Patterico's Pontifications

4/11/2011

Veiled Threats to Freedom of Expression (and Other Notes From the Clash of Civilizations)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 8:25 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

So today we learned of a small victory in the ongoing war over freedom of speech.  Sion Owens of the British National Party apparently burned a Koran on video.  He was arrested over the weekend or violating Section 29 of the Public Order Act, most likely on the claim that he incited religious hatred as that is apparently part of what the act defines as a crime.

Let’s stipulate from the outset that the man himself is probably a tool.  The word “national” in the British National Party probably refers to an ethnic or racial identity and thus the man is almost certainly a bigot.  But that is beside the point.  He has a God-given right to be a bigot, to say his bigoted things, and his freedom to engage in expressive conduct can only be limited in viewpoint-neutral ways.  And bluntly, when they arrest him for this kind of thing, all they succeed in doing is giving him a megaphone as we in the west decry the jackboots of the state coming down on his neck.

The positive development in this case, however, is that the man has been let go.  And that is good.  But there is a concern that this was only because of the slightest technicality, and he might be rearrested any day now:

He was warned today that police are continuing to investigate the alleged incident and to expect further action.

It is understood that his release was due to a technicality regarding the Act under which he was arrested and charged.

An unconfirmed source in court today claimed that the permission of the Attorney General must be sought before such a charge can be made.

In the case of Mr. Owens, it was not.

So this might end up looking like the Geert Wilders case where he  was prosecuted against the will of the prosecutors, had his case ended prematurely due to serious misconduct by one of the judges, only to learn that the prosecutors who didn’t want to prosecute him in the first place and said that he shouldn’t be convicted, were being ordered to prosecute him again.  (Note: the fact that this was occurring in an inquisitorial judicial system is highly relevant to these shenanigans.)

Meanwhile over in America, specifically in St. Paul, you learn the story of a first generation immigrant from Vietnam, who was imprisoned in his home country for his Catholic beliefs, woke one morning to find that someone set a fire at base of his statue of Jesus.

(more…)

Politically Correct, Geometrically Ignorant and Other P.C. Insanity

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 2:14 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Good Allah, what is going on with us?  Just when you thought political correctness couldn’t get any worse, we get this one:

A sophomore at a local private high school thinks an effort to make Easter politically correct is ridiculous.

Jessica, 16, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that a week before spring break, the students commit to a week-long community service project. She decided to volunteer in a third grade class at a public school, which she would like to remain nameless.

“At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that,” Jessica said.

She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about “their abstract behavior rules.”

“I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay,” Jessica explained. “She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat ‘spring spheres.’ I couldn’t call them Easter eggs.”

Now more than a few people have reacted to the soul-crushing political correctness of it, but let me point out something else: it is geometrically incorrect to call these things…

…spheres.  A sphere is defined, in relevant part, as:

a solid that is bounded by a surface consisting of all points at a given distance from a point constituting its center

Which is a fancy way of saying that it has to be perfectly round.  Which eggs are not.

And seriously, what exactly is the problem with the word “egg?”  I can sort-of understand the annoyance with Easter—that is associated with that forbidden Christ-guy—but who is mad about the word “egg?”

I swear the politically correct types want us to be constantly walking on egg shells spherical husks.

Political correctness is all about not ever offending anyone.  Well bluntly I am offended, not just for bad geometry but by your attempt to remove all offensiveness and color from our culture.  I am offended by your imposed beigeness.

Meanwhile we learn of this latest example of a school usurping parents’ rights:

At his public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

Excuse me, but if parents let a student bring junk food to school, how is that your business?  You get to decide what to make children eat, thus vetoing what the parents wish?  Are you going to go home with them at night and make sure they eat their vegetables, too?

There is a certain attitude around these days, most prevalently on the left, that schools should be used to teach children the right beliefs about everything (except faith, naturally), from environmentalism to socialism, to everything.  It’s reason 44,324 why we should have vouchers.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Stopping “Dr.” John Boyd & Attorney Al Pires

Filed under: General — Stranahan @ 1:22 pm

[Guest post by Lee Stranahan]

One of the key figures in the Pigford scandal is “Dr.” John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association., who has personally profited to the tune of over $1,000,000 from the USDA. 

And her’s about to cost you, dear taxpayer, billions more…but more on that in a minute.

