately begin backing the warranties that new car buyers receive -- a step designed to signal that it is safe to purchase U.S.-made autos and trucks despite the distress of the industry.

In a statement read at the White House, Obama said he was "absolutely committed" to the survival of a domestic auto industry that can compete internationally. And yet, "our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough," he added.

With his words, Obama underscored the extent to which the government is now dictating terms to two of the country's iconic corporations, much as it has already taken an ownership stake in banks, the insurance giant AIG and housing titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In an extraordinary move, the administration forced the departure of Rick Wagoner as CEO of General Motors Corp. over the weekend, and implicit in Obama's remarks was that the government holds the ability to pull the plug on that company or Chrysler.

The New York Times gives a little more detail about the detailed level of the terms that Barack H. Obama is now "dictating" to a private company:

“And so today, I am announcing that my administration will offer G.M. and Chrysler a limited period of time to work with creditors, unions and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional tax dollars; a period during which they must produce plans that would give the American people confidence in their long-term prospects for success,” Mr. Obama said.

Speaking a day after the White House pushed out the chairman of G.M., Mr. Obama said Chrysler has been instructed to form a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days as conditions for receiving more government aid.

Now it's certainly true that GM did, in fact, suckle from the federal teat; and that of course lends at least a little legitimacy to the White House's demand for some oversight. We all know that above everything, Obama is concerned about keeping a gimlet eye on expenditures of public funds... hence his repeated tongue-lashings of George W. Bush during the 2008 campaign for having run up deficits of $100 billion, $200 billion -- once even $400 billion!

But the new Obama plan goes far beyond ensuring that GM is using its corporate welfare wisely; Barack Obama evidently believes he knows how to build and sell cars better than do GM executives. He dictates not only how much they can pay their top brass, he wants to control who that top brass will be. What's next -- will the president assert the authority to select the next CEO directly? Does the government post of GM CEO require Senate confirmation?

(Perhaps he'll pick Chas Freeman; I understand he's between jobs right now. And realistically, Freeman is no more an ignoramus about the automobile industry than he is about intelligence, his previous and now withdrawn appointment.)

Will the president begin setting prices for various models? Choosing what color options will be available? Taking over the service contract? Oh, wait, he already did that.

The final step of a liberal fascist takeover of the industry would be to control the wages of all employees, to be able to set them however they want... thus funneling workers into favored industries or even particular companies and away from others: Imagine an earmark, inserted in the dead of night during the reconciliation phase of legislation, raising auto-worker wages at plants in one state and lowered them in an adjoining state. What effect might that have on the labor market and government control of the economy? (And what a fearsome weapon to wield against Obama's political enemies! But I'm certain that aspect of wage controls has never occurred to the One.)

By a bizarre coincidence, that scheme is exactly the subject of the Great Dictator, part (C). Stay tuned...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 31, 2009, at the time of 5:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 30, 2009

Shock Report - NYT (!) Admits the ABA Favors Liberal Judges Over Conservatives!

Hatched by Dafydd

Despite the category above, this is actually not an example of media madness, but rather an unexpected gust of media sanity:

Two weeks ago, the American Bar Association’s eight-year exile ended. The Obama administration restored the group to the special status it had enjoyed since the Eisenhower years, and it will once again get early word about potential nominees to the federal bench.

The group says it is serious and diligent about evaluating candidates without regard to ideology. But there is reason to wonder whether Alberto R. Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, might have had a point when he told the group eight years ago that its help would not be needed.

The A.B.A. is, after all, a private trade association, not an arm of the government. It takes public and generally liberal positions on all sorts of divisive issues. And a series of studies suggest that candidates nominated by Democratic presidents fare better in the group’s ratings than those nominated by Republicans.

For its part, the American Bar Association has utterly refuted the malicious lie that they're biased to the left:

Kim J. Askew, the chairwoman of the association’s 15-member Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which performs the evaluations, said her group is independent, hardworking and completely divorced from politics.

“We are an impartial group of lawyers that bring a peer review to the process,” Ms. Askew said. “We are all lawyers. We are officers of the court. We speak the language of the law. We do not consider politics.”

Well! Who could argue with that? It's not the A.B.A.'s fault that liberals tend to be capable and intelligent, whereas conservatives just happen to be incompetent and stupid.

Alas for the ABA, even the New York Times now admits that "a series of studies have found indications that liberal nominees do better in the process than conservative ones." No, really. The latest shocking, jaw-dropping assessment is from the University of Georgia and Emory University:

“Holding all other factors constant,” the study found, “those nominations submitted by a Democratic president were significantly more likely to receive higher A.B.A. ratings than nominations submitted by a Republican president.”

The differences matter, said Amy Steigerwalt, a political scientist at Georgia State and an author of the study, along with Richard L. Vining Jr, of the University of Georgia and Susan Navarro Smelcer of Emory.

“A nominee who has a higher A.B.A. rating is more likely to move through the process,” Professor Steigerwalt said. “When problems arise, a higher A.B.A. rating provides one piece of ammunition for the president and supporting senators about why a person should be confirmed to the federal bench.”

I won't say too much about this stunning conclusion, which surely breaks new ground that nobody has ever before trodden, because the dextrosphere is replete with actual lawyers, not sea-lawyers like me; I have a premonition that Power Line, Patterico's Pontifications, Instapundit, Beldar, the Volokh Conspiracy, et al will cover the topic rather thoroughly -- and probably have already done so in much greater depth than we; I haven't looked yet. (When I do check, I'll add links to the relevant posts of each of the blogs above... just because, unlike all those heartless conservatives out there, we care.)

Huh. As of this moment, none of the above blogs has so much as mentioned this Times article! Well, since I have little more to say, I think I'll post quickly -- and get a rare-to-vanishing Big Lizards scoop!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 30, 2009, at the time of 2:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 29, 2009

The Fourth Mythical Monkey

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm sure you're familiar with the three mythical monkeys: One has his hands over his eyes ("See no evil"), the next over his ears ("Hear no evil"), and the last covering his mouth ("Speak no evil"). But our government school model, coupled with an insane "zero tolerance" drug policy that only accepts perfection as success, have created a fourth mythical monkey: He has his arms wrapped tightly around his body as he hides in a corner, for this monkey represents "Touch no one. Ever!"

Submitted for your ridicule and pity:

Connecticut School Bans Physical Contact

A Connecticut middle school principal has laid down the law: You put your hands on someone -- anyone -- in any way, you're going to pay.

A violent incident [a student was kicked in the groin] that put one student in the hospital has officials at the Milford school implementing a "no touching" policy, according to a letter written by the school's principal.

What exactly does the principal mean by "no physical contact" and "no touching?"

"Observed behaviors of concern recently exhibited include kicking others in the groin area, grabbing and touching of others in personal areas, hugging and horseplay. Physical contact is prohibited to keep all students safe in the learning environment," [Principal Catherine] Williams wrote. [If it saves the testicles of just one child....]

"Potential consequences and disciplinary action may include parent conferences, detention, suspension and/or a request for expulsion from school," Williams wrote.

Let's, ah, put our heads together (banned!) on this. The following behaviors are now absolutely forbidden at East Shore Middle School:

  • Shaking hands;
  • Arm wrestling;
  • A pat on the back;
  • Any gym class other than Self-Pleasuring 101 (I presume that touching oneself is still permitted);
  • Two little girls walking along holding hands;
  • A kiss (a kiss may be just a kiss as time goes by; but at East Shore, it's a one-way ticket to the streets);
  • A hug;
  • Standing in line (contact is unavoidable);
  • Sitting too close to your friend, allowing your elbow to touch;
  • Stretching when tired (if you bump someone else, you could be expelled from school);
  • Trying to help another child who has gotten hurt.

    (I assume this means you can't use compression to stop bleeding, hold an injured student steady to prevent him from thrashing around and hurting himself further, using the Heimlich maneuver if your friend is choking to death, or God forbid, giving some kid CPR if he has a serious accident. Far better he die or be seriously injured than allow one person to touch another!)

  • Any "horseplay" -- by which I suppose Ms. Williams means to ban any behavior other than shuffling along slowly, eyes on the ground, wary of getting too close to another human being.

Great Scott. What a living hell Principal Catherine Williams must have grown up in, to promulgate such a rule for children as young as ten, as old as fourteen. But it does point up the sheer evil of liberal "lightswitch" reasoning: The light is either On or Off; either some broad category of behavior is 100% good... or else it must be 100% bad:

  • Some touching is inappropriate; therefore, nobody can touch anybody for any reason.
  • Some drugs are inappropriate to bring to school; therefore girls having severe menstrual cramps cannot take Mydol, not even with their doctor's permission.
  • It's bad for kids to take weapons to school; therefore, if an eight year old is caught at school with a bright green plastic squirt gun, he must be expelled and the police summoned.
  • Child pornography is a great evil; therefore, if an adolescent takes a naked cell-phone picture of herself and foolishly sends it to her friends, she must be arrested for distribution of child pornography -- and must register as a "sex offender" for the rest of her life (this is how we save her, you see).
  • Some kids are allergic to peanuts; therefore no child can eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Presumably, the allergic child is inherently mentally defective; he will be so overwhelmed with ungovernable desire for a PB&J that he will grab it away from his friend and shovel it into his mouth, even knowing it means possible death.)
  • Some kids cannot handle losing; therefore there will be no competition of any kind allowed at the school.
  • Some kids will score badly on tests and suffer diminshed self esteem; therefore all children will receive the same grade, regardless of the quality of their work.

I think I even know the underlying ideology that generates such utter madness: It's the core liberal doctrine that Equality of opportunity yields equality of results; therefore, if success is unequally distributed, the losers must necessarily have been denied their right to equality under the law. If one person succeeds more than the others, he must have cheated; there is no other explanation.

Liberals consider this a universal axiom; they apply it not just to schools but to job salaries, arrest rates, retirement savings, and even to entire cultures, where it becomes the Boasian ideal of cultural relativism. All cultures must only be judged by their own standards; thus every culture, from the Aztecs to the North Koreans to the Taliban to modern Americans, is equally as good as every other culture. We cannot discriminate, because everyone knows that discrimination is bad!

As the barber sings in Man of La Mancha, "I can hear the cuckoo singing in the cuckooberry tree..."

How does this work in the microcosm of the East Shore Middle School? Well, if it's wrong for a boy to kick another boy in the groin, then it must be equally wrong for two girls to hug each other: We cannot discriminate between A and B. Ever!

I read a wondeful book some years ago titled the Death of Common Sense. It was written by Philip K. Howard, a self-described liberal Democrat, and was first published fifteen years ago. Things have only deteriorated since 1994.

God, how I wish liberals were literate.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 29, 2009, at the time of 4:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 27, 2009

Separated at Birth - and Diverging Ever Since

Hatched by Dafydd

Here is difference number (insert unreasonably large figure) between the private sector and government:

  • During a recession, the private sector lowers prices, because the public is not obliged to buy its services.
  • During a recession, government raises prices -- because the public is.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2009, at the time of 3:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Could "Wall Street" Rahm Be Such a Liberal Fascist? (Actually, How Could He Not?)

Hatched by Dafydd

Beldar has a thought-provoking post up about Rahm Emanuel's "lost years," the two and a half or three years he worked as an "investment banker" on Wall Street, amassing from a low of $16 million to a high of "nearly twenty million dollars," despite having no relevant experience and no applicable degree. That's translates to a range of from $5.3 million per year up to a possible $8 million per year... not bad, for a guy who is less qualified to be an investment banker than my wife -- who at least worked in a bank once.

Here is the thought Beldar's t-p'ing post provoked in me: It's generally acknowledged in free-market circles that the bigger a business, the more government-like it becomes... and the less it supports actual market economics.

Megacorporations much prefer the stability and predictability of government contracting (domestic or foreign) to getting down in the trenches and selling to the peons; that's why Benito Mussolini got so much cooperation from the Italian corporations for his fascist economics (i.e., corporate socialism); the corporations were guaranteed monopolies and massive profits, and all they had to do was obey any orders from the government -- non c'è problema! Il Duce never told them to do anything against their natures.

(Think of the opening salvo against Capitalism in Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged... the "Anti Dog Eat Dog" rule -- which is enunciated not by the government but by the supposedly private railroads themselves: They connive to divide up the country so that no railroad ever has to compete with any other railroad. Rand may have been a mathematical and logical dummy, but she did know her recent history.)

Thus, for all their protestations today, I doubt that most of the American corporations large enough to be receiving government rescue/bailout packages are very frightened of the plan recently announced by Secretary of the Treasury and tax evader Timothy Geithner, which would essentially put all companies that are publicly traded or have any other nexus to the feds under the more or less direct control of the federal government... a stage of what I think Jonah Goldberg would call "liberal fascism."

Rahm Emanuel was clearly a tool of Big Banking during those three lost years... so it's not much of a shock that he rattles on against Capitalism today. He still serves the same masters.

And so does President Barack H. Obama.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2009, at the time of 3:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 25, 2009

More Obamunism: Who Controls the Newspapers Controls the Present

Hatched by Dafydd
"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
-- "George Orwell" (Eric Blair), Nineteen Eighty-Four

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD, 100%) has ridden in on his white horse with a wonderful suggestion for newspapers that are in financial trouble (which is pretty much all of them): Reincorporate as 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit educational institutions, which would exempt them from most income tax (except for "unrelated business income").

Of course, the move would also absolutely prohibit political advocacy, lobbying, or electioneering... which as I read it would even preclude publishing editorials critical of, e.g., the administration of Barack H. Obama. Or of individual Democratic senators, such as Benjamin Cardin. But that ought to be a good thing, no? Surely we all want newspapers to be politically neutral gatherers of fact and disseminators of the truth!

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin....

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

The comparison to PBS is apt; as we have all seen, PBS is forbidden from any political editorializing, politicking, electioneering, or advocacy. But of course, if they're merely reporting on issues -- straight "reporting," such as:

  • That the Iraq war was a disastrous defeat for America;
  • That rampant, unregulated, laissez-faire Capitalism is what got us into the financial crisis;
  • That the only thing that will save us now is complete nationalization of the economy;
  • That Israel is the cause of all problems in the Middle East;
  • That without government-run health care, we'll all die of cancer by age 60;
  • That anthropogenic global climate change is universally accepted by "science;" thus the time for denial by denying deniers (i.e., "high crimes against humanity and nature" or "intergenerational crime in the face of all the knowledge and science from over 20 years") has ended once and for all;

...That sort of straight, unbiased, apolitical news reporting will naturally still be allowed. You can't prohibit educational institutions such as the New York Times and the Washington Post from educating, can you?

But biased, divisive, obstructionist, obsolete, disloyal, and partisan politicking will no longer be legally allowed in newspapers. After all, they have a duty (as tax-exempt organizations) to educate, which means to tell the truth... "the truth" to be determined by the unbiased, professional, expert auditors at the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Who else?

