Greek Fire: the Left's Innocent Victims

Above the seething streets of this ancient city, Angeliki Papathanasopoulou—four months pregnant and at work in a downtown bank—tried to soothe her fearful mother on the other end of the phone.

It was noontime on May 5, and the tension was palpable as angry crowds gathered in Athens's main squares, readying to protest deep spending cuts needed to earn an international bailout.

"Don't worry," Ms. Papathanasopoulou told her mother on that May day. "I'm on an upper floor." Besides, the 32-year-old was leaving work early at 3 p.m., for a doctor's appointment to learn whether the child she carried was a girl or a boy.

She never found out. Shortly after 2 o'clock, as the throngs marched past her building on Stadiou Street, hooded men shattered the window, poured gasoline on the floor and hurled in a Molotov cocktail. Toxic smoke filled the three-story bank, sending 24 people who worked there climbing out of windows or clambering onto roofs of adjacent buildings.

Ms. Papathanasopoulou and two colleagues, people who had watched her marry her husband nine months before, succumbed to the thick black fumes before they could make it out.

We keep hearing from the Left about how they have their boots on the neck on this or that corporate bad guy, about how they stay up nights making Molotov cocktails to benefit "the workers," about how they're all about afflicting the comfortable, etc. You know the litany. Yet, it's the workers who end up worse off when the Left has its way. If you are lucky, you end up like Ms. Papathanasopoulou's friends who had to choose between working for real wages overseas or staying home and living in a high tax/low employment welfare state. If you are unlucky, you end up dying in a bank branch because a bunch of rioters couldn't figure out that the "banksters" probably wouldn't be working at the teller windows in the middle of the afternoon.

The Left is not about fairness and equality. It's about revenge and envy. Yet, in order to achieve their cruel utopias, they must destroy more lives than just those among The Rich. There simply aren't enough rich people in the world to satisfy their bloodlust. Middle class strivers are in the cross-hairs, too.

Tweet of the Year

This is the funniest thing ever to come out of Twitter. The background: the hapless Buffalo Bills were on the verge of upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers. All Bills receiver Stevie Johnson had to do was hold on to a ball thrown straight to him in the end zone. If you you know anything about the Bills, you'll already know that he dropped the ball. Afterwards, he took to Twitter to rage at the Almighty:

Have to love the "Thx Tho..."

Asssssange: Another Doc Dump From Wiki-leaks

Sheesh. It's another massive document drop from Wiki-leaks, this time of 250,000 State Department cables.

Hundreds of thousands of State Department documents leaked Sunday revealed a hidden world of backstage international diplomacy, divulging candid comments from world leaders and detailing occasional U.S. pressure tactics aimed at hot spots in Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

The classified diplomatic cables released by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks and reported on by news organizations in the United States and Europe provided often unflattering assessments of foreign leaders, ranging from U.S. allies such as Germany and Italy to other nations like Libya, Iran and Afghanistan.

The cables also contained new revelations about long-simmering nuclear trouble spots, detailing U.S., Israeli and Arab world fears of Iran's growing nuclear program, American concerns about Pakistan's atomic arsenal and U.S. discussions about a united Korean peninsula as a long-term solution to North Korean aggression.

There are also American memos encouraging U.S. diplomats at the United Nations to collect detailed data about the U.N. secretary general, his team and foreign diplomats — going beyond what is considered the normal run of information-gathering expected in diplomatic circles.

None of the revelations is particularly explosive, but their publication could prove problematic for the officials concerned. And the massive release of material intended for diplomatic eyes only is sure to ruffle feathers in foreign capitals, a certainty that prompted U.S. diplomats to scramble in recent days to shore up relations with key allies in advance of the disclosures

Once again, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and The NY Times have the "scoop" in that they were able to coordinate with Wiki-leaks on the release of the material, and were able to view it all ahead of time. Is this even journalism? If it is, it's the sort of journalism practiced by the people who re-type press releases from non-profits about how pizza causes cancer.

The worst part of this isn't the revelation of even more "secrets," since none of the headline revelations are shockingly unexpected. Oh, they might be surprising to anyone who relies on the US mainstream media for all of their news, but if you are outside of that bubble, then you already knew or suspected that China was spying on Google, that North Korea has been helping Iran to arm itself with nukes, and that the Sunni Arab nations have been screaming for the US to attack Iran. Oh, and Libya's Col. Kaddafy is a loon. Say it ain't so.

No, the worst is knowing that some time in the next few days we will be treated to another smug, humorless press conference from "brave" "whistleblower" Julian Assange, the combination journalist/activist/conscience of the world who seems to be able to practice his peculiar craft with impunity. Spare me. The heroic whistleblower's press conference has become as much a part of the media environment as Amber Alerts and Gloria Allred mistresses. Asssssange is just another anti-American leftist with a media bullhorn from his fellow travelers in the international media. That he can apparently travel the world dispensing classified military and diplomatic files with impunity just underscores how impotent the American government and its intelligence community have become. We're going to be waiting a long time for the equivalent release of docs from China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.