In 2009, attorney Rose Sanders – who represented Shirley Sherrod –  said this about “Dr.” John Boyd,…

Less than two years ago, I attended meetings by John Boyd where he and his attorneys were soliciting contracts from hundreds of eligible and ineligible claimants before the Pigford II legislation was passed in Congress. These contracts obligated citizens to pay 1/3 of their recovery to John Boyd’s attorneys plus expenses. Expenses had to be paid even if the claimant was unsuccessful. I objected to these outrageous contracts. Boyd’s claim that his April 28th protest is inspired by his concern for Black Farmers must be questioned.

That’s a serious charge Ms. Sanders is making and shows a clear example of black people being taken advantage of by Boyd and the lawyers he was working with.

I spoke to Ms. Sanders last week to see if she still stood by this and she said of Boyd and the lawyers, “Well, it’s not illegal.”

Why was Ms. Sanders so clear about Boyd’s wrongdoing two years ago yet she makes excuses for him today? I think the answer is really tragic – she’s part of a move to circle the wagons now that people like Andrew Breitbart and I are looking into Pigford. This suspicion does nothing to help the real farmers and does everything to help protect men like John Boyd.

Another guy they are defending? Al Pirse, the (white) attorney who has made over $10,000,000 off of Pigford by his own estimates. Watch more about Pires in this report from John Stossel. Pires shows up at about 4:00 in.

 

But – who cares?

Pigford is over, right? Too late, right? Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

This coming Friday, April 15th in Washington there’s a hearing on the Women Farmers settlement. And who will be there? John Boyd and Al Pires. Take a look. That’s Al Pires and John Boyd in the picture.

Am I the only one who wants to stop these two?

– Lee Stranahan

So Obama Wants to Tax Us Out of Our Deficits . . .

Filed under: Budget,General — Patterico @ 12:22 pm

It’s worth asking: can that be done?

A reader at Megan McArdle’s blog did the math a few days ago and concluded that it cannot. Even if we accept the left’s counterfactual assumptions that skyrocketing taxes will not shrink the economy, the numbers simply aren’t there:

For anyone who wants to discuss the revenue side of the budget debate knowledgably, I highly recommend spending some time with the IRS’s Statistics on Income. Table 1.1 under Individual Statistical Tables is a good place to start: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi…

You can see, for example, that total taxable income in 2008 was $5,488 billion. Taxable income over $100,000 was $1,582 billion, over $200,000 was $1,185 billion, over $500,000 was $820 billion, over $1 million was $616 billion, over $2 million was $460 billion, over $5 million was $302 billion, and over $10 million was $212 billion. Effective tax rates as a percentage of taxable income seem to top out around 27%.

You can estimate the effects of various proposals in the best case, which is that each percentage point increase in the marginal rate translates to an equal increase in the effective rate. Going back to 2000 (“Clinton era”) marginal rates on income over $200,000, let’s call it a 5 percentage point increase in the marginal rate, would therefore yield $59 billion on a static basis. Going from there to a 45% rate on incomes over $1 million (another 5 percentage point increase) yields an additional $31 billion. Or, instead, on top of 2000 rates over $200,000, 50%/60%/70% on $500,000/$5 million/$10 million? An extra $133 billion, or nearly 1% of GDP. That’s not accounting for the further middle class tax cuts that are usually proposed along with these “millionaires’ taxes.”

Now, compare this to deficits of $1,413 billion in 2009 and $1,293 billion in 2010, and using optimistic White House estimates, $1,645 billion in 2011 $1,101 billion in 2012, $768 billion in 2013, and continuing at over $600 billion after.

If anyone wishes to dispute this analysis with actual numbers, feel free to do so in the comments.

It is Time to Speak of Declaring Gabby Giffords’ Seat Vacant

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 11:14 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Last Friday we passed a grim milestone.  Gabby Giffords was shot in the head on January 8, 2011.  She thankfully survived.  So it has been three months since that day and the Daily Beast has an update on her condition:

For a politician such as Giffords, one key ambition of the rehabilitation process is helping to restore the ability to speak. Giffords speaks haltingly, stringing together three- or four-word responses to questions, and is beginning to formulate entire sentences. Morrow is working to help her recapture the ability to use language through song—the rhythmic strains of a familiar tune, such as “Happy Birthday,” triggering compensatory language activity in undamaged parts of the brain. “Language is messed up… But the brain can make up for itself. What doctors have found is that whenever you sing a song, the motor areas are lighting up, the emotional areas—all these different parts of the brain are working to get that song out. So, I’m going in through another way, to create a new pathway to language.”

