Saturday, October 01, 2011

Due diligence never done on Obama

Our ludicrously unqualified chief executive would have been regarded as a joke candidate in any serious nation.

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
September 30, 2011

"The way I think about it," Barack Obama told a TV station in Orlando, "is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft."

He has a point. This is a great, great country that got so soft that 53 percent of electors voted for a ludicrously unqualified chief executive who would be regarded as a joke candidate in any serious nation. One should not begrudge a man who seizes his opportunity. But one should certainly hold in contempt those who allow him to seize it on the basis of such flaccid generalities as "hope" and "change": That's more than "a little" soft. "He's probably the smartest guy ever to become president," declared presidential historian Michael Beschloss the day after the 2008 election. But you don't have to be that smart to put one over on all the smart guys. "I'm a sap, a specific kind of sap. I'm an Obama Sap," admits David Brooks, the softest touch at The New York Times. Tina Brown, editor of Newsweek, now says of the president: "He wasn't ready, it turns out, really."

If you're a tenured columnist at The New York Times, you can just about afford the consequences of your sappiness. But out there among the hundreds of thousands of your readers who didn't know you were a sap until you told them three years later, soft choices have hard consequences. If you're one of Obama's core constituencies, the ones who looked so photogenic at all the hopeychangey rallies, things are really hard: "Young Becoming 'Lost Generation' Amid Recession" (CBS News). Tough luck, rubes. You got a bumper sticker; he got to make things worse.

But don't worry, it's not much better at the other end of the spectrum:

"Obama's Wall Street Donors Look Elsewhere" (UPI). Gee, aren't you the fellows who, when you buy a company, do something called "due diligence"? But you sunk everything into stock in Obamania Inc. on the basis of his "perfectly creased pant leg" or whatever David Brooks was drooling about that day? You handed a multitrillion-dollar economy to a community organizer, and you're surprised that it led to more taxes, more bureaucracy, more regulation, more barnacles on an already rusting hulk?

Hard statism is usually murmured in soft, soothing, beguiling terms:

Regulation is about cleaner air, healthier restaurants, safer children's toys. Sounds so nice. But federal regulation alone sucks up ten per cent of GDP. That's to say, Americans take the equivalent of the Canadian economy and toss it down the toilet just in complying with federal paperwork. Obama and the great toxic alphabet soup of federal regulation – EPA, OSHA, SEC, DHSS – want to take that 10 percent and crank it up to 12, 14, 15 percent.

Who could have foreseen that? The most dismal thing about that David Brooks column conceding that "yes, I'm a sap... remember, I'm a sap... as you know, I'm a sap" was the headline his New York Times editors chose to append to it: "Obama Rejects Obamaism."

In other words, even in a column remorselessly cataloguing how one of its smartest smart guys had been repeatedly suckered by Obama on jobs, on Medicare, on deficits, on tax reform, etc, The New York Times chose to insist that there is still something called "Obamaism" – prudent, centrist, responsible – that for some perverse reason the man for whom this political philosophy is named insists on betraying, 24/7, week in, month out, spring, summer, autumn, tax season. You can set your clock by Obama's rejection of "Obamaism."

That's because there's no such thing. There never was. "Obamaism" was the Emperor's new centrism: To a fool such as your average talk-radio host, His Majesty appears to be a man of minimal accomplishments other than self-promotion marinated in a radical faculty-lounge view of the world and the role of government. But, to a wise man such as your average presidential historian or New York Times columnist, he is the smartest guy ever to become president.

In part, this is a natural extension of an ever more conformist and unrepresentative establishment's view of where "the center" is. On issues from abortion to climate change, a Times man or Hollywood activist or media professor's notion of "centrism" is well to the left of where American opinion is. That's one reason why a supposedly "center-right" nation has wound up regulated into sclerosis, drowning in debt and embarking on its last decade as the world's leading economy.

But in the case of Obama the chasm between soft, seductive, politico-media "centrism" and hard, grim reality is too big to bridge, and getting wider all the time.

You would think this might prompt some sober reflection from an American mainstream media dying in part because of its dreary ideological conformity. After all, a key reason why 53 percent voted for a man who was not, in Tina Brown's word, "ready" is that Tina and all her pals assured us he was. Occidental, Columbia, Harvard Law, a little light community organizing, a couple of years timeserving in a state legislature: That's what America's elites regard as an impressive resume rather than a bleak indictment of contemporary notions of "accomplishment." Obama would not have withstood scrutiny in any society with a healthy, skeptical press. Yet, like the high-rolling Wall Street moneybags, they failed to do due diligence.

Three years on, nothing has changed. Obama is proposing to raise taxes because of some cockamamie yarn Warren Buffett has been peddling about his allegedly overtaxed secretary. Yet the court eunuchs of the media persist in taking Buffett seriously as a archetypal exemplar of the "American business community" rather than as an especially well-connected crony. Sometimes, Obama cronyism is merely fiscally wasteful, as in the still underreported Solyndra "green jobs" scandal.

One sympathizes with reporters assigned to the story: It's hard to get all the public monies and Solyndra-exec White House visit logs lined up in digestible form for the casual reader. But sometimes Obama cronyism is murderous: Eric Holder, a man unfit to be attorney general of the United States, continues to stonewall the "Fast and Furious" investigation into taxpayer-funded government gun-running to Mexican drug cartels. It is alleged that the administration chose to facilitate the sale of American weapons to crime kingpins south of the border in order to support a case for gun control north of the border. Evidence keeps piling up: The other day, a letter emerged from ATF supervisor David Voth authorizing Special Agent John Dodson to buy Draco pistols to sell directly to known criminals. Over 200 Mexicans are believed to have been killed by "Fast and Furious" weapons – that's to say, they were killed by a U.S. government program.

Doesn't The New York Times care about dead Mexicans? Doesn't Newsweek or CBS News? Isn't Obamaism with a body count sufficiently eye-catching even for the U.S. press? Or, three years in, are the enablers of Obama still so cynical that they accept it as a necessary price to pay for "change you can believe in"? You can't make a hopenchange omelette without breaking a couple hundred Mexican eggs?

Obama says America has "gotten a little soft." But there's nothing soft about a dead-parrot economy, a flat-line jobs market, regulatory sclerosis, "green jobs" multibillion-dollar squandering – and a mountain of dead Mexicans. In a soft nation, "centrist" government is hard and cruel. Only the media coverage is soft-focus.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Land without peace: Why Abbas went to the U.N.

