Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 3, 2010

Euro-Freedom Watch

With little fanfare, the EU adopted new legislation this week that makes “certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia” criminal offenses — and allows individual EU nations to prosecute the citizens of other nations for those offenses. And no, it’s not European anti-Americanism that’s being targeted by the xenophobia provisions. Advocates of free speech in Europe are quite clear that what the new law will criminalize is analytical, factual, or hortatory discussion of Islam and Sharia by non-Muslims.

Their conclusion is bolstered by recent events. Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is only the most famous of several Europeans who have faced criminal charges for speaking critically of Islam. Another is Austrian journalist and activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, whose trial for “hate speech” opened in Vienna on November 23. Take a moment to read publicized transcripts of the proceedings; it is worth understanding that Sabaditsch-Wolff is being tried, literally, for quoting both the Koran and an authoritative work on Sunni law, and expressing criticism of the social institutions condoned in those religious texts.

She is not a cartoonist lampooning Muhammad, something most Westerners would recognize as less than respectful even if they didn’t all agree that it was “offensive.” Sabaditsch-Wolff quotes the texts of Islam seriously and accurately; she objects to their implications, but she doesn’t poke fun at them. However, as Ned May observes at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace:

It has been well-established in a number of jurisdictions — including several in the West — that a non-Muslim who quotes the Koran accurately can still be convicted of “hate speech”. This aligns with the definition of Islamic slander (also to be found in [Sunni law document] Reliance) which considers anything that insults Islam, whether true or false, to be defamation.

The author at the pseudonymous Daphne Anson blog (top link) wonders what will happen if Turkey is finally admitted to the EU, given the newly approved framework allowing cross-border prosecutions in Europe. But I am inclined to wonder how the other nations will react to being in the same union with Austria and the Netherlands, which have already shown a willingness to prosecute free speech as a hate crime. The charges against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff are centered on questions like these, brought up one after another on the first day of her trial:

10:53: The judge inquires if we are talking about Islamic extremism, or of Islam as such?

Elisabeth explains that we are talking Islam as such, as defined by its scripture, and quotes Erdogan that there is no moderate Islam anyway.

The intellectual basis for her certainty (or the judge’s, for that matter) is not the issue here, nor should it be. The issue is that she is being prosecuted for forensic, critical investigation of Islam: for advancing opinions we hear argued nightly on American TV talk shows. The most basic of intellectual freedoms — attributing facts to sources and expressing opinions about them — is in the process of being criminalized in parts of the EU. Free-speech advocates fear that the new Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia will spread this trend toward criminalization across borders throughout Europe. They are justified in their concern.

With little fanfare, the EU adopted new legislation this week that makes “certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia” criminal offenses — and allows individual EU nations to prosecute the citizens of other nations for those offenses. And no, it’s not European anti-Americanism that’s being targeted by the xenophobia provisions. Advocates of free speech in Europe are quite clear that what the new law will criminalize is analytical, factual, or hortatory discussion of Islam and Sharia by non-Muslims.

Their conclusion is bolstered by recent events. Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is only the most famous of several Europeans who have faced criminal charges for speaking critically of Islam. Another is Austrian journalist and activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, whose trial for “hate speech” opened in Vienna on November 23. Take a moment to read publicized transcripts of the proceedings; it is worth understanding that Sabaditsch-Wolff is being tried, literally, for quoting both the Koran and an authoritative work on Sunni law, and expressing criticism of the social institutions condoned in those religious texts.

She is not a cartoonist lampooning Muhammad, something most Westerners would recognize as less than respectful even if they didn’t all agree that it was “offensive.” Sabaditsch-Wolff quotes the texts of Islam seriously and accurately; she objects to their implications, but she doesn’t poke fun at them. However, as Ned May observes at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace:

It has been well-established in a number of jurisdictions — including several in the West — that a non-Muslim who quotes the Koran accurately can still be convicted of “hate speech”. This aligns with the definition of Islamic slander (also to be found in [Sunni law document] Reliance) which considers anything that insults Islam, whether true or false, to be defamation.

The author at the pseudonymous Daphne Anson blog (top link) wonders what will happen if Turkey is finally admitted to the EU, given the newly approved framework allowing cross-border prosecutions in Europe. But I am inclined to wonder how the other nations will react to being in the same union with Austria and the Netherlands, which have already shown a willingness to prosecute free speech as a hate crime. The charges against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff are centered on questions like these, brought up one after another on the first day of her trial:

10:53: The judge inquires if we are talking about Islamic extremism, or of Islam as such?

Elisabeth explains that we are talking Islam as such, as defined by its scripture, and quotes Erdogan that there is no moderate Islam anyway.

The intellectual basis for her certainty (or the judge’s, for that matter) is not the issue here, nor should it be. The issue is that she is being prosecuted for forensic, critical investigation of Islam: for advancing opinions we hear argued nightly on American TV talk shows. The most basic of intellectual freedoms — attributing facts to sources and expressing opinions about them — is in the process of being criminalized in parts of the EU. Free-speech advocates fear that the new Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia will spread this trend toward criminalization across borders throughout Europe. They are justified in their concern.

Read Less

RE: Krugman in High Dudgeon

John, one of the biggest problems with federal pay scales is that there is no differentiation in pay between federal departments. A GS 15 with a B.A. in education at the Department of Education will make the same pay as a GS 15 supervisory aerospace engineer at NASA. In the private sector, we realize that people in some fields make more — much more — than those in others. But not so in government. Instead, we underpay government employees in highly technical, sought-after fields and overpay them in others.

But the real problem with the federal workforce is job security. It is nearly impossible to fire someone after his probationary period is over. Most federal managers deal with problem employees by moving them into jobs where they can do little harm — even if it means promoting them. When I was the director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan era, I managed to fire one employee (he had been accused of stealing money from the agency, repeatedly). And I had to go through a lengthy formal appeals and arbitration process that took nearly a year. Until federal workers can be fired for poor performance, we will continue to have a bloated federal workforce.

John, one of the biggest problems with federal pay scales is that there is no differentiation in pay between federal departments. A GS 15 with a B.A. in education at the Department of Education will make the same pay as a GS 15 supervisory aerospace engineer at NASA. In the private sector, we realize that people in some fields make more — much more — than those in others. But not so in government. Instead, we underpay government employees in highly technical, sought-after fields and overpay them in others.

