Thursday, February 19, 2009

Free Speech Trends

Remember how the Democratic Party has referred to President Bush over the past eight years? Remember all the 'Bushitler' references, the 'Kill Bush' signs seen at many if not most left-leaning rallies and the many, many suggestions by the political Left (including a Nobel 'Peace' Laureate) to kill the President? Does anyone recall the news media actually reporting in a negative manner on any of these insults and downright threats?

But how things have changed once the Obamessiah is in office. Now that Obama has reached the Promised Land (and intends to drag the country with him into the depths of mass socialization), a mere First amendment protest can be grounds for police or Secret Service harassment, as a now-approving Press looks on complacently. I warned of this shortly after the election, when I noted Obama's long-standing aversion to any sort of criticism.

Now, the results of this aversion are beginning to show. According to a report in the NewsOK site, an Oklahoma City man was hassled by both the local Oklahoma City police and the Secret Service for carrying a sigh saying 'Abort Obama'. According to the NewsOK site,
The police officers who stopped Oklahoma City motorist Chip Harrison and confiscated a sign from his car told him he has a right to his beliefs, but the Secret Service "could construe this as a threat against President Obama," according to the incident report released this morning.

Now I have no problem understanding the actions of the Oklahoma City police, especially as it seems the Secret Service was putting them under some pressure, although i think they went a little overboard. However, the story continues that the man was then visited by the Secret Service. This strikes me as harassment. Where were the secret Service when most of the literati and the political Left were issuing threats against President Bush? I certainly do not recall any stories about the Secret Service investigating these people. And since these people were preaching how 'brave' they were in standing up to power, one would think the media would be filled with those stories. There were certainly enough instances of Bush-hatred spilling out in signs, speech and other formats. Yet I cannot recall a single story of the Secret Service investigating.

But now, a sign that does have some potential ambiguity is cause for a citizen's First Amendment rights to be severely crimped? And even the Oklahoma news media cannot find any room to complain? The story appears to be written in a largely neutral voice, so apparently the Oklahoman newspaper is fine with government enforcing speech restrictions that were certainly not in effect during the last Administration. If the man had sported a sign proposing a violent death or even some bodily harm to the President, i would completely understand the actions of the authorities. But this is a case where it appears over-zealousness to stamp out criticism was the cause.

Liberals have liong been the party of censorship. Think back on the campaign trail and recall that not Gore, not kerry and not Obama was comfortable giving full access to reporters, and in fact the reporters mildly complained about it- even as they propagandized for their chosen candidates. Hillary Clinton was the same way- I recall a report from a reporter on her campaign about how she kept the media at arm's length. And the Democrats are the party who tries to suppress speech they disagree with via 'speech codes', the grossly misnamed 'Fariness Doctrine' and other Orwellian techniques. The Democrats, ladies and gentlemen, not the Republicans. None of these are creations of Reprublicans- they are creations of the Left.

And in government, did the Republicans shut the Democrats out of policy? When they proposed the so-called 'nuclear option' in the Senate, howls of protest arose from the media and every Democrat. But now, when the Democrats have gone even further to ensure that Republicans cannot participate in government, there is only silence from the media. Do these so-called 'professional journalists' not understand that censorship is a weapon that, once allowed, will sooner or later surely be used against them as well? I guess partisanship is more important that actually doing their job.

Obama himself is no stranger to the idea of political censorship. When a reporter on the campaign trail dared to ask hard-hitting questions, his station was banned from any further interviews. And Obama also banned the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the New York Post (three newspapers that endorsed John McCain for President) from his campaign plane. It is no coincidence that these three newspapers are among the very few conservative news voices in the country. They were likely to be more critical of Obama, and he does not react well to criticism.

So I believe that we will be seeing more of this type of thing as Obama gathers the reins of power ever more tightly. As reported by the intrepid Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air, he has already removed the independence of the internal Inspector Generals with a hidden provision in his monster pork bill. This essentially removes any chance of an independent investigation into the 'Most Ethical Congress In History'.

Ultimately, i think that Obama will fail to completely eradicate the First Amendment, but he will probably do such severe damage that for conservatives and other members of the loyal opposition, we will be watching our backs very carefully for the next eight years- or however long the Obamedia can run interference for him and his cronies in 'The Most Ethical Congress In history'.