The Washington Post
September 30, 2011

While diplomatically inconvenient for the Western powers, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt to get the United Nations to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state has elicited widespread sympathy. After all, what choice did he have? According to the accepted narrative, Middle East peace is made impossible by a hard-line Likud-led Israel that refuses to accept a Palestinian state and continues to build settlements.

It is remarkable how this gross inversion of the truth has become conventional wisdom. In fact, Benjamin Netanyahu brought his Likud-led coalition to open recognition of a Palestinian state, thereby creating Israel’s first national consensus for a two-state solution. He is also the only prime minister to agree to a settlement freeze — 10 months — something no Labor or Kadima government has ever done.

To which Abbas responded by boycotting the talks for nine months, showing up in the 10th, then walking out when the freeze expired. Last week he reiterated that he will continue to boycott peace talks unless Israel gives up — in advance — claim to any territory beyond the 1967 lines. Meaning, for example, that the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem is Palestinian territory. This is not just absurd. It violates every prior peace agreement. They all stipulate that such demands are to be the subject of negotiations, not their precondition.

Abbas unwaveringly insists on the so-called “right of return,” which would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state. And he has repeatedly declared, as recently as last week in New York: “We shall not recognize a Jewish state.”

Nor is this new. It is perfectly consistent with the long history of Palestinian rejectionism. Consider:

●Camp David, 2000. At a U.S.-sponsored summit, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offers Yasser Arafat a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza — and, astonishingly, the previously inconceivable division of Jerusalem. Arafat refuses. And makes no counteroffer, thereby demonstrating his unseriousness about making any deal. Instead, within two months, he launches a savage terror war that kills a thousand Israelis.

●Taba, 2001. An even sweeter deal — the Clinton Parameters — is offered. Arafat walks away again.

●Israel, 2008. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert makes the ultimate capitulation to Palestinian demands — 100 percent of the West Bank (with land swaps), Palestinian statehood, the division of Jerusalem with the Muslim parts becoming the capital of the new Palestine. And incredibly, he offers to turn over the city’s holy places, including the Western Wall — Judaism’s most sacred site, its Kaaba — to an international body on which sit Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Did Abbas accept? Of course not. If he had, the conflict would be over and Palestine would already be a member of the United Nations.

This is not ancient history. All three peace talks occurred over the past decade. And every one completely contradicts the current mindless narrative of Israeli “intransigence” as the obstacle to peace.

Settlements? Every settlement remaining within the new Palestine would be destroyed and emptied, precisely as happened in Gaza.

So why did the Palestinians say no? Because saying yes would have required them to sign a final peace agreement that accepted a Jewish state on what they consider the Muslim patrimony.

The key word here is “final.” The Palestinians are quite prepared to sign interim agreements, like Oslo. Framework agreements, like Annapolis. Cease-fires, like the 1949 armistice. Anything but a final deal. Anything but a final peace. Anything but a treaty that ends the conflict once and for all — while leaving a Jewish state still standing.

After all, why did Abbas go to the United Nations last week? For nearly half a century, the United States has pursued a Middle East settlement on the basis of the formula of land for peace. Land for peace produced the Israel-Egypt peace of 1979 and the Israel-Jordan peace of 1994. Israel has offered the Palestinians land for peace three times since. And been refused every time.

Why? For exactly the same reason Abbas went to the United Nations last week: to get land without peace. Sovereignty with no reciprocal recognition of a Jewish state. Statehood without negotiations. An independent Palestine in a continued state of war with Israel.

Israel gave up land without peace in south Lebanon in 2000 and, in return, received war (the Lebanon war of 2006) and 50,000 Hezbollah missiles now targeted on the Israeli homeland. In 2005, Israel gave up land without peace in Gaza, and again was rewarded with war — and constant rocket attack from an openly genocidal Palestinian mini-state.

Israel is prepared to give up land, but never again without peace. A final peace. Which is exactly what every Palestinian leader from Haj Amin al-Husseini to Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas has refused to accept. Which is why, regardless of who is governing Israel, there has never been peace. Territorial disputes are solvable; existential conflicts are not.

Land for peace, yes. Land without peace is nothing but an invitation to national suicide.

Solar Energy School Propaganda 101

By Michelle Malkin
September 30, 2011     

My latest column investigates the green-washing of the government-funded solar energy racket going in America’s schools. Do you know what your kids are being taught — or rather, not being taught about failed eco-subsidies? Find out below.

First, a quick Solyndra Watch link round-up: The White House is doing a Chu-step – sending Energy Secretary Steven Chu to “take responsibility,” but without doing anything to hold him accountable. Look for House hearings just around the corner. You’ve heard, of course, about the Pelosi tie to one of the latest DOE loan guarantee recipients. But Ron Pelosi is small-fry compared to the heavy-hiting, deep-pocketed Democrat Party donors working the system from the inside., in partnership with ABC News, has the scoop on the meddling bundlers with hugetastic conflicts of interest. More at Hot Air. These should be required enviro-class reading assignments. Print, share, enlighten.


Solar Energy School Propaganda 101

by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

The Obama administration’s crony green subsidy scandal is erupting like a solar flare in Washington. But do you know what your kids are learning in their environmental education classes about this red-hot taxpayer eco-scam? Chances are: not much.

Instead, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Democratic apparatchiks at the National Education Association are disseminating solar power propaganda masquerading as math and science curricula.

Titled “Solar Power and Me: The Inherent Advantages,” the lesson plan for middle-school and high-school students directs them to “take note of how solar energy is incorporated into the infrastructure of various cities nationwide and write a short essay about how they would encourage solar energy use in their own town.”

A worksheet labeled “All About Solar!” makes the blanket assertion that solar technologies are “a sound economical choice as they can reduce or eliminate exposure to rising electricity rates, or even eliminate one’s need to pay an electrical bill! In addition, solar panels can be a smart long-term investment, with many solar vendors offering 20-30 year warranties on their products.”

The only warranties worth anything from bankrupt, half-billion-dollar solar company Solyndra Inc. are the warranties on the Disney whistling robots and saunas that adorned its Taj Mahal headquarters. But I digress.

Another worksheet cheerleads the “financial savings” of “solar power and me” and coaches students to “imagine you live in amazing and sunny Anaheim, CA, where the combination of local and federal rebates covers 74 percent of your total cost of a solar panel system!” The exercise then entices the student to take out a 20-year loan on a new solar panel system to produce even greater illusory savings.

