Saturday, February 28, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
By Andrew C. McCarthy
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A much-anticipated report laments that prisoners “live under conditions, rules, and policies designed” for “incorrigibly violent” detainees. The security controls were found to be “extraordinary,” employing “isolation and lack of in-cell as well as out-of-cell programs and activities.” Even allowing that these measures were in fact designed for some of the most savage of killers, the report nonetheless asserted that the strictures imposed were “pointlessly harsh and degrading.” They included “extreme” measures such as “lack of windows, denial of reading material, a maximum of three hours a week out-of-cell time, [and] lack of outdoor recreation.”
In sum, the report concluded, the detention conditions imposed by the United States government “can only be explained as reflecting an unwillingness to acknowledge the inmates’ basic humanity.”
In short, the federal penitentiary at Florence, Colo., is no Guantanamo Bay.
On the contrary, Gitmo — despite being repeatedly condemned as a blight on America’s reputation by the Obama campaign, congressional Democrats, alleged human-rights activists, European solons, and the legion of lawyers who’ve volunteered their services to al-Qaeda — is a model facility. According to a Pentagon investigation to be presented at the White House this week — a study ordered with great fanfare by Barack Obama in the first hours of his presidency — the detention camp, where about 245 alien enemy combatants are held, is in full compliance with the humane-treatment requirements of the Geneva Conventions.
The Human Rights Watch report cited above was a study of conditions in American civilian prisons, including those maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Specifically, it addresses “supermax” prisons, such as the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado. In these prisons, the government houses convicted terrorists alongside some 20,000 of the most violent offenders in U.S. custody — many of whom are Americans, not foreign jihadists.
The HRW report was completed in February 2000, in the last days of pre-9/11 obliviousness. That fact should remind us of the danger we invite by allowing transnational progressives to define our national-security priorities — as the Left has been allowed to do with Gitmo.
It seems like ancient history but, since history is repeating itself, it’s worth revisiting: Before nearly 3,000 Americans were slaughtered on September 11, 2001, the great progressive crusade was against American incarceration practices. Putting criminals in jail and keeping them there for appropriate periods of time was the 1980s course-correction that led to dramatic declines in crime rates, which had skyrocketed after the criminal-rights revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
The success of these reforms led to predictable caterwauling on the Left about root causes and rehabilitation, and to the claim that imprisonment causes more crime (in much the same way that we’re today told that defending ourselves against terrorists causes terrorism). This campaign against our effective anti-crime policies often took the form of maddening stories in the New York Times, which frequently and hilariously puzzled over the supposed paradox that crime rates had plummeted “and yet” prison populations were still high. The anti-incarceration campaign also was conducted through studies such as the HRW report, which posited that supermax prisons violated U.S. treaty obligations, that prison authorities were failing to “respect the inherent dignity of each inmate,” and that they were subjecting “prisoners to treatment that constitutes torture or that is cruel, inhuman, or degrading” — that they were, in short, operating prisons “in ways that violate basic human rights.”
It sounds familiar because, following 9/11, this litany was repackaged as the case against Gitmo, the Bush torture-chamber of lefty lore where, in reality, prisoners have mostly gained weight, because they’ve never in their lives eaten better (scrupulously halal) meals or gotten better medical care. And when they aren’t exercising or praying on their government-issued prayer rugs, they are free to spend their leisure time studying the government-issued Korans distributed to inmates by ceremonially gloved Muslim prison guards — despite the fact that the prisoners believe the book instructs them to kill Americans.
This narrative repackaging, though, was done with a strange twist. We needn’t be concerned about shutting Gitmo, we are told, because we have perfectly good prisons in the United States for detaining dangerous terrorists — the very facilities the same critics described as human-rights outrages before 9/11.
We don’t seem to recognize this game, no matter how often it is played. Before 9/11, the bane of the ACLU’s existence was FISA (the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). The FISA court, critics said, was just a rubber stamp for “domestic spying,” its judges mindlessly authorizing national-security surveillance and searches. After 9/11, Bush, like all wartime presidents, ordered monitoring of potential enemy communications without seeking court permission. The Left’s response was to denounce this as an outrageous violation of FISA, whose laudable checks and balances, we were now told, provided the careful judicial oversight that was our insurance against domestic spying.
Or take Afghanistan. Remember when it was a quagmire? It was futile. We were going to be stuck there for decades. But then came Iraq, and suddenly Afghanistan was the “good war” in our campaign against jihad — the war all Americans supported. But Afghanistan was the bad war before it was the good war, and our military operations there had been lambasted by the Left because they reflected Bush’s post-9/11 conclusion that the law-enforcement approach to terrorism (the one we are now backsliding into) was not working.
And even the ineffective law-enforcement model was once too robust for some: Before they discovered the glories of the criminal-justice system in the rubble of the World Trade Center, the Left had insisted that our legal approach was a sham, with kangaroo courts where terrorists were serially convicted (at a 100 percent rate) because the Justice Department had incited an atmosphere of intimidation in which prosecutors, using elastic conspiracy laws, could convict innocent men simply because they were Muslims or Arabs, or because they were engaged in political dissent.
The only thing we can be sure of is that the minute the critics get their way they will immediately move the goalposts. If Gitmo is too harsh and prisoners are sent to federal supermax lockups, then those will be too harsh, too. If military-commission trials are considered unfair, the same people will say that terrorists convicted in civilian courts were railroaded by overzealous prosecutors, fearful juries, and suspect evidence.
Gitmo, as the new study documents, is a model prison. It is also a necessary one. Even the Obama administration has come to terms with the fact that we must be able to detain dangerous people who cannot, for various good reasons, be tried in our civilian courts. We need to hold those people, and interrogate those people, somewhere — and Gitmo is the best place we have. We could close Gitmo, and undermine our national security, in an attempt to satisfy the critics. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think they will ever be satisfied.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States is "a nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations. In one sense, he is absolutely right. Many whites, from university administrators and professors, schoolteachers to employers and public officials accept behavior from black people that they wouldn't begin to accept from whites. For example, some of the nation's most elite universities, such as Vanderbilt, Stanford University and the University of California, have yielded to black student demands for separate graduation ceremonies and separate "celebratory events." Universities such as Stanford, Cornell, MIT, and Cal Berkeley have, or have had, segregated dorms. If white students demanded whites-only graduation ceremonies or whites-only dorms, administrators would have labeled their demands as intolerable racism. When black students demand the same thing, these administrators cowardly capitulate. Calling these university administrators cowards is the most flattering characterization of their behavior. They might actually be stupid enough to believe nonsense taught by their some of sociology and psychology professors that blacks can't be racists because they don't have power.
What about Holder's statement that America is "voluntarily segregated"? I say, so what. According to the census, in 2007, 4.6 percent of married blacks were married to a white; less than 1 percent of married whites were married to a black. While blacks are 13 percent of the population, they are 80 percent of professional basketball players and 65 percent of professional football players. Mere casual observance of audiences at ice hockey games or opera performances would reveal gross voluntary segregation. What would Holder propose the U.S. Justice Department do about these and other instances of voluntary segregation?
Attorney General Holder's flawed thinking is widespread whereby people think that an activity that is not racially integrated is therefore segregated. Blacks are about 60 percent of the Washington, D.C. population. At the Reagan National Airport, which serves D.C., nowhere near 60 percent of the airport's water fountain users are black; I'd guess blacks are never more than 5 percent of users. The population statistics of states such as South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their populations are black. Does that mean Reagan National Airport water fountains and South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont are racially segregated? If Holder does anything about "voluntary segregation" at the state level I hope it's not court-ordered busing; I'm not wild about their winters. Just because some activity is not racially integrated does not mean that it is racially segregated.
The bottom line is that the civil rights struggle is over and it is won. At one time black Americans didn't share the constitutional guarantees shared by whites; today we do. That does not mean that there are not major problems that confront a large segment of the black community, but they are not civil rights problems nor can they be solved through a "conversation on race." Black illegitimacy stands at 70 percent; nearly 50 percent of black students drop out of high school; and only 30 percent of black youngsters reside in two-parent families. In 2005, while 13 percent of the population, blacks committed over 52 percent of the nation's homicides and were 46 percent of the homicide victims. Ninety-four percent of black homicide victims had a black person as their murderer. Such pathology, I think much of it precipitated by family breakdown, is entirely new among blacks. In 1940, black illegitimacy was 19 percent; in 1950, only 18 percent of black households were female-headed compared with today's 70 percent. Both during slavery and as late as 1920, a teenage girl raising a child without a man present was rare among blacks.
If black people continue to accept the corrupt blame game agenda of liberal whites, black politicians and assorted hustlers, as opposed to accepting personal responsibility, the future for many black Americans will remain bleak.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
It shouldn't be long before ACORN recruits "Octomom" Nadya Suleman to serve as the radical left-wing group's foreclosure poster child. The jobless, unmarried mother of 14 faces eviction from her home in two weeks. Suleman's mother, who owns the residence, hasn't sent a mortgage check in 10 months and owes $23,000 in back payments. Nonetheless, the plastic surgery-enhanced, welfare-dependent Octomom was photographed this week at a video store splurging on games for her brood.
