Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sad Spectacle of Chris Wallace vs. Jon Stewart


I don’t know which Chris Wallace Moe Lane was watching, but the one the one I saw on “Fox News Sunday” certainly didn’t “school” Jon Stewart. Not even close. He managed a satisfying zinger or two, but by and large, Wallace let the comedian walk all over him with outrageous and uncontested claims about Fox News.

Wallace first challenges Stewart’s claim that Fox News is a “relentless agenda-driven, 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system. Well, Wallace doesn’t actually challenge that statement; he instead asks if Stewart’s willing to say the same of the mainstream media. Why on earth would you let that stand? 

It wouldn’t exactly be difficult to refute. First, you could ask for so much as a single example of Fox’s bias, which Stewart doesn’t do at any point in the interview. Second, you could point out that Fox’s mostly conservative commentary programs are separate from its hard news reporting, which is impartial. Third, you could ask Stewart to explain the high number of liberal hosts and paid contributors on Fox, like Andrew Napolitano, Geraldo Rivera, Shepard Smith, Alan Colmes, Ellis Henican, Juan Williams, Marc Lamont Hill, Susan Estrich, Ellen Ratner, Kirsten Powers, or Bob Beckel. Even Bill O’Reilly is hardly a doctrinaire conservative—the guy believes in global warming, routinely bashes oil companies for "price gouging", and has been known to trash conservative talk radio for being too anti-Obama for his tastes. Can of the competition boast a comparable number of conservative talent?

Anyway, Wallace instead asked if Stewart would be willing to say the same thing about the mainstream media. Predictably, he wasn’t:
WALLACE: You don't think the New York Times is a liberal organization?
STEWART: No.
WALLACE: Pushing a liberal agenda?
STEWART: The New York Times, no. I think they are to a certain extent. Do I think they're relentlessly activist? No. In a purely liberal partisan way? No, I don't.
The entire hour could have been spent listing examples of the MSM’s left-wing bias, and for Stewart to claim he doesn’t see it is phony on its face. Wallace gave him a recent one: the New York Times and Washington Post’s call for their readers to help them go dirt-digging through Sarah Palin’s recently-released emails. Why pull such a stunt, and why didn’t they do the same with the 2,000-page ObamaCare bill?
STEWART: Because I think their bias is towards sensationalism and laziness. I wouldn't say it's towards a liberal agenda. It's light fluff. So, it's absolutely within the wheelhouse.
So Fox is a partisan propaganda machine, but their competitors’ misdeeds are merely apolitical grabs at juicy headlines. So it didn’t occur to anyone at the NYT or WaPo that there might be a few sensationalistic tidbits in a 2,000-page piece of legislation that many of its supporters didn’t even read? Can’t Fox’s (alleged, unidentified) misdeeds just as easily be attributed to “sensationalism and laziness”? And if sensationalism alone is the lifeblood of the MSM, then how does Stewart explain the MSM's lack of interest in, say, the John Edwards love child story? What could be more sensationalistic than a man who was almost Vice President fathering a child with a mistress while his wife was dying of cancer?

Next came some arguing about whether Stewart’s primarily a comedian or an activist, which misses the point—lies are lies, no matter who says them. And regardless of what Stewart labels himself, many of America’s youth do turn to him as their primary source for political news.

The diversion did, however, lead to this incredible nugget from Stewart:
STEWART: You can't understand because of the world you live in that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that's the soup you swim in. And I appreciate that. And I understand that. It reminds me of, you know -- you know, ideological regimes. They can't understand that there is free media other places because they receive marching orders.
Here Stewart is using his own lie about Fox as proof Wallace must be wrong about him. Did Wallace call him out for it? Nope.

Wallace next gave another example of liberal MSM propagandizing: Diane Sawyer leading a hard-news story with an outright lie about Arizona’s immigration law. Stewart’s reaction? “That’s sensationalist and somewhat lazy. But I don’t understand how it’s partisan.” Of course.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the whole interview came a bit later, when Stewart—angrily—asked:
STEWART: In polls, who is the most consistently misinformed media viewers, the most consistently misinformed? Fox. Fox viewers. Consistently. Every poll.
How did Chris Wallace respond to such a brutal, direct attack on Fox News Channel’s credibility?

