Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sophistry From NBC

The following argument goes nowhere, but continues to get recycled by the anti-Tea Party media. Here is Michael Isikoff belching out the latest version of it for NBC:
While Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., has forcefully denounced the Medicaid program for swelling the "welfare rolls," the mental health clinic run by her husband has been collecting annual Medicaid payments totaling over $137,000 for the treatment of patients since 2005, according to new figures obtained by NBC News. 

The issue of her receipt of government aid has gotten attention because Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, has been a fierce critic of federal spending programs and has called for drastic cutbacks. This has especially been the case on health care, including the expansions of Medicaid called for under the new health care law.
The logic of this argument is atrocious. If accepted, no critic of a government program could ever have participated in it. The claims of whistle-blowers would be worthless. Furthermore, those who want to raise taxes would have to have voluntarily paid the higher rates in order to escape Isikoff's argument. After all, how could you claim to want higher taxes when you have benefited from the current rates?

But, of course, this is nonsense. People shouldn't be expected to forgo the benefits of a government policy they disagree with - especially if they are being taxed to pay for it. I've seen the media criticize tea partiers for collecting social security while ignoring the fact that the pensioners were forced by law to pay into the system for their entire working lives. The argument that they are hypocrites for receiving the benefits eludes me.

When Obama pushes to raise taxes, I want Isikoff to point out that Obama has benefited from the current rates ever since they were implemented and never voluntarily contributed more to the treasury. If Isikoff doesn't acknowledge this, we'll know who the real hypocrite is.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

NYT: Seizing Guns Is Not About Gun Rights!

I didn't blog about Sarah Palin's Bus Tour or her comments regarding Paul Revere. I don't find stories like that particularly interesting. For starters, national politicians, who have a microphone in front of their mouths for hours a day, are bound to make a mistake every once in awhile. I don't care if in the 2008 campaign Obama said he had been to 57 states or that McCain called the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia. They misspoke. It happens.

Similarly, if in extemporaneous remarks, Palin got the details of Revere's ride wrong, I'd be able to sleep at night. Furthermore, I don't trust the mainstream media to get the particulars correct, or treat Palin fairly, so I didn't bother to follow their version of events.

Preamble aside, this week I came across an astonishing reference to the controversy in the New York Times. Its executive editor, Bill Keller, wrote a piece about Palin's relationship with the press, which contained this passage:
At the core of the media antipathy, though, is something more fundamental. The fact is, reporters want as badly as anyone else to see the country led by someone who inspires confidence. But watching Palin answer a question is like watching a runaway train struggling to stay on the rails, and fact-checking her is like fishing with dynamite. When she is caught getting something wrong — most recently turning Paul Revere’s ride into a gun rights crusade — she tends to dig in deeper. (Her attitude that the truth is what she says it is appears to be contagious. In the case of the midnight ride, Palin fans tried to rewrite history on Wikipedia to conform to her version.) I think a lot of journalists, regardless of their politics, find her confounding and a little frightening. 
The link Keller provides is dead, so I don't know what point he's trying to make or what, specifically, he's claiming Palin got wrong. I don't know what sort of conventional wisdom about the error Palin made has become embedded in left-leaning circles. If I did, I might understand his remark. However, a crucial point must be made: Paul Revere's ride most certainly involved gun rights. The British were marching to seize the colonists' weapons. Again, forget what Palin did or didn't say. Forget about the changes made to Wikipedia. Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say (emphasis added):
Battles of Lexington and Concord, (April 19, 1775), initial skirmishes between British regulars and American provincials, marking the beginning of the American Revolution. Acting on orders from London to suppress the rebellious colonists, General Thomas Gage, recently appointed royal governor of Massachusetts, ordered his troops to seize the colonists’ military stores at Concord. En route from Boston, the British force of 700 men was met on Lexington Green by 77 local minutemen and others who had been forewarned of the raid by the colonists’ efficient lines of communication, including the ride of Paul Revere.
I simply can not believe Keller would claim that Revere's ride did not involve the right to bear arms. What does he think it was about? Abortion rights, same-sex marriage and affirmative action?

