Question: Just how relevant is political science? The New York Times ponders the awful reality:
What remains... is a nagging concern that the field is not producing work that matters. “The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less,” said Joseph Nye, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, whose work has been particularly influential among American policy makers. “There are parts of the academy which, in the effort to be scientific, feel we should stay away from policy,” Mr. Nye said, that “it interferes with the science.”
In his view statistical techniques too often determine what kind of research political scientists do, pushing them further into narrow specializations cut off from real-world concerns. The motivation to be precise, Mr. Nye warned, has overtaken the impulse to be relevant.
An obsession with "quantitative" research has all but killed the classic study of politics.
Enter the lawyers. The Troy Record reports that Matthew Whalen's parents have hired an attorney to appeal the 17-year-old Eagle Scout's 20-day suspension from school for keeping a two-inch keychain knife in the trunk of his car.
In general, it is not a good thing when parents hire attorneys to mau mau school administrators into reversing unpopular and controversial disciplinary decisions. But Whalen's case is exceptional, and the school administration's ham-fisted decisions and total lack of judgment was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
From the story:
The family retained Victor DeBonis, a former senior attorney with the state Education Department.
“There are significant procedural deficiencies in how the Lansingburgh School District has handled the suspension,” DeBonis said. “Moreover, the notion that well paid school administrators can avoid their obligation to make reasonable decisions by relying on so called ‘zero tolerance’ policies is anathema to an educational system where we should be teaching students to perform at higher level analytical and problem solving skills.”
DeBonis said he will appeal the 20-day suspension to the Board of Education.
“We hope that the Board of Education will rescind the suspension and expunge Matthew’s record,” he said in a statement.
I agree that the school board needs to intervene. But I don't think it's enough to rescind Whalen's suspension. Superintendent George Goodwin, who works for the board and not the other way around, needs to answer for what he's done.
Update: The Whalens would rather not sue, but they need a lawyer to navigate the process. FoxNews.com adds a few details to the Troy Record's story, including a few enlightening quotes from Matthew Whalen's father, Bryan:
"If (the Lansingburgh board of education) overturn(s) the superintendent's actions and expunge my son's record, I guess we're done," said Bryan Whalen, who said DeBonis filed the appeal Monday morning. "If they don't, then there will be further steps."
Whalen says the school district violated his son's due process by disregarding state education guidelines when they suspended him. Whalen said he received written notification of the suspension six days too late, according to state law.
The high school senior has nearly completed the term of his suspension, but Whalen's family hopes to have his record cleared by the time the teen applies to the U.S. Military Academy.
"It should be just reversed and expunged because it was just wrong — procedurally they did everything they could do wrong," the father said.
If the board refuses their appeal, he plans to press his case with the state's education commissioner. He said he hopes to avoid a lawsuit, which would have to prove concrete damages, a difficult and costly option for the family.
George Goodwin is the superintendent of the Lansingburgh Central School District in Troy, NY. Goodwin is responsible for sustaining the decision by Lansingburgh High School administrators to suspend 17-year-old senior, Eagle Scout and national guardsman Matthew Whalen for possessing a two-inch keychain knife -- a knife that New York state law does not recognize as a weapon and that was locked up in the trunk of Whalen's car.
Goodwin is also a very unreasonable man. His intransigence may cost Troy's taxpayers some money as Whalen's parents have reversed course and decided to sue the school district over its mindless, insipid zero-tolerance policy.
(Update: The Whalens have hired an attorney.)
A profile on FoxNews.com describes Goodwin as "Mr. Zero Tolerance" and notes that the 55-year-old bureaucrat is "unwilling to speak to the teen's family or bend in his ruling."
Goodwin apparently won't even say hello to Whalen, who is reporting to the school district office every day for 90-minutes of tutoring for the duration of his 20-day suspension. Whalen was initially suspended for five days, but Goodwin approved the additional 15-day punishment after listening to a tape of a "superintendent's hearing" where the high school principle heard the student's case.
Naturally, the Whalen family is livid not just about the punishment but Goodwin's shabby and insulting handling of the case:
The ruling from Goodwin has outraged Whalen's family, which said if district officials are unable to use their own judgment, their roles aren't necessary.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for some intelligence on the part of administrators to use discretion and judgment in their daily decisions," said Bryan Whalen. "Otherwise, what are we paying them for?
"You could have a trained monkey or a computer sitting there just spitting out right and wrong and never any gray areas. That's just not the way the world works," he told Foxnews.com.
I think that's an insult to monkeys, actually.
So... what else do we know about George Goodwin? I couldn't find much about him at the Troy Record, but the Albany Times-Union had a bit more. He's been with the district for nearly 15 years, serving as assistant superintendent until 2007, when he took over for Lee Bordick, who retired after 22 years on the job. Goodwin was one of six candidates for the job, which pays a respectable $140,000 a year.
According to a Times-Union story published at the time of his promotion in 2007:
Goodwin joined the district in 1995 as assistant superintendent. Before coming to Lansingburgh, he was principal of Dansville High School and Hilton High School and assistant principal of Spencerport High School, all in the Rochester area. Before moving into administration, he was a mathematics teacher and program coordinator in the Buffalo City Schools.
A native of Buffalo, Goodwin earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics education from the State University College at Buffalo, a master's degree from State University at Buffalo and a school district administrator certification from the State University College at Brockport.
Until this week, the most controversial issue Goodwin had to deal with was a controversy surrounding Landingsburgh High School's football team. Seems like he's out of his depth.
Here is George Goodwin's contact information. Please consider dropping him a line expressing your respectful disagreement with his mindless decision.
Mr. George J. Goodwin
Superintendent of Schools
Lansingburgh Central School District
576 Fifth Avenue
Troy, New York 12182
Phone: (518) 233-6850 Ext. 3400
Fax: (518) 235-7436
But the problem isn't just Goodwin, of course. It's the school board to which Goodwin is supposed to be accountable. An earlier story noted how one member of the board, reached at home, deferred all press inquiries to the superintendent. And the president of the board has said she cannot comment on the discipline of an individual. The question is no longer what the board intends to do about Matthew Whalen but rather what does the board intend to do about George Goodwin?