He didn’t.

Not a word about whether it was true. Instead he changed the subject to raunchiness on Comedy Central. Incredible.

Fortunately, PolitiFact decided it was worth checking, and, unsurprisingly, it turned out to be false:
So we have three Pew studies that superficially rank Fox viewers low on the well-informed list, but in several of the surveys, Fox isn’t the lowest, and other general-interest media outlets -- such as network news shows, network morning shows and even the other cable news networks -- often score similarly low. Meanwhile, particular Fox shows -- such as The O’Reilly Factor and Sean Hannity’s show -- actually score consistently well, occasionally even outpacing Stewart’s own audience.

Meanwhile, the other set of knowledge surveys, from worldpublicopinion.org, offer mixed support for Stewart. The 2003 survey strikes us as pretty solid, but the 2010 survey has been critiqued for its methodology. 
PolitiFact’s look at the findings is worth checking out in full, as are takedowns they link to by John Lott and Brent Bozell, but they actually give too much credit to World Public Opinion. Here’s the gist of the 2003 study:
It asked three questions: "Is it your impression that the U.S. has or has not found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaida terrorist organization?" "Since the war with Iraq ended, is it your impression that the US has or has not found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?" And whether, "The majority of people [worldwide] favor the US having gone to war."
The obvious problem is that the first two “wrong” answers aren’t actually wrong. The study’s authors can nitpick about what evidence they think respondents should have considered “clear,” but just because people were confident Saddam had terrorist connections and WMDs doesn’t make them “misinformed”; in fact, the evidence of Iraq’s terror ties and WMD pursuits was more likely to actually get covered at Fox, making their viewers better informed than the MSM’s. The only question Fox viewers really do get wrong is the global opinion one—but anyone who remembers Fox’s coverage of the Iraq War at the time (which I do) can tell you that they didn’t try to whitewash anti-American sentiment; in fact, whether America should “go it alone” was a frequent topic of debate.

So the truth behind Stewart’s big, angry beef with Fox was complete garbage, and where a better interviewer could have used it to completely destroy him, Wallace let him get away with it scot-free.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Three Lousy Objections to Susan B. Anthony's Pro-Life Pledge...and One Real One


Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have come under fire for refusing to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s Pro-Life 2012 Citizen's Pledge, which reads:
I PLEDGE that I will only support candidates for President who are committed to protecting Life. I demand that any candidate I support commit to these positions:

FIRST, to nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;

SECOND, to select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health & Human Services;

THIRD, to advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions;

FOURTH, advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.
Romney’s instead offered his own pro-life pledge, consisting of good-but-mild promises regarding thinks like opposing Roe and backing the Hyde Amendment, and explaining where SBA goes too far:
It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it. 
I could ask why somebody who claims to understand conservative principles and the original intent of the Constitution is so hung-up on ensuring that hospitals continue to receive federal funding, but here it’ll suffice to echo SBA’s reminder that the pledge doesn’t say anything about defunding hospitals, which “has never been considered by Congress [and] is not part of public debate,” and ask why it would be a bad thing to make abortion so radioactive that hospitals know even tangential dealings with abortion providers could risk their access to the public trough. And frankly, the 5% of hospitals that SBA says do perform abortions should be defunded.
The pledge also unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views.
Actually, the pledge doesn’t cover a “broad array” of federal posts; merely those “relevant” to life issues, namely “National Institute of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services.” Romney says, “oh, my guys will do what I want, regardless of their own views,” but that’s simply not good enough. For one thing, it’s not enough for the president to have confidence in a public servant; the American people must be able to trust that they’ll execute the law the way we voted for. Can anybody seriously say that they’d be comfortable with a pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary, even with a self-described pro-lifer in the White House? For another, abortion is a question of basic liberty, so you can’t just separate someone’s position on abortion from his position on other issues and expect someone who thinks it’s okay to let babies be murdered for convenience to be just fine on everything else.

