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December 30, 2005

Ten Commandments Display Ruled Constitutional

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a display of the Ten Commandments along with other historical documents was constitutional setting up a possible showdown at the Supreme Court over the issue of religious displays and the so-called "wall of separation between church and state" (Hat tip: Captain's Quarters):

A federal appeals court has upheld a display of the Ten Commandments alongside other historical documents in the Mercer County, Ky., courthouse.

The judge who wrote the opinion blasted the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the display, in language that echoed the type of criticism often directed at the organization.

Judge Richard Suhrheinrich's ruling said the ACLU brought "tiresome" arguments about the "wall of separation" between church and state, and it said the organization does not represent a "reasonable person."

The decision was issued by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati. It upheld a lower-court decision that allowed Mercer County to continue displaying the Ten Commandments along with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other documents.

All of the items were posted at the same time in 2001.

The most striking aspect of the ruling is not only the outcome of the case but the threefold criticism of the ACLU's arguments.

First, the Court blasts the ACLU's reference to separation of church and state. The Court states that:

This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.

The phrase "separation of church and state" was actually taken from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist church to affirm the First Amendment principle that the government would not establish a religion. The phrase actually does not appear in the First Amendment.

The second flaw cited by the Court is that the Ten Commandments are strictly religious:

Second, the ACLU focuses on the religiousness of the Ten Commandments. No reasonable person would dispute their sectarian nature, but they also have a secular nature that the ACLU does not address. That they are religious merely begs the question whether this display is religious; it does not answer it. “[T]he stablishment Clause inquiry cannot be distilled into a fixed, per se rule.” Pinette, 515 U.S. at 778 (O’Connor J., concurring); see Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 597-98 (1992). Although treating the subject matter categorically would make our review eminently simpler, we are called upon to examine Mercer County’s actions in light of context. “Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.” Van Orden, 125 S. Ct. at 2863 (plurality opinion). Moreover, “[f]ocus exclusively on the religious component of any activity would inevitably lead to its invalidation under the Establishment Clause.” Lynch, 465 U.S. at 680. The Constitution requires an analysis beyond the four-corners of the Ten Commandments. In short, “proving” that the Ten Commandments themselves are religious does not prove an Establishment Clause violation.

In other words, the context of the display is as important as the content. Because the Mercer County display included other historical documents alongside the Ten Commandments it was deemed constitutional. However, it is reasonable to expect that a Ten Commandments display, on its own, may be considered unconstitutional depending on where the display resides.

It's also important to consider what the purpose of a display might be. In Mercer County, the purpose was to recognize a number of historical documents that were part of the foundations of our country. The Ten Commandments contain the principles upon which our legal system is based. Within this context, it's appropriate to display it alongside the other documents contained in the Mercer County exhibit.

Finally, the Court dealt with perhaps the most important aspect of the ACLU's argument against such displays:

Third, the ACLU erroneously–though perhaps intentionally–equates recognition with endorsement. To endorse is necessarily to recognize, but the converse does not follow. Cf. Mercer County, 219 F. Supp. 2d at 789 (“Endorsement of religion is a normative concept; whereas acknowledgment of religion is not necessarily a value-laden concept.”). Because nothing in the display, its history, or its implementation supports the notion that Mercer County has selectively endorsed the sectarian elements of the first four Commandments, we fail to see why the reasonable person would interpret the presence of the Ten Commandments as part of the larger “Foundations” display as a governmental endorsement of religion.

We will not presume endorsement from the mere display of the Ten Commandments. If the reasonable observer perceived all government references to the Deity as endorsements, then many of our Nation’s cherished traditions would be unconstitutional, including the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. Fortunately, the reasonable person is not a hyper-sensitive plaintiff. See Washegesic ex rel. Pensinger v. Bloomingdale Pub. Sch., 33 F.3d 679, 684 (6th Cir. 1994) (Guy, J., concurring) (describing the “eggshell” plaintiff as unknown to the Establishment Clause). Instead, he appreciates the role religion has played in our governmental institutions, and
finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious influences, even in the form of sacred texts, in honoring American legal traditions.

The Court has exposed the fallacy of the ACLU's and other lawsuits that have been filed to stop any type of religious activity. The mere acknowledgement of religion is not the same as establishment. Acknowledgement is a recognition of the existence and even influence of religion. Establishment means that by law a religion or church is established as the only legal religious entity that may exist.

With this ruling, The Sixth Circuit has provided the Supreme Court with the perfect opportunity to clarify the law with regards to such displays as the Ten Commandments. As the battle to confirm Judge Alito heats up, it is reasonable to expect this to be one of the many cases that he will be asked about in his confirmation hearings.

Posted by Tom at 11:38 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 27, 2005

Both Sides of the Story

Why would George W. Bush look to sidestep the FISA court? After all, they virtually never delay or reject wiretap requests.

Well, until after 9/11, that is.

Government records show that the administration was encountering unprecedented second-guessing by the secret federal surveillance court when President Bush decided to bypass the panel and order surveillance of U.S.-based terror suspects without the court's approval.

A review of Justice Department reports to Congress shows that the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than from the four previous presidential administrations combined.

This doesn't speak to the legality of the issue, but it does point out an explanation for Bush's actions. The Left may wish to frame this as a brave court seeking to limit the actions of a man with dictatorial tendencies. It fuels their pre-conceived notions about Dubya and the programs legality, but does little beyond that. The resignation of one of the FISA judges 4 years after the program started, but 1 day after the story broke in the media, does about the same thing.

The media, of course, has been playing up this angle. In the article above, their source is James Bamford, "an acknowledged authority on the supersecret NSA", who compares this to the "bad old days" of Nixon. You'd tend to think, based on the coverage, that anyone who's anyone thinks this is completely illegal. You'd be wrong.

Enter Cass Sunstein. Well actually, he can' t really enter, since the media has virtually shut him out of their coverage to this point. Cass Sunstein is a self-described "liberal" laws professor at the University of Chicago to whom the media goes when they need a quote on Constitutional law. This post at Redstate.org has background on how often he's been to go-to guy (see the comments on Lexis-Nexis searches). However, all of a sudden the media has ignored his views on this constitutional topic. Why? Perhaps it's because his opinion doesn't fit the media's angle on the story. From his interview on Hugh Hewitt's show:

HH: [...] First, did the authorization for the use of military force from 2001 authorize the president's action with regards to conducting surveillance on foreign powers, including al Qaeda, in contact with their agents in America, Professor?

CS: Well, probably. If the Congress authorizes the president to use force, a pretty natural incident of that is to engage in surveillance. So if there's on the battlefield some communication between Taliban and al Qaeda, the president can monitor that. If al Qaeda calls the United States, the president can probably monitor that, too, as part of waging against al Qaeda.