You can pretty much draw a straight line from Daniel Ellsberg to Philip Agee to the serial leakers of the Bush years all the way to Asssssange. All of these people committed crimes. So did the media organizations who enabled them. But since they cloaked themselves in a calculated nobility, and acted in a way approved by the Left, they were largely left alone. Of course, now that we have a leftist American government, we have reached the logical end: nothings gonna happen because people like Obama secretly approve of what Asssssange is doing, even as they "denounce" it for the benefit of all us bubbas who still care about national security. (as The Other McCain notes, we didn't have this sort of mass release of classified information until Obama took office).

And, it's remarkable how - with all of the blaring media headlines - there has been very little said about Bradley Manning, the source of at least some of these documents. Manning is presently sitting in solitary confinement. He is also known to have been motivated to betray the US because he was upset over the end of a gay relationship. Oh, and he was Welsh. So, yes, let's make sure we give him a security clearance! And, let's make sure that we not have too many MSM revelations of that information - some things really should stay secret, don't you know. Not only that, there seems to be very little curiosity about who might also be leaking this stuff (I doubt Manning had access to State Dept. material). While CIA and FBI moles are hunted and prosecuted, State Dept. vipers - whether Alger Hiss or Joe Wilson or that Cuban spy from last year - are often celebrated. Maybe the Times doesn't want to know, but does the Times/Wiki promise of confidentiality extend to all media outlets everywhere?

Pres. Obama and Sec. Clinton can bemoan this all they want. The fact is that they, their party, and their ideological allies have profited more from the work of the Asssssanges of the world than they have lost. The US simply has no secrets so long as these people are in office.

Locked Down: San Francisco's Growing Historic Districts

I've written before about San Francisco's (and California's) tendency towards overrating and over-celebrating their "history." The fact is that modern California history began in 1849, which is not that long ago. By contrast, Englishmen were building permanent settlements on the East Coast during Shakespeare's lifetime. If, like me, you grew up in Virginia, you go on field trips to Civil War battlefields and Founding Father plantations. If you're a kid in SF, your field trips are visits to Spanish Missions (most of them are modern buildings built on the sites of old missions) and Indian burial grounds. Big whoop. The latest effort at preserving useless history is in San Francisco's South of Market area, or what my Dad used to call "Bumtown"

The buildings lining the lone block of Sumner Street in San Francisco's South of Market district will never be mistaken for the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square.

The entrance off Howard Street is flanked by two-story warehouses from the 1920s, one concrete and one brick. The alley itself displays small buildings of various styles, including a one-story wooden home from 1906 with columns framing the door and a huge bay window.

Yet 11 buildings on the block, and 467 more on the blocks around it, are deemed "contributors" to what could become the city's largest historic district - a collection with few obvious landmarks that instead offers clues to the blue-collar city of the past.

This and similar landscapes deserve such attention; for too long they were taken for granted. The double-edged sword is that new layers of protections could undermine the varied architectural character that makes such areas distinct.

In the case of the proposed Western SoMa Light Industrial and Residential Historic District, that character is easy to miss.

The rational is that SOMA's buildings are part of the City's "blue collar" history. Maybe. But, we're talking about an area filled with warehouses, flophouses, and dive bars. There are some stray urban hipsters living there, but mostly it's bums and low-income housing types. And if SF cares about its "blue collar" history, why does the City otherwise pursue policies - high tax, high, environmental regs, rent control - that are practically designed to drive blue collar jobs out? Mostly, though, I don't think any of the proponents for this "historic" district can identify what historically important events or persons are linked to the site. At the bare minimum, the standard for preserving any building should be: is there a PhD thesis attached to this site?

Of course, the point of declaring this useless area "historic" is not so the City can fill it up with historic re-enactors playacting as Wobblies and longshoremen. It's to stop the dreaded "development," and SOMA is a place that is perpetually ripe for development, but which always seems to miss the development bus, mostly because busybody progressives declare SOMA to be off-limits for one reason or another. During the Internet Bubble era, for example, there was a big local stink over the construction of a few condo-lofts in the area, some of the few nice areas in SOMA and thus thoroughly objectionable.

Historic or not, the place is an eyesore. If SOMA was truly historic, locals would have "preserved" it on their own. You don't need some mayoral proclamation declaring the place to be "historic."

Safety Last:

Can you stand to hear another story of annoying San Francisco meddling in the name of Saving Us All?

The other morning I had to go down to San Jose. We were having a bit of a cold snap (37 degrees Fahrenheit. Can you believe it?) and in the classic way these things work, I also had to buy gas. So, I stopped at the neighborhood gas station. Getting out of my car and shivering through the purchase process, all I could think of was, "I can't wait until I can get the gas flowing and set that little toggle that holds the pump handle in place." Then, I could put my hands in my pockets.

