Sunday, November 30, 2008
Day Without A Gay is a protest against California Prop. 8, which enshrined in the California state constitution the traditional definition of marriage. Even before passage, supporters of Prop. 8 were subjected to boycott calls by opponents, including some law professors. The Mormon Church is the latest target of protesters. Some gay marriage advocates blame Mormons for passage of Prop. 8 because of Mormons' organizational efforts. A boycott of the State of Utah and the Sundance Film Festival also is planned.
Other efforts to seek retribution for the passage of Prop. 8 include the identification of donors to pro-Prop. 8 groups, and resulting boycott of businesses, and other acts of intimidation. While boycotts long have played a part in American political life, this may be the first boycott effort aimed at a specific religious group or people who merely donated money to a political cause.
There is equally convincing evidence, however, that black ministers actively supported Prop. 8, and black churchgoers and black women in particular, were one of, if not the, decisive electoral factors. Nonetheless, there have been no protests at black churches or call to boycott black sponsored events.
Given the substantial majority that voted for Prop. 8 (roughly equal to Barack Obama's national majority), and the passage of similar propositions in Florida and other states by even larger margins, it is unlikely that reactive boycotts or intimidation will work in changing the electoral map. That is where Day Without A Gay comes in.
Day Without A Gay is intended to demonstrate the importance of gays in the economy by having people “call in gay.” According to the organizers, "Gay people and our allies are compassionate, sensitive, caring, mobilized, and programmed for success. A day without gays would be tragic because it would be a day without love."
Regardless of one's position on gay marriage, Day Without A Gay is foolish and counterproductive. A similar tactic was used with regard to illegal immigrants on May 1, 2006, and the self-boycott failed miserably. While some cities got large crowds, there was a substantial backlash against the boycott. In the end, the illegal immigrant protests did not advance the cause of illegal immigrants one iota.
There also is something self-absorbed and self-flagellating about Day Without A Gay. What message are the organizers really sending. Is it one of love, or one of anger?
And why is missing work the answer? How about going to work and doing extra community service after work, or on a weekend. The whole concept of "calling in gay" is childish and insults the very cause at the heart of the protest.
Supporters of gay marriage must realize that if gay marriage is to prevail, it will be on the strength of the arguments in court and the court of public opinion, not on threats and intimidation. "Calling in gay" is not an argument, it's an embarrassment to the gay rights movement.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Indian government did not have to take the terrorists captive. In the heat of a battle, it would have been just as easy for an Indian commando to get off one last burst of fire, and dispatch a terrorist with extreme prejudice. No one would have known the difference. But there was an incentive not to do so. That incentive was the opportunity to interrogate the terrorist to obtain actionable information. Take away the ability to engage in meaningful interrogation, and you have removed an important incentive to take a terrorist captive.
In the war with terrorists, the United States faces a similar dilemma. Currently, there is a strong incentive for the US to capture rather than kill terrorist suspects, in order to obtain information regarding terrorist plans and structure. Rather than dropping a bomb on a house, it is in the US national interest whenever possible to send troops into the house to capture the targets. The intelligence benefits from these efforts are mostly secret, but what has leaked out shows that the capture rather than killing of terrorists has benefited the US effort against terrorism. Sometimes, such as in areas of Pakistan, this is not possible, and a missile fired from a drone is the only alternative.
Removing the incentive to take terrorists captive may have an unintended consequence of leading to more terrorist deaths. The closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Gitmo), and providing terrorists captured abroad with the full panoply of US constitutional rights, makes this unintended consequence more likely.
The history and litigation regarding Gitmo are well known. Numerous cases have worked their way to the US Supreme Court and other federal courts regarding the rights of Gitmo detainees. These cases have largely upheld Bush administration policies, while providing prisoners a path to the US judiciary in limited form. Barack Obama has repeated his pledge to close Gitmo, although he has not revealed what he would do with the residents.
How broadly closing Gitmo changes the incentive to capture rather than kill terrorists depends upon what the alternative looks like. If the alternative is the application of domestic evidentiary and judicial standards to suspected terrorists captured on the battlefield, as some have advocated, then there is no incentive to take captives. The levels and burdens of proof required in a domestic criminal trial are so great that almost no suspect captured on the battlefield will be convicted. Prosecutors have enough trouble convicting suspects picked up on the streets of Chicago; there will be little likelihood of convicting suspects picked up on the streets of Helmund Province.
There are a lot of issues involved in the Gitmo detainee cases, and I don't mean to suggest that anything goes with captives. But those arguing against any form of coercive interrogation, or who want to make it nearly impossible to convict terrorist captives, should understand the law of unintended consequences.
"Indian investigators are examining a satellite phone and GPS map recovered from a trawler, the Kubar, floating in the Arabian Sea. The crew was missing from the vessel except for its master whose body was found headless with bound limbs."
