Monday morning round-up and Open Thread

HobbyLobbyStowOhioPerspective is a good thing. In the middle of the night, one of my children woke me up with the news that he felt really sick and had already thrown up all over his carpet. I tucked him up on a couch and waited until morning to inspect the damage. He wasn’t kidding about the “all over the floor” part. If it weren’t for the fact that (a) he has no fever; (b) he doesn’t have a stiff neck; and (c) he hasn’t thrown up again, I’d be very worried about meningitis. That looked like projectile vomiting to me.

I spent half an hour cleaning his carpet and feeling, not sorry for myself, but less than happy. I mean, who wants to spend time cleaning puke off a carpet? Soon, though, I was reminded in a most unhappy way that there are worst things in life. While I was scrubbing, my husband was reading an email telling us that a friend I’ve known 20 years and my husband has known 40 years died suddenly, leaving behind a wife and two young children.

We almost never saw this friend, because he lived far away, but we always knew he was out there. Somewhere, alive and vital in our universe was a good, kind, warm-hearted man who was our friend. And now he’s blinked out of our existence and, much worse, out of his young children’s lives. I am heartbroken for their loss. There are infinitely worse things than cleaning guck off a carpet. Anyway, on to the posts.

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You’ve all heard by now that, by a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court ruled that 1993′s Religious Freedom Restoration Act means that a closely held corporation that has a religious leadership opposed to birth control need not provide contraceptives as part of the Obamacare mandated insurance packages companies must offer to their employees. Instead, they must be treated in the same way as not-for-profit, primarily religious organizations.

That mandate means that things will get even more interesting when the Supreme Court hears cases arguing that religious organizations should be able to withdraw entirely from the scheme. The opinion is very narrowly drafted to cover just the Hobby Lobby situation (closely held corporation with manifestly religious owners), but it still strikes a major symbolic blow against the Obama administration’s overreach.

Those who think everyone in America must fund a women’s reproductive choices, even while having no say in the matter, are shocked and horrified. As for me, I’ve discovered that it’s impossible to make them understand that if you view birth control as a mortal sin, it doesn’t matter whether you use it yourself, pay someone directly to use it, or pay someone indirectly to use it — it’s still a mortal sin and you’re still morally culpable

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My friend Stella Paul asks “Is Obama trying to get us killed?” She then amasses a mountain of evidence pointing to a “yes” answer to that question. You should definitely read her article, but prepare to be depressed.

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James Kirchick argues convincingly that Barack Obama is leaving America in even worse condition than Jimmy Carter did. True dat.

For one thing, Obama got an extra four years within which to inflict damage. For another thing, unlike Carter who still seemed to like America, even though he didn’t understand the nature of her greatness, Obama genuinely dislikes America. When Carter’s policies proved disastrous, he tried to change them. Obama, however, will never change his disastrous policies. He likes their outcome.

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It’s always been easy as a general matter to be prescient about President Obama. We didn’t know the specifics, but we knew he’d destroy our border integrity, ruin our economy, and de-fang our national security. What’s more difficult is to be prescient with great specificity, but that’s precisely what John Hinderaker did back in 2008, before Obama was even elected, when he worried that an Obama Justice Department would go after 510(c)(4) entities. Color me impressed.

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A growing crisis in our constitutional system threatens to fundamentally alter the balance of powers — and accountability — within our government. This crisis did not begin with Obama, but it has reached a constitutional tipping point during his presidency. Indeed, it is enough to bring the two of us — a liberal academic and a conservative U.S. senator — together in shared concern over the future of our 225-year-old constitutional system of self­governance.

More from Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Prof. Jonathan Turley here.

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Another blow to the impending Armageddon from “anthropogenic climate change”: “startled” scientists cannot explain why the Great Lakes, rather than dying, are thriving. Of course they can’t explain. “There are more things in heaven and earth, [Prof. Climate Scientist], Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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The DemProgs continue to malign the Tea Party, and people like Jack Kelly continue to make valiant efforts to set the record straight.

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David P. Goldman argues that, when it comes to Iraq and Syria, our best option is to stay out of the fight and to let the Sunni and Shia factions — both of which loath America and wish for her destruction — to fight it ought amongst themselves. I’ve mentioned before that this is my preferred idea. You’ve heard the expression “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” right? Well, there’s nothing better for me than when these two enemies battle it out without me.

And yes, the innocents among them are going to die, but nothing we can do will stop that slaughter. It’s not just that life is dangerous in a war zone. It’s that the nature of these intractable enemies is that they view the innocents as both legitimate weapons and targets. Our involvement wouldn’t change that ugly reality; it would just make us equally culpable when the innocents inevitably suffer.