HH: Very good. Part two of your analysis...If...whether or not the AUMF does, does the Constitution give the president inherent authority to do what he did?

CS: That's less clear, but there's a very strong argument the president does have that authority. All the lower courts that have investigated the issue have so said. So as part of the president's power as executive, there's a strong argument that he can monitor conversations from overseas, especially if they're al Qaeda communications in the aftermath of 9/11. So what I guess I do is put the two arguments together. It's a little technical, but I think pretty important, which is that since the president has a plausible claim that he has inherent authority to do this, that is to monitor communications from threats outside our borders, we should be pretty willing to interpret a Congressional authorization to use force in a way that conforms to the president's possible Constitutional authority. So that is if you put the Constitutional authority together with the statutory authorization, the president's on pretty good ground.

This interview is chock full of information and analysis you won't find in the mainstream media news coverage of this. Why isn't this getting out? Note the bolded parts below (my emphasis).
HH: Professor Sunstein, have you ever been contacted by mainstream media about this controversy?

CS: A lot. Yeah.

HH: And have you spent a lot of time trying to walk the reporters through the basics?

CS: Yes.

HH: Who's contacted you, for example? The New York Times?

CS: Well, I wouldn't want to name specific ones. It's a little bit of confidentiality there, but some well known ones. Let's just say that.

HH: Let me ask. Have you been quoted in any papers that you've seen?

CS: I don't think so.

HH: Do you consider the quality of the media coverage here to be good, bad, or in between?

CS: Pretty bad, and I think the reason is we're seeing a kind of libertarian panic a little bit, where what seems at first glance...this might be proved wrong...but where what seems at first glance a pretty modest program is being described as a kind of universal wiretapping, and also being described as depending on a wild claim of presidential authority, which the president, to his credit, has not made any such wild claim. The claims are actually fairly modest, and not unconventional. So the problem with what we've seen from the media is treating this as much more peculiar, and much larger than it actually is. As I recall, by the way, I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, and they did say that in at least one person's view, the authorization to use military force probably was adequate here.

HH: Do you think the media simply does not understand? Or are they being purposefully ill-informed in your view?

CS: You know what I think it is? It's kind of an echo of Watergate. So when the word wiretapping comes out, a lot of people get really nervous and think this is a rerun of Watergate. I also think there are two different ideas going on here. One is skepticism on the part of many members of the media about judgments by President Bush that threaten, in their view, civil liberties. So it's like they see President Bush and civil liberties, and they get a little more reflexively skeptical than maybe the individual issue warrants. So there's that. Plus, there's, I think, a kind of bipartisan...in the American culture, including the media, streak that is very nervous about intruding on telephone calls and e-mails. And that, in many ways, is healthy. But it can create a misunderstanding of a particular situation.

The media is simply not telling both sides of the story, and even according to a liberal professor it's due partially to the media's "reflexively skeptical" view of President Bush; a view that, in turn, causes their coverage to be "pretty bad". According to Sunstein, this is a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the media (one might say "myopic zeal'). Instead of getting both sides, the coverage has been heavily tilted to the "WATERGATE!" side of the ledger. Of course, when the media only gets one side of the story, it almost inevitably gets the liberal side. This provides the talking points the Left then uses ad infinitum, and later exculpatory revelations are ignored. (Much like the latest news about deaths from Katrina. I think we're still waiting for that apology from Kanye West.)

Now, there's nothing at all wrong with the media being a group of professional skeptics; in a sense that's their job. However, as has been noted, EOs and policies by previous administrations that were very nearly the same as this one were buried by the same media that is taking this story and shouting it from multiple rooftops. Their skepticism is quite selective, as is the Left's outrage over this. Those on the Left may wish to make the argument that the media is simply being cautious of the actions of a man who would be king, but since the recent UCLA study that showed how leftward the media tilts, that bias must be taken into consideration first, long before trying to apply some sort of megalomania to Bush himself.

Journalists journal, right? They like to believe themselves to be playing things down the middle, but here's yet another example in a long line of examples to demonstrate they aren't nearly there.

Posted by Doug at 04:27 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

December 24, 2005

More on NSA Wiretapping

A quick roundup of links related to the NSA wiretapping controversy:

John Hinderaker at Power Line provides an excellent legal analysis of the controversy. Take the time to read the analysis. It's a great recap of the current state of statutory and case law on the subject.

I agree with Charles Krauthammer that it appears the President is really only guilty of making a political error in how he has handled the controversy.

Two new twists to the story appear in today's news. First, The New York Times breathlessly reports that the NSA's wiretapping program is much wider than first believed. The article's authors, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, admit that they based their article on goverment sources who were leaking classified material. The admission is buried in the eighth paragraph of the story:

The current and former government officials who discussed the program were granted anonymity because it remains classified.

Based on the Valerie Plame precedent, shouldn't there be an investigation into who leaked this classified information? Of course, if the Justice Department were to start such an inquiry, Democrats would scream "abuse of power" and claim that the Bush administration was using the Justice Department to exact revenge on its critics.

The Times also fails to disclose that Risen has a book that is critical of the Bush Administration that is due to be published next month. Perhaps Risen has another motive for publishing this story besides simply reporting "news"?

Finally, The Associated Press tries to pull Supreme Court Samuel Alito into the controversy by publishing a story with the headline "Alito Defended Ordering Domestic Wiretaps":

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps for national security when he worked at the Reagan Justice Department, an echo of President Bush's rationale for spying on U.S. residents in the war on terror.

Then an assistant to the solicitor general, Alito wrote a 1984 memo that provided insights on his views of government powers and legal recourse _ seen now through the prism of Bush's actions _ as well as clues to the judge's understanding of how the Supreme Court operates.

The National Archives released the memo and scores of other documents related to Alito on Friday; the Associated Press had requested the material under the Freedom of Information Act. The memo comes as Bush is under fire for secretly ordering domestic spying of suspected terrorists without a warrant.

The memo in question actually has nothing to do with whether ordering domestic wiretaps is legal. The case in question has to do with Nixon administration officials who ordered wiretaps that were subsequently found to be illegal. Alito argues in the memo that the officials who ordered the wiretaps should be granted immunity since they were not illegal at the time that they were ordered. That's far from arguing in favor of domestic wiretapping as the AP article leads us to believe. (Hat tip: Michelle Malkin)

Posted by Tom at 08:04 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 22, 2005

"Warrantless" Searches and Wiretapping - Nothing New

The Bush Administration policy of "warrantless" searches including electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists has caused great uproar particularly among Democrats and the media. However, as the Washington Times reports, this type of surveillance has been going on since the Carter Administration (Hat tip: Betsy's Page):

Previous administrations, as well as the court that oversees national security cases, agreed with President Bush's position that a president legally may authorize searches without warrants in pursuit of foreign intelligence. "The Department of Justice believes -- and the case law supports -- that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general," Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said in 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. That same authority, she added, pertains to electronic surveillance such as wiretaps. More recently, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- the secretive judicial system that handles classified intelligence cases -- wrote in a declassified opinion that the court has long held "that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information."

