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Saturday, April 26, 2014

News Media Ambush Cliven Bundy


…and sucker-punch "conservatives."

First, the purpose of this column is neither to confirm nor deny that I agree with Cliven Bundy's purported "racist" remarks, as reported in the New York Times. That is a fabricated issue, and in a court of law would be an objection-rich leading question. Unlike many politicians and media names who supported Bundy's defiance of the Bureau of Land Management's paramilitary raid on Bundy's ranch and the theft and slaughter of many of his cattle, I'm not going to "distance" myself from the man and what he stands for, which is the courageous stand he has taken against a looters' government. There is no good reason to sneak off and hide in a corner.

No, the purpose of this column is to castigate all those supporters who turned tail and beat a hasty retreat in order to placate those who are the true "racists" of our time: the liberal/left. After all, no one can risk criticizing any facet of the welfare state or the political establishment without now being called "racist" by the liberal/left.

Tom Roten, who interviewed me on his radio show on April 25th, observed that it took the New York Times several days to concoct its "racist" charges, which were insinuated on its April 23rd article, "A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side," because Bundy's remarks were made and recorded on April 19th.

Rand Paul, Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, and other "conservative" voices – such as the "Young Conservative" site – ought to have known better. They speak often enough on the subject of how the liberal/left media look for a chance to smear and denigrate individuals whose ideas go counter to the prevailing received liberal/left wisdom ,and will stoop to any tactic to accomplish the marginalization or even elimination of opposing viewpoints. They ought to have been able to spot a set-up and call it for what it was.

No, they ran like rabbits. You wonder if they're as smart as they claim to be. Instead, they fell for it as well as did Cliven Bundy, but not as innocently. Paul, Hannity, Van Susteren, and the others have the luxury of crafting their statements. Bundy's remarks were rambling, unguarded, and un-crafted, and, in many respects, ill-chosen. One really wishes one could give him a crash course on how to deal with the venal news media largely in the government's pocket as a poorly paid shill for its collectivist agenda.

Perhaps the "conservatives" need a refresher course in the slimy tactics of the news media.

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, for example, stuck his tongue out at Hannity in his April 25th article, "No, Sean Hannity, you can't distance yourself from Cliven Bundy," and went juvenile on his readers, effectively snorting, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nya, nyah, nyah!"

No, Hannity: You don’t get this Cliven-Bundy-a-la-carte option. Either you embrace Cliven Bundy in toto or you reject him.

Despite Hannity’s protestations, this is all about a man named Cliven Bundy. How many other Western ranching freeloaders are there who have stiffed the government for two decades with specious arguments and then rally with gun-toting protesters when the feds move in to round up his cattle?

Hannity deserves the snickers, even from a liberal cretin named Erik Wemple.

Look at it this way: Cliven Bundy is not an intellectual. He is not a political innovator. As I remarked in the first of my two Rule of Reason columns, Bundy's views on the BLM and federal power are disparate and lack rational cohesion. He is an average man attempting to unload the unarticulated anger that has built up over decades. He went off-topic when he ought to have stayed on point about what he knows best. Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish), treated Bundy rather harshly for not realizing that his words could be deliberately taken out of context and used against him and his cause.

As a private citizen, you can say anything you like. But once you get people invested in your cause, you have an obligation to them. Not just to yourself. And failing to recognize that is selfish behavior.

I wrote last week that there was no reason to expect Bundy to be perfect. The key players in the Boston Massacre certainly weren't. But if you're going to play a role in a movement, you have to be willing to think about the consequences of your actions to the people who support you….

And if you find yourself in a position where you have become the image of a particular cause, stick to that cause instead of venting your thoughts on other issues because the media landscape is polarized and there are teams searching through everything you say and have said to spot one sentence they can blow up into a scandal.

Talk show hosts have gone through that ring of fire and know how to handle it, though they still make mistakes. A random person doesn't. If the issue is property rights, don't talk about race. Let someone like Ben Carson do it.

Harsh, but true advice which Cliven Bundy and his friends should heed. Because otherwise we get celebratory chortling like this, as reported in another New York Times goal-post victory dance, from April 24th, "Rancher's Views on Race end Supporters Fleeing," penned by Lynnette Curtis, and Adam Nagourney, who incidentally wrote the original New York Times piece that "exposed" Bundy as a "racist."

Republican leaders and television commentators who had rallied to Mr. Bundy’s cause in the days since the Bureau of Land Management tried to round up his herd and then backed down in the face of armed opposition denounced him after his racially charged comments were published online Wednesday night in The New York Times.

