Book Banning Is Back

Every year, American libraries feature displays of “banned books” to promote freedom of speech and of the press. Of course, the books they display aren’t banned; hence their ability to display them. The books are titles like Ulysses, Catcher in the Rye, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and so on. This reflects the fact that for close to a century, no books were actually banned in the United States.

But book banning is back. Amazon dominates U.S. book sales (42% of physical books and 89% of e-books, according to Bloomberg) and will sell pretty much anything. You can buy books by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mao Tse Tung and Noam Chomsky. But you can’t buy China Virus by Canadian Ezra Levant. China Virus criticizes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relationship with Communist China and in particular his policies regarding the Wuhan virus.

Why did Amazon ban China Virus? Because “Due to the rapidly changing nature of information around the COVID-19 virus, we are referring customers to official sources for health information about the virus. As a result we are not offering your book for sale.” This despite the fact that China Virus, according to its author, reached #1 in Canadian Kindle sales.

Amazon’s position makes no sense, obviously. China Virus is not a medical tract, it is a critique of the policies of Canada’s Prime Minister. But Amazon’s response is chilling nonetheless. Only “official sources” can be heard, apparently. It is the execrable Dr. Fauci or nothing.

This is one more reminder of why big government loves big business. If the U.S. government tried to ban China Virus legally, it would have a problem with that pesky First Amendment. (I assume something similar would be true in Canada.) But Amazon, as a private company, like Facebook and Twitter, can ban to its heart’s content in service of “official sources.” Anyone who doesn’t find this frightening fails to understand how the modern world works, and where it is trending.

In the Flynn case, more exculpatory evidence

The case brought by Team Mueller in the name of the United States against Michael Flynn constitutes a sidebar to the biggest political scandal in American history by far. While the United States now seeks to dismiss the case, Judge Sullivan resists. His resistance now extends to the The D.C. Circuit opinion granting Flynn’s petition for a writ of mandamus ordering him to dismiss the case.

While the D.C. Circuit mulls over Sullivan’s petition for en banc review of the court’s mandamus order, the government continues to produce previously undisclosed exculpatory material to General Flynn. Reminder: Attorney General Barr assigned United States Attorney Jeffrey Jensen the task of reviewing the government’s file in the Flynn matter. Jensen’s review has resulted in several productions of exculpatory evidence that prosecutors acting on behalf of the United States should previously have turned over to Flynn.

What we have here is a sickening disgrace from which the press averts its eyes like Victorians confronting a public display of sex. At every step along the way, the press acted as a co-conspirator with the perpetrators inside the FBI and the Obama administration. You can understand why they might not be inclined to look back or confess and repent their wrongdoing. They look forward to the Biden Ministry of Truth depositing it down the memory hole.

Flynn counsel Sidney Powell filed Flynn’s Second Supplement In Support of Agreed Dismissal yesterday. It is accessible here. The newly produced exculpatory evidence was attached to the memo as Exhibit A. The memo explains the circumstances underlying the production and itemizes the government’s previous productions of undisclosed exculpatory evidence. This is a scandalous sidebar to the scandalous sidebar.

I have embedded the newly produced exculpatory evidence below via Scribd, where it is posted at the moment. NR reports on the material here. Conservative Tree House’s Sundance helpfully explicates it here.

US v Flynn – DOJ July 2020 … by Techno Fog on Scribd

The Week in Pictures: Mount Trumpmore Edition

I remember back at the very end of the Reagan presidency when R. Emmett Tyrrell proposed in the pages of the American Spectator that Reagan be added to Mount Rushmore, just to watch liberals have an embolism. Well, now that the left wants to take down Mount Rushmore for the sin of being built on “unceded native American land” plus slave-owning (Washington, Jefferson), colonialism (TR), and all-around hatred for greatness (Lincoln), the time has obviously come for us to call for replacing those four with Trump—just Trump. You think leftists are crazy now. . .

An old one, but worth repeating just now.

Headlines of the week:

Read carefully.

