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Few will be surprised by the news that David Gregory will not be prosecuted for possessing a high-capacity magazine during his appearance on “Meet the Press.” The decision was made by District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who turns out to be a social acquaintance of Gregory and his wife.
The decision not to prosecute Gregory is explained in a statement you can read here. The statement makes it clear that the decision not to prosecute is an act of prosecutorial discretion. In other words, the AG had no doubt that Gregory violated the law; he simply decided he wasn’t going to prosecute him.
The passage in which the AG explains this exercise of discretion is the following:
Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the previously mentioned events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them.
One can distinguish between violations of the D.C. firearms law that occur as a result of providing information to the public and those that do not. Whether the distinction justifies non-prosecution in the former case is very much another question, but one that falls within the AG’s discretion to decide.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult not to suspect that the AG was moved by the fact that he liked the message behind Gregory’s violation of the law. I can’t help but think that the outcome might well have been different if the “First Amendment informational purpose” had been in service of a pro-gun message.
To be sure, I’m speculating here. But it’s not speculation to say that NBC was advised by the D.C. police that Gregory would violate the law if he proceeded (as he did) to display the magazine. The AG states:
Although there appears to have been some misinformation provided initially, NBC was clearly and timely advised by an MPD employee that its plans to exhibit on the broadcast a high capacity-magazine would violate D.C. law, and there was no contrary advice from any federal official. While you argue that some NBC employees subjectively felt uncertain as to whether its planned actions were lawful or not, we do not believe such uncertainty was justified and we note that NBC has now acknowledged that its interpretation of the information it received was incorrect.
Prosecutorial discretion should not be exercised in the case of flagrant disregard of the law — e.g., a violation that occurs in the face of instruction by the police that the action being contemplated is unlawful.
The AG tries refers to the possibility that “some NBC employees subjectively felt uncertain as to whether its planned actions were unlawful.” But he is plainly not convinced that this was the case — that’s why he prefaces the point by saying “you could argue” it and that’s why he affirms the clarity and timeliness of the police advice. The AG is willing to let NBC walk, but not without letting that outfit know that he’s not buying its B.S.
But the bottom line is that NBC has walked. The AG has given a complete pass to a party that scoffed at D.C. law. He has done so quite possibly because he agrees with the scofflaw’s political message, and perhaps under some influence from his personal acquaintance with the scofflaw.
That’s life in the big city, if the big city is Washington, D.C.
The clarity of the violation of this important law….
Why is the law important? If Gregory clearly violated the law, but there is no interest to be served in prosecuting him, doesn’t that prove that the law is not important? If the precise thing that he did — which is clearly what is defined as a crime — raises no interest in prosecution, how can we be satisfied by letting this one nice famous man go? Rewrite the law so that it only covers the activity that the government believes deserves prosecution, so there is equal justice under the law.
“The Duchess explained that she would like to be portrayed naturally — her natural self — as opposed to her official self.”
DC Attorney General Irvin Nathan has declined to prosecute NBC’s insufferable David Gregory despite his finding that Gregory clearly violated DC law. Citing the First Amendment, he has exercised his discretion to decline prosecution in consideration of Gregory’s limited possession and educational purpose displaying the ammunition magazine during his interrogation of Wayne LaPierre. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple highlights Nathan’s disparagement of NBC:
A telling portion of Nathan’s letter on the Gregory issue scolds NBC News for a “feeble and unsatisfactory” effort at determining whether showing the high-capacity clip on air would comply with D.C. laws. Reports have circulated that NBC News got conflicting information on the legality, another consideration referenced in Nathan’s letter: “Although there appears to have been some misinformation provided initially, NBC was clearly and timely advised by an MPD employee that its plans to exhibit on the broadcast a high capacity-magazine would violate D.C. law, and there was no contrary advice
from any federal official.”
More on this very angle from Nathan to the lawyer representing NBC News and Gregory: “While you argue that some NBC employees subjectively felt uncertain as to whether its planned actions were lawful or not, we do not believe such uncertainty was justified and we note that NBC has now acknowledged that its interpretation of the information it received was incorrect.”
“Feeble and unsatisfactory effort” stands as a perfect description of Gregory and Meet the Press generally. At least there is that.
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In a piece called “Austerity and National Character,” Anne Applebaum compares the pursuit of austerity in Latvia and Greece. In Latvia, she reports, the Latvian government responded to the crash of 2008 by slashing public spending, firing a third of its civil service, and reducing the salaries of those who remained. GDP fell by 24 percent in two years, but is now growing at more than 5 percent. Meanwhile, the budget deficit has been reduced dramatically.
