For your reading pleasure, our top five stories of the week:
And, in honor of President George Washington’s birthday, his 1796 Farewell Address.
Happy Presidents Day Weekend! Thanks for reading!
In merrie olde England, the people talk funny, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and now it turns out they eat horses.
Millions of products have been pulled from British shelves as traces of horse DNA have been discovered “in school meals, restaurant dishes and hospital food, as well as supermarket products.”
But it’s not just the limeys. According to the AP:
Traces of horsemeat have turned up across Europe in frozen supermarket meals such as burgers and lasagna, as well as in in fresh beef pasta sauce, on restaurant menus, in school lunches and in hospital meals.
But why don’t we eat horse meat? Central Asian people do. It’s a wonderful source of protein, and reportedly “slightly sweet, tender, and low in fat.” If it’s true that you are what you eat, I’d much rather my build resemble a muscular steed than a cow.
Of course I’m joking. The thought of eating a noble and majestic horse makes me sick and sad. Being finicky about knowing the origin of your food and the pesticides applied thereto is supposedly a liberal thing. Call me a snob, but I, for one, am all for it.
As a follow-up to my column last week about the logical and legal cul-de-sac into which Barack Obama has driven (not that The One cares about this: a path free will surely part for him when he lifts his staff) with regard to the HHS mandate, I have a new column about how the mandate to provide insurance for abortion-inducing drugs violates the deepest, most sacred traditions of American history, and indeed is antithetical to the Judeo-Christian tradition writ large.
Here are some of the key paragraphs:
The particularly American emphasis on this liberty has been evident from the start of English settlements of the New World - first with the Pilgrims, who came explicitly to find religious freedom, and subsequently in Pennsylvania (founded for equivalent liberty for Quakers) and Rhode Island (for Baptists).
In 1776, as the Continental Congress wrestled with calls for a Declaration of Independence, a Virginia assembly was debating that state’s own “Declaration of Rights.” In it, primary author George Mason proposed to generously recognize religious liberty by writing that all sorts of religious practice, not just official Anglicanism, should be “tolerated” by the state. But delegate James Madison, all of 25 years old, objected that this wording wasn’t a strong enough protection for free religious exercise. He argued that a state that could “tolerate” all religions was still a state that considered itself the font of rights, to be doled out (or “tolerated”) at the state’s own discretion. Madison argued that this was a misunderstanding of religious rights. He said the rights were not granted by government, but existedindependently of government. Free religious practice therefore was not something to be tolerated, but something to which individuals were “entitled” as a human right that superseded the power of government itself.
Mason and his colleagues recognized that Madison was right, and changed the language accordingly: “….all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience….”
It was this same understanding - a pre-existing entitlement or right, not a mere toleration - that Madison applied 13 years later when drafting what became our First Amendment, including the clause that no law should be made “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
But this is just part of it. There are also important references to Magna Carta, to the great conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans, and to Thomas Jefferson — all in support of the near-incontrovertible assertion that “[t]he problem with the HHS mandate is that the proposed rule puts the government in the business of deciding what does and doesn’t qualify as being ‘religious’ enough.”
Again, the whole thing is here.
Whereby I beat one of my favorite horses.
Zalman Shoval, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Special Envoy to the U.S. and Europe, held a press conference at the National Press Club yesterday. His talk focused on the newly forming Israeli coalition government under Netanyahu and President Obama’s first state visit to Israel taking place next month.
The 82-year-old Shoval has served twice as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States as well as a member of Israel’s Knesset.
He described the coalition forming as bound to be “broadly based,” and therefore in a good position to handle the many challenges facing Israel in the coming months and years.
These challenges include, of course, Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab ‘Awakening’ with its consequences, and the continuing struggles in the global economy.
Shoval’s perspective comes from extensive experience, and he often used history to explain in his view on a given topic.
When it came to Iran, Shoval described 2013 as the “year of reckoning” for Iran, as it gets very close to developing enough nuclear material to make a bomb. This “clear and present danger” will require “an equally clear response.”
When talking about unrest in the Middle East, specifically in Syria, Shoval said authorities were concerned weapons would get into the wrong hands; this alone was a good enough reason for restraint and caution, citing that already Syria has one of the largest missile armaments in the world.
When talking about the Israel-Palestine peace process, Shoval claimed that it could only have very little to do with what was going on in the greater region politically. He noted that the trends so far were not good. He compared the developments in the Arab revolutions to what happened to Russia’s revolution. Where the Bolsheviks took over a move towards democracy, Islamism appeared to be doing the same.
Specifically regarding Palestine, he maintained that a two-state solution remains the desired end result of any negotiations. He described Palestine, however, as having “climbed high up into a tree” when it came to moves at circumventing Israel like the recent vote of recognition in the UN General Assembly. Such acts represented an attempt at a fait accompli, and made genuine progress with Israel difficult.
Add Virginia to the list of states that are cutting work hours to avoid offering health insurance to part-time employees.
About 10,000 Virginia public employees are poised to see their hours cut back as Gov. Bob McDonnell continues to find ways around what he said were President Obama’s costly health care reforms.
Both the Virginia House and Senate passed budget amendments that will cap part-time state workers at 29 hours a week to avoid complying with a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires businesses and governments to offer health insurance to any wage employee who averages 30 hours a week.
The cutbacks affect the Virginia Community College System and Virginia Commonwealth University the most adversely, as the former hires 1,479 part-time workers and VCU employs 883 of the same.
The plan is supposed to save the state $110 million a year.
While restaurants such as Papa John’s and Red Lobster have already threatened to do this, some franchise owners have added surcharges to pay for the mandated benefits.
Liberals argue that these employers are “punishing” their workers and customers for President Obama’s election. I don’t accept this argument.
Simply, when prices increase because of taxes or regulations such as the ACA, businesses must respond by either increasing prices or releasing workers to reduce costs. The point of a business is to earn profit by providing a service or product; providing health insurance for part-time workers adds significant expenses, those that these businesses avoided because they couldn’t viably afford them in the first place.
Virginia Secretary of Administration Lisa Hicks-Thomas articulates it effectively: “We’re all grappling with the same problem. A lot of people are trying to spin this as Republicans trying to fight Obamacare, but this is just us complying with the act. We don’t have $110 million to afford the implementations of this act.”
Check out the images of the meteor that hit the Chelyabinsk region of Russia at 9.20 AM local time. 500 people were reportedly injured.
