Another reason to put this year behind us? Mullah Omar and co. says 2009 was a "successful" year. "The enemy does not have a constant policy," an unsigned statement said, according to CNN. "Sometimes they talk about sending more soldiers and other times they speak of an early withdrawal. Their thinking is irrational."
Oh, yeah? Well, tell it to the Marines.
Hawaii's ABC affiliate, KITV, reported a few hours ago that conservative radio talk show giant Rush Limbaugh "was rushed to a Honolulu hospital on Wednesday afternoon with chest pains."
According to the story:
Paramedics responded to the call at 2:41 p.m. at the Kahala Hotel and Resort.
Limbaugh suffered from chest pains, sources said. Paramedics treated him and took him to Queen's Medical Center in serious condition.
He was seen golfing at Waialae Country Club earlier this week. The country club is next to the Kahala Hotel and Resort.
The radio show host had been in the islands during the holidays. Coincidentally, his visit comes at a time when two of the nation's most powerful Democrats, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are also staying in Hawaii.
So this is the way we do business now. (And it should go without saying that Atrios was right.) Limbaugh has said some terrible, terrible things over the years. Heretical things. Perhaps even -- quelle horreur -- seditious things! He wants Obama to fail, you know. What was interesting about the blow up that followed his remarks earlier this year was the way in which Limbaugh's critics conflated and confused the president of the United States with the country as a whole. Despite what some enlightened minds might think, we really haven't come so far in 200-plus years. There are more than a few Americans who wouldn't object to resurrecting the old English offense of "imagining the King's death."
I'm a conservative, but I'm not as much of a Limbaugh fan as I used to be. I hardly begrudge him his success and I surely respect his influence and reach. On balance, it's probably a good thing that Limbaugh is still on the air.
He'll be fine, in all likelihood. But let us not feign shock and amazement at the boorishness of people who hoped Limbaugh dropped dead on the links this afternoon. I'm not going to lie: I neither mourned nor toasted the death of Senator Ted Kennedy earlier this year, but I'm plenty glad he's gone. Kennedy was an enemy of constitutional government and a menace to liberty. I've no doubt there are many Americans who feel the same way about Rush Limbaugh. They're wrong, of course, but there's really no argument one way or the other. We don't argue anything anymore. We shout, bleat, blort, feel, assert, assume, fulminate, snark, sneer, denounce, declaim and flame.
But argue? No, sir. Argument has long since gone out of style.
I suggested yesterday that the failed Christmas Day Crotch Bombing indicates the bankruptcy of trying to defeat Al Qaeda by occupying Afghanistan. A look at Umar Abdulmutallab's history suggests more along these lines, indicating that his radicalization began ... in Britain. John Burns writes in the Times:
In recent days, officials in Washington and London have said they are focusing on the possibility that his London years, including his possible contacts with radical Muslim groups then, were decisive in turning him toward Islamic extremism.
That view, if confirmed, would offer a stark reaffirmation that Britain, the United States’ closest ally, poses a major threat to American security. Critics say the British security forces have failed to adequately monitor and restrain the Islamic militancy that thrives in the vast network of mosques that serve the nation’s 1.5 million Muslims, and on university campuses across the country where nearly 100,000 of the 500,000 students are Muslims, including many, like Mr. Abdulmutallab, from overseas.
I think it's safe to say we won't be invading and occupying Britain. Nor should we.
There's no silver bullet that will win the "War on Terror." Truth is, it can't be won -- at least, not in the sense that we'll completely deter every radical Muslim who dreams of inflicting damage on the United States. Which is why our investment in fighting that war should be proportionate to what's possible -- and directed toward efforts that have maximum effectiveness. The war in Afghanistan fails the test: tens of thousands of troops spending billions of dollars in a country where fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives are thought to be located. And it's doing nothing to keep Al Qaeda from attempting attacks on America. It's time to bring the troops home and focus on sustainable efforts to reduce and manage the risk of terrorism.
Hard to believe, but our Monkey Comrade and my friend and collaborator Joel Mathis has been plugging away at the Philadelphia Weekly version of his blog, Cup o' Joel, for about a year now. He reached a milestone today with his 1000th post, which deals with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed Christmas Day crotch bombing.
Hmmmm... I believe there may be a column in there somewhere...
Congratulations, Joel, and keep 'em coming.
