Ben says we don't talk enough about booze around here anymore. Things ain't like they yoozta be. Well, I've got to agree, so I'm doing my part.
Behold: Tactical Nuclear Penguin
From the label: "This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance."
Oh, for f--- sake:
Maura Flynn at Big Hollywood says: "People, we have the means, if we have the will, to topple these charlatans who shamelessly prey on little children. So boycott Build-A-Bear. And, more importantly, tell the world why."
Blah, blah, blah. Yes, it's terrible. Yes, it's manipulative. And thus Build-a-Bear will put some principled conservative moms and dads in the awkward position of having to tell Johnny and Sis, "No, you can't go to Maria's birthday party, because Build-a-Bear sells LIES!"
Are you going to do that? For real?
If this sort of thing bothers you -- and probably it should a little -- then send Build-a-Bear an e-mail expressing your disapproval. Or here's a thought: Watch what your kids are watching on the Internet. If you're doing your job, they shouldn't be encountering that sort of agitprop in the first place.
As 2009 winds down, the news wire services have begun moving their year-end retrospectives. The Associated Press today publishes its list of the hundreds of notables who left the scene this year. By the way, it's never a good idea to die between Christmas and New Year's, especially if you are only sort of famous, or your fame and notoriety waned decades ago, or your speciality is no longer appreciated the way it once was.
Among the more interesting passings I missed just this month were Roy Disney and Sol Price. Disney was the irascible nephew of Walt and defender of traditional animation who hired and ultimately ousted Michael Eisner as the House of Mouse's CEO. Price was the founder of Price Club, one of America's first big box discounters, which later merged with Costco. But UC San Diego students know him better for the mall at the center of campus that bears his name. It's just a hop, skip and jump away from Theodore Geisel Library. You can't miss it.
The Monkeys noted several of these deaths (and a couple that didn't make the AP round-up) in 2009. Michael Jackson wasn't one of them.
• Chris Warden (Jan. 4)
• Ricardo Mantalban (Jan. 14)
• John Updike (Jan. 27)
• Estelle Bennett (February)
• Paul Harvey (Feb. 28)
• Ron Silver (Mar. 15)
• Jack Kemp (May 3)
• Billy Mays (June 28)
• TOTUS (July 14)
• John Hughes (Aug. 6)
• Ted Kennedy (Aug. 26)
• Irving Kristol (Sept. 18)
• Soupy Sales (Oct. 12)
Yesterday, I wondered if the bribe Sen Ben Nelson received for his vote for ObamaCare was legal — a step beyond normal scuzzy horse-trading.
But this debacle has me wondering: Is inserting language into a "managers amendment" that exempts one state from the Medicaid increases that every other state will have to suck up even legal? I'm wondering if we'll see some kind of lawsuit challenging this bit of the "compromise."
The meme is picking up steam. John Steele Gordon writes today in a Contentions blog post titled "The Cornhusker Highjack and the Constitution":
Such bribery has a long history in Congress, but so far as I know (and I’d be delighted to hear of other, earlier instances), bribes always came in the form of highways, post offices, bridges to nowhere, and other infrastructure, or in offers of higher office for the person being bribed. They were not in the form of a special deal allowing a particular, not impoverished state to have a lower share of costs in an ongoing federal program. There are, of course, plenty of the old-fashioned sorts of bribes in this bill. Connecticut will get a new hospital at federal expense, for instance.
But is it constitutional for the federal government to give some states a better deal on a national program than it does other states? It is not obviously unconstitutional, as, say, having a lower federal income tax rate for Nebraska would be, since Art. I, Sec. 8, requires that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” However, one could argue that Nebraskans will be getting what amounts to a rebate on federal taxes through the back door of lower state taxes.
Gordon explores in more detail the particular constitutional questions at play here, and suggests that a state (rather than a citizen) would have the best shot at establishing standing to challenge a law that relieves only Nebraskans from the tax implications of the health care bill. It's an interesting post worth reading in full.