Yet another question-and-answer key reads: “How would switching to solar energy affect energy use at your home and school?” Answer: “In general, switching to solar energy would lower your home’s electrical costs and reduce your emissions, thus saving money and improving the environment.”

But as Brian McGraw of the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute points out: “There might be a small niche market, but solar energy is still largely incapable of producing reliable electricity at rates that are even in the ballpark of cost competitiveness compared to coal or natural gas.” Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the force behind billions of dollars’ worth of rushed green energy loans overseen by deep-pocketed Obama bundlers, himself acknowledged that solar tech will need to improve five-fold before it even begins to have a cost-competitive shot.

After examining decades’ worth of failed subsidized solar efforts at home and around the world, the Institute for Energy Research concludes: “Although stand-alone solar power has a certain free-market niche and does not need government favor, using solar power for grid electricity has been and will be an economic loser for ratepayers and a burden to taxpayers.”

The DOE/NEA curriculum encourages students to pressure politicians to pour more money into supposedly underfunded green energy schemes. But the House Budget Committee reported last week (PDF here): “The president’s stimulus law alone included tens of billions in new government subsidies for politically favored renewable-energy interests: $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy investments; $17 billion for the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs; $2 billion for energy-efficient battery manufacturing; and billions more on other ‘clean-energy’ programs for a total of $80 billion. Two years later, the president’s promise of millions of jobs stands in stark contrast with reality.”

A more useful homework assignment would be to have these future taxpayers calculate how much their moms and dads are spending to prop up Obama’s green jobs industry and its elite Democratic campaign finance donors/investors. The White House projected 65,000 new jobs from nearly $40 billion in green job stimulus spending. Instead, fewer than 3,600 jobs were created. Get out your calculators, kids: That’s $4.85 million per job. Investor’s Business Daily crunches the numbers further on the taxpayers’ return on its DOE green loan guarantee “investments” and finds that the program will cost a whopping $23 million per job.

A separate NEA solar energy lesson plan marketed with Dow Corning teaches 5th- through 8th-graders “how solar panels work.” A more apt, real-world lesson would teach them how they don’t work. The myth that this alternative energy source “pays for itself” is busted with just a cursory glance at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature.

President Obama staged a photo-op on the facility’s solar panel roof in 2009 when he signed the green jobs goodie-stuffed stimulus law. The museum refused to disclose electric bills before and after installation of the solar array. But after digging into the lavishly taxpayer-funded project, the Colorado-based Independence Institute discovered that the panels—which only last 25 years—wouldn’t “pay for themselves” until the year 2118, more than a century from now.

It’s elementary. The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking any eco-winners or losers. “Too Green To Fail” redistributes wealth from viable private projects to pipe dreams, forces higher taxes and energy costs on everyone, and rewards partisan funders at public expense. Teach your children well. They’re inheriting the bill.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking Cain Seriously

Why isn't a successful business résumé presidential material?

The Wall Street Journal
September 29, 2011

You hear the same thing said about Herman Cain all the time: Herman Cain has some really interesting ideas, but . . .

I love Herman Cain, but . . .

But what?

But he can't win.

Why not?

At best, the answer has to do with that cloudy word "electability." Or that Mr. Cain has never held elected political office.

In 2004, Mr. Cain ran for the GOP's U.S. Senate nomination in Georgia. He lost to Johnny Isakson. Last weekend, Mr. Cain ran away with the Florida straw poll vote, winning with 37%. He torched both the "Southern" candidate, Rick Perry of Texas, who worked hard to win the vote, and Mitt Romney, who in 2008 campaigned everywhere in Florida.

The time is overdue to plumb the mystery of Herman Cain's "interesting, but" candidacy. Let's start at the top—in the top-tier candidacy of Mitt Romney.

Though he's got the governorship credential, Mr. Romney's emphasis in this campaign is on his private-sector experience. It's good, despite the knock on Bain Capital's business model. But measured by résumés, Herman Cain's looks deeper in terms of working on the private sector's front lines.

The details of his career path are worth knowing.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Cain was recruited from Coca-Cola in Atlanta, his first job in business, to work for Pillsbury in Minneapolis. His rise was rapid and well-regarded. He joined the company's restaurant and foods group in 1978 as director of business analysis. In the early 1980s, Pillsbury sent him to learn the hamburger business at a Burger King in Hopkins, Minn. Then they assigned him, at age 36, to revive Pillsbury's stumbling, franchise Burger King business in the Philadelphia region. He succeeded. According to a 1987 account in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pillsbury's then-president Win Wallin said: "He was an excellent bet. Herman always seemed to have his act together."

In 1986, Pillsbury sent the 41-year-old Mr. Cain to turn around their Godfather's Pizza business, headquartered in Omaha. The Herman Cain who arrived there April 1 sounded like the same man who roused voters last Sunday in Florida: "I'm Herman Cain and this ain't no April Fool's joke. We are not dead. Our objective is to prove to Pillsbury and everyone else that we will survive."

Pillsbury sold Godfather's to Mr. Cain and some of his managers in 1988. He ran it until 1996 and served as CEO of the National Restaurant Association from 1996-1999. This June, Mr. Cain visited with the Journal's editors and put the issue of health-insurance availability inside the context of the restaurant industry. He said the restaurant association tried hard to devise a health-insurance program able to serve the needs of an industry whose work force is complex—executives and managers, full-time workers, part-timers, students and so forth. Any conceivable insurance system would require great flexibility in plan-choice and design.

It's from this period that one finds the famous 1994 video, now on YouTube, of Herman Cain on a TV screen from Omaha debating Bill Clinton about his national health legislation during a town-hall meeting. After the president estimates the profitability of Mr. Cain's company, suggesting he can afford the legislation, Mr. Cain essentially dismantles the Clinton math, in detail. "The cost of your plan . . . will cause us to eliminate jobs."

None of this can be put across in the televised debates' explain-everything-in-30 seconds format. Nor is there any chance to elaborate his Sept. 7 debate remark that he admires Chile's private-public social security system. Or his flat-tax "9-9-9" proposal. (Or any of the candidates' policy ideas for that matter.) So voters get nothing, and Mr. Cain flounders.

When Mr. Cain talked to the Journal's editors, the most startling thing he said, and which he's been repeating lately, was that he could win one-third of the black vote. Seeing Herman Cain make his case to black audiences would be interesting, period. Years ago, describing his chauffeur father's influence on him in Atlanta, Mr. Cain said: "My father gave me a sense of pride. He was the best damn chauffeur. He knew it, and everybody else knew it." Here's guessing he'd get more of this vote than past GOP candidates.

