Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 11, 2009

When Disarmament Equals Death

David B. Kopel, the Research Director of the Independence Institute, and two of his colleagues related a fascinating and depressing story about the disarmament process in Sudan. In 2005, the U.S. brokered the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which is supposed to devolve most power in southern Sudan to an autonomous government. Part of thisprocess was the disarmament of civilians, and of militias that were not to be incorporated into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

So the UN set out to work. The Lou Nuer tribe was targeted for disarmament first, but the SPLA pillaged the tribe’s cattle in the process, while neglecting its need for security against its tribal rivals. The Lou Nuer tribe formed its own army and attacked the SPLA. It was eventually defeated, at the cost of over 2,000 lives. Only 3,300 guns were collected, and the tribe ultimately rearmed, since the army was obviously uninterested in and incapable of protecting it. Even the Small Arms Survey (SAS), among the most vociferous advocates of gun control, thought the process was a fiasco. The response fromJan Pronk, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan, was that while civilians had been killed, “Mistakes have definitely been made but they have to learn the lesson.” It’s not clear if the “they” at stake were the dead civilians or the murderous army.

The process has been repeated throughout southern Sudan: an incompetent, corrupt, or criminal administration, with an equally malign army, is being cheered on by the UN as it tries to carry out a process of civilian disarmament, in the context of guns are sources of security against both tribal rivals and the predations of the army itself. Kopel’s conclusion is that “people in the region are understandably reluctant to disarm asymmetrically. Moreover, they remember that thecentral governments of their nations have committed genocide against them in the recent past, and so are unwilling to make their survival dependent on the government’s good will.” The SAS’s conclusion is almost equally apt: “Donors and governments continue to prioritize, even fetishize, the gathering of hardware.”

Why, apart from common humanity and the fact that we are, through the UN, helping to pay for this slaughter, does this matter to us? Well, sitting comfortably on the Obama Administration’s Treaty Priority List is the “Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other RelatedMaterials,” commonly known as CIFTA, its Spanish acronym. And in New York, negotiations for a UN brokered Arms Trade Treaty proceed apace. Both treaties have at their core the same fetishization of hardware, and the same assumption that it’s the guns, not the political and ethnic hatreds that lead to their use, that are the problem. But the UN, pleased with how well its approach has worked in southern Sudan, is eager to take its act worldwide. After all, while mistakes have been made, everyone has learned a lesson.

David B. Kopel, the Research Director of the Independence Institute, and two of his colleagues related a fascinating and depressing story about the disarmament process in Sudan. In 2005, the U.S. brokered the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which is supposed to devolve most power in southern Sudan to an autonomous government. Part of thisprocess was the disarmament of civilians, and of militias that were not to be incorporated into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

So the UN set out to work. The Lou Nuer tribe was targeted for disarmament first, but the SPLA pillaged the tribe’s cattle in the process, while neglecting its need for security against its tribal rivals. The Lou Nuer tribe formed its own army and attacked the SPLA. It was eventually defeated, at the cost of over 2,000 lives. Only 3,300 guns were collected, and the tribe ultimately rearmed, since the army was obviously uninterested in and incapable of protecting it. Even the Small Arms Survey (SAS), among the most vociferous advocates of gun control, thought the process was a fiasco. The response fromJan Pronk, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan, was that while civilians had been killed, “Mistakes have definitely been made but they have to learn the lesson.” It’s not clear if the “they” at stake were the dead civilians or the murderous army.

The process has been repeated throughout southern Sudan: an incompetent, corrupt, or criminal administration, with an equally malign army, is being cheered on by the UN as it tries to carry out a process of civilian disarmament, in the context of guns are sources of security against both tribal rivals and the predations of the army itself. Kopel’s conclusion is that “people in the region are understandably reluctant to disarm asymmetrically. Moreover, they remember that thecentral governments of their nations have committed genocide against them in the recent past, and so are unwilling to make their survival dependent on the government’s good will.” The SAS’s conclusion is almost equally apt: “Donors and governments continue to prioritize, even fetishize, the gathering of hardware.”