Forgive the name-calling, but there is really no kind way to say this: Joe Klein is an ignorant hack. I've had enough of his preposterous posturing and more-liberal-than-thou moralizing. After this post, Klein will be banished along with Ann Coulter, Jonathan Chait, and Pat Robertson to my own private Phantom Zone.
Klein on Monday joined the Yglesias chorus, huffing and puffing about those reactionary Senate Republicans who hope for a Christmas miracle to defeat the health care bill. Klein roused himself from his fainting couch to type:
Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma--who, with James Inhofe, constitute the most extreme Senate delegation from any state--prayed for the incapacitation or death of a Democratic Senator so that health care would be blocked. But that wasn't all. He also offered this:
"The crisis of confidence in this country is now at an apex that has not seen in over 150 years, and that lack of confidence undermines the ability of legitimate governance," he said. "There's a lot of people out there today who...will say, 'I give up on my government,' and rightly so."
This is borderline sedition.
Oh, stop it, you preening ass. Just stop it. You don't even know what sedition is, you poseur. You embarrass yourself and debase what remains of your career with such imbecilic braying.
Recall how Klein in October made a fuss about the White House's ill-starred effort to marginalize Fox News. "Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap," Klein wrote. "Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue." (Mind you, that was the introduction to a piece critical of the administration.) Of course, Klein was neither precise nor correct. Nothing about what Fox News does is remotely seditious. Nor was what Coburn said on the Senate floor seditious, "borderline" or otherwise.
Joel and I interviewed University of Chicago constitutional lawyer and historian Geoffrey Stone about this sedition guff a couple of weeks ago. Stone is a liberal. He didn't like the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy or many of its counterterrorism policies. I brought up Klein specifically and asked Stone what he thought of pundits who cavalierly toss around "sedition" in reference to... well... stuff they don't like.
"I'd prefer that they didn't," he replied.
We don't have seditious libel laws in this country anymore. There is "no meaningful legal concept" of sedition. It is no longer a crime to "imagine the king's death." Klein wishes to transform his distaste for conservative dissent into a criminal offense. Well, Klein can take his dudgeon and cram it high and to the left, for all the good it would do. He should go back to writing anonymous romans-à-clef. Fiction suits him.
George Will is dripping with contempt for Barack Obama's "successes" in Copenhagen and with health care "reform" in his Tuesday column: "It was serendipitous to have almost simultaneous climaxes in Copenhagen and Congress. The former's accomplishment was indiscernible, the latter's was unsightly."
And that's just the lede!
So argues Richard Epstein at PointofLaw.com. It's a fairly involved analysis and somewhat arcane argument in places, but I think this is the crux of the article:
This ill-conceived legislation has many provisions that regulate different aspects of private health-insurance companies. Taken together, the combined force of these provisions raises serious constitutional questions. I think that these provisions are so intertwined with the rest of the legislation that it is difficult to see how the entire statute could survive if one of its components is defective to its core. How courts will deal with these difficult issues is of course not known, but rate-regulation cases normally attract a higher level of scrutiny than, say, land-use decisions.
There is, moreover, no quick fix that will eliminate the Reid Bill's major constitutional defects. It would, of course, be a catastrophe if the Congress sought to put this program into place before its constitutionality were tested. Most ratemaking challenges are done on the strength of the record, and I see no reason why a court would let a health-insurance company be driven into bankruptcy before it could present its case that the mixture of regulations and subsidies makes it impossible to earn a reasonable return on its capital. At the very least, therefore, there are massive problems of delayed implementation that will plague any health-care legislation from the date of its passage. I should add that the many broad delegations to key administrative officials will themselves give rise to major delays and additional challenges on statutory or constitutional grounds.
I can't get enough of the jingle...
What's that you say? It's just one commenter? How can I impugn the entire left with just one comment on one blog post? Hey, I'm just taking a cue from Yglesias himself, who seems to think that a ham-fisted post at Confederate Yankee and an oblique and clumsy remark from Tom Coburn is the same as the whole "Right-Wing Hoping Robert Byrd Dies in Time to Block Health Reform."