As someone who strongly supported Mitt Romney last time around (a decision I stand by, as the viable alternatives were still worse), this is the most damning evidence yet that he doesn’t truly take the pro-life cause seriously. (Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly are full of crap on this issue.)

Herman Cain, meanwhile, says his problem was the wording of point four:
I support right-to-life issues unequivocally and I adamantly support the first three aspects of the Susan B. Anthony pledge involving appointing pro-life judges, choosing pro-life cabinet members, and ending taxpayer-funded abortions. However, the fourth requirement demands that I “advance” the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. As president, I would sign it, but Congress must advance the legislation.
Cain seems to be alluding to the fact that presidents don’t have a constitutional role in the legislative process until a bill reaches their desk, which is true, but come on. Rejecting an entire pledge because of one word that wasn’t quite precise enough for Cain is awfully nitpicky, even for a disgruntled constitutional purist like me. Cain’s pro-life street cred is far better than Romney’s, but this is just the latest in a string of bungles by Cain that convince me he’s not ready for primetime.

Now that we’ve got the candidates’ crappy reasons for rejecting the SBA pledge out of the way, we must unfortunately turn to a real problem with it that few people have touched upon. David Kopel explains why the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act may be constitutionally problematic:
The federal version of PCUCPA is S. 314, introduced by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). After the definitions section of the proposed statute, the bill states: “Any abortion provider in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, who knowingly performs any abortion of a pain-capable unborn child, shall comply with the requirements of this title.”

Federal abortion control under the purported authority of congressional power “To regulate Commerce...among the several States” is plainly unconstitutional under the original meaning of the interstate commerce.

Even under the lax (but non-infinite) version of the interstate commerce power which the Court articulated in Lopez,  a federal ban on partial-birth abortion is dubious, as Glenn Reynolds and I argued in a Connecticut Law Review article. Indeed, in the 5–4 Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban, Gonzales v. Carhart, Justices Thomas and Scalia, who voted in the majority to uphold the ban as not violating the Casey abortion right, concurred to point out “that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court. The parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it.”

In other words, if the attorneys who challenged the federal ban on partial-birth abortions had been willing to raise all plausibile constitutional claims, instead of losing the case 4–5 they probably could have won 6–3, by assembling a coalition of 4 strongly pro-abortion-rights Justices, plus Scalia and Thomas on the commerce issue.
Clearly, using the Commerce Clause for authorization is every bit as invalid as when liberals do it. Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce was meant to prevent the states from placing onerous restrictions on interstate commerce. Using it to justify regulations on abortions that cross state lines violates the spirit of the clause, and using it to justify regulations on abortions that don’t cross state lines violates both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Can the bill be justified on other grounds, though? The Fourteenth Amendment says no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” and empowers Congress to enforce that promise. As Ronald Reagan famously pointed out, the architect of the Fourteenth Amendment, Rep. John Bingham, said the amendment’s guarantee of “life, liberty, and property” would apply to “any human being.” I think a case can be made that the Fourteenth Amendment gives Congress the constitutional authority to prohibit abortion (more on that later), but then we come across another problem: does a measure designed to merely discourage abortion constitute protecting fetuses?

I’m not sure. (UPDATE: Here's my first stab at the issue.) As much as I want Republicans to fight abortion harder, I also want them to do it constitutionally. At the very least, pro-life policymakers cannot justify exploiting chinks in the Constitution’s armor first made by the Left. And that the trickier legal issues involved can be vexing even among pro-lifers is all the more reason to support the Human Life Amendment.

Of course, any progress on that front would require statesmen of a higher caliber than Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.