Dan Crenshaw before he ran for Congress.

And finally. . .

Warrant served on the McCloskeys

According to this report, law enforcement officials in St. Louis served a warrant on Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple that brandished guns when an angry mob trespassed on their property and allegedly threatened them with violence. St. Louis police officers reportedly executed a search warrant and seized the rifle Mark McCloskey held during his confrontation with the mob.

Attorney Harmeet Dhillon had this to say about the search and seizure:

Missouri is a Castle Doctrine state, permitted among the broadest latitudes of any state in using even deadly force to protect yourself or your property. This couple used NO force, despite the imminent threat from a trespassing mob. The seizure of weapons is government overreach.

I’ll say.

The Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney, Kimberly Gardner, seems to be serious about prosecuting the McCloskeys. She claimed that the McCloskey’s defense of their property was a “violent assault” and said that authorities “will use the full power of Missouri law to hold people accountable.”

She means white people who defend their property without resorting to actual violence. She does not mean the people who trespass on their property and terrorize them.

Nor does she mean rioters. She had all 36 of those arrested during recent St. Louis riots released.

The threat to liberty here is obvious. Apparently in St. Louis, a mob can terrorize citizens on their own property. If citizens try to deter the mob, the local government jumps in to persecute (and maybe prosecute) them, even if they don’t use force. In addition, by confiscating the weapons, the city can leave citizens defenseless if the mob returns.

This smacks of local government working hand-in-glove with thugs to injure or ruin citizens who simply want to be left alone. Expect the flight from our cities to proceed apace.

BY THE WAY: Gardner is a crook. In 2019, she admitted to repeat campaign finance violations dating back to her time as a Missouri State Legislator. These violations included using campaign donations to pay for a private apartment.

Moreover, the Circuit Attorney’s Office has experienced a more than 100 percent turnover rate in staff since Gardner took office in 2017. More than 65 attorneys with a combined experience of over 460 years in prosecutorial experience have departed during this three-and-half year period.

It’s difficult to imagine any serious, self-respecting prosecutor working for Kimberly Gardner.

Trump commutes Roger Stone’s sentence [UPDATED]

President Trump has commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”

But the congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was a lawful inquiry and, in my view, a legitimate one. Republicans and Democrats were both on board with this investigation. Moreover, even if one thinks Congress shouldn’t have investigated, or should have gone about the investigation differently, that’s not an excuse for Stone to obstruct it.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Barr said, “I think the prosecution was righteous and I think the sentence the judge ultimately gave was fair.” I agree with Barr.

Trump did not pardon Stone. Stone will serve no time, but his conviction stands unless overturned by the courts.

The White House explained that Stone “maintains his innocence and has stated that he expects to be fully exonerated by the justice system.” Thus, “the President does not wish to interfere with [Stone’s] efforts [to clear his name]” as a pardon would have done.

Why not let Stone serve time while he pursues his appeals? The White House cited Stone’s age, saying he would be at medical risk in prison during this period of time.

Stone is 67 years old. Ordinarily, a 67 year-old could serve time in prison without jeopardizing his health. But maybe he has a medical condition that justifies Trump’s stated concern.

The commutation of Stone’s sentence will be portrayed as Trump thwarting the judicial system in order to do a favor for a friend. Unless a specific medical justification is demonstrated, that’s also how it looks to me.

UPDATE: Anticipating expressions of outrage over the commutation by members of the leniency for felons crowd, Bill Otis writes:

My point. . .is simply to note that sentencing “reformers” are giving us an important clue about their underlying thinking when they apply one set of standards — those supposedly taking root in compassion — to smack pushers and street hoodlums, and a different set, rooted in the very same cynical, cold-hearted and punitive outlook they’ve spent years upbraiding, to an unappetizing defendant who has the misfortune of being an ally of a President they detest.

Bill’s point is well taken. But since I’m not a sentencing reformer and don’t detest President Trump, I’m sticking with my criticism of the decision to commute Stone’s sentence.

Why so much trouble nominating reliably conservative Justices? Part Two

In this post from last month, I tried to explain why Republican presidents have far less success nominating reliably conservative Supreme Court Justices than their Democratic counterparts have in nominating liberal ones. The main reason, I said, is that the conservative legal movement in America has multiple strands, not all of which point adherents to a result that can be called, or agreed upon as, conservative.

For example, if one compares Chief Justice Roberts’ “judicial modesty” with Justice Gorsuch’s immodest rendition of textualism, it’s easy to see why they reached different results in the “Indian lands” case. It’s also easy to see why both of them disagreed with Justice Alito, a less quirky conservative, as to whether Title VII protects gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals from employment discrimination.

There may be different strands of left-liberal jurisprudence, too. I assume there are. However, they are not readily evident in the writings of the four left-liberal Justices. In crunch time, they tend to march in lock step. Maybe none of the strands ever yields a result that four conservative Justices could reach.

In today’s Washington Post, a Harvard law professor, Adrian Vermeule, takes his shot at explaining the indisputable fact that “conservative justices often break ranks to give liberals a 5-to-4 majority, [but] liberal justices rarely do the same in reverse.” He dismisses two possible explanations, before embracing a third.

The first is that “liberal justices are, despite their protestations, systematically less principled” than conservative ones. Vermeule brushes this explanation off in a single clause as “a suspiciously partisan view that credits the reported experience of only some justices and discounts that of others.” Whose experiences are “discounted”? Vermuele doesn’t say.

He also dismisses a second explanation — that “conservative swing justices depart from their best judgment about what the Constitution requires in controversial cases because they are overwhelmed by the political, social and cultural pressures of the left-elite milieu, especially the praise or censure of the mainstream media.” According to Vermuele, “this account fails to explain why defections have persisted or even increased as the influence of the mainstream media has declined” and “also posits either conscious infidelity to law or an implausible lack of self-awareness.”

It may be true that the influence of the mainstream media has declined, even for people in the Justices age cohort. However, political, social and cultural pressures have not.

Vermuele’s explanation for conservative defections is that conservative defectors are faithfully following the law, but not the written Constitution. Rather, they are “enforc[ing] our real, unwritten constitution, a set of understandings that underlies and shapes our interpretation of the law.” Hardcore conservatives — Justices Thomas and Alito — don’t do this, but the “gravitational force” of our alleged unwritten constitution pulls in the others from time to time.

As Ed Whelan points out, this is just a fancy, righteous-sounding way of saying that defecting conservatives are following political, social, and cultural pressures of the left-elite milieu — the explanation Vermuele dismissed a paragraph earlier. Ed puts it this way:

I see little or no meaningful difference between whether a conservative justice defects because he unconsciously surrenders to the “political, social and cultural pressures of the left-elite milieu” or because he allows the “gravitational force” of the “liberal order” to “skew” his decisions.

Ed presents a different explanation for why conservative Justices defect far more often than liberals ones (who almost never do):

A justice who likes to be liked, or who desires to be admired, or who is eager to go along to get along (what I’ll call Type 1) is far more susceptible to stray than a justice who is inner-directed and anchored, who doesn’t care about being popular or who is even contrary or cantankerous (Type 2). Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito are all Type 2.

One unfortunate reality is that the process of selecting and confirming Supreme Court justices strongly favors Type 1 conservatives. The nomination and confirmation processes are intensely political, and the qualities of Type 1 conservatives correlate strongly with qualities that are politically appealing and salient. Advisers to the president want a Supreme Court nomination to be a short-term political victory, and same-party senators strongly prefer a light lift. A Type 1 conservative is going to be much more adept than a Type 2 conservative at charming senators, trotting out a list of liberal friends and admirers, and neutralizing a leftist media—and thus at winning the support of the president and his advisers for the nomination in the first place.

This is somewhat similar to an explanation I offered in my first post on the subject — one that focused on the president, rather than his advisers and members of the Senate. Recent Republicans presidents, I argued, have been swayed by the personalities of the potential nominees presented for their consideration.

George W. Bush probably preferred John Roberts’ persona — young, vigorous, and charming — to those of Michael Luttig and J. Harve Wilkinson. Donald Trump may have been more drawn to Neil Gorsuch on a personal level than to, say, Ray Kethledge.

To the extent that charm correlates with some degree of malleability, its role in the selection process yields less reliably conservative nominees. In any case, charm at best is an extraneous consideration if the object is to select Justices who won’t join the liberal bloc in big cases.

Do Democratic presidents care as much about personal charm, etc? Perhaps not. President Obama went about selecting nominees pragmatically, selecting a ( “wise”) Latina when the situation called for it and a more tame-looking liberal (Merrick Garland) when extraordinary circumstances made that seem like the smart move.

In any event, anyone presented to the president for consideration as a Supreme Court nominee — Judge Garland included — can be counted on to toe the left-liberal line once confirmed. The process by which Democratic presidents select reliable left-liberals for the Supreme Court is fool proof, and has been for many decades.

NY Times: Oops, Never Mind

Over the years, we have tracked a number of newspaper corrections (as often as not featuring the New York Times) where, if you match the belated correction against the original article, the conclusion is that the article was pointless and never should have been published. This is a good example of that genre. Today the New York Times issued this correction on a front page “news” story attacking President Trump:

FRONT PAGE

An article on Monday about corporate lobbying in Washington misstated the timing of a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chief executive of the arms maker Raytheon. David Urban, a lobbyist close to Mr. Pompeo and President Trump, requested the meeting more than two weeks before Mr. Pompeo issued an emergency waiver in May 2019 allowing Raytheon to proceed with arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but according to the State Department the meeting took place in June, after the waiver was issued, not a few months before.

On its face, you can see the significance of the correction. The article was “about corporate lobbying in Washington;” it claimed that a lobbyist arranged a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo which was followed by a decision that was favorable to Raytheon, but in reality, the meeting followed a month or more after the favorable decision.

To appreciate fully how completely the correction torpedoes the original story, you have to follow the link and infer what the Times originally (and falsely) claimed. The story was, of course, an attack on President Trump, headlined “Trump Vowed to ‘Drain the Swamp,’ but Lobbyists Are Helping Run His Campaign.” And the centerpiece of the story was David Urban, Mike Pompeo and Raytheon. The article begins:

The chief executive of the arms maker Raytheon, under pressure to overcome a congressional hold on major sales in the fall of 2018, wanted to sit down with one of the few people who could solve the problem — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

But the State Department would not schedule the meeting. So Raytheon turned for help to David Urban, perhaps the best-connected lobbyist in President Trump’s Washington.
***
He has close ties to Mr. Trump, who credits him with having helped deliver a pivotal Election Day victory in Pennsylvania in 2016 and recently invited Mr. Urban to fly on Marine One with him to West Point. He has a long roster of blue-chip clients, including military contractors like Raytheon, whose chief executive got the meeting he wanted with Mr. Pompeo after Mr. Urban intervened on his behalf.

This was the windup, but it turns out there is no pitch:

The meeting was requested by Mr. Urban more than two weeks before the State Department issued an emergency waiver in May 2019 that circumvented the congressional hold on the arms deals, allowing billions of dollars in Raytheon missiles and bombs to be sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

So what? This is where the correction kicks in:

The meeting took place in June several weeks after the issuance of the waiver, the State Department said.

In other words, there was never a story in the first place. David Urban is a lobbyist so powerful that he was able to schedule a meeting with the Secretary of State weeks after the relevant decision had already been made. The Times story, as it now stands, is pathetic.

This is typical of the Times. It has forfeited any claim to accuracy, let alone objectivity. It reports half-baked rumors, politically inspired leaks, and non-stories like this one in order to promote its Democratic Party. Beyond that, it has a terrible sports section. But at least the sports section doesn’t require a lot of corrections.