My roomie Christopher and I are two 40-something bachelors who spent Valentine’s at the Somerville Theatre watching Harold Lloyd’s Girl Shy. It’s a perfect movie for the lonely hearted. Lloyd portrays a tailor’s apprentice who stutters around women. To overcome this he writes a book for young men titled “The Secret of Making Love”. On his way to submitting the manuscript to the publisher he meets the girl of his dreams and then mayhem ensues.
I actually saw Girl Shy about a decade ago. But after a second viewing I have to say the chase sequence might very well be the best in cinematic history. If not for Harold Lloyd we would not have Bullitt, The French Connection or The Blues Brothers. Lloyd could have died a thousand ways in the course of making this movie. It puts CGI to shame.
This film is nearly 90 years old but still tells a compelling story today and surely will in another thousand years from now.
Accompanying the movie was an organist from New Hampshire named Jeff Rapsis. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a movie with a live organist. At first, I thought it would be a distraction. But Rapsis was so good I thought his music was part of the original soundtrack. When I told him this after the show he told me that it is what strived for in his performances.
Amazingly, the music is largely improvised. He explained that if he tried to score the movie he was concentrating to much on the notes and not enough on the movie and the audience’s reaction to it. You can check out Rapsis’ upcoming schedule here.
In all, it was a good way to spend Valentine’s if you couldn’t get a date.
Reported minutes ago on Twitter by Kerry Picket and others, the recent cloture vote to end Republicans’ filibuster of Chuck Hagel’s nomination has failed. This means there were less than 60 aye votes, but the precise margin is difficult to confirm at this time, with many saying 57-43 but one observer saying Hagel fell one vote short.
Twitter has been all, well, atwitter today about remarks Chuck Hagel made during a Q&A session after a 2007 speech at Rutgers, in which a contemporaneous account said he had insulted the U.S. State Department as being “an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office.” There seems to be no recording of that. But it is almost as enlightening that during his formal speech itself, according to his prepared remarks, Hagel said two other highly dubious things.First, he said one reason the United States “blundered into Iraq” was “questionable intentions.” Oh, really? So it wasn’t just flawed intelligence, but the actual intentions of the Bush administration (and all of the Congress which approved, including Hagel himself)? This is obnoxious.
The second worrisome statement was this: “We must be clear that the United States does not seek regime change in Iran.”
Why should that have been clear? We SHOULD seek regime change in Iran.
Separately, in 2008 Hagel was advocating the idea that the United States should pressure Israel into negotiations with Syria’s dictator Assad.
This guy is, well, strange.
Here’s what I wrote in a private email earlier today, from memory, so I welcome any corrections if I have mis-stated something:
At CFIF, I note that at least 30 potential GOPers could make a real run at the presidency in 2016. I also think — and PLEASE don’t send hateful comments if you disagree; a difference of opinion on a particular speech is not an ideological litmust test — that Marco Rubio didn’t really do a very good speech the other night (even apart from the silly controversy over the water), and that therefore he took a small step back toward the field rather than separating himself from it.
And no, I am not saying I want Jeb Bush to be the next nominee. If you can read, you’ll see that I think he is a betting favorite, not my favorite. In fact, not even close.
You’ll note that I’ve rated Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels and Susana Martinez as the three potentially strongest general election candidates, should either win the nomination….
[J]ust as the current presidency is unlike any we’ve seen before – more radical, more divisive, more dismissive of constitutional limits – so, too, is the emergence of a galvanizing leader on the right a far more pressing necessity than it has been since the 1970s. It’s not that a leader must emerge immediately, but it is that somebody with the ability to effectively clarify the issues must emerge in time to provide a forceful counterweight to Obama’s efforts to consolidate power beyond recover.
I think a guy to watch, whether for 2016 or beyond, is also the guy whose race should be a national cause celebre for conservatives this year: Ken Cuccinelli, for governor of Virginia. It’s going to be a heck of a race — and, thematically at least, it might set a template for the near quadrennium.
Behold, the definitive video on Marco Rubio’s unquenchable thirst. Sometimes the Internet is a wonderful thing. And sometimes…
Hat tip: The Atlantic.
The liberal media has spent more time today analyzing Marco Rubio’s sip of water than President Obama’s SOTU address which is sure to hose and soak taxpayers of trillions of dollars.
If Marco Rubio were a Democrat, the liberal media would be telling us how his swig of Poland Spring humanized him. They would call such an act refreshing. Instead Rubio is being waterboarded.
Well, count me “waterbored”. The liberal media are a bunch of drips anyway.
In the grand scheme of things, this will all be water under the bridge.
Rick Huxley, bass player for The Dave Clark Five, passed away on February 11th after a long battle with emphysema. He was 72.
The boys from Tottenham rivaled The Beatles in popularity in the mid-1960s.
After the DC 5 dissolved in 1970, Huxley largely retired from performing although he was on hand when the group was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
With Huxley’s passing, Dave Clark and lead guitarist Lenny Davidson are the last surviving members of the group. Saxophonist Denis Payton passed away in 2006 while lead singer Mike Smith died days before their induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Their music stands up quite well almost half a century after its release and Huxley played no small role in that legacy.
Virginia Republicans, who constantly talk a good game on property rights, will have the opportunity to make good on their rhetoric tomorrow. That’s when the Senate Agriculture Committee will vote on HB-1430 – “The Boneta Bill.” The legislation sponsored by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, would help to insulate farmers from intrusive government actions. The bill is named for Martha Boneta, a Fauquier County farmer, who has been on the receiving end of some very bizarre anti-business directives.
County officials have filed a complaint against Boneta based on zoning violation allegations that amount to what Adam Cassandra, chairman of the Fauquier County Young Republicans, aptly describes as “unnecessary government interferences in the marketplace.”
Boneta does have a business license for her farm store, which is located in Paris, Virginia. But this has not deterred the county government from interfering with Boneta’s very modest economic transactions. Because she has sold organic tea and wool products obtained from rescued animals, Boneta has been threatened with thousands of dollars in fines. The other part of the dispute cited in the zoning complaint concerns “an event” Boneta held on her farm. That event would be a birthday party for the 10-year old daughter of a family friend. Apparently, Boneta needed some sort of permit.
Lingamfelter’s bill would amend the existing Virginia Farm Act with additional language aimed at preventing government officials from intruding upon property rights.
Unfortunately, Boneta has been forced to close the store located on her property until the case is resolved. This is kind of mistreatment that calls out for a firm response. During a press conference held at the State Capitol building in Richmond this past January, Boneta noted that the day to day challenges of running a farm are such that government officials should be working to remove obstacles that undermine small business. Right now that’s not happening. That can change if the Boneta Bill becomes law.
