29 / May
29 / May
Margot Tenenbaum Would Not Approve

Should the Motion Picture Association of America retroactively slap an "R" rating upon To Have and Have Not (1944)? After all, the classic film famously depicts silver-screen debutante Lauren Bacall and future husband Humphrey Bogart--gasp!--smoking. The American Medical Association Alliance demands that films featuring smoking characters be given an "R" rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. The MPAA already takes into consideration the tobacco habits of celluloid characters in determining a film's rating. The AMAA's demand would take that consideration from the MPAA, automatically assigning an "R" to any film depicting an ordinary, everyday activity normally conducted in the open when the cameras aren't rolling. The ACLU hasn't voiced objection, but what about Margot Tenenbaum? The Smoking Man? The Man with No Name?

28 / May
28 / May
Produktionsmittel

In 1989, Americans celebrated the fall of socialism in Eastern Europe. Twenty years later, Americans lament the rise of socialism closer to home. One of the central components of Marxism is the workers, i.e., the state, owning the means of production. Under the Government Motors bankruptcy plan, the government would own 72.5 percent of the flailing company; the United Autoworkers, 17.5 percent; and the stockholders 10 percent. When Charlie Wilson said, "What's good for General Motors is good for the country, and what's good for the country is good for General Motors," this couldn't be what he had in mind.

27 / May
27 / May
Worth Repeating #115

"To love the whole world, we must begin by loving our parents, our spouse, and our children. Charity, so it is said, begins at home. It then radiates outward in ever broader and weaker concentric rings until it encompasses the widest human horizons a person is willing to acknowledge. For Edward Banfield's Calabrians, this may be the village; for many moderns, it may be the nation; and there may even be saints capable of loving the entire human race. But if such general love is not based on more specific and local attachments, it amounts to little more than whim, a narcissistic love that basks in its own superiority without acknowledging the personhood of other human beings."
--Thomas Fleming, The Morality of Everyday Life, 2004

Pictures of Barry

When truth and politics collide, you can count on the typical liberal to opt for the latter. "I'm looking forward to my invitation to the White House," says photographer Lisa Jack, "because He owes me." Jack took pictures of a teenaged, Panama-hatted, smoking Barry Obama several decades ago. Despite her Subject's popularity through 2008, Jack kept her photographs from the media. You see, there was a campaign going on and she didn't want to embarrass her former Classmate. That's really lame. The posed photos are more real than any Americans glimpsed on the campaign trail as they show the future President smoking, a habit that somehow escaped notice of every other photographer. What is he smoking? You got me.

Sonia Sotomayor, 'A Cynical Ploy'

Gloria Borger asks, "Wouldn't it be more prudent for Republicans to save their fire for a better target? Someone perhaps not as qualified? Or someone who is not quite as historic an appointment as Sotomayor?" Gee, that didn't seem to stop the Democrats when President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas. "I think that the only reason Clarence Thomas is on the Court is because he is black. I don't believe he could have won had he been white. And the reason is, I think it was a cynical ploy by President Bush." That's Joe Biden's take, from 1992, of the Thomas nomination of the previous year. Couldn't one make the same argument regarding Sonia Sotomayor? Obama clearly signalled that this was an affirmative action pick--that he would nominate a woman, and most of the talk centered around an Hispanic woman. In other words, the president wasn't looking for the best judge but a judge that best satisfies his coalition of voters. Was a transgendered Eskimo unavailable? Knowing where her bread is buttered, the mediocre Sotomayor has supported racial quotas from the bench and stated that Hispanic women generally possess wisdom more suited for the bench than white men. Yet, for Gloria Borger and so many others there is somehow something untoward about reorienting Biden's criticism of Thomas towards Sotomayor.

26 / May
26 / May
Obama Picks Sotomayor

For just the third time in my lifetime, a Democrat will appoint a Supreme Court justice. Barack Obama is set to nominate Sonia Sotomayor to the high court. As an Hispanic woman, Sotomayor might be seen as a quota pick--if a Republican were appointing her. But her opinions aren't exactly Clarence Thomas's, so no senator will introduce such nastiness into the discussion. It's worth noting that George H.W. Bush initially placed Sotomayor on the court. His horrible judicial picks are like the gift that keeps on giving, with judicial activist Sonia Sotomayor replacing judicial activist David Souter. At least the people who voted for Obama expected him to appoint a judge with disdain for the Constitution to the court.

