“We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program”

According to the White House blog by Norm Elsen (Special Counsel to the President on (get this) Ethics and Government Reform), government will now be restricting oral communications on anyone attempting to influence the stimulus process:

“First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program.

“Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest –after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits. To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.

“Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists. If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency’s website documenting the contact.”

(emphasis added) I guess this is what the founders meant in the First Amendment, when they said “No law . . . abridging the freedom of speech except when presented with unique circumstances.” 

Shopfloor.org has more here.


Change we can beleive in

The South used to be a Democratic stronghold.  Now, not so much. 

Blacks once consistently voted for the party of Lincoln.  Not anymore. 

Tennessee was considered a swing state as recently as 2000- now it’s so red candidates don’t even bother trying. 

How long until gays give up on the Democratic party that clearly feels no need to keep promises to them?  Could Obama spark the change? 

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked twice during Thursday’s press briefing about the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Both times, he reverted to his standard talking points on the subject.

When would the White House push Congress to repeal the policy, asked on reporter?

Gibbs reiterated the president’s support for repeal, then added, “He does not think the policy is working in the national interests and is working with the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon, and others to bring about a change in that policy.”

Another reporter noted that although Gibbs keeps saying the president is working for repeal, he had been told by staffers for the chair of the subcommittee (probably the military personnel subcommittee) that the House repeal bill isn’t likely to come up for a vote until next year.

“Sometimes the legislative process doesn’t move that quickly,” Gibbs responded.

Update: Gay Patriot more, including a round up of reactions, and:

Hey, Gays Who Support Democrats:  You are suckers.  Hopeandchange, hopeandchange!



Up-Update: From Politico (Via Ann Althouse) Gay groups grow impatient with Barack Obama

Let’s talk about how even the most conservative Christians can get behind a liberatarian philosophy of keeping gov’t out of our homes and out of our lives

In San Diego, a couple was busted for the dangerous and anti-social practice of holding weekly Bible study groups of about 15 people in their home.  (HT Instapundit, via Reason Hit and Run)

While a few people who have viewed this on various sites have suggested that this has more to do with parking issues or creating some other sort of disturbance, I submit this quote from the article, which, assuming true, shows the city officials’ concerns:

Broyles said, “The county asked, ‘Do you have a regular meeting in your home?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say amen?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say praise the Lord?’ ‘Yes.'”

Update: Here’s the County’s “defense,” which, if you ask me, is pretty darn weak.  They don’t deny the questioning above, although they dodge questions on it (“I wasn’t there.”).  Then they go on to claim:

However, what our officer was trying to do is establish what the use is so that we know what regulations to actually utilize,” explained Chandra Wallar of the county’s land use and environment group.

Wallar said it’s the officer’s job to determine what kind of event is hosted at Jones’ house to decide what part of county code the event falls under.

 “The Bible studies are one that’s probably in a very gray area,” Waller said.

 That gray area may be causing the problem. Wallar said the county only cares about how any event impacts the surrounding neighborhood.

 “We want to make sure — whether they’re on a public road or a private road — that they’re parking safely; that we can get fire trucks in; that we can get police vehicles in,” Waller said. However, what our officer was trying to do is establish what the use is so that we know what regulations to actually utilize,” explained Chandra Wallar of the county’s land use and environment group.


Wallar said it’s the officer’s job to determine what kind of event is hosted at Jones’ house to decide what part of county code the event falls under.


“The Bible studies are one that’s probably in a very gray area,” Waller said.


That gray area may be causing the problem. Wallar said the county only cares about how any event impacts the surrounding neighborhood.

 “We want to make sure — whether they’re on a public road or a private road — that they’re parking safely; that we can get fire trucks in; that we can get police vehicles in,” Waller said.

Clearly, something doesn’t make sense here- if the parking’s the problem, who cares what the use is?  Obviously, someone does, or they wouldn’t have been asking him the questions about it- they would have just asked about the parking, and maybe how often it happened and a few questions about what was going on to make sure they weren’t doing anything illegal.  But they didn’t, and they didn’t just warn him that he was limited on where cars could be parked or how much noise could come from his residence or anything else, instead:

In April, Jones received a written warning for “unlawful use of land” and was ordered to stop hosting his “religious assemblies.”