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Here’s why Michelle Obama is dead wrong to impose herself on school menus (and this is separate from the fact that she’s a hypocrite, who doesn’t abide by her loudly trumpeted ideas about healthy eating):

But attending Ivy-League schools doesn’t magically make someone better parent material than an individual who attended a public university, or, dare it be said, someone who didn’t attend college. It also doesn’t mean that she should be a co-parent to your children. Make no mistake; the underlying assumption is that federal technocrats and educated individuals such as her need to act on your behalf to meet the best interests of your children.

Read the rest here.

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Lee Smith writes about the way Israel harnesses geek energy, creativity, and intelligence to her national security (think Stuxnet). If Israel can stay one step ahead of Iran’s bomb-making, and manage to stop any Arab Winter wars from spilling across her borders, she will inevitably emerge triumphant from the Middle Eastern mess. Smith also points out that Israel’s dynamic humanism highlights the antisemitism behind the BDS movement.

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A trial court judge kicked out George Zimmerman’s defamation claim against NBC, which had selectively edited his 911 call to make it appear that he was a racist. I haven’t read the opinion, but the newspaper summary makes it sound dead wrong. To begin with, it sounds as if the judge bought the defense’s argument that Zimmerman was a public figure, which raises his burden of proof.  But Zimmerman wasn’t a public figure.  He was a private citizen who was turned into a public figure by, among other things, NBC’s careful edit of the 9/11 calls.

The court also held that there was no evidence NBC knew it was airing false information, something that again smells wrong. To the extent that NBC deliberately edited down the calls, how could it have been unaware of what it was doing?

The judge also made much of the fact that, later in the call, Zimmerman again emphasized that the guy sneaking around his community was black. It ignores that Zimmerman understood, from the dispatcher’s questions, that this mattered.  It was therefore entirely reasonable for him to repeat this important piece of information in the call. What wasn’t reasonable was for NBC to pair it with selectively edited material so that the package made him sound racist.

Finally, the court glommed on to the fact that NBC interviewed people who said Zimmerman wasn’t a racist. However, the whole notion of racism was an issue only because NBC made it an issue. To then have people say, “Oh, no, he wasn’t a racist. Why would you think he’s a racist?” only served to emphasize the point NBC was trying to make.

I hope Zimmerman appeals, although if Florida is like California, he has only a 2% chance of reversing the trial court’s decision.

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Last night, I watched in bits and pieces a lousy Star Trek : Next Generation Episode in which Captain Picard is trying to stop thieves from taking a dangerous engine byproduct from his ship, the only purpose of which can be terrorism. That was bad. But what was even worse from Picard’s point of view was to discover that the thieves weren’t terrorists. They were stealing for the money. “Profit!” he sneered, in tones of disgust he hadn’t used when discussing terrorism. The thief, also viewing profit as the ultimate evil, replied that she preferred to “think of it as ‘commerce.’”

Watching the show I was immediately struck by the writer’s revulsion for profit, which is pretty funny considering that the Star Trek franchise exists only because it’s creators and distributors profit mightily from it. That’s why Kevin D. Williamson’s article about the Left’s hostility to profit struck such a chord with me:

People intensely dislike profits. The belief that turning a profit is tantamount to operating some sort of con is disturbingly common.

[snip]

There are a few obvious potential explanations for why this might be. It could be popular culture, in which the world “corporation” is practically a synonym for evil, in spite of the fact that the power of individual corporations is in rapid decline. (It seems likely to me that the corporation as currently organized will not exist in 50 years. More here.) It could be envy; anything ancient enough to make the list of Seven Deadly Sins and to form the basis of a hundred thousand cautionary myths is bound to have some explanatory power. But we should consider the possibility that it is simply the result of an intellectual error.

Read the rest here.

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Yesterday, I wrote about the peculiar dignity of a homeless man at the laundromat who stripped himself naked so that he could get clean. Today, I learned that San Francisco is trying to bring that dignity to other homeless people with portable showers on old buses. A lot of San Francisco initiatives are loopy leftism. This, however, strikes me as a great idea, insofar as it helps cut down on disease and skin parasites, and it helps people retain their humanity.

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Myths about WWI debunked, and erroneous debunking about WWI debunked.

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Some things change, some things don’t. What doesn’t change is that we all must die. What does change — with exceptional speed in the last 100 years — is the how and when of our deaths.

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If you thought what Firefox did to Brendan Eich was bad, wait until you see what’s happening at Chase.

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Sometimes, people really should play with their food. They make magic with it when they do.

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If you were stuck in the airport overnight, could you do this with your cell phone?

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

Here’s how Richard Dunn made it happen.

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Let bird chill in sink

Republicans are on the right side of history

Sarcasm is the sign of a healthy brain

Can't eat pork

Waiting to react

(Thanks to Earl, Caped Crusader, and Danny Lemieux for their help.)