Friday, November 28, 2008
The situation raises the dilemma faced by Jack Bauer, the character on the television show 24. In a famous scene, Bauer tortures a suspect in order to get information regarding the location of a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Bauer locates the bomb, but not soon enough to avoid detonation.
While Indian authorities do not face a nuclear device, they do have custody of terrorists with knowledge of the plan of attack, the location of other group members, and details of the persons who gave training and support. What can and should the Indian authorities do to obtain the information and save lives?
Should Indian authorities, in the name of the rule of law, allow innocent people to die by refusing to use coercive interrogation techniques on people captured with smoking guns in their hands? Is it morally superior to allow people to die rather than to obtain information which could save lives?
We know what the NY Times would do, nothing.
What will President Obama do in a similar circumstance, when the theoretical world of a law professor meets the real world of terrorists who have knowledge of imminent attacks which put the lives of citizens at risk? Will President Obama allow legal theory to trump the President's obligation to protect innocent life? Lets hope we never have to find out.
There is no better example of media self-examination bias than an Op-Ed by Jon Friedman, Mr. Obama, Enjoy the Media Adulation While You Can. The article purports to be an expression of remorse for the shabby treatment of Hillary Clinton and John McCain at the hands of the pro-Obama mainstream media. Friedman seems honest in his intent, but even an honest member of the mainstream media cannot help but let Obamamania seep through. Witness the following:
Yes, I'm thrilled that he won the election, underscoring the American ideal that we live in a foreword-thinking democracy, where any man or woman can rise to the highest office in the land. And I'm proud that even Obama's staunchest foes -- particularly the man he defeated, John McCain -- seem to be willing to accept his victory and pledge to help him turn around the economy and cure the nation's other ills.Notice how Friedman presumes that electing Obama is "foreword-thinking." So those of us who supported McCain are backwards-thinking? Bias. Or how Obama's election proved that "any man or woman can rise to the highest office in the land." Really, I thought the whole point of the self-analysis was that one woman (hint, her name is Hillary) couldn't rise to the highest office because of media bias.
But Friedman saves the best for last. Even Obama's "staunchest opponents" are ready to help Obama, after he saves the economy, to "cure the nation's other ills." Ah yes, Obama as healer who can place his hands on the ill nation and work miracles. Isn't this type of aggrandizement of Obama the very problem Friedman purports to lament?
And what about all those unnamed "other ills." One thing I know for sure, there is one ill even Obama cannot cure. It's called pro-Obama mainstream media bias.
UPDATE: Some attentive commenters have noted the use of the term "foreword-thinking." That was the term used in the original Marketwatch Friedman post. Since then it has been corrected to "forward-thinking" with the explanation that "This is an update to fix a typographical error."
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
It is understandable why, roughly two months before Barack Obama takes office, some conclude that Obama is going to run a Bush III administration (not that THAT would be a good thing). Sure, the Defense and Treasury Secretaries are Bushies, and most of the other Cabinet members, White House senior staff, and senior transition team members are Clintonites (and in one case, a Clinton). One could conclude that Obama faked-out the left wing supporters who brought him from obscurity to the presidency in just a few years. But could this be a head fake to the right by someone who famously loves to shoot hoops and reputedly is a master of the head fake on the court?
We will not know until we see who Obama appoints to the positions at which the important policy implementation decisions are made, the Undersecretaries, the political appointees in Justice, the EPA and elsewhere, and of course, the judiciary. People at these levels make the day-to-day policy decisions that can deliver enormous economic, social and legal changes without you even knowing it, and even if you knew, there wouldn't be much you could do about it.
The purpose of a head fake is to create space between the shooter and the defender, so that the shooter gets a clear shot at the hoop. From the looks of it, Obama is going to have a clear shot.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Creating jobs through public works projects sounds good. We fill paychecks, while creating infrastructure. The problem is, public infrastructure projects have a long history of underestimating costs. Understatement of costs is endemic to public works projects. Almost every major infrastructure project has cost a multiple of its initial estimate, including the Denver Airport, the English Channel tunnel, and the Los Angeles-Long Beach light rail, to name just a few. Once these large public projects are started, there is no alternative but to finish them regardless of cost. Half-built roads and bridges, particularly where they replaced existing infrastructure, are publicly unacceptable.
The biggest boondoggle of all time was the Boston Central Artery/Tunnel Project, the so-called Big Dig. On the cost side, the Big Dig was a massive drain on public resources. While estimated to cost $6.5 billion, the final cost came in around $14.6 billion. By the time interest payments are completed, the total cost will be $22 billion. Some of the costs estimates were known to be inaccurately low soon after they were made.