Why, apart from common humanity and the fact that we are, through the UN, helping to pay for this slaughter, does this matter to us? Well, sitting comfortably on the Obama Administration’s Treaty Priority List is the “Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other RelatedMaterials,” commonly known as CIFTA, its Spanish acronym. And in New York, negotiations for a UN brokered Arms Trade Treaty proceed apace. Both treaties have at their core the same fetishization of hardware, and the same assumption that it’s the guns, not the political and ethnic hatreds that lead to their use, that are the problem. But the UN, pleased with how well its approach has worked in southern Sudan, is eager to take its act worldwide. After all, while mistakes have been made, everyone has learned a lesson.

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What Did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg Mean?

From her upcoming Sunday interview with the New York Times:

Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe [v. Wade] was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.

I leave it up to you to interpret that pronouncement. But it prompts two thoughts from me. First, that if any conservative said this, no matter what they meant by it, they would be immediately exiled from polite and political society, and subjected to the unremitting scorn of the New York Times and all other left-thinking fora.

Second, we tend to forget that enthusiasm for coercive birth-control was associated not with conservatives, or with “the right,” but with Progressives, for whom it was an element of scientific, expert-driven, modernity. In its heyday, progressivism did not map easily onto Democrats v. Republicans: both Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson were progressives, as was Herbert Hoover. Progressivism became associated with liberalism only during FDR’s time.

The supposed “modernity” of expert manipulation of the population appealed to self-consciously modern places, which is why the U.S. and the Scandinavian countries initially led the movement—both in theory and in practice. But as Walter Lippmann stated in a letter to Yale psychologist Robert Yerkes—one of the leaders of the American progressive movement—”your data are insufficient and your definitions altogether too broad. Such statements, made with the prestige of science, leave you open to the gravest misunderstandings.”

A grave misunderstanding, indeed.

From her upcoming Sunday interview with the New York Times:

Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe [v. Wade] was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.

I leave it up to you to interpret that pronouncement. But it prompts two thoughts from me. First, that if any conservative said this, no matter what they meant by it, they would be immediately exiled from polite and political society, and subjected to the unremitting scorn of the New York Times and all other left-thinking fora.

Second, we tend to forget that enthusiasm for coercive birth-control was associated not with conservatives, or with “the right,” but with Progressives, for whom it was an element of scientific, expert-driven, modernity. In its heyday, progressivism did not map easily onto Democrats v. Republicans: both Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson were progressives, as was Herbert Hoover. Progressivism became associated with liberalism only during FDR’s time.

The supposed “modernity” of expert manipulation of the population appealed to self-consciously modern places, which is why the U.S. and the Scandinavian countries initially led the movement—both in theory and in practice. But as Walter Lippmann stated in a letter to Yale psychologist Robert Yerkes—one of the leaders of the American progressive movement—”your data are insufficient and your definitions altogether too broad. Such statements, made with the prestige of science, leave you open to the gravest misunderstandings.”

A grave misunderstanding, indeed.

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When In Doubt, Do More of the Same?

James Taranto writes on the Left’s fixation with passing yet another stimulus:

The economy is in recession, unemployment is rising, and some on the left, including former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, think the solution is massive new federal spending–a “stimulus” bill.No, our column has not gone into summer reruns. Congress passed the so-called stimulus in February, and Krugman, writing in today’s New York Times, wants another one. “The bad employment report for June made it clear that the stimulus was, indeed, too small.”

Of course, there is another possibility. Perhaps the harms caused by massive new government spending outweighed the benefits, so that the stimulus didn’t help or even made matters worse.

Indeed, it’s not as if we weren’t drowning in stimulative cash already. The Washington Post editors even figured that one out:

The Obama administration projects that the federal budget deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 will hit $1.8 trillion, or 12.3 percent of gross domestic product. Mr. Obama’s budget plan calls for an additional $1.2 trillion deficit, or 8 percent of GDP, in fiscal 2010. Both figures reflect not only the $787 billion stimulus plan adopted in February but also the countercyclical impact of “automatic stabilizers”: During recessions, tax receipts decline and transfer payments such as unemployment benefits increase. The previous postwar deficit record, set in 1983, was 6 percent of GDP.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has driven its target interest rate to nearly zero, opened its discount window to a wider range of financial institutions and expanded its balance sheet by more than $2 trillion through purchases of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

In other words, those calling for an additional stimulus package must explain why this is not enough.