Christopher Hitchens asks the right questions at gets at the truth about airline "security" at Slate:
The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to "feel safe."
Californians may be pleased to learn that the Legislature passed significantly fewer laws this year than usual, thanks in part to the budget crisis. Hey, we've got another multi-billion dollar deficit brewing for 2010...!
Legislators approved only 872 bills in their 2009 regular session, and just 632 have become or will become law by Jan. 1.
While that may seem like a lot more new laws than we need, it's actually the fewest bills passed, and the fewest signed into law, in more than 40 years.
The biggest reason for the drop-off is money – or the lack thereof. Simply put, most new laws have a price tag, and the state is too broke to afford more than a relative handful.
Still, that didn't keep lawmakers from trying. During 2009's regular session and seven "extraordinary" sessions, they introduced 3,056 bills, proposed constitutional amendments and resolutions – an average of 25.5 per member.
That's about the same number as in 1939, when the state and country were wrestling with the Great Depression.
See... every dark cloud does have a silver lining!
Who knew? Rich Lowry has the details.
All applaud this tree, which is acceptable ... at least until the data can be fudged by the enviro-scolds to frown upon it.
From Lowry's column:
Following it all closely will be the new Christmas scolds, who are as annoying as the old Christmas scolds, except greener. H. L. Mencken famously put down the Puritans — decidedly cool on Christmas celebrations — as people worried that someone, somewhere may be happy. The new Christmas scolds worry that someone, somewhere may be emitting CO2 over a glass of eggnog: Blessed is good, merry is nice, peaceful is advisable — but carbon-neutral is absolutely essential. ...
Ralph Reiland of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review points to a web publication called Alternative Consumer that recommends “A Freegan Christmas.” The festivities will include Christmas trees fashioned out of shopping bags and a celebratory vegetarian meal. No cards and no wrapping paper, of course. Someone captured the spirit of this holiday program long ago, “Bah! Humbug!”
It’s not an endorsement of every Christmas excess to appreciate merrymaking and gestures of generosity. After all, the Magi didn’t necessarily have to travel, or offer their gifts of frankincense and myrrh. That they did points to the ultimate reason for the joyous celebration of the season. Merry Christmas!
Yes. Merry Christmas everyone! I, for one, am enjoying the festive aroma of my natural tree. (For the record: I bought it from the guy on my corner and carried it home on foot. So, out of laziness and happenstance ... I'm "green" this Christmas.)
For there can be no other possible explanation for this:
Or for this:
(Via Gateway Pundit)
Look, I'm not a great fan of a lot of what has passed for political discourse over the past decade. But this Opinionator post by New York Timesman emeritus Timothy Egan is dumber than Hell. Egan argues:
In many ways, the budget vote 16 years ago ushered in the modern era of hyper-partisanship. Right-wing talk radio hosts were just entering their steroid phase, threatening any Republican who voted for a bill that ultimately led to budget surpluses.
And what's more:
From then on, nobody could “respectfully disagree.” Moderates were called wussies, traitors and socialists. When Republicans gained control of everything, the fringe Democratic left took their rhetorical cues from their angry counterparts on the right. This year, things became courser still with the “tea party” extremists, who taught Republicans in Congress how to shout “You lie!” to the president and cast aspersions on something so innocuous as a pep talk to school children.
Finally, on the decision of the Senate Republican caucus to unanimously oppose the Reid health care atrocity:
What the Senate has done this week will not break the economy or cure all that ails a profoundly imperfect health care system. “What we are building here is not a mansion,” said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. “It’s a starter home. But it’s got a great foundation.”
For that, it deserved at least a handful of Republican votes. Can the bill, without its public option, making reforms that many in the G.O.P. advocated in last year’s election, really be so one-sided that not one lone Republican could support it?
I was hoping for a profile in courage, just to signal a truce of sorts during this awful epoch of toxic nastiness. Instead, we got cowardice. But by the rules of political combat dating to 1993, the opposing party can take no other stance.
First, to this notion -- a threadbare cliché, really -- that our politics now are uniquely divisive. Seems to me we've seen far more divisive politics in American history. But can our present troubles really be traced to Phil Gramm in 1993? I think a strong case could be made for Ted Kennedy in 1987. Or it may have been a few years earlier, when Tip O'Neill told the party faithful at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, "The evil is in the White House at the present time..." Or it may have been earlier still. Egan's historical window is much too small, in any event.
