Sunday, January 31, 2010

Points to Consider

From The Washington Post:
In the war on terrorism, this country faces an enemy whose theory of warfare ends the hard-won distinction in modern thought between combatant and noncombatant. In doing that for which we have created government -- ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- how can we be adequately aggressive to ensure the first value, without unduly threatening the other two? This is hard. And people don't have to be lazy or stupid to get it wrong.

We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not "an isolated extremist." He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.

In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?

When questioning its detainees, the CIA routinely turns the information provided over to its experts for verification and recommendations for follow-up. The responses of these experts -- "Press him more on this, he knows the details" or "First time we've heard that" -- helps set up more detailed questioning.

None of that happened in Detroit.

Afghan Mission Creep?

From Breitbart
For the US Marines deployed to the battlefields of southern Afghanistan, life is fragile and thoughts focus on the day they see their families again, but something about this war is different.

They are preparing for an offensive on Marjah, one of the Taliban's big urban strongholds in the southern province of Helmand, but progress is slow with the militants apparently preferring fight to flight.

The Marines will soon be joined by tens of thousands more soldiers, the lion's share of the 30,000-strong troop surge promised by US President Barack Obama in December to try and turn around the grinding Afghan war.

And can the Taliban really be bought off by the good guys? The realist in me has always been chary with the idea. Here's an enlightening, albeit realistic assessment of the likelihood of that, coming from Ron Moreau, writing for Newsweek.
Karzai and his regime have practically no credibility anyway. No one trusts his promises, and they regard his government as an evil thing, a heretical, apostate regime. More than that, however, Taliban tend to take offense at the very idea of a buyout. As one fighter told Sami indignantly, "You can't buy my ideology, my religion. It's an insult."

But hey, maybe after Obama talks to them...

A Funny Anecdote

Skipping out, the Renquist Way

Perhaps for the next State of the Union address, the justices of the Supreme Court should imitate the late-Chief Justice William Renquist when it comes to such events:
The flashes of discord between the two branches might have been avoided had the justices followed the example of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who once skipped the State of the Union address in the Reagan era to attend to other matters.

The speech “conflicted with the watercolor class he was taking at the local Y.M.C.A.,” Chief Justice Roberts, who had served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist, recalled last year. “He had spent $25 signing up for the class, and he wasn’t going to miss one of the sessions.”

(From the New York Times)


Junk Science

From the Telegraph:

UN climate change panel based claims on student dissertation and magazine article

The United Nations' expert panel on climate change based claims about ice disappearing from the world's mountain tops on a student's dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The More You Know

What did yesterday's address tell us about Barack Obama? Here is a sampling of observations from Toby Harden, writing for the Telegraph:
3. The speech was uninspiring. Perhaps deliberately slow. Soaring rhetoric would not have worked. Perhaps the greatest talent Obama has – speechifying – is now not much use to him.

4. He paid lip service to getting health care through Congress but he knows it’s dead.

5. A consistent theme from now until November will be that Republicans are rejectionists and it’s all their fault that Obama’s agenda has been frustrated. But ultimately the Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress so they’ll be blamed for inaction.

8. Obama berating Republicans for being oh-so political simply won’t wash. The President is giving all his speeches in swing states and has given his 2008 campaign manager an enhanced role.

9. It was pretty classless to berate the Supreme Court while Democrats all around them leapt to their feet cheering and guffawing. Obama will suffer for this more than Justice Samuel Alito will for mouthing the words: “Not true.”


Bradley A. Smith, writing for National Review Online, takes aim at Obama's inaccurate characterization of the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC ruling.
Tonight the president engaged in demogoguery of the worst kind, when he claimed that last week's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, "open[ed] the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities."

The president's statement is false.

The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making "a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election" under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any "expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication."

This is either blithering ignorance of the law, or demogoguery of the worst kind.
Emphasis added

On Presidents and Manners

Why does the President routinely demonstrate such unpresidential, catty behavior? Considering the lofty status of the office and the venerable traditions that go along with it, it is a remarkable thing that the man seems incapable of breaking free from the vulgar community organizing and campaigning days of yore. From his relentless and gratuitous digs at President Bush, to his unprecedented assault on the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address last night (in the presence of the justices), to his mocking, condescending tone directed at Republicans, Obama is truly unmatched in executive level churlishness and immaturity. It's somewhat embarrassing to watch but indicative of where we have arrived as a nation. The bottom-line is that Obama can't help himself. This is who he is.

When all is said and done, it comes down to a question of education and culture. There's a handy Italian word that is used to refer to someone who is unrefined and displays vulgarian strains in the mold of Obama: maleducato. Obama is an educated man in the academic sense of the word and he is articulate, but book smarts alone do not the gentleman make. The requisite habits and traits of a gentleman must be instilled at an early age and continually polished and refined over the course of a lifetime.