Mr. Bundy reiterated many of those thoughts at a news conference near his farm here on Thursday. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and a likely presidential candidate in 2016, who had been one of the most prominent people offering support for Mr. Bundy’s cause, said Thursday that his remarks on race were “offensive, and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”

Commentators on Fox News, which had championed Mr. Bundy’s cause, also expressed distress at his remarks.

“Let me make this plain: I condemn what Cliven Bundy said about African-Americans,” Greta Van Susteren of Fox News said in a headline of a post on her blog above a link to the Times article. Her fellow commentator Sean Hannity reiterated his distress about government overreach — “armed agents, sharpshooters, snipers, dogs, stun guns” — even as he denounced the leader of the standoff for his remarks.

“So people that, for the right reasons, saw this case as government overreach, now are like branded because of the ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments of Cliven Bundy,” he said on his radio show Thursday. For his part, Mr. Bundy held the news conference on Thursday to deal with the uproar his remarks on Saturday had caused, then repeated those remarks.

So, without context, without bothering to examine the circumstances, and without questioning the motives and the purpose of the New York Times in broadcasting Bundy's faux pas, these leading lights of the conservative movement echo the "horror" of Bundy's remarks. Because Bundy expressed his sentiments in less than judicious terms, his remarks are automatically "racist, repugnant, and despicable."

The motive and purpose of the New York Times – and the Washington Post and other mainstream news media silently, implicitly concur – is to link the man with his ideas, and if the man can be found to have "feet of clay" – if something unsavory can be found out about him – then that automatically discredits his ideas and we needn't pay him any more serious attention. And the last idea the New York Times wishes to see become popular is that the federal government is a destructive, insatiable monster. The New York Times is getting away with its fallacy of distraction – away from the issue of arbitrary government power, which it has endorsed for decades – coupled with an argumentum ad hominem, a charge against the man unrelated to his position on a specific subject, but which serves to bring the man down in the eyes and minds of everyone the New York Times wishes to dupe.

Mark Steyn wrote some justifiably acerbic words about the new Bundy vigilantes in his April 25th column, "How Now White Cowman?"

Like everyone else, Gavin McInnes has weighed in on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's observations on "the Negro". Mr. McInnes concludes:

This isn't about some old guy's views on slavery. It's about government control. We're not saying Bundy is the messiah and we accept him as our personal savior. We're saying the government is wrong.

Let's stipulate that Cliven Bundy is a racist. Let's also assume, if only to save time, that he's Islamophobic, homophobic and transphobic. So what? Does that make criticizing the Bureau of Land Management "racist" or "homophobic"?

I'm not quite certain Steyn actually believes that Bundy is a "racist"; he isn't clear on that point, but the point is taken. Let's concede, for argument's sake, that Bundy is a closet racist. And? Is he wrong to defy the government for the right reasons? No. Steyn observes:

In other words, the purpose of the federal bureaucracy's "grazing fee" was never to provide a fair-market value for the cost to taxpayers of permitting grazing on public land but simply to drive those cattle off the land, and their owners out of the ranching business. As a form of coercion, it worked. But it is not a "law" that should command any respect.

I think it's absurd and obnoxious that an obscure and unaccountable government agency should rule an area the size of France, Germany and Italy combined. What for? Why should the 26th largest country on earth (which the Bureau of Land Management is) be maintained in perpetuity as the world's biggest nature preserve for the desert tortoise? The seven-eighths of the United States that isn't under the iron rod of the BLM is the Brokest Nation in History: it wouldn't hurt to have a little more productive land.

Canada Free Press also weighs in on the absurdity of the "racist" charges against Bundy, and offers a double screen video of what Bundy said and what was edited out of his comments, as does InfoWars.

One interesting angle on Bundy's alleged "racism," one not mentioned by anyone else as far as I can determine, is the revelation that one of his bodyguards is "black." The Daily Mail (London) published this interesting article on April 26th (today), "Cliven Bundy's black bodyguard claims rancher is not racist and he would 'happily' take a bullet for him."

Despite a collection of seemingly racist rants about 'negros,' slavery and 'picking cotton,' not everyone thinks Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is a racist, and one of the people defending the one-time far-right-wing folk hero is one of his bodyguards - who happens to be black.

Jason Bullock has been at Bundy's side since his battle with the federal government began heating up in late March. According to Bullock, the man he's come to know over the last month is not a racist. In fact, Bullock says he would take a bullet for Bundy….
Bullock was recently interviewed by CNN and asked, 'You're protecting this man and he's wondering whether African-Americans would be better off as slaves. How does that strike you?'

'It doesn't strike me any kind of way,' Bullock answered. 'This is still the same old Mr. Bundy I met from the first day of all this happening.'

