The Conversation

Politics: Policy issues, legislation and political topics of all sorts.

Did everyone enjoy Senator Feinstein's gun show?

Jan 24, 2013 11:42 PM PT

I certainly did, although I see reactions from certain quarters of law enforcement are a bit more tepid.  Everyone knows the bill is doomed at the hands of red-state Democrats, which is funny, because it seems like only yesterday that Democrats were howling about Republicans wasting America's time with symbolic votes, particularly "sheer political theater" that was "wasting a lot of time and scaring a lot of people."  Oh well, at least Dianne Feinstein had the self-restraint to avoid using a strobe light and tin foil to simulate scary thunder and lightning when she held up the dreaded "assault weapon."

Among my favorite moments was Senator Dick Durbin saying that gun control "isn't just a matter of an issue of the Constitution, it's an issue of conscience, an issue of conscience."  This is as close to a pure expression of anti-constitutionalism as you'll ever find: all that talk from the powdered-wig set about "inalienable rights" and "Congress shall make no law" must melt away when deeply caring statists have a really swell idea that they truly, madly, deeply believe is the best thing for their subjects.  The whole point behind the Bill of Rights is to secure rights by blocking government power, and it doesn't matter how frustrated the government becomes; if Durbin and company want to sweep those Constitutional issues aside, they can launch the amendment process and follow the proper procedure for altering or nullifying the Second Amendment.  Of course, they won't do that, because they know it's incredibly difficult.  It's supposed to be.

Obama the "Communitarian"

Jan 24, 2013 5:16 PM PT

 Over at Big Government, Jeremy Segal, aka RebelPundit reported that Van Jones described Obama as a communitarian after a lecture at Loyola University, Wednesday night.

 Jones compared the president’s address to that of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and recommended that the theater full of college students read Reagan’s “powerful” and “strong,” inaugurals, which he said were “rooted in American tradition and values,” but “unabashedly” and “unapologetically conservative.”

Following Jones's comparison of President Obama to Ronald Reagan, the “unabashedly conservative” president, I pressed Jones further for some insight into what and who President Obama really is.

Jones replied: “He is a communitarian.” He then elaborated briefly: “I mean you always have individualism, communitarianism, as a part of the, American story, and I think we’ve overbalanced the individualistic direction and I think he’s trying to rebalance toward communitarianism.”

Later, when asked (off tape) to define "communitarian," Jones was unable to answer or to point toward any source for a definition. He said there wasn’t really a way to look up “communitarianism.” 

He did reiterate, however, that he saw communitarianism as a counterbalance to libertarianism, which he equated to “individualism.”

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One possible weakness of a constituency system

Jan 24, 2013 3:03 PM PT

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that democracies are weak when it comes to foreign policy. The Senate's failure to hold Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama himself accountable for the Benghazi disaster is a case in point. But the Clinton hearing, and the confirmation hearing of her successor, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the day after, revealed an additional weakness of our system.

Proponents of a parliamentary, proportional system or representation, as opposed to our winner-takes-all constituency system, argue (correctly) that parliamentary systems do a better job of representing political minorities. The advantage of our constituency-based system is that representatives are directly accountable to the people, not to distant party bosses--at least in theory, and certainly more so than in parliamentary models.

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Godwin's Gun-Grabber Salon

Jan 11, 2013 7:32 PM PT

Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald parses Brown University historian Omer Bartov to attack American gun rights advocates as being ignorant of history when it comes to Hitler and gun control:

"Bartov added that this misreading of history is not only intellectually dishonest, but also dangerous. 'I happen to have been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces and I know what these assault rifles can do,' he said in an email. 

He continued: 'Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government - as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime - means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don't like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.'" 

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A Gun Control Analogy

Jan 11, 2013 9:39 AM PT

Banning guns for law abiding citizens because criminals use them to kill people is like banning cars because some people use them to drive drunk and kill people.

In both cases, you are restricting the activity of law abiding citizens in an attempt to control those, who by definition, do not follow the law. The result is people who wouldn't break the law in the first place are restricted and people who don't follow the law will continue not to follow the law. 

Brinkmanship: What Obama's Cabinet picks have in common

Jan 10, 2013 4:10 PM PT

President Obama's aim in his second term is to shatter conservative opposition, politically and ideologically. That's the clear message of his Cabinet picks thus far, who share the common characteristic of being radical and divisive (less so John Kerry, who was a second choice). Obama's not searching for compromise; he is provoking confrontation, and deliberately so, convinced he now has the (permanent) campaign machinery to win. That makes the 2014 elections all-important: Congress is a partial restraint on Obama right now, but if he can use the clashes ahead to convince enough voters that Republicans are the problem, Obama's last two years in office will look less like a lame duck term and more like a sprint to the finish for his left-wing agenda.

An Orwellian turn of phrase for Obama's policies

Jan 9, 2013 2:04 AM PT

I think analogies to Stalin should be as taboo as analogies to Hitler, especially since communism has killed so many more people, but a phrase used by Orwell to describe Stalin's foreign policy often comes to mind when I consider Obama's muddled policies on just about anything:

"I believe that in the future we shall come to feel that Stalin's foreign policy, instead of being so diabolically clever as it is claimed to be, has been merely opportunistic and stupid." - Looking Back on the Spanish War, 1942

Al Gore Trashed by Current TV Staff

Jan 8, 2013 1:55 PM PT

The New York Post spoke to staffers at Current TV who are now being introduced to their new owners at Al Jazeera. Al Gore himself was apparently not on hand for the transition. But no hard feelings, right? Well, not exactly:

“Of course Al didn’t show up,” said one high placed Current staffer. “He has no credibility.

“He’s supposed to be the face of clean energy and just sold [the channel] to very big oil, the emir of Qatar! Current never even took big oil advertising—and Al Gore, that bulls***ter sells to the emir?”


The displeasure with Gore among the staff was thick enough to cut with a scimitar.

“We all know now that Al Gore is nothing but a bulls***ter,” said the staffer bluntly.

We do stories on the tax code, and he sells the network before the tax code kicked in?

“Al was always lecturing us about green. He kept his word about green all right—as in cold, hard cash!”

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