Here is the current membership of the Lansingburgh Board of Education:
• Mrs. Mary Sweeney, President
• Mrs. Susan Farrell, Vice President
• Mrs. Hilary McGrath
• Mr. P.J. Higgitt
• Mrs. Bonnie Lance
• Mrs. Karlene Gamble
• Mr. Edward McDonough
• Mr. Jason Shover
• Mrs. Kelley Bristol
The board is scheduled to meet next on October 27. Should be a lively one.
This was originally just going to be a comment beneath the previous Rush and the Rams thread, but I started to babble on, so now it's a full post. Concerning previous comments that (roughly) this is the "free market" at work, Rush has no right to own an NFL team, etc. ... Ramesh Ponnuru gets to the crux of the matter, and why it's outrageous, at The Washington Post's forum:
In his gleeful column about Limbaugh's failed attempt to become an owner of the Rams, Eugene Robinson writes: "In announcing that Limbaugh was no longer associated with his bid for the Rams, Checketts said it was 'clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction.' That's the way the free market works in this great country of ours. I know that Rush will join me in a chorus of 'God Bless America.'"
Nice try. Since nobody is talking about using government regulation to keep Limbaugh from suffering from a smear campaign or its fallout, conservatives' belief in the free market is entirely irrelevant to the controversy. (People acting under no government compulsion make foolish and even wicked decisions all the time. Has any conservative ever denied this obvious truth?)
Conservatives' criticism has been directed at the invented quotes that much of the media have used to portray Limbaugh as a racist: the vile claims that he approved the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and favors slavery. Incredibly, Robinson does not mention these journalistic fabrications.
And it's much the most interesting facet of this story. Much of the press was willing to believe that Limbaugh believes these hateful things, and even broadcast them--and that millions of American conservatives listen daily to this type of filth. This is what a lot of liberal journalists think about their conservative fellow citizens. Is it any wonder their coverage is so frequently unfair?
As Limbaugh himself noted on his radio show yesterday, this is not really even about him. He is just a conduit for the liberal establishment's attack on conservatism, which they believe to be racist at its core. Whether or not most liberals actually believe that, the leading lights of liberalism that get on news chat shows and write columns are quick use race as a club to shut down debate and discredit their political opponents. One look no farther than attempts to portray criticism of Obama as having no grounding in principle, but in racism.
As but the latest example, Michael Wilbon, a sports columnist I used to greatly admire in The Washington Post, did not use his column yesterday to walk back from his unfair characterization of Rush. Instead, he doubled down.
But Limbaugh has [a] long history of the same insults and race baiting, to the point of declaring he hoped the president of the United States, a black man, fails. I never understood why someone with Limbaugh's gift for communication was so nasty and, in my opinion, gave cover to bigots everywhere under the guise of conservatism. Clearly, I'm not alone.
So ... Limbaugh, as principled a conservative as you can find — one who even opposed John McCain for president (until the only other option was Obama) — opposes the ultra-liberal Obama because he is black. Must be the only explanation. (Sigh.) This from a man who admits he doesn't listen to Limbaugh — but everyone he knows tells him that Rush is a racist, so it must be true. (How much do you want to bet Wilbon has few if any friends who have listened non-stop to a single hour of Rush's show, let alone a week's worth?)
Certainly, Rush Limbaugh does not have a "right" to be a minority owner of an NFL team. And there is no "right" that protects him from being unfairly called a racist (though libel laws do give him the right to seek judicial punishment for the slander). Yet we should all agree that what has happened to him this week was a terrible wrong. In a just society, those who peddled the lies about what Rush said should be thumped out of the public commentariat. There are no accusations more damning in American society than to be unfairly portrayed as a racist, especially if one makes his living as a public commentator. And to be falsely accused of saying on the air that the assassin of MLK deserves a Medal of Honor? To say that slavery "wasn't all bad"? Egad! Yet I've heard no one who peddled those vicious libel fully take it back (Excising the quotes from stories with an "editor's note" stating Limbaugh "claims" he never said it, or that it can't be proven is almost as shameful as the original smear).
Of course, the two loudest howlers against Rush — Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — continue to enjoy fawning media attention despite their own long history of race hustling and perpetuating mythical "race crimes" (See: Rape Case, Duke Lacrosse; Brawley, Tawana). They are never even asked to apologize, let alone have it in them to do it.
So, yes. My wish is about as likely to come true as I am to be signed by an NFL team. But I will cling to it nonetheless.
If only a majority of the Federal Communications Commission believed as Robert McDowell does. The headline above is a paraphrase, but gets the gist of what McDowell said at The Heritage Foundation's "Bloggers Briefing" Tuesday morning (I listened in).
Anyone who likes the Internet as it is now, and would like to see even more innovation and investment in the future, needs to get hip to the arcane subject of "net neutrality." In short, the FCC is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist so it can regulate the Web from both ends — content creation and its delivery to all of us. I write about this issue extensively for The Heartland Institute, and in fact have recently completed a policy study on the subject. Click here if you're interested in a pretty thorough run-down. I've also done some radio spots talking about this subject here and here.
Anyway, by late spring or early summer of 2010, the FCC will very likely be micromanaging the Internet when a sweeping net neutrality rule is officially adopted. Here are some highlights from McDowell's almost hour-long talk — of which I posted at more length at the From the Heartland blog.
McDowell questions whether the FCC even has the authority to regulate the Internet by imposing net neutrality rules — and is especially concerned that new chairman Julius Genachowski intends to put net neutrality in the commission's "broad .. Title I bucket." ... (Click on "Read more" beneath the icons below for more.)
