THE OTHER SHOE DROPS: Updates To Previous Posts
† Is Obama Already A Lame Duck?: Syndicated columnist Lawrence Kudlow asks, “Am I the only one who saw weakness when President Obama and his departing chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, gave each other big, fat, full-bore hug following their speeches at the resignation event in the White House's East Room on Friday?” He explains why the PDA didn’t sit well with him:
Remember, this is on global television. And it has to do with the very top of the United States government. Our friends and enemies were all watching.
I think the hug lacked dignity. It did not send a message of American power and forcefulness. So I fret about the reaction around the world to this kind of fraternity-like emotionalism in full public view.
Why not just a dignified, stand-up, serious handshake? That's what Ronald Reagan would have done. A strong handshake shows friendship, respect and even affection. But a big fat hug seems to go over the line.
Perhaps I'm overreacting to this. But when it comes to the presidency and the behavior of our top leaders, I think the image we want to send at home and abroad is one of serious strength of purpose. Not some kind of collegiate squeeze. Somehow the Obama-Emanuel embrace seemed demeaning -- to the presidency, to our officialdom and to our strength of purpose.
Editorial Note: Pundits pounced on this bit of the farewell speech given by former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any President has ever faced.” As if the Civil War, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001 were a cakewalk. For her part, The Stiletto was struck by this: “I watched you confront some of the toughest challenges of our time, and you've done it with unfailing grace, intelligence, and courage.” Considering how Europeans are comporting themselves these days, what Emanuel should have said: “I watched the American people confront some of the toughest challenges of our time, and they've done it with unfailing grace, intelligence, and courage and I was proud to serve them and my country.”
† What Freedom Of Speech Means To Muslims: The Christian Science Monitor examines the sorry state of free speech in the Middle East, where writing a poem critical of the king in Jordan or acknowledging the Armenian Genocide in Turkey could get you arrested under those country’s penal codes; Europe, where expressing disrespect for a group based on their faith in Sweden or inciting hatred against Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands are forbidden under hate speech laws; and Mexico, where journalists are being gunned down by drug lords. Iceland wants to go in a different direction, and wants to set an example for other nations:
Already one of the countries most protective of free expression, Iceland wants to be the most protective. In June, its Parliament passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), a proposal that promises to turn the small North Atlantic island into a "transparency haven" for whistle-blowers, journalists, and concerned citizens.
The creators of the IMMI believe that in addition to inspiring other countries to follow suit, the initiative will also encourage media organizations and human rights activists to use Iceland as the operational hub for their Internet-based communications.
The IMMI includes an "ultramodern" Freedom of Information Act inspired by the laws of Estonia and Britain; whistle-blower, libel tourism, and legal process protections inspired by US federal and state laws; and source protection laws inspired by those in Belgium.
These measures may not save the Russian reporter from assassination, the Iranian protester from torture, or the Chinese blogger from imprisonment. However, the IMMI does aim to provide cutting-edge protections for "the wide range of media and human rights organizations that routinely face unjust sanction," notes the IMMI website.
Perhaps if this effort catches on, it will begin to undermine what Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, calls “The Rushdie Rules” in this article for Commentary magazine:
The era of Islamist uproar began abruptly on February 14, 1989, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader, watched on television as Pakistanis responded with violence to a new novel by Salman Rushdie, the famous writer of South Asian Muslim origins. His book's very title, The Satanic Verses, refers to the Koran and poses a direct challenge to Islamic sensibilities; its contents further exacerbate the problem. Outraged by what he considered Rushdie's blasphemous portrait of Islam, Khomeini issued an … unprecedented edict - no head of government had ever called for the execution of a novelist living in another country …
The edict set several precedents in the West. A foreign political leader successfully ignored conventional limits on state powers. A religious leader at will intervened directly, with little cost or resistance, in Western cultural affairs. And a Muslim leader established the precedent of applying an aspect of Islamic law, the Shari'a, in an overwhelmingly non-Muslim country. …
According to the Wall Street Journal, "Across Europe, dozens of people are now in hiding or under police protection because of threats from Muslim extremists." …
Westerners generally perceive this violence as a challenge to their right to self-expression. But if freedom of speech is the battlefield, the greater war concerns the foundational principles of Western civilization. The recurrent pattern of Islamist uproar exists to achieve three goals – not always articulated – that go well beyond prohibiting criticism of Islam.
A first goal consists of establishing a superior status for Islam. Khomeini's demands for the sacred trinity of "Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran" imply special privileges for one religion, an exclusion from the hurly-burly of the marketplace of ideas. Islam would benefit from unique rules unavailable to other religions. Jesus may be sacrilegiously lampooned in Monty Python's Life of Brian or Terry McNally's Corpus Christi, but, as one book's title puts it, "be careful with Muhammad!"
This segues to a second goal – Muslim supremacy and Western inferiority. Islamists routinely say and do things more offensive to Westerners than anything Westerners do vis-à-vis Muslims. … They freely insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. They murder Jews just for being Jews, like Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, Sébastian Sellam and Ilan Halimi in France, and Pamela Waechter and Ariel Sellouk in the United States. Whether because of fear or inattention, Westerners assent to an imbalance whereby Muslims may offend and attack while they themselves are shielded from any such indignities or pains. …
Islamists all concur on the goal of applying Islamic law globally. But they differ on whether to achieve this through violence (the preference of bin Laden), totalitarian rule (Khomeini), or by politically gaming the system (the Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan). However done, were Islamists to achieve a Shar'i order, they would effectively replace Western civilization with Islamic civilization. In American terms, allowing the Koran to trump the Constitution ends the United States as it has existed for more than two centuries. …
Defenders of Western civilization must fight not just Islamists but also the multiculturalists who enable them and the leftists who ally with them.
† Red Is The New Blue (Dog): Rep. Parker Griffith (
D R-AL) was onto something when he switched parties (“I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy, and drives us further and further into debt") - though it wasn’t enough to overcome the anti-incumbent tide. An analysis by Club for Growth President Chris Chocola of votes cast by the 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition finds that they “are not fiscal conservatives, and only a few can credibly claim even to be fiscal moderates”:
Organizing into a coalition after the Republican takeover of the House in 1994, the Blue Dogs branded themselves loyal but conservative Democrats. They were, in the words of Rep. Pete Geren of Texas, yellow dogs who had been "choked blue" by the strident economic liberalism of their party leaders. …
Every year since 2007, the Democratic advantage in the House has been fewer than the number of seats held by Blue Dogs: If they had wanted to, the Blue Dogs could have made themselves masters of the House. They could have held an effective veto over any bill they pleased, insisting that Mrs. Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid and even President Obama himself heed their call for fiscal responsibility.
Instead, the Blue Dogs became Mrs. Pelosi's lap dogs, voting with her 80% of the time on economic issues. Every one of them voted for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sixty-three percent voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program; 91% voted for the stimulus package in February 2009; 85% voted for the cash-for-clunkers program; 74% voted for President Obama's debt-tripling 2010 budget; 73% voted for the auto bailout; and 54% voted for the federal takeover of health care. …
The Blue Dog Coalition isn't a vehicle to help conservative Democrats influence policy. It is a marketing brand to help vulnerable Democrats deceive voters.
† There’s Many A Slip ‘Twixt The Cup And Lip: The Washington Times reports that “[f]ollowing the lead of the successful Missouri initiative, which passed with 71 percent of the vote, Arizonans, Coloradans and Oklahomans will decide this fall whether to approve proposed constitutional amendments that would allow them to opt out of key provisions of President Obama's signature national health care law”:
The three initiatives prohibit the government from forcing individuals to buy health care insurance - a "mandate" that critics say violates the U.S. Constitution - and would allow patients and employers to pay providers directly without penalty.
Just like AZ’s SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law, these laws are setting up a Supremacy Clause vs. 10th Amendment battle that will wend its way through the courts:
There's just one problem, say opponents of the state ballot initiatives: The entire strategy is "an exercise in futility," in the words of Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat. Federal law trumps state law, meaning that the measures are certain to be overturned even if they win 100 percent of the vote.
"No state has the authority to selectively ignore federal laws of its choosing, no matter how much some people may dislike them, and any attempt to do so will be ruled unconstitutional by the courts," said Mr. Henry, who opposes State Question 756. The only practical outcome of the vote, he added, would be a "costly legal battle." …
Jon Caldara, who is spearheading the Amendment 63 campaign in Colorado, said opponents are forgetting about "a pesky little thing called the 10th Amendment," which reserves to the states "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution."
"There have been numerous examples to suggest that there are times when state law supplants federal law," said Mr. Caldara, president of the free-market Independence Institute in Golden. "If federal law always supplanted state law, then we wouldn't have 20 state attorneys general suing to overturn the federal law."
† San Francisco Values (Part II): San Francisco is a study in schizophrenic public policies. On the one hand, a proposed city ordinance would ban McDonald's from putting toys in Happy Meals unless the kiddie meals are changed to include bigger portions of fruit and vegetable portions and fewer total calories. On the other hand, the sanctuary city’s Board of Supervisors voted down a popular ordinance aimed at banning young, able-bodied homeless “travelers” from Haight Street, reports City Journal's Heather Mac Donald via The Wall Street Journal:
By late 2009, community frustration with the aggressive behavior led the police captain in the Haight district to propose a "sit-lie" ordinance to ban sitting or lying on city sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Police would first ask someone blocking a sidewalk to move along, warning him he was violating the law. Only if he refused could they cite him.
The city's politically potent homeless advocates instantly mobilized against the proposed ordinance, as they have in every battle over public space in San Francisco over the last two decades. The real problem in the Haight, advocates claimed, is inadequate government housing and stingy welfare spending. Rather than "criminalizing poverty," the city needs to spend more money on social services and housing subsidies, they say. But the gutter punks are not looking for housing and have no intention of settling down in San Francisco or anywhere else. They are in the Haight to party, en route to their next way station.
The charge that San Francisco has been stiffing social-welfare spending in favor of what homeless advocates sneer at as the "sacred cows" of police and fire protection is absurd. In fiscal year 2009, the city spent $175 million on homelessness - that's $26,865 on each of the city's 6,514 "homeless" persons, the majority of whom are housed in city-subsidized lodgings. Its police budget was $442 million, or $52 per San Franciscan. The gargantuan outlay for the homeless has done little to dent the vagrancy problem. …
Such self-indulgence is particularly foolish in a recession. But the sit-lie law is about more than business viability, however important such viability is to a city's lifeblood and energy. It is also about the basic rules of a civilized society, which include the idea that public spaces should be shared by the public, not monopolized by the disorderly few.
SF Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascón have put the sit-lie law on the ballot as a voter initiative.
Editorial Note: Meanwhile, further south, “[t]he Venice section of Los Angeles has become the latest California community to enact strict new regulations limiting street parking and banning R.V.’s from beach lots” to discourage people who live in their vehicles from hogging up all the parking spaces, displacing residents’ vehicles, reports The New York Times:
In the past, bohemian Venice was tolerant of vehicle-dwellers, but, increasingly, the proliferation of R.V.’s in this gentrifying neighborhood has prompted efforts to remove them. …
A bitter debate has raged between residents who want to get rid of R.V.’s and those who want to combat the problems of homelessness in the community by offering safe places to park and access to public bathrooms. Last year, residents voted to establish overnight parking restrictions, but the California Coastal Commission twice vetoed the plan.
However, a recent incident involving an R.V. owner’s arrest on charges of dumping sewage into the street has accelerated efforts to remove vehicle-dwellers. Starting this week, oversize vehicles will be banned from the beach parking lots; an ordinance banning them from parking on the street overnight could take effect within a month. …
According to Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, ordinances banning R.V.’s have spread from metropolitan areas into the suburbs as vehicle-dwellers venture farther afield in search of somewhere to sleep.
“Communities are now forming a patchwork of ordinances, which virtually prohibits a geographic cure to the situation,” Mr. Donovan said. “If you’re in a community and they tell you to leave, you can’t just go to the next community, because they establish similar ordinances, especially in California.”
† Living In These Mad, Mad, Madoff Times: New census data shows that between 2005 to 2009, the percentage of households that include extended family members – grown children returning to the nest, adult siblings sharing an apartment, families taking in grandparents – increased from 6.9 percent to 8.2 percent, reports USA Today:
Fueled by the dismal economy and high unemployment, more Americans - friends and families - are doubling up. …
There are also signs of a shift from family households. For the first time in more than a century, more than half of people aged 25 to 34 have never been married.
The number of people in non-family households - those whose members are not related - grew 4.4% from 2005 to 2009, faster than the 3.4% growth for family households.
