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Andrew Klavan is the prolific author whose most recent book is A Killer in the Wind. In the panel on our culture this afternoon at the Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast Retreat, the discussion turned to Zero Dark Thirty in the question-and-answer period. Klavan pronounced the quote of the day in his comments: “I personally believe that waterboarding jihadis should be an Olympic sport.”
I’m at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s West Coast Retreat. The historian Ronald Radosh — one of my favorites — spoke on a great panel on the culture this afternoon along with Andrew Klavan and Ben Shapiro. After the panel, I caught up with Ron to ask him a few questions on matters of interest to me. I’ve been wrestling with the interaction between iMovie and YouTube to get the videos uploaded.
I asked Ron about his heroic struggle against Peter Kuznick’s and Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States and Stone’s related Showtime series. The book and series would more aptly have been titled Twice-Told Tales. In his brilliant Weekly Standard review of the book and series, Ron showed Kuznick and Stone to have derived their history from a 1952 book by a secret agent of the American Communist Party whose work was Communist propaganda. In his presentation this afternoon, Ron made the point that Stone and Kuznick have toured college campuses promoting the book, that the series will live on forever, and that justice must therefore be administered. Ron sets himself to the task in the video below. Since Ron first took up the case, the liberal historian Sean Wilentz has piled on in the New York Review of Books.
Unlike Kuznick and Stone, Ron is an outstanding historian and author. One of my favorite books is The Rosenberg File, by Ron and Joyce Milton, originally published in 1983. It resolves the case against the Rosenbergs in a manner that time has only further served to corroborate. In the second video I shot with him, Ron updates the Rosenberg story. I think I’m going to have to spring for the second edition of the book published in 1997 and linked above.
The mandate to offer health insurance doesn’t take effect until 2014, but the “measurement period” used to determine a whether an employer has enough full-time employees to be required to offer health insurance commenced last month. Thus, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the perverse effects of Obamacare are starting to kick in.
Under Obamacare, firms with 50 or more “full-time equivalent workers” must offer health plans to employees who work more than 30 hours a week. (The law says “equivalent” because two 15 hour a week workers equal one full-time worker.) Employers that meet the 50-employee threshold and don’t offer insurance face a $2,000 penalty for each uncovered worker beyond 30 employees. So by hiring the 50th worker, the firm pays a penalty on the previous 20 as well.
Accordingly, employers are beginning to cut back on full-time employment. Franchises, with their low profit margins, are leading the charge to cut the hours of their employees. The Journal cites Burger King, McDonalds, Red Lobster, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell.
But franchises aren’t the only ones. A 2012 survey of employers by the Mercer consulting firm found that 67% of retail and wholesale firms that don’t offer insurance coverage today “are more inclined to change their workforce strategy so that fewer employees meet that [30 hour a week] threshold.”
“Changes in workforce strategy” are not limited to resorting to part-timers. Some employers will avoid the 50 employee threshold by not engaging in additional hiring or by discharging full-time workers.
There would never be a good time to witness this trend, but the present timing could hardly be worse. As the Journal reminds us:
Involuntary part-time U.S. employment is already near a record high. The latest Department of Labor employment survey counts roughly eight million Americans who want a full-time job but are stuck in a part-time holding pattern. That number is down only 520,000 since January 2010 and it is 309,000 higher than last March. And now comes ObamaCare to increase the incentive for employers to hire only part-time workers.
Under Obamacare those who lose hours or jobs due to the mandate will be able to obtain health insurance. But they will be increasingly hard-pressed to take care of the rest of their needs.
Because it’s time for another set of zany, zafdig looks at the crazy world around us. Starting of course with topical humor:
What do you want to bet that a future movie on drone warfare does win the Best Picture Academy Award?
By the way, I can’t wait for the Ron Burgundy sequel, currently under way I am told.
What’s Homer Simpson’s motto? “Beer: the cause of–and solution to–most of life’s problems.” Sound advice.
Sally Rand, before becoming notorious for her “fan dance” at the 1933 World’s Fair, was an extra in the film.I couldn’t find a YouTube clip of Ayn Rand in “King of Kings,” but I did find Sally Rand and her notorious World’s Fair fan dance:
Ayn Rand (no relation to Sally Rand) also was an extra in the film, and met her future husband Frank O’Connor on set.