With her warped financial priorities, Suleman fits right in with the militant moochers at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. As I reported last week, ACORN launched a lawless "civil disobedience" campaign across the country to demand their housing entitlement rights. With this well-oiled propaganda campaign buoying his efforts, President Obama used his State of the Nation address last night to advance his push for a massive government home foreclosure plan that will help "responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure."
But a closer look at ACORN's sob stories shows that the prototypical foreclosure "victims" don't deserve an ounce of sympathy -- or a cent of our money.
Earlier this week, ACORN activists broke into a foreclosed home in Baltimore. With a mob cheering and camera crew taping, Baltimore ACORN leader Louis Beverly busted a padlock and jimmied the door open at 315 South Ellwood Ave. The home once belonged to restaurant worker Donna Hanks, who assailed her evil bank for raising her mortgage by $300 and leaving her on the street. "This is our house now," Beverly declared with Hanks by his side at the break-in.
What ACORN didn't tell you: Hanks' house was sold in June 2008 for $192,000. She bought the two-story home in the summer of 2001 for $87,000. At some point during the next five years, she refinanced the original home loan for $270,000. Where did all that money go? (Hint: Think house-sized ATM.)
The property initially went into foreclosure proceedings in the spring of 2006. Hanks soon filed for bankruptcy and agreed to a Chapter 13 plan to pay back her bank and other creditors. In September 2006, the bankruptcy court ordered Hanks' employer to deduct $340/month from her salary to pay down the debt. Hanks did not comply with the legally binding plan. In December 2007, the loan servicer issued a notice of default on nearly $7,000 past due.
While she was reneging on her mortgage IOUs, she somehow managed to collect rent on her basement (for which she was taken to court) and rack up a criminal record on charges of theft and second-degree assault. The house was sold seven months ago after two years of court-negotiated attempts to allow Hanks to dig herself out of her debt hole.
Beverly, who claims to be a foreclosure victim himself, was charged with burglary for the break-in and released. He is literally a housing thug -- having been separately charged with second-degree assault and property destruction earlier this year; battery, assault, handgun possession and possession of a deadly weapon with intent to injure in 1992; and slapped with a peace order issued against him in 2006.
The Washington Post spotlighted Beverly's and Hanks' activism without following up on their criminal records and financial negligence. The paper also shilled for ubiquitous ACORN foreclosure "victim" Veronica Peterson of Columbia, Md., recycling uncritically her accusation that she had been tricked into buying a $545,000 home by a broker who inflated her income and misrepresented her assets. "These loans were weapons of mass destruction," the single mom of three and home day care provider who couldn't keep up with her mortgage bills told the Post reporter. "They destroyed our credit, our lives, and they blew up in our face."
But a look at court and real estate records exposed the truth. Edward Ericson Jr., a reporter for the independent Baltimore City Paper, discovered that the "victim" -- who took out a full mortgage with no down payment on a house she couldn't afford -- looks more like a predatory borrower. And amazingly, Peterson lived in the home more than year without paying rent or mortgage.
"The online court and land records show that Peterson closed on the house on Nov. 3, 2006, with two loans from Washington Mutual. The main mortgage, for $436,000, had a starting interest rate of 8.5 percent, adjusting in December. … The second loan, often called a 'piggyback,' totaled $109,000 with an interest rate of 11.25 percent. … Those two payments together would have totaled $3,386.17 per month. That's before property taxes, upkeep, utilities, etc. Peterson would have to earn at least $50,000 per year just to make her house payments."
The foreclosure was filed in July 2007. "The balance on the main note then was $435,735.86," Ericson reported, plus unpaid interest and late fees -- suggesting she made at most one payment on the house. "Had she made all of her payments, Peterson would have spent about $64,335 so far. Had she rented a similar place, she would have been charged around $2,500 per month -- a total of $47,500 -- since January 2007. Instead, she apparently paid nothing."
Who are the real suckers? Who are the true victims? If only the reporters swallowing their stories were half as diligent about background checks of ACORN thugs as they were with Joe the Plumber.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
An increasing number of recent letters and e-mails from readers strike a note, not only of unhappiness with the way things are going in our society, but a note of despair.
Those of us who are pessimists are only a step away from despair ourselves, so we may not be the ones to offer the best antidote to the view that America has seen its best days and is degenerating toward what may well be its worst. Yet what hope remains is no less precious nor any less worthy of being preserved.
First of all, the day-to-day life of most Americans in these times is nowhere near as dire as that of the band of cold, ragged and hungry men who gathered around George Washington in the winter at Valley Forge, to which they had been driven by defeat after defeat.
Only the most reckless gambler would have bet on them to win. Only an optimist would have expected them to survive.
Against the background of those and other desperate times that this country has been through, we cannot whine today because the stocks in our pension plans have gone down or the inflated value that our houses had just a few years ago has now evaporated.
In another sense, however, looming ahead of us-- and our children and their children-- are dangers that can utterly destroy American society. Worse yet, there are moral corrosions within ourselves that weaken our ability to face the challenges ahead.
One of the many symptoms of this decay from within is that we are preoccupied with the pay of corporate executives while the leading terrorist-sponsoring nation on earth is moving steadily toward creating nuclear bombs.
Does anyone imagine that we will care what anyone's paycheck is when we see an American city in radioactive ruins?
Yet the only serious obstacle to that happening is that the Israelis may disregard the lofty blather coming out of the White House and destroy Iran's nuclear facilities before the Iranian fanatics can destroy Israel.
If by some miracle we manage to avoid the fatal dangers of a nuclear Iran, there will no doubt be others, including a nuclear North Korea.
Although, in some sense, the United States of America is still the militarily strongest nation on earth, that means absolutely nothing if our enemies are willing to die and we are not.
It took only two nuclear bombs to get Japan to surrender-- and the Japanese of that era were far tougher than most Americans today. Just one bomb-- dropped on New York, Chicago or Los Angeles-- might be enough to get us to surrender.
If we are still made of sterner stuff than it looks like, then it might take two or maybe even three or four nuclear bombs, but we will surrender.
It doesn't matter if we retaliate and kill millions of innocent Iranian civilians-- at least it will not matter to the fanatics in charge of Iran or the fanatics in charge of the international terrorist organizations that Iran supplies.
Ultimately, it all comes down to who is willing to die and who is not.
How did we get to this point? It was no single thing.
The dumbing down of our education, the undermining of moral values with the fad of "non-judgmental" affectations, the denigration of our nation through poisonous propaganda from the movies to the universities. The list goes on and on.
The trajectory of our course leads to a fate that would fully justify despair. The only saving grace is that even the trajectory of a bullet can be changed by the wind.
We have been saved by miraculous good fortune before in our history. The overwhelming military and naval expedition that Britain sent to New York to annihilate George Washington's army was totally immobilized by a vast impenetrable fog that allowed the Americans to escape. That is how they ended up in Valley Forge.
In the World War II naval battle of Midway, if things had not happened just the way they did, at just the time they did, the American naval force would not only have lost, but could have been wiped out by the far larger Japanese fleet.
Over the years, we have had our share of miraculous deliverances. But that our fate today depends on yet another miracle is what can turn pessimism to despair.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Atlas is done with merely shrugging. Atlas is raging. The Ayn Rand novel, "Atlas Shrugged" is much in the news this week because of the absolutely fantastic rant on CNBC the other morning by on-air editor Rick Santelli.
I happened to be watching CNBC when this all took place, although I suspect this may become one of those thinks like Woodstock which, over the years, seven million baby boomers have proclaimed they were in attendance.
This was the morning after President Obama had announced his plan to save the housing industry by helping bail out people who weren't making their payments - or who were struggling to make their payments.
The New York Times described it thus:
Mr. Santelli is normally a strait-laced newsman; he has reported live from the Chicago Board of Trade for 10 years. But in an appearance on the morning show "Squawk Box" on Thursday, he suggested a "Chicago Tea Party" to protest the administration's housing plans.
The three principal points of the President's plan - according to the official executive summary - are:
1. Refinancing for Up to 4 to 5 Million Responsible Homeowners to Make Their Mortgages More Affordable
2. A $75 Billion Homeowner Stability Initiative to Reach Up to 3 to 4 Million At-Risk Homeowners
3. Supporting Low Mortgage Rates By Strengthening Confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Remember Joe the Plumber? He became a media star because he asked candidate Obama about his tax plan. After a fairly reasonable answer, Obama said, "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
It was not at all clear that Obama was talking about being Robin Hood at the time, but this housing plan certainly makes it seem that in the Obama world, taking from the rich to help the poor can stay in houses they couldn't afford when they bought them, can't afford now, and won't be able to afford under Obama's plan is a worthy goal.