According to Applebaum, there were no protests or strikes during the two year downturn. In fact, the Latvians reelected the prime minister who imposed austerity.
In Greece, of course, things have proceeded differently. Smaller budgets cuts led to strikes and riots. And the country has gone through several governments. The immediate drop in GDP was less than in Latvia (18 percent), but there has been no recovery.
Applebaum acknowledges differences in the nature of the two countries’ austerity program. Latvia hit bureaucrats hard and pensioners less so. And the government made its cuts right away. Greece protected its bureaucrats and made cuts slowly, without ever convincing creditors it was serious.
But Applebaum insists that history, culture, and national psychology were also at work in both nations. Latvians are used to hardship and fiercely independent. Greeks, she says, are politically divided and used to being bailed out. Then too, one country is Northern; the other Southern, which may make a psychological difference.
With the U.S. massively in debt, we might ask whether, in terms of psychology and character, we are more like Greece or more like Latvia. Once, it would have been clear to me that we are more like Latvia. Now, I suspect we are more like Greece.
Consider the recent “fiscal cliff” episode. A mechanism designed to force Congress to reduce significantly the national debt produced legislation that will increase it. Why? At root, as I argued here, because the public isn’t willing to sacrifice anything in the name of debt reduction.
The left wants to tax the public more, not in order to reduce the debt but to finance big government. But the public won’t accept higher taxes except on the wealthy. That’s why Obama had to announce in advance that he would not increase taxes on those making less than $250,000.. . .[T]he president basically lost the game before it began.
Conservatives want entitlement reform and spending cuts. But the public wants Medicare and Social Security to remain as it is. That’s why Republicans are so reluctant to propose specific cuts to these programs without Democratic cover which, of course, isn’t forthcoming.
The public favors spending cuts in the abstract, but politicians reasonably fear that any resulting reduction in services will carry a backlash. And they fear that cuts in defense spending will result in lost jobs and (at least as far as Republican politicians are concerned) reduced national security.
In short, we are more Greek than Latvian.
Fortunately, unlike both of these European countries, we are too big to fail for a while — perhaps a long while. But if we were more like Latvia, this fact might be less consoling.
**Written by Doug Powers
From a statement on the White House website:
The Leaders [Obama and Karzai] said that they would support an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban. In this context, the Leaders called on the armed opposition to join a political process, including by taking those steps necessary to open a Taliban office. They urged the Government of Qatar to facilitate this effort. The two Presidents reiterated that the outcomes of peace and reconciliation must respect the historic achievements that Afghanistan has made over the past decade, including protecting the rights that all citizens of Afghanistan, both men and women, guaranteed under the constitution. As a part of the outcome of any process, the Taliban and other armed opposition groups must end violence, break ties with Al Qaeda, and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.
And if the office thing goes well look for the Taliban to be allowed a team in the Afghan Bowling League so they can finally have a crack at unseating reigning champs the Panjshir Pinblasters.
The Taliban confirm the new office, and are already making demands even before the Selectrics have been plugged in:
The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they have reached a preliminary agreement to set up a political office Qatar, and asked for the release of prisoners held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.
Naturally President Obama will make the Taliban adhere to EEOC hiring regs as a condition of allowing them to open an office, right?
Here’s more about the newest lessees at the Doha Office Park (I’m not even going to ask who’s going to end up covering what I’m guessing will be a rather steep damage deposit because I think I know the answer):
Despite repeated demands from Obama since 2009, the Taliban has not disassociated itself from its fellow jihadis in al-Qaida, even after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001 following al-Qaida’s jihad attack in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Their alliance is based on shared religious and ideological views, personal ties, beneficial military cooperation and a growing confidence they can seize control of Afghanistan once Obama pulls U.S. forces from the country in 2014.
So, an office it is then.
Twitchy has some #TalibanOfficeRules, for those of you thinking of sending in an application.
**Written by Doug Powers
The worst part of the Jack Lew nomination for treasury secretary is not simply that he has no qualifications, standing, or experience in the financial world or international sphere (think G20 and European debt crisis). Nor is it simply that he doesn’t have any seasoned currency opinions (under Obama, the greenback has dropped 10 percent while gold has doubled).
Yes, these are big disqualifiers. But the real problem is that Lew is a left-liberal Obama spear-carrier, whose very appointment signals a sharp confrontation with the Republican House over key issues such as the debt ceiling, the spending sequester, next year’s budgets, and taxes.