A cartoon you won’t see with regards to the Sotomayor appointment

From Southern Appeal, by way of Instapundit:


Sotomayor’s confirmation will, after all, make for the sixth Catholic on the court.  I’m Catholic myself, and I’m of two minds of this: first, I’m not sure how Catholicism really influences one’s judicial/political/legal leanings- Catholics do not, for example, fall neatly into one or the other political category.  However, it is notable that, until Sotomayor, the 5 most “conservative” were also Catholic.  Again, I have no real explanation for this. 

Of course, if we’re going to complain about over- and under-representation of all other sorts on the Court, I think that Protestants, who make up almost 51% of the American population, but only one-ninth of the Court (assuming Sotomayor replaces Souter), ought to have room to complain, too.

Do you have a moral obligation to repay your debts?

Megan McArdle asks:

Should defaulters feel bad?  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  A number of people have made the argument to me that the credit system is morally neutral, at lest from the point of view of the debtor.  The banks knew when they lent to you that there was a risk of default, and if you do, you pay the penalties.  Why feel guilty?  They don’t, for selling you the rope with which you hung yourself.

To some extent, I actually agree with this.  Though I’ll also note that if you default, the worst thing that generally happens to you is that it’s hard to get credit.  Yet, the way the credit card companies allegedly bring on your default is by giving you credit.  I’m not sure that the argument that credit card companies should deny you credit, because otherwise you won’t be able to get any credit, really works too well.

But leaving that aside, why should you feel morally obligated to repay, at great personal cost, a company which feels no obligation to you?  No particular reason, maybe, except that the belief in a moral obligation to repay one’s debts may be the only reason we can have both credit, and relatively light legal sanctions for overusing credit.  If people really acted as if the choice to default were morally neutral, we’d either lose most of our credit system, or the legal rules would have to be much more punitive. 

Look, I’m not going to spend a lot of time blaming someone who, through extraordinary bad luck, gets in a bad situation and finds themselves obligated to seek legal discharge.  That said, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard callers call into the Dave Ramsey Show with a story about how they bought some sort of lovely luxury with the full intention to declare bankruptcy directly thereafter.  Morally reprehensable, yet supported by our system. 

Personally, even if the debts are excused in the legal sense, if I legitimately spent the money, I think that one ought to do what one can to pay it back, even if it takes a long time.  Of course, I’m the sort of person who is constantly hunting down the waiter to tell them that they forgot to charge me for that last drink, and making sure that cashiers didn’t give me too much change.  If I were in an emergency situation, like a natural disaster, and found myself needing to “loot” from a store, I would probably send them a check a few weeks later to make sure we were square.  So, that might just be me.

A Liberal/Statist Version of Instapundit?

I’ve been looking for a good liberal blog that I can really get into.  I’ve always believed that it’s of critical importance to read and listen to all sorts of opinions, and I try to do this by reading as much as I possibly can on all measure of things.  Like just about all good news junkies of the libertarian persuasion, I check Instapundit obsessively, and I love the constant flow of new and current information.  And I think that Prof. Reynolds does, for someone who is certainly not in any way attempting to keep things “fair and balanced,” does an exceptional job of linking to all sorts of different views.  But they still mostly tilt his way, (which I would expect and respect). 

Here’s what I’m looking for in a liberal blogger:

  •  Constant updates on current events. Perhaps they don’t have to reach Insty-level proportions, but I need to feel like, if, say Obama appoints a new Supreme Court nominee, there will be instant information on it. 
  • Links to all sorts of different sources. 
  • A home-grown feel- I’ve checked out some of the “big” liberal blogs, like HuffPo and Kos, and they are just too disjointed and “corporate” feeling.  I’m looking for something by a single person or very small, cohesive group, with minimal “features” (pictures are fine, but I don’t want things to be loaded down with headlines, articles, links, etc.  Keep the straight blog feel.)
  • Someone that will keep the Professor’s, I guess you would say, dispassion?  I’m not interested in a writer (on any side) who just wants to spew emotion and insults.  One thing I love about Instapundit (and Reynolds as a professor as well) is that you sort of get the impression that this is one big joke to him.  He’ll make a clever retort, stupid joke, maybe a smart-ass remark or two, but you rarely see him get fiery.  I like that. 
  • Preferably, a law professor or a law-based bent of some sort.  I am a law nerd, through and through. 

