October 04, 2007
The Ends Justify the High-Tech Lynching
James Taranto, in his "Best of the Web Today" today, notes that the accusations of "anger" against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas seem to be unfounded. But building on that is the idea that, since the travesty that was his confirmation hearing didn't manage to keep him off the bench, he shouldn't be upset about those accusations. "Hey, you made the highest court in the land. So what about the politics of personal destruction?"
Taranto has a great rundown of all the shenanigans that took place back then, including the observation that
"...Thomas's political foes managed to violate the integrity of the FBI, the Senate and the D.C. Circuit--that is, of all three branches of government. This behavior was unethical, unconscionable and possibly criminal, and no one has ever been held to account for it."
Thomas was treated unfairly, as well as illegally, but that didn't matter to the Democrats that opposed him.
Thomas's opponents believed that the end justified the means, as a former foe tells the justice's wife on page 232:
Years later a young woman who had worked for one of the many groups opposed to my nomination approached Virginia. "We didn't think of your husband as human, and I'm sorry," she said, tears streaming down her face. "We thought that anything was justified because our access to abortions and sex was at risk." The woman went on to explain that she had subsequently had a religious conversion and now felt that it was her duty to apologize to us.
Now, those who remain unrepentant are reduced to arguing, pathetically, that Justice Thomas--and the rest of us--should countenance the means because they failed to realize the end.
Taranto's analysis is why "BotWT" is a daily e-mail I never miss.
October 02, 2007
Two-Party System, Like It or Not
Rudy Giuliani is not my first pick for Republican presidential nominee. He's got some troubling stands on some issues that are important to me. But whatever those disconnects, he'd be far better than anything the Democrats have to offer.
Except that's not what a number of conservative Christians are saying.
Some of the nation's most politically influential conservative Christians, alarmed by the prospect of a Republican presidential nominee who supports abortion rights, are considering backing a third-party candidate.
More than 40 Christian conservatives attended a meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City to discuss the possibility, and planned more gatherings on how they should move forward, according to Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail expert and longtime conservative activist.
Rudy Giuliani, who supports abortion rights and gay rights, leads in national polls of the Republican presidential candidates. Campaigning in New Jersey on Monday, Giuliani brushed aside talk of an upstart effort by religious conservatives.
"I'm working on one party right now _ the Republican Party," Giuliani said. "I believe we are reaching out very, very well to Republicans. The emphasis is on fiscal conservatism, which brings Republicans together."
Other participants in the meeting included James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family evangelical ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo., and, according to Viguerie, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy group in Washington.
The problem with this approach is that if they act on this threat, they ensure the election of someone even further from their beliefs than Rudy. And they have to know this, which means they'd rather have someone in Planned Parenthood's back pocket, never mind all the other nanny-state, anti-growth policies that would get introduced and implemented, than someone with whom they could at least agree on most of the time. If you have a Republican in the White House, you at least have someone who'll give conservative Christians a fair hearing rather than just lip service.
Betsy Newmark has a better suggestion.
There is a candidate in the race right now who fits all the needs of these cultural conservatives - Mike Huckabee. They could be mobilizing behind him. If Huckabee started moving in the polls and surpassing expectations in the early states, these conservatives might be able to convince Giuliani (if he were to win the nomination) to put Huckabee on the ticket to alleviate some of this cultural conservative angst.
How much influence a VP would have is a matter of debate, as Betsy notes, but rather than bailing out, engage.
September 28, 2007
Change Begins With Us
I'm not one to post campaign material for one candidate or another here, especially since I've really not made up my mind. But this post by Mitt Romney at Redstate really hits the nail on the head with me. Key paragraph:
The blame for Washington's failures lies not just with the Democrats but with Republicans as well. We have to put our own house in order. We can no longer be a party of big spenders with ethical standards more fitting of a Jay Leno punch line. We can no longer pretend our borders are secure. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It's time for change in Washington and change begins with us.
Read the whole thing.
September 26, 2007
A Win for Religious Displays
A Ten Commandments display in Kentucky will remain, beating back an assault by the ACLU.
A federal court in Lexington, Ky., has ruled that the Ten Commandments can remain on display in the Mercer County courthouse, rejecting an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to have them removed.
“This is a major victory for the people of Mercer County and for all Americans who don’t buy into the ACLU’s extreme misrepresentation of our Constitution,” said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which argued the case for the county.
“The First Amendment was never intended to remove all mention of God or religion from the public square,” said Manion. “The Supreme Court and many other courts have long recognized the foundational role of the Ten Commandments in the development of our legal system.”
Hat tip to Stop the ACLU, where Nathan Bradfield, after making his case for why the ACLU has been wrong in this and other efforts, states:
Those who would argue that our Founders intended to begin a secular nation with secular documents are living a pipe dream. A. H. Everett, said in the Legislature of Massachusetts, “In almost all of the distinguished states, the principal care of the community has been to provide for the support of religion.” Whether out of ignorance or lack of exposure, a minority of Americans neglect every Founder not named Paine, Jefferson, or Madison. And the latter two must be quoted out of context in order fit their secular, separation mold.
I wouldn't go so far as to say the tide is turning against the ACLU in cases like this, because it matters so much whether the judge takes the Constitution at its word or not. But it is good to see.
September 25, 2007
Free Speech for Thee, But Not for Me...Sort of
The appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University was trumpeted by portions of the Left as a big win for "free speech". I'm reminded of the saying used quite often; an open mind, like an open window, still needs a screen to keep the bugs out. Just because our republic isn't going to collapse if we let an evil man speak doesn't mean we should offer up a forum for him.
But apparently, the Left has its own version of the screen. If the speech exposes the dirty laundry of the Left, it should be screened out.
Early this summer, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president learned that the men’s magazine GQ was working on a story the campaign was sure to hate: an account of infighting in Hillaryland.
So Clinton’s aides pulled a page from the book of Hollywood publicists and offered GQ a stark choice: Kill the piece, or lose access to planned celebrity coverboy Bill Clinton.
Despite internal protests, GQ editor Jim Nelson met the Clinton campaign’s demands, which had been delivered by Bill Clinton’s spokesman, Jay Carson, several sources familiar with the conversations said.
GQ writer George Saunders traveled with Clinton to Africa in July, and Clinton is slated to appear on the cover of GQ’s December issue, in which it traditionally names a “Man of the Year,” according magazine industry sources.
And the offending article by Atlantic Monthly staff writer Josh Green got the spike.
Wasn't it supposed to be George W. Bush that participated in this kind of stifling of dissent?
September 19, 2007
Our Standing In The World
Democrats have bemoaned the (alleged) loss of standing with the world that the US has suffered supposedly due to the war in Iraq. I guess before that, everyone just loved us, and since then we've lost the support of our allies. Well, the good news is, those Democrats can stop their worrying; France likes us again.
Sometimes it's not the message, but the messenger who delivers it. After spending much of this decade going head to head with the US over its invasion of Iraq due to nuclear weapons suspicions, France seems to be joining American bellicosity when it comes to those same suspicions about Iran. On French radio on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that it is time to "prepare ourselves for the worst" and indicated that he was talking about a possible war with Iran.
The remarks are simply the most recent indication that France under new President Nicolas Sarkozy is turning its back on the almost reflexive anti-US stance of his predecessor Jacques Chirac.
Democrats who have cited our "standing" as a reason to oppose Bush will now start supporting him, right? Well, no, of course it couldn't be that easy.
On Monday, the UN's head nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei blasted Kouchner, saying that diplomacy is still the best route and warned against "hyping" the issue.
"There are rules on how to use force," ElBaradei said "and I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons."
Of course, the UN is still jittery. Yes, there are rules on how to use force, which, incidentally, we followed, and still we "lost standing". Sorry, I don't exert too much worry on what others might think of us even if we follow the rules. I want diplomacy to work, make no mistake. But I also want enemies to know that there will be a price if they continue to threaten us and our allies. That's all that Kouchner was saying; nothing's off the table.
Kouchner also indicated that the European Union might begin looking into imposing its own sanctions against Iran, should the UN continue to be unable to strengthen those currently in place.
Because we all know how well UN sanctions worked on Iraq. Exhibit A is:
China and Russia -- both of which wield vetoes on the UN Security Council -- have been reluctant to take a harder line against Iran, which is widely suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Anyway, it looks like the world is starting to see things our way again, albeit slowly. Democrats should be sleeping better tonight.
Either that or the whole "standing" issue was just a smoke screen, as long as the "world" though the way they did. I'm kinda leaning that way.
September 18, 2007
Democratic Candidates Continue to Show Partisanship
The Fox News Channel is somehow too biased, supposedly, for a fair presidential debate, but the Huffington Post and Slate aren't?
Democratic 2008 presidential hopefuls parried unusual questions about flatulent cows and "spoiled brat" voters, as well as Iraq and health care, in the first exclusively online campaign "debate."
The "mashup" forum hosted by Yahoo! in partnership with the blog Huffington Post and online magazine Slate, allowed voters to compare responses to similiar questions on burning issues, posed by talk-show host Charlie Rose.
Democrats are simply not interested in fairness and balance. Republicans are going to participate in their own debate hosted by left-wing political web sites. But for Democrats to complain about Fox's bias while embracing a host that is even more biased to the left than about any MSM outlet you can name is the height of hypocracy. Their concern about "bias" is all talk, and completely disingenuous. It is their problem that this highlights, not Fox's.
September 11, 2007
Six Years After
There's not much more that I can say about 9/11 than I've already said before (some in 2006, but mostly in 2004). I think the national memory is still fading, especially when many still can't come to face the fact that Islamo-fascists are really out to kill us. Some politicians want to remove preventative measures that nipped many attack, most recently in Germany, in the bud. They just don't realize the danger. 9/11 was a one-off, so far, because of better intelligence gathering. We need to keep it.
If we are attacked again because we forgot the stakes and the lessons, to a large extent we would have ourselves to blame. Remember.
September 06, 2007
He Who Pays is In Control
When you want to buy something, especially a high-ticket item -- let's say a car -- you want to do your research first. You have certain things that are important to you, as well as those things you think would be nifty to have, and balance that with how much your needs and wants are going to cost you. Then, you make your choice, good or bad, and you buy a car. You may buy just what you need, or you may buy more than that, but whatever the price, you are responsible for it. Your neighbor can neither tell you what to buy nor should your neighbor pay for any part of it, even the excess gas if you buy a guzzler. You pay the money, so you control the choice, and the consequences.
But with something more personal, like health insurance, liberals seem to think that experts in their ivory tower should manage the health care spending of us all. The lure is that just pay them a fee and they'll run the whole healthcare system for you. Don't worry about cost. The upside, they tell you, is that you may get more healthcare than you pay for. The downside, they don't tell you, is that any money you don't use you also don't keep. This "forced charity" (oxymoron) is held up as the way to make sure we all get what we need. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. (Great line, wonder who said it.)
But that is just the foot in the door. As with the car, when you pay, you decide how much or little gas mileage you're willing to pay for, how much luxury you want, and what you can do without. You neighbor doesn't have a say because he's not paying for it. In a nationalized health care system, however, whoever is paying now has that power over you, and not just which doctor you go to. Folks in the UK are finding that out.
Failing to follow a healthy lifestyle could lead to free NHS treatment being denied under the Tory plans.
Patients would be handed "NHS Health Miles Cards" allowing them to earn reward points for losing weight, giving up smoking, receiving immunisations or attending regular health screenings.
Like a supermarket loyalty card, the points could be redeemed as discounts on gym membership and fresh fruit and vegetables, or even give priority for other public services - such as jumping the queue for council housing.
But heavy smokers, the obese and binge drinkers who were a drain on the NHS could be denied some routine treatments such as hip replacements until they cleaned up their act.
Those who abused the system - by calling an ambulance when a trip to the GP would be sufficient, or telephoning out of hours with needless queries - could also be penalised.
The report calls for a greater emphasis on the "citizen's responsibility" to be healthy and says no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles.
Ironically, I heartily agree with the statement that "no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles". However, because the government is forcing taxpayers to fund their neighbors' poor choices, now the government has to step in and make your lifestyle choices. It's not that I don't think people should be as preventative as they can health-wise, it's just that I don't think the Health Police should be, in effect, roaming the streets making sure you're running your daily 2 miles or doing your 25 situps, and shutting down food stores that don't serve items that are up to government standards. The result is the same, with or without a London bobby walking the beat.
When the government pays, the government calls the shots. All the shots.
September 04, 2007
Another Accountability Moment
Brought to you by Republicans.
Sen. Larry Craig said Saturday he will resign, succumbing to rapidly intensifying pressure from within his own Republican Party.
Not censured, not wrist-slapped, not frowned upon; resigned. As noted before on this blog, more than once, both sides have their issues with fallible human beings in positions of power. But it's Republicans that, far more often, do the right thing.
I heard Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday repeat what he'd heard from some sources that the number of Republicans leaving due to scandal shows how bad off the party is. I say that it shows how better off the party is. I repeat, both sides have their troubles, but the Republicans are ridding themselves of the bad apples, and they are better off for it.
Update: Looks like Sen. Craig is trying to undo his guilty plea and resignation. We'll see how that turns out. But if indeed he is still guilty on the other side of this legal maneuver, I believe the Republican party will continue to do the right thing.
August 30, 2007
It Should Have Come as No Surprise
As first noted here, talked about here, and with evidence here, the election results from 2006 were incredibly misread by Democrats. On the whole, conservatism won, with those Democrats coming in to power being far more right-leaning than those who were applauding the election results cared to see or admit.
But the chickens came home to roost, and the netroots are shocked -- SHOCKED -- at the outcome.
A leading liberal blogger has declared political war against centrist Democrats – the latest move in an intensifying show of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Congress by the once-friendly blogosphere.
Matt Stoller, who blogs at the well-trafficked OpenLeft.com, has compiled a list of 38 House “Blue Dog” Democrats who have voted with Republicans on key legislation, and called on the activist community to put pressure on them – and perhaps challenge them in primaries – if they fail to shape up.
“Some of these members may need to face a primary challenge, and it's useful for potential primary challengers to know that there is criticism of these members,” wrote Stoller, who refers to the 38 Democrats as “Bush Dogs.”
MoveOn.org is getting in on the act as well, targeting those who have become better informed and thus are no longer towing the liberal line.
Rep. Brian Baird’s (D-Wash.) recent conversion on the Iraq war is beginning to affect more than the national dialogue. On Wednesday, liberal group MoveOn.org announced an ad campaign against the congressman in his own district.
Baird recently returned from a trip to Iraq and reversed his position on a withdrawal timetable, citing military progress in the four-year-old war.
The far left's influence over the Democratic party is pushing that party further and further away from the mainstream. I wish Stoller and MoveOn all the success in the world in getting more fringe candidates. It'll push the government to the right when they lose.
August 29, 2007
Private vs Public Disaster Relief: Which Works Faster?
Same conservative drumbeat, different song, but the beat goes on.
Two years after the devastating floods that followed Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans, and much of the Gulf Coast, has largely taken two paths: communities that have rebuilt themselves using private funds, insurance money and sheer will — and publicly funded efforts that have moved much more slowly.
Federal, state and local governments have struggled to speed up the release of funds and restore infrastructure. None of the 115 "critical priority projects" identified by city officials has been completed: For example, New Orleans' police superintendent still works out of a trailer, as do most of the city's firefighters. And analysts at the city's crime lab don't have a laboratory to match DNA samples.
Private funds also generally indicate that more personal effort is going into the project than those who, waiting on big government money, are also waiting on big government action. The more big government is relied upon, the slower things go, and the more people tend to avoid aiding in the cause because, hey, the government will help them. In that sense, government aid can be society's own worst enemy, in the long term.
August 24, 2007
Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 2
This is the 2nd and final part of my analysis of an open letter from Anne Rice. Part 1 can be found here.
Anne Rice spends most of her letter covering this issue, and she starts with an assertion that, to me, shows a lack of consideration of the history of the issue.
I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.
Ms. Rice does touch on these historical issues lightly later on, and I'll hit them more in-depth then, but even looking at how the abortion issue generally falls between the parties today, I don't see this as making sense. What I hear from Democrats are things like John Kerry with this sentiment:
I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many. I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. That's why I support that. I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.
If one's commitment to Christianity should be "absolute", as Ms. Rice has said, there is a big problem with this statement, that is generally the line religious Democrats use when talking about abortion, and that is the canard about legislating one's religious faith, or sometimes call ramming one's religion down your throat. Civil rights are very much a moral issue, but does Sen. Kerry have the same problem with legislating that? No, he's very willing to impose his view on KKK members, and rightly so. It's right, it's moral and it's the law. Legislators all throughout our country's history, and more so in our early history, based many of their decisions partly or mostly on their religious faith. This excuse is disingenuous.
Regarding Hillary Clinton, NARAL gave her a 100% score on her 2006 voting record (PDF), and she's a big supporter of Roe v Wade. See here for other details. You won't curb abortions by voting the way she does. Like her husband, she'll talk the talk, but watch the way she votes.
When voting, as Ms. Rice says, "Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian". If there is a substantial difference between Ms. Rice's vote and Sen. Kerry's or Clinton's vote, I'd like to know what she thinks it might be. Both votes affect more than just the voter, and one's Christianity shouldn't be compartmentalized between private and public life.
In one sense, votes by representatives will, to different extents, reflect the people represented rather than the representatives views. At the same time, by that very title, the representative represents their constituents views and values, and his or her own views are part of that; he or she was voted in partially or mostly because of their views. It's certainly not always a perfect fit between the politician and the constituents, but Sen. Kerry's statement takes his religious beliefs totally and completely out of the equation. If Democratic politicians, in general, can't bring themselves to vote against abortion, how in the world they be better in stopping the horror of it?
I have heard many anti-abortion statements made by people who are not Democrats, but many of these statements do not strike me as constructive or convincing. I feel we can stop the horror of abortion. But I do not feel it can be done by rolling back Roe vs. Wade, or packing the Supreme Court with judges committed to doing this. As a student of history, I do not think that Americans will give up the legal right to abortion. Should Roe vs Wade be rolled back, Americans will pass other laws to support abortion, or they will find ways to have abortions using new legal and medical terms.I agree that repealing bad legislation or overturning court decisions will not bring an end to abortion in and of themselves, but without them, how can we make real headway? For too many people, what's legal is what's right, or at least what's neutral. Our government's laws should reflect our country's shared morality. Do we or do we not value life in our culture?
The idea that Americans will just pass laws to support abortion is akin to saying that kids will just use drugs anyway, so let's give them clean needles, or that they're going to have sex anyway, might as well give them condoms and a clean room. None of those remedies will even stem the tide, so neither is a "solution to the horror". People are going to steal from each other and hurt each other and kill each other anyway; they do all the time. Should we throw our hands up and legalize those actions? And thus, keeping abortion legal isn't going to somehow reduce the number of abortions.
And while we're on the subject, one might ask if I'm also against passing laws against anything I find morally wrong. One might say that I'm inconsistent in my views if I favor the continued legalization of alcohol or tobacco. Fair question. I would also ask the religious left if they are in favor, morally, of state-sponsored gambling, since it's typically politicians on their side of the aisle pushing for state lotteries and the like. Just as fair. Let me answer that by saying that I believe there are some moral issues that should be decided on an individual basis, but there are other issues that should have the weight of our representative government behind them. Whether one drinks wine with dinner is, I think we can agree, an individual choice. Whether one is allowed to be born or not is the first right of them all, without which none of the others matter, and should have the force of government behind it.
And referring back to Sen. Kerry's statement on abortion, I wonder if Ms. Rice finds his comment "constructive or convincing". How constructive to the pro-life cause is that sort of declaration?
And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to abortion.
Try saying it this way: "As much as I am horrified by sucking a living being out with a hose and killing it, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to sucking out living beings with hoses and killing them." Depending on your opinion of the living-ness of the fetus, this is one reading of that statement, and it sounds almost comical, if not utterly incredible. How horrible can you really believe something is if you think we should retain some "right" to it?
And if you don't think the fetus is a human being, then how could it be described as a "horror"? It's no different than cutting off a fingernail. This is a major inconsistency I see with people who say they're pro-life, but think abortion should remain a right. If the fetus is alive, why are you for allowing it to be killed without cause, and if it's not alive, why use the label "pro-life"?
I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.
I have to refer to Sen. Kerry's statement and Sen. Clinton's voting record again. Are they "practical or sincere" with regard to ending abortion? I honestly don't think so.
Ms. Rice is either deliberately framing the issue here to benefit her argument, or is naively parroting Democrat & Planned Parenthood talking points. The point at which the determination of whether or not to have a child is made is at the time of conception, but she doesn't mention this issue of responsibility. She might be talking about it regarding the "social situations we have", but she doesn't elaborate.
If that is what she's talking about, that our overly sexualized culture has to be addressed, then I would agree with that. But again, who is in the better position to work at retreating from that? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us this rise in teen sexualization? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us "free" "love" in the 60s? Was it liberal or conservative values that gave us a welfare system that allows absentee fathers to assuage their guilt? Again, the Republican party has not been completely true to conservative principles, but Democrats are certainly not anywhere near them, and many times deriding them.
And here's a nice irony: "I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians", so her solution to the horror of abortion is to vote for pro-abortion politicians? Completely upside-down.
Do I myself have a solution to the abortion problem? The answer is no. What I have are hopes and dreams and prayers --- that better education will help men and women make responsible reproductive choices, and that abortion will become a morally abhorrent option from which informed Americans will turn away.
I heartily agree that education is one of the keys to this; winning the hearts and minds. But that alone, like overturning bad court rulings, is not enough, yet essentially that's the only solution she talks about, and frankly overturning Roe v Wade by itself would curb more abortions than education itself. (Don't believe me? Say what you want about Prohibition, while it was in force as law there was less alcohol consumption. Generally, people respected the law. Legislation works.) Suggesting this remedy alone, I would argue, is what is not convincing.
Who would fund that education? Can we count on Democrats, who lobby for government money on behalf of Planned Parenthood, be the ones to entrust with this? Hen house, meet fox. Again, the unintended irony (and it is unintended, as far as I can tell) is just all over this letter, and especially with the next paragraph.
There is a great deal more to this question, as to how abortion became legal, as to why that happened, as to why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted, and as to the human rights of all individuals involved. I am not qualified as a student of history to fully discuss these issues in detail. I remain conscientiously curious and conscientiously concerned.
As much as Ms. Rice appeals to history, you'd think she would consider these questions rather important. Who got us into this mess is a serious question that would need to be answered as part of an informed decision as to which party is best to lead us out of it. For the edification of those interested, let's hit all her points.
How abortion became legal, and why it happened: Let me ask which side of the argument the two political parties were on at the time Roe v Wade was decided, and have been since then. The answer is obvious. The only dissenters in that decision were conservatives, and at least one conservative justice voted for it not understanding the gravity of that decision
In his concurring opinion, [Justice Warren E. Burger] explained, "I do not read the court's holdings today as having the sweeping consequences attributed to them by the dissenting justices; the dissenting views discount the reality that the vast majority of physicians observe the standards of their profession, and act only on the basis of carefully deliberated medical judgments relating to life and health. Plainly, the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortions on demand.".
Apparently, physicians make 1,300,000 carefully deliberated medical judgements a year. So much for that thought. Conservatives, in general, opposed the decision. All the liberal justices voted for the decision.
Why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted: Ask John Kerry, who, in his list of people who the woman should consult about the decision, leaves out the father. This is the standard Planned Parenthood response, supported by the Democrats.
The human rights of all individuals involved: Indeed those of us who are pro-life are very concerned about the human rights of all individuals involved, including the one dead after the abortion. If you consider abortion a horror, I would hope you would be, too. It's not just a question that should be hand-waved away.
And so we wrap up.
But I am called to vote in this, our democracy, and I am called, as an American and a Christian, to put thought and commitment into that vote.
Again, I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today. Its values and its programs --- on a whole variety of issues --- most clearly reflect my values. Hillary Clinton is the candidate whom I most admire.
The Democrats brought us here, and somehow Anne Rice thinks they're the ones to deliver us from it, too. She thinks a voter should consider their commitment to Christ in their vote, but backs a party that, in general, won't. She values charitable giving, won't support a party who's members give more, and yet supports a party that uses force to collect and inefficiently distribute "charity" money. She believes abortion is a "horror", but supports its continued legalization, and believes that a party that brought us that horror and has huge conflicts of interest regarding solving it will, in fact, solve it.
I repeat: I am a Christian; I am a Democrat. I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
I'd respectfully suggest that Ms. Rice, and any Christian considering voting for a Democrat and for whom these issues matter, reconsider.
August 23, 2007
Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 1
This is one of my longer posts, possibly the longest I've done on the blog. What happened was, I was reading an open letter from a Christian planning on voting a particular way, and as I read further and further into it, one objection after another kept coming to my mind, and one problem after another regarding the writer's reasons kept getting in the way. Finally, I realized I'd have to just set aside some of my typical day-to-day blogging of the link-and-quick-comment type, and go in-depth into the problems I see with the author, and Christians in general, who vote Democratic for specifically Christian reasons, and especially regarding the social issues brought up in the letter. Pull up a cup of coffee and sit back.
Anne Rice is a Catholic author. I'll admit to not being too well-read, but as a Protestant my knowledge of Catholic authors is even more limited. Therefore, I'm not sure how much Ms. Rice's views are mainstream Catholic, although whether or not they are really isn't the crux of this post. I do want to discuss the views she espouses, and espouses quite well as an author. That she is a Catholic and I am a Protestant has really no bearing on my criticism of her recent public letter dated August 10. I know Protestants who would agree with her on these issues, so this is not a denominational thing. She professes Christianity, as do I, and we have very similar goals, as far as I can tell, on the topics she discusses, and yet we're voting differently. Ms. Rice wrote a lengthy letter to her readers on her main web site (no permalink so don't know how long it'll stay on the front page) about why she is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. They reasons she lists for that endorsement, to me, run completely counter to her list of important issues and goals. If she is truly concerned about those goals, I don't follow her endorsement, nor the endorsement of other of my friends and acquaintances of any Democrat in the current group. I want to address the inconsistencies I see in this post.
Ms. Rice starts out with her Christian and Catholic creds, which I respect and am willing to accept. She talks about how, while the separation of church and state is a good idea, the voter does not have that prohibition, and in fact must consider their vote based on their religion.
Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.
I agree wholeheartedly. But, she also correctly notes, we have only 2 political parties in this country. (She believes, as do I, that a vote for neither Democrat or Republican, whether it's a non-vote or a vote for a 3rd party, is essentially a vote for one of the two major ones, no matter how you slice it.) In short:
To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.
Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
And that last clause is where the disagreement begins.
The first paragraph of explanation deals with giving.
Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving ones neighbors and loving ones enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.
First of all, neither the religious right nor the religious left have a lock on charitable giving. At the same time, as was noted on this post regarding a study by Arthur Brooks, conservatives outgive liberals by quite a significant amount. How does this relate to how the political parties differ in their view of the government's role in this? Ms. Rice, I believe, falls into a trap by simplistically equating the advocacy of government charity with Jesus' admonition to the individual to be charitable. Democrats say the government should give more, so by her reckoning thy are more in line with her Christian view. However, it has always made me wonder how when Jesus tells me, personally, to be charitable, that somehow this means that I should also use the government to force my neighbor, under penalty of jail, to be "charitable". I put "charitable" in quotes because when there's force involved, there's no real act of charity. How Democrat Christians get from point A to point Z on this boggles my mind. Another statistic from Brooks' study brings this point home; People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
On top of this, the bureaucratic inefficiency filter that we're all forced to funnel our "charitable" taxes through siphons money away from the needy, as does the massive fraud that goes on in a big government program that has little accountability.
Conservatives believe that forcibly taking money isn't charity, and that it is not government's role to rob from Peter to pay Paul, and that the way the government handles this creates dependency and causes further problems, like giving fathers a disincentive to stick around. Because of this, conservatives give more of their own money to local charities where the administrative costs are much lower. The Republican party, the current home of most conservative political ideas in this country, purports to support these goals, and while they don't always follow those principles, they have done better at this than Democrats. An expanded role of government in the area of giving to the poor is not the best way for that to happen, and as a Christian I believe it's not moral to force others to give when they don't want to. Again, Jesus asks me to give; He didn't ask me to force others to.
Ms. Rice, in ticking off a laundry list of values, seems to be falling for the framing of the issue that Democrats have put forth; welfare = caring. There are other ways to care, which can have much better results.
Part 2 tomorrow.
August 14, 2007
Eyes Wide Open at Venezuela
In Mark Weisbrot's article, "Eyes Wide Shut: The International Media Looks at Venezuela" at the Huffington Post yesterday, Mr. Weisbrot just glosses over the importance of some of the actions of Hugo Chavez in the recent RCTV controversy. According to Mark, it's no big deal, really.
Most consumers of the international media will be surprised to find that the controversy over Venezuela's oldest TV station, RCTV, is still raging. We were repeatedly informed that President Hugo Chávez "shut down" the station on May 27th. But in fact the station was never "shut down" - since there is no censorship in Venezuela. Rather, the Venezuelan government decided not to renew the broadcast license that granted RCTV a monopoly over a section of the publicly-owned frequencies.
This is a big distinction, although the U.S. and international press blurred it considerably. Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, noted last month that the "Venezuelan government is empowered to do what it did (non-renewal of the license)" and cited Brazilian President Lula Da Silva's statement that not renewing RCTV's broadcast license was as democratic an act as granting it. Insulza added that "democracy is very much in force in Venezuela."
See, it's legal for Chavez to do it, so nothing to see here, move along. All you thousands of Venezuelans who protested the closure, er, non-renewing action, you just don't know what's really going on in your own country.
The fact that it's legal doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. The fact that the Venezuelan government has survived lo these many decades with RCTV often being a thorn in the side shows just how out of the ordinary this action was. And to blame whatever perceived misunderstanding there might be on the international press blurs the fact that Venezuelans themselves were outraged at this. Some polls put the number of those against this as high as 70%. Who's eyes are "wide shut", exactly?
Agreed, RCTV has behaved rather poorly in the past, as Mark notes.
RCTV's owner, Marcel Granier, is an opposition leader who seeks to de-legitimize the Venezuelan government. He has had some success in this effort, most importantly in April 2002 when his station faked film footage to make it look like pro-Chávez gunmen were shooting down demonstrators on the streets of Caracas. This and other manipulations by the Venezuelan media helped provoke a military coup against the elected government. This is one of several reasons that the government of Venezuela declined to renew RCTV's broadcast license.
Wrong, even from a "free speech" point of view. That still doesn't mean that what Chavez did is right. Chavez took action against a media outlet for political reasons, and that brings the stakes up even higher regarding the politicizing of the media. A more appropriate action would be to bring Granier up on charges, not attempt to turn off the station.
And Mr. Weisbrot is completely failing to place the RCTV controversy in the context of further restrictions on free speech made by Chavez. Foreigners are not allowed to speak ill of him and his policies while in-country. Weisbrot says:
Granier is betting that the international media and other U.S.-dominated institutions will also frame his current battle as a "free speech" issue, rather than a legal dispute over whether his station is a national channel and hence subject to the same regulations as other Venezuelan cable stations. This is a good bet.
But regardless of the other reasons the Venezuelan government would use to attempt a shutdown, there is a free speech issue at stake. Perhaps not with the RCTV situation taken individually, because there's a lot more going on than just free speech, but it is an element of that and many other actions that the Congressinally-uninhibited Chavez has been taking recently. All of it must be looked at, but Mr. Weisbrot doesn't look that far.
So Venezuelans know that there is no "free speech" problem in their country. While there are problems with the rule of law, including street crime - as throughout most of the region - Venezuelans have not suffered a loss of civil liberties under the Chávez government, as we have for example in the United States since 2001. That is one reason why Hugo Chávez was re-elected in December by the largest margin of the 12 most recent Latin American presidential elections, despite facing an opposition-dominated media. Democracy is indeed "very much in force in Venezuela."
Does any of this sound like the Liberal descriptions of the Soviet Union back in the 60s? "They have it better than we do." "There's is a more fair government." Back then, eyes were wide shut, too.
August 08, 2007
Live By the Polls, Die By the Polls
Many on the Left try to disparage any action Bush has taken by citing his poll numbers, especially regarding the war in Iraq. If the public doesn't like it, it shouldn't be done, or so goes the argument. Well, as I've said here many times before, I hate polls, but if you want to live by them, are you willing to die by them? Whatever you said about Bush when his poll numbers were dropping, is the opposite true now that they're rising?
We're seeing some slight hints of positive news for the Bush administration. For one thing, Bush's job approval rating has stopped its downward trajectory. Bush hit bottom with his administration low point of 29% in early July (based on our USA Today/Gallup poll readings). Now - in the data just about to be released from our weekend poll - Bush's approval rating has recovered slightly to 34%. That's not a big jump, but it is the second consecutive poll in which the president's numbers have been higher rather than lower.
Is the war a better idea now because the "surge" numbers are going up? (Emphasis mine, for a point to be made later.)
Also, we are seeing a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say the "surge" in Iraq is working. That may not be a total surprise given the general tone of news out of Iraq recently, including the positive light on the situation put forth by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack in their widely-discussed New York Times op-ed piece "A War We Just Might Win" on July 30. But it represents a change.
Indeed, the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll itself found a slight increase in the percent of Americans saying that the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq, and were so uncertain about it that they redid the survey. And found the same results.
While public opinion can be important with regards to a war, the very transient nature of it shows that it's not a good idea to lean too heavily on it regarding public policy.
The role of the media should not be discounted, either. Most of the media folks are down on the war, and the stories they cover and how they cover them mirrors much of that. And, as emphasized above, those reports and opinion pieces shape the way people think about the war and other topics, so when the media ignore all the good stories coming out of Iraq and then trumpet poll results as bolstering their view, it is very disingenuous. They know full well how their actions game the numbers. A single opinion piece by liberals who finally decided to see for themselves what was going on was a big factor, Gallup says, in bringing the numbers up. This says to me that if the public knew all the good things happening in Iraq -- if they got the fair and balanced full story -- the poll numbers would be quite different.
I say again, I hate polls. My opinion on whether we should have gone to war in Iraq is not based on the feel-good (or feel-bad) story of the week, or how well the war is going today. But for enough folks, it does matter, and thus polls are the worst kind of "news" story. However, I am more than happy to hold those who do hold polls in high regard to their own standards.
China's Economic Threat
This is another reason why the US government shouldn't be spending borrowed money to finance extra-constitutional spending.
The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.
Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.
Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.
Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.
It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.
When the federal government is asked to do things the Constitution doesn't tell it to do, and when more and more money flows through it, and with that more and more power, it's hard to stop spending. And with that comes borrowing. And with that comes slavery. The same thing could happen even if spending were kept in the context of the Constitution, but once you escape its limits, there is then no limit.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. - Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)
August 03, 2007
Could a Same-Sex Divorce Result In Same-Sex Marriage?
Two women "married" in Massachusetts (and yes, I'll continue to put that in quotes) are seeking a "divorce", 3 years later, in Rhode Island, where they live. However, Rhode Island does not officially recognize the union. So the question is, if they are granted a "divorce", does this imply that Rhode Island considers their union a marriage and thus is a back-door to "same-sex marriage"?
PROVIDENCE — A state court can grant two Providence women a divorce without answering the highly charged question of whether a same-sex marriage performed in Massachusetts should be recognized in Rhode Island, Governor Carcieri and Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch agreed in legal briefs filed with the state Supreme Court yesterday.
But Carcieri and Lynch differed sharply over what the outcome of the case should be if the high court does take up the larger issue.
Carcieri, a Republican and a Catholic who has opposed bills to legalize same-sex marriage, argued that Family Court should not recognize the marriage between Margaret R. Chambers and Cassandra B. Ormiston.
“Marriage as a legal union of one man and one woman is clearly the bedrock of Rhode Island family law,” Carcieri’s brief said, citing gender-specific terms such as “husband and wife” in state law. “Because of the pervasiveness of this position throughout its family law statutes, Rhode Island has a strong public policy against recognition of any other marriage than that between one man and one woman.”
Lynch, a Democrat and a Catholic who has a sister who married a woman in Massachusetts, argued that Family Court should recognize the Chambers/Ormiston marriage under principles of comity, in which states recognize the laws and judicial decisions of other states.
“The crucial issue is whether there is a public policy in this state that is so strong it will require Rhode Island to except same-sex marriages from the traditional respect and recognition it has shown to laws of its sister states,” Lynch’s brief said. “Rhode Island’s case law and legislative enactments do not support such a finding.”
Predictably, the Republican insists that the people, via their representatives, should decide, while the Democrat believes that the osmosis that comes with free travel between states should be enough to change the laws. And actually, Lynch foresees a Family Court system that treats same-sex couples the same as married couples. While that by itself doesn't institute "same-sex marriage" in and of itself, once the precedent is set and the legal system is conditioned, it becomes much harder to keep it out. Lynch is innocently shortsighted at best, or an underhanded activist at worst.
And frankly, I believe that same-sex marriage supporters were banking on this all along. To simply get a friendly state to pass the law is all they would need, and then claim "comity" to make it a de facto law in the other 49 states. Never mind the people and their constitutions.
August 01, 2007
The Roeaux Effect
James Taranto has given a name to the idea that the country is getting more and more anti-abortion partially due to abortion being legal. Calling it "The Roe Effect", it postulates that since those who favor legal abortion are more likely to get one, and assuming children generally follow the political leanings of their parents, more abortion foes are being born than abortion advocates, and thus over time support for legal abortion will dwindle. (See the Wikipedia entry for links to other articles on this.)
After the Roe decision, it would take at least 18 years for the effect to start being seen, when the post-Roe kids were of voting age. However, there's another trend occurring that may have an effect on American politics without the waiting period.
It may seem like a quiet country where not much happens besides ice hockey, curling and beer drinking. But our neighbor to the north is proving to be quite the draw for thousands of disgruntled Americans.
The number of U.S. citizens who moved to Canada last year hit a 30-year high, with a 20 percent increase over the previous year and almost double the number who moved in 2000.
In 2006, 10,942 Americans went to Canada, compared with 9,262 in 2005 and 5,828 in 2000, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.
According to this survey, the increase is mostly politically-related.
The current increase is fueled largely by social and political reasons, says [Jack] Jedwab [ACS's executive director].
"Those who are coming have the highest level of education - these aren't people who can't get a job in the states," he explains. "They're coming because many of them don't like the politics, the Iraq War and the security situation in the U.S. By comparison, Canada is a tension-free place. People feel safer."
If most of these folks are generally Democrat voters, depending on the places and districts they moved from, over time this could also help swing American politics more to the right. 10,000 may not be enough to swing a presidential election, but a Senator here and a Congressman there would matter after a while.
So I'm going to coin a term here for what happens when liberals move to Canada and take their politics with them: The Roeaux Effect (pronounced "the roe effect").
Aside from its effects on American politics, the article notes the reasons of a couple of the 10,000 emigrants, and they are indeed political and social.
One person is Tom Kertes. One of his thoughts on the move gives a peek into the liberal mind and its thoughts about soaking off the money of others.
Kertes, who moved with his partner, is happy in his new home. "Canada is a really nice country. My mother is thinking about it. My stepfather has diabetes and has health issues. So, he'd be taken care of for free if he moved up here."
Sure, his stepfather could go up and get it for free -- really free -- because he hasn't paid in to the system for his whole life. He'd essentially be living off the "forced charity" (oxymoron) of others. And, of course, it all depends on how long he wants to wait for treatment.
And here's another testimonial:
Jo Davenport, who wrote "The Canadian Way," moved from Atlanta to Nova Scotia in December 2001. She also cites political reasons for her move, saying that she disagreed with the Bush administration's decisions after 9/11.
"Things are totally different here because they care about their people here," she says, explaining that she's only been back home once or twice.
By December 2001, Iraq wasn't even on the Congressional funding docket, so Ms. Davenport couldn't even abide going after those who harbored bin Laden. Definitely a reliable Democrat vote gone north.
Her comment that "they care about people here" insinuates that they simply don't here. Well, there are some folks who might think differently about that. Earlier in the article it adds just a bit of perspective.
Of course, those numbers are still outweighed by the number of Canadians going the other way. Yet, that imbalance is shrinking. Last year, 23,913 Canadians moved to the United States, a significant decrease from 29,930 in 2005.
So over twice as many people come here as go there every year. First of all, you'll note that none of them were interviewed for the article. Secondly, if people here simply didn't care, I daresay the numbers would be quite different. One wonders how many of them come here to escape the waiting lists in the Canadian health care system.
And it would be interesting to find out the political and social leanings of those folks. It could be that the Roeaux Effect is not just about the 10,000 going north, but also the 20,000 coming south. Again, no mention of that in the article.
So now I'm going to put out the call to whoever has the resources to do a study on the effect of immigration & emigration from & to Canada has on American politics. If you just read the ABC News report, you'd think quite a lot, based on the interviews. But then again, this is the MSM. There might be nothing to it.
July 31, 2007
Chavez Slips Down the Slope
First they came for the TV stations, but I didn't say anything because I didn't own a TV station. Then they came for the critical foreigners, but I didn't say anything because I wasn't a critical foreigner.
President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.
Chávez ordered officials to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela -- and deport any outspoken critics.
''How long are we going to allow a person -- from any country in the world -- to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?'' Chávez asked during his weekly television and radio program.
So if someone comes to his country and calls him "the devil", that's a deportable offense. But if Chavez does it in America, the world applauds. (Well, the UN at least.)
Closed circuit for Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, and other Chavez supporters: Can you say "stifling of dissent"? Can you recognize it when it's really happening? Do you remember this ever happening before in history? Do you remember how it all ultimately turned out?
July 30, 2007
James Taranto's analysis and humor on events of the day is not to be missed. On a daily basis, he writes Best of the Web Today for Wall St. Journal's Opinion Journal. Today is definitely no exception, and the rest of this blog post will be his analysis of a NY Times op-ed piece from today. It's something that needs to be said, and said loudly and often. When, instead of reading what the liberal media writes about the war, journalists actually go to Iraq and see what's happening, the results are amazing. And now, James Taranto.
On Second Thought, Don't Surrender
In an important and surprising New York Times op-ed piece, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both from the liberal Brookings Institution, describe a visit to Iraq, where they find that things are not as bad as--well, as New York Times readers have been led to believe. The piece is titled "A War We Just Might Win":
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated--many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
O'Hanlon and Pollack report that Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province "are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies," that "the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate" in the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul, and that "the American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners."
They say the situation "remains grave," especially on the "political front," but they counsel against a quick retreat, as many Democrats on Capitol Hill have been advocating:
How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.
In a way, though, what is most telling about this piece is the introduction:
Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration's critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the authors are right when they claim the Bush administration has "lost essentially all credibility." Does this excuse the administration's critics for being "unaware of the significant changes taking place"--especially when some of those critics have, for reasons of partisanship, ideology or just plain animus, actively campaigned to destroy the administration's credibility?
In the critics' defense, one may say that they have not, by and large, been in positions of responsibility; that if things have gone wrong in Iraq, the administration deserves the lion's share of the blame.
On the other hand, those critics now include the leaders of both houses of Congress, as well as several politicians who would like to become president. For them, at least, it is a serious failure of leadership if they base their views on Iraq on their own disdain for President Bush, or the hope of exploiting voters' disdain for him, rather than on reality.
July 24, 2007
Sunni and Shia Brought Together By...
...the US military.
TAJI, Iraq — U.S. forces have brokered an agreement between Sunni and Shi'ite tribal leaders to join forces against al Qaeda and other extremists, extending a policy that has transformed the security situation in western Anbar province to this area north of the capital.
The extremists struck back yesterday with a suicide car bomb aimed at one of the Sunni tribes involved in the deal, killing three militiamen and wounding 14.
Members of the First Calvary Division based at nearby Camp Taji helped broker the deal on Saturday with the tribal leaders, who agreed to use members of more than 25 local tribes to protect the area around Taji from both Sunni and Shi'ite extremists.
Our fighting men and women in Iraq are not some dumb, poor folks who got "stuck in Iraq" (thank you John Kerry), and they're not just fighting men and women, either. They're bringing peace (real peace, not the Saddam Hussein kind) to Iraq, one province at a time. It's slow going, no question about that, but I do hope the American people will let the military have the time to do the job right, because it is getting done.
Similar agreements in Anbar province have been credited with putting al Qaeda and its foreign extremists on the defensive while bringing relative peace to some of Iraq's most violent areas.