On the construction side, the Big Dig was an equal disaster. From thousands of leaks to falling tunnel ceilings, construction was one problem after another. The project was a disaster for the contractors involved as well, resulting in a major bankruptcy. Public lobbying efforts by contractors corrupted the political landscape. Ultimately, the public paid the price by funding tens of billions in construction above and beyond what was contemplated, plus higher road tolls and delays in other infrastructure projects for lack of funding.
Equally important for the present Obama plan, when the project ended, the jobs disappeared. No lasting job creation was effected for the $14.6 billion in expenditures. Large infrastructure projects are good at creating jobs in the short run, but add nothing in the long run.
Of all the concepts to help build the economy, Barack Obama has seized on the one type of project -- public infrastructure -- that has the worst history of cost overruns, corruption, construction incompetence, and economic harm. There is nothing to suggest that the legacy of the Obama infrastructure plan, estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, will be any different.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
"Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. "During the primary campaign, Hillary Clinton made an almost identical comment:
"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.... It took a president to get it done."Hillary's comment created a firestorm of controversy. The New York Times described Hillary's statement as "a comment that Obama supporters and some other people viewed as minimizing Dr. King’s work." The New York Times further reported on the media hostility, as well:
"In a combative exchange on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” during a campaign swing through South Carolina, Mrs. Clinton was confronted by the program’s host, Tim Russert, over her remark and the unflattering news coverage that depicted her as insensitive toward Dr. King."That same NY Times article reported Barack Obama's criticism of the remark:
“Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn’t make the statement,” Mr. Obama said. “I haven’t remarked on it, and she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous.”Another NY Times article reported that Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina "was rethinking his neutral stance in his state’s presidential primary out of disappointment at comments by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton that he saw as diminishing the historic role of civil rights activists."
“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics,” said Mr. Clyburn, who was shaped by his searing experiences as a youth in the segregated South and his own activism in those days. “It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”Did David Brooks insult Dr. King's work? Was he insensitive? Should he be forced to backtrack and write a retraction? Where is the media firestorm?
The answer, of course, is that no retraction is needed by Brooks, and none was needed by Hillary, because the nearly identical statements were true. Yet during the primaries, the Obama campaign, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, was all too willing to twist Hillary's statements out of context to feed the charge that Hillary was stoking racism. It was a controversy created out of nothing to achieve a political advantage. It was what Michael Steele calls playing "the race card in reverse beautifully."
I thought this story was a joke, when I saw it posted on the Internet, but it is true. The NY Times Editorial Board has posted a blog entry criticising Sarah Palin for conducting a videotaped television interview against the backdrop of turkeys being slaughtered. According to The Times, "you don’t have to be a huge animal lover to question why Governor Palin chose to be interviewed — while issuing a traditional seasonal pardon of a turkey — while turkeys were being executed in the background."
I think the interview is great. How does The Times think turkeys get to the supermarket? Are they born wrapped in plastic with a pop-up timer? This interview, and the media's reaction, is priceless.
I'd rather watch this video, than watch NY Times editors butcher the news to fit their political agenda.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
"The stock market will not rebound unless and until it is clear that we have a president-elect who believes in the markets. Someone who understands that the people's money is not his money, who accepts the principle that success is not a crime. Someone who has learned from history that raising taxes diminishes and distorts economic activity, causes businesses to cut jobs, and ultimately results in lost revenue to the Treasury.
The markets are right to fear Obama. If you want you want the markets to flourish, you don't kill the entrepreneurial spirit of this country as Obama would by treating those who succeed as tantamount to criminals.
Tens of millions of Americans have lost trillions of dollars of net worth in the past three months. The best way to recoup that net worth is to grow the private sector, not the government. John McCain understands these principles, Barack Obama does not. Choose at your own peril."
"Assembly Considers Making R.I. Attractive To Business"
An overwhelming government budget fed by high taxes, a Democratic state legislature beholden to labor unions which overrides gubernatorial vetoes at will, and a culture of jealousy toward those who succeed.
Is Rhode Island our future?
UPDATE 11/21/2008: R.I. unemployment rate climbs to 9.3%
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Watch the video of the Ithaca Common Council debate over the "Community of Sanctuary" resolution, is here.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Adding to the bitterness of many SYMs is the feeling that the entire culture is a you-go-girl cheering section. When our guy was a boy, the media prattled on about “girl power,” parents took their daughters to work, and a mysterious plague seemed to have killed off boys, at least white ones, from school textbooks. To this day, male-bashing is the lingua franca of situation comedies and advertising: take the dimwitted television dads from Homer Simpson to Ray Romano to Tim Allen, or the guy who starts a cooking fire to be put out by his multitasking wife, who is already ordering takeout.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The Obama administration is looking more and more like the Bill Clinton administration. Of the 47 appointees named as of November 14, 2008, to transition or staff posts, 31 have ties to the Clinton administration, including all but one member of the 12-person Transition Advisory Board.
Some change. Hardly worth waiting for.
