Author: Patrick Non-White

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Significant Developments In D.C. Anti-SLAPP Law.

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UPDATE: Mr. Steyn advises me through Twitter that he has declined appeal of the Anti-Slapp motion to dismiss, because he wishes to conduct discovery against Dr. Mann. That makes the video below something of a wretched abortion, but as the other defendants in the case (Rand Simberg, National Review, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute) are moving forward with the appeal, I leave the video unaltered and unedited. My apologies to Mr. Steyn.

_____________________________________

Doe v. Burke is an important decision, handed down last week, on the District of Columbia's Anti-SLAPP statute. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that an anonymous "John Doe" defendant, sued for libel over internet comments concerning an attorney in a high-profile lawsuit, could immediately appeal the District Court's denial of a motion to quash a subpoena aimed at discovering his identity. The Court went further, and dismissed the suit against Doe entirely.  You may read the Burke decision here:

Doe v. Burke D.C. Anti-Slapp Opinion

This is a significant case. Defamation plaintiffs thinking of using D.C. as a venue for strategic lawsuits against public participation should think twice.  We've previously covered D.C.'s Anti-SLAPP law, extensively, in the lawsuit filed by climate scientist Michael Mann against journalists Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg. You may find our coverage here, and here.  As Steyn, Simberg, and their co-defendants are appealing the denial of their Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss against Mann, we've invited a guest who is expert in the law of defamation to comment on the case:

Does The Internet Need A United Nations When It Doesn't Have A First Amendment?

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The Department of Commerce has announced that it will soon abdicate its responsibility for maintaining the internet's Domain Name System, the directory that allows translation of a plain English (or Russian, or Turkish) term like popehat.com into the string of numbers and periods that are this site's actual address. DNS is the internet's central nervous system, to analogize crudely.  If a site is removed from DNS, it may as well no longer exist.

The goal, we're told, is to spread governance of the internet from a United States agency to set of "stakeholders" from across the "global internet community." And that's what should worry everyone in the "global internet community" who is concerned with free speech. Unlike the Department of Commerce, the "global internet community" and its "stakeholders" are not constrained from abridging the freedom of speech.

Readers may recall the case of American talk radio host Glenn Beck, who in 2009 sued the owner of the parodic website GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com, in the World Internet Property Organization (a United Nations body), arguing that the site's name was defamatory, and that it infringed Beck's trademark in the name "Glenn Beck." (The parody countered Beck's style of argument in which he demands opponents prove a negative: "Barack Obama must prove he wasn't in Indonesia on August 4, 1961!") How do we know Glenn Beck didn't rape and murder a young girl in 1990, after all? Beck hasn't proven he didn't. We have only his word to rely upon. The World Internet Property Organization, to its credit and thanks to the commendable advocacy of defense attorney Marc Randazza, denied Beck's claims, finding the assertion contained in the site's name to be an obvious parody that only a dipshit would credit as true.

What's telling about the Beck case is that Beck, for all his professed faith in the United States Constitution, chose not to file his claim in an American court. Beck certainly could have done so: the defendant, like Beck, was an American citizen and subject to the jurisdiction of United States courts. But the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides broad protections to free speech, some of the broadest in the world, constraining courts and government agencies alike from infringing speech. And a website's name, just like its text, is speech.

No, Beck, or his attorneys, assumed he'd get better treatment from a United Nations agency in his efforts to quash free speech than he'd get in an American court. And for good reason: United Nations agencies are not constrained by the First Amendment.  And so, coming back round to the "stakeholders" of the "global internet community," to what legal constraints will they be subject? And to whom will they answer? The Constitution of the People's Republic of China, for instance, promises that:

Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration. … Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.