It seems pretty clear, at least to me, that the President acted legally and appropriately to deal with the threat of terrorism. As usual, opponents of this President ignore history in order to score some political gains at the expense of our national security. That strategy will ultimately backfire. As this story unfolds, I expect that most Americans will see that the President took the appropriate steps to protect them against terrorism. Citizens are willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt especially when their own security is at stake.

Posted by Tom at 09:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 20, 2005

A Tale of Two Trials

Clayton Cramer, on the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial:

It was a controversial idea of human origins--one that offended many people because of its implications for their religious beliefs. The idea had some worrisome baggage far beyond the area of biology. It scared the people in charge of the society, enough so that they felt a need to prohibit it from being taught in public schools.

Whoops, sorry. He's talking about the Scopes trial. Follow the link for an interesting comparison of the two.

Posted by Doug at 07:52 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Incestuous Pedophilia; The Musical

Incestuous pedophilia, the musical.

Around the holidays, the biggest challenge for many theater companies is convincing audiences to care about yet another staging of "A Christmas Carol." This season in Atlanta, however, Actor's Express wants to stir up buzz about a less familiar property -- namely, a pedophile musical.

The Express has already started pushing "Love Jerry," a new tuner written and composed by Megan Gogerty that follows the tortured story of Jerry, who develops a sexual relationship with his nephew while trying to stay friends with the boy's father.

I'm not sure how someone can see this and not realize the cultural pit we're slipping down into.

This is the start of the normalization of pedophilia (and incest; a two-fer). Doesn't matter that it's "delicate" and "heart-wrenching"; the point is that the behavior isn't condemned.

In "Love Jerry," there's no question what's going on, yet Gogerty refrains from demonizing the title character. She focuses instead on the entire family's attempt to comprehend what's happened.

This moral grayness makes the play even trickier to market, yet it's also what convinced Express artistic director Jasson Minadakis to produce it. He says he "absolutely believes" in the show and is continually "shocked by how powerfully it expresses itself."

Apparently, the theater-going audience that Gogerty is trying to reach is no longer shocked by the act itself, so Minadakis is left with trying to shock people with "moral grayness". They're trying to move these things from the "wrong" category to the "gray" area. That's shocking. It's not surprising, but it is shocking.

To some, however, this may indeed be surprising. Slate's Dahlia Lithwik, from last year:

The problem with the slippery slope argument is that it depends on inexact, and sometimes hysterical, comparisons. Most of us can agree, for instance, that all the shriekings about gay marriage opening the door to incest with children and pedophilia are inapposite.

An appeal to only the legal angle begs the question. Normalizing this will ultimately mean more of it, especially the way "privacy of my own bedroom" is used by those trying to normalize homosexual marriage.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Diane Glass, also from 2004, approached this from the same angle:

Which brings us to the inevitable "what about the children" argument. What's stopping us from going down the slippery slope toward pedophilia? Well, the fact that only adults can marry. Problem solved.

For some, that's simply a discriminatory statute just waiting to be "reformed".

Kevin Drum, from 2 years ago, railing on Rick Santorum:

Santorum's main beef relied on a "slippery slope" argument: if the government can't ban gay sex, then it also can't ban incest, bigamy, or adultery. This reminds me of why I dislike slippery slope arguments so much: they rely on the unspoken assumptions that (a) all arguments will eventually be followed to their most extreme conclusion, and (b) there are people whose ultimate goal is to gain acceptance of those extreme positions.

And yet here we stand, with an arts crowd looking to give a boost to some of the very things that Drum didn't think was anywhere down the slope at all.

The surprise for these and others appears to be that a different set of people may, in fact, be responsible for pushing pedophilia and incest into the mainstream of society than were responsible for giving homosexual marriage a kick-start. It doesn't really matter that some same-sex marriage advocates didn't want to see incest normalized, frankly. The main argument against same-sex marriage was "where does it end?" When the line is pushed to a new distance, it's now much shorter distance to other targets, and the folks waiting at those other targets are very happy you helped them out. Your protestations against their targets mean nothing to them, while they use your same arguments to work for what they want. You've done most of their work for them, and now all they have to do is nudge things a little more with a play here and a book there and an outed celebrity to sign autographs.

Posted by Doug at 02:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 19, 2005

The 2005 Gererosity Index

The 2005 Gererosity Index is out. As Michael Medved points out, the top half of the list is fully populated with "red states", while all but 1 of the bottom quarter of the list are "blue states". His conclusion:

The reason GOP states are so much more generous is both obvious and profound: conservatives view compassion as a personal responsibility, but liberals tend to see it as the government’s job. One approach leads to individual commitment, while the other encourages the belief you can best help others by leaving it up to tax collectors and bureaucrats.

Not to mention that those tax collectors and bureaucrats suck out around 75% of the money passing through them. This also highlights the divide in this country between those who look to government first to solve all the ills of society and those who are busy doing something about them (or personally supporting those who are).

Posted by Doug at 04:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Church / State Wall Breach

Marc at Hubs & Spokes has hard evidence that the President is again trying to destroy the wall separating church and state.

Heh heh.

Posted by Doug at 02:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Democrats: Still Weak on National Security

John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics has an intriguing column today that suggests that Democrats may be setting themselves up for political disaster with their continued offensive against the President and his policy towards Iraq and terrorism (Hat tip: Power Line):

First, the Democrats still do not grasp that foreign affairs and national security issues are their vulnerabilities, not their strengths. All of the drumbeat about Iraq, spying, and torture that the left thinks is so damaging to the White House are actually positives for the President and Republicans. Apparently, Democrats still have not fully grasped that the public has profound and long-standing concerns about their ability to defend the nation. As long as national security related issues are front page news, the Democrats are operating at a structural political disadvantage. Perhaps the intensity of their left wing base and the overwhelmingly liberal press corps produces a disorientation among Democratic politicians and prevents a more realistic analysis of where the country’s true pulse lies on these issues.

With their publicly defeatist language, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean reinforce these “soft on security” steroretypes, a weakness that more sober-minded Democrats have been trying to mitigate since the late 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately, this mentality dominates the Democrats’ political base and more accurately represents where the heart and soul of the modern Democratic party lies than the very tiny sliver of Joe Lieberman Democrats. The Party of FDR, Truman and John Kennedy -- at least on foreign policy -- is clearly no more.

