Monday, May 05, 2014

Cruising the Web

Here is a lovely profile of Justice Samuel Alito. He sounds like a thoroughly nice man. The article discusses some of his crucial opinions and mentions his lone dissent United States v. Stevens in which the Court struck down a federal ban on crush videos which depict animals being stomped to death. It struck me that there are justices on the Supreme Court that regard a ban on such videos or limits on the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funerals of soldiers by shouting homophobic taunts as unconstitutional, but are quite willing to support bans on political speech. That seems like such a reversal of the purpose of the First Amendment protections which was envisioned by the Founders as protecting political speech above all other speech.
I ask him what Stevens and Snyder tell us about the limits of the free speech. “The core of the First Amendment is political speech. Any restriction of political speech I think is very dangerous. That is what was involved in Citizens United. This was speech about a candidate for president. What could be more important than that? It’s about the free exchange of ideas concerning public policy, economics, science, art, religion, philosophy, all of those things.

“Now I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I think I understand the impulse to say that we cannot tolerate any restrictions on freedom of speech because if we allow it even when it’s something like a video of a woman stomping a little animal, then that kind of limitation will begin to restrict the things that need to be covered. But if a court is going to allow restrictions on political speech or intellectual debate or discussion of the arts, our having ruled on these outliers is not going to stop it.”

Here, I cannot help but think, are hints of what sounds suspiciously like common sense. Is the law really incapable of distinguishing between videos of illegal animal cruelty and of, say, a father and son deer hunting? Is yelling anti-gay epithets at the grief-stricken families of non-homosexual veterans really protected by the First Amendment? These are questions that ordinary Americans understand, and many people’s answers would, one suspects, tend to line up with Alito’s. Common sense is not the touchstone with which constitutional metal is assayed. But it helps.

George Will looks at a case going to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals next week concerning whether the fact that the Affordable Care Act ignored and bypassed the Constitution's Origination Clause should matter. Those who defend the Living Constitution approach to adjudicating tough cases always argue that there are some elements of the Constitution that are clear-cut and not in question. They give the example of the age requirements for being a president, representative, or senator. I would think that the Origination Clause is just as clear, but then, I'm not a liberal when it comes to deciding constitutional questions. However, Scott Johnson warns us not to look to the courts to save us.

More than 100 multi-millionaires and billionaires are joining together to elect Democrats at the state level. But I'm sure that the two Koch brothers are still the source of evil in politics and Democratic big spenders are on the side of the angels.

Adjunct professors are starting to fight back against how they are being treated by universities.

Do we really need a separate museum in the National Mall for the History of American Women? One is being proposed and the House of Representatives will consider it next week. Such a museum would undoubtedly become a politicized creation, as Heritage warns. Why spend all the money for another museum when we already have a museum of American History. Why can't it cover women's history? The history of women in American is, by necessity, interwoven into the entire fabric of the nation's history. It should be told as part of that story instead of segregated to a separate museum. But then I've always objected to having separate college departments devoted to women's or African American history. I like to look at the big picture instead of attempting the impossible task of disentangling major strands from history to present them separately.

The weak report on economic growth that we received last week underscores the problems facing our economy.
According to Congress's Joint Economic Committee, average growth over the 19 quarters of this recovery has been 2.2%, with total economic growth of 11.1%. The average for all post-1960 recoveries is 4.1% with total growth of 21.1%. The average for the Reagan expansion was 4.9% and total growth of 25.6%.

These are huge differences in foregone prosperity. While the numbers are abstractions, they mean lost opportunities and frustrated dreams for millions of Americans who must settle for fewer job openings or raises that never catch up with the rising cost of food and gasoline. If the trend of the last five years continues through 2016, the greatest failure of the Obama Presidency won't be health care or spreading world disorder. It will be this Not So Great Recovery.

You would therefore think that reviving growth even to 3% a year would be the number one political priority—not least because it would solve so many other problems. Faster growths means more jobs and thus fewer government welfare payments. It means college grads can pay off their student loans instead of sticking the default on taxpayers. And it means more revenue for the Treasury for politicians to spend.
This is the problem that our government's leaders should be discussing and it's a huge opening for politicians facing a presidential contest in 2016. Powerline chimes in with three charts demonstrating the failure of Obamanomics. And the Associated Press lists five cautionary signs in the most recent jobs report. Meanwhile, check out what the unemployment rate would look like if it included people who have dropped from the labor force.

David Harsanyi ponders when criticism of Israel lurches into anti-Semitism. I agree with everything he writes.

So just how has that experiment of merging Newsweek and Daily Beast fared? The title of Politico's so-called after-action report on the merger tells it all: "How to Lose $100 Million: The Undoing of Tina Brown."

Chris Cillizza explains why you should start buying Marco Rubio stock. Rubio has long been my prediction for being the GOP nominee in 2016.

So what evidence do we have on how smart Obama really is?