Ergo, newspapers would have to cease publishing any future columns or opinion pieces by such talking-point, robot-army soldiers as Douglas Feith, David Freddoso, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn, or John Hinderaker. But the papers wouldn't suffer from a lack of content, as they would be perfectly free to publish nonpartisan disseminators of pure truthful information, free from slant and politics, including Molly Ivins, Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, Jim Lehrer, and Bill Moyers.

What I cannot fathom, however, is why a Democrat, a member of the ADA's "100%-er" club, would push for the elite newspaper medium to switch from publishing such ardently tilted and mendacious flummery (such as opinion pieces by atmospheric physicists or meteorologists disputing Algore's 95 theses on globaloney) to the calm, measured, unemotional, multilateral, fact-based pronouncements of Nobel Prize winners such as, well, such as Algore. And Paul Krugman.

All this time, I've wrongly accused Democrats like Cardin of being mindless, vermin-infested, screeching blue monkeys, swooping overhead and hurling their feces down on the rest of us, then hauling us off to the Wicked Rodham of the West. And the little dog we rode in on, too.

I'm stunned that such a senator would abandon faction and ideology for the cold, unadorned, reality-based solution of turning profitless newspapers into non-profit ones, in effect, nationalizing the entire news-gathering industry. (To promote greater freedom of speech, of course.)

Go figure!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 25, 2009, at the time of 9:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 23, 2009

Sociology: an Evil "Science"

Hatched by Dave Ross

I’ve returned to the university as an online student after a 33-year absence from academia. One of the courses that I must take in order to obtain a communications degree is sociology, an evil discipline if ever there was one. Sociology is less of a “science" than a cult, or even a belief system that has underlying assumptions, such as the assumption that “the system,” particularly the capitalist variety, is inherently unfair, and that our society is replete with victims who are being treated unfairly, i.e. various racial groups, feminism etc. It is, after all the “discipline” that Ward Churchill, the fake Indian, teaches.

A friend of mine, a college professor who will remain nameless, gave me this insight into sociology: “Sociology is not really a very well-organized science. It doesn’t have good research protocols, and it is a haven for people’s 'issues,' which they try to 'prove' by using dubious methods.” She noted how at her college, an interdisciplinary team worked to create a freshman education program. “Quickly, it became clear that while English and History had similar ideas and worked similarly, the Sociology group didn’t write, test, research, or approach education anything like English or History.”

I can attest to sociology not having any kind of a backing in simple, grammatical English.

Take a look at a question from a quiz that I took recently. This is after the quiz was graded. It was a multiple choice quiz and the answer that I chose was the correct answer. I aced the test, by the way:

Volunteers who seek out roles that differ from the ones they play in the paid labor force is referred to as:

Question 10 answers

  • Selected Answer: Correct contrast hypothesis.
  • Correct Answer: Correct contrast hypothesis.

I won’t bother to parse this sentence, except to point out that it has two basic grammar errors.

One can read through the sociology textbook, as I am doing, and think that one is reading a position paper by the Democratic Party. While I’m certainly willing to concede that one can be a sociologist without being a raging liberal, or even a radical socialist (I mean, all you have to do is just switch a couple of letters in the name, right?), the discipline, or at least the bit that I’m reading, seems to presume a lot of things that are part of the liberal doxology; except that unlike the Christian doxology, this one is in praise of political correctness.

For instance, there’s a section about the “shrinking” middle class -- the presumption being that this is a fact, rather than a position that liberals like to take in order to justify class warfare. In fact, the book opens with an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, which is about how it’s impossible to get by if you earn the minimum wage.

Now look at this paragraph from my textbook and note the moral relativistic tone that it takes about pedophilia:

What does constitute sexual deviance, then? The answer to this question seems to change with each generation. Today, U.S. laws allow married women to accuse their husbands of rape, when a generation ago such an offense was not recognized. Similarly, pedophilia -- an adult having sex with a minor -- is generally regarded with disgust today, even when it is consensual. Yet in many countries, fringe groups now speak positively of “intergenerational sex,” arguing that “childhood” is not a biological given (Hendershott 2002).

Though this and some other aspects of sexual expression are still against the law, the meaning of the labels is beginning to blur.

Yikes! I can easily imagine finding a paragraph that could take an equally non-judgmental tone about consensual cannibalism!

Now, I can see some value to some of the things that sociology studies: how groups interact, whether society’s rules work or are in need of fixing, how we define define deviance and control people. But it is also obviously one of the mushiest courses imaginable; and rather than being a discipline, it is a lack of discipline, being a tent so big that you can’t see its walls!

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, March 23, 2009, at the time of 11:05 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Déjà Vu About Vujà Dé

Hatched by Dafydd

I once crafted a neologism, vujà dé, bouncing off of the psychological term déjà vu -- the false feeling that something you are now experiencing happened before. My new word vujà dé means -- the false feeling that something that actually happened before is really brand, spanking new!

I woke up this morning -- well, this afternoon -- and read the following new financial-rescue plan from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner:

The Obama administration formally presented the latest step in its financial rescue package on Monday, an attempt to draw private investors into partnership with a new federal entity that could eventually buy up to $1 trillion in troubled assets that are weighing down banks and clogging up the credit markets....

Initially, a new Public-Private Investment Program will provide financing for $500 billion in purchasing power to buy those troubled or toxic assets -- which the government refers to more diplomatically as legacy assets -- with the potential of expanding later to as much as $1 trillion, according to a fact sheet issued by the Treasury Department.

At the core of the financing package will be $75 billion to $100 billion in capital from the existing financial bailout known as TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, along with the share provided by private investors, which the government hopes will come to 5 percent or more. By leveraging this program through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve, huge amounts of bad loans can be acquired.

The private investors would be subsidized but could stand to lose their investments, while the taxpayers could share in prospective profits as the assets are eventually sold, the Treasury said. The administration said that it expected participation from pension funds, insurance companies and other long-term investors.

This gave me an intense feeling of déjà vu (not vujà dé); didn't... we... see something like this sometime before? Not very long ago? Something... something... it's all coming back to me now....

Oh, wait. This may be it:

As proposed by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, the putative "$700 billion" "bailout" is actually neither: It will neither cost that much, nor will it bail out those financial institutions that wrote bad loans for people they knew were not likely to be able to pay them off.

As I understand it, here is the basic plan. Note that I'm drawing this from many sources, it's not yet written in stone -- or even in ink -- and I can't give you sources. If you want more information, you're on your own! But here is what I've been able to glean:

  1. The Treasury is given authority to spend up to $700 billion (outstanding at any particular moment) to buy MBSs, CDOs, and related instruments that have become "illiquid." These "toxic assets" will be purchased from their current owners at a huge discount... meaning the banks and other investors who purchased these pigs in pokes will, in fact, take a significant financial hit... they're not being "bailed out."

So the Treasury can buy up these toxic assets; what do they do with them?

  1. I believe the plan (which has not yet been formalized in legislation) is to create a Treasury owned and managed resolution corporation that will take ownership of these toxic assets. Analysts will then pore through each MBS, determining the status of all the underlying mortgages and making a report publicly available. This will make the opaque assets completely transparent. All the financial fundamentals will be visible, so analysts at private companies can examine all of the securities and decide how much they would pay for each.
  2. The resolution corporation will then auction off each of the the now-transparent MBSs, selling it to the highest bidder; that very action allows the market to reset the value of the security.

That is why I characterize this rescue operation as "pressing the reset button."

Once some corporation has examined the fundamentals of the security and offered the winning bid for it, the MBS becomes (by definition) liquid; it is no longer a toxic asset. Its value has been reset... and it can go up or down after that point based upon subsequent, well-understood events (defaults, repayments, prepayments) in the underlying mortgages and reevaluations based upon other, market-based criteria. In other words, it becomes just like a mutual fund.

The crisis was the inability to value MBSs; the solution is to reset their values. The beauty of the Paulson-Bernanke plan is that this resetting is done by the free market, not by government decree.

Finally, note this point:

  1. When the Treasury-owned resolution corporation auctions off the now-transparent MBSs, it can use that money as income. Since the asset is now much more valuable than before (having been scrubbed into transparency), if it becomes saleable, then it will certainly sell for more than the discounted rate at which the corporation bought it. In other words, the resolution corporation will make a profit on every security it resells -- so the program will not actually cost $700 billion... it may even end up completely in the black.

That's why the Paulson-Bernanke plan is neither a bailout -- the so-called beneficiaries in fact must pay dearly for their folly -- nor massively expensive, since it resells most of the securities it bought, and at a profit. It could still end up costing money, depending on how many of the MBSs end up still toxic even after the complete report (if too many of the underlying mortgages are in default, for example); but the losses won't be anywhere near $700 billion, and they may be less than the profits.

That was a Big Lizards post from September 22nd, 2008; the differences between the old plan, from almost exactly six months ago -- developed by George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and then Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke -- and the new plan just proposed today by Barack H. Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and current Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke are... well, subtle:

  • The Paulson-Bernanke plan wasn't quite as expensive as the Geither-Bernanke plan;
  • It didn't have the patina of private investors coming along for the ride (heavily subsidized by the federal government and leveraged by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC) that we see in today's version;
  • In the original version, the government would buy the toxic assets from their current owners at a discount; Treasury (or a Treasury-owned resolution corporation) would investigate and "valuate" them (determine the actual value of the underlying mortgages that make up each mortgage-backed security, MBS, and related debt instrument); and then private investors would buy the formerly toxic, now liquid assets from the government at an auction. In the new version, the government will partner with private and corporate investors, leveraged by the FDIC, to buy the assets; then they would be auctioned to other private and corporate investors.

I don't know about you all, but the distinction between the two plans doesn't leap off the screen for me. The Times doesn't report whether the feds will undertake the intermediate step of investigating and reporting the details of these toxic assets, but I think it must be so; I can't see how else could they be turned from illiquid to liquid, except by injection of what I called in a later post, "timely, honest, accurate, and believable information," or THABI.

It seems I wasn't suffering from déjà vu after all. As the great sage Bert the one-man band, sidewalk chalk artist, and chimney sweep said, "Can't put me finger on what lies in store, but I feel what's to happen all happened before."

The current plan even includes the reset-by-auction of toxic assets that I gleaned from the original plan; from the Times story above:

An attractive feature of the program is that it will allow the marketplace to establish values for the assets -- based, of course, on the auction mechanism that will signal what someone is willing to pay for them -- and thus might ease the virtual paralysis that has surrounded those assets up to now.

For a relatively small equity exposure, the private investor thus stands to make a considerable return if prices recover. The government will make a gain as well. In the worst case, the bulk of the risk would fall on the government. The presumption, of course, is that the auction will lead to realistic purchase prices.

So where does vujà dé (not déjà vu) enter into it? Simply this: I haven't seen a single elite-media commenter point out that this is the very same plan we started with... lo these many months ago; the same plan that was quickly derided by congressional Democrats, railed against by presidential-candidate Barack Obama, dismissed as nonsense by voters (and by Wall Street), and derailed in favor of direct investments in -- that is, nationalization of -- banks, savings and loans, insurance companies like AIG, and so forth.

Everyone writes and speaks as though this is a brilliant innovation -- imagine, buying up toxic assets and using public auctions to establish a "realistic purchase price" for them! Who but Geithner could possibly have thought of such a corker of a solution? He's finally demonstrated the mental superiority with which he was hailed when he was nominated (so brilliant, we simply had to overlook that little kerfuffle about evading income taxes when he worked at the International Monetary Fund).

I still have a few questions:

  • How long will the elite media continue to heap scorn upon that fool, Henry Paulson, and his ludicrous plan to buy up toxic assets -- while lavishing praise upon that genius, Tim Geithner, for his fantabulous plan to buy up toxic assets?
  • And what about the hundreds of billions (or is it over a trillion? I can't remember) already spent or pledged by the federal government to buy "equity interests" in hundreds of financial corporations? Do we perpetuate the mass nationalization program even as Treasury crows that the wonderful thing about the new rescue plan is that it privatizes the bailout?
  • Does the Obama White House suffer from Multiple Ideology Syndrome?

Everything old is new again, the wheel has come full circle, and what a long, strange trip it's been!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 23, 2009, at the time of 3:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 21, 2009

The Great Dictator

Hatched by Dafydd

In 1940, socialist Charlie Chaplin -- acting as screenwriter, director, producer, and of course star -- released the Great Dictator, which parodied Adolf Hitler in particular and fascism in general. Chaplin played both Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania, and also a Jewish barber who happens to look exactly like Hynkel.

But the Great Dictator of 2009 may turn out to be glib huckster from Hawaii by way of Chicago named Barack H. Obama; for the administration appears poised to enact rules that could end up completely controlling all executive compensation for every major company that has anything to do with financial matters, or is publicly held, or has any sort of requirement to report anything at all to the SEC -- even including companies that never took a dime of TARP or stimulus money:

One proposal could impose greater requirements on the boards of companies to tie executive compensation more closely to corporate performance and to take other steps to assure that outsize bonuses are not paid before meeting financial goals.

The new rules will cover all financial institutions, including those not now covered by any pay rules because they are not receiving federal bailout money. Officials say the rules could also be applied more broadly to publicly traded companies, which already report about some executive pay practices to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Last month, as part of the stimulus package, Congress barred top executives at large banks getting rescue money from receiving bonuses exceeding one-third of their annual pay.

Beyond the pay rules, officials said the regulatory plan is expected to call for a broad new role for the Federal Reserve to oversee large companies, including major hedge funds, whose problems could pose risks to the entire financial system.

Of course, there is virtually no chance that any scheme this radical could get through Congress, where Republicans still have at least some say in enacting legislation -- if only to filibuster something this grandiose, anti-capitalist, and authoritarian. But Obama has an answer for that minor roadblock as well; if the Times is to be believed, he intends to impose wage controls by direct decree, bypassing Congress entirely:

The officials said that the administration was still debating the details of its plan, including how broadly it should be applied and how far it could range beyond simple reporting requirements. Depending on the outcome of the discussions, the administration could seek to put the changes into effect through regulations rather than through legislation.

The plan is certainly audacious. I would rather say breathtaking, stunning, shocking, jaw-dropping, mind-boggling -- and of course, quite mad. But when the president of the United States believes he can simply dictate (by executive order) how much everybody working in any publicly traded company is paid, I don't think it can be called anything less than a form of socialism.

But what kind? Certainly not Marxism, because he is not abolishing corporations or private capital. Rather, this sort of corporate socialism was invented in the 1920s by a fellow in Italy named Benito, who called it "fascism." Barack Obama evidently plans to go the "full Jonah," returning liberal fascism to America for the first time since Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," and following in the footsteps of such liberal-fascist/populist luminaries as Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt.

To the list of reactions above, let me also add -- ominous.

So how much executive power would Obama seize to himself? How about this:

A central aspect of the plan, which has already been announced by the administration, would give the government greater authority to take over and resolve problems at large, troubled companies that are not now regulated by Washington, like insurance companies and hedge funds.