McIntyre goes on to argue that the continued claims of torture, wiretapping, and wrongful imprisonment of suspected terrorists only reinforces the public's perception that Democrats are not only wrong on foreign policy but cannot be trusted. In fact, he argues that while the public may not be completely excited about such policies, they accept it as part of fighting the war on terror:

The public resents the overkill from Abu Ghraib and the hand-wringing over whether captured terrorists down in Gitmo may have been mistreated. They want Kahlid Mohamed, one of the master minds of 9/11 and a top bin Laden lieutanent, to be water-boarded if our agents on the ground think that is what necessary to get the intel we need. They want the CIA to be aggressively rounding up potential terrorists worldwide and keeping them in “black sites” in Romania or Poland or wherever, because the public would rather have suspected terrorists locked away in secret prisons in Bulgaria than plotting to kill Americans in Florida or California or New York.

The public also has the wisdom to understand that when you are at war mistakes will be made. You can’t expect 100% perfection. So while individuals like Kahled Masri may have been mistakenly imprisoned, that is the cost of choosing to aggressively fight this enemy. Everyone understands that innocents were killed and imprisoned mistakenly in World War II. Had we prosecuted WWII with the same concern for the enemy’s “rights” the outcome very well might have been different.

To top it off, McIntyre calls the Democrats' bluff over the "spying" outrage by suggesting (rightly) that whoever was responsible for leaking this story should be prosecuted:

If Democrats want to make this spying “outrage” a page one story they are fools walking right into a trap. Now that this story is out and the security damage is already done, let’s have a full investigation into exactly who the President spied on and why. Let’s also find out who leaked this highly classified information and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If the president is found to have broken the law and spied on political opponents or average Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, then Bush should be impeached and convicted.

But unlike Senator Levin, who claimed on Meet The Press yesterday not to know what the President’s motives were when he authorized these eavesdropping measures, I have no doubt that the President’s use of this extraordinary authority was solely an attempt to deter terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies. Let the facts and the truth come out, but the White House’s initial response is a pretty powerful signal that they aren’t afraid of where this is heading.

As long as Democrats continue to sound the drumbeat of defeatism, it's a safe bet they will lose politically. Americans may not like all of the steps the President is taking to protect them. But they understand that something must be done and that it is better to be on the offensive against terrorism than sitting back and waiting for them to strike again.

Posted by Tom at 12:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

This Just In; Media is Biased!

So says a new UCLA study:

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

Regarding Drudge, later on in the report it's noted that Drudge is graded based on the bias of the stories he links to, which lean left. This overbalances his personal conservative tilt, but he doesn't do as much writing of his own as he used to years ago. So overall, the media is liberal.

This isn't news to the "reality-based community" (a term the Kos folks like to assign themselves, even though they've called the media "conservative"). This is simply yet another in a long, long line of evidence that conservatives have a tougher time getting their message out in the media.

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

Heh, and Markos of Daily Kos calls the media the "Right Wing Noise Machine". But when 18 of 20 top media outlets lean (or fall over) left, it's points out the wishful thinking on his part.

Of the nightly news shows, I find these results interesting.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown" and ABC's "Good Morning America" were a close second and third.

"Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill," Groseclose said. "If these newscasters weren't centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators."

The fourth most centrist outlet was "Special Report With Brit Hume" on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC's "World News Tonight" and NBC's "Nightly News" to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

"If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news," said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

I find it interesting that folks who get outraged over Brit Hume don't recognize the same bias in ABC or NBC. And (no surprise here) CBS is even farther to the left. Is "Special Report" biased to the right? I'm willing to admit that it is. It uses contributors and sources that ABC, NBC and CBS completely ignore, based on the political stance. Rush Limbaugh often says that he doesn't need to be balanced by a liberal because he is the balance that's required for all the liberal opinionating out there (often disguised as news). Fox is far more centered than Limbaugh, of course, but they do have a rightward tilt that helps to balance the whole picture. But by the way they describe it, lots of folks on the left seem to think that Fox is much farther to the right than CBS is to the left. This study puts all of this in perspective.

When folks who say that Fox needs more liberal contributors start acknowledging that the rest of them need more conservative ones, that's when I'll start taking them seriously. Eric Alterman, call your publisher.

More thoughts and analysis can be found at "Oh, That Liberal Media", and Technorati shows all the blogs covering this.

Posted by Doug at 11:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005

The Latest Leaks

The NY Times has a report today about a Bush order to have the NSA do wiretaps on international calls without getting an initial warrant. I'm generally of the opinion that government power tends to expand over time just from a natural tendency, never mind all the new programs people keep trying to push into federal government. Therefore, an expansion like this gives me cause for concern.

Let's take a look at the specifics mentioned in the article, though. Knee-jerk reactions, from both sides, are not useful.

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

So just a few months after 9/11, when most of America was waiting for the other shoe to drop, President Bush got ahead of the curve and got proactive in hopes of preventing another attack. Now it's 4 years later and we've had nothing. The other shoe hasn't dropped. As we'll see, some of the credit for that goes to this decision.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

I'm no Constitutional scholar, (and I doubt the "officials" are themselves) but I'm also not sure whether or not we're really taking about a Constitutional issue here. Since the calls were to or from international destinations, there might be an out here.
According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.

So the administration has, in fact, been modifying it's operations in light of these questions. And all in secret, mind you. These changes were made not so that they look better on the evening news, but because, apparently, of the legitimacy of the issues. This speaks well, I think, of an honest attempt to stay within the law, yet push things enough to keep our enemies at bay.

Back in 2002, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) issued a statement that accused the Bush administration of not doing enough to prevent 9/11 and that they just sat on pre-9/11 intelligence in a "conspiracy of silence". This outrage ultimately brought about the highly-touted "9/11 Commission", which we now know was flawed with partisanship and unwilling to look at some hard facts ("Able Danger" among them). As I said back then,

[D]o you really think Ms. McKinney would have smiled with joy if we had done some serious racial profiling at airports and emptied all tall office buildings in order to prevent bin Laden's guided missiles from taking lives? Given the vague nature of what was known, and even if the exact dates, targets and MO were known, those types of measures would've been required to prevent the attacks. Cynthia doesn't like profiling now, and she wouldn't have approved of it then, but she sure does know how to may hay out of hindsight.

Scott Ott, at the news satire site ScrappleFace, uses his wonderful sense of humor to put it in perspective.
"I want to apologize for allowing the NSA to do these wiretaps after 9/11," the president said. "I'm sorry that I violated the privacy of some of these folks after terrorists launched attacks from our soil that killed 3,000 people, destroyed two skyscrapers and four jumbo jets, and punched a gaping hole in our military headquarters."

"My biggest regret," the president added, "is that the NSA didn't secretly tap these lines before 9/11. I hope my fellow Americans can forgive me."