Anyway, it seems like something meeting at least most of these criteria should exist.  Liberal law professors are hardly a limited commodity (unlike libertarian law professors), and surely some of them would see Instapundit’s success and want a piece of the action.  But maybe not: This person, for example, claims that it is impossible; that Reynolds got in at a special time that can’t be replicated.  I can’t see how that can be the case, but maybe it is.  Or maybe liberals just prefer to stay in the large groups dominated by the Kos kids sorts out there, and an Instapundit type just doesn’t appeal to them? 

Any thoughts or suggestions?  I’m checking out The Lefty Directory, which I have to admit sounds really lame, but we’ll see what it has to offer.

Apparently, Flag Burning is a really pressing problem these days

Eugene Volokh has the story of Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who is apparently now pushing to revive the old, seemingly settled debate on flag dessicration. 

(Just as a quick primer for you non-law geeks: restrictions on flag-burning (other than, of course, those that would protect safety, etc.) were officially invalidated in the 1989 case of Texas v. Johnson, as a violation of the First Amendment.  Although this is usually thought of as a liberal verses conservative issue, the court split somewhat unusually, with Justice Stevens taking the position that flag burning was not protected, and Justice Scalia joining Brennan, Blackmun, Marshall, and Kennedy in the majority’s determination that it was protected speech.)

Representative Emerson’s proposed amendment is: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”

I’d like to start by saying that I am a radical lover of all things American.  The thought of someone burning a flag sickens and disgusts me; I would be more than happy to go to any person who is burning a flag and exercise my free speech rights by telling them exactly what I think, and it would not be pretty.  But, that is the purpose, the goal, the workings of a free society- we can exchange ideas, even ones that we don’t like, and we all benefit from it. 

Now, certainly if the Constitution were amended, the ruling in Johnson would be null and void, but that does not mean that this proposal is without its problems. 

First, is this really a problem?  My general opinion of government’s role is that it should be basically limited to protecting citizens from having their rights infringed by others.  Obviously, that’s a broad umbrella, but I simply fail to understand who is being hurt, and who would be helped, by solving this “problem.”  If no other flag was burned in this country for the rest of my life, I can’t see how we would benefit. 

Second, Professor Volokh points out that the potential problems with a slippery slope and what he calls “censorship envy,” the idea that if one person or group gets to ban ideas/expressions/symbols that offend them, then others should get to do the same.  As the professor puts it, “The [First] Amendment is a truce: ‘I won’t try to suppress your ideas, if you don’t try to suppress mine.’  And the flag burning amendment risks shattering this truce.”

Third, this idea simply gives more and more support for the dangerous and foolhardy idea that society can ban expressions that it deems “offensive” or “hateful”  and still be free.  It cannot.  Speech and expression must be protected all the more so because they are offensive, and because they are hateful to some.  This is the only way that we can have an open exchange of ideas, and, if those ideas have merit, lead social change.  Those in power, regardless of who they are, will always have an interest in preventing  and suppressing speech that questions their ways, and giving them the opportunity to suggest or claim that the Constitution does not protect that speech is a great way to give them the power to do just that. 

Yes, the flag burning amendment seems to be just a small step in that direction, but it is nevertheless a much larger step than we should be willing to take.  Rep. Emerson stated, in her press release on this topic, that while the First Amendment protects free speech, it offers no protection for “hate speech.”   But, in reality, and misunderstood by many, First Amendment jurisprudence has made absolutely no distinction of that sort, the language of the Constitution gives no reason to believe that it should, and the Supreme Court has never given us reason to believe that it will.  Adding an amendment that builds in an exception to the First Amendment, based only on the offense that the expression brings to others, opens that door, and gives credence to those that, apparently like Rep. Emerson, believe that there are exceptions in the Constitution for actions that violate their feelings. 

If you don’t like flag burning, use your First Amendment rights to make a better case for why the person doing it is wrong.  Don’t use the inherent force of the government to stop ideas that you don’t like.