That proposal would, for instance, make it easier for the government to cancel bonus contracts like those given to executives at the American International Group, which have stoked a political furor. Under the proposal, the Treasury secretary would have the authority to seize and wind down a struggling institution after consulting with the president and upon the recommendation of two-thirds of the Federal Reserve board.

So a contract is a contract -- unless the president doesn't like it, in which case he will be able to rewrite it (or void it) at will. When contracts between third parties stand only as long as the head of government allows them to stand, then there is no stability and no predictability: In short, there is no more rule of law, and capital pulls up stakes and moves to a sunnier clime. Then, of course, there will be a great many more "struggling institutions."

Who decides which institutions are struggling? Perhaps that too will be decided by the same deciders: the Secretary of the Treasury, the president, and five out of the seven members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. If so, then the president can point to any corporation, family business, or not-for-profit organization, declare it to be "struggling," and then take it over, rewriting contracts, compensation packages, benefit plans, retirement funds, and (one presumes) prices and wages.

At that point, there truly is no limit to the president's power to personally dictate and direct the nation's economy. We will no longer have a capitalist or even quasi-capitalist state but direct fascism, without even the liberal "smiley face" to adorn the invisible foot of government.

So what sort of dictator would Mr. Obama be?

In unveiling the regulatory plan this week, President Obama would signal to Europe that he intended to crack down on the risk-taking and other free-wheeling practices by the financial industry that resulted in the global economic meltdown.

...And that also resulted in the greatest creation of wealth in all of human history. We'll have none of that, buster!

And who is behind the move? It appears to be Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke more than Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner:

From the outset of the Obama administration, officials and European leaders have disagreed over how much to limit pay. And Mr. Geithner has discouraged the administration from imposing across-the-board limits on compensation of all employees at troubled companies receiving federal assistance and more burdensome pay restrictions at healthy institutions that the administration is trying to encourage to take government money so they can increase lending.

Last week, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, also called on regulators to supervise executive pay at banks more closely to avoid “compensation practices that can create mismatches between the rewards and risks borne by institutions or their managers.”

Presented with a choice between two top advisors, one of whom cautions against a radical nationalization of the entire corporate world, the other of which urges just that approach -- Obama opts for the latter. Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle Boat ride tonight. So if the Times report is accurate, then the Executive branch will determine what risks are acceptable for businesses to take; what rewards they are allowed to bestow upon their employees; and presumably every phase of the transaction in between. Can wage and price controls be far behind?

So what do Republicans have to say about this plan? I don't know -- because the New York Times elects not to inform us. They neither quite nor even paraphrase any response by anybody other than members of the administration and Democratic leaders in Congress. Evidently, the rest of us have become invisible.

But I make no doubt that Arlen and the gals from Maine will, with "great reluctance," throw their weight behind the necessary step of putting capitalism under state control... "just for the duration," of course.

So how long, exactly, does the duration endure? Until we're as prosperous as we were during most of the Bush administration? I fear that with the advent of liberal fascism, and the resulting destruction of the economy that will provoke, that new golden age could be a lang, lang time a-growin'.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2009, at the time of 9:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 20, 2009

NYT: Deification of National Leader a Bad Thing (Sometimes)

Hatched by Dafydd

From the New York Times:

A Leader Beyond Reproach Limits the Possibilities for Political Change.

Step one block off almost any main road and the streets here are badly damaged or completely unpaved. There are problems with the schools, the health care system and the government bureaucracy, which is plagued by corruption and inefficiency.

Wow, amazing... has the Times finally come to its senses? Have editors finally realized that without honest debate, without a free back-and-forth, without a real debate between competing parties and factions, the administration becomes not only authoritarian, but incompetent as well?

I must be fair to the Times: They do actually understand this point; that's why they're such enthusiastic fans of a two-party system, of freedom of speech, and of national leaders actually listening to the opposition, even if they already control all levers of power.

Well... in Libya, at least:

Libya is a police state, but the trains still do not run on time.

“The administration has failed and the state economy has failed, enough is enough,” Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi said in a recent speech that made no mention of his own role as the man in charge for the last 40 years.

Libya recognizes its problems and is trying to respond, after a fashion. But whatever Libya does, it must stay within the boundaries of a system created by Colonel Qaddafi, or Brother Leader, as he is called. And that is the country’s Achilles’ heel: by nearly every practical measure, the system has failed Libyans, but it is his system, so it is above reproach.

Physician, heal thyself; charity begins at home.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 20, 2009, at the time of 1:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 19, 2009

Obama's State-Ownership Society

Hatched by Dafydd

Back in the precambrian era -- in fall of 2008, I of course mean -- we warned in several posts that when the federal government takes an "equity interest" (ownership in whole or in significant part) in private companies, it creates a grave threat to the capitalist system:

When government buys a significant stake in private companies, it creates a terrible conflict of interest; decisions that should be made entirely on economic grounds -- attempting to maximize the long-term profit for the owners of the company, whether stockholders or private consortia -- are made instead by politicians pushing a particular political ideology, or else trying to benefit big campaign donors.

Corporate management is ultimately accountable to the owners (though owners can be derelict in their fiduciary duties), while politicians are accountable only to voters and donors, neither of which may have any particular concern about the financial viability of particular private companies in the government's stock portfolio.

This is how we explained it in the first post linked above:

The latter especially is a key element of Woodrow Wilson, Benito Mussolini style fascism; it invariably leads to the State, as the $700 billion gorilla on the board of directors, exerting overwhelming control over corporate decisions... which it will exercise on the basis of politics, not profits.

When people read "fascism," they immediately tend to envision concentration camps, jackboots, and Nazis goosestepping at mass rallies; but the real danger of fascism, especially liberal fascism (fascism with a smiley face, as depicted -- against author Jonah Goldberg's wishes -- on the cover of his book Liberal Fascism), is government control of corporations. The more control is handed over to politicians and bureaucrats who have no hand in actually producing the product (loans and securities, in this case), the more critical decisions will be made on irrelevant political considerations, often leading to financial disaster... and another bailout, leading to even more government control. Eventually, the State completely hijacks the corporation for political purposes... and we're well on our way to Hugo Chavez-land.

The threat posed by the government taking an equity interest in private companies can be minimized by making it a matter of law that the holdings are fully divested as soon as buyers can be found at market prices -- either the company buying back its own stock or private third parties taking it off government's hands; in the third Big Lizards post linked up top, "Is It Adios to Capitalism - or Only Au Revoir?", we discussed this possibility:

With the long-expected decision today by President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Fed Chief Ben Bernanke that Treasury will spend $250 billion of the $700 billion buying equity stakes in nine top banks, thus injecting "liquidity" directly into the industry, we stand at a crossroads. The question is whether this is "goodbye" to Capitalism or just "see you soon"... whether this is a permanent break from free markets or just a necessary but temporary bank holiday....

The direct injection of liquidity by Treasury buying equity is also outside the market, because that money is extracted from people by force, in the form of taxes. But at the core, even this direct investment is an attempt to buy time to complete the "transparentizing" (horrible neologism, I know) of the toxic assets -- the recreation of the information that was lost by multiple unregulated securitizations of massive collections of mortgages.

Once the [timely, honest, accurate, and believable information] has been restored to the mortgage-backed securities and other instruments, the market can reboot itself...

With the restoration of the missing THABI information, the market can reboot, and the catastrophe will be averted. So long as partial-nationalization of the banking industry lasts only long enough to retransparentize the toxic assets, thus allowing the market to begin functioning again, it will be an acceptable, even necessary intervention.

Alas, there is nothing in the Obama administration's bailout that implies they will, in fact, consider this a temporary expedient; from everything I've read, they see it as a permanent "reform."

There are two classic anti-capitalist examples of divesting funds for political reasons; together, they point out the very real danger when government becomes a part owner of the private sector through enforced or distressed nationalization (we have seen both in the present crisis):

  1. When universities, big corporations, and of course government programs in the 1970s dumped all their investments in companies based in South Africa or doing business in South Africa, even if they were based elsewhere, to protest Apartheid; this was in response to purely political pressure from black activist groups here in the United States.
  2. And when the usual suspects more recently dumped all investment in Israel, Israeli companies, or companies that did not ritually denounce Israel, in response to purely political pressure from antisemitic, anti-Israel, and generally pro-Palestinian and Islamist activist groups.

Both are examples of government trying to use equity ownership to bully the private sector into purely political actions that have nothing whatsoever to do with the companies in question.

When the government is a significant investor in a company, it cannot help running those companies; government funds never come "string free." Worse, the State runs those companies not to make profits, but to score political points.

In fact, that is exactly what is happening in the case of American International Group (AIG): We have such a huge investment in that company now, $80 billion, that how much they pay employees in retention "bonuses" (inducements to continue working for AIG, rather than jumping ship to some less shaky company) has become a political football.

In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives has just voted overwhelmingly, 328 to 93, to enact a confiscatory tax on AIG employees -- almost by name! -- if AIG fulfills its contractual obligations by paying the employees who stayed on for the work they did (reducing AIG's liability from $2.7 trillion to $1.6 trillion):

Spurred on by a tidal wave of public anger over bonuses paid to executives of the foundering American International Group, the House voted 328 to 93 on Thursday to get back most of the money by levying a 90 percent tax on it....

But there was no doubt after the House vote that the lawmakers were keenly aware of their constituents’ anger, which was focused on A.I.G., although the House measure would apply to executives of any company getting more than $5 billion in federal bailout money.

Hours after the vote, the office of Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general, said A.I.G. had turned over the names of employees who received bonuses, in response to a subpoena.

Before releasing the list, the attorney general’s office plans to review it and assess whether individuals on it might have reason to fear for their safety.

“We are aware of the security concerns of A.I.G. employees, and we will be sensitive to those issues by doing a risk assessment before releasing any individual’s name,” Mr. Cuomo’s office said in a statement.

Well that's mighty decent of them.

So the bill was openly and unabashedly driven by constituent anger -- anger that cannot possibly be based upon a sober and detailed consideration of whether those particular employees deserved those particular bonuses; in fact, the most likely culprit in ginning up such rage and fury is Congress itself, along with the president, who have been demonizing AIG and its employees for months now. It happened again in the debate on this very bill:

“The people have said ‘no,’ ” Representative Earl Pomeroy, Democrat of North Dakota, shouted on the House floor. “In fact, they said ‘hell no, and give us our money back.’ ”

“Have the recipients of these checks no shame at all?” Mr. Pomeroy continued. Summing up his personal view of the so-far anonymous A.I.G. executives, he said: “You are disgraced professional losers. And by the way, give us our money back.”

Great leaping horny toads. I had to wipe spittle-spray off my face after just reading it! "Disgraced professional losers?" Is Earl "Elmer Gantry" Pomeroy (D-ND, 85%) under the impression that these bonuses are going to the actual folks in the credit default swap area, who are the ones who brought AIG down? Or is Pomeroy just blindly striking out against anyone who makes more money than he?

And while we're on the subject, I think there is not a single Democrat in Congress to whom I could not say, “You are disgraced professional losers; and by the way, give us our money back.” And with a damn sight more justification, Earl.

Contrariwise, John Hinderaker -- my favorite blogger on my favorite blogsite, Power Line -- makes a compelling case that the bonuses were in fact perfectly proper:

  • They were retention bonuses, not performance bonuses.
  • They were paid, not to the employees responsible for the collapse, but to other employees who have worked hard for months after the collapse to rescue AIG... rather than jumping ship with their expert knowledge of AIG's exact portfolio problems, taking jobs with other companies that had better futures.
  • As John writes, "[the employees] satisfied the terms of the bonus by wrapping up a portfolio for which they were responsible and/or staying on the job until now. As a result of the efforts of this group, AIG's financial products exposure is down from $2.7 trillion to $1.6 trillion.
  • They stayed at AIG precisely because of those bonuses; but now the government, having eaten the fruit of that labor as an equity holder, wants those bonuses to go, not to the people who earned it, but to the government itself!

But note how carefully the Times dances around the question of who exactly is getting the bonuses, and what those people's roles were in the collapse:

The $165 million in bonuses has spawned rage in part because it was paid to executives in the very unit of A.I.G. that arguably turned a stable, prosperous insurance company into a dice-rolling financial firm in search of quick profits.

But there must have been hundreds of employees working in the financial products division! Does the Times think that every employee, from vice president down to secretary, was personally responsible for the foolish decisions that nearly killed AIG? Do liberals fantasize even that every executive in that division was responsible?

If new (post-collapse) AIG CEO Edward Liddy is telling the truth, and so far no current or former employee has come forth to contradict him, then the bonuses are going to people who were not responsible for the collapse, but are responsible for helping AIG deal with the collapse after the fact.

These are the people that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%) calls corrupt:

Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee and has been among A.I.G.’s fiercest critics, spoke contemptuously of the bonus recipients as people “who had to be bribed not to abandon the company” they had nearly ruined.

Wouldn't that same language, "bribed not to abandon the company," apply to every employee who ever demanded a raise?

It's another example of liberals' inability to deal with complexity; for all their protestations of having more subtle minds, they are really quite simplistic: The poor (and the rich who "represent" them) are always good; the productive core are always bad; and every moral question is the same shade of neutral gray.

John makes the same point as we anent this ridiculous 90% "tax," which is actually a deliberate attempt at confiscation, as the president made clear yesterday in Orange County. John writes:

The legislation introduced by the Democrats today to tax these bonuses (and possibly a few others, although it isn't clear that any others have been or will be paid that are covered by the statute) at a 90 percent rate is an outrage. It is, in my legal opinion, obviously unconstitutional. It is evidently intended to calm the current political firestorm and not to achieve any real objective.

John refers to the legislation as "introduced by the Democrats;" while that's technically true, it's only a half-truth: Democrats may have proposed it, but the House GOP split almost 50-50 on what Hinderaker (a lawyer) and I (a "sea-lawyer") see as an obvious bill of attainder.

In fact, the AP version of the Times article demonstrates Republican cowardice in the House: 87 Republicans voted against the "tax"; but 85 Republicans voted with the Democrats, blaming those retained employees for all of our woes... most switching at the last minute:

Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the bill was "a political circus" diverting attention from why the administration hadn't done more to block the bonuses before they were paid.

However, although a number of Republicans cast "no" votes against the measure at first, there was a heavy GOP migration to the "yes" side in the closing moments.

This is out and out pandering by the GOP... and it's vile. If we cannot even count on the House Republicans to stand up to liberal demagoguery, to stand up for Capitalism, then what is the point?

It's time for Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH, 100%) to fish or get off the pot: Does he lead a party that is distinct from the liberal Democratic majority, that is center-right, and that still believes in Capitalism, the rule of law, and conservative principles of governance? Has he learned the lessons of 2006 and 2008? Or does Boehner believe that the GOP's best shot at returning to power is to morph into a quieter, gentler version of the Democratic Party, pushing a slightly more restrained version of Obamunism?