The analogy is so perfect, it can only be an early Festivus miracle!
And I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Atrios was right.
Liberals are, in Obama's words, on the "precipice" of enacting the decades-long dream of government-run health care — of directing one-sixth of the American economy from Washington. Sure, they didn't get everything they wanted in one fell swoop. But it's a safe bet that within a few years the liberal dream of "single payer" health care like that in Canada and Britain will be in our future — or at least it should be if the liberals' plans are as popular as they claim.
Yet even in what should be a moment of elation for liberals, they simply can't enjoy the moment. E.J. Dionne used his Washington Post column today to complain that getting this done was just so damn hard because Senate Republicans used the filibuster to slow down the progressive agenda.
Of course what has happened on the health-care bill is enraging. It's quite clear that substantial majorities in both houses of Congress favored either a public option or a Medicare buy-in.
In a normal democracy, such majorities would work their will, a law would pass, and champagne corks would pop. But everyone must get it through their heads that thanks to the bizarre habits of the Senate, we are no longer a normal democracy.
Because of a front of Republican obstruction and the ludicrous idea that all legislation requires a supermajority of 60 votes, power has passed from the majority to tiny minorities, sometimes minorities of one.
This is asinine on many levels.
For one, "substantial majorities" are against the mess the Democrats cooked up in Congress. Second, we are not a "normal democracy," but a republic. The Founders were careful to set up a system of government that did not let majorities quickly "work their will." The bicameral legislature with different responsibilities and procedures was designed to be a protection from mob rule, by both the public and the "mob" in the House.
Third, the Republicans don't have the numbers to filibuster. The Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority, something the press made a pretty big deal about while waiting for Al Franken to be seated. Harry Reid worked to get moderate Democrats on board. If Reid reached out to any Republicans seeking their vote, it has escaped the notice of the entire American press. Peeling off one or two Republicans would have probably gotten this health care debacle passed before the summer as originally planned, but during the entire legislative process, the "other side" was not just ignored, but mocked and slandered.
And, as Ramesh Ponnuru points out:
If legislation required 51 senators' votes to pass, that 51st senator would be in a position to be "a minority of one."
It would be easier to swallow this newfound liberal disgust for the filibuster if it wasn't so heartily applauded by liberals when it was used in an unprecedented way a few years back: To block scores of Bush's appointments to the federal bench. Again, Ponnuru:
If you're willing to have a system in which filibusters and supermajority rules are ever permitted, isn't the health-care bill exactly the type of legislation to which you'd want them to apply? It would be decidedly odd to say that it should take 60 votes to get a judge on an appeals court but only 51 to remake American health care.
Yes, it is odd — if you're expecting intellectual consistency from the likes of Dionne.
In a cleverly titled post, "Blue Dogs in Heat," W. James Antle III notes that Sen. Ben Nelson once said he was holding out for strong language protecting the 30-year precedent of not using taxpayer funds for elective abortions in America, and because the Reid health care bill had too much taxes and spending.
As Antle recounts:
That was last Thursday. By Saturday, Nelson caved and became the 60th vote to rubberstamp Harry Reid's health care bill. What had changed? According to the officially nonpartisan but effectively Democratic-run Congressional Budget Office, the "compromise" raised taxes and spending even more than the original legislation Nelson opposed. It also contains a Nelson-Reid abortion funding deal denounced by nearly all major pro-life leaders as a sham.
But Nelson collected his three pieces of silver. Nebraska will receive a permanent federal subsidy to cover the costs of increased Medicaid eligibility under the bill while all other states will have to start picking up the tab for their share in 2017. "That's what legislation is all about," Reid explained to reporters. "It's compromise."
Yeah. OK. Nelson is a fraud. And if Reid wants to call bribing Nelson (and other senators) "compromise," he's free to do so. There is no question that such horse-trading is the normal flotsam and jetsam of legislative sausage-making. It is just rare that such bribes are so blatant, or that so many Americans are paying attention to them. I call it a bribe, but Mark Steyn won't even dignify this "compromise" with such language:
You can't even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn't "border on immoral": It drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.