UPDATE II: Ramesh Ponnuru has another, more substantive beef with the pledge: 
But this pledge, taken seriously, would preclude me from voting for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama in 2012 — which is to say, that given these entirely imaginable options, it would preclude me from doing what I can to advance the pro-life cause. (It would have precluded me from supporting Bush over Gore in 2000, too, since Bush made no such commitment on personnel.) It would preclude me from voting for Romney in the primaries even if I believed he offered pro-lifers our best shot at replacing Obama with someone who would appoint good justices to the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Is the Libertarian Position on Abortion? UPDATED

That is the question posed by Hot Air's Ed Morrissey to Reason Magazine's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie for their "Ask A Libertarian" video series:

Ed reacts with appreciation for a "measured, thoughtful response." As you might expect, I'm not so charitable.

No, Ed, this was not a thoughtful response. A thoughtful response would have asked what the scientific evidence reveals about the humanity of the unborn, and the discussed how the answer relates to the nature of liberty (you know, the root word of "libertarian") and the libertarian purpose of government. Instead, all we got was platitudes about respecting differing views wrapped around, quite frankly, Naziesque talk of a "sliding scale of humanity" and how "definitions of life and death change with time." Gillespie even admits that the sliding scale is an intuitive idea, rather than a logical argument.

I'll be the first to acknowledge that there are principled, consistent libertarians out there, like Libertarians for Life, who embrace the full implications of the statements "all men are created equal" and "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." But in what might be the most disturbing part of the video, Welch claims that only about 30% of libertarians call themselves pro-life. If that number is accurate (and I don't know if it is), then that confirms my worst suspicions about libertarianism being merely a form of liberalism that wants to keep its paycheck rather than a sincere, coherent liberty ethos.

But hey, that moral and intellectual confusion is one of the reasons I'm a conservative and not a libertarian. That's their knot to untangle, and I hope for the sake of the Right as a broader coalition that pro-life libertarians are successful in untangling it.

UPDATE: Speaking of libertarians and social issues, Ann Coulter nukes Ron Paul and company along similar lines, in a column so good we'll let slide her misguided infatuation with Chris Christie:
Most libertarians are cowering frauds too afraid to upset anyone to take a stand on some of the most important cultural issues of our time. So they dodge the tough questions when it suits their purposes by pretending to be Randian purists, but are perfectly comfortable issuing politically expedient answers when it comes to the taxpayers' obligations under Medicare and Social Security.

If they could only resist sucking up to Rolling Stone-reading, status-obsessed losers, they'd probably be interesting to talk to.

In my book "Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America," I make the case that liberals, and never conservatives, appeal to irrational mobs to attain power. There is, I now recall, one group of people who look like conservatives, but also appeal to the mob. They're called "libertarians."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

GOP Debate Reaction

The following rankings are based strictly on their performance last night, not their overall merit as candidates.

First Place: A tie between Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. I was surprised to see Bachmann at all, simply because she hadn't made her intentions to run official before last night, and I didn't expect to be as impressed with her performance as I was (I've always liked her passion for conservatism, but she has had a few foot-in-mouth issues). Bachmann was clear, polished, passionate, and generally delivered a performance that stood in stark contrast to the Left's caricature of her as an unserious nut. Gingrich, unsurprisingly, delivered a performance that showcased his unmatched command of the details and a no-nonsense attitude that I think would have taken him far if...well, if he wasn't Newt Gingrich, weighed down by all the baggage that entails.

Second Place: Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Solid performances, but more or less interchangeable in my view. Romney may have been a little more polished, though he's lucky nobody forced him to get too specific about health care. Speaking of which...

Third Place: Tim Pawlenty. He would have been in a tree-way tie for second with Santorum and Romney, were it not for chickening out when given a chance to back up his attacks on RomneyCare. Tim does realize that, if he wins the nomination, he'll have to say uncomplimentary things about Obama to his face, right?