I predicted that America had sold itself out in this past election. i do not back away from that prediction- I think that by the end of Oabam's term in office, we will have essentially given the right to free speech only to those favored of the liberals, and we will have created a permanent class dependent entirely on government. that is what brought Rome down and that is what may bring us down as well. I predicted after the election that the United States had at most a hundred years of life remaining. I may have been slightly pessimistic, but I doubt that our great-grandchildren will see the bastion of liberty that we once knew- I think it more likely that they will live in a state more resembling Stalin's Russia.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Apologizing to Mark McGwire

Alex Rodriguez, supposedly the most talented player in Major League Baseball (MLB), has admitted that he took steroids - illegal performance-enhancing drugs - during the first part of this decade, while he was employed by the Texas Rangers baseball organization. Now FoxSports columnist Mark Kriegel has written a column in which he says,
At this point, the only guy I want to hear from is that one who changed the game's culture, the prototype, the ballplayer who made people think that ballplayers could look like comic book heroes, Mark McGwire. I'd not excuse him. I didn't then, and would not now. But 11 years removed from the counterfeit glories of '98, some context is in order, and now more than ever.

My question for Kriegel and every other member of the media who have so relentlessly vilified Mark McGwire is two-fold - first, what evidence do you have that he did anything that was illegal, and second, what makes McGwire the most culpable of anyone who played in what has jusitifiably become known as the Steroids Era?

I remember the home-run campaigns of the late 1990s, and unlike Jose Canseco (his former teammate with the Oakland Athletics) Mark McGwire did nothing illegal that I am aware of. The infamous bottle of antro that was seen in his locker was reportedly out in plain view and the substance itself was not banned at that time. McGwire himself referred to it openly as a 'supplement', and it was only later that MLB banned andro and many other substances. Can Kriegel, or any other reporter, show me any evidence that McGwire EVER knowingly did anything against the rules of Major League baseball?

I am not defending the decision to take performance-enhancing substances, and since MLB later did indeed ban andro, there is no doubt that McGwire did take said substance. However, why is he being demonized for doing something that was completely legal at that time? The blame in my mind belongs more on those players who took outlawed substances after MLB banned them. People like Bonds, who was well-known to be jealous of McGwire's accomplishments, took the substances AFTER MLB banned them- of that there can now be little doubt. But McGwire retired in 2001- andro was not banned until 2004! Why is McGwire demonized for doing something that was completely legal at the time he was playing? For that matter, if Rodriguez only took steroids up until 2003, then he also did not break any rules.

In McGwire's defense, he was a power hitter from the time he was in college. Was he doing steroids in college? Very possibly. However, unlike some of the obvious steroid users - like Bonds - there is no point in McGwire's career at which he physically changed or at which he suddenly became a huge home-run hitter. His 70-home run season in 1998 came in a competition with Sammy Sosa, and McGwire has said on a number of occasions that it was the competition that enabled him to hit that many. But he had hit fifty or more home runs before- even as a rookie he hit 49. Just for comparison, Bonds never hit more than 46 until he suddenly began hammering them in 1999- coincidentally the year after McGwire's and Sosa's well-publicized home run competition.

I also think it is extremely unfair to label McGwire as the face of the steroids era. He was the only player who refused to testify at the congressional hearings, but since Congress should have nothing to do with baseball anyway, I do not see that as a problem. Congress has far more serious problems that they ought to be dealing with- looking into allegations of illegal steroid use in a sport is not one of them. However, because McGwire refused to testify, and essentially took the Fifth Amendment, he was widely vilified by both sportscasters and regular journalists alike.

Mark McGwire came into the Major Leagues in 1987, and immediately became a home-run threat. Was steroid use widespread at that time? It is impossible to know. However, as a rookie, it is very difficult to suggest that McGwire suddenly introduced a culture of steroid use to his new team. If the 1990s were indeed the 'steroid decade', then it is very difficult to say that Mark McGwire was the face of that decade. There were a number of better-known players who were tied to the steroid scandal. These included Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettite and of course Barry Bonds. Several of these players had more seniority and more fame in the league than McGwire. Therefore, to accuse McGwire of being the cause and the reason for the steroid problem seems to me to be going a bit far.