North Korean Nukes

Agreements with liars aren't worth pursuing. Bill Clinton, who knows something about liars, made an agreement with North Korea in 1994. He agreed to build them nuclear reactors, provide oil, and lighten trade barriers. North Korea agreed to stop its nuclear program. They didn't. The Communist dictatorship exploded its second nuclear device this weekend. This North Korean lesson is worth remembering as American political leaders currently pursue agreements as the main tool to prevent rogue states from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Jay Bennett, RIP

Jay Bennett has strangely acted as a recent conversation piece times too numerous to recall. One music lover emailed me the media report of Bennett's lawsuit against Jeff Tweedy for owed royalties. I responded that I wanted to sue Jeff Tweedy too--for kicking Jay Bennett out of Wilco. Then, at a holiday outing just yesterday, I pointed to Bennett and Tweedy's relationship as an example of how creativity often comes out of tension, and that by removing a major source of annoyance from his life Jeff Tweedy killed much of the creativity in his band Wilco by firing Jay Bennett. A few months back, during a sonic lull at a Wilco concert, I cathartically shouted: "Where's Jay?" Jay Bennett, unfortunately, is dead. The former songwriter/multi-instrumentalist for Wilco during its golden age passed away in his sleep this weekend. Strangely, it was Bennett's appearance on the silver screen, rather than on any CD, that may be most indelibly etched into the minds of Wilco's fans. Wilco was the subject of a major motion picture, 2002's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart--an aptly titled film about the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the band-member ejections and record company rejections that ensued. Therein, Bennett's creativity is hard to gainsay (watch him in action here)--as is his painintheassivity. In one scene, his overbearing nitpicking results in lead singer Tweedy visiting the bathroom to vomit. Bennett's contributions to Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot--three of the seminal albums of the last fifteen years--were huge. He transformed a cool alt-country band into Gram Parsons meets Pink Floyd. Then he got the boot, and Wilco--a band that its devoted fans once regarded as "the only band that matters"--doesn't seem to matter as much anymore. Jay Bennett, rest in peace.

22 / May
22 / May
Drinking Harvey Milk's Kool-Aid

Slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk abused his political office by aiding and abetting Jim Jones's kidnapping, and subsequent murder, of a six-year-old boy. He purportedly staged a hate crime to enhance his victim status in the eyes of San Francisco voters. He routinely called political opponents "Nazis." So why has the California senate passed a bill seeking to name today as "Harvey Milk Day" in the Golden State? My article @ City Journal juxtaposes Sean Penn's Academy Award-winning portrayal with history's Harvey Milk, finding the celluloid hero quite different than the real-life goat.

Cheney Unchained

I caught Dick Cheney's speech on CSPAN radio during a holiday weekend drive yesterday. It mesmerized me. The address was hard hitting and minced no words. Whatever one thinks of Cheney, his speech on national security should be read, heard, or watched by every American. With that in mind, here are parts one, two, three, and four for your viewing pleasure.

21 / May
21 / May
Obama's Broken Promises

The reversal of many prominent Democrats on closing Guantanamo Bay's detention facility should hardly shock the titular head of their party. President Obama has proved an Indian giver on many of the red-meat campaign promises he threw at his carnivorous left flank. Obama was against suspending habeas corpus (1:39-2:01) for suspected foreign terrorists--when a Republican was president. Obama has "grown in office." Candidate Obama promised "no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens." He has since rethought President Bush's "warrentless wiretapping" policy. For President Obama, it's military tribunals for me, but not for thee (4:24-4:38). The strange dynamics of American politics, in which participants root for the home team rather than a set of ideas, will likely result in the Dems that Obama betrayed giving him a pass and the Republicans whose stances he ultimately took crying foul over his broken promises.