I also found this 2009 New Yorker article about Ayn Rand that covers the “King of Kings” phase:
Rand… left the U.S.S.R. for America…. Her vision of the U.S. had already been shaped by obsessive moviegoing…. Even before leaving the Soviet Union, she had published a pamphlet on the silent-film actress Pola Negri, and like a movie star herself she now refashioned “Rosenbaum” into her own new name. Heller and Burns both knock down the myth that a Remington-Rand typewriter inspired the rechristening.How do you feel about all those connections? The Soviet Union, the love of movies, immigration to the land of movies, name-changing, finding the love of your life on a movie set in Hollywood, strippers performing what is only the illusion of nakedness, and… Jesus.
There is a greater factual basis to the legend of Rand’s having met Cecil B. DeMille before she worked as an extra on his production of “The King of Kings” (1927). On the set, Rand persuaded a costume director to promote her from a crowd of beggars to a crowd of patricians, and DeMille had his story chief look at her film scenarios, which were soon judged over the top. Rand achieved steadier success working in the R.K.O. wardrobe department, and then had a writerly breakthrough with a courtroom murder drama called “Night of January 16th.” Thanks to a gimmick that allowed each night’s audience to serve as the jury and thereby choose the ending, the play made it to Broadway, where Rand railed against the producers’ subordination of its incidental messages about the beauty of unbridled individualism.
Settling in New York with her husband, Frank O’Connor (another “King of Kings” extra), Rand set seriously to work on the first of her two major novels, “The Fountainhead.”….
Obama weekly address: Congress must act now to stop the ‘Republican’ sequester that I insisted be included in that bill I signed
**Written by Doug Powers
President Obama gave his weekly address on Saturday, and he was surprisingly candid in admitting that sequestration was at least in part the idea of the White House, and that the cuts can be realigned to limit the impact so it won’t be as bad as many are reporting.
If you didn’t believe a word of the previous sentence, good on you:
But here’s the thing: these cuts don’t have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little compromise. They can pass a balanced plan for deficit reduction. They can cut spending in a smart way, and close wasteful tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected.
Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising – instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans – they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class.
Here’s what that choice means. Once these cuts take effect, thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off, and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, causing delays across the country. Even President Bush’s director of the National Institutes of Health says these cuts will set back medical science for a generation.
How bad will it really be? The other day Yuval Levin at NRO gave it some perspective:
So why is the president talking about firing all the firemen and watching half the country die of food poisoning? He’s doing it for political effect, of course. But he’s able to do it because the sequester is targeted largely at discretionary spending. Under the sequester, discretionary spending (including both domestic and defense) will equal $1.213 trillion in 2013. It was $1.285 trillion in 2012, so it would indeed see a decline of about $72 billion from last year to this year. Discretionary spending in 2013 would thus be roughly equal to what it was in 2009—that dreadful year of federal government austerity. Of that total reduction from 2012 spending, about $43 billion would be cut from defense-discretionary spending and about $29 billion would come out of domestic-discretionary spending. The president’s scare tactics focus almost exclusively on the domestic-discretionary portion, so he is saying that our economy and government will basically cease to function because we will be spending $29 billion less on these domestic-discretionary programs this year than last year. $29 billion is about what the federal government spends in 72 hours. In fact, because this year is not a leap year while last year was, about a third of that spending cut was going to happen anyway across the federal budget.
When the government wants to spend an additional $29 billion, they tell us it’s a drop in the bucket and we won’t even notice. But when they are faced with cutting that much from domestic discretionary spending, suddenly this is what we’re in for:
So who is most responsible for the idea of sequestration? The other day, Montana Democrat Sen. Max Baucus said of the sequester, “the White House recommended it, frankly.”
In 2011, President Obama seemed to agree: There should be no easy off ramps in the fiscal deal and “I will veto any efforts to undo the sequester”:
As for the cuts, CNN’s not exactly trying to quell the manufactured panic:
Last but not least, Doug Ross has a transcript of the secret meeting between Obama and House Republicans.
Update: The White House adds to the list of those who would be affected by the sequester:
— The White House (@whitehouse) February 24, 2013
The White House was also going to warn of human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria, but fears of copyright infringement lawsuits from Columbia Pictures have kept them from doing that… so far.
**Written by Doug Powers
“I feel like I just won the Academy Award. If an artist can offend so many people that he has to go to prison…”
Ira Isaacs, sentenced last month by a federal judge — this is in the United States— for 4 years, for violating obscenity law. The Huffington Post — considered a liberal website, and, again, this is in the United States — began its article about the sentencing with a joke: “Looks like someone’s career went down the toilet.” (The movies included the simulated consumption of feces.)
There is no shame anymore. And yet there still are obscenity trials. Absurd.