The Washington Times published a pretty good editorial Tuesday on the Matthew Whalen case. I was only vaguely aware of the federal angle:
Zero-tolerance policies, initiated on the federal level by the Gun-Free Schools Act, have spawned a national wave of perversity. Thanks to zero-tolerance overenforcement, youngsters have faced disciplinary action for bringing Midol to school. In some cities, kindergartners by the dozen have been suspended for infractions that used to require a phone call to parents - at most.
The New York Times reported that an 11-year old died of asthma because of a bureaucratic snafu caused by his school's drug policy, a problem that still keeps some students from having easy access to lifesaving medicine.
If it were allowed in our schools, a little common sense could solve most problems without making a federal case out of everything. As long as zero-tolerance rules remain, the only lesson students will learn is that too many adults are afraid to think for themselves.
(Update, Sunday, 11/22/09: No vindication. The Lansingburgh Board of Education affirmed Whalen's suspension. Whalen's parents plan to appeal to the state. Read more here.)
(Update, Monday, 10/19/09: The Whalens have hired an attorney.)
(Update, Friday, 10/16/09: Superintendent George Goodwin digs in; Whalens plan to sue.)
Things worked out more or less fine for Zachary Christie, the Delaware first-grader who fell afoul of his school district's mindless, insipid "zero-tolerance" policy when the young Cub Scout brought a camping tool to his school.
But a 17-year-old Lansingburgh, NY, student faces "a rough road ahead" with his high school's stubborn, robotic administrators and -- perhaps -- the by-the-book bureaucrats in charge of admissions at West Point.
As I noted earlier, Matthew Whalen was suspended under his school's mindless, insipid "zero-tolerance" policy for having a two-inch knife in a survival kit the Eagle Scout kept locked up in his car. According to Fox News:
As a 17-year-old Eagle Scout continues to wait out a one-month suspension from his upstate New York high school for having a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car, the U.S. Military Academy says the missed school days could pose a big problem when it reviews his application.
Pressure is mounting on a Troy, N.Y., school board to overrule Matthew Whalen's suspension from Lansingburgh High School, which was issued because of a zero-tolerance policy that is facing increasing opposition from parents and education advocates.
On Wednesday, West Point's director of admissions told Foxnews.com that Whalen's suspension alone wouldn't be a "show-stopper" and "didn't appear to be a big issue" for the youth, though it will appear on his record as the military academy considers his moral and ethical fiber.
"My concern would be, how does this impact on his academics?" said Col. Deborah McDonald, the academy's head of admissions. "Because 20 (school) days is a long time to be suspended."
But the Lansingburgh School District is not budging. A person reached at the home of a school board member referred all calls to the superintendent, who told a local newspaper he thinks the punishment was "appropriate and fair," and that it was necessary for the district to enforce its zero-tolerance policy evenly.
"Sometimes young people do things they may not see as serious," Superintendent George Goodwin told the Albany Times-Union. "We look at any possession of any type of knife as serious."
The lede on the story is somewhat misleading. The suspension "could pose a big problem," not because of the actual offense but rather because Whalen will miss a full month's worth of work that he will not be allowed to make up. Be that as it may, Matthew Whalen's life will be a lot more difficult in the coming months because of this dumb flap.
In other circumstances, the headline on this post might be "They can give you a gun and a badge, but they can't give you good judgment." But the police -- in this case, young Whalen's grandfather -- have displayed a great deal of common sense.
“I understand policies — I enforce them myself — but there’s common sense and I feel that common sense wasn’t used here,” Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Whalen told the Troy (NY) Record News. The elder Whalen said he was particularly “irked” at the additional 15-day suspension that administrators piled on top of the original five days that assistant principal Frank Macri had given. “I’m ashamed of Lansingburgh for taking it that far.”
Goodwin, the school district superintendent, told the Albany Times-Union "he is open to the possibility of contacting West Point to ensure that the incident does not affect Whalen's chances of admission."
Not good enough. What's the use of eyes if you refuse to see? What's the use of ears if you don't listen? And what's the use of a brain if you don't think? Instead of using sound judgment, school district officials are closing ranks and insist on defending the indefensible.
"In the past 200 years, America's gotten by just fine without zero tolerance," young Whalen said. "Why do New York state schools have to have it?"
Why do any schools have it? Set clear rules and apply good judgment fairly. Punish the guilty and admonish those guilty of little more than minor transgressions. Use your intelligence, for goodness sake. And if you lack intelligence, you shouldn't be in the "education" business or earning your living on the backs of the taxpayer.
Update: If Matthew Whalen doesn't get into West Point, it will be on his merits and not because George Goodwin is a soulless bureaucratic automaton. According to Albany's WTEN News (via the Washington Times's Water Cooler blog):
The military academy he's wanted to attend since first grade has told Matthew not to worry.
"The Director of Admissions at West Point called and told me that this would be a non-issue for my application there," Matthew says. That's no guarantee that he'll be accepted, but Matthew says it's an assurance that the suspension won't be the reason he doesn't get into the school.
A note about soulless bureaucratic automaton George Goodwin, the superintendent of Lansingburgh School District. The best that might be said of Mr. Goodwin is he only wants to do what's best for the staff, teachers and students under his supervision. The Albany Times-Union story to which I linked above paraphrases Goodwin explaining "the district has to equally enforce its zero-tolerance policy, even for students like Whalen who don't have any past record of misbehavior." And there is Goodwin's quote about what young people may or may not take seriously.
We're talking about a two-inch knife. I carry one from time to time. My father has kept one in his pocket for 25 years. It comes in handy for all sorts of things. A weapon isn't one of them. In fact, New York state law doesn't consider a knife like that to be a weapon.
So the knife is harmless and Whelan wasn't even carrying it. No police officer would arrest Whelan for carrying that knife. No reasonable person would consider Whelan's knife to be threatening or a risk to school safety. Which leads us to the conclusion that Lansingburgh's policy is unreasonable and Goodwin is not a reasonable man.