Bullock says the things Bundy has been saying - 'wondering' if 'negros' were better off under slavery, and comparing himself to civil rights hero Rosa Parks, for example - don't offend him.

'Mr. Bundy is not a racist. Ever since I've been here he's treated me with nothing but hospitality,' Bullock told the reporter. 'He's pretty much treated me like his own family.' He goes on to say that 'I would take a bullet for that man, if need be,' and that he 'look(s) up to him just like I do my grandfather.'

The Daily Mail article goes on to report that Bundy is attempting damage control.

On Friday, he invoked the heroic actions of Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon who was arrested in 1955 after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Her actions sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and were a defining moment of the civil rights' movement. 

On the Bundy Ranch Facebook page on Friday, he wrote: 'I am doing the same thing Rosa Parks did - I am standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom. Just like the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, we are saying no to an oppressive government which considers us to be slaves rather than free men. 'I invite all people in America to join in our peaceful revolution to regain our freedom. That is how America was started, and we need to keep that tradition alive.'

Bundy earlier said that if people were offended by his use of the word 'negro' or 'slave' then 'Martin Luther King hasn't got his job done yet'.
And that's as much as I will say on this subject. The conservatives' cowardly and timid words and actions in response to Bundy's remarks are largely "ignorant, racist, repugnant, and despicable." The liberal/left's words and actions on those remarks, however, are "repugnant and despicable," but not so ignorant, while the liberal/left has an unbroken record of crying "racism" and "white privilege" the first time anyone utters anything that contradicts the welfare-statist, "we want all of you, black and white and whatever else, on the government's plantation of dependency" agenda. Race is on the collective mind of the liberal/left.

It was never on Cliven Bundy's.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Justice Stevens's Liberty-Destroying Amendments


The liberal/left is forever releasing trial balloons to see who shoots at them and who doesn’t. The multiple interviews of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens upon publication of his new book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, on April 22nd, represent one such balloon. I have not yet read the book, but have ordered it and will review it in a future column. But the lubricious reception of Stevens's book and the unrestrained fawning over him by the press is such that I can't hold my tongue. So these remarks will focus on the interviews, and not the book per se.

The book would not be reviewed, nor Stevens even interviewed, but for the liberty-destroying amendments he proposes be made to the Constitution. Liberal "journalists" across the spectrum sidled up to the buffet and feasted on helpings of the retired liberal, pro-government power justice's fare of senile lunacy, washed down with large draughts of Happy Juice.

All the interviewers treated Stevens as a kind of judicial "guru" whose "wisdom" must be shown deference and couldn't be challenged or questioned without committing a heinous faux pas. They asked him leading questions to prompt the answers they wanted to hear from Stevens. For example, in the video on the NRO site, George Stephanopoulos asks Stevens about the five words Stevens would add to the "amended" Second Amendment: "…the right of the people to keep and bear arms [when serving in the militia] shall not be infringed."   

The "militia" meaning the National Guard or virtually any federal SWAT or armed enforcement entity. It means that the government would have a monopoly on all weapons.

Stephanopoulos: "Wouldn't that take away any limits what a legislature could do to the rights of gun owners?"

Stevens: "I think that's probably right." [Still of rows of hand guns] "I think that's what should be the rule, that it should be legislatures rather than judges who draw the line on what is permissible…." (Italics mine)

Stephanopoulos: "Do you think that….clearly…that was what was intended?"

Stevens: "I do think that was what was originally intended, because there was a fear among the original framers that the federal government would be so strong that they might destroy the state militias. The amendment would merely prevent arguments being made that Congress doesn’t have the power to do what is in the best public interest." [More "scary" images of weapons; Italics mine]

Stephanopoulos: "But to be clear, if Congress passed a national ban on individual gun ownership, that would be constitutional under your amendment?"

Stevens: "I think that's right."

Have an argument that questions Congress's power to enforce gun-control? Stow it. Stevens's amendment forbids you to make it. Are you against the "public interest," or what, you unpatriotic American!

Stevens's amendment makes no sense at all. The right to bear arms as a private citizen either is or isn't "infringed." If it is infringed upon, then the only time you can exercise your "right" is when you're working for the government enforcing the government's will at gunpoint (lawfully or unlawfully). Then, when the task is completed, you would hand the weapon you used back to the armorer. You may "bear" the arms, but not own it.  

If it isn't infringed upon, then you may own and "bear arms," certainly without leave of the authorities, and without having to serve in any government policing or military force. Period.

