Scott Spiegel


Archive for the ‘Columns’

Obama’s Transportation Bill: Taking Us for a Ride

July 16, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

ObamaTrainNever trust a Democrat’s stated rationale for legislation he’s pushing. There’s always an ulterior motive, if not seven or eight.

Take President Obama, who’s been harping about transportation funding, not because it’s a national priority, but because it serves a host of other goals of his:

1. Obama changing the subject to transportation is meant to distract us from a rash of his scandals and policy failures.

When the border crisis, the IRS scandal, the lawsuit filed against you by the House Speaker, and the 13 unanimous Supreme Court rulings against you in the last two years get you down, just stage a photo op of yourself trying out a Knight Rider simulator. That’s how Obama handles the pressure. After visiting Texas to raise money for Congressional Democrats and stage a photo op drinking beer and playing pool—but not visiting the border—President Obama flew to McLean, Virginia to tour a transportation research facility: about the least critical place for him to be on Earth right now.

2. Dwelling on transportation reflects Obama’s lack of interest in foreign policy and the many international crises unfolding at the moment, and his preference for focusing on massively increasing domestic spending. Obama favors such profligacy, even though he expects the electorate to be too stupid not to notice that he’s been requesting and getting transportation funding for five-and-a-half years and has little to show for it.

What ever happened with that trillion-dollar stimulus package that was supposed to address our infrastructure woes and generate tens of thousands of shovel-ready jobs? Time and again since 2009 we’ve heard from Democrats that, well, we haven’t gotten quite enough funding for transportation, so we’re going to need to raise gas taxes and corporate taxes to rustle up a few more dollars, and then everything will run smoothly and we’ll never ask for extra funds again.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) press release for Obama’s request gushes that it “reflects President Obama’s vision for a four-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that would create millions of jobs and lay the foundation for long-term competitiveness, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges…” I think we’ve heard that spiel before, and it gets less convincing every time the administration repeats it.

3. Emphasizing transportation gives Obama an excuse to lecture Republicans and dredge up an election-year issue to help Senate Democrats.

In McLean, Obama berated Republicans for not appropriating enough money for federal spending on roads and bridges. Speaking several hours before the House passed an $11 billion stopgap transportation bill that funds highway maintenance through next May, Obama scolded, “Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis.”

This is rich coming from Obama, under whom the Senate failed for three consecutive years to pass or propose a federal budget, said recklessness precipitating years of fiscal cliffs, debt ceiling crises, and last-minute continuing resolutions.

And those fiascos concerned the entire federal budget. Obama’s FY15 request for the DOT is a mere $77 billion ($302 billion over four years), compared to the FY14 federal budget request of $3.77 trillion. Apparently we can ignore the entire federal budget for three years, but must obsess over one sliver that Obama wants to focus on right now.

4. If passed, the bill would service a host of far-left causes.

Obama’s transportation bill is motivated, not by a desire to see more cars and trucks on the road facilitating commerce and raising our standard of living, but an obsession with impractical high-speed rail, bike and pedestrian lanes, erosion prevention, global warming reduction, and showing that we can blow as much of our federal budget on transportation as China.

DOT’s press release announces that one of the bill’s benefits is “training women, minorities, and veterans to fill the jobs gap in transit through innovative new workforce development programs.” That’s about a step up in relevance to the department’s mission from NASA’s goal of promoting outreach to Muslims.

5. Most of all, Obama’s bill is designed to keep transportation and other areas of funding grounded within the federal government and prevent them from migrating to the state and local level.

Though the House’s stopgap measure passed by a large margin, some conservative Republicans objected. They favor cutting gas taxes and federal transportation aid and leaving construction projects to states and localities. But Obama opposes decentralization of spending, as it would undercut his claim “You didn’t build that.” Getting Washington out of the transportation arena would give the lie to the notion that private companies and innovators can’t do anything without the largesse of the federal government.

So the next time Obama or Congressional Democrats get on their soapboxes and lecture you about what you really need to be focusing on—transportation funding, student loans, the War on Women—just peek behind their lecterns and see what they’re really hiding.

Print This Post Print This Post

The Consequences of Democracy

July 09, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

republicAs House Speaker John Boehner prepares his lawsuit against President Obama for excessive and illegal use of executive orders, consider that Obama’s behavior over the past five-and-a-half years reflects his having governed as though this country were a democracy.

As Hamilton Abert Long pointed out in his bicentennial volume The American Ideal of 1776, democracy—not “democracy” as in the feature of many political systems whereby everyone gets to participate in government—but the specific form of government that goes by that name, is not only dissimilar to republicanism (the system we live under) but its polar opposite.

Democracy as a system of government embodies unlimited majority rule, or majority rule without safeguards to protect the rights of the minority and individuals. The majority is omnipotent and can rule however it wants, no matter how shabbily it treats everyone else, so long as it can get fifty percent-plus-one representatives to agree.

In contrast, republicanism is about limited majority rule, specifically majority rule with safeguards built into a written constitution to protect the liberty of individuals and the minority, and with checks and balances among branches of government to prevent the tyranny of a few elite rulers.

The modern-day Democratic Party embodies the principles of a democracy, and the Republican Party embodies the principles of a republic. The unlimited majority rule that characterizes a democracy catalyzes a number of illegitimate governing tactics, all of which have been legion in the Obama presidency. For example:

  • Haste and recklessness

If all that matters is getting a majority to support your position, then why waste time letting people contemplate the implications of major legislation?

