It’s sometimes dangerous to take a snippet of a politician’s Sunday talk show bloviations and extrapolate them into a ruling philosophy. I don’t think that’s the case with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and his comments on Fox News Sunday this week. It’s clear that he really means what he said about First Amendment protections for subjects of the federal government.
While talking about a potential media shield law for “journalists,” Durbin said this [emphasis mine]:
What is a journalist today in 2013? We know it’s someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection? We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.
As a former “credentialed journalist” and now a mere “blogger,” I watched that quote live on Sunday and was shocked by the statement — as should everyone who has a computer keyboard. The First Amendment states this [emphasis mine]:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Note that the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights explicitly protects the “freedom of speech,” with a secondary nod to “the press.” The First Amendment does not define what a “free press” means, because it doesn’t have to do so beyond the standard definition — the people publishing their coverage of the government.
In other words, “the press” is just one avenue in which the people can express their right to free speech. There is no reason to imagine what our Founders thought about “a provision that was written over 200 years ago.” It is crystal clear: They meant, chiefly, to protect the right of the people to report upon and express their news and opinion about the government. To make it easy for Durbin to understand, today’s “bloggers” are the pamphleteers of “over 200 years ago.”
There has never been an “official journalism guild” that enjoys specified protection under the Constitution, nor should there ever be one. The First Amendment right of a “free press” is merely a form of the people’s right to free speech. Dick Durbin can no more regulate my right to say he’s a tyrant-in-waiting through a bullhorn on my front porch than he can if I decide to say it on this blog. Nor does he have the right to say information leaked to James Rosen of Fox News is less-protected by the Constitution if it’s leaked to me.
Durbin’s brand of creeping tyranny is one reason this ink-stained journalist opposes any type of “journalist shield law.” Get the government in the business of regulating “the press” — for its own “protection” — and it will soon define what “the press” is. Down that road lies the short trip to negating the free speech rights of all those whom the government will define as “non-journalists,” such as bloggers and “tweeters.”
It should go without saying that the way the mainstream media performs these days, the only real examination of our federal government comes largely from bloggers — the modern-day pamphleteers Dick Durbin thinks are perhaps unworthy of First Amendment rights.
Don’t expect the MSM to fight for our rights. We’ll have to light the candle of First Amendment vigilance on our own.
My Facebook friends kept linking it, so I finally broke down and read the story. The short of it is: they’re trying to develop a sex pill for women, enabling them to restart the love train simply by popping a pill.
In a “train wreck, can’t look away” sort of way, I found the story quite absorbing. Basically the problem is that a lot of married women are finding themselves bored with their husbands, and hoping that medication can help them to rekindle their sex drive. I was morbidly fascinated by the extent to which these women seemed to obsess over sex. To them, diminished libido obviously counts as a fairly serious marital crisis. They don’t seem to feel that bringing teams of researchers (not to mention half the women in the neighborhood) into the conversation is unpleasantly invasive of their privacy. I can’t imagine voluntarily submitting to something so intrusive, but then, I also don’t spend that much time evaluating the quality of my sex life. And it would never occur to me to suppose that a period of diminished libido meant that my marriage was on the rocks.
Thinking about it, I realized that this probably is a fairly natural consequence of the companionate model of marriage. If feelings justify sex, and sex justifies relationships, then I guess a lively sex life really might be of vital importance. Which is worrisome, since sexual desire is famously elusive. I have nothing against romantic retreats, candlelight dinners, or other measures designed to help long-committed couples recapture the magic. It’s good to keep a little romance in your marriage. Still, realistically, these things come and go. You can’t have the stability of your family life harnessed to such an unruly beast as eros. When the women in this piece talk nostalgically about the red-hot passion of their early relationships, one can’t help but wonder whether that’s really part of their problem. Having placed too much emphasis on sex in the first place, they find themselves up a creek when (shockingly!) the burning passion can’t be sustained without interruption over the course of decades.
The article makes clear that, unlike Viagra, the female sex pill is meant to move beyond the mechanical so as to focus on the brain. Viagra makes men capable of sex; this pill attempts to give women the desire for it. Love Potion #9, anyone? I've read enough fairy tales to know that these kinds of shenanigans never end well.
Moving away from sex for a moment, this piece raises issues that have always been worrisome to me about the morals of mood-modifying medication. This is a very difficult subject, because I know that medication can make worlds of difference for people with serious psychiatric disorders, enabling people who would once have been consigned to mental asylums to live fairly normal, happy lives. I know as well that diagnosing mental disorder is a less-than-straightforward business. When does a person cross the line from ordinary sadness or anxiety or sensitivity into the realm of mental disorder? As difficult as these diagnostic questions are, I don’t think it’s appropriate just to throw in the towel. There are people in the world who legitimately need psychiatric help to rectify some genuine aberration in the workings of their brain. At the same time, pills are not a fitting solution to ordinary life problems.
Putting it in a nutshell, I think the problem with pills is this: they offer material solutions to non-material problems. Pills can change the chemical balance of our brains, but they can’t change our moral character, and it is unfitting for a rational being to medicalize moral problems. Pills may enable us to feel good even when it would be more reasonable to feel bad, but that is not something a rational person should desire. Even if pills only help us to combat an excess of some unproductive emotion (such as worry or sadness) I have to think that it would be better (and more in line with our ultimate thriving) if we could find more natural solutions to these life problems.
Why, though, are pills “unnatural”? Don’t we use food, drink, or particular activities as “mood-manipulators” on a regular basis? We do, and I think it is good for rational beings to know how to manage their (and others’) emotional states through food, books, music, exercise or what have you. A brisk walk clears the mind. Coffee focuses concentration and instills a desire to work and accomplish. Warm cookies and cold milk are comfort food. Understanding these emotional triggers can be key to living a healthy, well-balanced life. So, what’s the difference between the plate of cookies and the anti-anxiety pill?
I think the difference is in the “embeddedness” of these other triggers in life and culture. Coffee does have a chemical effect on the brain, but coffee-drinking isn’t just a quick route to stimulating chemicals. We also enjoy the taste, the smell, the delightful sight of the steam rising from a thick, homey mug and the warmth of the cup on our hands and tongue. Cookies are delicious and gooey and decadent, and ironically, the fact that we know we can’t eat them all the time makes them that much pleasanter when we do decide to splurge. Books and music and nature quite obviously engage us on a rational level; this is integral to their emotionally transformative effect.
Popping a pill, by contrast, attempts to bypass these rational mechanisms in favor of a purely animal, material “fix”. It may be justified on those occasions when the root problem really is physical (and again, I acknowledge that this is rarely a simple thing to determine). But it isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. And it isn’t any way to fix your marriage.
Yesterday's post "Are Women Funny?" generated a lively conversation through which I discovered a host of new comedians. Thank you, everyone, for joining in.
One very funny person who curiously was not mentioned on the comments thread is Phil Hartman. He exemplified smart-funny, rather than slob-funny or crude-funny; his hallmark was a magnificently assured rapid-fire delivery of whole paragraphs of well-written material. He also had a hilarious stillness, a Madeline Kahn-esque ability to be funny just by standing there. This is a recording of Hartman's audition tape for the 1985-86 season of Saturday Night Live:
It doesn't get much better than an impression of a German impressionist doing impressions. Enjoy.
So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.
When it was felt so deeply as it was on both sides that a man ought to take part in the war unless some conscientious scruple or strong practical reason made it impossible, was that feeling simply the requirement of a local majority that their neighbors should agree with them? I think not: I think the feeling was right-in the South as in the North. I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.