Under the new internet order, Sina Weibo is undoubtedly a major "global stakeholder" in the internet. Does anyone believe that a representative of Sina Weibo, which already censors its users at the behest of its government, would not vote to obliterate a website glorifying Tank Man?

tank man

Of course China is not the only global stakeholder. There are plenty of European nations which also have a stake in the internet, such as the Russian Federation. Perhaps the most distinguished Russian holding a stake in the internet is Evgeny Kaspersky, the famed security expert, whose products are used worldwide. Another famed Russian on the internet is Garry Kasparov, grandmaster of chess and political dissident. For all of Kaspersky's integrity, does anyone doubt that if Kasparov created a website parodying Vladimir Putin, perhaps one called VladimirPutinOrderedTheMurderOfAnnaPolitkovskaya.com, Kaspersky would face intense pressure to vote that it be deleted as defamatory, an offense against the majesty of the Soviet Union Russian Federation?

Of course there are plenty of enlightened non-European countries whose citizens are global stakeholders, such as Thailand. Guarantors of international human rights, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

The Department of Commerce assures us that only private global stakeholders will be nominated to hold a stake in tomorrow's internet, and therefore to make decisions on who (if anyone) gets to have domains ending in suffixes such as .bible or .gay or .wine. We're assured that the new regime will be run much along the lines of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (which coincidentally is holding its annual meeting for 2014 in Istanbul). But each of those stakeholders is, at least until we have anarchist floating cities, also a stakeholder in some government or state.  In a lot of those states, the government considers itself a "stakeholder" in its citizens, who'll know doubt vote accordingly. And while Commerce promises us that it won't support government involvement in the new DNS regime, once control has passed beyond Commerce, who's to say conditions won't change?

None of this is to suggest that the United States is somehow "deserving" of internet governance, that the internet is American property, or the American government's hands are clean. They're not. I could be reasonably content with an internet whose administration was controlled by other constitutional democracies, such as Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, or even the United Kingdom.

But it won't be. We've seen the others, and they're worse. The system isn't broken, and at least now there are some free speech constraints on the entity ultimately responsible for global DNS.

If you care about free speech on the global internet, not just your provincial American corner of it, consider writing or calling your Congressman and Senators, and asking them to assert their authority against this ill-advised decision.

Fear And Loathing In Falls Church

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CHAPTER ONE

David Brooks

The silver 2001 BMW 535i roared through Adams Morgan, occasionally screeching over the sidewalks as my accountant wrenched both hands from the wheel for another toke at the weed-pipe. "Gadzooks, man!" I shouted. "Can you keep it together for another fifteen miles, or at least outside the District limits?"  We were halfway through our 35 mile journey from Bethesda to Falls Church, with enough dangerous narcotics to stun a grizzly bear in the trunk: We'd started with nine ounces of weed, six rocks of crack, a sugar jar full of blow,  36 vicodin tablets,  a cage filled with live Bolivian arrow toads, and two jars of ketamine. Plus two quarts of Beefeater gin, a case of Schlitz malt liquor, and a four ounce ball of Afghan hash: Surely enough to get this pair of degenerate drug addicts to Fall's Church. After that what man could say?

It was Edmund Burke, the English statesman and philosopher of the Good Life, who asked, "What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?" In the Burkean ethos, freedom unconstrained by wisdom "is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint." I reflected that Burke's wisdom had never been constrained by a head full of mescaline, or a heart thumping on two tabs of amyl nitrate, so perhaps there were things the grand old man of the eighteenth century British polity did not know.

"Keep your God-damned mitts on the wheel!" I shouted at my accountant as the BMW lurched off of the sidewalk, narrowly missing a parking enforcement officer who stood gaping in confusion at my accountant's attempt to achieve manned space flight using only the power of internal combustion and a brain tripping on liquid sunshine. "Do you want to get us busted?" There was madness in his eyes, but I couldn't help looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant. And I was thinking, a) he got into the ketamine before we left Bethesda and b) we'll be staying overnight at the DC Correctional Treatment Facility for Narcotics Addicts. I put those thoughts out of my head, distracted by the mescaline-induced vision of my accountant vomiting up, one by one, the collected works of British conservative thought leader Michael Oakeshott, all bound in the finest red leather.

Oakeshott famously said that as civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves. I believe that if our national political conversation were better informed by the spirit of Oakeshott, and less by the spirit of Manichaeism, ours would be a happier society.

