Thursday, June 21, 2007


Excerpts from an Interview With Bernard Goldberg About His New Book, "Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right" -- courtesy of John Hawkins

Bernard Goldberg: My story resonates with millions and millions and millions of other Americans who started up on the left, and wound up on the right because they didn't feel comfortable in the Democratic Party anymore. It became a party of grievances. You know, in the beginning, I was for civil rights... I still am. But, being for civil rights at some point wasn't good enough, now I have to be for racial preferences. I have to be for a system that decides who gets into college, who gets government jobs, and gets government contracts largely based on the color of their skin. What's liberal about that? That's not liberal. That's the opposite of what Martin Luther King talked about, judging people based on the content of the character, not the color of their skin.

I was for women's rights, but then that wasn't enough, and I had to be for the right of a woman to be firefighter, if she wanted to be, even if she wasn't strong enough to carry a man out of a burning building. I don't think a woman has an inalienable right to be a firefighter.

Free speech, that's what liberals were really about. Look at any college campus today where there's a demonstration against somebody speaking, where they shout down somebody speaking because they don't like what that person is saying, and inevitably, the people doing the shouting down will be liberal students. I said, "You know what, that's not for me anymore."

John Hawkins:What do you think about the sort of rhetoric used on the left, particularly on the left side of the blogosphere? You know, Bush is Hitler, they're playing up conspiracy theories, that sort of thing?

Bernard Goldberg: It's very, very damaging because once somebody says, "Bush is Hitler," that isn't the beginning of a conversation, that ends the conversation. (There's a) chapter in the book, which is kind of funny, (where) Alec Baldwin is... (compared by his wife) to Saddam Hussein. And Alec Baldwin said, "I'm not Saddam Hussein, I don't kill people, I don't do what Saddam Hussein does", and I make the point in the book that Alec Baldwin is right. He has every right to say, "I'm not Saddam Hussein." Then I said, "Alec, now go out and show that same outrage with your Hollywood friends who call George Bush Adolph Hitler." Because that kind of Rosie O'Donnell rhetoric, where radical Christians are as bad as radical Muslims. the sort of rhetoric where Joy Behar on The View compares Donald Rumsfeld to Hitler, that kind of stuff, turns decent people off.

I think the next election is the Democrats' to win. I mean with Iraq hanging around the Republicans' neck, the Democrats should be the favorite. But, if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, if they continue moving further and further to the left, they have a chance of losing this next election, because regular people out there in middle America, they don't like that kind of stuff. They could be against the war, they could dislike George Bush, hey, I have problems with George Bush, but he's not Osama Bin Laden, he's not Hitler. Not only is he not as bad as the really bad guys in this world, he's not 1 millionth as bad as the people who are really bad guys in this world.

Yet, you go to dinner with your liberal friends, and you get the impression that they believe that George Bush is the biggest menace on the planet. There's a name for it. It's Bush Derangement Syndrome. It's where otherwise normal liberals, the kinds of people you go to lunch with, you talk to, you kind of like: when you say the name George Bush in their presence, they go off the rails. They start foaming at the mouth. This kind of Bush Derangement Syndrome leads them to call him to Hitler and compare him to Nazis and Fascists and, as I said, it doesn't engender conversation, it ends conversation.

John Hawkins: Now, you say Republicans have lost their nerve -- and I certainly agree with that, but the $24,000 question is why? Why do you think that so many members of the party of Reagan have lost their nerve especially when there are so many columnists, bloggers, saying, just as you are, that they're no longer standing on principle and that's a big problem?

Bernard Goldberg: Because I think when they took over power in Washington, when they won not only the White House, but both Houses of Congress, I think they started acting like regular politicians and I mean that in the worst sense.

The Republicans told us they were the party of small government, that they were the ones who were fiscally responsible. They were the grown-ups. Then, they started spending our money as if they were Imelda Marcos in a shoe store. They sold out their principles because they thought they could bribe us. They thought they could spend and spend and spend on different pork projects and that they could get away with it. I think they only did that because they took over power and lost their way.

With immigration, I think a reasonable Republican position could be, "We are more than willing to talk about paths to citizenship, guest worker programs, and anything else, after we secure the border. Not after we talk about securing the border, not after we make another promise that we'll secure the border, which never seems to actually happen in real life, but when we secure the border, then we'll talk about these other things." But, you have the President of the United States and Republicans in Congress wanting to get this bill through, this one that may be dead or may not dead...

John Hawkins: It's not dead.

Bernard Goldberg: ...Because they don't want to be accused of being anti-Hispanic.