Does a résumé like Herman Cain's add up to an American presidency? I used to think not. But after watching the American Idol system we've fallen into for discovering a president—with opinion polls, tongue slips and media caprice deciding front-runners and even presidents—I'm rewriting my presidential-selection software.

Conventional wisdom holds that this week's Chris Christie boomlet means the GOP is desperate for a savior. The reality is that, at some point, Republicans will have to start drilling deeper on their own into the candidates they've got.

Put it this way: The GOP nominee is running against the incumbent president. Unlike the incumbent, Herman Cain has at least twice identified the causes of a large failing enterprise, designed goals, achieved them, and by all accounts inspired the people he was supposed to lead. Not least, Mr. Cain's life experience suggests that, unlike the incumbent, he will adjust his ideas to reality.

Herman Cain is a credible candidate. Whether he deserves to be president is something voters will decide. But he deserves a serious look.

Write to

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our White House Bully Problem

Team Obama continues to pressure and intimidate its critics.

By Michelle Malkin
September 28, 2011

Spin, baby, spin. Throughout his frenetic jobs tour across the West this week, President Obama tried to seize the narrative. Republicans, he told champagne-sipping, Tea Party–trashing Hollywood moguls and tech titans, are intolerant bigots, know-nothings, and thugs. They’ve made his hair “grayer” and left him “all dinged up.”

But who’s battering whom? Since Day One, Obama has been the Chicago bully in victim’s clothing. The mask is wearing thin.

On Tuesday, Detroit News reporter Daniel Howes reported that White House officials leaned on Ford Motor Company to yank a popular TV and Internet ad critical of competitors who took federal bailout money. According to Howes, “Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House” questioned the firm’s CEO Alan Mulally (who had earlier supported the bailout despite his company’s refusal to participate). Howes concluded: “You’re not allowed, in Obama’s America, to disparage the auto bailout, or — indirectly — Obama. Especially during the election cycle.”

Both Ford and the White House officially deny any political pressure received or applied. But White House press flack Dan Pfeiffer refused to answer when I asked him whether anyone at the White House had ever contacted anyone at Ford to complain about the bailout ad. Ford’s social-media director told me he personally “had no knowledge” of any contacts. While he disputed the gist of Howes’ report, the Ford official would not call for a correction or retraction.

Chris McDaniel, the real-life Ford customer who starred in the offending ad, told editor Larry O’Connor that he was exasperated when he heard about the Ford fiasco: “Now we have the federal government butting their nose into this TV ad. Another example of them getting involved in things they have no business getting involved in. Where is the free speech of American citizens?”

He better watch out for the Obama campaign’s official snitch brigade at After a curious hiatus, the online speech monitors are up and running again. Coincidentally enough, the site (run by several George Soros–trained operatives) targeted conservative auto-bailout critics just two weeks ago.

A left-wing Washington Post writer immediately scoffed at concerns about the administration’s heavy hand because the Ford fiasco “is being denied by the parties on both sides.” Must be nice to mainline White House talking points for a living. For the rest of us, reality intrudes.

This is the administration that threatened health insurers for candidly tying Obamacare mandates to rising premiums.

This is the administration that pummeled companies such as Deere, Caterpillar, Verizon, and AT&T for speaking out about the cost implications and financial burdens of Obamacare — and then cheered from the sidelines while Democratic representative Henry Waxman attempted to haul the firms up for a congressional witch-hunt inquisition.

This is the administration that has seized Gibson Guitars’ instruments and has threatened whistleblowers who exposed bloody corruption and incompetence behind the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking racket.

And lest they need a reminder, this is an administration that has clamped down on mainstream media reporters, too.

California’s Pleasanton Weekly was bullied by the White House press shop over a benign article that irked the administration because it made Michelle Obama look snooty.

The San Francisco Chronicle was punished by the White House because a print pool reporter used a cellphone to record video of protesters at an Obama Bay Area fundraiser.

A WFAA-TV Texas reporter was dressed down by the president for having the audacity to interrupt.

The Boston Herald was spanked by the White House for running a front-page op-ed by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The White House denied any pressure in all those cases, too.

Before his campaign-finance-grubbing swing ended, Obama met the pop singer Lady Gaga. She lobbied him to combat bullying across America. It was a little like Red Riding Hood lobbying the Big Bad Wolf to promote vegetarianism.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery, 2010). © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'Hur' majesty

Cinematic god gets an update with help from his family

New York Post
September 24, 2011

Looking to develop new special features to support Tuesday’s Blu-ray debut of “Ben-Hur,” Warner Home Video president Jeff Baker asked the son of the classic’s Oscar-winning star, Charlton Heston, if he had any unseen material that might be useful.

“Boy, do we ever!” Fraser Heston replied — an inventory of his father’s holdings after his death in 2008 turned up three full 16 mm reels of color home movies shot by his mother on the set of the Oscar-winning biblical epic, as well as extensive behind-the-scenes footage taken during the family’s nine-month stay in Rome.

“I was amazed at all of the stuff from early 1958, when the family got on the plane to New York to take an ocean liner to Rome for the filming,” says Fraser Heston, a film director. “It continued well into 1959 and even into 1960, when you can see my parents returning to the new home that was being built for the family in our absence.”

The footage was turned into a new feature-length documentary, “Charlton Heston and Ben-Hur: A Personal Journey,” which is included with the Blu-ray version of “Ben-Hur,” whose spectacular restoration from the original 65 mm is arriving two years after the actual 50th anniversary of the film (it will also be shown Saturday at Alice Tully Hall as part of the New York Film Festival).

Thanks to the excellently composed footage taken by Lydia Heston — she became an expert photographer, her son says, after someone gave her a still camera on the set of “The Ten Commandments” — we can see the preparations for the famous chariot race as well as it actually being shot by director William Wyler’s cameras. And 3-year-old Fraser riding in a chariot with his father, wearing a miniature Roman centurion costume.

As there were already two earlier making-of pieces included in the video release, Fraser Heston was pleased that what emerged in Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary “was something that was about how the production affected us as a family and my father as an actor.” Though people assume that “The Ten Commandments” made Charlton Heston a superstar, “he felt it hadn’t rocketed him into the upper reaches of the Hollywood stratosphere,” Fraser says. “He wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, and that’s what ‘Ben-Hur’ did for him finally. He had his choice of scripts.”