My trip to the laundromat gave me a surprisingly inspiring snapshot of life outside the upper-middle-class bubble

Laundromat Corte MaderaThe washing machine repairman is coming Tuesday, but my family ran out of clothes today, so off I went to our small town’s one and only laundromat. It’s a very nice laundromat: it has surprisingly high-end commercial machines (see the picture, above); its detergent and change machines work; it has useful rolling baskets; and, while the environment is basic, it’s pretty clean. There’s parking nearby, too, so I didn’t have to shlep several loads of dirty clothes any great distance.

My arrival coincided with a busy time, so I was able to get a good sense of the laundromat’s patrons. The vast majority were Hispanics, in all sorts of combinations: young families; single men and women, both old and young; and various combinations of people who were obviously both friends and neighbors, making for a social experience.

My guess is that all of them live in a complex of low-end apartments a couple of blocks away from the laundromat. Some drove; some walked, dragging their laundry in rolling carts.  I doubt many are here legally, but maybe I’m just cynical.

Without exception, all of the Hispanic patrons had smart phones. There was little to distinguish them, then, from the average college student or 20-something who lives in an apartment building without a washer or dryer, and who goes to the local laundromat, finding amusement for a couple of hours in his or her smart phone.

I was one of only five Caucasians there. We ran the gamut: I was the upper middle class suburban homemaker with the broken washer; there was the working-class, middle-aged single woman who quite obviously comes there every Sunday; there was the retired older woman who obsessively, compulsively folded and refolded underwear that looked remarkably like old-fashioned bloomers; there was the haggard looking young woman who looked as if she was no stranger to drugs; and there was the homeless alcoholic or drug abuser (you can tell by the face), who stripped himself to the skin so that all of his clothes could be clean.

It was this last laundromat patron who was most interesting. At one level, it was profoundly distasteful to see an obese, marginally clean man with his groin draped in a black garbage bag. Since he was sitting, my over-active imagination got totally grossed-out by the thought of the smorgasbord of bacteria he was leaving on that hard plastic chair.

At another level, though, there was a peculiar dignity to his presence. Homeless he may be, addicted he may be, but he’s still going to clean his clothes . . . all of them. Nor would he let the indignity of near-nakedness stop him. He hid his chair in a corner, only to have to relocate on a regular basis as other patrons needed to use the machines he’d blocked with a little privacy barrier.  The Hispanic women who were trying to get to these machines treated him with friendly respect.

From my point of view, there were surprising pros, and expected cons to the experience. The main con was that I had to do it the first place. When you’re spoiled enough to have a washer and dryer in your home, it seems like an extreme imposition to have to pack up the dirty laundry and hit the road.

The next con was my own personal meshugas. My Mom was a true germaphobe, which is unsurprising given that one of the primary ways to survive a Japanese concentration camp in the tropics was to be as clean as possible despite the grim and grimy circumstances. I therefore grew up as a germaphobe too, but I fight it constantly. Being paranoid about germs can be very limiting. Still, I wash my hands too often and obsess about the possibility of contamination from using a washing machine and dryer open to the general public. After all, who knows if the machines I used weren’t previously used by people just as dirty as the homeless man tucked away in a corner. I’m glad these people have access to washing machines, but I don’t want to share with them.

The last con is that the machines simply aren’t as good as mine is. The laundry didn’t come out as clean as mine routinely does. That’s disappointing. I like it when my laundry smells wonderful and looks as spotless as much-loved, much-worn clothes and towels can.

But as I said, it wasn’t all cons. The main pro, and it was a big one, was that I had everything done in something under two hours, including the round-trip home. I was able to wash all the clothes simultaneously, in three separate washing machines. Then, the dryers were so large that I was able to combine all three loads into a single dryer. I sped the drying process (and relieved my boredom) by opening the dryer periodically, pawing through for dry items, and folding them on the spot. By the time I left, everything I came with was folded and ready to put away.

Things are a lot different at home. I can do only one load at a time. Worse, because my solar panels mean that I have very limited times within which I can use my electric utilities during the summer (unless I want to pay a punitive premium on electricity), it’s rare, outside of weekends, that I can wash and dry clothes in one swoop — unless I want to start laundry at 6 a.m. or stay up until midnight, depending if I aim to get the clothes clean morning or evening. This timing problem can be disastrous when the days are hot, because the clothes start to mildew in the washer during the twelve-hour interval until I can use the dryer. It doesn’t help that I have a lousy memory at the best of times, and will often forget completely that I ran a wash load in the first place.

If I do manage to get things dry and mildew-free, I don’t have any incentive to fold right away. I’ve got some perfectly nice laundry baskets and can just stack the clean laundry in them until the spirit moves me. It can take days before the spirit moves me.  Then, once the laundry is folded, the spirit doesn’t necessarily continue to move me through to putting things away. The result of the sloth a home laundry center engenders in me is that I’m never without laundry somewhere in the house: dirty, wet, unfolded, or not yet put away.  Psychologically, that’s a lousy way to run a house.