But, when it came time to set the toggle...there was nothing there! The only way to keep the gas flowing was by maintaining a death grip on the handle like some kind of Fifties-era pump jockey! Thinking there must be something wrong, I looked at the pump next to mine. That one had lost its toggle too! What gives?

At that point, the station owner - a very nice Middle Eastern gent, very old school: wears a tie and fedora while working - saw my distress and came over. I asked, where are the toggles? His response: the fire department made him take them off the pumps. For safety reasons.



Who the heck is being saved by this?? These toggles have been on gas pumps for decades! They're great if you want to do something besides hold a gas pump for five minutes, like wash your windows, or put your hands in your pockets, or, God forbid, keep the amount of time squeezing a dirty pump handle down to the absolute minimum. Now, they're "unsafe?" I say, baloney. There hasn't been a rash of gas station explosions due to inadequate toggle deployment. I haven't seen any obituaries about guys dying from wayward toggle use. If there are safety issues at a San Francisco gas station - aside from what goes on in the bushes behind the gas station, not that there's anything wrong with it - they would arise during an earthquake, but no toggle would be affected by that. No, this is meddling, plain and simple.

Plus, I thought firemen were gruff, macho guys who raced into burning buildings. I guess they've been replaced by querulous old biddies worried about kids walking on their lawn.

The station owner, however, already had a work around. (I suspect he knows a thing or two about getting around petty authoritarians). Each pump had an empty plastic water bottle. He showed me how to stick the bottle into the pump handle, which kept the gas flowing nicely.

The human spirit prevails!

America's Team: Happy Memories With Leon Lett

Via Ace of Spades, here's a funny look at one of the great NFL boneheads, Leon Lett of the Dallas Cowboys. "All of a sudden, you see one white jersey ... with a star on it ... coming out of nowhere, jumping on the ball."

And here he is losing a sure Superbowl touchdown through a combination of his own hotdogging and Don Beebe's heroic hustle:

(Dedicated to the Free Will brother)

UPDATE: here's an odd answer to a future trivia question: when Jake Delhomme takes the field in Sunday's Browns-Panthers game, he will be drawing a paycheck from both teams.
With Browns rookie quarterbackColt McCoy in a walking boot and nursing a high ankle sprain, Jake Delhomme will start against his former Panthers team Sunday. What makes this even more intriguing is that Cleveland is paying Delhomme $7 million this season while Carolina is paying him $12.75 million. So the Panthers will be paying Delhomme more than the team he is trying to help lead to a victory. But Delhomme could help Carolina in a roundabout way; he could do even more to help the Panthers lock up the draft's No. 1 overall pick.

I know this is not an unusual occurrence in professional sports (must have happened to A-Rod a couple hundred times in the past decade), but surely it's a singular moment when the team you are playing against is paying you more than the team you are leading.

Who Wants To Live Forever?

My buddy Joe reminds me that yesterday was the 19th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death.

One of the greats and one of a kind.

Happy Thanksgiving

Make sure you don't have Too Much Mustard

The Coup Clan: SF Progressives Scheme To Put A Real Leftist in the Mayor's Office

With SF mayor Gavin Newsom having won the race for Lieutenant Governor, speculation is beginning as to who will be appointed to serve out the remainder of his term (he's got about a year left to go). In most normally operating jurisdictions, the outgoing executive usually gets to appoint his replacement, the idea being if the voters can't have their chosen candidate serve out his term, then he should at least be able to pick his replacement to fulfill the will of the People. Not in San Francisco! No, here, the Board of Supervisors gets to choose the new mayor. As a majority of the Supes are Greens and Progressives, there is a certain amount of chop-licking as City progressives contemplate having a "real" leftist in the mayor's office for the first time in 20 years. Don't let a crisis go to waste, right?

The solid left majority on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has an opportunity to do what city voters haven't done for more than two decades: put a progressive in the mayor's office.

Not since the election of Art Agnos in 1987 has a progressive served as mayor, and his tenure ended four years later when he lost his re-election bid to Frank Jordan, the more conservative former police chief. The only progressive mayor before Agnos, George Moscone, was assassinated in 1978, three years into his first term.

Now, with Mayor Gavin Newsom, a San Francisco-style moderate, set to leave office in early January to become lieutenant governor, the Board of Supervisors can appoint his replacement to finish his last year.

"This is a golden opportunity for the progressives," said David Lee, a political science lecturer at San Francisco State University who heads the Chinese American Voters Education Committee. "Mayor is the holy grail of city politics. ... This is their moment."

At the same time, he said, the progressives must make sure the appointment isn't perceived as a raw power grab and end up alienating voters heading into next November's mayor's race.