But ours was not a happier society. This was fascist (or more correctly, corporatist) George W. Bush's America. Two years after the dawn of the new millennium Jesus was nowhere in sight, because the Feds were cracking down like sledgehammers on the ecstasy dealers. As senior political editor for the Weekly Standard, I had been sent to cover Bill Bennett's address on education policy at the annual convention of the Young Americans for Freedom. I was here to cover the story! And cover it I would, fueled by the finest mind altering products that 21st century biochemistry had to offer.

As we hit the Virginia line, I mused on the fine line that exists between a state of ordered liberty, in which government serves the needs of the majority, gently nudging the masses toward the higher pleasures, and the state of shocking, bestial depravity that was the passenger compartment of my accountant's BMW: open liquor bottles, a rear windshield plastered with pictures cut from the pages of Hustler and Love Bondage Fantasy! magazines, and in the vomit-drenched back seat, Kareem, a crack dealer we'd picked up in Anacostia, vainly trying to sleep off last night's festivities as the BMW careened from lane to lane like some cocaine-propelled mule train that never existed except in John Ford's wildest dreams.

"Kids today just can't handle their drugs," my accountant muttered through the shroud of opium that fogged his brain. "WHAT?!?" I shouted, cutting down the volume on the "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" compact disc my accountant had fished out of Kareem's backpack. And that's when it hit me, like an electro-plated dung truck: We were not living in John Ford's America. You see, the greatest of all Western directors, John Ford, actually used Westerns to tell a story not of rugged individualism, but to celebrate the notion of civic order. At his finest, Ford teaches us all about the concrete ways people build orderly neighborhoods, and how those neighborhoods bind together to form a nation. The West of Ford is a lawless  and disordered place, requiring the prepoplitical virtues of a man who possesses the willingness to seek revenge, to mete out justice on his own. That kind of person hardly makes for an ordered polity. But, as this sort of classic western hero tames the West, he makes himself obsolete. Once the western towns have been pacified, there’s no need for his capacity for violence, nor for his righteous justice. As New York University film critic Sander Starr has pointed out, in the individual are planted the seeds of his own destruction. Only through the mediating agency of the panopticon state can this tendency toward self-destruction be averted and channeled into socially productive uses.

"That's some super-heavy shit," I croaked, seizing the weed-pipe from my accountant's lap. "How many miles til Falls Church?"

"We passed it five hours ago. We'll be pulling into Virginia Beach any minute now. Should be lotsa hookers in town this time of year. It's Bike Week."

if you MARRY! like your REPRODUCE! doctor you OBEY! can keep NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT! your doctor. SUBMIT! if you CONSUME! like your STAY ASLEEP! plan you can WATCH TV! keep it. BUY! period. NO IMAGINATION!

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According to Google, socialist realism is "the theory of art, literature, and music officially sanctioned by the state in some communist countries (esp. in the Soviet Union under Stalin), by which artistic work was supposed to reflect and promote the ideals of a socialist society."

Let's remove the term "socialist," and replace it with "government." Does the government have a theory of art, literature, and music officially sanctioned by the state, by which artistic work is supposed to reflect and promote the ideals of the party in power, and government in general?

Ask the Department of Health and Human Services, which awarded Erin McDodald a "Grand Prize" for her Youtube video, "Forget the Price Tag!" encouraging the poor, meaning young Americans, to buy overpriced insurance they probably don't need in order to subsidize the rich, meaning their parents and grandparents.

The lyrics read as follows:

Seems like everything's about to change, in the health care industry.
When coverage expands, and they can't reject you for conditions that are pre-existing!
You're young and wild and free, but you need to stay healthy!
There's no excuse to be uninsured. Just stop for a minute and think!

You're not immuned [sic] to all disease. Take advantage of this opportunity!
Keep your mind at ease and get some security!
Don't need a lot of money, money, money!
To stay young and healthy, healthy, healthy!
We just want to make it more fair, with affordable health care.
Ain't about the, UH!, cha-ching, cha-ching.
Ain't about the, YEAH!, bling, bla-bling.
Affordable Care Act, don't worry about the price tag!