This, in addition to the TARP program rushed through in the waning days of the Bush Administration and the stimulus package rammed through in the opening days of Obama's are absolutely counter to the theses in the Ayn Rand novels - especially Atlas Shrugged.
Santelli said, from his usual location in Chicago, that the plan was "rewarding bad behavior." At one point he compared it to Cuba saying before the Castro era there was relative prosperity and opporotunity in Cuba, but now they all drive around in 1954 Chevys.
The White House trotted press secretary Robert Gibbs who said, "It's tremendously important that for people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they're talking about. I feel assured that Mr. Santelli doesn't know what he's talking about."
Santelli has been in the world of finance for his entire adult life and probably knows a good bit more about that world then the White House press secretary does.
This episode is another in a string of bad days for the Obama Administration. In spite of his pledging bi-partisanship, he allowed Nancy Pelosi and her crowd in the House to craft the first version of the stimulus package which was then negotiated - in secret - to its final configuration.
Then he had that embarrassing Tom Daschle business. Then there was a disconnect between senior Democrats on whether Bank of American and/or Citigroup and/or Harry's Savings and Loan would have to be nationalized.
The markets are plummeting toward 10 year lows, unemployment shows no signs of abating.
Back to the bad news for the Administration:
Obama had to order 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, his belief in the Power of Nice having lasted about a month into his Presidency; the Iranians are claiming they now have enough enriched uranium to make a bomb and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader who chosen Friday to form Israel's next government has been known as a hard liner when it comes to land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians.
And now, on top of everything else, Obama has irritated John Galt.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Down through the years, there have been a great many movies in which school teachers have been portrayed as decent and hard-working, even heroic. Just a handful that come to mind are “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Holland’s Opus,” “This Land is Mine,” “Up the Down Staircase,” “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” “Cheers for Miss Bishop,” “The School of Rock,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Blackboard Jungle,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Dead Poet’s Society.”
But when it comes to college and university professors, they tend to be portrayed either as comical buffoons (“The Nutty Professor,” “Monkey Business,” “Son of Flubber,” “The Absent Minded Professor,” “It Happens Every Spring,” “Horse Feathers”) or as petty, demented and, often as not, alcoholics (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “People Will Talk,” “The Squid and the Whale”). In fact, the last time I recall a movie about a professor that any normal person would wish to spend time with was the 1948 release, “Apartment for Peggy,” and even in that one, Edmund Gwenn spent most of his time planning to commit suicide.
Feeling, as I do, that most professors, aside from those teaching science or math, are over-paid, under-worked, left-wing narcissists infatuated with the sound of their own voices, it makes perfect sense that it would be nearly impossible to make a movie about them that wasn’t a slapstick comedy.
One of the things that makes them particularly offensive is their hypocrisy. Although everyone of them would insist that tenure is essential -- not because it guarantees them a secure livelihood just so long as they don’t burn down a dormitory or give a star athlete a failing grade -- but because it ensures them the right to voice unpopular, even unpatriotic, opinions. The truth, however, is that, more often than not, they’re the bullies censoring free speech and punishing with low marks those students with the gumption to speak their own minds.
Just the other day, I read about a student here in L.A. whose professor called him a “fascist bastard” and refused to allow him to conclude his remarks in opposition to same-sex marriages. Although I am aware that this betrayal of the First Amendment occurs regularly in classrooms and lecture halls all across America, the reason I’m aware of this particular case is because the student, Jonathan Lopez, is suing. When Lopez, a devout Christian, asked his professor what grade he was getting for his speech, he was told to go ask God!
So, on college campuses, it’s okay to ridicule a student’s religious convictions, but not to voice an objection to homosexual marriages.
I find it fascinating that academics see no need to be honest, tolerant or even logical. My friend, Larry Purdy, a Minnesota-based lawyer who worked on the University of Michigan cases regarding racial preferences, has written a book, “Getting Under the Skin of ‘Diversity’: Searching for the Color-Blind Ideal,” that makes mincemeat of the Supreme Court’s fatuous decisions, while reminding many of us why we celebrated Sandra Day O’Connor’s departure from the bench.
In 1998, Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, and William Bowen, former president of Princeton, collaborated on a book, “The Shape of the River,” which greatly influenced O’Connor and a majority of her associates.
The entire purpose of the book was to prove that racial preferences (aka affirmative action) were beneficial for the elite schools and for society at large. For openers, Purdy proves that Bok and Bowen were deceptive, to say the least, because they never released the data that allegedly made their case. Instead, we’re all simply expected to take their word for it even though, as clearly spelled out in Brown vs. Board of Education, the government is prohibited from treating citizens differently because of their race. According to Bok and Bowen, the benefits of racial diversity on elite college campuses, no matter how it’s achieved, simply outweighs all other considerations.
The fact is, they admit that they don’t have any idea how many of the minority students they claim to have studied made it to the university on their own merits and not simply because a bunch of elitist pinheads decided that leapfrogging them over more deserving white and Asian students was the American way.
Something else that Bok and Bowen didn’t bother mentioning was the large numbers of minority students who graduated from historically black colleges and universities and went on to achieve a reasonable amount of fame and fortune in spite of not attending Ivy League schools.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t deny that Ivy League graduates tend to go on to greater success than most people. But that has far less to do with the quality of education than with the fact that the students so often come from families that are already wealthy and powerful because their ancestors owned railroads, banks and oil companies, and they therefore have dibs on Senate seats and the Oval Office.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
One of the most contentious social and political debates of our time pits the opposing goals of equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome.
Some would claim the point was settled before the Founding of the American republic in that the Declaration of Independence recognized as an unalienable right the "pursuit" of happiness rather than happiness itself. Others argue that various social and political disadvantages through history create the need for more balanced outcomes as recompense for past wrongs.
This discussion is no more heated than in the world of education. The question of opportunity versus outcome is vexing and whether the discussion revolves around K-12 education or higher education, opportunity and outcome continually collide.
We increasingly see this conflict played out in the way colleges and universities decide whom to admit and the unfortunate trend is that too many schools are redefining merit as it has traditionally been recognized.
The main engine behind this effort to change the nature of academic merit is a group called Fair Test, a Boston-based organization that characterizes itself as working to "end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing."
The reality, however, is far different. The efforts and track record of this organization demonstrate that simply administering a standardized test constitutes a misuse, while the primary flaw of such tests is that they exist at all.
Standardized tests have been accused of potential bias since the 1970s when activists insisted that an Scholastic Aptitude Test question involving the word "regatta" was biased against women, minorities and anyone else who hadn't sported a silk ascot at the yacht club. In fact, the SAT and the ACT, another widely used college admissions test, have long since addressed legitimate claims of bias in testing. Both are scrupulously developed, reviewed and updated by dedicated educators to ensure they reflect a student's academic merit. They also are administered in a consistent manner, which is more than you can say about a lot of things in life. Anyone who must adhere to a set of standards in any endeavor knows they sometimes seem arbitrary. But arbitrary as college admission standards may be, they are nothing compared to the tyrannical anarchy of ill-defined or holistic admissions, which Fair Test promotes.
Human nature demands that we be given a target something for which we can strive. This is why humanity sets and seeks specific goals. But the holistic college admissions structure promoted by Fair Test and others destroys empirical standards and leaves such decisions to the whims of shifting admissions policies and those who formulate them. It's reminiscent of the uncertain standards I sometimes faced as a young black man coming of age in the post-segregation world of Cincinnati.
And who is formulating such policies? It varies from institution to institution but a look at the funding of Fair Test is troubling. Writer and college educator Mary Grabar revealed in her recent article that Fair Test is funded by men like liberal billionaire George Soros and the Woods Fund, who counts among its board members Bill Ayers, the former domestic terrorist who admitted complicity in a series of bombings from New York to Washington, D.C. during the 1970s.
All this, of course, would be forgivable if the goal was sincere, however misguided. But it's largely an extension of an education strategy that has been in place for nearly a half-century. In the 1960s, liberals began a concerted effort to seize control of higher-education, via dominating professorships and tenure. It worked. Now, the social engineers aren't content with dominating the faculty rooms they want to control who gets admitted to colleges and universities.
Ideology aside, the efforts of Fair Test and others who want to eliminate standardized testing stand to put all of American higher education at risk. Jonathan Epstein, a senior researcher with the private sector educational consultancy Maguire Associates, notes that colleges with test optional admission policies could disorient students and their families in terms of determining which college to attend. The result, says Epstein, is that "a disoriented customer market is not in the best interests of any institution or higher education in general."
Standards of academic excellence are critical to the future of students and our economy. If we forsake such standards based on the ill-conceived ideology of Fair Test and like-minded individuals, we risk not only our children's future but that of our nation.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In his ongoing efforts to portray Muslims as chummy neighbors, Muzzammil Hassan, founder of Bridges TV, cut his wife’s head off last week when Muzzy found out she was going to ditch him. What’s that, you say?
