Sunday, May 30, 2010


By Bob Ward

The nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is the latest salvo in President Obama’s war on the Constitution. In this case the target is our First Amendment rights to free speech.

There has been a lot of commentary about her booting the military recruiters off the campus at Harvard and less about a far more important problem with Kagan – her anti-constitutional view of freedom of speech. Put simply, she just doesn’t believe in it.

While the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” Kagan says Congress can make such a law, provided its motives are pure. In a 1996 article in the Univ. of Chicago Law Review entitled, “Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine,” Kagan said that determining the government’s motive is “the most important” consideration when deciding whether a law restricting speech or press violates the First Amendment.

Restricting speech would be a violation only if it were done just because the message or the messenger may be harmful to elected officials or their political priorities.

Even more disturbing is her view of the free marketplace of ideas. Kagan doesn’t believe in that either. In that same article she argues that the Supreme Court – on which she is about to sit – should not be concerned with protecting the free marketplace of ideas because, she wrote, “it is impossible for the court to determine what constitutes an ideal marketplace.”

Also in the article, she contradicts herself by asserting that the government is capable of determining an ideal marketplace of ideas and should manage the marketplace to achieve it. “If there is an ‘overabundance’ of an idea in the absence of direct governmental action -- which there well might be when compared with some ideal state of public debate -- then action disfavoring that idea might ‘un-skew,’ rather than skew, public discourse,” Kagan wrote. She refers to this government micro-management of speech and press as “redistribution of speech.”

So, according to Kagan, the government can and cannot decide what is the ideal state of public debate. And it is permitted by our constitution to limit the expression of certain ideas if it determines those ideas are being expressed too often, or too loudly or too effectively or too whatever the government decides.

This bizarre interpretation of the First Amendment would allow the government to silence talk radio if it determines that it is dominated by conservatives resulting in an “overabundance” of conservative ideas being expressed.

Kagan’s notion about an “overabundance” of some ideas could also be applied to the Internet, another target of the Obama administration. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski was recently rebuffed by a Federal appeals court which said his agency had no authority to exert the kind of control he was seeking. With Kagan on the Supreme Court Genachowski could appeal that ruling with some expectation of a different outcome.

This is an expectation that Obama appears to share. He was highly critical of the Supreme Court when it ruled that a corporation has a right under the First Amendment to express a political opinion. In that case, Kagan, as Solicitor General of the United States, contended that Congress could constitutionally prohibit corporations from publishing pamphlets that advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office.

Responding to her claim, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that her interpretation of the First Amendment, “would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet, and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concern.”

It could even, Roberts continued, “empower the Government to prohibit newspapers from running editorials or opinion pieces supporting or opposing candidates for office, so long as the newspapers were owned by corporations — as the major ones are.”

Kagan on the Supreme Court would be a threat to the most fundamental liberties the Constitution
was written to protect – the right to speak our minds and express our opinions. It is hard to
imagine any right more central to the notion of representative government.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Government to the Rescue .... NOT!

The media is treating to us a ping-pong blame game for the failed clean up effort for the blown out BP rig. The pundits are engaged in the pointless question of what the government or BP should be doing about the clean up. The one quote that stands out to me is the Coast Guard chief's statement that his agency wouldn't know the first thing about a clean up effort.

So, I've just got to ask, isn't it government's core job to protect the public interest? Isn't it in the public's interest not to have oil fouled beaches, dead fisheries, and a ruined tourism business for Louisiana?

With all the billions that the government has reaped from taxes on oil company profits and lease payments on offshore oil rigs over the decades, and the certain knowledge that __it happens, wouldn't you think the government would have invested those billions of dollars into an environmental safety net that would protect our national coastlines from such disasters?

Once again I see in my mind's eye all those New Orleans school district buses lined up safely in their depot, without one single person's life-saving idea to use them to transport people out of the city, safely away from Hurricane Katrina.

Based on these two incidents, you realize that it's every man for themself because the government, robber and thief of your hard-earned money, is no guardian of your safety or your fundamental interests when __it happens. Make sure you're prepared for.... whatever. The government -- at all levels -- is not.