I know we're in our prime, about time we open our eyes.
We got to invest to be the healthiest! You can't put a price on life.
Why is everyone so oblivious?
Living without health care is serious!
Can we all slow down? Take time now, guarantee we'll be feelin' all right!

You're not immuned [sic] to all disease. Take advantage of this opportunity!
Keep your mind at ease and get some security!
Don't need a lot of money, money, money!
To stay young and healthy, healthy, healthy!
We just want to make it more fair, with affordable health care.
Ain't about the, UH!, cha-ching, cha-ching.
Ain't about the, YEAH!, bling, bla-bling.
Affordable Care Act, don't worry about the price tag!

This is what literary critics refer to as, "bad poetry!"

But on a more practical level, the UH! cha-ching, cha-ching, and the YEAH! bling bla-bling! are exactly what most young people are worried about, at least if the ones asking me for a job are representative. They seem to be very much worried about the money, money, money! because of the students loans, student loans, student loans! And while they're not immuned [sic] to all disease, they do seem to be aware that no amount of money, money, money! will allow them to "stay young." They age as rapidly as I do, and they seem to want to be where I am when they hit the ripe old age of 46.

More's the pity.

In any event, on watching the Grand-Prize winning video by Ms. McDonald, I was struck by its message. Don't think of yourself, your family, or the family you'd like to have some day, if you can get out of your parents' house to afford such a thing. Think of the government! Think of the state! Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

Don't worry about the price tag! MARRY! REPRODUCE! OBEY!

I Am Thankful For This Bit Of Fun

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Urban Ministries of Durham, a low-overhead charity devoted to assisting the elderly poor of Durham, North Carolina, has kicked off an interesting donation drive: naming rights for items that will assist their clients.

The items are many: toilets, canned vegetables, computers, a group meal donated by a local chef, a deodorant. Your naming options are virtually limitless. Name the item for your spouse, your child, your friend, your enemy, or someone you admire.

I donated the cost of a hygiene product, in the name of a prominent North Carolina politician.

Art Pope Adult Diaper of Infamy

 

The site allows you to advise the subject of your honor by email. You may inform your friends through Facebook or Twitter of your cleverness, or keep your good deed to yourself, taking private satisfaction in the knowledge that the Kathleen Sebelius Processed Meat Product of Managerial Incompetence is now a reality.

This is a clever use of social media, for a worthy charity. Why NOT brighten someone's day with the Anthea Butler Maxi-Pad of Supercilious Stupidity?

Update:

Now look what you people made me do:

John Steele Tampon of Stubborn Litigiousness

They Shoot Ponies, Don't They?

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Logging into the Facebook account, I spy a private message.

Hello,

We think that the readers of your blog would be interested in our site. We have developed and launched the first completely Free Auction site with all the functionality of the "Other Big Auction Sites". With one big difference, our site is 100% Free! Our mission statement sums it up pretty nicely.

"Our mission is to promote Legal Firearm Ownership, Strengthen the 2nd Amendment and promote Outdoor Recreation via a FREE Marketplace."

If you have questions, please drop me a line or give me a call. Thank you for your time and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Regards,

Edward Eddins
Tactical Auction LLC.
Founder & CEO

Contact information and website link removed.

Could this be the solution to all our problems?

Mr. Eddins, we certainly believe in Second Amendment freedom, and our readers do as well. Are you proposing a sidebar link to the tactical auction page, or would you like to write a guest post about the bargains and benefits to be found in a free market for guns and tactical equipment?

I ask because a number of big game hunters frequent our site. We ourselves hunt. I have a particular problem with wild ponies in my area. The ponies break through my fence, run over my property, and … well, you'd shudder if I said what they do next. It's horrible.

What rifle would you recommend for a man who needs to kill a number of ponies, and kill them quickly? A prompt reply would be greatly appreciated.

Patrick

My savior!

Hello Patrick,

I was hoping for just a general introduction to your readers. Our site is like Gunbroker with one Big Difference. Its totally Free.

As for your Pony problem, I have only been to 2 places in the us where there was free range wild horses. In both places they were illegal to kill and protected.

As for killing a pony, any caliber of 270 and above with a good TSX round will do the job.

