Saturday, March 27, 2010

Obamacare Dystopia

The single component of “health” “care” “reform” neatly encompasses all the broader trends about where we’re headed.

By Mark Steyn
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 27, 2010 12:00 A.M.

May I be boring? Or, if you’re a regular reader, more boring than usual? Bear with me. There’s some eye-glazing numbers and whatnot.

In 2003, Washington blessed a grateful citizenry with the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, it being generally agreed by all the experts that it was unfair to force seniors to choose between their monthly trip to Rite-Aid and Tony Danza in dinner theater. However, in order to discourage American businesses from immediately dumping all their drug plans for retirees, Congress gave them a modest tax break equivalent to 28 percent of the cost of the plan.

Fast forward to the dawn of the Obamacare utopia. In one of a bazillion little clauses in a 2,000-page bill your legislators didn’t bother reading (because, as Representative Conyers explained, he wouldn’t understand it even if he did), Congress voted to subject the 28 percent tax benefit to the regular, good, ol’, American-as-apple-pie corporate tax rate of 35 percent. For the purposes of comparison, Sweden’s corporate tax rate is 26.3 percent, and Ireland’s is 12.5 percent. But just because America already has the second-highest corporate tax in the OECD is no reason why we can’t keep going until it’s double Sweden’s and quadruple Ireland’s. I refer you to the decision last year by the donut chain Tim Hortons, a Delaware corporation, to reorganize itself as a Canadian corporation “in order to take advantage of Canadian tax rates.” Hold that thought: “In order to take advantage of Canadian tax rates” — a phrase hitherto unknown to American English outside the most fantastical futuristic science fiction.

Ask yourself this: If you impose a sudden 35 percent tax on something, are you likely to get as much of it? Go on, take a wild guess. On the day President Obama signed Obamacare into law, Verizon sent an e-mail to all its employees warning that the company’s costs “will increase in the short term.” And in the medium term? Well, U.S. corporations that are able to do so will get out of their prescription-drug plans and toss their retirees onto the Medicare pile. So far just three companies — Deere, Caterpillar, and Valero Energy — have calculated that the loss of the deduction will add a combined $265 million to their costs. There are an additional 3,500 businesses presently claiming the break. The cost to taxpayers of that 28 percent benefit is about $665 per person. The cost to taxpayers of equivalent Medicare coverage is about $1,200 per person. So we’re roughly doubling the cost of covering an estimated 5 million retirees.

Now admittedly the above scenario has not been, as they say, officially “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office, by comparison with whom Little Orphan Annie singing “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” sounds like Morrissey covering “Gloomy Sunday.” Incidentally, has the CBO ever run the numbers for projected savings if the entire CBO were laid off and replaced by a children’s magician with an assistant in spangled tights from whose cleavage he plucked entirely random numbers? Just a thought.

This single component of “health” “care” “reform” neatly encompasses all the broader trends about where we’re headed — not just in terms of increased costs (both to businesses and individual taxpayers) and worse care (for those retirees bounced from company plans into Medicare), but also in the remorseless governmentalization of American life and the disincentivization of the private sector. As we see, even the very modest attempts made by Congress to constrain the 2003 prescription-drug plan prove unable to prevent its expansion and metastasization. The one thing that can be said for certain is that, whatever claims are made for Obamacare, it will lead to more people depending on government for their health arrangements. Those 5 million retirees are only the advance guard. And, if you’re one of those optimistic souls whose confidence in the CBO is unbounded, let’s meet up in three years’ time and see who was correct — the bureaucrats passing out the federal happy juice, or the real businesses already making real business decisions about Obamacare.

Can we afford this? No. Even on the official numbers, we’re projected to add to the existing $8 trillion in debt another $12 trillion over the next decade. What could we do? Tax those big bad corporations a bit more? Medtronic has just announced that the new Obamacare taxes on its products could force it to lay off a thousand workers. What do those guys do? Well, they develop products such as the recently approved pacemaker that’s safe for MRI scans or the InterStim bladder-control device. So that’s a thousand fewer people who’ll be working on new stuff. Well, so what? The public won’t miss what they never knew they had. So again the effect is one of disincentivization — in this case, of innovation.

If existing tax structures can’t cover the costs, what can we do? Start a new tax! The VATman cometh. VAT is Euro-speak for “value-added tax.” Americans often carelessly assume it’s merely a sales tax, but in fact it’s far more cumbersome than that, being levied at each stage “value” is added to a product or service. The consumer can’t claim back the VAT, but intermediate businesses in the production chain can. So self-employed individuals with relatively modest incomes wind up both charging VAT to their clients (25 percent in Scandinavia) and then claiming back the VAT they spent on the stamp and stationary they used to mail out the invoice. This is yet another imposition on businesses, taking time away from wealth creation and reallocating it to government paperwork. If the Democrats hold Congress this fall, I would figure on VAT sooner rather than later.

All of the above is pretty much a safe bet. What about the imponderables? Even Obama hasn’t yet asked the CBO to cost out, say, what happens to the price of oil when the Straits of Hormuz are under a de facto Iranian nuclear umbrella — as they will be soon, because the former global hyperpower, which now gets mad over a few hundred housing units in Jerusalem, is blasé and insouciant about the wilder shores of the mullahs’ dreams. Or suppose, as seems to be happening, the Sino-Iranian alliance were to result in a reorientation of global oil relationships, or the Russo-Iranian friendship bloomed to such a degree that, between Moscow’s control of Europe’s gas supply and Teheran’s new role as Middle Eastern superpower, the economy of the entire developed world becomes dependent on an alliance profoundly hostile to it.

Which is to say that right now the future lies somewhere between the certainty of decline and the probability of catastrophe. What can stop it? Not a lot. But now that your “pro-life” Democratic congressman has sold out, you might want to quit calling Washington and try your state capital. If the Commerce Clause can legitimize the “individual mandate,” then there is no republic, not in any meaningful sense. If you don’t like the sound of that, maybe it’s time for a constitutional convention.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2010 Mark Steyn.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So, You Still Want to Close Gitmo?

Judge’s order to release 9/11 jihadist is a sign of things to come.

by Andrew C. McCarthy
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 25, 2010 4:00 A.M.

Mohamedou Slahi is responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans. He was a core member of the 9/11 conspiracy — the recruiter of Mohamed Atta and the other ringleaders. If he’d had his druthers, even more Americans would have been killed: He is almost certainly the al-Qaeda middle manager who activated the Canadian cell that attempted to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. On the scale of war criminals, he edges toward the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed range, as bad as it gets.

A federal judge has ordered that he be released.

From left to right: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mohammed Atta (AP;Getty Images)

Cassandra did not like being Cassandra. It is not enjoyable to foresee avoidable catastrophes again and again (and again and again and again) only to watch as no remedial measures are taken and disaster strikes. To repeat: The courts are institutionally incompetent when it comes to matters of national security, particularly the prosecution of war.

The Framers intended it that way. National-security decisions are the most important ones a political community makes, so our system of government was designed to have them made by the political branches — by those who answer to the voters, to the people whose lives are at stake. When the political branches abdicate this first responsibility of government, sitting by as it is usurped by politically insulated judges, they deny us the freedom to decide for ourselves what our security requires. We are then the subjects of judges rather than masters of our own destiny.

The courts, moreover, are the worst institution to which we could surrender this authority. Not only are we powerless to vote them out if they get national-defense matters wrong, they are guaranteed to get them wrong. This is not because judges are bad people; it is because they have no responsibility for protecting the country. They are generally good people whose job is to ensure that the parties before the court are given due process. When a judge does that job conscientiously, due-process rights are inevitably inflated. That judges do not run completely out of control in maximizing due-process rights owes not to judicial temperance but to the powers of the political branches.

This genius of separation of powers is on display in the civilian justice system. We know that judges are hardwired to maximize the rights of accused criminals. So we don’t give them free reign. It is Congress that writes the statutes that courts must apply and prescribes the rules of procedure. It is Congress that tells the judges what the punishment for a crime must be and whether an offender may be released — it doesn’t matter whether the judge thinks the criminal is unlikely to threaten society.