The Taji agreement, however, is the first involving both Sunni and Shi'ite sheiks, and the U.S. military hopes it will help temper the increasing influence of the Mahdi Army in and around Baghdad.
"A month ago, every single one of these people was shooting at us," said Sgt. Richard Fisk as he walked through Falahat pointing out places where his troops had been hit by roadside bombs.
Capt. Wohlgemuth said the tribal leaders approached the United States for support after a number of raids and detentions, coupled with increasingly brutal treatment of the local population by the group calling itself al Qaeda in Iraq.
The captain said that in some cases he has helped members of the new militia to get relatives released from U.S. and Iraqi custody, provided they were not linked to al Qaeda.
Things are getting better. But will Democrats notice come September?
July 23, 2007
The Iran Hostage Crisis
How do you feel about the American hostages in Iran?
No, not the guys back in the Seventies, the ones being held right now.
What? You haven't heard about them?
Odd that, isn't it?
Very much so, especially since we're planning on negotiating with them regarding their nuclear program. Read the whole thing.
July 19, 2007
...And the Walls Came Tumblin' Down
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptists, attempting to clarify the roles of government and organized religion in the new United States, Jefferson wrote this:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Taken out of context, the "wall of separation" line has been misused over the generations. And the context is not just the letter Jefferson wrote, but it is a specific answer to a specific question from the Baptsts. Here is their concern, with emphasis added:
But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.
The Baptists were concerned specifically about the government imposing laws on religion that would tell them what to do with regards to their beliefs and the practice of them. Jefferson said government would not do that.
There could be no real question as to whether or not religion could have an effect on the government, since a chaplain and an opening prayer were part of Congress from the beginning. Jefferson himself used government money for the express purpose of evangelizing the American Indians. This from the man who wrote about a wall? By his words and his deeds, and in the full context of his words, it is clear that the wall he spoke of was one erected around religion to protect it and its followers from government intrusion, but the reverse situation was not addressed but, in fact, encouraged to a point.
I say this as a prelude to this news story coming from the BBC about an event in England that could occur here in the near future.
A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop.
The employment tribunal said John Reaney, 42, was discriminated against "on grounds of sexual orientation" by the Hereford diocesan board of finance.
And what law was broken?
Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation, but the law does contain an exemption for organised religion.
The Church of England has a position on the moral status of homosexuality. It is based on their religious beliefs. But today in England, not even the established church is allowed to act on its beliefs if the government has said otherwise. That "exemption for organised religion" isn't worth the paper it's written on.
This is the beginning of the end of religious freedom, when the government becomes the new arbiter of religious practice. And if you don't think it could happen here, then you're likely in for a surprise when the walls come tumblin' down.
Hat tip: Go, Pundit, Go!
July 17, 2007
How Nuclear Disarmament Should Be Done
Surprisingly (to me) but welcome is the news that North Korea is shutting down its plutonium processor. Wasn't this supposed to be impossible with a president that talked tough to enemies rather than appeasing them with food and money? And wasn't this what the Carter administration was supposed to have accomplished?
Washington's chief negotiator on North Korea outlined a dramatic programme of rapprochement with America's long-time Stalinist foe yesterday after international inspectors verified that it had closed its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed a North Korean statement that the reactor, which processed the plutonium for the country's nuclear weapons test last October, had been shut down.
In response, Christopher Hill, American assistant secretary of state, said talks to sign a formal peace treaty between the two countries, which ended the 1950-53 Korean War only with an armistice, could begin next year.
America would also consider removing North Korea from its list of "state sponsors of terrorism".
"We'll see when we can complete that because we'll see how far the North Koreans are prepared to move on denuclearisation," he told reporters in South Korea, where he held talks.
For perspective, Saddam Hussein did not do this when given the chance.
July 16, 2007
Gaza, Meet Rock and Hard Place
The popularity of Hamas in Gaza is tanking. Color me unsurprised.
Hamas swept through Gaza last month, vanquishing numerically superior forces aligned with Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who responded by dismissing the Hamas-led government and installing a new one with his backers.
The poll of Gaza residents shows a backlash. Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.
The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.
The Rule of the Masked Gunman proves to be inferior to the Rule of Law. Apparently this is a lesson that the Gaza Palestinians just had to learn the hard way. And learn it they have, but at quite a price. But there's a significant group of them that have learned even more; 43+23 = 68, so 32 percent don't support either group. Hopefully, this key demographic will encourage another party into power and (even more hopefully) seek peace with Israel.
The Captain has more information about the state of the Gazans and their plight at the hands of Hamas. Why voting for a terrorist organization ever made sense is beyond me, but things might be -- might be -- looking better. From the article:
Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.
"A lot of people answering this question said we like Haniyeh more, but we want people who can really deliver," Rabah said. "People are becoming more realistic."
After 50 years of antagonism against Israel, it's about time. Becoming more realistic would mean suing for peace. Let's be watching to see how realistic they have become.
A couple short items for Monday morning.
* Heard a caller on "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" talk about an idea for a bumper sticker. "If you liked The Killing Fields, you'll love The Killing Dunes." And I would ask Democrats, if you didn't like the former, why would you want to do something to allow the latter?
* "Iran to invest in $4 billion Venezuela oil JV" Just what we need; an Iranian foothold in the western hemisphere.
July 10, 2007
The Greatest Threat to World Missions
You'd expect Glenn Penner's idea of the greatest threat to world missions is the persecution of the church. After all, he blogs for "Voice of the Martyrs", an organization who's central focus is the persecution of Christians worldwide. But you'd be wrong.
No, I do not believe that persecution is the greatest threat to the continuing spread of the gospel. I am much more concerned about something that, at first glace, seems benign and even helpful but which I contend is far more insidious. I am referring to the dependency creating practices that ministries are increasingly promoting in the name of "partnership."
Such programs are varied and wide-ranging. Some claim to be "revolutionizing" world missions through their approach of having western Christians sponsor national missions, churches, evangelists, missionaries and pastors. Claiming to be more efficient and culturally adaptable, such groups appeal to the western desire to be cost and labour effective by claiming that such an approach provides more "bang for the buck." Or alternately, they bemoan the fact that these poor servants of God have to labour so hard to meet the needs of their families that they have no time to spread the gospel (to which I respond, "Paul didn't seem to have that problem. See 1 Thessalonians 2:9." Indeed, Paul seemed to think that his approach was the best possible strategy for spreading the gospel. But then again, I suppose we know better in the 21st century).
A careful study of the issue, however, demonstrates that dependency on western resources to spread the gospel has proven, in most cases, to be an absolute disaster.
Read the whole thing for why he believe this is the case.
(The political animal in me also noted that this "absolute disaster" mirrors quite amazingly a US government program that is also, in my opinion, an absolute disaster, and for almost all the same reasons. Read Glenn's blog post and see if you find the same thing I did.)
July 06, 2007
Scooter vs. Sandy
As I've said, I disagree with the clemency that the President gave Scooter Libby, but for perspective, here's Ace's suggestion:
Suggestion: Bush should have reduced the fine to a more reasonable $50,000, which just so happens to be how much Sandy Berger was fined for stealing and destroying classified documents and lying about it to investigators (he wasn't charged for the latter, but subsequent revelations has made it clear he did just that).
Making the fine $50,000 would have been more in line with Libby's transgressions, and it would have made it harder for Democrats to argue against it. The penalty -- no jail time, $50,000, probation -- would have been so similar to Berger's that one could scarcely mention it without also mentioning Berger.
I've noted before that the Sandy Berger situation has received far less press for a far larger transgression than the Libby trial. And now the disproportionate punishments are getting the same double standard applied. At least the press and the Democrats are consistent, if disingenuous.
July 03, 2007
"Chavez and Farfour and Lenin, Oh My!"
When I returned from vacation and caught up on my news reading, a couple of items caught my eye.
Farfur the Mouse is dead. Back in May on my personal blog, I talked about the Hamas children's show "Tomorrow's Pioneers" and it's main character Farfur the Mouse, an obvious Mickey Mouse knock-off, that told kids of the wonders of martyrdom and of the ultimate destruction of the terrorist state of Israel. Fun for the whole family, no? At the time, the head of the Palestinian version of the FCC (a Fatah fellow) said the program would be removed and reviewed. The Hamas station basically said, "Nuts to you" and kept it on the air. Well now, for whatever reason, the station did cancel the show. According to this Jerusalem Post report, it had nothing to do with the government; they're just making room for new programs. Either that's a final statement of defiance just before succumbing to a government order, or it's the actual reason and the government really was toothless in this area.
Regardless, the mouse is dead. Literally. In the final episode (click here for the video) Farfur is martyred by a Jewish character in sunglasses when Farfur won't sell him his land. He's punched out on camera, and the little girl who co-hosts the show announces Farfur's martyrdom. Remember, this is the official TV station of the government that the Palestinian people voted to be their representatives to the world.
Hugo Chavez is still...Hugo Chavez. He's making common cause with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an "axis of unity" against North America, he's making enemies of his South American neighbors after they rightly criticize his silencing of dissent, and he's asking Russians to remember the lessons of Lenin. Chavez is talking about Lenin's anti-imperialism views (though the Soviet Union certainly had its imperialist streak), but I think there are other lessons of Lenin that millions of the dead in Russia would like to teach us.
Insecurity, "malignant narcissism" and the need for adulation are driving Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's confrontation with the United States, according to a new psychological profile.
Eventually, these personality traits are likely to compel Chavez to declare himself Venezuela's president for life, said Dr. Jerrold Post, who has just completed the profile for the U.S. Air Force.
Chavez won elections for a third term last December. Since then he has stepped up his anti-American rhetoric, vowed to accelerate a march towards "21st Century socialism" and suggested that he intends to stay in power until 2021 -- a decade beyond his present term.
But Post -- who profiled foreign leaders in a 21-year career at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and now is the director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University -- doubts that Chavez plans to step down even then. "He views himself as a savior, as the very embodiment of Venezuela," Post said in an interview.
"He has been acting increasingly messianic and so he is likely to either get the constitution rewritten to allow for additional terms or eventually declare himself president-for-life."
Post portrays Chavez as "a masterful political gamesman" who knows that his popularity largely rests on being seen as a strong leader who takes on the United States, the Venezuelan elite and a host of other perceived enemies -- often with public insults that are rarely used by other leaders.
"To keep his followers engaged, he must continue outrageous and inflammatory attacks," Post said.
Even Chavez's most determined opponents concede that he is a gifted orator and has a rare ability to mesmerize audiences. In the language of political psychology, this is a "charismatic leader-follower relationship."
We've watch this script played out enough in history. Are we just going to sit back and watch the next act, or are we going to resist it?
The Libby Clemency
President Bush's clemency for the prison time for Scooter Libby is, in my estimation, wrong. Certainly there is the case that the President said that whoever was responsible for the leak should be punished, and even though Libby wasn't the source of the leak (and the source of the leak goes uncharged for any crime) he was still found guilty of lying to a grand jury. That's the same crime that brought impeachment onto Bill Clinton. In my mind, Democrats are right in protesting this decision. Is 2 1/2 years too long for Libby, with the punishment being overkill for the crime? The President's statement notes that he thinks so, especially when the judge didn't take into consideration a number of mitigating circumstances. Nonetheless, even though Libby will still be on probation and still have a felony on his criminal record, I think the President should have stayed out of this. Lying in the justice system shouldn't be any easier when a politically-aligned President is in office.
President Clinton, in defending his pardon of Mark Rich, et. al., had this to say.
First, I want to make some general comments about pardons and commutations of sentences. Article II of the Constitution gives the president broad and unreviewable power to grant "Reprieves and Pardons" for all offenses against the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the pardon power is granted "[t]o the [president] . . ., and it is granted without limit" (United States v. Klein). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that "[a] pardon . . . is . . . the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by [the pardon] . . ." (Biddle v. Perovich). A president may conclude a pardon or commutation is warranted for several reasons: the desire to restore full citizenship rights, including voting, to people who have served their sentences and lived within the law since; a belief that a sentence was excessive or unjust; personal circumstances that warrant compassion; or other unique circumstances.
The exercise of executive clemency is inherently controversial. The reason the framers of our Constitution vested this broad power in the Executive Branch was to assure that the president would have the freedom to do what he deemed to be the right thing, regardless of how unpopular a decision might be. Some of the uses of the power have been extremely controversial, such as President Washington's pardons of leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion, President Harding's commutation of the sentence of Eugene Debs, President Nixon's commutation of the sentence of James Hoffa, President Ford's pardon of former President Nixon, President Carter's pardon of Vietnam War draft resisters, and President Bush's 1992 pardon of six Iran-contra defendants, including former Defense Secretary Weinberger, which assured the end of that investigation.
All true, none of it in question, and all of which applies here, too. It's just that most folks who would be inclined to do this don't pick up on the nuance and unique circumstances of a particular pardon. Punishment not only helps deter the offender from doing it again, it helps convince others not to try it. It needs to be allowed to work.
Sorry Dubya. Can't get behind you on this one. (In the post below, Tom agrees with the clemency. See, we don't march in lockstep here. >grin<).
June 21, 2007
Meet the New Boss, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda
Freshman PA Democrat says no new investigations needed
U.S. Representative Chris Carney, under pressure from constituents in his Pennsylvania district to probe fellow Democrat Paul Kanjorski, now says he believes previous Republican Congresses have done all they could to investigate possible corruption and ethical lapses.
Now that they're in power, all of a sudden Democrats are loathe to do anything about "the culture of corruption", especially in their own ranks. "Move along, nothing to see here. The Republicans already cleaned up this mess."
Carney, like most members of his Democrat freshmen class, ran his 2006 campaign on an anti-corruption platform. “I came to Congress with a promise that corruption should not be tolerated from either party,” Carney recently noted.
But following a call to initiate an investigation into a fellow Democrat, Carney balked, with his office telling the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice “if the Republican-controlled Congress chose not to investigate this matter in 2002, I’m unclear as to why the issue would be resurfacing now.”
Carney and his freshmen class should be charged with a "truth in labelling" violation.
And here's his leading indicator of whether or not someone is corrupt.
Not long after being elected, Carney told the Pittsburgh Press Gazette “Jack (Murtha) has our back,” and that he didn’t believe ethical questions would harm Murtha, who has been a controversial figure since being named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980s ABSCAM trials.
Despite his anti-corruption platform, Carney has come to Murtha’s defense. “If it's questionable,” Carney said of Murtha’s reported ethical lapses, “why has he been elected with such large majorities over the years?”
Well there you go. If the people love you, you must be OK.
Obligatory disclaimer: Neither party has a lock on the "culture of corruption". Washington, DC and any seat of power foments it. The problem is that the American people have been sold on the idea that if there's a problem, it requires a central government solution, and thus money and power flow in ever increasing measure to one place. We need to decentralize both to reduce the corruption in Washington and bring the solutions back to the states (who are closer to the problem and have a better track record in general). I'm not saying the states are pure as the driven snow, either, but the locals keep better tabs on their own close to home. If you really want to reduce corruption, the solution is smaller government.
Only At the UN Does This Pass For "Reform"
I've criticized the UN on human rights before. Their Human Rights Commission was a sham and a joke, often headed by countries with the worst human rights abuses, and very often condemning those with better records on it while ignoring egregious acts by member states.
The Commission was disbanded in a "reform" move, and the Human Right Council was created. Living up to my low expectations, the Council is virtually identical to the Commission in its actions.
Members of the UN's new human rights watchdog on Tuesday formally agreed to continue their scrutiny of Israel while halting investigations into Cuba and Belarus - a move that immediately drew fire from Canada and the United States.
Palestinians are trying to get into Israel to escape the human rights abuses in Gaza (the subject of an upcoming post). Yet they excuse Cuba, ignore Hamas and Fatah, and single out Israel. Such "myopic zeal".
The United States - which is only an observer to the 47-nation body - has been skeptical since the beginning.
The large Muslim and African groups, which dominate the council, had lobbied hard to minimize the scope for naming and shaming countries over their human rights records, ...
...but make an exception for Israel, the only government explicitly criticized so far by the body.
This is absolutely preposterous. The United Nations has absolutely no credibility in this area, and its pronouncements on this should no longer be taken seriously.
And if this is what they call "reform", they make their own case for dismantling.
June 13, 2007
Congressional Approval Ratings Tank
I'm not a big fan of polls, but there have been so many on the left who have trumpeted Bush's low approval ratings that I just had to report on this.
Fueled by disappointment at the pace of change since Democrats assumed the majority on Capitol Hill, public approval of Congress has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.
Just 27% of Americans now approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the poll found, down from 36% in January, when Democrats assumed control of the House and the Senate.
And 63% of Americans say that the new Democratic Congress is governing in a "business as usual" manner, rather than working to bring the fundamental change that party leaders promised after November's midterm election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first woman to hold that position, has also failed to impress many Americans. Only 36% approve of the way she is handling the job, the poll found.
In contrast, 46% of Americans in the current poll said they approved of the way Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia handled the job after he led the GOP into the majority in 1994.
Live by the poll, die by the poll.
Frankly, the Gingrich number surprises me. Perhaps the emotions of the time, and the awful press coverage ("The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas", indeed) have ebbed so that folks are looking more objectively, and comparatively to what's happening now. Or perhaps it's just they've forgotten their specific qualms with Newt. But really, to have the general public looking more fondly of the Gingrich past than the Pelosi / Reid present doesn't speak well of the Democrats.
Again, polls like this don't mean much to me. I want a President or Congressman to lead, not follow the polls. But I've had Bush's poll numbers used as some sort of argument against him, so I just thought these numbers worth noting.
June 12, 2007
Speaking Truth to Evil
Twenty years ago today, the President of the United States did what every single diplomat told him not to do, but he did it because he believed it was the right thing to do.
And it was.
Powerline highlights Peter Robinson's story of how he researched and then wrote a speech to be delivered by Ronald Reagan at West Germany's Brandenburg Gate. It was Robinson who wrote the lines, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." No one at the State Department or the National Security Council liked it because it was too confrontational and raised false hopes.
Indeed it was confrontational, but you don't slink away from confronting evil. It only raised false hopes if you had no faith in your cause and a belief in the ultimate victory for what was right. If you didn't want to offend evil, and if you didn't think winning was really possible, you really wouldn't like that tone.
But that tone was what was needed then. And too many haven't learned the lesson even today. Read the whole thing to find out what Robinson learned in Berlin that gave him the idea for the line.
These days, the world talks tough to countries like Iran and Syria, and groups like Al Qaeda. But the difference is that Reagan acted on his words. He walked away from the table in Iceland when he determined the Soviets were acting in bad faith. The Left was hysterical, condemning this action as confrontational. They were right, it was. But they were wrong, because they didn't realize that that's the language the Soviets understood. They learned that Reagan would act on what he said, and they respected it. And thus, without the nuclear exchange the Left was sure Reagan was leading us to, very soon the gate did open and the wall did come down.
Bin Laden's lesson from observing America's retreat from Somalia was that we would tuck tail and run at the first sign of a serious resistance. That is why he was bold enough to plan the 9/11 attacks; because a different President sent a different message.
BIN LADEN: We experienced the Americans through our brothers who went into combat against them in Somalia, for example. We found they had no power worthy of mention. There was a huge aura over America -- the United States -- that terrified people even before they entered combat. Our brothers who were here in Afghanistan tested them, and together with some of the mujahedeen in Somalia, God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing.
America left faster than anyone expected. It forgot all that tremendous media fanfare about the new world order, that it is the master of that order, and that it does whatever it wants. It forgot all of these propositions, gathered up its army, and withdrew in defeat, thanks be to God.
To bin Laden and his supporters, this is not a policy war, nor a political war, but a religious war. It must be fought differently than the Cold War, but some things never change. Speaking truth to evil, and backing up your words with confident actions, whether on the diplomatic field or the battle field, are required to defeat that evil. Reagan understood that. It's a lesson that needs to be relearned by the diplomats of our present time.
June 11, 2007
"Stop Sending Us Aid!"
An Kenyan expert in economics, James Shikwati, was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The interview got off to a quick start as Shikwati surprised the journalist.
SPIEGEL:Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...
Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.
SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
Massive injections of money, good intentions, and virtually nothing to show for it. Sounds just like the welfare state here. The journalist is confused, bewildered.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Why is it a paradox if it simply a case of doing what doesn't work on a much larger scale? This exposes the incredibly simplistic assumption on the part of liberal ideology that throwing money a a problem really should work...in theory. As conservatives have been arguing for decades, however, an understanding of economics helps explain this "paradox". In answer to the question, Shikwati explains.
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Being taught to be beggars, dependence on government, dampening entrepreneurship, and government corruption involved in the cash transfer. Sounds just like the welfare...well, you get the idea.
Well, now our journalist is flummoxed. Doesn't someone have to help them? Shikwati slaps down this dependency thinking, and explains how food shipments both prop up corrupt governments and at the same time destroy the local economy's incentive.
SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.
Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...
SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...
Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.
And it just gets better after that. It included an admission from a tyrant that they indeed waste the aid, a exposure of exaggerated AIDS numbers for profit, and an African biochemist stuck being a chauffeur to aid workers. You simply must read the whole thing. It really turns on its head the idea that huge amounts of aid helps a nation, or even a continent. Giving to the poor is one thing. Destroying the individual spirit by destroying their livelihood is entirely another. The interview concludes with the journalist, playing the part of the liberal to the hilt (and, based on the full interview, not really play-acting) asking in desperation...
SPIEGEL: What are the Germans supposed to do?
Shikwati: If they really want to fight poverty, they should completely halt development aid and give Africa the opportunity to ensure its own survival. Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong. Africa should stand on its own two feet.
Rugged individualism, combined with personal, not massive, charitable giving. That is the responsible position.
June 07, 2007
Will They Step Up and Do the Right Thing?
Republicans have ejected legislators in the recent past who have done wrong (Foley, Ney). Now the Democrats, who ran on the issue of getting rid of "the culture of corruption" in Washington -- a culture they attributed to Republicans -- have a chance to finally stand up for that conviction of theirs.
An indictment charging Rep. William Jefferson, D- La., in a long-running bribery investigation is being announced Monday, federal officials said.
The indictment is being handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. A press conference was being organized for late Monday in Washington to discuss the case.
A Justice Department official familiar with the case said the indictment outlining the evidence against Jefferson is more than an inch thick and charges the congressman with crimes that could keep him in prison for up to 200 years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.
Almost two years ago, in August 2005, investigators raided Jefferson's home in Louisiana and found $90,000 in cash stuffed into a box in his freezer.
Jefferson, 63, whose Louisiana district includes New Orleans, has said little about the case publicly but has maintained his innocence. He was re-elected last year despite the looming investigation.
As I've noted before, Republicans have plenty of examples to point to of people who are gone -- not censured, not reprimanded, gone -- such as Foley, Ney, Cunningham, DeLay, and Livingstone. The Democrats have an opportunity to show that, unlike how they handled Bill Clinton, they can kick out those in their party who break the rules.
It's not like Jefferson is the current Majority Leader (as was DeLay) nor nearly the next Speaker of the House (as was Livingstone). If Republicans could do that, Democrats should be able to do this.
True, Jefferson hasn't yet been convicted, so technically speaking he's still innocent in the eyes of the law. The news story notes, however, that two associates (who have already pled guilty) and a videotape are waiting in the wings as witnesses for the prosecution. Things are not looking good for the Congressman.
But he's not convicted yet. If he is, the question is, will Democrats hold their own accountable? If they do, Washington and the nation will be better for it, and I'll be glad to give them their due credit. Accountability is key. If they don't, the Democrats completely lose any moral high ground they've claimed.
It's not that one party's politicians are more corrupt than the others; humanity is what it is. It is all about accountability. Without that, there is no check on the fallibility of our elected representatives.
June 04, 2007
Dems Demonstrate Why Smaller Government Is Needed
I'm shocked. Or not.
After promising unprecedented openness regarding Congress' pork barrel practices, House Democrats are moving in the opposite direction as they draw up spending bills for the upcoming budget year.
Democrats are sidestepping rules approved their first day in power in January to clearly identify "earmarks"-lawmakers' requests for specific projects and contracts for their states-in documents that accompany spending bills.
Rather than including specific pet projects, grants and contracts in legislation as it is being written, Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them.
Smaller government is the only way this kind of abuse can be reduced, not just a change in party power. The more Washington does -- the more responsibility we hand over to them -- the more money they get. The more money, the more abuse of it. Divide up some of that power into 50 pieces (commonly referred to at "states"), and you have more accountability and less abuse, mostly because when you centralize things in Washington, abusers have one-stop shopping for largesse.
June 01, 2007
Serve Me, Or Else!
Now, would it make sense for used of Macintosh computers to sue software companies that only write for Windows, complaining that they should have equal access to that software as well? No, it would be silly, and certainly not allowed. I mean, after all, those Windows programmers know the PC, not the Mac. You'd want someone who knows the hardware you're using to write for it. And besides, can't a company choose it's market?
Perhaps not. Depends on who you are.
The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.
Define "denied access" for me, will you?
Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.
They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.
So to "deny access" means to not offer the specific options in a service that you want. Mac users, your time is coming if this lawsuit makes it through the court system.
eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.
There might even be some anti-Christian bias going on here. But that doesn't even really have to enter the picture to show how meritless this suit is, or should be. Using my previous example, would you want Windows programmers writing your Mac software? Dr. Warren has said that he doesn't consider himself an expert in homosexual relationships, and eHarmony is essentially selling his knowledge.
eHarmony could not immediately be reached for comment. Commenting in the past on eHarmony's gay and lesbian policy, Warren has said that he does not know the dynamics of same-sex relationships but he expects the principles to be different.
Let's sue the butcher for not knowing how to prepare tofu.
And this is just silly...
"This lawsuit is about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love," said Carlson lawyer Todd Schneider.
How in the world does one business not catering to you somehow deny you the right to do...anything? The very first comment at the "Likelihood of Success" blog (second link above) puts the lie to this immediately.
I’m happily married now for 18 years, so I have zero experience with the on-line dating world. So it was news to me that eHarmony didn’t offer same-sex services.
But it wasn’t news I learned here. No, I learned it when one of their competitors’ ads came on: a somewhat clever ad where a guy looks at some listings of attractive women, and then says, “Nope. Still gay.” Point made: “Hey, if eHarmony won’t help you, we’ll be happy to.”
So the market has already solved this problem: eHarmony’s business choice created an opportunity, and a competitor is taking advantage of the opportunity. If this leads the competitor to get better known and better liked overall, then you can bet eHarmony will reconsider. If this remains a niche market and doesn’t have any carryover impact on brand loyalty, then eHarmony will continue to ignore the niche, and the competitor will find it a profitable niche to serve.
Problem solved. Leave the courts out of it.
(I've left off the last line of his comment, since it would become obvious where I got the Mac/Windows analogy from.)
If this lawsuit succeeds, it will cement homosexuality as a seriously privileged class, and be a giant step towards telling churches that consider homosexuality a sin that they don't have the religious freedom they thought they did. If this lawsuit does not succeed, it will not be because society is homophobic. When Catholic adoption agencies decide not to give children to same-sex couples due to religious reasons, it's the same situation. And in both cases, the market can, and has, dealt with it. A lawsuit over it is just narcissistic.
May 30, 2007
Freedom of Religion Returning to Texas
The right to freely exercise one's religion outside of the 4 walls of a place of worship was affirmed by the Texas legislature. It's unfortunate that it had to be affirmed at all, but in today's church-and-state climate, it's necessary.
The House embraced legislation Monday that seeks to clarify the rights of Texas public school students to offer public prayers at football games or graduation, hand out religious messages or hold religious meetings during the school day if they want.
Supporters said the Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act, which passed on a 110-33 vote, would protect districts from lawsuits by setting guidelines for students' religious expression while protecting students from being admonished, for example, if they talk about Jesus in an assignment about Easter.
You can't keep people insulated from each other, and this bill takes the common sense step of acknowledging that.
"Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion," Gov. Rick Perry said. "This was a vote for tolerance of diverse views in our education system so that students are not admonished for wishing a soldier overseas a 'Merry Christmas' or for any other harmless forms of expression."
Precisely. The "diversity" crowd is the very group trying to remove diversity in the public square.
The bill has its opponents, who, as usual, use exaggerated language when describing religious speech.
"The intent of this bill is to enable people to impose their religious beliefs on people, and I stand four-square against that," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who is a Quaker.
"I was one of those students of a minority religion who was frequently subjected to unwanted ... advice and insults when I was in the public schools. I do not believe the intent of the author [to avoid lawsuits]. I believe the intent of the author is to facilitate imposing certain religious values on students regardless of their religious faith."
Sorry, but freedom from getting unwanted advice is not in the US Constitution. Those who insult you because of your faith should be punished by their parents or, for adults, marginalized, but it's still not a legal issue, and it doesn't mean that because some kids were mean to you in school that now all kids must be silenced on religious issues. Bathwater, meet baby.
And rather than dream up your own view of what the bill's author intended, let's just ask him.
Author Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, said repeatedly that the bill "does not allow anything that isn't in the current law."
What the bill does is specify that "a school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint" as long as the expression isn't obscene or vulgar and doesn't discriminate against homosexuals or religious beliefs.
Further, the bill says students may not be penalized for expressing religious views in classwork, and they may organize religious meetings and use school facilities like any noncurricular group.
Not sure why homosexuality was specifically singled out, but this is a good step in the right direction.
Plano ISD has been at the center of this debate since 2003, when school officials told a student he could not hand out candy cane pens with a religious message during a holiday party.
Rep. Burnam can hand-wring all he wants about how hearing religious speech is somehow imposing values onto him (is he that impressionable?), but if we can't give away pens in the name of religious freedom, things really are upside down.
May 24, 2007
The Rising Tide Works as Documented
It raises all boats, including, and especially, the poorest. (Via Captain Ed, because I don't have a WSJ subscription.)
It's been a rough week for John Edwards, and now comes more bad news for his "two Americas" campaign theme. A new study by the Congressional Budget Office says the poor have been getting less poor. On average, CBO found that low-wage households with children had incomes after inflation that were more than one-third higher in 2005 than in 1991.
The CBO results don't fit the prevailing media stereotype of the U.S. economy as a richer take all affair -- which may explain why you haven't read about them. Among all families with children, the poorest fifth had the fastest overall earnings growth over the 15 years measured. (See the nearby chart.) The poorest even had higher earnings growth than the richest 20%. The earnings of these poor households are about 80% higher today than in the early 1990s.
A vibrant economy for all is a better long-term solution. Government taking a smaller percentage of peoples' earnings give the poor more to spend and encourages investment by the rich which creates jobs. When government doesn't encourage welfare, the poor, indeed, work, which is inherently better.
What happened? CBO says the main causes of this low-income earnings surge have been a combination of welfare reform, expansion of the earned income tax credit and wage gains from a tight labor market, especially in the late stages of the 1990s expansion. Though cash welfare fell as a share of overall income (which includes government benefits), earnings from work climbed sharply as the 1996 welfare reform pushed at least one family breadwinner into the job market.
Earnings growth tapered off as the economy slowed in the early part of this decade, but earnings for low-income families have still nearly doubled in the years since welfare reform became law. Some two million welfare mothers have left the dole for jobs since the mid-1990s. Far from being a disaster for the poor, as most on the left claimed when it was debated, welfare reform has proven to be a boon.
Far from throwing families out on the streets, welfare reform encouraged work. The work was there because the richer folks had money to start businesses or invest in them. The moral advantage of work over hand-outs should be self-evident. That doesn't mean there should be no hand-outs, but policies that give families little incentive to work do not help them in the long run, no matter how it makes the policy makers feel in the short run.
More stats are discussed by the Captain.
May 21, 2007
A Dictator in All but Title
Hugo Chavez isn't officially "President For Life", but the permission he has for ruling outside Venezuela's legislative body and his crackdown on dissent shows he's acting like one.
Tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday denounced President Hugo Chavez's plans to close an opposition television channel, accusing their leader of maiming Venezuelan democracy as he forges a socialist state.
Chavez says RCTV, the country's oldest private broadcaster, supported a bungled coup against him in 2002. He has had a long-running battle with opposition television stations, calling them "horsemen of the apocalypse."
"Let us defend democracy, let us defend freedom, let us defend free independent media such as RCTV," RCTV's managing director, Marcel Garnier, told demonstrators in Caracas.
The majority that voted him in is now getting a taste of what real dictatorship is like. Buyer's remorse is setting in.
Chavez, re-elected by a landslide last year, still enjoys support of about 60 percent of the public on the back of massive social spending. But a leading pollster has also found a majority of Venezuelans oppose the closure of RCTV.
Datanalisis found almost 70 percent of Venezuelans would rather RCTV kept broadcasting, but worried more about the loss of their favorite soap operas than free speech.
RCTV has been showing a nostalgic collection of clips from comedies, soap operas and Christmas specials that have been part of life in the Caribbean country since it started transmission in 1953.
"It is like losing a close relative," said Renaldo Gonzalez, a student at the protest, whose family members have worked at RCTV as actors, producers and directors.
Do Venezuelan's really aspire to be like Cuba? It's a few steps backward. Hopefully, this will wake up the populace, even if their concept of free speech comes mostly from which entertainment shows are available.
May 09, 2007
Pope Warns Catholic Politicians Who Back Abortion
Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.
It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.
The Pope was asked whether he supported Mexican Church leaders threatening to excommunicate leftist parliamentarians who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.
"Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," he said.
"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)".
And he took on the motivations of those who pass pro-abortion legislation.
"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life...life is a gift not a threat."
"Under God" Gains Ground in Texas
Michael Newdow must be having a conniption.
The Texas House voted early Friday to inject a little religion into the Texas pledge.
House lawmakers voted 124-5 to put the words "under God" in the Texas pledge of allegiance recited by thousands of school children every day. The change mirrors the national pledge, which has included "under God" since 1954.
Under the bill, the Texas pledge would be: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God and indivisible."
The bill still needs a final vote later Friday before it is sent to the Senate.
The bill overwhelmingly passed in the Texas State House, and doesn't appear to have much opposition in the State Senate.
May 08, 2007
Time magazine reminds us of a little history.
When the Supreme Court struck down Texas's law against sodomy in the summer of 2003, in the landmark gay rights case of Lawrence v. Texas, critics warned that its sweeping support of a powerful doctrine of privacy could lead to challenges of state laws that forbade such things as gay marriage and bigamy. "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are ... called into question by today's decision," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, in a withering dissent he read aloud page by page from the bench.
Rick Santorum was one of those critics.
"If the Supreme Court says you have the right to consensual sex within your home," Santorum said at the time, "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
As [Boston Globe columnist Jeff] Jacoby noted, Santorum was given "holy hell" and handed "nail-spitting" by some critics.
Where are the folks now who gave conservatives such a hard time? Given what Time is reporting, they're probably being very, very quiet.
It turns out the critics were right. Plaintiffs have made the decision the centerpiece of attempts to defeat state bans on the sale of sex toys in Alabama, polygamy in Utah and adoptions by gay couples in Florida. So far the challenges have been unsuccessful. But plaintiffs are still trying, even using Lawrence to challenge laws against incest.
The key phrase is "so far". I'm glad to hear that lower courts are now expanding the Lawrence decision, but these attempts at overturning state laws (joined by the ACLU, unsurprisingly) are unprecedented, and the outcome is by no means assured.
The issue does not appear to have been challenged in federal court previously, though the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2005 that a Wisconsin law forbidding incest among blood relations (but not including step-relations) did not conflict with Lawrence's ruling. But in upholding prison sentences for a brother-sister couple in that case, the court acknowledged that the language in Lawrence is all but certain to prompt more challenges to prosecutions for sex-related crimes on privacy grounds.
Hey there, liberals. Pandora left this box for you. Enjoy.
April 25, 2007
Check Your Religious Beliefs at the Door
Left-wing activists are trying to keep religious ideas from informing anyone's opinion or public behavior.
A coalition of religious leaders took on the Catholic Church, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Bush administration on Tuesday with a plea to take religion out of health care in the United States.
They said last week's Supreme Court decision outlawing a certain type of abortion demonstrated that religious belief was interfering with personal rights and the U.S. health care system in general.
The group, calling itself the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said it planned to submit its proposals to other church groups and lobby Congress and state legislators.
I think these folks would be really surprised to learn how the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers informed their lawmaking.
And it's not just judicial opinions they're trying to censor.
The group also complained about Catholic-owned hospitals that refuse to sterilize women who ask for it, refuse to let doctors perform abortions and do not provide contraception.
"Doctors, pharmacists and nurses are also increasingly exercising a so-called 'religious or moral objection,' refusing to provide essential services and often leaving patients without other options," the group said in a statement.
They don't want religious organizations to be able to practice their religious beliefs, at least (for now) where those beliefs contact the public. Keep 'em in the closet.
As usual, a history lesson would go a long way.
"And now, to make it worse, the government is codifying these refusals, first through legislation and now with the recent Supreme Court decision, where five Catholic men decided that they could better determine what was moral and good than the physicians, women and families facing difficult, personal choices in problem pregnancies," it added.
What lovely anti-Catholic bias and sexism going on from these "tolerant" Leftists. But let's not forget that the 281 House members and 64 Senators were a combination of religions and genders, and that they were democratically elected by the people. Doesn't matter to these folks; any vote for a law that can be traced back to the beliefs of Catholic men should not be counted.
For the two-fer, we have some media bias at work here as well. As noted above, this group is initially characterized as "a coalition of religious leaders", giving it the appearance of broad support in the religious community. Not until the 11th paragraph do we get a hint of the size and makeup of the group. "The group includes ordained Protestant ministers [how many?], a Jewish activist [one], an expert on women's reproductive rights [one, and religious leader?] and several physicians [how many? religious leaders?]." The initial description of the group is charitable in the extreme, but something we've come to expect from our ever-vigilant, left-wing media.
(Hat tip: James Taranto.)
Religious Freedom, Canadian Style
If you are requested to do something that goes against your religious beliefs, and you refuse, but you refer those who asked to someone who will, are you guilty of anything? Perhaps not here in the US, but in Canada, the same-sex marriage legislation's draconian measures consider you so.
A Canadian Christian civil marriage commissioner in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Orville Nichols, could face up to $5000 in fines for having referred a homosexual couple to a different commissioner.
Human Rights Commission lawyer Janice Gingell asked the tribunal to find that Nichols contravened the code and order him to pay $5,000 in compensation to the complainant.
The 70 year-old Mr. Nichols used a clearly religious-based conscience argument for his refusal, saying his faith guides his daily life, that he prays and reads the Bible every day. He told the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal that his faith “takes first place” in his life. He said, “I couldn't sleep or live with myself if I were to perform same-sex marriages.”
The other commissioner to whom the two men were referred performed the ceremony on the same date they requested of Mr. Nichols.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists as its first "fundamental freedom" the freedom of conscience and religion". But for those pushing this agenda, the plain language of a Charter or a Constitution is not worth the paper it's written on, and your "fundamental rights" are not recognized. Americans should take note.
April 24, 2007
Gideons Cleared, then Re-Charged
In February, a couple of folks from the Gideons were arrested for trespassing while on a public sidewalk in front of a school handing out Bibles. A comment on my personal blog to that story noted that the trespass charges were related to the two men staying in their cars on school property after being asked to leave. Well, regardless of the actual act that was the cause of the charges, they have been dismissed by the state.
Only to be replaced with new charges.
"Following the initial motion to dismiss filed by [Alliance Defense Fund] attorneys, the state dismissed the charges but then filed new ones under a different statute," the ADF said.
"The distribution of Bibles on a public sidewalk is not a criminal offense," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. "The attempts by Florida officials to continue pressing for the prosecution of Mr. Mirto and Mr. Simpson is not only blatantly unconstitutional, it borders on religious persecution."
The incident developed Jan. 19, when the two men were distributing Bibles on a public sidewalk outside Key Largo School but did not step onto school grounds, the ADF said. Both men were arrested, booked, and charged with trespassing after the school's principal called police. On March 8, ADF attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and the state did dismiss those counts.
However, it filed new charges under a different law that prohibits anyone from being within 500 feet of any school property, including on public sidewalks and streets, without having either "legitimate business" or permission, the ADF said.
"The facts are clear: Mr. Mirto and Mr. Simpson are guilty of nothing more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights," Cortman said. "For whatever reason, the state is grasping at straws in order to justify the punishment of these men."
The state of Florida is now in the "untenable position of trying to justify the punishment of fundamental First Amendment activities in a quintessential traditional public forum," the law firm said. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedents over the last century, that is a "blatant violation of their constitutional rights."
The school disputes that they were on a public sidewalk, saying that they were in fact on school property, but one imagines that if that were so then the initial charges would have stuck.
April 19, 2007
Guns By The Numbers
Year Kennesaw, GA passed a law requiring every head of household in the town to own a handgun: 1982
Kennesaw crime rate prior to enactment: 4,332 per 100,000
National average: 3,899 per 100,000
Kennesaw crime rate today: 2,027 per 100,000
Number of residents involved in fatal shootings since enactment, as either victim, attacker or defender: 0
Population growth, 1980 to 2000: 425% (5.095 to 21,675)
April 18, 2007
Supreme Court Upholds Partial Birth Abortion Ban
Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the majority on this one, and wrote the opinion.
The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long- awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench.
The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide.
Finally, there is some pushback to those who love to keep blurring the line. I believe that this will help hold back those who intend to blur the line even further, beyond birth. This is a good ruling.
April 10, 2007
Our Spring Break jaunt this year was to the nation's capitol. I hadn't toured there since I was around 10, so it was high time I went back, this time with my own kiddos. I'm not going to give a full travelogue here (that tome will go out to family), but here are some thoughts.
Point #1: Bring a bike. DC is rather bike-friendly, and the National Mall is a longer walk than it looks. There is a place right downtown to rent some, but bring what you can. You can cover a lot of ground that way.
The first thing we did was a bike tour (free, as are many things in DC) run by the National Parks Service. It hit many spots in DC but I had no idea how much into DC we'd be. I have pictures of us biking down the middle of Pennsylvania Ave. with the Rangers leading the way. Not down the sidewalk; down the center lane. That by itself was cool (though I kept a good eye on the kiddos with me). There were enough stops along the way to rest my 40-something legs, so it wasn't a killer. They like to theme the tour with a "This Week in History" feel, and the week we went was the week World War 1 started, so at each stop there were talks about how this monument or that feature related back to the war, the run-up to it, the culture of the time and/or how events of the period affected the DC landscape. It went from the Jefferson Memorial, down and back up that peninsula, to the Capitol, to the Pershing Memorial (directly related to WW1 of course) and over to the White House, where we broke away from it to rejoin those of the family doing their own thing on foot. (With 6 in the family, you can only carry so many bikes.) A good learning experience and a good workout.
We hit all the usual spots during the week; the monuments along the Mall, the Smithsonian museums, Ford's Theater, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery. The Cherry Blossom Festival had just started, and the trees bloomed on cue. Unfortunately, this brings crowds, and while the National Parks Service has a nice Tourmobile bus service for a reasonable price, our use of it was marred by long lines and slow traffic. Again, bikes are your friend.
Point #2: Staying in a hotel close to DC can be worth the money. I was looking at some hotel web sites for places under $100, but everything was way outside the beltway. The Metro Rail is nice, but we'd have had to drive to the farthest out station first, taking lots of time out of our day. Hotwire.com saved the day, and I've become a big fan. For the same price as the Super 8, we stayed near the Reagan National Airport for a couple of days, and then splurged to stay downtown for a couple more. (Nice to just walk 4 block to the Mall.) Now, I said it can be worth the money because there are some things you'd probably get at the Super 8 for free that you either can't get or cost extra at the nicer hotels. Like Internet access ($10 per day), free simple breakfast, microwave ($25), fridge ($25), coffee maker in the room (1 of our hotels didn't have that) and even park (around $25 per day). Now, this may not been news to those who've stayed at these spots before, but this was my first real experience with it, so it was news to me. Fortunately, we brought a cooler with lots of food, and Pizza Hut delivers to the lobby. (Where else in DC can you feed 6 for $20?) A pool the size of my office cubicle was OK...once enough people left to allow us to go in. I understand that we're probably not the target market, but they could do just a bit more to fill those empty rooms and do just a little more to make it family friendly. So yes, it can be worth the money for the location, if you understand the amenity situation.
Point #3: Spend the time. There were a number of things we'd hoped to do but just didn't have time to do after doing the things we did do. DC is big in the two senses that there's so much to do, and that everything is so...big. The monuments are, of course, generally done on a grand scale, but when you go to the Smithsonian museums, there's so much in there. We spend Sunday afternoon through Wednesday, and really just hit the highlights. Maybe this point is better expressed "Spend the time well". Don't try to do a little bit of everything; do some things well and leave the rest for perhaps another visit.