This is the first you’ve heard of the 2/12/2009 beheading in Buffalo in which a Muslim TV exec chopped his wife’s noggin off in one of their office suites? Oh, I’m sorry. I assumed that you’d already heard about it—but then I just recalled that ABC, NBC, CBS, and NPR haven’t said a word about it since it happened. Oops. My bad.
Let me bring you up to speed with some background 411 on Islam’s latest right here in our backyard. According to my good buddy Robert Spencer over at www.JihadWatch.org:
Last Thursday (2/12/09), a woman named Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37, was found decapitated in Orchard Park, New York, a village near Buffalo. Her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, was charged, rather oddly, with second-degree murder in the case . . . (2nd degree murder? What’s a guy gotta do to get 1st degree murder, saw the body in half?) . . . Aasiya Hassan’s body was found in the offices of the cable channel, Bridges TV. Aasiya Hassan was the inspiration for Bridges TV, and Muzzammil Hassan was its founder.
Check this out: According to Spencer, Muzzammil Hassan founded Bridges TV in 2004 to combat the negative perceptions of Muslims that he thought were dominating the mainstream media. According to a Reuters story at the time, Aasiya “came up with the idea in December 2001 while listening to the radio on a road trip.” Muzzammil Hassan explained: “Some derogatory comments were being made about Muslims that offended her. She was seven months pregnant, and she thought she didn’t want her kids growing up in this environment.” Bridges TV originally declared that its intention was to “fuse American culture with the values of Islam in a healthy, family-oriented way.”
Wow, Hassan, you sort of got off course there, now didn’t ‘cha?
Hey, Muzzy, you want to mitigate that negative PR that Islam is getting by decapitating thy bride? Holy crap, Hassan. Someone remind me not to hire this cat to do any PR work for my show or books once Holder pardons him.
Unbelievable stuff right there, folks.
Now, help me, Muzzammil. Be patient with me as I am a slow, dense, Jesus-following, funkadelic plebian. How does lopping off your wife’s cranium further sell us Judeo-Christian infidels on the healthy and family-friendly ways of Islam? It’s just a question. Don’t dust up, alright?
Pardon me for a sec. I’d like to go back and address the insane silence of the MSM regarding this BS Muslim-based beheading by a “moderate Muslim” concerned about his religion’s public branding.
Here’re a few questions: Why no reportage, Katie? Williams, don’t you wanna inform us cattle about this incident? Whoopi, where are you, girl? Lauer, are you listening? Are you guys checking your inboxes? Is this not newsworthy? Has political correctness got you by your short and curlies? What a bunch of wussies.
I guarantee that if a Christian TV executive Lizzy Bordened his bride we would hear about it ‘til Jesus came back screaming, “Hi-yo, Silver!” Yep, can you imagine if Paul Crouch severed his wife Jan’s pink-haired cabeza at TBN’s Praise the Lord Studios in Nashville? The MSM would be on that like stink on a monkey. Speaking of monkeys, maybe the chimp gone wild story this week trumped the beheading of a beautiful Muslim wife and mom. Yep, that’s got to be it. We must warn the world of the dangers of chimpanzees. Cough.
No doubt CAIR will fly straight into look-over-there negative press mitigation mode by denying Islam had anything to do with this. What am I to gather from these verses from the Qur’an, though? Robert Spencer from www.JihadWatch.org explains:
“The Qur’an says: ‘Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded. And as for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them…’ (4:34)
“The Islamic prophet Muhammad was once told that ‘women have become emboldened towards their husbands,’ whereupon he ‘gave permission to beat them’ (Sunan Abu Dawud, book 11, no. 2141). He was unhappy with the women who complained—not with their husbands who beat them.
“Muhammad even struck his favorite wife, Aisha. One night, thinking she was asleep, he went out. Aisha surreptitiously followed him. When he found out what she had done, he hit her: “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?” (Sahih Muslim, book 4, no. 2127).”
Nice. How peaceful.
Lastly, here’s a little 411 for all you ladies out there: If your prophet or god is cool with your husband beating the crap out of you or hacking your head off for thinking Brad Pitt is cute or because you want to wear a Miracle Bra, eat a BLT, or dance to a Shakira song, take that as a cue for you to find a new god, prophet and husband.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
LONDON -- Think that credit collapse that triggered the Bush administration's $700 billion bank bailout was necessary because of Republican hostility to regulation and the ineptness of President George W. Bush?
If it were that simple, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Labor Party would not be squirming, and the United Kingdom would not be swimming in staggering sums of debt.
It was not that long ago that market watchers hailed Brown as the savvy Euro-technocrat who, as the United Kingdom's former chancellor of the exchequer, understood capital markets and calmly navigated British finance through the storms that swamped Bushdom last year. When the Halifax Bank of Scotland was on the verge of collapse in September, Brown began working on a takeover of the bank by Lloyds TSB -- for which the prime minister was hailed as a hero who averted a crisis.
But the deal did not save the empire. Instead, it helped sink Lloyds, requiring government intervention. British taxpayers now own a 43 percent stake in Lloyds -- which may grow. Some wonder if Brown will have to nationalize Lloyds.
Oh, yes, and last week, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Lloyds was planning to pay 120 million pounds ($171.72 million) in bonuses to top execs.
Sound familiar? This part is, too: There were Cassandras in both countries warning of impending disaster. Earlier this month in Washington, whistleblower Harry Markopolos testified before the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets about how he had figured out back in 2000 that financier Bernard Madoff, who now has admitted to bilking investors of a whopping $50 billion, was a fraud. Not only did Markopolos find and document evidence of fraud, but worse, he repeatedly handed the information to Securities and Exchange Commission staff. Staff members either didn't understand the information or did not care.
Now Brown has his own Markopolos. His name is Paul Moore, the former head of risk management for Halifax Bank of Scotland. Before a House of Commons Treasury Select Committee this month, Moore testified that he warned the bank between 2002 and 2005 that the sales-driven culture under bank head Sir James Crosby would lead to ruin. "You know the adverts that beg you to buy more? People must be protected from falling into so much debt," Moore told the Independent on Sunday.
For his troubles, the bank canned Moore, then worked out a 500,000 pound ($715,515) legal settlement that demanded his silence.
It turns out that the man who fired Moore for issuing this sage advice, Crosby, later was named by Brown to be the No. 2 regulator at the Financial Services Authority. After Moore's testimony, Crosby resigned, but the damage to Brown was done.
Moore also told the Independent, "Brown presided over a policy based on excessive consumer spending based on massively increasing property prices, which were caused by excessively easy credit which could only ultimately lead to disaster. But no, in Gordon's mind it was all caused by global events beyond his and anybody else's control."
The word from No. 10 Downing Street is that Brown has "no regrets" about the Lloyds/HBOS deal. Tory leader David Cameron now calls the merger "a bad decision," and others have cited the "no regrets" line as proof that Brown is out of touch and unable to admit mistakes.
It's easy to kick Brown, even if the Lloyds/HBOS merger -- and his boast at the time, "We have changed the competition law" -- may have kept the economy from sinking faster and deeper.
The moral of the story: No matter which party is in charge, leaders are likely to be too cozy with people who make big money. In the end, Brown would have been better served with a friend named Paul Moore than a colleague named Sir James. (President Obama, take note. Maybe you want to share your BlackBerry address with Markopolos and Moore.)
The other moral: Throughout the Bush years, Democratic critics spoke as if every problem would be dealt with smoothly under different leadership. But in the United Kingdom -- one of Our Betters in Europe, with European higher taxes and commitment to liberal regulation -- their very European Union oversaw the same credit craze that occurred under the bumbling, right-wing, go-it-alone Bush.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
“Corporate social responsibility” doctrine says companies must act ethically and further the well-being of society – not merely seek to improve market shares and bottom lines.
Ethical behavior is an essential element of business and capitalism. Companies that violate laws and societal norms are eventually found out – and punished, by courts and consumers.
But this raises an often overlooked question that all CSR advocates should ask:
Shouldn’t society demand that every corporation chartered under its aegis (for-profit and not-for-profit alike) will promote societal well-being? Shouldn’t charities, government agencies, legislatures and activist groups be held to the same CSR standards as profit-based industries?
By any rational standard, preventing dangerous diseases promotes societal well-being – and actions that perpetuate disease contravene basic CSR principles.
A century ago, Dr. William Gorgas eradicated yellow fever and dramatically reduced malaria in Panama. He eliminated or poured kerosene on standing water, to prevent malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes from laying eggs and larvae from developing; fumigated areas infested with adult mosquitoes; and used nets to isolate infected patients and prevent them from being bitten and spreading the disease.
But today malaria still infects 500 million people a year, leaving them unable to work for weeks, rendering many permanently brain-damaged, and killing over a million parents and children.
And yet, politicians, foundations, activists and bureaucrats continue to promote false solutions. If accepted CSR standards were applied to them, many would be bankrupt, ostracized or imprisoned.
The United Nations, Al Gore, Senator Barbara Boxer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Obama and others claim malaria is spreading due to global warming. The UN even pays African officials to host conferences that promote this party line.