Keep reading this post . . .
[I]f for some reason the trillion-dollar coin idea doesn’t pan out–say, because the U.S. Mint can’t find a way to squeeze 12 zeroes into such a small space–there are lots of alternatives that range from intriguing to bonkers. Here we go …
So among my liberal friends is Joel Mathis of the Philadelphia Magazine. This is one of those situations made possible in the Internet age: I’ve never met Joel in person, but we’ve spoken on the phone several times, exchange lots of emails and Facebook comments, and he’s one-half of the Right-Left “Ben and Joel Podcast” with Ben Boychuk on the InfiniteMonkeys site that is always excellent. (And let’s face it: “InfiniteMonkeys” is one of the greatest blog names ever. James Lileks calls it “a sparkly blog.”)
Well, Joel has issued a big-time throw down today, with an PhillyMag column titled “In Defense of the Nanny State.” Much of Joel’s particular argument in this short column centers around the facts of U.S. mortality rates and the relationship to the lack of universal health care. This is not a new dispute, and there is a rousing debate about what wonks call “confounding variables” besides the extent of health coverage that can explain trans-national differences. I think Joel’s argument is vulnerable here, but then it is a short column and not a long journal article where the qualifications and refinements are possible. But the comments on his Facebook thread making the usual objections lead us to a dead-end I think. Factual arguments are always important, of course, but more useful is the broader teaching Joel has in mind, which he states late in the column:
Why I’m a liberal? I believe you can have freedom and care about reducing income inequality. I believe you can have liberty and smaller soda sizes. I believe you can throw off tyranny and still have a smarter health care system that delivers care to more people. I’m a liberal because even though conservatives and libertarians can sometimes come up with good ideas to address these problems, mostly you sense they’d rather not be bothered. Which leaves good old-fashioned Big Government as the most likely option to actually fix stuff.
Nannies don’t imprison you, after all, and they never did. Their job is to help you stand on your own.
Good for Joel for stating it directly rather than hiding behind equivocations or facile constructs. So here’s my response: What conservatives find objectionable about the nanny state (or Big Government if you like—the terms are virtually interchangeable—they both mean essentially unlimited government) is that while any single state intervention may be plausible or defensible in isolation, the steady accumulation of state interventions at some point begins to be a substantive erosion of liberty, and, more importantly, begins to alter the essential character of free citizens.
Sure, am I really less of a free person if I can’t buy a 32-oz soda? Or get a plastic bag in my local store? In isolation, not really. But what about when I can’t buy a 32-oz soda, can’t burn a fire in my home’s fireplace (now an air quality regulation in many places), can’t build a spiral staircase from my back deck (as I learn this morning from the San Luis Obispo County planning department), can’t own a gun (New York, Chicago), can’t get plastic bags at the store any more (even though I not only recycle them but reuse them for many of my own purposes), can’t patronize Ubercars because the incumbent taxicab monopoly gets the city council to block the new business in the name of “consumer protection” (naturally), or can’t start a small business except with great difficulty and dead-weight expense to the local bureaucracies? And on the other side of the ledger, large bureaucratic interventions like Obamacare will stifle marketplace discovery and adaptation. Part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in is because of two government interventions of long standing: the tax treatment of health care (dating back to World War II), which accelerated third party payment that drives the perverse cost trends of the health care marketplace.
After a while, you’re not “standing on your own” any more. The nanny hasn’t put you in prison, but it has changed a lot of things in a significant way. That was the point of Tocqueville’s famous passage about “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear.” Most everyone quotes this paragraph from that chapter:
Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.
So far so good. People often miss the next paragraph, which is equally important:
I have always believed that this sort of regulated, mild, and peaceful servitude, whose picture I have just painted, could be combined better than one imagines with some of the external forms of freedom, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.
Two observations. The point I’m making here—that there is a substantive cumulative effect of seriatim state interventions—is one liberals themselves make in one particular case: the environment. The formal Environmental Impact Statement process is based on the premise that while one single housing development may have a de minimis impact on the environment, the cumulative impact of one development taken together with others is significant enough to justify regulation of the individual proposed development. And this is sensible in the abstract. But why don’t we apply the same scrutiny to the cumulative impact of state interventions?