We had a great time. Learned some history, some science, and got to see those things you see only on TV or the back of your money. I highly recommend a visit there some day if you've never gone.
March 27, 2007
"The Other Iraq"
Recently on the Public Radio program Open Source, Christopher Lydon did a show on Iraqi Kurdistan, or, as it's PR campaign calls it, "the other Iraq". You can listen to the show and read the show notes here on Radio Open Source. He interviewed Qubad Talabani, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Representative to the United States and son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the United Kingdom, and Peter Galbraith, former (and first) Ambassador to Croatia under Clinton, Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control, and Non-Proliferation Advisor to the KRG.
For some, it may be an eye-opening program. From the discussion of how Americans were indeed greeted as liberators, to the economic prosperity, to the lack of sectarian violence among the Sunni, Shia and Christian Kurds, this program should give pause to those saying we should get out of Iraq ASAP. In fact, both the Kurdish guests warned against a withdrawal too early. (Ambassador Galbraith, predictably, disagreed. More on that in a moment.)
The program was quite a departure from Lydon's show's usual fare. As is typical for public radio, the slate of guests is often slanted liberal, and many time 100% so. Lydon calls his show a "conversation", but it usually is a monologue from the Left. To have a program extolling the good things that have come from the war (even if the host can't bring himself to agree, insinuating that some of the responses sounded like "fantasy") is equal time that has been sorely missing from the media at large. Kudos to Lydon and the PRI folks for finally, if really belatedly, bringing the news.
The cognitive dissonance was deafening when Peter Galbraith did disagree at the end of the show with the idea of staying in Iraq. Here were the very people he's working to help asking for our continued help, and all he can do is shill for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid (by name) and say that, as she does, we need to get out of there because the Iraqi experiment has failed.
I'd ask him, and anyone else who said that the war in Iraq was and is a failure; what do you say to the Kurds? Were they and all other Iraqis not worth the effort to get rid of Hussein and his terror supporting and practicing regime? Just because some may not be handling freedom as well as we'd hoped, should we have left them all to the designs of the Ba'athists? If you blame the US for the violence in the south, are you prepared to credit the US for the peace and prosperity in the north?
March 13, 2007
German Homeschool Family Update
A German appeals court has not only affirmed a lower court's decision that ripped a 15-year-old homeschooler from her family and subjected her to a forced stay in a psychiatric hospital because she is homeschooled, but also ordered her parents to be given psychiatric evaluations, an international rights organization says.
The government psychologists, who had previously diagnosed Melissa Busekros with "schoolphobia", would now get a shot at labelling the parents. What's more, the court ignored the fact that the parents have been willing to accept a government compromise.
The appeals court ruling came despite the fact that all three of the lawyers representing Melissa Busekros clearly stated in their request to the court the family had accepted a compromise offered by a lower court for her to return home under government supervision.
"In spite of [that] … the appeals court held that the family refused the court's initial compromise to let Melissa become an outpatient," Thornton said.
Read the whole thing for details, and to get caught up if you hadn't seen this before.
March 08, 2007
Edwards Doesn't Want Your Vote
At least if you watch the Fox News Channel. John Edwards will simply not tolerate any group that will not tow the liberal line.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards won't participate in a debate co-hosted by Fox News and the Nevada Democratic Party, his campaign said, as party officials tried to settle a dustup over their partnership with the cable network.
Edwards' campaign said the involvement of Fox News, which is often accused by liberals of having a conservative bias, was part of the decision to pass on the Aug. 14 debate in Reno.
"There were a number of factors and Fox was one of those."
Far-left blogs have been pushing for this,and Edwards has caved. The Left has set yet another lower standard. Unless you can name a Republican that has ever skipped a major debate based solely on the slant of the network carrying it. That may be difficult, even considering, for example, CBS's "myopic zeal" against Republicans. Edwards will take his ball and go home unless you're slanted his way.
This says as much about the media as it does about Edwards. He knows the networks who are in bed with him, and you don't get access if you aren't. Oh, that liberal media.
March 07, 2007
Evidence of "The Great Misreading"
After the election, I noted that some right-of-center pundits were saying that while the Democrats won big in the election, conservative values won big as well. No, that's not a contradiction. I said that the actions of the Democrats has been a great misreading of the election results which, as had been noted by others, was the election of more moderate Democrats, not the leftist kind.
Today comes proof of it. Blue Dog Democrats are asserting their power.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced scorn from fellow Democrats during a recent closed-door meeting for not moving more aggressively on Iraq, it was conservative Blue Dogs _ her ideological opposites _ who rose to defend her.
The unlikely support reflected an emerging dynamic in the House, where the 43 right-of-center fiscal hawks are increasingly asserting their power, working to moderate the policies and image of a party with a liberal base and leaders to match.
The coalition's name is a play on yellow dog Democrats, an epithet that came into being in the 1920s to describe party loyalists in the South who, it was said, would vote for a yellow dog if it ran on the Democratic ticket. Democrats who said their moderate to conservative views had been "choked blue" by the party's liberal flank started referring to themselves as blue dogs and formed their group after Republicans swept control of the House in 1994.
With Democrats in charge again, the Blue Dogs have played a key role in halting an emerging plan to place strict conditions on war funding. Their revolt helped beat back that proposal, by Pelosi ally John Murtha, D-Pa. Leaders are now considering a watered-down version.
These moderate Democrats push fiscal responsibility and are putting the brakes on the Pelosi/Murtha wing who are charting a course for Iraqi killing fields. As much as the anti-war crowd would hope for it, and as much as the Democrat leadership talks it, support for cut-and-run is weak. Further, fiscal irresponsibility (from either party) is not what the election was about, either. The last election was indeed a referendum on how Republicans have been running the government, and while the public doesn't like how the war has gone, they elected more Democrats who don't want to just bail out post haste. Any suggestion otherwise is to blindly ignore those very election results they continue to trumpet.
The Search for "The Real Leaker"
"Scooter" Libby was found guilty on 4 of 5 counts of lying to investigators, and the fallout is landing on Dick Cheney.
In legal terms, the jury has spoken in the Libby case.
In political terms, Vice President Dick Cheney is still awaiting a judgment.
For many weeks, Washington watched, transfixed, as the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. cast Cheney, his former boss, in the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings in a covert public relations campaign to defend the administration's case for war in Iraq and discredit a critic.
"There is a cloud over the vice president," the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, told the jury in summing up the case last month.
Cheney was not charged in the case, cooperated with the investigation and expressed a willingness to testify if called, though he never was. Yet he was a central figure throughout, aggressively fighting back against suggestions that he and President George W. Bush had taken the country to war on the basis of flawed intelligence, showing himself to be keenly sensitive to how he was portrayed in the press, and backing Libby to the end.
The jury considered Libby the "fall guy", and the prosecutor and Joe Wilson have a lower opinion of Cheney. Yet no one has been charged with the actual leak in this case. I guess, in a similar manner to OJ Simpson looking for "the real killer", pundits and talking heads will continue the hunt "the real leaker". In yet another eerie similarity to the Simpson situation, Wilson has filed a civil suit against Cheney.
There is one major difference, though, between this situation and OJ's. The real leaker has admitted to it. The problem is, the Left doesn't want to focus on Richard Armitage because he was an Iraq war skeptic in the State Department. No neo-con, he. And going after someone who, if not a Democrat, at least had views that the anti-war crowd appreciated, would not fit the narrative that they have written for this whole kerfuffle. "It was a neo-con revenge hit!" "Karl Rove should be frog-marched!" "The stifling of dissent!"
And in the article detailing who lost face in this whole matter, how many times is Armitage's name mentioned: 0. He's not a neo-con, he's not a White House official, and he was, in fact, a voice of dissent. Doesn't fit the narrative, so the Left and the Media stop paying attention to him.
If there was any intellectual honesty left in those pounding on Cheney, we'd see Armitage's name a whole lot more. Instead, it's not about the truth or the policy or whatever high hobby-horse they're riding. It's all about the politics.
March 05, 2007
Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina had an article in the Washington Post a week ago Friday (just pointed out to me) regarding conservative conservationists. No, nowhere near an oxymoron. His point is how the right should deal with the global warming issue, because if we don't deal with it, the Left will, and you know what sort of big-government, economic takeover solutions they'll come up with. (Think Kyoto Protocol.) Gov. Sanford make 3 points:
First, conservatives must reframe the environmental discussion by replacing the political left's scare tactics with conservative principles such as responsibility and stewardship. Stewardship -- the idea that we need to take care of what we've been given -- simply makes sense. It makes dollars as well, for the simple reason that our economy is founded on natural resources, from tourism and manufacturing to real estate and agriculture. Here in South Carolina, conservation easements are springing up across the state as landowners see the dual benefit of preserving the environment and protecting their pocketbooks.
Second, conservatives must reclaim lost ground from far-left interest groups by showing how environmental conservation is as much about expanding economic opportunity as it is about saving whales or replanting rain forests. When corporations such as BP and Shell America pursue alternative energy sources, they not only cut carbon emissions but help cut our petroleum dependency on OPEC nations. When South Carolina restaurants recycle their oyster shells, they not only restore shellfish habitat but take a job off local governments' plates and ensure continuing revenue streams for local fishermen.
Third, conservatives must respond to climate change with innovation, not regulation. This means encouraging private research and implementation of more eco-friendly construction, more energy-efficient workplaces and more sustainable ways of going about life -- all of which cuts costs and protects God's creation. It means looking past the question of whether your car's exhaust melts polar ice caps and instead treating our environment as an investment our future depends on.
Read the whole thing. That last point is the key, but is predicated on the first two.
February 28, 2007
Name That Warmonger
Who said this in a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting while questioning John Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence?
I was just wondering, does the military have a plan to, if necessary, to go into Syria to go to the source of any weapons coming from Syria? That are going to Sunni insurgents? That are killing our troops? … I think we ought to take action on all fronts including Syria and any other source of weapons coming in, obviously Iran is the focus – but it shouldn't be the sole focus.
What member of the committee asked if the military had a plan for dealing with Syria and Iran?
Are you sitting down? No really, are you?
The answer is:
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).
No, really, that Carl Levin. Click here for context and video.
Now, Democrats were indeed talking the tough talk against Saddam Hussein as far back as the Clinton administration, who's official policy was for regime change in Iraq, and then later, when it looked like George W. Bush would actually do something about it, they backpedaled and accused Bush of misleading them. (They were misled by Bush as far back as the Clinton presidency? Amazing!) So this moment of acknowledging reasonable precaution and having a plan for dealing with Syria and Iraq may be short-lived. Nonetheless, it's good to hear some bit of sense from that side of the aisle regarding being prepared.
Just hope he increases his contingent of bodyguards. The anti-war Left ain't gonna like this.
February 26, 2007
Religious Freedom Inconvenient for Public Schools
Would you believe that here in the United States, someone would suggest that religious freedom and parental right undermine the public school system? It's happened. A US District Judge has used that as part of his reasoning in a recent ruling.
A federal judge in Massachusetts has ordered the "gay" agenda taught to Christians who attend a public school in Massachusetts, finding that they need the teachings to be "engaged and productive citizens."
U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf yesterday dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by David Parker, ordering that it is reasonable, indeed there is an obligation, for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality.
Wolf essentially adopted the reasoning in a brief submitted by a number of homosexual-advocacy groups, who said "the rights of religious freedom and parental control over the upbringing of children … would undermine teaching and learning…"
This started in 2005 when David Parker objected to the fact that he couldn't get his kindergarten child opted out of, or even notified of, same-sex household issues when they were brought up. The judge's ruling gives them three options; private school, home school, or vote in enough School Committee members to get things changed. Fair enough, but can you imagine a court telling a black man that if he doesn't like being forced into blacks-only restrooms and schools that these are his only choices? It would be unthinkable, but religious freedom, written quite plainly into the Constitution, is being afforded less protection than civil rights laws.
We are losing our constitutional rights at the hands of the judicial branch of government, and few notice, care, or even agree that it's being eroded. The folks with the latter view are the most blind.
February 22, 2007
UN Gives Hizbollah & Hamas Time to Rearm
UN resolution 1701 called for, among other things, the disarming of Hizbollah. The UN is giving it's usual stellar performance. Via the Israel Project:
As Israel and the United States worked together this week to resume peace talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, growing signs indicate a concerted effort by the radical Islamic terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas to rearm themselves in preparation for further conflict.
Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based, Iranian-backed Shiite militant group that initated a war against Israel this past summer after their gunmen crossed the Lebanese-Israeli internationally recognized border, is now receiving weekly shipments of weapons from Iran and Syria. "We know that Syria is trying all the time to smuggle weapons over the Lebanese border to Hezbollah," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told members of the foreign press on Feb. 20.
In an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper on Feb. 3, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah openly declared that Iran is supplying his group with monetary aid and weapons.
(The text is from an e-mail that is not yet posted on their site.)
I said back in August, when this was all being worked out, that the cease-fire that was supposed to solve everything and keep Hizbollah from further aggression was simply going to buy time for them to rearm. Indeed, that's exactly what has happened. The toothless UN resolution is simply giving cover to those who who wanted to do something about it, regardless of how impotent. I'm sure they feel better about themselves for appearing, if not being, tough on terrorists. Unfortunately, the Israeli citizens on the Lebanon border and those within missile range of Gaza aren't any better off for it.
February 16, 2007
On Sunnis and Shi'ites
I'll admit to not knowing my Islamic sects, but Mark Alexander at the Patriot Post distills it down to 1000 well-written words. Definitely worth a read.
And while you're there, read the rest of today's digest, which includes news about a push to do and end-run around the Electoral College, notice of a report from UNICEF that says the US and the UK are the two worst places to raise a child, and news of a settlement in a "wrongful birth" case. I suggest you subscribe to their e-mails.
February 14, 2007
German Homeschool Student Hidden Away
According to CBN, Melissa Busekros, the German homeschool student taken to the nearby psych ward for alleged "school phobia", has been taken to an unknown location by the German government. The state is not telling the parents where she has been taken.
February 13, 2007
How I Learned to Love (the Iranian) Bomb
Are you comfortable with the idea of Iran with a nuclear bomb? Hope you're getting really comfy. All the stern UN resolutions and severely worded reports have done precisely nothing.
Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.
In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states.
Imagine that; trying to negotiate with radicals has failed. Who would've thought? The result has been that indeed Iran is going to have nuclear materials.
The downbeat conclusions of the “reflection paper” – seen by the Financial Times – are certain to be seized on by advocates of military action, who fear that Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb over the next two to three years. Tehran insists its purposes are purely peaceful.
“At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme,” says the paper, dated February 7 and circulated to the EU’s 27 national governments ahead of a foreign ministers meeting yesterday.
“In practice...the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.”
If those sanctions had been in place earlier and would've been stronger, then maybe--maybe--they would have had more effect. But everyone's afraid of making the mullahs mad at us. "If we push too hard, it may increase tensions and drive them away from us." Well guess what; they're going their own way anyway, and all the UN resolutions you can muster won't change that.
Not to mention that it's hard to imagine sanctions working when our "allies" like France and Russia were enriching Saddam during the Oil-for-Food program. With friends like these....
The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats. Only yesterday the bloc agreed on how to apply United Nations sanctions on Tehran, overcoming a dispute between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar.
So the diplomatic elite will dither and produce more reports and redundant findings that confirm, once again, that you can't negotiate in good faith with radicals. In the meantime, some say that the military option should be completely off the table, which I'm sure Tehran is very comforted to hear.
What the solution is at this point, I have no idea. I do know, however, that the world, in recent decades, has looked down at the US for its solutions but always lays the world's problems at the feet of the US and scolds us for not doing more long after the world has failed to really do anything. What has Europe really done about the Iran problem? What has the UN done about the North Korean problem? Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. When will the world wake up to the fact that negotiating with dictators and radicals is an insane proposition, for everyone?
February 12, 2007
German Homeschool Student Sent to Psych Ward
Since homeschooling is outlawed in Germany, if you do it you should expect the government to get perturbed. However, here's the story of a 7th grader sent to Child Psychiatry Unit of the local clinic and removed from her parents' custody over it. Seems quite an overreaction.
In summer 2004, Melissa was told that she would have to repeat the 7th grade at the Christian Ernst Gymnasium (a high school where one can obtain the Abitur, the highest German high school diploma) due to her bad grades in math and latin. The situation in the class played no small part in creating this state of affairs - the high noise levels and cancelled classes prevented her from receiving the educational assistance she needed during school hours. As Melissa had good grades in all the other subjects, repeating the whole year would be mostly a waste of her time, as well as the fact that she would now be in a class even more problematic than the previous year’s. Thus, it was decided by Melissa and her parents that she would be tutored individually at home to meet her specific needs. At her own wish, Melissa only took part in Music and sang in her school choir. The school and the local school authorities were not satisfied with this solution, and consequently expelled Melissa from the school, allocating her to the local Hauptschule (the lowest in the German three-tier high school system).
So the parents only took her out of public school due to her special needs, trying to avoid the wasted time of going through the one-size-fits-all repeating of an entire grade. The only homeschooled in response to an issue with their daughter. This is not a family that has completely avoided the public system; they have simply responded to the specific issues with their child. Shouldn't parents be allowed to do that. Not in Germany. The state stepped in, though I'd say "overstepped".
On Tuesday 30th January just after 7am, Mrs Busekros and her children – Mr Busekros had already left for work – were startled by the appearance of the judge of the Family Court,social workers and police officials who demanded that Melissa, now aged 15, be handed over to them immediately. They had as authorisation a decision by the Erlangen Court (case no. 006 F 01004/06) of the 29th of January. It stated “The relevant Youth Welfare Office is hereby instructed and authorised to bring the child, if necessary by force, to a hearing and may obtain police support for this purpose.”
Melissa was brought into the Child Psychiatry Unit of the Nuremberg clinic and was subjected to an interrogation in the presence of the specialist Dr. Schanda. After this interrogation, about three and a half hours after she was coerced into the clinic, Melissa was returned home. Her relieved parents and her five younger siblings, who didn’t know when they would ever see Melissa again, as well as Melissa herself didn’t know that the worst was still to come.Melissa (right, top) and her familiy [sic].
On the afternoon of the 1st of February, the judge of the Family Court, representatives of the Youth Welfare Office, along with fifteen police officers, marched up to the Busekros home, to haul Melissa off to the Child Psychiatry Unit of the Nuremberg clinic. The judicial decision authorising this also removed Melissa from her parents’ custody, according to her father, Hubert Busekros.This treatment was justified by the psychiatrist’s finding, two days previously, that she was supposedly developmentally delayed by one year and that she suffered from school phobia. The fact that the less than optimal testing environment and the unexpectedness of the tests could have impacted on Melissa’s performance were not taken into account in this decision. It is not known when Melissa’s parents and siblings will be able to see her again, as the official approach in cases of “school phobia” is to completely prevent the “patient” from having any contact with those closest to him or her, as such contact supposedly enables the phobia.
I guess the state's solution to "school phobia", assuming that's even a valid diagnosis, is to put her back in there. Never mind that, but for bad grades in two subjects, she had done just fine in school, despite this "phobia". No, the government--the Village, so to speak--knows better than the parents.
January 30, 2007
Religious Freedom Diminished in the UK
Agencies run by churches in the UK can no longer practice what they preach.
Roman Catholic adoptions agencies yesterday lost their battle to opt out of new laws banning discrimination against homosexual couples when Tony Blair announced that there would be "no exemptions" for faith-based groups.
The Prime Minister said in a statement that the new rules would not come into force until the end of 2008. Until then there would be a "statutory duty" for religious agencies to refer gay couples to other agencies.
Why can't that "statutory duty" be good enough? Why is government coercion trumping religious freedom? Predictably, the results of an attempt at "fairness" will chase off the principled.
Last week the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, warned that the agencies would close rather than accept rules that required them to hand over babies to gay couples.
One wonders if, in some quarters, that's the whole objective. I mean, given a situation where there are choices, and there usually are, why would a gay couple seek out the Catholic Church for an adoption agency when there are others that have no qualms about it. It's kind of like the standard answer you hear when folks complain about the content of TV programming. "Just change the channel", the Left dismissively says. But when it comes to their preferences, they won't "change the channel" themselves--choose a different agency--and instead insist that government sanction their choices and force it upon everyone to accommodate it.
January 24, 2007
Scooter Making News, But Not Sandy
Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has been pulling out the details from the Libby trial and the Plame kerfuffle for quite some time. As much as they have covered it, if you get your news from the TV or the paper, you may not have heard much about some of these nuggets. Example from yesterday
Ted Wells drops the news that David Gregory of NBC received a leak about Plame from Ari Fleischer on July 11:
Now shows Ari dislcoses [sic] to David Gregory on July 11 that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Fleischer tells that before Libby was ever indicted. "I told David Gregory." Talks about time difference, says Ari leaked to Gregory first.
Now let's flash back to October 29, 2005, just after the Libby indictment. Russert has gathered the Washington Bureau to discuss the case on CNBC's "Tim Russert Show". At the time, I excerpted the transcript and suggested they were rehearsing their cover story. So let's cut to David Gregory:
GREGORY: And it is interesting--it's also interesting, I should just point out, that nobody called me at any point, which is unfortunately...
WILLIAMS: Apparently not.
GREGORY: ...not the point.
RUSSERT: Does anybody ever?
GREGORY: But I just wanted to note that.
RUSSERT: I've been meaning to talk to you about that.
Basically, given this and other discrepancies, it looks like the journalists haven't been completely upfront with what they knew and when they knew it. And Libby is the fall guy. Joe Wilson wanted to see Karl Rove frog-marched for what Joe thought was Karl's role in the leak (a leak that, still, no one has been indicted for), but perhaps we should be marching some reporters.
(Keep up with Just One Minute. Tons of good information on the Libby trial and the misinformation coming out of it.)
Meanwhile, there's been little to no coverage on the Sandy Berger story. If you have to ask, "Sandy who?", you're forgiven. Libby is being tried for an alleged lie to investigators in a case of the "leaking" of the name of a CIA employee who worked at CIA headquarters every day. Berger didn't do much, really, which explains the lack of interest by the media. All he really did is steal classified documents from the National Archives, hide them in his pants, destroy them, and keep potentially damaging information about President Clinton from reaching the 9/11 Commission. No big deal, right? Especially for those reporters for whom this really goes against the narrative.
Now Sandy reached a plea deal that kept him out of prison, but there's still the matter of knowing what he took. Part of that plea deal included a lie detector test to find out what he took, as a number of those documents were originals that had no copies. The Justice Department is dragging its feet, but some Representatives are trying to get this moving again.
Eighteen House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to proceed with a polygraph test for Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser who agreed to take the test as part of a plea of guilty of stealing documents from the National Archives.
"This may be the only way for anyone to know whether Mr. Berger denied the 9/11 commission and the public the complete account of the Clinton administration's actions or inactions during the lead-up to the terrorist attacks on the United States," the congressmen said in their letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
The congressmen -- led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia -- said a prompt lie-detector test is needed to determine the extent of Mr. Berger's thievery, especially because the former Clinton administration adviser reviewed original documents for which there were no copies or inventory.
Mr. Davis, former chairman and now ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, released a report by his staff on Jan. 9, saying a Justice Department investigation of Mr. Berger's admitted document theft was "remarkably incurious."
The report said the theft compromised national security "much more than originally disclosed" and resulted in "incomplete and misleading" information to the September 11 commission. It said Mr. Berger was willing to go to "extraordinary lengths to compromise national security, apparently for his own convenience."
In October, Mr. Davis led an effort to hold hearings to determine whether any documents were "destroyed, removed or were missing" after visits by Mr. Berger to the Archives. He said the full extent of Mr. Berger's document removal "can never be known" and the Justice Department could not assure the September 11 commission that it received all the documents to which Mr. Berger had access.
In an attempt to get some more attention to the Berger situation, Bill Bennett asked listeners to his radio show, "Morning in America", to come up with songs about it. (You can hear some excerpts of the entries and the well-done winner here.) This just hasn't garnered a lot of press, but with all the talk about implementing
And why isn't more being reported on this? (OK, that question's rhetorical.)
January 23, 2007
Punishing Big Oil
Rev. Sensing has a must-read post on how punishing oil companies winds up punishing those consumers of oil.
Which is basically all of us.
Romney Piicks Up Endorsements
We've knocked the idea around about having Mitt Romney, a Mormon, as a presidential candidate for a Republican party that has a majority of evangelical Christians in it. According to Powerline, there are a couple of signs that Romney's political appeal may take precedence over his choice of religion.
First, they are noting (according to the Politico blog) that Denny Hastert will be endorsing Romney sometime today (may have already happened). Powerline notes, "They don't come much more mainstream, middle-American conservative than Denny Hastert."
January 22, 2007
Hoping for Failure
Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush
announced last week to succeed?
16-17 Jan 07
This is shocking. On average, 1 in 5 Americans want the troop surge to fail. I can understand disagreements on policies and methods, but hoping for failure is simply beyond the pale.
One wonders where the 1 in 3 Democrats are coming from who hope for failure. Is Bush-hatred become so all-consuming for them that they're hoping our troops can't get the job done and the the Iraqis are unable to work up a stable democracy and the insurgency manages to destabilize the region? That's what a failure to curtail the current problems would mean. This is tantamount to wishing harm on their own soldiers (but please don't question their patriotism).
I'm on a "Chavez kick", I know, but the man just begs for coverage. Hugo and his buddies have created a scene so similar to Star Wars that George Lucas may be able to sue for copyright infringement.
Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.
President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.
He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.
Wonder who got to play the Jar-Jar Binks part of officially giving
After making another comparison of the Venezuelan Congress to "the German Reichstag in the 1930s in voting itself into irrelevancy", the Captain notes the grim future, first for outside investors, and ultimately for the Venezuelan people.
Western investors in Venezuela will suffer the same fate as those invested in Cuba before the fall of Batiste, or in Mexico during their occasional efforts to nationalize industries. They will be lucky if they can sell off their assets to Chavez for pennies on the dollar before he can seize them outright. The window for those transactions will close very shortly.
More importantly, Chavez has condemned the people of Venezuela to oppression and further misery. When outside investors stop underwriting projects in the country, their economy will head straight down. Chavez will use what remains -- the oil production -- to make splashy festivals for the poor and open a few schools and hospitals. The vast majority of what profit he can take will go right back into the pockets of Chavez and his cronies.
I'm going to have to bring up again that it's the Sheehans and Belefontes and Glovers of the political spectrum (i.e. the Left) that have embraced this man in a bear hug. I assume they have no problem with a socialist taking dictatorial powers over a country? I know they'd be up in arms if Chavez was Republican, but a socialist dictator (and now he is indeed technically a dictator) is okey dokey? This tells us what the grass-roots left-wingers really want for our country, because socialism has worked so well every other place it's been tried.
January 17, 2007
Misrepresenting Climate Policy, the Associated Press Way
Yeah, this is a hat tip to a 2-day-old Instapundit post, which is eons in blog time, but I thought it worth highlighting. In this story about how the tiny country of the United Arab Emirates beats the United States per capita in putting "demand on the global ecosystem", this line is mentioned about the second place US.
The United States is no longer bound by Kyoto, which the Bush administration rejected after taking office in 2001.
But as Glenn notes, based on a passage from what he calls "the not especially Bush-friendly Wikipedia", that is simply not true. You can chalk it up to "mere" incompetence or "simple" laziness, but it seems that almost always when the mainstream media get incompetent or lazy, conservatives and/or Republicans suffer (and liberals and/or Democrats look better). Honestly, when's the last time any news source (or your friendly, neighborhood liberal buddy) correctly noted that Clinton never submitted it to the Senate for ratification? If your going to insist that Bush"rejected" it, you must say the same thing about Clinton & Gore (notwithstanding Gore's "symbolic" signing of it; liberal good intentions don't count if they don't produce results).
Somehow, the fact that 80-90% of journalists vote Democrat just doesn't seem to register with folks like Eric Alterman who insist that the media lean conservative. That Bush "rejected" Kyoto is such a Known Fact(tm) in those circles does make its way into reporting, and it ain't the only thing that does.
January 12, 2007
Chavez v the Church
No contest in that match, according to Hugo.
In addition, you tell me if there is an unstated threat when, after 'scolding' the Church "for criticizing his decision not to renew the license of an opposition-aligned television station," Chavez said:
the state respects the church. The church should respect the state. I wouldn't like to return to the times of confrontation with Venezuelan bishops, but it's not up to me. It's up to the Venezuelan bishops.
Translation: If there is a conflict between me and the Church, the Church must be wrong. If Chavez was the first to spew the sort of nonsense he does so often, he might be cutely incorrigible.
But this isn't the first time faith has heard in the distance the report of socialist war drums. What then?
Hat tip to Acton Institute's PowerBlog, a general must read.
Christians and Government Schools
From LaShawn Barber:
I feel for Christians who can't afford private schools and for whatever reason aren't equipped to homeschool. I don't believe in fighting the government for piecemeal concessions like "prayer in schools." Children don't need permission to pray. It is a private matter that can be done without formalities and protests, which in my view cheapen and obscure the whole purpose of prayer.
At the same time, I do believe taxpaying parents have a right to complain and seek change in government schools. I just don't think it's worth the effort for Christians to get themselves worked up over problems in a corrupted, Democratic party-controlled (teachers unions), monopolized, government propaganda machine like the public school system.
She also poses 3 questions for readers to answer.
January 10, 2007
Chavez Continues Power Grab
Hugo Chavez, with the backing of his guys in the Venezuelan Congress, continues to consolidate his power.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sworn in on Wednesday for a new six-year term that he vowed to use to press a radical socialist revolution including nationalizations that have roiled financial markets.
Emboldened by his landslide re-election win, the typically combative anti-U.S. leader has gone on the attack, deciding to strip a private opposition TV channel of its license and take over some major companies owned by foreign investors.
"Fatherland, socialism or death -- I take the oath," Chavez said.
The man who calls Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor changed tradition by draping the presidential sash from his left shoulder instead of his right in what he says is a symbol of his socialist credentials.
Legislators at the ceremony in Congress chanted "Long live socialism."
Investors took fright this week at the leftist drive that further consolidates power in the hands of a former coup leader who already controls Congress, the courts and says he has total support in the army and the giant state oil company.
As the United States criticized Chavez's moves against private property, the stock market lost almost a fifth of its value on Tuesday, debt prices tumbled to a six-week low and the currency changed hands at nearly twice the official rate
But he's not worried.
Still, buoyed by strong oil revenues and high popularity, Chavez is expected to ride out any economic and political storm.
Something tells me that there's a high correlation between "strong oil revenues" and "high popularity". If he's buying the latter with the former, like he's doing in Harlem, it's no wonder he keeps getting re-elected.
In the meantime, he's planning on holding on to this power for as long as he can make it last, never mind term limits.
A leading anti-U.S. voice in the world and in the vanguard of a shift to the left in Latin America, Chavez now wants to scrap presidential term limits and lead the OPEC nation for decades.
Chavez, who rode to Congress for the swearing-in ceremony in an open-top car waving at crowds of supporters, has said his new term's plans include stripping the central bank of its autonomy and taking on special legislative powers.
Chavez's nationalization plans remain hazy and the utilities and foreign investors want to know whether he plans to take a 51-percent governing stake or seize all of their enterprises.
Chavez has already confiscated large cattle ranches. But his decision to nationalize the country's biggest telecommunications company CANTV and power firms represents a bold new policy.
Calling him a dictator may not be technically correct, but in word and deed he is most certainly consolidating his hold over the country and ensuring it continues, stealing entire business sectors if need be.
January 08, 2007
Faith of our Founders
Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost takes an honest look at the religious faith of America's Founding Fathers. His first conclusion is:
With the exception of the handful of orthodox Christians, the majority of the founding fathers subscribed to a religious view that we would nowadays classify as Unitarianism. A rejection of Trinitarianism clearly puts one outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. We should not, therefore, claim that a historical figure is a “Christian” when we would consider someone who held those beliefs today to be a heretic. The leaders during the revolutionary era may have subscribed to a Judeo-Christian view of morality, but few of them were orthodox believers.
However, his second conclusion is:
While we Christians can claim few founding fathers as fellow believers, the atheistic secularist can claim none. Not one of the significant leaders was an atheist, much less subscribed to the modern idea of secularism.
Essentially, Carter says that the whole modern idea of government working from a purely secular/atheist point of view is not something the Founders would have generally recognized as their idea. An "established religion" meant something specific to them, and it wasn''t that government should be devoid of religious influence at all. (Military chaplains were set up by these same fellas, as an example.) The Michael Newdows of the country should take note.
The DNC, Taxes and Chapped Lips
Thus is the title of Danny Carlton's description of how dealing with a little discomfort in the short term leads to a better outcome in the long term, if you have the maturity to both stop licking your lips and stop raising taxes. Democrats have made it easier for Congress to raise taxes (surprise, surprise) enabling what he calls Chapped Lips Syndrome as applied to society.
Attacking the wealthy feels good in a myopic, class-envy, immature way, but makes the economy suffer. If the economy suffers, those with less will inevitably suffer more. A mature, intelligent society will encourage business (within reasonable restrictions) and solve the problem. The immature society will continue to attack the rich and make the economy continue to slide downhill.
November 30, 2006
Smashing the Charity Stereotypes
The New York Times asked, "Are we cheap?" Liberals give their opinions on that.
"Yes," they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states "don't give a damn" about people in poor countries. And when it comes to helping the needy in poor countries, U2 singer Bono says, "It's the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries."
Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries.
The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.
Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it.
"It's disgusting. It really is disgusting," she said. "I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it."
But what these folks are ignoring is that America is one of the most generous countries in the world when you look at how we take personal responsibility for our charity. As much as the general consensus has inched more and more towards the idea that it's the government's job, a very large segment of our population understands that "rugged individualism" not only means being personally independent but also means taking personal responsibility for the needy, and not shoving it off onto some other group or institution. Predictably however, those who do gauge things by institutional or governmental charity are blind to the reality of the generous America.
Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it's a myth that Americans are stingy.
"We're one of the most generous people in the world, and that's because of our private philanthropy," she said.
Adelman published her findings in the institute's "Index of Global Philanthropy," which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.
On top of that, immigrants in America send about $47 billion abroad to family members and home towns. That's anything but stingy.
After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.
So America's individuals send out more than three times cash that the government does, and continue to give when tragedy strikes. This is not a portrait of a stingy country; that is, if you see the whole picture. And of course, there's more to charity than just cash.
The fact that most of America's charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country.
"No other country comes close," said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide."
"The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. … They also volunteer more," Brooks said. "Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians."
"Now, you might notice that these other countries have different average incomes or different tax systems," he said. "But even when you take that into account, Americans give 10 times more than the Italians. The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world."
The problem with America's reputation comes from its a self-appointed "ambassadors", like Carter, Bono and Jolie, who complain that we don't funnel enough money through a government that siphons off 75 cents off of each "charitable" tax dollar. In the meantime, while Hollywood and the Left trash them, the average American continues to give to charities with a much better value for dollar given. But this generosity isn't even on the radar for those whom the government is the answer to every problem, and who disdained private solutions while supporting public waste.
And who's doing this giving? The aforementioned book by Brooks shatters all the stereotypes and puts those charity ambassadors in a different light. According to Brooks,
- 24 of the top 25 states where people give an above average percent of their income were red states in the previous presidential election.
- Conservatives give about 30 percent more than liberals, even though on average conservative-headed families make slightly less money.
- People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
- People at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income than do those who make $1 million or more.
- Religion is the single biggest predictor as to whether someone will be charitable. Religious people give to four times as much to charity, and not just to their own church but also to outside organizations and even explicitly non-religious charities.
Seems like it's not so far off the mark that the more you expect government to do the job of charity, the less likely you are to get involved in local need issues. It looks like what is needed is for these charity "ambassadors" to get more in touch with their ideological brethren. In the meantime, they could stop bad-mouthing the American people, including the allegedly "greedy" right-wing Republican churchgoers. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
November 16, 2006
Diebold Implicated! (Well, Almost.)
From James Taranto comes word that indeed we may have a Diebold lawsuit after all. One guess which side wants to sue.
One advantage of Democrats winning last week's elections is that we've been spared all the complaints about "stolen" elections. Well, almost all of them. In Florida's 13th District, vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris for her ill-starred Senate run, Republican Vern Buchanan eked out a victory by about 400 votes. Angry Left teen idol Markos "Kos" Moulitsas is crying foul:
Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.
Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.
These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.
But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.
To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.
If we win this battle, you'll be able to kiss Diebold goodbye.
A little later in the day, Kos had an update:
Update II: Machines in FL-13 were made by ES&S. Same difference.
Taranto notes that ES&S, Electric Systems and Software, Inc, is a Diebold competitor. Again, it's the Left putting up a heads-I-win-tails-you-cheated scenario, even if the "evil" Diebold isn't involved. How unserious and knee-jerk can you get?
November 14, 2006
Moses and The Ten ... Amendments?
Pastor Todd DuBord got a bit of a shock when he did the DC tour recently. When they got to the Supreme Court building, revisionism was readily apparent.
He was most disturbed by what appears to be revisionism in the presentations given to visitors at the Supreme Court. There, he said, his tour guide was describing the marble frieze directly above the justices' bench.
"Between the images of the people depicting the Majesty of the Law and Power of Government, there is a tablet with ten Roman numerals, the first five down the left side and the last five down the right. This tablet represents the first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights," she said.
The ten what? was DuBord's thought.
Indeed, Pastor DuBord has done his research (click here for the PDF of his letter, containing all his information about this and other places history is being erased). The thing is, it's not just a matter of ignoring Christian figures and influences, it's being actively denied,
He then asked, "If there are no other depictions of Moses or the Ten Commandments on the building except on the South Wall Frieze in the U.S. Supreme Court, then what about on the east side of the building where Moses is the central figure among others, holding both tablets of the Ten Commandments, one in each arm?"
"Her response shocked me as much as the guide inside the Court chamber. 'There is no depiction of Moses and the Ten Commandments like that on the U.S. Supreme Court,'" DuBord said he was told.
He asked if there were any pictures of the representation, and she pulled one out.
"Her eyes widened in surprise. There was Moses in photo and description as the central figure, holding the Ten Commandments (tablets), one in each hand," DuBord wrote.
Although there are six depictions of Moses and-or the Ten Commandments at the Supreme Court, the tour guides had been trained to admit to only the one on Moses, he said.
DuBord has traced at least one of the reasons this change has been taking place. Read the whole article or his message to the Court to learn about the letter from the sculptor saying it was the 10 Amendments, but also why this letter's authenticity is dubious (and also about the other letters this same sculptor wrote about similar depictions of his specifically about the 10 Commandments around DC).
One has to wonder why our country's Christian heritage and influence has to be "sanitized", and who's responsible for it.
Diebold Cleared of All Charges
OK, they weren't actually brought up on any for the performance of their voting machines. But that's the point. Democrats were all prepared with their lawyers should they not win where they thought they should. But they won, so there were suddenly no voting irregularities. An extended family member of mine sent this along. He's not all that into politics by his own admission, but this really made an impression on him. This is a short letter to the editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
With the recent incredibly close and important election results in the senatorial races, I have not heard the tremendous whining and wild claims of fraud, voter intimidation, voting machine failures, etc.
Does that mean that America has solved all of its vast voting issues, or that the Democrats won this time?
I'd add, does that mean that we won't hear of any problems even when Republicans win in the future?
My sister pointed out that George Allen proved what a good sport he is by not calling for a recount in his razor-thin loss to Jim Webb. Would that more politicians (and party machinery) were like that.
November 13, 2006
The Great Misreading
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 — Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed on Sunday to use their new Congressional majority to press for troop reductions in Iraq within a matter of months, stepping up pressure on the administration just as President Bush is to be interviewed by a bipartisan panel examining future strategy for the war.
The Democrats — the incoming majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan; and the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware — said a phased redeployment of troops would be their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January, even before an investigation of the conduct of the war.
“We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Mr. Levin said in an appearance on the ABC News program “This Week.” In a telephone interview later, Mr. Levin added, “The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems.”
This is a clear violation of truth in labelling. Remember, one year ago, the Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this very maneuver. Their main voice in this, John Murtha, called for it and wrote his own resolution on the matter. The Republicans didn't bring Murtha's up for a vote, but did bring up a virtually identical one that the Dems were completely against. See here for a comparison. They wouldn't put their votes where their mouths were, and apparently didn't want to be considered the Cut and Run Party. But now that they have control of the legislature, and think they have a mandate for their position, they're going full steam ahead.
This is most likely a huge misreading of the recent election results. The NY Times wrote an article on one of their polls, which, unsurprisingly, tilts left (e.g. they ask which party is more likely to bring the troops home, but doesn't ask which party is more likely to achieve victory). What isn't covered but requires you to click on a sidebar link is one of the questions about strategy. Only 27% want to remove all troops from Iraq. Those who want to continue the current strategy (8%) plus those who want a change in strategy (61%) compromise a vast majority (69%) that want, not this retreat the Democrats will propose, but a course that will lead to something that the poll respondents consider victory.
Yes, everyone's got their own idea of what this should be (mine is an Iraqi democracy that can defend itself, thought you really can't call the removal of Hussein's regime and the killing and capturing of many top al Qaeda honchos a complete "defeat"). But the point is that the Democrats are looking at a general dissatisfaction with the prosecution of the war and mistaking it for dissatisfaction with simply being in the war.
This is the Vietnam blunder; bailing out of an unpopular war before the job's done, and allowing the region to descend into chaos for a generation. Until Iraq is ready to stand on its own, someone else will have to hold them up. Either it'll be us, or it'll be one of the many other factions eager to toast the fledgling democracy. The Democrats are either refusing to remember history, or are playing politics with the lives of the Iraqis, whom they claim concern over when they hear civilian casualty figures. And yet they wish to set us on a course that will condemn far more to death in a struggle for power and, based on the winner, that struggle's aftermath.
November 08, 2006
As of now, Democrats have been given control of the House of Representatives, and there are two outstanding races in the Senate that will determine who controls that chamber. This is definitely going to make it harder for Republicans to get their initiatives through, to be sure, but let's look a little closer.
As Michelle Malkin notes, Republicans may have lost but conservatism did not. She lists a number of indicators.
Property rights initiatives limiting eminent domain won big. MCRI, the anti-racial preference measure, passed resoundingly. Congressman Tom Tancredo, the GOP's leading warrior against illegal immigration--opposed by both the open-borders Left and the open-borders White House--won a fifth term handily. Gay marriage bans won approval in 3 states. And as of this writing, the oil tax initiative, Prop. 87--backed by deep-pocketed Hollywood libs, is trailing badly in California.
While an AP article headlines 3 items that could be considered conservative setbacks--rejection of SD abortion ban and AZ gay marriage ban, and approval of stem cell research in Missouri--it lists later on in the article all the items that could be considered conservative wins, and on balance conservatism did very well. Written after Malkin's post, it notes 8 states that banned gay marriage, as well as the aforementioned sunsetting of affirmative action in Michigan, and a number of anti-illegal-immigration initiatives in Arizona. (And the Missouri stem cell amendment, as I noted previously, was passed with a margin that could suggest that if it had been worded honestly, it may not have passed at all.)
Also, as ScrappleFace notes, the win for Lieberman and the loss for Lincoln Chafee could be considered a gain of 2 seats for Republicans. >grin<
So unlike Democrats after previous elections, you won't find Republicans hiding under the covers for days, packing for their move to Canada, or suing Diebold. (Gee, where did all those Democrats go that insisted that Diebold machines were "fixed"? Is it OK when they're "fixed" for Democrats? Love the choice; either Democrats win, or someone cheated.) The victory for Democrats was more a typical 6-year-itch midterm result mixed with some "throw the bums out" mentality with some hope by Republican voters that this may wake up the Republican lawmakers, as I noted in this thread. I think that there was plenty of deserved anger with Republican lawmakers, but this, in my opinion, wasn't the way to express it.
And don't forget all the moderate to conservative Democrats that were elected, including many former Republicans like Webb in Virginia (though the "elected" part has yet to be determined there).
What will they do with that platform?
Will they try, for instance, to impeach the president? Or will they stick to Ms Pelosi's stated goal of leadership?
Probably the latter. Many of the new intake are moderate Democrats, conservatives even, who are not looking for an ideological fight.
Could they have won without pro-Iraq-war, anti-abortion Democrats? Given some of the margins of victory, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if they'd all looked more like Ned Lamont.