In the documentary, Fraser Heston reads excerpts from a diary his father kept during production of “Ben-Hur” — a hardbound copy of the entire diary, with Lydia Heston’s still photographs, is included with the Blu-ray release.

One of the things that comes across very clearly is how much pressure Heston and everyone else — producer Sam Zimbalist died of a heart attack during the shoot — felt for the film to succeed.

“It was a terribly risky project for MGM,” Fraser Heston says. “They didn’t know whether they’d have enough money to even finish the picture.”

His father was very pleased with the final film, which won 11 Oscars (a record not equaled until “Titanic”) and was a box-office smash for the studio. Adjusted for inflation, the domestic gross alone was $781 million, putting it at No. 23 on the all-time list, just ahead of “Avatar.”

As for the digital restoration, Fraser Heston says “it looks you can step right into the film with the actors. As my father said, ‘Film is our best export next to freedom.’ ”

Catholicism, No Joke

A grand tour of an enduring, transforming story

By Kathryn Jean Lopez
September 26, 2011

‘I’d like you to convert Chicago,” Fr. Robert Barron remembers his boss, Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago, telling him about six years ago.

The result may just be on a PBS station near you this fall.

Father Barron, a Chicago priest and professor, has created a remarkable book and TV series called Catholicism — which, in providing a fresh introduction to a 2,000-year-old tradition, manages to be both elaborate and humble. It is openly a work of evangelization (complete with available study guides and a prayer card), and is done in a way that is welcoming to a wide potential audience.

Barron characterizes his effort as a “guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture. I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.” He makes excellent use of the vibrancy of technology to reintroduce a vocabulary and tradition that has, of late, been too much hindered by a lack of confidence.

Barron writes: “I have based my life on the knowledge that God speaks with greatest clarity in the Bethlehem baby, too weak to raise his head but more powerful than Caesar Augustus, in the rabbi who, trumping the Torah itself, told all of us how to find beatitude, in the warrior who picked a fight in the Temple precincts, in the young man, tortured to death on a squalid hill outside Jerusalem, with the words, ‘Father, forgive them,’ on his lips, in the risen one who said ‘Shalom’ to those who had abandoned and betrayed him, in Maschiach Ieshoua, Christ Jesus, the Lord of all the nations.”

And while there is no mistaking Barron’s presence as the host, he loves to talk about Catholicism as a team effort, the fruits of the talent and generosity of many (not to mention the gifts of Someone beyond them all). It’s a truly pastoral approach, a good reminder to people of faith who feel exiled by the culture: Don’t stay in exile; engage. Don’t feel like a victim; be a brother. This, too, is Catholicism: a manifestation of God’s glory here on earth, but also a human attempt to seek that which is greater, making use of the creative means to which we have access in the here and now.

“I wanted something that was elevated. Something that was intellectual. But also something that was lyrical. Something that would draw people into the texture and the feel of Catholicism,” Barron tells me. And so he shows us everything from Aristotle and St. John of the Cross to baseball and John Henry Newman.

You don’t have to be Catholic, want to be Catholic, or even like Catholics to go on this journey. It’s not a homily. Barron doesn’t preach at you. Perhaps wowed by the high-def wonder of it all, more than one PBS station agreed it is worth a look.

The series does not challenge just the viewer, but also the author: Barron’s producer occasionally questions him on camera.

In the midst of years of scandal and crisis headlines, what is good and beautiful about Catholicism still remains. Why? And why would you want it? The series presents answers to these questions, too.

And yet, it’s also the best sermon you’ve ever heard. The best class you’ve ever taken. Or the homily you’ve never heard and the classroom you never had available to you.

The ten-part series, to be partially aired on 80 PBS stations and EWTN, and available in a ten-DVD set, takes us on a trip to the Holy Land, Chartres, the Sistine Chapel, Calcutta, and Uganda.

Father Barron says the most memorable of his travels were those last two. He had studied in Paris and taught in Rome, but this was something different. “Calcutta is like the worst, most squalid garbage dump you’ve ever seen writ large. But where people are living. On the sidewalks. In boxes. And in the midst of all of this, here are these women of tremendous joy and dedication.” He celebrated Mass where Mother Teresa is buried and says, “I remember thinking people will be coming here for a thousand years; there will be Catholic pilgrims here in a thousand years.”

The destination in Uganda is Namugongo, where St. Charles Lwanga and 21 companions were martyred in 1886. Barron visits on the feast day, and reports that 500,000 had come to the spot where the martyrs were burned at the stake. “It was extraordinarily moving,” he says. It would have been reasonable to predict, at the time of the executions, that “the end of Christianity in Africa” was at hand. Instead, Barron points to the hundreds of thousands and — recalling Tertullian’s contention that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” — says, “You tell me.”

In a day when discussion of the Catholic Church often turns readily, and understandably, to scandal — “abusive priests, clueless bishops, corruption” — Father Barron has not forgotten that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” in every tabernacle in the world. Or so he believes, teaches, and seeks to live, along with others who truly seek to live Catholicism. While absolutely in favor of addressing the penitential and ministerial difficulties of “the worst crisis of the Church in America,” with Catholicism, Father Barron refuses to “surrender” to a “tendency to reduce the Catholic Church to our present difficulties.”

The story he tells is this enduring belief, that “the Word of God — the mind by which the whole universe came to be — did not remain sequestered in heaven but rather entered into this ordinary world of bodies, this grubby arena of history, this compromised and tear-stained human condition of ours.”

Catholicism is a crash course and, as the cover of the book depicts, an open door. Father Barron takes full advantage here, as he has done in his Word on Fire ministry, of the new schools of our new media. “It’s a way in,” he says.

Catholicisim is classic, revolutionary, and plausibly — like the Gospels themselves — game-changing reality TV.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through United Feature Syndicate.

Q&A: Lindsey Buckingham on his new album, Fleetwood Mac plans

Pop Music Critic
Chicago Sun-Times
September 16, 2011 4:38PM

Lindsey Buckingham solo albums have been rare treats for rock fans — until recently. After averaging eight-year interims between albums throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the Fleetwood Mac singer-guitarist has delivered three new albums in the last five years.

“There was a time when I was the Terrence Malick of rock in terms how the projects were spread out,” Buckingham told the Sun-Times during a recent interview.