I'd really like to know the answer to that conundrum before the next election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 19, 2009, at the time of 6:59 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 18, 2009

Patterico and His %&$*#! Hypotheticals

Hatched by Dafydd

For the last few decades, Patterico has been posting hypothetical examinations of manners and meanings on his excellent blog, Patterico's Pontifications. The exercise began with the Rush Limbaugh pseudocontroversy (ginned up by the Left, thankyouverymuch), in which Limbaugh said that he hoped Barack Obama would fail.

I think most folks agreed (as eventually Limbaugh clarified) that he meant that he hoped that Obama's socialist policies would fail, or be perceived as failing, to rescue the economy... because if they were perceived as having saved us, then socialism would become irresistable. Limbaugh believes it's better for the country if the policies clearly and unambiguously fail, even if that means misery for some people who lose their jobs or take a major hit in their retirement income, because the consequences of a wave of leftism and socialism washing away the world's only capitalist republic are so much more dire.

But the discussion on PP has ranged far afield from that beginning; and in the most recent batch of hypotheticals, Patterico specifically tries to disentangle the questions from the Limbaugh controversy. He begins by saying:

This post is not about Rush Limbaugh. But it is about manners, political correctness, and the reactions of the audience to speech and actions.

...And ends thus:

Please, try not to bring up Rush Limbaugh in your answers. That controversy got me thinking about these questions, but at this point it’s a distraction because everyone’s view is set and nobody’s mind can be changed. The broader issues come up time and again and are worth discussion.

Pat wants us to post comments on his site; but he gets so many that anything I said would be lost in the shuffle -- as were the comments I gave in the previous round. So I'll post my thoughts here, where they may still get lost in the shuffle, but where my pagecount will benefit from readers wandering about trying to find their way back home.

The questions...

1) Do you believe that speakers should ever change the way they present their message based on the anticipated reasonable reactions of their target audience?

If you answer yes, it is possible to generalize as to how speakers should make such decisions?

Yes and no.

2) Do you think society should ever disapprove of someone’s speech (or 3. "acts") in part based on the concept that the speaker knew his words would generate a bad/counterproductive reaction from others?

If you answer yes, can you think of examples? And at what point is it unfair for society to exhibit such disapproval?

Questions (2) and (3) are identical except that the former covers "speech," while the latter covers "acts."

Yes, speech or "speech" -- the latter including actions that the courts would call "speech" but which are nonverbal, such as nude protests -- is subject to social response like everything else; a sign referring to our former president as "BusHitler" and a riot and firebombing of synogogues are examples where society should disapprove of the methods used by speakers to protest George W. Bush's policies and by activists to express hatred of Israel.

I don't think it's ever "unfair" for ordinary people to disapprove of either a message or a way to deliver that message. What's unfair about it? If I have the right to protest your policies, haven't you the right to protest my protestations? But a way of expressing your disapproval of my protestations can, of course, be terribly unfair -- shooting me, for example, or getting hold of my credit-card numbers and publishing them.

It's never unfair to disapprove of me, but it may be unfair to use a particular tactic to disapprove of me, if you can follow that tortured syntax. And this leads us nicely into question (4), the question I really wanted to answer; I only answered the others because it wouldn't be fair to Patterico to ignore them:

4) Do you think political correctness and good manners are the same or different? If different, then in what way? What distinguishes one from the other?

Yes, Virginia, political correctness and simple manners are two different axes on the classic, old "four-box matrix" so beloved by academe. And yes, Maryland, it's not difficult at all to distinguish them.

Manners govern how we demonstrate respect for other people and their opinions, beliefs, and ideology; manners are procedural, governing how one comports oneself in public; they say nothing about the substance of your argument. For example:

  • Don't interrupt;
  • Don't filibuster;
  • Don't insult or belittle;
  • Don't question a disputant's honor;
  • Don't threaten;
  • Don't disrupt the discussion by introducing externalities, either verbal (confusing non-sequiturs) or physical (an overpowering perfume or a distracting and irritating noise), and so forth.

(Obviously, these rules apply to ordinary civilized conversations, discussions, debates -- not, e.g., to interrogating a detainee in Gitmo.)

Note that none of these rules requires the mannered man to renounce his own position. But that is precisely what political correctness demands: To be politically correct, you must support the positions of a particular ideology, usually leftism; you must submerge your own contrary ideas and embrace those of your identification group:

  • Capitalism is heartless; we need government bureaucrats to regulate it so that the right people win.
  • Unions are good and vital and must be promoted even at the expense of the secret ballot.
  • Women are oppressed; men are pigs.
  • Whites have been holding blacks down in America for 300 years, and it's time we turned the tables. We need affirmative action, permanent racial voting-rights laws, and race-proportionate representation in Congress.
  • America is the most racist, sexist, homophobic country on Earth, and we should change to be more like Sweden.
  • Israel is the most racist, sexist, homophobic country on Earth -- even more than America! -- and we should support the Palestinians... who, after all, have actually lived there for hundreds of years, unlike the Jews, who never existed in the Middle East until 1948.
  • War is evil. All war is evil. There is no good reason ever to fight. Protecting your freedom is not worth the loss of a single life. Protecting the victim's life does not justify taking a murderer's life, because all human (and sometimes animal) life is infinitely -- hence equally -- valuable. [No, ethicists have never even heard of the Cantorian heirarchy of differenent infinities.]

...And on and on.

Political correctness is substantive and says nothing about how one proceeds to defend the politically correct position: Whether you defend affirmative action with quiet, respectful discussion or by beating your opponent over the head with your protest sign, that doesn't make affirmative action any more or less politically correct; it's inherently politically correct, whether you're polite or rude about it.

You need not be politically correct to be well mannered. It's quite possible to be polite while retaining and defending your positions. Likewise, you can be politically correct while still being a boorish bastard.

Summing up, then, political correctness requires the substance of your argument to conform to the mold, while manners speak only to the process by which you argue your case -- whatever it is.

Does that make sense?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 18, 2009, at the time of 7:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

From Little ACORNs, a Mighty Hoax Will Grow

Hatched by Dafydd

A few days ago, I posted what I thought was a parody post of future headline stories in the four years to come of the administration of Barack H. Obama.

As Bullwinkle T. Moose might say, "Ooh! Don't know mah own strength!"

In that post, I wrote:

The Department of Elections "Project for Democracy and People," formerly the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), has released final rules for the 2012 congressional and presidential elections, to be held from July 1st through December 31st next year. "The Universal Assisted Voting Act will be fully enforced," said Elections Secretary Maude Hurd, reached at her departmental headquarters in Davos, Switzerland....

But today, I found this curious story on Fox News:

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now signed on as a national partner with the U.S. Census Bureau in February 2009 to assist with the recruitment of the 1.4 million temporary workers needed to go door-to-door to count every person in the United States -- currently believed to be more than 306 million people.

A U.S. Census "sell sheet," an advertisement used to recruit national partners, says partnerships with groups like ACORN "play an important role in making the 2010 Census successful," including by "help[ing] recruit census workers."

The bureau is currently employing help from more than 250 national partners, including TARGET and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), to assist in the hiring effort.

But ACORN's partnership with the 2010 Census is worrisome to lawmakers who say past allegations of fraud should raise concerns about the organization.

You just can't make this stuff up. Or actually, you can; but as my sad experience illustrates, fantasy becomes nightmarish reality before the ink even dries on the monitor screen.

Close observation informs us that Fox News, in a burst of excess conservatism, uses the phrase "allegations of fraud;" this opens the door for ACORN simply to repeat their unofficial motto as a defense against all criticism: "ACORN -- Not Formally Charged (as an organization) Yet!"

ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson told FOXNews.com that "ACORN as an organization has not been charged with any crime." He added that fears that the organization will unfairly influence the census are unfounded.

Well, that's reassuring. Of course, plenty of members of ACORN have been formally charged and even convicted of voter fraud; and the organization itself has had its offices raided by police, its records seized, and its voter registrations and absentee ballots rejected by the thousands:

ACORN, which claims to be a non-partisan grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people, came under fire in 2007 when Washington State filed felony charges against several paid ACORN employees and supervisors for more than 1,700 fraudulent voter registrations. In March 2008, an ACORN worker in Pennsylvania was sentenced for making 29 phony voter registration forms. The group's activities were frequently questioned in the 2008 presidential election.

The Las Vegas Sun discloses more ACORN shenanigans (hat tip to our dearest Michelle):

Members of a new task force designed to prevent voter fraud raided the Las Vegas office of an organization that works with low-income people on everything from voting to neighborhood improvements.

State investigators, armed with a search warrant, sought evidence of voter fraud at the office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, a Nevada Secretary of State's office spokesman said today....

There are allegations that some registration applications were completed with false information, while other applications attempted to register the same person multiple times, Miller said.

"We've been told that some of the allegedly erroneous applications even included the names of players from the Dallas Cowboys football team," Miller said.

ACORN frequently employs former felons -- some convicted of identity theft! -- on its payroll to register voters and "assist" them with absentee ballots; but they also sometimes employ convicted felons who are currently incarcerated:

In a 19-page affidavit by criminal investigator Colin Hayes of the Secretary of State's office, Hayes said 59 inmates worked for ACORN between March 5 and July 31.

One ex-employee of ACORN, Jason Anderson, rose to the rank of a supervisor in the voter registration program although he was a convicted felon and an inmate at Casa Grande at the time, the affidavit said.

Powerhouse blogs like Power Line, Michelle Malkin, Hot Air, and many other sites have documented numerous examples of ACORN's mendacity in voter registrations and absentee-ballot handling, from allegations to indictments to convictions of ACORN employees. In light of this cascade of evidence, from sources ranging from the elite media to local media to law-enforcement investigations to courtroom testimony, the "defense" offered by ACORN officials -- that the organization as a whole has not yet been formally charged, à la the prosecution against the Holy Land Foundation -- looks more and more pathetic.

As we argued here, the decennial census is vital to determining congressional districts, state legislative districts, and disbursing funding from legislation; yet the Democratic Party in general, and ACORN in criminal particulars, have terrible and unenviable records of enabling and promoting voter fraud, registration fraud, political-contribution fraud, and election fraud (see Al Franken's attempt -- which still might succeed -- to steal the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota). Since the Clinton era, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has been the "muscle" of choice in the Democratic culture of elections corruption, the "Luca Brasi" of voter fraud.

The president himself is hardly a disinterested party here; the Boston Globe reports that during the 1990s, Obama served as one of three lawyers on a team formed by his law firm, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, to represent ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois; thirteen years later, the Obama presidential campaign paid $800,000 to ACORN for "get out the vote" (GOTV) operations in four states during the primary campaign.

An official with the Census Bureau inadvertently revealed the danger of teaming up with ACORN on the census; from the Fox News article linked above:

[Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner] stressed the need for organizations like ACORN to assist in the effort, saying that "any group that has a grassroots organization that can help get the word out that we have jobs" is helpful.

I'm sure ACORN will be assiduous in getting that word out; but getting it out to whom? If past performance indicates future actions, it will be getting the word out to a boatload of felons, inmates, and identity-theft specialists, who will staff the effort to determine how many Americans there are in the 435 congressional districts and hundreds of state legislative districts across the United States -- thus putting themselves in position to gerrymander the entire country at one fell blow.

Buckner adds that we're not to worry, because "we have a lot of quality controls in place to keep any kind of systemic error or fraudulent behavior to affect [sic] the counts." Color me skeptical. And a bit queasy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 18, 2009, at the time of 2:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 16, 2009

Lizard-Skin Bookmark Icon

Hatched by Dafydd

We've added a cool -- well, I think so, anyway -- lizard-skin bookmark icon to Big Lizards.

You might see it if, having just navigated here via your bookmarks, you check your bookmark menu again. Or favorites, if you use Internet Explorer.

If you don't see it, you might see it the next time you start up your browser.

If that doesn't work, you might have to bookmark the site again; then you can delete the old bookmark and use the one with the icon henceforth.

And if that doesn't work, then your browser was probably designed by a Democrat.

Constant site improvement, that's our motto!

Cheers,

The Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 16, 2009, at the time of 6:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

More Things That Make You Go "Hm," but Are Just a Little Longer Than 140 Characters...

Hatched by Dafydd

Nothing personal; just business

Under the heading, Salvadoran ex-rebels win presidency for first time, we read the following:

[Mauricio Funes, who AP describes as "a moderate plucked from outside the ranks of the rebel-group-turned-political-party" FMLN], 49, rode a wave of discontent with two decades of Arena party rule that have brought economic growth but done little to redress social inequalities. Fuel and food prices have soared, while powerful gangs extort businesses and fight for drug-dealing turf, resulting in one of Latin America's highest homicides rates.

Funes promised to crack down on big businesses which he says exploit government complacency to evade taxes.

Yeah, that'll lower food prices, break up the gangs, end the drug scourge, and lower the homicide rate!

And then you'll be sorry!

AP warns of certain dangers arising from Israel's efforts to form a new government:

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party has initialed a coalition agreement with an ultranationalist faction that brings its leader significantly closer to becoming foreign minister, a Likud party spokeswoman said Monday.

Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, has drawn accusations of racism for proposing that Israel's Arab citizens sign loyalty oaths or lose their citizenship. Although that plan is not likely to be implemented, his designation as foreign minister could harm Israel's international ties.

The European Union urged Netanyahu to craft a government that embraces the long-standing goal of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel - signaling that the appointment of Lieberman as foreign minister would be seen in Europe as a setback to Middle East peace efforts.

"Let me say very clearly that the way the European Union will relate to an (Israeli) government that is not committed to a two-state solution will be very, very different," Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security affairs chief, said Sunday.

"Different," how? The top-ten ways the EU can respond to a Netanyahu-Lieberman government:

  1. They'll go from blaming Israel for all the troubles on this planet to blaming them for the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus as well.
  2. All future international sporting events will be held exclusively in Malmo, Sweden.
  3. Continent-wide ban on those Sit 'n Sleep commercials with Larry and Irwin.
  4. The twelve little stars on the EU flag changed to tiny crescents.
  5. French-language remake of Hogan's Heroes, but with Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz as the good guys.
  6. New motto: Dreyfus was a fink!
  7. European Union outlaws Manischewitz wine, matzoh balls, and Halvah.
  8. All European flags that include the Israeli-linked colors of light blue and white altered to lite green (in honor of Islam, environmentalism, and lo-cal soft drinks) and yellow (if you know what I mean, and I think you do).
  9. L'Académie française formally rules that henceforth, the American president is to be referred to exclusively as "Hussein Hussein."

And the number one response to a Netanyahu-Lieberman Israeli government...

  1. Introducing incoming President of the European Commission Chas Freeman!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 16, 2009, at the time of 1:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happenings Four Years Time to Go

Hatched by Dafydd

Power to Chair National Intelligence Council

As National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair broadly hinted in recent weeks, the lengthy interim tenure of Peter Lavoy is about to end, as Blair has selected Samantha Power, director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, to be the next chair of the National Intelligence Council. Power served as Barack Obama's chief foreign policy adviser during his campaign until she was forced out after referring to then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as "deceitful," a "monster," and a "hairy-chested she-male."