But the same Congress that performs these duties exactingly in the civilian justice system, where judges have institutional competence, has abdicated its responsibility in the conduct of war, in which judges have no expertise. In the 2008 Boumediene v. Bush decision, the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc turned its back on precedent and empowered America’s enemies to use our courts against us — inviting alien enemy combatants into federal court to challenge the military’s determination that they are, in fact, enemy combatants. The Supremes further exacerbated the problem by giving no guidance to the lower courts as to how these cases should proceed: What rights to discovery and confrontation do our enemies have? What rules of evidence obtain? Who bears the burden of proof that a detainee is or is not an enemy combatant? What is the standard of proof to be applied? We don’t know. The Court left it up to the district judges to make it up as they go along.

As they continue making it up, here is the most important point to consider: Judges are inherently hostile to the concept of detention without trial. That we have been permitted for centuries to hold enemy combatants through the conclusion of hostilities, and that we have in fact done this to millions of prisoners, is irrelevant to them. They figure that we just weren’t enlightened enough before 2004 to involve the courts in this core aspect of warfare. But the fact is that we didn’t involve courts because it wasn’t the courts’ affair; fighting war is the military’s job, under the direction of the commander in chief and the authorization of Congress.

Now, we’ve somehow made it the job of Judge James Robertson, a progressive civil-rights activist appointed to the bench by President Clinton in 1994. Robertson is the district judge who started it all, the first to rule — back in 2003 — that Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguard and driver, had Geneva Convention rights and could not be subjected to a military-commission trial. He later quit the FISA court in apparent protest over the president’s wartime effort to penetrate our enemies’ international communications without asking permission from federal judges. Now, he is ready to spring Slahi, the terrorist who set 9/11 in motion.

Bear this in mind: Because Slahi is still at Guantanamo Bay, Judge Robertson only has the authority to review his status as an enemy combatant. That means the judge could do nothing more than order Slahi’s release; if the Justice Department does not successfully appeal the decision, we will find another country to take Slahi. But if Gitmo had been closed, as the Obama administration and Sen. Lindsey Graham want, Slahi would have been physically inside the United States. Judge Robertson then would have claimed that his physical presence in our country entitled Slahi to all of the Constitution’s protections (not just habeas corpus). He would have ordered that Slahi be released in the United States if no suitable alternative could be found.

Who is still at Gitmo? The worst of the terrorists, including scores who are known to be dangerous but cannot be tried because, as in Slahi’s case, there is not sufficient admissible evidence to convict them of war crimes: There is only intelligence and coerced admissions — useful information but inadmissible in a trial court, civilian or military.

Scores of detainees fall into the detention category to which judges are most hostile: indefinite imprisonment without trial. If that imprisonment is happening here rather than in Cuba, judges will be free to order the terrorists released here.

And if they’d release Mohamedou Slahi, who wouldn’t they release?

National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008).

The Reality of Obamacare

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 24, 2010 12:00 A.M.

The Obama administration has turned the insurance industry into the Blackwater of socialized medicine.

First: Congratulations to President Obama and the Democratic leadership. You won dirty against bipartisan opposition from both Congress and the majority of Americans. You’ve definitely polarized the country even more, and quite possibly bankrupted us, too. But hey, you won. Bubbly for everyone.

Simply, you have nationalized health care by proxy. Insurance companies are now heavily regulated government contractors. Way to get big business out of Washington and our lives! These giant corporations will clear a small, government-approved profit on top of their government-approved fees. Then, when health-care costs rise — and they will — Democrats will insist, yet again, that the profit motive is to blame, and out from this Obamacare Trojan horse will pour another army of liberals demanding a more honest version of single-payer.

The Obama administration has turned the insurance industry into the Blackwater of socialized medicine.

That’s what Obama always had in mind. During the now-legendary health-care summit, Obama, who loves to talk about “risk pools,” “competition,” “consumer choice,” and the like, let it slip that he actually doesn’t believe in insurance as commonly understood. The notion that Americans should buy the health-care “equivalent of Acme Insurance that I had for my car” seemed preposterous to him. “I’m buying that to protect me from some catastrophic situation,” he explained. “Otherwise, I’m just paying out of pocket. I don’t go to the doctor. I don’t get preventive care. There are a whole bunch of things I just do without. But if I get hit by a truck, maybe I don’t go bankrupt.” Apparently, people are just too stupid to go to the doctor — or maintain their homes — if they have to pay much of anything out of pocket.

The endgame was to get the young and healthy to buy more expensive insurance than they need or want. “Expanding the risk pool” and “spreading out the risk” by mandating — i.e., forcing — young people to buy insurance is just market-based spin for socialist ends. A risk pool is an actuarial device where a lot of people pay a small sum to cover themselves against a “rainy day” problem that will affect only a few people. Such “peace of mind” health insurance is gone. What we have now is health assurance. With health assurance, there are no “risk pools” really, only payment plans.

Under the new law, all the exits from the system are blocked. You can’t opt out or buy cheap, high-deductible Acme car-type insurance, even if that’s what you need. Ultimately, even that coercion won’t be enough to make the whole thing work, because the “cost curve” will not be bending.

Profit-hungry insurance companies were never the problem. (According to American Enterprise Institute economist Andrew Biggs, industry profit margins are around 3 percent, and the entire industry recorded profits of just $13 billion last year, close to a rounding error in Medicare fraud estimates.) Rather, health-care costs have been skyrocketing because consumers treat health insurance like an expense account. Putting almost everyone into one “risk pool” doesn’t change that dynamic; it universalizes it. And eventually, the only way to cut costs will be to ration care.

In September, Obama got into a semantic argument with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who noted that requiring all Americans to pay premiums for a government-guaranteed service sounds an awful lot like a tax. “No. That’s not true, George,” Obama said. “For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is . . . that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you.”

Stephanopoulos invoked a dictionary definition of a tax: “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.” Obama laughed off the idea that a dictionary might outrank him as the final arbiter of a word’s meaning: “George, the fact that you looked up . . . the definition of tax increase indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.”

Okay, put aside your dictionaries. The legislation allocates $10 billion to pay for 16,500 IRS agents who will collect and enforce mandatory “premiums.” Does that sound like the private sector at work to you?

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Green Jobs: The Road to Ruin

Posted by Rich Trzupek on Mar 25th, 2010
http://frontpagemag.com/

As a certain frog once observed, it ain’t easy being green. It’s not profitable either, but as environmentalists and their supporters in government retool their message they dearly want us to believe that a “green economy” will fill everyone’s pockets with greenbacks. Recent experience, not to mention common sense, shows that this is nonsense. Nonetheless, the Obama administration, environmental groups and many media mainstream media outlets are pushing “green jobs” and a “green economy” as ways to simultaneously solve America’s economic woes while avoiding any possible harm to the environment.

At a Chicago City Club luncheon a few weeks ago, an official with the Chicago Department of the Environment was introduced to the crowd. She waved happily and dutifully parroted the environmental movement’s latest slogan:

“What’s good for the environment is good for the economy!”

And we have this: Al Gore wants to “repower America!” Warming to the theme, the President of the United States would have America believe that green jobs and green power will not only put money in your pocket, they are the wave of the future. China’s doing it, the president says, do we want to be left behind?

Except that China’s not doing it. They’re paying lip service to “green power” as they happily build big coal-fired power plants at the rate of one per week, because it’s pretty obvious to the Chinese that cheap power is better for their economy than politically-correct power.

The purported nirvana of a green economy is the predictable response to “Climategate,” “Glaciergate,” “Amazongate” and all the rest of the revelations that have caused the public to doubt that our planet actually needs saving. If the science isn’t really settled and has in fact been manipulated for the sake of an agenda (climategate) is there really an environmental crisis to worry about? If glaciers aren’t going to melt in the next twenty five years (glaciergate) can the International Panel on Climate Change be trusted? If the rainforests are doing just fine, thank you (amazongate) is the situation as bad as global warming alarmists have led us to believe? It’s 2010 and panic just isn’t selling as well as it did five years ago. Accordingly, the global warming crowd is rebranding their product, saying in essence that even if you don’t believe in “climate change” it still makes sense to go green, because doing so will make everyone more wealthy along the way.

Arguably, no western nation has done more to go green than Spain. Indeed, President Obama has pointed toward Spain as the model of the sort of economy that the United States should aspire to create, one that relies heavily on renewable fuels for power. But, how has that worked out for Spain? In the midst of a worldwide recession, the Spanish economy stands out, because it is in worse shape than most, with unemployment hovering at around twenty per cent. According to a study conducted by Dr. Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at Juan Carlos University in Madrid, the push to “go green” has been responsible for much of Spain’s recent economic woes. Calzada concluded that every green job created in Spain cost 2.2 traditional jobs. A green economy, it would seem, is hardly a formula for prosperity.

