Cal Thomas

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The Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, distinguished himself last week by getting arrested in an act of "civil disobedience" reminiscent of the '60s. The mayor, six council members and more than 40 other protesters were detained by Capitol police for blocking the street to oppose the congressional budget deal that deprived D.C. of federal funds for abortions.

They were also protesting a mandate under the same agreement that revives a popular school choice program, the "Opportunity Scholarship Program," which allows poor children in failing schools an opportunity to attend schools they and their parents believe will give them the best possible education. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had pulled the plug on the Bush-era program after pressure from the teacher's union which, in a reversal of Bush's "No Child Left Behind," behaves as if no child in a failing school should be let out.



Twenty-nine years after her death, novelist Ayn Rand is coming to a theater near you. After many failed attempts, her 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged" has been made into a film.

In an age when overspending, overreaching, higher-taxing and overregulating government increasingly strangles the private sector, robbing us of our liberties and transforming the country into the model of a socialist state, Rand's story reminds us how far ahead of her time she was and just how dangerous a time we live in now.



HOUSTON -- On the day of the NCAA men's basketball final, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that is likely to produce champions for generations to come.

By a 5-4 vote, the majority upheld an Arizona tax-credit program that, writes David Savage of the L.A. Times, gives taxpayers a "dollar-for-dollar tax credit, up to $500 per person or $1,000 for a couple, for those who donate to organizations that in turn pay tuition for students attending private and parochial schools." The minority contends this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, maintains that since such donations are with pre-tax dollars, the government never has the money, and thus, "there is no such connection between dissenting taxpayer and alleged establishment."



During the 2008 presidential campaign when candidate Barack Obama told "Joe the Plumber" that he wanted to "spread the wealth around," it sounded to a lot of conservatives like socialism: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," in the words of Karl Marx.

There is a kind of wealth spreading, however, that ought to meet the political litmus test of conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats and radical Independents. At a time of high unemployment, too many layoffs and too few new jobs in the private sector (230,000 jobs were created last month, according to the Labor Department, but unemployment continues to officially hover at just under 9 percent and Gallup calculates it, without seasonal adjustment, at 10.0 percent), it is disheartening to see so many CEOs having recovered enough from their personal recession to pay themselves salaries and benefits that would have shamed the super-rich in America's Gilded Age.



Norman Braman is not your typical billionaire car dealer. Nor is he your typical establishment Republican, who too often puts party above principle. Norman Braman is the type of person who strikes fear into the hearts of every professional politician who thinks he can say one thing to get elected and then do the opposite once in office.

In case you haven't been paying attention, Braman led a successful drive to recall Republican mayor Carlos Alvarez of Miami-Dade, Fla., and Commissioner Natacha Seijas. Their offenses? In a telephone conversation, Braman tells me there were many, including, he says, "sloppy bookkeeping, fraud, and the mayor's decision to use tax dollars to build a sports stadium for the local baseball team" when fiscal challenges for the city and high unemployment were harming the local economy.



In the 1979 movie "The China Syndrome," reporter Kimberly Wells (played by Jane Fonda) witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant and then uncovers a plot to keep it a secret in order to protect the power company's billion-dollar investment. The film was a gift to the political left, which at the time opposed the pursuit of nuclear energy to reduce our addiction to foreign oil. In some liberal circles, that opposition remains strong.

The film, along with real-life accidents such as Three Mile Island (also in 1979), in which no one was killed, and Chernobyl (1986), which, according to the World Nuclear Association, "killed two Chernobyl plant workers on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people within a few weeks, as a result of acute radiation poisoning," account for much of our modern thinking about all things nuclear. Other films, like "Dr. Strangelove," "Fail-Safe" and "On the Beach" -- along with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended World War II and launched the Cold War with the Soviet Union in which "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) and civil defense drills became the norm -- make us nervous about what the unrestrained power of the atom can do.



If the resignations at National Public Radio continue at last week's pace, there may be no need for Congress to defund the aging dinosaur, because there will be no one left there to turn the lights on.

The latest is Betsy Liley, NPR's director of institutional giving. Conservative activist James O'Keefe secretly recorded phone conversations between Liley and a man masquerading as a potential donor from a fictitious group called the Muslim Education Action Center, which the man said had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The fake donor said his group was worried about a government audit. Liley told him that a $5 million contribution might not have to be reported to the IRS. Liley has been placed on administrative leave.



One of the pleasures of an earthly transition is that you can write nice things about a person while they are still around to read them.

And so, I rise to praise my friend and favorite newspaper writer, Frank Rich Jr. as he leaves The New York Times for New York magazine.

What, you say? You are a conservative and he is among the most politically liberal people in journalism. Or, as someone asked me one night when they heard I was going to dinner with former Senator George McGovern, "How can you eat with a man like that?" "Easy," I replied. "He's my friend." And so was Ted Kennedy, I am happy to say. After all, Jesus was "a friend to sinners" and if they were good enough for Him, they are certainly good enough for me.



President Obama has said his view of same-sex "marriage" is "evolving." Apparently he thinks that the law should be based on a kind of Darwinian jurisprudence which allows it to "evolve" and become whatever the ruling politicians at a given moment say it is (or isn't).

How else to explain the decision by the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder, not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996? The Senate vote was 85-14; the vote in the House was 342-67, an indication of overwhelming public support to keep marriage for opposite-sex couples.



NOTICE of REVISION: This column has been revised to correctly attribute The New York Times for data and reportage cited in its Feb. 16 story on the statistical value of human life.