A little irony: Last night, while much of America was watching Barack Obama spew his usual statist drivel, I was at the Pepsi Center watching The Who in concert, hearing Roger Daltry sing “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
A little stupidity: I ordered some Valentines Day flowers from the web site of 1-800-Flowers. Today I got a message from UPS that the flowers were damaged in transit. (I was going to have them delivered today so they’d be at my house in the morning.) I wanted to call the people I ordered from to discuss options, so I did a Google search for “1800 flowers” to find their phone number. (As if that’s not dumb enough, the Google search result was not 1-800-FLOWERS. But at least I was smart enough to dial that anyway.)
It’s not too surprising that states often turn to “sin” taxes for more revenues, especially during downturns.
What’s worth noting is that legislators have become far more creative in stretching the defintion of “disfavored” goods from the traditional trio of alcohol, tobacco, and gambling to include automobile tires, popsicles, amusement parks and vending machine candy.
In a recent Mercatus study, “Sin Taxes: Size, Growth and Creation of the Sindustry,” Adam Hoffer, William Shughart and Michael Thomas show that the growth in sin taxes is not only based on politicians’ flawed application (of a debatable theory) of public finance, but that it has created the “sindustry;” or, the increased lobbying activities of businesses attempting to pre-emptively block taxes aimed at their products. In 2008, the soda industry spent $17.3 million on campaign contributions. The fast food industry spent $12 million.
The classic economic justification for the “sin tax” can be traced to the Pigouvian tax. British economist Arthur Pigou, theorized one could impose a tax on a good or activity that produced “negative external effects” on a third party, thereby improving social welfare. The tax would curb the behavior and the revenues could be applied to addressing those negative effects.
A few problems arise. First is how to set the tax. Most economists believe it is difficult to impossible to calibrate a Pigouvian tax because it involves putting a monetary price on a social good. How much are you willing to pay for gasoline to improve environmental outcomes 200 years from now? Some sensitive economic assumptions and debated scientific claims are involved here, as Pigou tax supporter supporter N. Gregory Mankiw notes.
But a subtle shift has happened in the public debate. Today’s sin tax advocates are making paternalistic rather than Pigouvian arguments. And they are targeting select consumer choices based on dubious social welfare and health claims. Will taxing soda fight obesity? Legislators’ ostensible concerns over public health often confuse correlation and causation. In other words, not everyone who drinks soda is obese. And obese people don’t necessarily drink soda. If taxed high enough, obese soda drinkers could switch to frappaccinos.
If the argument is that obese people pose a cost to society in the form of higher health care expenditures, there are better ways to internalize these costs. In theory, a more efficient (and truly obnoxious) way would be to directly tax obese individuals. The most efficient way to internalize the social costs of obesity on health care would be to allow insurance companies to raise health insurance premiums for obese individuals. Legislators’ love for fat taxes is less likely motivated by improving health outcomes than it is by the revenues that soda taxes reap.
To top it off, “sin” tax revenues are likely to end up in general budgets rather than improving health outcomes. Nationally, for every one dollar the states received from the Tobbacco Master Settlement Agreement, only five cents went to antismoking programs.
Perhaps it would be better if legislators simply dropped the social welfare claims and admitted they have a revenue addiction. Consider the strategy of legalizing the traditional “sins” in order to tax them. Casino gambling has spread to 23 states with gaming revenues bringing in $24 billion in FY 2010.
Most unusual is the extension of taxes to illegal drugs in eleven states (assessed on those convicted of possession or sale). North Carolina’s “Unauthorized Substance Tax” allows the user to pay a tax in exchange for a stamp to affix to the illegal subtance (including moonshine). Since 1990, they’ve collected $5,900. Most likely from stamp collectors.
At CFIF, I discuss a superb, and chilling, column by Deroy Murdock on the frightening misuse of SWAT teams nationwide. Dogs killed, for no good reason. People killed by mistake. Tiny children frightened nearly to death — and, in one case, made to lie down for hours next to their dead dog, all after a raid on the wrong house. Is it any wonder that people fear our government? Is it any wonder that people want guns of their own? Please, please read this column. And if you are a local official, please reconsider how you constitute and use SWAT teams, and consider the possibility that you might not really need a SWAT team at all.
One year ago this week, I wrote an article for the American Spectator in which I accused Peter Gleick, then head of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, of being a likely suspect in the theft (via e-mail using a false idendity) of confidential documents and information from the Heartland Institute, where I once served on the Board of Directors and remain a Senior Fellow. (For purposes of full disclosure, I have in the past been a donor to Heartland, but have never received a penny in compensation from them.)
In my article, I noted evidence such as a Pacific time zone timestamp on at least one of the documents, even though Heartland’s offices are in the Central Time Zone. Furthermore, it showed the document scanned on an Epson device even though none of the original Heartland documents have such a source.
In addition to trying to pressure donors out of contributing to the Heartland Institute, Gleick also distributed to several Heartland-hating climate alarmist web sites a “strategy document” which he claimed was part of his cachce of Heartland documents. However, the document was a forgery designed to make Heartland look especially bad by claiming that Heartland was engaged in a project to stop teachers from teaching science. It’s particularly crazy, given that the science, such as the planet not having warmed for 16 years, is arguably on the side of the skeptics, and is certainly not “settled” as alarmists (mostly anti-capitalists posing as tree-huggers) claim. But it was picked up by many major news outlets, and that bell is impossible to unring, not least because most major media outlets oppose pro-free market organizations like Heartland and are happy to collaborate in hurting such groups.
Heartland termed the affair “Fakegate” and has a website devoted to following the story.
I closed my article with this: “One has to wonder if Peter Gleick or an alarmist fellow traveler he knows is concerned about an FBI agent knocking on the door sometime soon. Perhaps people should keep an eye on the dumpsters around Gleick’s house for discarded computers or an Epson scanner.”
Comments made on left-wing sites which picked up my article were along the lines of “I wonder when Kaminsky will apologize” and “Kaminsky should be charged with slander.” (Yes, I know, the troll should have said libel, even though he was fundamentally wrong, not least because I made it clear that my suggestion was “just my speculation.”)
Just two or three days later, Gleick admitted to being the theif, and even the NY Times covered the story, twice referring to my AmSpec article which I believe was an important factor in causing Gleick to confess though I doubt I’ll ever know for sure.