But one shouldn’t need the Spanish experience to realize that a green economy is inevitably a red ink economy. Common sense is all that is necessary. Wind power, the most popular form of renewable power, is fifty per cent to one hundred per cent more expensive than coal-fired power. Why? Because the people who develop wind farms have to pay off the banks notes for building all of those expensive windmills, shell out cash for operating and maintenance costs and fund the not inconsiderable costs of the infrastructure required to hook the windmills up to the grid. Add in the fact that you still have to back up wind farms with conventional forms of energy, like gas turbines, and wind power is inevitably more expensive than burning coal or natural gas. But for government subsidies and incentive programs, no one would be stupid enough to build a single windmill.

The same may be said of solar power, which is, by nature, horrendously expensive and inefficient, as well as biofuels, which often consume more energy than they produce, and a host of other green, renewable schemes to repower America in shades of green. There’s a reason that we need legislation to create a green economy: There is no free market, economic incentive to otherwise do so.

It’s worth noting that I myself have held what may be termed a “green job” for over twenty five years. Without environmental legislation, I would have had to pursue a career doing something that was actually productive. As it happened, I have spent my professional life poring over EPA regulations, pushing through the piles of paperwork that the regulatory system demands on behalf of my clients and carefully studying the latest environmental research. The only reason that a job like mine exists is that America has built a regulatory structure to protect the environment that is so enormously complex and impossible to understand that specialists are needed to figure out what the heck the average business person has to do in order to avoid the wrath of the EPA.

The worst part of this state of affairs is that, by and large, it’s not the big, bad corporations that require the services of people like me. Big power companies, oil refiners, etc. can afford their own specialists whom can lead those large corporations through the regulatory maze. Instead, it’s the small companies – those whom can least afford it – that are forced to look for outside help. They can’t afford their own dedicated environmental professionals, thus they are forced to fork over cash that they could have otherwise been using to improve their businesses and create jobs in order to retain expert consultants that can keep aggressive regulators at bay.

Leftists like Obama find nothing troubling in the green jobs paradigm, whether it means building expensive windmills or forcing small business to pay for specialists who keep the creeping hand of the bureaucracy at arm’s length. To liberals, the economy is a zero-sum game, so what could be wrong about redistributing billions of dollars? For those of us who believe that wealth is created, rather than something that exists in the abstract sense, the idea of a green economy is something far more sinister. If implemented, these green schemes won’t create wealth, they will instead sap America’s riches and we will all be the poorer for it.

Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre

Steynposts

By Mark Steyn
http://www.marksteyn.com/
Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I've been traveling for most of the last day and so I'm late getting to the Coulter-cancelled-in-Canada story. Kathy Shaidle has three great round-ups here, here and here. Perhaps my single favourite line came from Kate McMillan:

See? You can yell "fire" in a crowded theatre after all!

Indeed. If this doesn't kill the laziest trope of the brain-dead statist control freak, nothing will. This was a literal re-enactment of the full Oliver Wendell: In Ottawa, the fire alarm was set off even though there was no fire but only a visiting conservative blonde. As Rebekah recounts:

Then the fire alarm went off. Do you know how loud industrial fire alarms are? Do you know what they sound like when they go on for about ten minutes?!

People in the auditorium seemed to be very confused about what was going on. It was impossible to tell what was happening outside. The rumors that I collected (true or not I'm not entirely sure) indicated that there were protesters outside yelling "No hate speech on campus", they had barricaded a door, they were pounding on the auditorium door...

My notes at the time read "We're trapped in here. No bathroom... This might get REALLY interesting."

Another lame argument of the censors is that "hateful words lead to hurtful actions". As Chief Commissar Jennifer Lynch, QC says:

Steyn would have us believe that words, however hateful, should be given free rein. History has shown us that hateful words sometimes lead to hurtful actions that undermine freedom and have led to unspeakable crimes. That is why Canada and most other democracies have enacted legislation to place reasonable limits on the expression of hatred.

But it was not Ann Coulter but François Houle whose words led, very directly and within 48 hours, to actions that undermine freedom. As my old comrade Ezra Levant put it:

In a short speech, Levant said Tuesday was "an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation, just like their vice-president did."

Mr. Levant laid the blame squarely on Mr. Houle.

"A fish rots from the head down," he said. "Francois Houle got his wish. He telegraphed to the community that the University of Ottawa is not a place for free debate."

Houle could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

Well, there's a surprise. Ghost of a Flea writes:

Mob rule in Ottawa as leftist thugs used violence, intimidation and the threat of anarchy to prevent Ann Coulter from speaking at a local, bush league university.

That which does not kill you makes Ann Coulter's point.

That's another good line. But I'm not sure that's enough. Our side has all the good lines. The others are either nakedly Orwellian, carrying placards hailing "Free speech!" even as they threaten violence to silence their opponents, or so pathologically lacking in self-awareness that in the interests of creating "a safe, positive space" they join an ugly mob to crush any dissenters. The University of Ottawa, an institution mired in stultifying conformity and intellectual homogeneity, has just received a $2.5 million grant to study diversity. Last night's head cheerleader for the 21st century equivalent of book burning turns out to be an employee of the Canadian Library Association.

But you could point out the ironies forever, and the other side wouldn't care. Because they don't want to win the debate, they want to win, period. And that's a big difference. As I wrote in The National Post eight years ago - August 5th 2002:

The aim of a large swathe of the left is not to win the debate but to get it cancelled before it starts. You can do that in any number of ways -- busting up campus appearances by conservatives, "hate crimes" laws, Canada's ghastly human-rights commissions, the more "enlightened" court judgments, the EU's recent decision to criminalize "xenophobia," or merely, as the Times does, by declaring your side of every issue to be the "moderate" and "nonideological" position...

The quality of your argument is only important if you want to win by persuasion. But it’s irrelevant if you want to win by intimidation. I’m personally very happy to defend my columns in robust debate, but, if Canada believed in robust debate, we wouldn't have these "human rights" commissions or university administrators like the wretched M Houle in the first place. The morons who shut down Ann Coulter last night don't care that they made her point for her, anymore than those Muslim agitators in the streets of London fretted about the internal contradictions of threatening to kill anyone who says they're violent.

Freedom of speech is in grave peril in Canada. In the Coulter fracas, almost all the major societal institutions behaved poorly:

1) François Houle symbolizes a decadent academy that is the very antithesis of honest enquiry and intellectual debate that the university is supposed to represent.

2) The Ottawa Police have declared that there is no equality before the law. If you belong to certain groups, they'll stand by as the mob shuts you down.

3) The dinosaur media are vast lumbering eunuchs too cowed by political correctness to do even elementary research. Fatima Al Dhaher, the poor wee thing traumatized by Ann Coulter's camel joke, turns out to be a Jew-hater who wants to eliminate the State of Israel. But that's too complicated for the media to fit into their Sesame Street narratives.

Between them, the media, the law and the education system are actively shriveling Canada's liberties. It doesn't lead anywhere good: Ghost of a Flea's title - "Fascist Canada" - is no exaggeration. If you say, "Oh, c'mon, if you're not a troublemaker like Coulter or Levant or Guy Earle or Douglas McCue, Canada's very pleasant", well, so were large parts of Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain. But they were not free, and few pre-Trudeau Canadians would have entertained trading ancient liberties for soft totalitarianism euphemized as "diversity".

The saddest aspect of this sad day is the number of people who've sent e-mails denouncing the Ottawa bullies but ending with the words "If you print this, please don't mention my name." Don't you realize that that's part of the problem? In a sane world, it would be François Houle and Fatima Al Dhaher and Susan Cole who would be ashamed to have their names mentioned. But they're not. They're proud to nail their colours to the masts of state censorship, Israeli eliminationism, and mob violence - while your support for free speech and other traditional liberties can only be expressed sotto voce and anonymously. That right there tells you how much of Canada you've already lost.

She's also asking for it

Steynposts

http://www.marksteyn.com/
Sunday, 21 March 2010

Ah, that famous Canadian hospitality. One François Houle, Provost of the University of Ottawa, writes to warn a forthcoming visitor to the campus, Miss Ann Coulter, that Canadians enjoy only the right to government-regulated "free speech" and that therefore she may be liable to criminal prosecution:

Dear Ms. Coulter,

I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. We are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus. We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada, as well as on our campus, and view it as a fundamental freedom, as recognized by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or “free speech”) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here. You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges. Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind. There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this University, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.