† Updates To Previous Posts (The Right To Bear Arms Belongs To Us All: Part II): The New York Times reports on the haves and have nots. That is, those who have Second Amendment rights because the laws in their states allow the exercise of this Constitutional right, and those who don’t because the laws in their states thwart its exercise. The first group of states are the villains of The Times’ article:
Tennessee is one of four states, along with Arizona, Georgia and Virginia, that recently enacted laws explicitly allowing loaded guns in bars. (Eighteen other states allow weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol.) The new measures in Tennessee and the three other states come after two landmark Supreme Court rulings that citizens have an individual right - not just in connection with a well-regulated militia - to keep a loaded handgun for home defense. …
The new laws have also brought to light the status of 20 other states - New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts among them - that do not address the question, appearing by default to allow those with permits to carry guns into establishments that serve alcohol, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a nonprofit group that promotes gun control and tracks state gun laws. …
Previously, states like Tennessee did not allow its residents to carry concealed weapons unless they had a special permit from the local authorities. That began to shift in the mid-1990s, as the gun lobby pushed states to adopt policies that made permits for concealed weapons more accessible.
The new law passed with broad legislative support, despite opposition from the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Hospitality Association.
So far, the law has been challenged only once. Filed by an anonymous waiter, the complaint contended that allowing guns into a tavern creates an unsafe work environment for servers. His complaint was denied by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
† Updates To Previous Posts (third item, Illegal Immigrants Swamping Small Town America): The New York Times declares, “Nebraska may appear to be an unlikely setting for swelling anti-immigrant sentiment” because the state doesn’t border Canada or Mexico; at 4.6 percent, unemployment is the third lowest in the nation; and because immigrants, “legal and otherwise,” have been working in the state’s fields and meatpacking plants for years. And yet the state’s Republican governor, Dave Heineman, successfully campaigned on illegal immigration four years ago when he was the underdog, and continues to make it a central theme of his re-election bid:
Just over a decade ago the state’s two most prominent Republican elected officials - Chuck Hagel, then a senator, and Mike Johanns, a governor who is now in the Senate - banded together to successfully pressure federal authorities not to create a program aimed at cracking down on the hiring of illegal immigrants in the state’s meatpacking plants.
Since that time the number of foreign-born residents - the majority of whom are Hispanic - has increased drastically, more than 40 percent since 2000, according to census estimates. The number of illegal immigrants grew more than 50 percent in that time to 45,000, according to estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.
But even if concern about these new arrivals simmered across the state, it did not become a central part of the political dialogue until 2005, when Mr. Heineman was elevated from lieutenant governor to the top post after Mr. Johanns resigned to be United States agriculture secretary.
Mr. Heineman’s tenure was expected to be short. The next year, in the Republican primary, he faced the University of Nebraska’s much-beloved football coach turned congressman, Tom Osborne. But Mr. Heineman proved a more deft campaigner and lavished attention on the issue of illegal immigration. …
As governor, Mr. Heineman has emphasized that the state welcomes immigrants, as long as they are legal. He has battled repeatedly, though so far unsuccessfully, to rescind in-state college tuition rates for children who grew up in the state but are in the country illegally.
He put in effect a system to perform mandatory checks of those applying for government benefits to ensure that they are not illegal immigrants. And, more recently, he upset some of his anti-abortion supporters by ending a program that provided prenatal care for pregnant women who are in the country illegally.
Editorial Note: In response to Heineman’s vow that one of the first acts of his second term would be to push for a law like AZ’s S.B. 1070, his Dem opponent Mike Meister, trotted out that old canard about the governor pandering to “our fear of difference.” Is an illegal immigrant from Guatemala is more “different” than “us” than a legal immigrant from Guatemala? No, these two immigrants are different from each other - one is illegal and one is not.
† Updates To Previous Posts (seventh item, DA Sexts Domestic Abuse Defendant’s Girlfriend): In a statement to the media, Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said he has lost the confidence of the people he represents, "primarily due to personal issues which have now affected my professional career" and resigned the post he had held since 1992.
† Updates To Previous Posts (fifth item, Is The Iraqi Criminal Justice System More Efficient Than Ours?): The Supreme Court has turned down the appeal of GA death row defendant Jamie Weis, who said he had no legal representation for two years because the state’s public defender program had run out of funds. “Prosecutors said Weis was never without legal representation, though they concede his lawyers were limited by a funding shortfall,” reports The Associated Press.