I don't care what Goodwin's intentions were or what his rationale may be. I don't care if he's a good man, or a caring husband or father -- I don't even know if he is married or has children. But I can see that such a man has no business overseeing schools in the public trust. Let him find gainful employment in the private sector. The bureaucracy is just as idiotic, only more limited in the harm it can do.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not sign, but did not veto, AB962, the Mail Order Ammo Ban. Since California has no pocket veto, that means the bill becomes law without his signature.
This means that, as of 1 Feb 2011, all handgun ammunition sales in California will require a face-to-face transaction between buyer and seller, and sellers will have to obtain a thumbprint and other data from the buyer.
Is this what you meant in a personal email about how hard it is to get 9mm ammo, or is that a separate issue? And is this a big deal?
Forgive all the "uhms" I commit in this interview. I must work on that!
Anyway, I was honored to be a guest on American Journal Radio, to talk about Net Neutrality, and the danger it poses to Internet freedom by the imposition of government regulation of the Web.
To listen to me speak (I lead off the show), click on the American Journal Radio's home page and then on the "Steaming Download" window on the right column, then be sure to click on Oct. 8 edition of the program.
With Halloween a couple of weeks away, we decided to take a break from horrifying politics and terrifying public policies to talk about merely scary movies. In this edition of the podcast, Christian Toto (WhatWouldTotoWatch), Matt Prigge (Philadelphia Weekly), and Jason Snell (Macworld) join Ben and Joel to talk about what's awfully good entertainment and compile a list of 15 fine and frightening flicks for October 31.
Among the Burning Questions we discuss:
• Can a non-horror fan enjoy horror movies?
• What makes a real horror fan?
• Are the best horror movies the least explicit?
• Who is the target audience for scary movies nowadays? (Hint: It isn't young men ages 18-35 anymore.)
• Why do we like George Romero so much?
Music heard in this podcast:
• The Horror - RJD2
• Roar! (from Cloverfield) - Michael Giacchino
• The Crawlers Attack (from The Descent) - David Julyan
• I Walked with a Zombie - Roky Erickson and the Aliens
• Partytime (from Return of the Living Dead) - 45 Grave
• The Shining (Main Theme) - City of Prague Philharmonic
• Psycho Suite - Bernard Herrmann/Elmer Bernstein
• The Gonk (from Dawn of the Dead) - Herbert Chappell
• Monster - Peter Thomas Sound Orchester
So much for my get out of debt plan.
A friend of mine who lives in the Washington, DC area recently moved from Maryland to Virginia. His reason: Maryland is for the birds, run by idiots and the taxes are too high. It's hard to read this story and not see that my buddy had a point:
KENSINGTON, Md. - Public parks are usually the places where children go to have fun. But the town of Kensington just passed a new rule that bans kids over five years old from playgrounds during the daytime.
"It's like a sad children's story," said Joe McPherson, headmaster of the Brookewood School.
But it's no fable. The girls at Kensington's Brookewood School are banned from using a public park right across the street for recess.
"I don't think it's really fair because we're part of the community too and we want to play in the park," said Jill Collins, a fifth-grade student.
Silly girl. Don't you realize that you're not really "part of the community," because your parents send you to private school.
Brookewood's headmaster tells ABC 7 News it's a public park for all too use but Kensington's mayor disagrees. By phone he said the park is for taxpaying citizens — not abuse by a private non-profit school.
I wonder what the Obamas, who send their kids to private school, think about such reasoning. "Abuse" of the park by 5th graders? Seriously. The mayor wanted the school to pay $4,000 for annual "maintenance" fees for the right of the kids to use the "public" park. The school said it could help with trash pick-up and lay down some mulch, but since the non-profit school doesn't have the funds in its budget, it can't pay the fee. Too bad. The park is now off-limits to the Brookewood kids — and sits empty and unused during the day.
This is asinine on so many levels, it's hard to keep track. For one, presuming the majority of the kids at Brookewood are local residents, they already pay taxes to the city and there is no justification for keeping them out of the park. It is also ridiculous to say that public school kids can use the park while private school kids can't. Public school funds are not spent on upkeep at the park, the city's general fund is.
Also, suburban DC, like Southern California, has a pretty healthy population of illegal immigrants. Yet if someone suggested that the public schools (let alone the public parks) should be for legal tax-paying residents only, and not illegal immigrants, they'd be run out of town on a rail — and be called racist to boot.
This looks like pure bias by the government against a non-government school in a city run by idiots. And if Kensington voters had any sense, they'd vote all these bums out at the next opportunity for this affront.
That's what the Detroit News' Henry Payne called this morning's scene in the Motor City when a near riot broke out over "free" stimulus money was given away to help residents pay their bills. Several people were hospitalized after a stampede erupted over the applications for money.
“This morning, I seen the curtain pulled back on the misery,” Detroiter Walter Williams, 51, said. “People fighting over a line. People threatening to shoot each other. Is this what we’ve come to?”
Yes. It is what we've come to when Americans settle into a mindset that they are wards of the state and not free, self-reliant individuals.
Anyone who suggested the radical domestic terrorist Bill Ayers wrote "Dreams" for Obama was promptly labeled a right-wing crank — even by fellow right-wingers. I don't know how I missed this until now, but apparently Ayers has admitted to writing the book at least twice in the last week. From The Hill:
First, here's how Ayers responded to a question on the matter from National Journal:
National Journal caught up with Ayers at a recent book festival where he was exhorting a small crowd of listeners to remember that they are citizens, not subjects. "Open your eyes," he said. "Pay attention. Be astonished. Act, and doubt." When he finished speaking, we put the authorship question right to him. For a split second, Ayers was nonplussed. Then an Abbie Hoffmanish, steal-this-book-sort-of-smile lit up his face. He gently took National Journal by the arm. "Here's what I'm going to say. This is my quote. Be sure to write it down: 'Yes, I wrote Dreams From My Father. I ghostwrote the whole thing. I met with the president three or four times, and then I wrote the entire book.'" He released National Journal's arm, and beamed in Marxist triumph. "And now I would like the royalties."