But the real problem with the federal workforce is job security. It is nearly impossible to fire someone after his probationary period is over. Most federal managers deal with problem employees by moving them into jobs where they can do little harm — even if it means promoting them. When I was the director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan era, I managed to fire one employee (he had been accused of stealing money from the agency, repeatedly). And I had to go through a lengthy formal appeals and arbitration process that took nearly a year. Until federal workers can be fired for poor performance, we will continue to have a bloated federal workforce.

Read Less

Obama’s FTA Delay

A Korean concession today advanced the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (FTA), which was originally inked under George W. Bush but that stalled under Obama’s guidance. The delay resulted from Obama’s attachment to his labor constituency, and it ran against his promises to increase U.S. exports. When faced with a quandary, Obama opted for inaction, much to the detriment of American industry.

The FTA has been protested especially aggressively by the Ford Motor Co., but protectionism does more to benefit labor leaders than skilled American workers. As Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) pointed out in his address to the Detroit Economic Club:

Despite the president’s stated objective of doubling American exports in the next five years, trade has largely been ignored by Democrats in Congress and the administration in recent years. With a new Republican majority in the House, I am hopeful that the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea can move forward. We need to get those deals done, and done right, but it should not end there. We must promote increased trade at every opportunity around the world. When the world “buys American,” Americans go to work.

Both South Korea and the United States will benefit from the FTA, but it’s worthwhile to keep in mind just who has done the crucial compromising — and who has assumed the leadership to ensure that the FTA came to fruition. The answer is: not Obama. This has bearing for similar agreements with other countries, as Mary Anastasia O’Grady summarized earlier this week.

It is a pity that this agreement has been so long in coming. But it would be even more of a pity if the Obama administration were allowed to tout this as an achievement of its own. Passage of a free-trade agreement with South Korea will have happened largely despite Obama, not because of him.

A Korean concession today advanced the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (FTA), which was originally inked under George W. Bush but that stalled under Obama’s guidance. The delay resulted from Obama’s attachment to his labor constituency, and it ran against his promises to increase U.S. exports. When faced with a quandary, Obama opted for inaction, much to the detriment of American industry.

The FTA has been protested especially aggressively by the Ford Motor Co., but protectionism does more to benefit labor leaders than skilled American workers. As Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) pointed out in his address to the Detroit Economic Club:

Despite the president’s stated objective of doubling American exports in the next five years, trade has largely been ignored by Democrats in Congress and the administration in recent years. With a new Republican majority in the House, I am hopeful that the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea can move forward. We need to get those deals done, and done right, but it should not end there. We must promote increased trade at every opportunity around the world. When the world “buys American,” Americans go to work.

Both South Korea and the United States will benefit from the FTA, but it’s worthwhile to keep in mind just who has done the crucial compromising — and who has assumed the leadership to ensure that the FTA came to fruition. The answer is: not Obama. This has bearing for similar agreements with other countries, as Mary Anastasia O’Grady summarized earlier this week.

It is a pity that this agreement has been so long in coming. But it would be even more of a pity if the Obama administration were allowed to tout this as an achievement of its own. Passage of a free-trade agreement with South Korea will have happened largely despite Obama, not because of him.

Read Less

Balmy with the Likelihood of Mass Death

Global-warming prophets have stepped up their predictive skills. Calling the next hundred years of weather was kids’ stuff. They can now tell you how many people are going to die annually from the temperature rises they see in man’s future (hint: it’s a big, fat, round number) and what it’s going to cost the survivors. “By 2030, climate change will indirectly cause nearly one million deaths a year and inflict 157 billion dollars in damage in terms of today’s economy, according to estimates presented at UN talks on Friday,” the AFP reports. Here’s the “peer-reviewed” meteorological mumbo-jumbo that makes it all perfectly clear:

“No amount of (greenhouse-gas) mitigation will prevent at least another 0.7 degree (Celsius, 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) of temperature rise over the next two decades,”  he [a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development] said.

“In the last century we have already seen a 0.7 degree (1.26 F) rise. So we are headed for 1.4 (2.5 F) almost certainly.

“If emissions carry on their current pathway then we may in the longer term be headed for three or four degrees (5.4-7.2 F), which is practically impossible for everybody to adapt to.”

Sorry if I’m not shaken to my depths by the grim reapers of greenhouse gas, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the talks began as follows:

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

She called for “a balanced outcome” which would marry financial and emissions commitments from industrialized countries aimed at combating climate change with “the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.”

“Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.”

And to think some people doubt global warming.

Global-warming prophets have stepped up their predictive skills. Calling the next hundred years of weather was kids’ stuff. They can now tell you how many people are going to die annually from the temperature rises they see in man’s future (hint: it’s a big, fat, round number) and what it’s going to cost the survivors. “By 2030, climate change will indirectly cause nearly one million deaths a year and inflict 157 billion dollars in damage in terms of today’s economy, according to estimates presented at UN talks on Friday,” the AFP reports. Here’s the “peer-reviewed” meteorological mumbo-jumbo that makes it all perfectly clear:

“No amount of (greenhouse-gas) mitigation will prevent at least another 0.7 degree (Celsius, 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) of temperature rise over the next two decades,”  he [a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development] said.

“In the last century we have already seen a 0.7 degree (1.26 F) rise. So we are headed for 1.4 (2.5 F) almost certainly.

“If emissions carry on their current pathway then we may in the longer term be headed for three or four degrees (5.4-7.2 F), which is practically impossible for everybody to adapt to.”

Sorry if I’m not shaken to my depths by the grim reapers of greenhouse gas, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the talks began as follows:

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

She called for “a balanced outcome” which would marry financial and emissions commitments from industrialized countries aimed at combating climate change with “the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.”

“Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.”

And to think some people doubt global warming.