So Republicans should not, and most likely won't, go sulking around your office. Yeah we're disappointed, and we deserved much of what we got. On the other hand, apart from party label, this election shows that the American public in general still leans conservative.
November 06, 2006
The Only Issue
Orson Scott Card, Mormon and well-known science fiction writer and (former) Democrat voter, has a (rather lengthy) column as to why he'll be voting Republican tomorrow. He calls it "The Only Issue This Election Day".
There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.
And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.
If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.
Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.
But at least there will be a chance.
I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.
But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.
To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.
Personally, I have a number of other issues that I agree with the Republicans on, and hence my predilections to vote for them anyway. But this is worth noting, coming from someone of the religious Left (and while I and others may have some doctrinal and theological differences, we're not going to debate the LDS religion in the comment thread; violations will be cheerfully deleted).
Card hits many topics--nation building, the hope of democracy, the Sunni/Shi'ite dynamic, historical blunders that Democrats are willing to repeat, the anti-American media, the questions of Iran and North Korea, Bush's conduct of the War on Terror--to make the point that Bush is indeed playing his cards quite right in the Middle East and the world, and that, in spite of obvious problems in the short term, the long term strategy should continue, and America shouldn't bail out on people whom we've helped liberate until they are ready to pick up the mantle themselves.
Card knows who he's going to vote for, and he makes quite the case for his decision. This is one article really worth reading before you step into the voting booth.
November 03, 2006
Democrats Pick Up Major Endorsement
There's certainly no ambiguity as to who these guys wants to win.
Everybody has an opinion about next Tuesday's midterm congressional election in the U.S. - including senior terrorist leaders interviewed by WND who say they hope Americans sweep the Democrats into power because of the party's position on withdrawing from Iraq, a move, as they see it, that ensures victory for the worldwide Islamic resistance.
The terrorists told WorldNetDaily an electoral win for the Democrats would prove to them Americans are "tired."
They rejected statements from some prominent Democrats in the U.S. that a withdrawal from Iraq would end the insurgency, explaining an evacuation would prove resistance works and would compel jihadists to continue fighting until America is destroyed.
They said a withdrawal would also embolden their own terror groups to enhance "resistance" against Israel.
"Of course Americans should vote Democrat," Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the infamous leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, told WND.
And there's more.
Muhammad Saadi, a senior leader of Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, said the Democrats' talk of withdrawal from Iraq makes him feel "proud."
"As Arabs and Muslims we feel proud of this talk," he told WND. "Very proud from the great successes of the Iraqi resistance. This success that brought the big superpower of the world to discuss a possible withdrawal."
Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, said the policy of withdrawal "proves the strategy of the resistance is the right strategy against the occupation."
As they request Americans to vote Democrat, they buttress the position Republicans have taken; leaving Iraq before it's ready is to hand a huge victory to terrorism, which will tend to increase it. Responding to Nancy Pelosi's suggestion that our leaving Iraq will mean the jihadists leave, they laughed.
Islamic Jihad's Saadi, laughing, stated, "There is no chance that the resistance will stop."
He said an American withdrawal from Iraq would "prove the resistance is the most important tool and that this tool works. The victory of the Iraqi revolution will mark an important step in the history of the region and in the attitude regarding the United States."
Jihad Jaara said an American withdrawal would "mark the beginning of the collapse of this tyrant empire (America)."
"Therefore, a victory in Iraq would be a greater defeat for America than in Vietnam."
Jaara said vacating Iraq would also "reinforce Palestinian resistance organizations, especially from the moral point of view. But we also learn from these (insurgency) movements militarily. We look and learn from them."
Hamas' Abu Abdullah argued a withdrawal from Iraq would "convince those among the Palestinians who still have doubts in the efficiency of the resistance."
"The victory of the resistance in Iraq would prove once more that when the will and the faith are applied victory is not only a slogan. We saw that in Lebanon (during Israel's confrontation against Hezbollah there in July and August); we saw it in Gaza (after Israel withdrew from the territory last summer) and we will see it everywhere there is occupation," Abdullah said.
They're not all absolutely confident that Democrats will pull us out of Iraq, but they'd rather cast their lot with them given the choice. Remember, you have a choice to make, too.
October 26, 2006
New Jersey Grants Naming Rights to Public (and a justice to be named later)
During the debate over the proposed (now enacted) Georgia constitutional amendment stating that marriage was the union of a man and a woman, critics of the proposal said that it was not necessary, since there was already a law on the books banning same-sex marriage. The New Jersey Supreme Court today put the lie to that line of reasoning. To some judges, it doesn't matter what laws are already in effect; they want to set the legislative calendar.
Saying times have changed, New Jersey's highest court on Wednesday guaranteed gay couples the same rights as married heterosexuals but left it to state lawmakers to decide if such unions can be called marriage.
"Times and attitudes have changed," the New Jersey Supreme Court said in a nuance 90-page ruling that was neither a clear victory nor a defeat for gay marriage, which is currently legal in the United States only in Massachusetts.
"Despite the rich diversity of this state, the tolerance and goodness of its people, and the many recent advances made by gays and lesbians toward achieving social acceptance and equality under the law, the court cannot find that the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution," the ruling said.
Stating that gay couples must have the same rights as other couples, the court said gay advocates must now "appeal to their fellow citizens whose voices are heard through their popularly elected representatives."
With that in mind, the court gave the legislature six months to either amend the state's marriage statutes to include gay people, or write a new law in which same-sex couples "would enjoy the rights of civil marriage."
New Jersey's marriage statutes define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The ruling leaves state lawmakers with two options -- allow gays to marry in the same way as others, or develop a parallel system of unions for same-sex couples. That second option would leave New Jersey with civil unions akin to those in Vermont.
While it sounds magnanimous for the court to leave it to the legislature, they still set a requirement for what the legislature must do. While they say that the appeal must be made to "their fellow citizens whose voices are heard through their popularly elected representatives", they then go on to direct the legislature what to do, which is not at all a case of popular representation. All the people are left with are naming rights, as Hugh Hewitt notes. What a case of double-speak!
I say again, the Left has raised the bar, changed the playing field, made new rules, whatever cliche you want to use. Constitutional amendments are the only tool left to wield for those who oppose this, so it should come as no surprise when it is wielded. And no complaints, either. Either use the legislature and the courts as they were intended, or get ready to be met on the field of your choosing.
German Homeschoolers Update
A Nazi-era law requiring all children to attend public school, to avoid "the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions" that could be taught by parents at home, apparently is triggering a Nazi-like response from police.
The word comes from Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, or Network for Freedom in Education, which confirmed that children in a family in Bissingen, in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, have been forcibly hauled to a public school.
"On Friday 20 October 2006 at around 7:30 a.m. the children of a home educating family ... were brought under duress to school by police," the organization, which describes itself as politically and religiously neutral, confirmed.
A separate weblog in the United States noted the same tragedy.
Homeschoolblogger.com noted that the "three children were picked up by the police and escorted to school in Baden-Wurttemberg, with the 'promise' that it would happen again this week."
The Network for Freedom in Education, through spokesman Joerg Grosseluemern, said the Remeike family has been "home educating their children since the start of the school year, something which is legal in practically the whole of the (European Union)."
October 25, 2006
The View From a Sergeant
James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" today has an e-mail from a soldier in Iraq. With his experience with what's going on with the Army, the culture and the changing circumstances, his suggestion is that the correct policy needs to be something between "stay the course" and "cut and run". It seems to me to be a very insightful look at reality there. Some of his suggestions are, I'll admit, tough to swallow if indeed they'd be necessary. Definitely worth the read (and as always, getting the daily e-mail of this column is recommended). He concludes:
James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.
At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.
Later, Taranto quotes Nancy Pelosi, who'd most likely be Speaker of the House after a majority Democrat win.
"But you don't think that the terrorists have moved into Iraq now?" Stahl continues.
"They have," Pelosi agrees. "The jihadists in Iraq. But that doesn't mean we stay there. They'll stay there as long as we're there."
She seems to think (or is trying to sell us on the idea) that the moment we leave, all will be well with the world and the jihadists will become model citizens or at least stop attacking American interests. As the sergeant tells us (gotta read the whole thing), there's more going on than just terrorism, and it's not easily dealt with, and especially not dealt with by running away.
October 24, 2006
Missouri's Cloning Amendment
Via Redstate.com comes exposure of the tactics of those who want to move forward with human cloning and embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer money. They can't get the citizenry to accept it at face value, so they're engaging in classic Orwellian misdirection.
The proposed Missouri constitutional amendment 2 says, for example, that it will prevent human cloning. However, as Missourians Against Human Cloning notes in their explanation of the language of the amendment, what it says on the ballot is quite different from what the amendment actually says. In fact, the amendment allows for “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer", which is the textbook definition of human cloning. The "human cloning" that is banned, as per the amendment, is just the implantation of the results of that transfer into a human womb. If it stays outside, it ain't a clone, so they say. But the ballot language doesn't define its terms, so they hope to pull one over on Missourians by saying the right words, but not meaning what most folks think they mean.
This is just bullet point 1 in a list that also includes a blank check to the biotech industry. The Redstate post has links to lots of good information about this situation. It doesn't say much for their cause at all that they have to resort this these sorts of underhanded tactics to get their way.
Why do I care about what happens in Missouri, if I'm in Georgia? Because if this deception works there, it will be exported, make no mistake.
UPDATE: Scott Ott at ScrappleFace hits the nail on the head, with his own video production of "Michael J. Embryo", and some biting wit that drives the point home.
October 13, 2006
GOP Will Expel, Not Censure, Bob Ney
From the AP regarding the Abramoff scandal:
House Republican leaders vowed Friday to expel convicted Rep. Bob Ney "as our first order of business" after the elections unless he resigns.
Not censure, not wrist slap, not bloviate; expel. Again, as with Foley, this is the right thing to do even if it mean losing control of the House of Representatives.
October 12, 2006
Codependency on the World Stage
Chuck Asay gives us "A Brief History of North Korea's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program".
Giving foreign aid to countries because we're afraid of what they'll do with a nuke doesn't curtail proliferation, it promotes it. Rogue states get what they need to prop up the dictator, and thus the lives of its citizens are made to be anything from miserable to fatal for the coming years. In the meantime, said rogue state still continues to work on obtaining nukes. There's never any penalty to be paid, other than a nasty-gram from the UN, so there's no real reason to live up to the agreement.
This is textbook codependency. We're enabling the very actions we're hoping to prevent. And when we try to cut off the free ride, others accuse us of being cold-hearted. The world is acting like the wife of an alcoholic man. And neither situation is healthy for the parties involved.
October 04, 2006
A Pox on Both Their Houses, Yes, But Look Closer, Too
So says Benjamin Shapiro.
On what moral basis do Democrats condemn Foley? They have no basis for moral outrage, since they have championed the destruction of traditional morality for decades. Instead, they condemn Foley and the Republicans for hypocrisy. Foley, when he wasn't spending his time chasing teenage boys, pushed for legislation to crack down on child pornography. House Republicans, when they weren't busy ignoring Foley's scummy behavior, pushed for legislation to uphold traditional values. The big sin here, according to the social left, is that Foley and the Republicans tried to bolster antiquated sexual mores while simultaneously bucking them in personal life. Were Mark Foley a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, liberals would be hard-pressed to spot a problem with his behavior.
But Republicans should not have been. The Republican Party is the party supposedly dedicated to those antiquated value systems that made this country great. It should not have been difficult for Republicans to identify the problems with Foley's behavior: pedophilia, exploitation, and yes, homosexuality. And yet, because the Republican Party has become infected with either the unchecked will to wield power or the milquetoast tolerance of the social left, House Republicans did nothing. Shame on them.
Shapiro goes down the list of Democrats that the Left either made excuses for or simply slapped on the wrist--Studds, Clinton--and also adds Pelosi, who opposes parental consent laws regarding underage abortions. While moral outrage is well-placed on Foley's head, I find Shapiro's contention that Democrats are not taking that tack, rather using the "hypocrite" bludgeon.
News flash: Human beings are flawed and hypocritical. Politicians, with all the power and money flowing around them, will be put in more situations than the average person that will tempt them to abandon their principals. This is not news.
What is, or should be, news is how each political party deals with its problems. Regardless of possible hushing in the past, Foley did the right thing once the truth came out. One wishes that this would have been caught and dealt with earlier, but Foley is gone. Not censured, not reprimanded; gone.
Here's another example: Want to know why you've never heard of "Speaker of the House Bob Livingston"? Because he did the right thing.
In a speech on the House floor during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, he first called on Clinton to resign.
But to the president, I would say, sir you have done great damage to this nation over this past year and while your defenders are contending that further impeachment proceedings would only protract and exacerbate the damage to this country, I say that you have the power to terminate that damage and heal the wounds that you have created.
You sir, may resign your post.
I listened to this speech live on the radio. During this portion of the speech, Democrats could be heard yelling out, "You resign!". The clamor got louder and louder, and peaked while Livingston spoke that last line. But then, from his already-prepared speech, he continued speaking and set the example.
I can only challenge you in such fashion that I am willing to heed my own words. To my colleagues, my friends and most especially my wife and family, I have hurt you all deeply and I beg your forgiveness.
I was prepared to lead our narrow majority as speaker, and I believe I had it in me to do a fine job. But I cannot do that job or be the kind of leader that I would like to be under current circumstances.
So I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. I will not stand for speaker of the House on January 6th, but rather I shall remain as a backbencher in this Congress that I so dearly love for approximately six months into the 106th Congress, whereupon I shall vacate my seat and ask my governor to call a special election to take my place.
All of a sudden, the Democrats realized they'd been put to shame by a man willing to lead by actions, not just words. Now, a cry of "No, no!" went up from the House. But whether this was Republicans, shamed Democrats, or both, Livingston's mind had already been made up. This Republican led by example, ending his own political career on the cusp of being chosen for one of the highest posts in the land. He wasn't censured, he was gone.
Yes there's hypocrisy, on both sides. Yes there are cover-ups, on both sides. Yes, there are actions to be condemned, on both sides. But overall, I believe Republicans have done the right thing more often and at higher costs. And as Shapiro notes, in the Republican party, even the hypocrites can be found to be pushing traditional values, while many true-blue Democrats are trying to make it easier for sexual predators to cover up their statutory rape of 14-year-olds.
October 02, 2006
For the Record
Regardless of allegations that the timing is suspect, and even if others have gotten away with worse in the past, the ejection of Foley by Republicans is the right thing to do. Now. Even if it means losing the House of Representatives.
September 28, 2006
The Calm Before the (Next) Storm
Ah, the wonders of a UN resolution. The peacekeeping troops are there, and they're doing...what, exactly?
One month after a United Nations Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, members of the international force sent to help keep the peace say their mission is defined more by what they cannot do than by what they can.
They say they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example, they say they can not stop it. They cannot do any of this, they say, because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese Army.
The job of the United Nations force, and commanders in the field repeat this like a mantra, is to respect Lebanese sovereignty by supporting the Lebanese Army. They will only do what the Lebanese authorities ask.
And many in the Lebanese Army support the aims of Hezbollah, so you're not going to see much on that front.
The Security Council resolution, known as 1701, was seen at the time as the best way to halt the war, partly by giving Israel assurances that Lebanon’s southern border would be policed by a robust international force to prevent Hezbollah militants from attacking. When the resolution was approved, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of its principal architects, said the force’s deployment would help “protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area.”
But the resolution’s diplomatic language skirted a fundamental question: what kind of policing power would be given to the international force? The resolution leaves open the possibility that the Lebanese Army would grant such policing power, but the force’s commanders say that so far, at least, that has not happened.
The UN backs up its toothless resolutions with toothless "peacekeepers" that let Hezbollah rearm in broad daylight. Is this what they meant in the resolution by "disarming" them? They've kicked the problem down the road and pretend they've solved it.
In the meantime, it appears that the world body's outrage is all spent, or at least it's selective. When Israel fought back, the UN acted (well, for loose interpretations of the word "act"). When Palestinians lob rockets into Israel, the UN yawns.
Three Kassam rockets fired on Israel Monday morning damaged vehicles and hit an empty classroom at the Sh'ar HaNegev College in the northwestern Negev.
Arab terrorists in Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks against Israel the past two weeks despite IDF operations. However, there has been no political condemnation of the terrorist attacks.
Rockets? What rockets?
Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning. One of the rockets landed near Kibbutz Mefalsim, causing damage to two cars.
A Magen David Adom crew dispatched to the area evacuated a woman who suffered from shock to the Barzilai Medical Center in Asheklon.
The other rocket landed near the southern town of Sderot and did not cause injuries or damage.
(Hat tip to Meryl Yourish.)
The UN did not bring peace. What it brought was a calm before the next storm, a storm that is organizing right under its nose.
September 27, 2006
There's Negative, and Then There's Negative
The negative campaign season is upon us. Republicans and Democrats are geared up and ready to takes shots at each other. I've never really had a problem with negative campaigning in principle. I think it's perfectly relevant to have one candidate point out where the other's actions have gone against his past or present promises and stated positions. There's a fine line when you get into the personal lives, but if a candidate says one thing and acts quite differently, it could be fair game.
Having said that, I'm uncomfortable with some of the new negative ads that Republicans are putting out. While both sides are going negative (again, not necessarily a bad thing in my book), according to the NY Times it looks like the Republicans are going negative on mostly personal issues while the Democrats are going negative on political issues. And given the examples cited, the Republicans are disappointing me.
For Republicans, it was the leading edge of a wave of negative advertisements against Democratic candidates, the product of more than a year of research into the personal and professional backgrounds of Democratic challengers.
“What do we really know about Angie Paccione?” an announcer asks about a Democratic challenger in Colorado. “Angie Paccione had 10 legal claims against her for bad debts and campaign violations. A court even ordered her wages garnished.”
For Democrats, it was part of a barrage intended to tie Republican incumbents to an unpopular Congress, criticize their voting records, portray them as captives to special interests and highlight embarrassing moments from their business histories.
In Tennessee, Democrats attacked Bob Corker, a Republican candidate for Senate, saying his construction company had hired illegal immigrants “while he looked the other way.”
Both types of negative ads, personal and political, can result in cheap shots and innuendo that make them wrong. "He voted against X!", when it was just a rider on a larger, bad bill. "She looked the other way!", when it may have been someone hiding things from the candidate. While there's a line that can be crossed in both cases, that line is much easier to cross when the ads get personal. Looking at some of the examples, Republicans are crossing my line.
John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who is running for a House seat, has spent much of the past few days trying to explain editorials unearthed by Republican researchers and spotlighted in new advertisements. Mr. Yarmuth wrote the editorials for his student newspapers, and in them he advocated the legalization of marijuana, among other things.
Across the airwaves, Democratic challengers are being attacked for having defaulted on student loans, declaring bankruptcy, skipping out on tax bills, and being a lobbyist, a trial lawyer or, even worse, a liberal.
Steve Kagan, a doctor and Democrat running for Congress in Wisconsin, is being attacked for having sued patients who did not pay their bills. “Why not just tell the truth, Dr. Millionaire?” said an advertisement shown Tuesday.
Democrats are hammering away as well, but not as personally.
Democrats are equally aggressive in their advertisements, going after Republicans on votes, ties to campaign contributors and, in the case of challengers, their own personal foibles. In one Democratic advertisement, the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is shown in shadows wearing a hat as an announcer notes that he made contributions to Representative J. D. Hayworth, Republican of Arizona.
Democrats are even attacking Republicans on what should be their signature issue, taxes, most recently in an upstate New York race between State Senator Raymond A. Meier, a Republican, and Michael A. Arcuri, a Democrat, to fill an open Republican seat. “Raymond Meier raised taxes in Oneida County,” the announcer says. “Meier raised taxes in Albany. What do you think he’ll do” in Washington?
Abramoff and taxes are all fair game. Even Social Security--a example later in the article--is fair game, even if I disagree with the Democratic candidate's position.
With so many issues that Republicans could tweak Democrats on, why do you need this? That this has been done by Democrats in the past is no excuse. Part of the problem is the ceding of the high ground that Republicans have done regarding issues like spending, smaller government, and illegal immigration. Part of it was getting heady with power and allowing Jack Abramoff to start plying them with money.
Additionally, part of it is because we are moved by negative ads, even the personal attacks. It's a sad truth of politics, but we get the ads we deserve because we respond to them. Too many folks are disengaged from the political process, so they tune out positive campaign ads when they hear or see them. But get their outrage up, and they'll listen. If you're going to vote, you've got to get your head in the game sooner than when McCain-Feingold kicks in.
Now this is the NY Times, we're talking about, and it's possible they're not showing examples of personal attacks from Democrats or issue ads from Republicans. Regardless, I expect more from the party I identify with, and it looks like I'm not getting it.
September 21, 2006
The "Theocracy" Myth
Joe Carter, in a recycled post at the the Evangelical Outpost which is just as relevant now as when he first posted it, deconstructs the idea that Christians somehow want to establish a theocracy in the United States.
When those of us on the “religious right” hear such paranoid ranting it naturally elicits a chuckle. After all, more than half of American evangelicals are either Baptists or non-denominational. We don’t even want a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church.
But since, as Joe notes, "even the most pernicious lie...contains some grain of truth", he looks into the history of the idea and what folks typically mean by it today.
A Darling of the Left Makes Them Proud
Hugo Chavez, a man embraced by Cindy Sheehan and Harry Belafonte, and who gives free PR to Noam Chomsky, spoke before the United Nations yesterday. His words, both then and later, ought to give pause to those who make common cause with him. They also ought to give pause to those who vote for people who have made common cause with Chavez.
"The devil came here yesterday," Chavez said, gesturing to where Bush had stood during his speech on Tuesday. "He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world." He later said he was referring to President Bush when he spoke of the devil.
Chavez said it still smelled like sulfur. Well, as James Taranto notes, he who smelt it....
Chavez then made the sign of the cross and appeared to pray for a moment. Where is the American Left on this? If Bush had some something like this, even in jest, they would be outraged over it. Either they would decry his outward religiosity, or complain that he was using it to make a joke. As far as I know, though, this little demonstration has passed without serious comment by Chavez supporters here.
Rep. Charlie Rangel did come out against Chavez's remarks in general when he said,
You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my president. If there's any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans - whether we voted for him or not.
That was great of him to say, and I'm glad to hear this come from across the aisle. I don't think Rangel would have said he was a "supporter" of Chavez before this.
It is interesting to note, though, that, before this statement, Rangel thanked him for the low-cost heating oil program that Chavez was running. Given Chavez's motives for doing this, it's basically saying, "Thanks for the bribes, and keep 'em coming." See, Chavez is looking for a shot at a rotating seat on the security council, and has been lobbying hard for it.
In the past few months, Chavez has crisscrossed the globe collecting promises of support, visiting about a dozen countries including Russia, Belarus, Iran, Vietnam, Qatar, Mali, Benin, China, Malaysia and Syria. His diplomats also have been busy, while top Guatemalan officials and U.S. diplomats also have been doing their own lobbying.
Chavez said he has the solid backing of the Caribbean Community, the Arab League, Russia, China and much of Africa, in addition to his allies across South America.
And it really is a bribe. While speaking last May about expanding the program to Europe, Chavez tipped his hand.
Flanked by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Chavez heaped insults on the government of President George W. Bush, saying Americans were living under a dictatorship and that U.S. foreign policy could lead to another world war.
``We have to confront the empire and denounce it,'' he said. ``The U.S. empire is coming to an end.''
He renewed pledges to use cash reserves bolstered by high oil prices to help support other Latin American countries, including Bolivia, through cheap financing rather than investing it in U.S. or European banks.
This dictator is buying diplomacy, and as nice as low-cost heating oil is to the poor, their representatives ought to know better than encourage this type of tainted money.
Getting back to the UN, however, Chavez's words there were more than just jest. They showed just what it is that is wrong with the United Nations as it currently stands. Dictators like him get equal footing to spew their falsehoods and attempt to sway opinion, in order to simply consolidate their power. Mimicing Bush's form--directly speaking to the people of Iran and Syria--Chavez spoke to the American people.
"I'm not an enemy of the United States. I'm a friend of the United States ... the people of the United States," Chavez said during his speech to an audience including union organizers and professors. "They're two very different things — you the people of the United States, and the government that's installed there."
In this, he tries to conflate his dictatorial regime that he basically "installed" with a democratically elected government that does, indeed, represent its people. I'll note that I'd believe this even if a Democrat were in the White House. Any leader of the United States is far, far more representative of the people of the United States than Chavez is of the Venezuelan people.
He drew a standing ovation when he said Bush committed genocide during the war in Iraq.
"The president of the United States should go before an international tribunal," Chavez said as applause filled the hall at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He compared the Bush administration's actions to those of the Nazis.
Where was the standing "O" when Bush told the UN back in June of 2005 that they needed to do something about the actual genocide going on in Darfur? They hadn't even used the "G" word at the UN up until that point for the Darfur situation. Yet some dictator walks in and accuses the US of ostensibly targeting civilians on a massive scale, and the place erupts in applause! Where in the name of Diplomacy has the sense of these people gone? The United Nations is broken. It is not in need of fixing, it is in need of replacing.
And while his calls for changes there sounded vaguely conservative...
The Venezuelan leader, a close friend and admirer of Cuba's communist leader Fidel Castro, has sought to be a voice for poor countries and has warned that if the U.S. tries to block U.N. reform, Venezuela and others may eventually create a separate "United Nations of the south" to rival a body they no longer find democratic.
Chavez also said it might eventually be necessary to move the U.N. headquarters out of the United States.
...the changes that conservatives would like to make would probably not line up with his ideas. (Emphasis mine, to note the incredible irony.) A world body composed of the true republics of the world would exclude dictators like Chavez and would be more representative of the people of the world than socialist/communist/whatever-ist dictators that seek to buy their way into world politics.
Hugo Chavez has joined a long line of dictators that have predicted the end of the United States as we know it. The power-hungry of the world have to make the US a target as a matter of course. But they keep being shown wrong as both the shared morality of our country combined with a people- rather than state-run economy (for the most part) keep chugging along and leading the world. Complain all you want about the many ills the US has--and there are indeed many--the people of the world continue to flock here.
And yet those on the left continue to laud this dictator. Nancy Pelosi may call him a "thug" (again, good to hear from that side of the aisle), but the grassroots Left just love him.
Singer and activist Harry Belafonte introduced Chavez at the event, while former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark also attended, among supporters who waved Venezuelan flags and chanted Chavez's name. The Venezuelan leader signed autographs as a crowd rushed to him after the speech.
"We love ya', Huey! Just don't, y'know, make us look bad. Foreign leaders making inappropriate Devil and Nazi references don't play well in flyover country. Leave the inappropriate references to us."
September 14, 2006
Why I (Still) Hate Polls
Polls drive me nuts. A measure of emotion is trumpeted as hard news and the media suggest that such numbers should drive public policy. One poll says that over a third of American's think 9/11 was an inside job. But this is as much a measure of emotion as it is consideration of the (well-debunked) theories. In another poll, it says that 54% of people are angrier than they used to be. And Bush's poll numbers have really tanked.
But what does this mean, really?
With a hat tip to Ian Murray at The Corner, and speaking of "tanking", check out this graph that charts the President's poll numbers against the price of gas. It's incredible how closely the ups and downs of both track. As gas prices go up (on the graph, a higher prices is shown as a lower point), Bush's numbers go down. You can almost predict one from knowing the other.
Yet pundits and journalists say that Bush should change his policies because of poll numbers. Tell ya' what; can he get a mandate for allowing the NSA wiretaps if he repeals the federal gas tax? I mean, if polls should really matter that much, it follows, right?
One more reason why we don't have a direct democracy. Thank you, Founding Fathers.
September 13, 2006
Bring In the Backup
The President of the United States couldn't get the UN to recognize the problem in Darfur, or do anything about it. Perhaps an actor can.
It's been said that Hollywood's hottest marriage is the one between actors and Africa. That'll be true Thursday when Oscar winner George Clooney is scheduled to address the United Nations Security Council on the crisis in Darfur. That's right, not some small media conference, but the actual Security Council. Hosted by John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the briefing is organized by The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity (EWF), which recently established a Darfur Commission of Nobel Laureates. Clooney visited Darfuri refugees last April to use his celebrity clout to raise awareness of the plight of refugees in the war-torn region, considered the 3rd biggest humanitarian crisis in the history of the UN. According to the Oscar-winning actor, the US, the UN and the world's policies on Sudan is failing. "If we turn our heads and look away and hope that it will disappear then they will-all of them, an entire generation of people. And we will only have history left to judge us," Clooney has said about the tragedy.
Hey, don't blame the US, George. We've been trying to get the UN to recognize genocide when it sees it. And you wouldn't want us doing anything unilaterally, would you? That is "why they hate us", isn't it?
All kidding aside, it's good to see Clooney working with John Bolton and trying to get the UN--paragon of virtue that it is--to wake up and smell the
Kofi coffee. It's sad that it has to come to this (and sadder yet if this is the main reason things start happening), but it's better than nothing.
September 12, 2006
Let the Political Paranoia Resume
Drudge's big headline this afternoon is that gas is down to $2.05/gallon in Iowa. Did I not catch the news story proclaiming that the federal government had moved in and enforced price controls?
No, I (and you) missed nothing of the sort. Instead, as the Captain notes, market forces (remember those things?) are at work.
A number of factors play into this drop in price. First, as the article notes, the summer driving season has passed. Gas prices normally drop after Labor Day as children go back to school and family vacations make their way to the scrapbook. Also, this season has seen much lower levels of violent weather, and while we're not out of hurricane season yet, the chances of a really damaging storm in the Gulf of Mexico gets less likely with each passing day. Traders buy oil on futures, which means their speculation now extends past the hurricane window -- and since they had built bad weather into previous pricing, it makes sense that we would see a sharp drop now.
It seems that, just as Al-Qaeda has, the market, the weather, and American families have conspired to give the Democrats one less campaign issue. In the same way as leftist paranoids looked with suspicion on the release of terrorist videos, prepare for more hand-wringing over the "curious timing" of this news.
Yes, the market has been allowed to work and prices are now coming down. Understand, however, that I loved high gas prices. My wallet didn't all that much, but I can telecommute 3 or 4 days a week, so it didn't complain too loudly. But there were so many upsides to high prices, most of which liberals purport to love. There was the encouragement to conserve or telecommute or car pool. The higher prices increased the demand and the funding for research into alternative energy sources. They helped pay for college tuition (people in the middle class work for oil companies, too, y'know). There was so much good that came from them, yet liberals wailed and whined about it. Truth is, they'd rather the prices go up due to a tax increase so the government gets the money rather than R&D departments of the evil "Big Oil". Then they could siphon it off, pad their wallets, and be magnanimous with the scraps as grants to R&D departments of the evil "Big Oil".
By the way, will all the Democrats who wanted to blame Bush for the high gas prices now turn around and credit him for lowering them? Hold not thy breath.
August 31, 2006
Attention, Mr. & Mrs. Wilson. Your 15 minutes are up.
Update: The Washington Post has a short article marking the end of this kerfuffle. Their concluding paragraph nails it.
Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
August 30, 2006
The Future of Dissent
Joseph Farah, on why the recent ruling requiring the condoning of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality in California institutions that get government money is a big deal.
I don't want to overstate this, but this is the end of religious freedom in the biggest state in the union.
The only alternative left for Christians and Jews and people of other faiths in California is quite literally to drop out. That means homeschooling. It means creating new institutions that won't touch any public funding – even when it is as tenuous as one student accepting a state grant. When you submit yourself or your institution to government regulation in California now, you tacitly accept the official state religion of paganism.
And don't think it will end here. It never does.
When more people choose to drop out, as they inevitably will, the coercive state will find new creative ways to come after them as well.
Just ask German homeschoolers. Yes, Farah's editorials are generally overheated, but this time I think he's really on to something. How far of a stretch is it, really, to imagine a law that makes this sort of coercion required for any business or institution simply operating in California, regardless of whether it gets state money? Not that much, in my mind.
August 29, 2006
Dissent is Futile, You Will Be Assimilated
It's now illegal in California schools to criticize homosexuality.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.
The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding -- even if it's a state grant for a student -- to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.
Note the phrase I bolded. Not only does this affect state-run schools, but it affects any private institution that has students who get state education grant money.
There is no exception for faith-based organizations or business owners with sincerely held religious convictions, critics note.
Gov. Arnold has essentially forced private institutions to either teach what they don't believe, or refuse students who get money from the state and who may not be able to otherwise afford those institutions (and possibly cause those institutions to scale back or go out of business). The state is now forcing a particular social curriculum, to the financial detriment of those who disagree with the state's position.
If this is what a "moderate" Republican looks like, I'll stick with those further to the right, thankyouverymuch. I applauded Schwarzenegger for actually stepping up to the plate and doing something about what he believed--running for office--when other Hollywood types just had photo ops for causes. I still think he's head and shoulders above the rest, but I think he's way out of the mainstream from the public. This is simply a bad law.
If you wonder why more and more folks choose to homeschool, there's you're answer. You're not forced to immerse your kids in an institution that is diametrically opposed to what you believe.
(See also Outlawing Disagreement Regarding Homosexuality.)
This sounds like the title of a bad sci-fi flick, and the following sounds like an overused plot--on the run from government compulsion--but it's happening today in Germany. They don't trust their citizens to do what's best for their childrens' education, even the highly qualified ones.
Hamburg- A German couple who are determined to educate their six children entirely at home have fled the city of Hamburg after the father, Andre R, 44, was jailed for a week for refusing to enrol his offspring in a public school. The R family are evangelical Christians who believe that public schools are a bad moral influence on children. Father R has a university degree in teaching, so he thought he could teach his five daughters and one son their reading, writing and arithmetic at home.
But the couple have hit a brick wall with German school authorities, who say they will apply the full power of the state until the R family yields to compulsory-education laws.
In February, Andre R and wife Frauke, 39, were hauled into court and fined 840 euros (1,090 dollars) for defying education laws. This month, five police showed up at the family's rented, suburban row- house and hauled Andre R off to the Hamburg city prison.
Andre R refused to give in, so after a week among murderers and drug dealers, he was released and the authorities tried a new tack.
Officials last week began fetching the children each morning from the R home and taking them to school. Custody of the children is to taken away from the parents and the children will become wards of the state.
On Monday, no one answered when officials came knocking at the door of the R home.
Armin Eckermann, president of the German Home-Schooling Association, who is advising the family, said, "They have left Hamburg." He declined further details.
I fully understand a government that insists that children be educated, but this is over the top. In Germany, there is only one way this will be done and that is by the state. There is no place for the parent in the equation. Where does this governmental attitude come from? Hint: Not from smaller-government, more-personal-freedom conservatives. More and more central control of things like education leads to this sort of incredible action on the part of a government that insists it knows better. It's the nanny-state taken to its logical result.
I was asked in a previous post on the subject, by a German citizen, what these parents have to fear from a government education. The thing is, the people aren't trying to stop the government from doing something, it's the government trying to enforce these onerous rules, so the question should instead be put to it. Or perhaps more accurately, it should be put to the citizens who have voted for the politicians that implemented these laws. What do they have to fear? It was also pointed out to me that there were Christian schools ("overlooked by the state", according to the writer). All well and good, but not all can afford that. But that begs the question; does the state really not trust its own citizens enough to allow even a university-trained teacher to teach his own children?
August 25, 2006
Outlawing Disagreement Regarding Homosexuality
The stifling of dissent, Democrat-style.
...[T]his week in one of the boldest moves yet by a sitting liberal, Democrat California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez proclaimed, "The real purpose of SB 1437 is to outlaw traditional perspectives on marriage and family in the state school system."
He continued, "The way you correct a wrong (perspective) is by outlawing. 'Cause if you don't outlaw it, then people's biases tend to take over and dominate the perspective and the point of view."
Nunez's solution to the people he disagrees with is to outlaw their ability to disagree with him.
And Nunez's viewpoint is one that pervades liberals in his party and in the nation. That is why Nunez and his fellow Democrats in the California State Assembly voted in unison to pass four bills that are all designed to punish people who disagree with them. To incarcerate someone for daring to criticize a different point of view – over a purely behavioral issue.
The bills in question have passed both houses and await Gov. Schwarzenegger's signature or veto. The bills were unanimously embraced by the Democrats and universally denounced by the Republicans.
Read the whole thing for the details on those four bills. In summary, they are designed to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle in the schools (in rather graphic detail), and to punish anyone who dares speak against it.
Some have said that it's just a matter of time before the public accepts homosexual marriage. Perhaps not. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before it's fully forced on the public, and the public loses its will to fight.
August 22, 2006
Wiretap Ruling Panned by Both Sides
Now that legal experts have been able to go over the recent ruling on the constitutionality of the NSA wiretaps, they're not impressed, even the ones that don't like the wiretaps.
Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge's conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision's reasoning and rhetoric yesterday.
They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government's major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.
This from a Carter appointee. The results of a single presidential election can have ramifications long after he leaves office.
Discomfort with the quality of the decision is almost universal, said Howard J. Bashman, a Pennsylvania lawyer whose Web log provides comprehensive and nonpartisan reports on legal developments.
"It does appear," Mr. Bashman said, "that folks on all sides of the spectrum, both those who support it and those who oppose it, say the decision is not strongly grounded in legal authority."
The main problems, scholars sympathetic to the decision's bottom line said, is that the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, relied on novel and questionable constitutional arguments when more straightforward statutory ones were available.
Much like other liberal judges who rule based on, say, emanations and penumbras, rather than the text. The "living document" way of looking at law and the Constitution has brought us decisions that legal experts from both sides of the aisle can't defend.
And if I may toot my own horn for just a bit, this point...
She ruled, for instance, that the program, which eavesdrops without court permission on international communications of people in the United States, violated the First Amendment because it might have chilled the speech of people who feared they might have been monitored.
That ruling is “rather innovative” and “not a particularly good argument,” Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale who believes the program is illegal, wrote on his Web log.
...sounds very much like my initial critique that her explanation made wearing a wire to a mob meeting unconstitutional. I am not a lawyer and still I managed to pick this up. This says nothing about my legal knowledge, frankly, but speaks volumes against this poor ruling.
Critics of the wiretapping also don't understand why Judge Taylor's ruling didn't take into account some of the more obvious legal issues, like the FISA court law. Even supporters of the program could tick off lists of precedents that could have been used.
Supporters of the program, disclosed by The New York Times in December, suggested that Judge Taylor’s opinion was as good a way to lose as any.
“It’s hard to exaggerate how bad it is,” said John R. Schmidt, a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who says the program is legal. He pointed to Judge Taylor’s failure to cite what he called several pertinent decisions, including one from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review in 2002 that said it took for granted that Congress “could not encroach on the president’s constitutional power” to conduct warrantless surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence.
Predictably, the ACLU will take the worst ruling and frame it as wisdom from Solomon.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the A.C.L.U., said Judge Taylor’s decision represented vindication of established limits on the scope of executive authority.
“Ultimately,” Mr. Romero said, “any doubts about the decision will be taken up on appeal by sitting federal judges rather than pundits or commentators.”
No, the doubts will most likely stick around. According to Prof. Cass Sunstein, a rather liberal law professor at the University of Chicago, the case, while he thinks it will ultimately be won by the plaintiffs, won't be won because of anything Judge Taylor said.
“The chances that the Bush program will be upheld are not none, but slim,” Professor Sunstein said. “The chances that this judge’s analysis will be adopted are also slim.”
August 21, 2006
When "Cease-Fire" is Spelled "R-E-A-R-M"
Well, that didn't take long.
JERUSALEM – Hezbollah has returned to many of its strongholds in south Lebanon and is capable of launching another round of attacks against the Jewish state, Israeli and Lebanese officials tell WorldNetDaily.
The statements follow scores of reports Iran and Syria are attempting to rearm Hezbollah one week after a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon went into effect following 34 days of confrontations that began when Lebanese militia ambushed an Israeli patrol unit, kidnapping two soldiers and killing eight others.
"Hezbollah has undoubtedly returned to their positions," Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's Druze leader and head of the country's Progressive Socialist Party, told WND. "They were victorious against Israel and now they are regrouping for another round, which is inevitable."
Looks like Thomas Sowell will be shown to be right, as calling for a cease-fire is doing nothing but giving Hizbollah time to rearm for the next strike.
How Green is Your Church?
Dr. Roy Spencer at TCS Daily asks "How Green is Your Church?" and hits points about global warming and the different way that Christians can react to it that we've covered here before. But I wanted to highlight his concluding paragraphs.
Bjorn Lomborg, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, assembled a panel of experts in economics who were charged with determining -- given a fixed amount of money to be dedicated to improving the human conditions -- what actions give the biggest returns for the least money. The result was the "Copenhagen Consensus", with over a dozen policy approaches prioritized in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Fighting climate change was at the bottom of the list. Fighting malaria, AIDS, provision of clean water and other sanitation measures were a few that were at or near the top of the list.
As has often been the case where economics and policy intersect, good intentions are not enough. The lesson for the church is, while it is one thing to agree to "help the world's poor", it is another thing entirely to determine how to best spend limited financial resources. Unless we examine the consequences of our charitable efforts, it is entirely possible to inadvertently make matters worse, rather than better.
August 18, 2006
Unconstitutional by Association
A recent court ruling claims that, while a religious display might not be unconstitutional in and of itself, if too many religious people get near it, it becomes unconstitutional.
The ruling from the Fifth Court of Appeals said the display of a Bible on public ground in Houston to honor the founder of a mission has to go, not because it was unconstitutional itself, but because it became unconstitutional when a Christian group rallied around it.
The pastor's group said that means any monument, building, or even feature of nature is an illegal "establishment of religion" if a church ceremony is held there.
"Connecting the dots between the eminent domain case, which says all of your churches are up for grabs if a town wants a mall, secondly you now have been told you do not have constitutional rights in the public square," Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Conference, told WorldNetDaily.
"Any kind of an event is okay, as long as you didn't express any religious faith. What is that telling you?
Welch told WND that the court's conclusion was "ludicrous" and if followed logically, could mean that a religious rally at any public building would therefore make the building unconstitutional so it would have to be removed.
The Bible was installed on county property about five decades ago in honor of William Mosher, the founder of Star of Hope Mission, and was replaced in 1996 with donated funds. However, an atheist challenged the monument, and on an appeal from the District Court decision that the Bible was unconstitutional, the appeals court carried the argument further.
Its ruling said that the monument became an unconstitutional "establishment" after a 2003 rally was held by Christians to defend the display. That rally involved prayers and clergy, the court noted.
"The ramifications of this tortured decision are breath-taking and without any historic or legitimate Constitutional rationale," said the pastors' organization. "For the court to state that if a private citizen exercises his or her First Amendment rights of religious expression and assembly on public property, that any monument, building or fixed item of any kind that contains religious references becomes 'establishment of religion' is simply irrational."
Even if you don't think that such predicted persecution "followed logically" from such a ruling, the ruling itself is awful. It's certainly one that, if it stays in force on appeal, makes the constitutionality of any sort of religious display, even in a religious context, subject to the whims of judges. Is that what the First Amendment means by "free exercise" of religion?
August 17, 2006
A Civil Society Approach to Welfare
I'm a little behind in my podcast listening since having gone on vacation, but I listened to one this evening from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Father Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, gave a 40 minute talk on "A Civil Society Approach to Welfare" (link is to the mp3 file). It's an absolute must-listen for a Christian considering caring for the poor, the morality of the welfare state, the waste of the federal "solution" to this, and the unintended consequences.
One of the very many good points that Sirico makes is that governmental social services, by their nature, cannot minister to the whole person. The spiritual side is ignored, and in many cases (Sirico suggests that it may be in the majority of cases) there is a deeper moral issue that has caused the poverty. (Most of our own problems, indeed, reflect a personal issue with sin.) The church is the best party to deal with this, but when the government steps in, it siphons off funds that would go to faith-based organizations, and turns many of those organizations into lobbying groups for more welfare instead of groups that actually do anything. Social services that ignore the spiritual nature of man in essence treat him as cattle. When the cows are cold, we put them in the barn. If they're thirsty, we give them something to drink. Nothing wrong with doing that for people, but people aren't cattle. There's a dimension that is ignored by government a thousand miles away (or even government down the street).
This talk is absolutely chock full of great points. I wish there was a transcript that I could post excerpts from, so you'll just have to listen to it. Really. And if you have a podcatcher, pick up their feed.
NSA Wiretaps Ruled Unconstitutional
A federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration's NSA warrantless wiretaps of international calls are unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.