Back in the American Wild West, federal and state governments often put a price on the heads of infamous outlaws like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Sam Bass, Belle Star and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Today, our government is not so selective. It's seeking to put a price on the head of every American. Not because they've robbed a train, but for a different reason that could lead to a very bad end.

A recent New York Times story summarizes how various government agencies have come up with formulas for determining how much we are worth. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Times notes, has set the value of a human life at $9.1 million, reaching this determination while proposing tighter restrictions on air pollution. During the Bush administration, EPA calculated our value at $6.8 million. Was the difference in price caused by inflation? The EPA didn't say.



When three-fourths of the Boston police department went on strike in 1919, leading to broken shop windows and looting, then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the state militia and broke the strike. Coolidge declared, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time."

His courage propelled him to the vice presidency and eventually to the presidency.



On the home page of the Office of Management and Budget website, President Obama is quoted: "Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new."

If only he would, but the president's proposed $3.7 trillion budget is more of the same: taxing and spending for which liberal Democrats are known and "cuts" as in Pell Grants and home heating assistance for the poor he knows congressional Democrats are unlikely to approve. It is also full of assumptions about revenue and a rosy scenario on economic growth that is more than double current growth.



One of liberalism's many problems is that once an idea or program is proved wrong and unworkable, liberals rarely acknowledge their mistake and examine the root cause of their error so they don't repeat it.

Take multiculturalism ... please!

In a speech to a security conference in Munich, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared state multiculturalism a failure. For good measure, Cameron said Britain also must get tougher on Islamic extremists. Predictably, this has angered Islamic extremists.



On the centenary of Ronald Reagan's birth, I pause for another historic event: agreement with President Obama, who says of his predecessor in USA Today, "Ronald Wilson Reagan was a believer ... he recognized that each of us has the power -- as individuals and as a nation -- to shape our own destiny. He had faith in the American promise; in the importance of reaffirming values like hard work and personal responsibility; and in his own unique ability to inspire others to greatness."

Precisely!

I suspect Reagan would be embarrassed by the attempts to elevate him to political sainthood. Even conservatives who now long for another Reagan were sometimes critical of him during his presidency and of those around him they believed were holding him back. "Let Reagan be Reagan" they cried, as if he wasn't who he was.



The turmoil in Egypt must not be seen in isolation from other events in the world. Neither is it an aberration. It is the next scene in a long-running play whose final act is the domination of the world by radical Islamists.

The Obama administration has been delusional in its belief that dictators and religious fanatics can be coddled. It has also been dangerously wrong in thinking exposure to our way of life will make them more like us. In fact, such exposure has confirmed what they have been taught: that America and the West are secularists who mock God, sexualize women and live only for the pleasures of this world.

The history of radical Islamist movements is being repeated in our time. First there is infiltration and when their numbers are large enough, domination. Next comes subjugation, followed by eradication of nonbelievers. To think things will be different this time is folly.



In his State of the Union address, President Obama at times sounded like he was channeling Ronald Reagan: cutting the deficit, hailing private enterprise and individual initiative, talking about the future. But for all his eloquence, the president wrapped his liberal ideology in conservative sheep's clothing.

On the surface, the president said many things with which conservatives might agree, but words can mean something, or they can mask true intentions.

There was no indication the president plans to retreat on his far-left agenda of the last two years. Why should he? That would require denying who he is.

Absent the glamorous rhetoric, let's examine the major subjects on which the president touched.



By now those holiday bills have arrived. Those who have charged too much have cut back on spending until the bills are paid. Some have gone on the spending wagon, cutting their plastic into tiny pieces.

Not the U.S. government. Unlike mere mortals, the government can print and borrow seemingly limitless amounts of money and so has little incentive to stop spending. Some blame China for our predicament, but that's like blaming American Express for your monthly bill. China is merely the banker. Our spending habits are the problem.



The contrast between what Illinois Democrats did last week and what Republicans have done in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia and New Jersey, could not be clearer.

In Illinois, Democratic legislators and a Democratic governor pushed through a massive 67 percent personal income tax hike (and a 46 percent boost in corporate taxes), claiming an accompanying "cap" would mean no new spending. Sure.

Illinois is caught in a trap of its own making, agreeing with unions (the Democrat base) to pay exorbitant amounts of retirement and health benefits to public employees the state cannot afford. Governors in nearby states are inviting Illinois residents and businesses to move from Illinois. No doubt many will accept those invitations, taking their money and their jobs with them.



In the aftermath of the senseless wounding of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, and the murder of six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Green, there will be many who will use this tragedy to advance their own political agendas.

Explanations will be sought and blame assigned. Necessary questions will be asked: Did the clerk at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson violate any laws in selling the Glock 19 9mm gun to the accused, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner? Loughner reportedly cleared an FBI background check. So why didn't that check discover what one Arizona official called Loughner's "mental issues" and should they have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon?



Given the Democrats' track record of investigating Republican administrations, they will lack credibility when they protest Republicans investigating actions by the Obama administration. Oversight is a primary function of any Congress.

The new Republican House majority is expected to conduct several investigations. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has promised to lead six of them, including one that according to Issa's spokesman, Kurt Bardella, will focus on the "institutional culture of waste, fraud and abuse," within the federal bureaucracy. To be credible, these investigations must expose Republicans as well as Democrats because misspending the public's money is one of the few bipartisan activities remaining in Washington.