Read Less

Congress Treats NASA Like a Local Jobs Program

President Obama’s announcement last April of plans to trash the Bush administration’s plans to return to the moon by 2020 in favor of planning for missions that might not take place until decades from now went largely without notice. That proposal was modified slightly by Congress to preserve a heavy-lift rocket. Although it is billed as something that will preserve manned space flight, as Robert Zubrin wrote in COMMENTARY last June (behind our pay wall), “it will be useful only as a lifeboat for bringing astronauts down from the space station, not as a craft capable of providing a ride up to orbit.” With the space shuttle being phased out by NASA, as Zubrin warned, “what this means is that the only way Americans will be able to reach even low Earth orbit will be as passengers on Russian launchers.”

But rather than worrying about why the government was scrapping practical manned flight plans in favor of building a largely useless rocket, it appears that Congress is mainly worried about the possibility that NASA might seek to preserve its options or even find a less expensive or more effective rocket. As the New York Times reported, at a Senate hearing held on Wednesday, senators of both parties berated NASA administrators about the agency’s perceived reluctance to follow this foolish course and warned them that any foot dragging about building the rocket would not be tolerated. In particular, “Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law.” That is to say, they are upset about the possibility that a way will be found to stop this boondoggle. For most members of the House and the Senate, NASA-related projects are simply government jobs programs and nothing else.

We’ve come a long way since a bipartisan congressional consensus paved the way for Americans to land on the moon. Political logrolling has always played a role in the space program (Lyndon Johnson’s influence ensured that the program would shift from Florida to Texas in the 1960s), but Obama has essentially deep-sixed any chances for a return to manned flight in the foreseeable future. It’s a shame that the only interest that anyone in Congress seems to have in what was once America’s most innovative and glorious enterprise is merely a matter of patronage.

President Obama’s announcement last April of plans to trash the Bush administration’s plans to return to the moon by 2020 in favor of planning for missions that might not take place until decades from now went largely without notice. That proposal was modified slightly by Congress to preserve a heavy-lift rocket. Although it is billed as something that will preserve manned space flight, as Robert Zubrin wrote in COMMENTARY last June (behind our pay wall), “it will be useful only as a lifeboat for bringing astronauts down from the space station, not as a craft capable of providing a ride up to orbit.” With the space shuttle being phased out by NASA, as Zubrin warned, “what this means is that the only way Americans will be able to reach even low Earth orbit will be as passengers on Russian launchers.”

But rather than worrying about why the government was scrapping practical manned flight plans in favor of building a largely useless rocket, it appears that Congress is mainly worried about the possibility that NASA might seek to preserve its options or even find a less expensive or more effective rocket. As the New York Times reported, at a Senate hearing held on Wednesday, senators of both parties berated NASA administrators about the agency’s perceived reluctance to follow this foolish course and warned them that any foot dragging about building the rocket would not be tolerated. In particular, “Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law.” That is to say, they are upset about the possibility that a way will be found to stop this boondoggle. For most members of the House and the Senate, NASA-related projects are simply government jobs programs and nothing else.

We’ve come a long way since a bipartisan congressional consensus paved the way for Americans to land on the moon. Political logrolling has always played a role in the space program (Lyndon Johnson’s influence ensured that the program would shift from Florida to Texas in the 1960s), but Obama has essentially deep-sixed any chances for a return to manned flight in the foreseeable future. It’s a shame that the only interest that anyone in Congress seems to have in what was once America’s most innovative and glorious enterprise is merely a matter of patronage.

Read Less

Krugman in High Dudgeon

Paul Krugman is, as usual, in a state of high dudgeon. Today’s dudgeon generator is the president’s call to freeze the pay of federal employees (other than the military). Krugman writes,

The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.

Typically, he backs up his flat assertion that federal salaries are “somewhat less” than what the private-sector workers get with … nothing. It is a pure ex cathedra statement. It is also contradicted by statistics that come from the federal government itself. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, federal workers’ salaries average 60 percent more than what private-sector workers earn in salary. And notice that Krugman says that “salaries” are lower. If you count the benefits, federal workers earn twice what private-sector workers earn: $123,049 to $61,051.

Perhaps the BEA is wrong. But without some evidence to back him up, why should anyone believe Krugman? Except for the true believers, of course, I’m pretty sure no one does.

Paul Krugman is, as usual, in a state of high dudgeon. Today’s dudgeon generator is the president’s call to freeze the pay of federal employees (other than the military). Krugman writes,

The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.

Typically, he backs up his flat assertion that federal salaries are “somewhat less” than what the private-sector workers get with … nothing. It is a pure ex cathedra statement. It is also contradicted by statistics that come from the federal government itself. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, federal workers’ salaries average 60 percent more than what private-sector workers earn in salary. And notice that Krugman says that “salaries” are lower. If you count the benefits, federal workers earn twice what private-sector workers earn: $123,049 to $61,051.

Perhaps the BEA is wrong. But without some evidence to back him up, why should anyone believe Krugman? Except for the true believers, of course, I’m pretty sure no one does.

Read Less

The Sky Isn’t Falling for Democrats. It Fell.

Here’s Mark Halperin’s analysis of the Democratic Party:

Is it hyperbolic to say the Democratic Party is in the midst of a nervous breakdown? I have been covering national politics since 1988, and I don’t remember a situation quite like this. The signs of a crack-up are everywhere.

Halperin devotes the rest of his piece to explaining why “Thursday seemed to have donkeys melting down all over the place.”

I should add that for months and months, Halperin’s colleague Joe Klein gleefully mocked those writing for CONTENTIONS (most especially yours truly) for predicting that “the sky is falling” (a phrase Klein used endlessly) for Obama and Democrats. That is because we predicted long before the election — based on perfectly easy-to-read-and-analyze polling data — that Democrats were going to be routed. And in fact they were.

It turns out that the sky really did fall — and the man who portrayed himself as the professional among amateurs, the grizzled political reporter who has seen everything and heard everything, was really quite wrong on almost everything.

Here’s Mark Halperin’s analysis of the Democratic Party:

Is it hyperbolic to say the Democratic Party is in the midst of a nervous breakdown? I have been covering national politics since 1988, and I don’t remember a situation quite like this. The signs of a crack-up are everywhere.

Halperin devotes the rest of his piece to explaining why “Thursday seemed to have donkeys melting down all over the place.”

I should add that for months and months, Halperin’s colleague Joe Klein gleefully mocked those writing for CONTENTIONS (most especially yours truly) for predicting that “the sky is falling” (a phrase Klein used endlessly) for Obama and Democrats. That is because we predicted long before the election — based on perfectly easy-to-read-and-analyze polling data — that Democrats were going to be routed. And in fact they were.