The assertion boosts their anti-hydrocarbon agendas. It also shifts the blame and limited resources away from real solutions to pricey, politically correct schemes that actually perpetuate disease and death.
Malaria was prevalent in Virginia, Ohio, California the Netherlands and beyond, until DDT helped eradicate it. The disease killed 600,000 people in Siberia during the 1920s and 1930s. Obviously malaria's presence and geographical distribution is not defined by temperature alone.
Informed, comprehensive control measures reduce or eliminate malaria, note infectious disease experts Paul Reiter and Donald Roberts, even in tropical areas. When we let nature take its course, or apply partial or politically correct solutions, malaria spreads and people die.
With funding from San Francisco’s Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) helps nature take its course, by battling insecticide and DDT use. Their tunnel-visioned actions might protect the world’s most impoverished, disease-ridden people from minor speculative risks associated with insecticides – but they do so by imposing massive, immediate, life-threatening risks from diseases the insecticides could prevent.
The Gates Foundation supports fascinating research on anti-malaria vaccines and mosquitoes genetically engineered to be unable to carry malaria parasites. The work may pay off big time in a decade or two – assuming we can vaccinate 2 billion people who are at risk from getting malaria, or replace trillions of Anopheles mosquitoes with biotech varieties. But meanwhile, every year, a half billion people will become too sick to work, and a million will die, from a readily preventable disease.
“Nothing but nets” is a catchy basketball slogan, but a lousy disease prevention strategy. Bed net campaigns promise a few dollars will save a life, but actual malaria reductions are closer to 20-30% when recipients use their nets every night, no matter how sweltering it gets in their non-air-conditioned homes.
Truly comprehensive programs can slash malaria disease and death rates by 90% or even eradicate it completely. How is it ethical to promote anything less?
Yet, far too many companies, even ExxonMobil, won’t use or promote DDT, for fear of being attacked by PAN and its ilk. And some well-meaning innovators promote even more far-fetched “solutions,” like giant mosquito vacuums – for villages that don’t even have electricity.
These inadequate prevention strategies put the onus on often primitive clinics, overworked doctors and scarce, overused drugs to stop malaria. New Artemisia-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been a godsend, especially in Africa, where chloroquine is no longer effective.
But the more heavily they are used – because prevention efforts are constricted and misdirected – the sooner it is likely that malaria parasites will become resistant to ACT drugs. That likelihood is increased by companies like Erica in India that still distribute oral artemisinin mono-therapy tablets, which are more likely to result in resistant strains of malaria. Worse, increasing numbers of malaria medications distributed in Africa and elsewhere are substandard or even counterfeit knockoffs.
And too many governments of malaria-ridden countries do a horrendous job of safeguarding their people against these unscrupulous practices.
Malaria victims can ill afford such sick, fraudulent, irresponsible “social responsibility.” Human rights, and human lives, are at stake.
The world has limited money, especially amid this global recession. African nations are particularly destitute. Funds and resources need to be applied wisely, effectively and ethically.
First, we must do no harm – by focusing attention on bogus causes like global warming, for instance, or restricting malaria prevention to partial solutions like bed nets and drugs. Second, we must do actual good, by slashing malaria rates NOW.
It doesn’t take rocket science – just a modern version of what Gorgas used 100 years ago. Vastly improved tools are readily available. We need to use them.
Truly comprehensive programs include DDT on walls to keep mosquitoes out of houses, bed nets to further protect children and adults, and insecticides to control mosquito populations. These steps alone can prevent 80% or more of malaria cases. But other interventions must also be employed, if infections and deaths are to be eliminated.
Health ministries and aid agencies must help ensure that doctors have modern clinics closer to more villages, can quickly determine if a patient really has malaria, and have the proper ACT drugs to treat cases. They and field personnel must maintain systems to monitor mosquito populations and disease outbreaks on a continuing basis, and feed data into computerized command centers.
Communities must become better educated about the causes and symptoms of malaria, and how to eliminate brush and mosquito breeding areas from around homes. Larvacides can be used to kill mosquito larvae. Incentives and oversight must ensure that programs are working properly.
The number of nets distributed is irrelevant. The only valid test is malaria cases and deaths prevented.
A comprehensive program is a socially responsible program. Anything less is insufficient and immoral.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Hey, black folks, do you know any white folks? Good. OK, I want you to go up to them right now and, as politely as you can, start sharing your most deeply held racial views. Hey, white folks, you're not off the hook. I want you to go and do likewise with any black people you know.
Don't want to do that? Really? Well, then, you're a coward.
That's the short version of Attorney General Eric Holder's speech this week celebrating Black History Month.
Holder says we are "a nation of cowards" because we're unwilling to discuss race to his satisfaction. Some might say that's an ironic diagnosis given that Holder is the first black attorney general, appointed by the first black president of the United States.
Nonetheless, Holder thinks the answer to our racial problems is for more people of different colors to talk about how race defines them. He suggests using the "artificial device" of Black History Month "to generate discussion that should come more naturally" but doesn't.
Well, in the spirit of full and frank discussion, let me say I have some problems with Holder's analysis.
The first thing worth pointing out is that Holder is wrong. America talks about race incessantly, in classrooms, lecture halls, movies, op-ed pages, books, magazines, talk shows, just about every third PBS documentary by my count, blogs, diversity training sessions and, yes, even mandatory Black History Month events.
In fairness, Holder seems vaguely aware of this. The hitch is that he thinks this isn't nearly enough racial argy-bargy. We've got to work the balm of racial dialogue deep into muscle and sinew of the body politic.
My biggest objection to Holder's speech is that it reveals how enthralled to a cliché he is. Look, despite the bold tone of his remarks, this is just a terribly hackneyed idea. People have been calling for a national dialogue for years. Twelve years ago, Bill Clinton even proclaimed a whole year would be dedicated to a national conversation on race.
Assuming Holder is serious, who says more talk would make things better? Is there some social science to back up this talking point posing as wisdom? Have there been studies showing that if you force blacks and whites to talk endlessly about race, race relations improve? If so, is the research any good? Or is this liberal conventional wisdom masquerading as something else?
Perhaps Holder envisions a national conversation where the whole country becomes a giant School of Athens, with blacks as Socrates and whites as Plato, eagerly taking instruction on the finer points of racial consciousness. The image that comes to my mind is different. I see Michael Scott, the hyper-vapid boss from NBC's "The Office," hectoring Stanley and Darryl -- the show's two black characters -- to make race an issue when it shouldn't be.
Americans are very good at hearing ideological appeals, but we're almost tone-deaf when it comes to clichés. That's why liberals hide so much of their agenda inside them. Say "diversity makes us stronger" a billion times and you'll come to believe it uncritically, too.
Usually, when I hear a liberal call for a national conversation on race, I translate it as: "People who disagree with me need to be instructed why they are wrong." Indeed, in a sense it's no wonder America is a nation of cowards when it comes to race, because so many of us are terrified of being called racist the moment we step out of line with liberal orthodoxy.
For example, when Clinton held one of his famous town hall discussions, he invited Abigail Thernstrom, a polite, sophisticated scholar of racial issues and champion of race-neutrality, to participate in a frank conversation about race. But the moment she expressed an honest objection to racial quotas, Clinton browbeat her as some kind of crypto-racist idiot.
We see something similar in how Holder envisions the latest iteration of a national palaver on race. He says of the debate over affirmative action (or what blogger Paul Mirengoff calls "a coward's name for race-based preferences") that, "This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes, who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self-interest."
Perhaps. Or perhaps calling views you disagree with "extreme" and accusing those who hold them of having dishonorable motives is just a clever way of saying that you don't want an "honest conversation" at all.
Friday, February 20, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The Biden prophecy has come to pass. Our wacky veep, momentarily inspired, had predicted last October that "it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama." Biden probably had in mind an eve-of-the-apocalypse drama like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead, Obama's challenges have come in smaller bites. Some are deliberate threats to U.S. interests, others mere probes to ascertain whether the new president has any spine.
Preliminary X-rays are not very encouraging.
Consider the long list of brazen Russian provocations:
(a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely crucial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.
(b) Announcing the formation of a "rapid reaction force" with six former Soviet republics, a regional Russian-led strike force meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.
(c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.
(d) Declaring Russia's intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.
President Bush's response to the Kaliningrad deployment -- the threat was issued the day after Obama's election -- was firm. He refused to back down because giving in to Russian threats would leave Poles and Czechs exposed and show the world that, contrary to post-Cold War assumptions, the U.S. could not be trusted to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying.
The Obama response? "Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal," as The New York Times headlined Biden's Feb. 7 Munich speech to a major international gathering. This followed strong messages from the Obama transition team even before the inauguration that Obama was not committed to the missile shield. And just to make sure everyone understood that the Bush policy no longer held, Biden in Munich said the U.S. wanted to "press the reset button" on NATO-Russian relations.