Fourth Place: Herman Cain. I never expected to be as disappointed as I've been in Cain. Despite being able to speak with great confidence and clarity on economics, it's clear he hasn't made any effort to improve his foreign policy credentials. He also stumbled badly when trying to explain his remarks on the loyalty of Muslims, and I was disappointed to learn he wouldn't support the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Fifth Place: Ron Paul. His delivery is so terrible that I can't fathom how this guy managed to develop a cult of personality around himself. He comes across as the crazy uncle you're constantly praying won't embarrass you in front of dinner guests.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yes, Let's Emulate the UK on Healthcare

Another healthcare horror story from across the pond (hat tip to WISN):
Nurses casually stepped over a patient as he lay dying on a  hospital floor.

Peter Thompson, 41, was left in a corridor for ten hours before someone noticed he had passed away.

In a final act of indignity, hospital auxiliaries pulled his lifeless body across the floor in a manner his family described as like ‘dragging a dead animal’.

The scenes which shame the NHS were all captured on CCTV. Staff thought Mr Thompson was merely drunk and left him to ‘sleep it off’.

Yesterday a coroner condemned the death as ‘wholly preventable’.

An inquest heard that the father-of-one, who had consumed a cocktail of drink and drugs, could have been saved had he received emergency treatment.  

The hospital’s accident and emergency department was just 200 yards away.
As WISN's Justin Earl rightly notes, "these hospitals, doctors, and caregivers are overwhelmed, underfunded, and understaffed." But those things can't fully explain a dead body left unattended in a hallway for ten hours. Indifference to, or willfull avoidance of, human suffering ultimately stems from a crisis of moral decency.

Politically Incorrect Question of the Day

Why don't the defense attorneys in the Casey Anthony trial simply argue that their client performed an eleventh-trimester abortion?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Around the Web

Ann Coulter's latest column gives a taste of her new book's subject matter - the relationship between liberalism and mob/herd mentality. Sounds like a persuasive, insightful take on an urgent topic.

Speaking of irrational, hateful mobs, young punks in Madison, this time ticked off about voter ID, have reached a new low: protesting Gov. Scott Walker as he speaks to a Special Olympics group, blocking the kids' view. I don't know what's more sickening - the behavior of these protestors, or the knowledge that so few of the "fine, upstanding citizens" our public schools have been churning out who agree with them will have the basic human decency to stand up and say, "not in my name." But hey, the ends justify the means no matter what, right?

Outrage in Fond du Lac: Another slap on the wrist for a predatory teacher, thanks to DA Dan Kaminsky. This case also includes the added bonus of Judge Gary Sharpe, who should have recused himself, and then blocked pertinent evidence, thereby demonstrating why he should have been recused.

Perfect quote form the Other McCain: "[T]he fundmental falsehood of all sex-education efforts [is] the belief that most sexual problems are caused by a lack of knowledge, rather than a lack of virtue." Too bad there's always some scumbag around the corner to demonize truth-speaking.

Newt's campaign is falling apart as we speak. Surprise!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bad Move, Breitbart

The big scandal of the day is that the most provocative Anthony Weiner photo in Andrew Breitbart's possession got leaked by shock jocks Opie and Anthony. Here's Breitbart's statement on the matter, insisting they did so against his knowledge and will. My question is, why wasn't Breitbart more careful around these two? They're slimeballs whose entire routine is scandal, shock value, and attention. Anyone should have seen their attempting something like this coming from a mile away.

So, Glenn Beck's Putting Together His Own Network

And while I like the guy, I'm not seeing the appeal. Maybe/hopefully Beck has some additional content in mind he hasn't revealed yet, but right now this seems less like a real TV network and more like fancy dressing (and subscription fees) for the stuff he's already doing. Plus, his TV routine is usually too unfocused as it is - doubling it to two hours is exactly the last thing it needs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Of Course: FrumForum's Guardiano Sticks Up for Anthony Weiner; UPDATED

Remember John Guardiano, the David Frum cultist (how sad do you have to be to choose David Frum of all people to sell your soul to, anyway?) who lied about Andy McCarthy and refused to come clean when caught dead to rights? Well, the Soulless Sycophant is back, this time raking conservatives over the coals for making a big deal out of Weinergate (hat tip to Robert Stacy McCain).

