Eric Holder’s idiotic praise of Justice Sotomayor

As I noted here, Justice Sotomayor dissented from the Supreme Court’s decision upholding what should be a truism: the Constitution permits a state to prohibit race discrimination by public institutions. Sotomayor was joined by the ultra-leftist Justice Ginsburg. However, she failed to persuade the only moderately leftist Justice Breyer, who joined the 6-2 majority.

Attorney General Holder calls Sotomayor’s dissent “courageous.” Her dissent is lots of things — verbose and nonsensical, for example. But it’s difficult to identify a sense in which it is courageous.

Will the dissent bring disapproval from those whose approval Sotomayor values — the mainstream media, academia, and the folks with whom she hangs out in New York and Washington? Of course not; it will be applauded in these precincts.

Will it bring disapproval from Sotomayor’s friends in the Obama administration? Of course not; it will be applauded there too, as Holder’s statement shows.

Will Sotomayor’s dissent cause her to be criticized in her presence by President Obama before a crowd of rowdy politicians and a national television audience? No. Obama reserves that treatment for conservative and center-right Justices.

Will Sotomayor’s dissent cause her taxes to be audited by the IRS? I don’t think so.

To view Sotomayor’s dissent as remotely courageous one must pretend to be living in the America of the 1950s. It’s no coincidence that one must adopt roughly the same pretense to discern any sense in her dissent.

Photos of the Day, and Instagram

The photo of the day–one of them, anyway–was taken by me, in November 2003 when I was in London on business. Which reminds me–things have been dull lately, I could use some more business trips like that one. It is a beautiful photo, I think, taken on the bank of the Thames. The lighting is entirely fortuitous: I couldn’t do this on purpose in a million years. Click to enlarge:


I posted that photo on Instagram a little while ago, with #tbt–Throwback Thursday. If you are not on Instagram, you should consider it. Instagram is my favorite social media network. Not a lot of boring commentary or endless yammering, just pictures. You can follow people–like your siblings or, say, Bar Refaeli–or institutions, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the country of Australia, which has an awesome Instagram feed. If you are not familiar with Instagram, you may want to check it out. And you can follow me, if you want: johnhinderaker.

For those who want something a little more historically significant than my 2003 business trip to London, here is a shot of Mulberry Street, Manhattan, around the turn of the 20th century. Traffic hasn’t gotten much better since then, but probably no worse, either. Once again, click to enlarge:


Venezuela Banned Guns: Let’s Not Follow Their Example

In June 2012, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez banned all sales of firearms and ammunition to civilians:

With Chavez’s new gun-control law, only the Venezuelan army, police officials and certain groups such as security and private detective firms are allowed to buy firearms, and then only from state-owned weapons manufacturers and importers. …

According to a press statement, the Chavez government initiated a gun amnesty of sorts in order to phase in the new law and encourage people to give up their weapons peacefully and without incident in order to avoid necessary action such as house-to-house searches and arrests for illegal gun possession.

President Chavez … says the goal of his gun program is to simply disarm all civilians.

The United Nations hailed Chavez’s campaign to get guns out of the hands of ordinary Venezuelans.

Now, socialist Venezuela is in a state of collapse, with rampant inflation and shortages of basic necessities, like food. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, probably millions, have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s corrupt incompetence. The socialist government, now headed by Nicolas Maduro, has responded with a brutal crackdown in which dozens of anti-socialist Venezuelans have been murdered by government forces or paramilitary, pro-government gangs that–who could have guessed?–are heavily armed, despite the country’s “progressive” firearms laws.

Until I became something of a gun guy a couple of years ago, I didn’t have a good sense of the relationship between the right to keep and bear arms and the other freedoms that we take too much for granted in the Age of Obama. The American Left would love to follow the example of Venezuela. (If that seems inexplicable, bear in mind the fact that Venezuelans who are tightly connected with the socialist government are filthy rich, and have stashed most of their wealth in other countries.) I have come around to the view that if we don’t want our society to devolve into a tyranny like Venezuela’s, it is a good idea to be armed.

The National Rifle Association has an NRA News video channel that posts consistently interesting material about firearms and the Second Amendment. The video below features Gabby Franco, a Venezuelan who is an Olympic shooter and became an American citizen. She lived through the Chavez disaster, and her message is: don’t let it happen here.