If this be so, the use of this day is obvious. It is true that I cannot argue a man into a desire. If he says to me, Why should I seek to know the secrets of philosophy? Why seek to decipher the hidden laws of creation that are graven upon the tablets of the rocks, or to unravel the history of civilization that is woven in the tissue of our jurisprudence, or to do any great work, either of speculation or of practical affairs? I cannot answer him; or at least my answer is as little worth making for any effect it will have upon his wishes if he asked why I should eat this, or drink that. You must begin by wanting to. But although desire cannot be imparted by argument, it can be by contagion. Feeling begets feeling, and great feeling begets great feeling. We can hardly share the emotions that make this day to us the most sacred day of the year, and embody them in ceremonial pomp, without in some degree imparting them to those who come after us. I believe from the bottom of my heart that our memorial halls and statues and tablets, the tattered flags of our regiments gathered in the Statehouses, are worth more to our young men by way of chastening and inspiration than the monuments of another hundred years of peaceful life could be.
Busy with end-of-school events--child number three, Nico, graduated from high school this weekend--I've fallen a few days behind in my reading, so I only just now came across the memorandum that Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News, sent to Fox employees four days ago.
You'd expect the leader of a news organization to create a flap when one of his reporters gets shoved around by the feds, and Ailes certainly sticks up for Fox reporter James Rosen. But only Roger Ailes could have written a note of such angry defiance--and such insistent patriotism.
You could close out Memorial Day in worse ways than by reading this:
The recent news about the FBI’s seizure of the phone and email records of Fox News employees, including James Rosen, calls into question whether the federal government is meeting its constitutional obligation to preserve and protect a free press in the United States. We reject the government's efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a Federal judge as a "co-conspirator" in a crime. I know how concerned you are because so many of you have asked me: why should the government make me afraid to use a work phone or email account to gather news or even call a friend or family member? Well, they shouldn’t have done it. The administration’s attempt to intimidate Fox News and its employees will not succeed and their excuses will stand neither the test of law, the test of decency, nor the test of time. We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth.
I am proud of your tireless effort to report the news over the last 17 years. I stand with you, I support you and I thank you for your reporting with courageous optimism. Too many Americans fought and died to protect our unique American right of press freedom. We can’t and we won’t forget that. To be an American journalist is not only a great responsibility, but also a great honor. To be a Fox journalist is a high honor, not a high crime. Even this memo of support will cause some to demonize us and try to find irrelevant things to cause us to waver. We will not waver.
As Fox News employees, we sometimes are forced to stand alone, but even then when we know we are reporting what is true and what is right, we stand proud and fearless. Thank you for your hard work and all your efforts.
You may or may not have heard of the Judson Welliver Society. It was the creation of William Safire, the now-departed columnist for The New York Times and before that a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon. Periodically it brings together former presidential speechwriters from all prior administrations with living speechwriters. Peter has asked me to report on this year's meeting, which he could not attend and which was on Tuesday a week ago.
Actually, "society" is too grand a term. A "once every year or two depending on nothing in particular assemblage for drinking, eating and (what else?) speechifying" would be more like it.
Last Tuesday members gathered at the home of Chris Matthews. Before his leg tingled at McNBC, Chris was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter and then an aide to Tip O'Neill. Politics aside, he is a very good guy and, with his wife, Kathleen, was an impeccable host.
Safire convened the first of these dinners mid-way through the Reagan Administration. He made a point, which has been continued ever since, of inviting the current presidential writers. I was in the White House at the time. I believe my inaugural dinner (we former presidential speechwriters like to use terms like "inaugural"in reference to ourselves, a subtle hint at past glories) was the second convocation, or perhaps the third.
Of that first dinner I remember in particular Clark Clifford's talk. Clifford had been the principal political aide as well as speechwriter for Harry S Truman (Truman aficionados please note that, in Truman's own style, I deployed no period or other punctuation after the president's middle initial; Turman had no middle name, only that single letter). Tall, lean, as elegant in manner and dress as any human being I have ever laid eyes on, Clifford told the most amazing stories. He had everyone on the floor laughing. At the next dinner two years later, Clifford spoke again, and told the same stories word for word again, as he did at the next one I attended, which was his last. Thing is, each time he rehearsed his repertoire, it was with such energy and such a sense of fun that everyone died laughing all over. He was a spectacular story teller.
This year a film crew was present. Robert Schlesinger -- son of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (JFK speechwriter and historian) -- is producing a documentary follow-on to White House Ghosts, his excellent book on presidential speechwriting and speechwriters from FDR to George W. Bush (http://www.amazon.com/White-House-Ghosts-Presidents-Speechwriters/dp/B003H4RDCO). The crew set up right behind me, and judging from the camera's height and the occasional, "Oh sorry," the top of my head may be in for a starring role.
This year at least one veteran of each administration represented spoke, including John Podhoretz (Reagan, now editor of Commentary magazine), Mary Kate Cary (Bush 41, now a columnist for U.S. News), Jeffrey Shesol (Clinton, now partner in West Wing Writers), Michael Waldman (Clinton, now president of NYU Law School's Brennan Center), and John McConnell (Bush 43, now a much-in-demand writer and speaker). The Carter administration was particularly heavily spoken for and about by Carter writers Hendrik Hertzberg (now political commentator at The New Yorker), James Fallows (The Atlantic), and Gordon Stewart (chairman of the Society and MC of the evening). In addition to Schlesinger, family represented several of the departed members including Ted Sorensen and Bill Safire.
I haven't mentioned all the writers or all who spoke, but everyone who got up was witty or moving or both. Particularly good, for different reasons, were Dana Rohrabacher (Reagan, now a member of Congress) and Matthews.
Rohrabacher told a story of Reagan's 1984 trip to Ireland and a presidential speech scheduled for delivery while there. The speech included a Gaelic phrase that some staffer's friends at a Washington-area Irish bar had suggested as appropriate. It seems the speech flew through the clearance process and only at the last minute did anyone think to check what the phrase meant. Let's just say, it turned out to have been a practical joke that the president would not have found funny had the phrase's meaning been discovered AFTER delivery.
By the way, had Reagan delivered it, he would not have been the first president to have stumbled so. Other than Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," the best-known presidential address in Cold War Berlin was JFK's when he said in German, "I am a Berliner." Except that the key word was not quite right. It turned out he actually said, "I am a jelly donut." The crowd cheered anyway.
Rohrabacher closed with a heartfelt affirmation of the common goal of serving the nation and all it stands for.
Matthews spoke about working on a book about Reagan and Tip O'Neill. Reagan and O'Neill were very different men, he said, coming from very different places in the political world. They fought each other hard, but they also worked hard and maturely to produced deals for the good of the country. He talked about what made the relationship work.
Maybe I am wrong, but in listening I felt Matthews was contrasting the current president unfavorably with Reagan, much less if at all the current speaker with O'Neill. If so, it would not be new. Despite the tingling leg, Matthews has ripped into Obama publicly on several occasions for not listening to Congress, not dealing with them, not undertaking the hard, essentially door to door labor (except that instead of working precincts, presidents work senators and congress members) a president has to do to be effective. In public in the past he has seemed dismayed and even at times seems disgusted with the Obama operation.
Except this evening, courtesy kept him from being so direct. The current writers were there. He left his audience to draw their own conclusions.
Remember, Lord, the fallen
Who died in fields of war,
In flaming clouds, in screaming crowds
On streets that are no more,
That we today might waken
And greet this day in peace
With grateful prayer for those who bear
The storms that never cease.
Remember friends and strangers,
And those forgotten now,
Whose names are known to you alone,
Before whose love we bow
And ask that you surround them
With mercy’s endless light
That they may live, and we forgive
The foe they went to fight.