Second, here's an encounter between Ayers and a conservative blogger:
But he didn’t scowl, and didn’t run off as he has been known to do. Instead, unprompted, he blurted out: “I wrote ‘Dreams From My Father… Michelle asked me to.” Then he added “And if you can prove it we can split the royalties.”
Anne responded, “Stop pulling my leg!”
But he repeated insistently, “I wrote it, the wording was similar [to Ayers’ other writing.]”
Anne responded, “I believe you probably heavily edited it.”
Ayers stated firmly, “I wrote it.”
Now, is this a case where we should take what Ayres says at face value? Hard to say, though I'm inclined to say "yes." After all, Obama during the campaign expressed in plain words his plans to "transform" the country. And while conservatives tried to draw attention to his leftist plans to redistribute wealth, "reform" energy so that our bills would "necessarily skyrocket," etc., the MSM downplayed such statements and portrayed Obama as a "moderate." Ayers, too, should probably be taken at his word.
If true, I agree with Jonah. This is a big deal — not that I expect the MSM or the White House Press Corps to pursue the story.
Anyway, for a look at a pre-Ayers-admission investigation of the book's true authorship, go to Jack Cashill's work at The American Thinker.
I know we're supposed to laugh ruefully at correspondents like this, but I can't help but wonder if Jonah Goldberg sometimes wishes he could force feed these people the works of J.L. Talmon. Is that wrong? (Hey, I read Talmon in college... didn't you?)
I was on this story weeks ago fulfilling my duties for The Heartland Institute. We published a story about it in the October edition of Infotech & Telecom News. So it's good to see the MSM get on the train, though after the Federal Trade Commission had already issued rules regulating bloggers.
The Federal Trade Commission will try to regulate blogging for the first time, requiring writers on the Web to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.
The FTC said Monday its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final Web guidelines, which had been expected. Violating the rules, which take effect Dec. 1, could bring fines up to $11,000 per violation. Bloggers or advertisers also could face injunctions and be ordered to reimburse consumers for financial losses stemming from inappropriate product reviews.
How absurd and overreaching is this? If, say, a blogger got a free product from some manufacturer — or even a review copy of a book — and that blogger offered his opinion, a punitive fine comes down from Uncle Sam if the blogger does not disclose how that product landed in his or her hands. I'm no lawyer, but the "reimburse consumers for financial losses" clause seems to be an open-ended sop to the trial bar. And how does one know he's disclosed enough information to satisfy the Web's minders? Well ... that's up in the air. But you'd better not screw up.
The commission stopped short of specifying how bloggers must disclose conflicts of interest. Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC's advertising practices division, said the disclosure must be "clear and conspicuous," no matter what form it will take.
So ... it will be up to the FTC to decide of a blogger's "disclosure" was "clear and conspicuous" enough. Nice. And if you and the FTC see things differently (a guarantee), prepare to answer this question: Is it cheaper to pay the up-to $11,000 fine for each "offense," or the services of a lawyer to defend your right to offer your opinion on the Web? This bit of nonsense from the Fox News story really irritates me, since I've worked in newspapers most of my nearly 20-year journalism career:
Bloggers have long praised or panned products and services online. But what some consumers might not know is that many companies pay reviewers for their write-ups or give them free products such as toys or computers or trips to Disneyland. In contrast, at traditional journalism outlets, products borrowed for reviews generally have to be returned. [emphasis mine].
(Kindly click Read more beneath the icons below to ... well ... read more. I get on a roll.)
The word never appears -- the rather laborious term "overcriminalization" is the preferred locution -- but I think the Heritage Foundation's Brian Walsh describes a bona fide example in the Washington Times today:
"You don't need to know. You can't know." That's what Kathy Norris, a 60-year-old grandmother of eight, was told when she tried to ask court officials why, the day before, federal agents had subjected her home to a furious search.
The agents who spent half a day ransacking Mrs. Norris' longtime home in Spring, Texas, answered no questions while they emptied file cabinets, pulled books off shelves, rifled through drawers and closets, and threw the contents on the floor.
The six agents, wearing SWAT gear and carrying weapons, were with - get this - the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Kathy and George Norris lived under the specter of a covert government investigation for almost six months before the government unsealed a secret indictment and revealed why the Fish and Wildlife Service had treated their family home as if it were a training base for suspected terrorists. Orchids.
That's right. Orchids.
Walsh goes on to discuss the latest gestures from Congress to address the longstanding problem of an overabundance of federal crimes on the books. The solution is far from clear. Is there a repeal session in the offing? Seems doubtful. Congress has held a couple of hearings this year. So what? Hearings have the virtue of putting the excesses of federal law enforcement on the record, and little else. But what does Congress plan to do about it? George Norris spent two years in a federal prison for his "crimes." He's now almost 72 years old and ruined. And his story is hardly unique.
The Cato Institute's Timothy Lynch testified on behalf of "a clean line between lawful conduct and unlawful conduct." Obviously. And yet it isn't so obvious to federal officials -- or the men and women who wrote the laws in the first place.
In the now-public "flap" between Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the Obama administration on what may constitute a winning strategy in Afghanistan, I think it best to stand on the sidelines — at least for now. I'm inclined to think Gens. McCrystal and Petraeus have better ideas than, say, Joe Biden. But we have a military structure in this country in which generals may advise, but civilian authorities make the call. The public leaks of McCrystal's views and his public statements which clearly advocate instead of advise a course of action comes close to being inappropriate.
What I find interesting is the way some liberals are chiding McCrystal for crossing some "line" here. As Mackubin Thomas Owens reminds us at The Corner today.
What is really interesting about this whole affair is the reversal of elite opinion. When leaks indicated that the some of the uniformed military were critical of the conduct of the Iraq war under George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, those critics were seen as necessarily speaking truth to power. David Ignatius of the Washington Post argued that the military needed a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who would “push back” against Rumsfeld and the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq. The always entertaining Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wondered why Bush refused to take advice from his much more experienced and clear-headed uniformed officers. And one genius at the Huffington Post even called upon the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “relieve” Bush as commander in chief for dereliction of duty. Only Bush hatred could get the lefty blogosphere to call for a military coup.