I will give you another example. There's going to be measures to ban Affirmative Action on ballots in at least 5 states next year. There was one on the Michigan ballot last year. The voters in Michigan voted overwhelmingly to ban racial preferences, but the Republican candidates for Governor and for Senator can out against the ban. In other words, they were saying let's continue to have these racial preferences. The voters rejected (Affirmative Action), but the Republicans came out in favor of Affirmative Action and racial preferences. That's not a conservative position. The Republican candidates lost. Next year, when this is on the ballot in at least 5 states, Democrats will come out against the bans because at least they honestly believe that racial preferences and Affirmative Action are good things. Republicans don't believe that these are good things. These are not conservative principles, but they will also come against the bans in many states because they're afraid they'll be called bigots if they don't. What Republicans should say is that, "We are against racial discrimination. We will use the full force of government to try to wipe it out... but, we will not be in favor of any program that makes decisions about who gets into college and who gets jobs largely based on the color of their skin." But, they won't do that, because they'll be called racists if they do.

So, they've sold out their principles on spending, on immigration, on Affirmative Action, on a whole bunch of things like that. They didn't even defend the renomination of (Peter Pace). They wimp out on one issue after another and let me tell you something, conservatives have noticed. I'll tell you something else; there are a percentage of people who traditionally vote Republican, who are really libertarian more than Republican. They're the small government people. They've been reliably Republican. I don't think they're going to be reliably Republican any more. I think they're going to say, "You've sold out." Now, I don't think they're going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I'll grant you that, but they may sit out the election, they may throw their votes away on some candidate who doesn't stand a chance of winning, and therefore help the Democrats. But, I think the Republicans have offended and alienated many people who have been loyal to them for a very long time.


By Jeff Jacoby

I was once sued in state court by a disgruntled reader who accused me of calling him a "crackpot." Fortunately, the suit went nowhere; the plaintiff's nutty, hand-scrawled complaint was apparently all the court needed to dismiss the case. That and the fact that even in Massachusetts, you're allowed to use the word "crackpot" when being harangued by one on the telephone.

But what if the plaintiff in my case hadn't been so plainly bonkers? What if he had been a lawyer, or even a judge -- someone who knew his way around a lawsuit? What if he had been another Roy L. Pearson Jr.?

As everyone this side of Mazar-e-Sharif must know by now, Pearson is the administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., who in 2005 sued his dry cleaners for $65 million over a missing pair of pants. He later reduced his claim to $54 million, and the case was tried in D.C. Superior Court last week.

Pearson, representing himself before Judge Judith Bartnoff, declared grandiosely that "never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices. You will search the DC archives in vain for a case of more egregious or willful conduct." Bartnoff let him go on in this vein, the Washington Post reported, and he argued his case "for hour upon hour," though he wasn't permitted to call all 63 of the witnesses he had hoped to put on the stand. Nor did Bartnoff allow him to rehash the saga of his 2004 divorce, which he insists the Virginia courts mishandled.

On the other hand, Pearson did testify that he has between 40 and 60 pairs of pants hanging in his closet, none of which, he was at pains to point out, has cuffs. At one point he broke down in tears and had to ask for a recess. That emotional upwelling occurred as he was recounting the moment when the dry cleaner handed him what he says were the wrong trousers. (They were cuffed).

The whole thing sounds like a Sacha Baron Cohen sendup, and it has certainly drawn plenty of amused media attention. (New York Times headline: "Judge Tries Suing Pants Off Dry Cleaners.")

But Pearson's ludicrous lawsuit, and the legal system's willingness to indulge it, is no joke to Jin and Soo Chung, the owners of Custom Dry Cleaning. The legal bills they have incurred in fighting this lawsuit have wiped out their family's savings. Three times they have offered Pearson a settlement, most recently for $12,000. Three times Pearson has refused.

"How does such a case get to trial?" Post columnist Marc Fisher asked the other day. "How does one man get to make a laughingstock of the system?" His sad answer: Pearson's legal terrorism "is only an exaggerated version of what goes on in virtually every institution of American life, where humane and reasonable behavior is quashed by reminders that someone could conceivably be sued."

Who can doubt it? The population of lawyers in America has soared in recent decades, and with their increase has come an explosion in the lawyer's stock in trade: regulation, disputation, and litigation. In 1978, noting that the number of US lawyers had increased to 462,000, Time magazine rued the way laws and lawsuits were taking over American life, making it ever more difficult for people of goodwill to rely on custom and common sense in settling differences. It quoted then-Chief Justice Warren Burger: "We may well be on our way to a society overrun by hordes of lawyers, hungry as locusts, and brigades of judges in numbers never before contemplated."