Rather than a national attack on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, we can expect to see city-by-city, town-by-town attacks on local stations which do not have the resources or will to fight the FCC. Similar to the community organizing model which worked so well in the campaign, we can expect Obama's mass e-mail lists to be used to generate focused local protests to shut down conservative talk shows at the local level. This was the model applied to talk radio in Chicago during the campaign, and it is coming to a radio station near you.
Radio and television stations are required to serve the interests of their local community as a condition of keeping their broadcast licenses. Obama needs only three votes from the five-member FCC to define localism in such a way that no radio station would dare air any syndicated conservative programming.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
"The suppression of legitimate political expression through false accusations of racism by the Obama campaign and its supporters is the defining theme of the 2008 campaign. This tactic, while it may be successful, is shameful and has damaged our society in ways we may not understand for years." Here
"We may know Obama better than Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers know Obama, or we may not know Obama at all." Here
"Barack Obama also reminds me of many lawyers I have dealt with in my career. He's the smooth talking lawyer on TV who will get you "the settlement you deserve." But he has no credibility where it counts because he hasn't beaten the insurance companies at trial. He is a paper lawyer who fools only his own clients. So Barack Obama can promise "tough diplomacy" with the likes of Iran, but he hasn't fought the tough fights that would cause dictators and tyrants to take him seriously." Here
Will President Obama be the moderate of the presidential campaign, the liberal of the primary campaign, or the radical of the past? Which Obama will assume the presidency when we open Door No. 2? Here
Why do they hate Sarah Palin so much? She's happy. Unhappy people can't stand happy people. Here
As with so many things in Obama's tax plans, social security "taxes" or "contributions" become just one more method of redistributing wealth. By separating contributions from benefits, however, Obama threatens the foundation of the social security system, and opens the social security system to all manner of political maneuvering. Here
At the rate we are going, who will be left when Obama comes for us? Here
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
The National Law Journal reported on the boycott as follows:
"Organizations representing thousands of legal educators say they will boycott the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in January if it is held at a San Diego hotel owned by a foe of same-sex marriage. The groups made up of law professors and legal writing professionals have sent letters to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), calling for it to move the site chosen for the conference in January. The groups object to holding the annual meeting at the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, a hotel whose owner, Douglas Manchester, has donated $125,000 to an initiative to outlaw same-sex marriage in California. The groups say that to attend the five-day event hosted primarily at the Manchester Grand Hyatt would conflict with their policies of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation."Some law professors have spoken out against this boycott, pointing out that a boycott of ideas is the opposite of what law professors are supposed to teach their students:
AALS is "a scholarly association that is supposed to be diverse in viewpoint and respectful of free speech. If the AALS leadership caves to the boycott threat, however, it will have punished the owner of the hotel for having exercised his constitutional free speech rights, while at the same time telling those of us in the AALS who disagree with the position taken by AALS Section on Legal Writing research and Reasoning, and the AALS Section on Teaching that our views are, at best, unimportant and, at worst, illegitimate."The AALS responded to the boycott threat with a Solomonic solution, continue to honor the contract to hold the convention at the Grand Hyatt, but encourage attendees to stay elsewhere and hold all events at the neighboring Marriott:
"Our contracts with the hotels provide that each hotel reserve a block of guest rooms, and leave to the AALS the choice of where to locate the AALS Registration, Exhibit Hall, Section Programs, Presidential Programs, and House of Representatives meetings. We will honor our contracts with both hotels, and we have exercised our option to hold all AALS events at the Marriott to ensure the maximum participation by our members."Apparently the Marriott is owned by the same person, so AALS appears to have accomplished nothing by this futile gesture. The futility of this suppression of free expression is particularly ironic, but raises some interesting questions.
If law professors are going to boycott supporters of preserving the traditional definition of marriage, will the law professors who urged the boycott of the Hyatt hotel also boycott Barack Obama's inauguration, which reportedly will have 1 million people in attendance? After all, while Barack Obama opposed California Proposition 8, Obama supports the traditional definition of marriage and aligned himself with numerous black ministers and others in the black community who oppose gay marriage.
Indeed, if recent exit polls are correct, it was the black community in California that was responsible for the passage of Proposition 8. Blacks voted for Proposition 8 in much higher percentages than other groups, and virtually all blacks voted for Obama. The conclusion is inescapable that black supporters of Obama were the determining factor in denying gays the right to marry in our largest state, California.
So will law professors stick to their principles? Will the law professors who want to boycott the San Diego Hyatt also boycott Obama's inauguration, rather than celebrate the election of a President who supports the traditional definition of marriage? Will the law professors party alongside members of the black community who overwhelmingly and decisively voted against gay marriage? Or will the law professors recognize that in a free society people are permitted to differ, and that the proper reaction to speech that offends you is more -- not less -- speech?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Palin-Africa hoax will haunt Palin the rest of her career, because the popular media culture always makes hyperbole out of negative stereotypes of conservatives. A Yahoo or Google search of "Palin continent" shows that this report has been run in hundreds of major newspapers and websites around the globe. By contrast, add the word "hoax" to the search term, and you will see that only a relatively small number of mostly conservative website reveal the hoax.