And Stevens's secret, unspoken thought at that point: Thank you, Mr. Stephanopoulos, for putting those words in my mouth. I couldn't have said it better myself. What an instance of evasion by Stevens! What an example of prompting by Stephanopoulos! But this is his usual interrogative habit: acting like a theatrical prompter cueing Stevens on the right lines.

In the Framers' time, state militias were drawn from a population of armed citizens. Stevens can't have been ignorant of this fact. What the Framers had in mind when including that amendment was not only the ability of states to protect their sovereignty from federal power, but also the ability of private citizens to protect themselves from federal power, as well. The Framers were thinking in fundamentals.

Of course, long ago the states surrendered their sovereignty by becoming addicted – sometimes at extortionate gunpoint, but too often not – to federal largesse various forms drawn from a national taxpayer population. States have become submissive and dependent satrapies of the central federal government.

Richard Wolf, in his April 21st USA TODAY article, "Former justice Stevens wants to change the Constitution," opens with:

Former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens wants to reduce gun violence, abolish the death penalty, restrict political campaign spending, limit states' independence and make Congress more competitive and less combative. His solution: Amend the Constitution….

"It's certainly not easy to get the Constitution amended, and perhaps that's one flaw in the Constitution that I don't mention in the book," he said during a wide-ranging interview with USA TODAY in his chambers at the court. Noting his book's half dozen proposed amendments, he mused, "Maybe I should have had seven."

A seventh amendment to allow easier gutting of the Constitution? Why not? What Stevens proposes would be a step in the right direction. I mean, the left direction.

Though Stevens proposes precise language for each proposed amendment, he admits the process is extremely difficult. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress or state legislatures to propose an amendment and three-fourths of the legislatures to approve it. The last amendment, blocking Congress from changing its members' salaries between elections, passed in 1992.

Wolf reports:

Among the amendments Stevens suggests:

•Changing the Second Amendment to make clear that only a state's militia, not its citizens, has a constitutional right to bear arms.

•Changing the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishments" by specifically including the death penalty.

•Removing from First Amendment protection any "reasonable limits" on campaign spending enacted by Congress or the states.

•Requiring that congressional and state legislative districts be "compact and composed of contiguous territory" to stop both parties from carving out safe seats.

•Eliminating states' sovereign immunity from liability for violating the Constitution or an act of Congress, which he calls a "manifest injustice."

•Allowing Congress to require states to perform federal duties in emergencies, in order to reduce "the risk of a national catastrophe."

What prompted Stevens to write Six Amendments?

It was the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., that focused Stevens' [sic] attention on a rule that prevents Congress from requiring states to perform federal duties. The rule had led to holes in a federal database of gun purchases.

"It's called the anti-commandeering rule, which turned out to be the first chapter of a book that kind of grew like Topsy," Stevens said. "I thought that maybe the only way to get rid of the rule is to have a constitutional amendment, and then it occurred to me ... that there really are other provisions of the Constitution that should be looked at more closely."

Wolf concludes his article with a friendly warning:

Among the issues to watch for, [Stevens] said, are a constitutional right to same-sex marriage ("Sooner or later, they'll have to address the question"), gun control (Scalia's 2008 opinion protecting handguns in the home won't be the final word), and government surveillance programs, which Stevens defends as constitutional. [Italics mine]

As long as the government doesn't watch Muslims. In Stevens's mind, anything may be made constitutional – as long as it has nothing to do with individual rights, the sanctity of property, and an individual owning his own life, and not the state.

PBS NEWSHOUR's Judy Woodruff practically sat at Stevens's feet during her interview of Stevens, in "How retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens would amend the constitution," and prompted Stevens as well as Stephanopoulos had. On campaign finance:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Another controversy you’re jumping right into is campaign finance. You believe Congress should be able to put limits on the amount of money candidates spend on their campaigns…

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … and that the Supreme Court has made mistakes in several decisions, allowing corporations, labor unions to advocate and spend money on candidates. Considering all the court has done, Justice Stevens, to open the door for huge money to pour into American politics, including the recent McCutcheon decision, what effect does all this have on American politics?

Judy Woodruff counts to three, and says quietly, "You're on!" Stevens answers:

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, I don’t think it’s a healthy effect. And I think it’s a change from what the people who direct — framed our basic government envisioned. For the — as the chief justice said, I think, in the first sentence of his opinion in the McCutcheon case the other day, there is nothing more important than participation in electing our representatives.

But the law that developed in that case and in a number of other cases involved not electing the representatives of the people who voted for them, but electing representatives of — in other jurisdictions where the financing is used. In other words, that was a case that involved the right of the — of an individual to spend as much of its money as he wanted to elect representatives of other people. He didn’t use any of that money to elect his own representatives.