California Girls, Yes; California Government, No

As California goes, so goes the nation--so goes the saying. Who in their right mind would follow the ironically bankrupt Golden State? The president of the United States, that's who. President Obama's edict that fuel and emissions efficiency standards must be roughly 40 percent less than what they are today plays follow the leader to California, the state that initially made this ridiculous demand of automakers. It's interesting in contemplating the nation's direction to consider California's pathetic state. Why on earth would America be taking its lead from a basketcase? I speak of California the government, and not California the state, whose people wisely rejected numerous tax, spend, and borrowing schemes at the ballot box on Tuesday.

20 / May
20 / May
Baby You Can Will Drive My Car

The Obama administration's scheme to force you to buy the cars the Obama administration wants you to buy is offensive because it is an affront to freedom. It would have never occurred to me to compel my fellow Americans to buy a Ford Mustang, despite my fondness for the powerful convertible that I drove around in my early twenties. Why must the Obamaites force the rest of us to drive around in the electrical clown cars they so love?

The Obama plan to dictate the emissions and fuel efficiency of automobiles to their manufacturers makes one feel like the proverbial mosquito in a nudist colony. Where to begin?

The burdensome edict forcing automakers to manufacture cars and trucks with an average of 36 miles to the gallon by 2016 will implode the sticker price of automobiles. A source inside the administration concedes that it will add $1,300 to the average cost of a car. Note that estimate is the administration's rosy prophecy. Who knows what the real costs passed on to the consumer will be?

Cars will be less safe. Motorized bicycles can get better mileage than current cars but most people avoid them on highways because they are less safe. People like bigger, safer cars. The government doesn't like that you like bigger, safer cars. Thus, they have embarked on this perverse project of social engineering to compel you to buy smaller, flimsier cars. More fuel efficient cars mean, minus some unforeseen technological breakthrough, lighter, flimsier cars. This scenario isn't theoretical. It has already played itself out. Examine, for instance, the bumper of any car that rolled off the assembly line in the 1970s. Those bumpers are generally comprised of some sort of sturdy metallic material. My 2004 car's bumper is made out of the same material that those eighties-style faux batting helmets that could be won at any fair or amusement park. This fuel-efficiency minded, and not safety-minded, bumper transforms minor fender benders into major accidents. And they can transform major accidents into, well, you get the idea. What shortcuts on safety will automakers be coerced into taking in order to attain 40 miles per gallon in their 2016 models?

The order kneecaps the American auto industry in the two areas where it clearly has a competitive advantage over Japan and Europe: trucks and muscle cars. The bestselling American-made car in America isn't a car at all. It's a truck, the Ford F150. It gets, under the best of conditions, 19 miles to the gallon. Under Obama's plan, the industry standard for trucks will be 30 miles to the gallon. Is there a place for the Ford F150 in that world? There may be a truck called a Ford F150 in 2016, but other than its name what attributes would it share with the current model? Ditto for the Ford Mustang. The brand "Mustang" is too popular to jettison. One shudders to think what weak engine will lay beneath the 2016 Mustang shell.

Consumers will have less choice. An anonymous White House official, perhaps an emigre from Oceana, tried to pooh-pooh the notion that the fuel efficiency and pollution standards will run some cars off the road: "Consumers can retain choice but for more fuel-efficient cars." Translation? "Sir, would you like that Prius in red or blue?" Big Brother will be following you into the auto dealer's showroom. "Don't even think about that Cadillac Escalade. Take you eyes off the Camaro. A Chevy Volt suits you. Buy it. Now."

The observation that automakers approved of this usurpation of their decision-making abilities is one of the more comically absurd notions advanced among the major media outlets. Barack Obama is their boss. He fired the head of General Motors two months ago and ordered Chrysler to merge with Fiat. Of course the good company men of Detroit realize the real shot callers of Motor City reside 500 miles to the southeast. Just how nefarious the automotive bailout was really wasn't fully understood until yesterday. When you take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

If Americans really wanted to trade cheaper, more sturdy automobiles for more expensive, flimsier ones that got better gas mileage, then hybrids would be the leading models. But the inconvenient truth for the Obama administration is that the bestselling American car for seventeen of the last eighteen years has been a hulking truck. Some Americans want hybrids, and they can buy them under the free system that more or less prevails. More Americans don't want hybrids, and they will have a tougher time buying trucks, sports cars, and station wagons under the program of force adopted yesterday by the Obama administration. Above all else, the scheme hatched by the Obama administration is a rebellion against the freedom of the marketplace and an embrace of the authoritarianism of force.