Not surprisingly, the Obama wobble elicited a favorable reaction from Russia. (There are conflicting reports that Russia might suspend the Kaliningrad blackmail deployment.) The Kremlin must have been equally impressed that the other provocations -- Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, the rapid reaction force -- elicited barely a peep from Washington.
Iran has been similarly charmed by Obama's overtures. A week after the new president went about sending sweet peace signals via al-Arabiya, Iran launched its first homemade Earth satellite. The message is clear. If you can put a satellite into orbit, you can hit any continent with a missile, North America included.
And for emphasis, after the roundhouse hook, came the poke in the eye. A U.S. women's badminton team had been invited to Iran. Here was a chance for "ping-pong diplomacy" with the accommodating new president, a sporting venture meant to suggest the possibility of warmer relations.
On Feb. 4, Tehran denied the team entry into Iran.
Then, just in case Obama failed to get the message, Iran's parliament speaker rose in Munich to offer his response to Obama's olive branch. Executive summary: Thank you very much. After you acknowledge 60 years of crimes against us, change not just your tone but your policies, and abandon the Zionist criminal entity, we might deign to talk to you.
With a grinning Goliath staggering about sporting a "kick me" sign on his back, even reputed allies joined the fun. Pakistan freed from house arrest A.Q. Khan, the notorious proliferator who sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. Ten days later, Islamabad capitulated to the Taliban, turning over to its tender mercies the Swat Valley, 100 miles from the capital. Not only will sharia law now reign there, but the democratically elected secular party will be hunted down as the Pakistani army stands down.
These Pakistani capitulations may account for Obama's hastily announced 17,000 troop increase in Afghanistan even before his various heralded reviews of the mission have been completed. Hasty, unexplained, but at least something. Other than that, a month of pummeling has been met with utter passivity.
I would like to think the supine posture is attributable to a rookie leader otherwise preoccupied (i.e. domestically), leading a foreign policy team as yet unorganized if not disoriented. But when the State Department says that Hugo Chavez's president-for-life referendum, which was preceded by a sham government-controlled campaign featuring the tear-gassing of the opposition, was "for the most part ... a process that was fully consistent with democratic process," you have to wonder if Month One is not a harbinger of things to come.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
President Obama’s massive mortgage-bailout plan is nothing more than a thinly disguised entitlement program that redistributes income from the responsible 92 percent of home-owning mortgage holders who pay their bills on time to the irresponsible defaulters who bought more than they could ever afford. This is Obama’s spread-the-wealth program in action.
Team Obama is rewarding bad behavior. It is enlarging moral hazard. It is expanding its welfarist approach to economic policy. And with a huge expansion of government-owned zombie lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Team Obama is taking a giant step toward nationalizing the mortgage market.
Reporting from the Chicago commodity pits, my CNBC colleague Rick Santelli unleashed a torrent of criticism over this scheme. Santelli said: “Government is promoting bad behavior . . . Do we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages? This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage? President Obama, are you listening? How about we all stop paying our mortgages! It’s a moral hazard.”
All this took place on the air to the cheers of traders. Santelli called for a new tea party in support of capitalism. He’s right.
Obama’s so-called mortgage-rescue plan amounts to $275 billion in new debt that will have little if any lasting impact on deeply corrected housing prices or the mortgage-default problem that stemmed from the insistence of government to throw home loans at lower-income people. A modest reduction in mortgage rates will have little impact on home prices, as Harvard professor Ed Glaser has shown. And by the way, re-default rates on modified mortgages have been running 50 to 60 percent. This is not going to change. So why should we throw more good money after bad?
Meanwhile, Wall Street is awakening to the disappointment that the securitized mortgages behind the toxic assets that have done so much damage to banks and the credit system are not being treated in the Obama program. The oversight is incredible. There are no safe-harbor provisions to protect mortgage servicers against lawsuits if agreements are broken. The ownership of these securitized mortgage pools is wide and far, spanning the globe. Breaking contracts is exceedingly difficult, especially without any legislated legal protection.
Of course, banks that have whole loans can choose to modify them if they want. And in some cases it’s much better to modify than foreclose. But 70 percent of this bank-owned paper is performing. It’s the securitizations that have clogged up the world credit system.
Then there’s the bankruptcy-judge cram-down, which would allow the courts to renegotiate interest rates and loan principal. This would abrogate private contracts and throw out the rule of law. Do we think future investors will put up mortgage capital if they fear judges will overturn the terms of contracts? Home-loan supplies will fall and mortgage rates will rise.
Then there’s Fannie and Freddie, the big winners here. Only their products are eligible for mortgage relief. Jumbo mortgages are not. Neither are private-label mortgages created by various non-bank lenders. Fan and Fred already run 48 percent of the mortgage market. Obama’s proposal would greatly enlarge that and move the mortgage system toward government nationalization.
What’s even more incredible is Team Obama’s stubborn refusal to have any faith in the free market. In some of the hardest hit areas of the country, markets are already solving the housing problem. Writing on his Carpe Diem blog, University of Michigan professor Mark Perry notes that while California home prices dropped 41 percent in 2008, home sales in the state jumped 85 percent. It now looks like 2008 sales for single-family houses will exceed levels reached in 2007.
What’s more, the unsold-inventory index for existing single-family detached homes in December 2008 was 5.6 months compared with 13.4 months for the year-ago period. And the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home dropped to 46.1 in December 2008 compared with 66.7 in December 2007. So inventories are dropping, the number of days to sell a home are falling, and sales are rising in the wake of lower prices.
If the government really wants to help, instead of bailing out irresponsible mortgage holders, it should support new and younger families who want to buy starter homes and begin to climb the ladder of prosperity.
All this is free-market economics 101. And I say, let free-markets work. Let’s remember that most folks -- even those with underwater mortgages, where the loan value is more than the home value -- do not walk away from their obligations. They don’t want to wreck their credit -- and their homes are their castles. That’s the American way.
But if we penalize the good guys and subsidize the bad ones, we are undermining the moral and economic fabric of this country.
By Rush Limbaugh
Friday, February 20, 2009-02-21
Dear President Obama:
I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?
You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.
As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.
When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were only about 125 radio stations programming talk. And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower-fidelity AM signals. But the big issue was broadcast content. It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.
After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute it. When President Reagan vetoed it, he declared that "This doctrine . . . requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based regulation by the Federal Government is . . . antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. . . . History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee."
Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President, is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not "funding" or "big money," as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only has the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.
Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.
I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and MoveOn.org. There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.
The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a "scarce" resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.
We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as "fairness" and "balance"? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Reflections on a troubled relationship.
By Barton Swaim
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In the weeks before and after last November’s election, a number of journalists at the New York Times, referring to the widely reported dissidence among conservative writers over Senator McCain’s candidacy, described these writers with the term “conservative intellectuals.” “In recent weeks,” wrote Patricia Cohen, “some prominent conservative intellectuals seem to have discovered they have two hands after all.” Frank Rich noted a “post‑mortem of conservative intellectuals descend[ing] into name-calling.” Tim Arango, in a story about National Review’s allegedly waning influence, mentioned the magazine’s “reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals.”
Less interesting than these journalists’ observations is the fact that the term “conservative intellectual” has now become part of everyday usage even in left-leaning mainstream newspapers. It wasn’t so used a half-century ago. When William Buckley died last year, several obituaries correctly remarked that in 1955, when National Review was founded, “conservative intellectual” was thought to be an oxymoron.
Common usage aside, the adjective “conservative” still fits uneasily with the noun “intellectual.” Liberals are far more at home with the term than conservatives. “We’re not intellectuals,” Truman Capote is supposed to have remarked to Gore Vidal. The latter’s response was characteristically unlovely: “Speak for your f***ing self.”
What is it about the concept of the intellectual that seems so (for lack of a better term) unconservative? Is it simply a matter of disposition or instinct — the feeling that people known as intellectuals tend to speak when they should listen, or that they are naïve about the real world? I don’t doubt there’s something to that view. As Sandor Himmelstein puts it in Saul Bellow’s novel Herzog, “Somewhere in every intellectual is a dumb prick.”
But are there other, more intrinsic reasons?
The conservative’s aversion to intellectuals dates at least to Edmund Burke’s diatribe against the “men of letters,” as intellectuals were then called, who had advocated the destruction of the French monarchy. Burke had spent his political career warning of the dangers of political power in the absence of adequate checks, and he saw in these radical men of letters another, and in the long term more dangerous, form of untrammeled power. “What was not to be done towards their great end by any direct or immediate act,” he wrote in the Reflections, “might be wrought by a longer process through the medium of opinion.” The philosophes and their British analogues represented a “literary cabal” intent on demolishing everything in their way. Burke hated these men. He thought their morals low and their ideas fraudulent: “little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour,” he called them in one of the Reflections’ most searing passages. But he feared them too. They could do a lot of damage.
