Archive for January, 2013
January 18th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
“Internet Freedom” Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Steal
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Various groups that favor such things as making the Internet a public utility have declared today “Internet Freedom Day.”  That’s a euphemism, unfortunately, meant to disguise a deeper animosity toward property rights.  What they falsely label “freedom of expression” is often a transparent aversion to straightforward intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property, or IP, simply refers to the legal protection accorded to creators in the same way that someone possesses a natural physical property right.  The only distinction is that IP protects inventions, artistic expressions and distinguishing trademarks.  Although opponents of IP falsely attempt to distinguish it from physical property by, among other things, asserting that physical property is finite whereas IP is infinite, that’s a sloppy distinction without a difference.  After all, if your automobile sits unused in a garage as you read this, then according to their logic its social utility would be increased by allowing someone who doesn’t own your car to use it while you are not.  Try telling a recording artist that after investing effort and financial resources in securing costly studio time and top-quality backup singers and band members, he or she has no right to the creation or to enjoy the fruits of his or her labor.

Protection of IP is necessary to not only secure for innovators the just fruits of their labor, but also to provide societal incentive for innovation.  No reasonable person opposes Internet freedom, but nor should that concept be used to disguise animosity toward property rights.

Today, IP remains under threat from foreign piracy, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Businesses reliant upon IP account for more than 60% of American exports, which are by nature more vulnerable to foreign piracy.  Those businesses also employ almost 55 million workers, pay their employees an average wage 30% higher than non-IP counterparts and account for $5.7 trillion of the nation’s GDP. Meanwhile, parasitic overseas websites continue to threaten that IP wellspring of innovation, jobs and prosperity.  Although estimates vary, foreign IP piracy now amounts to a cumulative enterprise that inflicts at least $500 billion in loss annually and now accounts for approximately 25% of all Internet traffic.

Each moment, rogue sites across the world seek to make an easy and illegal profit by selling things they had no hand in creating.  That has to stop.  Although many proponents of today’s so-called “Internet Freedom Day” will falsely demonize future efforts to curtail IP theft, they must be recognized as apologists for illegality.  Just something to bear in mind amidst the synthetic hoopla.

January 18th, 2013 at 1:36 pm
A Heroic Man of Faith

I missed this when it came out, but the story, and the telling of it, are so moving that it gave me chills. Read here about a real American hero, the Rev. Emil Kapuan, who saved (physically) and ministered to (physically and spiritually) to hundreds of soldiers during the Korean War. What a wonderful, poignant, inspirational piece! The author is Lt. Col. William Latham, AS Army Ret., who now teaches at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

This is really, really, really worth the read.

January 18th, 2013 at 11:45 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Lee:  2013 Index of Economic Freedom: U.S. Declines for Fifth Straight Year
Ellis:  Postal Service Reform Falls Short
Hillyer:  Congress Should Act Against Mandatory Medicare

Freedom Minute Video:  Our Make-Believe Government
Podcast:  Can Diverse Schools Simultaneously Educate all our Children?
Jester’s Courtroom:  Retired Teacher Fears Children, Sues School District

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

January 18th, 2013 at 9:48 am
Video: Our Make-Believe Government
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From taxes to federal spending to gun-control and beyond, “Everywhere we turn, we see our elected officials living in a fantasy world – proposing solutions that have nothing to do with our nation’s problems,” says CFIF’s Renee Giachino in this week’s Freedom Minute as she discusses “Our Make-Believe Government.”

January 17th, 2013 at 8:02 pm
Questions for Hagel

George Will has some excellent questions that should be put to Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel in the latter’s upcoming confirmation hearings.  Here are my three favorites:

●Do you agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s judgment that cuts under sequestration would “hollow out the force”? Can you give examples of procurements or deployments that justify your description of the Defense Department as “bloated”?

●Congress’s power to declare war has atrophied since it was last exercised (against Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on June 5, 1942). Should Congress authorize America’s wars?

●Speaking of the imperial presidency, do you believe that the use of drones to target specific individuals means presidents have an unreviewable power to kill whomever they define as enemies? Do you favor “signature strikes,” wherein drones attack not identifiable individuals but groups of young males whose characteristics match the “signature” of terrorists?

Read the whole list here.

January 16th, 2013 at 8:12 pm
Calif. Has $1 Trillion in Oil, But Would It Stop Govt. Spending?