I know out-of-towners will not believe this, but the last 3 mayors have been relatively conservative. That's as compared to the loons who have run against them, of course. But, it's true that there hasn't been a real leftist mayor since Art Agnos' term ended in 1992, and for good reason. Agnos was a terrible mayor who let the homeless run wild at Civic Center (and everywhere else downtown) and had a hard time figuring out how to clean up after the 1989 earthquake. Also, I seem to recall Agnos decreed that the buses would not be cleaned, so as to save water during a drought. He really was the Jimmy Carter of mayors. Since then, we've had a series of business friendly mayors who have supported the sort of development that have improved life in the City, but which the City's left never fails to oppose.

San Francisco leftists are like leftists everywhere. They can never get everything they want thanks to dark reactionary forces that thwart the will of the People - never mind that the People have never demonstrated any great appreciation for socialism. But, give the City's left an inch and they'll take the mayor's office for a year with God knows what results. Rent controlled doghouses? A 90% increase in the hotel tax? Illegal aliens voting in local elections? (not a joke. this was an initiative on the City ballot this year). A year is a long time when you are out to cause mischief, and progressive "achievements" have a funny way of taking on a life and mythology of their own.

UPDATE: unrelated, except for the "liberal Bay Area mayor" angle, Oakland's mayor-elect, Jean Quan, just got her car booted for unpaid parking tickets.

Union Dues: CA Nurses Union Admits To Setting Up Whitman's Illegal Alien Maid

The Media-approved story: "brave" illegal immigrant confronts fat-cat billionaire Republican trying to "buy" a political office with the selfless assistance of a womens' rights advocate and is a factor in said fat-cat's election loss. When asked how an unemployed high school drop out can afford to pay the attorneys fees for one of the most expensive lawyers in the state, the response is the inevitable "attorney-client privilege."

The amazing reality: illegal immigrant maid to moderate Republican candidate for governor, who was fired after revealing she had lied about her immigration status for 10 years, links up with a media-savvy leftist with a JD and a bar card. Who made the introductions between an obscure Northern Californian maid and a celebrity litigator in LA? The CA Nurses Union, of course:

In early September, Diaz turned to a friend who knew a member of the powerful, Oakland-based California Nurses Association, The Chronicle has learned.

The union called in two lawyers for Diaz: Marc Van Der Hout, a longtime immigration attorney in San Francisco, and celebrity feminist attorney Gloria Allred, a fierce workplace rights litigator who arranged for Diaz to tell her story in a live-webcast news conference.

Asked to confirm her organization's role in Diaz's case, Rose Ann DeMoro, the nurses union executive director, said Monday, "I won't deny it, but I prefer not to comment directly on the case."

Whitman, a former eBay CEO, has alleged that Diaz was used by unions backing her Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, and engaged in "the politics of personal destruction." Her campaign said the California Nurses Association's role was suspected after its spokesman, Chuck Idelson, turned up at a widely watched Diaz news conference - and refused comment on the matter.

But several sources close to the matter, speaking on condition that they not be named, have now confirmed the union's role in Diaz's emergence, a moment labor leaders hailed as a watershed in the immigrant-rights movement - and political opponents have called a classic campaign dirty trick.

The Nurses Union was also one of the forces behind the defeat of The Governator's 2005 reform propositions. Something to keep in mind next time you hear about how Big Business is trying to buy democracy. It's obvious they've already been outbid.

No New York 1979: David Bowie on SNL

A real find from Chicago Boyz: it's David Bowie on Saturday Night Live with Klaus Nomi on back-up vocals reinventing himself (once again).

Here he is singing The Man Who Sold The World

And here he is in a bizarrely animated performance of Boys Keep Singing

Lexington says Bowie also performed TVC15, but YouTube doesn't have it. Even Google has its limits, it seems.

I think even now, if a major pop music star (and Bowie was that back then) showed up anywhere with this look and sound, they would be regarded as nuts. But, he was doing nothing more than pioneering many of the looks and sounds that would soon be labeled "new wave." If there was another classic rock artist back then who was able to seamlessly transition from Sixties to Seventies to Eighties as well as Bowie, I'd like to know their name.

Standing Athwart Progress Yelling "STOP!": The Palo Alto Tree v High Speed Rail

Despite the parlous state of California's finances, it's full speed ahead on the high speed rail project. We already know it's going to cost tens of billions of dollars. We also know that it will end up costing more than anyone will admit. And if this headline is repeated down the length of the state, we all know that our grandchildren will be in their dotage before the final spike is nailed: Historic Tree Stands In The Way of High Speed Rail.

Towering 10 stories above the banks of San Francisquito Creek, the El Palo Alto redwood predates the U.S. Constitution by more than 800 years. It is widely believed to have been a campsite for explorer Gaspar de Portola when he discovered San Francisco Bay in 1769.

It has endured everything from ecological changes to economic shifts, all of which left marks on the ecology of this venerable tree. Now it’s entangled in the debate over high-speed rail.