Heh. Good line, that last one. Of course, Bush did take the advice of his "clear-headed uniformed officers" — but he chose to listen to Gen. David Petraeus, who wanted to win in Iraq, not figure out a way to carry out an "honorable" retreat. Suddenly the line of the liberal elite changed from "follow the general" to to "follow the advice of a blue ribbon panel of experts that say we need to get out, not double down, in Iraq!" As we all know, Petraeus was right and the surge worked even better than could be hoped when implemented.
The difference between what Bush faced in fighting this war and what Obama faces is that Obama has a lot more information about what works and what doesn't. The "light footprint" strategy in Iraq seemed the best course at the time, but created many problems — problems the surge eventually fixed. But Bush and our military commanders had to figure that out on the fly.
Today, Obama has a choice: Listen to generals who suggest strategies proven to work, or rely on the vast military experience of yourself and Joe Biden to devise a strategy in Afghanistan. If I were a liberal wanting my president to succeed, I'd be reproducing all those "listen to the generals" columns from 2005. As an American, I want my president to succeed in Afghanistan. And I think he should listen to McCrystal.
It was my honor to be on the G. Gordon Liddy Show Friday, Oct. 1. We talked about the FCC's attempt to more strictly regulate the Internet — which is not a good idea, for many reasons.
CLICK HERE and a new window playing the MP3 should open.
(Welcome Corner readers by way of No Left Turns. It's a long interview, but worthwhile. Download the file, pour a cup of coffee and enjoy.)
Steven F. Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980-1989 and a stirring op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post, "Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?" joins Ben and Joel for this edition of the podcast.
Among the Big Questions we discuss:
• Who are we? What do we stand for? What's it all about, man?
• Is conservatism brain dead?
• Can constitutionalism save the country?
• Was George W. Bush a superficial Reaganite?
• Could Reagan pass a conservative purity test?
• Is Sam Tanenhaus all wet about Edmund Burke?
• Is Glenn Beck just a high-brow Morton Downey Jr.?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "1976" - RJD2
• "Shot in the Dark" - RJD2
• "Clean Living" - RJD2
• "Disconnected" - RJD2
• "Making Days Longer" - RJD2
• "A Beautiful Mine" - RJD2
Unlike fellow comedian Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock has no hesitation to call what Roman Polanski did evil and wrong. No distinction between "rape" and "rape-rape" for him.
Oh, and it's hilarious. (You might have to hit the "play" button twice, but it will play).
Believe me. There's a reason why I haven't waded far into Joel's latest Afghanistan post. I have an aversion to taking friendly fire, and Khabalox and ronaldlau are letting loose with the ordnance. I'll leave that fight to them (and it's an interesting one to observe from the safety of the bunker).
At any rate, I think the lead to Jonah Goldberg's latest column addresses well some of the issues Joel, Khabalox and Ron have been bandying about. The column isn't really focused on the Afghan theater; it's more about Obama's supposed love of "pragmatism" in general. But here's a bit that I agree with and think applies to the debate on Joel's posts:
"When John McCain said we could just ‘muddle through’ in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights,” Barack Obama thundered as he accepted the Democratic nomination for president in Denver last year. “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell. But he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.”
It was a shabby bit of rhetoric, even for a campaign. Insinuating that McCain, of all people, didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to take the fight to bin Laden was not only absurd on its face, it smacked of overcompensation coming from the former community organizer whose greatest foreign-policy passion prior to his presidential bid had been nuclear disarmament.
But the line did what it needed to do: communicate that Obama had the sort of true grit required to fight the good, i.e. popular, war in Afghanistan. That war may or may not be good anymore, but it is most certainly not popular. And so what was for Obama a “war of necessity” has become a de facto war of choice. At least that’s the sense one gets as the president is suddenly searching for a politically palatable strategy other than the one he announced months ago.
Say what you want about Bush. But he was serious about fighting the war on terror, no matter the political cost. People seem to have forgotten that Bush's decision to implement "the surge" was mocked in every corner of America's liberal establishment (and even among some conservatives and previously reliable Bush allies). "But that's not what the special 'Blue Ribbon' panel recommended," the naysayers said. Yet Bush pulled off what was once considered impossible: Stabilizing Iraq — i.e. "winning" before leaving office, or at least all-but-closing that front in the war against al-Qaida, which entered Iraq expecting victory and American retreat and got slaughtered instead. The enemy has since shifted strategies and have retreated to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Anyway, I think Jonah's right that Obama is now making political calculations while contemplating what to do in Afghanistan, and not deciding what is best tactically from a military perspective and in the interests of national security — or at least what Obama himself said was essential to national security less than a year ago as a candidate. The enemy is confronting Obama in that theater just as they confronted Bush in Iraq. We'll see in good time how Obama responds, and will eventually be able to fairly judge our president's performance. I wish Obama wisdom and success.
As an aside, Khabalox. Seriously. Could you have picked a harder user name to remember to spell correctly? Thank God you comment so often so I can simply cut and paste. I enjoy corresponding with you and I'll get it eventually ... but still :-)
Big news on the gun-rights front today. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case (McDonald v. Chicago) challenging the Windy City's ordinance banning individuals from owning handguns. And unlike when SCOTUS took a case challenging the District of Columbia's handgun ban, which concerned only federal laws (District of Columbia v. Heller), this decision is expected to be sweeping.
In other words, SCOTUS may finally decide whether gun ownership is a personal right that no level of government may "reasonably" abridge (i.e. banning bazooka's would still be OK, but banning Glocks would not be OK). From the superbly written and detailed Chicago Tribune story:
Kindly click the "read more" button beneath the row of icons below
I remember taking part in a patriotic pageant in grade school as a kid around Independence Day some time in the late 70s. I was honored with exclaiming Patrick Henry's historic line: "Give me liberty, or give me death."