I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.

Sincerely,


François Houle
Vice-recteur aux études / Vice-President Academic and Provost
Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa
550, rue Cumberland Street
Ottawa (ON) K1N 6N5
téléphone / telephone : 613 562-5737
télécopieur / fax : 613 562-5103

What a sad and embarrassing letter, even by the standards of the Canadian academy. Does M Houle write to all University of Ottawa speakers like this? Or does he reserve his telekinetic powers to detect "pre-crime" only for the ideologically suspect?

I've no idea what Ann Coulter's reaction to this letter is, but I suspect it's "Go ahead, Princess Fairy Pants, make my day." M Houle would have a very hard time persuading the Ottawa police or the RCMP to lay criminal charges over an Ann Coulter speech because they realize, even if he doesn't, that Canada doesn't need to become even more of an international laughingstock in this area. More likely is a complaint to the Canadian and/or Ontario "Human Rights" Commissions. But you know something? I don't get the feeling they'd be eager to re-ignite the free speech wars on a nuclear scale. Think of Ezra's and my appearance in the House of Commons, and then imagine the scene when Miss Coulter testifies. So the threat is an empty one and M Houle seems to be being - oh, what's the "respectful and civil" way of putting it? - a posturing wanker.

This is the pitiful state one of the oldest free societies on the planet has been reduced to, and this is why our free speech campaign matters - because those who preside over what should be arenas of honest debate and open inquiry instead wish to imprison public discourse within ever narrower bounds - and in this case aren't above threatening legal action against those who dissent from the orthodoxies. Lots of Americans loathe Ann Coulter but it takes a Canadian like François Houle to criminalize her. The strictures he attempts to place around her, despite his appeal to "Canadian law", are at odds with the eight centuries of Canada's legal inheritance. Canadians should point that out to him politely, and explain that, although he lives high off the hog courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer, he does not speak for them.

Telephone : (613) 562-5800 ext. 5737Fax : (613) 562-5106e-mail: francois.houle@uottawa.ca

As I say, be polite but withering. He has after all explicitly threatened a visitor to Canada from a friendly country in a manner more suited to banana republic police chiefs.

And, if he insists his threats are not mere masturbatory posturing, tell him to contact Chief Commissar Jennifer Lynch, QC direct, and advise her that I'll be covering the hearing.

[UPDATE: Binks has more on The Houlinator.]

OH, CANADA!

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
March 24, 2010


Since arriving in Canada I've been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches I hadn't yet given, and denounced on the floor of the Parliament (which was nice because that one was on my "bucket list").

Posters advertising my speech have been officially banned, while posters denouncing me are plastered all over the University of Ottawa campus. Elected officials have been prohibited from attending my speeches. Also, the local clothing stores are fresh out of brown shirts.

Welcome to Canada!

The provost of the University of Ottawa, average student IQ: 0, wrote to me -- widely disseminating his letter to at least a half-dozen intermediaries before it reached me -- in advance of my visit in order to recommend that I familiarize myself with Canada's criminal laws regarding hate speech.

This marks the first time I've ever gotten hate mail for something I might do in the future.

Protesters yell outside the speaking venue for conservative commentator Ann Coulter Tuesday night at the University of Ottawa. About 2,000 people -- a mix of supporters and protesters -- tried to get in to see her speech. The unruly crowd prompted the cancellation of Coulter's speech. (AP)

Apparently Canadian law forbids "promoting hatred against any identifiable group," which the provost, Francois A. Houle advised me, "would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."

I was given no specific examples of what words and phrases I couldn't use, but I take it I'm not supposed to say, "F--- you, Francois."

While it was a relief to know that it is still permissible in Canada to promote hatred against unidentifiable groups, upon reading Francois' letter, I suddenly realized that I had just been the victim of a hate crime! And it was committed by Francois A. Houle (French for "Frank A. Hole").

What other speakers get a warning not to promote hatred? Did Francois A. Houle send a similarly worded letter to Israel-hater Omar Barghouti before he spoke last year at U of Ottawa? ("Ottawa": Indian for "Land of the Bed-Wetters.")

How about Angela Davis, Communist Party member and former Black Panther who spoke at the University of Zero just last month?

Or do only conservatives get letters admonishing them to be civil? Or -- my suspicion -- is it only conservative women who fuel Francois' rage?

How about sending a letter to all Muslim speakers advising them to please bathe once a week while in Canada? Would that constitute a hate crime?

I'm sure Canada's Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of Francois' strange warning to me, inasmuch as I will be filing a complaint with that august body, so I expect they will be reviewing every letter the university has sent to other speakers prior to their speeches to see if any of them were threatened with criminal prosecution.

Both writer Mark Steyn and editor Ezra Levant have been investigated by the Human Rights Commission for promoting hatred toward Muslims.

Levant's alleged crime was to reprint the cartoons of Mohammed originally published in a Danish newspaper, leading practitioners of the Religion of Peace to engage in murderous violence across the globe. Steyn's alleged crime was to publish an excerpt of his book, "America Alone" in Maclean's magazine, in which he jauntily described Muslims as "hot for jihad."

Both of them also flew jet airliners full of passengers into skyscrapers in lower Manhattan, resulting in thousands of deaths. No, wait -- that was somebody else.

Curiously, however, there was no evidence that either the cartoons or the column did, in fact, incite hatred toward Muslims -- nor was there the remotest possibility that they would.

By contrast, conservative speakers are regularly subjected to violent attacks on college campuses. Bill Kristol, Pat Buchanan, David Horowitz and I have all been the targets of infamous campus attacks.

That's why the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute (a sponsor of my Canada speeches) and the Young America's Foundation (a sponsor of many of my college speeches) don't send conservatives to college campuses without a bodyguard.

You'd have to be a real A-Houle not to anticipate that accusing a conservative of "promoting hatred" prior to her arrival on a college campus would in actuality -- not in liberal fantasies of terrified Muslims cowering in terror of Mark Steyn readers -- incite real-world violence toward the conservative.

The university itself acknowledged that Francois' letter was likely to provoke violence against me by demanding -- long after my speech was scheduled, but immediately after Francois disseminated his letter -- that my sponsors pony up more than $1,200 for extra security.

Also following Francois' letter, the Ottawa University Student Federation met for 7 1/2 hours to hammer out a series of resolutions denouncing me. The resolutions included:

"Whereas Ann Coulter is a hateful woman;

"Whereas she has made hateful comments against GLBTQ, Muslims, Jews and women;

"Whereas she violates an unwritten code of 'positive-space';

"Be it resolved that the SFUO express its disapproval of having Ann Coulter speak at the University of Ottawa."

At least the students didn't waste 7 1/2 hours on something silly, like their studies.

At the risk of violating anyone's positive space, what happened to Canada? How did the country that gave us Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd and Catherine O'Hara suddenly become a bunch of whining crybabies?

Want to hear my favorite Canadian joke? OK, here goes: Francois Houle! I never get tired of that one.

After Tuesday night, the hatred incited by Francois' letter is no longer theoretical. The police called off my speech when the auditorium was surrounded by thousands of rioting liberals -- screaming, blocking the entrance, throwing tables, demanding that my books be burned, and finally setting off the fire alarm.

Sadly, I missed the book burning because I never made it to the building.

But, reportedly, a Canadian crowd hasn't been this excited since they opened a new Tim Hortons. Local reporters couldn't make out what the crowd was chanting, but it was something about "Molson" and a "sled dog."

I've given more than 100 college speeches, and not once has one of my speeches been shut down at any point. Even the pie-throwing incident at the University of Arizona didn't break up the event. I said "Get them!", the college Republicans got them, and then I continued with my rambling, hate-filled diatribe -- I mean, my speech.

So we've run this experiment more than 100 times.

Only one college speech was ever met with so much mob violence that the police were forced to cancel it: The one that was preceded by a letter from the university provost accusing me of hate speech.

(To add insult to injury, Francois didn't even plan to attend my speech because Tuesday is his bikini wax night.)

If a university official's letter accusing a speaker of having a proclivity to commit speech crimes before she's given the speech -- which then leads to Facebook postings demanding that Ann Coulter be hurt, a massive riot and a police-ordered cancellation of the speech -- is not hate speech, then there is no such thing as hate speech.