A brief aper├žu on this point: Shortly after Obama's inauguration, President Bush was prodded by his interlocutor to ever so lightly criticize the newly minted president, who had spent months on the campaign trial lambasting Bush in the harshest of terms. "He deserves my silence." was Bush's only response. Much to the frustration of conservatives, and the astonishment of liberals, Bush is ever vigilant not to return insult for insult, refusing to lower himself and denigrate the office he once held or the man presently occupying it. This requires an impressive level of self-discipline, humility and it evinces a lot of class on his part, in great contrast to the bombastic Obama.

A liberal education (in the classical sense) seeks to produce such men as the former president, but President Obama demonstrates time and again that such a goal is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

The State of the Union

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for National Review Online, offers a number of apt critiques of the President's State of the Union address last night.
1) He trotted out the usual straw men: “I was told by some,” “Washington has been telling us,” etc. And once these awful straw men are set up, our hero Obama answers defiantly, “I don’t settle for second place!” The straw-man ploy is now stale.

2) The “I didn’t ask for” trope: Obama acts as if he bravely endures persecution on our behalf, rejects the easy path, and presses ahead on the difficult path.

3) The “they did it” trope: So when Obama talks of “lobbying” and “horse trading” on health care, apparently some right-wing nut in the Senate started buying votes at $300 million a clip? The Washington insider who has the White House and Congress blames . . . Washington!

4) The “Bush did it” trope: So Obama’s deficits are the result of Bush’s spending and weak economy — but is a relatively quiet Iraq due to Bush’s successful surge? No. Obama himself will bring the war in Iraq to a close. He did not offer one word of praise for Bush in a speech calling for unity.

5) The meaningless token: So after piling up the two largest budget deficits in U.S. history, Obama promises fiscal sobriety and spending freezes — but only in 2011, after we pile up yet another year of trillion-dollar-plus red ink.

6) The above-it-all lecturing: After blaming Bush for 30 minutes and castigating the Republicans for “just saying no to everything,” Obama lectures on Washington’s partisan bickering. And after a year of hardball Chicago politicking, a politically weakened Obama calls for bipartisanship and a new tone. That will go over really well.

7) The meaningless deadlines and promises: No speechwriter should invoke Iran and a deadline to comply on nonproliferation; no one believes Obama after the past four failed deadlines, and he should give it all a break.

8) The final hope-and-change flourishes: The emotional end of the speech, which used to set crowds afire in 2008, seemed more rote.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stream of Errors

A highly publicized and erroneous UN climate report on the state of the Himalayan glaciers may yet contain more errors, it has been revealed.

From the Times Online:
The Indian head of the UN climate change panel defended his position yesterday even as further errors were identified in the panel's assessment of Himalayan glaciers.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri dismissed calls for him to resign over the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s retraction of a prediction that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

But he admitted that there may have been other errors in the same section of the report, and said that he was considering whether to take action against those responsible.

“I know a lot of climate sceptics are after my blood, but I’m in no mood to oblige them,” he told The Times in an interview. “It was a collective failure by a number of people,” he said. “I need to consider what action to take, but that will take several weeks. It’s best to think with a cool head, rather than shoot from the hip.

The IPCC’s 2007 report, which won it the Nobel Peace Prize, said that the probability of Himalayan glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high”.

But it emerged last week that the forecast was based not on a consensus among climate change experts, but on a media interview with a single Indian glaciologist in 1999.

Cicero the Pragmatist

Mary Ann Glendon offers a thoughtful piece in First Things on the merits of Cicero and his vision of statecraft.
No philosophical discourse is so fine, he maintained, “that it deserves to be set above the public law and customs of a well-ordered state.” Following Aristotle, he held that moral excellence is a matter of practice, but it seemed evident to him that its most important field of practice was in the government of the state. Philosophers, he said, spin theories about justice, decency, restraint, and fortitude, but statesmen are the ones who must actually set the conditions to foster the virtues that are necessary to a well-functioning polity. “There can be no doubt,” he maintained, “that the statesman’s life is more admirable and more illustrious, even though some people think that a life passed quietly in the study of the highest arts is happier.”

However, Cicero's apparent subordination of philosophy to the practical concerns of state earned the ire of Eric Voegelin (of "immanentize the eschaton" repute), who much prefers Plato for politics:
His [Cicero's] clearness is a clearness of formula, not of thought; not only is he not an original thinker, but he expressly refuses to be one; going to the bottom of the problem is not an occupation for a gentleman, active in politics, but the affair of a "schoolmaster". His work is entirely devoid of the sublime unclearness of a great mind wrestling with his problem, fanatically engaged in his search for the structure of reality, happier to find a problem than to solve one. There are no problems in Cicero; whenever there is one insolent enough to come near the surface, the firm hand of the Roman consul and imperator comes down and bends it under the yoke of his authoritative language.

Michael P. Federici makes a good point in his study of Voegelin's philosohpy and life. "Politics can never fully realize the paradigm of order created by the philosopher, but it is nonetheless the duty of the philosopher to create tension between the order of the city and the order of the philosopher's soul. Cicero refuses this task."