If I could give some advice to the sports columnists, it would be this- be careful to label a man you do not know. Kriegel accuses McGwire of being the problem, and basically suggests that he sold out to gain his son's admiration. I don't think so. I watched that home run too, and I saw a guy who would never have done something for a short-term admiration that would ultimately cause his son embarrassment.

I think the sports media owe Mark McGwire an apology. It is certain that he took supplements that were later outlawed. But since he didn't do anything illegal, I would suggest that reporters apologize for casting him the villain in a situation that he almost certainly did not create. In this country, a man is innocent until proven guilty. I think that the media too often forget that simple fact. And as Josephine Tey wrote in her brilliant 1936 mystery A Shilling for Candles in which her character Sergeant Williams says to the Press representative, (I regret I must paraphrase)
You know that the press is responsible for hounding more people in a day's work that Scotland Yard has in its entire existence. And ALL your victims are innocent!

Not much has changed in the intervening years since A Shilling for Candles was published. Pity.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Myth of Walmart

Most of the supposed elites and a large part of the political left views the Walmart chain of discount super-stores as something almost as evil as George Lucas' Empire. However, in an attempt to find out the truth about Walmart, Charles Platt, a former senior writer for the magazine Wired (itself not known for its sympathies to Walmart or to anything that Middle American finds attractive) went undercover as an employee at a Walmart in his locale.

Mr. Platt wrote about his experience in the New York Post recently. He was surprised at both how well-treated the Walmart employees he worked with were and at how much autonomy they actually have. And he marvelled, "Here was the unseen, unreported side of the corporate behemoth. Big as it was, it was smart enough to give employees a feeling of autonomy."

Platt then proceeds to take on a few of the standard canards and debunks them thoroughly, saying that the company informs all employees how to report anyone who orders them to do unpaid overtime and that the illegal alien story actually referred to the company Walmart employed as janitors- it was the vendor, not Walmart, who actually employed the illegal aliens.

He also emerged with a new impression of just why Walmart is so reviled among the self-elected elites in thsi country. As Mr. Platt tells it,
You have to wonder, then, why the store has such a terrible reputation, and I have to tell you that so far as I can determine, trade unions have done most of the mudslinging. Web sites that serve as a source for negative stories are often affiliated with unions., for instance, is partnered with the Service Employees International Union; is entirely owned by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. For years, now, they've campaigned against Wal-Mart, for reasons that may have more to do with money than compassion for the working poor. If more than one million Wal-Mart employees in the United States could be induced to join a union, by my calculation they'd be compelled to pay more than half-billion dollars each year in dues.

Anti-growth activists are the other primary source of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment. In the town where I worked, I was told that activists even opposed a new Barnes & Noble because it was "too big." If they're offended by a large bookstore, you can imagine how they feel about a discount retailer.

And of course, most of those unions are major contributors to the Democratic Party, as most of the mainstream media sources are in need of union money to peddle their propaganda. Since those 'news' organizations and their elected representatives are financially beholden to organizations who desperately want the revenue that the non-unionized Walmart employees could bring to their organizations, it is unlikely that they would actually tell the truth about Walmart.

Mr. Platt, however, has a different view after actually working for Walmart. As he concludes,
Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

Now if only our media and the Democratic PArty would listen...

Whose Country is it Anyway?

That is the question after a group of illegal aliens sued a US citizen for 32 million dollars in federal court. The defendant is an Arizona rancher who is trying to prevent said illegals from destroying his property. According to a report in the Washington Times online newspaper, the illegals filed suit against Arizona resident and US citizen Roger Barnett " for violating their civil rights".

The Washington Times says that,
An Arizona man who has waged a 10-year campaign to stop a flood of illegal immigrants from crossing his property is being sued by 16 Mexican nationals who accuse him of conspiring to violate their civil rights when he stopped them at gunpoint on his ranch on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Roger Barnett, 64, began rounding up illegal immigrants in 1998 and turning them over to the U.S. Border Patrol, he said, after they destroyed his property, killed his calves and broke into his home.