There are legitimate reasons to criticize Palin. Why must her critics always overreach? Or, is Keller fearful of any justification for the Second Amendment?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Terrorists in the House

Joan Walsh, of Salon, had the following insight at the end of her most recent column:
And it would be nice to see [Obama] match words with deeds soon – not caving to GOP blackmail on the debt ceiling might be a place to start. But Republicans are acting like terrorists, threatening to take down the economy in the absence of big cuts. It's scary out there right now, and we need a leader who'll fight for what he believes in.
"Acting like terrorists"? When Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006, was he acting like a terrorist too? If Obama doesn't cave to "GOP blackmail", wouldn't he be "threatening to take down the economy" also?

This is a legitimate political debate and an important negotiation. Both sides are using brinkmanship. I don't think only one should be cited for it - particularly when Obama wielded the same club five years ago. Walsh's rhetoric is atrocious.

Almost a Trend

Yesterday, I wrote about Bush-nostalgia in the New York Times. You can add Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne to that growing list of commentators pining for the 43rd president (one more example, and we'll have a trend!):
Perhaps I should thank the current crop of Republican presidential candidates for providing me with an experience I never, ever expected: During this week’s debate in New Hampshire, I had a moment of nostalgia for George W. Bush.
Obama can't run against Bush again in 2012. He needs a new angle, and his media allies are testing this one: the current crop of Republicans is even worse than Bush!

But, if you find yourself nostalic for some good old-fashioned Bush-bashing, don't worry. Dionne points out that the reason today's GOP is so awful is Bush's fault:
Bush and his advisers did not think through the costs or the consequences of running two wars simultaneously. We are living with the terrible aftermath of these choices, and Americans of all political stripes are understandably exhausted.
That’s why Bush nostalgia takes you only so far. The 43rd president, who might have given life to a constructive sort of moderate conservatism, instead unleashed the Tea Party furies that now engulf the Republican Party and threaten to turn Michele Bachmann, of all people, into a political giant.
Don't you see? The Tea Party isn't reacting to Obama's policies - they are reacting to Bush's!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Worse Than Bush

Are you nostalgic for George W. Bush? The New York Times is - at least when compared to the current crop of GOP candidates for president. Here is the Gray Lady's reaction to Monday's Republican debate:
For the moment, the candidates are appealing to a Republican Party whose core is so contorted in fury at Mr. Obama that it barely resembles the one that nominated George W. Bush in 2000. Mr. Bush may have prosecuted the war on terror to excess, but he always reminded the country that it was not at war with Islam. This batch of Republicans has dispensed with such niceties.
This is standard operating procedure for the left (i.e., attack current conservatives by claiming they are much more extreme than the reasonable conservatives of the past). We're also starting to see the outline of Obama's re-election campaign. The President can't run against Bush, as he did in 2008. He's already used those bullets. Instead, whoever the GOP nominee is will be attacked by Obama's MSM allies as being 'worse than Bush.'

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Intuitively Obvious

  • "Today, a court in San Francisco heard arguments about one of the most contemptible legal claims advanced in decades: that Vaughn Walker, the federal judge who voted last spring to strike down California's ban on gay marriage, was too gay to decide the case fairly." --Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, June 13, 2011
  • "Now I am no social scientist, and this argument may be riddled with empirical holes. But it strikes me as intuitively obvious that in order to succeed in a white man's world, women must learn to see both sides in ways that men do not. If that is true, it just might make them "better" judges, at least in some circumstances." --Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, July 13, 2009
Lithwick is right. The attack on Walker is out of order. He's not biased because he's gay, he's biased because he's a white man.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

War? What War?

Activists tend to be easier on presidents from their own party. So, it's understandable that Democrats would cut slack for Obama when they'd otherwise give a Republican a hard time. Hence, renewal of the Patriot Act and the continuing operation of Guantanamo don't receive the same fury that they once did under Bush.

However, there is one area regarding the exercise of presidential power where President Obama has gone far beyond his Republican predecessor. He is ignoring the War Powers Act, and he is the first president to do so. Here is how I explained the issue three weeks ago:
Where does this presidential power to wage war end? Are there limits?