The NID was outspoken about why he selected Power for the position. "After the Israel Lobby killed any chance that Chas Freeman could serve as chairman, he recommended Samantha. We had a nice chat, and she agrees 100% with my position and the president's position, especially on the subject of the Israeli occupation of Israel. But I know from our conversation that she will give a fair, accurate, and utterly unbiased summary of all the intelligence on the Palestinian peace plan, the Iranian reconciliation with the Shia in southern Iraq, the Syranian attempts to quell the violence in their province of Lebanon, and our peace-partner China's troubles with internal dissention caused by radicals trying to seize control of public spaces in Beijing."

Asked whether Power might run afoul of the same shadowy Republican smear campaign that felled the universally praised Freeman, Blair predicted a swift "Power shift" on the Council. "Chas would have been a wonderful pick, but he spoke truth to the power of the Jewish Lobby once too often. Samantha has been more circumspect in identifying the enemy within."

Experts note mounting criticism of the GOP for shooting down two potential chairs in a row. Mr. Ayers was never formally introduced as an appointee, but a lengthy speech on the floor of the Senate by the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Christopher Bond of Missouri, effectively killed Ayers' chances before being named. Committee Chair Diane Feinstein of California also objected to the appointment of....

Treaty Inked Between US, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda

Will offer construction of training camps and educational facilities in Minnesota for "verifiable assurances" of no further attacks

SIDEBAR: "Peace in our own time," says Hillary Clinton at jubilant campaign rally

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hailed the treaty breakthrough as an "historic diplomatic victory" against violence and militarism in the Middle East and elsewhere. She credited the "tough negotiations" of President Barack Obama and his diplomatic team - Chief Middle-East Advisor and senior negotiator Dennis Ross, State Department liaison and Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill, and White House liaison and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns rounded out the diplomatic "smart-power" team and actually crafted the final language of the treaty. Secretary Clinton had suggested Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, but Mr. Emanuel rejected the appointment due to the sensitivity of asking the representatives from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda to hold discussions with Mr. Steinberg, who is Jewish-American. "Some have suggested he may have dual loyalties," said National Intelligence Advisor Charles "Chas" Freeman.

The wide-ranging treaty has been praised by most Middle-East experts as "inarguably the best deal we can get" without the application of greater military force, which the Obama administration has already taken off the table as "impractical" in the new era of international law and "soft power." Under the terms, several training and religious compounds will be erected in remote areas of northern Minnesota. In addition, three Salafist madrasses and a Qom-school Shiite mosque will be opened for the growing Muslim population in the Minneapolis area. All compounds, educational facilities, and religious facilities will be under the administration of the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

In exchange, the United States has received "verifiable assurances" that none of the Islamic charitable and service groups would target American civilian facilities in the 48 contiguous states of the homeland, and that the Republic of Iran would not attack American forces in Iraq or Iraqi Shia as an official action of the Iranian government. None of the signatories would admit that they had ever previously done so, and no specific verification procedures were agreed upon.

"I was very pleased when I was informed by the Vice President of the parameters of the deal," said Mrs. Clinton. "I was afraid we would have to offer the camps and schools for nothing."

Reached for comment, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, sounded cautiously optimistic about ratification in the....

Exodus: Israeli Refugees Offered Camp in Amazon Basin

Obama apologizes for failure of previous administration to prevent nuclear escalation in Middle East

"The circumstances are... certainly regrettable," agreed President Barack Obama in a private, closed-door meeting with representatives of the former nation of Israel and reporters. "America is ah a generous um nation that will... We extend - extend - extend the hand of... I hope you will always feel uh welcome to."

The administration hastened to note that the surprise Iranian attack on several cities in territory claimed by both Israel and also the Palestinian people who have lived there for millennia did not technically violate the treaty signed last month. "Much as the Israel Lobby would have us believe otherwise," said chair of the National Intelligence Council Samantha Power, "Jerusalem and Sderot are not vital American interests."

In a nationwide speech last night, the president tried to buoy spirits, expressing hope that change would soon come to the volatile region. "These sorts of crisis failures of the previous administration cannot last forever. Eventually all of the important players will realize that the reckless Republican policies of corruption, personal attack, and intransigence about the disputed nation of Israel has come to an end."

Intelligence Czar Charles "Chas" Freeman ordered the National Intelligence Director to re-evaluate all previous National Intelligence Estimates in light of the right of Iran to defend itself from Israeli imperialist aggression. Freeman also offered his analysis of the many mistakes of the "Zionist Occupied Government" based in Crawford, Texas, that led to....

Omnibus Business Alliance Manu-Marketing Act Will Streamline Industry, Says Administration

In a joint conference with the president from the White House briefing room, Economics Czar George Soros defended the pact, which places all business transactions above fifty thousand dollars under the regulatory control of a series of "business alliances," modeled upon the recently enacted Health Care Revitalization and Consolidation Act. "Capitalism a good run had," said Mr. Soros, "as did Communism. But now the time for a third path of 100% American-internationalism it is."

A panel of business professors from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and Wellesley gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to....

"Fulfilling Democracy": Voter Intent Law Strengthened

The Department of Elections "Project for Democracy and People," formerly the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), has released final rules for the 2012 congressional and presidential elections, to be held from July 1st through December 31st next year. "The Universal Assisted Voting Act will be fully enforced," said Elections Secretary Maude Hurd, reached at her departmental headquarters in Davos, Switzerland....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 16, 2009, at the time of 4:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 13, 2009

A "Choice" Cut of Steele

Hatched by Sachi

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is in hot water again. Asked about abortion in an interview with GQ magazine, he answered that abortion was an "individual choice." This did not go over well with so-called social conservatives. Some people who should know better are now demanding Steele's head on a steel pike:

  • Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition, believes that Steele "is at odds with the pro-life platform" of the Republican Party.
  • Lou Engle calls Steele's position "extremely disappointing.... The law is supposed to protect human life, not permit the taking of it. And it can never be a 'choice' for an individual to take a life."
  • Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed that "the party stands to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support in the trenches of grassroots politics."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council summed up the reaction of many conservatives:

I read the article last night so I am familiar not only with his comments about the life issue but also about the efforts to redefine marriage and 'mucking' up the Constitution. I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge.

But did Steele really say he is pro-choice or offer a pro-choice perspective? Here is an excerpt from the above linked GQ article. The emphasis is mine.

GQ: How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?

Steele: Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that -- I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

GQ: Explain that.

Steele: The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

GQ: Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?

Steele: Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.

GQ: You do?

Steele: Yeah. Absolutely.

GQ: Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Steele: I think Roe v. Wade -- as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter. [Overturning Roe and returning the abortion issue to the states used to be the great goal of pro-lifers; when did it become "at odds with the pro-life platform?"]

GQ: Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?

Steele: The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

GQ: Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?

Steele: Absolutely!

GQ: How so?

Steele: You know, Lee Atwater said it best: We are a big-tent party. We recognize that there are views that may be divergent on some issues, but our goal is to correspond, or try to respond, to some core values and principles that we can agree on.

Ever since pro-abortion side started to use the word "choice" instead of "abortion," the word changed its meaning. Choice used to mean "a decision between multiple options." But the Left redefined "pro-choice" to mean "pro-abortion;" they don't consider it a "choice" to choose life. They never respect a woman making the difficult choice to give birth to her child (just look at how they attacked Bristol Palin -- or her mother -- for their "choices").

This is one of the Left's favorite tactics, which Dafydd calls "argument by tendentious redefinition": They secretly change the definition of a word, but still rely upon the impact of the original meaning to confuse listeners. Sadly, it seems to work (nearly) every time.

A "choice" should simply mean choosing one way or another. It can be a good choice or a bad choice. Since God gave us all free will, we always have a spiritual right to choose... even to make the wrong choice. If we didn't, we wouldn't have free will after all. A woman even has the right (the legal right) and the power to choose to abort her baby. It's a simple statement of fact, and it's not going to change nationwide anytime soon. (If we overturned Roe v. Wade, individual states could remove the legal right to abort a baby.)

It seems clear to me that Steele is saying that he's glad his birth mother made the right choice when she chose adoption over abortion. How can this statement be interpreted as support for abortion?

Social conservatives need to step back and take a deep breath. Why do they take someone's words out of context in order to attack their own party leader? Distorting your enemies' beliefs is a low blow, but distorting your friends' beliefs to make them out to be your enemies is a stupid and self-destructive blow. It's a circular firing squad.

Liberals rarely turn on each other like this, although a few are now turning on Obama's porkapalooza; but when they do, it hurts their party just as it hurts us when we do it. Don't Republicans realize that their bickering over a "choice" of words is muddying the party's message far more than Steele's less-than-inspiring interview performances?

If conservatives and Republicans think Steele's message is not clear, why not help him clarify it? Why not go on talk shows to defend Steele from liberal attack and explain what he really meant? That's what Ronald Reagan would do; he wouldn't start yelling "off with his head" just six weeks into Steele's tenure (Reagan's famous "eleventh commandment"). Reagan would never do the Democrats' wetwork for them.

When Steele talks of "choice," on the government level, he's arguing for abolishing federal control of abortion policy in favor of a "states' rights" approach, where each state has a "choice" to decided whether abortion is legal or illegal... which right now they do not have. Striking down Roe v. Wade would do just that, and it would bring a breath of liberty to the top-down, national pro-abortion tyranny we have right now.

When Steele talks of "choice," on the personal level, he hopes women will make a the right choice of saving a life, just like Bristol, Sarah, and Steele's birth mother did.

But Republicans and conservatives seem determined to take his words in the worst possible light, lining up behind liberal Democrats in the march towards a permanent Democratic majority. With fiends like these, who needs enemies?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 13, 2009, at the time of 5:03 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 12, 2009

Roiling Waters - Another Eruption of the Democratic Culture of Corruption

Hatched by Dafydd

There are two huge shockers in this New York Times article on Democratic political corruption at the highest levels of the House of Representatives; it's titled, "Congresswoman, Tied to Bank, Helped Seek Funds":

  • That the Times ran the article at all, considering that it's critical of (a) a Democratic representative, (b) a female Democratic representative, and (c) a black female Democratic representative;
  • That they mentioned the party affilliation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA, 100%) prominently in the second paragraph.

Perhaps the elite media is finally starting to feel the ethical (and now monetary) pinch from being perceived as being nothing but the media arm of the Democratic National Committee. (Though I do enjoy the mental image of Maxine Waters being tied to a bank.)

First the facts:

Top banking regulators were taken aback late last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, Treasury officials said.

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Water’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board of directors until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 in stock in the institution [and possibly as much as $500,000, as the Times notes later]. Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators had been intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.

Waters did not bother disclosing to Treasury officials her personal family connection to the OneUnited bank -- that she stood personally to gain if the bank's stock rose (remember that California, where she resides, is a community-property state; her husband's gain is her gain as well). But it's worse than simple corruption; as with everything that Maxine Waters says or does, from corruptly trying to extort money from the federal government to egging on the looters and shooters during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, she hides like a minotaur in a labyrinth of the "absolute moral authority" conferred by race and its implied victimhood status.

Waters conceals her corruption behind race-baiting language that equates any dissent with anti-black prejudice. Every issue becomes a race issue; every argument is an argument between the Congressional Black Caucus and hood-wearing racists; every setback occurs because she's black in an oppressive, white culture; and her attempt to elevate one race above all others is a moral crusade, for which the entire country should be grateful:

[Waters' and Cohee's] interests first intersected in 2002, when Mr. Cohee was involved in a bidding war for Family Savings, a small, black-owned bank in Ms. Waters’ South Los Angeles District.

As a white-owned Illinois bank initially emerged as the winner, Ms. Waters made clear through the local news media that she opposed any deal in which Family would fall out of African-American hands. She was credited when the bank abruptly changed course and gave Mr. Cohee another chance to submit a winning bid.

It was irrelevant to Maxine Waters whether OneUnited was actually the most economically appropriate bank to take over Family Savings, whether investments in her own district would be safe, or even whether Cohee was essentially looting his bank through his grotesque compensation package. Only one thing mattered... that Family Savings stay in "African-American hands."

Evidently, it was unacceptable that Family Savings be bought by someone who wasn't black -- even if the buyer was himself a minority (Hispanic or Korean, say), even if the buyer was a lifelong resident of Waters' own district. (The purchaser Waters supported, OneUnited, is actually based in Boston.)

Like radical Moslems, who believe that any patch of land that was ever Moslem must always remain Moslem -- once in the ummah, forever in the ummah -- Waters and her ilk believe that any seat once occupied by an "African American" must forever be occupied by an African American, whether it's a seat on a board of directors, in the House or Senate, or on the bench; it becomes a "black seat," as in the black Supreme Court seat (Thurgood Marshall had to be succeeded by another black justice), the black Senate seat (Barack H. Obama had to be succeeded by another black senator). Goodness only knows what racial demands Maxine and the CBC will make on future occupants of the White House, now that we have a black president.

So in addition to looting the Treasury, the corruption of Maxine Waters concomitantly poisons the American discourse, segregates us by race, and turns Americans against each other with the potential to ignite a civil war -- as it surely did in Los Angeles in 1992. This isn't simply theft, it's Apartheid.

Waters' "ilk" includes Reps. Diane Watson, D-CA, 100%; Charles Rangel, D-NY, 100%; John Conyers, D-MI, 100%; Barbara Lee, D-CA, 100%; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, 100%; Bobby Rush, D-IL, 33% -- Rush was a charter member of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers -- Keith Ellison, D-MN, 100% -- Hamas' man in Washington -- and the other 35 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, every single member of which is both black and also a Democrat. Regarding the former qualification, if it seems self evident that only blacks should be admitted into the Congressional Black Caucus, is it also self-evident that only Jews should be allowed to join the United Jewish Appeal, only American citizens can join the American Conservative Union, or that only people of Russian descent can join the Russian Orthodox Church?

But when ultra-liberal white Democrats, even those who represent majority-minority districts, tried to join the CBC, they were summarily rejected -- in language that would be jaw-dropping if said about whiteness rather than blackness. Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN, 100%), who is white but whose constituency is 60% black, tried to join the CBC in 2007; he was privately informed by members that he was not welcome. In particular, Rep. William Lacy Clay, jr., son of one of the founders of the caucus, had this to say:

"Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. ... It's time to move on," the younger Clay said. "It's an unwritten rule. It's understood. It's clear."

An unwritten rule; where have we heard that circumlocution before? Perhaps something related to country clubs and business associations?

Les Kinsolving, writing for a website that some call "World Nut Daily," fills in the elipsis in that quotation; he claims that the complete quotation is, "Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. He's white and the Caucus is black. It's time to move on. We have racial policies to pursue and we are pursuing them, as Mr. Cohen has learned. It's an unwritten rule. It's understood." Make of that what you will.

Kinsolving also quotes what he says is an "official statement" from Clay's office:

Quite simply, Rep. Cohen will have to accept what the rest of the country will have to accept – there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for over 200 years, and now it's our turn to say who can join the 'the club.' He does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives.