19 / May
19 / May
Shiny Happy People

The Pew Research Center found that Republicans are happier than Democrats. Should this surprise anyone? Most of the people insisting that we need to change the world don't have "R"s next to their names, do they? This demand to change the world, of course, reflects an unhappiness with one's individual life. Better for them, and for us, if they changed themselves instead of the world.

Guest Hosting Tonight on WTKK

Tune in to Boston's Talk Evolution 96.9 WTKK tonight from 7-10 p.m. as I substitute for Michele McPhee. For those outside of the long reach of WTKK's radio antenna, listen live at WTKK's website. But before you tune in, tell me in the comments section below what I should be discussing tonight.

18 / May
18 / May
Pulitzer Prize Plagiarism

What's worse: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd plagiarizing, or the fact that Dowd's stolen source was Josh Marshall? Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery for the imitated, but for the imitator--not so much. From the Associated Press account: "[Dowd] claims she never read [Josh] Marshall's post last week and had heard the line from a friend who did not mention reading it in Marshall's blog." Oh, she took it from a friend who took it from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. That changes everything. Really. It. Does.

Obama at Notre Dame

The pro-abortion president spoke at one of America's leading Catholic universities yesterday. Don't hold your breath for one of America's leading secular universities to return the favor by hosting a prominent pro-lifer on commencement day. Tolerance just doesn't work that way from the campus "tolerance" crowd. Just ask their patron saint, Herbert Marcuse, who wrote in "Repressive Tolerance": "Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left."

16 / May
16 / May
Most Americans Are Pro-Life

A majority of respondents to Gallup's poll on abortion consider themselves pro-life. This is the first time that a majority of Americans have self-identified as "pro-life" in the fourteen-year history of this poll. The numbers breakdown to 51 percent pro-life, 42 percent pro-choice. Had Gallup the ability to poll the 50,000,000 human beings aborted in America since 1973 do you think the pro-life numbers might have been even higher?

15 / May
15 / May
5:15, Year 2

Last year I invented 5:15, a wholiday that celebrates the greatest album ever--The Who's Quadrophenia. Lapsed Who fans might listen to a few cuts of Quadrophenia--say, The Real Me or Love Reign O'er Me--to mark the special date. True believers listen to the whole album--and watch the movie too! 5:15 isn't exactly Christmas yet, but we haven't had two millenia and infinite newspaper circulars to promote the wholiday, either. Just wait, it'll catch on. At 5:15 I will be listening to the Quadrophenia--the track 5:15, to be precise. Any special plans for this wholiday?

14 / May
14 / May
Pelosi's Tortured Logic

Top Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Tom Daschle voted for the Iraq War only to wash their hands of ownership once things went wrong on the ground. Karl Rove's must-read piece in the Wall Street Journal paints a similar picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's relationship to the Bush Administration's enhanced-interrogation techniques of terrorists. Speaker Pelosi now calls waterboarding "torture." It plays well with her San Francisco constituents and respondents to direct-mail packages. What doesn't play so well is Pelosi's complicity in what she lambastes the Bush Administration for. "It is clear that after the 9/11 attacks Mrs. Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques and the valuable information they produced," Rove writes. "She not only agreed with what was being done, she apparently pressed the CIA to do more. But when political winds shifted, Mrs. Pelosi seems to have decided to use enhanced interrogation as an issue to attack Republicans. It is disgraceful that Democrats who discovered their outrage years after the fact are now braying for disbarment of the government lawyers who justified EITs and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who authorized them."

A Tale of Two Killers

James Kilgore, a Symbionese Liberation Army member among those convicted of the 1975 murder of Myrna Opsal (mother of four) in the commission of a bank robbery, was paroled from California's High Desert State Prison earlier this week. Kilgore's case reminds me of another from roughly the same bat time, same bat channel. In 1978, former San Francisco supervisor Dan White murdered supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone. Like Kilgore, White served just over five years behind bars as a result of his crimes. San Franciscans, including, presumably, White--who after his release administered the verdict many were hoping for--rightly regarded the lenient sentence as a miscarriage of justice. The miscarriage of justice that allowed SLA kook James Kilgore an early release elicits no such outrage, which is an outrage itself. Listen to the crickets.