P.S. Peggy Noonan spelled out these same thoughts in more detail in her WSJ article a few days after my post.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fox Austin Pillories Perry Over "Mansion" After Poll Shows White Getting Shellacked

To those who complain about Fox News having a rightward tilt haven't watched the Fox Austin affiliate recently. Its approach to generating 'people's opinion oriented' news tilts in only one direction -- against Republicans and conservative positions.

I wrote last year on Travis Monitor about Fox News Austin's horrid fear mongering about the spike in gun sales that was occurring. They never mentioned that it was a result of people's reaction to the Obama government's runaway, rights-stealing, anti-Constitutional effort to wrest power from the people at every turn. The Austin Fox News story was a vapid treatment laced with predictable leftist views. It was Exhibit A for why I don't regularly tune into the program.

Last night though I happened to leave Austin Fox News on after Jack Bauer's rampage on 24 and I was treated to yet more vapidity. I need to do better job of managing my remote control.

Immediately after a short segment showing Perry to be kicking Bill White's butt in early polls, Fox did a hit piece on Perry's shacking up in a tent while trying ineffectively to do the work of the people while waiting for the Texas Governor's mansion to be repaired. Ummm... not.

What they did instead -- I guess in the name of balance -- was reference an Associated Press story about the costs associated with the Governor's taking up residence in a gated house with a pool while the Governor's mansion is being rebuilt after a fire. "It costs more than $10,000 a month in rent, utilities and upkeep to house Perry in a five bedroom, seven bath mansion," according to the report. Hey, it costs me about $3,000 in mortgage payments, utilities and upkeep for my modest 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house. $500 of my expense is county taxes. I wonder what the monthly taxes are for the "Mansion." $1,500?

Fox reporter James Irby relays the costs for various items like they're a scandal. $8,000 for pool maintenance for instance. Well, there are a lot of people who would love to have only $8,000 in annual pool expenses. Heck, just last year a government-mandated requirement for pool equipment cost my community association $5,000, in addition to the upkeep and chemical expenses of about $5,000, but no breaking story on that.

The drabble goes on.

Irby and Co. did their best to find expert commentators like afternoon bike rider Jason Kahle, identified by Fox as "Taxpayer," who's wearing a very proletariat oriented "Austin Gliding Tours" t-shirt,  to say "I don't think it's really necessary to be paying that much money, $10,000 a month, for our governor to be living in the lap of luxury." Sounds likes Kahle's got it tough. Here's a follow-up story idea that Irby should investigate: Kahle's living in the lap of luxury. After all, he's biking around in the afternoon, and is tied somehow to Austin Gliding Tours, which doesn't sound to me like the local brick layers or roofing or meat packing union. Maybe he got it at Goodwill, though. Please find out, Mr. Irby.

Then, we're treated to the expert commentary of Chris Surgeon, another person identified as "Taxpayer," but whom I doubt it is a brain surgeon when he's not commentating for Fox, who says "He's living like a rich person while we're all suffering. I mean there's homeless people all over the place, and you wonder, you know. It makes you wonder, doesn't it." It's my guess Chris Surgeon does a lot of wondering about a lot of things. You know. Like what life might be like if marijuana were legal. Or maybe he already knows, you know.

Then, as if Surgeon and Kahle didn't raise enough hackles about the inequities of Perry's "Mansion," Irby and Co trot out the expert opinion of  Lisa Trevino, "Taxpayer," who does her best to coherently express her theory on the role of government and better uses for the money. "Ten thousand dollars seems like it could be used um elsewhere like in you know job seeking services, other government funded sources, something that will benefit more of the public." Um, what?

Finally, we're treated to the expert opinion of Fred Lewis, who earlier in the program is mentioned as
a "campaign finance watchdog." Lewis is referred to by Irby as a campaign finance expert who says he can't tell if the listings for how his campaign pays for Mansions are violations.

Hold on. I thought Irby was talking about taxpayer funding? What's the link here with Perry's campaign? Is Irby and Lewis claiming something's going on with the government funding Perry's campaign through the payments for the mansion? If that's what they're saying, they never said it outright in the segment. The hapless viewer is suddenly moved from taxpayer funding to a campaign finance watchdog without much segue or introduction.

In fact, what the reader should know is that Lewis is a very partisan liberal that has a history of calling Republicans into the court of public opinion over alleged campaign abuses and otherwise advocating for liberal causes. Here's Lewis in Texas Weekly going after former Republican Speaker Tom Craddick. Here's Lewis, dutifully covered by Gardner Selby, in the Statesman advocating for Perry's extending voter registration in Harris County after Hurricane Ike hit Houston, with the liberal Equality Texas Foundation and People for the American Way Foundation. In 2005, the Statesman reported that Lewis was successful in getting 25 Republicans to sign on as supporters of a bill limiting corporate and labor money in the final weeks of an election. Of course, we know now that the U.S. Supreme Court deems such restrictions as unconstitutional despite the protestations of President Barack Obama.

Whatever you may think of Fred Lewis's expert opinion, it is indeed partisan opinion. It's too bad for them and the viewing public that the Fox folks don't label his comments as such, to truly claim the mantle of non-partisan, objective reporting. Instead, Lewis is  just a "campaign finance watchdog" ostensibly doing the work of the people, like Kahle, Surgeon and Trevino. But to me, he's a political hack and Fox News Austin reporters are, by virtue of their half-true representation of Lewis' bona fides, partisan propagandists as well.

My point here is simply that Fox News Austin is, once again, incoherent and biased in its treatment of serious subjects. How about delivering some real journalism at some point?

Here's a simple one: How about asking whether the "Mansion" that the Perrys live in now compares at all to the Governor's Mansion that was burned down in terms of room, maintenance costs and 'burden' to the taxpayer? After all, the Governor and his family need to live somewhere, right? Hasn't the Governor's Mansion been provided to Governors of all political stripe in the past? How is taxpayer funding of a house -- somewhere -- different than they're funding it near the state house?

And here's a tip for earning credibility with more viewers: How about identifying Fred Lewis as a partisan who is always associated with liberal causes?

Fox News Austin delivers simple, mindless propaganda that's geared toward dishing innuendo and scandalous non-correlations to feed its Republican-hating, class-envy trained viewers. It's a disgrace to the practice of journalism and ultimately an insult to the citizens of Austin who misplace their trust in this station's news organization.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Their Own Words: Obama and Biden Strike Out with the Elena Kagan Pick

Because I gamed the system one time by using the Internet organs of the Democratic Party to vent about Obamacare, I became attached to the receiving end of their email propaganda pipeline (a pipeline spewing more dangerous stuff than crude oil). So, from time to time I get emails from President Barack Obama and his loose/foul mouth side kick, Vice-President Joe Biden. Naturally, the deployment of these "communications" coincide with some pending lurch to the left, such as the shoving of Obamacare down Americans' collective throat or the proposed reform of Wall Street (by adding command and control mechanisms through "the broadest rewrite of the rules governing Wall Street since the Great Depression").

But the upside of getting these email communications is they they provide first hand unfiltered and timely access to the the words and reasoning of the most radical US Administration since FDR. First, I wish to highlight some things that President Obama wrote in his email and said in his 4:18 minute Organizing America (for Obama) sponsored video announcement about his choice of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court.
Her work as Solicitor General has allowed me to see firsthand just why Elena is particularly well-suited to the Court: She has not only a keen understanding of the law, but also one that is rooted in a deep awareness of its impact on people's lives. Last year, she made that clear -- choosing the Citizens United case as her first to argue before the Supreme Court, defending bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections.
(emphasis added)
Strike One: Kagan is an enemy of 1st Amendment (Free Speech) and that demonstrates to Obama why she "is particularly well-suited to the Court". So, Obama is against free speech if it involves political speech (especially speech against Democrats, no doubt).
Now, I look forward to the prospect of Elena taking her seat alongside Justice Ginsberg and Justice Sotomayor. For the first time, our nation's highest court would include three women, ensuring a Court that would be more inclusive, more representative, more reflective of us as a people than ever before.
(emphasis added)
Strike Two: So Kagan was picked because of her sex as much as the content of her character or of her perceived jurisprudence. The Court, which is not a representative but rather a judicial body, should not need to be made up of people from all genders, ethnicities, and walks of life (how could 9 people possibly be representative of the mosaic which is America?). How can having three women on the court, even assuming true the rumors that Kagan is gay, "be more inclusive, more representative, more reflective of [America in determining matters of Constitutional law], than ever before?"

Vice-President Joe Biden added this in his email with the subject line, "A reason to smile":
She helped us confirm Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and even then, it wasn't hard to picture a day when we'd be helping Elena prepare for confirmation hearings of her own...Since that time, I've followed her career, and today, I believe Elena Kagan is an inspired choice for the Supreme Court.
Strike Three: Biden conjures up a Heavenly Mandate here. There was just something about Kagan way back when "she helped us confirm Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg". Joe pegged her for the Court back then. It is her destiny. It is as if God revealed this to him. Why, she is an inspired choice. The implication is that she is the Anointed One for the Supreme Court, just as Obama is for President. Joe, this is America, not least not yet!

Thus, in their own words the President and Vice President demonstrate that the Obama Administration has struck out in terms of their rationale for picking Elena Kagan for Supreme Court and thus Ms. Kagan should not be confirmed by the Senate.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Unemployment ROSE to 9.9% this past month, and the media is spinning it as 'good news' because jobs were added... yes, jobs are being added after a long drought of jobs, but we have more workers looking for work, and the broader unemployment measure, by including discouraged workers, hit 17.1% in April.
The 17% number means is that we have a large pool of unemployed and under-employed people who will be seeking opportunities should they arise. If they don't they stay on as the large long-term unemplo. We have 6 million fewer private sector jobs now than in 2006, and many of that 17% were in that group.

The good news on the jobs front is strong enough that it precludes a 'double-dip'. The economy has created a total of 573,000 jobs during this year. But that is just a fraction of the jobs needed to make up for the jobs lost, and the recovery is stunted and sub-par. The underlying reason is the failure of those in power to focus on economic growth, and hostility to those who make our economy work. Instead we have gotten the 'empty calories' of stimulus and Government jobs, while private business have been given more and more burdens.

Deepwater Horizon Response

The Deepwater Horizon Response website is a great source for status and progress by BP and the Coast Guard in dealing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They are also giving Twitter updates. In the evening of May 7th (3 hours previous to this blog post), they updated the news on the cofferdam to be used to contain the subsea oil leak:

Cofferdam Update - The cofferdam (containment dome) is currently hovering above the site as the surface is being prepped by ROVs. It will hover there until they are ready. They hope to lower to sea floor today, but they need to finish prepping the surface.

The cofferdam being lowered into the water:

Here is a picture of a controlled oil burn used to reduce the oil:

GULF OF MEXICO - Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Sawyer observes a controlled burn from the deck of Mark and Jace, a contracted shrimping vessel assisting with oil recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, May 5, 2010. The U.S. Coast Guard, working in partnership with BP, community volunteers, and other federal agencies, conducted the controlled burn to aid in preventing the spread of oil following the April 20 explosion on the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery Tilghman Williams.

And a video of an ROV capping one of the leaks.

Status of the oil spill itself is here. Should the leak be contained by the planned cofferdam, and the mitigation efforts reduce the spill work, the worst-case scenario will be averted and the impact on the coastline may end up being minimal.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Obama's Katrina?

Something has been seriously amiss with the administration's response to the Oil Rig explosion in the gulf, which has evolved into being the worst offshore U.S. oil spill ever.

Feds knew of potential disaster and yet mitigation efforts have been slow, no burns of oil done, DHS Secretary did not know nor leverage military capabilities for 12 days ... and more than a week passed before President Obama moved to address the disaster despite the clear evidence that BP and the Coast Guard were unable to stop the flow of oil and contain the spill.

Obama manages to not get the heat Bush did when the Federal Government faced challenges.