First, here's his asinine characterization of the scandal:

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York), of course, is accused of… Well, it’s not clear what, exactly, Weiner’s being accused of. His Twitter account apparently was hacked, or used by a trusted friend or employee for illicit purposes. And so, a close-up shot of a man’s crotch in underwear was sent from his account to a woman in Seattle.

By contemporary standards, the shot is pretty lame and tame. And, as soon as the Congressman realized the pic had been sent from his account, he disavowed and deleted it. The woman from Seattle, likewise, immediately repudiated the notion that she was some sort of love interest of Weiner’s [...]

It’s clear, I think, that Weiner himself never sent this lewd pic to the 21-year-old college student in Seattle. However, others with access to his account or the pic perhaps did. We just don’t know — and we really shouldn’t care.
It's not clear what Weiner's accused of? I know FrumForum doesn't put a premium on reading comprehension or basic logic, but come on. He's accused of sending a photo of his crotch to a young female supporter. And while some have wondered about an odd reference to Seattle on one of his tweets and the student's own description of Weiner as "my boyfriend," nobody I've heard is claiming that they were having an affair. The gist of what is suspected to have happened - Weiner sending a lewd pic to a young female groupie for kicks - is pretty obvious.

And no, it's not "clear" that "Weiner himself never sent" the photo. Guardiano talks at length about how easy it is to get hacked by mischievous pranksters on the Internet, but he doesn't spend a single word on Weiner's behavior after this came to light - not his refusal to ask law enforcement to investigate, not the glaring inconsistency between what he says happened to him and what he wants done about it, and not his preposterous inability to say "with certitude" that he's not the guy in the picture. None of this strikes you as just the tiniest bit suspicious, John? Really?

Second, here's the way he characterizes the "manufactured and phony hype":
Case closed, right? I mean, things happen; accounts get hacked (or sometimes misused by trusted friends and employees); we all realize that; and so we move on.

Well, no, because to impassioned partisan bloggers, both Left and Right, any such incident is a chance to score political points. It’s a chance to beat up the other side, bloody them politically, and pile on the points for your team. And so this non-story quickly — nay, immediately – became the latest “SCANDAL!”
Now, I understand how Guardiano might not see the significance of a story pertaining to a politician's ethics and morals, since rejecting both is a prerequisite for working at FrumForum. But maybe I can explain this in terms even they can understand. There are three possible scenarios here:
  1. Weiner sent the photo and had some sort of relationship with the girl. In this case, he's a married man and a public servant having an affair with someone young enough to be his daughter.
  2. Weiner sent the photo unsolicited. In this case, he's a married man and a public servant exploiting one of his supporters' fondness for him and sexually harassing harassing her.
  3. Someone else sent the photo. In this case, somebody committed sexual harassment against this girl, framing a United States Congressman in the process, but for some reason that congressman doesn't want the perpetrator brought to justice.
Obviously, none of these scenarios describe a "certifiable non-issue." Or at least, it should be obvious. But then, sound judgment on sexual impropriety stories has never been FrumForum's strong suit... 

So, to recap: "conservative" blogger John Guardiano takes a story about a horrendous far-left Democrat engaging in sleazy behavior and badly lying about it, completely ignores the key facts of the case, and spins it into a story about conservatives being irresponsible. At least he's following his master's example to the letter.

UPDATE: Now that Weiner's fessed up to the whole thing, Guardiano has another post. Does he admit that his asinine claim that it was "clear" Weiner didn't send the photos was totally wrong? Of course not. Instead, he rips on conservatives who are openly enjoying Weiner's disgrace and insisting that the scandal is all about Weiner's private life, which should be off-limits:

Anthony Weiner was caught doing a wrong and stupid thing: By his own admission, he “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.” Some of this communication took place after Weiner was married, and he lied about at least one explicit tweet.

That’s sad, shameful and embarrassing. But it also is of no real public import. It’s between him, his wife, his rabbi and his God.