Such exercises are essential to instilling in our youth the spirit of the Revolution and the Founding Father's notion of liberty. It is not an exaggeration to say that moment in my youth, as well as being a Boy Scout, helped instill a sense of patriotism that has not yet left me — and never will.
It seems there is a new version of patriotism being taught in our public schools. And it centers on the Cult of Obama. If you're not creeped out by this, then there is something wrong with you. I actually got chills hearing these moppets shout in unison:
CHANGE HAS COME! CHANGE HAS COME! ...
STUDY! WATCH! LEARN! KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN! ...
EDUCATION IS THE KEY! EDUCATION IS THE SECRET! EDUCATION IS THE WAY! EDUCATION IS THE PATH! ...
YES! ... YES WE CAN!
YES! ... YES WE CAN!!!
Watch for yourself.
What the hell is going on in this country?
A Washington Post Headline blared Thursday:
Environmentalists Seek to Wipe Out Plush Toilet Paper
Sometimes I see stories like this one and wonder if these positions are taken by fake green-weenie organizations to undermine the real green weenie organizations. Apparently, though, it's legit. And even The Washington Post is having fun with it. The cheeky subhead (Oops! Couldn't resist.):
Soft Toilet Paper's Hard on the Earth But Will We Sit for the Alternative?
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! Nice one. But let's get right to the joke-a-plenty news!
ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — There is a battle for America's behinds.
It is a fight over toilet paper: the kind that is blanket-fluffy and getting fluffier so fast that manufacturers are running out of synonyms for "soft" (Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is the first big brand to go three-ply and three-adjective).
It's a menace, environmental groups say — and a dark-comedy example of American excess.
Good Lord! I can understand the Hummer and SUVs in general being held up as an "an example of American excess" — though I'm among the vast majority of Americans who feel no social shame or global guilt because of such examples. Fact is, most of the world aspires to such "excess." Good for them. Prosperity for all. But holding up soft toilet paper as an "example of American excess"? Calling it "a menace"? That's nuts, right? Yet if you click through the link and read the story, an environmental activist actually does compare using soft TP to driving a Hummer. Like I said, it's as if this story was planted by a nefarious group trying to undermine the green movement.
Fear not, however. The green weenies have their reasons to oppose the scourge of two-ply, quilted bath tissue:
The reason, they say, is that plush U.S. toilet paper is usually made by chopping down and grinding up trees that were decades or even a century old. They want Americans, like Europeans, to wipe with tissue made from recycled paper goods.
I dunno. Should a squirrel move to another tree, or should I chafe my ass. Hmmmm... I'll take the squirrel moving. "Big Toilet Paper," however, finds itself in a ... err ... rough spot. Being "green" is so in, and "they've taken steps to become more Earth-friendly but their customers still want the soft stuff, so they're still selling it." Imagine that.
This summer, two of the best-known combatants in this fight signed a surprising truce, with a big tissue maker promising to do better. But the larger battle goes on — the ultimate test of how green Americans will be when nobody's watching.
"At what price softness?" said Tim Spring, chief executive of Marcal Manufacturing, a New Jersey paper maker that is trying to persuade customers to try 100 percent recycled paper. "Should I contribute to clear-cutting and deforestation because the big [marketing] machine has told me that softness is important?"
Yes. "At what price softness?" Apparently, the cost of our freedom to use (and industry to produce) products that are not unpleasant to wipe between our cheeks without being harangued about it. Damn marketing machine! Why must you entice me with those cute little cartoon bears I see on TV pooping in the woods and smiling as they unfurl as much Charmin as they like! I remember recently being in Target, and Mrs. Zaius and I remembered that we needed toilet paper. As she shimmied down to our usual selection, Charmin, I stood waiting at the top of the aisle and noticed that the "green" TP was at least twice as expensive, and looked like the quality you get at your average public loo at the airport. No sale.
Anyway, how much damage is the plush toilet paper industry doing to our forests? Not much, it turns out:
Toilet paper is far from being the biggest threat to the world's forests: together with facial tissue, it accounts for 5 percent of the U.S. forest-products industry, according to industry figures. Paper and cardboard packaging makes up 26 percent of the industry, although more than half is made from recycled products. Newspapers account for 3 percent.
But environmentalists say 5 percent is still too much.
Yes. It's always — always — too much. Too much commerce. Too much soft toilet paper. Too much free choice. Too much freedom in general. Making this into an issue, considering how little of a re-plantable forest is turned into tissue, is absurd. But, sadly, it's typical. It's like Kyoto, which if the world signed and followed to the letter would reduce global temperatures by a fraction of one degree in a century.
And that's the point here. The environmental movement is not really about "saving the planet." It's about controlling the way people live their lives. No human activity — no matter how intimate, not matter how benign it might seem — is beyond the dream-to-reach of the enviro-scolds.
No sane country will voluntarily reorder their economies and societies to an all-controlling Communist system anymore. Yet it is socially acceptable — fashionable, even — to demand the masses bend to the greenies will on behalf of the planet. The list of "little things" you should do (and, increasingly, must do) to be "green" continues to grow.
The only constant: Lies. They are the hallmark of both strategies of societal control.
Winston Churchill rightly called the bond between Great Britain and the United States a "special relationship," and its strength has greatly served both countries and the cause of freedom around the world. Yet President Obama in just nine months seems to be doing his damnedest to damage that relationship at every opportunity. We all remember the details of what can only be described as high-level petulance:
It's a string of shameful embarrassments from the man who was supposed to rescue our foreign policy from the bumbling idiot from Texas who supposedly couldn't get anyone to like him or America. I note that Obama is quick to apologize on the world stage for every real (and mostly imagined) sin perpetrated by the United States — all of which happened before Obama arrived to redeem us, of course — but not only can he not apologize for his boorishness towards our greatest and most important ally, he keeps doubling down.