Meaning that one would not be allowed to donate money to the candidate or advocate of one's choice, except in amounts predetermined by the government or the Federal Election Commission. However, as an outraged Fred Wertheimer notes in his SCOTUS Blog:

With its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, the Supreme Court has turned our representative system of government into a sandbox for America’s billionaires and millionaires to play in.

The Court’s decisions have empowered a new class of American political oligarchs and have come at the enormous expense of the voices and interests of more than 300 million Americans.

Cloaked in jurisprudence, the five Justices who make up a majority on the Supreme Court are imposing their ideology and politics on the country. In the process, they are issuing radical, not conservative, opinions.

Meaning that opinions at odds with the reigning leftist ideology are to be feared; left-wing billionaires would be free to dominate the "sandbox" with impunity, as Barack Obama's donors and backers did in 2008 and 2012. That would be all right with Wertheimer – and Justice Stevens.

Woodruff turns to gun control and flashes Stevens her cue cards:

JUDY WOODRUFF: The last area that I want to ask you about is what this country should do about guns. You would change the wording of the Second Amendment to the Constitution to say the right of people to bear arms to own a gun should apply only when serving in the militia. Is it your ultimate hope that there would be no right to own a gun for self-defense?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, it would be my ultimate hope that legislatures would decide the issues, and not be hampered by constitutional restrictions, because, clearly, legislators are in a much better position than judges are to decide what could be permissible in different contexts.

And the effect of the Second Amendment as it is now construed is to make federal judges the final arbiters of gun policy, which is quite, quite wrong, I think, and quite contrary to what the framers intended when they drafted the Second Amendment, to protect states from the danger that a strong federal armed force would have been able [sic] to the states of their own militias.

Finally, an April 21st, article in the New York Times, by Adam Liptak, who also interviewed, Stevens, "Justice Stevens Suggests Solution for 'Giant Step in the Wrong Direction," focuses on the campaign finance law.

The occasion for our talk was Justice Stevens’s new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.” One of those amendments would address Citizens United, which he wrote was “a giant step in the wrong direction.”….

He talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of last month’s big campaign finance ruling. He filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision. And he called for a constitutional amendment to address what he said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.

Last month’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission struck down aggregate contribution limits, allowing rich people to make donations to an unlimited number of federal candidates.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. started his controlling opinion with a characteristically crisp and stirring opening sentence: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

But that was misleading, Justice Stevens said. “The first sentence here,” he said, “is not really about what the case is about.”

Then what was it about, if not the right of citizens to participle in elections, regardless of their tax brackets? Well, it was about something else, about not allowing rich donors dominate and elections. Rich donors, of course, meaning rich "conservatives" like the Koch Brothers supporting candidates who oppose big government. Rich donors and manipulators like George Soros should be exempt from campaign contribution laws and the number of candidates they can support in political action committees (PACs), under the table, and across state lines.

Liptak writes:

The new amendment would override the First Amendment and allow Congress and the states to impose “reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

I asked whether the amendment would allow the government to prohibit newspapers from spending money to publish editorials endorsing candidates. He stared at the text of his proposed amendment for a little while. “The ‘reasonable’ would apply there,” he said, “or might well be construed to apply there.”

Or perhaps not. His tentative answer called to mind an exchange at the first Citizens United argument, when a government lawyer told the court that Congress could in theory ban books urging the election of political candidates.

Justice Stevens said he would not go that far. “Perhaps you could put a limit on the times of publication or something,” he said. “You certainly couldn’t totally prohibit writing a book.”

Well, why not? I'm sure a justice with Stevens's intellectual acumen could knock together an argument for prohibiting the publication of books critical of candidates and their agendas during an election cycle. That, of course, would be censorship.

The New York Times would howl like a stuck pig were it prohibited from editorializing about its favorite candidates. Political non-profits, and competing newspapers of the "conservative" bent, however, must gag themselves in a censorial "fairness doctrine," or else feel the weight of the FEC and the IRS.

Not to worry. Stevens is a little foggy on how he'd construe "reasonable." Note: The occasion of the publication of Stevens's book is about as trial balloon as you can get. After all, Stevens, now 94, still had enough energy to fit in numerous interviews with sympathetic, bedazzled journalists in the space of two days, doubtless with the cooperation of his publisher.

In the near future, I will take out my bow and arrow, and, emulating Katniss Everdeen (a mnemonic device for "Can't Miss Ever, Dear"?) of The Hunger Games movies, and puncture of few of the trial balloons in Stevens's book.

Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, by John Paul Stevens. New York: Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group, 2014. 192 pp.