The tree stands within 10 feet of existing Caltrain tracks between the Menlo Park and Palo Alto stations, with commuter trains passing by 90 times every weekday. Initial plans by the California High-Speed Rail Authority called for widening the tracks to accommodate the new rail line, which would put the tree in jeopardy. Proposed alternatives included a trench or raised track.

To be sure, critics cite many reasons for their opposition, including the costs. But in Palo Alto and neighboring communities, the tree has become a budding symbol for why high-speed rail — approved by a majority of the state’s voters in 2008 — needs to be evaluated carefully. Dave Dockter, Palo Alto city arborist and current steward of the tree, said, “I think all of the alternatives have a potentially significant and catastrophic potential to impact the El Palo Alto redwood.”

There's a good example of why California is bankrupt. This tree has its own steward, while I don't even have a manservant. Talk about a misallocation of resources!

More important, it's a good example of how California's inflated sense of self leads to absurd results such as a "historic" tree - did it run for president, or something? - standing in the way of a rail project that the state can't afford; would replace an already cheap, speedy form of transport (it's called an airplane); and would be going through some of the least developed, sparsely populated land in the country (the idea that CA is a densely populated, over-developed place is a myth. Most of the state is rural, if not wilderness). Bonus gag: there's already a rail line going by the tree.

The fact is that California has some of the least historically significant territory in the country. Maybe it's my East Coast bias, but I lived in Northern Virginia for many years. Half the Civil War was fought within a two hour drive of my house. And some scolds in Palo Alto are worried about a tree? Get a grip.

The Further Adventures of THAT WOMAN: Sarah Palin in the News

Sarah Palin is, I wouldn't say back in the news, but she is involved in some unusual news stories today.

First, the on-line gossip/news site Gawker managed to acquire 21 page proofs from Palin's new book, and published them on its website, along with the expected snarky commentary. Palin is unique in inspiring this behavior in her political adversaries, even when said "adversaries" are journalists working for a site known for posting sex videos of the rich and famous. (Gawker also published the hacked Palin emails, which resulted in the recent prison sentence for the college age hacker).

As is usual for this sort of thing, when Palin tweeted that this was not legal, some Gawker mouthpiece sniffed and lectured the governor on "fair use." Which makes total sense. It's why you always see unauthorized leaks of heavily anticipated books before their publication date that are put up on the 'Net with impunity. Oh, wait, no you don't. Gawker probably thought it was enough of a defense to insult Palin's intelligence, but Palin's publisher wasn't convinced. They have sued for copyright violations:

The publisher of Sarah Palin's forthcoming book filed a lawsuit against Gawker Media on Friday for leaking pages of "America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag" before its release next week.

The legal complaint was filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan, said a spokeswoman for HarperCollins Publishers. The filing came two days after Gawker published images of 21 of the book's pages and its dedication page. In response, Palin tweeted, "Isn't that illegal?"

Her publisher contends it is. The lawsuit asks that Gawker be banned from what it terms "further copyright infringement" and that Gawker deliver the source material to the publisher so it can be destroyed. HarperCollins is also seeking financial damages.

Gawker did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment Friday evening, but an item published the day before and titled "Sarah Palin Is Mad at Us for Leaking Pages From Her Book" defended the blog's actions and linked to websites defining the fair use doctrine of copyright law.

Where's your fair use now, Gawker? Oh, and a judge has already issued a temporary restraining order directing Gawker to take the pages down.

The other bit of Palin news is daughter Bristol's miracle run on Dancing With the Stars, which has resulted in accusations of voter fraud, tea party conspiracy, TV rage, and now the inevitable discovery of an envelope filled with white powder that was mailed to DWTS production company.

TMZ is reporting that someone sent “white powder” later determined to be Talcum powder to the offices of Dancing with the Stars:

Cops and other emergency responders raced to CBS Television City studio late Friday after a white powder substance was discovered by a member of the “Dancing with the Stars” staff … and sources tell us Bristol Palin may have been the intended target.

This is the second deranged response to the show in the last week. Just a few days ago a man shot his television when Bristol Palin made it to the finals. Police were called and there was an actual stand off for several hours until he surrendered.

Bristol, along with the rest of the Palin family, has been the subject of endless insults and worse from the highest levels of the Democratic Party and their allies in the media and entertainment worlds. They obviously can't stand the fact that this 20 year old woman might succeed at anything, even a televised dance competition.

The problem seems to have been building each week as Bristol managed to hang in there as her supposedly more worthy rivals dropped out one by one. But, things exploded after the semi-final, when Bristol beat out the heavily favored Brandy. Brandy, you see, is a professional entertainer while Bristol know. Excuse me, but I thought the point of DWTS was to pair celebrities with "real" dancers; but in the case of Brandy and the other semi-finalist Jennifer Grey (daughter of Joel Grey. Did you know that?), we seem to have some ringers, and people often don't like ringers, which is how the votes came out. Anyway, what's so great about Brandy? Didn't she kill someone?