These things simply don’t work, as Christina Romer had amply argued before her captivity in the Obama administration. But liberals are loath to admit failure and utterly unwilling to recognize the damage that Stimulus I along with the other Obama agenda-items may be doing to the economy. We risk sucking up the world’s available credit, pushing up loan rates for consumers here and around the world, and short-circuiting our already limp recovery. And in the long run, the spend-a-thon, regulatory burdens, and tax plans will slowly but surely dampen the private sector and our ability to generate growth, jobs, and wealth.

But Obama and Krugman are true believers. No amount of failure, I suspect, will be sufficient to deter them. When unemployment hits 10%, might they then have second-thoughts? Well, the voters certainly will.

James Taranto writes on the Left’s fixation with passing yet another stimulus:

The economy is in recession, unemployment is rising, and some on the left, including former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, think the solution is massive new federal spending–a “stimulus” bill.No, our column has not gone into summer reruns. Congress passed the so-called stimulus in February, and Krugman, writing in today’s New York Times, wants another one. “The bad employment report for June made it clear that the stimulus was, indeed, too small.”

Of course, there is another possibility. Perhaps the harms caused by massive new government spending outweighed the benefits, so that the stimulus didn’t help or even made matters worse.

Indeed, it’s not as if we weren’t drowning in stimulative cash already. The Washington Post editors even figured that one out:

The Obama administration projects that the federal budget deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 will hit $1.8 trillion, or 12.3 percent of gross domestic product. Mr. Obama’s budget plan calls for an additional $1.2 trillion deficit, or 8 percent of GDP, in fiscal 2010. Both figures reflect not only the $787 billion stimulus plan adopted in February but also the countercyclical impact of “automatic stabilizers”: During recessions, tax receipts decline and transfer payments such as unemployment benefits increase. The previous postwar deficit record, set in 1983, was 6 percent of GDP.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has driven its target interest rate to nearly zero, opened its discount window to a wider range of financial institutions and expanded its balance sheet by more than $2 trillion through purchases of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

In other words, those calling for an additional stimulus package must explain why this is not enough.

These things simply don’t work, as Christina Romer had amply argued before her captivity in the Obama administration. But liberals are loath to admit failure and utterly unwilling to recognize the damage that Stimulus I along with the other Obama agenda-items may be doing to the economy. We risk sucking up the world’s available credit, pushing up loan rates for consumers here and around the world, and short-circuiting our already limp recovery. And in the long run, the spend-a-thon, regulatory burdens, and tax plans will slowly but surely dampen the private sector and our ability to generate growth, jobs, and wealth.

But Obama and Krugman are true believers. No amount of failure, I suspect, will be sufficient to deter them. When unemployment hits 10%, might they then have second-thoughts? Well, the voters certainly will.

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Freedom Without Responsibility

The facts of the case are not in dispute. On January 19, 2009, UCSB Sociology Professor William Robinson, then engaged in teaching a course on globalization, “sent an email to students comparing the Israeli occupation of Gaza with the Nazi-controlled Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.” The email contained 42 photos, which Robinson, who specializes in Latin America, had pulled off of the internet, and, among other commentary, the following passage:

Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide (Websters: “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”), a process whose objective is not so much to physically eliminate each and every Palestinian than to eliminate the Palestinians as a people in any meaningful sense of the notion of people-hood.

The UCSB Academic Senate has decided to end an investigation into whether Robinson violated the faculty’s code of conduct: “The committee did not find probable cause to undertake disciplinary action in this matter. I have accepted the findings of the charges committee. Accordingly, this matter is now terminated,” wrote Gene Lucas, executive vice-chancellor, in a letter to Robinson. Lucas’s letter came after FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, threatened UCSB with a press campaign if it did not drop the case, but Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB’s assistant vice-chancellor of public affairs, stated that this development had not affected UCSB’s decision.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 1940 defined academia in a similar vein to the law, as a “learned profession,” which therefore has a responsibility to uphold a professional standard of behavior. Academic freedom is not a First Amendment issue, because the question is not whether faculty have the right to freedom from governmental censorship — they do — but whether they have the right to speak without needing to consider the consequences.