Take Care

This man may be useful.

Mr. Eddin, thank you for the advice about proper calibers and ammunitions.

As for the ponies, I am afraid they follow no law except their own – the law of the jungle. The savage, stinking jungle of the ponies! I must take the law into my own hands, if I am to survive.

Mark my words: The ponies must die, or I will die in the attempt.

Best wishes for the upcoming holidays,

Patrick

Pony of Death

Doctor Who: An Appreciation

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I stood my ground, there on the lecture platform at the World Science Fiction Convention, and I repeated the heretical words that had sent them into animal hysterics: "Star Wars is adolescent nonsense; Close Encounters is obscurist drivel; Star Trek can turn your brains into puree of bat guano; and the greatest science fiction series of all time is Doctor Who! And I'll take you all on, one-by-one or all in a bunch to back it up!"

Harlan Ellison

Fifty years ago a member of a minor race of gods, like Prometheus, fled from his technological Olympus to bring a gift to man: the gift of intelligent science fiction television programming. It's a gift that has lasted and grown, in one form or another, to the present. Before Doctor Who, televised science fiction consisted of Rod Serling anthologies and the like, some of which were pretty good but all of which were hampered by the enforced convention of the plot twist ("Sorry Burgess, it's not enough to make an entertaining story of a bookworm freed from all his cares when he oversleeps through an atomic war – his glasses have to break at the end of the show), and …

Space westerns.

In the vibrant post-Doctor Who world of television, we have variety: the Serling anthologies have largely vanished, but at least in America we've had plenty of space westerns! Lost in Space, Star Trek, Space: 1999, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica in both its incarnations. And the X-Files, which is not a space western.

Moreover the Doctor has what some people may refer to as "BALL".

Doctor Who is most assuredly not a space western. Doctor Who, through the years, can be and has been anything you want it to be. It's alternate history. It's a detective show. It's horror. It's political drama. And sometimes, it's a space western. The show's premise is straightforward. An alien scientist, from an astonishingly advanced and decadent civilization known as the Time Lords, steals a time machine and flees to the backwater planet of Earth, which he fancies for about the same reasons Gandalf admired the Shire. From the Earth, with one or more (usually) human (often) lady (always) platonic companions, he flies around space and time, having adventures!

But oh what adventures. Through its fifty years (minus an almost 20 year hiatus enforced by BBC bigwigs who thought the show childish), the show has ranged from historical melodrama to gothic horror to Douglas Adams comedy to straight space opera. With a variety of actors playing the central character, from William Hartnell's cranky old victorian gentleman to Tom Baker's loveable scarfed oddball to Christopher Eccleston's tough guy in black to Matt Smith's wise young action hero. You see, through the amazing alien technology known as plot contrivance, whenever the Doctor suffers mortal injury (or whenever an actor tires of the role), he can regenerate into a new form and body, with the same memories but a different personality.

In fifty years the show has built up a supporting cast of recurring friends and villains that would fill an encyclopedia volume, some of whom are as interesting as the central character, including what must be television's second greatest recurring villain (after J. R. Ewing):

In honor of the show's fiftieth anniversary a special broadcast episode, the Day of the Doctor, will run on television and in theaters all over the world today and Monday, with a special guest appearance by Queen Elizabeth I. If you've never watched Doctor Who, what better time to start?

Here's to another fifty years.

THINGS TO WANT AND BUY!

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We have added an Amazon "store" link  to our front page, very attractively designed, I must say. This does not mean we'll be selling Popehat t-shirts, mitres, panties, or the like, though that day may come. What it allows us to do is provide recommendations on products, so far limited to books and sporting goods, to readers who may be interested in such things and who would like to support our site.

The books added so far are an eclectic lot, reflecting reading material discussed (and endorsed) on our front page, on Twitter, or our Facebook page through the years. And did I mention sporting goods?

We do receive a portion of the price of any sales generated through the site, but the buyer pays nothing extra. All funds received go to defraying out-of-pocket costs for running the site. Any funds received in excess of our out-of-pocket costs will be donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or to some similarly worthy charity.