It turns out that the sky really did fall — and the man who portrayed himself as the professional among amateurs, the grizzled political reporter who has seen everything and heard everything, was really quite wrong on almost everything.

Read Less

Now They’ve Gone Too Far

The conversion of the bagel into a Twinkie:

images-1

Have they no decency?

The conversion of the bagel into a Twinkie:

images-1

Have they no decency?

Read Less

Afternoon Commentary

The National Republican Congressional Committee  announced today that it is $12 million in debt — which turns out to be a small price to pay for 63 House seats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in comparison, finished the midterms $19.5 million in debt, and with bruising losses. The Democratic committee also outspent its Republican counterpart $120.2 million to $93.7 million, showing that money doesn’t necessarily buy political victory.

Did bribery play a part in FIFA’s 2022 World Cup decision? That’s the theory being fueled by the blogosphere. Nate Silver runs through the possible explanations for the committee’s baffling choice and finds a legitimate case for selecting Qatar pretty flimsy.

Kerry is optimistic about a New START deal in the next few days, but it sounds like he’s being bit too idealistic. Republicans are still wary about rushing the agreement, and it looks like a vote may not occur before the end of the year.

Cables reveal that Russia waged a secret war on Georgia starting in 2004. This raises questions about the reset strategy and the reluctance of the U.S. to forcefully criticize Russia’s provocations against its neighboring state.

“Days of awe and light, with a dreadful new significance” — the tragic Carmel forest fire has left some Israeli officials dazed, as they struggle to beat back the flames that have already left more than 40 Israelis dead.

Recipe for a mess? The Pentagon is apparently worried that the federal courts may intervene to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy before officials have time to prepare. “You need that time cushion. The Congress, I’m certain, is willing to work with us on that,” [General James Cartwright] said.

Bad news: North Korea has likely built more than one uranium-enrichment plant, says the Obama administration, raising significant concerns about the number of atomic weapons the country will be able to pump out.

Is Obama making moves toward the center? Democrats are apparently grumbling over the president’s private negotiations with the GOP on a tax-cut extension, saying he’s “too quick to accommodate his adversaries.”

The end may be near for WikiLeaks. The website was forced to change its name and move to a Swiss server after getting pummeled by cyber-attacks. And now the British authorities are reportedly closing in on Assange.

The National Republican Congressional Committee  announced today that it is $12 million in debt — which turns out to be a small price to pay for 63 House seats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in comparison, finished the midterms $19.5 million in debt, and with bruising losses. The Democratic committee also outspent its Republican counterpart $120.2 million to $93.7 million, showing that money doesn’t necessarily buy political victory.

Did bribery play a part in FIFA’s 2022 World Cup decision? That’s the theory being fueled by the blogosphere. Nate Silver runs through the possible explanations for the committee’s baffling choice and finds a legitimate case for selecting Qatar pretty flimsy.

Kerry is optimistic about a New START deal in the next few days, but it sounds like he’s being bit too idealistic. Republicans are still wary about rushing the agreement, and it looks like a vote may not occur before the end of the year.

Cables reveal that Russia waged a secret war on Georgia starting in 2004. This raises questions about the reset strategy and the reluctance of the U.S. to forcefully criticize Russia’s provocations against its neighboring state.

“Days of awe and light, with a dreadful new significance” — the tragic Carmel forest fire has left some Israeli officials dazed, as they struggle to beat back the flames that have already left more than 40 Israelis dead.

Recipe for a mess? The Pentagon is apparently worried that the federal courts may intervene to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy before officials have time to prepare. “You need that time cushion. The Congress, I’m certain, is willing to work with us on that,” [General James Cartwright] said.

Bad news: North Korea has likely built more than one uranium-enrichment plant, says the Obama administration, raising significant concerns about the number of atomic weapons the country will be able to pump out.

Is Obama making moves toward the center? Democrats are apparently grumbling over the president’s private negotiations with the GOP on a tax-cut extension, saying he’s “too quick to accommodate his adversaries.”

The end may be near for WikiLeaks. The website was forced to change its name and move to a Swiss server after getting pummeled by cyber-attacks. And now the British authorities are reportedly closing in on Assange.

Read Less

The Rangel Censure Joke

For months now, we’ve witnessed a charade when it comes to the wrongdoing of Rep. Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York. The charade came to a climax yesterday with the official vote to censure Rangel. But what is censure? Censure is nothing. Rangel will have to stand before his colleagues and have the details of his wrongdoing read aloud to him. That’s it.

You’re hearing, I’m sure, about how this is extraordinary because it’s the first time in 27 years that a House member will be formally censured. Yes, it’s very rare, so the punishment sounds very dire. But how totally dire can it be when the House has actually expelled more members in the past 30 years than it has censured? Since 1980, two sitting congressmen were kicked out of the body because of their illegal behavior (Michael Myers of Pennsylvania, who took an ABSCAM bribe, and Jim Traficant of Ohio, following convictions for tax evasion and bribery).

Everybody knows that Rangel played it extraordinarily fast and loose with federal income tax laws, the rules governing nonprofits, and New York City’s rent-control statutes. On a planet filled with graft-mad politicians, what Rangel has done is small beer, even by recent standards of the House of Representatives — in which one San Diego Republican named Duke Cunningham took millions from defense contractors, and William Jefferson of Louisiana had that famous $90,000 in his freezer. Neither was censured or expelled, because they left the House before action could be taken against them. This is what explains Rangel’s seemingly inexplicable hauteur in relation to the charges; it is as though he were saying, “You’re nailing me for this? I’m only doing what everybody does, and I’m not getting credit for much I’ve turned down!”

Rangel’s true wrongdoing has far more to do with the ways he and others impeded economic progress in Harlem than it does with a Caribbean vacation or a fourth cheap apartment. But the only censure he gets for that is from the people who know the truth about it.

There’s something of a game afoot here. Rangel, by fighting so hard against censure, has made it seem like it’s just a terrible, terrible punishment; but it isn’t at all. Maybe it’s kind of embarrassing, although it couldn’t be much more embarrassing than what he’s already been through. By acting as though he’s being scourged, he’s playing a role. Indeed, he has played it so well that he got himself a standing ovation from the very same Democrats who had just voted to censure him. Which really gives the game away.

For months now, we’ve witnessed a charade when it comes to the wrongdoing of Rep. Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York. The charade came to a climax yesterday with the official vote to censure Rangel. But what is censure? Censure is nothing. Rangel will have to stand before his colleagues and have the details of his wrongdoing read aloud to him. That’s it.

You’re hearing, I’m sure, about how this is extraordinary because it’s the first time in 27 years that a House member will be formally censured. Yes, it’s very rare, so the punishment sounds very dire. But how totally dire can it be when the House has actually expelled more members in the past 30 years than it has censured? Since 1980, two sitting congressmen were kicked out of the body because of their illegal behavior (Michael Myers of Pennsylvania, who took an ABSCAM bribe, and Jim Traficant of Ohio, following convictions for tax evasion and bribery).

Everybody knows that Rangel played it extraordinarily fast and loose with federal income tax laws, the rules governing nonprofits, and New York City’s rent-control statutes. On a planet filled with graft-mad politicians, what Rangel has done is small beer, even by recent standards of the House of Representatives — in which one San Diego Republican named Duke Cunningham took millions from defense contractors, and William Jefferson of Louisiana had that famous $90,000 in his freezer. Neither was censured or expelled, because they left the House before action could be taken against them. This is what explains Rangel’s seemingly inexplicable hauteur in relation to the charges; it is as though he were saying, “You’re nailing me for this? I’m only doing what everybody does, and I’m not getting credit for much I’ve turned down!”

Rangel’s true wrongdoing has far more to do with the ways he and others impeded economic progress in Harlem than it does with a Caribbean vacation or a fourth cheap apartment. But the only censure he gets for that is from the people who know the truth about it.

There’s something of a game afoot here. Rangel, by fighting so hard against censure, has made it seem like it’s just a terrible, terrible punishment; but it isn’t at all. Maybe it’s kind of embarrassing, although it couldn’t be much more embarrassing than what he’s already been through. By acting as though he’s being scourged, he’s playing a role. Indeed, he has played it so well that he got himself a standing ovation from the very same Democrats who had just voted to censure him. Which really gives the game away.

Read Less

Erdogan Threatens to Sue U.S. Diplomats Over WikiLeaks

The WikiLeaks circus has sparked an unexpected sideshow in Turkey, where Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is livid over leaked cables that highlight his allegedly crooked financial dealings. In the 2004 documents, U.S. diplomats relayed claims that the premier held eight Swiss bank accounts and accepted bribes.

In response to these revelations, Erdogan has announced he will sue the U.S. diplomats for libel:

The Turkish Premier adversely responded to American diplomats’ claims that he has eight accounts at Swiss banks. Erdogan stated that he has not a single cent at Swiss banks and urged the U.S. authorities to hold the diplomats responsible and suggest Turkey’s ruling party intends to sue them.

At its sitting the JDP Executive Board, following Recep Erdogan’s instruction, decided file suits against American diplomats and claim financial compensations from them for insulting Turkish officials. Specifically, the party plans to sue former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, who, in one of his messages, claimed Erdogan had bank accounts in Switzerland, Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

Erdogan has doubled down on his denial, saying that he will resign from office if the allegations are proved accurate. And it looks like his opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, is also on board with the litigation:

“If there is something incorrect in the allegations, then you can prove its falsity and the debate will come to an end. Moreover, you can take legal measures against those who made up false claims. It is so simple,” Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Thursday in the northwestern province of Bursa. “Instead of attacking us, [Erdogan] should sue the United States. We will lend our support if he does so. …

While a legal fight would certainly be an entertaining spectacle, it sounds like the Turkish government still has some logistics to work out before they can head to court:

Sabah reports that Ankara is considering a number of options. Claims may be lodged with local courts in the U.S. as well as with the World Court in the Hague.

And just in case the legal route proves ineffective for Erdogan, his government is already getting a head start at blaming the whole predicament on the Jews.

The WikiLeaks circus has sparked an unexpected sideshow in Turkey, where Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is livid over leaked cables that highlight his allegedly crooked financial dealings. In the 2004 documents, U.S. diplomats relayed claims that the premier held eight Swiss bank accounts and accepted bribes.

In response to these revelations, Erdogan has announced he will sue the U.S. diplomats for libel:

The Turkish Premier adversely responded to American diplomats’ claims that he has eight accounts at Swiss banks. Erdogan stated that he has not a single cent at Swiss banks and urged the U.S. authorities to hold the diplomats responsible and suggest Turkey’s ruling party intends to sue them.

At its sitting the JDP Executive Board, following Recep Erdogan’s instruction, decided file suits against American diplomats and claim financial compensations from them for insulting Turkish officials. Specifically, the party plans to sue former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, who, in one of his messages, claimed Erdogan had bank accounts in Switzerland, Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

Erdogan has doubled down on his denial, saying that he will resign from office if the allegations are proved accurate. And it looks like his opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, is also on board with the litigation:

“If there is something incorrect in the allegations, then you can prove its falsity and the debate will come to an end. Moreover, you can take legal measures against those who made up false claims. It is so simple,” Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Thursday in the northwestern province of Bursa. “Instead of attacking us, [Erdogan] should sue the United States. We will lend our support if he does so. …

While a legal fight would certainly be an entertaining spectacle, it sounds like the Turkish government still has some logistics to work out before they can head to court:

Sabah reports that Ankara is considering a number of options. Claims may be lodged with local courts in the U.S. as well as with the World Court in the Hague.

And just in case the legal route proves ineffective for Erdogan, his government is already getting a head start at blaming the whole predicament on the Jews.

Read Less

Time to Inspect Syria

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an impressively bipartisan group of Capitol Hill signatories, just sent a letter to President Obama asking him to urge the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to “immediately conduct on-site ‘special inspections’ in Syria.” They point out that since an Israeli air strike took out the Dair Alzour nuclear reactor in 2007, the Syrians’ cooperation with the IAEA has been “alarmingly inadequate.” The organization’s director general, Yukia Amano claims that “with the passage of time, some of the necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely.” There are also unanswered question concerning three other related locations.

This should be a no-brainer for the administration. First, it has bipartisan support—something that’s become so rare it’s almost touchingly quaint. The signatories include Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Edward Markey, and Republicans Jon Kyl and John Ensign.  Obama should move ahead on this and then talk it up as evidence of critical cooperation. Second, urging IAEA special inspections fits in perfectly with Obama’s dream of a nuke-free world via international cooperation. Syria is, after all, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Either international agreements mean something or they do not. In October, the Departments of State and Treasury decided to sanction North Korean parties that provided nuclear-weapons assistance to Syria. (It is believed that North Korea assisted the Syrians with the Dair Alzour project.) The letter is merely asking for enforcement on the other end of that equation. Most important, with a non-deterrable nuclear North Korea antagonizing American allies and an Iran poised to do the same, the administration cannot afford to have another bad actor go nuclear on its watch.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an impressively bipartisan group of Capitol Hill signatories, just sent a letter to President Obama asking him to urge the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to “immediately conduct on-site ‘special inspections’ in Syria.” They point out that since an Israeli air strike took out the Dair Alzour nuclear reactor in 2007, the Syrians’ cooperation with the IAEA has been “alarmingly inadequate.” The organization’s director general, Yukia Amano claims that “with the passage of time, some of the necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely.” There are also unanswered question concerning three other related locations.

This should be a no-brainer for the administration. First, it has bipartisan support—something that’s become so rare it’s almost touchingly quaint. The signatories include Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Edward Markey, and Republicans Jon Kyl and John Ensign.  Obama should move ahead on this and then talk it up as evidence of critical cooperation. Second, urging IAEA special inspections fits in perfectly with Obama’s dream of a nuke-free world via international cooperation. Syria is, after all, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Either international agreements mean something or they do not. In October, the Departments of State and Treasury decided to sanction North Korean parties that provided nuclear-weapons assistance to Syria. (It is believed that North Korea assisted the Syrians with the Dair Alzour project.) The letter is merely asking for enforcement on the other end of that equation. Most important, with a non-deterrable nuclear North Korea antagonizing American allies and an Iran poised to do the same, the administration cannot afford to have another bad actor go nuclear on its watch.

Read Less

Clueless on Job Creation

As John has noted, the new unemployment numbers are not good news, with the rate moving up slightly in November to 9.8 percent. But the White House will likely use the uptick in unemployment as an effective bargaining tool to insist on yet another extension of unemployment benefits. Workers who lost their jobs used to be able to count on only 26 weeks of unemployment insurance — benefits paid for by employer taxes to states and administered through taxes paid to the feds. But we now have 99 weeks of UI available to the unemployed, the additional 73 weeks paid for by the feds. But the federal guarantee ran out on Dec. 1, and the White House wants to extend it for another 13 months in return for agreeing to a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts.

It’s hard not to sound like Scrooge to suggest that extending benefits is a bad idea — but it is. Most economists agree that extending benefits can actually increase the time workers remain unemployed, which is reason enough to resist the pleas for yet another extension. Extending benefits also means higher UI taxes for employers. There have been steep increases in UI taxes over the past couple of years in many states, as state trust funds for benefits have been depleted. Employers who might want to hire new employees end up instead paying more for workers who’ve been let go. Once again, the Democrats demonstrate that they don’t have a clue about how to create jobs. But the politics of this one are probably too difficult for Republicans to resist.

As John has noted, the new unemployment numbers are not good news, with the rate moving up slightly in November to 9.8 percent. But the White House will likely use the uptick in unemployment as an effective bargaining tool to insist on yet another extension of unemployment benefits. Workers who lost their jobs used to be able to count on only 26 weeks of unemployment insurance — benefits paid for by employer taxes to states and administered through taxes paid to the feds. But we now have 99 weeks of UI available to the unemployed, the additional 73 weeks paid for by the feds. But the federal guarantee ran out on Dec. 1, and the White House wants to extend it for another 13 months in return for agreeing to a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts.

It’s hard not to sound like Scrooge to suggest that extending benefits is a bad idea — but it is. Most economists agree that extending benefits can actually increase the time workers remain unemployed, which is reason enough to resist the pleas for yet another extension. Extending benefits also means higher UI taxes for employers. There have been steep increases in UI taxes over the past couple of years in many states, as state trust funds for benefits have been depleted. Employers who might want to hire new employees end up instead paying more for workers who’ve been let go. Once again, the Democrats demonstrate that they don’t have a clue about how to create jobs. But the politics of this one are probably too difficult for Republicans to resist.

Read Less

A Disappointing Jobs Report

The recession officially ended 17 months ago. But the economy added only a net of 39,000 jobs last month, when 100,000 jobs a month is needed just to keep pace with population growth.

Indeed, the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in October. That, counterintuitively, is probably a good sign, the result of more people, encouraged by their prospects, now actively looking for work. The number of people who are unemployed, have settled for a part-time job, or are discouraged and not currently looking for a job remained unchanged (at a dismal 17 million).

A particularly nasty surprise was the loss of 28,000 retail jobs, which most economists, responding to fairly good news about holiday sales, etc., expected to increase. But more and more of those sales are happening online, which is a much less labor-intensive means of selling goods. Online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving were up a whopping 20 percent from last year.

This, of course, is just more evidence that the on-rolling digital revolution is causing unemployment to recover from recession much more slowly than the economy as a whole. After each of the four recessions since 1980, the number of months needed to bring unemployment back down to normal levels has been longer. Unemployment has been above 9 percent now for 19 months (all but two of them post-recession). That’s the longest period of such elevated unemployment since World War II.

I confess to being a hopeless sucker for interactive charts, and the Wall Street Journal has a cool one that tracks unemployment month by month since 1948.

The recession officially ended 17 months ago. But the economy added only a net of 39,000 jobs last month, when 100,000 jobs a month is needed just to keep pace with population growth.

Indeed, the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in October. That, counterintuitively, is probably a good sign, the result of more people, encouraged by their prospects, now actively looking for work. The number of people who are unemployed, have settled for a part-time job, or are discouraged and not currently looking for a job remained unchanged (at a dismal 17 million).

A particularly nasty surprise was the loss of 28,000 retail jobs, which most economists, responding to fairly good news about holiday sales, etc., expected to increase. But more and more of those sales are happening online, which is a much less labor-intensive means of selling goods. Online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving were up a whopping 20 percent from last year.

This, of course, is just more evidence that the on-rolling digital revolution is causing unemployment to recover from recession much more slowly than the economy as a whole. After each of the four recessions since 1980, the number of months needed to bring unemployment back down to normal levels has been longer. Unemployment has been above 9 percent now for 19 months (all but two of them post-recession). That’s the longest period of such elevated unemployment since World War II.

I confess to being a hopeless sucker for interactive charts, and the Wall Street Journal has a cool one that tracks unemployment month by month since 1948.

Read Less

A Response to John Derbyshire

In his post responding to George W. Bush’s op-ed on combating AIDS in Africa, John Derbyshire writes this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

Perhaps the future of sub-Saharan Africa would be brighter if the people of that place changed some of their customs; but now, thanks to us, they don’t have to.

Here are a few facts that undermine Derbyshire’s case: (a) Africans have fewer sex partners on average over a lifetime than do Americans; (b) 22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years (for South African and Namibian youth, the figure is 50 percent in five years); and (c) America’s efforts are helping to create a remarkable shifts in how, in Africa, boys view girls — reflected in a decline of more than 50 percent in sexual partners among boys.

So Derbyshire’s argument that our AIDS efforts are “more likely to be negative than positive” because they will continue to subsidize and encourage “unhealthy, disease-spreading habits” is not only wrong but the opposite of reality.

There is more. Derbyshire’s view might best be expressed as “the Africans had an AIDS death sentence coming to them.” But in Africa, gender violence and abuse is involved in the first sexual encounter up to 85 percent of time. And where President Bush’s PEPFAR initiative has been particularly effective is in slowing the transmission of the disease from mothers to children. Perhaps Derbyshire can explain to us how exactly infants are complicit in their AIDS affliction. Or maybe he doesn’t much care if they are. Read More

In his post responding to George W. Bush’s op-ed on combating AIDS in Africa, John Derbyshire writes this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

Perhaps the future of sub-Saharan Africa would be brighter if the people of that place changed some of their customs; but now, thanks to us, they don’t have to.

Here are a few facts that undermine Derbyshire’s case: (a) Africans have fewer sex partners on average over a lifetime than do Americans; (b) 22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years (for South African and Namibian youth, the figure is 50 percent in five years); and (c) America’s efforts are helping to create a remarkable shifts in how, in Africa, boys view girls — reflected in a decline of more than 50 percent in sexual partners among boys.

So Derbyshire’s argument that our AIDS efforts are “more likely to be negative than positive” because they will continue to subsidize and encourage “unhealthy, disease-spreading habits” is not only wrong but the opposite of reality.

There is more. Derbyshire’s view might best be expressed as “the Africans had an AIDS death sentence coming to them.” But in Africa, gender violence and abuse is involved in the first sexual encounter up to 85 percent of time. And where President Bush’s PEPFAR initiative has been particularly effective is in slowing the transmission of the disease from mothers to children. Perhaps Derbyshire can explain to us how exactly infants are complicit in their AIDS affliction. Or maybe he doesn’t much care if they are.

Let’s now turn to Derbyshire’s characterization that America is becoming the “welfare provider of last resort to all the world’s several billion people”: he is more than a decade behind in his understanding of overseas-development policy.

President Bush’s policies were animated by the belief that the way to save lives was to rely on the principle of accountability. That is what was transformational about Bush’s development effort. He rejected handing out money with no strings attached in favor of tying expenditures to reform and results. And it has had huge radiating effects. When PEPFAR was started, America was criticized by others for setting goals. Now the mantra around the world is “results-based development.” Yet Derbyshire seems to know nothing about any of this. That isn’t necessarily a problem — unless, of course, he decides to write on the topic.

Beyond that, though, the notion that AIDS relief in Africa is AFDC on a global scale is silly. We are not talking about providing food stamps to able-bodied adults or subsidizing illegitimacy; we’re talking about saving the lives of millions of innocent people and taking steps to keep human societies from collapsing. Private charity clearly wasn’t enough.

On the matter of Derbyshire’s claim that AIDS relief in Africa is unconnected to our national interest: al-Qaeda is actively trying to establish a greater presence in nations like Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria, which have become major ideological battlegrounds. And mass disease and death, poverty and hopelessness, make the rise of radicalism more, not less, likely. (Because of AIDS, in some countries nearly a half-century of public-health gains have been wiped away.)

Many things allow militant Islam to take root and grow; eliminating AIDS would certainly not eliminate jihadism. Still, a pandemic, in addition to being a human tragedy, makes governments unstable and regions ungovernable. And as one report put it, “Unstable and ungoverned regions of the world … pose dangers for neighbors and can become the setting for broader problems of terrorism … The impoverished regions of the world can be unstable, volatile, and dangerous and can represent great threats to America, Europe, and the world. We must work with the people of these regions to promote sustainable economic growth, better health, good governance and greater human security. …”

One might think that this observation very nearly qualifies as banal — but for Derbyshire, it qualifies as a revelation.

For the sake of the argument, though, let’s assume that the American government acts not out of a narrow interpretation of the national interest but instead out of benevolence — like, say, America’s response to the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia and other nations in the Indian Ocean. Why is that something we should oppose, or find alarming, or deem un-conservative? The impulse to act is, in fact, not only deeply humane but also deeply American.

In a speech in Lewiston, Illinois, in 1858, Abraham Lincoln, in quoting from the Declaration (“all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable right”), said:

This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.

This belief about inherent human dignity does not mean that America can solve every problem in the world or that we shouldn’t focus most of our energy and treasure on America itself. But if the United States is able, at a reasonable cost ($25 billion over five years), to help prevent widespread death, that is something we should be proud of it. (A recent Stanford study found that PEPFAR was responsible for saving the lives of more than a million Africans in just its first three years.)

Derbyshire seems to take an almost childish delight in advertising his indifference to the suffering of others, at least when the others live on a different continent and come from a different culture. Back in February 2006, when more than 1,000 people were believed to have died when an Egyptian ferry sank in the Red Sea, Derbyshire wrote:

In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don’t care about Egyptians.