His Cross Rail Ranch near Douglas, Ariz., is known by federal and county law enforcement authorities as "the avenue of choice" for immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally.

I'm not sure which part of this story is more outrageous- that a group of people who are deliberately breaking laws and destroying someone else' property have the gall to actually sue a citizen of that country who is merely trying to protect his property, or that the US courts are so skewed that they would allow a group of self-admitted criminals to sue someone who was attempting to enforce the law. And of course, the fact that the government admits that Mr. Barnett's ranch is a 'known crossing point' for illegals is aggravating as well. If so, why can't the government actually put some effort into enforcing the laws on the books? Why does Mr. Barnett have to do this himself- last time I checked, the government's primary responsibility was to protect its citizens against hostile invasions- and the influx of illegals from the South is certainly a hostile invasion. These people have no respect for our culture, our laws or our way of life- they just want as much of our money as they can grab, and their government is a willing conspirator in this, since the government cannot or will not actually do anything to improve Mexico.

It is time and past time for our government to enforce border security. And yes, that does include protecting and aiding US citizens who are trying to protect their property from the floods of illegals who come into the United States every year. A man's home is his castle, but while the government feels no constraints in zealously checking if a homeowner is smoking at home (and then fining him if he does), they become suddenly listless in actually helping said homeowner protect his property from a hostile invasion.

I cannot imagine that our courts will rule against the illegals, but it would be nice if once in while, these folks were informed that the only thing they can expect from our courts is a long prison sentence and a heavy fine. Suing a US citizen for enforcing US law should have been laughed out of court- only our open-borders judges don't seem to understand that illegal means illegal.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Taxation Is Voluntary...

...according to our representatives in Congress. Here's Colorado Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, making the argument:

It seems that the only folks for whom taxation is voluntary are the members of the Democratic Party- even when they are nominated for posts in President Obama's Cabinet!

Yet another example of 'do as I say, not as I do'.

A New Year

Disclaimer: In the aftermath of the election disaster that showed so clearly how many Americans will put their own personal selfishness over the needs of our country as a whole, and with the Obama campaign's well-known tendency to silence critics, I thought that this blog had outlived its usefulness. However, as I survey the scene, I see that perhaps my commentary may have some value, so i shall re-open this blog.

Well, it is now 2009. The Great Obama is occupying the White House and the eeeevil George W. Bush is no longer President of the United States. But have things changed for the better? Let us see...

  1. Congress-critters still unable to follow the rules they want to impose on the rest of us? Check.

  2. President pushing for massive expansion of powers? Check.

  3. Media prostrating themselves at the feet of government? Check. (Yes, that would be CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, AP, UPI, AFP, {insert newspaper name here], and most local 'news' stations.

  4. Complete failure by the federal authorities to deal with a disaster in Kentucky? Check. (Funny how a far lesser failure was front-page news for weeks in New Orleans, where most of the failures were a direct result of the local and state failures, but this time, where it is unquestionably a federal failure, the Press is silent. Could it be they don't care about rural white folks?)

And several things have gotten worse. The economy, which the mainstream media has been lying about for the past eight years, is actually in much worse shape now than it ever was during the Bush Administration. This is partly due to forces beyond Obama's control (the spending orgy engaged in by both the Bush Administration and the last several Congresses), but also partly (and as we shall see largely) due to forces that can be laid squarely at the feet of the Democratic Party.

The financial mess, as has been stated earlier, was caused mainly by Democratic power grabs. See John Pilla's excellent essay on the causes of the financial crisis at Public Opinion Online. And many of the power-brokers in the Congress have taken more than their share of goodies from the people who caused the mess in the first place. John Murtha, Chris Dodd and Charlie Rangel are all guilty, as are most other members of the current party leadership on both sides of the aisle.

In short, this Administration seems to combine arrogance with incompetence. This is only to be expected, as President Obama has no executive experience and has never had to actually live up to any promises in the past (he is a creature of the Chicago political machine, after all). For the sake of our country, I hope that Obama grows up fast and begins to exhibit some leadership skills. Otherwise, I fear greatly for our country.