Robby Soave - Assistant Editor

Rush Limbaugh recently suggested that the makers of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, were pushing a liberal political agenda by giving their villain the same name as Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s infamous firm. Rush should have watched the movie before criticizing it, because The Dark Knight Rises is anything but liberal.

For one thing, the name “Bane” is no snipe at Mitt Romney. Bane is a well-known character from the Batman comic universe. He was created 20 years ago. The similarity is pure coincidence.

For another, Bane is a brutal dictator whose support for ending economic inequality is merely a cover for his true goal: the destruction of civilization.

The politics of Occupy Wall Street are on display for the first part of the film, where an acrobatic burglar named Catwoman is seen as having legitimate gripes against Gotham City’s wealthy elite. Some of the most powerful businessmen are indeed portrayed as wicked exploiters, and they orchestrate a stock market heist to steal more power and influence for themselves. The film is sympathetic to the concerns of the poor, and points out that some who achieve wealth don’t earn it legitimately.

But these themes disappear as soon as the hulking terrorist Bane takes over Gotham City. All criminals are released. Rich people are executed in sham trials headed by Bane’s lunatic friends. Government officials and police officers are killed or captured. Bane claims that he is solving inequality by leveling the playing field, but his true plan is to perpetrate mass murder by setting off a nuclear bomb.

In this way, viewers see a familiar story unfold — one that is reminiscent of communist and fascist revolutions in Russia, Germany, Cambodia, and North Korea. No matter how legitimate criticisms of the economic, political, and social order may be, any revolution that shatters the rule of law or eliminates the market entirely will necessarily result in greater inequality, suffering, and death. Like the communist parties of real authoritarian states, Bane and his cohorts represent a new ruling class that pretends to care about equality and liberation, but in practice resorts to oppression and extreme violence.

The film’s good guys are Batman and the police officers of Gotham, who bravely go to war to prevent Bane’s genocide. Portraying an army of police officers as heroes hardly seems like the choice of a director with a left-wing axe to grind.

If the political message of The Dark Knight Rises seems muddled, it’s because real-life problems can’t be solved with Batman. There is no well-funded superhero with a glut of fancy gadgets and moral incorruptibility, nor are there villains in America as damaging and transparently evil as Bane. The film doesn’t offer much of a practical answer for what to do about inequality, social unrest, or terrorism.

Ultimately, The Dark Knight Rises has little to say about Mitt Romney and President Obama. Call its politics complicated, neutral, or even unclear. But don’t call them liberal.

This column was originally published by the Daily Caller. Read it here.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald that he will attempt to prevent restaurant chain Chick-fil-A from opening a location in the city. The reason? Chick-fil-A’s president opposes gay marriage. Here is what Menino had to say:

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.

If Chick-fil-A did practice discrimination against its customers, there might be something to this. But although Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy believes marriage should be between one man and one woman, he does not believe in denying tasty chicken to anyone. Gay customers are as welcome at Chick-fil-A as any other, according to company policy:

The fast-food chicken sandwich chain later said that it strives to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

If gays–or anyone else–want to boycott Chick-fil-A because of its owner’s views, that’s fine. But the mayor of Boston should not be able to use the force of law to prevent a company with which he disagrees from opening up a restaurant. If Chick-fil-A refused to serve gay customers, that would be one matter. Merely disagreeing with gay marriage is a constitutionally-protected opinion.

In predictable fashion, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker has placed the moral blame for the shooting on anyone who supports the Second Amendment:

Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again. …

In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little. “Gun Crazy” is the title of one the best films about the American romance with violence. And gun-crazy we remain. …

Why would anyone think that a law against possessing deadly firearms would have prevented the shooter from possessing deadly firearms? Since James Holmes’ intention was to kill dozens of people–which is against the law–it hardly stands to reason that he would have been deterred by laws against gun ownership.

Sanity check: Violent crime rates have continued to fall over the last decade, even as gun laws have become less restrictive, and Americans have come to own more guns than ever before. According to Reason’s Brian Doherty:

Despite constantly expanding gun ownership—the number of new firearms entering American possession averages around 4 million a year—and expanded rights to legally carry weapons, the last two decades have seen a 41 percent decline in violent crime rates. Since the 2004 expiration of the “assault weapon” ban, murder rates are down 15 percent.

Expect much more of the media using this shooting to make an error-ridden case for gun control. Already ABC’s Brian Ross was forced to apologize for falsely claiming that the shooter was a member of a local Tea Party group (in fact, he got the wrong James Holmes).

All this Bain Capital talk is sure getting annoying, as every member of Team Obama is out to prove that Mitt Romney is still secretly in charge of the company, personally killing off precious American jobs as we speak. Here is the definitive rebuttal to this absurdity, from FactCheck.org:

New reporting cites strong evidence that Mitt Romney wasn’t actively managing Bain Capital while he was running the Olympics, despite what the Obama campaign (and some news reports) would have voters believe. …

None of the SEC filings show that Romney was anything but a passive, absentee owner during that time, as both Romney and Bain have long said. It should not surprise anyone that Romney retained certain titles while he was working out the final disposition of his ownership, for example. …

We would reassess our judgment should somebody come up with evidence that Romney took part in specific management decisions or had any active role (not just a title) at Bain after he left to head the Olympics. But nothing we’ve seen directly contradicts Romney’s statements — which he has certified as true under pain of federal prosecution — that he “has not had any active role” with Bain or “been involved in the operations” of Bain since then.