Remember, Lord, the living,
Who bear the pain of loss—
A death she died who stood beside
Her Son upon the cross.
Remember all your children,
The dead and those who weep,
And make us one beneath the sun
Where love will never sleep.
—Genevieve Glen, O.S.B.
Edit of 9:15PM Pacific: In his comment, notmarx wished that I'd posted all three stanzas of this marvelous hymn instead of stopping with the first. So? So I added the final two.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Every Memorial Day, I read this poem and remember the charge given us by the fallen. To assist our Pinterest-ready, Buzzfeeding world, I highlighted my favorite bit in the adjacent graphic.
Enjoy your day to the fullest. But above all, remember.
A few Harvard Law School students have endured university censorship to protest the inanity of their Class Day speakers. The pugnacious group (called "HLS is Bogus") should be applauded for demanding more from the school. But while HLS insists on a self-delusional "HLS Thinks Big" event this week, law schools actually think smaller than small --- and it's a problem graver than hypocritical leftist graduation addresses.
Here's a recurring scene in legal studies . . . You're learning about, for example, the needless overcomplexity of the tax code. When someone asks why it has to be this way, why deductions and credits appear so arbitrary and so difficult to discern, the class enjoys a hearty chuckle at his obvious naiveté. Usually the mystified professor will act the cop ("I don't make the laws . . .") and move on, but if he's bold enough to be honest, he'll say that it's because the tax code is also a lawyer employment act. The class laughs again, this time, content that the code's complexity will help them pay off law school debts and pleased that they'll soon know something that the rest of America can't figure out. (Now that's a "valuable" education!)
If a student hazards to wield a normative thought about how a law is enforced or why certain regulation is senseless, he has to subordinate those reflections to, at best, an exam's "policy" section (which professors never read). Elite law schools aren't fostering original thinking or "big ideas," they're creating waves of followers who excel at "issue spotting" (applying a fixed body of law to a prefabricated body of facts under time pressure). This may be a lawyerly skill, but its inherent lowness partly explains why we continue to be frustrated with the absurdity of our legislation process and justice system.
Speaking of justice, law schools dare not tackle sticky subjects like what "justice" or "equality" ought to mean. Too subjective or theoretical, perhaps --- as if the Supreme Court's wild interpretations of the Equal Protection Clause are not similarly subjective. Instead of inculcating an awe for the majesty of the Law, law schools churn out graduates who view the law as an instrument to manipulate for their own pecuniary or ideological gain. Others simply abhor the law as meaningless minutiae and decide to tack on business school tuition to their debt pile.
It's been big news that law school is a poor investment, and observers often lament the lack of practical training to prepare alumni for plying their trade. These are valid criticisms, and I would prefer an apprenticeship system with three years of clinical work than the current farce of a curriculum. If law schools are going to neglect practical considerations anyway, they should at least try to energize students when they question the status quo of our broken body of laws and enliven original thinking. Instead, as HLS has done, they squelch dissension, reward rote minds, and pretend that an annual panel "thinks big." It's not just the graduation speaker, it's the audience, too. Law schools, like our colleges, breed "moral midgets."
A healthy warning about information gathering on the internet is coming from an unlikely source—Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org. He helped develop phone-banking tools and precinct programs in 2004 and 2006 that laid the groundwork for Obama’s web-powered presidential campaign. Pariser is also a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and author of “The Filter Bubble,” which exposes how personalized search might be skewing our worldview.
I recently listened to a TED talk Pariser did a couple of years ago about online filter bubbles, and it put the “low-information voter” in a new context for me—it’s not just that voters aren’t interested in finding out what’s going on in the country—they’re not getting access to the information in the first place, because it’s being edited out by algorithms based on personalized interests.
Pariser explains that the internet is supposed to be a tool to bring people together, that it can be great for democracy as new voices are heard and different ideas shared. But he says there’s been a shift in how information is flowing online, and that “it’s invisible.” He also warns that “if we don’t pay attention to it, it could be a real problem.”
So I first noticed this in a place I spend a lot of time —my Facebook page. I'm progressive, politically—big surprise—but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.
Facebook isn’t the only place doing algorithmic editing of the web. Google’s doing it too. So is Yahoo. So is Netflix. So are a lot of companies and organizations. Results are based on personal interests and habits. If we all search for the same thing, all of us will get different results (and you won’t have the opportunity to see my results just as I won’t see yours).
Pariser explains that even when we’re logged out, there are “57 signals that Google looks at—everything from what kind of computer you’re on to what kind of browser you’re using to where you’re located.” All of it designed to personally tailor our search results. Pariser tells of how he asked some friends to google Egypt and to send him the results; he was shocked by how different they were. One friend didn’t get any results about protests in Egypt while another’s was full of them—and it was the big story of the day.
This kind of personalization of searches “moves us very quickly toward a world in which the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.” Pariser calls this the “filter bubble.”
And your filter bubble is your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. And what’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don’t decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don’t actually see what gets edited out.
Pariser says this reveals that we we’ve gotten the story about the internet wrong. In the past, before the internet, we were subject to information gatekeepers in the form of Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings, of the editors at the New York Times and the Washington Post. With the rise of the internet, the information floodgates opened and swept away the traditional gatekeepers.
But, according to Pariser, that flood of information isn’t flowing like we think it is. “What we're seeing is more of a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is that the algorithms don't yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did.”
While Pariser recognizes the wonders of the web, he calls for individuals to exercise more control over their search results. He also calls for programmers to encode algorithms with a sense of public life, a sense of civic responsibility. They need to be “transparent enough” to allow us to “see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters.”
I think we really need the internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it’s not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a Web of one.
Do you search out different views and perspectives on the internet, or do you live in a filter bubble? If you've broken out of your bubble, what advice can you offer others to break out of theirs?
I've got two audible credits, and can't find something appealing (and am still perplexed by the fact that neither Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop nor Grossman's Life and Fate have ever been recorded).
I just got Atkinson's Guns of Last Light (which is as good as I had hoped) and will get Dean Koontz's new Odd Thomas book next week (already pre-ordered and pre-paid). BTW, Koontz doesn't always float my boat, but this series is wonderful and the actor who reads them is perfect.
I'm looking for a quirky novel that will enlighten me or light up the day. Maybe an offbeat mystery. Or whatever.
Are there any little, or not so little, gems our there on Audible? This could make the rest of my long weekend great.
That's what Karl Eikenberry and David Kennedy ask in this New York Times op-ed today. Eikenberry's a retired Army lieutenant general and was the United States commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and the ambassador there from 2009 to 2011. He is a fellow at Stanford, where David M. Kennedy is an emeritus professor of history.
They argue that the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy but the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.
They cite three developments widening this gap, the first being ending conscription and moving to a large, all-volunteer standing army. They point out that less than half of one percent of the population serves these days, compared to 12 percent during World War II. Among the elites, the numbers have plummeted even more. Whereas 70 percent of Congress had some military service in 1975, just 20 percent do today.
The second thing is that technological improvements, such as drones, distance us from our war-time decisions and can "breed indifference and complacency about the use of force." Third is the move to non-traditional military roles such as nation-building.
The authors say these developments mean we have "a maximally powerful force operating with a minimum of citizen engagement and comprehension."
They note that there have been 144 military deployments in the 40 years since adoption of the all-voluntary force in 1973 compared with only 19 in the 27-year period of the Selective Service draft following World War II.
Presidents have found it easier to resort to arms and not only has there been very little political downside, but perhaps even an upside.
The authors then argue for a draft lottery, one that weights to select the best-educated and most highly skilled Americans so that elites pay greater heed to military matters.