It’s the claim of being a “learned profession” that justifies academic freedom, which is any faculty member’s right to speak and write as that member sees fit without fear of reprisal. It is implicitly assumed that this right will be exercised in accordance with the responsible status of the profession. Yet that’s often not the case, and when so, the profession does nothing about it. The worm is at the heart of the doctrine: standards of responsibility must be policed by some objective authority; otherwise they would be meaningless. In the absence of individual commitment to standards of conduct, the claim to freedom without consequences comes down to freedom without responsibility.

William Buckley wrote in God and Man at Yale that academic freedom was a “superstition,” because all hiring decisions, according to Buckley, are at least partly political, and that being so, those ultimately responsible for running the university — at Yale, the alumni who elect the Yale Corporation — have the right to push for those decisions to lean politically their way, instead of faculty’s way. The argument is cogent.

But Buckley was more of a prophet than a reporter. Academic freedom may have been a superstition in his day, but it was not until the 1960’s brought the explicit, hard-core, left-wing abandonment of the concept of the apolitical Ivory Tower, that the problem became acute. Yes, the concept of self-enforcement always had its flaws. But it did at least offer some justification for academic freedom, and some hope that the professional standards on which it must be based would be upheld, either by individual conscience or — no matter how paradoxical it may sound — by peer pressure.

I cannot agree with my academic friends who argue that academia is akin to the law. Both may call themselves “learned professions,” but lawyers can be disbarred. It may be unwise, but you can even sue a lawyer for misconduct. Academia and the clergy are, as far as I am aware, the only two groups in society that — unless their members’ conduct is purely criminal — have managed to aggregate to themselves the right of exclusive self-governance, with all it implies about the power of faculty over students and academic institutions. That once tenure is received in academia, this governance is based on nothing more than the whimsical willingness of faculty members to uphold standards of conduct, renders academic freedom even more meaningless. In a country based on the concept of checks and balances, on the realization that no one deserves to have unfettered power over others, there is something deeply non-American about this peculiar arrangement.

Today, mostly laudable groups like FIRE, and less laudable groups like the AAUP are very concerned with professorial freedom. But no one is concerned with professorial responsibility. Certainly, the faculty are not. And this is not just — maybe not even primarily — a matter of politics. As Prof. Donald Kagan wrote in these pages several years ago:

At Penn State, where I began my own career, I taught four courses. When I moved to Cornell in 1960, it was down to three. At Yale we teach two courses a semester, and in the hard sciences only one. The top universities today offer at least one semester off for every seven semesters taught; in my day, it was a semester every seven years. In sum, today’s college faculty meet no more than half as many classes as their predecessors a half-century ago. . . .  most faculties lack precisely that requisite sense of professional responsibility, and are instead the major obstacle to improvement. . .  This is not a battle over the control of academic turf. The turf itself is at stake. The twin purposes of a university are the transmission of learning and the free cultivation of ideas. Both are entrusted to the faculty, and both have been traduced at its hands.

What’s a tragedy is that there is no visibly better alternative. Prof. Kagan ended his article with the argument that salvation would have to come from outside the university. But would the government do better? Hardly. The courts? No. The parents? Sure, if they cared, but there is not much evidence that they do, at least not in sufficient numbers. The students? Ditto. Buckley believed in the alumni, but that was wrong then and even more so now.

Robinson is now demanding an apology from UCSB for even implying that his actions might have constituted a violation of standards of professional conduct. He is not, naturally, willing to apologize for anything he has done. That’s academia for you: never having to say you’re sorry.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. On January 19, 2009, UCSB Sociology Professor William Robinson, then engaged in teaching a course on globalization, “sent an email to students comparing the Israeli occupation of Gaza with the Nazi-controlled Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.” The email contained 42 photos, which Robinson, who specializes in Latin America, had pulled off of the internet, and, among other commentary, the following passage:

Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide (Websters: “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”), a process whose objective is not so much to physically eliminate each and every Palestinian than to eliminate the Palestinians as a people in any meaningful sense of the notion of people-hood.

The UCSB Academic Senate has decided to end an investigation into whether Robinson violated the faculty’s code of conduct: “The committee did not find probable cause to undertake disciplinary action in this matter. I have accepted the findings of the charges committee. Accordingly, this matter is now terminated,” wrote Gene Lucas, executive vice-chancellor, in a letter to Robinson. Lucas’s letter came after FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, threatened UCSB with a press campaign if it did not drop the case, but Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB’s assistant vice-chancellor of public affairs, stated that this development had not affected UCSB’s decision.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 1940 defined academia in a similar vein to the law, as a “learned profession,” which therefore has a responsibility to uphold a professional standard of behavior. Academic freedom is not a First Amendment issue, because the question is not whether faculty have the right to freedom from governmental censorship — they do — but whether they have the right to speak without needing to consider the consequences.

It’s the claim of being a “learned profession” that justifies academic freedom, which is any faculty member’s right to speak and write as that member sees fit without fear of reprisal. It is implicitly assumed that this right will be exercised in accordance with the responsible status of the profession. Yet that’s often not the case, and when so, the profession does nothing about it. The worm is at the heart of the doctrine: standards of responsibility must be policed by some objective authority; otherwise they would be meaningless. In the absence of individual commitment to standards of conduct, the claim to freedom without consequences comes down to freedom without responsibility.

William Buckley wrote in God and Man at Yale that academic freedom was a “superstition,” because all hiring decisions, according to Buckley, are at least partly political, and that being so, those ultimately responsible for running the university — at Yale, the alumni who elect the Yale Corporation — have the right to push for those decisions to lean politically their way, instead of faculty’s way. The argument is cogent.

But Buckley was more of a prophet than a reporter. Academic freedom may have been a superstition in his day, but it was not until the 1960’s brought the explicit, hard-core, left-wing abandonment of the concept of the apolitical Ivory Tower, that the problem became acute. Yes, the concept of self-enforcement always had its flaws. But it did at least offer some justification for academic freedom, and some hope that the professional standards on which it must be based would be upheld, either by individual conscience or — no matter how paradoxical it may sound — by peer pressure.

I cannot agree with my academic friends who argue that academia is akin to the law. Both may call themselves “learned professions,” but lawyers can be disbarred. It may be unwise, but you can even sue a lawyer for misconduct. Academia and the clergy are, as far as I am aware, the only two groups in society that — unless their members’ conduct is purely criminal — have managed to aggregate to themselves the right of exclusive self-governance, with all it implies about the power of faculty over students and academic institutions. That once tenure is received in academia, this governance is based on nothing more than the whimsical willingness of faculty members to uphold standards of conduct, renders academic freedom even more meaningless. In a country based on the concept of checks and balances, on the realization that no one deserves to have unfettered power over others, there is something deeply non-American about this peculiar arrangement.

Today, mostly laudable groups like FIRE, and less laudable groups like the AAUP are very concerned with professorial freedom. But no one is concerned with professorial responsibility. Certainly, the faculty are not. And this is not just — maybe not even primarily — a matter of politics. As Prof. Donald Kagan wrote in these pages several years ago:

At Penn State, where I began my own career, I taught four courses. When I moved to Cornell in 1960, it was down to three. At Yale we teach two courses a semester, and in the hard sciences only one. The top universities today offer at least one semester off for every seven semesters taught; in my day, it was a semester every seven years. In sum, today’s college faculty meet no more than half as many classes as their predecessors a half-century ago. . . .  most faculties lack precisely that requisite sense of professional responsibility, and are instead the major obstacle to improvement. . .  This is not a battle over the control of academic turf. The turf itself is at stake. The twin purposes of a university are the transmission of learning and the free cultivation of ideas. Both are entrusted to the faculty, and both have been traduced at its hands.

What’s a tragedy is that there is no visibly better alternative. Prof. Kagan ended his article with the argument that salvation would have to come from outside the university. But would the government do better? Hardly. The courts? No. The parents? Sure, if they cared, but there is not much evidence that they do, at least not in sufficient numbers. The students? Ditto. Buckley believed in the alumni, but that was wrong then and even more so now.

Robinson is now demanding an apology from UCSB for even implying that his actions might have constituted a violation of standards of professional conduct. He is not, naturally, willing to apologize for anything he has done. That’s academia for you: never having to say you’re sorry.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Finally, someone pushes back on the babbling about a nuclear-free world: “Go ahead and wish for a nuclear-free world, but pray that you don’t get what you wish for. A world without nukes would be even more dangerous than a world with them, Mr.[James] Schlesinger argues.” Read the whole thing.

Gallup reports: “U.S. President Barack Obama averaged a 58% job approval rating for the first eight days of July, down from an average of 61% for June. His approval rating is down most significantly among independents, to 53% so far in July from an average of 59% in June; it has dropped two points among Republicans (from 25% in June to 23% so far in July) and has gone up a point among Democrats, to 90%.” Don’t tell E.J. Dionne but it is the president, not his opponents, who is on the wrong track with independents.

Politico hits the nail on the head: “If Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) are moderate Democrats, what kind of Democrat does that make President Obama? You can bet that the president wouldn’t like the answer — and with good reason. The increasingly regular use of the phrase ‘moderate Democrat’ to identify the purple flank of the caucus is creating a rhetorical opening that could quickly turn into a more-than-moderate problem for the rest of the party.”

A dramatic chart from Pollster.com.

Some cap-and-trade fallout: “Republicans are practically lining up to take on U.S. Rep. Glenn Nye in 2010. Nye, a Democrat, narrowly won Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District away from Republican Thelma Drake, largely riding a Democratic wave built by Barack Obama and Mark Warner. Republicans know that Nye won’t be able to rely on the power at the top of the ticket next fall, so they are gunning for him in Washington…. Meanwhile, Nye is feeding the GOP plenty of ammunition for the race. Nye recently voted against an environment and climate-change bill in Washington. The bill passed anyway and Nye’s office appears to be sending out dueling letters to folks on both sides of the issue. In one letter Nye touts his stand against the bill and then in the other he talks up the legislation as an important step toward saving the environment while not mentioning that he voted against it.”

Could the president’s dive in the polls be why health care is on the rocks? TNR’s Jonathan Cohn thinks so: “And now they’re getting nervous. They’re seeing the president’s popularity dipping, however incrementally. They’re watching the Senate chase its tail over the same controversies. And having just taken what were — for many of them — similarly tough votes on an energy bill, they’re not exactly thrilled about ‘walking the plank’ again.” (h/t Mickey Kaus)

Stuart Taylor explains that Sotomayor’s effort to hide her decision in Ricci in a summary order may have violated a court rule prohibitng such orders except in cases when the “decision is unanimous and each judge of the panel believes that no jurisprudential purpose would be served by an opinion (i.e., a ruling having precedential effect).”

A new low: Hillary Clinton is apologizing to North Korea for the two journalists grabbed by Pyongyang and thrown into a labor camp.

If health care is stalling, maybe Congress and the president could work on the economy instead: “U.S. consumer sentiment soured in early July, slipping to its weakest since March, when confidence in the financial sector and economy were at a low ebb, the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers showed Friday. Consumers’ escalating concerns about an extended economic downturn, job security and erosion of wealth were the main factors depressing sentiment, the survey said.”

Larry Kudlow explains “Washington’s enormous expansion of the government’s spending share of GDP to over 40 percent — including Bailout Nation, TARP, and government takeovers in numerous industries — is eerily reminiscent of Old Europe’s old policies. In a twist of irony, Europe seems to be moving toward a lower-tax/spend/regulate, Ronald-Reagan-type approach, while we in the U.S. are regressing to the failed socialist model of Old Europe. This makes no sense. Here’s the clincher: Year-to-date, Dow Jones stocks are off 7 percent, while China stocks are up 71 percent. The world index is up 4 percent. Emerging markets are up 25 percent. They’re all beating us. None of this is good. We’re going the wrong way. That’s why stock markets are not voting for the United States anymore.”  

Jim Cramer comes up with a creative way to boost the stock market: “If the news media would just blackout the Bolshevik Speaker of the, did it again. I mean, the Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, it couple be worth a couple of hundred points on the Dow too. Come on Madame Speaker, do it for the good of your country! Or, at least for the good of our portfolios.”

Finally, someone pushes back on the babbling about a nuclear-free world: “Go ahead and wish for a nuclear-free world, but pray that you don’t get what you wish for. A world without nukes would be even more dangerous than a world with them, Mr.[James] Schlesinger argues.” Read the whole thing.

Gallup reports: “U.S. President Barack Obama averaged a 58% job approval rating for the first eight days of July, down from an average of 61% for June. His approval rating is down most significantly among independents, to 53% so far in July from an average of 59% in June; it has dropped two points among Republicans (from 25% in June to 23% so far in July) and has gone up a point among Democrats, to 90%.” Don’t tell E.J. Dionne but it is the president, not his opponents, who is on the wrong track with independents.

Politico hits the nail on the head: “If Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) are moderate Democrats, what kind of Democrat does that make President Obama? You can bet that the president wouldn’t like the answer — and with good reason. The increasingly regular use of the phrase ‘moderate Democrat’ to identify the purple flank of the caucus is creating a rhetorical opening that could quickly turn into a more-than-moderate problem for the rest of the party.”

A dramatic chart from Pollster.com.

Some cap-and-trade fallout: “Republicans are practically lining up to take on U.S. Rep. Glenn Nye in 2010. Nye, a Democrat, narrowly won Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District away from Republican Thelma Drake, largely riding a Democratic wave built by Barack Obama and Mark Warner. Republicans know that Nye won’t be able to rely on the power at the top of the ticket next fall, so they are gunning for him in Washington…. Meanwhile, Nye is feeding the GOP plenty of ammunition for the race. Nye recently voted against an environment and climate-change bill in Washington. The bill passed anyway and Nye’s office appears to be sending out dueling letters to folks on both sides of the issue. In one letter Nye touts his stand against the bill and then in the other he talks up the legislation as an important step toward saving the environment while not mentioning that he voted against it.”

Could the president’s dive in the polls be why health care is on the rocks? TNR’s Jonathan Cohn thinks so: “And now they’re getting nervous. They’re seeing the president’s popularity dipping, however incrementally. They’re watching the Senate chase its tail over the same controversies. And having just taken what were — for many of them — similarly tough votes on an energy bill, they’re not exactly thrilled about ‘walking the plank’ again.” (h/t Mickey Kaus)

Stuart Taylor explains that Sotomayor’s effort to hide her decision in Ricci in a summary order may have violated a court rule prohibitng such orders except in cases when the “decision is unanimous and each judge of the panel believes that no jurisprudential purpose would be served by an opinion (i.e., a ruling having precedential effect).”

A new low: Hillary Clinton is apologizing to North Korea for the two journalists grabbed by Pyongyang and thrown into a labor camp.

If health care is stalling, maybe Congress and the president could work on the economy instead: “U.S. consumer sentiment soured in early July, slipping to its weakest since March, when confidence in the financial sector and economy were at a low ebb, the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers showed Friday. Consumers’ escalating concerns about an extended economic downturn, job security and erosion of wealth were the main factors depressing sentiment, the survey said.”

Larry Kudlow explains “Washington’s enormous expansion of the government’s spending share of GDP to over 40 percent — including Bailout Nation, TARP, and government takeovers in numerous industries — is eerily reminiscent of Old Europe’s old policies. In a twist of irony, Europe seems to be moving toward a lower-tax/spend/regulate, Ronald-Reagan-type approach, while we in the U.S. are regressing to the failed socialist model of Old Europe. This makes no sense. Here’s the clincher: Year-to-date, Dow Jones stocks are off 7 percent, while China stocks are up 71 percent. The world index is up 4 percent. Emerging markets are up 25 percent. They’re all beating us. None of this is good. We’re going the wrong way. That’s why stock markets are not voting for the United States anymore.”  

Jim Cramer comes up with a creative way to boost the stock market: “If the news media would just blackout the Bolshevik Speaker of the, did it again. I mean, the Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, it couple be worth a couple of hundred points on the Dow too. Come on Madame Speaker, do it for the good of your country! Or, at least for the good of our portfolios.”

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