In fact, it remains true even now that nobody has shown Weiner’s actions had any legal or public implications whatsoever.
The should-we-care-about-politicians'-infidelities debate is an old one, and it's no surprise an unprincipled hack like John Guardiano takes the side of indifference. In my opinion, of course a politician's affairs are politically relevant - they reveal whether he likely to keep promises, whether he takes trust seriously, whether he has self-control or is a narcissist, etc. And in Weiner's case, it definitely sounds like not all of Weiner's pen pals were interested in show & tell. Again, does the phrase "sexual harassment" mean anything to John? How pathetic is the state of American politics that we can't even agree that swapping causal sex talk and photos with complete strangers is conduct unbecoming a congressman, and that it reveals that someone lacks the judgment we should expect out of the people making decisions that affect our lives and liberties?

Guardiano goes on to make himself look like even more of a moron:

Some have argued that, by sending explicit photos to a women he barely knew, or had just met online, Weiner made himself susceptible to blackmail. I suppose that’s technically true, but it’s also rather farfetched and unrealistic.

Weiner’s politics are well known; his congressional votes are well publicized; and so it’s hard to see how, in our open and democratic society, he could be blackmailed into changing his political stripes.

Saying Weiner made himself susceptible to blackmail is no more convincing than saying that corporate campaign contributions “buy” a congressman’s vote. In truth, campaign contributions follow a congressman’s vote; they do not direct it.

By the same token, Weiner was pursuing these women for his own personal purposes; they were not political types pursuing him for partisan or financial gain.
This is so ridiculously obtuse I barely know where to begin. First, I doubt Weiner would change his political stripes, either, but it's incredibly ignorant and simplistic to suggest that's the only conceivable kind of blackmail. Not all votes are a question of ideology, and there are plenty of other ways a congressman can be useful, such as pulling strings with various federal, state, and local agencies. Second, it's even more absurd to limit the pool of blackmailers to Weiner's known partners/victims - the point is, Weiner was so indiscriminate that he didn't care what kind of people were getting this material, and that there's no telling whose hands it could ultimately fall into (again with the judgment thing). Third, it doesn't matter how unlikely blackmail is in any particular case of impropriety. Public servants are supposed to avoid even the appearance of being compromised, to maintain the public's faith in the process.

As a political junkie, I often find myself asking one question: is Person X simply dishonest, or is he really this stupid? With John Guardiano, I honestly don't know. Does the American Spectator, an otherwise-serious conservative publication, know how badly their association with this guy reflects on them?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guns Don't Kill People, Political Correctness Does

Teachers reprimanded two seven-year-old boys for playing army games - because it amounted to 'threatening behaviour'.

The youngsters were disciplined after they were spotted making gun-shapes with their hands.

Staff at Nathaniel Newton Infant School in Nuneaton, Warks., even told the boys' parents to 'reprimand' them.

A father of one of the boys said: 'This is ridiculous. How can you tell a seven-year-old boy he cannot play guns and armies with his friends.

'Another parent was called over for the same reason.

'We were told to reprimand our son for this and to tell him he cannot play "guns" anymore.
Obviously, it must be made perfectly clear to kids that guns aren’t toys, and if a teacher sees signs that someone doesn't get that, then intervention in what he’s doing during recess is probably in order. But you don't need to crack down on perfectly innocent and natural children's fantasies to get that message across, any more than teaching them auto safety by keeping them from pretending to be NASCAR drivers

What prevents kids from misusing either is instilling in them a much broader ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, as well as a basic respect for human life. The likelihood of misusing a gun isn't an isolated issue that pops up in a vacuum. It’s either symptomatic of, or enabled by, broader problems that telling kids what they can’t play at recess just isn’t gonna solve, such as bad parents who don’t safely lock up their weapons or don’t teach their kids morality and responsibility.