Second, on this idea that Republicans are cowards for not voting for this stinker of a bill. By now, thoughts on bipartisanship should be clear. It's more likely that Republicans will chicken out if and when it comes time to fix this mess.
Finally... Well, it really should go without saying, shouldn't it?
The case of three Navy SEALs facing court martial for striking a terrorist captive in custody is the latest story of U.S. servicemen who may have gone too far in the course of fighting America's war against jihadists. But Americans have done much worse than that, Warren Kozak writes in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal:
You don't have to dig too deep to understand that war brings out behavior in people that they would never demonstrate in normal life. In Paul Fussell's moving memoir, "The Boys' Crusade," the former infantryman relates a story about the liberation of Dachau. There were about 120 SS guards who had been captured by the Americans. Even though the Germans were being held at gunpoint, they still had the arrogance—or epic stupidity—to continue to heap verbal abuse and threats on the inmates. Their American guards, thoroughly disgusted by what they had already witnessed in the camp, had seen enough and opened fire on the SS. Some of the remaining SS guards were handed over to the inmates who tore them limb from limb. Another war crime? No doubt. Justified? It depends on your point of view. But before you weigh in, realize that you didn't walk through the camp. You didn't smell it. You didn't witness the obscene horror of the Nazis.
Earlier, Kozak recounts a similar story about German and American POWs during the Battle of the Bulge. "Was the U.S. a lesser country because these GIs weren't arrested? Was the Constitution jeopardized?" he asks. "Somehow it survived."
Perhaps. But no worse for wear?
Men have struggled over the centuries to find a "permanent peace." The League of Nations even made a treaty once. Abolishing war is a folly. But maybe the greater folly is the effort to civilize it.
I'm probably not the best test case for this question based on many of my posts and comments around here, but an article in Science magazine posits that conservatives are "happier" than liberals. Or, at least, residents of "red" states feel happier than residents of "blue" states. The New York Times, riffing in a story about the study, says of to its home-state readers:
It’s rather dismal. If there were a National Happy League, we’d be the New Jersey Nets. We’re No. 51 out of 51 [Ed note: The District of Columbia was polled to get the list to 51].
This is an enormous generalization, but I've long thought that was true — that liberals are grumpier (or at least have less mirth and joy in their lives) than
liberals conservatives — based on anecdotal evidence, my observations of political discourse over many years spanning all sorts of varieties of who is "in power," personal experience, and other reasons I won't get into here ... at least not at this late hour. But, it appears that the polling data says says so, too, when it gauges "Gross National Happiness." As John J. Miller at The Corner says:
One snap conclusion, from scanning the list: Red states are happy, blue states are sad (relatively speaking). Make of this what you will.
And I suspect that we might make something of that conclusion around here. That all said and shared, I'm sure Joel and Khabalox will disagree with that study — and, in fact, insist that the opposite is true — yet still have a joyous Christmas. At least I hope so, because I wish it upon them.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
It's the holidays. Hanukkah is just about over and Christmas is just a few more shopping days away. So what do we decide to talk about? Sedition and liberty during wartime, that's what.
Joel and I had the great pleasure of interviewing University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone about civil liberties and dissent for the latest podcast. Stone takes us on a brief history of seditious libel law and wartime dissent. He compares and contrasts earlier efforts by the government to bend the Constitution in service of war fighting with recent policies by the Bush and Obama administrations. Stone is author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, War and Liberty: An American Dilemma, and Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark.
Among the questions we discuss:
• Is it fair to say Fox News is guilty of sedition?
• Is there a difference between seditious speech and seditious action?
• How does Barack Obama's record on civil liberties compare to George W. Bush's?
• Should John Yoo go to jail?
• Should Yoo be fired from Berkeley?
• What does the War on Terrorism have in common with McCarthyism?
• Which is better: Jailing dissenters or wiretapping phones?
• Is the right to privacy doomed?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Tradition" - Fiddler on the Roof OST
• "For Beginners" - M. Ward
• "Gut Feeling" - Devo
• "I'm Free" - The Rolling Stones
• "Every Breath You Take" - The Bad Plus
• "Freedom of Speech (Watch What You Say)" - Ice T
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.)