Burke’s extreme hostility seems odd to us in the 21st century, accustomed as we are to prominent intellectuals’ writing and speaking from every conceivable viewpoint on every conceivable question. But in 1790, the thought of such a state of affairs appalled Burke and others like him — and not altogether without reason. Burke, writes J. G. A. Pocock in his brilliant introduction to the Reflections, “was beginning to see what intellectual energy might do when it ran outside the channels of established society.” He was “afraid of the power of the human intelligence when divorced from all social restraints.”
This begins to explain why left-liberals have usually filled the intellectual role more plausibly than conservatives. Paul Johnson, in his famous (and, on the left, notorious) book Intellectuals, defines his subject as those writers who believed “that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellects: more, that they could devise formulae whereby not merely the structure of society but the fundamental habits of human beings could be transformed for the better.” For Johnson, the intellectual’s defining trait is that he refuses to accept limits on his intellect.
It’s possible, however, to take a different semantic route. Helpful in this regard is Stefan Collini’s book Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain. Collini’s work was widely reviewed in 2006 and deserved most of the praise it received on both sides of the Atlantic. Collini sought to discredit the assumption that the intellectual must somehow be larger than life or godlike; his own definition is straightforwardly descriptive, almost bureaucratic in its blandness. “The role of the intellectual,” he writes — and here he is speaking of intellectuals generally, not just British ones — “always involves the intersection of four elements or dimensions”:
1.) The attainment of a level of achievement in an activity which is esteemed for the non-instrumental, creative, analytical, or scholarly capacities it involves;
2.) The availability of media or channels of expression which reach publics other than that at which the initial “qualifying” activity itself is aimed;
3.)The expression of views, themes, or topics which successfully articulate or engage with some of the general concerns of those publics; and
4.) The establishment of a reputation for being likely to have important and interesting things of this type to say and for having the willingness and capacities to say them effectively through the appropriate media.
Contemporary intellectuals meeting these criteria might include Niall Ferguson and Richard Dawkins in Britain, Charles Murray and Paul Krugman in the United States.
Collini’s definition requires that we distinguish between intellectuals, on the one hand, and on the other the great number of people who assert views on a variety of topics in the public sphere but whose names are not recognized outside a narrow readership. The intellectual has a “name.” He has acquired a reputation for formulating arguments and observations taken to be wise or profound by large numbers of people, and his public assertions are thus bound up with a widely recognized persona. People pay attention to what the intellectual says, not only because what he says is in their view reasonable or cogent, but also, oftentimes especially, because he is who he is.
This is part of what makes conservatives uneasy about intellectuals, or anyway about the idea or status of the intellectual. The intellectual’s authority hasn’t been conferred on him by anybody, and often depends as much on his celebrity as on the reasonableness of his views. Nobody votes for an intellectual, and he can’t be fired.
But are intellectuals always to be found on the left, or is it possible to be a “conservative intellectual”?
There isn’t much room in Collini’s definition for the common assumption that the intellectual must strike an “adversarial” pose or that he must speak from the “outside.” “[I]t is not part of the concept of ‘the intellectual’ that persons so described should be ‘dissident,’ ‘oppositional,’ ‘marginal,’ and so on. There are good historical reasons why these characteristics are often associated with the use of the term, but they are precisely associated with it, they are not intrinsic to it.” Collini’s analytic approach allows for the existence of more than just the usual roll call of left-liberal or anti-establishment intellectuals. He includes chapters on E. P. Thompson and A. J. P. Taylor, but also T. S. Eliot. (For some reason books on British intellectuals always bristle with initials.)
Still, everybody knows intellectuals are more numerous on the left than on the right, and always have been. Collini’s insistence that there are “conservative intellectuals” just as there are “liberal intellectuals,” though technically true, obscures more than it clarifies. He is himself a man of the Left, and so presumably believes the Left’s overrepresentation among intellectuals to be a consequence of left-liberalism’s plain superiority rather than of any inherent philosophical trait in conservatism. In any case, he doesn’t appreciate the extent to which the intellectual’s role — as he defines it — favors those who endorse a left-liberal outlook. It’s far easier to cultivate a “reputation” for saying “important and interesting things” (no. 4 above) when those “important and interesting things” typically include proposals to restructure society in ways thought to be more rational. It’s more “important and interesting” to advocate universal health coverage, or to argue that the institution of marriage should be abolished, than to explain why these things may harm more than they help.
Predictably, Collini has no patience for “conservative intellectuals” who decry “intellectuals” as such. He views the anti-intellectualism of conservative intellectuals as dishonest. This “paradox of denial,” as he calls it, serves a need
for those intellectuals who have been in the anomalous position of promoting a picture of a pragmatic, tradition-governed people which, were it true, would allow no room for individuals like themselves. The ideological functions of the claim are particularly evident among contemporary Right-wing intellectuals such as Roger Scruton and Paul Johnson, whose doctrinaire denunciation of intellectuals as a virus in the British body politic reveal ever more desperate attempts to disguise the contradictory logic of their own position.One wonders how Scruton and Johnson might have avoided this charge of logical contradictoriness. Perhaps they should simply have conceded that societies can and should be reordered according to the enlightened ideas of an educated elite. That would have made them consistent in Stefan Collini’s view. It would also have made them radicals.
Of course, Collini’s objection isn’t to the supposed “contradictory logic” of their anti-intellectualism at all, but to their conservatism. And while “conservative intellectual” may not be an outright oxymoron, such a species can exist only in a world already dominated by intellectuals of the opposite frame of mind. The advocacy of “conservative ideas” is necessary only in a world already transformed by radical ones.
Nor is it always clear what’s “conservative” about “conservative ideas.” The tension existing between conservatism and intellectuals represents of one of the most serious problems faced by conservatism in any era. How can conservatism oppose radicalism — how, in other words, can it oppose the belief that man ought to reorder his society from top to bottom on supposedly rational grounds — without itself becoming merely a “right-wing” version of that same radicalism?
Conservatives may not agree about how best to solve this problem. It takes ideas to win elections. But we ought to agree that it is, in fact, a problem.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
There's an old joke about three guys stranded in the desert, dying of thirst. They have a can of water - but can't open it. One guy, an engineer, uses a stick as a lever and a rock as a fulcrum and ... nothing. The second guy, a physicist, does some calculations, drops the can from a predetermined height at a carefully considered angle and ... still nothing. Finally, the third guy, an economist, looks at the can and says: "OK. I have the solution. Assume a can opener."
A similar joke could be told about those who have worked on what we call - with more hope than precision -- the "peace process" in the Middle East. Diplomats and negotiators have urged Israel to give up land (Gaza, for example) for peace. They have focused on negotiating easy issues figuring that would "create momentum" for a comprehensive settlement down the road. They have attempted to "build confidence" among the warring parties, as if the conflict were just a big misunderstanding. And they have assumed leaders who did not exist as a way to conjure a preferable reality.
Each of these approaches has failed, and if those who will be handling the Middle East portfolio in the Obama administration want to understand why they should spend a little time listening to the extraordinary Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. Recently, he gave a wide-ranging interview to a group of Americans visiting Israel, including Michael J. Totten who posted a transcript on his indispensable website.
Among other things, Toameh makes clear how stupid experts can be. In the 1990s, for example, peace processors "gathered all these PLO fighters from around the world, released thousands of PLO fighters from Israeli prisons, gave them uniforms and guns, and called them security forces. And the result was the people who had never received any basic training, people who had never finished high school, became colonels and generals in Yasser Arafat's [Palestinian] Authority."
Arafat stole billions of dollars donated by Americans and Europeans to aid Palestinians. Some of the money went into foreign bank accounts and to Arafat's wife who was living large in Paris. Some went not to build Palestinian hospitals and schools, but instead for bars, restaurants and a gambling casino -- across the street from a refugee camp. "The fact that Arafat was crooked didn't surprise us Palestinians," Toameh says. We were only surprised by the fact that the international community kept giving him money and refused to hold him accountable when he stole our money."
Arafat's corruption and misrule, followed by the vacillation and weakness of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, helped radicalize Palestinians and pave the way for Hamas to win elections under the banner of "change" and "reform." But based on its militant interpretation of Islam, Hamas also is committed to "resistance"- another way of saying that its non-negotiable goal is the extermination of what it sees as the infidel state of Israel.
"Hamas is not going to change," Toameh says. "All these people who believe that Hamas will one day change its ideology, that pragmatic leaders will emerge in Hamas, these people are living under illusions. Hamas is not going to change. To their credit we must say that their message has been very clear. It's the same message in Arabic and in English. They're being very honest about it."
After so many missteps, what is possible now? Toameh thinks it's time to think small, to look for ways to manage the conflict, rather than attempting to solve it with some grand design similar to those presented with elaborate ceremony in past years at such venues as Annapolis, Taba, Camp David, Oslo and Madrid.
This conflict is not just about Palestinians and Israelis or even Arabs and Jews. "Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, all these people are playing a very negative role in this part of the world," Toameh says. "Iran wants to fight to the last Palestinian."