How Reid got his precious 60 votes was, indeed, immoral. There are only two substantive differences from, say, the insurance industry paying Nelson for his vote and Reid doing it. In the former case, Nelson and the insurance company handing over the manila envelope would go to jail. In the latter case, it's "legal," and Reid is using our money.
But this debacle has me wondering: Is inserting language into a "managers amendment" that exempts one state from the Medicaid increases that every other state will have to suck up even legal? I'm wondering if we'll see some kind of lawsuit challenging this bit of the "compromise."
Let's put it another way: Liberals who adhere to static budgeting say all tax cuts "cost" the government money, just as much as a federal outlay "costs" the government money. I don't agree with that definition of government "cost," but let's grant it for the sake of argument. ...
(Please click "read more" below.)
Massie, remarking on how the health care disaster unfolded with nary a Republican vote, observes:
Consequently, the Republican party's unanimous opposition -- thus far -- to the health care bill is actually a healthy development, not a descent into vulgar tribalism. Perhaps the GOP interpretation of the bill is correct (it may be) and, certainly, they might have helped build a bill less poisonous to their preferences had they participated in the process. But I see no reason to mourn their failure to do so. Alea iacta est and let the voters decide.
The entire (short) piece is a delightful and provocative read.
More wackiness! William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection alerts us to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's incendiary speech from the Senate floor Sunday night, in which the
Delaware (Whoops!) Rhode Island Democrat compared Republican opponents of the health care takeover to "Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution." Fabulous!
Says Jacobson: "You really need to listen to this speech. It is almost beyond description. I cannot fully convey the full scope of this vile speech." Well, no, you really don't. The video, which is just a short excerpt, gives you the unhinged gist of it. That's your "world's greatest deliberative body" right there.
James Delingpole of the Telegraph has a round-up of the rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth that followed the miserable conclusion of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.
"Copenhagen was worth it, after all – if only for the sphincter-bursting rage its supposed failure has caused among our libtard watermelon chums. (That’s watermelon, as in: green on the outside, red on the inside)," Delingpole writes.
George Monbiot is particularly emotional. You might say even hysterical.
Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn takes in the show.
"The climate has been 'changing' for billions of years. Who are you to presume to 'prevent' it?" Steyn observes. "From the barely veiled neo-fascistic whiff of Polly Toynbee's final paragraphs, you get the feeling that what most annoys this crowd is that they've been denied a shot at the ultimate exercise in universal Big Government."
The alternate headline might be: "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight."
(Warning: There's quite a bit of salty language in the video.)
When it snows, people have snowball fights. When it snows in Washington D.C., somebody is going to draw a gun in a snowball fight. Who would have thought it would be a plainclothes detective with an attitude?
Washington's ABC affiliate WJLA reports:
A lively snowball fight on D.C. streets took a dark turn Saturday when anti-war protesters dressed in anarchist garb showed up, and a D.C. police officer pulled his weapon out of his holster.
The neighborhood snowball fight at 14th and U streets was advertised online. By 3 p.m., more than 200 residents converged for the massive snowball fight.
"No one meant any harm, no one meant anything by -- just having fun, it's highly unfortunate," said Tisha West. "We're Washingtonians and we like to play in the blizzard."
But things started to turn for the worse when the crowd -- some carrying anti-war signs and dressed all in black with masks -- began to pelt passing cars. A plain clothes D.C. police detective emerged from a Hummer -- it's unclear whether it was his personal vehicle or an unmarked police vehicle -- after it was struck. The detective began yelling at the gathered crowd. At one point, he pulled back his jacket, exposing his service weapon -- it's unclear if he did this intentionally. That's when things took a darker turn.
That account is roundly disputed in the comments section of that site, and elsewhere. In particular, several eyewitnesses insist the story overplays the anti-war angle -- hard to say. Unlike a G20 summit in March, there is good reason to wear a black ski mask in the middle of a blizzard. Also, the detective didn't merely "expose" his weapon -- he definitely drew his gun. An alarmed citizen, seeing an angry man waving a pistol at revelers, called 911.