As always, we thank our readers for their generous support.

And did I mention sporting goods? If only 100,000 of you will buy sporting goods through our store, we can all retire from our day jobs, to fulfill our proper purpose of providing entertainment for you, our valued readers.

Or at least insulting you, as (and if) you deserve.

Let's Make One Thing Perfectly Clear: I Am Not A Racist Bigot. I Am A Cultural Bigot.

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You're probably familiar with the "Kinsley Gaffe," defined by the man for whom the term is named as what happens when a politician tells some obvious truth that he really shouldn't utter.  An example would be Gordon Brown's description of a bigoted woman as "a sort of bigoted woman," a truth that immeasurably assisted Brown in his quest for promotion from Prime Minister to United Nations Special Envoy for Education.

So far as I know, there is no shorthand term for a gaffe in which a public figure tells what he believes to be a truth, which in fact only reveals some unpleasant truth about the speaker himself. That's what Washington Post editorialist Richard Cohen has done in a disastrous column published Monday, where Cohen wrote that "[p]eople with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children," and further in yesterday's attempts to clean up the mess he made, in which Cohen, complaining that people accusing him of racism and calling for his job just don't get it, revealed himself to be not a racist bigot, but a cultural bigot, a race-baiting hack, and a buffoon.

I'd like to offer the term "Cohenism" for this sort of gaffe.

family circus not me

Cohen begins with the standard lament that those demanding his head are taking him out of context. He didn't mean to say that conventional people (meaning most Americans including the New Yorkers who elected Bill DeBlasio mayor) become nauseous at the thought of an interacial couple, even though that's precisely what he said.

What he meant to say is, well, let's let Cohen speak for himself:

I don’t understand it …. What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people. I don’t have a problem with interracial marriage or same-sex marriage. In fact, I exult in them. It’s a slander…

Ah, it's those extreme-right-wing Republican tea party people who blow chunks at the thought of the mayor of New York defiling his race with a dusky skinned woman. Though Cohen, with his layers of fact-checkers and editors, could not be bothered to name a single-extreme-right-wing Republican tea party person who disapproves of the mayor's marriage. Because it just goes without saying that they do. After all, they're … people with conventional views.

You know … diesel mechanics in Cincinnati, farmers in Iowa, Best Buy assistant managers in Bakersfield, English teachers in Alabama. Flyover people in flyover country…

The middle class.

People who could never get into the sort of swanky parties that award-winning Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen attends in midtown Manhattan, rubbing shoulders with the lettered, where they positively exult over interracial and same sex marriage, and over these arugula canapes Leon got from a caterer in the Village, and this magnificent Côtes du Rhône that cost $200.00 a bottle.

Oh, wait…

What I meant to say was, Richard Cohen cares for and respects the middle class. Richard Cohen is not an elitist asshole who spits on his readers. Richard Cohen wants affordable health care and decent jobs for everyone in flyover country America, and anyone who says different is a NAZI!

I think it’s reprehensible to say that because you disagree with something that you should fire me. That’s what totalitarians do.

I am about to send this email to the Washington Post:

To the editors:

It was disappointing to read Richard Cohen's Monday bloviation to the effect that the majority of the Post's readers ("people with conventional views") become sick to their stomachs when contemplating the biracial children of Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Sheltered as he is in his Manhattan enclave, Mr. Cohen perhaps is unaware that race relations outside Tribeca have improved greatly since the dark days of Jim Crow. It seems that Mr. Cohen has lost all touch with the America he writes about. Accordingly, I suggest that perhaps it is time to put Mr. Cohen out to pasture as a columnist emeritus, allowing him to retire into the sunset with his generous pension and the grateful memories of readers who recall the days when Mr. Cohen was sane.

Sincerely,

Joseph Stalin

UPDATE:

drudge-siren

 

Another example of Richard Cohen's unconventional thinking: He endorses random, suspicionless police searches of black and latino American citizens, because "Stop-and-Frisk" saves lives

John McCain: "Failure Is Not An Option: It's Essential."