It’s not that he’s suddenly more prolific. He’s simply been able to keep Fleetwood Mac’s grubby paws off these batches of songs. Several Mac albums started as Buckingham solo projects, including 1987’s “Tango in the Night” and the 21st-century comeback studio set, 2003’s “Say You Will,” which is virtually the Buckingham solo album it started out to be plus a few harmonies and Stevie Nicks songs.

The new album, “Seeds We Sow” (Buckingham) [★★★ ], finds Buckingham not only solo but independent — self-releasing the record after ending a three-decade relationship with Warner Bros. We spoke with Buckingham about the new album, new personal challenges and new plans for Fleetwood Mac:

Q: We last spoke amid the Fleetwood Mac’s Unleashed Tour in 2009. You described the experience then as “hang time” for the band and “a proving ground.” What came out of the experience, what was proven?

Lindsey Buckingham: To me, it kind of revealed itself to be a freeing experience. You know, I’ve got this large machine with Fleetwood Mac, and then this small machine with the solo work. As any filmmaker who’s done an indie vs. a big-budget project will tell you, it’s the small projects where you’re able to take the risks and grow and follow your heart to the greatest degree. Fleetwood Mac went out on that tour without an album to support; we were basically doing a body of work. I think any band that’s been around for a while, eventually you get to a point where your audience is less interested in hearing anything new from you. When you come to terms with that, it’s kind of cool! I can go out now with the solo stuff and grow and reaffirm the transcendent aspects of playing, and then I can bring that back to Fleetwood Mac to enhance what we already have.

Q: Mac is planning a tour next year, again without a new record to support?

LB: That’s what I’ve heard through the grapevine. I’ve read Mick [Fleetwood, Mac’s founding drummer] saying that in interviews. I’d be surprised if something didn’t happen.

Q: It’s always funny to me, hearing you talk about how you communicate — or don’t — with the other band members. We always think rock bands are closer than they usually are. But you’re hearing Mick’s thoughts via the media.

LB: Well, yeah, I spent some time with Stevie recently making her album. I speak with Mick once in a while. We don’t feel a need to hang as a community at this point. That’s probably best.

Q: It’s been nice to see three solo albums in a row, none of which have been hijacked to become a Mac album. How’d you manage to keep the band away from these songs?

LB: After “Under the Skin” and “Gift of Screws,” I had to tell them: “Don’t bother me for three years!” My material on the last Fleetwood Mac album, “Say You Will,” was meant to be a solo album, and if you take that material on its own it would hold up well as a solo album. The hijacking phenomenon has happened several times. So I started by telling them to leave me alone — and they did! I did two albums back-to-back and toured both, and I wasn’t planning to make this third album. It just came out of me, a very spontaneous thing.

Q: The press sheet for the new album makes a big deal out of your DIY approach — writing, recording, producing, mixing it all yourself. But that’s not unusual for you, right?

LB: I always make the analogy to painting. Working with a band is more like movie making; it’s more political to get from point A to point B in the creative process. When I work alone, it’s me slopping colors on the canvas. I don’t have to have a notion for a whole song. It can be a far more meditative process. The point of departure on this project is releasing it myself.

Q: You’re a full-fledged indie-rocker now.

LB: Yes, and it feels good. Warner Bros., even in the best of times for the record industry, never stepped up to the plate for my solo work. They always said, “OK, fine, but let’s get back to what’s important,” i.e., the band.

Q: So you’re on your own, but Mac is still on Warner?

LB: Well, that’s a whole other complex question. Technically, no, the band is not on Warner. There are legal snags I don’t even want to go into. If Fleetwood Mac does do another album, I’d love to see us do something like what the Eagles did with Walmart.

Q: You’ve mentioned a lot recently that part of what has made you more prolific is how content you are in your family and personal life. I thought an artist had to be discontented to produce his best work.

LB: I thought that, too. Isn’t that funny? Certainly part of the appeal of Fleetwood Mac has been people buying into the struggle of our private lives and realizing we’re writing about what’s actually going on between us — the musical soap opera that’s been a subtext of everything, the history of us having successful careers but being utter failures in our personal lives, I would say. … I was lucky to meet someone and have all this happen at a late point in my life, after I was done with all that garbage. It’s allowed me to completely dispel the notion that family and children are death to an artist. It depends on the individual. There are, though, a lot of artistic things that can be approached and written about within the balanced framework of a stable family life.

Q: Your son is almost a teenager now. Has he started his own musical journey, and has any of it had an impact on you musically?

LB: He’s 13 and hormonal. He turned on a dime 10 months ago into a different person. You hear about that, but nothing prepares you for it. He’s an intent listener. He’ll burn CD compilations of things he likes. I’ll listen; some of it makes sense to me, some of it doesn’t. It’s all pretty thoughtful, though. He also has a healthy … not a disregard but a healthy ambivalence for what I do. He looks at me on stage and basically thinks, “There’s Dad showing off again.”

Q: Has he turned you on to anyone in particular?

LB: I don’t know the names of some of the people he’s been listening to. He takes it in one song at a time.

Q: Does that bother you, as a traditional album artist?

LB: It gives me pause and it doesn’t at the same time. When I was a young boy, all we listened to was singles, 45s. People made albums, but it wasn’t an art form. Albums then were two singles and a lot of throw-away. Then the Beatles defined it as an art form, and some of us are still doing that. I had this discussion with [my son] the other day a few months back, in fact. I was struggling over the sequence of the album. He said, “Dad, why are you spending so much time on the running order?” I said, “Well, it’s like a movie. You can have a lot of great scenes, but if you don’t edit it together in the right order, the relationship to each other, the story you’re trying to tell — it won’t be a good movie.” He just looks at me and goes, “Yeah, whatever.”

Lindsey Buckingham still working but puts fatherhood first

By James McNair
The National
Sep 1, 2011

The Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham talks to James McNair about his new album and fatherhood late in life

In 1974, when the drummer Mick Fleetwood asked Lindsey Buckingham to join his band, the California-born guitarist insisted that he and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks should come as a package.

"It wasn't a slam-dunk, 'Oh my goodness, this is our big break thing'," Buckingham tells me on the line from his home in Los Angeles. "Stevie and I could have made another Buckingham Nicks album - and who knows what would have happened if we did?" History records that the couple did not, of course, and when the gifted and glamorous duo joined Fleetwood Mac, they helped transform the group from esteemed British blues outfit to drive-time radio colossus.