Now, is it a good idea to hurl snowballs at moving vehicles? No, probably not. Is the appropriate response to leap out of your car with a loaded pistol and use the color of authority to threaten people who are really just having a bit of harmless fun? To ask the question is to answer it.
From the Washington City Paper story:
Like so many others, Robin Bell heard about the snowball fight at 14th and U Streets NW and decided to go and check it out. He tells City Desk that prior to the incident, a cop car got stuck in the road and everybody stopped the snowball fight and helped the cop get his car out of the snow. "The crowd cheered and everybody was happy," Bell says.
Soon, though, he started hearing people shouting: "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight!"
"Then I walked over and I saw a police officer brandishing a weapon," Bell says referring to the uniform cop. He says he didn't see the detective brandish his weapon--only the furious aftermath. He says the detective was yelling and "kind of out of control." "It was really strange to see a police officer so upset and angry over what seemed at best a misunderstanding," Bell explains. "At worst, it was some kids throwing a snowball at him."
At one point, Bell says, the detective ran into the crowd and grabbed man whom he thought might have thrown a snowball at him. Bell adds that the detective them put the individual next to his Hummer. Cops grabbed two others. All three were given warnings. "It was ridiculous because everyone was throwing snowballs," Bell says.
D.C. Police say they are investigating the whole fracas, although a couple of off-the-cuff, early statements by management seem to deny what anyone with two eyes and an Internet connection could readily see. (Update, 12/21: Jonathan Turley has an interesting post about the incident, which offers some details about the head of the D.C. P.D.'s internal affairs division.)
If there is any justice in this world, this Detective Baylor will be working the graveyard for a private security outfit at some Recovery Act-funded construction job come spring. But there is no justice...
Update: Here's the Washington Post story on the hullabaloo:
Police said initially that the detective had not flashed his weapon. On Sunday, the officer was placed on desk duty after Twitter, blogs and YouTube appeared to show otherwise.
If the final investigation shows the officer pulled his weapon after being pelted with snowballs, D.C. Assistant Chief Pete Newsham, head of the investigative services bureau, said that "would not be a situation in which a member [of the force] would be justified."
"We have to see what the entire circumstance was," Newsham said Sunday. "But just a snowball fight, not in my mind. That doesn't seem a situation where we would pull out a service weapon."
Meanwhile, Ann Althouse sides with the cop:
The quoted chant is "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight!" and that sounds funny and fun-loving, but it got me thinking of the encounters with police that we saw in the 1960s when it took next to nothing to provoke shouts of "police brutality" and "pig." And in fact, if you watched the whole video, you heard the shout "F--- you, pig."
(Click "Read More" to see additional videos below the fold.)
Music is indispensable to me. I have a playlist I listen to regularly on my laptop when I write. It started as a two-hour playlist I created for when I would frequent the Paul Biane Library in Rancho Cucamonga. You can only use a study room there for two hours at a time. It's since grown more than seven and a half hours -- just shy of a proper eight-hour workday length -- with 102 songs.
A couple of notes. The list doubles as a playlist for possible podcast music. Regular Ben and Joel Podcast listeners will probably recognize some of the music that has appeared in recent months. The list is heavily influenced by suggestions from Monkey Robb -- particularly Explosions in the Sky and Colourbox -- and the Mighty Jimmy Aquino. What can I say? I really like Supergrass's "In It For the Money" album. Finally, I think Mahler is a fine way to wrap up the workday, though there is a good case to be made for beginning the list with the 8th Symphony.
I've listed the song titles and artists below the fold. What do you listen to when you work?
(Click "Read more" below to view the rest of this post.)
Americans for Tax Reform has a comprehensive list of the tax hikes in the health reform package. My favorite? A 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services. But there is more. Lots more.
Gotta love Keith Olbermann. I can't stand him, actually — except as occasional entertainment when he goes off on one of his rants. But I love this delicious contrast.