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Washington D.C.: Flanked by Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Arizona Republican John McCain convened a press conference to announce his hiring of disgraced "Syria analyst" Elizabeth O'Bagy, recently fired from the Institute for Study of War after revelations she had falsely claimed a Ph.D., as a top-level legislative assistant.

John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte

"In her brief career before joining my Senate team, Elizabeth O'Bagy has impressed me with her astute analysis of the situation on the ground in a volatile part of the world, the depth of her knowledge and scholarship, and her ability to work with the media," McCain told reporters. "But I wouldn't have taken her on based on those qualifications alone. No, what impressed me most was Ms. O'Bagy's willingness and ability to demonstrate a great moral lesson for her fellow Americans: that in order to succeed, one must be prepared to fail."

"Throughout my career, in the United States Navy as well as in politics, I have demonstrated that the road to success is paved by failure. Elizabeth O'Bagy understands this truth as much as I do."

"I began my service to this nation as a proud pilot in the Naval Air Corps. Fresh from the Naval Academy, where I earned a graduate ranking of 894 in a class of 899, I immediately steeled myself for failure. And fail I did: crashing five expensive jets through foolish hot-dogging, and managing to place myself at the center of a catastrophic fire that nearly destroyed the U.S.S. Forrestal, before going on to serve my country in Vietnam. I have no doubt that in Vietnam I would have gone on to ever greater failure had my career not been cut short by enemy missile fire," McCain added.

"But I didn't let that setback stop me. On my return to the United States, I immediately set myself to fail my beloved wife, who had suffered injuries far more grievous than any I sustained. And fail her I did, throwing her over in favor of a richer, prettier beer heiress, one who hadn't been maimed in a car accident, whose money and connections fueled my way to the United States Senate, where I have gone on to fail the voters of Arizona, spectacularly, for 26 years."

At this point in McCain's address, Senator Lindsay Graham interjected, "If I may speak out of turn Senator, I'd like to vouch for my distinguished colleague's record of failure in the Senate. No Senator during my tenure has failed his constituents as consistently, and with such determination, as John McCain. Why, just in this term, Senator McCain has broken his 2010 campaign promise that he had 'learned his lesson,' and would never again support an immigration amnesty bill, has led the United States into a pointless war in Libya that demonstrably harmed America's national security, led the charge for another meaningless war in Syria, and done as much as any Senator, bar none, to make America a domestic surveillance police state, where every phone call, email, and text is monitored by shadowy unaccountable spies. That's a record of failure that I do my best to live up to every day, whether I fail the citizens of South Carolina by lying to them through my teeth or by wasting precious time with my reckless diplomatic showboating."

"Thank you, Lindsay," the senior Senator from Arizona replied. "Of course, my greatest failure, the John McCain presidential campaign of 2008, speaks for itself. It's no ordinary failure to take a record of character and experience like my own, with the advantage of a sympathetic media and a public eager to hear the 'straight talk' for which I'm justly famous, and squander it all against a state senator from Illinois whose middle name is Hussein. No, to fail on that scale I had to put my nose to the grindstone, with innovations like choosing the mayor of an Alaskan mining village as my running mate, suspending my campaign to deal with a crisis as though I'd already been elected President, and making my unqualified daughter, herself one of the deepest and most treasured failures of my life, the centerpiece of my campaign's public outreach."

"What lessons can we learn from the spectacular failure of my campaign? The most important is that in Washington, failure can never be punished. It can only be rewarded, as I have been rewarded for my failures. That's the American way."

McCain concluded his address: "When I reached out to Ms. O'Bagy to offer her this important position, where she will help in guiding our great nation to a war in Syria that is long overdue, I knew that she had the most important qualification for the job: the ability to succeed through failure. I look forward to working with her in the years to come. God bless America."

The Guns Of August

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99 years ago today, the first German uhlans crossed the Belgian frontier, seizing telegraph offices and rail stations. At 11:00 p.m., 99 years ago today, the United Kingdom entered a state of war with the German Reich. By midnight, the Royal Navy was steaming to battle stations.

British Navy
Once the Germans crossed that frontier, which was guaranteed by Britain, there was no turning back.