Second, as we contemplate the “Europeanization” of America under the Obama worldview, let’s stipulate, as Charles Murray does, that people in Europe aren’t “unfree” in the ordinary sense of the word. Here’s Charles, from his 2009 lecture on the subject of “The Happiness of the People” (it’s an extraordinary lecture, a real tour de force worth reading in its entirety):
Not only are social democrats intellectually respectable, the European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted when I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. When I get there, the people don’t seem to be groaning under the yoke of an evil system. Quite the contrary. There’s a lot to like—a lot to love—about day-to-day life in Europe. . .
But—as Tocqueville warned, Murray thinks it has changed the character of the free peoples of Europe in ways that make them less happy: “the problem with the European model, namely [is that] it drains too much of the life from life. And that statement applies as much to the lives of janitors—even more to the lives of janitors—as it does to the lives of CEOs.” Charles has some data on this he can point to.
Okay, I can hear Joel responding, All these somewhat abstract considerations are all very well and good, but what about the unemployed janitor without health insurance? Fair enough objection. But here I must suggest that once upon a time liberals got both parts of this problem, whereas today they only get the practical side. I’ve been drawn back lately once again to Lionel Trilling’s famous book The Liberal Imagination from 1950, where he argued that reform liberalism was becoming too programmatic and organizational, and that its powerful social imagination was suffering atrophy. He revisited the theme of his famous preface in an unpublished lecture in 1974 (the year before he died), when he felt fully vindicated in predicting “this dull, repressive tendency of opinion which was coming to dominate the old ethos of liberal enlightenment” and that liberal thought (and consequently policy) was shedding its legacy as “a political position which affirmed the value of individual existence in all its variousness, complexity, and difficulty.”
Instead, today we get mandates instead of moral suasion. Instead of persuading people to be responsible with their plastic bags, we ban them. Instead of persuading people they are foolish to drink 32-oz sodas, we ban them. And to conservatives this looks deeply weird, too, as well as unimaginative and hypocritical. For liberals, it’s okay for a teenage girl to have an abortion—no questions asked—but not okay for her to order a 32-oz soda? Look, if more teenage girls order 32-oz sodas, fewer of them will need abortions in the first place, believe me.
If you had buttonholed me in the Senate men’s room circa 2003 and told me that a decade hence Joe Biden would be America’s vice president, John Kerry secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel secretary of defense, I’d have laughed and waited for the punch line: The Leahy administration? President Lautenberg? Celebrate lack of diversity! But even in the republic’s descent into a Blowhardocracy staffed by a Zombie House of Lords, there are distinctions to be drawn. Senator Kerry having been reliably wrong on every foreign-policy issue of the last 40 years, it would seem likely that at this stage in his life he will be content merely to be in office, jetting hither and yon boring the pants off whichever presidents and prime ministers are foolish enough to grant him an audience. Beyond the photo-ops, the world will drift on toward the post-American era: Beijing will carry on gobbling up resources around the planet, Czar Putin will flex his moobs across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Arab Spring “democracies” will see impressive growth in the critical clitoridectomy sector of the economy, Iran will go nuclear, and John Kerry will go to black-tie banquets in Europe. But Chuck Hagel is a different kettle of senatorial huffenpuffer. And not because of what appears to be a certain antipathy toward Jews and gays. That would be awkward at the Tony Awards, but at the Arab League the post-summit locker-room schmoozing should be a breeze. Since his celebrated “evolution” on marriage last year, President Obama is famously partial to one of those constituencies, so presumably he didn’t nominate an obscure forgotten senator because of his fascinating insights into the appropriate level of “obviousness” the differently oriented should adopt. So why Hagel? Why now?
My comrade Jonah Goldberg says this nomination is a “petty pick” made by Obama “out of spite.” I’m not so sure. If the signature accomplishment of the president’s first term was Obamacare (I’m using “signature accomplishment” in the Washington sense of “ruinously expensive bureaucratic sinkhole”), what would he be looking to pull off in his second (aside from the repeal of the 22nd Amendment)? Hagel isn’t being nominated to the Department of Zionist and Homosexual Regulatory Oversight but to the Department of Defense. Which he calls “bloated.”
Keep reading this post . . .
IN THE COMMENTS: Lauderdale Vet said:
I passed that along to my wife, who seems interested :) She’d make a nice chair, I think.Which made me think of this famous Thurber drawing:
There must be a comical drawing of a woman as a chair or an actual chair in the form of a woman. I looked for furniture in human form, and found some stuff in the general neighborhood — the Dali-inspired lips sofa — and this amused me:
And you can unburden yourself here: