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Archive for May, 2009

Party of Warmongers Waves White Lace Hankie

May 31, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Supreme Court

How did the Republican Party’s approach to dealing with objectionable Supreme Court nominees come to resemble the Democrats’ strategy for the war on terror: scorn anyone who says anything critical of the opposition and settle for second-class citizen status, dhimmitude-style?  Are Republicans trying to balance Obama’s cooption of Bush’s war policy to restore some kind of harmony in the universe?

Over the past week, we’ve been treated by Republicans to a range of subtle and nuanced political stratagems for dealing with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, including: shut your mouth, don’t speak, zip your lip, don’t make waves, and while you’re at it, don’t say anything.  This, from the party of “hawks” who bravely fought and won the Civil War, the Cold War, and the Battle of Chad.

Let’s examine the reasons offered by Republican turncoats why we should not tender a whisper against the Sotomayor nomination:

It’s mean-spirited. Well, Democrats successfully mobilized before Reagan’s fourth Supreme Court nomination, Robert Bork, savagely vowing to form a “phalanx of opposition” against anyone at all Reagan deigned to choose.  Democrats tried to destroy George W. Bush appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito but failed only because they lacked the votes (at least they managed to invade Roberts’ family’s privacy and make Samuel Alito’s wife cry!).  The Republicans have not opposed a Supreme Court nominee by a Democratic president since 1968.  I think that at least qualifies as “sporting.”

It’s immature. In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan scolds Republicans for not “play[ing] grown-up” and calls those who want to fight against Sotomayor’s nomination “idiots” who refuse to “think” or “dress the part.”  Let’s see: Five members of the Supreme Court have the power to make sweeping, life-or-death decisions that affect hundreds of millions of Americans and countless future generations.  I think raising forceful objections to Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy and temperament comes down more on the adult side than “She has cooties!”

The Republicans will lose independent voters. Republicans have most often converted independent voters and won elections when they have stuck to the party’s principles rather than offering a watered-down version of the Democratic party line, as in November 2008.  So remind me: How will consistently standing up and making a compelling case for their views cause Republicans to lose voters who are looking for a party that can offer consistent, compelling views?

The Republicans will lose political capital. Obama’s political goodwill toward Republicans began and ended with inviting John McCain to the White House for bean dip on Super Bowl night.  Congressional Democrats’ political goodwill toward Republicans has yet to materialize, and never will until Republicans regain both houses and Democrats are on the defensive again.

Sotomayor is not that liberal. Just as Obama is the most leftist president we’ve ever had, Sotomayor would be the most leftist justice on the current Court, even more of a liberal activist than Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens, who seem like Daughters of the American Revolution in comparison.

Sotomayor won’t change the balance of power on the Court. Both Souter and Sotomayor are liberal on social issues, but they are not both liberal on economic issues.  Souter is no Steve Forbes, but Sotomayor’s ruling in the shocking Port Chester “eminent domain” private property grab places her ideologically to the left of Marx.

Republicans will lose the Hispanic vote. Putting aside the condescending “voting bloc” mentality this ascribes to Latinos, it should be noted that Democrats weren’t worried about losing Hispanic votes when they opposed Bush’s nomination of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2002—indeed, they had enough stomach for the fight to wage seven filibusters against bringing him to a vote.  If Republicans are concerned about losing Hispanic votes, I suggest they offer the thoroughly vetted Estrada as their preferred nominee.

Sotomayor has an impressive resume. Newsflash: So do a lot of people!  I would wager that the number of potential nominees who went to top-tier undergraduate and law schools and managed to get a few employers and coworkers to say nice things about them numbers—oh, at least two or three.  Also, Sotomayor’s supporters defend against the charge that a majority of her appeals court decisions were overruled by the Supreme Court by stating that such cases are difficult—yet we are now expected to support her addition to the same team of justices who are capable of correcting the types of rulings she screwed up.  Finally, as Andrew McCarthy points out, Sotomayor’s ravings about the superior decision-making ability of certain races and genders doesn’t even quality her to be on a jury, let alone the Supreme Court.

Her confirmation is inevitable. The Supreme Court will be ruling on the Ricci v. Destefano firefighter discrimination case in June, weeks before Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings.  It is expected that the Court will overturn the decision Sotomayor supported, thus further energizing opponents of legalized racism (i.e., “Americans”).  Republicans should also remind the nation that Obama hasn’t demonstrated the most thorough vetting acumen in his first few months in office, having nominated a “phalanx” (if you will) of tax cheats and ethically challenged miscreants to Cabinet and other posts.