Because of the near-mystical way in which the brain heals itself, it is impossible for doctors to predict precisely what the new normal ultimately will be for a given patient. Even so, Kim, the neurosurgeon, remains optimistic. This is partly because the bullet that went through Giffords’ brain injured the left hemisphere, which controls speech and movement on the right side of the body. Partial paralysis may result, but in the context of recovering from brain injury, doctors place less emphasis on that than on other factors. “Motor weakness, for example, is not that big a deal, compared with cognitive things,” Kim says. “So, first of all, is your personality going to be like it was before? Are you going to have the same kind of mental abilities, and think through things, and understand? And the social-relationship part—how sensitive are you to other people’s emotions? Do you want to relate? A lot of that function, it turns out, is in the right side of the brain.”

In Giffords’ case, the answer to Kim’s questions about cognitive ability is an emphatic yes. “We joke around, and I tell her all the funny things that happen in Washington, and she laughs,” says Pia Carusone, Giffords’ chief of staff. “When we say her personality is there, I mean, she’s like 100 percent there.” Carusone, who travels to Houston each week, says that Giffords communicates with her through “a combination of body language, personality, and speech. It’s some words, it’s expressions on her face.”

At times, members of her family and staff have had to try to surmise her wishes, asking themselves, “What would Gabby want?” They also have had to decide what to tell her about what happened and when. In the early weeks of her recovery, Giffords apparently believed that she’d been involved in an auto accident. Her family, friends, and staff carefully censored themselves when visiting her, avoiding any talk of the horrific events of Jan. 8. When her Arizona staff made a best-wishes video to send to Giffords, her district director, Ron Barber, who was severely wounded in the attack, carefully positioned himself on-camera to disguise his injuries.

And it is very interesting and you should read the whole thing.  Now, first, contrary to the suggestion of the article, I don’t think speaking is a bona fide occupational qualification for a Congressperson.  That would effectively mean that no deaf person could be a Congressperson, if they lack the ability to speak, and that is wrong.  Of course a non-speaking person probably has a very difficult time convincing the people to vote for him or her anyway, but it’s not an automatic disqualifier.  But it goes beyond speaking into how much she comprehends.  They can’t even tell her why she was in this condition.  Do we think she knows anything about the recent budget deal?  Or Libya?

But we don’t have to get into a detailed debate about her capacity.  Her assessment has already been conceded.  She is not in Congress today and hasn’t been there for three whole months.  Now, it is true that longer absences have occurred.  For instance when Rep. Preston Brooks beat Sen. Charles Sumner for accusing Brooks’ uncle Sen. Andrew Butler of making a mistress of the “Harlot Slavery” in 1856, Sen. Sumner didn’t regain his seat until the Civil War began.  He was even reelected while proclaiming himself unable to resume his job.  And I argued  from the very beginning that this it would be an injustice if the people of Arizona were denied their chosen representative, writing:

I don’t know or particularly care what she stood for on each of the issues.  She could have been for everything I am against and against everything I am for.  Because to me the issue is higher than normal politics.  It’s the fact that she was chosen to represent her district and as such they are entitled to the representative they have chosen.  And one man has vetoed that decision, an act that is unacceptable in a Republic.

And anyone who follows closely knows that I have been pulling for her to return to Congress from the beginning, so “we can agree and disagree with you as we normally do on the ordinary political questions.”  In a very unfortunate choice of language I wrote to one person:

[I] mean she has been out a month and you are ready to replace her. [T]hat seems to be pulling the trigger a little too fast for my blood. [I] think we shouldn’t talk permanent replacement just yet.

Seriously, Charles, I meant metaphorically pulling the trigger.  Really!!!

But although it is unacceptable for one criminal to deny the people of Arizona their voice in Congress, it is the reality we live with.  Now there is a state law on the subject of dubious constitutionality, but it is obviously the case that the House of Representatives can declare her seat vacant, requiring the Governor to call an election.  So let me suggest this as a procedure.  Declare the seat vacant, hold the special election and then …  let Gabby run for the seat if she wants.  If the people of Arizona prefer to keep her on until she is able to serve again, then we in the rest of the country can hardly complain.  But they should give their opinion on the subject.