Tomorrow (Thursday, February 14th), Peter Gleick will get a most memorable Valentines Day present when the Heartland Institute releases a presentation of the arguments for a criminal prosecution of Gleick for multiple crimes, the specifics of which I have read but am not free to mention until after the document is released.
The document, which I will link to tomorrow and which should be available at fakegate.org tomorrow, has been presented by Heartland’s legal counsel, Jones Day, to the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois “in support of a criminal prosecution in the matter.”
Generally speaking, what I hope people will take away from this tawdry episode is that liberals seem willing to do almost anything, including commit crimes, to try to silence those they disagree with. I have never heard of any conservative or libertarian organization trying to steal information, publicly shame donors who intended to be anonymous, or create fake documents, to muzzle liberals. Instead, the “right” simply tries to win the arguments with facts and logic.
But then, as I’ve said in another context just this week, liberals don’t have principles. They just have desired outcomes. So in their hateful minds, anything they can do to hurt their opposition is OK.
In this case, let’s hope that the Department of Justice believes otherwise. My real fear is that no office under the thumb of Eric Holder will pursue the matter because Holder, his senior staff, and his boss in the White House, probably have greater interest in hurting Heartland than in upholding the rule of law. They are birds of a feather with Gleick. The good news is that the US Attorney in Chicago, Gary Shapiro, who has been called “a prosecutor’s prosecutor” seems like a no-nonsense, non-partisan guy, more likely to do the right thing than not, and not likely to succumb to pressure from Washington not to pursue a case if he believes it’s worth pursuing.
Anyway, we’ll soon see…
Happy Valentines Day, Peter Gleick. Couldn’t happen to a nicer thief…
Let’s see now. Our statist president promised last night that he and his policies can and should hold back the face of the waters and stop the tides from covering us up (well discussed this a.m. by George Neumayr and Ben Stein). What a comfort to us on the peninsula of Florida.
But wait. Didn’t Pat Robertson get in big trouble for saying essentially the same thing some years back?
Inspired by the Guardian’s Flesch-Kincaid analysis of previous State of the Union addresses, to which Kyle helpfully linked last night, I’ve just used Microsoft Word to analyze Marco Rubio and Rand Paul’s responses to the president’s remarks.
Both men’s speeches clocked in at 8.2., beneath both Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk and much, much lower than, say, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, or Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
Thank you, universal suffrage and public education!
A few words about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI yesterday. I am not a Catholic but I believe the significance of this event warrants a thought or two.
Benedict’s resignation was the subject of conversation at work today. The consensus was that he was either forced out or that he had done something untoward. It is lamentable that people are so suspectible to conspiracy theories.
I reminded people that he is 85-years old, not in the best of health and never wanted his tenure to end in the manner of his predecessor. This seemed to mollify a few people.
Yet one cannot underestimate the damage the sexual abuse scandal has done to the Catholic Church (particularly here in Boston). This went on for decades and the Church did a great deal to aid and abet what became the largest paedophilia ring in the world. Of course, it must be acknowledged that Benedict did a great deal to bring this scandal to light before his ascension to the papacy. Still, it will take decades to recompense this breach
Regardless of who the College of Cardinals chooses to lead the Catholic Church, the best thing it can do to renew the faith of its followers will be through deeds rather than words.
Then again I didn’t follow my advice either. I watched the whole thing (save for a 30 second respite from the Emergency Broadcast System). Still, it’s an hour of my life that I will never get back.
Here are a few observations from the past sixty minutes.
1. Obama wasn’t as strident as he was during the Second Inaugural Address. As far as Obama speeches it wasn’t his most annoying but it wouldn’t be an Obama speech if he didn’t engage in some insufferable rhetoric.
2. Did Obama say we were going to “finish the job” of reducing the deficit? We’ve scarcely scratched the surface.
3. Obama stated “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.” Well, Obama is content to spend our way to prosperity through “investments” we can only pay for by borrowing money from China.
4. With regard to tax and entitlement reform, Obama said, “The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.” Obama speaks of this as if he has no involvement in the business of our nation as if he’s above it all. Not only is Obama knee deep in the muddy but he has long lived by the ethos of his former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel not to let a crisis go to waste.
5. If Republicans were going to walk out on Obama they should have done so the moment he said, “Let me repeat - nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.” Considering that Obama presided over the largest deficit increase in this country’s history anything he says about not increasing the deficit by a single dime should be dismissed out of hand.
6. How can 12 of the past 15 years been the hottest on record when the planet has been cooling since 1998? Well, if our planet isn’t healed I guess Obama will settle for the healing of our housing market.
7. Obama asserts that raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour “would raise the incomes of millions of working families.” How can that be if it forces employers to lay off workers and impede employers from hiring new workers?
8. How can we help Libya provide for its security when we were unable to provide adequate security for our consulate in Benghazi?
9. If Americans are waiting “five, six, seven hours to cast their ballot” then why haven’t we seen this on YouTube?
10. Obama was at his most emotional when he spoke about Newtown and Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old girl who was murdered in Chicago days after attending the inauguration. Her parents were in attendance at the SOTU. Obama said they deserved a vote from Congress on gun violence along with Gabby Giffords, the families of Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, Tucson and Blacksburg.
Well, once again, Obama didn’t mention the families of Fort Hood.
How would have a background check on Nancy Lanza prevented her son with no previous criminal record from using her weapons to commit evil against innocent children?
For his part, Obama said, “Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect.”
This explanation will simply not do. When a tragedy like Newtown comes to pass our impulse is to do something when there might very well be nothing more we can do. Doing something might make us feel better but that doesn’t mean things will actually get better. It’s not an easy thing to say but we must make the case the best government is the one which governs least.
In the final analysis, if Republicans won’t walk out on Obama then perhaps they could stay away from next year’s SOTU altogether.
I speak to you tonight from Washington, D.C. The state of our union is no doubt strong. Our people remain the greatest example of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known.
People say America is exceptional. I agree, but it’s not the complexion of our skin or the twists in our DNA that make us unique. America is exceptional because we were founded upon the notion that everyone should be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
For the first time in history, men and women were guaranteed a chance to succeed based not on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.
We are in danger, though, of forgetting what made us great. The President seems to think the country can continue to borrow $50,000 per second. The President believes that we should just squeeze more money out of those who are working.
The path we are on is not sustainable, but few in Congress or in this Administration seem to recognize that their actions are endangering the prosperity of this great nation.
Ronald Reagan said, government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.Continue reading…
Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.