I’m finding this story now because I happened across an account to the trial in an article published last March at Reason.com: “Porn So Icky That It Can’t Be Obscene” (by Jacob Sullum), describing the argument made at trial, which describes the argument made by Isaacs’s lawyer:
“My intent is to be a shock artist in the movies I made,” [Isaacs] testified, “to challenge the viewer in thinking about art differently… to think about things they’d never thought about before.” Similarly, [his lawyer Roger] Diamond argued that the films have political value as a protest against the government’s arbitrary limits on expression, illustrating the “reality that we may not have the total freedom the rest of the world thinks we have.”Sullum wrote:
I will be impressed if Isaacs, who faces a possible penalty of 20 years in prison, can pull off this feat of legal jujitsu, transforming the very qualities that make his movies objectionable into their redeeming value — especially since at least some of the jurors… found the evidence against him literally unwatchable. But if the jurors want to blame someone for making them sit through this assault on their sensibilities, they should not blame Isaacs. They should blame the Justice Department, which initiated the case during the Bush administration, and the Supreme Court, which established the absurdly subjective test they are now supposed to apply. Will they take seriously Isaacs’ references to Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, Kiki Smith, and Piero Manzoni, or will they dismiss his artistic name dropping as a desperate attempt to give his masturbation aids a high-minded purpose?But here’s some up-to-date news from 2 days ago: Minutes before Isaacs was to turn himself in to the federal Bureau of Prisons, Isaacs go a call from his lawyer saying “don’t go.” The judge had approved his motion for bail pending appeal.
Isaacs told XBIZ that today’s events were so surreal he had felt like he was in an episode of the “Twilight Zone” or a Quentin Tarantino movie….
“Last night, I was thinking it would be my last night of freedom,” he said. “I really thought that this would be it; that I would be sleeping in prison the following night… and that would continue for a very long time.”We’ll see what happens in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and — if we’re lucky — the Supreme Court.
We noted here the confusion that was engendered in local media by a melee at South High School in Minneapolis between Somali immigrants and native-born black students. It was hard to make the usual narratives fit. So today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune enlisted two Macalester College professors in a further effort at explication:
The brawl between Somali-Americans and black students at Minneapolis’ South High School caught the outside world by surprise, but not the people who walk the tense line between cultures.
But wait! Aren’t Somali-Americans black too? This is so confusing!
Across town in St. Paul, two Macalester College professors — one Somali-American, the other African-American — know well the culture clash that sometimes flares between two peoples who share the same race but not the same story.
Somalia is in Africa, obviously, so why isn’t the first professor also an African-American? And if they “share the same race,” then why aren’t they all black? Maybe the key phrase here is “not the same story.”
Many Somalis came here with “very negative perceptions” of African-Americans, their notions based on movies that cast African-Americans as drug addicts or killers, said Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali activist.
For their part, some African-Americans feel the disrespect and perceive that the new Africans are getting a bit better treatment from the larger community. …
“Black people are already here. They’ve seen everybody come here and everybody seems to get a break,” [Professor] El-Kati said. “They see how other people are celebrated when they do the slightest good thing.
“Black people have done many good things in this country for which they’ve never been saluted,” he said, noting especially the forced labor that helped build America’s material success.
Well, he has a point. We certainly haven’t heard much about slavery over the last 148 years.
[Professor Ahmed] Samatar, who came to the United States as a college student in the 1970s, said most Somalis who have settled in Minnesota came here as refugees.
The article doesn’t mention it, but Professor Samatar recently ran for President of Somalia.
They also had little clue about America’s slave history, he said.
“African-Americans have paid a heavy price through the generations for civilizing the United States in that direction. The Somalis are not aware of that because they are not educated in American history and the struggle that has taken place in this country for generations and generations.
“For the African-Americans it becomes disrespectful, in not understanding what has taken place and what’s still taking place,” he said.
“Still taking place”? What does that mean? I think what Professor Samatar is getting at here is that the Somalis have not yet figured out that the way to get ahead in America is to declare yourselves a victim group. The Star Tribune would never put it that way, but this seems to be at the heart of the conflict that led to the lunch room riot. Don’t worry, though: Professor Samatar and others will see that the Somalis get the word.
Recipient of $341 million Obamacare CO-OP loan runs insurance company with New York’s worst record of complaints
**Written by Doug Powers
About a year ago Michelle wrote a column about the $4 billion slush fund for Obamacare CO-OPs. She mentioned that one of the recipients of a CO-OP loan was a company called Freelancers Union, which was started by Sara Horowitz, a woman Obama has known since his Illinois days back when TOTUS was just a gleam in his eye.