Just another day in the media, where "dumb" conservatives must fend off the endlessly absurd attacks of the party of "facts and reason and science."


I can't improve on Kaus' analysis of the upcoming Senate vote on the amnesty-lite DREAM Act. This isn't exactly striking while the iron is hot, more like striking before the creditors foreclose on the ironworks:

In the post-election "lame duck" session of Congress, Obama and the Democrats will focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. ... Oh, wait, no. They'll focus on passing a big amnesty for illegal immigrants, in order to reward their Latino "base"--which was only 8 percent of the national vote but supposedly cares with something approaching monomania about amnesty (despite evidence that Hispanic American opinion is shifting against illegal immigrantion). ... When did the Democrats' African-American base--11 percent of the vote--get that kind of service? ...

This is really how liberals and liberalism have been able to persist. I mean, they just lost an election by historic margins. There are people in the Capitol Building today, planning on voting on this thing, who will not be in office in five weeks. But, it's full speed ahead. I can understand that there might be Republican Senators who are sympathetic to the idea of the DREAM Act, but I'm not sure how they can justify letting a bill like this pass under these circumstances.

UPDATE: Sandy Levinson is no conservative (far from it), but he's been banging the the drum on weaknesses in our constitutional order for quite some time. Lame-duck sessions - along with their executive brother the three-month presidential transition - have long been a target of his ire for being unnecessarily long and leading to too much mischief.

Just this week, we have the DREAM Act.

We have the president suddenly waking up and demanding the the Senate pass the START Treaty, despite its being pending quietly for months.

We have Jay Rockefeller calling for the FCC to "ban" Fox News (without mentioning that his wife is a big wig at PBS).

And so on. It's like the election never happened.

UPDATE: the Senate is also scheduled to vote on some kind of crazy "food safety" bill (sponsored by urban farmer, Dick Durbin):

S510 puts all U.S. food production under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. And the Department of Defense. We lose not only private-citizen control of our food supply, but sovereignty as well. The bill sets in motion standardization of the food animal supply chain, focusing on eliminating biodiversity in food animal genetic stocks. It further mandates that the federal government control and empower hormonal, genetic, and antibiotic additions to our food supply while postponing most definitions of what will constitute "food crimes" under the bill's sweeping and generalized powers.

They're calling it the food version of Obamacare.

Flight of the Intellectuals: Does the GOP Need an Academic Elite?

This Professor Bainbridge post
is a little old but still timely. It's an "apology" to Bruce Bartlett who was one of the most vehement Bush 43 critics on the Right. Such was Bartlett's disgust with Bush that he ended up voting for Obama and supporting a Keyensian economic model to pull the country out of its fiscal and economic mess. He was also an early proponent of the current "GOP/conservatism is filled with morons and I just can't stand it" school of thought. Bainbridge, a law professor who has written in the past about the need for a right-wing "academic elite," and how it's getting embarrassing to be a conservative declares that Bartlett was on to something:

Back when Bush 43 was President, I was a huge fan of Bruce Bartlett. I especially loved his book Impostor. But when Bartlett broke with the Republicans back in 2008, it seemed to me that he had gone "from being inside the tent pissing out to being outside the tent pissing in." It seemed like apostasy.

I still don't agree with some of Bartlett's current view on economics, which still strike me as "the sort of Keynesian economics he one would have found anathema." Likewise, I still don't agree with his decision to vote for Obama.

But he is clearly right that there has been "a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already."

You can see the problem in the many hate-filled comments to my post on why the GOP needs an academic elite or my post on why it's becoming embarrassing to be a conservative.

On Bartlett: OK, I get that he is a Reaganite, and a leading conservative light for longer than I've been alive. But, if you are out there voting for Obama and supporting Obamanomics (or what you say is the right wing version), I think your conservative credentials going forward are highly suspect. Not trying to run a purge here, or anything, but supporting Democrats is anathema to conservatism. If you really can't stand the GOP, vote Libertarian.

As for Bainbridge's frankly snobby call for a conservative GOP elite (read his posts if you are into Palin insults, or think it's fair to link birthers to mainstream conservatism) ... does Bainbridge believe that politics is an intellectual pursuit? It certainly is not. That doesn't mean there's no place for intellect and policy knowledge, but there is certainly no need for a PhD or JD level of knowledge to be successful in politics.

Just look at who is put forward by the other side. Paul Krugman with Nobel Prize for Bush bashing? Jesse Jackson with his "creeping genocide?" Al Gore with his pompous lectures about destroying the planet (and his faux-professorial Assault on Reason)? Al Sharpton with his bullhorn? Sonia Sotomayor's "empathy" justice? Bill Clinton and his Oval Office blowjobs? What about Katrina vanden Heuvel? Ariana Huffington? Nancy Pelosi? Carol Browner? Jan Schakowsky? Harry Reid? And, what about the undeniably smart Chuck Schumer, who has to play second banana to the aforementioned Reid? Or, how about our "constitutional law professor" president who doesn't seem too concerned about whether the bills he signs into law are actually constitutional?