99 years later, many of the descendants of the men who fought in the British Expeditionary Force believe that the event that triggered the Great War was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Many more believe that it was Margaret Thatcher, rather than Herbert Asquith, who declared war. One of the leading sources of British knowledge of the Great War is "Blackadder."

This is the world that was made, 99 years ago today.

Somewhere In The Happy Hunting Grounds, Paul Mirengoff Is Smiling

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You would think that James Meggesto, of powerhouse law firm Akin Gump's Native American lobbying practice, would know better than most that a poorly worded joke on the internet can ruin a career, given that Meggesto used a poorly worded joke to ruin Paul Mirengoff's career two years ago.

You would think.

(Via Above the Law, which observes: "For the record, when a tweet opens with “Resisting urge to tweet…”, you’ve failed.")

Edit:

To elaborate on why this is a big deal:

In his tweet, Meggesto, a lawyer representing clients with interests adverse to those of the witness, called the witness a liar, as the witness was testifying before Congress. This probably isn't actionable libel, as it fails to identify a false statement, and fails to name a time and place. If Meggesto had said, "the witness is lying right now, before Congress, as I tweet this," Meggesto would be in very hot water. Meggesto didn't quite accuse the witness of perjury, but he came close.

Meggesto's tweet also dances around the edges of the codes of ethics that govern attorneys. An attorney may not accuse a sworn witness in an adversarial proceeding of lying. There are many reasons for this, including decorum, respect for the court, and respect for witnesses, but the main reason, I think, is that a witness so accused cannot seek redress for the accusation: attorneys are generally immune from suit for statements made in an adversarial proceeding, about anyone. For instance, if I said about someone like Meggesto in court: "He isn't a real lawyer, and he doesn't have a real law practice: he only facilitates graft by funneling money to legislators with their hands out," the person of whom I was speaking couldn't sue me for defamation.

But since Meggesto wasn't appearing as an advocate before Congress that day, on that matter, he gets a pass.

By any measure, Meggesto's conduct is sleazy. He did call a sworn witness, appearing before a body with the power to require oaths in a matter adverse to the interests of his clients, a liar. He almost but not quite called him a perjurer, and he insulted a Congressman. Make what jokes about that you will, it's poor form for a man who lobbies Congress to speak ill, in public, of elected representatives.

Finally, and I can say this without fear of reprisal: Meggesto is stupid, a dumb braying ass who, if this is indicative of his intelligence and his character, has no business representing clients before a traffic court judge, much less Congress.

A Random Bit Of Media Criticism

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The wanton ignorance and depravity of NPR's coverage of the George Zimmerman trial knows no bounds.

4:34 pm eastern time. The drunken blockhead National Public Radio has assigned to cover the trial announces that because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, George Zimmerman does not need to prove that he did not murder Trayvon Martin. This journalistic excrescence cannot go unaddressed.

First, George Zimmerman is not invoking Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. He is invoking the ancient and time-honored doctrine of self-defense, that a man confronted by deadly force is entitled to use deadly force in return for the preservation of his life.

Second, and more importantly, the reason George Zimmerman does not need to prove that he did not murder Trayvon Martin is because ALL CIVILIZED JUSTICE SYSTEMS FROM AT LEAST THE TIME OF ROME have placed the burden of proof on the prosecution. In the archaic and outdated "English common law" from which our justice system derives, this was the first principle.

What this wine-soaked oaf could have said, and he'd still have been wrong though not nearly by as much, is that self-defense is an affirmative defense, with the burden on the defendant. In actuality, all a defendant needs to do in Florida is to introduce competent evidence that he was confronted by force sufficient to make a reasonable man fear for his safety. Then the burden shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.

It is no wonder that the average American is so confused by the laws that govern him. We lawyers bear much of the blame, and the courts and the legislatures bear more, but the average American is so ill-served by the press, even the serious press like NPR, that he might as well turn to television entertainment programs for understanding.

NPR could have dug up a retired Soviet judge from the Brezhnev era to cover this trial, and given him an undergraduate Russian major as a translator, and their listeners would be better informed than they are today.

Truly miserable.