In 1973, as a response to these issues, and over a presidential veto, Congress passed the War Powers Act. It stated that the president could order American forces into combat, but must inform Congress within 48 hours. The president then has 60 days to receive either a declaration of war or an authorization to use force. If he doesn't receive Congressional authorization, he has an additional 30-day window to withdraw American troops.
Every sitting president has viewed the limits placed on him by the War Powers Act to be unconstitutional, but all have abided by it. ...
That record might be coming to an end. It is now 61 days since President Obama informed Congress of the Libyan campaign. Unless he ends the fighting by the 90th day, he will violate the statute. 
The Libyan War is now in its 79th day without congressional approval. If Bush had fought such a campaign while Nancy Pelosi was Speaker, she would have impeached his ass so fast, he would have been on trial in the Senate before getting the chance to say 'separation of powers'.

Democrats won't always control the presidency. Hard as it may be to believe, at some point there will be another Republican in the White House. Those who fretted about an "imperial presidency" while Bush was in office will revisit those claims under the new occupant. And, they will find that a huge check on presidential power had be swept away by the Obama Administration. Defenders of the new president will say: 'you never complained about this stuff under Obama.' What will be said in reply?

I'm shocked that people of principle on the left are being so quiet regarding the destruction of the War Powers Act. The fact that it's their guy who is doing it doesn't excuse the silence. Was the relentless attacks on Bush's use of presidential power partisan, not principled? Don't they realize that conservatives have become downright gleeful while jumping on the Act's grave? Or, are there no people of principle left on the left?

Note to the American Left: good luck getting an audience for your complaints about presidential power the next time the GOP occupies the White House. No one is going to listen to you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Courage of One's Convictions

Jessica Valenti had an op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post where she wrote the following:
When I speak on college campuses, students will often say they don’t believe that a woman’s attire makes it justifiable for someone to rape her, but — and there almost always is a “but” — shouldn’t women know better than to dress in a suggestive way?

What I try to explain to those students is part of what the SlutWalk protests are aiming to relay on a grander scale. That yes, some women dress in short, tight, “suggestive” clothing — maybe because it’s hot outside, maybe because it’s the style du jour or maybe just because they think they look sexy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Women deserve to be safe from violent assault, no matter what they wear. And the sad fact is, a miniskirt is no more likely to provoke a rapist than a potato sack is to deter one.
Valenti doesn't provide any evidence concerning attire and the likelihood of sexual assault. But, she was asked about the issue on today's Morning Joe. Newsbusters has a transcript:
BRZEZINSKI: To go into the uncomfortable area of this conversation, would you want your daughter to go into the city at night wearing those clothes?  If the answer is "no," why?

VALENTI: You know, I think I'm going to have to answer that question once she's of that age.  I think it's a difficult thing.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Huh!  Once she becomes a teenager?  Let me help you with that one.

BRZEZINSKI: My answer is "no," because I don't want her to have unnecessary risk.
In her op-ed, Valenti said it's a "fact" that attire doesn't add to risk, but when asked about her daughter, she wouldn't answer. Does she believe the "facts" in her own op-ed?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Con Law 101

While checking my email, this headline by the Huffington Post caught my eye (AOL had made it a top link):

Martin Bashir: Sarah Palin Might Be Breaking Federal Law On Bus Tour 

Intrigued, I clicked to it. Here is the key part:

Then, Bashir said that the former Alaska governor might be breaking the law:
"In fact, the whole thing could be in breach of a federal law because the United States Flag Code establishes important rules for the use and display of the stars and stripes, the flag of the United States. Under standards of respect and etiquette, it's made clear that the flag of the United States should never be used for any advertising purpose whatsoever. Yet that's precisely what Sarah Palin is doing. She's using the flag of the United States for her own financial purposes. She drapes herself in the stars and stripes and makes millions of dollars in the process. This has got nothing to do with the presidency and everything to do with filling her pockets. And by raising her profile, she raises her income. It is as simple as that. So she was right when she said that hers is not a campaign bus. It's a cash bus and she'll keep it rolling for as long as she can."
Bashir is seemingly mistaken, however. The American flag is used in advertising very frequently, and the Flag Code is actually a voluntary one.
The Huffington blogger is correct, and Bashir is definitely mistaken. The flag can be used in advertising, so Palin can put its likeness on her tour bus (which is what Bashir accused her of doing, but the blogger failed to explain). Not only can Palin use the flag on her bus, she can legally burn the flag if she wanted to. 

Why did AOL link to this obviously false charge? Will any attack on Palin be repeated, even if its blatantly untrue?