The media was willing to believe and spread the Palin-Africa hoax because the media (even Fox) implicitly and explicitly has accepted the "Palin is dumb" story line. This caricature of Palin stems from a host of other myths about Palin created and spread by the media, such as false reports of book banning, cuts to special needs funding, and membership in a secessionist party, to name just a few. Yet these hoaxes have become truth in the popular culture.
Perhaps the best example of hoax which becomes media truth is the "Bush lied, people died" parable of the Iraq war. No matter how many times you point out that Bill Clinton and his administration claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that numerous Democratic senators reached the same conclusion in 2002-2003 based upon the same intelligence available to President Bush, and that the leaders and intelligence agencies of numerous allies reached the same conclusion, it makes no difference.
An interview by Marvin Kalb of Bill O'Reilly for a PBS special, held in late September but only recently aired, illustrates this point. In questioning O'Reilly about why O'Reilly originally supported the Iraq war but now feels it was a mistake, Kalb presumed that O'Reilly should feel he was lied to by the Bush administration:
MARVIN KALB: Do you feel now that you were lied to then?
BILL O’REILLY: No.
MARVIN KALB: You don’t feel you were misled?
BILL O’REILLY: No. I think they made a mistake. I think that these Intelligence agencies, what they uncovered was wrong. It wasn’t a lie. It was a mistake.
Kalb so believes that Bush lied, that he couldn't leave it alone. Kalb came back to the point with further questioning later in the interview. After a while, Kalb the interviewer became Kalb the interviewee when he didn't receive the answers he liked:
MARVIN KALB: Right. Have you found, Bill, in your book, your work as journalist, observer, historian to a degree—do you think that presidents lie routinely? I hear this a lot.
BILL O’REILLY: You know, I’m not going to tell. I don’t make those assertions unless I’m 100% sure that there is a lie. I think that the people that say Bush lied about Iraq are irresponsible. Most of them are gutter snipes. There is no evidence that I’ve seen that he lied about Iraq, not one shred of evidence. And I know these people. Look. I had George Tenet on my program. I looked him in the eye. Now, is Tenet lying to me? Maybe. But if you look me in the eye and tell me something, Professor, I’m going to believe you. I’m going to believe Tenet. I’ve got no reason not to believe Tenet. Tenet walked up to me and he said, "I told Bush X, Y, and Z. That’s why Bush did what he did." So I’m going to believe him. Okay? You show me evidence Bush lied, fine. I’ll look at the evidence. You say he lied without that evidence, I’m not going to have respect for you. Lie is a pretty serious word. You could get just shot in the old west. Now we throw it around like, "Oh, yeah. You(?) look at this. Look at that." You better have that evidence before you make that accusation in my world.
MARVIN KALB: And you have had no evidence of a Bush lie.
BILL O’REILLY: None.
MARVIN KALB: Nothing that has come up in the course of explaining the war.
BILL O’REILLY: Not that I can see.
MARVIN KALB: And in the latest
Bob Woodward book, when he gives you documented evidence--
BILL O’REILLY: I read Woodward’s book. There is no outright lie assertion there.
MARVIN KALB: There are three or four areas, though, if you read the book carefully, where he quotes what it is that Bush said to him, to others internally, and what he then said to the American people. He said that in the book.
BILL O’REILLY: Did Woodward say in the book, and if he did I missed it, "Bush lied?"
MARVIN KALB: No. Woodward has a different way of doing it.
The Bush Lied, People Died mantra has entered the popular media culture and is taken to be true. You can still buy t-shirts with the slogan. No one, however, chants "Bill Clinton lied, people died" or "Joe Biden/Hillary Clinton/John Kerry/Tom Daschle/John Edwards/Chuck Schumer lied, people died." Only Republicans get such treatment.
UPDATE 11/13/2008 -- NY Times finally publishes a story about the Palin-Africa Hoax. Question: Why didn't The Times lead in exposing the hoax as vigorously as it leads in exposing classified secrets regarding the war against Al Qaeda? Why has The Times been days and weeks behind on this story, when the false "identity" of the hoaxster was exposed months ago?
Sharansky spend almost a decade in Soviet prison because of his activities on behalf of Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel. Sharansky was subjected to torture and other indignities, but never lost his spirit.Sharansky notoriously refused to obey even the most mundane orders from his captors. Sharansky understood that to compromise even a little would lead to compromising a lot. Throughout his ordeal, Sharansky kept his spirits alive by reading a small book of psalms.