Either Francois goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SOFT FURNISHED DESPOTISM

Mark Steyn on America
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
http://www.marksteyn.com/

HAPPY WARRIOR
from the March 22, 2010 issue of National Review
http://www.nationalreview.com/

Recently, in yet another example of the reforming zeal that swept Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger into office, California’s Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair was merged with the Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to create a new streamlined, more efficient bureau called – wait for it, stand well back – the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation.

Why not the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, Ladies’ Lingerie and Gift Wrap? I used to be able to whistle the main themes from the Hungarian Communist-era smash hit The State Department Store (a proletarian operetta, with none of the counts and princesses), but really The State Department Store Regulatory Agency is an even better jest. A Californian reader of mine, standing slack-jawed before the “Permit to Sell Bedding” hanging at the back of his local Wal-Mart, channeled a bit of (misattributed) George Orwell: We sleep soundly in our beds at night because rough bureaucrats from the Bureau of Home Furnishings stand ready to do violence to those who would sell us unlicensed pillow cases. “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation,” Pierre Trudeau famously told Canadians, but evidently it does if you’re consummating your same-sex marriage on an unregulated counterpane.

There is a deal of ruin in a nation, but by the time you’ve got a Bureau of Home Furnishings you’re getting awful near the limit. Of all the petty regulatory burdens piled upon the citizen in the Age of Micro-Tyranny, I dislike especially the food handling licensing requirements in an ever multiplying number of jurisdictions from Virginia to Oregon that have put an end to such quintessentially American institutions as the bake sale and the lemonade stand. So civic participation withers, and a government monopoly not just of power but of basic social legitimacy is all that remains.

Yet, even as they approach the moment of triumph, there is great peril here for the Democrats. I believe it was Rich Lowry who first noted, that unlike the culture wars of the early Nineties over “God, guns and gays”, this time round conservatives have succeeded in making big government itself a cultural issue. Yet it goes beyond that. Every day, more and more people understand that there’s not enough money to pay for this stuff, and there never will be - in other words, that the entire shtick is a fraud. That’s an ever tougher sell for Democrats, particularly now that, in the cold gray light of the long morning after, “hope” and “change” are revealed to be merely an abbreviation for a vast overstaffed Bureau of Hope and Change, whose Assistant Directors of Change and Deputy Commissioners of Hope are on a quarter-million per annum and contemplating retirement at 55 from their three-year study group to examine whether we need a new Hope Application form and Change Permit.

In this election season, if you’re not committed to fewer programs from fewer agencies with fewer bureaucrats on less pay, you’re not serious. I’d say we need something closer to Thatcher-scale privatization in Britain 30 years ago, or Sir Roger Douglas’ transformative Rogernomics in New Zealand in the mid-Eighties, or post-Soviet Eastern Europe’s economic liberalization in the early Nineties. Aside from the restoration of individual liberty, a side benefit to closing down or outsourcing the Bureau of Government Agencies and the Agency of Government Bureaus is that you’d also be in effect privatizing public-sector unions, which are now one of the biggest threats to freedom and civic integrity.

But, if that all sounds a bit extreme and if 2010 is just a slightly swingier-than-usual midterm, then things are going to get grim very quickly. In my piece a few weeks back, I noted that Europe’s somewhat agreeable decline had been cushioned by America, and that the problem with American decline is that this time round there’s no rising power volunteering to do the cushioning. Because of the American security umbrella, countries like Germany were able to transfer military spending to social programs. Lacking that option for Obamacare, the Democrats propose to “control costs” by refusing to acknowledge them: Medicare reimbursement levels will be “capped”, which means that an ever greater number of doctors will cease to perform services for which they are not properly remunerated. And wait till we’ve Medicared the rest of the economy.

In an election cycle or two, the demographic balance between wealth creators and state dependents will shift decisively in favor of the latter, further disincentivizing the former from the thankless task of feeding the leviathan. In an economically moribund America, the Age of Entitlement Insolvency will hit sooner rather than later, and pimply burger flippers will rebel or flee rather than prop up entire Florida retirement communities. Faced with a choice between unsustainable entitlements and an armed forces of global reach, the United States, as Europe did, will abandon military capability and toss the savings into the great sucking maw of social spending. That, in turn, will make for not only a more dangerous world but a more vulnerable America that, to modify President Bush, will wind up having to fight them over here because we no longer have the capacity to fight them over there. From the state-licensed, SEIU-staffed bake sale to Armageddon - in nothing flat.

2010 is not necessarily the last but is at least the ante-penultimate chance at avoiding this fate. If we choose otherwise, well, we have regulated our bed, and we will have to lie in it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Point of No Return?

It is by no means certain that this bill’s unpopularity will mean Republican victories in November.

by Thomas Sowell
http://www.nationalreview.com
March 23, 2010 12:00 A.M.

With the passage of the legislation allowing the federal government to take control of the medical-care system of the United States, a major turning point has been reached in the dismantling of the values and institutions of America.

Even the massive transfer of crucial decisions from millions of doctors and patients to Washington bureaucrats and advisory panels — as momentous as that is — does not measure the full impact of this largely unread and certainly unscrutinized legislation.

If the current legislation does not entail the transmission of all our individual medical records to Washington, it will take only an administrative regulation or, at most, an executive order of the president to do that.

With politicians now having not only access to our most confidential records, but also the power to grant or withhold medical care needed to sustain ourselves or our loved ones, how many people will be bold enough to criticize our public servants, who will in fact have become our public masters?

Despite whatever “firewalls” or “lockboxes” there may be to shield our medical records from prying political eyes, nothing is as inevitable as leaks in Washington. Does anyone still remember the hundreds of confidential FBI files that were “accidentally” delivered to the White House during Bill Clinton’s administration?

Even before that, J. Edgar Hoover’s extensive confidential FBI files on numerous Washington power holders made him someone who could not be fired by any president of the United States, much less by any attorney general, nominally his boss.

The corrupt manner in which this massive legislation was rammed through Congress — without any of the committee hearings or extended debates that most landmark legislation has had — has provided a roadmap for pushing through more such sweeping legislation in utter defiance of what the public wants.

Too many critics of the Obama administration have assumed that its arrogant disregard of the voting public will spell political suicide for congressional Democrats and for the president himself. But that is far from certain.

True, President Obama’s approval numbers have fallen below 50 percent, and that of Congress is down around 10 percent. But nobody votes for Congress as a whole, and the president will not be on the ballot until 2012.

They say that, in politics, overnight is a lifetime. Just last month, it was said that the election of Scott Brown to the Senate from Massachusetts doomed the health-care bill. Now some of the same people are saying that passing the health-care bill will doom the administration and the Democrats’ control of Congress. As an old song said, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

The voters will have had no experience with the actual, concrete effect of the government takeover of medical care at the time of either the 2010 congressional elections or the 2012 presidential elections. All they will have will be conflicting rhetoric — and you can depend on the mainstream media to go along with the rhetoric of those who passed this medical-care bill.

The ruthless and corrupt way this bill was forced through Congress on a party-line vote, and in defiance of public opinion, provides a roadmap for how other “historic” changes can be imposed by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. What will it matter if Obama’s current approval rating is below 50 percent among the current voting public, if he can ram through new legislation to create millions of new voters by granting citizenship to illegal immigrants? That could be enough to make him a two-term president, in which case he could appoint enough Supreme Court justices to rubber-stamp further extensions of his power.

When all these newly minted citizens are rounded up on election night by ethnic-organization activists and labor-union supporters of the administration, that may be enough to salvage the Democrats’ control of Congress as well.

The last opportunity that current American citizens may have to determine who will control Congress may well be the election in November of this year. Off-year elections don’t usually bring out as many voters as presidential election years. But the 2010 election may be the last chance to halt the dismantling of America. It can be the point of no return.

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Jihad Jane in the Classroom

Posted by Mary Grabar on Mar 23rd, 2010
http://www.frontpage.com/

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, average Americans donated money and festooned American flags to vehicles in a show of unity and support. Educators, in contrast, took advantage for further anti-American indoctrination and plastered school walls with “Understanding Islam” posters. They did this at the University of Georgia where I was finishing up my Ph.D. program.

Since then, the Islamists have wormed their ways into our culture, reaching the most vulnerable: our children.