The authors also argue that the Pentagon could restore Total Force Doctrine -- which basically calls for a large-scale call-up of the Reserves and National Guard at the start of any major deployment. Because these forces include older men and women, it would force communities to think about what deployment means.
And the authors also say that Congress must return to declaring war, something it hasn't done -- despite all of our wars -- since World War II. This limits presidential power and confers greater legitimacy on military interventions. Congress should also insist that wars be paid in real time, they say, forcing Americans to realize how expensive wars are and consider the costs and benefits of same.
There are many other suggestions as well. They end:
The civilian-military divide erodes the sense of duty that is critical to the health of our democratic republic, where the most important office is that of the citizen. While the armed forces retool for the future, citizens cannot be mere spectators. As Adams said about military power: “A wise and prudent people will always have a watchful and a jealous eye over it.”
So it seems that Jerry Lewis, who famously said 15 years ago that he's uncomfortable watching women perform comedy, has doubled down on that controversial opinion.
Lewis was attending the Cannes Film Festival last week to promote his new movie, "Max Rose." He was asked if the advent of comediennes like Sarah Silverman and Melissa McCarthy had brought him around at all to the idea of female comics. "I can't see women doing that," he replied. "It bothers me. I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities to the lowest common denominator. I just can't do that."
This reply interests me because he's not really talking about humor; he's talking about the kind of uber-crassness that has so substantially replaced humor among so many comics (and audiences) that it has come to redefine it. The laughter seems to arise out of amazement that a phrase or sentence actually emerged from a fellow human's mouth, rather than out of delight over the wit of the phrase or sentence.
Christopher Hitchens believed that genuine, root-level humor is actually slob humor, and slob humor is (as Lewis clearly believes) essentially a male province, not a female one. In 2007, Hitchens wrote an essay for Vanity Fair on the subject of female humor in which he argued that men are undeniably the funnier sex and have to be, since they have to attract mates:
The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further.
Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.
Hitchens hastened to add that women can in fact be very funny, but that contra male humor, female humor is defined by its intelligence:
Wit, after all, is the unfailing symptom of intelligence. Men will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is—or they are—extremely stupid. Women aren't like that. And the wits and comics among them are formidable beyond compare: Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz, Ellen DeGeneres. (Though ask yourself, was Dorothy Parker ever really funny?)
Again, as I mentioned, male humor seems to be often characterized by an injection of pure -- in the sense of wit-less -- shock value. In between the genuinely hilarious bits by Louis C.K. are tossed-in shock-lines that always leave me baffled, both by the lines themselves and by the shrieks of laughter from the audience. For me -- female that I am -- those lines act as an instant buzz-kill. Men in the audience, meanwhile, are howling so loudly it sounds as though some of them are having seizures.
Now, female comics have waded well into this territory. Are Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer inherently less funny than male comics would be delivering equivalent material? Their success seems to say otherwise. Or is their very success attributable to the freak-of-nature quality of a woman delivering "male" humor?
Humor has always contained a thread of cruelty within it, too, which Hitchens uses as further evidence of the gender demarcation:
Male humor prefers the laugh to be at someone's expense, and understands that life is quite possibly a joke to begin with—and often a joke in extremely poor taste. Humor is part of the armor-plate with which to resist what is already farcical enough...Whereas women, bless their tender hearts, would prefer that life be fair, and even sweet, rather than the sordid mess it actually is. Jokes about calamitous visits to the doctor or the shrink or the bathroom, or the venting of sexual frustration on furry domestic animals, are a male province. It must have been a man who originated the phrase "funny like a heart attack." In all the millions of cartoons that feature a patient listening glum-faced to a physician ("There's no cure. There isn't even a race for a cure"), do you remember even one where the patient is a woman? I thought as much.
Hitchens also posits that men want women to be their audience, not their rivals, so they are not inclined to appreciate hilarious women. But the crux of his argument lies in the apparently monumental humorlessness of motherhood:
[T]he explanation for the superior funniness of men is much the same as for the inferior funniness of women. Men have to pretend, to themselves as well as to women, that they are not the servants and supplicants. Women, cunning minxes that they are, have to affect not to be the potentates. This is the unspoken compromise...
Childbearing and rearing are the double root of all this...Is there anything so utterly lacking in humor as a mother discussing her new child? She is unboreable on the subject. Even the mothers of other fledglings have to drive their fingernails into their palms and wiggle their toes, just to prevent themselves from fainting dead away at the sheer tedium of it. And as the little ones burgeon and thrive, do you find that their mothers enjoy jests at their expense? I thought not...
Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can't afford to be too frivolous. (And there just aren't that many episiotomy jokes, even in the male repertoire.) I am certain that this is also partly why, in all cultures, it is females who are the rank-and-file mainstay of religion, which in turn is the official enemy of all humor.
Hitchens's main point is that the existence of funny women here and there does not prove that women are equally funny to men; indeed, they highlight the opposite. So I ask you: is he right? Think about the funniest people you know. Are any of them women?
Isn't it a metaphysical certainty that in her sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee, IRS official (now enjoying a hard-earned paid administrative leave) Lois Lerner lied (or to put it less politely, committed perjury)?
Here is how:
Under oath she: a) stated, "I have not broken any laws... and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee."; and b) then refused to answer any questions at all on the grounds that, in anything she might say, she could incriminate herself.
Remember the refusal was not to answering a specific question, but any question. It was unequivocal -- every conceivable answers to every conceivable question would put her face to face with self-incrimination.
Remember also that the statement denying lawbreaking was also unequivocal. She could have said, "I believe I broke no laws." She didn't. She said it was a fact that she had broken no law. That leaves only two options.
Option #1: She had indeed broken no laws. Then, refusing to testify at all on the basis of self-incrimination when there was no danger of self-incrimination must have simply been a dodge, a way of avoiding inconvenient questioning. It was a lie.
Option #2: She had broken a law. Then offering testimony that she had broken no law was a lie.
In other words, in her testimony to the committee, Ms. Lerner made two assertions so categorical and so contradictory that she had to be lying one way or the other. What's more, either way, she was at that moment providing false information to the committee.
So I ask you, World of Ricochet, isn't it a metaphysical certainty that Ms. Lerner lied to the committee? And isn't it starting to feel that that's par for this administration?
Denise's note below ties to an article in my local paper here in central Minnesota. The Sunday paper headline reads "Health law means more work, hiring." I note that the online edition finishes the sentence "hiring for local counties." That's an important omission. It starts,
The Affordable Care Act is expected to provide health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans, but it’s also creating more work for Minnesota counties.
What kind of work is this? What does it do? It takes many paragraphs to get to the point, but these are public-sector workers. They will be hired because of both the ACA and our state's adoption of the health insurance exchange and the Medicaid expansion contained in the law. In Minnesota's case, many of those who will go into the exchange -- called MnSURE, which should be the name of a vitamin supplement or something to help what the old Geritol ads called 'regularity'* -- need to transfer from a plan that provided for their coverage already (called MnCARE -- sorry I can supply no further witticisms.)
Between adding new families and switching from MnCARE to MnSURE, about 5,000 new cases are to be opened in my county. That means nine new county workers, consisting of "four financial workers, three process specialists, a financial supervisor and an office support staff," according to the article. "A second phase of hiring could come later," it adds, hopefully. (My county has about 56,000 households according to the Census.)
Of course it's more public workers, which some conservatives would find lamentable at any rate. I don't blame the counties for hiring more workers, because that's what the law demands. If you want to stop that, you have to address the policymakers in Washington and the state capitals. But what I find lamentable is the lack of consideration for where the "four financial workers, three process specialists, a financial supervisor and an office support staff" (and a partridge in a pear tree) come from. What did they do before? What did they produce? What does Stearns County, or Minnesota, or America lose by diverting the work of thousands of people from other productive activities to being sure people get a heaping dose of MnSURE or whatever your state's flavor of Obamacare is?