He does offer some advice: "If I were an Israeli Jew I would go to the Palestinians and say, ‘Listen, folks. I'm prepared to give you a Palestinian state and the Israeli majority approves of that, not because we love the Palestinians, but because we want to be rid of the Palestinians.' There's a majority of Jews today who want to disband most of the settlements and take only two percent of the West Bank. In the wake of these positive changes that have happened inside Israel, all you need is a strong partner on the Palestinian side. There is some hope, but only if there is a strong partner on the Palestinian side."
Which, Toameh is quick to acknowledge, there is not at the moment. There could be in time, however, and working toward that goal would be a useful task for the peace processors to take on. But simply "assuming" that the Palestinians have decent leaders and that the Israelis have a Palestinian interlocutor willing and able to cut a deal that will lead to peace is as futile as wishing for water - or a can opener - in the desert.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Dear Elgin Baylor,
I heard about your lawsuit against your last employer -- whom you accuse of racism.
I was a child who watched in awe and admiration when you starred with my hometown basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers. You finished your first pro year with the then-Minneapolis Lakers fourth in the league in scoring, third in rebounding and eighth in assists, also scoring 55 points in a single game -- then the third-highest in the history of the league. You played in the All-Star game that season, sharing the Most Valuable Player award. You easily took the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
Averaging 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in your 14-year pro career, you helped lead the Lakers to the NBA finals eight times and played in 11 NBA All-Star games -- all while carrying yourself, on and off the court, with class and dignity. At one time, you had the record for the most points scored in a game, 71. And you also held the record for most points in a playoff game, 61. (See YouTube: "NBA 1962 Finals Game 5 -- Elgin Baylor 61 Points.")
Years after your pro career, in 1986, you became general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers, under the ownership of the parsimonious Donald Sterling. Your team floundered under your 22-year tenure, as your owner refused or was unwilling to spend the money to attract and keep the kind of talent that wins championships. The Sports Illustrated cover of April 27, 2000, proclaimed the Clippers "The Worst Franchise in Sports History" and declared that "the Man Responsible" was the owner -- and your employer -- Donald Sterling.
Yet you showed up every year, and every preseason you predicted good things this time, this season, for the Clippers. Then, as if on cue, the team crashed and burned. The following year, you would repeat this ritual of hope and success for the upcoming season -- almost always followed by failure.
Sterling officially replaced you as GM last October. You filed suit, calling him a racist.
Mr. Baylor, you know something about racism. When you grew up in the '30s and '40s in Washington, D.C., blacks couldn't use the public playgrounds. When you traveled with the Lakers for an exhibition game during your first preseason, a Charleston, W.Va., hotel denied you service. You took a stand. Even after the team moved to another hotel, you boycotted the scheduled game. "I'm a human being," you said at the time. "I'm not an animal put in a cage and let out for the show." Your act of defiance, along with those of some other black players, spurred the NBA to officially denounce segregation and adopt policies to protect its players.
Your lawsuit, filed by an attorney formerly with Johnnie Cochran's law firm, accuses Sterling of offering, in 1988, a lowball contract to black, then-NBA player Danny Manning. Sterling allegedly said, "I'm offering a lot of money for a poor black kid." Your complaint also claimed that NBA commissioner David Stern, present in the room, heard the comment. When Stern denied being present, your attorney amended the complaint -- calling the allegation of Stern's presence "a typographical error." Not a good start.
Your legal team also alleges that Sterling, who made his money in real estate, refuses to lease apartments to blacks and Hispanics. Sterling settled a 2003 lawsuit and currently faces another accusing him of just that. If true, this, of course, violates the law and does, indeed, make a statement about Sterling. But true or false, how does this explain the fact that you worked for him for 22 years?
Your lawsuit also asserts that "the Caucasian head coach was given a four-year, $22-million contract" but your own salary had "been frozen at a comparatively paltry $350,000 since 2003." Yet year after year, you showed up, cashed the checks, and failed to exercise your option -- quitting.
And your former boss, in recent years, appeared to change his modus operandi. Sterling actually paid players -- not just white players -- serious money. Sterling retained black ballplayer Elton Brand by agreeing to pay $82 million over six years. This season, Sterling brought in Baron Davis, a black veteran player, with a five-year, $65 million deal.
Accusing an employer of racism -- especially one for whom you worked for more than two decades -- is serious business.
At 74 years of age, after surviving and thriving through real racism, you deserve to cherish your success as one of basketball's greatest players. You could even take some comfort in your record as the longest-serving general manager in the NBA -- even if under these strange circumstances.
You have the right to file a lawsuit. You have the right to tarnish the image and respect that you earned and enjoy from fans like me. But is it worth it? I respectfully request that you reconsider the value and purpose of pursuing this lawsuit -- for it simply diminishes you.
Don't do that to you -- or us.
With respect and admiration,
Thursday, February 19, 2009
As the Democrat-dominated House and Senate thoughtfully passed judgment on a 1,100-page "stimulus" bill that Sen. Frank Lautenberg admitted no one would read before the vote, the media elite were positively giddy. On the "NewsHour" on PBS, liberal analyst Mark Shields proclaimed, "I think it's a monstrous success" for President Obama. That's correct, with an emphasis on "monstrous."
Our news media have insisted on playing the White House soundtrack on this battle, to wit: The "stimulus" is vitally necessary, and by opposing it, Republicans are risking being flattened by the Great Obama Steamroller. A partisan victory is OK, but they'd much rather the vote for Obama's plans be unanimous.
Why, as Newsweek's cover proclaimed, "We're All Socialists Now." Inside, Newsweek's uber-elitist editor Jon Meacham scolded Sean Hannity and Rep. Mike Pence for stooping to call this Congressional pork-wagon "the European Socialist Act of 2009." Using the S-word in a negative context threatens to doom America to a "fractious and unedifying debate."
Meacham wasn't claiming Hannity and Pence were incorrect. It's that they use this word as a bad thing when they should be celebrating. He insists America's skiing down the socialist slope "toward a modern European state." Moreover, Newsweek asserted the socialism started last fall under President Bush, therefore the GOP should accept it.
The loyal opposition is not supposed to oppose as state power grows out of control. To be truly loyal, the opposition is expected to disappear.
Another sign came on "The Early Show" on CBS. Co-host Maggie Rodriguez was interrogating Republican House leader Eric Cantor about the failure to line up with the socialist Obama Corps: "But, Congressman, it's clear that Americans are begging for help with foreclosures," she pleaded. "Corporations are begging for bailouts. Can the Republican Party accept that there are situations when large-scale government intervention is necessary?"
Cantor was attempting to explain that this monstrous "stimulus" was being pushed through without any Republican input, with virtually no public comment, in a humongous bill no one had even read. But all Rodriguez could do was protest these points as divisive: "But everyone [in the House GOP] opposed it. Why? Where's the bipartisanship?"
The media's drive for full-fledged socialism took a really wild turn on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." The former Clinton spokesman actually pressed ultraliberal Maxine Waters from the left, waving around an article by an economist named Nouriel Roubini insisting that we need to nationalize the banks: "Mr. Roubini and others say we're all Swedes now, that we should just do what they did when they faced their crisis. They nationalized the banks and they came out of it OK." We're now not only socialists, we're Swedish socialists.
A few days earlier, Obama head-faked on the we're-all-Europeans line, insisting America's not yet Sweden, when ABC's Terry Moran urged, "Why not just nationalize the banks?" For her part, Congresswoman Waters insisted the drive toward socialism is being slowed by people who are behind the curve: "George, as you know, the word 'nationalization' scares the hell out of people. And so the debate has been opened up now, and that's good."
Once the "stimulus" bill passed, ABC helpfully aired pictures from a photo album the White House issued to mark Obama's skillful leadership moves. Subbing as anchor of ABC's evening newscast, Diane Sawyer praised Obama for serving cookies to Republicans: "I want to show everybody at home, because there is the president, it's Super Bowl night, and he's serving cookies to congressional leadership in the White House screening room." On cue, George Stephanopoulos picked up the syrupy narration: "These are just remarkable, Diane. We've never really seen anything like this before in real time."
If ABC and George Stephanopoulos were interested in dispelling the notion that George is taking dictation from his daily buddy-buddy phone calls with Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, it's not showing up on the air. When you can glorify Obama for offering Republicans a cookie, and suggest it's unprecedented, as if no previous president, Republican or Democrat, had ever tried to entertain the opposing party, viewers cannot trust you as a careful keeper of the historical record. They can only suspect that you're going to offer them a poorly disguised campaign commercial.
A crucial part of Obama's "monstrous" success in ramming this partisan gravy train through Congress is a committed throng of Kool-Aid drinkers in the press who will greet every new socialist legislative ploy as a work of genius worthy of a Nobel Prize in economics.
The only ones Obama couldn't count on here were the obstreperous people who dared to insist they were not socialists and those cantankerous trouble-makers who insisted that maybe Congress should read a bill before it passes -- especially when it's the single largest expansion of government control in the history of the Republic.