Muslim Students Association poster from 2007

It is no surprise to me that blonde American women, like Jihad Jane and Jihad Jamie, would be converting to Islam and supporting jihad. The most depraved murderers on death row attract the support of soft-hearted and weak-minded women. They are aided by educators and the propagandists they invite into the classroom.

In fact, proselytizing occurs in high schools and colleges without a peep from principals or college presidents, who fret about such Christian symbols as Christmas trees on their campuses.

For example, for the second year, the Muslim Student Association is holding their Islamic Awareness Week at the Clarkston campus of Georgia Perimeter College in the Atlanta area. MSA Advisor Shyam K. Sriram, who teaches American Government and Political Science, in an email encourages faculty members to allow their students “to obtain extra credit for attending these myriad of events” and adds that he is “happy to sign off on any extra credit sheets.”

Not only is Sriram sending this to all instructors on campus through the e-mail list, but his Islamic Awareness Week provides the theme for the college’s home page and posters about the events plaster bulletin boards on campus. The student who wants to learn more about the event can click on a link and see the following list and the note, “Faculty are encouraged to give students extra credit for attending.”

These events for the week of March 16-19 include:

“Islam 101” with Brother Abu Addisalam.

“The Sweetness of Faith” with Imam Ishmael ibn Paul Teasley.

“Sorry, Mama, But I Love Her: A Talk on Love, Patience and Relationships” with Imam Tariq Khan.

“Hijab for a Day” “Information Session for WOMEN only.”

“Converts Panel featuring Former Rapper Loon.”

“Young Muslim Collegiate Panel.”

The title “Sorry, Mama, But I Love Her” reminded me of a workshop I attended at the National Council for the Social Studies conference called “Muslim Perspectives Through [sic] Film and Dialogue: Understanding, Empathy, Civic Discourse.” There, Barbara Petzen (a blonde woman), an academic specializing in Middle East studies, and employed by the Middle East Policy Council, which has received multiple donations from Saudi Arabian royalty, offered sheep-like high school social studies teachers free films for use in the classroom.

One, which she showed, Allah Made Me Funny, about three young Muslim comedians—a Palestinian, an Indian, and an African-American convert–fits in with the lessons on “tolerance” teenagers receive from television and the classroom.

Its producer, Michael Wolfe, knows what will appeal to teenagers, for he himself is a convert and comes from what he calls a “mongrel” background of a mixed Jewish-Christian marriage. What was especially disturbing in the film was the black convert, who bragged about his loss of attraction to white women since his conversion. He had some tender-hearted bemusement for his poor, benighted old mother still stuck in the old Christian religion who was upset at his conversion. He could see into her plot to get him back to her church, for an “intervention” on him. (The camera panned to the wholesome Muslim audience of families in traditional and Western dress laughing good-naturedly.)

The talk by Imam Tariq Khan at Georgia Perimeter College (“Sorry, Mama, But I Love Her”) suggests a similar conflict between an adult child and parent. Converts are loving toward parents—although more enlightened. In this age of tolerance and following your own path Islam is presented as just another alternative—and a better, more tolerant, and more hip alternative at that.

One wonders what would happen were the script reversed. Would administrators allow a Methodist minister to put on a “Christian Awareness Week” at a community college? Would Muslims tolerate a film being shown to Muslim students at a public school, titled Jesus Made Me Funny, that poked fun at their parents’ Muslim religion, that joked about seeing through a parent’s attempt to intervene? Indeed, Muslim parents like those of Rifqa Bary, threaten and do kill children who convert to Christianity.

Of course, such facts never came up in the film or workshop. Petzen said to teachers, “What I love about these guys is that they’re normal.”

When an inconvenient fact comes up—like the violence that Muslims have displayed—those like Petzen offer defenses through moral equivalency. She gave lessons to social studies teachers to pass on to students about the rioting and murders after the publication of cartoons about Muhammad. Well, Christians would get upset too, she offered.

Yes, they have, when their tax dollars go to support artwork that immerses a crucifix in urine. But they don’t riot and murder over it.

Of course, educators are likely to present the Christians who opposed public funding of Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” artwork as close-minded and bigoted (as they have done in textbooks I’ve been required to use). They are likely to invoke the First Amendment.

Petzen objected to my characterization of her “defense” in the report I wrote about the conference. It was an “explanation,” she insisted.
Really? Her moral equivalency insults the intelligence of the civilized world. Everybody could understand being upset with the depictions in the cartoons. What they could not understand was the barbarism of the response. “Explanations” for violence, for behavior that defies every standard of Western civilization, makes every barbaric act more “normal.” And, indeed, “normalization” of Islam is the goal of Petzen and Sriram, and every other proselytizer in the classroom.

In 1983, “A Nation at Risk,” stated famously, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Some insist that “jihad” is misunderstood, that according to the Koran it involves moral cleansing and an intellectual effort. If so, we’ve got Jihad Janes in the classroom, proselytizing to already indoctrinated children and teenagers. This is indeed a “war” on the hearts and minds of students.

For my full report on the National Council for the Social Studies go here.

Sioux Fighting to Save ‘Fighting Sioux’

by Valerie Richardson
http://www.humanevents.com/
03/23/2010


There's a twist on the Indian mascot story unfolding now in North Dakota. This week, a group of Sioux Indians are taking the state board of education to court over the Fighting Sioux, the nickname and logo of the University of North Dakota.

Only in this case, members of the Sioux nation aren't suing to get rid of the nickname. They're fighting to keep it.

"Whenever I hear 'Fighting Sioux,' I've always been proud of it," said Eunice Davidson, a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe. "People who say they don't like it—I don't understand that. It seems to me to be a real positive thing."

Not everyone is as devoted to the name as Davidson. In fact, some North Dakotans, starting with members of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, are just plain sick of it. The debate over the nickname and logo has dragged on for five years, and there's a growing consensus among education officials that it's time to drop the Fighting Sioux and move on.

It's doubtful that National College Athletic Association officials foresaw this outcome when they announced their Indian mascot ruling in 2005. The NCAA issued a list of 19 universities deemed as having "hostile or abusive" Indian mascots and ordered them to change the nicknames or risk their eligibility for post-season play.

Most of the listed universities agreed to jettison the nicknames, but an exception was made for any institution that won the permission of the namesake tribe. The University of Florida, for example, was able to keep its nickname after receiving the blessing of the Seminoles.

Five years after the NCAA's ruling, the University of North Dakota remains the last holdout. An agreement between the NCAA and the state gives the university until November 30, 2010, to reach a decision on whether to retain the Fighting Sioux. The fear is that the university won't wait until then.

To keep the nickname, the university would need permission of two Sioux tribes, the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux. In October, the Spirit Lake Sioux tribal council agreed to permit the nickname's use after 67% of the tribe voted to support it.

The Standing Rock Sioux are a different story. Under the leadership of tribal chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder, a staunch foe of the nickname, the council refused to sanction the Fighting Sioux. In September, however, the tribe elected a new chairman, Charles Murphy, who has supported the nickname's use.

The problem is, Murphy clearly doesn't want to be rushed. The tribal council hasn't taken up the matter since his election, and the state board of higher education is getting antsy. UND wants to join the Division I Summit League—the university already plays Division I Hockey as part of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association—but Summit officials won't allow it until the university resolves the nickname issue.

A group of Spirit Lake Sioux won a temporary restraining order to stop the board from retiring the nickname in November. The same group, under the name the Committee for Understanding and Respect, then filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the board from acting until the Nov. 30 deadline. They lost at the district court level, but the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument Tuesday, March 23.

State board members have argued that even if the Standing Rock gives its permission, the nickname issue will never die. The nickname's opponents, including faculty, editorial boards and the American Indian Movement, will continue to challenge the Fighting Sioux no matter what the tribes do.

"Even if we get an agreement with Standing Rock, that is not going to change the divisive nature of this logo and that is a bigger issue with respect for individuals, for harmony in the state," said state board member Mike Haugen in the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.

What the Sioux don't understand is why their views on the logo are taking a back seat to those of people who aren't even Sioux. Tribal members want the agreement enforced, and the agreement gives them until Nov. 30.

"To me, they're wanting to jump the gun," said Archie Fool Bear, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux and supporter of the nickname. "Last August, they [board members] started making comments to the media saying, 'October is the deadline, we're going to end it.'"

If the Standing Rock Sioux really wanted to keep the nickname, the argument goes, the tribal council would have voted by now. According to Fool Bear, however, these matters take time.