Freelancers Union, which received a $341 million tax free loan from the Obama administration, is a non-profit that owns the for-profit Freelancers Insurance, the latter of which has a dubious distinction:
The New York-based Freelancers Insurance Company has been rated the “worst” insurer for two straight years by state regulators, and data compiled by a national insurance association show an extremely high rate of consumer complaints.
I’ll say this much for the Obama administration… they don’t let little things like past performance of a company or any parent organization cloud the decision-making process when it comes to doling out taxpayer money to pals — much of which will no doubt never be repaid.
**Written by Doug Powers
The Dartmouth Review, a publication with a proud conservative tradition, recently produced a list of “what we need from President Hanlon,” the College’s new president. It included items like restoring pre-matriculation AP credits, improving the pricing system used by the dining services, pushing back against the town police, ending the ban on kegs, doing a better job of monitoring of frat parties, and so forth.
The list contained no suggestions relating directly to the improvement of academic instruction. In particular, there was nothing about overcoming the leftist rot that has spread through many of the humanities department.
For example, nothing in the Review’s agenda would help students (some of whom I know) who would have liked to major in English because they love literature, but shied away for fear that they couldn’t find enough English courses that treat literature seriously. Nothing in the agenda would have saved my daughter, who wanted to study American-Jewish literature, from the jargon-riddled professor of that subject whose opening lecture, a combination of the nonsensical and the incomprehensible, chased her away. And nothing in the agenda would produce progress in this regard by diversifying the ideological composition of the hard-left dominated faculty.
In a sense, the Review is right not to go there. We cannot expect Phil Hanlon to march into Sanborn and demand that the English department begin treating literature seriously, rather than as a springboard for the political or personal agenda of particular professors. Jim Kim said that when a new president to concerns himself with the nature of instruction, he commits “rookie mistake.” When any college president challenges the leftist nature of instruction, he commits a fatal mistake.
The Review’s wish-list should thus be viewed as the final proof that Dartmouth is lost. The College probably will be marginally better under Hanlon than it was under Kim. And it will remain an institution that, by virtue of its past, will be worthy of the love of alums of a certain age. It will also, considering that nearly all of its competitors suffer from the same underlying flaw, be a college we can send our children to, depending on their options.
But it will not, in the foreseeable future, be an institution worthy of our support.
“In the military they have $5.2 million they spent on goldfish — studying goldfish to see how democratic they were…”
Said Rand Paul, and Princeton professor Iain Couzin protests.
It’s not goldfish, it’s golden shiner fish. And: “Our work aims to understand the principles of collective control in animal groups and what this can inform us about collective robotics. It has nothing at all to do with human politics.”
“If you think about it, schools of fish have been on the planet for much longer than we have and they’ve evolved to find solutions to problems. They can sense the environments in ways that we simply didn’t know how to do that…. From ant colonies to schooling fish, it’s not that complicated but the feats they can achieve are extraordinary. The collective of a whole can solve problems in ways individuals cannot.”I’m glad he mentioned the ants, because if there is one tag that I love to get the opportunity to use on a blog post, it’s “insect politics.” The tag is based on the 1986 movie “The Fly,” in which a scientific experiment — which I doubt Rand Paul would vote to fund — merged a scientist with a fly. Toward the bitter end, the fly/scientist — played by Jeff Goldblum — started raving about insect politics:
Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…But now, apparently, the human politicians are funding not just insect politics but fish politics (and robots!). I’d love to see a movie called “The Fish,” in which Jeff Goldblum does a science experiment that turns him into a crazy, raving Goldblum/Goldfish* and rants about fish politics.
Or… oh, wait!… was that already a movie with Don Knotts? “The Incredible Mr. Limpet”! Knotts is a little man who tries to enlist in the Navy in 1941. Rejected, he wanders down a pier, falls into the water, and turns into a fish. As a fish, he’s able to join the Navy, and he helps locate and torpedo Nazi submarines. How do you like that, you doubter of science, Senator Paul?
Ah, but Mr. Limpet was a heroic individual superfish, and Professor Couzin is interested in fish because of the way they act in the collective. Typical left-wing elite university ideology. The value of studying fish is that they’ve evolved past individualism. They give us a way to look at how the collective of a whole can solve problems in ways individuals cannot. But this has nothing at all to do with human politics. This is about collective robotics. Nothing to worry about here. The collective. Robots. Nothing to do with humans.
*Yes, I know. It’s not goldfish, it’s golden shiner fish. That makes me think of a movie too.
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Peter Kirsanow on the impending confirmation of “Caligula’s Horse” as Secretary of Defense:
Just because they’re laughing in Tehran, Pyongyang, Moscow, and some hovel in Mali doesn’t mean this nomination is funny.