Oh and Democrats, if this is what is on your mind

Representative Gabrielle Giffords is still in the hospital, but some of her most ardent backers are so enamored of the idea of her running for the Senate that they describe the inevitable campaign commercials: the deep-voiced narrator recounting what happened to her, the images of her wounded, then recovering and speaking into the camera alongside her astronaut husband to call on Arizonans to unite.

…don’t do it.  It’s a bad, bad idea.  Worst idea since the Wellstone funeral.

Seriously, what could be a better example of victim-status politics than that?  They aren’t arguing that she should be reelected because she is the best and the brightest, or because she supports the policies you believe in. Nor are they arguing that she should be reelected in spite of being the victim of a crime.  They are saying to elect her because she was the victim of a crime.  Does that make any sense to you?

No one wants to see the assassin’s veto be exercised, and as long as she is alive there is a natural desire to be optimistic that it can be avoided.  But at three months, it is time to face facts.  She is not doing her job.  And that means at the very least the people of Arizona should have to decide whether they still want her to have this job.

Update: As is often the case, I gloss over what Althouse hones in on:

The Giffords team began to consider the Senate race, and the position some came to was, why not? There was no way of knowing whether Giffords would be able to mount a campaign, but if she recovered enough to serve in the House, why not the Senate? As one person in Giffords’ circle put it, “I think she will be unbeatable whatever she runs for.”

“Let’s say that she’s 90 percent [recovered],” says Mike McNulty, Giffords’ last campaign chairman. “Well, we’ve had congressmen in Arizona who didn’t even have a brain. So, it’s not like you have to be as talented as she is to be good at it.”

So the Daily Beast is all about exposing us to one beast of a person every day?  Is that where the name comes from?

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Boehner Strikes a Better Tone, Promises More Significant Results

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:14 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

When the big deal was struck this weekend, more than a few of you noticed that I was a little irritated by the victory dance.  I wasn’t trying to bash the Republicans for the deal on its merits.  They only control one house of Congress, after all.  But if I had been there, I would not have put up with that celebratory attitude.  I would have said something more like this:

We have nothing to celebrate today.  Our government is about $14 Trillion dollars in debt.  Our interest alone is $200 billion each year.  And we are celebrating a $39 billion cut?  We have not reduced the debt.  We have only slightly reduced the rate of increase of it.  And that this might be the best that can be achieved under the circumstances is a travesty.

Yeah, no one is going to give me awards for diplomacy, but sometimes a person needs to splash a little of the cold water of reality on people.

And if Boehner said anything like that at the time, I hadn’t heard it.  But…  he seems to be saying something closer to the mark now:

While the president’s party still controls Washington, House Republicans have dragged a reluctant Senate and White House into taking this imperfect first step toward getting spending under control. The agreement will reduce government spending by $38.5 billion over the next few months — and by hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decade.

This is real money. And as Stanford University economics professor John B. Taylor observed, “Reducing discretionary spending in 2011 … will help establish credibility and show that government can actually take needed actions, not just promise to take them.”

Yeah, um, I am sick of symbolic gestures.  When are we getting to actually doing it?  Oh, wait, here we go…

But the agreement is far from perfect, and we need to do much more if we’re serious about creating new jobs, fixing our spending-driven debt crisis, and ending the uncertainty that continues to plague our economy.

That’s why this week, we’ll advance our fight from saving billions of dollars to saving trillions of dollars as we turn our full attention to the GOP budget outlined by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., aptly titled “The Path to Prosperity.”

Snark aside, read the whole thing.  I won’t guess whether he wrote it, but it’s in his name so we should hold him to it.

Of course, the President has a slightly different approach:

In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Obama will propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He also will call for tax increases for people making over $250,000 a year, a proposal contained in his 2012 budget, and changing parts of the tax code he thinks benefit the wealthy.

“Every corner of the federal government has to be looked at here,” David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, said Sunday in one of multiple television appearances. “Revenues are going to have to be part of this,” he said, referring to tax increases.

Until now, Mr. Obama has been largely absent from the raging debate over the long-term deficit. The White House has done little with the recommendations of its own bipartisan deficit commission. And Mr. Obama’s 2012 budget didn’t offer many new ideas for tackling entitlement spending, among the biggest long-term drains on the federal budget.

Sure, tax our way out of this hole so we can keep spending like ever, apparently on the theory that the host can feed a parasite larger than itself.

Yeah, and you should read that whole thing, too.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]


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