Update, July 13: The Post’s Kessler awarded three of his “Pinocchios” to the Obama camp’s claim that SEC filings show Romney might be guilty of a felony.

On the broader question of Romney’s involvement with Bain during this time, we concur with Kessler’s conclusion. “The Obama campaign is blowing smoke here,” he says, adding “the weight of evidence suggests that Romney did in fact end active management of Bain in 1999.”

Unfortunately, now someone on the other side of the aisle–Rush Limbaugh–has also made a wildly untrue claim about Bain Capital… and Batman. Here was Rush’s take:

Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie — what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That’s right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there’s now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?

What Rush doesn’t seem to realize is that Bane is an iconic Batman villain who first appeared in comic books 20 years ago. As Reason’s Calvin Thompson sarcastically notes:

When writers first created the character of Bane in January 1993, they wanted a name that would inspire terror. Plus, they obviously knew that 19 years later, Romney would run for the American presidency. So they had to set in motion a sequence of events whereby a movie adaptation of their comic would emerge in 2005, with the series culminating in the summer before the 2012 election.

Everybody needs to chill out about Bain. And Bane.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette debuted a new sociology minor: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered studies. This is the first such minor at a public university in Louisiana. The Louisiana Family Forum and Republican legislators oppose it:

“Formerly, aberrant behavior among individuals was regarded with shame. Today, UL Lafayette proudly offers ‘a degree in immorality.’ Louisiana Family Forum is disappointed in this misuse of public and student tuition funds. UL’s advocacy for alternative lifestyles will certainly be met with opposition from taxpayers, tuition underwriters and other key UL supporters,” says the forum’s statement.

The forum also is questioning the website for the new program, which is fairly minimal, with listings of courses one would need to take to qualify for the major. “The university’s web page for the new LGBT minor clearly omits facts and statistics which demonstrate the medical, physical, emotional and dangers of a lifestyle which is counter to Louisiana values.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, a Republican, sent a letter to Savoie saying that future graduates of the university may not be able to be proud of the institution because of the new minor, KLFY News reported. The letter said that the new minor “fails to provide an economic benefit to the participants or financial sense for the taxpayer.” (The minor is made of up currently offered courses taught by current faculty members, so university officials have said that it has no new expenses.)

I do not share the forum’s concern that the LGBT lifestyle is physically and emotionally dangerous, but clearly many residents of Louisiana do. The problem with public universities awarding degrees in fields of study that are inherently political and activist is that they are financed at taxpayer expense. The teachers, the buildings, and the students are all subsidized by Louisiana citizens who have almost no say in the university’s curriculum.

The university will say that it cannot compromise its academic vision by bowing to public pressure; academic freedom is too important. Of course the morally principled accompaniment to academic autonomy would be financial independence. As long as this university continues to beg the economically depressed people of Louisiana for more money, it will have little right to complain when they find its curriculum objectionable.

After all, if a public university is truly an economic resource for the state–something all public universities like to claim–it seems the taxpayers would be right to insist on more science and engineering degrees, and balk at any expansion of liberal arts degrees that yield fewer and fewer jobs.

The College Fix presents a roundup of the top scandals, screw-ups, and stupid decisions involving college campuses. This week, one expert wants to re-institute the draft for college kids, and Penn State is engulfed by a fiery chasm. But first…

3). Egregious salary increases at Western Washington University draw complaints from state governor. Despite inflicting a steep 16% tuition increase on students, the university still found enough cash to scrounge up massive salary raises for faculty and staff. This earned Western the scorn of Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire, who expects public workers to make some sacrifices on behalf of the taxpayers who pay their ridiculous salaries. Gregoire is also aware that tuition at the public university can’t get much higher, or else the public won’t be able to pay it. As I wrote:

It is now official: Many public universities are in greater denial about their own spending than liberal governors are about state finances.

2). A New York Times piece suggests: “Let’s Draft Our Kids.” Security analyst Thomas Ricks doesn’t actually want to ship every high school graduate off to combat, but he does want them all working on behalf of the U.S. government for at least a couple months. But rather than defending the country in dire times of existential threat, the draftees will do paperwork, plant trees, and scrub the barracks—and any other useless task the government is too lazy and stubborn to abolish or privatize.

The point is to get the work done without having to pay anybody very much money, since the federal, state, and local governments are totally broke. But there’s probably a better way to get costs under control that doesn’t involve the creation of new government agencies that track all 18-year-olds in the country and distribute them into a mandatory version of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Really, this is just Keynesian stimulus nonsense paraded around as national defense necessity. It belongs at the bottom of the intellectual trash bin, along with the old draft.

1). Several former Penn state administrators—including famed football coach Joe Paterno—were complicit in a cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky child rape allegations, a new study revealed. Even though Paterno and the administrators were repeatedly made aware that Sandusky was a sexual predator, they placed the reputation of the university and its football program on a higher pedestal than the lives of the young boys Sandusky violated. And no matter what charges they face—indeed, Paterno is already beyond the reach of earthly punishment—so much damage is already done.

That the Penn State football program should be suspended or disbanded goes without saying. Any university whose leaders enact a cover-up to preserve its football program while turning a blind eye to criminal sexual abuse has forgotten the first thing a school needs: a safe environment. Such a university does not deserve a football team.

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