That is number of times Obama said "I" in one speech.

Internecine Strife

There's trouble in paradise. From Politico:
President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be all smiles as the president arrives at the Capitol for his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, but the happy faces can’t hide relationships that are fraying and fraught.

The anger is most palpable in the House, where Pelosi and her allies believe Obama’s reluctance to stake his political capital on health care reform in mid-2009 contributed to the near collapse of negotiations now.

But sources say there are also signs of strain between Reid and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and relations between Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate are hovering between thinly veiled disdain and outright hostility.

In a display of contempt unfathomable in the feel-good days after Obama’s Inauguration, freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) stood up at a meeting with Pelosi last week to declare: “Reid is done; he’s going to lose” in November, according to three people who were in the room.

Pro-Life America Pt. II

Tim Tebow: happy to be alive

The pro-aborts are up in arms again (imagine that) over a decision by CBS to air a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl. The ad will feature University of Florida star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother. As the story goes, Pam Tebow was taken ill in 1987 while pregnant with Tim, and was encouraged by her doctor to get an abortion. She refused and, not surprisingly, Tim is quite grateful for the decision. The Super Bowl commercial, sponsored by Focus on the Family, will recount the story in the context of celebrating life and the family.

As if on cue, it didn't take long for the forces on the left to mobilize in opposition to Tebow and CBS. You see, "celebrating the family" is one of those verboten catch-phrases that, if uttered, instantly activates the anger enzymes coursing through the veins of the feminist, anti-life movement. One purblind observer managed to pull herself away from The Joy Behar Show in order to lambaste the ad as "hate masquerading as love", thus demonstrating that these folks really are awful people.

From ABC News:
The University of Florida campus is slowly catching wind of Tim Tebow’s decision to star in a Super Bowl ad slated to air on CBS on Feb. 7, and some say the ad’s message is bound to spark controversy.

The ad spot was purchased by Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization that places emphasis on marriage and parenthood.

The Associated Press reported this week that the ad’s theme will be “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,” with Pam Tebow sharing the story of her difficult 1987 pregnancy -- instead of getting an abortion she decided to give birth to Tebow, the now-famous quarterback who went on to become a Heisman Trophy winner, leading the Gators to two BCS wins.

Gary Schneeberger, Focus on the Family spokesman, told ABC News he couldn’t comment on the content of the ad. However, he said his organization has always viewed the Tebows as “strong, committed Christians” who have inspirational family stories to tell.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Now, what seems to me to bring as much disorder into our consciences as anything, is this partial surrender of their belief by Catholics. It seems to them that they are being very moderate and understanding when they yield to their opponents some of the articles in dispute. But, besides the fact that they do not see what an advantage it is to a man charging you for you to begin to give ground and withdraw, and how much that encourages him to pursue his point, those articles which they select as most trivial are sometimes very important. Either we must submit completely to the authority of our ecclesiastical government, or do without it completely. It is not for us to decide what portion of obedience we owe it." -Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, The True and False

"A man who has not directed his life as a whole toward a definete goal cannot possibly set his particular actions in order. A man who does not have a picture of the whole in his head cannot possibly arrange the pieces. What good is a provision of colors for a man who does not know what he has to paint?" - Taken from Inconsistency

The Phony Freeze

The President is suddenly expressing an interest in fiscal responsibility. Here's a tip: don't buy it.

From Fox News:
President Obama, after spending hundreds of billions his first year, now is seeking a partial three-year federal spending freeze that would reduce budgets by less than 1 percent.

The drop-in-the-bucket nature of the president's proposal was underscored Tuesday by a Congressional Budget Office estimate projecting the 2010 federal deficit to hit $1.35 trillion -- Obama's spending freeze would be expected to save up to $15 billion the first year.

The president will propose the congressional freeze on "non-security" spending in his State of the Union address Wednesday night, senior administration officials said. The freeze, which would apply to annual spending on day-to-day government, appears to be an attempt to answer widespread voter concern about rising deficits and debt.

But the scope of Obama's proposal is being met with skepticism on Capitol Hill, as Republicans say that any freeze will be small in the context of federal spending under Obama's watch.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bubbles and Booms

An opinion piece from Congressman Ron Paul:
The problems with stimulus packages are manifold. The primary reason they fail is because they do not address the roots of the problem. If you are unable to identify the cause of your problem, then your solution is doomed to fail.

In the case of the current economic crisis, it had its root in loose monetary policy and easy credit that skewed the allocation of resources within the economy.

Combined with other measures to promote home ownership, these easy money policies caused a massive housing bubble. Money that would have been put to other uses was used to produce raw materials, hire workers and loaned to homebuyers, all while home prices spiked.

The boom was, of course, unsustainable, as many prognosticators pointed out during the housing bubble's peak. But the damage was done, and now that the bubble has burst, we need to stand back and allow the mess to unwind. Yet the government does everything in its power to stave off true recovery and is attempting to re-inflate the bubble...