I expect we'll hear Democrats coming out of the woodwork decrying this in the strongest of terms. Although, I'd bet that such pronouncements against Bush would have come anyway if another terrorism incident had taken place after 9/11, so you gotta take that for what it's worth. The President decided to do what it would take and was sensitive to and acted on questions of legality. I'd say that speaks well for him and how this operation was handled.

Back at the article, there have been positive results.

The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to this country, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.

It's very easy to criticize something from a position of comfort and safety.
Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.

This is where I think things get interesting. Listen to the outrage from Democrats on this, and listen closely for their mentioning that in some cases where wholly domestic wiretaps were required, they did get warrants. Listen for their leaders to acknowledge that, yes, they were briefed on it, and sent multiple memos expression their specific concerns over legalities. Listen very closely. I'm not entirely sure we're going to get anything like that from them. Hold not thy breath.
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

Yup, the Times held onto this urgent report for a year to make sure they got it right. And wouldn't you know, they released it on the very day the the Patriot Act renewal was scheduled to come for a vote in the Senate. Just coincidence, I'm sure. And it's just as much a coincidence that the author of the Times piece, James Risen, has a book coming out in a few weeks entitled "STATE OF WAR: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration". Pure accident of fate.

Later on, the piece goes into the idea that this may, in fact, have been legal based on a Congressional resolution.

Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States ­ including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners ­ is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.

If it's possible that this operation is legal, especially during wartime, then the leak of it ought to outrage those who got upset over the Plame kerfuffle. I''m sure it will outrage them, though I'm equally sure that outrage will be mostly misplaced.
What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, the officials said.

But now we've given the terrorists new information--that anything seized in the war could be used immediately--and now they'll change their precautions. One less opportunity to prevent the loss of life of potentially thousands.

Do the ends justify the means? No, but it appears that the Bush administration believed this was legal and even took steps to ensure that it was when questions were raised. Does it concern me when government acts in this manner? Yes, because as I noted, the tendency of government power is to expand. Those who continue to push to give the federal government more power and take it from the states should take note. However, one of the legitimate, enumerated powers of the federal government is to preserve and defend this nation. We are at war and it's good to keep that in mind before thoughtlessly dismissing this as some sort of power grab by an evil Republican President.

What we have here is yet another intelligence leak. Liberal blogs are already on the attack, but listen to how someone posting on the front page at the Daily Kos handles it.

No doubt we will see in coming weeks hair-splitting legal and constitutional debate over the precise wording of presidential orders, evocations of executive privilege and withholding of information in the name of national security, and mind-numbingly dull citations from dozens of obscure court cases. The administration will attempt to complicate, bluster, lie and attack its way out of answering for its spying on American citizens in the hopes that the electorate will give up on understanding the issue and will continue to sleep.

Essentially, SusanG is saying, "Never mind the legalities", which then, ironically, becomes here launching point for assuming it's unconstitutional, and get up in arms about it. The big picture and the salient points are eluding them.

(As an aside, further irony can be extracted from the fact that Democrats, in the case of Roe v Wade, consider precedent from court cases to be high holy words, but when there's a Republican in their sights, they're nothing but "dull citations".)

If we want to tackle precedent, John Hinderaker at Power Line notes this:

Under the Plame precedent, this case is a no-brainer. The intelligence officials who leaked to the Times should be identified, criminally prosecuted, and sent to prison.

Let's see how many Democrats come out for that. The "leak" of the name of a CIA employee who drove to and from Langley for more than 5 years (not exactly covert) is an outrage, but the leak of information that will help terrorists is no big deal and indeed should be encouraged. They've already made up their minds; blaming Bush is all that matters.

Posted by Doug at 01:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Putting the War on Terror In Perspective

There's been a great deal of attention paid in the media lately to the cut-and-run crowd, particularly Democrats John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. The media has played up any negative news about the war on terror that they can to try to shore up opposition for the war. So-called "milestones" such as the 2000th casualty in combat have received excessive news coverage. But when we reflect on history, we discover that the losses we have incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan pale in comparison to our losses in previous wars.

Today marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge which was the last great Nazi offensive of World War II. Fought in the dense forests of the Ardennes in Belgium, the Germans put 14 divisions including five Panzer divisions (approximately 250,000 troops) up against 80,000 Allied troops. The Americans had thought the Ardennes were too difficult to cross and thus did not have adequate numbers of troops in place at the start of the battle. To make matters worse, dense fog prevented Allied bombers from being able to provide air support.

Six days into the battle the Allies were surrounded by the Germans. General Heinrich von Luettwitz of the XLVIIth Armored Corps sent a message to General Anthony C. McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne and acting commander of the Allied troops at Bastogne demanding that the Allies surrender. General McAuliffe's reply was succinct: NUTS! Although the Germans had a little difficulty understanding exactly what the General meant (it is rumored that the actual reply used much stronger language), the message was clear: we will not surrender. The Allies held on until reinforcements could arrive from the Fourth Armored Division. They eventaully turned the tide and by January 7, 1945, Adolf Hitler ordered the German troops to withdraw from the Ardennes.

The battle would last until January 15, 1945 and would result in at least 80,000 American troops killed and at least as many German troops killed. But if the Americans had surrendered, it would have completely changed the course of the war.

This war is a difficult war. The enemy we fight does not wear a uniform, does not use standard military tactics, and does not even use conventional weaponry. Yet our enemy is determined to defeat us no matter what the cost to them.

The next time you hear someone say we should withdraw from Iraq because the cost has been too great, simply remind them of the sacrifices we have made in the past to maintain our freedom. Surrender was not an option when the situation was far worse for our armed forces that it is now. Surrender is not an option now, either.

Posted by Tom at 10:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 14, 2005

Another Letter from the Front

Marine Major Ben Connable, writing in the Washington Post, is, along with most of the military, optimistic about how the war will turn out.

How is it, then, that 64 percent of U.S. military officers think we will succeed if we are allowed to continue our work? Why is there such a dramatic divergence between American public opinion and the upbeat assessment of the men and women doing the fighting?

Open optimism, whether or not it is warranted, is a necessary trait in senior officers and officials. Skeptics can be excused for discounting glowing reports on Iraq from the upper echelons of power. But it is not a simple thing to ignore genuine optimism from mid-grade, junior and noncommissioned officers who have spent much of the past three years in Iraq.

Maj. Connable goes on to talk about the first-hand knowledge that he and his comrades in Iraq have that the "armchair academics" and the "talking heads" don't have that give them that optimism. He understands why Mr. and Mrs. America might have a view of Iraq as a quagmire; the news reports.

Most of the violent news is true; the death and destruction are very real. But experienced military officers know that the horror stories, however dramatic, do not represent the broader conditions there or the chances for future success. For every vividly portrayed suicide bombing, there are hundreds of thousands of people living quiet, if often uncertain, lives. For every depressing story of unrest and instability there is an untold story of potential and hope. The impression of Iraq as an unfathomable quagmire is false and dangerously misleading.