As Sharansky was being led to the airplane that would take him from the Soviet Union to East Germany for the exchange, the Soviets confiscated his book of psalms.It would have been easy for Sharansky simply to keep walking towards the plane and freedom. But Sharansky understood that the Soviets confiscated his book of psalms not because they wanted the book, but because they wanted to show that even in this last moment, they were in control.
In front of reporters covering his departure, Sharansky sat in the snow refusing to move unless the Soviets gave him back his book of psalms. Here was this diminutive man, after 10 years in prison, on the verge of freedom, refusing to budge unless one of the world's two superpowers gave him back his book. And give him back his book of psalms they did. Sharansky proceeded to the plane, where he read Psalm 30: “I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.”
Jay Nordlinger's 2005 interview with Sharansky recounts not only the episode in the snow, but also the final moments when Sharansky walked to the car for the exchange:
Sharansky spent nine years in the Gulag, a harrowing time in which he demonstrated what resistance is. More than 400 of those days were spent in punishment cells; more than 200 were spent on hunger strikes. His refusal to concede anything to the Soviet state was almost superhuman. This was true to the very last. When they relinquished him to the East Germans, they told him to walk straight to a waiting car — “Don’t make any turns.” Sharansky zig-zagged his way to that car.
Isn't it time for conservatives and supporters of free enterprise, individual liberty, and capitalism in the Congress and elsewhere to do the political equivalent of sitting down in the snow? When told by the new administration, the majority party in Congress, and the mainstream media to walk straight, isn't it time to zig and zag?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Playing Politics With The News Again: The Times Waits Until After The Election To Reveal Secret Operations Against Al Qaeda Leaders
Many will ask, justifiably, why The Times feels compelled, time and again, to reveal the highly classified details of this country's war on terror knowing that such disclosure will have negative consequences for our country's success. A secondary, but important question, is why The Times waited until after the election to reveal that our country, on orders approved by the much-maligned President Bush, had conducted these attacks on Pakistani soil. While The Times had reported public information on some attacks in Pakistan, The Times never previously revealed the extent of these efforts, and the fact that the efforts were approved by President Bush. The answer to the question of the timing of the revelation is that once again, The Times tailored its news coverage to support Barack Obama's campaign.
Remember that one of Obama's criticisms of the Bush administration, and by implication John McCain, was that the US had not conducted raids into Pakistan in an attempt to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. Obama gave a widely reported speech in July 2007, in which he laid out his policy which was that "[i]f we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will." This position was repeated throughout the campaign. Yet The Times remained silent. The Times maintained its secrecy as Obama hammered the Bush administration over the failure to take action in Pakistan, and used that hammer to beat John McCain.
Is it coincidence that The Times chose to reveal this information only after the election? Hardly plausible. The Times probably never should have made this revelation, but having decided to do so, The Times once again played politics with the news by withholding information that would damage, even if so slightly, Obama's campaign. The Times is doubly duplicitous in this affair; once for revealing classified information which damages our country's safety, and once again for timing such disclosure to aid its political candidate of choice.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
"Put as many long-range torpedoes into the water aimed at Senator Obama's ship of state before Republicans lose control of the Executive Branch as possible. Here are a few:
*Appoint U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a special prosecutor so he can pursue his investigation of Tony Rezko and his corrupt dealings with Illinois's governor and other creatures and spoilsmen of the Daley Machine. This will make it politically difficult for a President Obama to pardon Mr. Rezko and impossible for him to terminate Mr. Fitzgerald as a federal officer come January 21 as a way of de-railing this investigation.
* Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate ACORN's voter registration methods and its dealings with the Obama campaign.
* Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Obama campaign's on-line fundraising operation, including its disabling of the credit card security software on its on-line donations system. File a complaint with the Federal Election Commission regarding same.
* Appoint a bipartisan (love that word!) presidential commission to review the candidates' fundraising in this election cycle and to recommend changes in federal election laws.
File ethics complaints against Sen. Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank for their relationship with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Countrywide Mortgage."
Friday, November 7, 2008
Obama first got elected to the state senate by eliminating all his opponents through challenges to nominating petitions. Obama got elected to the U.S. Senate when his supporters gained access to the divorce records of his opponent, allowing Obama to opine that divorce records should not be part of the campaign. Obama preached hope and change, while his supporters did the dirty work.
While running for President, Obama built his momentum and delegate lead through caucuses, where there is no secret ballot and the best organized candidate wins. Stories of intimidation of Clinton supporters in these open forums abound. In both the primary and the general elections, Obama skillfully used the race issue both to inspire people to vote for him, and to silence criticism of his background and policies.