13 / May
13 / May
Taxachusetts v. Live Free or Die

Five years to the week that it forced gay marriage upon the Bay State, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in a case that could be as much the bane to economic conservatives as Goodrich has been to social conservatives. Town Fair Tire v. Massachusetts, if upheld, will nullify the commerce clause--the Constitution's provision making the United States a giant free-trade zone--and throw prosperity out the window. Read my article @ the American Spectator demonstrating how the greedy tentacles of Taxachusetts have reached across state lines for taxdollars.

Worth Repeating #114

"Political and industrial liberty decays for the same reason again that moral laxity increases: because the family and the church have ceased to function adequately as sources of social order, and legal compulsion insinuates itself into the growing gaps in natural restraint. Freedom has left industry and the state, and survives only in the gonads."
--Will Durant, The Mansions of Philosophy, 1929

12 / May
12 / May
I Miss America

If the Miss California USA pageant's overseers were so concerned with girls parading around in skimpy clothes, why would they appoint Playboy Playmate Shanna Moakler as their organization's executive director or sanction a bathing suit competition? If they didn't want to politicize the Miss California USA competition, why would they recruit professional homosexual Perez Hilton to question the participants or cause a fuss over Moakler's appearance in an ad campaign for gay marriage? There seems to be a different set of rules for Miss California Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA contestant who infuriated gay totalitarians by meekly stating that she believed in the traditional definition of marriage. The group's feigned outrage over Carrie Prejean's bare back appearing in a lingerie shot, and her advocacy on a "divisive" social issue--that always seems to divide Prejean's way when it's put before the voters--would be comical if it weren't so chilling. In 2009, a beauty queen can't answer a question the way most Americans would answer it--that marriage is between a man and a woman--without incurring the wrath of scolds threatening to take her crown. Since when did the people who took over the Berkeley sociology department take over beauty contests? I would say this phenomenon is un-American if it hadn't become so typically American. Political correctness is attitudinal pressure that pushes people to lie about their beliefs. It conditions people, through browbeating, propaganda, and a manufactured crowd psychology, to give approved answers rather than truthful ones. What one generation says they believe becomes what the next generation actually believes.

Bailout Bankruptcy

I rightly predicted before the initial bailout that subsidies to Chrysler and GM would invite demands for further bailouts. They did, and now the "bailed-out" are going bankrupt. Why shouldn't the taxpayer feel like a sucker? Government Motors appears headed for bankruptcy. Chrysler, the other automaking beneficiary of billions of federal taxdollars, will likely be absorbed by Fiat. Put another way, in the former instance taxpayers threw good money after bad and in latter instance taxpayers not only threw good money after bad but, ultimately, threw that good money in the bank accounts of foreigners.

11 / May
11 / May
Obama's Initial Deficit as Large as Clinton's Last Budget

The White House increased its estimate of the budget deficit from $1.75 trillion to $1.84 trillion. To put this in perspective, deficit spending represents about half of the federal government outlays this year. It is about double the deficit that George W. Bush bequeathed to the nation. "And we are now looking at a deficit of well over half a trillion dollars," Obama complained during one of the presidential debates. "So one of the things that I think we have to recognize is pursuing the same kinds of policies that we pursued over the last eight years is not going to bring down the deficit. And, frankly, Sen. McCain voted for four out of five of President Bush's budgets. We've got to take this in a new direction, that's what I propose as president." Rather than take America in a new direction, Obama has instead taken us further down the path of irresponsibility he so rightly decried as a candidate.

Dr. Obama

Lyndon Johnson "reformed" health care almost 45 years ago. This resulted in skyrocketing medical costs. Anytime "reform" is used as a euphemism for government subsidization you can count on the price to inflate. Now Dr. Obama wants to administer more of the medicine that got the patient sick in the first place. Just as spending on medical and retirement entitlements desparately needs to be brought under control, the president proposes an expensive new entitlement and has the gall to call it "reform." Not to worry: when this new entitlement balloons the cost of health care, some future Obama will propose to "reform" health care by infusing massive amounts of federal money into the health care industry--just as Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Lyndon Johnson did before him (her?).