(That liberal media.) He has harsh words for those who insist on continuing to put forth this dismal outlook (and you know who you are >grin<).
It is this false impression that has led us to a moment of national truth. The proponents of the quagmire vision argue that the very presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the cause of the insurgency and that our withdrawal would give the Iraqis their only true chance for stability. Most military officers and NCOs with ground experience in Iraq know that this vision is patently false. Although the presence of U.S. forces certainly inflames sentiment and provides the insurgents with targets, the anti-coalition insurgency is mostly a symptom of the underlying conditions in Iraq. It may seem paradoxical, but only our presence can buffer the violence enough to allow for eventual stability.

It's worth reading the whole thing. At the end, Maj. Connable notes that even those in the military who believe the war's outlook to be bleak still work towards victory.
Everyone in uniform does not share this sentiment. Thirty-six percent of military officers are less confident in the mission. But these officers will continue to work as hard as the rest of us toward success because they, too, are professionals. With men and women such as this, the United States has an excellent chance of success in Iraq.

Defeat-ocrats, take note.

Posted by Doug at 03:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Letter from the Front

Powerline has a great letter from a Colonel in the Army Reserve. Best part:

Still, the elections will be a success, some wind will be taken out of the insurgency, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will continue to improve, US combat units will begin drawing down, and Democrats will start a mad dash to take credit for the success. Just imagine, a Middle Eastern country holding three major elections in a single year, voting in a constitution guaranteeing individual rights, and electing a multi-ethnic, multi-religious government.

Who indeed would have imagined that just 3 years ago. We're winning.

Posted by Doug at 03:05 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

US Plans Departure, Iraq Wants Us to Stay

American and Britian do indeed have a plan for pulling out of Iraq

BRITAIN and America are planning a phased withdrawal of their forces from Iraq as soon as a permanent government is installed in Baghdad after this week’s elections.

In a move that has caused alarm in the outgoing Iraqi administration, American and British officials have made clear that they regard the end of Iraq’s two-and-a-half-year transitional period as the green light to begin withdrawing some of their combined force of around 170,000 troops as early as March.

A senior Western diplomat in Baghdad said yesterday: “One of the first things we will talk about (with the new Iraqi government) is the phased transfer of security, particularly in cities and provinces. It will happen progressively over the next year.”
The Americans have increased their troop levels to help to bolster security for the elections on Thursday. But they are planning to pull out 30,000 by the new year and may reduce their presence below 100,000 in the coming months. US forces have already handed over security in Najaf and Karbala provinces and in city centres such as Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town.

This is quite a bit different from the Murtha plan, which would have started immediately and completed by May. Instead, it's a slower drawdown.
The moves appear to run contrary to statements by President Bush and John Reid, the Defence Secretary, who insist that coalition forces will not “cut and run” and will stay until the mission in Iraq is complete.

The London Times seems to have forgotten about the 400+ US Congressmen who voted against the cut-and-run strategy as well. And the second paragraph of this very article lays out the idea that the pullout of troops has been contingent on the final elections for the full government, not some artificial timetable worked up because John Murtha thought we were losing.

But guess who's not so hot on this idea?

Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told The Times yesterday that a hasty exit risked plunging the country into a new bout of violence.

“Those who advocate an early withdrawal do not know what is at stake. The huge investment in blood and money sacrificed by the US could be squandered.

“There would be regional interventions by neighbouring countries and others. The fate of this country and the whole region could be endangered,” he said.

The move to hand over security to the 225,000 Iraqi soldiers and police who have now been trained for active duty comes in the face of mounting public pressure in both Britain and the US to disengage from Iraq, amid the rising death toll and spiralling costs.

And it is the Left that is saying both that we should leave now, and that if there is a civil war in Iraq it's our fault, not apparently realizing that their cries for the former would cause the latter. But they blame Bush for both ends of the spectrum. I understand they don't think we should be there in the first place, but at this point in time it's incredibly disingenuous to Blame Bush(tm) for not doing what they want, and then Blame Bush(tm) for the results of doing what they want.

But the big news here is that a high-ranking Iraqi official wants us to stay, and essentially for the same reasons the Bush administration has been using. Frankly, you don't create a democracy--and especially all the concepts that entails--out of whole cloth overnight. If there was ever a place for UN peacekeepers, it would be here; in a fledgling democracy where the culture and the mindset regarding how to settle disputes needs to shift into self-government mode. (I doubt that will happen; it would be a tacit admission by the UN that there's a real peace to keep, and we can't have that.) But while that transition is happening, it's clear the Iraqi government would like us to stick around for a bit.

Posted by Doug at 01:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saudi Influence in American Media?

Was Rupert Murdoch influenced by a Saudi prince into coloring the news?

Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal boasted in Dubai earlier this week about his ability to change the news content that viewers around the world see on television.

FrontPage Magazine, a conservative mag, mind you, takes up the story.
In early September 2005, Bin Talal bought 5.46% of voting shares in News Corp. This made the Fifth richest man on the Forbes World's Richest People, the fourth largest voting shareholder in News Corp., the parent of Fox News.

This, in and of itself, is no big deal to me. I don't judge companies based on who owns their stock. Heck, Michael Moore has traded in Halliburton (in spite of his denials) but I don't hold it against them. >grin<

But then came the Paris riots, and here's where the story gets interesting.

After bin Talal purchased his voting shares in News Corp., on September 23, 2005, he stated in an advertising supplement to the New York Times, “When I invest in a group like CITICROUP, the Four Seasons, the News Corp. or Time Warner, my objective is not to manage those companies.” But this is not quite accurate, considering the Prince’s December 5, 2005 statement given to Middle East Online regarding his ability to change what viewers see on Fox News. Covering the riots in Paris last November, Fox ran a banner saying: "Muslim riots." Bin Talal was not happy. "I picked up the phone and called Murdoch... (and told him) these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty," he said. "Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots."
So far, this could just be a bit of bravado on the part of the Prince. Indeed, as we'll see in a second, Fox did change the captioning, but were they really the result of a call from the Prince? Here's their side of the story.
News Corp did not comment, but referred us to FOX NEWS, which responded with the following statement: “Over the course of our extensive coverage, it became clear that the Paris riots were caused by a number of different factors which we characterized in various ways as we continued to report the story and discover new information. In fact, one of our contributors, Father Morris, who was in Paris covering this story, was prominently on our air saying this was a cultural assimilation issue, not a religious one.”
Notably absent from this explanation is a direct denial of the original assertion. They don't say the Prince didn't influence the decision, but they do note that an on-air personality did suggest the riots were not religious in nature, which, if that's the turn the conversation then took, would be a perfectly good explanation for the changing of the graphic. Unfortunately, Fox doesn't give us a timeline with respect to the on-air comment and the caption change.