And here’s the second pro:  It’s good for me to leave my upper middle class citadel and see how other people live.  It reminds me of two things.  The first is that I am singularly blessed.  You’ll notice I don’t say “lucky.”  I didn’t get here by luck.  I got here because my parents first married and then uprooted themselves in the hope of a better life; because my father worked 17 hour days right up until he retired; because I went to school (paying my own way) to get the degrees that would increase my earning potential; because I’m a cheap skate and save my money; and because I married a man with similar economic values.  The blessing is that these middle class behaviors pay off in America.

The second pro is that, as I looked at these people, mostly immigrants, I realized that we’re all blessed.  What I saw was a very American kind of poverty.  It’s not the grinding poverty endemic to Africa or India.  It’s not the scary poverty of Latin American slums or America’s own ghettos.  It’s the poverty of people who, sadly, didn’t have all my blessings, but do have the ability to stay clean, which is a form of godliness, raising us up above animals.  It’s more than that, though.  Looking at the Hispanic immigrants, I was reminded that what they’re experiencing is also the poverty of people who, like me and my parents, have the opportunity to move away from the laundromat one day, and find themselves in their own home with a washing machine.

I was going to end this by saying that America’s political plutocrats, like the Clintons, Obamas, and Warrens, would do well to visit the laundromat.  I realized, though, that they’d be incapable of seeing a laundromat as anything other than an opportunity to create a new government laundry program, complete with complicated laundry formulas, multi-layered bureaucracies, cronyism and other corruption, and long, long lines.

The dangerous Progressive illusion that government makes us safer

Toddler in poolOne of my favorite expressions is “moral hazard.” I know you’re thinking that this term describes the risk of exposing innocent children to pot-smoking prostitutes, but it actually refers to a very different topic.

I first came across the term “moral hazard” in a Commentary Magazine article by James K. Glassman, who was then arguing against the promises in the as-yet-unpassed Obamacare. (Depending on the number of Commentary Magazine articles you’ve read lately, this might be behind a pay-wall.) Here’s Glassman’s quick-and-dirty definition:

When someone insures you against the consequences of a nasty event, oddly enough, he raises the incentives for you to behave in a way that will cause the event. So if your diamond ring is insured for $50,000, you are more likely to leave it out of the safe. Economists call this phenomenon “moral hazard,” and if you look around, you will see it everywhere. “With automobile collision insurance, for example, one is more likely to venture forth on an icy night,” writes Harvard economist Richard Zeckhauser. “Federal deposit insurance made S&Ls more willing to take on risky loans. Federally subsidized flood insurance encourages citizens to build homes on flood plains.”

We all intuitively recognize the truth behind moral hazard.  When we’re driving in a car so safe it’s the passenger equivalent of an armored car, we take more risks in terms of speed and lane changes than we would in a tinny old Ford. Even as we crow about being less vulnerable to injury, we’re suddenly more likely to cause a crash. And here’s the problem: while a sturdy Volvo may well protect us against a fender bender, the fact remains that, once you’re in a crash, all bets are off regarding the likelihood of injury or death. Crashing at 90 miles per hour in your safe car is as likely to kill you cause, or even more likely to do so, than a 40 mile crash in your Mom’s 1984 Toyota.

Despite this reality — despite the fact that we take incredibly dangerous risks if we think we’re somehow “off the hook” for consequences — DemProgs persist in believing that it’s possible to legislate the world into perfect, government-approved safety.  I’ve had a taste of this in my own home although, thankfully, without any consequences more negative than irritation and some possible hearing loss.

When we bought our house, it came complete with a swimming pool that was already old and decrepit when we moved in. We nevertheless managed to keep it going for more than a decade until, finally, the pool gave up the ghost. It was time for a re-do.

As part of the re-do, we were required to obtain a permit from our local town and, of course, to comply with code-mandated safety requirements. The requirements aren’t just against hazards that the ordinary user cannot protect against, such as electrocution from improperly grounded wires, but are also intended to protect children from drowning. As every pro-gun rights activist knows, drowning is among the top accidental child-killers in the U.S.:

Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

By contrast, guns are responsible for a minute fraction of accidental childhood deaths. Here’s a nice graphic representation of the difference:

Accidental gun deaths

With those risks, all of us want to protect against children drowning accidentally, especially in home pools that are meant to be there for family fun. There are two ways in my town to comply with the code requirements intended to protect children from drowning. First, you can install a fence immediately around the pool. There are some attractive — and extremely expensive — ways to make that happen:

Pool fencing collage

Alternatively, you can fence off your entire yard with a six-foot high fence. We chose the latter option, because most of our yard is already fenced off to keep out deer and coyotes. All that we had to do was to replace a gate that was too short.  Otherwise, it was a pretty minimal effort to comply with code.

Oh, and we had to do one other thing. For the two doors that we have that lead out to the yard, we had to install pool alarms. These are alarms that produce an ear-splitting racket if the door is opened, or left open, without punching a button or two. You can go the expensive route, and have all your doors set to a central system, like an ADT burglar alarm, or you can buy an affordable little DYI package. With this, you put one sensor on the sliding door or window and one sensor on the frame. When the sensors part ways, the alarm goes off.

The alarm is piercing. I was having some problems installing one of them today and, when I was standing right next to it, it made my ears really hurt, as in now, seven hours later, my left ear is hurting and I’m reasonably certain I sustained a small amount of permanent hearing loss.

Having gone through that set-up process, if I actually had small children, I’d go away content that my children are never going to slip out of the house without me knowing.  But no!  That assumption would be dumb!  Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!

Because what I discovered today is that these sliding door guards in no way compensate for watching your children every second of the day to keep them safe. Although I don’t have a very large house, I have a wandering house. It’s not compact, with one story above another, nor is it a single level house. Instead, it’s an unevenly stacked split-level house that staggers drunkenly down a hill. What I discovered when I was struggling to get the damn alarm thing set right is that, while it deafened me (truly) when I was standing right next to it, I couldn’t hear it when I was at the far end of the house.

If I was cooking in the kitchen and my toddler tried to open the door to the pool, I would have known what was going on because I would be on the same level as, and one room away from, the alarm. However, if I was doing the laundry, at the far end of the house . . . no way would I have known that the alarm went off.

Further, to the extent these things rely on batteries, if your batteries fail, you are s**t out of luck. And while I’m sure that some people meticulously replace batteries every three to four months, whether they need it or not, most don’t. That’s why smoke detectors have that incredibly irritating beep-beep-beep signal, which always goes off in the middle of the night, to tell people when the batteries have died. Without that beep-beep-beep, most people would set it and forget it.

So imagine, there I am, a nice young mother with toddler twins. I’ve just put in the new swimming pool and, without any trouble, installed those sliding door alarms. And then I feel safe. I’ve put locks on the cabinets, protectors on the electrical outlets, gates across the stairs and, now, a sliding door alarm between the pool and the house. I’ve protected my darlings against all the known knowns and some of the known unknowns.

What I haven’t factored into all this moral hazard behavior, however, is all the unknown unknowns that are inevitable toddlers and young children: The fences one never thought they could climb, the busy fingers that make mincemeat of electrical outlet covers, and the alerts one doesn’t hear.

There is only one way to protect small children — those little unguided missiles who are all impulse and no control — from harm, and that’s to watch them like a hawk. Everything else is an imperfect crutch at best. If I ever have grandchildren roaming this house, I’m going to watch them closely or truly lock them off, rather than rely on a $40 government-mandated pool alarm to keep them safe.

Today, my very strong feeling is that this code requirement, rather than making children more safe, makes them less safe, because it encourages parental sloth in reliance upon the dubious protection of a cheap piece of electronics.  That’s the problem with so many of the promises the government makes about our safety.  Yes, some things really do matter, like a well-designed freeway or a reinforced housing frame in earthquake country.  A lot of the promises the government makes, though, are illusory.  They tempt us either into risky behavior or into unwarranted carelessness, thereby increasing the dangers we face.

At a fundamental level, when things are within our control, it’s our responsibility to keep our family safe, not the government’s.  I can’t design my own car, so I appreciate having the marketplace offer safety features, but I can make decisions aimed at protecting my child in his own home, whether that means keeping any guns I might own locked up in a safe far from children or keeping an eagle-eye on my children in a home with a swimming pool.

Friday afternoon round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesLooking at recent headlines, I’m tempted to stop calling this a round-up and to start calling it “Today’s trip through the Looking-Glass.” How in the world did we get to this pass, where everything that once was safe and normal is now turned on its head?

And no, I don’t expect an answer. That was a rhetorical question.

Here’s the good stuff:

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I don’t usually open my round-up posts with a video, but this one deserves place of pride. Trey Gowdy tries to remind his fellow lawmakers that Congress, not the White House, makes the laws in America. Republicans were excited. Democrats . . . not so much.

Although the video goes back to March, the latest news items about Obama’s overreach (his response to the border crisis he created, the Supreme Court decision slapping down his made-up NLRB “recess” appointments, and Boehner’s proposed lawsuit on behalf of the House) mean that this video is still timely:

And while you’re thinking about Obama’s executive overreach (“Constitution? We don’t need no stinkin’ constitution!”), please read Charles Krauthammar’s take on the subject.

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If you’ve ever thought that the police in your community are getting too big for their britches and are acting like mini-military dictatorships, instead of like servants of the people, you might be on to something. In Massachusetts, when the ACLU made open record requests on SWAT teams, the teams refused. Their justification was that, although they contract with police departments, they’ve been incorporated and therefore are immune to open records demands.

It’s rather ironic, isn’t it, that this arrogance takes place in the home of the Boston Massacre. Maybe my DemProg friend who’s utterly paranoid about corporations (but adores big government) has a point: there’s nothing more toxic than the corporate government nexus . . . when government is in the driver’s seat.

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As Glenn Reynold’s likes to say, quoting L’il Abner, “the country’s in the very best of hands.” That’s why New York’s Port Authority is so badly managed that a fishing boat smashed into a completely unguarded pier dangerously near La Guardia airport. The only good thing about the story is the reason behind the crash: The ship’s 60-something captain was enjoying a drunken 3-way sex tryst with an equally mature friend and a just-as-mature (age-wise) woman they’d picked up at a bar.

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Megan McArdle is about as level-headed a writer as you’ll ever find. Sometimes she’s so logical, she reminds me of Data in Star Trek : The Next Generation. Even level-headed, studiously non-partisan people, though, can be upset about the news that Lois Lerner was aggressively rooting around for ways to target conservative organizations and Congressmen:

That’s not what the IRS is for. The IRS is not given power over nonprofit status in order to root out electoral corruption or the appearance of it. It is given power over nonprofit status in order to make sure that the Treasury gets all the revenue to which it’s entitled.

Tax power is incredibly wide-ranging. Left unchecked, it can be used to infringe basically on any other right.

Definitely read the whole thing.

And for a little more info about the IRS’s increasing lawlessness in every area, check this out.

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A liberal friend of mine was surprised, when he watched Jon Stewart the other night, to learn that the IRS has been misbehaving. This came as a surprise to me.  I mean, even if you think it’s a great thing that the IRS engaged in a partisan witch-hunt to destroy conservative and pro-Israel organizations before the 2012 election, every taxpayer should probably be offended by the fact that the IRS has no problem losing its documents and then lying about it, even though it would cheerfully bankrupt or imprison you for losing yours and, worse, lying about it. But as I said, all of this came as a complete surprise to my liberal friend.

The Media Research Center gave me a bit of insight into my liberal friend’s unexpected incredulity: NY Times Runs Only 13 Stories on IRS In Last Six Months.  As far as my liberal friend was concerned, unless he was reading the NYT with incredible attention to every article, the whole IRS scandal never happened.

Ultimately, though, Jon Stewart managed to calm my friend. The only problem, he was assured, is that the government is inefficient about record-keeping. Yeah, right.

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It seems appropriate here to point to the fact that the drive-by media will destroy the careers of any reporters who dare to wander off the DemProg reservation.

This also seems like a good place to mention the New Yorker’s savage attack on Ted Cruz. You know, the more they attack him, the more I like him.

Oh, and one other thing about the media: NBC owes George Zimmerman an apology and, in a just world, tens of millions of dollars for grossly and deliberately slandering him as a racist.

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In a ground war against Iraqi troops, ISIS is a formidable force. But let’s not forget that the ISIS fighters’ power rests in their savagery, not their skill. Jonathon Mosely argues that the same strategy Col. John Warden (USAF, Ret.) created for the 100-hour victory in the 1991 Iraq War, or a variation thereof, would be equally successful against ISIS fighters.

Frankly, anything would be better than Obama’s 300 “advisers,” many of whom, I fear, may end up as Obama’s 300 “sitting ducks.”

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One Marine who’s been on the front lines states in the strongest terms what we here have long known, but that the political class (GOP and DemProg) assiduously refuses to admit: We are in an existential war with jihadist Islam, just as was the case when Islam first sprang out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century, as was the case when the Crusaders pushed it back, and as was the case when the Ottoman Empire pressed up against Europe’s gates.

This is a binary war — win or lose, those are the only outcomes. And unless we in the West quickly develop political will and fire in the belly, we’re going to be on the losing side. And of course it doesn’t help that the man in the White House, even though he’s probably not a Muslim Brotherhood Manchurian candidate, nevertheless acts just like a Muslim Brotherhood Manchurian candidate would act if he did in fact exist.

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Did I speak slightingly of the GOP in the preceding paragraph? This marvelous iOwnTheWorld image goes a long way to explaining why.

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You know what happens when you give a free pass to idiots with bad ideas? They don’t slink away, satisfied with what they got. Instead, they come up with more bad ideas.

Flush with success regarding the legal protection the U.S. Patent Office snatched from the 80+ year-old Redskins’ name, some dope got column space in the Washington Post to demand that the military stop using Indian-themed (oh, pardon “Native American-themed) names for weapons systems names such as “Tomahawk missile” or for military actions by names such as “Operation Geronimo.”