Listen To My Interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show re Tom Steyer

Last night on the Hugh Hewitt show, Hugh and I talked about Tom Steyer, the Democrats’ top money man, and my post The Epic Hypocrisy of Tom Steyer. Someone put the audio of the interview up on YouTube, along with some apt graphics. So here it is; the interview runs a little over eight minutes:

Hugh is hitting the Steyer story hard, on his radio show, his web site and on Twitter. It will be interesting to see whether some Democratic Party news outlets (Washington Post, New York Times, CBS, CNN, and so on) are embarrassed enough to cover the story.

GOP Senators Blast Obama on Immigration

Everyone knows that Barack Obama has been a scofflaw with respect to Obamacare. But even more damaging has been his (and his attorney general’s) wanton refusal to enforce the immigration laws. Today, Republican senators Grassley, McConnell, Sessions, Shelby, Lee, Isakson, Johanns, Inhofe, Boozman, Vitter, Risch, Crapo, Roberts, Blunt, Cochran, Chambliss, Scott, Coburn, Fischer, Cruz, Hoeven and Hatch sent this blistering letter to Obama, asking that he fulfill both his constitutional duty and his oath of office with regard to immigration laws. The letter decries Obama’s policy of releasing many thousands of criminal illegals into the streets to prey on American citizens and legal residents, and builds to a powerful conclusion:

April 24, 2014

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our grave concerns over the immigration “enforcement review” that you ordered after meeting with advocacy groups on March 13, 2014, and that is now being carried out by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to reports, the changes under consideration would represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement and discard the rule of law and the notion that the United States has enforceable borders.

Clearly, the urgent task facing your administration is to improve immigration enforcement, not to look for new ways to weaken it. Since 2009, your administration has issued policy directives and memoranda incrementally nullifying immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States – to the point that unless individuals in the country illegally are apprehended, tried, and convicted for a felony or other serious offense, they are free to live and work in the country.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own figures, in 2013, nearly all individuals removed from the United States were convicted criminals and recent border crossers.[1] As the LA Times reported, since 2009, there has been a 40% decline in removals of individuals living and working in the interior of the country.[2] And, recently revealed documents from ICE show that in 2013, the agency released 68,000 potentially deportable aliens deemed by ICE to pose a criminal threat.

As a result of your policies, individuals here illegally who do not meet administration “priorities” are not only largely exempt from the law, but are released even if they come into contact with federal law enforcement authorities. Because these priorities require at least one, and frequently multiple, criminal convictions, countless dangerous offenders are released back onto the streets on a continual basis. Since ICE frequently takes no action until after the most serious crimes have occurred and the offenders have been tried and imprisoned, the administration is allowing preventable crimes harming innocent people to take place every day.

Chris Crane, President of the National ICE Council, testified before Congress about the inability of ICE agents to do their jobs, saying: “I think most Americans assume that ICE agents and officers are empowered by the Government to enforce the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. With 11 million people in the country illegally, ICE agents are now prohibited from arresting individuals solely on charges of illegal entry or visa overstay—the two most frequently violated sections of U.S. immigration law.” He also described how your administration is punishing ICE agents who want to uphold the oath they took to serve America. He stated: “As criminal aliens are released to the streets and ICE instead takes disciplinary actions against its own officers for making lawful arrests, it appears clear that Federal law enforcement officers are the enemy and not those that break our Nation’s laws.”[3]

These policies have operated as an effective repeal of duly enacted federal immigration law and exceed the bounds of the Executive Branch’s prosecutorial discretion. It is not the province of the Executive to nullify the laws that the people of the United States, through their elected representatives, have chosen to enact. To the contrary, it is the duty of the Executive to take care that these laws are faithfully executed. Congress has not passed laws permitting people to illegally enter the country or to ignore their visa expiration dates, so long as they do not have a felony conviction or other severe offense on their record. Your actions demonstrate an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the rights of American citizens and legal residents.

Our entire constitutional system is threatened when the Executive Branch suspends the law at its whim and our nation’s sovereignty is imperiled when the commander-in-chief refuses to defend the integrity of its borders.

You swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We therefore ask you to uphold that oath and to carry out the duties required by the Constitution and entrusted to you by the American people.


Emphasis added. Will Obama respond to the charge that he has abdicated his constitutional responsibilities? Probably not. More likely he will throw the senators’ letter in the wastebasket and jet off to another fundraiser. At the White House, it is all politics, all the time. The rule of law is an old-fashioned concept that apparently has no place in the Age of Obama.


Reviving the Misery Index

Graybeards will remember Jimmy Carter’s embrace of the “Misery Index”—the combination of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate—that Peanut Brain used against Gerald Ford in 1976, but which he then doubled during his forlorn presidency as Ronald Reagan skillfully reminded everyone in 1980.  Well, it’s baaaack.

Only this time in a much more refined and useable way, as economist Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University explains in a terrific column in the Indonesia-based Globe Asia magazine.  (The Cato Institute, where Hanke is a fellow, has cross-posted a full version of the article.)  Here’s a few excerpts, though the real action can be seen in some of the charts and tables Hanke and Globe Asia have put together:

The late Arthur Okun, a distinguished economist who served as chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during President Johnson’s administration, developed the original misery index for the United States. Okun’s index is equal to the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates.

Harvard Professor Robert Barro amended the misery index by also including the 30-year government bond yield and the output gap for
real GDP. Barro used his index to measure the change in misery during a president’s term. . .

The data in the misery index chart speak loudly. Contrary to left-wing dogma, the Reagan “free-market years” were very good ones. And the Clinton years of Victorian fiscal virtues – when President Clinton proclaimed in his January 1996 State of the Union address: “the era of big government is over” – were also very good ones.

The misery index pours cold water on the current critique of free markets and fiscal austerity – a critique that has taken on the characteristics
of a religion embraced without investigation. Indeed, it makes one wonder whether the critics ever bothered to subject their ideas to a reality check.

You can see the results for each presidential term for the last 60 years:

Misery 1 copy

Hanke then turns his attention internationally, which special (and much deserved) malice for Venezuela.

When measured by the 
misery index, Venezuela holds the ignominious top spot, with an index value of 79.4. But, that index value,
 as of 31 December 2013, understates the level of misery because it uses the official annual inflation rate of 56.2%. In fact, I estimate that Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate at the end of last year was 278%. That rate is almost five times higher than the official inflation rate. If the annual implied inflation rate of 278% is used to calculate Venezuela’s misery index, the index jumps from 79.4 to 301, indicating that Venezuela is in much worse shape than suggested by the official data.

Here’s the data in table and graph form:

(Click to embiggen)

Misery 3 copy

Misery 4 copy

Kagame does Brandeis

When Brandeis University withdrew its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to appear at commencement for an honorary degree, I spoke with a knowledgeable source on campus who told me that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was scheduled to visit campus on April 23. I reported on the information provided by my source in “Brandeis breakdown.”

Many people believe that Kagame has a lot of blood on his hands and he certainly talks like a throat slasher. Earlier this year, Kagame was widely quoted expressing regret that he had not ordered the assassination of Patrick Karegeya, the country’s former spy chief who had been found dead in Johannesburg the previous month.

“Rwanda did not kill this person – and it’s a big no,” Kagame said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “But I add that, I actually wish Rwanda did it. I really wish it.” Kagame refused to rule out that he would in principle order an assassination: “Well, that’s a different issue…I have said what I said.”

Kagame’s comments were reported in newspapers around the world; the Telegraph picked them up here.

With the controversy at Brandeis over Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the scheduled appearance of Kagame on campus became a sensitive matter. Could Brandeis really honor Kagame while dissing an incredibly brave advocate of women’s rights from Africa?

I couldn’t get a straight answer from the school. Looking around online, I found that silence was golden. Not a word was to be heard. If Kagame was coming, it was a secret.

The day after, the silence prevails, with one exception. Kagame has posted numerous photos featuring his big day at Brandeis on Flickr. We can’t be sure of Brandeis’s attitude, but Kagame is proud of what the school has done for him. In the photo below, Kagame yuks it up with Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence (at his left). A good time was apparently had by all.


UPDATE: Jeryl Bier writes to point out that Brandeis has emitted a (hilariously mealymouthed) comment on Kagame’s visit. In the spirit of the affair, it has a double secret quality to it. For the record, here it is:

Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit to Brandeis University this week is part of appearances he is making at several Boston-area universities, including Harvard and Tufts. President Kagame engaged in a round-table discussion with invited guests and faculty and students affiliated with the Sustainable International Development program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the Brandeis University program in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence as well as with Brandeis students originally from Rwanda.

To clarify, this event was not a public speaking engagement and was an invitation-only, academic event.

President Kagame’s visit is consistent with the principles of academic freedom and a longstanding Brandeis tradition of hosting international dignitaries, some controversial, in the interest of scholarly understanding and academic dialogue.

Thank you for your inquiry.

Ellen de Graffenreid, MA, MBA
Senior Vice President for Communications
Brandeis University

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