Formerly led by the troubled guitar magus Peter Green, the band became an Anglo-American entity whose eponymous 1974 debut reached number one in the US. The new recruits' song-writing talent sat nicely alongside that of the keyboardist, Christine McVie, whose bass-playing husband John was also a long-term member.

Amazingly, the success of Fleetwood Mac was surpassed by that of the group's 1977 follow-up album, Rumours. Essentially a document of two relationship break-ups - Buckingham and Nicks were separating; ditto the McVies - the album has since gone on to sell more than 40 million copies. The band was indulging in all kinds of excess, and songs such as Go Your Own Way and Dreams aired their dirty laundry in public. Not for nothing, then, has Rumours been dubbed "rock's greatest soap opera".

"We can laugh about it now," says the soft-spoken Buckingham, "but at the time it was incredibly painful. The instinct was to run away, but we had to make the right choices for the band. Rumours brought out the voyeur in everybody, I think, but we learnt to be philosophical about that and use it to our advantage. I'm just glad it wasn't today's media covering the story - there was no phone hacking or people rooting through your trash back then."

Now 61, Buckingham is about to release his sixth solo album, Seeds We Sow. He recorded it in his home studio, where a poster of the Beach Boys' Smile album hangs for inspiration ("I also have a little teak warrior figure standing between the speakers to remind me that I have to fight on"). The new record packs echoing lattices of nylon-string guitar, songs such as Illumination and That's the Way confirming Buckingham's pop sensibility is still highly attuned. The album also benefits from the guitarist and singer's left-field production technique, something that, in Fleetwood Mac, was only ever let loose on the brilliant, defiantly uncommercial Tusk, an album the band's record company later dubbed "Lindsey's folly" despite its selling four million copies.

Buckingham says his new album is about "karma" and how the decisions we make influence our lives. So is he happy with his own choices? "Yes, I think so. With the music, my small, independent projects allow me to take risks, and that has a positive effect when I go back to Fleetwood Mac. More personally speaking, I think it was good not having children too young." He and wife Kristen Messner had their first child, William, when Buckingham was 48, and have since had two daughters, Leelee and Stella. "I've seen a lot of parents not really be there for their kids, so I'm glad that gift came when I was ready."

Chatting more about the new album, Buckingham explains that When She Comes Down was written for his wife. "When we first met, it took Kristen a while to open up and feel safe with me," he says. "I just had to wait and have faith." Happily married the couple may be, but for Fleetwood Mac fans, Buckingham will forever be romantically linked with Stevie Nicks, the girl he first met when they were pupils at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California.

In May of this year, Nicks released her seventh solo album, In Your Dreams, and, much to the delight of Mac fans, Buckingham sang and played guitar on the song Soldier's Angel.

"It was great," he says of the dynamic between them. "We spent more time together than we had in while, and we even talked about trying to get the [long deleted] Buckingham Nicks album out again and perhaps doing some kind of tour around it."

There are plans for new Fleetwood Mac projects, too, and Buckingham says that once he and Nicks have finished with their respective solo album commitments, their thoughts may well turn to another Mac studio album and tour. At 64 and 65 respectively, the band's titular rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are still game, but Christine McVie - who retired from touring in 1998 and only fleetingly appears on 2003's Say You Will album - is unlikely to return to the fold.

"You could call Chris and ask her," laughs Buckingham, "but she quite deliberately burnt her bridges some years back. As far as I can tell, she's living the quiet pastoral life back in England, but I would imagine that must get a little one-dimensional for her from time to time."

For all his gentle ribbing, Buckingham, too, has clearly taken his foot off the accelerator ("Have I mellowed? Oh, I hope so!"). As for Buckingham, he's happier than ever. "I just want to be a consistent and present parent and not let anything get in the way of that. I don't have any big burning ambition, or anything I feel is just out of my grasp.

"One of the most frustrating things about Fleetwood Mac," he adds, "is that you don't get everybody wanting the same things for the same reasons at the same time, but it would be nice to reach a place that dignifies where we started. I find it rather touching and sweet that Stevie and myself might be able to share something beyond the formal designations of recent years. I think there are still a few chapters of our story to be written."

Seeds We Sow is out on September 5 on Cooking Vinyl

Today's Tune: Lindsey Buckingham - Seeds We Sow (Live)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

UNC researchers learning how to prevent ACL injuries

By Tim Stevens
The News & Observer
September 25, 2011

Kelsey Reeves, a soccer player at Leesville Road High School, hyper-extended her right knee and is now recovering from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery. (SHAWN ROCCO -

Kelsey Reeves knew lots of girls soccer players who had torn their anterior cruciate ligament. But she didn't think she had injured her own ACL as she lay on the ground in pain during a Leesville Road High game last spring. There was no contact, just one misstep.

"I had never been injured," she said. "Even after I was hurt, I didn't think it could be an ACL."

But Reeves' injury was typical of most ACL injuries. About 70 to 80 percent of ACL injuries come without any contact to the knee and females are much more likely to injure their ACL than males, according to Darin Padua, an associate professor and director of the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

An ACL injury may be associated with big hits in football, but females are about eight times more likely to have an ACL tear. The injury is most common in girls soccer, girls volleyball and girls basketball.

The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that in 2006, there were 46,000 females 19 and younger who had experienced a sprain or tear of the ACL. More than 30,000 required surgery. Numbers are not kept for contact vs. non-contact related knee injuries.

Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament are especially dreaded by athletes. The ligament is one of four that helps connect the shin with the thigh and stabilizes the knee. The ligament, if torn, can be repaired, usually by taking a tendon from the hamstring or patella, but the rehabilitation process may take a year and is painful.

Some athletes recover almost completely, but for others, an ACL tear can end their competitive careers. After an ACL tear, an athlete is about eight times more likely to have another injury, either to the injured knee or the healthy one.

"It was much more than devastating. I still can't believe it happened to me," said Reeves, who plans to continue playing soccer.

But recent research indicates that non-contact ACL injuries can be significantly reduced by identifying athletes who are most susceptible to knee ligament injury and training them to move in a different way.

"We think we can dramatically reduce the number of ACL injuries," Padua said.

The key to understanding the non-contact injuries, the high reinjury rate and why females are more susceptible than males, Padua believes, is understanding the way people jump, run and move.

"It does matter how you move," he said.