"The judge said that we have until November 2010," said Fool Bear. "We spent the whole first year exploring the issue and talking about it. We're doing something. We're creating a covenant over the issue."

Fool Bear is now leading a petition drive to place the issue on a tribal referendum ballot. He believes the nickname has enough support to win a popular vote of the tribe and then the council's approval. Depending on the outcome of the case, however, the board may retire the nickname before the tribe can act.

In the world of college hockey, the UND Fighting Sioux is a perennial power and revered program. Its jerseys featuring the silhouette of a proud Sioux warrior are regular bestsellers. Few people have ever heard of two small tribes in North Dakota, but everyone knows the Fighting Sioux. Without it, many Sioux fear the name will be relegated to the history books. For Davidson, being forgotten is the ultimate discrimination.

"Sometimes I feel we should go after the NCAA," said Davidson. "I feel very discriminated against by them because they didn't even talk to us. They just made a deal with the board of education."


Valerie Richardson has covered the Western United States for the Washington Times for 20 years.

Monday, March 22, 2010

We’ve Crossed the Rubicon

By Victor Davis Hanson
http://pajamasmedia.com/
March 21st, 2010 6:36 pm

President Obama has crossed the Rubicon with the health care vote. The bill was not really about medicine; after all, a moderately priced, relatively small federal program could offer the poorer not now insured, presently not on Medicare or state programs like Medicaid or Medical, a basic medical plan.

We have no interest in stopping trial lawyers from milking the system for billions. And we don’t want to address in any meaningful way the individual’s responsibility in some cases (drink, drugs, violence, dangerous sex, bad diet, sloth, etc.) for costly and chronic health procedures.

No, instead, the bill was about assuming a massive portion of the private sector, hiring tens of thousands of loyal, compliant new employees, staffing new departments with new technocrats, and feeling wonderful that we “are leveling the playing field” and have achieved another Civil Rights landmark law. (NB: do the math: add higher state income taxes in most states; the new Clinton-era federal income tax rates to come; the proposed lifting of limits on income exposed to FICA taxes; and now new health care charges — and I think you can reach in some cases a bite of 65%to 70% of one’s income.)

So we are in revolutionary times in which the government will grow to assume everything from energy use to student loans, while abroad we are a revolutionary sort of power, eager to mend fences with Syria and Iran, more eager still to distance ourselves from old Western allies like Israel and Britain.

There won’t be any more soaring rhetoric from Obama about purple-state America, “reaching across the aisle,” or healing our wounds. That was so 2008. Instead, we are in the most partisan age since Vietnam, ushered into it by the self-acclaimed “non-partisan.” But how could it be anything else?

Partisanship all the time, everywhere

No, Obama has thrown down the gauntlet, and is trying to reify the sloganeering of the 1960s. He apparently reasons along the following lines: that centrist talk was campaign fluff; the voters fell for it, and now it’s his turn to remake America with 51% of the House and 44% of the people. Think Sweden, or, better, Greece as our model at home, and something like America as Brazil in matters of foreign policy. Apparently, Obama figures that people now may not like the present partisanship, but they didn’t like FDR at the time either. Yet whom do they associate their Social Security checks with? Hoover? Coolidge? Harding?

I don’t see why the ram-it-through, health care formula won’t be followed by similar strategies for blanket amnesty, cap and trade, and expansions of the state takeover of cars, banks, student loans, and energy.

Remember, all these will be packaged as “comprehensive” reform — comprehensive health care, comprehensive immigration, comprehensive energy, comprehensive monitoring of even the banal decisions we make. So what does comprehensive really mean, other than all of us are going to get even more official looking letters in the mail, advising us to fill out a form, pay a fine, and be warned that a new regulation or tax is on the way — followed by the usual state/federal representative’s newsletter bragging about some new entitlement that he “won” for us with our borrowed money?

The Logic of Statism

I expect a lot of the following in the next three years.

1) Them!: More Obama soaring speeches about some “historic” crisis that needs “comprehensive” solutions (e.g., more of “this is our moment” banalities). Those introductions will be followed by alternate praise of some heroic individual who lost her health care, struggled to unionize, breathed some sooty air, was deported while cooking the evening meal, etc. These gripping narratives will be mixed in with ‘Them!’ demagoguery (e.g., the health care industry, the big corporations, the polluters, the nativists and racists — all of “Them” are standing in the way of hope and change, and, together, yes, we can! defeat them. Oh yes, there is going to being even more sermonizing, and shriller human interest portraits about “Them” smashing poor five-year-old Billy Jones from Topeka who flew up to DC to find Harry Reid for “help”; or “Them” denying Herlinda Lopez from Fresno her college dreams, who then wrote a letter pleading to Michelle for assistance; or “Them” absolutely crushing the mother of Bobby Smith for no other reason than sheer greed, who then took the Greyhound to Nancy Pelosi’s office!

2) The Fedopus has far more than eight tentacles: More letters in the mail from more state and federal bureaucracies (both broke, and searching for billions of dollars for millions of workers who need to be paid). The official looking stationary letters will be advising us that there is a new fee, surcharge, rule, regulation, etc. — mostly in the context that we have already in some way violated something. (Expect in such writs to see your name misspelled, your address garbled, one letter canceling out the one of the prior month, and semi-threatening language demanding compliance. [Don’t dare call the government number since the U.S. can’t hire more competent answerers from India]). This last month, to name a few, I got IRS friendly reminders, State Board of Equalization new rules, federal agricultural surveys, county assessment questionnaires, and the Census. All in all, about 12 official letters came, and I expect more this month. (My favorites are all the county, state, and federal agricultural questionnaires that usually have a warning like, “Do not write ‘no change from last year!’”—meaning that, even though your vineyard hasn’t gone anywhere in the last twelve months, you must go through a zillion questions, marking “No” to things like “Do you have a billboard on your property?” or “Do you raise gaming horses?”

3) More cynicism: The more Obama talks about the greedy and selfish in society who “take” from others, the more the public will understand that they are in fact the greedy in these crosshairs. Costly health problems that originate with obesity, smoking, alcoholism, unsafe sex, violence, law-breaking, etc. are really due to lack of scheduled office visits. One missed colonoscopy — not 50 extra pounds or 1000 Big Macs over the years — causes cancer. People always ache due to a dearth of medical advisors and outreach counselors — or the diet and prescription drugs pushed on the victim by the profit-mongering corporation. In other words, the old days of a kindly, but tiny government politely advising us about what not to do have now transmogrified into a brave new world in which there is no individual. Instead, there exists only collective responsibility — a creed that assumes those in rehab or on parole or fighting weight-induced diabetes were victims of a system in which those who did not engage in that sort of behavior were culpable in some way and should pony up. Best of all, the system assumes we are greedy, cruel, and selfish for writing things like the above.

4) Pelosism: In our brave new world, expect more of the lurid stories about the secretary of the Treasury not paying his FICA taxes. The multimillionaire Madame Speaker will spend more of the state’s millions on private jet travel as she lectures on carbon footprints and a culture of corruption. We will hear more about the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee hiding his income, or a member of the House Rules Committee bragging that, given the historic importance of health care, they are just making up the rules as they go along — and proud of it. Our guardian class has become the new French aristocracy at Versailles. They will rail about Citation jets for the CEO, and then fly federally-owned Gulfstreams; they will put us in Smart cars but limo in Yukons and Tahoes on “official business.” Our lifestyles will be as monitored as much as those who do the monitoring will not be at all.

5) Greedy and Not-So-Greedy Capitalists: And there are “bad” and “not so bad” capitalists too. The CEOs for GM are trying to help America out with green designs and fair wages — so unlike those at Ford and Toyota. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are the model execs, quite unlike the yokels who run Caterpillar and whine about health care. George Soros is not really a money speculator that ruins banks, but a transferer of capital to progressive causes. In every statist society, large corporations either resist or join. For the latter, the machinery of government reinvents them as part of the solution rather than the problem — in the way that Al Gore really doesn’t really guzzle electricity, or John Edwards never really lived in a mansion. The transition to a Ministry of Industry requires a Ministry of Truth. With the Obama media we are already half there.

6) The Race/Class/Gender Cult: This federal caring creed trumps all religion. We will hear thousands of homophobic, racist, sexist anecdotes (but not those from a Ruth Ginsberg, or Harry Reid, or Joe Biden) that remind us why the government must enforce diversity set-asides and affirmative actions, and fund new sociological studies proving why group X hates group Y, and why government bureau Z is fighting X on behalf of Y for all our benefit. We are in perpetual war with perpetual ologies and –isms and we need far more Van Joneses to win them!