The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.
But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.
Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.
This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.
Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.
But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.Continue reading…
The Guardian has a nice interactive graph of every State of the Union by length and reading level. George Washington’s address, at 1,083 words, is shorter than most of our magazine articles. Jimmy Carter stands out as an outlier with a total length of 33,287 words. (Though it was delivered in writing, so luckily no one had to sit through the hours it would take Carter to drone through it in his southern drawl.)
Sen. Rand Paul will be giving the Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. His office just sent around the following advance excerpts from his speech:
“We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future. We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.’”
“Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses. It is time for a new bipartisan consensus. It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.”
“Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating. Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.”
“Washington acts in a way that your family never could – they spend money they do not have, they borrow from future generations, and then they blame each other for never fixing the problem.”
“If Congress refuses to obey its own rules, if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say: Sweep the place clean. Limit their terms and send them home!”
Let’s be blunt.
After four years of class warfare does anyone expect anything new or different in an Obama State of the Union?
Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?
Having done some of the work on a State of the Union, here’s the procedure for those who have never had the opportunity.
This is a formal document of State. In centuries gone by, some time after Jefferson, presidents ceased presenting these things in person. It was, I believe, Woodrow Wilson who brought back the notion of the president personally traveling to Capitol Hill to speak to a Joint Session of Congress.
The call goes out to every Cabinet department and agency to send in their wish list. It gets whittled down to reasonable lengths, then funneled to POTUS speechwriters and staff to shape into the current president’s agenda. And then made presentable for television purposes.
By the time television at the State of the Union arrived it began to be turned into a bit of a spectacle. JFK was the last president to do one of these televised events in the middle of the day. Somewhere during LBJ’s time this became the prime time event we know today.
It was Ronald Reagan who began the idea of having somebody in the gallery with the first lady who was relevant to a theme in the president’s speech. As it happened, there was a horrific plane crash in Washington shortly before Reagan’s 1982 State of the Union. It was snowing blizzard-style and an Air Florida jet, too much ice on its wings, lifted off from what is now, ironically, Reagan Airport. Following the Potomac it quickly lost altitude and slammed into the first span of the 14th Street Bridge, falling into the frozen river between the first and second spans. The plane was mostly submerged. This being downtown Washington DC the TV cameras were almost instantly present. They were there to record the actions of a passing driver and government employee by the name of Lenny Skutnik. Jumping into the Potomac, with the nation watching, he swam through the icy water to rescue a woman who was too weak to grasp a lifeline dropped by a hovering rescue helicopter. He got to the woman and was able to get her to shore – saving her life.
A handful of days later he was seated next to First Lady Nancy Reagan as the President looked up to him in the middle of his speech and said:
“Just two weeks ago, in the midst of a terrible tragedy on the Potomac, we saw again the spirit of American heroism at its finest the heroism of dedicated rescue workers saving crash victims from icy waters.
And we saw the heroism of one of our young Government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.”
The Congress rose as one and applauded him. From that moment forward presidents have been finding somebody to put in the gallery and salute as part of their message.
Who will it be tonight? A child or parent from Newtown, Connecticut perhaps? To make the obvious point: personalizing a demand for more gun control.
It will be someone, I suspect. Someone who illustrates a key part of the Obama agenda.
And what will that agenda be?
One needs no crystal ball.
Some combination of class warfare, salted with gun control, self-congratulations for health care, an entire platter of spending proposals and claims that the spending is really – truly – already under control thanks to, but of course, President Obama.
He will look to put the Republicans on the defensive.
And unless they get their act together?
He will succeed.
President Obama is about to give his annual State of the Union address. Is it really necessary? Most of us who live outside the D.C. Beltway already know the state of the union: it’s a mess.
Unemployment, if the government actually reported the real numbers, is at historic highs. Add in under-employment and the numbers become astronomical. We are in the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. This is the reality for the majority of Americans.
Yet inside the Beltway in D.C., employment and incomes are up. Seven of the ten richest counties in the United States surround the Beltway. Lamborghini USA has put its headquarters in D.C. The construction cranes are everywhere. The restaurants are full, despite outrageously high prices. This is the reality inside the Beltway.
Inflation, if the government actually reported the real numbers, is skyrocketing. Of course, they have removed food and fuel from the calculations for inflation in order to mask reality. But we outside the Beltway are living it. Fuel prices are at all-time highs, as are basic commodity food prices. We are paying more, and getting less than ever before.
Inside the Beltway, fuel and food prices don’t really matter. Four dollars per gallon of gas: no problem. Expensive food: no problem. Skyrocketing real estate prices are the norm. Inside the Beltway, they’re getting rich while the rest of the country suffers. That’s because they pay their bills with the money extracted from the rest of us.
The state of the union, unfortunately, is now completely different than the state of the D.C. elites of both parties. While the elites in D.C. prosper and play political theatre, the people of the country live in a reality that is the result of the long-term madness they have created.
Much like the world painted by the recent literary and movie phenomenon, The Hunger Games, the Capitol City is doing fine. Out here in the provinces, things are not going so well.
Perhaps President Obama will address the real state of the union by describing the widening gulf between the Beltway elites and the rest of the nation. Perhaps he could begin his new term, and the new year, by talking about honoring the promises he made to us in 2008 to fight the influence of lobbyists and cronyism in Washington D.C.
Perhaps. But, I won’t be holding my breath waiting.
I don’t want to write about the State of the Union address, because I don’t want to watch Barack Obama give a SOTU address and I don’t even want to think about Obama giving such a speech. He says the same things over and over, in the same hectoring, holier-than-thou tone of voice, creating and pretending to knock down the same old straw men, all while using first-person pronouns so often that not even a few dozen Scrabble sets could supply enough letters “I” to meet the demand. Obama’s self-regard is insufferable, his leftist bubble impenetrable, his magnaminity and graciousness entirely non-existent, and his mendacity unforgivable.
Other than that, it should be a pretty good speech. Of course, other than the lousy economy, the weak foreign policy, the abuse of executive authority, and the poisoning of civic dialogue, it’s been a pretty good presidency, too.
The good news is that, unless Obama somehow changes his tune, this speech is likely to sound like finger nails on a national chalkboard to at least a very large plurality of the viewers, and like at least a mildly annoying hum to another large number. The reality is that Obama is rarely a very effective speaker, at least in terms of persuading those who aren’t already on his side. Chris Matthews may think he’s hearing another sermon on the mount, but a vast number of Americans will just hear abrasive sermonizing from a man with no moral authority to preach.