How about this strategy for dealing with the current nominee?  I say that even if Sotomayor’s resume is as long as the phonebook; even if someone makes a persuasive case that she’s not the most liberal justice in the world; even if Republicans are accused of being mean-spirited and immature; even if we lose a few wishy-washy independents, have a few Hispanics look at us askance, and ruffle a few Democratic feathers; and even if it’s not 100% certain that her confirmation can be stopped; the Republican party should fight this nominee kicking and screaming, hammering home the message about her record until her supporters get tired of brushing it under the rug, until we’ve made our point to the American public.

And they say the Republican Party doesn’t have any fighting spirit left.

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Obama’s Rising Tide Lifts Bush’s Boat

May 24, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

A couple of months ago, the mainstream media was snickering because a national survey of liberal historians had rated George W. Bush to be among the least successful of all American presidents, mostly on the basis of his conduct in the war against Islamic terrorists.  Given Obama’s adoration by the media, his wholesale reversal of nearly every one of his foreign policy campaign promises, and his Xeroxing of Bush’s war strategy, Bush should reach… oh, about #2 on the presidents’ list by the end of Obama’s tenure.

Candidate Obama wailed for years about Bush’s war in Iraq and promised to remove all troops by March 2009.  The latest plan, which President Obama scrawled on a cocktail napkin at one of his Wednesday night White House soirees, is to remove them by August 2010 and leave up to 50,000 troops in place for security purposes—and if you believe those dates and numbers won’t be extended further as “conditions change on the ground,” you probably voted for Obama.  Admittedly, “Obama lied, kids died” doesn’t have quite the same ring, but I think if Bush had pulled a fast one like this, we would have heard a few more complaints about his mendacity.

Obama formerly countered the spectacularly successful surge in Iraq, claiming that there was no way it could work—then turned around as President and implemented something in Afghanistan that starts with ‘s’ and rhymes with ‘urge’ but is definitely not a surge.

As Senator, Obama rejected special funding measures for U.S. anti-terror military conflicts—then, while president, asked Congress for an additional $83 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; you know, the ones we were fighting all along.  On the campaign trail, Obama whined about the cost of war and swore that funding would not be approved without benchmarks; when Congress’s bill came to a vote, Obama asked that the benchmarks be removed.

Obama once complained that Predator drone air attacks on suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan were killing civilians; as President, he ramped up use of this targeted killing tactic at a higher rate and with more civilian casualties than under Bush.

Obama at one point criticized the Patriot Act, including its provisions allowing warrantless wiretapping and obtaining suspects’ financial, travel, and telecommunications records without their knowledge; now he supports renewing the act.

Obama previously opposed the use of the “state secrets doctrine” to prevent the required disclosure of evidence in court that would harm national security; in several cases stemming from the previous administration’s surveillance and interrogation practices, Obama’s Justice Department has invoked that very doctrine to prevent the disclosure of evidence.

Obama used to resist the practice of rendition, or capturing terrorist suspects and sending them to a third country for interrogation; recently he vowed to continue the practice.

At one time, Obama spoke out against the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on high-level terrorist suspects.  Recently, however, he set up a committee to look into whether CIA interrogators should be allowed looser standards than military interrogators—i.e., he left the door open for these techniques to be used again if he deems necessary.  He rejected the call to establish a Truth Commission into the Bush administration’s interrogation techniques and the prosecution of those who approved or implemented them.  When Nancy Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about the use of these techniques, Obama did not publicly support her, and allowed CIA director Leon Panetta to release a memo contradicting her claim.

In the past, Obama contested the practice of detaining terrorist suspects without trial; yet his Justice Department filed a brief claiming that his administration can hold for an indefinite period of time the following: Al Qaeda members, Taliban members, “associated forces,” and anyone who “substantially” supports them, which includes about half of Congress.  Federal judge Reggie Walton slyly mocked the Obama administration’s arguments as drawing “metaphysical distinctions” between his and Bush’s policy that were “of a minimal if not ephemeral character.”

Obama wrung his hands over denial of habeas corpus to terrorists in Guantanamo but has upheld the Bush position on denying habeas corpus regarding detainees’ conditions of confinement in Afghanistan’s Bagram prison, which is sort of a Guantanamo Express.