If the military were using those terms to denigrate Native Americans, I’d agree. To the extent, however, that the terms quite obviously honor the warrior spirit of people who prided themselves on their warrior spirit, it’s a cultural honor, not an insult. But to an idiot, everything’s an insult.

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I should have been writing about this story myself, since it’s taking place in my own backyard, but I tend to be somewhat inured to the antisemitic behavior that’s been an integral part of San Francisco State University since the 1970s. The latest chapter is SFSU’s insistence that it’s perfectly appropriate to use taxpayer money to send professors to hobnob with Muslim terrorists. This is precisely what you’d expect, of course, when the Left takes over an institution.

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One of the gifts self-styled “intellectuals” have is their ability to tell their own lies so compellingly that they believe these lies themselves. To the extent that Obama and his cohorts are all impressed by their brain wattage, this problem has been magnified in their administration, and a lousy, cowed Congress hasn’t helped. David Hogberg therefore suggests that the intelligentsia’s ability to believe its own lies was a significant part of the deadly VA debacle.

***

Caroline Glick says that Israel is partially responsible for Naftali Fraenkel’s, Eyal Yifrah’s, and Gilad Shaer’s kidnapping, but not in the way you think. Unlike the Europeans and others, she doesn’t argue that it’s because Israel has the temerity to want to hold on to land to which she has historic, legal, and military rights. Instead, it’s because, back in 1985, she released over a 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, rather than go to war to rescue three IDF soldiers:

The only way to prevent more Israelis from being abducted in the future is to deter the Palestinians from abducting them.

Deterrence cannot be achieved by cheap political pronouncements or insufficient legislation.

Deterrence can only be built up over time, by behaving consistently in a manner that convinces the other side that it is not in its interest to do something that you don’t want it to do.

Since May 1985, when then-prime minister Shimon Peres freed 1,150 terrorists for three IDF soldiers held hostage by Palestinian terror master Ahmed Jibril, Israel’s behavior has consistently encouraged our enemies to take hostages.

Through their willingness to release murderers for hostages – and even for hostage bodies – our leaders have told our enemies that they should feel free to steal our children. Their payoff is guaranteed.

Glick is right. Every Israeli is precious. None is cannon fodder. Leaving even one in the hands of monsters is an appalling decision for Israel to have to make. Yet by refusing to make that terrible decision, Israel has invited the terrorists to kidnap ever more of her children and also freed them to engage in mass murder against her people.  I appreciate that this is an easy thing to say from the comfort of Marin County, with my two children safely accounted for.  Nevertheless, when it comes to governance, hard choices are called “hard” for a reason and countries at war need to make them all the time.

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If Lenar Whitney, who’s currently running for the House in Louisiana’s 6th District, was running for Congress in Marin, I’d vote for her in a heartbeat, based solely on this video calling out anthropogenic climate change for the hoax it is:

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Read for a laugh? I thought you might be, so I have a wonderful series of whiteboard posts by a manager at Walmart who either has a great sense of humor or incredible tolerance for a wacky employee.

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Pictures:Kidnappers

Luis Suarez

Voter ID in India

(This round-up was compiled with help from Earl Aagaard, Danny Lemieux, and Sadie.)

A few quick links about life in Obama’s America *UPDATED*

This isn’t an official round-up, so it doesn’t get my little Victorian posy. It’s just a few quick links to things you might find interesting:

At Duffel Blog (a satire site), a canny explanation for America’s schizophrenic Iraq policy.

Obama may be assiduously ignoring the fact that Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel (an American citizen), both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, are in terrorist hands, but Ted Cruz is paying attention, and being vocal about it too. (Here’s an interview with Naftali’s mother.)

(UPDATE: Two more links about the boys — Surprise! Palestinian Leaders Tolerate Terror Buildup; and The State Department Should Restrain Itself on Response to Israeli Kidnappings. Please keep the boys in your prayers. Especially given the American vacuum, they will need all the help, both human and divine, that they can get.)

IT professionals say that the IRS’s story about the lost emails doesn’t add up.

The ultimate image summing up life in Obama’s America (click on image for full-sized view):

Life in Obamas America

Obama’s VA, on average, killed as many veterans per year as his military strategy killed annually in Afghanistan.

AJ Strata says fear not, the Libertarian strain in the Tea Party is delayed, not defeated. The Dems know this, which is why, when McDaniels’ supporters in Mississippi tried to obtain proof of voter fraud, they were barred at the door. What do you bet that, in this case of gross violation of voter’s rights, Eric Holder’s justice department does . . . absolutely nothing.

The “Twilight Zone” edition of the Thursday evening round-up

Victorian posy of pansiesThis will be a short post, but it contains three things that really deserve immediate attention because they are so bizarre they could only happen in the Twilight Zone.