If that was true then, how much more so today, when the "hordes of lawyers" (including non-practicing ones like me) have swollen to nearly 1 million? A century ago, there was 1 lawyer for every 714 Americans. Today the ratio is 1 to 288.

Of course lawsuits have a vital role to play in our legal system. If there were no way to hold people liable for reckless or malicious behavior, it would be difficult to keep such behavior in check. "But the converse is also true," as Philip K. Howard, author of *The Death of Common Sense* and chairman of Common Good, testified at a congressional hearing in 2004. "Allow lawsuits against reasonable behavior, and pretty soon people no longer feel free to act reasonably. And that's what's happening in America today."

Pearson's pants case is only the most egregious example of the I'll-see-you-in-court mindset that has battered the medical profession, turned divorce proceedings into ferocious battles, and stripped playgrounds of seesaws and jungle gyms. ABC News recently rounded up reports of some others: The woman who sued an outdoor mall after being "attacked" by a squirrel, on the grounds that the mall "failed to warn" her in advance. The photographer who fell off a garbage truck he had climbed on top of to take some pictures, then sued the waste-management company for $50 million because he "never thought in a million years the truck would move." The drug-abusing patient who sued a hospital for "allowing" a visitor to sneak illegal drugs into the hospital for her. The plaintiff who demanded $832 million from superstar athlete Michael Jordan and Nike co-founder Phil Knight because he found it "distressing" to look like Jordan and be confused with him.

Lawsuits cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Legal fear -- the fear of being sued, and the lengths to which US businesses, institutions, and municipalities go to avoid legal risk -- makes life more expensive, more frustrating, and less free for all of us. "I think we may class the lawyer in the natural history of monsters," John Keats wrote. But that was in 1819. Imagine what he would have said if he had met Roy Pearson.

Australia: Leftist party supports tough proposals on black welfare

INDIGENOUS policy faces a revolution no matter who wins the federal election, with Labor backing Noel Pearson's push to link welfare and personal responsibility. Opposition indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jenny Macklin has thrown Labor's support behind radically restructuring welfare payments, while the Howard Government is preparing cabinet submissions that would ensure welfare was quarantined for use on housing and food.

The plans embrace proposals put forward by Mr Pearson, the Cape York indigenous activist, who wants Aboriginal families to be stripped of welfare payments if their children are abused or miss school. He has spent a decade arguing for an end to passive welfare but until now has failed to win bipartisan political support.

A report by Mr Pearson's Cape York Institute, to be launched today, calls for an overhaul of the Aboriginal work for the dole program, CDEP, under which 35,000 Aboriginal people work in return for welfare. He suggests abolishing the program for anyone younger than 21, and placing them under "conditional income management" if they do not begin a traineeship or find a job within three months of finishing school. The report also calls for an expansion of private home ownership, with a subsidy for families who want to construct houses in remote communities.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said he was preparing several cabinet submissions in line with Mr Pearson's hard-core approach. Under Mr Brough's plan, all families - white and black - that spent welfare money on alcohol, gambling and drugs would be forced to direct-debit part of their benefits to pay for rent, electricity and food.

Ms Macklin said while she did not agree with everything Mr Pearson proposed, anything that supported the interests of children deserved to be taken seriously. "The principle that family tax benefits follow the interests of the child is one we strongly support for both indigenous and non-indigenous children," she said.

While Ms Macklin gave cautious support to Mr Pearson's plans, Labor federal vice-president Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal cabinet minister in the NSW parliament, expressed her concern. "It really is about playing god with people's lives," Ms Burney said. "It feels a bit like a rerun of punitive practices in the past that proved fruitless."

On Queensland's Palm Island, which has unemployment of more than 90 per cent, the proposal for a community-based "cop" with power to withhold welfare payments was also universally rejected. "There are other reasons kids don't go to school other than parental neglect," said Mayor Delena Oui-Foster, who said the proposal smacked of racism. School attendance on Palm Island is high, largely because an increasing number of parents, such as Nazareth Foster, place enormous value in education. Her children, Mia and Teri, have not missed school this year: "I want them to have a good education - these days, you get indigenous people getting certificates and degrees, and that's what we've got to aim for here."


Australia: Judicial arrogance attacks freedom of the press

LAST week, the High Court of Australia displayed a disdain for a jury verdict that went to the heart of free speech in this country. It concerned the small matter of a restaurant review. I say small because in the scheme of things a restaurant review is hardly cutting-edge commentary. But when restaurant critics are gagged, it does not augur well for free speech.

By and large, we are fortunate in Australia to have a sensible bunch of judges on our highest court. But when they go awry, sidelining common sense, they really go for broke. Which is what they did when they set aside a jury verdict that decided a review about a swank Sydney restaurant, while critical about some of the food and some of the service, did not defame the restaurant owner.