A few things in this paragraph bug me. First, when one says she "became the first", the AP implies "of others", because you don't typically refer to the first of something when there is only one of them, or unless you're anticipating more (or trying to give the impression that there will be more). Their bias is showing, and their intent to manipulate public opinion has begun.
Secondly, listening to speech in no way restricts it. It's like saying when a stoolie wears a wire it stifles the free speech of the mob.
Thirdly, there's that elusive general constitutional right to privacy that no one can ever put their finger on. There are some specific privacy rights, but none so general as would prevent people from listening in on conversations or allow the general right of getting an abortion.
Now granted, this is a very preliminary report of the ruling, which just hit the wires. There's certainly more to come, and the description of the ruling at this point may be overgeneralized. In fact, there's no mention in the article about the warrant or FISA issues. And frankly, as I said when this thing first came out, I'm always a bit wary of expanding government power (though when it's a constitutionally-mandated power, I'm less concerned). But if this turns out to be true--that this flimsy ground is what the ruling is built upon--it's worth of appeal.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.
Yup, let's make it easier for journalists to do their job, while making it harder for the intelligence agencies to do their's. Now that's prioritization.
Certainly this will be a hot topic in the days to come.
August 16, 2006
Winners and Losers in the Latest Mideast Conflict
Doing some more catch-up today. This time, the recently "cease-fired" battle in southern Lebanon between Israel and Hizbollah
This particular battle had quite a lot of popular support, from both the Right and the Left, in Israel. Israel's peace movement was essentially silenced as either they didn't speak up and/or they agreed with the premise. This was also noted on the Radio Open Source program of 7/31, in a show highlighting Israeli reactions. How the battle was prosecuted certainly has its critics, but hardly anyone disagreed with the justness of it.
And who can we at least partially thank for the necessity of it? Why the UN, of course. While their "peacekeeper" were flying their flag along with Hizbollah's, Iran and Syria were rearming these terrorists (Hizbollah, not the UN). Israel tried to make this a quick and effective battle by sending in special forces to take out enemy positions early, but what they ran into were more and better bunkers than they'd known about. Hizbollah was showering Israel with far more rockets than they were thought to have. Much of this digging in and rearming occurred during the 2 years that UN 1559, the resolution saying that Hizbollah must be disarmed, was in force. Guess this august body was quite sure of what needed to be done, but no one was willing to do it. (Until Israel started the job. Then, of course, the UN balked.)
As I noted earlier, Thomas Sowell said that there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else, and that doesn't seem to have solved the Arab-Israeli issue. I don't think this one will either. Here are some of the pros and cons of this:
- Civilian deaths will stop: Well, Lebanese civilian deaths will stop, which is a good thing in and of itself. I really don't think that this cease-fire will stop Israeli civilian deaths, especially since it was Hizbollah that started the shooting. Letting them continue on to fight another day just delays when that begins again.
- Israel forced the UN to actually do something about UN 1559: The United Nations sat on its collective hands for 2 years, allowing and hardly discussing the violating of an international border by Hizbollah. Is this the way to prevent war, by allowing one side to attack and kidnap? Is this they way to achieve fairness, by only passing resolutions when the other side defends itself? But in any event, the cease-fire will allow forces to come in and hopefully start the job of enforcement that should have been started 24 months ago.
- Hizbollah lives to fight another day: We are going to see further Israeli casualties in the future. It's simply a matter of when. This new resolution, 1701 (not a Star Trek reference, for those that may get it), also calls for the disarming of Hizbollah. Think it'll happen? I'm not talking about whether Hizbollah gives up some of it's rockets, I'm talking about disarming. No, I don't think will. Instead, they'll give up their older tech in likely anticipation of getting longer-range missiles from Syria and Iran, while the UN "peacekeepers" mill about.
- Hizbollah is legitimized: The UN is treating like a country. According to Andy McCarthy at National Review, the resolution...
doesn't purport to direct any UN member nation to make Hezbollah cease firing — least of all Lebanon, the purported sovereign of this territory. Instead, it appeals to Hezbollah directly — in the same paragraph in which it addresses Israel, as if there were no difference in status between the two — and "calls on" it to stand down.
- The resolution has no teeth: It was not passed with what's known as Chapter 7 provisions, so the international force can't actually do anything if Hizbollah starts shooting at Israel again. As Michael Rubin puts it (also on National Review), the force thus becomes so much "decoration". Hizbollah doesn't even have to return the kidnapped soldiers, the flashpoint of this battle.
- Instability in Israel: If just one more rocket is launched from southern Lebanon or one more attack made, the Olmert administration is done for. While the cease-fire is ostensibly insured by the UN, it'll be Olmert that pays the price if it fails.
- Israel is essentially punished for properly leaving Lebanon: As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, at least in the Middle East. Click here for a list of the sacrifices made and costs incurred by Israel in the one year since moving out of Gaza and portions of the West Bank. Note also the thanks they got in return from the Palestinians.
And, as ScrappleFace notes, if cease-fires work so well, how about we call a cease-fire in the war on terror, eh? Think Osama will abide by it?
Overall, I think Israel got a raw deal. They may have made some gains against Hizbollah, but not enough to ensure their security. Thank you, United Nations.
The media have been an interesting part of this conflict. They come out with a number of black eyes, especially regarding photography (or as Glenn Reynolds has referred to it as, "fauxtography"). As noted by Jim, and heavily documented at "EU Referendum", the video and photos coming in from the front have been manipulated, either intentionally or not. The fact that this happened, as far as I know, exclusively on the Hizbollah/Lebanese side of the equation make the press look like patsies, full of bias, or both. (It doesn't say much for the Arabs, either, when you'd be hard-pressed to find nearly the same attempts at manipulation by civilians on the Israeli side.)
This hasn't been solely a pictorial issue. CNN International coverage of the conflict was highlighted by a report that minimized Israeli deaths while reporting heavily on Lebanese ones, and inferring that Israelis would intentionally target civilians, among other things. The foreign media in general covered Beirut extensively, but virtually ignored Haifa. They've called Israeli leaflets asking civilians to leave a soon-to-be-attacked area "propaganda", ignored bad news for Hizbollah, reported their own opinion in news, and ignored dissention against Hizbollah in Lebanon.
As I've noted before, typically, your political persuasion can generally predict who you side with in Arab-Israeli conflicts. It shouldn't be that way, given a clear reading of history, but it generally does. Conservatives tend to side with Israel, liberals with the Arabs. Now, given the leanings of the press in the coverage, it further adds credibility to the charge that they have a liberal bias. Just another of a long line of such lists of evidence.
To be honest, I've found myself on CNN as often as FoxNews in the recent weeks, mostly because I wanted current news rather than analysis or opinion, and Anderson Cooper was doing more of that than Bill O'Reilly or Greta van Susteren. While you can point to some reports and programs that were balanced, when you look at those that could be considered biased for one side of the other, and when you see which side that bias almost always falls, the press, once again, falls into the camp that conservatives have always said it would.
But those that deny such a bias will also hand-wave away such evidence as well. That I expect, but find increasingly amazing.
So in summary:
- Israel: Short term win, medium term up in the air (thank you, UN), long term loss.
- Hizbollah: Short term loss, medium term win.
- United Nations: All term loss (toothless, cowardly; needs to visit the Wizard of Oz).
- The Media: Loss. Again. Not really news, so to speak.
August 14, 2006
Playing Politics with People's Lives
Playing a little catch-up after 2 weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains. (Loved it; camped out and went whitewater rafting, among other things, with the family.)
The terrorist airline bombing plot that was foiled last week is a testament to the Bush administration's approach to the problem vs. Kerry's proposed "law enforcement" approach. Law enforcement relies on the penalty for breaking the law being a deterrent. It doesn't handle suicidal maniacs very well.
The Wall St. Journal put it this way:
Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.
Some have shot back (see the comments to this post from World Magazine's blog) that the issue is legality, making it sound like they'd have no issue whatsoever if the NSA wiretapping and the SWIFT program, both of which the NY Times exposed, would be hunky-dory with them if only they were legal. Problem is, the NSA program hasn't been shown to be illegal and the SWIFT program was patently legal (even the Times admitted that). And it is possible that some of the intercepts were international calls to the US (ABC News' "The Blotter" blog notes that the FBI is following up on domestic leads). I don't buy this appeal to legality since all is assumed to be wrong if done by a Republican.
And I'm pretty confident in that generalization, as reported by PoliPundit.
"Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?"
Democrats: No, 51%
And with this success in the war on terror, you'd think this would be good news, but, again, not for Democrats. (The WSJ again...)
And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who's bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that "the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists."
If the terror plot had been successful, you no doubt could've hear the exact same rhetoric coming from Reid. It's nothing but a talking point to try and make political hay out of a success viewed as a failure. (Is this what Democrats mean by "reframing" the debate?)
Ted Kennedy chimed in that "it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win." Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the "Bojinka" plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration's "misguided policies" invite that plot?
And I would add; what is it we need to do to make ourselves more liked by Islamic fascists, and do we really even want to consider it? We are not hated primarily because of policy or politics; we're hated because we're not Muslims. France has bent over backwards to avoid offending Muslims, and they got riots anyway. Indonesia's huge Muslim population and Muslim preference didn't stop the Bali bombings. And the 9/11 attacks had most of their planning period spent under the Clinton administration. They didn't start hating us and planning our demise once Dubya sat down in the Oval Office.
This is a textbook case of playing politics with people's lives. It's time for Democrats to take a deep breath and determine what's best for the country instead of just their own political careers. It's time for the man on the street to see this rhetoric for what it is. And it's time for the far left to take a reality check, step back from the Bush Derangement Syndrome they're suffering from, and take an honest look at the world. If not--if the Democrats continue to be pulled to the left by vitriol and dishonesty--I don't see how they expect this to win them more votes in November.
July 26, 2006
Thomas Sowell on Cease-Fires
Here's an interesting thought from Thomas Sowell.
People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.
This is not to say that cease-fires are useless. But it depends on the parties involved. Henry Kissinger was on Fox & Friends this morning, and he mentioned that in his day, he didn't have to deal with these types of groups; he just dealt with countries that had land and people they were responsible for. Hezbollah's just a group all willing to die for their cause, and in today's climate they know how to play the game.
There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated.
"World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.
That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records?
It's that history repeating itself thing the people ignore at their peril, or the peril of others. Actually, that's why I think that most of the rest of the world is telling Israel to stand down while the US isn't. It's because they don't remember relatively recent history. Don't forget that most of the world was unwilling to confront Hitler head on ("Peace in our time", anyone?), or afraid to appear strong and resolute against the Communist threat. Both those enemies took full advantage of that timidity. For Hitler, it took America to come in and defeat him, not ask for a cease-fire. For Communism, it took so many proxy wars, but the political climate kept us from defeating it, and people in Korea and Vietnam and Cambodia and many other places paid, and are still paying, the price for it.
If the world considers Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations, then leaving them alone when they kill Israelis is not an option. Well, it shouldn't be. As it is, Hezbollah can launch hundreds of rockets without much of a peep at all from the international community, but Israel is considered too aggressive when it tries to stop those shooting the rockets. Make no mistake; Hezbollah's charter does not allow it to negotiate a permanent peace until either Israel is gone, or they are gone. Which would you rather have win?
July 19, 2006
It's About Time, Mr. President, but Good Call
Veto Pen: found.
Embryonic stem cell bill: vetoed.
Lives to be saved: priceless.
It's sad that it took Bush this long to veto anything, but it's a fine one to start on. Morally and financially, this was the right call.
(More at Redstate.)
(And thanks for stopping by Townhall blog readers. Thanks for the mention, Mary.)
How to Liberate Lebanon and Help Secure Israel
Charles Krauthammer once again nails it. The Lebanese, regardless of religion, don't want Hezbollah to continue to own south Lebanon. But Lebanon itself is too weak to evict them.
The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.
It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran's choosing.
And a cease-fire at this point in time may embolden Hezbollah in the same way that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon did. Land for peace simply does not work with these guys. It never has.
McKinney Faces Runoff
After thinking she could coast to a win in the primaries, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) instead faces a runoff.
Incumbent Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was forced into a three-week runoff campaign after drawing less than 50 percent of the vote in her first re-election bid since her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer.
McKinney only edged former two-term DeKalb County commissioner Hank Johnson by fewer than 1,500 votes -- 28,507 to 27,049. The two will pair off again in an Aug. 8 runoff for the Congressional 4th District.
In Georgia, if you don't win your primary with >50% of the vote, there's a runoff between the top 2 contenders. Given McKinney's antics in and out of Washington, I'm dismayed that so many in her district still support her. There was the whacking of a Capitol Hill police officer back in March, of course, but she even failed to show up, with no advance notice, for 2 scheduled televised debates for this election. And even with all that she still picked up 47% of the vote.
Talk about taking your constituents for granted. (And talk about constituents who don't really care about the issues.) Hopefully, the supporters of John Coyne, the 3rd place finisher, can rally with Johnson supporters and rid Georgia of this embarrassment.
July 14, 2006
With an Eye to History - The Arab-Israeli Conflict
The Israeli-Palestinian situation is not--or I guess I should say "should not"--be a matter of left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, Muslim/Judeo-Christian or whatever divide you want to put forth. It's a matter of history, and sadly the reaction to it does seem to generally break into all of those two camps. Typically it's that the former generally leaning towards the Palestinians (with some added generalities about stopping "all" violence, though they find their voice more often against Israel) and the latter leaning towards the Israelis. But if you look at history, it really shouldn't be an ideological issue.
Charles Krauthammer has an article today that seeks to answer the question "Who is at fault?" Some folks think that trying to assign blame and figure out who started it is an exercise in futility. Often that's true. However, there is a generation of history to look back on and see that the causes of this conflict can far more often be laid at the feet of those who break their promises, target indiscriminately, and twist history to try to gain an advantage.
Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. For four decades we have been told that the cause of the anger, violence and terror against Israel is its occupation of the territories seized in that war. End the occupation and the ``cycle of violence'' ceases.
The problem with this claim was that before Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Day War, every Arab state had rejected Israel's right to exist and declared Israel's pre-1967 borders -- now deemed sacred -- to be nothing more than the armistice lines suspending, and not ending, the 1948-49 war to exterminate Israel.
That's just for starters. From day 1, Arabs have been the ones who did not want to live in peace. Israel has been in a defensive war since its birth. Any ground taken was to create a buffer zone between its enemies and the thin sliver of land they were given. If you attack from point A, don't complain when you're pushed back to point B by the nation you attacked. This isn't a liberal/conservative issue; it's a matter of history.
But you don't have to be a historian to understand the intention of Israel's enemies. You only have to read today's newspapers.
Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks like the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire.
The Palestinians vowed land for peace. Israel exited Gaza completely. And what has Gaza turned into? A new and closer launching pad for rockets and new and closer bases from which guerillas can operate. This is a matter of history, not ideology. The "cycle of violence" is heavily weighted on one side. Yes, sometimes Israel responds with force, but many, many times it gives land-for-peace a chance. It allows its adversaries the opportunity to do the right thing. It is always disappointed.
Exhibit B: South Lebanon. Two weeks later, on July 12, the Lebanese terror organization, Hezbollah, which has representation in the Lebanese parliament and in the Cabinet, launched an attack into Israel that killed eight soldiers and wounded two, who were brought back to Lebanon as hostages.
What's the grievance here? Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely in 2000. It was so scrupulous in making sure that not one square inch of Lebanon was left inadvertently occupied that it asked the U.N. to verify the exact frontier defining Lebanon's southern border and retreated behind it. This ``blue line'' was approved by the Security Council, which declared that Israel had fully complied with resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon.
Grievance satisfied. Yet what happens? Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: turn it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel. South Lebanon bristles with Hezbollah's ten-thousand Katyusha rockets that put northern Israel under the gun. Fired in the first hours of fighting, just 85 of these killed two Israelis and wounded over 100 in Israel's northern towns.
Instead of land-for-peace, Arabs occupy the land and do not change the game plan. Each step closer to Israel is one step further in their mortars and rockets can penetrate. And when they attack, they target civilians. These are terrorists. This is a matter of history, of fact. This is still not, or should not be, an ideological debate.
The issue has never been occupation, all their talk to the contrary. If it was, the Gaza that had been asked for would be a place where Palestini
July 13, 2006
Diplomacy and Christianity in North Korea
Rick Warren has accepted an invitation from North Korea to speak there. According to writer Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, in an interview printed yesterday in Christianity Today, this is most likely just a propaganda play and a possible diplomatic connection. He'll preach to a pretend church to help the North Koreans "prove" they have religious freedom. But supposedly this is one of the only real channels the North Koreans use with the West. Boyd-MacMillan says that Billy Graham did this for years, so let's hope this is some way to ratchet down the tensions.
Boyd-MacMillan talks mostly about what it's like for Christians in North Korea in this interview and some of the challenges in doing evangelism there. Very informative
July 10, 2006
Fast-Forward Considered Harmful; Hollywood Stifles Viewer Choice
You are not allowed to choose what you will and won't watch in a movie. So says Hollywood and the courts.
A federal judge in Colorado has handed the entertainment industry a big win in its protracted legal battle against a handful of small companies that offer sanitized versions of theatrical releases on DVD.
The case encompasses two of Hollywood's biggest headaches these days: the culture wars and the disruptive influence of digital technologies.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch came down squarely on the side of the Directors Guild of America and the major studios in his ruling that the companies must immediately cease all production, sale and rentals of edited videos. The summary judgment issued Thursday requires the companies -- Utah-based CleanFlicks, CleanFilms and Play It Clean Video, Arizona-based Family Flix USA and the separate entity CleanFlicks of Colorado -- to turn over all existing copies of their edited movies to lawyers for the studios for destruction within five days of the ruling.
Utah's CleanFlicks, which describes itself as the largest distributor of edited movies, through online sales and rentals and sales to video stores in Utah, Arizona and other states in the region, said it would continue its fight against the guild and the studios. CleanFlicks and the others make copies of official DVD releases and then edit them for sex, nudity, violence and profanity.
Yes, I know you could spend the time yourself recording the DVD to video tape and try to hit pause/play at just the right times (though the point was not to have to view the objectionable material, even once). Yes, I know you could possibly load up the movie on your computer and, with some expensive DVD editing software cuts out all the parts you want, down to the words. Yes, I know you could spend all that time and/or money doing that yourself.
Or you could pay someone else to. Well, not according to the courts. No, all the gratuitous sex and violence is, not just artistically, but legally required for the story to be told. And no, the studios don't lose a single penny, and yes you can view the original if you really want to.
The mainstreaming of sophisticated digital editing technologies has fueled the cottage industry of movie sanitizers. CleanFlicks and others purchase an official DVD copy of a film on DVD for each edited version of the title they produce through the use of editing systems and software. The official release disc is included alongside the edited copy in every sale or rental transaction conducted. As such, the companies argued that they had the right on First Amendment and fair use grounds to offer consumers the alternative of an edited version for private viewing, so long as they maintained that "one-to-one" ratio to ensure that copyright holders got their due from the transactions. Matsch disagreed.
"Their business is illegitimate," the judge wrote in his 16-page ruling. "The right to control the content of the copyrighted work ... is the essence of the law of copyright."
Careful now, because this statement makes it sound like I can't make my own, edited copy of a movie that I legitimately purchased. If I can't have someone else do it for me, can I legally do it myself? Even if, in both the court case any my hypothetical, an original copy of the movie was legally purchased and is available with the edited version? Don't I have a choice what part of a purchased movie I choose to see? This ruling teeters on the edge of making me a law-breaker for essentially hitting the Fast Forward button on my remote.
This sort of mentality almost occurred with DVD hardware, in the ClearPlay situation. This is a device that allows you to play your DVD and it takes care of filtering it as you watch the movie. What parts to skip are download to the player, and you just hit play.
Early on, the legal sparring involved Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay, which offers video filtering software that allows for home viewing of cleaned-up versions of Hollywood titles.
ClearPlay offers software programs developed for specific titles that users can run on their computer or ClearPlay's proprietary DVD player along with an official copy of the DVD. With this technology, a nude shot of an actor can be altered to show a silhouette, or profanity can be bleeped out. Because ClearPlay's technology does not involve making an altered DVD copy, it has been shielded from the copyright infringement claims. The debate over movie content filtering activities made its way into Congress, which passed the 2005 Family Movie Act that protects ClearPlay and other software-based filtering companies. Matsch noted that Congress at that time had the opportunity to also carve out legal protections for CleanFlicks and its ilk, but chose not to.
The result is exactly the same as watching a pre-edited movie; you own the original, and you watch what you want to. It took an act of Congress to protect your right to skip parts of a movie via a hardware device. It looks like it'll take another one to protect your right to allow a 3rd party to edit it for you (or possibly to protect you from doing it yourself), even though the results of the two technologies result in exactly the same output. The fact that you can obtain a permanent copy of that output shouldn't matter and is a transparent fig leaf to hide behind.
July 06, 2006
Georgia Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Upheld
The Georgia Supreme Court's decision Thursday upholding a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage capped a two-year battle that mobilized the gay community, brought conservative voters to the polls in 2004 and threatened to become a politically charged issue in this year's election.
The state's highest court unanimously affirmed the constitutional amendment - approved by 76 percent of voters in 2004 - that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
The amendment was appealed on the grounds that it violated Georgia's rule that constitutional amendments must deal with one topic only; the "single subject rule". Opponents said it dealt with both marriage and civil unions, thus more than one subject. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled, rightly in my opinion, that there truly was one subject.
But Justice Robert Benham, who was appointed to the court in 1989 by then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris and wrote the short, six-page opinion, refuted that claim. He wrote that the objective of the amendment is "reserving marriage and its attendant benefits to unions of man and woman."
He went on to say that the prohibition against civil unions was not "dissimilar and discordant" with that objective.
The decision ends the opponents' appeal process on the "single-subject rule" issue.
The single subject rule was to keep unrelated items from appearing in the same amendment, but this was a single subject--marriage--dealt with on two fronts, not two subjects.
As has been the case all over the country, same-sex couples have been using the courts to get their way rather than using the legislative process. (See here for another example of some courts rightly pushing this to the legislature, and Democrats reliably upset that their hopes of ruling by judicial fiat have been dashed. Legislation has become the fall-back position rather than the front line.) This is why an amendment was necessary; to meet them on the playing field of their own choosing.
Both gay marriage and civil unions were already illegal in Georgia. Supporters of the amendment said that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the state Constitution would make it harder for judges to overturn the law.Not impossible, for a judge enamoured with the whole "it's a living document which means what I want it to mean...today" mentality, but certainly harder. Opponents of the amendment have no one to blame for requiring this step but themselves. Some people, however, either still don't get it, or are playing things up for their own base.
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality, a political advocacy group dedicated to gay rights, said while he is disappointed with the decision, he is pleased that gay marriage most likely will not be a big election issue this year.
"Our families and our lives should never be used to pander for votes," Bowen said.
This had absolutely nothing to do with pandering. Sure, it revved up the conservative base, but again that was a response to legal moves being made by same-sex marriage proponents. They forced the issue, not conservatives or Republicans or the Religious Right.
Here's an interesting line in the story:
The constitutional amendment banning gay marriage first came before the General Assembly in 2004 and immediately became the most controversial and emotional issue debated by lawmakers that year.
"Controversial" only in the sense that it brought rather loud opponents out of the woodwork. Those were the folks stirring controversy. Something that passes with 76% of the vote is hardly controversial.
This sums it up well:
"Today's decision by the Supreme Court was the correct one," state Attorney General Thurbert Baker said in a statement. "The people of Georgia overwhelmingly ratified the constitutional amendment stating that marriage should be reserved for a union between a man and a woman. I am pleased with the court's ruling respecting the voters' choice."
That difficult fact is why same-sex marriage proponents have decided to do an end-run around the people's representatives and shop for a small group of favorable judges. And that is why this amendment became necessary. Alleged "pandering" had nothing to do with it. If you want to debate in the legislature, that's where the debate will take place. If you try to sneak it in via some sympathetic judges, don't be surprised or upset in the slightest when you're met on that field as well. That is where the Left is taking the cultural and social issues, and that's where we have to deal with them, even if, as I believe, this isn't the place for them. They chose this venue, so they better learn to live with the outcome.
July 05, 2006
North Korea's Fireworks
North Korea has indeed launched, not 1, but 7 or more missile tests into the Sea of Japan. According to the news article, more could be on the way. Fortunately, the longest-range one, the Taepodong-2, failed shortly after take-off, which is no doubt a setback for their missile program. It happened quite a bit later than previously thought, but it did happen.
Some folks thought we were being played for fools. Truth is, we were played almost 30 years ago when Jimmy Carter trusted a tyrant to keep his word. Some folks think that if we just speak more nicely to them, they'd calm down (see the comments to a cross-post of that same SCO post at Blogger News Network). Carter, too, put the lie to that by being non-confrontational to a sworn enemy (or, as Jim put it below, we were nice to them and met their needs) and allowing missile tech development to continue unabated.
North Korea has come (further) out of the closet, so to speak. Since they have to go back to drawing board on the long-range missile, we do have more time to deal with this, though it's only because we got lucky. Do we need direct talks with North Korea? Possibly, but only if there's some sense that it could be constructive and that it wasn't just a delaying tactic on their part. Carter-esque appeasement, with non-verified agreements on their side, have obviously not worked. If we aren't allowed to verify compliance, there really is no point in talking; we know what the result will be.
June 28, 2006
An Illegal Education
Homeschooling in the US continues to grow, and slowly public educators are accepting it as a reasonable alternative given the studies that show how kids excel in it. However, in Germany, it'll get you jailed, and folks are fighting back.
German homeschooling parents who face fines or jail sentences are prepared to take their cause to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe recently turned down an appeal by Christian parents. According to the justices, the parents are required to send their children to state registered schools.
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, even if parents object to institutional education for religious reasons. Many Christians, however, are defying legal requirements. Some have been fined or incarcerated after refusing to pay the fines. It is estimated at least 1,000 children in Germany are taught by their parents.
Germany is rather unique in this stance.
Germany takes a tougher line against homeschooling than other European democracies. France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland and Austria also require children to receive school education but leave the form of education up to the parents.
If you can't trust parents to make decisions for their own children, who can you trust?
Giving Up Land For...What, Exactly?
Israel moved out of Gaza last August as part of the land-for-peace roadmap. Since the following September, the Palestinians have used it for a place to launch rockets; more than 500 in the 10 months they've had it. The Israel Project has the details.
Yesterday, Hamas and Fatah agreed to recognize Israel. Well, "implicitly". Well, they agreed on a plan to endorse a document that implies Israel's right to exist, because they want to resume getting money. How far can we trust that plan? As far as a rocket can fly from Gaza?
June 27, 2006
Your Tax Dollars at Play
This just in; government aid wasted! Film at 11.
Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.
While the staggering dollar amount is indeed news, the idea that big government produces big waste shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. I wonder how the percentage of waste compares to the private charities that responded.
Government cannot react quickly and efficiently, and the bigger it is the worse it gets. This was not news to those trying to respond.
Such an outcome was feared soon after Congress passed the initial hurricane relief package, as officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross acknowledged that their systems were overwhelmed and tried to create new ones on the fly.
"We did, in fact, put into place never-before-used and untested processes," Donna M. Dannels, acting deputy director of recovery at FEMA, told a House panel this month. "Clearly, because they were untested, they were more subject to error and fraud."
Unfortunately, the public has come to expect government to act on a moment's notice and turn on a dime. Somehow, they've been sold on the idea that it's government's job to solve all our problems, and that they'll do so with the utmost efficiency. (Gee, wonder who's been selling that bill of goods. Note that the only legislators expressing outrage are Republicans. The Times couldn't find any Democrats to speak out against wasteful spending?)
How inefficiently? Way out of proportion.
Officials in Washington say they recognized that a certain amount of fraud or improper payments is inevitable in any major disaster, as the government's mission is to rapidly distribute emergency aid. They typically send out excessive payments that represent 1 percent to 3 percent of the relief distributed, money they then ask people to give back.
What was not understood until now was just how large these numbers could become.
The estimate of up to $2 billion in fraud and waste represents nearly 11 percent of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June, or about 6 percent of total money that has been obligated.
And that's just the fraud they could find. They're just getting started.
To date, Mr. Dugas said, federal prosecutors have filed hurricane-related criminal charges against 335 individuals. That represents a record number of indictments from a single hurricane season, Justice Department officials said. Separately, Red Cross officials say they are investigating 7,100 cases of possible fraud.
Congressional investigators, meanwhile, have referred another 7,000 cases of possible fraud to prosecutors, including more than 1,000 prison inmates who collected more than $12 million in federal aid, much of it in the form of rental assistance.
Investigators also turned up one individual who had received 26 federal disaster relief payments totaling $139,000, using 13 Social Security numbers, all based on claims of damages for bogus addresses.
Thousands more people may be charged before the five-year statute of limitations on most of these crimes expires, investigators said.
Your tax dollars at work. Your charity dollars are, however, working a lot harder. Unfortunately, the idea that the government is this unending source of cash when disaster strikes, and the taxes levied in pursuit of that utopia, mean less for private charities and more for the layers of federal bureaucrats, the overhead of which isn't in this accounting of fraud and abuse.
June 20, 2006
Kim Jong Il's Countdown Clock is Ticking
As Kim Jong Il appears prepared to launch a missile, ostensibly as a test, the Pentagon says it's ready.
The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a Washington Times report that the Pentagon has activated the system, which has been in the developmental stage for years.
"It's good to be ready," the official said.
Well, depends on what you mean by "ready". There have been some encouraging tests, but very few of them. Then again, this is just one missile, which should make things a little bit easier to be "ready" for.
Still, if North Korea had a nuclear payload on this missile, what should we do about it? Even if it's just a dud, but this test moves them forward technologically towards a Taepodong-3, which could hit all of the continental US, what should we be doing? Or should be sitting back and just watching it?
The doctrine of pre-emption, those who are for it and those who are against it, faces a big test right now. Even though the Taepodong-2 that is being fueled could hit Alaska, Hawaii and parts of California, I don't really think this is going to be aimed at any of those places. And yet, it has the capability. We have a few options available to us:
Destroy it on the ground: We could launch a strike against the missile even before it launches. Robbing them of the entire test would ensure they got nothing out of it.
This comes with a potentially big PR hit, most likely, ironically, from Jimmy Carter who trusted the North Koreans enough to bribe them with food so they wouldn't build the nukes they say they now have.
Intercept it in the air: As the anonymous source suggests, the Pentagon is "ready" to do this if need be.
On the upside, if it works it would potentially demoralize the North Korean military and push out any potential aggression on their part until perhaps they felt they could deal with interception. On the downside, it may tip our defensive hand to those taking notes. Also on the downside, the intercept may fail, which would be more of a blow to us than if the missile were allowed to just land in the ocean.
Do nothing: We could just watch it, and hope it isn't an attack. The North Koreans get valuable data to advance their own weapons program.
If it does hit something, I imagine the Left would be outraged at Kim for a while, until Cynthia McKinney suggested that Bush knew it was an attack all along, and John Murtha suggests leaving South Korea. If it doesn't hit anything, it it's truly a test, then it simply hastens the day when North Korea can put out a threat that covers 50 states instead of just 2.
It goes without saying that I'm glad I'm not the President. Not only is this an issue of national security, but it will be made a political football by his opposition when politics should be the last thing on their minds. As I said, I'm not fearful that this is anything more than just a test firing. But at the same time, it's a step--a big step--down a road. Which direction that step is depends on decisions made in the next 72 hours or so.
June 12, 2006
Are You Accepting Bribes? Your Congressman Would Like To Know.
From today's headlines:
If Democrats win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran said he would use his position in the majority to help funnel more funds to his Northern Virginia district.
Moran, D-8th, told those attending the Arlington County Democratic Committee's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on June 9 that while he in theory might oppose the fiscal irresponsibility of “earmarks” - funneling money to projects in a member of Congress's district - he understands the value they have to constituents.
“When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I'm going to earmark the s--- out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.
From the 19th century:
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money” -- Alexis de Tocqueville
But you can only use it as a bribe if the "bribee" is willing to take it. Until we stop asking our politicians to bribe us with our own money, they'll keep doing it.
UPDATE: And speaking of bribing, here's a story about private individuals getting in on the act.
June 04, 2006
A Talk at Lunch, A Change in Stance
Based on some sources from the inside, the NY Times has a rather good article on what went into Bush's decision to offer direct talks with Iran--which haven't happened for decades--on the nuclear situation. Changes in postures and a talk over lunch. A very interesting read.
June 01, 2006
Creating Rights Out of Whole Cloth
Where do the abortion issue and teacher-student sex intersect? At the "Constitutional right" to privacy.
A former high school teacher facing sexual assault charges says his arrest on suspicion of having sexual relations with a student violates a fundamental right guaranteed by both the state and federal constitutions.
Matthew Glasser, a former music teacher at Northwest Catholic High School, was arrested last year under a provision of the state's criminal code that makes having sex with students a crime, even if the student has reached 16 - the age of consent.
But in a motion filed in Superior Court in Hartford, Glasser claims the statute infringes on his constitutional right to privacy, which, he argues, includes engaging in a sexual relationship with another consenting adult. Glasser was 29 when the relationship is alleged to have taken place; the girl was 16.
"We believe that the statute infringes on a fundamental right to sexual privacy and therefore does not hold up under constitutional scrutiny," said Jeremy Donnelly, one of Glasser's lawyers.
The "Constitutional right" to an abortion was based on the idea that the Constitution itself, in its "emanations" and "penumbras", conferred a general right to privacy. Now, that right isn't specifically enumerated, so there's no way to legally explain what it really means. It meant whatever Justice Douglas said it did then, and it'll mean whatever a judge today says it does now. If we need a right to privacy (and I think we probably do these days) then either that should be written specifically into the Constitution or privacy issues should be dealt with at the local level. But when you create a right out of whole cloth, there's no way to limit it.
Which brings us to Mr. Glasser, who says that this emanation encompasses him and his 16-year-old, legal adult, student. Were it not for those pesky sexual harassment laws that prevent him from using his position of authority, this wouldn't be an issue.
I'm don't intend to speak on age-of-consent laws specifically, although 16 does seem to be quite young for someone to make a rational sexual decision. But I'm really hoping that folks who have been proponents of this "Constitutional right" to privacy will see how playing fast and loose with what is and isn't Constitutional is affecting society and what doors it is opening that ought to be kept shut.
Being a "strict Constitutionalist" is something of an insult liberals put on conservative judges and justices. When you consider cases like this, however, it ought to make more sense why our judiciary ought to be just that. The "Constitutional right" to privacy is not concrete; it is a a vapor. The penumbras of that vapor will continue to emanate out unless more strict Constitutionalists insist on text that has been properly ratified by the States.
May 30, 2006
International Law Hits Home
International law--law not passed or ratified by any United States governmental body--is sometimes being used to decide cases in the United States. Generally conservative justices are against that and moderate to liberal ones are for it. Regardless of the outcome of cases where international law was taken into consideration, Justice Scalia's observation that such cherry-picking of what laws to consider is so open to manipulation is advice well given, and hopefully well taken.
However, if you think that such decisions will generally be made on strictly the larger constitutional issues, you'd be wrong. Increasingly, the weight of international law is being felt right in the home.
A home schooling association is warning that the U.S., and even more so other countries, faces the threat that home schooling may be deemed illegal due to international law.
The Home School Legal Defense Association's (HSLDA) Chairman and General Counsel, Michael Farris, warns that even though the U.S. has never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the convention may still be binding on citizens because of activist judges.
According to a new "interpretation" of what is known as "customary international law," some U.S. judges have ruled that, even though the U.S. Senate and President have never ratified the Convention, it is still binding on American parents. "In the 2002 case of Beharry v. Reno, one federal court said that even though the Convention was never ratified, it still has an 'impact on American law'," Farris explained. "The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence."
Under the Convention, severe limitations are placed on a parent's right to direct and train their children. As explained in a 1993 Home School Court Report by the HSLDA, under Article 13, parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they deemed unacceptable. Under Article 14, children are guaranteed "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" - in other words, children have a legal right to object to all religious training. And under Article 15, the child has a right to "freedom of association." "If this measure were to be taken seriously, parents could be prevented from forbidding their child to associate with people deemed to be objectionable companions," the HSLDA report explained.
Judges, it seems, are now the arbiters of what should and shouldn't be law. But a judge that makes a ruling in a case based on law that the citizens' representatives have rejected does so without giving the citizens any possible recourse. We can then be judged based on rules we have not the slightest influence in creating. How in the world is that government of the people and by the people? It is a further step away from our representative republic and towards a judicial tyranny; whoever controls the judges makes the rules.
And what sort of things can come from the innocuous-sounding "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child"?
Farris explains that, in 1995, "the United Kingdom was deemed out of compliance" with the Convention "because it allowed parents to remove their children from public school sex-education classes without consulting the child". Farris argues that, "by the same reasoning, parents would be denied the ability to homeschool their children unless the government first talked with their children and the government decided what was best. This committee would even have the right to determine what religious teaching, if any, served the child's best interest."
I'm quite glad that Sandra Day O'Connor is no longer a part of the Supreme Court.
"I suspect," O'Connor said, according to the Atlanta daily, "that over time we will rely increasingly, or take notice at least increasingly, on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues."
Doing so, she added, "may not only enrich our own country's decisions, I think it may create that all important good impression."
Because, as Bush's critics keep insisting, it's more important to have the rest of the world love us. Justice for Americans, and for the new republic of Iran, takes a back seat. Way back.
May 22, 2006
The Myth of Aid
The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has their own PowerBlog worth keeping track of (and a semi-occasional podcast). I missed this last week (my blog reading got way behind), but it's a good one; the Myth of Aid.
Why do we continually think that throwing money at a problem solves it? Acton highlights their efforts to bust the myth as well as ABC's John Stossel. Often the money simply buttresses corrupt governments and reinforces the bad policies they inflict on their people. We should be more concerned with bringing capitalism to these countries rather than encouraging graft (think "Oil-for-Food").
May 19, 2006
History Repeats Itself
Comparisons of the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany just got more legitimacy.
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
UPDATE: Looks like the story wasn't true after all. Hot Air has the details, step by step as the truth came out. My commentary on why we need to take real action against Iran, however, still stands, regardless of whether or not people are being tagged.
"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."
Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."
The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.
Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.
"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."
And guess who's been a big sponsor of this?
The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And the official line is "no comment".
A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.
"We are not here to answer such questions."
The question before the world now is whether history will repeat itself. Is there a diplomatic solution to this? Consider how often Ahmadinejad has been slamming those doors and upping the ante, both in rhetoric and now in legislation.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.
"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."
Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.
"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."
Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."
He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Outrage, yes, but has that done anything constructive? There are still steps we can take short of war to try to force the issue, but no one has the guts to take them yet. Just issue another report and have another vote and go home thinking you've done something. It's time for action on Iran. The longer we wait, the more strenuous the action must be to make a difference.
But remember that the Left in this country was outraged just over sanctions. Ahmadinejad may be counting on such allies to keep the wolves at bay until he has a nuclear club to threaten them with. And if America doesn't put its weight behind such sanctions, they're highly unlikely to work.
It may be time to choose your weapon. Continuing to watch 1940s Germany replay right before our eyes shouldn't be an option.
May 12, 2006
Criminalizing Dot Collecting
A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.
A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.
I'm not a big fan of polls in general, especially when they ask Americans about information outside their expertise. (Would a poll on how far away people think the moon is really mean anything? Should it affect policy on anything? The Patriot Post has a great article today on what it calls "Pollaganda" that's well worth reading.) But what this poll does show is that what some folks are calling "controversial" is only a controversy in their own mind. Is it illegal? Is it good or bad policy? This poll answers none of this, and as such doesn't really give us much information. What it does do is expose the bias of anyone suggesting that this program is currently controversial, unless their bar of controversy is somewhere north of 3/4ths agreement, which is rather silly and self-serving.
As to those who have an extremely low secrecy threshold, Scott Ott nails it.
Concerned that the National Security Agency (NSA) may have violated the civil liberties of Americans by analyzing records of millions of phone calls to detect patterns that might indicate terrorist activity, a bipartisan coalition in Congress today will unveil legislation to scrap the NSA and replace it with a more 'transparent' spy agency.
According to language in the measure, the new intelligence unit, dubbed Open-Source Intelligence (OSI), will "harness the power of the internet to protect the right of the American people to know how their spy dollar is spent."
"There's nothing like sunshine to ensure accountability," said an unnamed Congressional aide who spoke in exchange for a lobster dinner, a fine chianti and a $12 Macanudo cigar. "Just because the enemy is among us, using our telecommunications infrastructure to plot the next major attack, doesn't mean the government can sneak around doing secret stuff simply to save a few thousand, or million, lives. We have rights."
Many of the same people who blamed Bush for not "connecting the dots" prior to 9/11 are probably in that 35 percent that now want to make collecting those dots illegal.
May 08, 2006
"Day of Truth" vs Journalists and Educators
Religion in schools will not be tolerated. Anti-religious views are just fine.
The Sampson County school system stands behind a decision to suspend a student for passing out Christian leaflets at Midway High School, Superintendent Stewart Hobbs said Friday.
Hobbs said the student was given in-school suspension for insubordination after disobeying the principal about distributing the fliers.
The handouts, which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, caused a disturbance in the school and prompted some students, teachers and a parent to complain, Hobbs said.
Bias and nonsense, both in the same line of news.
First of all, handouts themselves can't cause disturbances. They are, in fact, simply pieces of paper, incapable of independent action. Yes, I know that all sounds rather silly to have to explain, but the journalist who presumably studied Language Arts got this wrong, and I just wanted to set the record straight if others had the same misconception.
Second, if handing out fliers is "disturbing", then the very same handing out of fliers by students on the previous day's Day of Silence should not have been allowed either. I doubt that's the "disturbance" being referred to, however. Instead, I would bet that there were students who got upset at the contents of these fliers and likely they caused this disturbance. Unfortunately, this journalist did not answer all the proper questions a news article should, and we're left with the impression that the student handing out the fliers was the responsible party. There's your bias; not reporting the whole story and thus implicitly placing the responsibility for the disturbance on the guy voicing non-PC viewpoints.
But the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, said the student, Benjamin Arthurs, was wrongfully punished for expressing his religious beliefs. The group has filed a federal lawsuit against the school system, saying it violated Arthurs' freedom of speech by not allowing him to wear a Day of Truth shirt and to pass out the leaflets during noninstructional time.
"That, in our opinion, is unconstitutional," said David Cortman, a lawyer with the alliance.
Hobbs said the student was allowed to wear the shirt but told not to hand out the fliers. "The only thing the T-shirt said was, 'Day of Truth,' and we felt that was not forcing his religion on others," Hobbs said. The handouts, however, did present religious views, he said.
If you have to voluntarily accept a flier, how is that "forcing" anything? No one is compelled to take the flier. The problem for the school is that religion, to them, has no place in the public square, even during noninstructional time.
Arthurs, a ninth-grader, handed out the fliers following the April 26 Day of Silence, an event promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. He asked Canady if he could wear the shirt and hand out Day of Truth cards, the lawsuit said. He was told he could not wear a religious T-shirt or distribute religious literature because that would be “pushing his religion on others,” the lawsuit said, and “religion is not allowed in school.”
"Religion is not allowed in school"? Banned? You're not allowed to speak about it? I mean, if you can't hand out printed material to those who volunteer to take it, what about actually talking about it? Those who think the First Amendment is doing just fine in America need to know what educators think about it.
Students don't lose their constitutional rights in school, but there are valid restrictions on them while in public school. In fact, I would agree that Arthurs should have been punished for disobeying the administration. If you don't have some semblance of order in school, you soon have little else. So even though I think the rules are being misapplied and use a double-standard, I agree with the suspension. I also, however, agree that the decision and the rules that led up to it need to be dealt with, and if that requires the courts to (hopefully) clarify the Constitution and possibly reverse the punishment, so be it.
Cortman said it is unfair that the school system allowed students to participate in the Day of Silence but did not let Arthurs express his Christian views. Day of Silence is a nationwide movement that allows students to protest anti-homosexual bullying and discrimination. Students hand out fliers and remain silent throughout the day.
So it's not the handing out of fliers that is the issue, and again this points out the misinformation given in the first paragraph of this story. If handing out fliers was a "disturbance", it should have been so on the Day of Silence as well. Thus, the disturbance was most likely caused by other students reacting to these fliers, not the student handing them out (nor the allegedly self-aware fliers themselves). No mention is made of these students or (possibly) teachers that really caused the disturbance. Whether this is due to journalistic incompetence or bias is not known, but it doesn't speak well of the writer.