The brand-new Obama administration and Democratic Congress routinely broke promises to post bills online for 48 hours for voters to read. Democrats tried to rush Obamacare through Congress without having read it or become familiar with its details, while tossing major provisions in and out of the legislation willy-nilly in an effort to get something passed before the public started to object too strongly. And Harry Reid’s Democratic-controlled Senate refused, for three consecutive years, to pass or propose a federal budget as required by law, which resulted in an endless series of panicky, last-minute continuing resolutions and threats of fiscal cliffs that put Republicans on the defensive.

  • Cheating and rule-bending

If you can convince the public that it’s OK to use whichever tactics are necessary to accomplish an important goal, then why not use that consensus as political cover for actions you otherwise wouldn’t legally be allowed to take?

Democrats tried every maneuver under the sun to pass Obamacare, inappropriately using budget reconciliation to overcome a non-filibuster-proof Senate majority and attempting sleazy schemes like “deem and pass” and the Cornhusker Kickback. Recently Obama has announced endless delays and special breaks for various interest groups in implementing Obamacare, in an attempt to postpone the electoral consequences of carrying out its unpopular provisions.

Consider liberal cheating at the ballot box: Al Gore’s push for hand recounts using loosened standards in select counties in the 2000 Florida Presidential recount, or Al Franken stealing a Minnesota Senate election by finding a judge to approve alternative vote-counting standards. Or liberal double standards regarding appointed seats: Massachusetts Democrats withholding Governor Mitt Romney’s right to appoint a successor to John Kerry in 2004 and then changing the rules so Governor Deval Patrick could fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, or liberal Mayor Mike Bloomberg supporting the law that prevented Rudy Guiliani from serving more than two terms and then pushing to suspend it so he could serve three terms.

  • Usurping other branches’ powers

If other branches of government or private parties won’t cooperate in helping you enact your schemes, then why let checks and balances or limits on rule get in your way?

Consider Obama’s aforementioned inappropriate use of executive powers, including directing the EPA to enact carbon dioxide restrictions after Congress wouldn’t pass a bill doing so; making hiring and firing decisions for automobile manufacturers and banks; capping executive pay for companies that took bailout money; nationalizing the student loan system; appointing dozens of unaccountable czars; and unilaterally and illegally declaring dozens of delays to Obamacare.

  • Hypocrisy

If the integrity of political tactics doesn’t matter, only achieving your desired outcomes, then why bother to be consistent in which behaviors you condemn and which you practice?

Obama decried all of Bush’s post-9/11 security policies as a campaign strategy, then adopted almost all of them as his own once in office. Liberals loudly protested the Iraq War at townhall meetings under President George W. Bush, then denounced voters who attended townhall meetings to confront their representatives about Obamacare. And the left accused conservatives of politicizing the Benghazi attacks after the 2012 election, then got indignant when Republicans produced evidence that the administration had politicized the IRS audit process before the 2012 election.

  • Intimidation

If those out of power aren’t cooperating with your plans, then what’s wrong with reminding them of their place and putting your boot on their necks?

The administration threatened to sic the Department of Homeland Security on Tea Partiers; unleashed the IRS to subject conservative groups to extra scrutiny before the 2012 election; asked supporters to send along “fishy” information on Obamacare and the email addresses of those who sent it; and tried to regulate the Internet and talk radio to ensure “balanced” content.


The left denounces Boehner’s lawsuit as folly. Perhaps it won’t prevail in the courts. But a key feature of a republic is that the majority in power can’t just do whatever it wants if its actions violate rights enshrined in the constitution. If they try, officials in other branches of government can step in and try to curb their power. And that is exactly what suing the President is intended to accomplish.

Print This Post Print This Post

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Supreme Court’s Drama Queen

July 02, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

???????????????If Justice Clarence Thomas is the Supreme Court’s intellectual leader, surely Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is its resident drama queen.

On Monday the Supreme Court decided 5-4 in favor of craft supply store Hobby Lobby and cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties, which filed suits against the federal government in 2012 opposing Obamacare’s mandate that they offer 20 birth control methods to employees or pay fines of up to $1.3 million daily.

The Court ruled that these “closely held” family-owned businesses aren’t obligated to offer 4 out of 20 birth control options they object to, at least one of which is considered an abortifacent or “morning-after pill.” Such a requirement, the Court ruled, violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Mitigating the left’s inevitable claim that the ruling constitutes another salvo in the war on women, here are all the things female Hobby Lobby and Conestoga employees can do if they don’t like the decision:

  • Use one of the other 16 methods of birth control Hobby Lobby and Conestoga offer;
  • Pay out-of-pocket for one of the 4 methods not offered;
  • Apply for government-funded coverage directly from insurers, just as employees of non-profits who object to paying for birth control can do, to obtain one of these 4 methods;
  • If it’s that big a deal to them to work for an employer that makes Sandra Fluke happy, choose one of the 8 million other companies in the country who offer all 20 methods.

Instead, the White House is jabbering about setting up a federal fund to pay for birth control, and Senate Democrats are chewing over legislation to ensure that every woman in America has free morning-after pills perpetually at her fingertips.

Meanwhile, back on the bench, three of the four liberal Justices had the sense to cast their votes and then keep their contorted reasoning to themselves.

But leave it to the histrionic Ginsburg, who gets inspiration for deciding Supreme Court cases from the opera, to hyperventilate for 35 pages about the disastrous consequences of the majority decision in a separate dissent.

Here are a few nuggets from Ginsburg’s jeremiad:

Ginsburg claims that the decision will wreak “havoc” on society. She argues that birth control facilitated women’s entry into the labor force, and that not requiring every employer to give out free morning after pills will drive women back to a barefoot and pregnant state of existence.