In 2003, The Sydney Morning Herald food critic Matthew Evans was unimpressed with Coco Roco, which billed itself as “Sydney’s most glamorous restaurant”. The limoncello oyster had flavours that “jangle like a car crash”. The carpaccio arrived with a “dreary roast almond paste”. And, Evans asked, what was the chef thinking by adding apricot halves to a sherry-scented white sauce adorning a prime rib steak? Food critics can be a snippy lot. But that’s the gig. Anything less and they become spruikers for prime rib steak laced with sherry-scented sauce and apricot halves.

The restaurant owner sued for defamation under NSW’s 7A system where a jury decides whether something is defamatory. In a separate later hearing, a judge decides on whether defences are made out and on damages payable. The jury found Evans’s review did not defame the owner of Coco Roco. On appeal, the NSW Court of Appeal tossed the jury verdict in the bin, preferring its own view that the review was defamatory. Late last week, the High Court agreed.

Although Australia has a new set of uniform defamation laws, in some states and territories the jury will still determine what is defamatory. That is why the High Court case sends a chilling message. According to justices Ian Callinan and Dyson Heydon, the restaurant review was defamatory and any other finding was unimaginable. There was no point sending the issue back to a jury for redetermination, Callinan said during argument, because you might end up with the same perverse finding.

Which raises the question: why bother with a jury at all? Of course, courts have powers to overturn perverse jury verdicts. But was the jury’s decision so perverse? Or was it a case where reasonable minds may differ, where criticism of some bad food and some poor service did not reflect on the competence of the restaurateur? No, said the High Court. No room for reasonable debate here.

Even more troubling, the majority judges said community standards were irrelevant in determining whether the review amounted to defamation of a business. It’s an odd rule that lowers the defamation bar for businesses. (Even stranger given that if a business incorporates, it cannot sue for defamation.) Again, so why bother with a jury comprised of men and women from the community? By effectively telling us to skip the jury trial where something negative is said, the High Court has told critics that they can expect litigation if they are too honest in their opinions.

Equally concerning was the tone of the judges during the hearing. Argument got off to a rollicking start when Justice William Gummow asked: “But when were (the restaurateurs) going to get their hands on some money and how?” Slow down, judge. Damages are determined after defamation has been established and after a court rejects defences.

Now, I’ve seen some scary-looking Santas in my time, but none more so than when a judge such as Gummow does his Santa routine, looking around for someone else’s money to dole out to a disgruntled plaintiff. It’s a quaint and other-worldly judicial view that regards newspapers as so influential that one review is so obviously defamatory as to send a restaurant bankrupt. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have been campaigning against the Howard Government for the past decade. And to no avail.

So did the review really destroy the restaurant? Or was it the poor food? Indeed, some bad reviews bring in the crowds. Am I the only one who goes to see a movie after it is panned by certain trendy critics? A give-it-a-miss review from certain quarters almost guarantees that it’s a movie not to bemissed.

The decision to throw out the jury verdict evinces not so much an air of unreality about how the world works as a thick fog of arrogance that judicial views on questions of fact ought to supplant those of ordinary beings who make up a jury.

In a curious turn of events, Justice Michael Kirby - the great dissenter - injects a healthy dose of common sense into this case. Usually he’s busily crafting the law to suit his own preference, often disguising his views under the cloak of community standards. But then, as the saying goes, even a broken watch is right twice a day. Here he is full of judicial humility and restraint. He deferred to parliament’s intent to have a jury decide defamatory material according to community standards and rejected the view of his haughty buddies who preferred their view to that of a pesky parliament or a jury.

Callinan’s apparent disdain for the jury is especially odd. In a speech given just after his High Court appointment, he scoffed at elitist criticism of juries and cited the view of Patrick Devlin, a former lord justice of Britain’s Court of Appeal, that “trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than one wheel of the constitution: it is the lamp that shows freedom lives.” As Callinan will soon step down from the High Court after a distinguished career, hopefully he won’t mind the criticism.

After all, his spirited defence of juries was accompanied by an admission that criticism of judges is par for the course. Criticism of judgments is rather like being on the end of a stinging theatre review, he mused. He then cited a few colourful reviews including a damning criticism of a J.B. Priestley play, When We are Married, where the critic described the play as “an ideal treat as a night out for your despicable in-laws”.

After the High Court effectively sidelined juries last week, tilting the playing field against free speech, we may no longer be able to enjoy such robust criticism of theatre, books, restaurants and the like. Judges may prefer to live in an overly precious society where polite talk replaces honest criticism. But it will dull the lamp that shows freedom.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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