An NSA Watchdog not an NSA Lapdog

I was deeply disappointed in Congressman Chris Van Hollen's decision today to vote against the Amash Amendment to defund the NSA's massive spying program on patriotic, law-abiding American citizens, a program eerily reminiscent of Eastern European Communist dictatorships and unworthy of a free society. To have a national police force spying on every aspect of every citizen's life, accountable only to a rubber-stamp court hand-picked by George Bush's Chief Justice, is intolerable and un-American. I can safely say that on this day, for the first time, I am ashamed to be a Van Hollen supporter. We need an NSA watchdog not an NSA lapdog.

Hypocrisy Southern Style

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wants to ban any federal aid to Detroit in order to save federal dollars, even as his own state's economy only survives because it wallows in more federal dollars than a pig in . . . you know.

You Didn't Build That or Where Did I Go Wrong?

My superficial resemblance to Mitt Romney does not extend to his great wealth. I am admittedly the son of an automobile executive, albeit not a CEO or a governor, and Romney and I went to some of the same schools, and we both ended up with a law degree. Now, I realize that for Mitt to be more than a thousandfold wealthier than I am, he did not have to be more than a thousand times smarter and harder working. Probably he is both smarter and harder working, with a better temperament, at least enough to reach some kind of tipping point after which wealth just explodes exponentially. But I don't quite see how Romney's edge makes him more than a thousand times more deserving than I am. And I am also pretty sure that Romney is fortunate simply because fortune has smiled on him, and that there are plenty of other people, equally talented and ambitious, who will live on modest means and die in obscurity. As the Good Book reminds us, time and chance happen to us all. See Ecclesiastes 9:11.

The Naked Romney and the Unrobed Royal

Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post takes first prize for the most strained rationalization of Mitt Romney's crude remarks to a group of fatcat donors about the dependency culture of half of America. Petri writes:

Didn’t we agree as a society that no one had any privacy any longer? There is no such thing as In Private. Look what happened to Mitt Romney. If you want to say some off-the-record remarks to donors, the only way to do so is to erase the donors’ memories afterwards — and confiscate their phones. (A variant of this argument implies darkly that any woman who ever exits the house without being entirely covered deserves whatever is coming to her. In fact, how dare she make her Womanly Parts visible to anyone, even her husband? Shame, shame. But the less this is dwelt on, the better.)

Petri translates indignation over a woman's inability to sunbathe in her own home without being photographed into indignation over a political candidate's inability to deceive the American public by concealing his too candid remarks at a $50,000 a plate dinner. It is one thing to argue that royal figureheads should not be subject to intrusive photographs in their homes. It is quite another to shill for a presidential candidate by suggesting that he has the same expectation of privacy in the midst of a political cabal. Put another way, while Kate Middleton's breasts may excite as much attention as Mitt Romney's (alleged) thoughts, there is clearly a much more compelling national interest in the unveiling of the latter than the former. Petri cheapens her asserted indignation over Middleton's loss of privacy by making it a stalking horse for Mitt's catastrophic moment of candor.

George Will: Segregationist

George Will writes in the Washington Post that a wedding photographer is being victimized by a lawsuit over her refusal to photograph a gay commitment ceremony because of her religious beliefs. Will writes, "Elaine Huguenin, who with her husband operates Elane Photography in New Mexico, asks only to be let alone." But, of course, she doesn't ask only to be let alone. She asks to operate a public business, but to serve only customers who meet with her approval based on her religious beliefs. By Will's logic, she might just as easily be entitled to reject Catholics or Mormons based on their religion.

But what really leaves a bad taste in Will's mouth is that the victims of Huguenin's discrimination decided to sue. 'Willock could then have said regarding Elane Photography what many same-sex couples have long hoped a tolerant society would say regarding them — “live and let live."' Just as, after all, Martin Luther King, Jr. could have gone to eat at a different lunch counter and Rosa Parks could have quietly sat at the back of the bus.

King had words to the well-meaning white people George Will (perhaps unconsciously) echoes:

Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Ms. Huguenin is free to practice whatever poisonous bigotry she wishes in her home and in her "church." However, she is and ought not to be not entitled to freedom to deny others retail services based on either her religious ideosyncracies or their sexual orientation.

We needed these words then. We need them now.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Speech Announcing the Second New Deal October 31, 1936