I have hunted all over the web, but I cannot find a better source than wnd.com; make of it what you will, but I'm not prepared to endorse these quotations as accurate and honest until and unless I find a better source. But even the action of restricting the CBC to blacks only makes clear that to those of the Maxine Waters mindset, only blacks can "represent" blacks. (I wonder if they would agree that only whites can represent whites? I certainly would not accept that suggestion for a minute.)

In any event, this longish diversion is simply to note that Maxine Waters, a decades-long member and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is a racial discriminator for whom it's always "Afroamerikaner über alles." Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Waters and all of her friends, clients, toadies, and assorted cohorts and co-conspirators use the accusation of racism to shield themselves from scrutiny or condemnation for their corrupt looting of taxpayer money.

Neither Waters' unsuccessful attempt to inveigle $50 million out of the Treasury Department in late 2008 to benefit her own, personal economy -- nor her successful effort a month later to squeeze a paltry $12 million for OneUnited in TARP money -- has anything whatsoever to do with race; both are corrupt, but they are the same sorts of things white crooks attempt as well. But when questions arose, OneUnited CEO Kevin Cohee had this to say in the Times article:

Mr. Cohee and Treasury officials said the TARP money had nothing to do with the intervention by Ms. Waters. Mr. Cohee also suggested that criticism of his operations by federal banking regulators was racially motivated.

“This is where the race issue comes in,” he said.

Evidently, we are to believe that had the owners of OneUnited (and Maxine Waters) been white, nobody would have minded that a member of Congress was using his elective office to enrich himself. I'm sure convicted felon, former senator, and continuing Causasian Ted Stevens would agree.

Note that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) listed Waters as one of the thirteen most corrupt members of Congress in 2005 and one of the 20 most corrupt in 2006. Perhaps that's due to race as well, despite the fact that the majority of rogues on each list is white.

How many more such "anomalous" acts of corruption by Democrats must there be before the Republicans will finally go after them hammer and tooth... perhaps even floating the phrase, the Democratic culture of corruption? Or are we still quagmired in the genteel phase of our philosophical war with the Left?

Until the GOP can muster the huevos to counter the charge of "it's because I'm black, isn't it?", they will never be able to stand up to the Maxine Waters and William Jeffersons of the DNC... and for the duration, we'll have to labor under the handicap that what is corruption in a Republican is simply "community advocacy" in a Democrat.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 12, 2009, at the time of 5:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 11, 2009

Before Obama Downed Brown, He Harrowed Taro

Hatched by Sachi

We have all heard about how our new president, Barack H. Obama, snubbed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, head of the government of our most important ally since the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. But before Obama dissed Brown by refusing to allow him a full press conference or state dinner -- and reciprocating to a beautiful, meaningful gift from Brown by sending an aide to Blockbuster to grab a DVD boxed set in return -- the One perfected his boorishness by treating the prime minister of another ally like the hired help.

In late February, Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan was actually the first foreign dignitary to pay a formal visit to the White House under the Obama administration. The Japanese were very proud of the fact that their PM was the first to meet this popular and historic American president, about whom they had heard so much; Aso himself -- who already had the reputation of being an ignorant, near-illiterate yokel who was out of his depth -- desperately needed the visibility of the summit to burnish his sagging popularity.

Aso's economic reform plan has not gone well in Japan; in fact, it has been a disaster. Every policy he implements, every word he utters, turns him into the butt of jokes on Japanese comedy shows (which can be even ruder than Letterman and Leno here). His approval rating is in single digits in some polls, worse than that of No Mu Hyon's final days as a South Korean President.

So he had pinned his hopes on this meeting with President Obama, Aso's last chance to achieve something, anything, in his administration. But as things turned out, this "summit" produced what Yoshihisa Komori of the Japanese (and Japanese language) Sankei Newspaper calls "absolutely minimum results."

But forget the thin contents of the meeting; Obama's treatment of the prime minister was much worse, according to Komori (I have translated the story into English):

It was unprecedented that there was no state lunch or joint press conference [sound familar?].

There was no private one-on-one meeting, which is what is needed to meet the requirement of a "summit."

Just before the meeting, President Obama talked about the importance of the U.S.-Japan friendship and strengthening the alliance for east-Asian security. However, Mr. Obama did not take any action to publicize the message.

Mr. Obama gave his first speech to Congress that same night. The U.S. government, public, and media attention were all on that speech; they paid little to no attention to the prime minister's visit.

This meeting reminded Japanese of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murakami's visit to the U.S. in January of 1995. However, even during that visit, Murayama was allowed to stay at Blair House, the official guest house. But not Aso; he was forced to stay in a hotel in a Washington DC suburb. The duration of the visit was less than half of Murakami's.

What is it about our over-his-head president and his "Peter Principle" Secretary of State? They kow-tow to our enemies -- and needlessly offend our friends.

What does Obama or the country gain by dissing countries that have traditionally been our strongest and most faithful allies, including Great Britain and Japan? Add to these examples the raft of loudmouthed, thuggish Israel-haters, antisemites, and Jew-baiters named to various critical sub-cabinet level positions in the Obama administration... an almost calculated affront to our closest ally in the most volatile region in the world.

Whether Obama likes it or not, high-level public diplomacy is an integral part of the job of president. If he has the time to party hearty every night in the White House, as we've heard, then couldn't he have squeezed in a state lunch or dinner, maybe even a full press conference? That doesn't seem like too much to ask of President Hope-y Changitude.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 11, 2009, at the time of 4:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 10, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Hatched by Dafydd

And now, the Louse of Saud, Chas W. Freeman, has withdrawn himself from consideration as Chairman of the National Intelligence Committee.

...Does this administration now hold a national record for most number of cabinet and sub-cabinet appointees forced out of consideration in the shortest period of time?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 10, 2009, at the time of 3:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Il-Advised

Hatched by Dafydd

Kim Jong Il has evidently threatened massive retaliation against the United States if we intercept his peaceful satellite launch in flight. No, really:

"We will retaliate (over) any act of intercepting our satellite for peaceful purposes with prompt counterstrikes by the most powerful military means," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesman of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army as saying.

If countries such as the United States, Japan or South Korea try to intercept the launch, the North Korean military will carry out "a just retaliatory strike operation not only against all the interceptor means involved but against the strongholds" of the countries, it said.

Wait, I don't get it. What exactly is North Korea going to do again?

The North's armed forces have been ordered to "deal merciless retaliatory blows" should there be any intrusion "into the sky and land and seas of the DPRK even an inch."

Or to put it another way:

Monday's warning -- the latest barrage of threats from the communist regime -- came as U.S. and South Korean troops kicked off annual war games across the South, exercises the North has condemned as preparation for an invasion. Pyongyang last week threatened South Korean passenger planes flying near its airspace during the drills.

Analysts say the regime is trying to grab President Barack Obama's attention as his administration formulates its North Korea policy.

You see, after Obama's al-Arabiya apology for America's relentless and unprovoked insulting and offending Moslems for the past thirty years, and his kow-towing to Russia and China, he turns right around and tries to stand up, in a minor way, against the demented scion of the House of Kim. Outrageous!

Obama's special envoy on North Korea again urged Pyongyang not to fire a missile, which he said would be an "extremely ill-advised" move.

"Whether they describe it as a satellite launch or something else makes no difference" since both would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution banning the North from ballistic activity, Stephen Bosworth told reporters after talks with his South Korean counterpart.

But how exactly is North Korea going to "deal merciless retaliatory blows" against our strongholds... will they hire moonlighting Saudi and Egyptian terrorists to do it for them?

What an absurd ultimatum. Only a somewhat dim, inexperienced, overwhelmed naif who is so focused on domestic issues he has neither the time nor the stomach for a foreign-affairs fight, and who is afraid even to face down the top members of his party in Congress, government-employee unions, or the fierce and righteous anger of gas-guzzling global-warmingistas and embryo-hating feminists, could possibly be cowed by such a ludicrous threat.

Oh, wait...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 10, 2009, at the time of 2:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 9, 2009

Obama Kills Stem-Cell Research - Unless It Kills Embryos, Of Course

Hatched by Dafydd

(This entire post is hat-tipped to Patterico's Pontifications guest-blogger Karl.)

As has been power-blasted across the newsosphere today, President Barack H. Obama today issued an executive order (EO) revoking President George W. Bush's EO that banned federal funding of destructive embryonic stem-cell research (ESC).

But what few realize -- I had no idea until I saw the second update to Karl's post -- is that the same Obama EO that allowed for a return of federal funding of ESC, which I personally support, by the way, also covertly ended Bush's federal-funding program for other forms of stem-cell research... stem-cell research that does not kill a human embryo.

I emphatically oppose ending funding for alternative sources of stem cells; I want to see all stem-cell research funded, especially in areas that have already yielded medical treatments (that is, the non-ESC research). I believe ESC has great potential, but other kinds of stem cells also have potential -- along with actual results.

Naturally, the Obama administration does not have the courage to announce this part of their scheme; here is all they say at the very end of the EO (it didn't come up in the press coverage at all):

Sec. 5. Revocations. (a) The Presidential statement of August 9, 2001, limiting Federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells, shall have no further effect as a statement of governmental policy.

(b) Executive Order 13435 of June 20, 2007, which supplements [!] the August 9, 2001, statement on human embryonic stem cell research, is revoked.

Googling "Executive Order 13435" reveals that EO 13435 provides, as the National Institutes of Health quotes it, that:

The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall conduct and support research on the isolation, derivation, production, and testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body and may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions, but are derived without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm a human embryo or fetus.

Note that this EO is not the one that prevents federal funding of destructive ESC; it only says that this particular EO directs funding only to non-destructive ESC and other stem-cell sources. In fact, the last non-boilerplate bullet point makes clear that EO 13435 does not forbid funding of ESC:

(c) Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect any policy, guideline, or regulation regarding embryonic stem cell research, human cloning by somatic cell nuclear transfer, or any other research not specifically authorized by this order, or to forbid the use of existing stem cell lines deemed eligible for other federally funded research in accordance with the presidential policy decision of August 9, 2001, for research specifically authorized by this order.

That is as clear as clear can be: There's no point to revoking EO 13435 other than terminating funding of alternative stem-cell research. (The complete text of Bush's EO 13435 can be found here.)

President Bush's last Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Okerlund Leavitt, tasked the National Institutes of Health with funding this research into alternative sources of stem cells; NIH created a paper that implemented the order, relying primarily on a previous (2005) "white paper," Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells from the President’s Council on Bioethics. This white paper identified several promising sources of stem cells that did not require the destruction of a human embryo (including one that we discussed on this very blog).

The NIH program is now dead as a clam. Obama's executive order kills it, without fanfare -- heck, without even notice beyond the bare sentence quoted above, which tells one absolutely nothing and even implies the falsehood that the second order revoked also prevented federal funding of ESC.

It's possible that the Obama administration intends to re-fund such alternative stem-cell research later; but if so, the easiest way for Obama to do so would be to leave Bush's EO in place, but simply direct the incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services (possibly Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, unless she turns out not to have any tax problems) to monkey with the funding to suit Obama's own preferences. There is no reason to kill the entire funding EO; well, no legitimate reason, anyway; there are several possible motivations beyond this defunding, but none of them is charitable (I end with the one I find most convincing):

  1. Political, philosophical, or emotional opposition to any program initiated by George W. Bush.
  2. Visceral opposition to any program "catering" to the religious Right or pro-life crowd.
  3. Vindictive retribution against those who pushed the former president into issuing an EO banning federal funding of destructive ESC. ("Fine! Then I'll erase some of your equations, Filstrup!")
  4. A bizarre pleasure in killing human embryos for no particular reason.
  5. And my personal conclusion, that Barack Obama -- and the liberal and socialist interests he fronts -- fear that medical breakthroughs resulting from research in stem-cells that come from sources other than human embryos might reduce public support for ESC research; so they only want to fund stem-cell research that requires the killing of human embryos.

To me, that fits well with the radical pro-abortion views of, e.g., NOW and the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL); those organizations appear to want every woman to have at least one abortion, believing (probably wrongly) that that would produce a permanent constituency for "abortion on demand." I suspect that liberals want ESC precisely because it creates a public good arising from abortion (medical miracles), thus leading to more support for abortion.

Now as I've said many times, I have no objection even to destructive embryonic stem-cell research; I don't consider embryos to be human persons. But I certainly don't demand that we kill embryos even when unnecessary! It seems a waste of a resource for creating more people in civilized, Western democracies -- and we're not exactly overstocked with people in the West. Even this country is barely meeting replacement fertility rate.

Besides destructive ESC, about which decent people may honestly differ, we shoudl fully fund at the federal level all other promising stem-cell research, including:

  • Adult stem cells.
  • Stem cells derived from "somatic cell de-differentiation." These are cells (not embryos) that have already differentiated and ceased being pluripotent (able to become any other type of cell); they can be reprogrammed to restore their "pluipotent" status.
  • Placental stem cells.
  • Uterine-fluid stem cells.
  • Embryonic stem cells obtained non-destructively (see the Big Lizards post linked above).
  • Stem cells from "organismically dead embryos." That is, cells taken (with parental consent) from human embryos that are already deceased for other reasons, typically the "irreversible cessation of cell division in the embryo observed in vitro." This would not include death by abortion, only the natural "organismic death" of the developing embryo (usually at the 4-cell or 8-cell stage), which often simply stops dividing by itself, without external intervention.
  • Stem cells derived from "biological artifacts." These are cells produced by "altered nuclear transfer" (ANT) so that they will function as stem cells, but could never develop into a complete human being, even if allowed to grow. It's similar in technique to cloning, but no human being is or could be produced.

    An example given in the white paper is a non-embryonic nucleus that is first modified to lack the genes for "cell to cell signalling" (which is vital to all living organisms), then transported into a non-embryonic cell whose own nucleus has been removed. Neither cell came from an embryo; and neither cell, nor the hybrid produced by ANT, could possibly grow into a human being.

Each of these techniques is as promising as, or more promising than destructive embryonic stem-cell research; but none involves killing a human embryo. Horrifyingly, I can think of no reason to believe that Obama is terminating funding to such research despite the fact that no embryos die; all roads seem to lead to him terminating such funding because of the fact that no embryos die.

One of many reasons I hope Barack H. Obama fails... to enact his various socialist schemes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 9, 2009, at the time of 7:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 7, 2009

I'll Take Both A and B, Patterico

Hatched by Dafydd

Patterico published a post yesterday comparing two statements, one by Rush Limbaugh, the other by Huffington Post commentator Lee Stranahan. (Patterico titled his post "More on Limbaugh," ha ha.)