The Day of Truth, which is held after the Day of Silence, was established by the Alliance Defense Fund to express the Christian perspective on homosexuality.
“School officials shouldn’t be treating religious students any differently than they treat other students,” Cortman said, “and that’s exactly what is happening here.”
According to the lawsuit, Arthurs belongs to the Bible Club, the National Honor Society and Who’s Who of American High School students. The lawsuit says his religious beliefs “compel him to share his faith and to address relevant subjects from a Biblical point of view with other students.”
In the lawsuit, the alliance is asking that Arthurs’ in-school suspension be removed from his record and that the school system write a policy giving students the right to free speech including religious speech.
I remember a video I saw of students praying around a school flagpole before school started in one of the early "See You at the Pole" events. School had not yet started for the day, and the event took place outside, so no disruption of learning occurred and no religion was "forced" on anyone. And yet, students were arrested because educators didn't understand the whole "free exercise of religion" concept. It's been 15 years since "See You at the Pole" got started, and yet the ignorance and double-standards continue (and this ignorance dates back long before that). And still educators keep needing further education on this topic.
This is a sad commentary on the public school system, and further exposure of the double-standard applied to Christians, both in actions taken against them and in the reporting of those actions.
April 26, 2006
Highlights from the SCO Blogroll
- From Virginia Postrel, a short history lesson on what is and isn't a "crisis" with regards to gas prices. Doug Williams at Bogus Gold also explains the economics of oil prices for those that think the government must do something.
- The Mystery Pollster uncovers bias in a Zogby poll about online gambling, with regards to both the questions and the method used to gather the answers.
- The Evangelical Outpost comes out with Yak Shaving Razor #50, a collection of tips and tricks and bits of information culled from all over the net. Very interesting, entertaining and useful. (No, I'm not going to explain the title; click the link to find out.)
- Captain Ed notes that Hamas is finding it harder to live without Western cash than it thought.
- Mark D. Roberts asks "Whither the Renaissance Man?" (This is part 3 of his travelogue "When in Virginia...".)
- Jeremy at Parableman warns about confusing motivation with theory in the Intelligent Design debate. "In defense of the charge that ID is religious creationism, many opponents of ID point out that most people who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons. This happens to be true. Actually, they usually say that all who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons, and that's false." He explains the error, describes why it's wrong, gives examples, and notes a number of folks using this fallacy.
- Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments talks about the wonders of the ordinary.
April 25, 2006
ACLU Loses a Ten Commandments Ruling
The ACLU has lost another Ten Commandments display ruling.
The American Civil Liberties Union suffered another defeat in its quest to bar the Ten Commandments from the public square today as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a display of the Decalogue in Kentucky is constitutional.
In the case ACLU of Kentucky v. Mercer County, Kentucky, the court voted 9-5 to uphold the Foundations of American Law and Government display at the county courthouse.
The display includes the Ten Commandments, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Charta, the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, and a picture of Lady Justice.
These kinds of lawsuits should be considered frivolous at this point. The Supreme Court was pretty clear that the Ten Commandments, as part of an overall historical display, isn't a problem. The only reason the ACLU could possibly be continuing this sort of harassment is to drain defendants' money, and hope that such a drain will cause others to cave who would otherwise prevail in court. It's not about (and I don't think it was ever about) what's constitutional and what isn't. It's been about who the ACLU can scare into compliance.
How Far Do You Trust Them?
Are you OK with Iran having nuclear technology? Do you believe that they'll act responsibly with it?
If so, does this modify your attitude?
The remarks on sharing nuclear technology by Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came as he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
"Iran's nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. ... The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists," Khamenei told al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir said last month that his impoverished, wartorn country was considering trying to create a nuclear program to generate electrical power.
Such a transfer of technology would be legal as long as it is between signatory-states to the nonproliferation treaty, and as long as the IAEA was informed.
But do you think that Iran, on an IAEA-dissing binge lately, breaking their current treaties, and considering leaving the Nonproliferation Treaty, will care whether or not such a transfer would be legal? All of a sudden, trusting Iran means trusting by extension anyone they might deem worthy of nukes.
Reducing Emissions Without Signing Treaties
If it was proposed that the United States reduce the following pollutants (based on 1970 levels)...
- Carbon monoxide by half
- Particulate emissions by 80%
- Sulfur dioxide emissions by half
- and virtually eliminate lead emissions
...would you consider that a reasonable proposal and ask the government to sign it? If we didn't sign it, would you consider it proof that we don't care about the environment? Do you believe that the free market or our own legislation couldn't possibly do this without an international treaty?
You'd be surprised. That's exactly what we have done, all without the Kyoto Protocol. The Wall St. Journal covered
the "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators", which is published annually around Earth Day and it has its own web site as well.
The WSJ reminds us that the dire predictions of today are coming from the same people and groups that have a poor track record.
This year, for example, Vanity Fair has inaugurated an "Earth Issue," comprising 246 glossy, non-recycled pages of fashion ads, celebrity worship and environmental apocalypse. Highlights include computer-generated images of New York City underwater and the Washington mall as one big reflecting pool. The magazine also includes a breathless essay by U.S. environmental conscience-in-chief Al Gore. The message is that we are headed for an environmental catastrophe of the first order, and only drastic changes to the way we live can possibly prevent it.
If arguments were won through the use of italics, Mr. Gore would prevail in a knockout. But as Mr. Hayward notes in his "Index," the environmental movement as a whole has developed a credibility problem since the first Earth Day 36 years ago. In the 1970s, prominent greens were issuing dire predictions about mass starvation, overpopulation and--of all things--global cooling. Since then, population-growth estimates have come way down, biotechnology advances have found ways to feed more people than the doomsayers believed possible, and the global-cooling crisis has become the global-warming crisis without missing a beat.
The democratic process, the free market and scientific advancement really don't get enough credit in all of this. Treaties from on high that try to micromanage the process are a type of environmental socialism that has been shown not to work so many times in other ares of human behavior.
April 17, 2006
The Emperor's New Wardrobe Malfunction
In its never-ending quest to become the supreme oxymoron, the United Nations has in the past had its Human Rights Commission chaired by the countries with the worst violations of human rights. The next step in that quest is this.
Under threat of United Nations Security Council sanctions for its own nuclear program, Iran has been elected to a vice-chair position on the U.N. Disarmament Commission, whose mission includes preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
The commission's deliberations began last Monday and are scheduled to continue until April 28. On the first day of the commission meeting, Iran along with Uruguay and Chile was elected as one of three vice-chairs.
It happened on the same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised his people "good news" about the country's nuclear program.
The following day, Iran announced that it had managed to enrich uranium, a key ingredient in the production of a nuclear bomb.
So Iran gets to help make the rules regarding nuclear arms. Amazingly, Iran was voted into this position, unlike the HRC where countries take turns being the head honcho round-robin style. At least the UN had a little fig leaf to work with there, but this time the emperor really is naked.
Some people think we just need to clothe the emperor properly, i.e. fix the problems with the UN. The real problem, however, is the emperor himself who continues to defend his wardrobe malfunctions. It's time to start over.
April 13, 2006
More Details on the Niger Yellowcake / Saddam Connection
Further details about Saddam's quest for nukes comes from Christopher Hitchens. It's been widely known (and dismissed out of hand by Democrats) that Iraq approached Niger about...something. Joe Wilson insists it wasn't about enriched uranium. But as Mr. Hitchens points out, when you send your top IAEA rep to talk to Niger, it's extremely unlikely he's talking about banana exports.
In February 1999, Zahawie [the aforementioned IAEA rep] left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.
The appearance of forged papers in connection to this has cause the aforementioned dismissals by Democrats. Hitchens does not deny the existence of the forgery, although he points out how pitiful the forgery was; easily discovered under slight scrutiny.
But this doesn't alter the plain set of established facts in my first three paragraphs above. The European intelligence services, and the Bush administration, only ever asserted that the Iraqi regime had apparently tried to open (or rather, reopen) a yellowcake trade "in Africa." It has never been claimed that an agreement was actually reached.
And that's precisely what Bush said in those 16 words in the State of the Union address. Hitchens goes on to examine what motive(s) there might be to produce such a crude forgery, but I want to hit on another point regarding it.
A NATO investigation has identified two named employees of the Niger Embassy in Rome who, having sold a genuine document about Zahawie to Italian and French intelligence agents, then added a forged paper in the hope of turning a further profit. The real stuff went by one route to Washington, and the fakery, via an Italian journalist and the U.S. Embassy in Rome, by another. The upshot was—follow me closely here—that a phony paper alleging a deal was used to shoot down a genuine document suggesting a connection.
Someone tried to overplay their hand, but that doesn't mean that the meeting didn't happen, and in fact there is still good intelligence, and paperwork backing it up, saying that it did.
Still, the Left will continue allege that the case for war was built in a bunch of lies and ignore evidence to the contrary (evidence that has been around for at least 3 years). Read, as Hitchens says a few times, the first 3 paragraphs of his article over and I hope you'll wonder, given the evidence, why you ever believe Joseph Wilson (if you ever did, that is).
Hat Tip: Mark Kilmer at Redstate.
April 11, 2006
Nukes in Iran Closer Than They Appear
Iran is a bit closer to nuclear technology than previously thought.
Iran has successfully enriched uranium for the first time, a major development in its quest to develop nuclear fuel, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tuesday.
Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added that the country "will soon join the club of countries with nuclear technology."
Iran's nuclear chief, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Iran has produced 110 tons of uranium gas, the feedstock for enrichment. The amount is nearly twice the 60 tons of uranium hexaflouride, or UF-6, gas that Iran said last year that it had produced.
Yup, what we need now is an even more strongly worded UN report. Or how about promises of US aid if they stop pursuing this? Never mind that it'll encourage other countries to try to go nuclear so they can get a shot at some cash. (Oh, and if you think Ahmadinejad would take the money and be nice, you're only half right.)
And while all these oh-so-stern looks continue, a country who's leader said he wants to wipe Israel off the map continues merrily on its way to be able to do just that. If we wind up making military strikes against Iran to prevent these madmen from getting the bomb, there's no doubt in my mind that the anti-war crowd will say we should have let the negotiations "work". Well, for future reference, this isn't working, and if we wait until after they have the bomb, negotiations won't be possible. I certainly hope Iran can be persuaded, but based on everything up to now, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Speaking to a crowd in northeastern Iran, Ahmadinejad was quoted by state television as saying, "Enemies can't dissuade the Iranian nation from the path of progress that it has chosen."
April 10, 2006
The Entitlement Mindset
The French government throws in the towel.
French President Jacques Chirac has announced that the new youth employment law that sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests will be scrapped.
He said it would be replaced by other measures to tackle youth unemployment.
This is what comes of the entitlement mindset. Some folks get some benefit from the government and soon they believe it is, not simply a benefit, but a right that they are entitled to. Liberal politicians here should take note. (Actually, conservatives should, too.)
What really makes this sad is that in this case, as I've mentioned before, the people are asking to return to a situation that actually works against them in the guise of a worker benefit. As with most liberal ideas (sounds good in theory, fails miserably in practice), it took the French government longer to figure this out that one would have hoped, so now when they try to correct the problem, the rioters think they're losing something. ("It must be bad if my union leader says it is.") The liberal entitlement nanny-government mentality is so ingrained that the Kool-Aid drinkers only see things through the us-vs-them, rich-vs-poor, worker-vs-corporation lenses. Sounds like American liberal class warfare politics, which it is.
UPDATE: An article on Slate notes other bloggers with similar thoughts. (And thanks for the link, Darren!)
And, as I said before, such economic policies have produced a stagnant French economy and rampant unemployment. But now, the rioters have made their point; we want to protect our jobs by continuing policies that cause unemployment. That may sound crazy, but no more crazy than the economic platform of our very own American Democrats.
What will the repealed law be replace by? Free market reforms? Nah, too conservative.
The new package of measures includes offering state support for employers hiring young people who face the most difficulties in gaining access to the labour market.
They're going to pay employers to hire those whom they can no longer fire. That might help a little, if at all, but it's not the root cause of the problem. The problem is the idea that companies shouldn't be allowed to fire workers. The worker/employer relationship is a give and take one, but when you give all the rights in that relationship to the worker, naturally the employer will have to protect himself in other ways. In this case, the employers don't hire as freely. The result is high unemployment. And when employers can't fire people, and thus there is one less big incentive to work hard, you get a stagnant economy.
This isn't a surprise to conservatives, nor apparently to liberals who've watched their finely tuned theories fall apart before them. But it's a lesson lost to those who've grown up in the liberal French mindset.
March 29, 2006
Former FISA Judges Discuss the NSA Wiretapping
Is the President's NSA wiretapping program unconstitutional, impeachable or at least censurable? The jury is still out on that, as the details are still being investigated (though that hasn't stopped Sen. Russ Feingold from acting from a position of ignorance). The main thrust of the argument is that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had jurisdiction, and that going around them via executive order was illegal.
Speaking of that jury, it recently asked some guys who would know.
A panel of former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges yesterday told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that President Bush did not act illegally when he creaated by executive order a wiretapping program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA).
UPDATE: As has been pointed out to me, not all the judges specifically stated that Bush was within his constitutional rights. The other judges did not specifically speak to this.
The five judges testifying before the committee said they could not speak specifically to the NSA listening program without being briefed on it, but that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not override the president's constitutional authority to spy on suspected international agents under executive order.
"If a court refuses a FISA application and there is not sufficient time for the president to go to the court of review, the president can under executive order act unilaterally, which he is doing now," said Judge Allan Kornblum, magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and an author of the 1978 FISA Act. "I think that the president would be remiss exercising his constitutional authority by giving all of that power over to a statute."
The judges, however, said Mr. Bush's choice to ignore established law regarding foreign intelligence gathering was made "at his own peril," because ultimately he will have to answer to Congress and the Supreme Court if the surveillance was found not to be in the best interests of national security.
Judge Kornblum said before the 1978 FISA law, foreign surveillance was done by executive order and the law itself was altered by the orders of Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan.
But isn't the FISA law good enough that the President shouldn't have to end-run around it?
It has been three months since President Bush said publicly that the NSA was listening to phone conversations between suspected terrorists abroad and domestically. The actions raised concerns from Congress and civil liberties groups about domestic spying, but the judges said that given new threats from terrorists and new communications technologies, the FISA law should be changed to give the president more latitude.
So five judges, including one of those who wrote the FISA Act, say that Bush was well within his rights to do what he did, and that the only caveat is the very sensible question of whether the other two branches of government thought it to be in the interests of national security. At this point, we do know that Congressional leaders were briefed on this, with only small concerns about constitutionality being expressed. Given this new testimony, it sounds like those concerns are groundless, so there's little left. We know from the initial Times report that at least one attempt on the Brooklyn Bridge was thwarted, and there may be more that was done but is currently classified, so the national security question is on its way to being answered. Critics are having all their legs knocked out from under them.
Buy a Piece of History
Remember those flooded school buses photographed in New Orleans? Well, you can buy one.
Starved for cash, the New Orleans school district is taking a long shot and hoping to sell its flooded, unsalvageable school buses on eBay.
Some submerged to their roofs in the black flood waters, the yellow school buses were widely photographed in the days after Hurricane Katrina and have become an icon of the city's devastated school system.
Correction: they became an icon of the city's devastated credibility when they started pointing fingers of blame up the food chain but failed to follow their own plan that included using school buses to get the poor out of the city. Sounds like a little airbrushing of recent history by this AP writer.
Junkyard Blog covers this, as he was the guy who broke the story of the Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool.
March 27, 2006
Rahman Case Has Its Upsides
The question of what "religious freedom" means to the Afghan government is still on the front burner. President Karzai is inserting himself into the situation. Diplomacy seems to be doing the job. It's not over yet (in the linked article, the clerics warn of an uprising if Abdul Rahman, a converted Christian, is not executed), but things seem to be getting better little by little. I see some political good in this situation, as the government and the people are being forced to debate the religious freedom issue. Hopefully, they'll take some cues from the countries that liberated them
From my perspective, there is another upside. Afghans are more curious about Christianity.
An Afghan Christian leader in the U.S. has welcomed reports that criminal charges may be dropped against an Afghan convert who was threatened with execution for refusing to return to Islam. The case has prompted strong international condemnation.
Hussain Andaryas said the publicity surrounding the Abdul Rahman case had resulted in a surge of interest in Christianity among Afghans, strong concern for the plight of Afghanistan's underground Christians -- and an antagonistic response from Muslims.
Andaryas runs a collection of Christian websites in Afghanistan's Dari-Persian tongue as well as daily radio programs and a weekly television program.
He is in daily contact with individuals in his homeland, and has been reporting for several years about the risks faced by Afghan Christians -- all converts from Islam and thus considered apostates worthy of death, according to Islamic law (shari'a).
He said the websites typically drew about 300 unique visitors every month, but since the Rahman story emerged had attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The number of emails received also has risen enormously, and 13 people are now tasked with responding to them.
The majority of emails are negative and many are abusive, coming from Muslims who felt that Rahman and other apostates -- including Andaryas himself -- should be severely punished.
But there also are many messages of support, he said.
And then there are emails coming from Afghans wanting to know more about Christianity, asking where they can get a Bible in the Dari or Pashto language, or sharing the news that they had become believers in Jesus Christ.
Among the most stirring messages are those from Afghan Muslims marveling about a faith for which a man was willing to die and wanting to study the Bible further.
"I strongly believe God is using this situation for His glory," Andaryas said. "One man's bold step has shaken the world."
While I don't wish persecution on anyone, the threat of death to Rahman plays well into God's hand. Keep this man and the other Afghan Christians in your prayers.
March 23, 2006
The Abdul Rahman Case - Is Democracy Dead in Afghanistan?
The Abdul Rahman case in Afghanistan has captured the attention of the media and the blogosphere, not to mention the White House. Obviously, we at SCO hope that this convert to Christianity is treated with respect and an open mind by the new government there. So far, the messages are mixed, with the option now on the table to declare Rahman mentally incompetent to stand trial so that the world spotlight on this case of religious freedom dims.
There are those on the Left that suggest that this proves the Afghan Experiment has failed. However, I'd say that this only proves that the budding democracy there is, in fact, budding. No big surprise there. I wonder how long they would have given the 13 colonies before declaring our Constitution a miserable failure. You could still own slaves a generation after the thing was signed, for goodness sake. Entire families of Africans had their lives destroyed under a Constitution that said that all men were created equal. Should they have given up on the whole federal government thing and gone back to being under the thumb of King George?
"georgia10", the author of the linked post at the Daily Kos, has this to say:
Declaring this Christian crazy to spare judicial execution does not solve the deeper problem that such undemocratic and immoral action is enshrined in the text of the Afghanistan Constitution, that same Constitution Bush praised as a hallmark of democracy. Is this democracy? Or is this the type of case that reminds us that freedom is not on the march in Afghanistan, no matter how many purple fingers are waived in the air?
It sounds like "georgia10" has given up and sees no possibility of any kind of future for Afghanistan. Might as well have give it back to the Taliban, eh? Does the Left really have that little faith in the democratic process, of working through your own salvation? There's lots of finger wagging in that post, but it's very short on specific (or even general) alternatives. The move from a theocracy to a democracy is not noted in any way as progress. How sad and pessimistic do you have to be to declare failure at every single setback?
So what do we do? I think it's time to handle Afghanistan the way we handle any other democratic country; apply diplomatic pressure. I think the words coming from the Bush administration are what we should be doing, and perhaps negotiating with the Afghan government to try to resolve this in such a way that hopefully it will enlighten some folks there. What would be really great would be for American Muslims to raise their voices against this situation, and note how well they are treated here and how well freedom of religion works when it's properly done.
Self-government is a learned behavior. You don't learn it by voting in a few elections. However (and to "georgia10's" surprise, perhaps), you'll never get there without a bunch of purple fingers first.
March 22, 2006
Healey for Lt. Gov. of Rhode Island
I'm on the road at a client site in Rhode Island this week, and I picked up the local free paper while eating supper this evening. (I mention that in case anyone wonders why this Georgia resident would even know about this story.) I read about a guy who's campaign I could get behind. I don't know what his general politics are, but he's got a mission and has been willing to walk the talk, not just talk it.
Robert J. Healey, Jr. EAST BAY - Robert J. Healey, Jr. is tired of preaching logic to voters. Instead, the Barrington resident and Warren native is basing his recently announced campaign for the office of Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor on the absurd. If it's silly or non-sensical you can imagine it's coming from Mr. Healey, who stated his intentions for office from Brava Beach in Punta del Este, Uraguay on Thursday.
"I have chosen this location because I think that it demonstrates that no matter where you are in the world, and no matter what you are doing, you can also be serving as Rhode Island's Lt. Governor at the same time. Waiting for the demise of the governor can be accomplished just about anywhere, any time, and by just about anyone with a pulse. I probably would do it here on the beach," Mr. Healey said, adding that if he is elected he will facilitate the constitutional abolition of the office or "serve as the impetus for otherwise changing its constitutional role."
Now before you dismiss this as a one-off, futile, point-making campaign, consider that this guy's been making a career out of this. And he's been doing a decent job at this. From the biographical highlights at the end of the article come these points:
* Founded Cool Moose Party (name taken from Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party) and ran for governor against former Governor Edward DiPrete in 1986 — received a little less than 4,000 votes
* Ran for governor again in 1994, this time garnering slightly less than 10 percent of all votes cast — won the race in Warren which "humbled him," he said.
* Because of that showing (receiving more than 5 percent of the vote), the Cool Moose Party gained statewide recognition
* In 1998, he took on then Gov. Lincoln Almond and Democratic challenger Myrth York and received 8 percent of all votes cast.
* In 2002, he ran against incumbent Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty promising to abolish the office, if elected; he received a 20 percent share of votes cast statewide.
He's been doing this for 20 years, so he's no flash in the pan. I can't possibly do the article on him justice with snippets, so go ahead and read the whole thing, even if you're not from Rhode Island. I did, and I enjoyed it.
March 20, 2006
Free Heath Care Isn't
Name the country with the most evenly distributed quality of health care. Prepare to be surprised.
Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health care quality suggests that Americans - rich, poor, black, white - get roughly equal treatment, but it's woefully mediocre for all.
"This study shows that health care has equal-opportunity defects," said Dr. Donald Berwick, who runs the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.
The survey of nearly 7,000 patients, reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered only urban-area dwellers who sought treatment, but it still challenged some stereotypes: These blacks and Hispanics actually got slightly better medical treatment than whites.
While the researchers acknowledged separate evidence that minorities fare worse in some areas of expensive care and suffer more from some conditions than whites, their study found that once in treatment, minorities' overall care appears similar to that of whites.
"It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, white or black, insured or uninsured," said chief author Dr. Steven Asch, at the Rand Health research institute, in Santa Monica, Calif. "We all get equally mediocre care."
Well, if we're all getting mediocre care, wonder how good it is in places like Canada, which is supposed to have the liberal dream of "free" health care and yet they keep streaming over the borders to get it here.
This will of course cause great consternation among Democrats who need to continue insist there's a health care "crisis" so they can resurrect HillaryCare(tm). Truth be told, it's not broken so there's no need to fix it.
The survey examined whether people got the highest standard of treatment for 439 measures ranging across common chronic and acute conditions and disease prevention. It looked at whether they got the right tests, drugs and treatments.
Overall, patients received only 55 percent of recommended steps for top-quality care - and no group did much better or worse than that.
Blacks and Hispanics as a group each got 58 percent of the best care, compared to 54 percent for whites. Those with annual household income over $50,000 got 57 percent, 4 points more than people from households of less than $15,000. Patients without insurance got 54 percent of recommended steps, just one point less than those with managed care.
Could overall health care in this country do with an improvement? Sure. However, resorting to a socialized system that puts people on waiting lists for years isn't the answer. Would you rather get 55% of what you need now, or get it months down the road (when you'd probably need more care)?
Murphy's Law of the Hospital: "Free" health care isn't.
(Hat tip: JR at Blogger News Network.)
Protectionist Labor Laws Don't
A recent change in employment law in France has caused an uproar among the youth. But first, imagine if employers here in the US were forbidden from firing workers. What do you think would be the effect on the job situation? Obviously, employers would be extremely careful about who they hired. It would slow down the employment situation considerably; you don't want to go on a hiring binge if your business is taking off, because you may get stuck with poor performers that you couldn't then get rid of. Business growth would slow as a result, and the economy would be the worse for it. Not only that, getting young people hired would be tougher; even the local fast food joint would have to get picky.
Now, socialists might say that guaranteed jobs are good. They said that in France. But this put their employers in a bind and stunted growth. And while the original intent of this guarantee was to supposedly help the working class, it hurt the unemployment picture because employers did indeed get very picky and cautious in their hiring practices. Thus a general truism regarding liberal law was again demonstrated; what sounded good in theory didn't work at all, and was actually counterproductive, in practice.
So what's a Leftist to do? Change the law, of course, to allow more employment. The trouble is, you've created a culture of entitlement, and folks don't give it up that easy. Just ask Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin of France.
The French government faced a deepening crisis at the weekend as protesters turned out in large numbers to oppose a new law intended to reduce youth unemployment. Opponents worry the law will threaten job security.
Police said more than half a million people turned out in various French cities, demanding the withdrawal of the First Employment Contract, or CPE, which says people under the age of 26 may lose their jobs without cause during the first two years of employment.
The law forms part of an initiative by Villepin to respond to grievances expressed last fall during riots by unemployed, mostly Muslim immigrant youths. It would allow employers to bypass protectionist labor laws that companies say prevent them from hiring more freely.
In this case, however, the protesters don't want to change the system; they want to retain traditional labor laws that offer job security, protection and benefits.
Some analysts say the students are resisting reform, while others attribute the protests to France's stagnant economy and high unemployment rate.
"These students have been raised in a culture of job security, a job for life, and they were expecting a job for life," said Philippe Moreau Defarges, a senior fellow at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
"But now they have a fear that they will not find a job."
So the French workers insist they prefer to keep a 10% unemployment rate and stagnant economic growth rather than give employers any shot at weeding out the under-performers (only within the first 2 years, mind you). They fear they won't find a job? Are they finding any now?
Unemployment in France is around 10 percent, but in the under-26 range, 23 percent do not have jobs. Among immigrant youths, the figure runs as high as 50 percent.
No doubt the Frenchman (or Muslim youth) on the street would say that this is a matter of benefiting the labor force, without which there would be no businesses. On the other hand, without a climate in which businesses can thrive, you aren't going to have a good employment picture.
It's a symbiotic relationship that liberals in France and the US would be wise to remember before preaching against the stereotypical "evil corporation". Neither side--labor and management--is generally without fault or misbehavior, but when American liberals look to Europe for economic solutions, just remember how good we have it.
Murphy's Law of Labor: "Protectionist" labor laws don't.
March 17, 2006
Vote Fraud in Venezuela - Who Would Have Thought?
Hugo Chavez has been caught with his hand in the ballot box.
It was the 32nd birthday of 1,921 Gonzálezes registered to vote in the western state of Zulia on Wednesday. But instead of celebrating with balloons and cake, many Venezuelans have been shouting fraud.
Every one of these Gonzálezes obtained their first government ID -- and simultaneously registered to vote -- in 2004, just before President Hugo Chávez defeated a recall referendum. And many of them registered on the same day, at the same registration center.
The case is ``one for the Guinness Book of Records,'' said Roberto Ansuini, a former opposition representative on the National Electoral Council who stumbled on it while looking into the registry's reliability. He said the most Gonzálezes ever born on one day in one year in Venezuela is 89.
The González case in Zulia typifies the opposition's claims that the registry is full of fraudulent voters -- one of the reasons some parties boycotted the December legislative elections and may sit out the presidential elections late this year. Many say the case also shows fraud in the recall vote.
Maybe Hugo needs a return visit from Harry Belafonte or Cindy Sheehan to turn the PR situation around.
March 13, 2006
Good News for Scooter Libby
John Credson, a Chicago Tribune reporter, has a very revealing article on the "revealing" of Valerie Plame. Turns out, as has been noted in the past, that her cover, such as it was, was paper thin even by CIA standards. While the Brewster-Jennings cover was rather light in hindsight, her use of a US embassy as an official address was a dead giveaway in foresight, according to CIA vets. The kicker is that her obvious tie to the government preceded the attempt to pass her off as a disinterested private-sector consultant, not to mention that later on she had a parking spot at Langley.
Genuine NOCs, a CIA veteran said, "never use an official address. If she had [a diplomatic] address, her whole cover's completely phony. I used to run NOCs. I was in an embassy. I'd go out and meet them, clandestine meetings. I'd pay them cash to run assets or take trips. I'd give them a big bundle of cash. But they could never use an embassy address, ever."
Another CIA veteran with 20 years of service agreed that "the key is the [embassy] address. That is completely unacceptable for an NOC. She wasn't an NOC, period."
After Plame was transferred back to CIA headquarters in the mid-1990s, she continued to pass herself off as a private energy consultant. But the first CIA veteran noted: "You never let a true NOC go into an official facility. You don't drive into headquarters with your car, ever."
A senior U.S. intelligence official, who like the others quoted in this article spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that Plame "may not be alone in that category, so I don't want to suggest she was the only one. But it would be a fair assumption that a true-blue NOC is not someone who has a headquarters job at any point or an embassy job at any point."
Things are looking better for Scooter Libby.
More Tapes & Docs on Hussein's WMDs
Just in case this is glossed over on the nightly news, here's some new information on the Iraq WMD issue. Tapes and documents are being translated, and more details have come out today.
In addition to the captured tapes, U.S. officials are analyzing thousands of pages of newly translated Iraqi documents that tell of Saddam seeking uranium from Africa in the mid-1990s.
"Uranium from Africa". Gosh, that phrase really sounds familiar.
The documents also speak of burying prohibited missiles, according to a government official familiar with the declassification process.
But it is not clear whether Baghdad did what the documents indicate, said the U.S. official, who asked not to be named.
"The factories are present," an Iraqi aide tells Saddam on one of the tapes, made by the dictator in the mid-1990s while U.N. weapons inspectors were searching for Baghdad's remaining stocks of weapons of mass destruction.
"The factories remain, in the mind they remain. Our spirit is with us, based solely on the time period," the aide says, according to the documents. "And [inspectors] take note of the time period, they can't account for our will."
Whether or not it was acted on, it was certainly planned and intended. But there is further information that indeed Hussein was in the WMD biz.
Mr. [Bill] Tierney [who translated the tapes for the FBI] said that the quote from the Saddam aide, and scores of others, show Saddam was rebuilding his once-ample weapons stocks.
"The tapes show that Saddam rebuilt his program and successfully prevented the U.N. from finding out about it," he said.
There also exists a quote from the dictator himself, who ordered the tapings to keep a record of his inner-sanctum discussions, that Mr. Tierney thinks shows Saddam planned to use a proxy to attack the United States.
Of course he'd use a proxy. That way the anti-war Left would continue to insist that he had no ties to terrorism. Hussein knew his audience.
And stay tuned...
There is more to come. House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, told The Washington Times that about 500 hours of additional Saddam tapings are still being translated and analyzed by the U.S. In addition, in Qatar, U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in the Persian Gulf, sit 48,000 boxes of Iraqi documents, of which the military has delivered 68 pages to the committee.
"I don't want to overstate what is in the documents," Mr. Hoekstra said. "I certainly want to get them out because I think people are going to find them very interesting."
He said the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, is now weighing the congressman's request to release 40 of the 68 pages.
Of the tapes released so far, Mr. Hoekstra said, "Everything [Saddam] is doing is saying, 'Let's take it and hide it' with a clear intent. 'As soon as this is over, we're going to be back after this.' "
The article goes on to cite the evidence that the WMDs may indeed have been shipped to Syria, citing satellite photos. Even the Duelfer report acknowledged this possibility. Because, after all, this was a murderous dictator we're talking about.
Mr. Tierney said he thinks the regime poured chemical weapons into lakes and rivers and sent other stocks over the border to Syria. Mr. Tierney served as a U.N. weapons inspector in the 1990s.
"The ISG, they were lied to in a very systematic way," he said. "Lying. They were very good at it."
But will the press notice, and will the Left care?
March 10, 2006
Are Democrats Losing the Black Vote?
Deroy Murdock notes the good things that have been happening in the black economic community under the Bush administration. His sub-heading is, "Will the Dems lose a reliable constituency this year?" My answer to that is "No", if you mean that in 2006 (and even 2008) the percentage split of black voters between Republican and Democrat will mirror the nation's at large. However, I have a feeling it'll continue the trend toward Republicans in both years. When you consider how most blacks voted against the same-sex marriage issue, in addition to Murdock's economic numbers, I think the wake-up call has been heard.
March 07, 2006
China: Better or Worse on Religious Freedom
I've talked a bit before about the engagement vs. disengagement question with regards to China and my blogger-in-law Jim has discussed it, too. As I've noted, people whom I respect have come down on different sides of this issue. Some say that we shouldn't reward China's poor human rights record with Most Favored Nation trade status, as that is like giving the carrot without the threat of the stick. Why move if there's no downside to staying put? Others, like Jim, say that business is the foot in the door for, among other things, Christian evangelism. It's a Trojan Horse of sorts to bring in ministries that would otherwise be kept out. At the same time, this would keep the Chinese government in the international spotlight and bring pressure on them to improve their human rights record. This debate has been going on for a while. It's been a number of years since the Association of Christian Ministries in China worked with Congress to insure MFN status in China. It's now been a full year since China put in new religious affairs regulations, purportedly to bring more freedom in this area.
One year after China’s Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force, Chinese citizens’ ability to exercise their right to freedom of religion remains as subject to arbitrary restrictions as ever, Human Rights Watch said today.
The regulations took effect on March 1, 2005. At the time they came into force, the Chinese government asserted that the national regulations, the first comprehensive set of regulations on religion in China, constituted “a significant step forward in the protection of Chinese citizens’ religious freedoms.”
However, local officials continue to repress religious activities that they determine to be outside the scope of the state-controlled religious system. Their decisions are often made arbitrarily and in a manner inconsistent with the right to freedom of belief or religion. Chinese officials continue to detain and arrest religious believers, close religious sites, and impose restrictions on the movements, contacts, visits, and correspondence of religious personnel.
“Chinese officials claim the new regulations safeguard religious freedom through the rule of law, but the intentional vagueness of the regulations allows for continued repression of disfavored individuals or groups,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “There’s nothing accidental about the vagueness – it gives officials the room they need to legitimize closing mosques, raiding religious meetings, ‘reeducating’ religious leaders, and censoring publications.”
Human Rights Watch said the most significant problem with the regulations is that arbitrariness is implanted in the text. The regulations state that “normal” religious activities are allowed, but then fail to define what the term “normal” means, leaving practitioners unclear about what is allowed and what is banned. The regulations also include other undefined key terms, such as “religious extremism,” “disturbing public order,” and “undermining social stability,” each of which only adds to the ambiguities and the potential arbitrariness of the application of the regulations.
The article lists further examples of how things haven't really changed much. My questions are:
- In spite of the continued religious oppression, are mission organizations still finding significantly more opportunities?
- If further opening of commerce to China hasn't worked to remove religious persecution, shouldn't we then use the stick and restrict it?
- Now that American businesses have a bigger stake in the Chinese economy, do we even have the national will to restrict it? (My guess: No.)
This is a tough nut to crack. Consider this an open invitation for other Stones to post answers to these questions and contrary takes on the situation.
February 28, 2006
Tolerance and Multiculturalism Meet Reality
The "Cartoon Jihad" has given Europe a chance to reevaluate its values. To what degree should immigrants be assimilated? Newsweek has an article on this topic, but it has an odd title, "The End of Tolerance". The subheading goes further: "Farewell, multiculturalism. A cartoon backlash is pushing Europe to insist upon its values." Is this what "tolerance" and "multiculturalism" means, that countries should allow the killings and burnings to continue? Does "tolerance" mean that no set of values is better than another, or that a country can't insist that people follow its values as expressed in its laws?
It's this mindset that has turned schools into values-free war zones. The Dutch have seen what kind of war zones have been imported, and how it has been exported to the world. But Newsweek doesn't want anyone to make value judgements. Instead we get writing like this:
What's going on here? Weren't the Dutch supposed to be the nicest people on earth, the most tolerant nation in Europe, a melting pot for minorities and immigrants since the Renaissance? No longer, and in this the Dutch are once again at the forefront of changes in Europe. This time, the Dutch model for Europe is one of multiculturalism besieged, if not plain defunct.
"Be nice and let 'em in, but be tolerant and don't judge them when they burn down your towns and kill you over cartoons." Remember that America was, and still is, a melting pot, and we still generally ask that immigrants accept our shared values, including freedom of the press and religious freedom.
Multiculturalism isn't being besieged so much as it's coming in contact with reality. As the saying goes, a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.
February 16, 2006
The Boy Scouts are a Religion?
Do you consider the Boy Scouts a religion? A judge in San Diego said it was, and now the 9th Circuit (oh joy) gets a shot at it.
Arguments in a major Boy Scouts case unfolding in Pasadena, Calif., before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – a case that is certain to be headed for the Supreme Court -- centered on the contention that the revered organization is actually a religion and should therefore not be given a lease of public land.
The case was brought by self-declared agnostics Lori and Lynn Barnes-Wallace and Michael and Valerie Breen, along with a son of each, in protest of a lease of parkland in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island by the city of San Diego to the Boy Scouts of America.
The agnostics sued the city on a claim that the lease to the Boy Scouts – out of more than 100 leases, including to the YMCA, a number of Jewish groups, one of which conducts Sabbath services on parkland, and the Girl Scouts – violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment, and that they are suffering "inferior usage" thereby because they don't want to have to apply for permits, or pay usage fees, to the BSA. The case is Barnes-Wallace, et al. v. Boy Scouts of America, Nos. 04-55732, 04-56167.
A federal judge in San Diego granted the summary judgment to the agnostics, finding that the Boy Scouts are a "religion" because of the Boy Scout Oath, which includes doing one's duty to "God and my country," and the Boy Scout Law, which includes "reverence" as one of 12 precepts. Also, the Scouts require a belief in God as a condition of membership.
The city itself is not part of the appeal. It settled with the American Civil Liberties Union to avoid further expense, agreeing to terminate the lease and to give the ACLU $940,000 in attorney fees. The appeal continues since the Boy Scouts, if they prevail, want to be able to contract for a lease with the city again.
The case has drawn national attention because the federal judge's finding that the BSA is "a religion" imperils the future work of not only the Boy Scouts, but all organizations that recognize a transcendent higher authority, including community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, which works directly with the courts and government, and veterans organizations like the American Legion, whose constitutional preamble begins "For God and Country," almost identical to the Boy Scouts Oath.
That any federal judge considered the BSA a religion is truly unbelievable. But the idea that using the "G" word in a sentence prevents you from consideration at all by any level of government is even more preposterous. When you see how much religion the Founding Fathers allowed for in government by their actions, this can't possibly be a First Amendment issue. At least not the First Amendment the way they intended it to be. But to the "living document" judges, the Constitution means whatever they want it to mean. Today. Until they change their minds. Again.
So much for the Constitution be a foundation.
February 09, 2006
The Bluster Dies Down
The Captain brings the NSA wiretapping program into perspective.
The Democrats, of course, initially wanted to hang Bush from a yardarm over this program, but quickly ran into a problem: the White House had kept key Democratic leaders abreast of the program since its 2001 inception. They then wanted to get the public irate over what they kept calling "domestic spying," but eventually realized that the public thought it reasonable to check on international calls from suspected al-Qaeda terrorists during a war against them. Now they have settled for the most reasonable position yet -- that Congress should have some method of weighing the risk/benefit ratio of warrantless wiretaps, even in a time of war. It may still not meet the terms of the Constitution, but politically it's the most resonant message that Democrats can make.
The White House knows this, which is why they changed their position and decided to fully brief both Intelligence Committees in full, rather than just the leadership as they have done throughout the program. It has already paid dividends, although this hasn't received much attention from the media so far. The AP reported that the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Oversight Committee has publicly stated that the program doesn't represent the Big Brother nightmare that its critics have painted it.
And that has been my big problem with those screaming "Impeachment!" over this; they didn't know what they were talking about. Frankly, none of us did. Only now is it coming out, and, predictably, the rhetoric is cooling down (rabid Bush-haters being the perennial exception).
Al Gore himself, in his speech on the subject, demonstrated this problem.
"We still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently," Gore said.
The more we've learned, the less it has troubled even Democrat lawmakers. But Al was a big "Impeachment!" guy, and the Left ate it up.
Some more interesting bits: The original NY Times article noted that purely domestic calls were done under warrant, so the label of "Domestic Spying" lumped in with "warrantless wiretaps" was disingenuous each time they were paired. (Thank you, mainstream media, for propagating that bit of misinformation.) The original article noted that the program was actually suspended twice and further restrictions put into place due to concerns about the legalities, but the Left has ignored this bit of good-faith effort on the part of the Administration.
I am concerned about those on the Right who blindly approve of this. It's not necessarily true that being against the program means you're for the terrorists. I don't really buy the "what do you have to hide?" argument. I just think that much of the noise from the Left about this was knee-jerk, and like Gore's speech, was bluster from ignorance (ignorance, I again note, that we all shared). Some on the Right were, I suspect, willing to accept it just because it was Bush doing it. As I said when this first came out, this is government we're talking about, and unchecked expansion is never a good thing. However, from the get-go this has been checked. It has been modified over legality concerns. And because of this, I'm not as concerned. I'm glad we're having an investigation. Let the chips fall where they may.
February 08, 2006
More on the WMD Questions
Today brings another couple of sources that say they know where at least some of Iraq's WMDs are, and one is Hussein himself.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is studying 12 hours of audio recordings between Saddam Hussein and his top advisers that may provide clues to the whereabouts of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The committee has already confirmed through the intelligence community that the recordings of Saddam's voice are authentic, according to its chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who would not go into detail about the nature of the conversations or their context. They were provided to his committee by a former federal prosecutor, John Loftus, who says he received them from a former American military intelligence analyst.
Mr. Loftus will make the recordings available to the public on February 17 at the annual meeting of the Intelligence Summit, of which he is president. On the organization's Web site, Mr. Loftus is quoted as promising that the recordings "will be able to provide a few definitive answers to some very important - and controversial - weapons of mass destruction questions." Contacted yesterday by The New York Sun, Mr. Loftus would only say that he delivered a CD of the recordings to a representative of the committee, and the following week the committee announced that it was reopening the investigation into weapons of mass destruction.
And (also from the NY Sun):
A former special investigator for the Pentagon during the Iraq war said he found four sealed underground bunkers in southern Iraq that he is sure contain stocks of chemical and biological weapons. But when he asked American weapons inspectors to check out the sites, he was rebuffed.
David Gaubatz, a former member of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations, was assigned to the Talill Air Base in Nasiriyah at the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His job was to pick up any intelligence on the whereabouts of senior Baathists and weapons of mass destruction and then send the information to the American weapons inspectors gathering in Baghdad that would later become the Iraq Survey Group. For his intelligence work he received accolades and meritorious service medals in 2003 and prior years. Before the war he helped uncover a spy in the Saudi military. He also assisted with the rescue and repatriation to America of the family of Mohammed Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who helped save Private Jessica Lynch.
Since the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reopened the case of the missing WMDs, I imagine we'll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks.
February 01, 2006
Louisiana Just Said "No"
Why didn't the federal government help Louisiana out earlier, in anticipation of Katrina? We now know (with a hat tip to Captain's Quarters), that it's partly because Louisiana told them to stay away.
A ranking Louisiana health official turned down federal offers to help move or evacuate patients as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, a newly released document shows.
But the state's top medical officer said Louisiana coordinated with the federal Health and Human Services Department in evacuating hospitals and nursing homes after Katrina hit.
Two days before the Aug. 29 storm, HHS was told by the state's health emergency preparedness director that the help was not needed, according to an e-mail released Monday by a Senate panel investigating the government's response to Katrina.
The state official, identified in the Aug. 27 e-mail as Dr. Roseanne Pratts, "responded no, that they do not require anything at this time and they would be in touch if and when they needed assistance," wrote HHS senior policy analyst Erin Fowler.