The brief continued the efforts by the administration, begun two years ago tomorrow, to persuade the courts to adopt a rigorous test when they judged laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians. Instead of the much more tolerant “rational basis” test, the government has been pressing for what is called “heightened scrutiny.” And Friday’s brief defended that approach energetically.More detail about the argument for heightened scrutiny at the link, and you can read the whole brief here (PDF).
This is the first time the federal government has proposed that constitutional test in a gay rights case before the Supreme Court. The Court itself has never specified just what constitutional standard it will apply in such cases, but it may have to settle that this Term.
The DOMA benefit ban for married same-sex couples, the brief argued, cannot withstand the tougher standard. “This Court,” the brief said, “has understandably reserved the application of heightened scrutiny to a small number of classifications.” While the Court has not yet spelled out its own view of what the test is, the brief said, “under the factors articulated by this Court, such classifications warrant heightened scrutiny.”
There’s a second pending Supreme Court case dealing with California’s Proposition 8, and although the administration hasn’t filed a brief in that case, the brief Windsor refers to Prop 8 as it makes the argument for heightening scrutiny, which — under standard equal protection doctrine — looks at a number of factors including whether a group has been excluded from political power. From the brief:
Although some of the harshest and most overt forms of discrimination against gay and lesbian people have receded, that progress has hardly been uniform (either temporally or geographically), and has in significant respects been the result of judicial enforcement of the Constitution, not political action….The brief cites various recent successful political efforts against same-sex marriage, including this footnoted reference to Prop 8:
[There is no] convincing record of political power rendering protection unnecessary.
By way of example, in May 2008, the California Supreme Court held that the state was constitutionally required to recognize same-sex marriage…. In November 2008, California’s voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.My guess is the Court won’t heighten scrutiny, but it will find an equal protection violation in both of the cases. I predict a 6-3 decision.
While we follow the spectacle of prospective immigration reform and whether Congress employs various “terminological inexactitudes” (Churchill’s term for “lie”) to disguise what would be in essence a blanket amnesty, herewith Churchill’s remark from 1906 that bears on this point:
In dealing with nationalities, nothing is more fatal than a dodge. Wrongs will be forgiven, sufferings and losses will be forgiven or forgotten, battles will be remembered only as they recall the martial virtues of the combatants; but anything like a chicane, anything like a trick, will always rankle.
He added in a 1911 debate on British immigration reform:
It is highly important that the workmen should be assigned the noble status of citizenship in all our legislation.
So we know, courtesy of that Washington oracle Bob Woodward, that Obama and the White House have simply lied about the origin of the sequester that the Establishment is saying will result in the loosing of the Seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I guess we shouldn’t be amazed at the cynicism of the White House in predicting doom and gloom about a $42 billion (the real cut will only be about half the advertised $85 billion) cut from a budget of $3.8 trillion. The media and the people are another matter.
You would think by this time that the urbane sophisticates in the news media would be totally hip to the “Washington Monument” strategy, whereby the Park Service closes the most popular attractions first in the event of budget constraints. It’s the oldest bureaucratic trick in the book, and a mark of how far the corruption of our republic has proceeded: if the spenders don’t get their way, they’ll cut back first on the most essential services for which we presume to pay our first tax dollars. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse: the government intends to hold the people hostage to its insatiable rapacity.
Will Americans really fall for threats of delayed air traffic control, longer TSA lines, cancelled food safety inspections, and reruns of “Who’s The Boss” on PBS? (Okay, I made that last one up, but it equals the absurdity of the others.) Of course, what this reveals is one more bit of evidence conservatives have long recognized: the mainstream media are in on the game, and will side with the Washington big government Establishment every time over the interests of the people.
Republicans should do more than just prepare legislation providing “flexibility” to the executive branch to administer these tiny budget cuts. They should prepare detailed budget cuts of their own department-by-department, providing exact line items of what programs can be cut or delayed under a sequester in the Dept. of Transportation, for example, so that it is not necessary to cut back on air traffic controllers in the towers, or food safety inspectors at USDA. They should announce these on a daily basis, as well as highlighting just one wasteful program in each department every day. The Pentagon should not be exempt from this, either. I’m sure the Pentagon can delay sexual harassment training programs for a few months, or can tell some colonels to drive their own cars to base instead of having a personal driver.
Finally, the White House panic over the sequester, like their eagerness in the end to strike a deal over the fiscal cliff back on January 1, suggests that they fear the results much more than Republicans do, for the simple reason that more of their client groups depend on federal money—groups like Planned Parenthood, for example.