Via Scott Johnson at Power Line, we learn the latest instance of Obama giving Great Britain the back of his hand. Apparently, Gordon Brown had asked repeatedly to be granted a brief audience with The One, and was rebuffed by the Obama administration. Brown had to resort to scrambling through the U.N. kitchen and trapping Obama somewhere between the line cooks and the walk-in. This kind of treatment towards the leader of a country that has sacrificed 217 soldiers in Afghanistan — you know, that war Obama said was not a "war of choice" but one we "must win" — is disgraceful.
Or, as David Hughes of The Telegraph of London puts it in the headline of his blog post: Barack Obama's churlishness is unforgivable. The whole post is brief, but powerful, so I paste it here in its entirety:
The juxtaposition on our front page this morning is striking. We carry a photograph of Acting Sgt Michael Lockett - who was killed in Helmand on Monday - receiving the Military Cross from the Queen in June, 2008. He was the 217th British soldier to die in the Afghan conflict. Alongside the picture, we read that the Prime Minister was forced to dash through the kitchens of the UN in New York to secure a few minutes “face time” with President Obama after five requests for a sit-down meeting were rejected by the White House.
What are we to make of this? This country has proved, through the bravery of men like Acting Sgt Lockett, America’s staunchest ally in Afghanistan. In return, the American President treats the British Prime Minister with casual contempt. The President’s graceless behaviour is unforgivable. As most members of the Cabinet would confirm, it’s not a barrel of laughs having to sit down for a chat with Gordon Brown. But that’s not the point. Mr Obama owes this country a great deal for its unflinching commitment to the American-led war in Afghanistan but seems incapable of acknowledging the fact. You might have thought that after the shambles of Mr Brown’s first visit to the Obama White House - when there was no joint press conference and the President’s “gift” to the Prime Minister was a boxed DVD set - lessons would have been learned. Apparently not. Admittedly, part of the problem was Downing Street’s over-anxiety to secure a face-to-face meeting for domestic political purposes but the White House should still have been more obliging. Mr Obama’s churlishness is fresh evidence that the US/UK special relationship is a one-way street.
Scott offers an apology to the British people. I extend the same, and ask again: What the hell is wrong with this guy? I took a little flak back in March when I observed the defining characteristic of Obama's foreign policy seemed to be to piss off our allies and curry favor with our enemies. Not much has changed. Obama's obsequious speech before the UN Wednesday was applauded most heartily by the worst tyrants in the world — the same tyrants who always seem to have nice things to say about President Obama but always had awful things to say about President Bush.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather British journalists had reason to praise my president, rather than call him out for churlishness and graceless behavior. And I rather British Prime Ministers didn't have to re-enact a Benny Hill sketch to catch up with an American president.
Politico reports ACORN is suing Andrew Breitbart, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles for covertly videotaping an employee offering advice on tax evasion and immigration fraud.
So says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Speaking on the sidelines of a smart grid conference in Washington, Dr. Chu said he didn’t think average folks had the know-how or will to to change their behavior enough to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
“The American public…just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act,” Dr. Chu said. “The American public has to really understand in their core how important this issue is.” (In that case, the Energy Department has a few renegade teens of its own.)
I thought about making a play on "sending Chu to his room," or some such. But what's the point? The outrage now playing out across the Internet
will likely prompt a mea culpa from Chu's office in a few days prompted a quick "clarification" (but not an apology!) from an Energy Department flack, who would have us believe that Chu didn't really say what he meant or mean what he said:
“Secretary Chu was not comparing the public to teenagers. He was saying that we need to educate teenagers about ways to save energy. He also recognized the need to educate the broader public about how important clean energy industries are to our competitive position in the global economy. He believes public officials do have an obligation to make their case to the American people on major legislation, and that’s what he’s doing.”
In fact, Secretary Chu was comparing the public to adolescents while explaining the need for a concerted federal effort to indoctrinate teens in the virtues of switching off lamps when they leave their bedrooms.
Anyway, if the Energy Department had tried to apologize, it should have been rejected out of hand. Chu's paternalism and contempt for Americans is shared by many of his Democrat colleagues in government, including the Speaker of the House and, of course, the president himself. Such moments of clarity and candor are rare. Which is why the government spokesman had to shuck, jive and obfuscate.
Update: The ever-helpful Heritage Foundation's Nick Loris chimes in with climate change "messaging even a teenager can understand."
James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" draws attention to a story I saw earlier today, but now (finally) have time to note. An insurance company mailed out a letter to its customers, warning them that ObamaCare might not actually present the utopia of doctors riding in on unicorns sprinkling healing dust. This resulted in the federal government immediately dropping the hammer of the state:
The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.
The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a senior lawmaker usually viewed as a reliable ally of the insurance industry.
"It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject--particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform," Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation. . . .
In a warning letter to Humana, HHS said the government is concerned that the mailer "is misleading and confusing" partly because the company's lobbying campaign could be mistaken for an official communication about Medicare benefits.
HHS ordered the company to immediately halt any such mailings, and remove any related materials from its Web site. In the letter, the government also said it may take other action against Humana.
Good thing the horror of the speech-squelching Bush administration is history, eh? All Humana did was state, truthfully, that Obama plans to fund his health care overhaul by cutting from Medicare. Oh, I forgot, Obama says all the cuts will come from "waste, fraud and abuse" and not affect lawful Medicare recipients one iota. So ... if you don't believe that pablum and propaganda, and state so publicly to your own customers, that is speech that the federal government must put a stop to. "Warning letters" from a senator will be issued. A powerful government agency will open an investigation. You'll be accused of "scaring" people and being "misleading." Nice. So much for free speech.
To its discredit, Humana has backed down and has rescinded its statement. As Taranto says:
Corporations may provide lots of useful goods and services, but never count on them to take a stand for freedom.
Shame on Humana, but more shame on Baucus, HHS and the Obama administration. A private entity, even a corporation, should be able to issue any letters it likes saying whatever it pleases to its customers. Or am I remembering a different America that no longer exists?
(Cross-posted at From the Heartland)