Next to all that, I think Sarah Palin's not having a "favorite" Supreme Court case stacks up nicely.

Red State Avatars: Dispatches From the Culture Wars

The good guys won a couple battles in the Culture War today. First, little Cody Alicea - he's the kid whose principal told him to take his American flag off his bike because it was causing racial tension - was escorted to school by hundreds of flag waving bikers:

Really, that's pretty inspirational stuff. Middle school's hard enough without having your principal take the side of race-baiting thugs in the lunchroom. I hope (but doubt) he learned something today.

Second, the Westboro "church" (they're the "God Hates F*gs" people) found trouble at its latest funeral. Someone slashed the tires on their mini-van and when they went looking for a mechanic to help them, no one in town would lift a finger. Aw.

First, let’s start with the serious stuff first. Earlier this month, Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey died for his country in Afghanistan. Freedom Remembered tells us that “[h]e died at age 26 at Zarghun Shahr, Mohammed Agha district, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.” May God bless and keep you, Sgt. McCluskey.

So his funeral was apparently last Saturyday, and the Westboro Baptist @$$holes went to protest this soldier’s funeral. They apparently think that if you serve with a gay person you get their gay cooties and therefore go to hell. But when they went back to their minivan, they discovered that someone had slashed two of their tires

Everyone's talking about the slashed tires with Patterico barging into his co-blogger's post to sniff and say "I do not approve of criminal acts in response to speech acts, no matter how heinous the speech act in question." I'll get back to this in a second.

What's more remarkable is what the Westboro folks were faced with when they tried to "protest" another Marine's funeral in Maryland.

This morning in La Plata, Md., the hate group's parade of absurdity received quite a response: More than a thousand counter-demonstrators showed up early, established themselves on the rights-of-way around the church, and prevented the "God Hates Fags" crowd from getting anywhere near the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Terry Honeycutt.

A few minutes ago, I called Holly Smith, one of the organizers of the counter-demonstration. I was surprised to hear no shouting or noise in the background. "American flags as far as the eye can see," she told me. And the Westboro crowd? "They are up at a gas station probably a mile up the road, because they couldn't get any closer," she said. "We're in the shoulder for probably ten deep for at least 300 yards."

Now, that belongs in a movie. And, while those folks and the Cody Alicea's bikers may or may not be Tea Partiers, they are definitely acting in the same spirit: standing up to the forces that are tearing the country down, whether through politically correct rules that always seem to protect the sensibilities of the unpatriotic and unassimilated or media-savvy activists trolling for "civil rights violations." Is there any doubt that, were Cody to burn his flag that the principal would not have stood in the way? Is there any doubt that many on the Left love that the Westboro people are probably paving the way for a free speech right to protest at Marine funerals?

And I really have to question Patterico's high falutin' claim that he "doesn't approve" of criminal acts in response to speech. First off, how much of a crime is slashing a couple tires, especially when you compare it to the crimes that the Westboro people commit? 10, 20 years ago they would have been fighting off multiple complaints for disturbing the peace, inciting violence, and trespassing. But now? Everyone, even prosecutors like Patterico, stands around shrugging their shoulders saying there's nothing they can do. (Hey, they got permits! Permits, I tell you!) Well, I don't remember the day when it was decided that justice and the American Constitution demand that Fred Phelps be able to show up uninvited at military funerals and yell "God Hates F*gs!" I think a lot of people don't remember that happening. But, happen it did. And I think a lot of people don't like that (1) it happened and (2) the government and law enforcement are making a big show of not being able to do anything about it.

Not only that, I think a lot of people look at the Phelps clan and see a modern version of Madeline Murray O'Hare. You know: someone who makes a lot of noise about the Constitution and freedom, but is really just another leftist/fellow traveler (you know Phelps is a Democrat and a disbarred civil rights lawyer, don't you?) trying to tear down America a little piece at a time. The bizarre nasties on the Left end up on the news, always wearing the cloak of "idealist" or "free speech warrior," while real warriors like Sgt. McCulskey are ignored, and seventh graders need a motorcade escort just to ride a bike with a flag on it. If all Fred Phelps has to deal with are a couple slashed tires, he'll be getting off easy.

America XXX: Security Theater

Drudge has been highlighting stories about the brewing revolt against the TSA's full body scanners, which were pressed into service after last Christmas' abortive underwear bomber nearly brought down a Detroit bound airliner. A guy in San Diego was kicked out of the airport for refusing the proffered choice of either a full body scan, or a pat-down that included genital manipulation. (to get on an airplane??). He wrote about his experience here in great detail. There is also a video going around showing an outrageous TSA body-search of a three year old girl.