Despite this clear history of Obama being someone who does whatever it takes to win, many are expressing shock and surprise that Obama appointed the ultimate Clinton-era political operator as Chief of Staff. Get real people! If you think Obama isn't going to push hard on his agenda, you are ignoring history at your peril.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"Too many conservatives think we've seen all this before -- in 1964 and 1974 and 1992 -- and that we know how to handle it. Fly, meet ointment: We're not dealing with the same sorts of opponents. These New Alinskyites who are taking over the White House, combined with the most leftist congressional leadership in memory, will not let us play by the same rules under which conservatives recovered from those earlier debacles. They will try to drastically tilt the playing field, seed our side of the field with land mines and, in short, rig the process to make it next to impossible for the political right, or Republicans, to recover. And they are likely to succeed in at least some of these designs."
These were not acts contrary to the ideals of the Soviet Union, but were the essence of the Soviet Union. Unlike the United States, which showed an ability to change, which fought a war over slavery, which enacted civil rights legislation, and then put that legislation into action, the Soviet Union and communism in general have shown an inability to change for freedom. How ironic that at the very moment Obama supporters were celebrating the historic election of a black person as President, they would unfurl a flag which represents the worst of history.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
This country remains a center-right nation (just look at some of the ballot initiatives), something Obama shrewdly recognized as he abandoned one liberal policy position after another after the primaries. Obama won because he is the best politician of our generation, maybe in our history, making Bill Clinton look like a piker. And Obama is politically lucky, as all successful politicians must be. If not for the market meltdown just a month out from the election, we would be celebrating a McCain-Palin victory.
You don't need think tanks, exit poll analysis, psychoanalysis, or new policy positions. Read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The majority of Americans support the principles set forth in these documents. Everything you need to know is in there.
- The Obama who voted straight party line in the Senate, or the Obama who campaigned as being beyond partisanship;
- The Obama who used class warfare to belittle and vilify the "richest 5%" in order to gain political advantage, or the Obama who wants to bring us all together;
- The Obama who tolerated racial hate speech in his church and his choice of political friends, or the Obama who later distanced himself from these friends during the campaign;
- The Obama who used the "race card" to suppress legitimate criticism of his record and policies, or the Obama who campaigned on a platform of being post-racial;
- The Obama who views this country as fundamentally flawed, or the Obama who campaigned on a theme of love of country;
- The Obama who for over a decade articulated a desire to nationalize health care through a single payer system, or the Obama who campaigned on preserving the private healthcare system;
- The Obama who was comfortable around with most anti-Israel elements of our society, or the Obama who pledges to support Israel's security;
- The Obama whose campaign intimidated critics by threatening prosecution of political speech, or the Obama who supports free political debate;
- The Obama whose campaign deliberately disabled standard security functions on its credit card fundraising system (so as to allow foreigners to contribute, and citizens to exceed legal limits), or the Obama who decries the role of money in politics;
- The Obama who urged his supporters to "get in the face" of those who disagree, or the Obama who wants us all to get along; or
- The Obama who wants to deprive workers of a secret ballot on union votes, or the Obama who supports the working class.
Or maybe we'll get none of the above. At this point, nothing would be a surprise.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
As we conclude this final day before the election, the arguments have been made, the advertisements run, and the cash spent. Through all the noise, the essential decision facing the American people has not changed.
It's all about trust.
I trust John McCain. Although I have never met him, I feel I know him. McCain's life has been closely examined through decades of public service and campaigning, and relentless media scrutiny and attacks. If McCain wins, there will be policy disagreements, but there will be no surprises.
Who is Barack Obama? Despite his 18 months in the spotlight, I don't feel that I know him. Obama's life, education, and job history are mostly a mystery, shielded from public scrutiny by Obama and a compliant media. Most of what we know about Obama comes from Obama. I don't blame Obama for the fact we don't know him. Good politicians play their cards close to the vest, and Obama is a good politician. I blame the media, which has not done its job in vetting Obama, and which has taken sides in this contest from the start.
Worse still, what we are slowly learning about Obama in these final days before the election transcends policy differences, and goes to the very nature of whether we will continue to be a free-market capitalist society which supports like-minded people around the world. If Obama is elected President, the only surprise will be if there are no surprises.
To turn a phrase from the Bill Clinton campaign, it's the trust, stupid.
"People on these panels, he said, are forever worrying about their personal relevance and effectiveness, and feel that if they deviate too far from the consensus, they will not be given a serious role. They self-censor personal doubts about the emerging group consensus if they cannot express these doubts in a formal way that conforms with apparent assumptions held by the group."
Shiller then applies this theory to his own personal experience in warning against the speculative housing and credit bubbles:
"From my own experience on expert panels, I know firsthand the pressures that people — might I say mavericks? — may feel when questioning the group consensus.... In addition, it seems that concerns about professional stature may blind us to the possibility that we are witnessing a market bubble. We all want to associate ourselves with dignified people and dignified ideas. Speculative bubbles, and those who study them, have been deemed undignified."