Over 160 years ago Frederic Bastiat wrote an essay titled "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen." It's the source of the broken window fallacy of which most Ricocheti are undoubtedly aware. The broken window is a metaphor to call our attention to the fact that when something is compelled to be created, like health care, it is likely to have costs of production unseen by the casual observer. Year later, Henry Hazlitt picked up this story in Economics in One Lesson, in which he notes "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups." We are diverting massive amounts of resources towards the production of health insurance coverage from myriad activities we neither can know nor count. It is happening in the small county health services offices, in the billing departments of hospitals, and many places we can scarcely imagine. Who will account for the costs, rather than just the benefits for the families who get an insurance card and the wages of the newly-hired health and public workers? Who accounts for the costs of gathering all the information of which Thomas Friedman dreams?
* footnote: MnSURE was a name designed by an outside contractor for $162k, and an advertising firm has won a contract of nearly $700,000 to promote it. There's money to be made in ObamaCare even for marketing firms.
Below, two photographs from the front page of the online edition of the Times of London. One shows Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife on vacation in Ibiza, the other the mother of Drummer Lee Rigby, the British soldier whom two Islamic fundamentalists last week hacked to death and beheaded in broad daylight outside a London barracks.
The New York Times is desperately seeking silver linings in Obama’s health care law. Thomas L. Friedman admits he’s unsure whether Obamacare will be the “train wreck” many think it will be: “We’ll just have to wait and see whether the Affordable Care Act surprises us on the downside.” But for now, Friedman assures us there’s an upside—it’s spurring health care information start-ups. Yippie!
The combination of Obamacare regulations, incentives in the recovery act for doctors and hospitals to shift to electronic records and the releasing of mountains of data held by the Department of Health and Human Services is creating a new marketplace and platform for innovation — a health care Silicon Valley — that has the potential to create better outcomes at lower costs by changing how health data are stored, shared and mined. It’s a new industry.
The ghost of Steve Jobs must be so proud. I didn’t know Obamacare was about stimulating capitalism; I thought it was about making sure everyone gets health insurance. Isn’t that what Obama told us?
Evidently not. According to Friedman, the true purpose of the health care law is something else entirely, and it doesn’t have anything to do with capitalism or coverage—it’s guaranteeing results:
Obamacare is based on the notion that a main reason we pay so much more than any other industrial nation for health care, without better results, is because the incentive structure in our system is wrong. Doctors and hospitals are paid primarily for procedures and tests, not health outcomes. The goal of the health care law is to flip this fee-for-services system (which some insurance companies are emulating) to one where the government pays doctors and hospitals to keep Medicare patients healthy and the services they do render are reimbursed more for their value than volume.
So, Obamacare is about outcomes, not making sure everyone has health insurance. Sounds just like another big-government system that’s been failing for years—public education.
Originally, government-run education was about guaranteeing that every child in America had the opportunity to go to school. Gradually, though—thanks to those oh-so-clever progressives—it became about guaranteeing results.
But that didn’t work did it? It didn’t work because inflexible government-imposed standards ignore the individual and treat everyone as a monolithic body, failing to recognize that what works for one person doesn’t work for another. The government can’t adjust to the needs of the individual (only free enterprise can!); it doesn’t allow for that kind of creativity, innovation, or flexibility. It’s a one-size-fits-all kind of operation, imposing its intransigent will from on high.
In education, as the quantity of education increased, the quality decreased. Of course, progressives couldn’t accept that their initiatives had failed, so they changed the measures, lowered standards, and introduced curriculum that reduced the quality of education. Logically, the same thing will happen to the health care system—with much more deadly results.
And a coup de grâce opportunity thus presents itself to President Obama. Alas, the opportunity -- like the chance to support the Greens in Iran in 2009, or to strengthen the secular rebels in Syria before the place was overrun with jihadists, or to institute a no-fly zone over Syria before the Russians stepped in to make that an impossibility -- will almost certainly be allowed to pass by.
Yesterday (Saturday), Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the well-fed, bunker-dwelling big cheese at Hezbollah, made an important televised speech at a rally in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah, which was founded by Iran to provide Lebanon with "resistance" against Israel, is now entering a "completely new phase" in which it exports its fighters to help its allies. The speech formalized the hitherto unacknowledged support Hezbollah has given the butcher Assad over the course of the two-year Syrian civil war, and committed Hezbollah to stand by Assad's side until the end of the fight for Syria.
As I type this, a battle continues to rage in the Syrian town of Qusayr, where Syrian rebels are trying to hold out against a joint frontal assault by Hezbollah and Syrian regime forces. Qusayr, an overwhelmingly Sunni town that has been in rebel hands for about a year, is located about 20 miles south of Homs and overlooks Syria's border with Lebanon. The reclaiming of Qusayr is essential to Assad, since the city links Damascus with the Mediterranean coast and connects the capital city to the Alawite heartland. Qusayr is equally valuable to the rebels, since it is a conduit for arms from Lebanon. The fighting, vicious even by the high standard set throughout this war, is marked by the to-the-death sectarian divisions discussed by Michael Totten during our recent podcast.
Nasrallah made clear in his speech that the strategic value of Qusayr to the Syrian regime is massive, and vowed that Hezbollah will stay put until the city is wrenched once and for all from rebel hands. Up to this point, he has been reluctant to state his affiliation with Assad too forthrightly because of the political cost to him in Lebanon. The constant parade of Hezbollah funerals made this charade rather difficult to maintain, however, and he ultimately decided to go public (no doubt at the behest of his Iranian masters).
His willingness to do this suggests that he -- and therefore Iran -- does not fear an American or Western response. Hezbollah and Iran are fully aware of American reluctance to support the rebels because of the jihadist presence among them. Nasrallah had plenty of things to worry about before making his speech, but was probably right to conclude that an American drive to support the rebels in Qusayr was not among them. (Enraging Lebanese Sunnis is a much more immediate problem for him, but he's taking them on.)
Unless the rebels in Qusayr are aided in some way from outside, they will lose. Hezbollah and Iran will be emboldened, and Assad will have achieved a major strategic victory. Europe is inching its way toward designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but there's some distance between a (welcome) move that would hamper Hezbollah's fundraising activities in Europe and a military assault on its vulnerable forces.
Yes, Hezbollah/Iran might drag the Western powers into a wider conflict by striking Israel, but the consequences of allowing Hezbollah and Assad to succeed in Qusayr have their own grave long-term consequences for Israel and the West. Israel is already engaged in this battle -- it has made its own red lines clear and has acted every time they have been crossed -- and there should be little pretense that American reluctance to engage is for Israel's benefit. Handing Assad and Hezbollah a defeat at Qusayr would be a tremendous strategic loss for Iran and would likely hasten Assad's ultimate departure from the scene, two goals that ought not to be underestimated.
So says, incredibly, Michael Hiltzik, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Then again, perhaps it’s not incredible at all, for the L.A. Times is as reliable a media cheerleader for big government and the Obama administration as one is likely to find.
The headline over the Friday piece tells you all you need to know: “Showing the IRS some love after a witch hunt.” You see, all that bad publicity the IRS has endured lately is just conservative scaremongering against noble government employees doing the people's work. How lovely to have the record corrected.
And they wonder why their circulation is down.