The government likes to tout the number of jobs that have been created or saved by the stimulus. But even if these numbers are accurate, they do not count the number of jobs that are not created in other more productive or self-sustaining sectors of the economy. Nor do they count the jobs that will be lost in the future when tax rates will have to be increased to pay off the interest on the debt that is financing much of the stimulus package.

Ron Paul gets economics. It's that simple. Now, who will listen?

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Anything on Istanbul/Constantinople is worth posting. Here's a brief look at the city that was selected to be the 2010 Cultural Capital of Europe. From The Guardian:
In all European travel there is no spectacle more tremendous than the sight of Istanbul massed beside the sea – a solidification of history, jumbled houses and docks and palaces along the shore, mighty domes and soaring minarets, ships and ferries swarming everywhere, rumbling traffic over terrific bridges – a timeless metropolis, familiar to travellers for a thousand years, and of such consequence that for centuries it was known to half the world simply as The City.

Of course, any story about The City is tinged with sadness because of its lost status as a vibrant epicenter of Christian culture.

The Court, Campaign Finance and Abortion

Pro-aborts are getting the heebie-jeebies over the Supreme Court's ruling that overturned a century-old precedent limiting campaign contributions from corporations. They are right to be nervous.

From Politico:
The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday overturning a ban on corporate political spending that had been in place for more than a century has left abortion-rights supporters jittery that the justices could be similarly prepared to upend the landmark Roe v. Wade decision the court handed down 37 years ago this week.

“Yesterday’s Roberts court decision, which exhibited a stunning disregard for settled law of decades’ standing, is terrifying to those of us who care deeply about the Constitutional protections the court put in place for women’s access to abortion,” said Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We are deeply concerned….Yesterday’s decision shows the court will reach out to take an opportunity to wholesale reverse a precedent the hard right has never liked.”

“It is worrisome beyond the direct impact of yesterday’s ruling on election law,” said, Jessica Arons, the director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress. “It’s certainly cause for concern.”

Read more:


The pope encouraged priests to search out new venues for communicating the Gospel.

From Reuters:
VATICAN CITY - For God's sake, blog! Pope Benedict told priests on Saturday, saying they must learn to use new forms of communication to spread the gospel message.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Communications, the pope, who is 82 and known not to love computers or the Internet, acknowledged priests must make the most of the "rich menu of options" offered by new technology

"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources — images, videos, animated features, blogs, Web sites — which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Individuals, Corporations and Free Speech

Liberals ranging from Justice Stevens to politicians and media spin doctors are expressing outrage at the Supreme Court's majority opinion that will allow corporations to have a greater influence in elections. Freedom of speech applies to individuals, they tell us, but this right should be curtailed (under threat of government penalty) when it comes to impersonal corporations, which have no business shoveling out their millions of dollars to "buy" elections. But IIya Somin, writing for the blog The Volokh Conspiracy, offers a good answer to that particular charge:
It’s true, of course, that corporations “are not human beings.” But their owners (the stockholders) and employees are. Human beings organized as corporations shouldn’t have fewer constitutional rights than those organized as sole proprietors, partnerships, and so on. In this context, it’s important to emphasize that most media organizations and political activist groups also use the corporate form...most liberals accept the idea that organizational form is irrelevant when it comes to media corporations, which were exempt from the restrictions on other corporate speech struck down by the Court today. The Supreme Court (including its most liberal justices) has repeatedly recognized that media corporations have First Amendment rights just as broad as those extended to media owned by individuals. Yet the “corporations aren’t people” argument applies just as readily to media corporations as to others. After all, newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations “are not human beings” and they too “have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.” We readily reject this reasoning in the case of media corporations because we recognize that even though the corporations in question are not people, their owners and employees are. The same point applies to other corporations.


Anglicans Adrift

From the Guardian:
The Church of England has seen a drop in attendance for the fifth consecutive year despite increasing its efforts to woo people back to the pews.

The average weekly attendance in 2008 fell to 1.145 million from 1.16 million in 2007, while the average Sunday attendance fell from 978,000 in 2007 to 960,000 in 2008.

The statistics showed that fewer people went to church during religious festivals, notably Christmas and Easter, and that there were fewer weddings and blessings. But the average number of children and young people at services each week rose to 225,000, from 219,000 in 2007.

The leaders of the Anglican communion can't puzzle out what they believe in anymore on wide a range of issues, from the ethical to the theological, so why should the faithful, or anyone for that matter, place any stock in what they say? No wonder Rome opened her gates to the disaffected few.

When Precedent and the Constitution Collide

Chief Justice John Roberts argues that the Constitution comes first.

Allison R. Hayward, writing for the New York Post offers a concise analysis of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling yesterday.

The Ban

The BBC has an interesting story on the drive in France to ban the burka. An excerpt:
It is difficult to isolate where this push for banning the burka comes from. Mr Cope said it had the support of 74% of French people. What people say is that as Muslims have become more visible across Europe, there is a concern that they are pushing a separate identity that would lead to parallel, not integrated, communities.