Mark Mills writing in The Wall Street Journal says that projections about California’s latent shale oil reserves could be the silver bullet for the state’s fiscal woes:

The overall economic benefits of opening up the Monterey shale field could reach $1 trillion. One can only imagine the impact on California’s education system, social programs, infrastructure, and even energy-tech R&D. Moreover, with that kind of revenue, Sacramento tax collections could wipe out debt and deficits.

But is it really plausible that California’s big-spending political class would use the $1 trillion windfall to pay off the state’s debts and seed a rainy day fund?  Call me cynical, but it seems way more likely that state spending would increase above and beyond whatever windfall comes from oil drilling.

That said, I’d love for Sacramento to prove me wrong.  Let the fracking begin!

January 16th, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Erickson: Real Purpose of the Second Amendment

Now that President Barack Obama has announced the most sweeping gun control measures in generations, RedState’s Erick Erickson reminds us of what the Second Amendment is really about:

In all the talk that has happened and will happen, the press and the general public seem willing to ignore the actual purpose of the second amendment.

The amendment is not about sports. It is not about recreation. It is not about hunting. It is only partly about defending yourself from a criminal.

The second amendment is about ensuring a “free state.”

The 2nd Amendment, contrary to much of today’s conversation, has just as much to do with the people protecting themselves from tyranny as it does burglars. That is why there is so little common ground about assault rifles — even charitably ignoring the fact that there really is no such thing. If the 2nd Amendment is to protect the citizenry from even their own government, then the citizenry should be able to be armed.

There are plenty of arguments and bodies to suggest that we might, as a nation, need to rethink this. The Founders gave us that option. We can amend the Constitution.

In doing so, we should keep in mind that in the past 100 years Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, China, and other governments have turned on their people at various times and, in doing so, restricted freedoms starting often with gun ownership. You may think a 30 round magazine is too big. Under the real purpose of the second amendment, a 30 round magazine might be too small.

Erickson is right.  If it’s true that times have changed, and the Founders’ method of ensuring a free state is no longer dependent on individual access to weapons that would repel tyranny, then there is a mechanism to do that.  It’s not unilaterally mandating twenty-three executive actions.  It’s amending the U.S. Constitution.

January 16th, 2013 at 8:31 am
Coincidence? Obama Introduces New Gun Agenda on Anniversary of Prohibition
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On this date in 1919, Prohibition became the law of the land via the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  We all know how wise and effective that proved.

Today, Barack Obama unveils his new gun control agenda to the nation, using an audience of children as props.  Even had they realized the coincidence, we suspect that the White House wouldn’t recognize the irony.

January 14th, 2013 at 6:58 pm
Obama Misses Budget Deadline, Again

The Hill provides the text of a letter sent by the White House Office of Management and Budget to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI).

In it, the OMB’s Deputy Director for Management blames the late resolution of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations for causing the White House to violate the law by missing the February 4 deadline for submitting a budget to Congress.

But as The Hill notes, that excuse is nonsense when considered in light of the Obama Administration’s record on budgets:

Under the law, President Obama must submit a budget by the first Monday in February, but he has met the deadline only once. The annual budget submission is supposed to start a congressional budgeting process, but that has also broken down. The Senate last passed a budget resolution in 2009.

Left out of that tidy little summation is the fact that the House Republicans have never failed to pass a budget resolution during the entire time Obama has been president.

The failure of Washington to “work” in the Obama Era is not a failure of substance; both parties are relatively clear about their policy visions.  What’s grinding the system to a halt is the liberal disregard of legal procedures like statutorily defined deadlines.  Throw out the rules, and suddenly no one knows how to play the game.  As I said last week, unless the budget process is amended to enact meaningful punishment on parties who violate it, nothing else is likely to change.

January 14th, 2013 at 4:40 pm
THIS WEEK’s RADIO SHOW LINEUP: CFIF’s Renee Giachino Hosts “Your Turn” on WEBY Radio 1330 AM
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Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 (CST)/5:00 pm (EST):  William Yeatman – Assistant Director, Center for Energy and Environment, Competitive Enterprise Institute:  Global Warming;

4:30 (CST)/5:30 pm (EST):  Pete Sepp –  Executive Vice President, National Taxpayers Union:  Tax Increases without Spending Cuts;

5:00 (CST)/6:00 pm (EST):  Bob Norton – Vice President for External Relations, Bradley Foundation:  Our Cars’ Weight Problem; and

5:30 (CST)/6:30 pm (EST):  Gregory Gwyn-Williams, Jr. – Blogger, Armed Neighborhood Fortress and Gun Control.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

January 14th, 2013 at 12:06 pm
Artur Davis Defends Tea Partiers

The ever-thoughtful former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, who is definitely of the center-right rather than the Tea Party right, nonetheless does a nice job defending the energy and many of the motivations of Tea Party activists in this essay at his web site.

The shortest distance in modern politics is the one between a Republican willing to denounce his party for extremism and the set of a cable or Sunday morning talk show. The gift of exposure is waiting for the cheap ticket of describing today’s Republicans as an intolerant set of know-nothings whom one no longer recognizes…. One modest proposal for Republican moderates: spend more time traveling the side roads to the buffet chains and libraries where, for example, local Tea Parties organize. The virtue of the trip, for a moderate, would be a discovery that a Tea Party conclave is as likely to include a civil engineer, or retired university professor as is the regular party committee, and far more likely to contain volunteers than are the luncheons of platinum level donors. Among other discoveries, to draw on personal experience, the presence of people like one Tea Party activist in Virginia, whose other major volunteer engagement is a network in Richmond for tutoring homeless young adults; or a Tea Party activist in Fairfax County who risked a lucrative career in business development over exposing a client’s wage scale that systematically discriminated against blacks.

Davis does not specifically refer to Colin Powell’s demagogically unfair remarks on Meet the Press yesterday, but his essay’s message (if not its direct intent, which surely had nothing to do with Powell) stands as a tacit rebuke to the Powells of the world who rush to denounce and smear good, decent Americans.

Again, though, that’s not the point of his essay. The point is that centrists and rightists should work to find common ground and build on that, rather than seek areas of disagreement and bash each other over those disagreements.  (As it so happens, I have an essay coming out in the February print edition of The American Spectator that makes a plea for a similar approach.) He’s correct, and his constructive advice is one that everybody right of center ought to take to heart.

January 14th, 2013 at 11:44 am
Colin Powell’s Rank Falsehoods

I and others have rightly blasted some of Colin Powell’s cheap shots in his Meet the Press interview yesterday, but I missed one of them until just now. He accused Republicans of deliberately “making it hard for these minorities to vote, as they did in the last election.” He also said “the courts struck most of that down.” Both parts of that allegation are incorrect. As Hans von Spakovsky(among others)  has repeatedly noted, there is no evidence that any voter ID laws have disenfranchised legitimate voters, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. And courts have repeatedly found voter ID laws to be perfectly reasonable, legitimate, and constitutional, with the DC Circuit issuing yet another ruling just last week in favor of such laws and against the Obama administration. Of course, when the Supreme Court itself heard a challenge to voter-ID laws, it ruled 6-3 in favor of the law’s constitutionality.

Now, let’s move on to Powell being aghast at Sarah Palin’s use of the expression “shuck and jive.” Granted, as soon as I heard Palin use it, I realized she had made a big error. I do think the term can carry racial connotations. What’s key here is the context. If you use the expression to describe a black man currying favor with whites, that’s a rather insensitive remark, to say the least. But if Powell is so concerned about governors using the term, he really ought to make sure he denounces current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And if he’s of the opinion that the statement of one governor (or former governor) is ipso facto evidence or even proof of a deep racial insensitivity on the part of the governor’s whole political party, then surely Powell today will clarify his remarks by blasting Cuomo’s Democratic Party as well. After all, Cuomo’s remarks were more directly descriptive of the sort of behavior that creates a racial/racist caricature than Palin’s ever were. “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference,” he said, adding “all those moves you can make with the press don’t work when you are in someone’s living room.” As the original “shuck and jive” slander specifically referred to minstrel-show-like movements, Cuomo’s use of the term hit far closer to the racist home than Palin’s ever did.

And, as many others have noted, Obama’s own press secretary used the term “shuck and jive” as well. So why hasn’t Colin Powell denounced him?

(NOTE: One of those videos to which I linked had an extended piece on the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate. I do NOT, NOT, NOT, endorse anything having to do with those allegations. It was just the only link I could find in a QUICK search that included both parts of the interview that I address in this post.)

January 14th, 2013 at 10:43 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Our National Debt
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez. 

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 11th, 2013 at 4:02 pm
CFIF Files Official Comment Opposing Monopolistic LEED Certification Standard
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We at CFIF have filed an official public comment with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), opposing imposition of an economically-destructive and scientifically-dubious monopolistic LEED certification standard:

On behalf of 300,000 supporters and activists throughout the nation, the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) respectfully but firmly exhorts the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) against monopolistic LEED certification standards, including many of its proposed LEED v4 standards, that rely on biased and scientifically-dubious policies, raise prices, reduce consumer choice, cost American jobs and harm domestic industry in favor of overseas competitors.  American consumers and businesses are entitled to make informed choices, and to act upon them in purchasing decisions.  Free and open certification processes that allow businesses to choose the system that best fits their profile, and allows consumers choice in the marketplace, will increase ‘green’ products available in consumer and building markets.”

As we point out, environmental ideologues seek to impose a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification monopoly.  As part of that campaign, they’ve pressured Fortune 500 companies, as well as federal, state and municipal governments to satisfy their agenda.   As a consequence, the market has become increasingly distorted, with real costs for domestic producers of wood products and fewer affordable choices for consumers,  but no measurable environmental benefit.  That policy also penalizes businesses that invested in alternative certification systems; favors foreign competitors in places like Russia, China and Brazil; discourages use of common building materials and products regularly found in construction projects like PVC piping, foam insulation, heat-reflective roofing and LED lighting; and jeopardizes American jobs, which explains why the International Association of Machinists and other unions whose rank-and-file members’ jobs are at risk favor recognition of other certifications than solely FSC to ensure the viability of tree farms in rural communities.

Fortunately, many in Congress agree with CFIF.  A bipartisan group of 74 legislators wrote the GSA and objected to the proposed changes.  Another letter from 56 members of the House to GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini objected to the changes, and stated the agency should reconsider the USGBC’s LEED rating system should the proposed changes occur.  In addition, at a July 19 House Government and Oversight Committee hearing, Congressional leaders raised concerns over the restrictive and arbitrary LEED process and the high costs the proposed changes will impose on American manufacturing and other sectors vital to U.S. economic recovery.

Additionally, a new USA Today special report found little link between “green buildings” and learning or energy use:

The green-school boom, a powerful and often costly phenomenon, is being driven largely by the Green Building Council, whose promise of student improvement and long-term cost savings has support from environmental and health advocates, teachers unions, school designers and the Department of Education. …  But a USA TODAY review of school-test records, LEED-certification documents and research reports shows little correlation between “green schools” and student performance or energy use.”

Although the objective of constructing more energy-efficient buildings may be a laudable goal, the closed process by which LEED standards are determined exacerbates the potential adverse economic effects listed above.  Meanwhile, other, alternative green building ratings systems place greater reliance on data, science and a consensus from various stakeholders.  Therefore, the better policy is to encourage sustainable development by recognizing all credible certification program options.

January 11th, 2013 at 1:54 pm
Conservatives Can Win Gun-Policy Fight

I explained why on WKRG-TV last night in Mobile, AL.

Hint: Look at the Dem seats up for re-election in the Senate in 2014.

January 11th, 2013 at 11:39 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Lee:  Gun Debate: U.S. Murder Rate Actually Low Worldwide
Hillyer:  Defend Defense; Win Political Battle
Ellis:  ObamaCare and the Doctor Shortage

Podcast:  The Texas Immigration Solution
Jester’s Courtroom:  Prisoners Try to Capture $1 Billion

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

January 11th, 2013 at 9:08 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The $1 Trillion Wooden Nickel
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez. 

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 11th, 2013 at 7:18 am
Podcast: The Texas Immigration Solution
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In an interview with CFIF, Brad Bailey, chairman and co-founder of The Texas Immigration Solution, discusses the need for real immigration reform and how the nation should look to implement The Texas Solution, a conservative, market-based reform being advocated by his organization.

Listen to the interview here.

January 9th, 2013 at 1:50 pm
Amend Budget Act, Not Constitution to Cut Spending?

Here at CFIF we’ve promoted the idea of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require Congress to pass balanced budgets every year with certain 60 percent supermajority thresholds for raising taxes or the debt ceiling.

The idea comes with a stellar pedigree since conservative icons like Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and the Contract with America all supported various Balanced Budget Amendments.

Alas, the BBA has yet to become law, and with the current lineup of liberals running the U.S. Senate and White House, it will be awhile before such an idea can be seriously discussed in Washington.

That said, Byron York says that Republicans might have an opening in the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling to get closer to a balanced budget; albeit by amending a statute, not the Constitution.

On its face, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 sets out a clear deadline for passing a budget by April 15 every year.  The problem, however, is that there is no enforcement mechanism to punish Congress if it fails to do so.  With Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Democrats failing to pass a budget for the last 1,351 days as of today, the budget law’s impotency is on full display.

York reports:

“The law doesn’t have teeth,” says a Senate aide involved in the fight.  “Sen. Sessions and others have proposed process reforms to give the budget law teeth (one reform would make it harder to pass spending bills without a budget), but the debt ceiling is the strongest leverage we have on this. This is the opportunity.”

In other words, it is precisely because the budget law has no enforcement provision that Republicans believe they need some other form of leverage, in this case the debt ceiling deadline, to force Reid and his fellow Democrats to move.  In addition, whatever happens in the debt ceiling standoff, it seems clear that the original budget law should be amended to include some sort of enforcement method.

This strategy strikes me as a great way to get real value in return for raising the nation’s debt ceiling.  Imagine how much different Obama’s first term would have been if instead of ignoring the House Republicans’ Paul Ryan-inspired budgets, the President and Senate Democrats had to negotiate its terms up against a hard deadline.  Liberals would have been forced to debate conservatives on specifics instead of substituting scare tactics for policy.

So far, Republicans have said they want entitlement reform in exchange for upping the ceiling, and for good reason since spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone account for about 44 percent of the federal budget (other entitlements push the total to 62 percent).  Moreover, since entitlement spending is not discretionary, meaning it isn’t determined in the normal appropriations process but by eligibility formulas, reining in federal spending will require statutory changes that can only be gotten when the stakes are very high.

But if York is right, then Republican strategists would be wise to include changes to the Congressional Budget Act along with spending reforms to entitlements.  Winning both would improve the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook by helping conservatives change the way Washington does business.

January 9th, 2013 at 12:21 pm
On Procedure

Ashton, just to be clear (in response to your post), I do understand the procedures. Here’s the thing: There is plenty of time to gauge, from press statements and elsewhere, a rather good sense of how many senators support a nomination, and therefore whether or not it will be killed in an up or down vote. My contention is that a senator seeing the tea leaves going in favor of Hagel could consider a hold before the nomination technically reaches the floor. I do not necessarily advocate this, but I think it’s worth looking into.

Sure, a majority leader can disregard a hold, technically. But if he does so, members of one’s own party, looking to protect their own prerogatives, are then MORE likely to join the “holder” in a subsequent filibuster.

But the main thing I advocate is not a hold, but the willingness to filibuster this thing to death. Of course I know that Reid is threatening to kill the filibuster, but there is blowback on his side, too. The rules will be determined in just a few weeks; from what I have read, the most likely outcome is that he will kill the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed to debate in the first place, but will probably not change the rules to disallow a filibuster on the motion to “call the question” — in other words, to end debate and hold a straight up-or-down vote.

Because this motion comes already after at least some debate has been held, it is perfectly consistent with my agreement with Ashton’s advocacy of using open debate to try to kill the nomination. Indeed, I think enough Democrats are skittish about Hagel that the nomination can indeed by killed in a straight up or down vote — and that there will be enough clear statements of Democratic opposition that it will be safe to allow it to go to such a vote.

BUT… BUT… BUT! — if it looks like Obama has strong-armed enough Dems that Hagel will get through, or has a good chance of doing so, THEN I think a filibuster is in order to keep debate going (technically speaking) and, in short, to forever block the nomination. By that time, the rules will be set already. Reid of course could then still use the nuclear option, but it would be mighty risky of him to do that after having already agreed to rules for this Congress that do allow a filibuster before proceeding to a final vote.

So I am not “wrong” about procedures. You may disagree with my advocacy of certain procedures, but that’s different from not understanding them fully.

And, for the record, I am not a huge fan of killing ANYTHING with a permanent filibuster. I am an advocate of a different kind of filibuster reform, which I have written about elsewhere. But the rules and their use should be consistent from party to party. Unless a fair-minded, apolitical reform is introduced, and absent serious constitutional (letter OR spirit) concerns that apply in the case of judicial nominees but not executive branch nominees, I think that a precedent as recent as the filibuster against John Bolton is one that should apply the first time the shoe is on the other party’s foot, so to speak, in terms of a major executive branch nomination.

This is especially true when the concerns go, as they do with Hagel, not just to mere political differences, but to major policy misjudgments, major evidence of unseemly bias, and character concerns.

Just as no anti-black racist should ever be confirmed for a high post, so to should no anti-Semite be so confirmed. This is basic stuff, getting to the very heart of moral fitness for office. I think there is solid evidence that Hagel has anti-Semitic (not just anti-Israel’s foreign policy) tendencies, and that he is also dangerously unwilling to even acknowledge obvious proof of terrorism if the terrorism in question is mostly aimed at Israel. He cannot, must not, ever, be confirmed.