I understand the reasoning behind Obamism and am familiar with the feel-good, this-is-our-moment rhetoric of egalitarianism. But please at least spare us the fictions and simply be honest: Obama wants a state-run America, somewhere to the left of France or Denmark, a United States unexceptional and merely one of many nations at the UN. This vision follows an existing, decades-long encroachment of government. And it requires all sorts of highly credentialed overseers monitoring and at times justifiably attacking the upper middle class for its deplorable treatment of those below it.

This new America is ultimately predicated on the notion that we were born equal and must die absolutely equal as well. And this is entirely within our grasp, if we just understand that individual responsibility, talent, natural endowment, chance, merit, luck, tragedy, and a dozen other variables far too complex for government to imagine, much less solve, in fact, are not the real obstacles to ensuring equality.

Instead, it is simpler than that: greed, selfishness, racism, sexism, classism, and not niceness on the part of a few really are the culprits. Thank God that a few rare souls like Obama fathom that. And thank God, again, that it will take a singular humanitarian and genius like Obama to make us denser folks see it and do something about it.

That’s about where we are.

Subscript: Do Democrats realize that we really have crossed the Rubicon? In the future when the Republicans gain majorities (and they will), the liberal modus operandi will be the model—bare 51% majorities, reconciliation, the nuclear option, talk of deem and pass, not a single Democrat vote—all ends justifying the means in order to radically restructure vast swaths of American economic and social life. Is someone unhinged at the DNC? They just blew up any shred of bipartisan consensus when their President polls below 50%, the Democratically-controlled Congress below 20%, and health care reform less than 50%. Usually unpopular leaders and their unpopular ideas seek the shelter of minority rights and prerogatives. What will they do when they are in the minority—since they’ve entered the arena, boasted “let the games begin” and shouted “by any means necessary”?

Happy Dependence Day!

Sunday, March 21, 2010
http://corner.nationalreview.com/
[Mark Steyn]

Well, it seems to be in the bag now. I try to be a sunny the-glass-is-one-sixteenth-full kinda guy, but it's hard to overestimate the magnitude of what the Democrats have accomplished. Whatever is in the bill is an intermediate stage: As the graph posted earlier shows, the governmentalization of health care will accelerate, private insurers will no longer be free to be "insurers" in any meaningful sense of that term (ie, evaluators of risk), and once that's clear we'll be on the fast track to Obama's desired destination of single payer as a fait accomplis.

If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It's a huge transformative event in Americans' view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Their bet is that it can't be undone, and that over time, as I've been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there's plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.

More prosaically, it's also unaffordable. That's why one of the first things that middle-rank powers abandon once they go down this road is a global military capability. If you take the view that the U.S. is an imperialist aggressor, congratulations: You can cease worrying. But, if you think that America has been the ultimate guarantor of the post-war global order, it's less cheery. Five years from now, just as in Canada and Europe two generations ago, we'll be getting used to announcements of defense cuts to prop up the unsustainable costs of big government at home. And, as the superpower retrenches, America's enemies will be quick to scent opportunity.

Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side . . .

My Thoughts on Watching the Dems Stab the Constitution on the Congressional Floor

By Ben Stein on 3.22.10 @ 9:37AM
The American Spectator
http://spectator.org/

1. This is a "bill" that is clearly not really a Constitutionally allowable legislative entity, eligible for signature into law. For it to be that, it would need to be identically passed in both houses. It was not. It was passed as a corned beef hash of vague promises in the Senate. Then a vote was taken in the House to eventually pass the same bill but with a few changes and a further vague promise to reconcile both versions. This is not how the Constitution defines a bill en route to becoming a law. This is just a demand by President Obama to submit to his authority, which the Democrats meekly passed. This is not Constitutional.

2. The slovenly laziness of the Majority to not even read the vague bits of the bill floating around is further evidence of contempt for law and the Constitution.

3. This is not how the U.S. government is supposed to work. This is how a South American junta does its work with a puppet legislature and a supreme Caudillo above law. This is, tragically, Barack Obama's America. It took a mere 14 months to get us from the government of Jefferson to the government of Trujillo.

4. The supine cowardice of the mainstream media here is almost beyond imagining. To fail to even notice the attack on the Constitution going on here is stunning and discouraging in the extreme.

5. For those of us who still believe in the Constitution, I offer the words of the great civil rights anthem, "We shall overcome, " and "We are not afraid." In that spirit, we continue the fight for the return to Constitutional government. Loyal to the nation and the Constitution, but most certainly opposed to the subversion or either.

As Churchill said, "In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance." And this is a war for Constitutional government. A war of words, to be sure, but a war we must win.

6. One more thought. If Mr. Obama's goal really is to protect life and health, the surest way to do that would be a right to life amendment to the Constitution. May we expect that proposal from Mr. Obama soon?


Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dapper Dan Sportswomen of the Year: Penn State volleyball team breaks records, traditions

Sunday, March 21, 2010
By Ron Musselman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/


Mark Selders/Penn State

Penn State's women's volleyball team cuts down the net after defeating Texas for the NCAA title in Tampa, Fla., in December.


When Russ Rose took over as coach of the Penn State women's volleyball team in 1979, he taught 16 classes, had three scholarships, no assistants and the team wore sleeveless, leftover jerseys from the basketball team.

Nowadays, the Hall of Fame coach teaches one class, has 12 scholarships, two assistants, a director of operations and his team wears sleek-looking Nike uniforms.

Rose also is the ringleader of the best women's volleyball program in the country.

"Times have changed, that's for sure," he said. "But you can't do it without the support of the university. When we joined the Big Ten Conference [in 1993], Penn State gave us the resources to be competitive.

"We have just taken off from there."

Penn State made NCAA history in December, becoming the first team to capture three consecutive national championships.

The top-ranked Nittany Lions rallied from a two-set deficit to beat No. 2 Texas, 3-2, in Tampa, Fla., extending the second-longest winning streak in Division I-A history to 102 matches.

And for the first time in Dapper Dan history, the sportswoman of the year will be given to a team -- Penn State -- rather than an individual on Thursday.

There are no current Western Pennsylvania players on the Lions' roster, but Rose said players from the Pittsburgh region have been instrumental in helping his program become a powerhouse.

"When I accept the award, I am going to dedicate it to all of the great volleyball players who have come from Western Pennsylvania, both men and women," Rose said.

"In the early years, half of our team was from Western Pennsylvania. All of them helped shape our program."

Penn State has not dropped a match since losing, 3-2, to Stanford Sept. 15, 2007.

In addition to the three national titles, the Lions have won four consecutive Big Ten championships behind the most-talented recruiting class in school history.

Senior All-Americans Megan Hodge and Alisha Glass helped Penn State compile a 142-5 record.

"We've certainly had a great run the last three years," Rose said. "And Alisha Glass and Megan Hodge contributed heavily to the success of our team in different ways."

Hodge, an outside hitter, finished her career with 2,142 kills, second in school history. Glass, a setter, finished with 5,799 assists, fourth all-time, and added 454 blocks.

Hodge became just the fifth player in Division I to be named first team All-American four consecutive years. She also was named the winner of the Honda Sports Award, given to the country's top female athlete in volleyball.

She was the second consecutive Penn State player to win the prestigious award, following Nicole Fawcett.

"Penn State has the type of volleyball program that is unmatched when compared to any other school," Hodge said. "It's not really about individual awards with me, or being the best player on the best team.

"At the end of the day, it was all about playing as a team and playing well. I think our record and championships are a credit to our coaching staff and all the great players who have passed through the program."

This past season, Rose became just the fourth Division I coach to win four national championships. He also became just the third coach to reach 1,000 wins.

Penn State finished the decade with a record of 308-38. Its 102-match winning streak trails only the Miami men's tennis team, which posted 137 consecutive victories from 1957-64.

"We've won four national championships and had a lot of success, but I think the hardest part still is trying to sell a player on coming to Penn State," Rose said. "They all want to know why would they should go East to play a sport that is dominated primarily by teams from the West.

"We've been fortunate. We have had some very talented kids who have played hard and have been able to handle the enormous expectations that go with it."


Ron Musselman: rmusselman@post-gazette.com