The more evidence that comes out, the more it becomes clear that the state abrogated many of its responsibilities, and then proceeded to blame others. Yet we still hear from the media and the liberal pundits about problems with the federal response, as if that is the only place any failures occurred. To be sure, they could have done a lot better, but when the feds deferred to the state, that was their proper role. Would folks that are all up in arms about the feds listening in on Americans talking to terrorists, contrarily, yawn over the military barging in and taking over whenever the feds thought they knew better? If not, then more notice needs to be taken of Blanco's and Nagin's failure in responding. But you can bet that, in the future, the media will continue to try to Blame Bush(tm).
January 30, 2006
Hamas in an Awkward Situation
Since the Hamas majority victory in the Palestinian elections, it's been interesting to see how the EU has had to upend it's policies. It shouldn't have caused so much turmoil for them, since one set of terrorists were simply replaced with another, but the EU's (and the UN's) refusal to see what was so obvious has caused it. When the Fatah guys were siphoning off all the aid they were getting, and undoubtedly sending some to their Hamas buddies, these august world bodies could use the excuse the Hamas was just an extremist organization and didn't represent the view of the Palestinian people. The vote, however, put them in a difficult situation.
Some flip-flops, however, aren't as strange as they look. The recent election of German Chancellor Angela Merkel moved Germany to the right, and their policy change is consistent with conservatives elsewhere; treat terrorists like terrorists.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has threatened to cut vital European Union aid to the Palestinians, said on Monday President Mahmoud Abbas should urge Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
"The Palestinian president has a huge responsibility and I will tell him this when I meet him today," Merkel said after talks in Jerusalem with Israeli President Moshe Katsav.
"As a president, he should urge Hamas to respect certain principles," she said, citing recognition of Israel, which the Islamist militant group has sworn to destroy, and abandoning violence.
Merkel, who was to meet Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, is the first EU leader to visit the area since Hamas swept to victory over the moderate leader's long-dominant Fatah faction in a parliamentary election on Wednesday.
The first step in "negotiating with terrorists" is getting them to renounce terrorism. Then you can negotiate peace. This needs to be the free world's policy regarding Hamas. And I'm not just talking about a press conference; I'd want to see the Hamas charter--which is now essentially a political platform--rewritten to respect the existence of the state of Israel. Without that change, there can be no negotiations regarding the Palestinian situation. You can't negotiate a peaceful settlement between two parties if the charter of one insists on the destruction of the other. Treating terrorists like terrorists means, as a first step, getting Hamas to renounce its terroristic goals.
This actually puts conservatives in a good situation with regards to the Palestinian situation. If Hamas refuses to denounce terrorism, it demonstrates to the UN, the EU and other liberal organizations that their denouncements and blaming of Israel while ignoring Palestinian atrocities has been as misguided as conservatives have said all along. Israel has not been as pure as the driven snow, to be sure, but you might assume the Palestinians, who have specifically targeted civilians, were indeed supremely innocent if you only looked at UN resolutions. Thus, if Hamas won't officially renounce the terror of their ways, they are exposed for those yet willing to see.
If, however, they do officially denounce terrorism, they become, so some extent, defanged. Even if such a denouncement is simply a facade, they demoralize and anger their base among the Palestinians in Gaza. Their majority could very well be in jeopardy following that.
So now that Hamas is the official face of the Palestinian people, it puts them in a difficult situation, one in which they could have avoided by staying in the minority. While the election results may have been surprising to most (possibly even to Hamas itself), the ultimate diplomatic position it creates can, at least in the short term, help Israel and the Middle East. It's disheartening to see how much of Gaza buys into the idea of the destruction of Israel, but now that Hamas has been pushed to the fore, their awkward situation can be used against them as another blow to terrorism.
January 25, 2006
Georgia Goes After Voter Fraud
In my home state of Georgia, the legislature has signed off on the final version of a bill to require photo IDs at polling places. Next stop: the governor's desk, and he says he'll sign it.
This was tried last year, but a judge struck it down, considering it tantamount to a poll tax. Since I believe it said that people without a driver's licence could get a state-issued ID but would have to pay for it, I can understand that ruling. This version makes it free.
Predictably, the Democrats don't like this anti-voter-fraud idea.
State Rep. DuBose Porter of Dublin, the Democratic leader in the House, denounced passage of the bill as unnecessary and an attempt by the GOP “to rig this November’s elections.”.
He said the GOP has not been able to document a single case of fraud involving election-day voting.
“Aren’t we just speaking about a problem that doesn’t exist?” Porter said.
Well, if you don't check ID at the polls, how can you substantiate claims of voter fraud? Wonderful catch-22.
Just as predictably, the ACLU is ready to challenge this common-sense measure. Must protect the civil liberties of those ballot stuffers, dontcha' know?
January 24, 2006
Punishment vs. Rehabilitation
Consider the following sentences:
- 5 years probation for pleading guilty to homosexual rape of a 15-year-old.
- 3 years probation for pleading no contest (but admitting to) homosexual rape of a 16-year-old.
- 60 days in jail for repeatedly raping a girl during the 4 years she was age 7-10.
All these sentences were handed down in a 2-week period, January 6-19, in Massachusetts and Vermont.
In the debate on punishment vs. rehabilitation, certainly there should be some combination of the two. And at least have the former if the latter is deemed unlikely (think repeat offenders, as in the second and third examples above) if for no other reason that societal self-defense. These are children we're talking about, after all.
UPDATE: The 60-day sentence has been extended to 3-10 years. The judge's statement:
"The court agrees a punitive response - punishment - is a valuable and necessary component of society's response to criminal conduct," he said. "It is a tool that the court has routinely used for the past 24 years on the trial bench. As stated during the sentencing hearing, however, punishment is not enough of a response in some cases.
"This is one of those cases," he said.
But to me, the original sentence didn't have much of any punitive response. Nonetheless, I'm glad this was done.
Continued Progress in Iraq
Good news from the fledgeling democracy in Iraq: The 3 main factions have agreed to work together (H/T Mark Kilmer at "No End But Victory"):
The main Shi’ite bloc in Iraq, the Iraqi Alliance, fell short of gaining an absolute majority which would have enabled them to run the government themselves. They are willing to work with the Sunni parties with a proviso: the must actively combat the insurgency.
But he [Senior Iraq Alliance member Dr Hussein al-Shahristani] warned the Sunni parties that if they wanted to join the coalition, they would have to fight the insurgency actively.
“We’ll require them not only to condemn terrorism - as they do normally - but to work with us in combating terrorism and overcoming it,” he said.
The two main Sunni groups and Kurdish parties said they want to give this national unity thaang a go.
At this point, the Iraqi experiment is still working, and getting stronger. The first class of cadets from military training graduated recently, and the multi-national force continues to help Iraq beat back the insurgency.
Continued efforts by Iraqi and Coalition Forces continue to help Iraq progress toward democracy by making it harder on the insurgency, building up infrastructure and fostering stability.
“The pressure on the terrorists continues, making it harder … for them to conduct the attacks targeting large numbers of vulnerable civilians,” Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, Strategic Communication Director for Multi-National Force Iraq said in a press conference Jan. 22 in Baghdad .
“Having 227,000 Iraqi Security Forces provides capability for a wide range of security operations and more Iraqis on patrol equals greater intelligence – keys to defeating the insurgency and Al Qaeda in Iraq ,” he said.
Alston noted that attacks across Iraq were down 40 percent the previous week, and defined MNF-I’s mission:
“Our combined operations are designed to provide a safe and secure environment for the seating of the new Iraqi Government and to defeat the terrorists and foreign fighters who are attempting to derail democracy.”
It's not without its losses, but as Iraq moves more and more into self-government, the cause is a good one.
UPDATE: The BBC is reporting that "Iraqis and Afghans are among the most optimistic people in the world when it comes to their economic future".
In Afghanistan, 70% say their own circumstances are improving, and 57% believe that the country overall is on the way up.
In Iraq, 65% believe their personal life is getting better, and 56% are upbeat about the country's economy.
The experts at polling firm Globescan, who conducted the survey, venture the guess that war may have created a "year zero" experience of collectively starting again.
January 23, 2006
Hamas Willing to Negotiate?
In the "I'll Believe It When I See It" Department, Hamas says it'll negotiate with Israel under some preconditions.
Hamas is "interested" in Israeli peace proposals and may be willing to negotiate indirectly with the Jewish state, Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip, said in an exclusive interview while ruling out the possibility of his terror group disarming or ceasing "resistance" attacks.
"If the Israelis have an offer to be discussed and [the offer includes] two very important points – the release of all [Palestinian] detainees and a stop of all Israeli aggression, including the process of withdrawal from the West Bank...then we are going to search for an effective and constructive process [that will bring this] at the end," said al-Zahar in an interview with WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein and ABC Radio's John Batchelor broadcast on Batchelor's national program.
Hamas has targeted civilians in its fight for a Palestinian state, which would make it a terrorist group in the eyes of most. And yet that detail doesn't seem to have bothered a lot of Palestinians.
Hamas last month was largely victorious in local municipal elections in Gaza and the West Bank, and is expected to do well in Palestinian parliamentary elections scheduled for Wednesday.
Analysts expect Hamas will join a coalition government with the currently ruling Fatah party.
The main reason I'm very skeptical of all this is that their mission statement hasn't changed.
The official Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel by "assaulting and killing," and rejects all peace talks with the Jewish state.
Doesn't sound like a group interested in negotiations.
January 19, 2006
Reform Packages Aren't Enough
Republicans and Democrats have each presented their own government reform packages, but according to a watchdog group, neither is good enough.
Democrats on Wednesday declared an end to the "Republican culture of corruption," announcing their own "real reform" plan one day after Republicans announced theirs.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said the Democrat plan is about "real change and has real teeth." It's called the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
Democrat leaders said their "aggressive reform package" would "reverse Republican excesses and restore the public trust."
But according to a taxpayer watchdog group, both parties have legitimate criticism to lob against each other's reform proposals.
"The Republicans are right in saying that both parties have complicity in the current ethical mess, where campaign contributions and other gifts are given to Members of Congress in exchange for their support for government largesse for the contributors," said John Berthoud, president of the National Taxpayers Union.
On the other hand, "The Democrats are right that the Republicans' package doesn't go nearly far enough," Berthoud said.
"But the Democrats' package is little better," Berthoud said. "Their lackluster reform package gives lie to their claim that they are not part of the Washington problem."
The problem is that both sides break the law, not that there aren't enough laws. The reason they break the law is because there's so much money floating around Washington because government is just way too big. Fortunately, there are those who are putting forth a real step in dealing with this root cause.
Lobbying reform alone is not enough, said the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), which has urged Congress to fix the "mangled and secretive budget process."
Tom Schatz, CCAGW president, said, "Bipartisan abuse of the budget process has led to record spending on pork barrel projects and handouts to special interests."
According to CCAGW, total federal spending has swelled 67 percent, from $1.5 trillion in fiscal 1995 to almost $2.5 trillion in fiscal 2005. The number of pork-barrel projects in the federal budget during that same period of time has skyrocketed from 1,349 to 13,997, an increase of 938 percent.
CCAGW supports a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans. The bill, the Obligation of Funds Transparency Act (S. 1495 and H.R. 1642, respectively), would make earmarks more visible and amendable before legislation is passed.
Transparency with regard to the slinging around of pork is a good first step, and it's just a first step. The more power and money we give to Washington, the more this kind of thing will happen, regardless of the number of "reforms" passed. Lobbying isn't a crime and taking contributions from lobbyists isn't a crime. However, the reason both of these legal actions can be abused is because in a government as large, complex and awash in money and power as ours, humanity's weakness kicks in. Giving Washington more and more to do, especially those things that aren't even constitutionally mandated, is simply an invitation for more abuse, and anyone who advocates for the former while ranting against the latter is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst.
January 13, 2006
The Rebuilding of New Orleans
SCO's Head Stone (hmm, perhaps I need to give him a better title), Rick Brady, has been putting in a lot of long weeks helping to manage the FEMA effort in New Orleans. (See here for a post from the "front" with pictures.) His initial thought was that he'd be there at least 3 months. Well, those 3 months are up and there's probably another 6 months or so left.
Some of the rebuilding effort is caught up in red tape. While the term "red tape" is typically a disparaging term, some of these obstacles have a good reason behind them. The upside is that rebuilding without knowing future flooding potential is being kept down. The downside is that folks have been waiting for some time to get their homes and businesses back.
Ever since hurricane Katrina washed much of New Orleans away, where to allow rebuilding has been Question No. 1. After months of emotionally exhaustive waiting and wondering, homeowners in the most devastated parts of the city now know the answer: They'll have to wait until late June to rebuild - and, even then, it's not certain their property will be safe from public seizure.
The controversial guidelines in the land-use report issued this week by the mayor's Bring New Orleans Back Commission are putting new strain on residents who bore the brunt of the storm. And it's raising again the sensitive question of whether the city's poor are getting short shrift in post-Katrina recovery efforts.
Congress, which has earmarked $29 billion in Gulf Coast rebuilding, is watching the debate closely. So, too, is the White House and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) the agency that allocates federal funds.
"There are some very positive aspects of the plan," says Sean Reilly, a member of the LRA. He admits that denying building permits is controversial, but adds, "I would not feel good knowing that someone was applying for a building permit in order to try to beat the clock. We should not ignore safety."
The clock he is referring to is the release of new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain maps, which are due out in the next few months. They will show which parts of the city face the most danger from flooding, thus making those areas very costly for flood insurance. The maps could complicate city planning, leaving market forces to determine where building occurs.
The land-use report, meanwhile, gives some residents just four months to prove that their neighborhoods are fit to be rebuilt. It's not yet clear just what standard of proof they must meet, but "neighborhood planning teams" will be created to help residents consider the future of their communities and let city officials know by June 20 what their neighborhoods need and, ultimately, whether they can survive. Some observers say the decision could come down to population: Will enough people return to sustain a neighborhood?
Some of this red tape actually makes the rebuilding more difficult, of course, especially when you get into a hurry-up-and-wait situation, followed by a give-me-an-answer-now situation. Making things worse is what may be a rather unrealistically high bar set by the City Council.
Making the process even more difficult, members of the New Orleans City Council have said they will not back any plan that does not allow immediate rebuilding everywhere in the city.
Mayor Ray Nagin can accept or reject any part of the subcommittee's recommendations, a process that could take weeks. He did not indicate whether he supported the plan when it was presented Wednesday, though he did say that people's property rights should be the ultimate guide in rebuilding the city.
It's the competing plans that seem to be the crux of the issue. Some folks, however, have given up on the whole thing.
That's cold comfort to Angela and Keith Jackson, who are surveying the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood for the first time since the storm.
But he and his wife have finally run out of patience. They are planning to move to Dallas. "Why would you put money into your house if there's not enough people [returning to the neighborhood]?" he asks. "They just need to make a solid plan."
If a city is built on the coast, but no one's there to live in it, does it really exist? I don't really think that NO would be vacant when it comes back, but it's quite possible that it'll be a shadow of its former self by the time all the signatures are affixed to the right paperwork. Stay tuned.
January 06, 2006
Alexander Hamilton on Federal War Powers
This is food for thought, given the current issue with NSA wiretaps. Alexander Hamilton wrote these paragraphs in Federalist #23 regarding the power of a federal government in "the preservation of the Union". It's a long-ish quote so that context is maintained. Italics and capitalization have been preserved, so emphasis by me is shown in red.
The authorities essential to the care of the common defence are these--to raise armies--to build and equip fleets--to prescribe rules for the government of both--to direct their operations--to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation: Because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be co-extensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils, which are appointed to preside over the common defence.
This is one of those truths, which to a correct and unprejudiced mind, carries its own evidence along with it; and may be obscured, but cannot be made plainer by argument or reasoning. It rests upon axioms as simple as they are universal. The means ought to be proportioned to the end; the persons, from whose agency the attainment of any end is expected, ought to possess the means by which it is to be attained.
Whether there ought to be a Foederal Government intrusted with the care of the common defence, is a question in the first instance open to discussion; but the moment it is decided in the affirmative, it will follow, that that government ought to be cloathed with all the powers requisite to the complete execution of its trust. And unless it can be shewn, that the circumstances which may affect the public safety are reducible within certain determinate limits; unless the contrary of this position can be fairly and rationally disputed, it must be admitted, as a necessary consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority, which is to provide for the defence and protection of the community, in any matter essential to its efficacy; that is, in any matter essential to the formation, direction or support of the NATIONAL FORCES.
The Federalist Papers were explanations to the people regarding a new federal government under the proposed Constitution, and why it was a good idea. What's interesting is that Hamilton is essentially saying that this new Constitution will not, in fact, be a "suicide pact". When the Constitution talks about providing for the common defense, then, it means it, and Hamilton says that it should not be used as shackles to keep what needs to be done from being done.
This passage talks about, I believe, the federal government in its totality. Thus, Congress is as much a part of this as the President. They still hold the purse strings, and if they want to cut funding to the NSA to keep something from happening they don't agree with, it's their prerogative. That, among other things, is a check on Executive Branch power, but according to Hamilton, it's not necessarily a constitutional issue.
Hamilton's words do not have the weight of those in the Constitution, to be sure. However, he does provide a framework for understanding the Constitution as written and intended. It expresses ideas you wouldn't hear much about today. He'd probably be considered a right-wing extremist. Considering these ideas for our omnipresent and over-extended federal government does, I admit, make me wonder whether this concept is such a good idea for the Washington, DC of today. But he was expressing the concerns and intents of those who wrote one of our most important founding documents, and those thoughts should not be lightly ignored or hand-waved away.
January 04, 2006
The Abramoff Deal
The Abramoff plea deal has obviously rocked Washington, and rightly so. This particular scandal, while it may catch members of both parties, will most likely tilt heavily Republican due to Abramoff's affiliation.
I say "good".
I won't be surprised to find more Republican names than Democrat ones, as the Republicans are the party in power now, and that power corrupts, as all power tends to do. I'd be very happy to see a house-cleaning of the majority party. We need that as a country. What I think we'll see are Congressfolk who are heavily entrenched in the system who thought they were untouchable. With Washington awash in so much money, the lure of it becomes, I imagine, greater than many can handle. These people need to be exposed and removed. I don't want to be passing sentence before the facts are in, but when they do come in, I would like to see the guilty do the right thing and step down rather than put us through a bunch of trials.
This scandal, while it may involve more Republicans than Democrats, actually buttresses a point small-government Republicans have been trying to make for years; government is too big. There's too much money flying around and much of it can disappear without a trace, sometimes into the pockets of politicians, and they'll do things they would not otherwise do to get it. The more a government does, the more we invite this sort of corruption. Those wishing to centralize more and more of our country's operation, and wishing to give it more and more to do, would do well to understand that this very scandal is, in a large part, a result of that. While this particular scandal will, again, likely expose mostly Republicans, I think the problem is not one of party but of human nature. The Founding Fathers understood this and created a decentralized republic; united states.
"...[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore ... never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market." --Thomas Jefferson
Keep those who govern us in your prayers for this reason, and for a million other ones.
UPDATE: Peggy Noonan expounds further on the connection between the Abramoff scandal and big government in "The Steamroller".
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.
December 19, 2005
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
December 06, 2005
Steyn Nails It
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.
November 30, 2005
The Economics of Profits
In a NY Times story about the booming economy (with caveats) is this bit of information. There's a buried lesson here if you can find it.
By most measures, the economy appears to be doing just fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.
But as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.
Consumer confidence is bouncing back from what was arguably some of its worst readings in years. Gasoline prices-the national average is now $2.15, according to the Energy Information Administration- have fallen because higher prices tamped down demand and supplies in the Gulf Coast have been slowly restored. The latest read on home sales, released today, contradicts virtually every other recent measure of housing activity that generally indicate a slowdown. And yes, manufacturers' fortunes are on the mend, but few besides airplane makers are celebrating.
Let's look at one sentence in particular. "Gasoline prices...have fallen because higher prices tamped down demand and supplies in the Gulf Coast have been slowly restored.
During the period of high gas prices we had here, demand dropped. No surprise there. While that was happening, the pipelines had a chance to ramp up again and prices have dropped again. Supply and demand. No big deal.
But now we're hearing about punishing oil companies for making more money when the prices went up, even Republicans who have historically been against "windfall" profits taxes or price controls. There are so many things wrong with this.
1. Yes, the oil companies made more money in absolute dollars during the high price times, but then every business makes more money in absolute dollars when the prices go up. If you charge a 10% markup on a $5 item, the price is $5.50 and make 50 cents. If you charge a 10% markup on a $7 item, the price is $7.70 and you make 70 cents. Same profit percentage but more absolute dollars. By the way, is a 10% markup a reasonable profit? If so, you'll love the oil companies. Their profits are in the 7-10% range.
2. What happened when the prices went up? "Higher prices tamped down demand" which means more conservation took place. Isn't that what everyone would like to see happen more often? Instead, folks are trying to punish oil companies by suggesting either price controls or "windfall" profit taxes. The latter are really just retroactive price controls; they come with the threat that if you raise your prices by more than we think you should, you'll get nailed for it. But just as higher prices encouraged conservation, artificially lower prices would reduce conservation. Now that the prices have fallen quite a bit, it's almost a guarantee that gas usage has risen. If you want more conservation, don't punish companies for responding to supply pressures, because you're working against your own goals.
3. Let's assume price controls had been in effect during the Katrina aftermath; what would that have done to the gas situation? Demand would not have slackened off. As it was, with demand reduced, some gas stations still ran out of gas. Imagine what would have happened if demand just kept its usual pace. We would have had a far more serious gas crisis than just a few stations out of regular unleaded. It was the higher prices that actually kept the inconvenience from becoming a panic.
So the "solution" to this "problem" is to tax 7-10% profits as "windfalls", discourage conservation, and make the crisis worse next time around. Your government at work.
November 21, 2005
Hunter Resolution Post-Mortem
Last Friday we had some political gamesmanship in the House of Representatives. In a move like Democrat Charlie Rangel's own "reinstate the draft" proposal, which he introduced just to make a point but voted against, Republicans gave the Democrats an opportunity to "put their vote where their rhetoric was". (Thank you, Bill Bennett, for that turn of a phrase.) Unlike the Rangel situation, however, where no one had ever really wanted to bring back the draft, Democrats got caught saying one thing and voting another.
More, lots more, below the fold.
First of all, let's be clear the the resolution put forth by the Republicans was not specifically the Murtha plan. However, it dealt with the major lynchpin; pulling out of Iraq now. And by "now" I mean "right now". Here's Murtha's own words the day before the vote (emphasis mine):
My plan calls for immediate redeployment of U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces, to create a quick reaction force in the region, to create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines, and to diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.
There are 3 parts to this, and they were enumerated in Murtha's proposal, but the latter 2 parts were predicated on the first part; the immediate redeployment of US troops. Now, as much as the Left would like to think that the Hunter resolution bore "ZERO resemblance" to the Murtha one, we can compare the relevant portions to see that, indeed, they are the same, especially in light of Murtha's own description.
The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
The bolded words say the same thing precisely. So much for "ZERO resemblance". Now, the Murtha version added that they should be redeployed ASAP, so while both resolutions had the "cut" part of "cut and run", Murtha added "and run immediately". And if you wish to do some word-parsing, you could say that the Republican version could be construed to mean that no additional troops will be sent but says nothing about the current ones. Hence, the Hunter resolution was less drastic than the Murtha one, and yet Democrats couldn't even vote for that. It's that rhetoric vs. vote thing again, and the disingenuousness just drips from their press releases.
But let's continue with the Murtha proposal. He's described it above, and here is the text from the latter 2 sections.
A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.
So he believes that 150,000 troops in-country are useless against the terrorists, but 15,000 based in Kuwait, would somehow be better? Remember, the terrorists are increasingly going after Iraqis and their new duly-elected government. Our departure wouldn't stop those attacks. Murtha wants us to leave a much smaller force "over the horizon" to be available for...what, exactly? If we can only deal with one or two hotspots, or even 7 or 8, and if the Iraqi army isn't prepared for handling the rest (which it currently isn't), of what good is that? An immediate bail-out with no provision for training (and, if we're word-parsing, Murtha's proposal says nothing about that), you're setting this up for failure.
The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Diplomacy? With whom? Zarqawi? Zawahiri? Think we can negotiate Iran into asking all their citizens in Iraq to lay down their arms and come home? The instability in Iraq comes from folks for whom UN resolutions make good bird cage liner. Nice words, but meaningless.
So eliminating these last two sections (which, in essence, eliminate themselves), the two resolutions are, at their base, the very same thing. As I said, the Republican version is simply a portion of the Murtha one, but the portion that is the prerequisite for anything else. And yet all but 3 Democrats voted against this. And yet Nancy Pelosi called the Republican resolution "a disgrace" and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said of it, "The rankest of politics and the absence of any sense of shame." These are strong words from Democrats for the very basis of their own man's proposal.
This display of hypocrisy ought to settle the whole "bring the troops home now" thing. It ought to take the wind out of the sails of the Sheehan entourage, and make the media look silly for giving it such overhyped play. It may do that for a little while, but it'll be back soon enough. "Bring them home NOW" is a chant too near and dear to the anti-war crowd's heart, and the Democrats can't afford to lose that constituency. You'll no doubt hear it from Democrats again. They hope you'll miss the irony.
Now let's look a closer look at the reasons Murtha wanted to pull the troops out now. These are all the "whereas" clauses at the beginning of his resolution that give the justification for it.
Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government"
No measurable progress? Only if you don't count the on-time turnover of sovereignty to the provisional Iraqi government, and if you don't count the nearly-on-time drafting of a Constitution, and if you don't count the on-time election of a legislature. The last step, the training of an Iraqi military and police force, is moving right along. Bush said that as they stand up, we will stand down. How much clearer and measurable can those steps of progress be? And let's not forget that the Left was all for postponing those checkpoints in light of the violence at the time, especially the turnover of sovereignty. As a comment on Redstate.org noted:
The "plan" for the creation of new governments in Japan and Germany did not proceed as rapidly as the Iraq plan. What more do you want?
Now all of a sudden the Left are sticklers for timetables. Returning to Murtha:
Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U. S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft
Talking point and opinion only.
Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan
Wars cost money? Who knew?
Consider this: If this resolution were to pass, terrorists would know just how much monetary damage to inflict on us before we cut and run. Do we really want to give them that sort of leverage? And I think what we really need from Murtha is how much is too much to pay for a stable democracy in the Middle East. Liberals are fond of defending their nanny-like regulations by saying, "If it saves just one life, it's worth it". Compared to the death that was going on while Hussein was around, we've save a whole lot more than one life. The Middle East has been a knotty issue for decades; do you really want to just throw that investment away by pulling out?
Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom
War has casualties? Who knew?
See above. Now terrorists would know how many to kill to get us to turn tail. And bailing out before the job's done would be a true disservice and do incredible dishonor to the men and women who gave their lives for this purpose.
Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency
"Hey, if the enemy starts shooting back, we're outta there."
Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;
Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified
First of all, Rep. Murtha needs to understand that Iraq is a representative democracy now. USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup aren't in charge.
Secondly, if you look at the poll results, you'll find a lot of self-serving results. Sunnis and Shi'ites are grumpy, Kurds are happy. There are huge disparities in opinion, and unless you think that the coalition soldiers are angels in the north and devils in the south, the poll really doesn't tell us anything. But it makes good legislative copy.
What I find interesting is that, while the Sunnis and Shi'ites generally find the whole deal a bad thing from then to now, the majority of them say they are either the same or better off than before the invasion. I'm not a big fan of polls at all, and this one just confirms my distrust of them.
Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action
Again, pure opinion. If a stable democracy in the Middle East isn't in our interests, or if one less safe haven for terrorists isn't in our interests, or if cutting off the funding of Palestinian terrorists isn't in our interests, I don't think Rep. Murtha is on the same planet. Does he not think that military protection in anticipation of a home-grown force isn't in the best interest of the Iraqi people?
So those are the reasons that Murtha gave for his proposal to leave the Iraqis out in the cold before they're ready to take on the challenges of defense of their nation and protection of their democracy. I'm thoroughly unimpressed.
Yes we do need to leave, but now, or in Murtha's idea 6-month timeframe, isn't when it should happen. Paul Seale at NoEndButVictory.com says this:
Murtha was right that the answer is a political one. The catch is, though, without our support there can be no political organization. I know we would all like to wave a magic wand and the Iraqi forces would be ready to fight. That is not the case though. Is the Iraqi army getting better? Yes, but it will take some time. The answer is not to tuck tail and run and give the enemy an important victory.
I can only wonder what some of these Democrats would be saying during the Battle of the Bulge or Iwo Jima. Both were vital to the war effort and were costly battles. Niether was resolved over night. Would have they called for Eisenhower or Mc Author’s resignation and our withdrawl from the war?
Before any Democrats answers "of course not", remember we took a lot more than 2000 deaths in WWII, and that specific count is one of Murtha's reasons to hightail it outta there.
There are so many other comparisons that could be made as well--pulling out of Vietnam early and the resulting carnage that followed come to mind--and the thought is that those who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it. But do these guys really not remember the end of the conflict they keep comparing this war to? If they do remember, why do they insist on doing the exact same thing this time around? I find it hard to believe that it's an ignorance of history, but the alternative is that it's a purely political move to try to make a President of the other party look bad, in spite of what that my mean to the Iraqi people they say they care so much about.
Friday's vote put the lie to the rhetoric of the Democrats. I'd say it's time to MoveOn and get the job done.
November 16, 2005
Setting the Record Straight
Don Sensing says "enough is enough". He's tried not to get political about the war, but when the Democrats call for investigations into whether the pre-war intelligence was doctored, that was too much.
I don’t have a problem with inquiring whether the intelligence was “bent” by the administration. But it’s been done. The Senate Intelligence Committee addressed at this issue in its “Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.”
The Committee found no evidence that the IC’s [Intelligence Community’s] mischaracterization or exaggeration of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capbilities [sic] was the result of political pressure.
The Committee detailed the many failures of the intelligence community, but there was no misuse of the intelligence assessments by the administration.
(UPDATE: The White House makes some of the same points, and some additional ones, in what amounts to a fisking of a NY Times editorial. How "new media" of them!)
Also making appearances in his extensive post are Hans Blix, Sen. Jay "I'm not responsible for my votes" Rockefeller, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and the Duelfer Report. Rev. Sensing lays it all out quite plainly. In spite of all this, Democrats are demanding still more investigations in order to keep the whole "Bush LIED" meme from falling apart altogether. Bush puts forth evidence that everybody had the same intelligence and everyone came to the same conclusion, and Chuck Hagel calls that "demonizing". What it really is is setting the record straight.
November 14, 2005
Newdow's Latest Target
Michael Newdow has a new target.
"I am about to file to get 'In God We Trust' off the front of our currency," he told the Oklahoman. "I plan to do that this week."
Newdow, of Sacramento, Calif., made the remarks Saturday night shortly before addressing the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma Foundation Bill of Rights Celebration.
"The key principle is that we're supposed to treat everybody equally especially in terms of religious belief," Newdow told KWTV in Oklahoma City. "Clearly it's not treating atheists equal with people who believe in God when you say 'In God We Trust' or we are a 'nation under God.'"
Newdow's claim is that a government that says "In God We Trust" cannot, by his definition, still treat people equally. Is it then also true that a Christian employer cannot ever treat all his or her employees equally regardless of their religious beliefs? Are all Hindus prejudiced by definition? Indeed, are all atheists predisposed to favor those without religious belief over those with it in all their daily dealings?
If this were so, then Mr. Newdow might have a point. But, of course, it isn't true. And if it's not generally true for individuals, then it is even less true of a government that is filled with people of all religious and nonreligious stripes. Further, a national motto mentioning God is a far, far cry from what the First Amendment prohibits; an officially-sanctioned national religion that politicians must pledge to. To suggest otherwise is to not understand what the Pilgrims and others were fleeing; the official entanglement of religion and government (not religion and politics, by the way).
Michael Newdow has no idea what an established religion looks like. And he can thank those mostly Christian Founding Fathers for that.
November 03, 2005
Why We Need Judicial Reform
Because of rulings like this:
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday against parents who sued their local school district after their elementary-age children were given a sexually charged survey, saying there is "no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children."
Here's a federal court telling parents that they are no longer the sole arbiters of how their own children will be taught a particular subject. The contention is that there is no "claim upon which relief could be granted" because there is no such fundamental right.
Unless there's some state law regarding this right, it's reserved for the people. Now, what the Ninth Circuit says essentially is that since it's not enumerated as a right, you don't have it. Talk about standing the Constitution on its head!
If you ever thought that you'd homeschool if not for all the time it takes, consider this; do you have the time to police the public schools?
October 31, 2005
Will Alito Cure the Republican Split?
There was quite a bit of infighting in the Republican party over the Miers nomination. Will the choice of Samuel Alito assuage that?
President Bush, stung by the collapse of his previous choice, nominated veteran judge Samuel Alito on Monday in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his conservative allies. Ready-to-rumble Democrats warned that Alito may be an extremist who would curb abortion rights.
This bit of editorializing by the AP in a news story isn't quite accurate. Bush isn't (or shouldn't be) "mollifying" his conservative allies; he is (or ought to be) keeping his campaign promise of a judge in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. Democrats may not like the idea the Bush is keeping this promise...
So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.
...but that's to be expected. And Alito is known for being polite, but don't expect that to mollify the folks who didn't like Bolton for his temperament.
But it looks like conservatives, far from splitting from the party as many a Democrat was hoping, are sticking to principles.
Abortion emerged as a potential fault line. Democrats pointed to Alito's rulings that restricted a woman's right to abortion. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Republican who supports abortion rights, said that Alito's views on the hot-button issue "will be among one of the first items Judge Alito and I will discuss."
In a political twist, Republicans who helped sink Miers' nomination rallied to Alito's side.
A leading Democrat who backed Miers led the attack against Alito.
...but that's to be expected.
The fight to nominate Alito, a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990, is one step in Bush's political recovery plan as he tries to regain his footing after a cascade of troubles _ including the indictment of the vice president's chief of staff _ rocked his presidency.
Some folks (including a commenter at Stones Cry Out) had suggested that this "rocking" would make getting this kind of nominee through, including the possible use of the "nuclear option", politically impossible. I have a feeling, though, that Bush's presidency hasn't been "rocked" nearly as badly as the AP or Democrats think.
No, the Republican party is as tight as ever, even if the President occasionally needs a reminder of who played a huge part in getting him to the dance.
October 28, 2005
All the rumors have Patrick Fitzgerald announcing something about the Plame investigation today, so I thought I'd get this prediction in now.
None of the charges will relate to outing an undercover CIA operative.
I say this because Valerie Plame had been driving to and from the CIA's Langley, VA headquarters for over 5 years before this "outing", and thus wasn't undercover by any means at the time of the Robert Novak column. No undercover operative would do that. Besides, if that really was an issue, Novak would have been one of the targets for participating in the "outing" even more publicly. News article, opinion columns and blog posts keep referring to her as "undercover" when she was nothing of the sort, but it does make for better news copy or pundit fodder.
What charges we do get will relate to the investigation itself; things like perjury or obstruction of justice. Those actions, while they are serious and should be prosecuted to the fullest, and while certainly many a pundit will point to them as "proof" that the "outing" was a crime, will not speak at all to the "outing" itself.
UPDATE: Right so far.
October 27, 2005
Wilson, the French, and Forgeries
Bryan Preston at Junkyard Blog has a post up on the admission that some documents were forged by France to dupe the Americans and British into thinking it was evidence for going to war, in hope that when the forgery was revealed it would halt it in its tracks. He asks a pointed question with regards to the Plame affair.
In his anonymous whisper campaign to Nick Kristoff and in his own op-ed of July 2003, Wilson pulled a switcheroo between these documents and the infamous 16 words in the President's SOTU address of January 2003, claiming that his trip to Niger had debunked those 16 words. But the 16 words were not based on those documents, but rather on a British finding that they stand by to this day regarding Iraqi interest in purchasing yellowcake uranium from Niger.
Is it possible that Wilson pulled the switcheroo for the same reason that Martino created the documents in the first place--that he had paymasters who wanted him to? This next section is highly speculative, but intriguing. If the French could pay an Italian to make the documents to undermine the case for war before hostilities ensued, and we have the forger's confession that they did, why couldn't the French pay an American to use them to smear the Bush administration once hostilities had been underway for a few months?
Don't expect that this information will be brought out by Fitzgerald's investigation.
It may be asking too much of Fitzgerald to include anything relating to the origin of those fake Nigerian documents in his investigation--the story linked above is a little over a year old. Had you heard of it? Has the press made a big deal of it, and have the Democrats treated that story in anything resembling good faith?
The answer, of course, is "No".
Harriet Miers has withdrawn her name from consideration for the Supreme Court. While I was on the fence about this, I have to say that I'm quite relieved that she's done this. Given speeches and remarks she'd made in the past (but post-conversion to Christianity, by the way), she didn't sound very much like Scalia and Thomas, as the President promised. Let's hope the next nominee fulfills that promise.
October 25, 2005
A New Constitution
The Iraqi Constitution referendum results are in, and it passed by a wide margin; 78 to 21 percent. Two provinces were expected to vote "No" in big numbers, and one was too close to call before the referendum.
Two provinces had already been confirmed to have voted heavily "No" -- 96 percent in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar and 81 percent in Saddam Hussein's home region of Salahaddin.
But the final results announced on Tuesday showed that a third, "swing," province of Nineveh, had voted by only 55 percent against the constitution, short of a two-thirds majority.
Way to go, Jonah!
October 20, 2005
Kindergarten and Constitutional Law
It's the "separation of church and state"* run amok. Some folks think that a kindergartener's artwork can constitute a breach of the Establishment clause.
Officials at a New York state school may have violated the constitutional free-speech rights of a kindergarten student who included an image of Jesus in his homework assignment, according to an appeals court decision.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan remanded the case back to a federal district court Monday for further consideration.
Antonio Peck, who attended Catherine McNamara Elementary School in Baldwinsville, N.Y., as a kindergarten student during the 1999-2000 school year, included an image of Jesus and other religious elements in a poster created in fulfillment of a homework assignment on the environment.
The student reportedly was expressing his belief that God was the only way to save the environment.
School officials rejected one version of the poster and then obscured a portion of the second version when it was placed on display at an assembly, citing concerns over its "religious" nature.
Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based public-interest law firm, filed suit over the second poster.
"To allow a kindergarten poster to be displayed for a few hours on a cafeteria wall, along with 80 other student posters, is far from an establishment of religion," said Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. "To censor the poster solely because some might perceive a portion of it to be religious is an egregious violation of the Constitution."
This is religious censorship, plain and simple. The circuit court agreed.
In its opinion, the 2nd Circuit panel said the district court "overlooked evidence that, if construed, in the light most favorable to Peck, suggested that Antonio's poster was censored not because it was unresponsive to the assignment ... , but because it offered a religious perspective on the topic of how to save the environment."
The misreading of the First Amendment and the misreading and canonization of one line from a letter from Thomas Jefferson have thus criminalized a 5-year-old's expression of religion, which, ironically, goes entirely against the Free Exercise clause.
There are bunch of teachers and administrators that need to re-take civics class.
* Not a constitutional principle
October 17, 2005
Fox, Meet Henhouse
Amazing? Nah, just business as usual.
The United States has expressed "amazement" at a United Nations invitation to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to address a hunger conference in Rome on Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
"I find it amazing they've invited Mr Mugabe to speak at the 60th anniversary, who in a way has done so much to hurt the hungry, and who has absolutely turned his back on the poor," said Tony Hall, US ambassador to the UN food agencies in Rome.
"I find it amazing. What can he possibly say to us at the conference, when he has done so much to hurt his own people? Food has been used as a weapon against his own people," Hall said late on Friday.
This insanity brought to you by the same world body that allowed Libya to chair their Human Rights Commission and pre-war Iraq to preside over their Conference on Disarmament. Folks, the UN isn't a house with a few broken boards and needing a new paint job; it's a termite-infested tenement who's residents can't (or won't) tell the difference between a drug dealer and a telephone repairman, and will cheerfully let them both in. The best thing to do is bulldoze the whole contraption and start again, hopefully with a new landlord that has a better respect for the property.
It's broken. There is no "fixing" it.
October 13, 2005
I feel like I'm playing a double-agent Devil's Advocate regarding the Miers nomination. Color me a definite fence-sitter. Here's my current question:
Matt said he's having trouble trusting the President because of other campaign promises he's broken. I'm with him on that count. However, now we're being asked to trust him with a judicial nomination, so let's compare apples to apples. Dubya's not asking for a general "trust me", he's asking for a specific one with this nomination.
So the question is; considering the group of judges he's already nominated to the federal bench, are you happy with that batch, and if so, do you have any reason to think he's doing something different with the Miers nomination?
Comment on, dudes.
October 12, 2005
Still Was the Right Thing
I heard a good observation from one of Bill Bennett's guys on his morning talk show (either Jeff or Seth, I forget which one). He first noted the recent report about an al-Qaeda internal memorandum that got intercepted.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials call a letter from al Qaeda's No. 2 man to its leader in Iraq "chilling" because of how "calm, clear and well argued" it is in urging preparation for a U.S. departure from Iraq.
This was from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had lived in Iraq at least a year before the war. Bennett's guy noted this point, since those who didn't want Iraq to be liberated contended that there were no terrorists in Iraq. Further, at the time Colin Powell was making the case for war with Iraq, analysts thought that the two organizations--al-Qaeda and Zarqawi's group--were rivals, and thus claims that Hussein was courting bin Laden were false.
But let's remember first that this is the Global War on Terror, not just on al-Qaeda., and terrorists were in Iraq long before we got there (and don't forget Abu Nidal). Secondly, this very high-level collaboration in "calm, clear" language doesn't sound like one rival to another.
The liberation of Iraq was the right thing to do, the snookering of the entire world on the WMD situation notwithstanding.
October 11, 2005
Is Bush Playing the Long Game?
There's a good diary (promoted to "article") on Redstate.org suggesting why Harriet Miers may be the best nominee, given the current climate. The writer, "bamapachyderm", suggests that Bush may be playing the long game with the Miers pick. Via a plethora of linkage, he lays out the idea that this pick may have been made with an eye to the possible retirement of Justice Stevens. In short, if Stevens saw a die-hard conservative pick for the O'Conner seat, he would be less likely to decide to retire under a Bush presidency. However, if Stevens felt that Bush would choose a moderate, he may be more willing to step down sooner over health issues.
In the comments, "Winter Soldier" gives some further analysis, noting that (among a dozen other observations) of the judges that Bush has picked for the federal bench, there's "not a single Souter to date!" He even notes how the Miers pick fits Sun Tzu's methods for dealing with an adversary.
Are Bush and his advisors playing the long game; looking ahead farther that we are? It's quite possible, and these posts make a strong case for it.
October 06, 2005
Al Gore on the Media
Al Gore on the Media; that was then...
In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - "We the People" - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people. And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the authority of government.
The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas were:
1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all; 2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them; 3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.
...this is now...
It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.
Al used to be against any government intrusion into the "marketplace of ideas", but now he bemoans the lack of government intrusion, suggesting that it is the government's job to ensure some ideas get play when the marketplace rejects them. What intervening experience brought about this remarkable flip-flop?
Actually, it was just the passing of about 5 minutes.
These two quotes are from the same speech Al gave to a media conference in New York. He's all for the marketplace of ideas, until the marketplaces chooses conservative voices. It only shows that he doesn't care one bit about the marketplace; he wants government backing of his opinion. In language that supposedly is simply against large media conglomerates, his only solution is forcing those conglomerates to air money-losing shows. Liberals have bemoaned the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, and while they outwardly promote the marketplace of ideas, they see how the marketplace has rejected them, and long for the good ol' days when the government held the people accountable instead of when "the people held the government accountable". Al Gore preaches the latter, but wishes for the former.
October 05, 2005
Debate is Good
The nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court has really caused a back and forth in the Republican Party (and here at SCO). The Redstate.org site has good views from both sides of this. Check out these entries:
- Harriet Miers -- Political Play of the Year? [ambivalent]
- Let Us Condense [con]
- 48 Hours Later, Still the Wrong Nominee [con]
- Harriet Miers: Good for 2006 Midterm Elections [pro]
And these are just the most recent entries. Some may see the debate going on (competing articles as well as in the comments) as bad for the Republicans, but I disagree. When Bill Clinton was President, there was not nearly the objective criticism of him by Democrats as Republicans are willing to have of someone in their party. When Clinton signed NAFTA, for example, there was a bit of a murmur, but not much. I've always thought that conservatives were more honest about their beliefs; less party-driven and more principle-driven. This debate is confirming that.