Cultivating what Adam Smith (in The Theory of Moral Sentiments) called “sympathy” and “fellow feeling” is a complicated matter. Suffice it to say that very few of us care about the suffering and fate of others as much as we should. Yet most of us aren’t proud of this fact; we are, rather, slightly embarrassed by it. Not John Derbyshire. He seems eager to celebrate his callousness, as if it were a sign of manliness and tough-mindedness. I haven’t a clue whether this is a pose, done for shock value or some such thing, or real. All we can do is judge Derbyshire by his public words. And they are not only unpersuasive; they are at times downright ugly.

Read Less

Rangel Censured for Ethics Violations

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) received a censure from Congress last night, after members voted 333-79 in favor of the motion. Only two Republicans voted against the motion, and 170 Democrats voted for it.

While arguing against the censure, Rangel apologized but remained defiant. The Democrat was found guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations last month, the largest number of violations made by any single member of Congress in history.

“Let me apologize to this august body for putting you in the awkward position today,” said the congressman. “I have made some serious mistakes.”

But he also added that “Never in the history of this great country has anyone suffered a censure when the record is abundantly clear that…the committee found no evidence at all of corruption.”

The big surprise of the night came when conservative Rep. Peter King (R-NY) mounted a public defense of Rangel. “I have found no case where charges similar or analogous to those against Congressman Rangel resulted in censure — a penalty thus far reserved for such serious violations as supporting armed insurrection against the United States and the sexual abuse of minors,” he said in a statement.

The last time a House member was censured was 27 years ago, and the punishment has been used only 23 times.

Dave Weigel finds Rangel’s odds of surviving pretty good: “Can his career survive? Well, three of the last five members who were censured — Gerry Studds, Thomas Blanton, and Charlie Wilson (yes, that Charlie Wilson) — were re-elected for years.”

I’m sure Rangel will be fine. Even though facing an ethics trial, he swept to easy victory in New York in November, winning his district with 81 percent of the vote.

The text of the resolution to censure can be found here.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) received a censure from Congress last night, after members voted 333-79 in favor of the motion. Only two Republicans voted against the motion, and 170 Democrats voted for it.

While arguing against the censure, Rangel apologized but remained defiant. The Democrat was found guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations last month, the largest number of violations made by any single member of Congress in history.

“Let me apologize to this august body for putting you in the awkward position today,” said the congressman. “I have made some serious mistakes.”

But he also added that “Never in the history of this great country has anyone suffered a censure when the record is abundantly clear that…the committee found no evidence at all of corruption.”

The big surprise of the night came when conservative Rep. Peter King (R-NY) mounted a public defense of Rangel. “I have found no case where charges similar or analogous to those against Congressman Rangel resulted in censure — a penalty thus far reserved for such serious violations as supporting armed insurrection against the United States and the sexual abuse of minors,” he said in a statement.

The last time a House member was censured was 27 years ago, and the punishment has been used only 23 times.

Dave Weigel finds Rangel’s odds of surviving pretty good: “Can his career survive? Well, three of the last five members who were censured — Gerry Studds, Thomas Blanton, and Charlie Wilson (yes, that Charlie Wilson) — were re-elected for years.”

I’m sure Rangel will be fine. Even though facing an ethics trial, he swept to easy victory in New York in November, winning his district with 81 percent of the vote.

The text of the resolution to censure can be found here.

Read Less

Tea Party Teams Up with Watchdogs on Ethics

Proving that it’s focused on more than just fiscal issues, the Tea Party movement has teamed up with some major government watchdog groups to defend the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, bipartisan ethics committee that some House Democrats are fighting to shutter. The watchdogs include Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, U.S. PIRG, and Public Citizen:

The eclectic alliance comes after the Ohio Liberty Council, the main umbrella organization for 58 Tea Party groups in the state, publicly backed efforts to strengthen the OCE. Two weeks ago its president told The Hill that any attempt by House GOP leaders to weaken the OCE would upset Tea Party activists.

“If they move in the opposite direction of transparency that this office provides, I think we will be very upset about that,” said Chris Littleton, president of the Ohio Liberty Council and the Cincinnati Tea Party. “Symbolically, it’s a huge problem for them … they should be as transparent as they can be. Any opposition to that would be inappropriate on their part.”

This really shows how vastly the conservative movement has improved on ethics issues in just a few years. When the Office of Congressional Ethics was proposed by Democrats in 2008, it was met with strong opposition from the Republican Party. But now, rocked by numerous ethics scandals, Democratic leaders have been the ones openly calling for the committee to be dismantled.

A spokesman for Michael Steele said Republicans haven’t decided on whether to support the OCE yet, but it sounds like they’re leaning toward supporting it.

“We haven’t made a decision with regard to the OCE,” he told the Hill in an e-mail. “As you know, the only group of members publicly calling for it to be shut down at this point are Democrats.”

Proving that it’s focused on more than just fiscal issues, the Tea Party movement has teamed up with some major government watchdog groups to defend the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, bipartisan ethics committee that some House Democrats are fighting to shutter. The watchdogs include Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, U.S. PIRG, and Public Citizen:

The eclectic alliance comes after the Ohio Liberty Council, the main umbrella organization for 58 Tea Party groups in the state, publicly backed efforts to strengthen the OCE. Two weeks ago its president told The Hill that any attempt by House GOP leaders to weaken the OCE would upset Tea Party activists.

“If they move in the opposite direction of transparency that this office provides, I think we will be very upset about that,” said Chris Littleton, president of the Ohio Liberty Council and the Cincinnati Tea Party. “Symbolically, it’s a huge problem for them … they should be as transparent as they can be. Any opposition to that would be inappropriate on their part.”

This really shows how vastly the conservative movement has improved on ethics issues in just a few years. When the Office of Congressional Ethics was proposed by Democrats in 2008, it was met with strong opposition from the Republican Party. But now, rocked by numerous ethics scandals, Democratic leaders have been the ones openly calling for the committee to be dismantled.

A spokesman for Michael Steele said Republicans haven’t decided on whether to support the OCE yet, but it sounds like they’re leaning toward supporting it.

“We haven’t made a decision with regard to the OCE,” he told the Hill in an e-mail. “As you know, the only group of members publicly calling for it to be shut down at this point are Democrats.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.