Kids have always pretended to be cops or soldiers, and, the simple truth is that their primary purpose and characteristic of these institutions is protecting the rights of the community through lethal force, so if children are going to play army or police, then guns are going to be an unavoidable part of that scenario. And that's not a bad thing. Because in the hands of the people these kids were emulating, guns aren’t intended to kill, but to protect. Children fantasizing about fighting fire with fire and standing up to genuine bad guys is not only natural, but healthy. 

Free societies need to pass a certain degree of fighting spirit, of warrior ethos, from one generation to the next – to venerate the fighting and punishing of evil, the willingness to fight and die if need be, etc. I’m not talking about anything close to Sparta-like indoctrination, but at the very least we shouldn’t be coming down on kids when their imaginations are captured by our society’s best and most vital role models.

Indeed, in their zeal to end "threatening behaviour" wherever it arises, the practical effect of such rules is more likely to be the message that military and police service aren't something children should emulate or look up to, because they're inherently "threatening" professions.

A Short Post on Anthony Weiner - UPDATED

The Case of Anthony's Weiner seems to be pretty open and shut. Liberal apologists are trying to muddy the water with talk of fabricated evidence and web hacking, but it's all crap for one simple reason: Anthony Weiner will not deny that he's the one in the picture. In fact, word is that he privately admits he's taken such pictures in the past. Just watch the spectacular trainwreck of an interview the Congressman had with Wolf Blitzer and tell me he's not lying.

What makes this story relevant, though, is the glaring inconsistency between Weiner's version of events (someone framed me) and his reaction (it's no big deal, let's let bygones be bygones). Contrary to Weiner's spin, a lewd photo sent unsolicited to a college girl isn't an innocent prank - it's sexual harassment. Let's state it bluntly: Anthony Weiner, a prominent United States Congressman, sexually harassed one of his young female supporters. And even if you buy Weiner's story, then he's essentially saying that someone who sexually harassed one of his young female supporters - and framed Weiner in the process - shouldn't be punished.

Either way, it's the conduct of a scumbag. How Weiner's House colleagues, the voters of New York, and liberals across the country react will tell us all we need to know about them.

UPDATE: John Boehner refuses to comment on the issue, or whether the House Ethics Committee should weigh in. Not surprising that the Republican Speaker of the House doesn't have the courage or the integrity to speak simple truths, but it is disgraceful. It's stories like this that make me think the GOP has a political death wish.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Not to Discredit Pro-Choicers

Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek has been critiquing a Salon blogger, Mikki Kendall, who claims she almost died because of a doctor who refused to perform an abortion. Stanek raises some good, important questions about the credibility of Kendall's story, but she undermines her own work by claiming to have found a smoking gun that's anything but.

Stanek first highlights this quote from Kendall's original piece:
I don’t know if his objections were religious or not; all I know is that when a bleeding woman was brought to him for treatment he refused to do the only thing that could stop the bleeding. Because he didn’t do abortions. Ever.

Then Kendall's follow-up quote:
Some say I should name and shame the doctor that refused to do the procedure. If I knew why he refused I might have done just that, but since I know that there are many possible reasons that he did not do it? I’ve left him to deal with the internal procedures in place.
Stanek's reaction:

Excuse me? Kendall’s entire Salon story was built upon her accusation that a heartless, negligent, anti-abortion doctor was willing to let her hemorrhage to death rather than provide a life-saving abortion.

And she has now admitted her story was a big, fat, fabricated lie.
Except the quote shows nothing of the sort. At most, Kendall's latest words admit she doesn't know the doctor's motives, whereas she earlier implied that she knew the doctor had personal objections to abortion. That "inconsistency" is shaky enough, but the main problem is that it does nothing to show Stanek's allegation that Kendall's story "was a big, fat, fabricated lie." It doesn't change any of the much more germane details of the story, like what Kendall's condition was, whether the doctor did in fact refuse, or whether the incident occurred at all.

Jill Stanek, as well as the folks at NewsBusters who re-posted her piece, simply can't afford to be so careless when it comes to ensuring the evidence backs up their arguments.
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