September 27, 2005
Playing the Rumor Game
Ever play the Rumor game, where you whisper one thing to someone, and by the time it gets around the room it's quite different? Well, looks like politicians and news organizations have been playing it in New Orleans.
Maj. Ed Bush recalled how he stood in the bed of a pickup truck in the days after Hurricane Katrina, struggling to help the crowd outside the Louisiana Superdome separate fact from fiction. Armed only with a megaphone and scant information, he might have been shouting into, well, a hurricane.
The National Guard spokesman's accounts about rescue efforts, water supplies and first aid all but disappeared amid the roar of a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.
"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Bush said Monday of the Superdome.
It started in New Orleans proper, and then, via the magic of modern communications, went worldwide.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified "rapes," and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of "scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials."
Indeed, Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a national television audience on "Oprah" three weeks ago of people "in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."
The article mentions Fox and the NY & LA Times in the US, then the Ottawa Sun in Canada and the Evening Standard in England. These are but examples of a news cycle that continued to feed on itself. Some believe race may have played a factor.
Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.
"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."
While the media shares in the blame, it certainly didn't help that politicians were feeding the machine.
Some of the hesitation that journalists might have had about using the more sordid reports from the evacuation centers probably fell away when New Orleans' top officials seemed to confirm the accounts.
Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass appeared on "Oprah" a few days after trouble at the Superdome had peaked.
Compass told of "the little babies getting raped" at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.
All of these folks--politician and reporter alike--are supposed to be a bit more sober and careful about this. In this day of the 24-hour news cycle, getting this hour's scoop is making the media sound more and more like the National Enquirer as they try to outdo each other. But what are the politicians' excuses? Are they bucking for more money, or just looking for sympathy? It may sound like you care when you complain about how children are mistreated, but when you're just passing around unsubstantiated rumors, that's not compassionate; it's irresponsible. The actual facts were less sensational.
State officials this week said their counts of the dead at the city's two largest evacuation points fell far short of early rumors and news reports. Ten bodies were recovered from the Superdome and four from the Convention Center, said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
(National Guard officials put the body count at the Superdome at six, saying the other four bodies came from the area around the stadium.)
Of the 841 recorded hurricane-related deaths in Louisiana, four are identified as gunshot victims, Johannessen said. One victim was found in the Superdome but was believed to have been brought there, and one was found at the Convention Center, he added.
And frankly, there's plenty of actual suffering resulting from Katrina that doesn't require embellishing, while also unreported was much of the good news and good work going on.
Relief workers said that while the media hyped criminal activity, plenty of real suffering did occur at the Katrina relief centers.
"The hurricane had just passed, you had massive trauma to the city," said Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard.
"No air conditioning, no sewage … it was not a nice place to be. All those people just in there, they were frustrated, they were hot. Out of all that chaos, all of these rumors start flying."
Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron, who headed security at the Superdome, said that for every complaint, "49 other people said, 'Thank you, God bless you.' "
All this hype and frenzy took its toll on the rescue effort as well. Irresponsible words have consequences.
Bush, of the National Guard, said that reports of corpses at the Superdome filtered back to the facility via AM radio, undermining his struggle to keep morale up and maintain order.
"We had to convince people this was still the best place to be," Bush said. "What I saw in the Superdome was just tremendous amounts of people helping people."
But, Bush said, those stories received scant attention in newspapers or on television.
I understand that news is, by one definition, that which is unusual, not the ordinary day-to-day events. However, in a disaster area, everything is unusual and extraordinary. This goes for the good news as well as the bad. Does the good news draw viewers as much as the bad? Perhaps not. However, a balance needs to be struck that was missing from the Katrina coverage. And if indeed more people will listen to bad news than good, then it's as much our collective problem as it is that of the media and the politicians specifically.
September 23, 2005
The New New Deal
Conservative, small-government types are getting run over by the latest spending spree by the Republican-controlled Congress. This Cox & Forkum cartoon on the subject points to this OpinionJournal article by Stephen Moore called "The GOP's New New Deal". He opines:
Conspicuously missing from the post-Katrina spending debate is a question for some brave soul in Congress to ask, What is the appropriate and constitutional role here for the federal government? Before the New Deal taught us that the federal government is the solution to every malady, most congresses and presidents would have concluded that the federal government's role was minimal. One of our greatest presidents, Democrat Grover Cleveland, vetoed an appropriation for drought victims because there was no constitutional authority to spend for such purposes. Today he would be ridiculed by Ted Kennedy as "incompassionate."
We all want to see New Orleans rebuilt, but it does not follow that this requires more than $100 billion in federal aid. Chicago was burned to the ground in 1871; San Francisco was leveled by an earthquake in 1906; and in 1900 Galveston, Texas, was razed by a hurricane even more ferocious than Katrina. In each instance, these proud cities were rebuilt rapidly and to even greater glory--with hardly any federal money.
That's so hard to do in today's world because, as Moore points out, the culture has already been conditioned, by the New Deal and its reinforcements since then, to expect this from the federal government. Here's a paragraph from Grover Cleveland's biography at whitehouse.gov:
Cleveland vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he wrote: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . "
Indeed, President Cleveland was right; we now live in the age of that expectation. And the sturdiness of character that rebuilt 3 cities on its own within 35 years seems to have been dealt a serious, self-inflicted blow, first by Cleveland's own Democratic party, but now we see that too many Republicans have had a hand in it. Much of this can be laid at the feet of those who think that the Constitution is a thing of rubber to be twisted into whatever shape is desired at the moment rather than a firm foundation. As government has seeped out of the bounds created for it, and voters have elected more and more people willing to encourage such seepage, the money taken in increased, and with the money came power, and with that power came arrogance. And the descent along this slippery slope continues because each time we slid farther, "it seemed like a good/compassionate idea at the time".
Now it's city mayors and state governors looking first to Washington to bail them out of a crisis, rather than teaming up with local businesses and charities. We are a much, much wealthier nation than we were in 1871, but in the current culture, self-sufficiency and community effort seem to be things of the past.
Yet almost as soon as the embers had cooled, Chicago business leaders deployed to New York to persuade investors that this was the time to put more of their money into Chicago, not less. Peter Alter, curator of the Chicago Historical Society, recounts the story of William D. Kerfoot, a real-estate speculator whose offices had burned. The day after the fire was extinguished, Mr. Kerfoot erected a crudely made painted sign: "All Gone But Wife, Children and Energy."
That article goes on to describe the response to three other cities that fell to disaster, and shows, in spite of some cases of man's tendency to take advantage of a situation, people and organizations did have the energy to deal with the situation, rather than immediately look to Washington, DC. Do we still have that personal energy, or are we content to not even try? Private individuals, private charities and private organizations were able to rebuild in times past; why do we automatically think that could never happen now?
Well, not all of us think that.
September 20, 2005
Red-Staters for Increased Spending?
OK, I read the article at Redstate.org called "I, Heretic" as well as a number of the (very numerous) comments.
And now my brain hurts.
I'll admit my knowledge of economics isn't what I'd like it to be; most of my opinion comes from how certain policies have worked in the far or recent past. However, "Nick Danger" posts about why, to get the smaller government conservatives would like, we need to spend more money now. The Katrina recovery, he says, is the perfect opportunity to show how an enterprise solution to this socio-economic problem works better than an entitlement-based one.
It's a well-thought-out analysis. I guess. >grin<
If the choice is more federal government spending by Republicans vs. giving the money to the 3rd most indicted city government in the country, well... Rock, meet Hard Place. Hard Place, this is Rock.
Feel free to educate me in the comments, especially as related to the ideas in the article. Some of what Nick writes, especially about the benefits of China holding our bonds, and explored more in the article's comments, run counter to some of the thoughts previously expressed by commenters on our site. What I find interesting is that Nick sees this as a way to ultimately decrease the size of government, by getting the public to see how well it could work and actually want it.
Pigs flyings? Upside-down logic? Perhaps, but Nick can be persuasive. Give it a read and tell me what you think.
September 16, 2005
How to pay for the Katrina programs
Rick and I had a bit of a back-and-forth about raising taxes vs reducing spending to deal with the budget deficit in general and paying for the Katrina rebuilding specifically. Last night, Bush proposed a number of programs, and today he's said how he wants to pay for them:
President Bush on Friday ruled out raising taxes to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, saying other government spending must be cut. "You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," he said.
"It's going to cost whatever it's going to cost, and we're going to be wise about the money we spend," Bush said a day after laying out an expensive plan for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast without spelling out how he would pay for it.
Also Friday, White House officials said taxpayers at home will pay the bill for the massive reconstruction program and that this will mean a deeper budget deficit.
Bush said it's important that government quickly fix the region's infrastructure to give people hope. Asked who would pay for the work and how it would impact the nation's rising debt, Bush said he was confident the United States could pay for reconstruction "and our other priorities."
He said that means "cutting unnecessary spending" and maintaining economic growth, "which means we should not raise taxes."
Deficits are (or should be) for emergencies, and this is certainly one. However, I think Dubya should take this opportunity to both avoid increasing it by too much and at the same time cut the waste and making some departments actually look for ways to cut back. Now is the opportunity to cut the fat (and prove DeLay wrong).
And let's make these cuts permanent. It would be the smallest of starts, but a start it would be.
An Alternative "New Orleans" Speech
Scott Ott's "ScrappleFace" blog is a place where he posts quick and quite funny news satire items. The main purpose is to editorialize, but in such a way as to give you a good laugh, too, whether or not you agree with him.
His item today, however, is quite astounding. With a wink, he's suggesting that the speech Bush gave last night from New Orleans was really a rejected draft. However, his version of what Bush should have said is a masterpiece. An excerpt:
"But as reconstruction begins, rest assured that we're not merely going to re-establish the conditions that led to such deep pockets of poverty in the midst of affluence. We're not going to continue the enslavement of the poor at the hands of seemingly-benevolent politicians who fail to understand the power of faith, freedom and personal responsibility to build vibrant communities on a foundation of strong families."
"In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it's time to "let freedom ring." It's time to let this area of the south rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed."
Keep reading for a speech I wish I'd heard. Someone draft this guy for President.
September 14, 2005
Federal Judge Rules Pledge Unconstitutional
The Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge today.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."
I'm wondering what federal law enumerates that particular right. Google can't seem to find anything. I'm not saying unequivocally that children ought to be required to do that. I just would like to know the law this judge is citing.
Hold not thy breath.
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
You mean the most overturned court in the country has suddenly become unassailable? Here's what one web page notes:
It is often called "the most overturned appeals court in the United States", but the court has a higher caseload than most other circuit courts. From 1992 to 2003, the lowest percentage of overturned appeals by the ninth circuit was 68 percent. The highest was 95 percent. The average percentage of Ninth Circuit Court decisions overturned by the Supreme Court during this time was 73.5 percent as compared to an average of 61 percent by the all the other circuit courts of appeal combined.
(By the way, a higher caseload, with a larger number of decisions, should tend to lower this percentage. The more samples, the more those samples tend to congregate around the average. Thus the higher percentage speaks more to their out-of-mainstream judicial views rather than to their workload. I'm no stats expert (Rick?), but I'm pretty sure I'm right.)
This is a judicial cop-out. "Golly gee, I can't overturn anything by the 9th Circuit!" Hogwash. Overturning the 9th Circuit has become the rule rather than the exception. And if he simply can never break their precedent, Judge Karlton needs to be removed. He's just a walking, talking rubber stamp.
I've talked about the "under God" thing on my personal blog here, and the Supreme Court's view on it here, and I don't think this is going to get ultimately set in stone. For now, this is a case of a judge unwilling to take on a hot-button topic, and instead saying (doing my best Flip Wilson impersonation), "The 9th Circuit made me do it!"
UPDATE: My bad, and I apologize. Judge Karlton is not above the 9th Circuit in the appeals process; he's below it, and thus needs to abide by the precedent set by the 9th Circuit until such time as it's overruled by the Supreme Court. According to this updated news item, the 9th Circuit Court is the next stop for this case:
The Becket Fund, a religious rights group that is a party to the case, said it would immediately appeal the case to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court does not change its precedent, the group would go to the Supreme Court.
I do believe, however, that the 9th Circuit will continue it's stellar performance of being overturned on appeal in this decision as well. Again, my apologies to the readers and to Judge Karlton.
UPDATE PART DEUX: Rick noted (see the comments) that, according to "The Smart Guys" (a couple of regular lawyer guests to the Hugh Hewitt show, Judge Karlton wasn't bound by the 9th Circuit's precedent because the Supreme Court annulled it (they ruled that Newdow had no standing in the case). Thus the precedent cited by Karlton, legally, doesn't exist. Well, now I'm inclined to take back my apology, but I won't. Obviously, my own knowledge of the situation isn't good enough to pass an informed judgement on it. The "Smart Guys", however, are another story.
DeLay Jumps the Shark
I'm duplicating a topic Rick just hit, but I just had to get my 2 cents in as well.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.
Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.
"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.
Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."
I would really hope this has been taken out of context, but it's hard to see what larger context he might be talking about. There are entire departments many conservatives would like to see gone (e.g. Education Department, NEA). If DeLay's that tone deaf to the folks who put him in office, it's time for a change.
Fortunately, not everyone's that out of touch.
"This is hardly a well-oiled machine," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."
American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene said federal spending already was "spiraling out of control" before Katrina, and conservatives are "increasingly losing faith in the president and the Republican leadership in Congress."
"Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression," he said.
And here's someone else with their own list of things that could be cut.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), said if Mr. DeLay wants to know where to cut, "there are plenty of places to reduce."
His group soon will release a list of $2 trillion in suggested spending cuts over the next five years, and he said Congress also could cut the estimated $20 billion to $25 billion in pet projects that make their way into must-pass spending bills each year.
Now, I will say that Democrats, even in light of unfettered and un-vetoed spending by Republicans, still argue that we're not spending enough on this or that program, so I think we probably doing better financially vs. a Kerry presidency & Democrat Congress. However, to claim victory at this point in time is simply irresponsible.
OK, and outright nuts.
September 09, 2005
The Debate on How to Fix Governmental Failure
In a comment on a previous post, 'dem' made a good point with respect to the timeliness of talking about responsibility for the response, or slowness thereof, to Katrina.
In a previous post I deferred to you and other conservatives when you said that a discussion of the topic of responsibility and accountability should wait. But at some point our country needs to have that discussion. When do you think an appropriate time should be? Because the longer conservatives say "now is not the time", the more it looks like conservatives are planning to say "we need to move on" when the topic is forced to the forefront of discussions about the catastrophe at a later date. I hope that is not the case. We need to learn from the shameful mistakes that were made during this crisis to prevent people from suffering again in the future.
I think we're approaching that time. The histrionics began on the Left with RFK Jr.'s "Reap the Whirlwind" screed that blamed Katrina in general, and the Mississippi devastation in particular, on global warming brought on personally by Haley Barbour. Today, however, not falling into the "let's move on" trap, the Right weighs in with a much more even-handed look by Charles Krauthammer. He notes plenty of blame to pass around, and in a spirit of non-partisanship, pulls no punches from anyone. His list, with reasons, includes:
- Nature (or Nature's God)
- The Mayor of New Orleans
- The Governor
- The head of FEMA
- The President
- The American people
I think he missed the head of HomeSec, to whom the head of FEMA currently reports, but aside from that, this is a good list to start with.
One of the questions to come out of this would be, does this indicate that we need more government or less? Our own Rick Brady has asked the question, does this indicate that we need stronger federal government?
As to the bigger/smaller government question, I noted here (and now it's confirmed) that the Red Cross was asked not to come in to New Orleans with food, water and supplies. Instead, the LA National Guard was tasked with providing it, rather than putting those forces into rescuing survivors. While the Mayor was pleading for those provisions, his own state HomeSec CEO was turning it away. This is a bureaucracy out of control. The same charge can be leveled at FEMA. I watched from an airport TV as Paula Zahn reacted with shock when Mike Brown said they'd just found out about the people in the convention center. Some of this may be poor decision-making and/or incompetence, but some of it is wrapped in governmental red tape. And read this story about a guy who ignored the restrictions and just did the right thing.
Should the government be a part of disaster recovery? I believe so (although read this commentary for an interesting counterpoint, from one man's legal and Christian point of view). But would the government respond better if it were smaller and more streamlined? I think that's a definite "Yes". And this applies to all strata of government. When Rudi took charge on 9/11, that was a great example of streamlined (and local) government in action. It's the red tape that's holding things back.
How about the idea that the federal government should take a stronger role in this, overriding at will the wishes of the states when it determines it needs to? My main problem with this is that we're simply substituting the judgement of one group of people (further away from the potential problem) for another group. Is this necessarily any better? If the feds have better intelligence, and thus think they should go in, instead of going in, this intel should be given to those affected and let them decide. Conservatives generally believe that local solutions to local problems are better than one-size-fits-all boondoggles. How, then, is a stronger, more intrusive federal government better in this instance? Greater resources? Sure. But they're already available to states if they ask for them. Now, the governor didn't want to do that until Tuesday, which was a bit late, and was unwilling to do that beforehand. However, I don't think that the failure of a single governor to act should mean that we now give the feds the power to second-guess the other 49 as well. Just like the meaning of the Interstate Commerce Clause has been expanded beyond recognition, the same fate could await the Insurrection Act if we go down this path. Do you think the federal government, under any party, will reign itself in? (Hint: The guys who wrote the Constitution said "No".)
Katrina has brought this debate to the fore, and it's a good debate to have. But keep an eye on the lessons of history.
UPDATE: Congressman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has some similar thoughts (and examples).
September 08, 2005
Where was the food & water?
Major Garrett of Fox News, talking to Hugh Hewitt:
"At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans, was screaming where's the food, where's the water, it was over the overpass [nearby], and state officials were saying you can't come in," Garrett said.
Click here for the full transcript from Radio Blogger.
September 06, 2005
Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, on how prepared they were for Katrina:
Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.
Ever? It was beyond all possible planning that something like this could happen?
Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans.
If you are fully aware that levees protecting the city are designed for a Category 3 hurricane, and a Category 4+ one develops in the Gulf of Mexico, what do you expect the levees will do; hold anyway? You can't possibly be taken by surprise when they fail, especially when the director if FEMA (which is part of Homeland Security) planned and "war gamed" just such a scenario.
Last week, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN his agency had recently planned for a Category 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans.
Speaking to "Larry King Live" on August 31, in the wake of Katrina, Brown said, "That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it."
Mr. Chertoff sounds like he's in full kiester-covering mode at this point. He sounds like he's trying to parse words and phrases. Here's his explanation of how the plan differed so drastically from the reality.
Chertoff argued that authorities actually had assumed that "there would be overflow from the levee, maybe a small break in the levee. The collapse of a significant portion of the levee leading to the very fast flooding of the city was not envisioned."
He added: "There will be plenty of time to go back and say we should hypothesize evermore apocalyptic combinations of catastrophes. Be that as it may, I'm telling you this is what the planners had in front of them.
However, Brendan Loy points out, this explanation doesn't hold water (so to speak).
For those who would defend Chertoff on the basis of the fact that "all the doomsday predictions were based on the levees being topped, not failing," that's true, but it doesn't help Chertoff's case, because if the levees had been topped by the storm surge (which they would have, if Katrina had moved 20 or 30 miles west of where it did), the flooding in New Orleans would have been even worse! It doesn't make much sense to say that the government was prepared for the worst-case scenario, but was unprepared for a less-bad scenario!
FEMA Director Mike Brown isn't entirely without culpability, either. His protestations of surprise sounded like this:
"Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation -- not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown said today. "Then the levees broke and (we had) this lawlessness. That almost stopped our efforts."
First of all, Katrina was a Cat 3 hurricane on Saturday, meaning it was going to tax the levees' upper bound anyway. Sunday morning around 1am, it was upgraded to a Cat 4, so no, this was no typical hurricane, especially for a city with levees not designed to withstand it, and they had time to realize that. Second, if they "war gamed" this scenario, why would the very scenario almost stop your efforts?
Aside from all the questions about fault or the appropriateness of this or that decision, we have a clear question of whether these guys were lying to the American people, and, in addition, how appropriate is it for President Bush to be backing these guys 100%. Bush is a loyal guy, but it may be that in this case the "to a fault" suffix is necessary. And it's also quite possible that Bush's support is meant to avoid undermining the authority of HomeSec and FEMA in the middle of a major crisis. However, once the winds have died down, the further employment of these two directors needs to be given serious scrutiny. Hopefully, in the coming investigations, this will be a top priority.
September 02, 2005
Critics trying to have it both ways
The President is taking heat for responding too slowly to the Katrina disaster. James Taranto covers how angry folks on the left have been reacting in general ("It's global warming!", "It's because Mississippi has a Republican governor!"), but the speed issue is one that keeps coming up.
The NY Times calls Bush's response too little, too late.
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
One of the criticisms I have of many pundits and news reporters on the Left is that, no matter at all what Bush does, they'll find some way to criticize it. It doesn't matter how objectively good his action may be, it simply must be shot down. Don't believe me? Well Sherman, set the Way Back Machine to August 15, 2004, a little over a year ago. CBS reports on what folks are saying to Bush's response to Hurricane Charley.
Even before the storm hit, the president declared four counties disaster areas to speed federal money to victims. But that quick response fueled suspicion that he is using disaster politics to help his campaign in one of the most critical battleground states, a notion the president dismissed Sunday.
"Yeah, and if I didn't come they'd have said he should have been here more rapidly," Mr. Bush said.
Just like they are saying now. And precisely what they said to Dubya's father.
The president is trying not to repeat his father's mistakes. After Hurricane Andrew flattened parts of south Florida in 1992, state officials blamed the first President Bush for not answering their calls for help quickly enough, and trying to make up that by overcompensating later.
It's a lesson the current president and political analysts have not forgotten.
"President Bush Sr. put so much money into the state after Hurricane Andrew that he was accused of buying votes in that election. So there is potential that the president could float so much money into Florida that people would say that's political opportunism," says political analyst Craig Crawford.
So a Republican President, by the definition of the Left, can only respond either too quickly or too slowly, and will spend either too much or too little money. This is what playing politics with human suffering looks like. Independents, take note.
August 11, 2005
CNN No Longer Checking its Facts?
Yesterday I talked with Carol Plat Liebau and Peter Robinson who are filling for Hugh Hewitt on his talk radio show while he's on vacation. The topic was the recent NARAL ad portraying John Roberts as supporting abortion-clinic bombers. According to the web site FactCheck.org, this portrayal is false. However, CNN is still going to run the ad.
Why would CNN run an ad that FactCheck.org says is false? Maybe they don't put much credence in what FactCheck.org says. Well, except that during the 2004 election campaign, they went repeatedly to that web site to find information for debunking some of the candidates' claims. And now all of a sudden, when there's a concerted liberal effort to discredit a conservative Supreme Court nominee, they ignore it? Sounds like a rather convenient a change of heart.
August 05, 2005
The Religous Test
In Wednesday's Washington Post ("Why It's Right to Ask About Roberts's Faith"), columnist E.J. Dionne asks: "Is it wrong to question Judge John Roberts on how his Catholic faith might affect his decisions as a Supreme Court justice? Or is it wrong not to? . . . Why is it wrong to ask him to share his reflections with the public?" It would be helpful, Mr. Dionne concludes, "if Roberts gave an account of how (and whether) his religious convictions would affect his decisions as a justice."
Mr. Dionne's error is found is his own words: "Yes, any inquiry related to a nominee's religion risks being seen as a form of bigotry, and of course there should be no 'religious tests.' " Indeed. And that is the problem, again.
Journalists believe that the religious test clause guards against simple discrimination against Catholics or Jews or any other particular denominations. It does not. It prohibits a probe of what the potential officeholder believes derived of his religious convictions. It is not about what he lists on a questionnaire under religion, as if it were like race or sex. That is why the liberal press has mocked the concern raised by conservatives that the abortion litmus test and other lines of inquiry are a constitutionally prohibited religious test.
(Read the whole thing for more examples and further historical evidence of Miranda's reading of the "religious test".)
One of the commenters at Dean's World seems to have this same misconception. So consider this: Suppose this "religious test" was really a "duck test", such that you could not require a test to see if the potential office holder was a duck. And then imagine a Senator being interviewed after the vote saying, "I voted against this nominee because he looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and thinks like a duck. Now, I didn't vote against him because he is a duck, but because he had those qualities."
That wouldn't pass either the "duck test" nor the "smell test". And questions about John Roberts' religious views won't pass the "religious test".
August 01, 2005
China: Isolation or Engagement?
I'm a bit of a talk-show geek (from way back). When I do call, I'm often able to record it and use it as part of a blog post. This morning I called "Bill Bennett's Morning in America", where one of the topics was engaging or isolating China.
When I last talked to Bill Bennett on this topic, I said that there were people on both sides of the China debate that I respected, and I had a tough time deciding which way I thought we should go. This morning, Bill talked to Arthur Waldron, VP of the International Assessment & Strategy Center who said, among other things, that the human rights situation in China is as bad as it's ever been. It appears that our policy of engagement there hasn't reaped many benefits, so I said that this is making me lean the other direction; a direction Mr. Bennett is leaning as well.
However, I'm including in this clip the first bit from the next caller, who does make a good point that things may be shifting in China. My question would be, "but are they moving as fast as they could be?"
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A Done Deal?
Thomas over at Redstate.org has a very impassioned post about why embryonic stem cell research is wrong. He's equally certain that we're going to lose this issue, at least in the short term. An excerpt:
Our Priesthood has declared that embryonic stem cell research is vital. When The Scientific Community tells us that we need something to put off death, we embrace it wholeheartedly. Scientists are no different from other human beings: They want to do Big Things, they want their work to Make a Difference, and they are, as are we all, selfish, flawed creatures. I'm not quite sure when or why we decided to elevate them to the level of a secular priesthood, but we did so, and they are now solemnly assuring us that they need to be able to take people apart for spare parts. Like a good group of Faithful, we will bow to our betters and give them what they demand, for they will reward us with the divine gift of an extra month in the actuarial tables for our fidelity and obedience.
It is precisely that simple. The folks to whom we've delegated far too much of our moral decision-making -- and thank God we held those reins fifty years ago -- are telling us that what the conscience should know is depraved is licit, and more than that, is necessary. They want to play with their toys without moral supervision. They're offering us one heck of a potential payoff. You'd better believe we're going to snap it up.
Read the whole thing. He's not suggesting giving up, but he's letting folks know how he sees the debate going.
July 29, 2005
Frist v Embryos
Back here I noted that adult stem cells keep looking better and better, being virtually as good as embryonic stem cells, not to mention their proven track record. Well, looks like Bill Frist hasn't read that study.
Breaking with President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Friday he now supports legislation to remove some of the administration's limitations on embryonic stem cell research.
Frist, an abortion opponent who just last month said he did not support expanding federal financing of research on embryos, said his decision was consistent with both his experience as a physician and his anti-abortion stance.
The crux of his argument appears to be this:
The Tennessee Republican, who has been said to be eyeing a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, said only stem cells from embryos that "would otherwise be discarded," not implanted in a woman or frozen indefinitely, should be considered for research.
First of all, never say "never". As I pointed out in a diary on Redstate.org (in the first set of comments), saying "never" amounts to predicting the future, which is not a power I typically want to give to the federal government. Ask these 21 children who were adopted as embryos.
Second, this amounts to human experimentation. If you don't consider these embryos truly "human", then what are they? They certainly aren't fish eggs. And further, if they weren't human, the scientists wouldn't want them.
I don't see how someone who is against abortion can be for human experimentation on embryos. The whole "would otherwise be discarded" argument is morally equivalent to a woman getting an abortion because she didn't want to have a baby right now.
"I give huge moral significance to the human embryo, it is nascent human life, what that means is as we advance science, we treat that embryo with dignity, with respect," Frist said.
And performing experiments on them is...what, exactly?
Frist said additional stem cells should be used, so long as there was a careful process of informed consent in which the parents had decided that the embryos should be discarded, not adopted or frozen.
Ah, so "aborting" them is OK as long as the proper government paperwork is fill out. Gotcha. Now that's "respect".
July 28, 2005
Double Standard, Alive and Well
That was Ted Kennedy then:
"We have to respect that any nominee to the Supreme Court would have to defer any comments on any matters, which are either before the court or very likely to be before the court," Kennedy said during a 1967 press conference. "This has been a procedure which has been followed in the past and is one which I think is based upon sound legal precedent."
This is now:
In his June 20, floor speech responding to President Bush's nomination of Roberts to the Supreme Court, Kennedy argued that senators "must not fail in our duty to the American people to responsibly examine Judge Roberts' legal views."
Kennedy listed a number of issues, including workers' rights, health care and environmental regulations, that he considers important.
"Each of these issues, and many others, [have] been addressed by the Supreme Court in recent years," Kennedy said. "In many of these cases, the Court was narrowly divided, and these issues are likely to be the subject of future Court decisions in the years to come."
Click here for the full story and video to back it up.
July 27, 2005
Left-wing Blogs React to Hillary's Ceasefire Appeal
The Kossacks at the blog "Daily Kos" have never been a big fan of Hillary Clinton's feigns to the center. The mainstream media is now finding that out.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's call for an ideological cease-fire in the Democratic Party drew an angry reaction yesterday from liberal bloggers and others on the left, who accused her of siding with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in a long-running dispute over the future of the party.
Long a revered figure by many in the party's liberal wing, Clinton (D-N.Y.) unexpectedly found herself under attack after calling Monday for a cease-fire among the party's quarreling factions and for agreeing to assume the leadership of a DLC-sponsored initiative aimed at developing a more positive policy agenda for the party.
The most pointed critique of Clinton came in one of the most influential blogs on the left, Daily Kos out of Berkeley, Calif., which called Clinton's speech "truly disappointing" and said she should not provide cover for an organization that often has instigated conflict within the party.
"If she wanted to give a speech to a centrist organization truly interested in bringing the various factions of the party together, she could've worked with NDN," the blog said in a reference to the New Democrat Network, with which Daily Kos's Markos Moulitsas is associated. "Instead, she plans on working with the DLC to come up with some common party message yadda yadda yadda. Well, that effort is dead on arrival. The DLC is not a credible vehicle for such an effort. Period."
The post by Markos himself is here.
You'd think with the huge following of Kos visitors (over 500,000 per day), Moveon.org, Howard Dean fans, and a press that is increasingly and openly antagonistic against the right (and the Christian Right in particular), this would result in more Democrats being voted in, not less. Instead it's beginning to appear that this group of hard-leftists who keep pushing further left are simply more vocal, as opposed to more numerous. And indeed the more vocal they are, the more they alienate the folks that the DLC is trying to bring in. Is this a winning strategy? (Hint: No.)
As to Hillary's participation in this, I think it's just another bit of posturing, but if it gets her barbs from the far left it may help a potential presidential candidacy. (See here for my thoughts on that, and here for what "Stonette" Thecla has to say about her.) Could actually be a good political move to get herself in a situation like this. But, as I've noted before, if it's a political move without the actual move, then it's just pure politics. So far, not much substance. We'll see.
July 26, 2005
The Federalist Society
You may have heard that John Roberts, Bush's Supreme Court nominee was once a member of the Federalist Society. What does that tell us? Well, according to David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy, not much.
July 25, 2005
Anita Hill speaks out on Roberts
Anita Hill, who once tried to keep Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court bench, weighs in on Bush's nominee, John Roberts. While reading this article, keep in mind these key points:
Point A: The work "bork" is a verb these days because of litmus tests on issues that the Democrats made Robert Bork take. His ability to judge cases based on the Constitution (i.e. his potential job description) was less important as his views on specific issues.
Point B: Anita Hill herself tried to sink Clarence Thomas' confirmation based on some of his earlier behavior. His ability to judge cases based on the Constitution was less important than his demeanor in years gone by.
Point C: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had she been held to the same standard as Bork by the Republicans, would never have made it out of committee. She sailed through the Senate confirmation vote.
With that, here are some excerpts from Anita Hill's article:
In his nomination of John G. Roberts for the Supreme Court, President George W. Bush has put forward a highly regarded lawyer who is reportedly a quite likable individual. Roberts' supporters and independent analysts cite a lifetime of achievement as the reason he should be confirmed.
Roberts worked in both President Ronald Reagan's and the first President George Bush's administrations before going into private practice. Republicans are counting on the fact that Democrats will have a hard time voting against someone with government and private practice experience who is widely recognized within the Beltway as one of the country's top appellate attorneys. As Peter Canellos of the Boston Globe wrote, Roberts' career reads like "a 1950s Boys' Life primer on how to prepare for the Supreme Court."
But was John Roberts chosen because he's the best choice for the court or because he may easily be confirmed? And why not choose a woman to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court? Or use this as an opportunity to nominate the first Latino to the court?
We don't know what the decision-making process was, but Ms. Hill seems to suggest that national origin or gender should trump experience and ability. This is much like Point A's issue litmus tests or Point B's bygone bad behavior being overriding concerns vs. job performance. But I think there's larger reason Roberts may have been nominated, and I'll get to that next.
Not surprisingly, the answer to these questions has to do with the politics of confirmability. One thing is certain: If nominees are selected based on the very narrow and elite credentials that brought us John Roberts, a wide range of equally qualified, more diverse candidates will never even be considered.
Here's the crux of the matter; the "politics of confirmability". The irony here is that Anita Hill is decrying the very thing she participated in. Why does George W. Bush have to nominate someone who's "confirmable"? Because the Democrats brought the "politics of confirmability" to us in Points A & B above. And while one might be tempted to paint both parties with an overly broad brush and say they all do it, please refer to Point C.
Ms. Hill goes on to complain about the groups that Roberts belonged to and the gender makeup of the Rehnquist clerks he was a part of. She's worried that those he's associated with weren't diverse enough. She speaks very little about his qualifications, and indeed says she she hopes the Judiciary Committee will determine if he indeed does have the right experience. She doesn't know for sure, but she's more worried about his background in diversity, as though judging constitutional questions is based on who you've known. I don't recall the being a criteria for the Supreme Court. What concerns Ms. Hill further is that if Roberts' background becomes the standard by which Presidents have to choose their nominees, we'll never get another Sandra Day O'Connor, or perhaps a future woman or Latino that doesn't fit the picture. Whether or not that is the case, I'll note again that it is Democrats and Ms. Hill who set this standard of "confirmability". See Points A and B. Again.
With O'Connor on the bench, the Supreme Court was the most diverse in its history. If confirmability through the Roberts "primer" becomes the rule, it is not hard to imagine a return to an all-white-male Supreme Court.
Again, diversity trumps all. I don't recall any blacks on the court when Brown v Board of Education was argued and ruled on (Thurgood Marshall's tenure was 14 years away), and yet they ruled in favor of those of a race other than their own. One doesn't have to be of the same race or gender to rule honestly and fairly with regards to that race or gender, but arguing for Supreme Court diversity suggests a rather dim view of people, and assumes that such honesty and fairness is difficult if not impossible. That's a rather cynical view.
The nomination process may have become so politicized that the only secure nomination is someone who is an ultimate Washington insider, liked by both sides. If so, it misses a chance to reflect the experiences of the vast majority of Americans. Moreover, a gold standard for judicial selection based on exclusivity appears to contradict the values of ever-expanding opportunities we espouse.
Roberts' professional endeavors represent very limited legal experiences that do not appear to be balanced by other life experiences. I hope the Judiciary Committee members will try to determine whether Roberts has the breadth of experience that will help him understand the law beyond what is sometimes a very narrow text.
I don't know enough about John G. Roberts' positions on any issues to pass judgment on his suitability for the court. The concerns I have today are directed more to the process and standards for the nomination. For if confirmability politics continue to control the Supreme Court selection process, it will likely change the face of the court for the foreseeable future.
Ms. Hill, you have yourself and the Democrat Party you allied yourself with to thank for such an outcome. If diversity is really your goal, you'll only get it by de-politicizing the process. I'd like it de-politicized as well, but because I want nominees that best fit the job, not some gender or racial profile. As the points above note, it's the Democrats you have to convince on this point.
July 15, 2005
Summarizing the "Plame Game"
One of the best summation of questions (with or without current answers) in the whole Plame affair can be found here at Redstate.org. Even the liberal posters agree that it's a fair summation, even if they take issue with some of the conclusions. Worth a trip over there. The discussion following it is long, but there's a lot of good information in there as well, including a pointer to this blog post dissecting today's New York Times article on the subject. The Times virtually exonerates Rove in the matter.
July 13, 2005
What Price Freedom?
I think $200 billion for peace and democracy is worth it if we had something to show for it. But we haven't gotten peace and democracy. Instead, the $200 billion has bought us
* Over seventeen hundred Americans killed, more than 13, 000 wounded, and an unknowable number of Iraqi civilian deaths;
* A dysfunctional country that cannot move its political process forward;
* A new haven and proving ground for anti-American extremism;
* An insurgency in Iraq that has not diminished;
* A wellspring of mistrust from longtime friends and allies around the world;
* And a devastating erosion of American leadership and credibility.
Liberals like to throw money at a problem and expect it to go away. Likewise, Rep. Watson seems to think that throwing money at Iraq hasn't brought any of that, so we should cut and run. It's all a money issue. Well, it's not.
First of all, to be honest, the cost is higher than that. She alludes to it in her first bullet point, but frames it in a way to suggest that the $200 billion "bought" those casualties. That's a pretty cold-hearted view of those lives. Actually, those lives are part of the price. Is it worth it?
Did it buy peace? I guess if you think "peace" is simply the "absence of war", no, it didn't. But if you think mass graves and rape rooms are components of a country at "peace", I'd have to take a strong stand against your definition. The war's not over yet, true, but Iraqis are already seeing the benefits of being freed from under a murderous dictator. That's part of what has been bought.
Did it by democracy? I really can't think of a convoluted definition of "democracy" that would exclude what's going on in Iraq today. Instead of a dictator who represented the minority and gassed those who opposed him, you have a government that is working out its own way through debate rather than arms. It may not be moving as fast as Rep Watson would like, but it's still in its infancy, for goodness sake. Democracies don't spring up fully grown overnight in countries that have been ruled with an iron fist for generations.
Is Iraq a haven for terrorists? Yes, but it was that way long before we showed up. Abu Nidal, anyone? Cash rewards to families of suicide bombers? Not to mention that there is evidence of Abu Musab al Zarqawi taking advantage of the safe haven that Iraq provided before the Iraq war. Further examples of Iraq being a terrorist haven can be found here. We didn't "buy" this; it was there when we came, and at least now someone's working to eradicate it.
Have we lost the trust of allies and reduced our credibility? Well, if you're talking about losing the trust of France, who was doing secret, back-door oil deals with Hussein prior to the war, I'd say their reluctance to help out had more to do with that than any loss of trust. The Oil-for-
PalacesFood program removed more credibility from those involved. If you're talking about the pre-war WMD intelligence being wrong, everybody was equally wrong about that, even those who now call Bush a "liar".
What Rep. Watson ignores are how much better, in general, the lives of the Iraqi people are. The good news from Iraq hardly hits the airwaves in its proper proportion. Just ask Arthur Chrenkoff, who recounts good news from Iraq and Afghanistan. There's a boatload of good to show for it, in addition to a fledgling democracy that she'd rather discount than encourage.
It's very true that the clean-up after the toppling of Hussein and installation of a democracy is taking longer than anyone would like. This is largely because of imported terrorists like Zarqawi trying to terrorize, not just the coalition, but the Iraqis themselves to scare them into renouncing this new government. So far, however, the political process is moving forward. Key milestones have been hit on time, bombings and assassinations notwithstanding. The prosperity of the nation is on the rise, sabotage by terrorists notwithstanding.
Yes, the price is high. The price of freedom always, always is. Be thankful that Rep. Watson wasn't around to decide whether or not to go to war against King George. If she'd gotten her way then, we'd still be a British colony. The cost in lives was much higher, but it was worth the price, don't you think?
July 12, 2005
Why Strict Constitutionalists?
Name that newspaper:
The Supreme Court, by its very nature, must be a conservative body; it is the conservator of our institutions, it protects the people against the errors of their legislative servants, it is the defender of the Constitution itself. To place upon the Supreme Bench judges who hold a different view of the function of the court, to supplant conservatism by radicalism, would be to undo the work of John Marshall and strip the Constitution of its defenses. It would introduce endless confusion where order has resigned, it would tend to give force and effect to any whim or passion of the hour, to crown with success any transitory agitation engaged in by a part of the people, overriding the matured judgment of all the people as expressed in their fundamental law.
Answer below the fold...
Seth Lipsky reveals that this was the New York Times disapproving of a liberal judge, Louis Brandeis, for the Supreme Court in 1916. Indeed, when you consider the Constitution a malleable bit of clay to shape in the manner the current group of 9 justices please, you indeed strip it of its power to constrain the government. In addition, as we've seen lately, legislation from the bench becomes that much more likely.
But he was confirmed. At his retirement, Judge Brandeis looked back.
[The Times] quoted Brandeis as noting that the court “has often overruled its earlier decisions” because it “bows to the lessons of experience and the force of better reasoning, recognizing that the process of trial and error, so fruitful in the physical sciences, is appropriate also in the judicial function.” The newspaper which only a generation ago had insisted the Court, by its very nature, must be a conservative body, now praised Brandeis for being aware that the Court “is not an abstraction but a vital force which gives direction to the pace and range of economic forces.” At the heart of its editorial was this sentence: “The Constitution is a living law.”
I find this a contradiction. Judge Brandeis talks about bowing to the "lessons of experience", yet proud that had "overruled its earlier decisions". That's not learning from experience, that's "trial and error", which is not the way to run a country. George Washington said the same thing this way (emphasis mine):
Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion....
Washington was admonishing the new country to be extremely careful in experimenting in governing. This was not a blanket statement to never change anything, but to "resist with care" any assault on the main principles underlying it, of which the Constitution is the major part. These days, with the idea of a "living document" and consideration of foreign law in Supreme Court decisions, trial and error rather than experience have become the order of the day, subjecting us to "perpetual change". You don't change the law or the precedent to see what happens, you should be much more sure than that before using the American people as political and social lab rats.
That is why President Bush needs to nominate strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court.
June 30, 2005
The Founders' Cornerstones
The Federalist Patriot is a wonderful E-mail newsletter that I get 3 times a week. (There are actually 4 separate E-mails sent out weekly, and I get three of them.) According to their website, the newsletter is, "a highly acclaimed publication of anecdotal rebuttal to contemporary political, social and mainstream media Leftists". Today's E-mail noted, as Independence Day is just around the corner, that many of the Founding Fathers' list of grievances against King George, itemized in the Declaration of Independence that were the basis of their desire to become independent, could be charges levelled at the Supreme Court of today. They accused the King of faithlessness to British law, and they let him know the particulars. Mark Alexander gives examples of 7 of the 27 indictments and how they'd apply to today's justices. It's a very telling look at how far we've returned back to the very government abuses we fought a war to be free from.
I highly recommend signing up for one or more of their E-mails.
June 27, 2005
The Supremes & the 10 Commandments
The much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the display of the 10 Commandments on government property will, I think, reign in the extremists, but still leaves room for local courts to determine how much religion is too much. I've been really waiting for this ruling in light of the fact that the 10 Commandments, or at least references to them, appear in the Supreme Court itself.
Sending dual signals in ruling on this issue for the first time in a quarter-century, the high court said that displays of the Ten Commandments _ like their own courtroom frieze _ are not inherently unconstitutional. But each exhibit demands scrutiny to determine whether it goes too far in amounting to a governmental promotion of religion, the court said in a case involving Kentucky courthouse exhibits.
In effect, the court said it was taking the position that issues of Ten Commandments displays in courthouses should be resolved on a case-by-case basis.
I haven't read the whole ruling (and probably wouldn't understand a lot of it if I did), but I do appreciate the clarification that the court gave to the Establishment Clause.
"Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious _ they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument therefore has religious significance," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority in the case involving the display outside the state capitol of Texas.
"Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment clause," he said.
It has been this misapplication of the Establishment Clause that has given the ACLU their teeth in taking down anything remotely religious from he public square. Just because a text or an idea lines up with someone's religious belief, it doesn't automatically make it an establishment of religion by the government. Take these displays, for example. All the religious displays on that page (and don't forget to click on "Part II") are from Washington, DC, and if the ACLU had been around then, they'd have never been made. Go there now, and be astonished at what used to be considered acceptable religion in the marketplace until people started misreading the Establishment Clause.
I agree with Justice Thomas that "a more fundamental rethinking of our Establishment Clause jurisprudence remains in order." While I was hoping that this would be case in which to do it, it is a step in the right direction.