Most of us know that under Obama’s attempted regency, the state of our union is not good. No amount of speechifying can change that reality.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama will likely use the bully pulpit to harangue recalcitrant congressional Republicans into supporting his agenda on spending, immigration, and guns.
Expect the president’s use of human props to be as liberal as his policies. Obama clearly believes he has the GOP on the ropes as he seeks to advance “wedge issues” that will separate his opponents from swing voters. But as past proponents of gun control and amnesty have learned, wedges sometimes cut both ways.
Obama faces particularly unfamiliar territory on the upcoming budget fights. House Republicans have backed off of using the debt ceiling as their primary instrument for gaining concessions on spending. Instead of allowing the president to persuade jittery credit markets that fiscal responsibility is irresponsible, Republicans have pivoted to the sequester and the continuing resolution.
Many Republicans would prefer that defense cuts mandated by sequestration did not occur. But overall, the Democrats have more to lose if the status quo is not changed. And this time Republicans have an advantage written into current law—spending cuts will happen no matter what Obama does unless Congress specifically changes current policy—much like the Democrats did when the Bush tax cuts were about to expire at the end of 2012.
Do the Republicans finally have the leverage they have been looking for? Will Obama’s second-term agenda doom swing state Democrats in 2014? Either way, expect a very combative president who will use his big speech as a weapon with which to bludgeon his political opposition.
It’s the Chicago way.
State of the Union drinking games are popular among young people watching the president’s address, but I’ve never been a “shots and RedBulls” kind of guy. Here’s a game for a more discerning palate. The rules are the same: If President Obama utters the phrase or performs the action in question, follow the instructions.
“Let Me Be Clear” — Whenever Obama clarifies, just to make sure those Republican rubes don’t misunderstand. E.g. “Let me be clear: I intend to ask Congress to both raise the debt ceiling and put in crown molding.”
Counter the president’s clarity with a cloudy beer, perhaps a nice German hefeweizen. (Might I recommend Weihenstephaner?)
“False Choice” — Whenever Obama rejects a false choice between two totally incongruous options. E.g. “I reject that we must choose between providing health care for every American—whether man, woman, dog, cat, iguana, or parakeet—and harsh laissez-faire social Darwinism in which man and woman are forced to eat dog, cat, iguana, and parakeet to stay alive.”
Make a drink with one spirit and the most random item you can find in your fridge. Whiskey and pickle juice. Vodka and maple syrup. Gin and mayonnaise. You get the idea.
“Bipartisan” — Whenever Obama suggests that the two parties should work together to pass one party’s agenda. E.g. “I expect Congress can work in a bipartisan manner this session to pass an omnibus gun-control-debt-ceiling-green-energy-tax-hike bill.”
Fill a pint glass half with any Budweiser product, and half with any Miller product.
“Green Jobs” — Whenever Obama suggests that we can get people off unemployment by training them to lubricate wind turbines and align solar panels.
Take a swig of absinthe. That way you and the president can hallucinate together.
“Elections Have Consequences” — Whenever Obama invokes the last election. E.g. “Republicans may not agree, but voters sided with me this past November.”
Weep sadly into a strong martini.
“The Embrace” — Whenever Obama shakes hands with or embraces Speaker John Boehner.
Have a black and tan, of course.
Tonight, if I even remember to turn on my television, my eyes will be on Samuel Alito, the most principled and civilized high court justice (see his dissenting opinions in United States v. Stevens and Snyder v. Phelps). Alito’s calmly uttered “That’s not true” proved a far more stinging rebuke to the president than any of Willard Romney’s managementese-ridden bloviations during last year’s debates. Of course, if Alito bothered to say “That’s not true” every time Obama pinocchioed, a transcript of the State of the Union would look something like this:
The Taliban’s momentum has been broken.
(That’s not true.)
Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job.
(That’s not true.)
Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies, just to make a difference.
(That’s not true.)
And so on and so on. Ad taedium.
If Alito doesn’t turn up, count me out.
The New York Times may have been characteristically graceless in its initial coverage of Benedict’s decision to retire, as Mr. Pleszczynski noted the other day, but in France, the harlots were out in force to mock the good and saintly man’s dignified acknowledgment of God’s mysterious ways — they showed up in Notre Dame cathedral on Paris’s Ile de la Cité and got naked, as shown in a clip released by Le Monde, itself not exactly a Catholic organ but one that has traditionally maintained a respectful if not uncritical — newsreporting oblige — attitude toward the Church of which France, at one time, proudly called itself the eldest daughter.
It is impossible not to notice that the same day the National Assembly passed hom*s*xual marriage legislation after a last-stand effort by the center-right UMP party, divided and weakened by a leadership battle in the wake of Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed re-election campaign.
The Washington Post implies that the Catholic Church is a fading institution in today’s lead editorial:
Pope Benedict will leave behind a church facing the same debilitating problems that loomed after the death of Pope John Paul II—above all, how to remain relevant to an increasingly secular world and to its own changing membership. This pope’s response was to insist that only uncompromising adherence to past doctrine would preserve the faith. Catholics who seek a different answer will have to hope that a college of cardinals dominated by the pope’s appointees will choose a more progressive successor.
The Church has a 1.1 billion membership. From 2004 to 2050, the Catholic population of Africa will increase by 145.8 percent. This is an institution that is more than 2,000 years old. Renewal is not a foreign concept.
But the Church is not merely a temporal political institution, and it seeks not to be either “conservative” or “progressive.” It strives to communicate Truth. As the world transforms, the Church reapplies its teachings; but it will never reconstitute the substance of its message.
The Post, along with progressive Catholics, should note that man is constantly changing his temperament in a desperate longing for peace; the Church will never fade because it has found it.
At the University of Mobile’s Center for Leadership, I explain two reasons — I think unnoted by anybody else — why the latest “accomodation” within the HHS abortifacient mandate actually catches Obama in logical (and semi-legal) traps. The first is the misuse of what I call the “Fram oil” explanation. (You’ll have to read it to understand.) HHS is trying to have it both ways. The second is more logical than legal — and, I must admit, less legal than I had originally thought. It involves the “alternate” way that the “accomodation” can be “paid for,” namely by reducing the fees that particular insurance companies pay to the insurance “exchanges.” I have since been told by an authoritative source (I forgot to ask if I could quote his private email, so I won’t name him) that a concern I had over the letter of Obama’s (weak) executive order forbidding government financing of abortion is, indeed, not applicable. I thought the executive order would cover abortifacient drugs such as Ella, but apparently it doesn’t. But the effective new subsidy for abortifacients certainly still violates the spirit of the executive order, and worse, it clearly violates the spirit of the promise Obama made to pro-life Democrats in order to secure their reluctant votes for ObamaCare.