Is this, then, an actual case of Saudi influence in American media? Certainly the FrontPage article shows that bin Talal is a big believer in getting the Arab view of the world out in the American press (even if his ideas aren't quite right; the article also quotes coverage of the riots to suggest that they had indeed primarily a Muslim contingent rather that being all the poor or immigrants in particular areas). If it's true, and even if it's not, it's one more reason to never get your news just from one place. In the age of the Internet, there's no excuse for that.

Posted by Doug at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Narnia: Box Office Savior?

With the huge opening weekend success of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the film appears to becoming a year-end blessing for an otherwise dismal year at the movies:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe helped melt a box office in winter. With a dose of broadly appealing fantasy based on C.S. Lewis' famous novel, overall business was up 15 percent from the comparable weekend last year, and, with King Kong looming, 2005 is poised to end on a high note despite being the first down box office year since 1991.

Playing on about 6,800 screens across 3,616 locations, Narnia drummed up $65.6 million, exceeding industry expectations in the $50 million range. The opening was the second-biggest ever for December behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's $72.8 million and the third best start for distributor Buena Vista, behind The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

The same report goes on to note that the content of the film had a lot to do with this past weekend's success:

Saturday exit polls by Buena Vista indicated that families made up 53 percent of Narnia's audience, and that 55 percent of moviegoers were under 25 years old and 52 percent were male. Audiences generally liked the picture, grading it an "A+" in CinemaScore's opening night surveys, which also showed that the "subject matter" was by far the top reason people saw the movie.

It is this same desire for more family-friendly content that drove Philip Anschutz (owner of Walden Media which produced Narnia) to start his own film companies with his own money. The American Enterprise has a terrific profile of Anschutz entitled "Movie Messiah" that details the billionaire's journey in the world of movie making. If the success of Narnia is any indication, Anschutz's Walden Media has figured out how to succeed in Hollywood. If the rest of Hollywood starts to take notice that it's the content of the movie that matters as much as the story being told then perhaps there is hope for the movie industry after all.

Posted by Tom at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2005

Hearts and Minds

Memo to Howard Dean: We're winning.

Saddam Hussein loyalists who violently opposed January elections have made an about-face as Thursday's polls near, urging fellow Sunni Arabs to vote and warning al Qaeda militants not to attack.

In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Graffiti calling for holy war is now hard to find.

This is as much about winning the hearts and minds as it is winning the fight, and we're winning both of them.

As I noted before, the creation of new governments in German or Japan wasn't done at nearly this break-neck pace. But come Thursday, yet another milestone will have come and gone on time and Democrats will still complain about not having some sort of timetable for leaving. I'm still waiting for our timetable for leaving Germany.

UPDATE: Via James Taranto, here's are dozens of political cartoons about the Iraqi elections. Note the overwhelming pessimism from the left. Of course, their pessimism was for nothing, as the January elections went off far better. (I believe all these cartoons are from that time frame; see the bottom of page 2.) Fortunately, there are a few examples of folks who did hold out hope.

Posted by Doug at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good News from All Over

Found this on Fox News: If you want more good news in your life, HappyNews.com is apparently the place. This isn't just a place to find out about the latest cat rescued from a tree by the local fireman. There's international news ("Growing stability fosters respect for human right in Liberia"), national news ("Ariz. town will go wall-to-wall wireless"), health news ("Breast cancer patients may get less chemo"), science, environment, arts, opinion and a number of other sections. But they do have a section most other papers and websites don't; the hero section. Each section has dozens of stories and it seems to be updated regularly. Their credo is, "Real News, Compelling Stories, Always Positive" and it looks like they're living up to it. (Even with the stock report, which, on the front page, is covered up with a graphic that says, "Warning! Unhappy news alert, click at your own risk". Heh.)

Posted by Doug at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2005

Welcome to Self-Government, Iraq

In 6 days, Iraqis will vote for their new parliament; yet another milestone hit on-time. The WaPo notes that the political game is afoot and it looks very familiar; campaign posters, 30-second TV spots, negative campaigning, the works.

What kind of government will Iraqis vote in? That question is really up in the air at this point. Some think that it may be a little too Iranian for their comfort, others think it may be quite amenable to the West. (I predict that liberals will be reliably defeatist with the outcome not matter what it is. If it's too sharia-like, they'll call it a failure of the Bush administration for not ensuring a friendly government. If it is a friendly government, they'll claim that it's a puppet regime and find a way to tie it to Halliburton.)

However, what's really the point is that it will be Iraqis deciding on how they want to be governed. This is, after all, self government, something they've not had in Iraq for a good long time. And no matter how it turns out, that's a win for them.

Will it be full of halting progress and missteps? Undoubtedly. This is all new to them, and the idea of governing by force is still too ingrained to be removed at the drop of a hat. We'll still hear of police overstepping their boundaries. But they are at least on the road, taking the journey, and not under the thumb of a ruling minority that would kill you if you looked at them sideways.

Will there be arguing and bad-mouthing and legislative logjams? Yup, just like here. That's part of being a representative democracy. Don't forget, this country was started because of an argument.

Will this spread? I certainly hope so. Iran could use some real democratic reforms. (When the mad mullahs, who hold the real power, talk about wiping Israel off the map, it's time.) The oppressive regimes in other neighboring countries are, I believe, the real reason the area is so unstable and volatile.

Let's stand with the Iraqi people as they begin their journey, and let's remember it's their journey to take, even if we may not agree with some of their choices.

Posted by Doug at 04:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tax Cuts Raise Federal Revenues

Federal tax revenues are rising after tax cuts? Yes indeed, and TaxProf highlights the Treasury Dept. graph to prove it. This won't be news to anyone who remembers that tax revenues rose after Reagan cut taxes.

For those in denial from the 1980s, this will, of course, be just another set of data to try and ignore or disparage. (And of course next time they'll continue the mantra that tax cuts reduce federal tax revenue, utterly ignoring history.)

Posted by Doug at 02:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

Defending Narnia

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Nelson defends The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe against attacks by award-winning writer and atheist Philip Pullman. Pullman pulls no punches in his disdain and revulsion of the story and its themes. Nelson, however, point by point, shows that these attacks are without merit in the areas of sexism, racism, violence, death and love. In more than one case, Nelson notes that the very thing that Pullman professes to dislike about Narnia is also featured in Pullman's own children's literature.

The most ironic portion:

One of the books in Pullman's His Dark Materials series won the 2001 Whitbread Award both for best children's book and for best book of any kind published in England the previous year — the only time the main prize has ever been awarded to a work for children. Pullman wrote the series, he says, because "I really wanted to do ... Paradise Lost in 1,200 pages. ... It's the story of the Fall which is the story of how what some would call sin, but I would call consciousness, comes to us." Over the course of three volumes, Pullman wanted to celebrate, as he thinks John Milton does, our first ancestors' decision to rebel against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In Pullman's mind, rebellion from a loving God is better than (or at least a better story than) redemption and acceptance of the gift of eternal life from that same loving God. Read the whole review for some more good irony and a good defense of Lewis' story.