One academic I spoke to said that liberals had not expected, in backing multiculturalism, that newcomers would arrive and live apart from the society they had joined. President Sarkozy has spoken of "this feeling of sharing less and less a common culture, a common imagination and a common morality". In his view, becoming French means "adhering to a form of civilisation, values and behaviour".
Emphasis added

By tossing their ancient religion and culture under the bus in favor of newfangled green creeds amounting to neo-paganism, and libertine lifestyles to boot, the French (along with most European nations) stand defenseless in the face of confident Muslims who know very well who they are and what they believe. Now, playing catch-up, the French are scrambling to stem the tide by passing laws...but is it too late? After all, it's easy to pass a law or two, it offers back-slapping, feckless politicians a sense of accomplishment and relevance; but it's much harder to restore a sense of culture and the desire to pass it on to one's progeny.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


From The Guardian:
Barack Obama faced a direct challenge to his government's powers to curb global warming pollution today, just 48 hours after an election upset put the rest of his agenda at risk.

In a speech to Congress, a Republican senator from Alaska announced she would use an obscure and rarely used measure to try to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a dangerous pollutant.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the EPA's efforts to impose back-door climate regulations," Lisa Murkowski told the Senate in prepared remarks. Murkowski's motion of disapproval, though unlikely to become law, is widely seen as a barometer for the chances of getting a climate change bill through the Senate this year.

In an ominous sign for supporters of a climate law, she had the support of three Democratic Senators, further underscoring the unease in Obama's own party in enacting legislation to tackle global warming.

Now is as good a time to try as any.

A Comedy of Errors

From Newsweek
Obama administration officials were flabbergasted Wednesday when Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair testified that an alleged Qaeda operative who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation unit that doesn't exist, rather than the FBI.

One senior official described the comments by Blair—the U.S. government's top intelligence official—as misinformed on multiple levels and all the more damaging because they immediately fueled Republican criticism that the administration mishandled the Christmas Day incident in its treatment of the accused Qaeda operative as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant.

The Conservative Trifecta


Nancy Pelosi grudgingly admitted that she doesn't have the votes to pass the Senate's version of health care reform. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am! Too bad for them. This vignette, coupled with today's Supreme Court ruling that sent the left into apoplexy, and Scott Brown's victory on Tuesday, should give conservatives ample reasons for optimism, and dare I say, HOPE.

Free Speech Saved

From left to right: sometimes good, excellent, terrible, almost as bad, SUPERSTAR, disappointment, would be a GREAT president for life, ugh!, conservative hero

A major decision today from the Supreme Court defended the First Amendment from oppressive (and unconstitutional) campaign finance laws.

"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves." Justice Anthony Kennedy

How ironic, the Supreme Court, with its 5-4 conservative majority, has become the last holdout of sane thinking in the federal government. It's another reminder of why Americans should be grateful to George W. Bush.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reality Hits Home

Michael Hirsh, writing for Newsweek, makes some salient points on the political goings-on of late.
Someone must have misinformed Barack Obama when he ran for president that the U.S. Constitution allotted him only a one-year term, rather than four years. Otherwise it's difficult to understand why, faced with solving a Depression-size economic crisis, two wars, and global warming to boot, he felt that he also had to grab hold of the third-rail issue of health care during his inaugural year.

It's been a disaster, of course, and may go down as one of the biggest political miscalculations in modern history. For the American public—haunted by too many rounds of layoffs, appalled by Wall Street's government-aided Grand Heist, aghast at the size of federal spending that never seems to find its way into their pockets—health care was simply an intervention too far. Cue the tea partiers—and one freshly minted senator and future Republican rock star, Scott Brown. Lay poor Teddy Kennedy to rest all over again.

On Misreading an Election

Politico highlights three blunders committed by the Obama Administration since taking office last year. Here are some excerpts:
• Obama and his team believed that the 2008 election represented something seismic — in other words, something fundamental and long-lasting — in the country’s governing landscape. They believed that the historical cycle had turned, that voters had not only rejected George W. Bush’s brash conservatism but also had moved beyond Bill Clinton’s tepid and defensive-minded progressivism.

• Obama believed that early success would be self-reinforcing, building a powerful momentum for bold government action. This belief was the essence of the White House’s theory of the “Big Bang.” Success in passing a big stimulus package would lead to success in passing health care, which in turn would clear the way for major cap-and-trade environmental legislation and “re-regulation” of the financial services sector — all in the first year.

• Most devoutly of all, the Obama team believed that there was something singular about the president’s appeal and ability to inspire.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Savor, Trucks and All

So, Scott Brown won the election that, a few weeks ago, no one believed he could win. Incredible. The significance of a GOPer winning in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3 to 1 margin cannot be understated. Brown's victory represents an unmistakable repudiation of the sickening arrogance and condescension of Obama-Reid-Pelosi. The Democrats have two options: face reality, i.e., that their agenda is light years away from the priorities of most Americans and make a course correction, or they can (and probably will) dig in their heels, cover their eyes and ears and continue off the cliff. If a tectonic shift of this magnitude can happen in Massachusetts, imagine what will happen in Nevada and Nebraska come '10.