In the summer, when non-liberals were protesting the health care plan with rallies and tea party protests, Olbermann was aghast. On his August 7, 2009 program, Olby said this:
"The truth is out about the societal sabotage dressed up as phony protests against health care reform....When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently — especially now that far too many tea party protesters are comparing President Obama and health care reform to Hitler and the Holocaust?"
Got that? Those on the right who wanted to kill the bill in the summer were engaging in "societal sabotage" (whatever that is, exactly). The protests were "phony," a Trojan horse for the "health care industry" (read: insurance companies and drug companies). By God! It was akin to Hamas terrorism!!
Here's Olby on December 17, 2009:
“The Senate Bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House. Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable and there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported. And if still the bill, and this heinous mandate become law, there is yet further reaction required. I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight to use the only weapon that will left to us if this bill as currently constituted becomes law. We must not buy federally-mandated insurance, if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy. No single payer? No sale. No public option? No sale. No Medicare buy-in? No sale.
I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice. And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health-care reform. Pass this at your peril, senators. And sign it at yours, Mr. President. I will not buy this insurance. Brand me a law-breaker if you choose. Fine me if you will. Jail me if you must. But if the Medicare buy-in goes but the mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and and sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated, ugly version of their dream because those elected by us, to act for us, have forgotten what must be the golden rule of healthcare reform. It is the same rule to which physicians are bound by oath: First, do no harm.
Goodnight, and good luck.”
Welcome to the tea party, pal. That last bit about first doing no harm was a major point the tea party protesters, rally attendees and town hall speakers were making. Of course, we were coming from the opposite direction politically, but it is nice to see Olby's now on the same page — even if he's only reading from the left-hand margin. A demand that Americans buy government health insurance? That's OK. A demand that Americans buy private health insurance? That's not OK. Allowing Americans to decide these matters for themselves in a truly free market for health insurance? Also not OK ... except for Olby, who retains his right to buy the insurance he wants.
I find it hilarious that now — at long last, sir! — Olby has decided it's OK for Americans to actively "fight" with the "weapons" they have at their disposal to defeat ObamaCare. Since Olby's such a smart and intellectually honest guy, I'd love him to explain this: If the summer protesters were AstroTurfers doing the bidding of the insurance companies, why are they not now taking to the streets in favor of ObamaCare since (in Olby's view) it would be a sop to those very same insurance companies?
Last I checked, all those summer protesters are still against it.
Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do. Rep. Alan Grayson wants U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to fine and imprison one of the Florida Democrat's Republican critics. The Orlando Sentinel reports (via Politico):
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando took such offense at a parody website aimed at unseating him that the freshman Democrat has asked that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder investigate the Lake County activist who started the anti-Grayson website “mycongressmanisnuts.com.”
Specifically, Grayson accuses Republican activist Angie Langley of lying to federal elections (officials). His four-page complaint highlights the fact that the Clermont resident lives outside his district, but that Langley still uses the term “my” in “mycongressmanisnuts.com.”
“Ms. Langley has deliberately masqueraded as a constituent of mine, in order to try to create the false appearance that she speaks for constituents who don’t support me,” writes Grayson. “[She] has chosen a name for her committee that is utterly tasteless and juvenile.”
Grayson’s office did not respond with comment other than to confirm the letter exists — including its request that Langley be fined and “imprisoned for five years.”
Grayson has a well-deserved reputation as a boor and a blowhard. So some commentators are treating the freshman congressman's complaint as a kind of joke. I don't think it's a joke at all. Not to put too fine a point on it, Alan Grayson is a would-be tyrant and an enemy of the First Amendment. He loves the Constitution so much, he's willing to jail any opponent who says otherwise. He makes Robert Bauer look like Geoffrey Stone.
If I had the income to spare, I would send $100 to mycongressmanisnuts.com, and another $100 to any Democrat with the nerve to challenge Grayson in the primary next year. In a House filled with demagogues, grifters, confidence men, sociopaths and garden-variety liars, Grayson is a particularly noxious presence. He has no business in public office.