Padua and his team at UNC have developed a series of exercises that may dramatically reduce the number of non-contact ACL injuries. The Capital Area Soccer League began using his team's Performance Enhancement and Kinetic Control system ( this fall with about 600 female youth players. The girls involved in the CASL program are expected to be evaluated during the next few years to see if the program is effective.

The boys teams are expected to use PEAK in the spring.

Figuring it out

The PEAK program was developed after a five-year study at the U.S. Military, Naval and Air Force academies that included a test to help identify athletes who are at the greatest risk of a non-contact ACL injury.

In the study, the largest of its kind ever conducted, every incoming student was videoed jumping off a block and springing upward. Later, if a student had a non-contact ACL injury, the initial test results were reviewed. Researchers identified similar characteristics in body movement while landing and leaping among many of the injured students.

Additional research at UNC indicates uncontrolled hip motion predisposes an athlete for a non-contact ACL tear, and the academy study and others found that girls are more likely to move in a way that could cause the injury.

"What we have found is that injuring your ACL is less about structure, than about the way we move," Padua said. "It is not so much about genetics or bad luck as is it about the way our bodies perform."

Improper movement applies stresses to the knee. Padua compares the stress to slightly bending a metal coat hanger repeatedly. Eventually, the hanger will break.

"The injury can be repaired, but if we don't address what caused the tear, poor body movement, then it will tear again. We need to correct the movement pattern to prevent the injury," Padua said.

Prevention is key

No exercise program probably would have prevented former Broughton soccer player Lexi Miller's right ACL tear. She was blocking a pass during a workout at East Carolina, then she fractured her femur, tore her ACL and tore her meniscus all at once.

But ACL injuries like her previous injury to her left knee might be prevented in the future. That injury didn't involve a direct hit to the knee.

"I was running and it just happened," Miller said.

Correcting the way athletes move involves changing neuro-muscular control. Exercises have been developed to teach athletes a better way to jump, land, and run. The younger the athlete, the easier to correct mechanical flaws. But even among teenagers, if the exercises are used consistently for about nine months studies indicate that athletes can be taught a safer way to move and with an improved athletic performance because they are moving more efficiently.

Putting it into practice

The PEAK system involves a series of exercises that can be used instead of the traditional warm-up exercises at the start of practice.

"Coaches do not want to interfere with practice and skill development, but when we tell coaches that we believe we have a 10 to 15-minute workout that can to be used as a warm-up instead of jumping jacks, etcetera, and can reduce injuries, coaches are open," Padua said.

"These are exercises to correct movement patterns that are consistent with ACL injuries."

Padua said prevention is a key. "Most people are born with a perfect ACL," he said. "You can't improve on perfection regardless of how well you recover." or 919-829-8910

In Arizona, nibbling away at free enterprise

By George Will
The Washington Post
September 25, 2011

Cindy Vong is a tiny woman with a problem as big as the government that is causing it. She wants to provide a service that will enable customers “to brighten up their days.” Having fish nibble your feet may not be your idea of fun, but lots of people around the world enjoy it, and so did some Arizonans until their bossy government butted in, in the service of a cartel. Herewith a story that illustrates how governments that will not mind their own business impede the flourishing of businesses.

Vong, 47, left Vietnam in 1982, and after stops in Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong, settled in San Francisco and lived there for 20 years before coming here to open a nail salon with a difference. Her salon offered $30 fish therapy, wherein small fish from China nibble dead skin from people’s feet. Arizona’s Board of Cosmetology decided the fish were performing pedicures, and because all pedicure instruments must be sterilized and fish cannot be, the therapy must be discontinued. Vong lost her more-than-$50,000 investment in fish tanks and other equipment, and some customers. Three of her employees lost their jobs.

The plucky litigators at the Goldwater Institute are representing Vong in arguing that the Constitution protects the individual’s right to earn a living free from unreasonable regulations. In a 1932 case (overturning an Oklahoma law requiring a new ice company to prove a “public need” for it), the U.S. Supreme Court said that the law’s tendency was to “foster monopoly in the hands of existing establishments.” The court also said:

“The principle is imbedded in our constitutional system that there are certain essentials of liberty with which the state is not entitled to dispense. . . . The theory of experimentation in censorship [is] not permitted to interfere with the fundamental doctrine of the freedom of the press. The opportunity to apply one’s labor and skill in an ordinary occupation with proper regard for all reasonable regulations is no less entitled to protection.”

Unfortunately, soon after 1932, New Deal progressivism washed over the courts, which became derelict regarding their duty to protect economic liberty. Courts deferred to governments eager to experiment with economic micromanagement. Inevitably, this became regulation in the service of existing interests. And regulatory agencies often succumbed to “regulatory capture,” whereby regulated businesses and professions dominate regulatory bodies. Arizona’s Board of Cosmetology consists mostly of professional cosmetologists.

In the Cato Institute’s journal Regulation, Timothy Sandefur of the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation examines how “certificate of necessity” (CON) laws stifle opportunity and competition. For example, Michael Munie of St. Louis has a federal license for his moving business to operate across state lines, but when he tried to expand his business to operate throughout Missouri he discovered that state law requires him to somehow prove in advance that there is a “public need” for his business outside St. Louis.

Who, Sandefur wonders, could have proved 20 years ago that Americans would support a nationwide chain of coffee shops called Starbucks? And in 1985, experts at Coca-Cola thought they knew the public wanted New Coke.

CON laws began with early-20th-century progressives who, like their ideological descendants today, thought that resources should be allocated not by markets but by clever, disinterested experts — themselves.

As Sandefur says, the toll on opportunity is obvious: “Requiring an unknown dreamer, with no political connections, reputation with consumers, or allies among local business magnates to persuade a government board to let him open a new business can often be a prohibitive cost.”

Such laws often are explicitly biased against new businesses. In Illinois, someone wanting to open a car dealership must get a certificate from the Motor Vehicle Review Board, and if any existing dealer objects, the board must consider, among other things, “the effect of an additional franchise . . . upon the existing” dealers and “the permanency of the investment of the objecting motor vehicle dealer.”

When in March Florida’s legislature considered a bill to end licensing requirements for 20 professions, including interior design, the interior design cartel, eager to restrict entry into the profession, got a professor of interior design to ask legislators: “Do you know the color schemes that affect your salivation, your autonomic nervous system?”

In regard to her concern over unsanitary hospital fabrics, a Tampa interior designer warned the panel: “What you’re basically doing is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year.”

Fatal color schemes? Who knew. This overwrought designer should calm down, perhaps by having some fish nibble her feet.