08 / May
08 / May
Viva la Plagiarism

Since I first posted on the striking similarities between Coldplay's Viva la Vida and a Creaky Boards song, there have been numerous, compelling complaints of plagiarism against Coldplay regarding their smash hit. The Beach Boys haven't sued for the homage Coldplay's backing vocalist pays near the song's conclusion, but everybody else seemingly has a gripe about unattributed borrowings. I can't award monetary damages to the complainants, but I can highlight their cases. Listen to the tunes below, and determine if they have a case or a case of the sour grapes:

Joe Satriani--If I Could Fly (around the 1 minute mark)
Blur--Sing (around the 30 second mark)
Cat Stevens--Foreigner Suite (around the 5:19 mark)
Creaky Boards--Songs I Didn't Write (immediately)
New Order--Round & Round (around the 1:10 mark)

Barack's Jedi Mind Trick

Did you catch Barack Obama's budgetary Jedi Mind Trick? Unveiling his $3.4 trillion budget Thursday, he announced: "We can no longer afford to spend as if deficits don't matter and waste is not our problem," he said. "We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration--or the next generation." But that is just what the president does by submitting a budget $400 billion larger than the previous one.

07 / May
07 / May
Pride Cometh Before the Fall

And all along you thought that elephants never forget! The Democratic caucus has greeted the conversion of Arlen Specter to their ranks with a vindictive spirit more anxious to scourge the Pennsylvania lawyer for his past sin of Republicanism than to welcome him for accepting the one true faith. Democrats, like the governor of Pennsylvania, have tripped over themselves to criticize Specter, and Harry Reid has stripped Specter, a senator with thirty years of service, of his senority. Is that any way to grow a party? I get the feeling that a reverse repeat of the wave of party switchers that joined the GOP in the aftermath of the '94 drubbing is not in the works.

What's England So Afraid Of?

America isn't England. We have a First Amendment. They don't. Britain's Home Office reminded us that more than an ocean divides us by banning Michael Savage, one of the most listened to radio hosts in the United States, from entering the United Kingdom. Would they have been so vigilant in prohibiting from their shores those cretins who set off bombs in train stations! Several of the 7/7 terrorists were, of course, native born Brits. The enemy within, perhaps, is a more politically inexpedient fight than the "enemy" broadcasting from California. The absolutely slimey inclusion of Savage alongside the likes of terrorists and violent extremists shames Home Secretary Jacqui Smith more than it does Michael Savage. "Coming to the UK is a privilege, and I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life," Smith declared. "Therefore, I do not hesitate to name and shame those who foster extremist views, as I want them to know that they are not welcome here." I do not hesitate to name and shame those who foster extremist views, either. Jacqui Smith is an intellectual authoritarian.

DC, Sugar Daddy To Dependent States

For the first time in American history, the number one source of money for the states is not property, sales, or income taxes, but the federal government. The dependence of the states on the national government is troubling for anyone who believes in federalism. This unhealthy development evokes another rubicon crossed during the first century of the republic. A federal government created by the states could be counted on to respect the rights of the states. But once states created by the federal government outnumbered the states that created the federal government, then the Constitutional balance between the state and national governments--federalism--forever leaned in favor of the federal government.

06 / May
06 / May
The Kennedys, Massachusetts's Longest Running Soap Opera

In Massachusetts, there are two parties: Democrats and Kennedys. The former is so smitten with the latter that they are willing to clear the field so that a Kennedy can retain the senate seat that has been in the family for 55 of the last 57 years. The Kennedy party, on the other hand, may have a contested primary. Victoria Kennedy, Ted's wife, and Joe Kennedy, Ted nephew, both want senate seat soon to be vacated by Edward M. Kennedy. Joe has inherited the mean gene from his father Robert. He apparently despises Victoria Kennedy the way his dad despised Roy Cohn, Lyndon Johnson, and Gore Vidal. The lesson? Don't stand in a Kennedy's way, even if you are a Kennedy.

04 / May
04 / May
Reefer Madness

Think legalizing marijuana will make America more free? Not quite, as proposals before state legislatures aim to double the price of marijuana through onerous taxes, create a bud bureaucracy, burden dealers and growers with paperwork and exorbitant licensing fees, and threaten unlicensed dealers with excessive jail time. Read my article at TakiMag that points out that decriminalization, that happy limbo where stoners need fear neither lawmen nor taxmen, is the best that marijuana enthusiasts can realistically hope for.