A year ago, as Obama placed his hand on Lincoln's inaugural Bible, funeral dirges for the Republican Party were gleefully sung by the doyens of the Left. "The era of Reagan is over!" So we were told by the likes of Sen. Schumer. The Republican Party was, we were warned, at risk of becoming an irrelevant, regional Party of angry Southerners, forever shut out of power by the changing reality of a more enlightened, tolerant and diverse electorate. But look at what happened tonight, and look at where it happened. Brown's homespun, truck-fueled candidacy veered off script with his surge in the polls, ending with a resounding victory tonight, utterly confounding the left's carefully constructed template for the Republican Party. His simplicity and down-to-earth style bulldozed the imperial pretensions and snobbery of the left.

Best of all: Obama himself couldn't rescue the Democratic candidate, nor could a visit from ole' Bill Clinton, not even mythic incantations offered to conjure up some of the once-reliable Kennedy mystique could do the trick. It all fell on deaf ears. Obama's flighty rhetoric about hope and change, the saccharine drivel that used to effortlessly ensorcell and distract, flopped miserably in the face of sobering political and economic realities: out of control spending, unemployment, deficit and, of course, terrorism. (Is it not true that just about everyone Obama has endorsed since becoming President has lost? King Midas he most certainly is not.) Add a dash of entitlement and arrogance, and one can see just why what happened tonight happened.

The Reason Why

"I'm trying to save the nation today."

So said Robert Capella, 69, when asked why he was voting for Scott Brown.

A Doctor's Letter

This missive comes from the pen of Starner Jones, MD. He is writing to the editors of the Clarion Ledger:
Dear Sirs:

During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B; tune for a ring tone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our President expects me to pay for this woman’s health care?

Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture – a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance.

A culture that thinks I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.

Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD
Jackson, MS

What Happened?

From the Wall Street Journal:
Twelve months later, Mr. Obama's approval rating has fallen further and faster than any recent President's, Congress is despised, the public mood has shifted sharply to the right on the role of government, and a Republican could pick up a Senate seat in a state with no GOP Members of Congress and that Mr. Obama carried by 26 points.

What explains this precipitous political fall? Democrats and their media allies attribute it to GOP obstructionism, though Republicans lack the votes to stop anything by themselves. Or they blame their own Blue Dogs, who haven't stopped or even significantly modified any legislation of consequence.

Or they blame an economic agenda that wasn't populist or liberal enough because it didn't nationalize banks and spend even more on "stimulus." It takes a special kind of delusion to believe, amid a popular revolt against too much government spending and debt, that another $1 trillion would have made all the difference. But that's the latest left-wing theme.

The real message of Massachusetts is that Democrats have committed the classic political mistake of ideological overreach. Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state.

Monday, January 18, 2010

One Year Later

From the Associated Press, read more on the Obama's free-fall. May it continue.

The Mass. Race: Brown vs. Coakley

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Brown Pulling Ahead in MA

Politico reports on the latest polling data from Public Policy Polling:
Public Policy Polling's final survey finds Scott Brown up 51% to 46%, a result that's within the margin for error of the poll but which mirrors most other recent polls in giving the Republican a lead in the race.

The quick summary:

Over the last week Brown has continued his dominance with independents and increased his ability to win over Obama voters as Coakley's favorability numbers have declined into negative territory. At the same time Democratic leaning voters have started to take more interest in the election, a trend that if it continues in the final 36 hours of the campaign could put her over the finish line.
Striking numbers:

-Brown is up 64-32 with independents and is winning 20% of the vote from people who supported Barack Obama in 2008 while Coakley is getting just 4% of the McCain vote.

-Those planning to turn out continue to be skeptical of the Democratic health care plan, saying they oppose it by a 48/40 margin.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blue to Red?

To anyone with friends or family in Massachusetts: make sure they're voting on Tuesday (so long as they're Republicans). From The Boston Globe:
For the first time in two generations, the outcome of a US Senate campaign in Massachusetts is not a foregone conclusion. Whatever happens on Tuesday, this much is clear: Democrat Martha Coakley will not win in a cakewalk, and Republican Scott Brown will not be a sacrificial lamb. Heading into the final weekend, two of the country’s most respected political handicappers - Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook - pronounced the Bay State Senate contest a “toss-up.’’ A new Suffolk University poll showed Brown surging into the lead, with 50 percent of likely voters supporting him vs. 46 percent for Coakley.

How can this be happening? This is the bluest state of them all - a state without a single Republican in Congress or in statewide office, a state Barack Obama won in a landslide. How can the Senate race be too close to call?

...ultimately the Massachusetts Senate campaign is not about Brown’s personal appeal or Coakley’s shortcomings on the stump. It is about something bigger. This race is a referendum on Barack Obama and the Democratic ascendancy in Washington.