Posted by Doug at 09:52 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Who is C. S. Lewis?

While anticipation is building for Friday's release of the movie adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, much attention has been focused on the man behind the magic, C. S. Lewis. Christianity Today and Christian History Magazine both have several terrific articles that provide keen insight into the man who is so revered by evangelicals:

Why Lewis is someone every Christian should know.

Interesting and unusal facts about Lewis.

A look into the mind of C. S. Lewis.

And his famous friendship with J. R. R. Tolkein.

Posted by Tom at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Steyn Nails It

...on a number of topics.

Liberal Media:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, came out with a big statement on Iraq last week. Did you hear about it? Probably not. Everyone was still raving about his Democrat colleague, Rep. Jack Murtha, whose carefully nuanced position on Iraq is: We're all doomed unless we pull out by next Tuesday! (I quote from memory.)

Inconsistency Among Democrats:
But Kerry drones that we need to "set benchmarks" for the "transfer of authority." Actually, the administration's been doing that for two years -- setting dates for the return of sovereignty, for electing a national assembly, for approving a constitution, etc, and meeting all of them. And all during those same two years Kerry and his fellow Democrats have huffed that these dates are far too premature, the Iraqis aren't in a position to take over, hold an election, whatever. The Defeaticrats were against the benchmarks before they were for them.

NewSpeak on the Iraq War:

These sad hollow men may yet get their way -- which is to say they may succeed in persuading the American people that a remarkable victory in the Middle East is in fact a humiliating defeat. It would be an incredible achievement. Peter Worthington, the Canadian columnist and veteran of World War II and Korea, likes to say that there's no such thing as an unpopular won war. The Democrat-media alliance are determined to make Iraq an exception to that rule.

Good News from Iraq:
In a week's time, Iraqis will participate in the most open political contest in the history of the Middle East. They're building the freest society in the region, and the only truly federal system. In three-quarters of the country, life has never been better. There's an economic boom in the Shia south and a tourist boom in the Kurdish north, and, while the only thing going boom in the Sunni Triangle are the suicide bombers, there were fewer of those in November than in the previous seven months.

And a View of History:
Islam and "the West" have a long history. And, without rehashing the last millennium and a half, the Muslim conquest of Europe and then the Crusades and the fall of Andalusia, if you take out a map of the world and look at the rise of the European empires you notice a curious thing: in conquering the world the imperial powers for the most part simply bypassed the Islamic world. They made Africa and South Asia and Latin America and everywhere else seats of European power, but they left the Middle East alone. And, even when they eventually got their hands on the region, after the First World War, they made no serious attempt to reform the neighborhood. We live with the consequences of that today.

So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East.

Great column, and worth the read. You won't get this side of the story from ABCCBSNBSCNN.

Posted by Doug at 09:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 02, 2005

New Poll Results and Why I Don't Care

California Yankee points out that polls about the war are looking up, and it further shows why I really dislike polls.

Optimism about the War Against Terrorism rebounded smartly in the last month according to Rasmussen Reports polling released today:
Forty-eight percent (48%) [of] Americans now believe the U.S. and its Allies are winning. That's up nine points from 39% a month ago and represents the highest level of confidence measured in 2005.

Just 28% now believe the terrorists are winning, down six points from 34% a month ago.

There is more good news. Forty percent now believe that the U.S. is safer than it was before 9/11. That's up from 34% a month ago. The number who say the U.S. is not safer has declined to 43 percent, down from 50% a month ago.

Forty percent (40%) of Americans now believe that, in the long run, the U.S. mission in Iraq will be viewed as a success. Forty-five percent (45%) believe it will be viewed as a failure. Those figures also show increased optimism compared to last month.

The survey was conducted on November 30 and December 1, following the President Bush's speech outlining the Strategy For Victory In Iraq, and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Polls often are nothing more than measures of emotion, and sometimes they're asking folks questions outside their area of knowledge. What people, me included, think about whether or not we're winning the war in Iraq or in terror in general is way outside our expertise. All we have to go on are reports and speeches. The news can, and often is, slanted in what is reported and how it is reported. Speeches can be self-serving. That's why polls of public opinion don't generally carry much weight with me. It's more often a measure of how well the PR campaigns are doing.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index tracked with the rise and fall of gas prices. August was 105.5, September dipped to 87.5, October was 85.2 and November's preliminary number is back up to 98.9. A measure of emotion may be useful in economics for some things, but it seems to me that, generally, measures of emotion that are primarily reacting to $3/gallon gas don't really mean much. Actually, I think they can do more harm than good. There are folks who will immediately say, "prices are too high, government must do...something!" The resulting government action is often more self-serving than economically sound, as I noted with the whole "windfall profit" push against oil companies.

So the public was dour about the war when the Democrats were getting their message out, and now the public's opinion is rising now that the Republicans are getting theirs out. This tells us precisely nothing about the war itself. It is important to have the public behind a war effort, but is by no means a measure of that war's success or failure. And while I'm glad the the public is, in general, coming around to my opinion of the war, in the end, what the poll gives us is more often just a number.

(Apologies to Rick, our resident statistician. My issue is not with the methods, though, just the why's and "what-for's".)

Posted by Doug at 08:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Continuing the Intelligent Design Debate

Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, weighs in on the debate over Intelligent Design with an excellent article in Human Events entitled "Why Intelligent Design Will Win". Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 11:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

Alito and Abortion

The Washington Post does it's best to help the waning liberal opposition to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court with a front-page story declaring that as a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan Administration he helped craft a legal strategy for overturning Roe vs. Wade.

The big news here is that there is no really big news. Judge Alito worked as a staff attorney in the Justice Department for a pro-life President. Part of his job would be to help argue cases before the Supreme Court representing the position of the administration which he served.

What was the extent of Alito's contribution to this so-called legal strategy? He suggested that the Justice Department file a brief in the case of Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which dealt with a Pennsylvania law placing a number of restrictions on abortion. The Justice Department was not directly involved in the case before the Court. Judge Alito was merely suggesting the filing of a brief showing the administration's support for the Pennsylvania statute. Such briefs are commonly filed by any number of interested parties in cases that are heard before the Supreme Court as a way to present their support for a particular position in the case.

The article goes on to state that Alito didn't even write the brief but merely provided some of the legal reasoning that went into the brief.

This hardly seems to be as damaging a revelation as the Post article makes it out to be. Instead, it appears Alito was just another lawyer who was doing his job: arguing the position of the President he served.

Posted by Tom at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack