Archive for October 15th, 2009

Good Happenings on the Right


It is good news when so much positive energy is being generated on the right that there isn’t time or space to do justice to the examples. Forgive, then, the brevity of each item of this roundup, but don’t hesitate to jump in and help if any of these endeavors impresses you.

First, consider the Contract From America. Yes, from America, not with America. That older Contract with America served its purpose in 1994 and will not be duplicated. Instead, the new Contract From America takes advantage of new technology to create a “collaborative grassroots effort to create a document that offers real change in Washington D.C. and the state capitals.” This isn’t just “viral marketing,” it’s viral policy creation. The only thing imposed from above is the Preamble — and it’s a good one. I love the part in the first sentence that says a new contract is needed “in order to protect our country from those who seek power and authoritarian control under the false guise of compassion and altruism.” And yes, it certainly is a false guise that today’s left is wearing. Anyway, the three short parts of the Preamble pledge fealty to individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom. In a nutshell, that’s what modern conservatism — otherwise known as classical liberalism — is all about.

All of the programmatic details of the new Contract are to be worked out by the thousands upon thousands (the organizers hope) of participants across the nation.

Do take a look. It’s a great idea.

Second, consider the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. To quote liberally from its mission statement, the Franklin Center sponsors “programs that promote journalism and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence, fraud, or taxpayer abuse by elected officials at all levels of government. The Franklin Center will accomplish these goals by networking and training independent investigative reporters, as well as journalists from state based news organizations, public-policy institutions & watchdog groups.” The Center just went public about a month ago. It helps put donors together with local investigative reporters and news bureaus. The idea is, of course, to shine a light on government corruption and waste — you know, the things that traditional newspapers already are supposed to do, but somehow miss because they get co-opted either by power elites or by their own ideological blinders.

Of course, the Center’s grantees will break basic political news too. For instance, in Nevada, the Franklin-backed Nevada News Bureau broke the story that a Republican former state senator named Joe Heck, who had been running for governor, instead would switch gears and run for Congress against incumbent Democrat Dina Titus.

Eventually, if the Franklin grantees break the news, other news organizations will be forced to report the news as well. But they won’t be able to put the original liberal spin on the news that heretofore has so often been the province of whatever news-organization behemoth first airs or publishes the report. The early bird defines the worm. In more and more places, the Franklin Center will be that early bird — thank goodness.

Third, consider the plethora — a growing plethora, if a plethora can grow — of conservative websites and blogs that do a better and better job of spreading truth and wisdom far and wide. There is no way, of course, to list them all, and I hesitate to list any for fear of offending some people by leaving them out. All I can do is to promise to make amends later for sins by omission — but here are some ones I’ve stumbled on recently that impress me. Robert Belvedere has Camp of the Saints. Jeff Perren and Michael Moeller have Shaving Leviathan. My friend Bob Jones IV has The Shrinking Cleric. Jerry Kane has The Millstone Diaries. The Wanderer is anything but new, but I include it because writer Dexter Duggan has been incredibly thoughtful and merits a wider audience. James Kidd runs PublicSquare.net, which features thought-provoking, extended debates. And while Jewish World Review has been around for years, I and many other conservative writers owe a great debt of gratitude to its proprietor, Binyamin L. Jolkovsky, who has been serving constructive conservatism so well for so long.

Finally, for now, a little advertisement for some colleagues at the Washington Times. The Water Cooler and The Conservatives.com are two blogs there that are breaking news and doing great stuff.

There: That’s enough for now. I’ll try to update this list in the future, many times. Obviously, a number of conservative websites are already well established, and I shied away from most of those here. But I just think it’s time to start acknowledging new talent coming along, or to thank some who I haven’t adequately thanked. Mutual support among conservatives is essential for the movement, and the cause.

Quin Hillyer is a senior editorial writer at the Washington Times and senior editor of The American Spectator. He can be reached at QHillyer@gmail.com.


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The Rush Limbaugh media lynch mob

By Toby Harnden

Which public figure can be quoted as having said something bigoted and disgusting and it doesn’t matter whether he did or not because he might have? Who can Big Media brand a racist without checking the facts? Who has to prove he did not say something racist, rather than the accuser proving he did?

A pat on the back for anyone who guessed the answer: Rush Limbaugh (OK, the blog headline was a clue). From CNN  to MSNBC to ABC, it’s been put about that Limbaugh said this:

I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.

It’s also been spread around that he said this, about the death of the man who assassinated Martin Luther King:

You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honour? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed.

Trouble is, he didn’t say either of these outrageous things. And it wasn’t difficult to check, as protein wisdom shows here. They originated from, er, Wikipedia and Wikiquotes. Both quotes ended up in this book – a hit job that doesn’t cite any sources. They’re also included in this internet list posted a year ago and endlessly ripped off ever since.

The irony is, of course, that the people reporting this as fact are the same types who are always denouncing bloggers and the internet as forces of evil intent on destroying proper journalism – proper journalism being the kind that involves checking facts. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, however, it seems to be enough that the intention (i.e. to show the talk radio host is a racist) is considered pure.

Even those who have been primary movers in spreading these malicious falsehoods – which would lead to payouts of hundreds of thousands in British libel courts if lawsuits were ever filed there – are brazenly unapologetic.

Thus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell pens this column containing the slavery quote and then follows up with another column with a kind-of-sort-of-well-not-really-at-all mea culpa in which he states that the quote seemed “so in character with the many things that Limbaugh has said before that we didn’t verify it beyond the book”.

OK, so it sounded right and it was on the internet or in a book or something so it was fine to just go ahead and print it as stone-cold fact without any attribution? I wonder which journalism school teaches that?

And Burwell caps it off by implying – nudge, nudge, wink, wink – that Limbaugh’s really lying: “Fine, let’s play along for the time being and take him at his word that he was inaccurately quoted in the Huberman book.” I’m no fan of British libel laws but, again, if that had been printed in the UK it would have led to a hefty payout for aggravated damages.

Limbaugh is, understandably, on the war path because the smear of racism is one is very, very difficult to wipe clean:

When race is brought into it, that you can’t let stand. I mean, if you, if people are trying to destroy your reputation and your credibility, your life, and your career by attacking you as a racist, then you have to stand up and, like that.

Now we are in the process behind the scenes working to get apologies and retractions, with the force of legal action, against every journalist who has published these entirely fabricated quotes about me, slavery, and James Earl Ray.

I never said them. We have tracked them. We know where they came from. We don’t know the identity, but we know where they came from – a single blogger who posted the stuff on my Wikipedia page and Wikiquotes, unsourced.

Wikipedia says, ‘Well, this is in dispute.’ It’s not in dispute. They were never uttered. I never said them. And I’ve even told reporters I never said them.

As Mark Steyn points out, in this instance it’s for Limbaugh to prove the negative – an impossible task. And Dan Calebrese asks why if Limbaugh really is a racist then it takes bogus quotes to “prove” that he is?

What’s the term for those who are setting about “racist” Rush Limbaugh right now? Ironically, it seems to be “lynch mob”. And they’ve succeeded – word is that Limbaugh’s been dropped from the consortium seeking to buy the St Louis Rams.

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U.S. troop funds diverted to pet projects

By Shaun Waterman

Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.

Among the 778 such projects, known as earmarks, packed into the bill: $25 million for a new World War II museum at the University of New Orleans and $20 million to launch an educational institute named after the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

While earmarks are hardly new in Washington, “in 30 years on Capitol Hill, I never saw Congress mangle the defense budget as badly as this year,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer who worked on defense funding and oversight for both Republicans and Democrats. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, an independent research organization.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, called the transfer of funds from Pentagon operations and maintenance “a disgrace.”

“The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Wheeler, who conducted the study, compared the Obama administration’s requests for funds with the $636 billion spending bill that the Senate passed. He discovered that senators added $2.6 billion in pet projects while spending $4 billion less than the administration requested for fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1.

Mr. Wheeler said that senators took most of the cash for the projects from the “operations and maintenance” or O&M accounts.

“These are the accounts that pay for troop training, repairs, spares and supplies for vehicles, weapons, ships and planes, food and fuel,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Raiding those accounts to fund big-ticket projects the military does not want, but that benefit senators’ home states or campaign contributors, amounts to “rancid gluttony,” he said.

The administration’s budget requested $156 billion for the regular O&M account and $81 billion for O&M for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill passed by the Senate cut $2.4 billion from the regular account and $655 million from the war O&M fund.

Senate appropriators insisted that the O&M accounts, despite the cuts, do not shortchange the troops.

“The operation and maintenance title is fully funded,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, said during the debate on the bill. “There is no shortage. … The committee is deeply concerned that the critical operational needs of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are met with the finest equipment available.”

Money for the Kennedy Institute was inserted by Mr. Inouye and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, and Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, sought the funding for the World War II museum.

Whitney Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, said the earmark was “a worthy investment.”

“Sen. Kennedy served on the Armed Services Committee for 27 years, where he fought to deliver top-of-the-line body armor and armored Humvees to protect our troops and save lives. Educating Americans about these battles is a core mission for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, which showcases one senator’s ability to make a difference,” Mr. Smith wrote in an e-mail. “This funding will help the Edward M. Kennedy Institute become one the nation’s pre-eminent civic educational institutions, and Sen. Kerry is proud to have worked with Chairman Inouye to make it possible.”

Mrs. Landrieu said she was “proud to fight” for money for the World War II museum, which is not just a “monument to the brave men and women who served during World War II,” but also “a constant reminder to future generations about the tremendous sacrifice of millions of Americans.” She added that the earmarked funds “will help to increase tourism to New Orleans.”

Beyond those two earmarks, the largest in the Senate bill are:

– $20 million for Humvee maintenance at an Army National Guard installation in Maine, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republicans. The senators said cuts in the maintenance program proposed by the administration would result in the “layoff of 175 employees in a region already suffering” from the recession.

– $20 million for the Maui Space Surveillance System in Hawaii, requested by Mr. Inouye.

– $25 million inserted by Mr. Inouye for the Hawaii Federal Health Care Network. Mr. Inouye’s Web site says the health care program “supports applied research, development and deployment of technology to improve access and the quality of care to service members, military families and impacted communities.”

Laura Peterson, of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan spending watchdog, told The Washington Times, “Earmarks like these take money away from other defense programs that the Defense Department actually wants. While military health care is certainly a worthwhile venture, it’s hard to see how a program located in Hawaii that openly favors Hawaii-based industries guarantees [the Department of Defense] the best value for such an exorbitant price tag.”

Mr. Inouye had a total of 35 earmarks worth more than $206 million in the final bill, and the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, sponsored 48 worth $216 million.

Mr. Cochran defended earmarking as part of Congress’ responsibility to direct government spending.

“I am not ready to cede the power of the purse to any administration,” he told The Times in an e-mail. “It is vested by the Constitution in the Congress.” He added that appropriators had “reviewed the budget request very carefully, conducted public hearings and reported the appropriation bills that the committee thinks will serve the public interest.”

In addition to the $2.6 billion in earmarks, the bill includes $2.5 billion for 10 Boeing C-17 cargo planes that the military says it does not need, and $1.7 billion for an extra DDG-51 destroyer not requested in the Pentagon’s budget proposal.

Mr. Coburn mounted a rear-guard action on the Senate floor to try to restore some of the money to its original purpose. One proposed amendment restored $100 million to the accounts by correcting the economic projections used in the bill to estimate future costs. That passed, but other amendments to prevent the use of O&M money to fund earmarks were soundly defeated.

Mr. Wheeler said senators had raided O&M accounts to pay for narrowly targeted projects in every budget since 2002, with dire results for troops on the front lines.

Air Force and Navy combat pilots training to deploy are getting about half of the flying hours they got at the end of the Vietnam War,” he wrote in his analysis. “Army tank crews get less in tank training today than they did during the low-readiness Clinton years.”

Mr. Wheeler told The Times that the figures were drawn from the Pentagon’s budget justification.

Mr. Coburn said in May that the Navy had been forced to curtail at-sea training and flying because of a shortfall in 2009 O&M funds.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has called on lawmakers to reverse the cuts.

“These reductions would hurt force readiness and increase stress on military people and equipment,” the agency said.

The House approved its version of the bill in July. Ms. Peterson said that lawmakers still could restore the funding in the conference that reconciles the two versions of the bill.

The conference “presents a final opportunity for Congress to take their hands out of the cookie jar and put some dough where it’s really needed – protecting our fighting men and women,” she said. [emphasis mine]


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