Anyway, it’s hard to understand all this unless you read it. So please do.
Federal lawsuits against Obamacare’s birth control mandate filed by the morally opposed continue to gain ground. Meanwhile, though, the feds continue to fund Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country.
Now, pro-life groups are speaking out, and John Boehner is their target. According to the Washington Examiner, LifeCAUSE PAC’s new ad is titled “Stop Borrowing for Baby Killing.”
The ad appeals to Boehner to withhold any new votes on the debt ceiling until the government stops funding Planned Parenthood.
In 2011, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act passed the Republican-controlled House but died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Teresa, below, provides a very nice overview of the Cuccinelli/Bolling split in Virginia. Very thorough and very much on point.
Let me just add this: There is no reason, none whatsoever, for “establishment” types to think that Ken Cuccinelli would be a weak candidate. His entire record shows just the opposite. He was first elected to the state Senate as an underfunded underdog in a special election in 2002. He was re-elected in 2003 and then again in 2007 — in the latter, holding on against all odds (and against pundit predictions) in a very tough district for Republicans, in a very bad year for Republicans. In 2009, in his first statewide race, despite his supposed image as an extremist (more on that lie in a moment), he won his spot as Attorney General in a landslide, with a whopping 58 percent of the vote.
This is not the record of a weak candidate. This is the record of a candidate who knows how to win tough elections — how to inspire people, how to turn out the vote, how to find the right issues to emphasize.
As for his “extremist” image — or rather, his alleged image to that effect — it just doesn’t hold water. The only thing extreme about him is his courage, and then mainly in comparison with other weak-kneed politicians. His actual positions are mainstream conservative, often getting ahead of the curve and going to popular positions (as in his challenge to ObamaCare) before other conservative politicians have figured out that the positions are not only correct but also popular.
But there is plenty in his history to sell to moderates, suburbanites, “swing” voters, or however one wants to characterize those citizens who don’t necessarily vote on strongly ideological lines. It’s not that he abandons conservatism, by the way, but that he applies conservatism, common sense, and true compassion (as opposed to the fake, government-equals-compassion shibboleth) to concerns that are, or are often seen as, non-ideological concerns. Cuccinelli has been a leader, for instance, in advocating intelligent, compassionate, effective handling of those who are seriously mentally ill. He has served on a special commission to fight human trafficking. And he has been stalwart in applying anti-trust laws and laws against usury — hardly the position of the caricature of Republicans as pawns of big business.
Conservatives, meanwhile, should be thrilled with Cuccinelli’s strong stands for property rights (especially in eminent domain battles), against taxes, and in favor of Second Amendment rights. And, of course, he is unapologetically pro-life. Finally, on issues of economics and size and scope of government, Cuccinelli has an admirably (and responsibility) libertarian streak, very much in the Reagan tradition.
To suggest that Cuccinelli will make a weak candidate is, therefore, just plain stupid or ignorant. Responsible moderate Republicans in Virginia should rally behind him and talk Bill Bolling out of a hopeless and counterproductive third-party bid. Cuccinelli is a winner.
Sarah Palin’s departure from Fox News provided some more tabloid-esque coverage for those who derived pleasure by mocking her colorful public persona. When Roger Ailes declared in a 2011 AP interview that Palin earned her keep “because she was hot and got ratings,” the decision to reduce the terms of her contract implied one of two things: either she had stopped looking attractive, or she wasn’t getting the ratings any longer.
Discounting the first as being a corollary of the second leads one to wonder exactly what happened—did the public grow tired of Palin?
The limited evidence suggests otherwise, with 2012 being the eleventh consecutive year that Fox News was the most watched cable news network, according to “TV By the Numbers.”
Is Fox then predicting that Palin will lose her following over the next four years? Or is Fox cutting her out in favor of more establishment voices? Considerations of a political nature seem integral to this move, especially when it is noted that Karl Rove’s contract has been renewed through 2016.
Given the conservative uproar over Mr. Rove’s new PAC, this development may prove interesting when it comes to Fox’s role in future GOP struggles for power. It also bodes a new chapter in the public life of Sarah Palin, who in a recent interview with Breitbart, shared some interesting clues as to her future:
“We can’t just preach to the choir; the message of liberty and true hope must be understood by a larger audience. …
“We’re not going to be able to advance the cause of limited constitutional government unless we deal with these big government enablers on our side. And this all ties into the problem of crony capitalism and the permanent political class in the Beltway. We need to consistently take them on election after election – ever vigilant …
“I know the country needs more truth-telling in the media, and I’m willing to do that. So, we shall see…
“I was raised to never retreat and to pick battles wisely, and all in due season. When it comes to defending our republic, we haven’t begun to fight! But we delight in those who underestimate us.”
Whatever the future portends, it is very likely that we will be hearing from Mrs. P again.
The latest Obama foreign policy triumph:
You can be sure our response well be ever so stern…
As we begin to take stock of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy, we should remember not only his extraordinary stewardship of the Chair of Peter, but also his legacy as a scholar and thinker. “Dictatorship of relativism,” a phrase from a homily delivered by His Holiness before he ascended to the papacy, is one of the most succinct descriptions of the state of Western culture and politics one is likely to find.
Here are links to two essays (one from The American Spectator, the other from The New Criterion) that use His Holiness’ homily as a springboard for discussions of, respectively, the philosophy of John Rawls and Western values in general. I find it worth noting that the Pope’s influence as a cultural critic has not been limited to persons of faith: in 2010, Theodore Dalrymple (whose atheism, though not loudly trumpted, is well-known) wrote an essay about Benedict’s visit to Britain in which he called the pontiff “the George Orwell of our time.”
NB: This essay originally appeared in the Salisbury Review, for my money the best conservative intellectual quarterly in the world. Its founder, Dr. Roger Scruton, is a senior editor at The American Spectator. Past and present contributors to the Review include Dr. Dalrymple, Margaret Thatcher, Enoch Powell, Andrew Roberts, Antony Flew, Lord Dacre of Glanton (i.e., Hugh Trevor-Roper), and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Its name is a reference to Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Third Marquess of Salisbury, as far as I am concerned the greatest Tory Prime Minister of all time. (Thus Lord Salisbury on unintended consequences: “Parliament is a potent engine, and its enactments must always do something, but they very seldom do what the originators of these enactments meant.”) A digital subscription to the Review costs only $16; American readers who, like me, prefer the feel and (I know, I know!) the smell of print can recieve the physical magazine by surface mail for only $34 per year.