Jack Kemp, RIP

Most people are lucky to be successful at one field. Jack Kemp succeeded in two. Before he served as a congressman, secretary of housing and urban development, and runningmate to Bob Dole, Kemp led the Buffalo Bills to consecutive American Football League championships and garnered an MVP award for his play. He was Mr. AFL, playing in all ten of the league's seasons. Upon retirement from football, he immediately embarked on his second career--winning a congressional seat in 1970. He co-authored the most important domestic-affairs legislation in the last 40 years, the Economic Recovery Act of 1981. In an era of bills bearing Orwellian names, the Economic Recovery Act of 1981 was unique in that the economy recovered because of it. Kemp-Roth dropped top tax rates from 77 to 50 percent (they eventually bottomed out at 28 percent) and the economy expanded from 1982 to 1990. His star seemed perpetually ascendant, though it never quite ascended. By the mid-1990s, Kemp appeared as the picture of yesterday's Next Big Thing. Then, surprisingly, Bob Dole selected Kemp as his running mate in 1996. His performance in debate with Al Gore was lackluster, and his campaigning was uninspired. Throughout the 1990s, his "empowerment" agenda reaching out to ethnic minorities won him plaudits but little else. Kemp unleashed no flood, or even trickle, of minority voters into the GOP. The former quarterback found himself out-of-step with the majority of Republicans (but in-step with reality) on the Iraq war. Though Kemp never realized the potential so many saw in him as Reagan's successor, his crucial role as the architect of Reagan's tax cuts makes him one of the most important figures of the postwar conservative movement. As was the case with recent the passings of Jesse Helms, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and too many others, Jack Kemp's passing serves as an unhappy reminder that the movement he so ably served has passed too.

01 / May
01 / May
Justice Souter Retirement

Supreme Court Justice David Souter will retire at the end of court's term in June. Normally, such news would be cause for celebration. Given the broader context of who will appoint Souter's successor, mourning, rather than celebrating, is the proper emotional outlet. The last nineteen years have been a missed opportunity on the Supreme Court.

Souter falls in a long line of Republican-appointed justices--Earl Warren (Eisenhower), Harry Blackmun (Nixon), John Paul Stevens (Ford), Anthony Kennedy (Reagan)--who practiced judicial activism on behalf of a radical social agenda. Souter fooled many at his confirmation hearings in 1990, including the left-wing of the Democratic Party (Senators Cranston, Kennedy, and Bradley voted against the New Hampshire jurist) who believed him to be the key vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But he didn't fool everyone. In 1990, Howard Phillips testified before the United States Senate. He documented Souter's role on the board of a New Hampshire hospitals that performs abortions. Just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, Souter issued his own ruling along with the other board members of Concord Hospital for that institution to kill children in the womb in exchange for money. Additionally, the hospital associated with Dartmouth Medical School, of which Souter was an overseer, housed an abortuary during Souter's time overseeing it.

"If, during his years of responsibility at Concord Hospital and Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital, Mr. Souter believed each fetus to be a human person, and failed to act against the performance of abortion, he was morally delinquent," Phillips eloquently declared to the Senate. "If, on the other hand, he justified himself by denying the human qualities of the unborn child, then he placed himself in the ambit of those who have argued against the very philosophy which his sponsor, President George Bush, purported to embrace during his 1988 presidential candidacy."

It's hard to imagine Republicans reflexively opposing Obama's nominee in a manner akin to Senators Kerry, Mikulski, and Kennedy's mindless opposition to Justice Souter. It's even harder to imagine a Democratic President nominating a justice whose position on abortion doesn't closely approximate his own. Some might argue that it wasn't until his second Supreme Court nomination that George H.W. Bush, an election-year convert to the pro-life position, failed to appoint a justice whose philosophy on Roe v. Wade didn't mirror his own. That's something for pro-lifers to think about before pulling the lever for Mitt Romney, Kay Bailey Hutchison, or any other Republican presidential aspirant whose position on abortion has evolved.