The concept of Groupthink explains a lot about this election. We are witnessing in Obama a huge speculative bubble. Whether you like Obama's social and economic ideas or not (I don't), no person can live up to the hype which has surrounded Obama's candidacy. I will go out on a limb here, and predict that if elected Obama will not cause the oceans to recede, will not stop global warming, and will not cause us all to sing in joyous harmony.
The Groupthink phenomenon, however, has more pernicious implications in this campaign. The very groups of "experts" who should be speaking out against this speculative electoral bubble -- the press and academics -- are afraid to do so for fear of being marginalized and deemed "undignified." The Groupthink phenomenon has been made all the worse by the intimidation tactics of the Obama campaign and its supporters whereby those who dare to ask hard questions are vilified and ostracized.
It has been left to the fringes of the press and academia to challenge the unsustainable assumptions of the Obama campaign. I feel like Robert Shiller felt watching the speculative housing and credit bubble rise. Critics and skeptics aren't being taken seriously because "[t]he notion that people are making huge errors in judgment is not appealing."
When this bubble bursts, I will be able to say "I told you so." Unfortunately, by that point in time, the damage will have been done.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Is such an event possible here? We would like to think not, but the conduct of this election gives me pause for concern.
The single most disconcerting event of this election took place in Missouri. Obama's campaign enlisted a group of state and local prosecutors to threaten to prosecute anyone who told "lies" about Obama. The prosecutors were not acting in their official capacity, but were using their titles on behalf of the Obama campaign to intimidate opponents of Obama. The threat of criminal prosecution of political criticism caused Missouri Governor Matt Blunt to issue this rebuke:
If this were an isolated incident of intimidation, I might not be moved to write this article. Unfortunately, the stifling of criticism through intimidation has been a hallmark of the Obama campaign. I have documented, in a previous post, how the Obama campaign has used false accusations of racism against both the Clinton and McCain campaigns to stifle legitimate criticism of Obama's record:
“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.
“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.”
"The suppression of legitimate political expression through false accusations of racism by the Obama campaign and its supporters is the defining theme of the 2008 campaign. This tactic, while it may be successful, is shameful and has damaged our society in ways we may not understand for years."The Obama campaign also used its large e-mail list to shut down radio call-in lines when critics of Obama were appearing as guests. This campaign is documented here.
These tactics are not by happenstance. Obama himself has urged his supporters to confront his opponents: "I want you to argue with them, get in their face...." Obama's statement mirrors the intimidation efforts by his campaign. Leaders who urge their supporters to "get in the face" of political opponents are sowing the seeds of violence and intimidation, and cannot disclaim responsibility when the followers get out of hand.
Equally troubling are the changes proposed by Obama which seek to destroy rather than foster open political debate and free and fair elections. An excellent article on RedState chronicles these changes, including the destruction of secret union balloting, re-institution of the "Fairness Doctrine," and abolition of voter identification laws (particularly shocking in light of the ACORN voter registration fraud).
Michael Barone has an equally compelling account of The Coming Obama Thugocracy:
"Obama supporters who found the campuses congenial and Obama himself, who has chosen to live all his adult life in university communities, seem to find it entirely natural to suppress speech that they don't like and seem utterly oblivious to claims that this violates the letter and spirit of the First Amendment. In this campaign, we have seen the coming of the Obama thugocracy, suppressing free speech, and we may see its flourishing in the four or eight years ahead."If Obama wins this campaign in two days, you should expect the politics of intimidation to have the full backing of the executive and legislative branches of government, each of which will be completely controlled by Democrats (with a capital D).
Only the judiciary will stand between the public's right to elections free from fraud and intimidation, and massive voter fraud schemes hatched by ACORN and its supporters. Only the judiciary will be in a position to prevent the stifling of free speech through speech codes and the prosecution of unpopular speech. The "rule of law" will be all that separates this country from moving down the political path toward Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.
Will the judiciary be up to the task? Will Obama's ability to nominate federal judges taint the independence of the judiciary? Will this be the last truly free election? What's most troubling is that I never thought I would have to ask myself these questions.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Given the zeal with which the Obama campaign, it supporters, and the mainstream media have attacked anyone who dares criticize The One, those who have spoken out against Obama should prepare for retribution. You will be labeled racist, and that label will be used to deprive you of your free speech and your job. You will be called selfish, and required to reeducate. You will be investigated, and your records searched for any possible infraction. You won't be imprisoned, but you will feel the full weight of the state and state supporters brought down on you as it has been used against dissidents in the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Venezuela. You can save yourself by recanting and confessing your sins, but you will never be fully trusted.
In just about every aspect of your political life, you will be ridiculed and belittled. There will be no sanctuary cities for you.
It will be a long, cold 4-year winter for conservatives and those who believe in economic and political freedom. Spring will come, but only after a long struggle.