Ginsburg warns that the decision will require “the government, i.e., the general public, [to] pick up the tab” for birth control pills if employers don’t cover them. But only in the fevered imagination of a liberal does a commercial transaction require the federal government to either (1) force some private party to pay for it or (2) force taxpayers to subsidize it. How about individuals who want it buy it themselves?

In the most sweeping section of her dissent, Ginsburg slams the Citizens United (2010) decision and analogizes the two cases, claiming there is “no support for the notion that free exercise rights pertain to for-profit corporations. Until this [Hobby Lobby] litigation, no decision of this Court recognized a for-profit corporation’s qualification for a religious exemption from a generally applicable law.”

She adds, “The absence of such precedent is just what one would expect, for the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities.” To which I would respond: Tell that to Marriott Hotel, which phased out pay-per-view adult TV and stocks its rooms with The Book of Mormon; In-N-Out Burger and Forever 21, which print Bible verses on their packaging; Whole Foods, whose CEO incorporates Buddhist philosophy into his management practices; and dozens of other corporations whose religions motivate their values.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, who agreed with Ginsburg’s ruling, politely distanced themselves from large chunks of her nutty rantings, averring, “We need not and do not decide whether either for-profit corporations or their owners may bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.”

Is it any wonder that a justice who thinks government has the right to trample on people’s checkbooks when they refuse to buy a product on the private market also thinks it’s OK to force citizens to follow a law even if it tramples on their religious freedom?

Ginsburg gives the game away when she writes, “The state may justify an inroad on religious liberty by showing that it is the least restrictive means of achieving some compelling state interest.”

So Ginsburg thinks it’s peachy to crush religious liberties if that’s the least painful way to ensure some crucial government goal—in this case, the left’s century-long dream of socialized medicine.

Come to think of it, if I were a liberal who had been drooling over the fantasy of national health care for 81 years and faced the prospect of having it snatched away, I might react dramatically, too.

Print This Post Print This Post

More Horses Lose Their Heads When Liberals Are in Power

June 25, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2014

article-1220266-06D06863000005DC-530_468x286The left is no longer interested in merely quashing free speech. Now they’re trying to force conservatives to shut up about their free speech rights being quashed.

Democrats have been hyping trumped-up charges against a teachers’ union-busting, blue-state Republican Governor in order to diminish his 2016 Presidential election chances, even though investigations have uncovered no wrongdoing on his part.

No, not Chris Christie—this time it’s Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Forget Bridgegate: this scandal should be called Free Speechgate. But in this case it’s Walker’s opponents who are behaving scandalously.

Last year Democratic Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm anonymously initiated a John Doe investigation against Walker, claiming that he and his allies had engaged in improper coordination of fundraising activities. Prosecutors representing Chisholm allege that Friends of Scott Walker, the Governor’s campaign committee for his 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections, had an “advisory relationship” with the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the latter of which (a) received money from fundraising groups that gave $10,000 to Friends of Walker, (b) spoke with R. J. Johnson, a consultant for Friends of Walker, and (c) gave $2.5 million to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which spent money on pro-Walker TV ads. Prosecutors also claim that Johnson advised Citizens for a Strong America, which accepted $4.6 million from Club for Growth and gave $2 million to Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Right to Life, and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin to fund absentee ballot programs.

Taking some of the oomph out of the prosecution’s charges is the fact that neither Walker, nor the Walker Campaign, nor Friends of Walker, nor Johnson gave a penny to Club for Growth or any of the councils or committees that bought political ads. None of the conservative groups in question encouraged voters to choose one candidate over another. As tax-exempt, non-profit organizations, they are therefore free to spend as much as they want on issue advocacy.

Yet according to prosecutors, the sheer act of campaign staff discussing political strategy on current issues with ideologically like-minded groups in advance of an election is illegal, if any of those organizations give money to groups that run campaign ads. In other words, it’s a crime to let your staff talk to consultants who talk to people who work for groups that give money to groups that channel it to committees that sponsor political ads.

Shouldn’t there be some kind of six-degrees-of-separation provision for campaign finance laws, to protect people who are accidentally connected from being accused of conspiracy?

Meanwhile, Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe filed a lawsuit against state prosecutors, alleging that their ruthless investigation was chilling conservative groups’ free speech rights. At Chisholm’s request, Wisconsin Circuit Judge Barbara Kluka granted prosecutors outrageously sweeping subpoena powers that led them to conduct dozens of raids on conservative organizations in Wisconsin. These draconian invasions involved restraining employees while prosecutors’ goons absconded with computers, telephones, and paperwork.

Most egregiously, due to the slimy, shadowy nature of John Doe investigations, Walker and all these conservative groups were wholly prevented from defending themselves against the public charges. Instead, Walker had to go around for months during an election year mumbling “no comment” to reporters, as though he were patently guilty and desperate to change the subject.

In response to this witch hunt and O’Keefe’s lawsuit, Federal Justice Rudolph T. Randa stepped in twice to stop the ruthless investigation and unseal the records prosecutors had shielded from the public that documented the scope of their inquisition. Randa dismissed prosecutors’ claims that they couldn’t be sued because they were simply trying to enforce what they thought was the law: “[T]he defendants attempt to reframe the issue by arguing that the right to coordinate issue advocacy speech is not clearly established. But even if that assertion is true, the defendants would still have to defend against the general thrust of the plaintiffs’ claim that they were targeted by the defendants because of their conservative viewpoints.”