Previous posts in this series
I: On the Obama campaign's "Action Wire"
II: On Obama "truth squads" in Missouri
III: More on Obama "truth squads" in Missouri and the censorious Robert Bauer
IV: On Sen. Jeff Bingaman's rationale for the Fairness Doctrine
V: On H.R. 1966, the overly broad anti-cyberbullying bill
VI: On the Obama administration's effort to limit "special interest influence" on the stimulus
VII: On the censorious Robert Bauer's promotion to White House Counsel
Here is a possible twist in the story of Jalen Cromwell, the Taunton, Mass., second-grader who made national news for drawing Jesus Christ on the cross and getting psychoanalyzed for his efforts: Jalen's father, part-time janitor Chester Johnson, played story-hungry journalists for saps. That's what Attleboro Sun-Chronicle Editor Mike Kirby thinks.
"It was a story too good to be true -- because it wasn't," Kirby opines in a column published Thursday. He continues:
The father of an 8-year-old Taunton boy tells the local newspaper that his son, a special needs student, was suspended and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after the boy makes a crude drawing of a crucifix, with X's for eyes. The boy, the father says, had been asked by a teacher to draw something that reminded him of Christmas.
The story, naturally, takes off like wildfire. It seems like another example of the war on Christmas, of political correctness gone mad, of the lack of common sense in our education system, of the left-wing overtaking Americans' Constitutional right to practice their religion.
But the more the father -- who at first hid behind a veil of anonymity -- talks, the sketchier the story sounds. Because it's a story that's just too good to be true.
(Click "Read more" below for the rest of this post.)
Never use these hackneyed phrases. Ever. Unless you are dead.
• Pick your brain
• Throw it against the wall and see what sticks
• Sweat equity
• It's not rocket science
• The ball's in your court
• Drill down
• I, personally
• Quite unique (and its compatriots "very unique," "really unique" and "most unique")
• Past history
• Urgent (and its frequent companion "crisis")
You could probably conjure 10 or 20 or 100 more, easily. But those make for a good start.
(Hat tip: Imad Naffa on Twitter.)
An interesting Q&A with Hentoff, the 84-year-old civil libertarian and jazz maven, by the Rutherford Institute's John Whitehead. The stand-out comment for me:
I am an atheist, although I very much admire and have been influenced by many traditionally religious people. I say this because the Left has taken what passes for their principles as an absolute religion. They don't think anymore. They just react. When they have somebody like Obama whom they put into office, they believed in the religious sense and, of course, that is a large part of the reason for their silence on these issues. They are very hesitant to criticize Obama, but that is beginning to change. Even on the cable network MSNBC, some of the strongest proponents of Obama are now beginning to question, if I may use their words, their "deity."
There is a great deal more, of course.
Hentoff, who spent half a century writing for the Village Voice, is now a fellow of the Cato Institute.
(Hat tip: Reason on Twitter.)
Its students are disloyal and subhuman.
(Click "read more" below for shocking photographic evidence.)
Joel and I do our level best to bum everyone out in what's likely our last Scripps-Howard column for 2009. (Dunno. We might file one more between Christmas and New Year's...)
Sez I: "'Enjoy yourself,' a wise man once advised. 'It's later than you think.' If nothing else, be pessimistically optimistic about 2010."
Sez Joel: "We're going to be OK. Maybe not right away, and maybe not soon enough to suit, well, any of us. But we're going to be OK. We've been through this before and we'll probably go through it again. But please, God, not too soon."
After we filed the column early this morning, I saw the latest poll from Pew Research reaffirming that America remains essentially a 50-50 nation:
Public opinion about President Barack Obama and his major polices continues to be divided as the year comes to a close. His overall approval rating is 49%, which is largely unchanged from November (51%). However, the percentage expressing at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to fixing the economy has slipped from 59% in October to 52% currently. Smaller percentages express confidence in Obama on health care reform (44%) and reducing the budget deficit (41%).