More recently, Obama revived military tribunals for Gitmo detainees after having called them an “enormous failure” and sworn to end them (the tribunals, not the detainees).

Finally, last week Obama changed his mind and decided he would oppose the release of photos documenting abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

It shouldn’t be this way for the former Bush administration.  After seven-and-a-half years of doing the right but unpopular thing, suffering precipitous drops in their approval ratings, and enduring uninformed screaming from every corner of the media about their Nazi-like tendencies, Bush and Cheney shouldn’t be dependent for their legacy on the eleventh-hour conversion of an irresponsible, wet-behind-his-big-ears neophyte who isn’t adult enough to serve as Commander in Chief.  The Bush policies should have been praised all along for keeping us safe, and any candidate who ran headfirst against them should have been defeated in a landslide.

But at least Bush’s “rehabilitation” is happening sooner than we could have hoped—just several months into the subsequent administration.  Any honest commentator must admit that it is happening squarely on the back of the feckless Obama.

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The Real Pro-Gay Party

May 17, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gay Rights

Two ineluctable facts stand out when scrutinizing politicians’ actions on gay issues over the past 30 years: (1) Republicans are not anti-gay and (2) Democrats are not pro-gay. By 2009, there are few differences between Republican and Democratic politicians on gay issues, except that Democrats are more likely to jerk gay voters around and Republicans are more likely to quietly favor pro-liberty stances. There may have been a difference between the two parties once, but that hasn’t been the case for a long time.

In 1978, California governor Ronald Reagan opposed the Briggs Initiative, which would have barred gays from teaching in public schools. In an op-ed penned as he was beginning his presidential campaign, Reagan wrote, “Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” This, in the late 70s, while Jimmy Carter was publicly refusing to meet with gay groups. The initiative was overwhelmingly defeated, mostly due to Reagan’s efforts, and this momentum was instrumental in forming the Log Cabin Republicans.

Reagan was the first president to invite two openly gay men—interior decorator Ted Graber and his partner—to spend the night at the White House. Washington Post reporter Robert Kaiser called Reagan a “closet tolerant.” If Reagan was closeted, it was because no one asked him his views, not because he was hiding anything.

The number of gays discharged from the military dropped every year under Reagan. In contrast, the number of gays discharged increased every full year under Bill Clinton except one, doubling from 617 in 1994 to 1,231 in 2000. The number of gays discharged decreased again every full year under George W. Bush except one, halved from 1,273 in 2001 to 612 in 2006. Gay rights groups report the number of gays discharged over decades, but they never break it down by administration, because the numbers make Democrats look bad and Republicans look good.

More recently, Obama claimed he would repeal the ban on gays in the military—and has spent precisely zero time working to fulfill this promise. He refused to issue an executive order staying the investigation of gays until the law is changed, and is content destroying through inaction the military careers of servicemen like Arabic translator Dan Choi.

Our Gay Marriage Opponent-in-Chief kicked off his inauguration with an invocation by Rick Warren, robust financial sponsor of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. Happy days are here again!

Independent Gay Forum reports that around the 100-day mark of Obama’s presidency, WhiteHouse.gov removed discussion of almost all gay issues from its Civil Rights page including mention of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, cut its number of “promises” to gays from eight to three, and slashed discussion of gay issues from half a page to a few sentences. After bloggers objected, some material returned but not the promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act or a quote about gay civil rights. “Change we can believe in” apparently means “we can be confident that campaign promises to gays will get scrubbed from Obama’s website on a regular basis.”

In Washington D.C., former Democratic mayor Marion Barry recently woke up from a nap to realize he had accidentally voted with a unanimous City Council to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and subsequently asked the council for a do-over so he could take back his vote.

Meanwhile, gay-friendly candidates and policies are making inroads even in the religious wing of the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential primaries, televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Guiliani, the most pro-gay major Republican candidate, a man who shacked up with a gay male couple after his divorce and promised them if New York ever legalized gay marriage he would preside over their ceremony.

Focus on the Family, James Dobson’s group, recently expressed their openness to a gay Obama Supreme Court nominee: “The issue is not their sexual orientation. It’s whether they are a good judge or not.” Sexual orientation “should never come up. It’s not even pertinent to the equation.”

If, in 2009, gays want to support the Democratic Party because they happen to agree with every one of their non-gay-related positions, fine. It’s a bit suspicious that so many gays tout the full Democratic Party line, from global warming to Guantanamo Bay. But if they’re voting for Democrats because of their superior stance on gay issues, they’re not getting much out of the bargain.

How about these “pro-gay” positions? Republicans are more aggressive than Democrats in the war against Islamic extremists, who are extraordinarily harsh in their condemnation and punishment of gays.

Republicans are tougher on law enforcement than Democrats—a boon for gays, who are more likely to suffer bias crimes. Republicans are more likely to support gun rights, as in the recent D.C. gun law Supreme Court case, which included as plaintiff a gay man who wanted to protect himself against anti-gay violence.

Republicans favor lower taxes than Democrats, and gays have more disposable income than heterosexuals.

Why is the Republican Party the real pro-gay party? The fact that Republican politicians aren’t anti-gay and Democratic politicians aren’t pro-gay helps. The fact that Republican positions make more sense than Democratic positions on some gay issues (e.g., opposing “hate crimes” laws for preferred minority groups-of-the-moment) also helps. But the main reason is that the Republican Party is more inclined to protect individual liberties, inarguably in economic realms, and even in some social realms (e.g., smoking and nutrition-related). They’re more likely to support tough law enforcement that allows liberties to be protected. And they’re more likely to support national defense, which allows us to maintain a country that protects liberties in the first place.

If the Republican Party is better for this country, and the party that is better for this country is better for all of us, then the Republican Party is the real pro-gay party.

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Delay Is No Longer Not an Option

May 10, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

In an unintentionally comic piece, Stanley Crouch claims, “On President Obama’s watch, patience is the ultimate virtue.”

Is he kidding?  To rephrase the expression, Barack Obama never waited a day in his administration.  (Up until the presidential campaign, “worked an honest day in his life” covers him pretty well, too.)

Obama would have nationalized healthcare, banned carbon dioxide, withdrawn from Iraq, and started a second New Deal while still in the “Office of the President-Elect” if he could have gotten away with it.

President “I want a stimulus package on my desk by January 20” Obama couldn’t be bothered with niceties like posting the bill online for 48 hours for voters to read, even though he waited four days after it passed to sign it.  In his quote from the week before the $800 billion boondoggle was brought to a vote—“We can’t afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary”—by “perfect” he evidently meant “a bill with completed wording.”

Obama is just fine with Nancy Pelosi ramming “healthcare reform” through Congress with a simple majority by inappropriately using budget reconciliation to write it into law after the budget is approved.

President “Delay is no longer an option” is content to let the Environmental Protection Agency enact cap-and-trade regulations if Congress doesn’t pass them soon enough for his liking.

Our Hastener in Chief is willing to lose the war in Iraq so he can make sure combat troops are home in time for the midterm elections.

And President “Bow at the Waist” Obama just can’t wait until he and Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are on good enough terms that he can add them as Facebook friends, even though Castro hasn’t promised to confirm his request.

Crouch explains Obama’s leadership style thus: “He clearly understands that a democracy with many, many circles of power is prone to a slow velocity of policy achievements.”  Apparently Obama understands it well enough to cut Republicans out of committee meetings on the stimulus package, cut the American people out of a chance to look at and comment on the bill, cut shareholders out of hiring and firing decisions at automobile manufacturers and banks, and cut Congress out of passing environmental regulations.  That’s one way to deal with “many, many circles of power,” otherwise known by our Founding Fathers as “checks and balances” and “limits on rule.”

Crouch contrasts Obama’s administration with a dictatorial or totalitarian regime by explaining that in the latter, “Orders are given to go with a theory…  Physical threats can almost always guarantee compliance and the speed once called ‘greased lightning.’”

Let’s recount what orders Obama has served up so far to go with his “theories.”  There are the massive stimulus package and budget to go with the discredited theory of Keynesian economics.  There are the wasteful bailouts to go with the meritless theory that some companies are “too big to fail.”  There are the suicidal environmental regulations to go with the delusional theory of man-made global warming.

As for threatening those who do not follow orders, Obama has already set his staff on private citizens who might impede his progress (Rush Limbaugh, Jim Cramer), fired or intimidated CEOs who interfered with his plans (Rick Wagoner, Vikram Pandit), ordered creditors to accept lousy bankruptcy terms and warned that he would ruin their reputations if they didn’t comply, and issued a veiled threat against dissenters by implying that he might unleash the Department of Homeland Security as a bulwark against their dangerous right-wing tendencies.

Crouch sagely counsels, “It is always good for our nation to sit back, be patient, be determined, be disciplined and listen carefully to everything that is said.”  Sorry—who was it who didn’t have time to post the stimulus bill online for Americans to read so they could “listen carefully to everything that is said”?  Who is too busy to provide promised details on how the stimulus money is being spent so we can be “disciplined” and spend it wisely?  Who isn’t “patient” enough to let U.S. soldiers in Iraq finish their job and let Congress and the American people have a chance to debate nation-altering healthcare and environmental legislation?

Perhaps what Crouch really meant is that Obama’s “patience” is demonstrated by his willingness to wait a long time for our problems to be solved.  Maybe Obama believes that precipitous action is needed now, and then we can relax and engage in luxuries like “debate.”  But if these issues have allegedly gone unaddressed for so long and will take years or decades to resolve, then we can certainly afford to spend a mere few months discussing them.

Even Stalin probably didn’t institute one of his Five-Year Plans without sleeping on it.

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How Much Is That Carbon in the Window?

May 03, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Environmentalism

Paul Krugman’s recent column, “An Affordable Salvation,” gushes about how, now that the “junk science”-loving (and Nazi-hugging) former occupant of the White House is gone, we can finally start saving the planet.  And it won’t cost much, either!  That is, if only we can get cap-and-trade skeptics to stop practicing “junk economics.”

“The best available estimates,” according to Krugman, suggest that turning industrial civilization green will basically be painless, and in the end will actually be good for us.  Perhaps his “best available estimates” include the recent, breathless press release from the Environmental Defense Fund: “For about a dime a day we can solve climate change, invest in a clean energy future, and save billions in imported oil.”  New EDF slogan: Saving the planet and 90 cents will get you a cup of coffee!

In the Rube Goldberg scheme of alternative energy sources, permits, taxes, carbon credit swapping, and rebates known as “cap-and-trade,” I count at least six additional charges consumers will directly or indirectly face.  First, there is the cost of less efficient “green” energy production, which will be passed on to consumers.  Second, there is the charge for emissions permits, which will also be passed on to consumers.  Third, there are the private and governmental bureaucratic costs of administering this system.  Fourth, there are costs from lobbying and inefficient allocations of carbon credits to congressional districts in exchange for pro-cap-and-trade votes, to industries in exchange for union support, and to companies in exchange for campaign contributions.  Fifth, there are inefficiencies that will result from the illegal selling and trading of credits and the costs of prosecuting this corruption.  Finally, there’s the cost of industry leaders and investors’ uncertainty regarding possible cap-and-trade regulations the government could decide to introduce or expand any time it wants.

But, Krugman reassures us, carbon credits would become a “scarce” resource, just like oil, land, and water; he adds that the “magic” of the free market should allow it to “cope” with emissions limits just fine.

Any idiot realizes that natural resources are not the same thing as artificial, government-imposed restrictions.  The former allow us to be productive; the latter prevent it.  Legal leg irons are not amenable to expansion through scientific innovation.

Mocking laissez-faire capitalists for believing the free market is “magic” is a straw man—no one ever said the marketplace could compensate for unpredictable, industry-destroying, government-imposed limits, which preclude the very existence of the free market.  How’d the “magic” of the marketplace do in overcoming “scarce” resources in the former Soviet Union?

In case we’re still not persuaded that cap-and-trade isn’t suicidal folly, Krugman tempts us that “committing ourselves now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump.”  This, from an “economist” whose patron saint is John Maynard Keynes, who once famously said that the government could stimulate the economy by putting money in jars, burying them, and paying unemployed people to dig them up again.

If “green” business were profitable, wouldn’t companies already be doing it?  If alternative forms of energy were so efficient, would they need massive government subsidies to keep the companies that produce them from going bankrupt?

Krugman argues that cap-and-trade would “create major incentives for new investment—investment in low-emission power plants, in energy-efficient factories and more.”  All of which, of course, are less efficient and less preferable to investors.  Cap-and-trade might allow for “major technological innovation,” as he claims, but at the cost of discarding already profitable, more efficient innovation.

The “argument from economy” is designed to reassure those who think cap-and-trade is necessary that it is affordable, and those who think cap-and-trade is not necessary that it at least will not hobble our economy.  But those who are rightly skeptical of cap-and-trade should be aware that it is anything but a harmless indulgence.

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