What Obama and his party delivered, however, was not uplifting and transparent bipartisanship.

It was trillion-dollar increases in government spending. It was party-line votes on 2,000-page bills. It was “cash-for-cloture’’ backroom deals. It was tone-deaf boasts about millions of jobs “created or saved,’’ even as unemployment soared into double digits and millions of American jobs disappeared.

Above all, it was the attempt to force through a radical health-care overhaul that would drive up the cost of medical insurance, slash Medicare by half a trillion dollars, and subject one-seventh of the US economy to government micromanagement.

The more insistently Democrats in Washington have pushed ObamaCare, the more unpopular it has become - and the more the president’s approval ratings have sunk.
Emphasis added

Friday, January 15, 2010

Religious Freedom, Except in the Emergency Room

Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing for National Review Online's The Corner, highlights Massachusetts Senate hopeful (and Democrat) Martha Coakley's latest jaw-dropping statement.
During an interview today, Martha Coakley was asked about the conscience issue Catholic medical personnel encounter when it comes to a law that mandates the distribution of emergency contraception, which sometimes works as an abortifacient. (I wrote about the details of this issue as pertain to Scott Brown and Massachusetts and Martha Coakley's misrepresentation of all of this here.)

Coakley explained that this should not be a problem because "we have a separation of church and state." "Let's be clear," the attorney general added.

The radio host, Ken Pittman, pointed out that complex legal principle that "In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom."

Coakley agrees that "The law says that people are allowed to have that." But, making clear her view — the attorney general who wants to be the next senator from Massachusetts — she declared that "You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room."

Outrageous. For her and her Party's arrogance and radicalism, Coakley must be defeated next week.
Is the pope allowed to do anything without being criticized for it by this or that disaffected group? From the Associated Press: Controversy hits pope's Rome synagogue visit
ROME – Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to Rome's main synagogue on Sunday has sharply divided Italian Jews, with some angered by his moves to push World War II Pope Pius XII toward sainthood. Some Jews and historians have accused Pius of not doing enough to stop the Holocaust.

A top rabbi and at least one other prominent community member have announced they will not attend the synagogue visit in protest. And the tension, which comes on the heels of other mishaps in Jewish-Catholic relations, has raised fears of demonstrations, although both sides insist they will not let the event be marred by controversy.

Conservative Stars

The Telegraph offers its assessment of the most influential conservatives (and liberals) in America. It's well worth a read; the observations about George W. Bush and Obama are right on the money.
Bush’s influence endures also because Obama and his advisers seem scarcely able to do anything without referring to his predecessor. This betrays a shallowness that is beginning to wear thin with American voters.

And, after heaping praise on Obama's campaign and election, this sobering assessment is offered:
In the past year, however, Obama’s brand has been tarnished, perhaps irrevocably. His promises of bipartisanship have come to naught as the Democrats rammed through a party-line vote on healthcare. Never has such fundamental legislation been passed on the say so of one party when the country so clearly opposes it. The strategy is a dangerous gamble and it remains to be seen whether Obama can pull it off. Having ridiculed Bush for pursuing the “politics of fear”, Obama has had a rude awakening as he has listened to the daily intelligence reports and – on Christmas Day – was at the top of a national security apparatus that left America open to an al-Qaeda attack. Obama’s poll ratings now hover around 50 per cent – a remarkable slump. Even his famous ability to craft memorable phrases and formulate almost lyrical rhetoric now seems to be deserting him as inspiration gives way to perspiration. It is far, far too early to write Obama off. He could yet prove all his detractors wrong. But 2010 will bring the moment of truth for him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Penalizing Marriage the Democratic Way

From The Wall Street Journal:
Some married couples would pay thousands of dollars more for the same health insurance coverage as unmarried people living together, under the health insurance overhaul plan pending in Congress.

The built-in "marriage penalty" in both House and Senate healthcare bills has received scant attention. But for scores of low-income and middle-income couples, it could mean a hike of $2,000 or more in annual insurance premiums the moment they say "I do."

How much attention will this nugget buried in deep the health care bill attract? With so many young people opting to simply live together sans even the thought of marriage, who knows...

Reid and Race

I tend to agree with Jonah Goldberg's assessment of Harry Reid's race gaffe. From National Review Online's The Corner
George Will said on This Week that everything Reid said is in fact true and, by implication, therefore not racist. Well, I dunno. If Reid had used the word "African-American" instead of "negro" I would say Will has a better case. Though talking about how African-American candidates with light skin are better political prospects seems pretty close to the line, if you ask me. Regardless, on the merits you could easily make the case that Reid, being a bumbling addlepate, didn't actually have any racist views in his heart when he said that.

But the merits have very little to do with race and how it is discussed and used. More to the point, the double-standard issue is unavoidable. If any Republican were caught speaking this way about Obama — even in private — liberal cries of racism would be filling the air. I can't imagine how anyone can disagree with that. I see nothing wrong with acknowledging that double standard. I'm not sure that taking it to the next level and calling Reid a racist is the way to go. It's a hateful and dispiriting tactic when liberals use it against conservatives. It would be hypocritical for conservatives to mimic it solely in the spirit of payback.