There is also a brewing showdown with TSA involving pilots and other flight crew members, who desire neither repeated exposure to the scanners' radiation, or the degrading experience of having your private parts touched, all so we are not accused of the dread racial profiling, even though we all can list the five characteristics common to virtually all plane-borne terrorists.

As you might expect, Free Will was on this issue last year, but since my analysis appeared on New Years Eve, it kind of got lost in the shuffle. Here's a refresher. I think it still holds up.
I think there is a bigger problem with whole body scans: they are completely degrading. Call me old fashioned, but the idea of some TSA time-puncher watching hundreds of Americans pass by everyday in a state of x-rayed undress is not something that society should consider acceptable. Is TSA going to be looking at naked images of nuns? Little kids? My wife?

This undated file photo from 2007 shows a person hiding a knife ...

Security experts swear that "if only we had been able to full body scan the Pants Bomber," he would have never gotten on that flight to Detroit. Oh, bulls***. Airport security is the second to last line of defense (passengers are the last line). Our expensive security services are supposed to be doing everything they can to make sure bombers can't get on the plane in the first place. How's that working out? Not well, as it seems a half-dozen security services knew about this guy, and yet he could still get a visa to enter the US carrying no luggage. Before subjecting civilians to full body scans, could we at least subject our intelligence community to brain scans to see if there's any activity upstairs?

We've spent the last eight years standing in long chaotic lines at the airport. We no longer can indulge in the old ritual of greeting our loved ones at the gate. We've been taking off our shoes. We've been taking off our belts. We've been emptying our pockets, and then elbowed by jerk screeners retrieving their gray plastic bins. And, of course, we've been pulled aside for extra screening, regardless of race, age, nationality, or travel history. Why? All so certain people, say, young Nigerian Muslims who travel to Yemen, won't be subject to "profiling." And, so no TSA employee ever has to use their brain.

If it really is our fate to have full body scans, can we at least subject only the 500,000-odd people who are on the government's various watch lists - which no one seems to consult, anyway - to that sort of screening? That would be a lot more rational than making all 300 million Americans go through an increasingly degrading process to no good effect.
I still can't believe that scans have been rolled out without the government - especially one that is run by the sort of ACLU types who are forever searching out new unreasonable searches and seizures - considering whether people would accept them as legitimate. At the very least, they should be limiting the full body scans to the people on the government's watch list, simply as a matter of efficiency and conserving resources, but TSA seems intent on potentially scanning everybody.

Bonfire of the Vanity: Last's Look at Obama's Self-Regard

Jonathon V. Last writes on the vanity of Barack Obama, a man whose claim to fame pre-Presidency was as the author of two memoirs about his not particularly dramatic life:

The story of Obama’s writing career is an object lesson in how our president’s view of himself shapes his interactions with the world around him. In 1990, Obama was wrapping up his second year at Harvard Law when the New York Times ran a profile of him on the occasion of his becoming the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. A book agent in New York named Jane Dystel read the story and called up the young man, asking if he’d be interested in writing a book. Like any 29-year-old, he wasn’t about to turn down money. He promptly accepted a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Poseidon imprint—reportedly in the low six-figures—to write a book about race relations.

Obama missed his deadline. No matter. His agent quickly secured him another contract, this time with Times Books. And a $40,000 advance. Not bad for an unknown author who had already blown one deal, writing about a noncommercial subject.

By this point Obama had left law school, and academia was courting him. The University of Chicago Law School approached him; although they didn’t have any specific needs, they wanted to be in the Barack Obama business. As Douglas Baird, the head of Chicago’s appointments committee, would later explain, “You look at his background—Harvard Law Review president, magna cum laude, and he’s African American. This is a no-brainer hiring decision at the entry level of any law school in the country.” Chicago invited Obama to come in and teach just about anything he wanted. But Obama wasn’t interested in a professor’s life. Instead, he told them that he was writing a book—about voting rights. The university made him a fellow, giving him an office and a paycheck to keep him going while he worked on this important project.

In case you’re keeping score at home, there was some confusion as to what book young Obama was writing. His publisher thought he was writing about race relations. His employer thought he was writing about voting rights law. But Obama seems to have never seriously considered either subject. Instead, he decided that his subject would be himself. The 32-year-old was writing a memoir.

Last avoids mentioning the strong evidence (including the word of Obama biographer Chris Anderson) that Obama did not, in fact, "write" Dreams From My Father, but rather produced an unpublishable manuscript that was whipped into publishable shape by none other than Bill Ayers. (I think it's generally acknowledged that Obama relied heavily on his speech-writers to produce Audacity of Hope). Indeed, the provenance of Dreams is the subject of an upcoming book by Jack Cashill that I look forward to reading, and which dedicated Obama-philes are eagerly looking forward to ignoring.

Obama has plenty of talents that have fed his followers' regard for him, and his self regard for Himself. But, the idea of Obama being this intellectual and author is really the keystone of his image. Yet, he did not really write the books on which his reputation rests. Talk about feet of clay.

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