(Full disclosure: I am an occasional contributor to the Review both in print and online, but my appreciation of it antedates my involvement.)
Entitlement programs are irksome for countless reasons, and lately, the more I think about it, the more I find the very label “entitlement program” adding to the vexation.
Which side of the political aisle coined this phrase, I wonder? Those in favor of a myriad of social welfare programs might consider “entitlement” a fine word to denote a right to government benefits. A “sense of entitlement,” by contrast, carries with it a much more negative connotation of snobbish superiority, and is even considered a personality disorder:
A ‘Sense of Entitlement’ is an unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others. [Sufferers] may appear at times to care only about their own desires and needs at the expense of other people around them or they may habitually prioritize their own needs above those of others.
To “earn” benefits such as unemployment, one is required by the government to do nothing. Jim Huffman of the Daily Caller clarifies the problem with the “entitlement” title:
In any legal sense of the term, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not entitlements. Unlike public employee pensions, which are contractual obligations now threatening to bankrupt state and local governments, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits can be modified, or even eliminated, by a majority vote of both houses of Congress along with the president’s signature. They are benefits, not entitlements.
Were I to possess such power in the media, I would work to re-label the “entitlement” descriptor to something more accurate, say, “elitist”? Or perhaps identify all proponents of “entitlement programs” as “mentally unstable”?
Today, conservatives across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Karl Rove. Rove is either ridiculously clumsy in his political maneuvering, or truly Machiavellian in his scheme to see conservatives rise again. He either honestly intends to deprive conservatives of the myriad of victories which can only be achieved by returning to our principles and messaging them effectively, or he hatched his little scheme to invigorate conservatives by getting them to rally against his ineptly named PAC, the Conservative Victory Project.
Rove has managed to pull off something that has eluded conservatives ever since November. He has been able to unite a diverse group of battered, bruised, depressed, and demoralized conservative constituencies. They have galvanized into a united fighting force ready to oppose the moderate madmen who for so long have worked to undermine the principles that swept Ronald Reagan into office in back-to-back landslides. Rove has reinvigorated the conservative movement after a difficult electoral cycle.
One can only surmise the intent of Rove. He’s a crafty character, and he’s never been described as “stupid,” or “bumbling.” Yet that’s how the announcement of his new PAC appeared. And intentionally or not, it has indeed galvanized a wide cadre of conservatives against Rove’s newly announced effort to further soften the Republican party with squishy centrists who are adept at nothing but growing fat on the government teat. Is this all some terrible mistake? Or could it be that Rove is actually as smart as he seems to think?
Sensing the desperation and depression of national conservatives, perhaps he hatched this scheme with the intent to motivate us. After a long career of deceit and deception with the acquisition of power as his primary goal, maybe he intended his new PAC to rouse slumbering conservatives to action. Maybe Karl Rove has had a genuine ideological conversion and realized that he had to sacrifice himself and his own reputation in order to save the conservative movement.
Is it possible that Karl Rove intended the formation and announcement of the Conservative Victory Fund PAC to be the wakeup call whereby the rest of us would rally together to defeat the unprincipled moderates who have brought so many electoral defeats to conservatives over the years? Perhaps this is the culmination, and even the crescendo of a long career of deceit and deception. Maybe Rove decided he was willing to make the final sacrifice of his own reputation in order to reunite the conservative wing of the party in opposition to his evil plan.
Then again, maybe not.
Either way, the effect has been the same. Contrary to reports of a war in the Republican party, the vast majority of Republicans who have spoken publicly on the matter are now completely united in their opposition to Karl Rove. They are invigorated by the idea of a fight against the moderate machine that Rove represents. This is a very good thing.
So whatever his intent, I say to Karl Rove, thank you. Thank you very much.
This report from the British Daily Express has been making the rounds online:
Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.
A senior police source said: “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”
The use of drones was later confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began.
He said: “This agency has been at the forefront of domestic use of drones by law enforcement. That’s all I can say at the moment.”
This is not the first time a military-grade surveillance UAV has been deployed on U.S. soil in pursuit of a U.S. citizen. It does appear to be one of the first cases, however, assuming no classified incidents. As noted last week, the use of drone aircraft was a hot topic during CIA nominee John Brennan’s confirmation hearing. It may be that this episode garners more persistent coverage given its direct implications for the American homeland. We will see.
He was only to be an interim pope; a placeholder. That’s what was said of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger upon his election to the papacy in 2005. Instead, over the course of eight short years, he left an indelible mark as a leader of thought and unity. His greatest legacy will probably be his theological scholarship. But a close second will be his attempts to bring Catholics together, integrating the Latin Tridentine Mass, reaching out to the Eastern Orthodox, and even opening a dialogue with the Society of Pius X. He was famously taciturn, but expanded the Church’s ministry and started the first papal Twitter account. He was a dogmatic traditionalist, but inspired many with the openness and suppleness of his thought.
What to expect in the coming days? There will be plenty of speculation over Benedict’s legacy (“seen as both conservative and contentious,” clucked the New York Times, evidently after surveying two of its lifestyle editors). Horse-race journalism, dormant since Obama was reelected, will reemerge to breathe heavily about the coming Conclave. St. Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes will shorten many sleep cycles (Benedict is the last pope predicted before Peter the Roman takes over and, as Malachy puts it rather flippantly, “The End”).
But for today, let’s content ourselves with remembering Pope Benedict XVI, a good man and the first to abdicate voluntarily since Celestine V. This young Catholic, who was unsure what to expect when the John Paul II era ended, will be forever grateful for his leadership.
Two days before Ash Wednesday, in what is surely an unprecedented move in modern times, the Vatican has just announced that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, for reasons of diminishing energy and strength. An enclave will meet in mid-March to elect his successor, meaning a new Pope could be in place by Easter, which this year falls on March 31.
UPDATE: The lead headline from Poland’s leading daily reads: “‘Thunder Bolt From the Clear Sky.’ Pope Benedict XVII Announces Abdication. First Such Situation in 700 Years.”
The New York Times immediately injects a note of gracelessness:
The announcement is certain to plunge the Roman Catholic world into frenzied speculation about his likely successor and to evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious.
Our top five stories of the week:
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?