The first thing — and I’m deliberately using the word “thing” for reasons you will soon discover — is an overwrought, almost hysterical Slate opinion piece about an exceptional act of cruelty visited upon every child born in a Western hospital. When I started reading the article, I assumed that the exceptional act of cruelty was going to be circumcision.  This assumption made less and less sense the more I read, because the piece quite obviously included all babies born, not just boy babies. So, there went my “circumcision is a good thing” rebuttal, including new data out of Africa showing that, not only does circumcision slow the spread of deadly disease, it actually increases sexual pleasure in men.

I next thought that the horrible thing being done to children was vaccinations, but that couldn’t be right. Newborns don’t get vaccinations, and this opinion piece was quite clearly focused on newborns. That was a shame, too, because I do love waxing eloquent about how fortunate we are to live in a vaccination age. (Yes, some children do have bad responses, but they are statistically negligent when compared to the number of children dead or permanently handicapped because of infectious diseases that are almost unknown in America thanks to vaccinations. We don’t even have to look at the past to prove this assertion. It’s enough to look to Africa, where polio and measles are again becoming deadly scourges as war and ignorance further darken that already benighted continent.)

It was only as I kept on reading that I realized the real terror visited upon children unlucky enough to be born in hospitals: doctors look at their external genitalia and, based upon what they see, they assign a gender designation to the child. No fooling! That’s what they really do. And as far as one Canadian activist is concerned, this is a denial of basic human rights that must be condemned in the strongest terms and countered if at all possible:

With infant gender assignment, in a single moment your baby’s life is instantly and brutally reduced from such infinite potentials down to one concrete set of expectations and stereotypes, and any behavioral deviation from that will be severely punished—both intentionally through bigotry, and unintentionally through ignorance. That doctor (and the power structure behind him) plays a pivotal role in imposing those limits on helpless infants, without their consent, and without your informed consent as a parent. This issue deserves serious consideration by every parent, because no matter what gender identity your child ultimately adopts, infant gender assignment has effects that will last through their whole life.

I honestly don’t know what to say in the face of that insanity — and it is insanity.  One of the basic tenets of sanity is the ability to distinguish the real world from the fantastical world of one’s lunatic delusions.

Except for a few outliers, such as amoeba, almost every living species on earth is divided into male and female, with that distinction involving reproductive organs.  Penis = sperm delivery system; vagina and above = egg providing system, incubator, and baby delivery system.  That’s how the real world really works.  Only someone with a serious mental illness, brought about either by organic brain damage or by being marinated for too long in the sauce of radical gender studies, could argue otherwise.

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It’s behind a Wall Street Journal pay wall, but this article is still worth noting:  You may have heard about California’s thirty-year drought being one of the worst ever.  Our house, I’m sorry to say, smells like a urinal, because we’ve gone back to the days of “when it’s yellow, let it mellow.”  It doesn’t mellow; it stinks.

Our inconvenience pales in comparison with what’s happen in California’s Central Valley, which has for decades provided more than half of the fruits and vegetables for the entire United States.  There, the farmers have no water whatsoever.  They’ve been forced to leave 500,000 acres fallow and, understandably, have concentrated only on crops that will provide a maximum return on their investment.

But you want to know the worst thing?  This heinous water shortage could have been ridden out much more easily had it not been for the environmentalists and their obsession with the 4″ long Delta Smelt, a tiny fish in the Sacramento Delta.  Thanks to the greenies getting the smelt designated as “endangered,” California’s agricultural interests, not to mention the interests of all Americans who want affordable food, have been subordinated to the needs of that little fish.  That’s why, after 300 smelt were found trapped in pumps releasing water to agricultural concerns, the federal government acted.

How did it act, you ask?  This is how: it “flushed 800,000 acre-feet into the San Francisco Bay last winter and an additional 445,000 acre-feet this spring to safeguard the endangered delta smelt. That’s enough for roughly three million households to live on and to irrigate 600,000 acres of land.”

Our environment is a precious thing, whether one views it as a gift from God, Gaia, or natural forces.  We have an obligation to respect the land and its inhabitants, but I do not believe that this obligation extends to destroying ourselves to increase the numbers of a single fish.

What we’ve seen in California is a form of insanity that even Rod Serling might have thought too incredible to include in a Twilight Zone episode.  And yet it really happened.

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They say that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.  Nowadays, though, it goes from tragedy to catastrophe.  Remember how Jimmy Carter made a fool of himself during a 1980 presidential debate with Ronald Reagan by appealing to his 13-year-old daughter as an authority on nuclear disarmament?

Barack Obama has now gone Carter one better.  He’s appealing to both his daughters as authorities on climate change, which he has characterized as the greatest threat facing America.  It’s as if the Islamic-inspired atrocities around the world have never happened.

We’ve entered life on the funny farm, deep, deep in the Twilight Zone.  Logic and reality cannot hope to function when delusion and fanaticism hold sway.