As far as political tactics go, I'd rather Republicans simply acknowledged the double standard and chalked it up as yet another example of how Washington's liberal Democrats have one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else. That's the sort of message that will win elections for Republicans in November. Shouting "the Democrats are racist" won't.

On the Dangers of Overreacting

From Fareed Zakaria, writing for The Washington Post:
In responding to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, "I'd rather overreact than underreact." This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work. Alas, this one worked very well.

Missed Chances in a PC Nation

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — A Defense Department review of the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, has found the doctors overseeing Maj. Nidal Hasan's medical training repeatedly voiced concerns over his strident views on Islam and his inappropriate behavior, yet continued to give him positive performance evaluations that kept him moving through the ranks.

The picture emerging from the review ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates is one of supervisors who failed to heed their own warnings about an officer ill-suited to be an Army psychiatrist, according to information examined by investigators conducting the study.

Hasan, 39, is accused of murdering 13 people on Nov. 5 at Fort Hood, the worst killing spree on a U.S. military base.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reading List

I just finished two excellent books, highly recommended:

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto and the Contest for the Center of the World

Learn more about how Catholic Europe (with the exception of the perfidious French) used to be.


Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary

It's always fascinating to read about the contentious jockeying that transpired between Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall; two distant cousins who utterly loathed one another.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Nation at War?

From ABC News:
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is expected in a federal court in Detroit today to face charges over the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest flight 253.

The former NYC mayor says the suspect should be tried as an enemy combatant.
The arraignment comes a day after President Obama scolded his national security team for not recognizing warning signs that Abdulmutallab was a threat. The administration also released a declassified version of how the near disaster occurred.

The suspect's pending arraignment triggered a fresh debate over whether Abdulmutallab and other accused terrorists should be tried in America's civil courts with rights to lawyers and other civil protections, or whether they should be relegated to military tribunals.

Outside the confines of Obama's bizarro world, this is an easy question.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Weakland Cast in Bronze

Here's a link to a local Milwaukee news outlet commenting on a controversial bronze image appearing inside Milwaukee's Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist that depicts Archbishop Rembert Weakland as a protector of children. Anyone even remotely familiar with the details of Archbishop Weakland's tenure ought to be outraged. Will the leadership tolerate this?
...Weakland commissioned charitable money to be used to create a bronze relief of himself pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children (the relief is on the pedestal of the Mary, Mother of the Church Shrine, which is on the east side altar of the cathedral); ...[In the Weakland bronze relief, which serves as a pedestal to the Mary, Mother of the Church Shrine and is the Cathedral’s east side altar, Weakland is flanked by St. John the Evangelist and St. Anne, the mother of Mary. Also in the background of the relief, according to Chicago artists Jeffrey and Anna Koh-Varilla , is a portrait of the Cathedral’s current rector, Fr. Carl Last. A recent email by Anna and Jeffery Koh-Varilla, confirms that the relief was meant to bring the biblical scene into the contemporary world of the Milwaukee church by placing Weakland in it [as protector of children].

Europe's End Game

Among the naysayers in Europe continuing to deny or ignore the obvious reality that traditional European culture faces a serious existential threat in the form of the burgeoning Muslim presence on the Continent, at least one Czech archbishop gets it.

From Agence France-Presse:
PRAGUE—Outgoing Prague archbishop and head of Czech Catholics Miloslav Vlk warned of a looming "islamization" of Europe in an interview published in Prague on Tuesday.

"Europe has denied its Christian roots from which it has risen and which could give it the strength to fend off the danger that it will be conquered by Muslims -- which is actually happening gradually," Vlk said.

"If Europe doesn't change its relation to its own roots, it will be islamized," the 77-year-old cardinal, who was named Prague archbishop by pope John Paul II in 1991, added on his website

He blamed immigration and Muslims' high birth rate for helping Muslims to "easily fill the vacant space created as Europeans systematically empty the Christian content of their lives".

"At the end of the Middle Ages and in the early modern age, Islam failed to conquer Europe with arms. The Christians beat them then," Vlk said.

"Today, when the fighting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming," added the cardinal.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Day 1

Archbishop Jerome Listecki offered an impressive homily on the occasion of his installation Mass yesterday at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Milwaukee.

Some excerpts:
Adherence to the Church’s teaching is not always easy. However, one must sacrifice for the truth. In this sacrifice we demonstrate our love. It is interesting to note that John Paul the II was applauded by the Western societies when he critiqued the godless communism of the east for their lack of individual rights and freedoms, yet those very same western societies turned a deaf ear to his warnings of the destructiveness of radical individualism, consumerism, materialism and relativism.

Given our situation today perhaps we should have paid more attention. The truth is at times difficult but the Church does not follow the Lord’s request to tend his sheep if it fails to teach the truth with love.