The load assignment was mundane enough. Pick up a load of something or other at a warehouse in Kansas City. I had backed the trailer to the loading dock, no easy task since the dock was inside a large garage-like structure, necessitating a tricky maneuver around the support columns as the trailer made its way back into the building. The tractor was still outside though, and the sun shining directly into my mirrors made it all but impossible to see whether the back of the trailer, some 75 feet behind me, was lined up properly inside the darkened facility. Tired, and with nerves somewhat frayed, I was placing chocks in front of the trailer tires when I saw a lady standing by the truck looking it over.
"Ah," I thought, "the Ride of Pride has another visitor." No matter the time or weather, when people take the time to come look at the truck, I enjoy meeting them. "Good morning, Ma'am!" I chirped. "I work in the office here," she said with her back to me, "and I just had to see this." "You're welcome to take photos if you like," I said, adding, "I think the truck has learned to actually smile when someone points a camera at it." She didn't have much to say, so I began pointing out various features of the design, and directed her attention to the emblem over the driver's door that said, "In Honor of Gold Star Families."
That was when she turned to face me, her eyes moist and ringed in red, her expression betraying the awful strain and burden of heavy loss, and I knew. The lines in her face and around her eyes were the very opposite of "laugh lines." Her solemn expression spoke years of sadness. "My son," she stammered, her lips quivering as she struggled to control her emotions. "I lost him in Iraq." The sentence pierced the soul. What to say? Words can never convey the raw and solemn power of her grief, nor blue eyes that seemed as windows into a yawning emptiness in her heart. I was overwhelmed, the words, "I'm so very sorry," stumbling stupidly from my lips.
I should have said something uplifting and noble. I should have told her that her son gave his life doing what he was meant to do, and that it falls to the rest of us to honor his memory and sacrifice. I should have unleashed a sonnet of prose, praising this regal woman. I should have said any number of things that would have been well intentioned, but would have rung hollow nonetheless. For mere words and phrases, at that point, would have been no more than tiny drops of rain against her granite mountain of heartache -- utterly insignificant to the crushing pain she shouldered. We stood in silence for awhile. "What's this for," she asked about some inscription or other on the truck. I explained, walking her around the truck and pointing out various features.
"May I take a picture?" she asked. "Of course," I answered, adding that the most challenging part of driving this truck is when people try to take photos while they are in the passing lane. Her laugh almost sounded like one of relief. A few minutes later, the photos taken, the tour complete, she said she had to get back to work. We shook hands and I thanked her for her son's service and sacrifice, as well as her own.
I often think that as harrowing as military service can be, sometimes those of us in uniform have an easier time of it than our families. Military members know what they are signing up for, and they know the price of their work. The pace of events in theater provide little time for reflection or worry. There is a job to do, a mission to fulfill, friends and buddies to look after as the training kicks in and we tend to business.
In Bristol, Virginia, only a couple of weeks ago, a giant of a man walked up to have a look at the truck. The camouflage pattern on his boonie hat was the first give-away. "Marine?" I asked. "Twelve years worth," came the answer. He had served from 1980 through 1992 and was in the barracks in Beirut when the bombs went off. "I lost my friends there," he said, adding, "I loved Reagan, but he wouldn't let us finish the deal."
"I did Recon," he said, pulling his left sleeve up to reveal an enormous USMC tattoo that covered his bicep and shoulder. "You stuck around for Desert Storm?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he said, adding, "Payback's a bitch, but it was sweet, ya know, thanking them for what they did to my friends." He said he regretted his decision to separate from military service prior to retirement. "But I don't think I would have made it. I like being in the [expletive] too much," he said with a rather deadly smile, reinforcing the reality of what it takes to keep us free. Then, his expression changing, he began talking of comrades he had lost in the bombing. He was taking photos of the the Ride of Pride, when I asked if he'd like me to use his camera to take one of him with the truck. "Would you do that?" he asked, and I was happy to oblige. He didn't want to actually stand in front of the truck for fear of blocking any portion of the artwork. So this born warrior went to one knee beside the truck. If Heaven isn't guarded by Marines, it will be mighty disappointing.
But for all the service members perform overseas, it's the families back home who sacrifice their peace of mind and contented souls, who spend hours transfixed to news networks, simultaneously hoping to hear news of their loved ones and dreading what they might hear. They keep the home fires burning, the bills paid, the yard trimmed, and the children cared for when they ask, "When is Daddy coming home?" When Daddy, or Mommy, or a son or daughter, lose their lives in our defense, every day becomes Memorial Day for these families. They deserve our honor and prayers, our kind thoughts and our help, as they continue their own lives with an empty place at the table and in their hearts.
A few years ago, there was a regular caller to Sean Hannity's radio show. He was a senior citizen named Marty, and he was among those who stormed the beaches at Normandy. Time after time, Hannity would ask Marty to tell listeners about his experience that day, and Marty would always change the subject, eventually signing off with the words, "Take care, my son." Then, one day, he gave in to Sean's request. He said that when the door lowered, the first thing they had to do was push the bodies of their friends into the water. You see, the hail
storm of bullets cut through the first row or two. As Marty told of having to get through the bodies of his buddies while bullets whizzed all around striking flesh, helmets, gear, and water, his old heart broke anew and he began crying on the air. With a delicate touch, Sean backed away from the discussion and, obviously moved, thanked Marty for his heroism, to which Marty disagreed. The heroes were the guys who never made it home.
We who remain have an obligation to honor the memory and sacrifice of our fallen, though I would respectfully submit that our obligation extends beyond a moment of silence before a barbecue, or even a solemn remembrance at a cemetery. Our obligation is no less than the continuation of their mission, to ensure that a nation conceived in liberty not only survives, but that it prevails. Brave men and women did not spill their blood and pour out every drop of fidelity to this country so that the IRS could badger and torment American citizens whose political beliefs are antithetical to a government whose prevailing ethos is antithetical to America's founding. The 2,000 men who died at Valley Forge (two thirds of whom died from disease alone), and those who died at Lexington, Bunker Hill, Trenton, Saratoga, and Brandywine, didn't give their lives so that their regretful progeny could stand on that holy ground today in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania and surrender their sovereignty to a government that demands to know the content of their prayers! They didn't fight for centralized authority, but rather against it. And they sure as hell didn't scoff at the vigilance required to remain free from tyranny.
The Sentinel's Creed, at Arlington National Cemetery reads:
My dedication to this sacred duty
Is total and wholehearted-
In the responsibility bestowed on me
Never will I falter-
And with dignity and perseverance
My standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
And the discomfort of the elements
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
To the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect
His bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
Alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
This soldier in honored Glory rest
Under my eternal vigilance.
May the sentinel's vigilance become our own, so that even as he guards the hallowed remains of our honored dead, we respect and advance the living principles for which they gave everything.
It is nice to see that Jonathan Turley is expressing concerns that our national government may be too big, too unwieldy, and too chaotic. Dare we hope that his commentary seeps into the national consciousness, thus causing us to look to states, localities and the private sector for more solutions to our national problems?
I presume that the above will cause some to tell me that I hate government. Not so. But I am definitely not a fan of big, unwieldy and chaotic government, and as Turley makes clear, that's what we have right now. Liberals believe (in good faith, of course) that government can be--and is--a force for good more often than not. That belief is being seriously undermined by the type of national government we have, and if liberals want to be honest with themselves, they will re-examine their assumptions.
The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) returns for a special Memorial Day weekend edition. John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reunite to discuss the BIG issues of the day, including:
* the IRS scandal, the Benghazi Scandal, the AP wiretap scandal
* the ability of any political scandal to break though to masses in the modern era
* scandal fatigue
* Scandal featuring Patty Smyth (not really)
We're also joined by the great Adam Carolla. He's an actor, a comedian, the #1 podcaster in America, a vinter, and for our money, the funniest guy in show business. He's also a Republican leaning libertarian in Hollywood and we talk about his outlook and experiences in Los Angeles.