The "new politics" is the same as the old politics.
Looking for a comprehensive round-up of news links on climate change skepticism? I just discovered, perusing our referral logs, Tom Nelson's blog. Nelson kindly linked to my snarky little post last night about China's reluctance to sign on to any economy-killing agreements at Copenhagen.
One good turn deserves another, so I encourage you to pay Nelson's site a visit.
That's a trick question. "Contrary to conventional wisdom," writes Chris Woolston at a site called MyOnlineWellness, "there's no surge in suicides around the holidays."
But if there were a spike in people killing themselves in the days leading up to December 25, I submit that stories such as this one in the Telegraph would help explain why:
Dr. Nathan Grills from Monash University in Australia said the idea of a fat Father Christmas gorging on brandy and mince pies as he drove his sleigh around the world delivering presents was not the best way to promote a healthy and safe lifestyle among the young.
Writing on bmj.com, Dr Grills said: "Santa only needs to affect health by 0.1 per cent to damage millions of lives."
He said the image of a healthier Santa could be very effective in promoting a positive message about diet and lifestyle to the young.
Chad the Elder quips: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the public health experts."
Oh, I dunno. I bet with just a little digging, we'd learn that Dr. Grills could be buried under the mountain of coal that Santa has left in his Christmas stocking over the years. Good grief, what a killjoy.
In the near future, we're going to try to use our "Forum" feature more effectively. In the meantime, watching Zaius and KhabaLox try to debate the HCR topic 140 characters at a time on Twitter is making me want to gnaw my own leg off. So! Here's a preview. Debate the topic here and see how it works - but do so at your own risk...
The Taunton Gazette reports today:
A meeting between Taunton School Superintendent Julie Hackett and the family of a boy who drew a picture of Jesus that has caused a national uproar did not materialize Wednesday.
“They did not show, they gave no indication that they were canceling the meeting, and we have not yet rescheduled,” said Hackett, responding to questions e-mailed to her.
Later Wednesday, a civil liberties organization representing the family released a statement, calling the incident in which 8-year-old Maxham Elementary School second-grader Jalen Cromwell’s drawing was deemed inappropriate an “overreaction by school officials.”
The boy’s father, Chester Johnson, stayed inside his Oak Street apartment Wednesday, deferring all media inquiries to a spokesperson at the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit international civil liberties legal group based in Charlottesville, Va. The group specializes in defending constitutional and religious rights.
In a news release, Rutherford’s President, John Whitehead, asserted the student “was allegedly forced by school officials to undergo psychological evaluations. ... The psychological damage to this family is appalling."
According to the Rutherford Institute's statement:
In a letter to the superintendent of the Taunton Public Schools, Institute attorneys pointed out that the effective suspension of Jalen from school deprived him and his parents of their constitutional rights to due process and punished Jalen for engaging in expressive activity protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In light of the fact that this incident has made Jalen's continued attendance at Maxham School untenable, Institute attorneys have also requested that the school arrange for Jalen to be transferred to an out-of-district school and for his parents to be compensated for the associated transportation costs.
Notice, no "war on Christmas" rhetoric there, or elsewhere in the Institute's press release. So this Kevin Cullen column in the Boston Globe completely misses the point. Although the religious aspect of the controversy is unavoidable, the First Amendment implications are secondary (perhaps that's why it's mentioned second in the paragraph above). The problem is how school officials reacted -- or overreacted.
Oh, mama. The Iron Man 2 trailer is out. Geek Tyrant, as always, has the scoop. We've got Tony Stark doing what Tony Stark does. We've got Whiplash -- I was a big fan of the comic, but I never realized Whiplash was quite so... foreign. We have a glimpse of Nick Fury. We have Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, for no discernible reason. We have Whiplash doing what Whiplash does. And we have... War Machine.
Oh, yeah. I couldn't wait for the first one. I really can't wait for the second.
Update: Joel says, "for once, I’ve got nothing snarky to say." But he does have video of Robert Downey Jr. doing something horrible.