Patterico draws a parallel between the two statements -- not difficult, since Stranahan cooperated by deliberately crafting his to reflect Limbaugh's -- and our friend Patterico appears to believe he has scored a point by noting that both have the same structure (which was Stranahan's point anyway). Here's Patterico:

If I were a liberal, and if Stranahan had had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views, I’d want to tell him to find a different way to say what he said. Do you think it would help Democrat politicians to spend days answering questions like: “Do you also want the Iraq war to fail, like Lee Stranahan?” -- and have to spend time explaining to people that Stranahan didn’t really want soldiers to die? I’d tell Stranahan: You want to say you opposed Bush’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you wanted troops to die. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do -- and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t. You said it, but the implications of what you said could suggest to some that you might not have meant it....

Rush has had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views. As a result, I wish he’d find a different way to say what he said. I say to him: If you want to say you oppose Obama’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you want Americans out of work. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do -- and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t.

Anyone who bristles at hearing the phrase “You’re damn right I wanted the Iraq war to fail.” -- or who can imagine other Americans bristling at that line -- should understand what I’m saying.

I have a very different reaction than Patterico, however: I am offended by neither statement; neither makes me "bristle." I take each as a pronouncement of the core position of its speaker:

  • Rush Limbaugh wants Barack H. Obama's leftist revolution in America to fail utterly, even if that means many thousands of Americans are temporarily hurt economically; Limbaugh hopes and believes this will make America stronger, so that America will become once more the "shining city on a hill" that Ronald Reagan dubbed us, spreading American-style republicanism across the globe.
  • Stranahan wants America's military opposition to the militant Islamism of the Iran/al-Qaeda axis to fail utterly, even if that means many thousands of American soldiers are killed permanently; Stranahan hopes and believes this will make America weaker and more like a European country, so that internationalism will reign supreme and we have one-world government in the model of the United Nations.

What demarcates these polar-opposite worldviews is not the structure of their presentation but the substance of their philosophies; I ringingly endorse Limbaugh's and resoundingly reject Stranahan's.

I share Limbaugh's statement that he hopes Obama fails in his quest to remake America into a socialist state and remake the American citizen into the New Soviet Man... and I reject Stranahan's statement that he hopes the Iraq war fails to stop the tide of militant, fundamentalist Islamism, "jihadism," and terrorism from washing across the entire world, making America an international laughingstock and making it easier for his god, Barack Obama, to utterly transform us into antiAmerica.

I make no apology for being a partisan in that philosophical, political, and military conflict; and I'm astonished that Patterico doesn't see that we can defend Limbaugh's statement on its merits, and attack Stranahan's on its -- using as controversial language as we want -- without offending middle America or being in the least hypocritical: The two philosophies are substantively worlds apart, which is far more important to ordinary people than Stranahan's tendentiously crafted structural similarity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 7, 2009, at the time of 12:07 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 6, 2009

California Supreme Court Justices Will Decide Whether They or the People Get to Decide on Same-Sex Marriage

Hatched by Dafydd

The California Supreme Court (CSC) heard oral argument (no jokes, please) on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the initiative constitutional amendment that overturned a 2008 CSC ruling that had itself overturned a previous initiative, 2000's Proposition 22, restricting marriage to a union between one man and one woman.

When voters enacted Proposition 22 eight years ago, they merely reaffirmed what had been the law in California ever since it was incorporated as a state in 1850; prior to 2008, same-sex marriage was never valid or allowed here.

There are three questions at issue in the current CSC case:

  1. Was Proposition 8 legally placed upon the ballot as an initiative constitutional amendment?
  2. Does it violate California's "separation of powers" constitutional doctrine?
  3. If the amendment is upheld, how does that affect the 18,000+ same-sex marriages performed during the few months between the imposition of the CSC's decision and passage of Proposition 8?

The bits we don't care about

Issues (2) and (3) are ancillary to the main event. I have yet to see any discussion of how Proposition 8 supposedly violates separation of power. For heaven's sake, it simply defines marriage!

Is the argument that only the courts should get to do that, not the legislature or the citizenry, who write the laws the court supposedly interprets? I cannot imagine anyone taking that suggestion seriously. In any event, nobody seems to be writing about it, so I really can't comment.

And the third point above -- how Proposition 8 affects those same-sex couples who married in the brief window of opportunity -- is irrelevant to the state and country as a whole, however vital it may be to the individuals involved. If the CSC chooses to allow them to remain married -- which seems quite likely to me -- it's only out of compassion, not principle: The court simply feels sorry for the victims of its own malfeasance.

(It wouldn't violate the equal protection clause of the federal or state constitutions, because it's not based upon "immutable" characteristics, even if one believes sexual preference is immutable, but upon the actions of the individuals... no more than any privilege that sunsets. If a gay couple made it to the altar on time, they're in; if not, they're out. No jokes, please.)

Straight to the meat of the matter

Only one argument could strike down the proposition itself: whether it was properly put on the ballot as an initiative constitutional amendment in the first place. At issue is whether it's simply an amendment, which has been part of the initiative process since 1911, I believe; or whether it's sweeping enough to be considered a constitutional revision.

A revision would have required a 2/3rds vote in both houses of our state legislature (the State Assembly and the State Senate) to place it on the ballot, or else the same 2/3rds vote to call a state constitutional convention. Since neither of those were undertaken, if the CSC should rule that Proposition 8 created a "fundamental change to the [state] Constitution," then it would be struck down under question (1).

However, this is an awfully tough argument to make... given that all the amendment does is reinstate a previous initiative statute, Proposition 22, using exactly the same language. And all that statute did was reaffirm the status quo ante. How can reinstating the reaffirmation of the previous understanding possibly amount to a "constitutional revision?"

Mr. Peabody's Way-Back machine

On March 7th, 2000, the people of the state voted to inact an initiative statute comprising the following 14 words:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

At this time, California Family Code section 300 defined marriage just that way anyway:

300. (a) Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. Consent alone does not constitute marriage. Consent must be followed by the issuance of a license and solemnization as authorized by this division, except as provided by Section 425 and Part 4 (commencing with Section 500).

Proposition 22 was a precautionary measure against the possibility that California courts might attempt to cram same-sex marriage down our throats (no jokes, please) -- which, as it turns out, was remarkably prescient. So for eight years, Californians believed that the question of same-sex marriage was settled -- at least until supporters could muster enough votes to enact it via their own initiative; they tried once, but it was a disaster for the revisionists.

(The state legislature in California cannot vote to nullify a citizens initiative; they can only vote to place a legislative initiative on the ballot to overturn a citizens initiative... but we get to vote on that.)

We were rudely shaken awake on May 15th, 2008, when the California Supreme Court issued the ruling In re Marriage Cases (2008) 43 Cal.4th 757 [76 Cal.Rptr.3d 683, 183 P.3d 384], overturning the law enacted by 2000's Proposition 22 and all other statutes restricting marriage and the recognition of marriage to one man and one woman.

Four of the seven justices voted to overturn the will of the people of the state of California and legalize same-sex marriage; the names in parentheses are the governors who appointed each justice and the year appointed:

  • Chief Justice Ronald M. George (Pete Wilson-R, 1991/1996)
  • Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard (George Deukmejian-R, 1989)
  • Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar (Pete Wilson-R, 1991)
  • Associate Justice Carlos R. Moreno (Gray Davis-D, 2001)

The other three justices voted to preserve traditional marriage:

  • Associate Justice Marvin Baxter (George Deukmejian-R, 1991)
  • Associate Justice Ming Chin (Pete Wilson-R, 1996)
  • Associate Justice Carol Corrigan (Arnold Schwarzenegger-R, 2005)

The ruling took effect at the beginning of July, I believe. Since supporters of traditional marriage knew that the case was in the works, and knew that the court would probably rule the way it eventually did, Proposition 8 was already in the works. The initiative "title" -- that is, the description that appears on the ballot itself -- offered by those who qualified it for the ballot was "Limit on Marriage."

It qualified for the November ballot... and then, Attorney General Jerry Brown (yes, the former "Governor Moonbeam"), in a burst of unaccustomed neutrality on a contentious issue, decided to change the title to remove possible bias in the original title. Brown's version? "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry!"

Despite this bit of skulduggery, the initiative passed by a margin of 4.6%, 52.3 to 47.7. This was significantly less than Proposition 22 had passed by in 2000; but it was a November ballot (which tend to lean more to the left), it had the Brown title, and it was during the Obama sweep of California... a remarkable achievement showing the true strength of California's support for traditional marriage (Hispanic voters pushed it over the top). The lawsuits were immediately filed to overturn it, and those are the cases that were just argued today in the California Supreme Court.

Back to the future

It's generally impossible to say for sure how the court will rule; but in this case, the lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8 looks to be on shaky grounds. The attorneys for the groups seeking to overturn Proposition 8 in the tit-for-tat (no jokes, please) battle came in for some rough treatment from some of the justices... including two justices who actually voted to impose same-sex marriage on the state in the first place, Chief Justice Ronald M. George and Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard. From the New York Times story linked above:

The toughest and most opinionated questioning came from Justice Joyce L. Kennard, one of four justices who had ruled in May that same-sex marriage was legal.

She said on Thursday that by passing Proposition 8, the voters did not invalidate that entire decision, but in effect changed the meaning of the term “marriage.” It left intact, she said, the substantive rights that the court had granted same-sex couples.

Justice Kennard asked Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, an opponent of the measure, a question that resonated in the hearing.

“Is it still your view,” she said, “that the sky has fallen in as a result of Proposition 8, and that gays and lesbians are left with nothing?”

Mr. Minter argued that if the court upheld Proposition 8, same-sex couples would have “our outsider status enshrined in our constitution.”

According to AP, Kennard went even farther and spoke even more directly to her thoughts on the case:

Justice Joyce Kennard said the court was being asked to decide between two rights - the right of the people to change the constitution and the right to marry.

"And what I'm picking up from the oral argument in this case is this court should willy-nilly disregard the will of the people," she said.

While it's difficult to read the entrails of supreme court oral argument, this does not sound like a justice who leans towards throwing out the persistent vote of the people -- across three elections -- in favor of restoring traditional marriage to California.

I find it even more unlikely that one of the three dissenting justices, who do not believe the state constitution mandates same-sex marriage, would believe that the non-right of same-sex couples to marry would trump the enumerated right of the citizenry of this fair state to amend their own constitution. So if even one of the four justices in the majority of In Re Marriage Cases is persuaded that, notwithstanding the propriety or wisdom of banning same-sex marriage, the voters had the right to do so, then that's it... Proposition 8 stands.

All coming together (no jokes, please)

Yesterday, I was worried; but I'm extremely optimistic today. I feared the four who looked at a constitution that had never even contemplated any but traditional marriage in 153 years of statehood, and saw a constitutional mandate for same-sex marriage, would squint even harder and see that mandate as ineradicable by mere voters (for our own good, of course).

But it seems at least two of the four-justice majority in the earlier case recognize the enormity of the California Supreme Court nullifying a constitutional amendment enacted by the citizens to overturn a previous decision by the California Supreme Court: It smacks of tyranny of the European kind.

But if this amendment is upheld, as I believe it will be, then we in the Golden State have struck a magnificent blow for the right of we citizens of the several states to craft our own government, regardless of what our would-be robed masters command. And of course, we'll have preserved traditional marriage in America's largest state, to the great benefit of Western Civ.

But I'm still keeping my rabbits' feet crossed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 6, 2009, at the time of 12:01 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 5, 2009

The Obamaconomy in Action

Hatched by Dafydd

In President Barack H. Obama's ideal economy, the entire GDP of the United States flows to the treasury, thence is sent back into the economy (along a planned route, not haphazardly, as in Capitalism)... with the feds sucking the impurities out of the flow and retaining them for future use.

In other words, Barack Obama is basically an oil filter.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 5, 2009, at the time of 12:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 4, 2009

Descent Into Dissent on Operation Rushbo

Hatched by Dafydd

"Operation Rushbo" (I think the term belongs to Jonathan Martin at Politico) is the concerted campaign, begun by embedded Clintonistas and now run straight out of the White House, to paint Rush Limbaugh as "the head of the Republican Party,” as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it. It has two goals:

  • To drive a wedge between conservative and moderate Republicans, as they choose up sides on Limbaugh;
  • To make Limbaugh the face of the GOP, hoping this will turn off voters (who are supposed to hate the man, according to the Clintonista cabal).

It's the top story everywhere today, it seems. It was the subject of a lengthy article on Politico, articles on AP and other major news feeds, and it has been discussed throughout the blogosphere, including "dextrosphere" phenoms Power Line, Hot Air, Michelle Malkin, and Patterico's Pontifications. (And now on Big Lizards, though we're not as phenomenal as the luminaries above. And we're really not part of the dextrosphere.)

Everybody appears to accept the unexamined conclusion of James Carville, Paul Begala, and Rahm Emanuel that this helps Rush Limbaugh, helps the Democratic Party -- and hurts the GOP. From the Politico piece:

The bigger, the better, agreed [James] Carville. “It’s great for us, great for him, great for the press,” he said of Limbaugh. “The only people he’s not good for are the actual Republicans in Congress.”

But let's take a deep breath and rethink this. Who says Operation Rushbo is good for Democrats and bad for the GOP? I believe it's the other way around: The longer Democrats obsess on radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, the more they will cement their reputation as the unserious party; and the more opportunities will come for Republicans to make up for their shocking, early failure to take advantage of the Democratic miscue. Let me explain via three points.

1 Picking an argument with a guy who argues for a living

The president and all the president's men decided it was a great idea to attack a man with one of the world's biggest megaphones, a man with 20 million weekly listeners -- and who is one of the most articulate political debaters in America today... and who has been winning such political fights since before anybody ever even heard of Barack H. Obama (or Carville, Begala, and Emanuel, for that matter). Is this wise?

The more the Democrats focus on Limbaugh, the more exposure he gets; which means the more intelligent arguments against "Obamism" will be aired, the more people (including, increasingly, journalists) will demand that the president and Congress respond, and the more absurd it will seem as the incredibly shrinking president, Mr. "Spread the Wealth Around," debates a talk-show host -- and loses badly, just as he did against Wurzelbacher.

Any controversy that jerks Obama off the magic teleprompter into a real-time exchange is catastrophic for Obama, thus good for the GOP. This is why Limbaugh relishes this argument... and why he just challenged the president to a nationally televised debate (it'll never happen).

2 Asking "one question too many"

There is a famous but probably apocryphal story about Abraham Lincoln. During a trial where he was defending a man accused of biting off another man's ear in a bar room brawl, Lincoln got his chance to cross-examine the chief witness against his client.

"Did you actually see the defendant bite the ear off?" asked the young Mr. Lincoln.

"No sir, not directly."

"Did you see him bite the other feller at all?"

"Not as such, no."

"Did you even see the fight?"

"No, sir."

Lincoln pauses, then dramatically demands, "Then how do you know he did bite off the man's ear?"

"Because I saw him spit it out afterwards," says the witness -- and Lincoln realized immediately that he had asked "one question too many."

Democrats seem most exercised about Limbaugh's statement that he hoped that Barack Obama would "fail" -- which Limbaugh said at a time when the lion's share of the country, even including many who had voted for John S. McCain, wanted Obama to succeed in ending the recession.