In other words, Randa reminded these overzealous prosecutors that even if Walker’s campaign improperly coordinated fundraising efforts, defendants still have to answer to the charge that they targeted conservative groups because they were conservative. They also must explain why they had to engage in egregious acts of forcible entry involving breaking into offices, pinning down employees, and stealing private documents.

To compare this inquest to another recent scandal, imagine if IRS officials had gone even further than they did with their scrutiny of conservative organizations, and had raided the headquarters of dozens of Tea Party groups on the basis of trumped-up allegations of minor campaign fundraising violations; then stolen office equipment and contents of filing cabinets while holding scared secretaries hostage. Imagine if the IRS had then made the charges against these groups public, all while getting a court order preventing them from defending themselves against the phony accusations. That’s what’s going on here.

What is it with liberals and free speech? From demanding political correctness to enforcing speech codes, from regulating airwaves to monitoring the Internet, from preventing debate on major bills to uninviting university commencement speakers, from sneaking through recess appointments to preventing people from talking outside abortion clinics, from slandering Vietnam swiftboat veterans to trashing a probable Army deserter’s resentful fellow soldiers, liberals apparently can’t stand the thought of American voters hearing both sides of an issue. Is there a single comparable case in which conservatives have expended so much energy trying to make sure people don’t know what liberals believe?

With Chisholm’s sleazy, anonymous John Doe investigation of Scott Walker and its accompanying gag order restricting speech about heinous actions committed by fanatical prosecutors, liberals have reached a new low.

The left is now officially trying to keep conservatives from speaking out about how liberals are trying to keep them from speaking out.

Print This Post Print This Post

Obama’s One Great Accomplishment: Avoiding Responsibility

June 18, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As Vice-President Joe Biden might say, restarting the Iraq War could be one of the great successes of the Obama administration!

Last weekend, U.S. warships sailed to the Persian Gulf as a precautionary measure against the advance of Sunni insurgent group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The dangerous al-Qaeda offshoot—whose leader President Obama set free in 2009—has taken over Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, as well as Saddam Hussein’s hometown Tikrit, and is nipping at Baghdad’s heels. ISIS also controls Fallujah, Ramadi, Jallawiya, Saadiyah, and a couple dozen other Iraqi cities.

According to liberals like Nancy Pelosi, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, The New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal, and Democratic Governor Lincoln Chafee, all of this is George W. Bush’s fault.

To be fair, in the final month of his Presidency, after the surge he ordered in 2007 had driven back Sunni insurgents and halted U.S. casualties, Bush signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that set a timetable for removing all U.S. troops by December 31, 2011. Knowing that the insurgents might simply wait us out and return when it was safe, Bush and his generals operated under the assumption that Obama would renegotiate with the Iraqi government in a couple of years to leave some U.S. troops in Iraq if needed—i.e. that Obama wasn’t a completely irresponsible, partisan bonehead.

But Obama was intent on getting every last peacekeeping force out of Iraq to appease his anti-war base and keep his campaign promise “to end wars, not to start them.” Obama halfheartedly pretended to try to negotiate a new SOFA in 2011, but really he just wanted to close the book on Iraq so he could get back to his passion of ruining America domestically.

Thanks to Obama’s stubbornness and his desire to see the U.S. emasculated, our mortal enemy Iran now has more troops in Iraq than we do. Obama’s Congressional authorization to use military force in Iraq never expired, but apparently helping Iraq is the one unilateral action he refuses to take during his Presidency.

Now the U.S.’s hard-won victory, which finally yielded tangible, historic results, is on the verge of collapse. And all because Obama just had to prove that Bush’s vision for a democratic, rule-of-law-respecting Iraq was a misguided, neocon-driven, warmongering, blood-for-oil-inspired fantasy. The easiest, most passive, most Obama-like way to do that was to pull all our troops out and let Iraq disintegrate via malign neglect.

Remember how we all laughed when Biden crowed that ending the Iraq War could be one of the administration’s great successes? What made that line so funny was that all Obama was doing was carrying out an agreement Bush had set up, in which case he didn’t deserve much credit for winding down the war. But Biden meant something different: Obama was going to end the war the “responsible” way, by appeasing fickle Iraqi civilians and not leaving any peacekeeping forces in the country, thus erasing the history of our involvement in Iraq and letting us pretend we were never there.

Obama now claims he’ll be considering military options “in the days ahead.” If he takes as long to develop a strategy for restoring Iraq as he did dithering over whether to order a surge in Afghanistan, ISIS may have taken over the Middle East by then.

If the public doesn’t buy the left’s rationalization for why Obama is off the hook, then liberals will no doubt fall back on their familiar tactic of decrying Republican “politicization” of events.

But it’s not politicization if one side was consistently right, the other was consistently wrong, and the consequences of the other side’s mistake are murder, bombing, beheading, mass execution, torture, and displacement. The public needs periodic reminders of which party can never be trusted in foreign military conflicts.

In the modern history of U.S.-Iraq relations, both parties have screwed up. First there was Bush Sr.’s decision in 1991 not to finish the Gulf War by taking Baghdad and removing Saddam Hussein. Then there was Bush Jr.’s decision in 2003 not to send enough troops to Iraq from the start to set up a peaceful democracy.

And then there was Obama’s decision to fail to negotiate a measly 10,000 troops in Iraq to preserve our victory, despite his recent decision to do exactly that in Afghanistan, where we haven’t won much worth preserving.

Ending the Iraq War could have been one of the great successes of the Obama administration—a low bar, admittedly—if he had simply done what generals begged him to do at the time and what any sane, non-America-hating President would have done. But Obama would rather sow chaos and destruction, then twist the facts with the media’s help to avoid responsibility for his actions, than ever admit he was wrong.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

Print This Post Print This Post

We’ve Helped a Lot Worse Than Teenaged Honduran Refugees

June 11, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Immigration

immigran-childrenHow much of a threat is the recent wave of refugee Central American children crossing our southern border? According to some anti-immigration hysterics, it’s a mass movement poised to fundamentally transform our nation.

Over the weekend, hundreds of unauthorized Latin-American immigrant minors were housed in a warehouse that had been converted into a federal detention center in Nogales, AZ. Most of the children were fleeing drug and gang violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Border Patrol officials flew them there from El Paso after apprehending them in the overburdened Rio Grande Valley and busing them north. Additional children were sheltered at military bases in Ventura, CA, San Antonio, TX, and Fort Sill, OK.

In response to these developments, The Washington Times editorial board cried, “There’s a surge on the border. This is a surge far different from George W. Bush’s dispatch of armed might to win the day in Iraq. This is a mass movement of immigrants that threatens to transform the nation.”

Let’s put things in perspective: In January 2012, there were 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., including 6.7 million from Mexico, 690,000 from El Salvador, 560,000 from Guatemala, and 360,000 from Honduras.

In 2013, 780,000 foreigners were naturalized in the U.S., including 99,000 from Mexico, 18,000 from El Salvador, and 9,500 from Guatemala.

The Nogales warehouse—the one that’s causing conservatives to lose their minds and declare the apocalypse imminent—is currently sheltering 1,100 kids.

For further context, in the course of one day on June 6, 2014, New York City counted 23,000 homeless children. The Housing and Urban Development Department reported that on a single night in January 2013, there were 138,000 homeless youth across the country. The National Center on Family Homelessness stated that over the course of 2010, there were 1.6 million homeless minors.

Yet protectionist conservatives are going blind with rage over 1,100 kids sleeping on vinyl-covered mattresses in Arizona. Michelle Bachmann has probably cared for more foster children than that. Isn’t 1,100 the average public school class size on Chicago’s South Side?

As Arizona Central noted, “Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented migrants are still running at less than half of the rate of 2000-06, when they typically exceeded 1 million a year.” So while tens of thousands of minors, three-quarters of them 16 or 17, sounds like a lot, it’s a fraction of what we see each year.

So why are these Central American children crossing the border now? Part of the rush is due to the administration’s extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. But these children in particular appear to be fleeing gang violence that has escalated dramatically in the past few months, thereby upsetting the pattern whereby the vast majority of unaccompanied minors come from Mexico.

Most of these Central American children have family members living here, many of whom immigrated after receiving temporary protected status in the 1980s or 1990s as a result of civil wars or the massive 2001 Salvadoran earthquakes. Many of these earlier refugees have children they haven’t seen in years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol is sending most of the Mexican children straight back, as it has always done. But most of the Central American children will eventually be sent home, too, either to family members living in the U.S., foster homes to await deportation proceedings, or straight across the border.

So why is the prospect of a few thousand kids showing up each month at the front door of a country of 317 million people causing such a panic? These children are certainly a visible sign of the incoherence of our immigration policy, and Americans are justified in asking what assistance we should offer them. But the U.S. grants asylum to tens of thousands of refugees annually, and has taken in over 3 million refugees in the past four decades. If these children don’t qualify for asylum under the Refugee Act, wouldn’t the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act—which has been used to help the Balkans, the Bhutanese, and the Palestinians, for God’s sake—cover them?

The left usually demands that we send futile humanitarian aid to far-flung places that are minimally relevant to us like Somalia, Rwanda, and Darfur. Is it so farfetched that our refugee assistance laws might allow us to house a bunch of minors from close neighbors and trading partners for a couple of months until we can return them to their parents?

Print This Post Print This Post

Send Bowe Back

June 04, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

3 traitorsIt’s hard to decide which aspect of President Obama’s recently brokered deal with the Taliban is worse—the release of five top-level terrorists from Guantánamo Bay or the return of Bowe Bergdahl.

What’s wrong with Obama’s noble decision to bring back an American prisoner of war? Only everything.

First, Bergdahl wasn’t a prisoner, and he wasn’t at war. Bergdahl was an Afghan-native-idealizing, Pashto-studying deserter who sought his spiritual kin in the Taliban and got more than he bargained for. He was a kidnap victim by hosts who decided not to let him leave but otherwise treated him well; his status does not rise to the level of military “prisoner.”

Bergdahl was no longer part of the war. He sent his family a virulently anti-American email outlining his motivations for deserting, left a note explaining his disillusionment with the Army, walked away from his post one night, and never came back.

Bergdahl put his unit at risk by abandoning his guard post, and put his fellow soldiers at further risk when they came following after him—as the Taliban knew they would, and in preparation for which they set up ambushes and booby traps. Multiple soldiers died hunting for Bergdahl, more were hurt, and the unit’s intrusive, knock-on-every-door search strategy irritated the local population and catalyzed insurgents. Fellow soldiers dropped other missions to pursue leads regarding Bergdahl’s whereabouts; their other operations stalled for months. According to Captain Travis Sorensen, “We had F-15s flying constant missions for 48 hours and had 52 planes doing search runs. There were A-10s, Apache helicopters, British Tornadoes, British Navy Harriers and German Tornadoes.”

On top of all this, we now learn that Bergdahl and his parents are big, flaming, left-wing jerks who despise their country. Bergdahl’s father, who gives the Taliban Five a run for their money in the ugly facial hair department, charmingly thanked Allah in Arabic for the swap at the President’s Rose Garden press conference announcing the release. Do you think budding jihadists the world over will pick up on that little tribute?

Bowe Bergdahl was known to issue such encomiums as “The horror that is America is disgusting” and “I am ashamed to even be (A)merican.” He called his commander a “conceited old fool” and his fellow soldiers an “army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies.”

If Obama was going to unleash five fanatical Taliban on the world in exchange for one POW, couldn’t he have chosen a prisoner who was a little more sympathetic to his countrymen? Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who’s currently being tortured in a Mexican jail for no reason after having honorably served two tours in Afghanistan, apparently wasn’t anti-American enough.

Then there’s Obama’s violation of the principle that we don’t negotiate with terrorists. A one-for-one terrorist-for-prisoner swap would have been unacceptable. A five-for-one swap would have been outrageous. A five-of-the-most-murderous-U.S.-enemies-in-the-world-for-one-deserter swap is impeachable.

Obama didn’t advise Congress of the swap 30 days beforehand, as he is bound to do by law. This is probably the least of his offenses, in that he acts unilaterally so often Congress doesn’t even expect him to ask for consent anymore. More disturbingly, Obama didn’t advise the Afghan government, which is fuming at his recklessness. He also sent Susan Rice out to lie again on the Sunday morning talk shows, as when she told George Stephanopoulos that Bergdahl had “served with the United States with honor and distinction.”

There’s a larger lesson to be reinforced here. Radical Islam has remained a significant threat throughout history for one reason: not its superior moral or cultural system, or its adherents’ powerful weaponry or wealth. Islam as a dangerous political force has hung on for so long because the Koran instructs Muslims that Allah is on their side, even if the enemy vastly outnumbers them, so long as they remain faithful to Him.

Suicidal, symbolic deals like the Bergdahl swap do more than any battlefield skirmish to give jihadists encouragement to hold out a little longer. Useful idiots like Bergdahl lend them hope that their turmoil and suffering have been worth it, that the enemy is capable of being won over. Unsurprisingly, after the deal was executed, Taliban Leader Mullah Omar exulted to his followers, “The sacrifice of our Mujahedin have resulted in the release of our senior leaders from the hand of the enemy.” Omar hopefully called for the freeing of “all those who have been imprisoned for defending the honor and freedom of their country.”

If we lose the worldwide struggle against the forced spread of Islam, it won’t be due to the strength of its ideology, but because of the failure of undeserving representatives like Obama and Bergdahl to defend ours.

Print This Post Print This Post

Enhanced by Zemanta

Liberals Shrug at Gun Homicides That Aren’t Covered by TMZ

May 28, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Crime/Ethics

052414-elliot-rodgers-launch-3According to The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, Richard Martinez—father of Christopher Michael-Martinez, one of the victims of the mass shooting at UC Santa Barbara last week—was courageous for correctly pointing out that the N.R.A. caused his son’s death.

Echoing Martinez’s charge, Gopnik wrote, “Christopher died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A…. How do we know that they are the ‘because’ in this? Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings… and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again. (Australia is the clearest case—a horrific gun massacre, new laws, no more gun massacres—but the same is true of Canada, Great Britain, you name it.)”

This is a gross distortion of the facts and a negligent failure to see the big picture.

The higher prevalence of shooting rampages in the United States compared to other first-world countries is demonstrably due to cultural differences, not gun availability.

According to Peter Squires, an American criminologist at the UK’s University of Brighton, European countries are more tight-knit and collectivist; their residents are more likely to notice if an acquaintance is deeply troubled and about to go off the rails, and more apt to step in and prevent this from happening.

In contrast, the U.S. is a highly individualistic culture in which it’s easier for loners to drift away from society and become absorbed in their psychoses. With little social support and much suppressed antagonism toward communities they believe have failed them, these lone wolves sometimes lash out at others with what they see as justified mass violence.

In support of the notion that cultural factors are a bigger driver of mass shootings than gun availability, countries such as Germany, Norway, Finland, and Canada have experienced relatively few mass shootings over the past several decades, yet all have relatively high firearm ownership.

According to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, the U.S. has the highest civilian firearm ownership rate in the world, at 88.8 firearms per 100 people. But many other modern countries have high gun ownership rates as well, including #3 Switzerland (45.7), #4 Finland (45.3), #6 Cyprus (36.4), #10 Sweden (31.6), #11 Norway (31.3), #12 France (31.2), #13 Canada (30.8), #14 Austria (30.4), #15 Iceland (30.3), and (tied for) #15 Germany (30.3).

The contention that every other modern country has dramatically restricted gun ownership simply isn’t true.

Gopnik cites Australia as a model country for curbing gun violence via strict firearm control laws. After the Port Arthur mass shooting of 35 people in 1996, Australia enacted strict gun restrictions; advocates subsequently pointed to the drop in gun homicides over the next two decades as vindication of their approach. But gun homicides had already been dropping steadily for the previous two decades, and merely continued to drop after gun control was put in place. If you draw a trend line from 1979 to the present, you would actually predict a slightly lower volume of gun deaths in recent years than took place.

Meanwhile, Great Britain—which Gopnik cites as a successful gun control story—banned handguns in 1997 after the Dunblane mass shooting of 16 children in 1996. The country hasn’t seen any mass shootings since, though whether this is a result of firearm restrictions is highly debatable. What the country has seen, however, is gun crimes soaring 89% between 1998 and 2008, and the number of people injured by firearms more than doubling over approximately the same period—despite the pro-gun-control British government’s best efforts to cover up this troubling news.

Yet Great Britain is near the bottom of the list of countries by civilian gun ownership, at just 6.2 guns per 100 people—exactly where anti-gun liberals tell us Brits should be if they want to be safe and sound. Now, after almost two decades of this failed policy, angry Englishmen are clamoring for their guns back.

Gopnik mentions Great Britain as an example of how we could prevent mass shootings in the U.S. if only the gun lobby and gun-rights advocates weren’t influential enough to prevent draconian gun restrictions. Yet it’s undeniable that handgun violence has shot up since Great Britain banned handguns. So how can Gopnik claim that the British ban on guns was responsible for stopping mass shootings, yet somehow failed to stop—and indeed led to a spike in—gun crimes that weren’t part of mass shootings? Are mentally ill, would-be serial killers more likely to scrupulously observe handgun bans than purse-snatching punks?

Even if Gopnik’s theory were true, and the greater incidence of mass shootings were a result of gun availability, concealed-carry permits unequivocally lead to decreases in everyday gun violence. Is Gopnik fine with eliminating the occurrence of rare mass shootings at the cost of dramatically increasing far more common run-of-the-mill gun deaths?

It’s as though the left believed that gun homicides that are part of mass shootings are more tragic than those that happen willy-nilly, one or two at a time, to people they never hear about. Would they have gotten so worked up over Christopher Michael-Martinez’s death if he had been shot by a home invader or convenience store robber?

In the face of evidence of soaring gun crime in Britain, the most dramatic example of a modern state enacting severe restrictions in a misguided attempt to reduce gun violence, liberals seem willing to sacrifice huge numbers of everyday victims in order to prevent the occasional mass killing that makes them all weepy from being splashed across the front pages of tabloids.

Print This Post Print This Post

Enhanced by Zemanta

Forcing Us to Subsidize Rent-Controlled Apartments Is Downright Mean

May 21, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

007670-18-rooftop-loungeIndulging in their favorite pastime of picking at the scab of “income inequality,” The New York Times recently published a weepy exposé on the plight of rent-stabilized high-rise tenants in Manhattan who are excluded from the expensive amenities that full-paying fellow residents have access to, such as gyms, yoga studios, and environmentally-friendly bathhouses.

In recent years, upscale New York City co-ops and condominiums such as The Windermere West End, Stonehenge Village, Northside Piers, and Royal York have been installing amenities such as children’s playrooms, bike storage rooms, spas, pools, rooftop decks, gardens, and sky lounges, at a cost of millions of dollars, to try to lure in lucrative new tenants. According to developers, making all of these amenities available to rent-regulated tenants who are paying bargain-basement rates is costly and unfair to full-paying residents.

The city already forces most New York City high-rises to set aside about 20 percent of their units to low-income residents. Opponents of amenity exclusion policies charge that developers are trying to get rent-controlled tenants to vacate the building, so they can rent or sell their units to higher-paying tenants. Building owners, they claim, are trying to make these tenants feel unwelcome so they’ll leave prematurely.

To which I say: “Amen”—especially if those tenants have the nasty, green-eyed entitlement mentality of residents like Jean Green Dorsey.

Dorsey, president of Stonehenge Village’s tenants association and self-described “activist” who pays just $1,107 a month for a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment with a terrace, is incensed because only market-rate tenants will have access to the building’s new gym. As the Times interjects—no doubt in order to plant the seed of race discrimination in readers’ minds—Dorsey is African American. Author Ronda Kaysen writes, “Her front door is decorated with placards supporting President Obama… Sitting at her dining-room table recently, a sketch of Malcolm X hanging behind her, she said, ‘Nobody makes me a second-class citizen in my own home.’”

It’s come to this: Where once African Americans were denied legal protection against housing rental discrimination, now an aggrieved Malcolm X supporter isn’t satisfied at getting a lifelong Manhattan luxury rental for one-third the asking price, and declares that not having access to a state-of-the-art gym she’s not paying for is the new Jim Crow.

Another rent-stabilized tenant, Michael Reilly, a “personal trainer and actor” who pays just $1,250 a month for a studio apartment he shares with his wife and son in The Windermere—where rent for similar apartments runs several times that amount—whines about being denied access to a brand-new children’s playroom: “‘We were the only [rent-stabilized tenants] with a kid who was age-appropriate and that was just mean.’”

You know what else is mean? Forcing cash-strapped New York taxpayers with their own nightmarish rents to subsidize the cost of your luxury Manhattan apartment so you can raise children on the salary of an actor, and complaining when full-paying customers get a few treats that their exorbitant rents are funding, all while your presence lowers their property values. That strikes me as a bit mean.

(I seem to remember another ungrateful prominent figure who lives in a subsidized House complaining in recent years that the country that had given her and her family lucrative opportunities was “downright mean.”)

In their defense, developers note that, if they offer amenities to rent-stabilized tenants, they face the threat of additional regulation by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which they must ask for permission if they want to remove such amenities. Even if the Division allows removal of the amenity, they may require building owners to offer an even greater discount to rent-stabilized tenants.

Naturally, city and state Democratic legislators like Mark Levine, Corey Johnson, and Linda Rosenthal are swooping in and loudly promising to eradicate this segregationist policy of… requiring people to pay for services they use.

Rosenthal recently tugged at her constituents’ heartstrings with this appeal: “‘It’s a subtle form of harassment. It sends a message: You’re not as good as my tenants who pay more.’” No, they aren’t as good as the other tenants who pay more—not for the building’s coffers, or its financial sustainability, or its ability to turn a profit or expand or add more amenities in the future. Does Rosenthal quarrel with that?

The Times sarcastically titled its article, “What’s Next, a Bouncer?” Yes, actually, a bouncer would be appropriate for a nightclub in which 20 percent of the clientele demand access for one-third the cover charge, then cause a scene inside when they’re denied free access to the VIP lounge.

As the comments section of the Times article reveals, even most liberal New Yorkers agree: If off-Broadway stagehands and community activists want to use the luxury gyms and spas in high-rise Manhattan apartments, they can just pay the same damn rent as everyone else who lives there.

Print This Post Print This Post

Enhanced by Zemanta

Health Recommendation for Summer 2014: Get Out In the Sun

May 14, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

sunlight vitamin d healthI wish Tom Bethell, author of the classic The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, had included a chapter on the fake dangers of sun tanning. There are a lot of pasty, ozone-obsessed liberals sorely in need of a relaxing soak in the sun.

Self-appointed representatives of the nanny state have been screaming for years about the horrors of exposing one’s flesh to the scourge of sunlight—to say nothing of the diabolical rays of indoor tanning beds. The left is perpetually trying to regulate and ban teenagers from stepping foot inside tanning salons before their senior proms. (Most liberals are just jealous because they never went to theirs.)

Yet the fact is, there’s not one reliable, longitudinal study out there, produced anywhere on Earth, showing that sun tanning—in the absence of sun burning—causes skin cancer. Not one. As a social science researcher and Jersey Shore-colored orange person, I can tell you that I’ve searched long and hard.

The few controlled studies that exist generally show that sun burning leads to an increased likelihood of acquiring skin cancer. Even among those studies, most show that sun burning in childhood has a much greater effect on developing skin cancer than sun burning in adulthood. (There’s also a strong genetic component.)

But consider: Even if sun tanning caused melanoma, skin cancer is one of the rarest, least lethal types of cancer.

In 2000, according to the CDC, 206,966 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer; 196,038 U.S. men were diagnosed with prostate cancer; but just 61,061 Americans (of both genders) were diagnosed with melanoma.

Of the most common cancer types, lung and ovarian are by far the most lethal (roughly 79 percent and 73 percent mortality rates), followed by colorectal (40 percent), cervical (33 percent), breast (20 percent), and uterine (19 percent). Skin cancer and prostate cancer have the lowest mortality rates among the major cancers (about 15 percent). Note that the CDC’s skin cancer figure includes only melanomas of the skin, and excludes non-epithelial skin cancers, basal cell cancers, and squamous cell carcinomas; if included, the mortality rate would be even lower. And remember that these differential mortality rates are even wider in other countries with less well-developed medical systems, where more complex and difficult-to-treat cancers have proportionally higher mortality rates than skin cancer.

But my purpose for mentioning these other cancers isn’t to minimize the impact of deaths from skin cancer. It’s to argue that risking skin cancer could help you fight many of the more common and lethal cancers.

Scientists have known for a long time about the numerous health benefits from vitamin D, including protecting against multiple types of cancer. Vitamin D can be taken in pill form, but nutritionists agree that it is far more potent when acquired via the evolutionarily natural method, i.e. via direct sunlight.

Many people badly need that vitamin D—especially pallid urbanites in northern climates who spend all day indoors and cover up like vampires when they venture into sunlight.

So given the relatively low prevalence and mortality of skin cancer, even if sun tanning led to a slight increase in skin cancer we would predict it to yield a net reduction in deaths from all types of cancer.

In fact, several sets of researchers have crunched the numbers and drawn that conclusion.

Robert Heaney and John Cannell, for example, are two MDs and researchers who have separately made this claim. Their work, which was picked up by the mainstream media a few years ago, found that “[S]ubjects who were given a large daily vitamin D supplement enjoyed a whopping 60 percent reduction in all kinds of cancers after just four years of treatment… Spending just ten minutes in strong sunlight – the kind you get from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM between April and August – will allow your body to make as much vitamin D as you would get from drinking two hundred glasses of milk… It now appears that adequate sunlight-mediated vitamin D might prevent as many as 150,000 cancer deaths a year…”

The article reviews the harmful evolutionary effect of moving away from the tropics toward northern regions, the brief restoration of that balance with agrarian societies, and the regression to vitamin D deficiency when those societies moved indoors.

As another example, a 2012 study published in Public Health Nutrition showed that “The overall health benefit of an improved vitamin D status may be more important than the possibly increased CMM [cutaneous malignant melanoma] risk resulting from carefully increasing UV exposure… [T]he dramatic reduction in overall cancer risk… more than makes up for any potential increase in melanoma risk… [T]he benefit-to-risk ratio of reducing your risk of dying from any particular type of cancer, compared to your risk of dying from melanoma, could likely be anywhere from 37 to 47 to 1…”

And remember: the above calculus is necessary only if one assumes that tanning in the absence of burning causes skin cancer—which, again, not one researcher has ever shown.

The notion that sun tanning is evil is advanced by lily-white, neurotic, northern busybodies, not tanned, laid-back, conservative Texans. (In 2000, non-Hispanic white Texans had 2,655 cases of skin cancer, while white New Yorkers had 3,474 and white Pennsylvanians had 2,968—even though both of those states are smaller than Texas.)

Those who tan regularly may be more relaxed about their mortality rates—and life in general—not because they’re irresponsible Pollyannas, but because they can expect to live longer than those who avoid the sun.

Print This Post Print This Post

Enhanced by Zemanta