Listener of the week honors goes to the first person in the comments section to name the blood alcohol content one reaches by merely looking at the label of a bottle of Mangria.
Additional feedback in the comments in most welcome, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the HWX show by clicking here.
I sometimes wonder if the increasing frequency and quality of these Ricochet get-togethers will prompt my doctor to announce that they are bad for my health. Anything this enjoyable, this edifying, and this stimulating is bound to run afoul of a law or six at some point, for it seems that every time I think it can't get any better than the most recent meet-up, I'm proven wrong by the next one. When RushBabe49 announced that she was planning a get together in Seattle, I began dropping subtle hints to my dispatcher -- subtle herein defined as me saying, "Please, please, please, oh pretty please, ya gotta get me to Seattle!"
As it turned out, Hillsdale College was conducting a seminar at the Seattle Sheraton on the subject: "Looking Ahead: U.S. National Security," and several Ricochet members were on hand to hear the collected thoughts and wisdom of speakers ranging from Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn, to Andrew McCarthy, Bill Gertz, National Review's John O'Sullivan, and Garry Kasparov. To my eternal regret, I wasn't able to be there for the seminar, but I did manage to deliver a load of potato chips in Portland and then make a beeline to Seattle in time for the Ricochet contingent's festivities, scheduled for 6PM.
The standard having been set by previous gatherings, I wasn't in the least surprised to find myself in the company of the sort of people whom Rush Limbaugh accurately termed as the smartest in the room. And speaking of rooms, Providence smiled on us because we were provided with a separate room, away from the noise and commotion of the restaurant, in which to enjoy a good meal and conversation. The effect of this simple arrangement can't be over-emphasized. Freed from the competition of a hundred other voices, the conversation broadened from the usual clusters of disparate discussions to a single conversation in which everyone in the room could, and did, participate and address everyone else.
The topic of the main discussion, in which everyone participated, was whether or not attendees counted themselves as encouraged or discouraged about the country's future. Without exception, each person had a unique and compelling point to make, each from a unique angle. That people were "fired up," to use the President's jargon, was obvious. That they were fired up in the cause of liberty and limited government must be terribly disconcerting to the statist, though it surely excites the autocratic impulses of the IRS, DHS, TSA, EPA, NEA, NLRB, ATF, DOJ, FBI, FCC, FDA, USDA, EIEIO, all the King's horses and all the King's jackasses. Fine. Americans have stood up to omnipotent governments on other continents, and we can handle one on our shores as well.
I can't remember all of the names, but as always, it was a pleasure meeting everyone. Professor Morrissey from Hillsdale College was a pure delight, his wisdom bursting like so many sunbeams into the conversation. My undying admiration goes to Ricochet Member Foxfier, whose dedication knows no bounds, bringing as she did three wonderful children, one of them only a month old and already better behaved than many adults I know.
Photos and a brief video of the festivities were handled by RushBabe49 (her post on the evening's happenings is here), who did a positively masterful job of orchestrating the entire event, right down to the name tags. If this gathering is any indication, and I tend to think it is, a national gathering of Ricochet members will be something you won't want to miss.
Sure, everyone's talking about the Obama Administration scandals from a political perspective, but this week on Law Talk with Epstein and Yoo (guided by the steady hand of host Troy Senik), you'll get the complete analysis from the angle that really matters: the legal one. Also, the professors weigh in on the over/under on Eric Holder's career as Attorney General, and John tosses out yet another pop culture reference that Richard has no chance of catching. Can you?
It's the law: every one can benefit from Epstein and Yoo's legal advice by subscribing to this podcast here.
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Considering what I do for a living, it was so very tempting for me to cackle with glee upon seeing this story the other day in The Nation (of all places): “The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks.” I will resist, but the irony is thick — and the schadenfreude is calling to me louder than a two-for-a-dollar cheeseburger special at Five Guys.
A leftist publication is upbraiding America’s leading liberal think tank for taking donations from eeeevvvvillll corporations? Bring on the smelling salts — not for me, but for the readership of The Nation and those poor souls who rely on only the mainstream media for news and commentary and think only right-leaning think tanks accept corporate donations.
The Nation apparently got its hands on “internal lists” of the Center for American Progress (CAP), and revealed that the think tank has something it calls the “Business Alliance,” which The Nation characterizes as “a secret group of corporate donors.” Among the many corporate donors/members of the “Business Alliance” are General Motors and First Solar. Hmmm. Says The Nation:
The Center for American Progress, Washington’s leading liberal think tank, has been a big backer of the Energy Department’s $25 billion loan guarantee program for renewable energy projects. CAP has specifically praised First Solar, a firm that received $3.73 billion under the program, and its Antelope Valley project in California.
Last year, when First Solar was taking a beating from congressional Republicans and in the press over job layoffs and alleged political cronyism, CAP’s Richard Caperton praised Antelope Valley in his testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, saying it headed up his list of “innovative projects” receiving loan guarantees. Earlier, Caperton and Steve Spinner— a top Obama fundraiser who left his job at the Energy Department monitoring the issuance of loan guarantees and became a CAP senior fellow—had written an article cross-posted on CAP’s website and its Think Progress blog, stating that Antelope Valley represented “the cutting edge of the clean energy economy.”
Though the think tank didn’t disclose it, First Solar belonged to CAP’s Business Alliance, a secret group of corporate donors, according to internal lists obtained by The Nation. Meanwhile, José Villarreal—a consultant at the power- house law and lobbying firm Akin Gump, who “provides strategic counseling on a range of legal and policy issues” for corporations—was on First Solar’s board until April 2012 while also sitting on the board of CAP, where he remains a member, according to the group’s latest tax filing.
CAP is a strong proponent of alternative energy, so there’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of its advocacy. But the fact that CAP has received financial support from First Solar while touting its virtues to Washington policy-makers points to a conflict of interest that, critics argue, ought to be disclosed to the public. CAP’s promotion of the company’s interests has supplemented First Solar’s aggressive Washington lobbying efforts, on which it spent more than $800,000 during 2011 and 2012.
The bold emphasis above is mine — as is the link to the Caperton and Spinner piece, which might be disappeared, Soviet-style, by CAP’s Think Progress site by the time you read this. It’s that inconvenient. But let’s focus on the bolded part about how The Nation says “there’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of its advocacy.” Would The Nation give such benefit of the doubt to a non-left organization? Please. Leftist publications such as CAP’s Think Progress never do.
The Heartland Institute is under constant attack on all fronts by an organized leftist campaign out to destroy us — and our advocacy for free markets — for supposedly being “shills” for the fossil fuel industry. In fact, CAP and the guys at Think Progress squealed like a girl who got a pony for Christmas after climate scientist Peter Gleick handed them internal Heartland budget and donor documents he stole via identity theft and fraud.
Click here to get a sense of the scope of the Center for American Progress’ glee while hammering Heartland in the wake of Fakegate — which for Heartland was a much more severe version of what CAP is now experiencing. In the late winter and early spring of 2012, CAP’s minions at Think Progress couldn’t get enough. They went after Heartland’s corporate donors demanding they pull all funding of Heartland — and they did it with shameless lies and unbound vigor. Ironically, General Motors was the Heartland corporate-donor trophy that gave them the most satisfaction. Again, peruse the “Heartland Institute” search at Think Progress to get a sense of the sick satisfaction of these folks — who have now been hoist on their own petard … which brings me to this:
The Washington Free Beacon contacted me yesterday for comment on its story about all this titled “Progressives for Sale.” As I said in the lead to this post — and you now know via the background of Heartland’s experience above — it was so tempting for me to cackle with glee and shove some schadenfreude in the face of these leftist agitators. Here is my correspondence with the reporter:
QUESTION (paraphrase): What does this say about CAP’s standard of ethics, considering how critical they have been of corporate money in politics?
ANSWER (verbatim): “I find it ironic that the Center for American Progress may now realize how difficult it can be for a controversial non-profit to have its corporate donors exposed. CAP, after all, was among the organizations that gleefully publicized the Heartland Institute budget documents climate scientist Peter Gleick stole from us early last year. Maybe now CAP will tone down its celebration of crimes in the name of ‘disclosure’ and denunciation of corporate donations to non-profits — but I have my doubts.”
QUESTION (paraphrase): Is there a conflict of interest when they are taking money from GM and First Solar as they are advocating for policies that directly benefit those companies?
ANSWER (verbatim): “It depends. You’d have to ask the folks at CAP if they only advocated those policies because GM and First Solar gave them funding, or if GM and First Solar gave them funding because they advocated those policies on principle. The former would rightly raise eyebrows, but the latter should not. The Heartland Institute, for instance, has been advocating for smaller government, vigorous and honest climate research, and free-market solutions to social and economic problems for 29 years. We’ve had corporate donors come and go, but have never wavered on our principled stands on the most pressing public policy issues of the day. Who funds the message is not relevant; the quality of the argument and the soundness of the public policy prescription is what matters.”
Yes, I give the Center for American Progress the benefit of the doubt — even after all this and much more at the hands of CAP and its lefty allies. I don’t expect commensurate graciousness from the left, but maybe this development will bring about honesty — on all sides — about how think tanks actually work. CAP knows it, and should simply say it: The truth and the policy is what matters.
I hope this harrowing experience by the leading liberal think tank in Washington would serve as a clarifying lesson about the proper way to debate public policy. I have my doubts.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed to review a Second Circuit decision holding that a town in New York State violated the First Amendment by opening its Town Board meetings with prayers. The Second Circuit's decision is a twofer, constitutionally speaking: an attack on both religious freedom and states' rights. It should be overturned.
The case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, involves a town in upstate New York that has a policy of inviting citizens -- clergy or not -- to give opening prayers at Town Board meetings. All faiths are invited and over the years they've had prayers by Catholics, Protestants from several denominations, a Wiccan priestess, the chairman of a local Bahá’í congregation, and a lay Jewish man. And yet, because the majority of the prayers were Christian in nature, the Second Circuit held that the town's practice amounted to an implicit "endorsement" of Christianity in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
This is just wrong. First, it conflicts with the Supreme Court's own precedent in the 1983 case of Marsh v. Chambers, in which the Court upheld an opening prayer tradition at the Nebraska State Legislature based on the long tradition of legislative opening prayers going back to the Founding era and before. The Court specifically held that legislative prayers were not to be judged by the "endorsement" test, which is used in other Establishment Clause cases. Granted, SCOTUS can overturn its own precedent, but the Second Circuit has no business ignoring Marsh.
Second, and more importantly, the Second Circuit's decision exacerbates the problem in our Establishment Clause jurisprudence; i.e., that the courts have forgotten that the Establishment Clause is a federalism provision that allows states and cities to accommodate religion as they see fit. It is not a command for extreme secularism. Just look at the text: that famous metaphor -- "wall of separation" -- is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the clause bars Congress from making any law "respecting" (i.e., with respect to) an establishment of religion. In other words, each state can decide how to accommodate religion without federal interference.
Nobody on the Supreme Court -- other than Clarence Thomas -- is likely to revive the original meaning of the Establishment Clause. However, decisions like Marsh at least recognize some residual sovereignty in states and cities to run their legislatures as they see fit. If the Second Circuit's approach is upheld, it will be yet another victory in the "progressive" movement to banish religion from the public square.
I recently posted the third installment of my guest-blog for the Louis D. Brandeis Center blog. In light of the recent DOJ/ED mandate that expands the definition of sexual harassment to include constitutionally protected speech, I tease out the historical roots of 'harassment codes' as the primary vehicle used to silence speech on campuses. Here are the three main points from the piece:
1. Overbroad and vague harassment rationales have been the primary justification and legal theory behind campus speech codes since the 1980s. Many remember that speech codes came into vogue on campuses in the 1980s and 1990s; what they tend to forget, though, is that a great deal of them were based on expansive definitions of harassment. Starting in 1989 with Doe v. University of Michigan and continuing through successful challenges at my alma mater, Stanford University, and most recently at the University of the Virgin Islands, there have been a series of defeats in court for harassment-based speech codes over the past 25 years. In fact, the abuse of harassment rationales by universities was so bad that in 2003 the ED issued a clarification letter to instruct colleges across the country that harassment, properly defined, requires a serious pattern of serious conduct, and that harassment-based speech codes could not be used to censor and punish speech protected by the First Amendment. Notably, there is no mention of “free speech,” the First Amendment, or the 2003 clarification letter in the recent May 9 DOJ/ED joint letter.
2. “Harassment” charges have been the weapon of choice against unpopular, dissenting, or in some cases comparatively innocuous speech on campuses for decades now. While I provide maybe a dozen examples of the abuse of harassment allegations on college campuses in my book, it’s only a small fraction of the cases I’ve seen over the years. As I discussed in my Wall Street Journal op-ed, cases include one I previously mentioned at Tufts University in which a student publication was found guilty of racial harassment for publishing true, if unflattering, facts about radical Islam, and, more recently, a professor at the University of Denver who was found guilty of harassment because of the necessarily taboo topics covered in his class about, well, taboos.
One stunning example that got cut from the Wall Street Journal piece at the last-minute occurred last fall, when a student at SUNY Oswego was accused of harassment and faced suspension because, as part of a class assignment, he emailed local hockey coaches and asked for their opinion of Oswego’s hockey coach. A rival coach—not even the one in question—found the survey “offensive” because the student told recipients that they didn’t need to feel obliged to say only nice things about the Oswego coach. The rival coach’s complaint was enough to get the student suspended and kicked off campus. Fortunately, FIRE intervened and in the face of public ridicule Oswego changed course.
Then, of course, there are the “classic” FIRE examples of the student who was found guilty of racial harassment for publicly reading a book, the student who was kicked out of the dorms for making a joke about the “freshman 15,” and a student disc jockey who was found guilty for cracking jokes about his own mother on his radio show. The list goes on and on.
3. Harassment standards do not stay confined to sex. While I briefly make this point in my Wall Street Journal article, it bears repeating and emphasis: This is not just about failed attempts at flirting or unsuccessful requests for a date (though, by the plain language of the new standard, it can include these as well). As you can see from the examples above, harassment is used to punish everything from sophomoric, if tame, jokes, to what books students read, to what actually gets taught in class—all on the basis of the broadest possible definition of sex and gender, which inevitably expands to race, ethnicity, and religion. This has been an ongoing problem on campuses for decades, and the ED and DOJ stepped in to make the situation far more confusing and campus administrators far more likely to overreact.
You can read the whole thing here.
This week on Need To Know, Mona and Jay are joined by Robert George,
Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, and the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, at Princeton University.
They discuss Professor George's new book, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism. Also, the attacks from the left on the First Amendment and the Republicans' tepid defense (Professor George holds out hope, however); a fascinating discussion on the definition of marriage; the massive CYA operation going on in Congress over the IRS scandal; the future of the relationship between President Obama and the media; and why Republicans best not utter the "I" word. Finally, we close with a podcast first: the guest plays us out. In addition to being a world class academic, Professor George is also an accomplished banjo player. That's him picking and strumming in the closing song.
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