The implication was that Limbaugh wanted America to fail, so that Republicans would be elected; but that dog won't fly. That sort of bull in the manger thinking is much more the Democrats' line than ours... remember Rahm Emanuel's comment about "Never allow[ing] a crisis to go to waste?"

If liberals could have let well enough alone, it would certainly have damaged Rush Limbaugh's image, thus the image of Republicans in general. But they cannot help themselves; by blowing this up into a huge national controversy, demanding to know just what Limbaugh meant, they ask one question too many; they let Limbaugh have another crack at making his point.

And of course, it turns out he really does have a good one: All Rush or any elected Republican leader has to say is, "Obama's radical schemes will destroy the America we know and turn us into Sweden or France... and I certainly do hope Obama fails in his radical agenda, so that the great American experiment will win; and our country will return once more to being that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan evoked so beautifully."

3 A challenge, not a crisis

One of the original intents of Operation Rushbo, according to Hot Air, was to instigate internecine warfare between conservative and moderate Republicans. To the extent that top GOP officials have been running around like chickens with their legs cut off, alternately attacking Limbaugh then groveling to him, it has succeeded. Certainly, RNC Chairman Michael Steele (whom I very much support -- for the moment) did not cover himself with glory by trashing Limbaugh on a cheesy television talk show.

That aspect certainly helps Democrats and hurts Republicans. But the problem is not the operation itself but the stupid Republican reaction to it. The challenge is simply to respond better. Operation Rushbo is a two-edged sword that can be used to slice and dice its creators with a solid response.

The GOP should begin by ignoring it (that is, if nobody brings it up, don't let us do it!) When frustrated journalists directly ask a Republican elected official, he should say, "Rush Limbaugh has a great radio talk show; he practically invented the whole industry. He articulates conservative ideas very well, and we love to hear from Rush and every other host or pundit or sage who has the best interests of the country at heart. But let's get real: The leaders of the Republican Party are the top elected officials plus the Chairman of the Republican National Conference."

And then the GOP responder should look the journalist right in the eye, smile, and ask, "What I think Americans really want to know is, why do Democrats always go after ordinary people, like Rush Limbaugh or Joe 'the Plumber' Wurzelbacher, whenever taxpayers start asking the president and his liberal allies in Congress some tough questions? And why are you guys in the elite media always so anxious to become human shields, throwing yourselves between President Obama and the army of ordinary Joes and Rushes, who don't like the frankly Socialist schemes coming out of the White House? Why are you guys carrying water for James Carville and Rahm Emanuel?"

That would, I think, flip the consequences around to hurt Democrats and help Republicans.

Rush on a nutshell

So if we're stupid and respond stupidly, then Operation Rushbo will be a success, and the Republican brand will be damaged. But if we're even halfway intelligent and respond accordingly (as half-wits, not lack-wits), it will be the Democrats who end up stammering like Robert Gibbs on a bad-tongue day -- and Republicans will gain significantly against the majority party.

A strategy that depends upon the enemy being utter fools is a foolish strategy. Once again, the Clintonista cabal has outsmarted itself; and it has also outsmarted Obama, Squeaker Pelosi, and Majority Leaner Reid in the process. But it's still up to Republican leaders -- I don't mean Rush Limbaugh -- to take advantage of the opening.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 4, 2009, at the time of 6:27 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 3, 2009

Bostonizing America

Hatched by Dafydd

A number of Massachusetts same-sex couples, not content with their judicially decreed right to marry in that state, are now suing the federal government to force them to offer the same benefits to same-sex couples -- income-tax filing status, Social Security, federal pensions, and suchlike -- that they offer to opposite-sex married couples. Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight.

The Associated press story quotes numerous advocates of exactly such a change, including President Barack H. Obama:

President Barack Obama has pledged to work to repeal [the Defense of Marriage Act] and reverse the Department of Defense policy that prevents openly gay people from serving in the military. [DOMA says that states and the federal government cannot be forced to recognize same-sex marriages (SSMs) from other states, despite the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution.]

Only one opponent is quoted... at the very end of the article. AP quotes Mathew Staver, whom I've never heard of, from the Liberty Counsel, which I've also never heard of, making a weak counter that amounts to nothing more than a statement of purpose:

"Massachusetts has made benefits available on a state level, but Massachusetts can't force the federal government's hand or the other states to accept same-sex marriage," said Mathew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit that says it's dedicated to advancing religious freedom and the traditional family.

Wikipedia tells me that Liberty Counsel is a husband and wife pair of attorneys, possibly with others, who defend or prosecute cases involving religious liberty; they have some sort of affiliation with Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University and clearly base their opposition to SSM on religion -- which is a very unconvincing argument, since everyone knows we have religious liberty in this country. (There are much better secular arguments against SSM; see many previous posts here on Big Lizards.)

Lost in the non-debate is any nuance. For example, I strongly support the second policy change attributed to Obama above -- allowing gays to serve openly in the military and in combat; but I adamantly oppose SSM. Yet according to the elite media, I don't exist.

There are two classes of people, as seen from Liberalville:

  • Positive people who support omnibus legislation to remove each and every policy, public or private, that treats same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex married couples or gay men and women differently than heterosexual men and women... from marriage to adoption to renting a room to military service to being a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America;
  • Negative people who hate anybody who is different, want to see all gays killed, think gays are all going to Hell, are violent bigots, are probably racists and sexists as well as being homophobes (a given), and are vile, disgusting people who should be locked away for the good of America.

No room for Mr. In-Between!

This is the worst form of mass judgmentalism -- which is supposed to be the greatest crime anyone can commit, if you believe liberals believe their own rhetoric. (Personally, I think it more likely they believe in the power of their rhetoric, rather than in its accuracy or honesty. Liberals know the impact of pointing at some poor schnook and crying "Witch!")

The Left does not even recognize individuals, only interest groups; and justice to a liberal or a socialist means a firm understanding of which groups have the power and which can be trodden on.

Gay activists and SSM advocates are tiny in numbers; but as a group, they have tremendous power, because they tap into the authority of the judiciary, where there are many liberal judges willing to prostitute their oaths in order to bring about what Thomas Sowell calls "the Vision of the Anointed."

Such powerful groups must be placated. By contrast, conservatives have emasculated themselves in the last eight years by falling upon and devouring each other -- as we just saw the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, do by taking the bait and attacking Rush Limbaugh. Fortunately, when Steele realized he had painted himself into a hole, he stopped digging; but it was a stupid, unforced error... which fits right into the conservative and Republican playbook, alas.

Our greatest problem today is that we seem congenitally unable to get our message out and across the nation, whether it's opposition to statism and socialism, support for traditional virtues, or the urgency of national security and the deadly peril posed by the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

There is obviously room for some disagreement: I support abortion in the early phases of pregnancy; Patterico supports SSM; and both of us (I believe) support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. If the GOP were restricted only to those people who Limbaugh would call conservatives, it would soon go the way of the Constipation Party, the Rewarmed Party, and the Libertine Party.

But we must insist upon vocal support for at least the solid center of the principles of Republicanism:

  • The importance of marriage (whether or not one includes SSM under that definition);
  • Support for a culture of life (at least where nearly everyone agrees on personhood);
  • Defending the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic (including defending it from arrogant and elitist journalists, who believe in "outing" any classified program they dislike);
  • The essential Americanness of individual, mind-your-own-business, personal liberty (as much as possible; but my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins);
  • Capitalism (with some obvious safeguards built in so the whole shebang doesn't collapse);
  • Due process and the rule of law (with the conscience of the people being the ultimate safeguard).

Most liberals and Democrats oppose all of these principles in principle, though there are of course exceptions: They scoff at marriage and take every opportunity to undermine it; they support what can only be described as a culture of death (which may be why they find Islamist terrorists so congenial); they oppose individualism in general and individual liberty in particular -- except the "liberty" to be a libertine; they support naked socialism (as we see in the economic policies of President Obama and the Pelosi/Reid axis); and they believe in brazenly abusing due process to achieve their political goals.

Including suing the federal government to force it to de facto recognize SSM -- knowing full well that the Obama Department of Justice is very likely to throw in the towel, since it supports the underlying policy, SSM, anyway, and to hell with any precedent that might set. That's justice and due process... liberal style.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 3, 2009, at the time of 10:14 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► March 2, 2009

A Specter Is Haunting America

Hatched by Dafydd

Kudos to W. James Antle, III, online editor of the American Spectator, for the absolute best Sen. Arlen Specter (RINO-PA, 40%) title of the week-end: "the Specter That Haunts Conservatives."

Alas, Antle got it slightly wrong; I have corrected it in the title to this post. Antle blew the obvious because he was unable (or afraid) to draw the obvious conclusion: When a Republican ceases to vote with the party even on the most critical, bedrock, GOP issues -- such as the porkapalooza "stimulus" package and TARP II (pure, unadulterated socialism possibly leading to Venezuela-style nationalization of the banking system) and potentially even the "card check" legislation (forced unionization of workplaces, whether the workers want it or not) -- then it's time to dump that Republican in a primary, even if that means a more liberal Democrat is elected.

Why swap King Log for King Stork? Four reasons:

  1. Even if Specter votes with us on a small handful of less important issues, his presence so muddies the GOP message that it will sap the strength of the party for many election cycles, resulting in a much more catastrophic ultimate collapse than if we simply amputated the gangrenous limb right now.

You can't beat something with nothing. Socialism has a well-defined philosophy of governance -- "Everything inside the State, nothing outside the State," as Mussolini put it -- and their agenda flows directly from that. They have their economic theorists (from Keynes all the way to Marx), their military theorists (from Pelosi all the way to Murtha), and their political theorists (from Ayers and Alinsky to Hillary to Samantha Power to Rahm Emanuel).

If Republicans present muddled messages; if they talk about fiscal responsibility but vote for wildly irresponsible budgets; if they say they support freedom of choice but vote to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections; if they say the most urgent foreign-policy task is to defeat terrorists and Communist extremists, but then they vote to confirm cabinet officials who attack Israel, who apologize for America acting in America's interest, and who kow-tow to Iran, North Korea, and Russia... then how can we possibly ask voters to throw out the Democrats and vote for us? Voters don't even know what Republicans stand for, other than saying No to all the "free money" that Democrats want to give everyone (well, everyone who is a reliable Democratic voter-donor, anyway).

Republicans like today's Arlen Specter make it virtually impossible for the GOP to get its message out -- because nobody within the GOP can reconcile the dichotomous messages of the different Republican factions. Some "diversity" of opinion is fine -- but not on bedrock Republican issues, such as a strong national defense, individual freedom, limited government, traditional moral values, and Capitalism. One by one, we must send the thunderous herd of RINOs packing.

  1. If Specter moves hard left yet still retains support from the Republican establishment, then won't he do it again and again, with every vote? If he's Arlen Specter today, he'll be Lincoln Chafee next year -- and Jumpin' Jim Jeffords the year after that.

Like in Texas Hold 'Em: If you've got nothing, but you call a raise anyway -- hoping to improve with the next card -- then what are you going to do the next round of betting, when your opponent raises again? You have fewer chances to win, but you're much more deeply invested than the last round, and you may feel even more desperate to defend your rotten hand.

At this point, the entire Republican establishment is lining up behind Specter; they have an awful lot invested in that one senator, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee and number-two Republican on Appropriations. So if next month, he is the swing vote that takes away free and fair union elections or opens the door to a return of the inaptly dubbed Fairness Doctrine, the GOP establishment will probably remain behind him.

And if later in the year, Specter provides the critical vote that brings about socialized health care, overturns the ban on partial-birth abortion, overturns the Defense of Marriage Act, or enacts a full-blown amnesty for illegal immigrants (not merely the plea-bargain authored by McCain), well, the committee heads, the minority leader, and Party Chairman Michael Steele will probably be "pot committed" to back him even then. They'll tell Pat Toomey, Specter's likely rival in the GOP primary in Pennsylvania, to go boil his head... despite the fact (or because of it) that Toomey nearly bumped off Specter in the 2004 GOP primary.

And then what do they do when, immediately after winning reelection in 2010, Specter turns his coat and becomes a Democrat -- but doesn't change any of his positions? How can the Republican establishment justify dropping their support for old Arlen?

Specter must be sent packing now, in the 2010 primary... even if the Republican candidate loses. We won't be any worse off on the most critical issues than we are right now.

  1. The establishment likes Specter because they believe he will be more electable than any conservative replacement on the ticket; but it's actually an open question whether Specter is electable at all today.

For one thing, he has so alienated Pennsylvania Republicans that he will almost certainly get a much smaller percentage of the GOP vote this time than back in 2004. At the same time, the Democratic registration edge over Republicans in that state has doubled. Even if Specter goes heavily liberal, he won't be as acceptable to the Left as whoever is the Democratic nominee: In a race between a Democrat and a "Democrat," the Democrat usually wins.

I think it boils down to this. I believe 2010 will be an expectedly unexpectedly Republican year: Expectedly because it's an off-year election, and those usually result in election losses for the incumbent party; unexpectedly because everyone and his monkey's uncle seems to believe that Democrats are now and will remain invincible for the next thirty years.

I don't accept the latter meme. I believe that public reaction will be very strongly negative to the socialist agenda of President Barack H. Obama and the corrupt and incompetent congressional Democrats. I believe we will end up winning a number of races that are written off as hopeless now... but only if we have a candidate who is not compromised by his own complicity.

If, on the other hand, I'm wrong, and it's not a Republican year -- then Specter is toast as well. So what difference does it make? We need to give Specter the boot in the primary, and the Republican leadership should lead the way; thus we'll be ready if 2010 is a better year than expected -- and poised if the turnaround year is 2012 or 2014, instead.

  1. "Pour l'encouragement des autres," as I believe Voltaire said.

This one is really simple: If we can knock off an old warhorse like Arlen Specter for deviating too far from mainstream Republicanism -- even if his conservative replacement on the ticket loses the general election -- that will put the fear of God (or at least the fear of GOP) in other putative "moderate" Republicans. If Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 67%), or Dick Lugar (R-IN, 60%), or Susan Collins (R-ME, 30% !), or Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 28% !!!) is defeated in a primary election, it doesn't help the dumpee if the Democrat subsequently wins the general election; dumpee is still out pounding the pavement, perhaps holding a sign reading "will compromise ethics for praise in the Times."

To quote Bill Clinton (talking to some other jackanapes), It's time for Arlen Specter to go. It's time for the Republican conference to grow a spine and back strong challengers, whenever the incrumbent Republican does nothing but give ammunition to the Democrats. It's time for Republicans to pay as much attention to party loyalty as the Democrats do: We should not allow officeholders to call themselves Republicans when they disagree with American GOP voters on the most fundamental aspects of Republicanism.

It's time, in short, for Republicans to stop being the "party of orderly succession" and become "the party of consistency, clarity, and honesty."

It's only then, I believe, that we can become "the party of winning elections" once more.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 2, 2009, at the time of 5:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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