11/30/2004

Under The Weather

Blogging will be light today as I am feeling awful.

11/29/2004

Unpossible!

People are rising from their wheelchairs. This was only supposed to happen if Kerry was elected!

A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

They said it was the world's first published case in which a patient with spinal cord injuries had been successfully treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Though they cautioned that more research was needed and verification from international experts was required, the South Korean researchers said Hwang's case could signal a leap forward in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

The use of stem cells from cord blood could also point to a way to side-step the ethical dispute over the controversial use of embryos in embryonic stem-cell research.
It's important to be cautious when evaluating individual success stories, but the research into adult and cord-blood stem cells appears to be years (if not decades) ahead of that into embryonic stem cells. The former are producing results, while the latter is producing tumors.

The more that I read about the research, the less compelling I find the case for embryonic stem cell research to be.

Update: The most excellent MedPundit has a related piece today.

The Fed's Ex

Earlier this year, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan announced that he does not intend to serve past the end of his current term and separate 14-year term on the Fed board, which expires on January 31, 2006. Speculation has begun on who will succeed the legendary Greenspan.

It might seem daunting to follow a legend like Greenspan, now in his 18th year in the job. Yet there seem to be plenty of people who would like to do it.

The list of candidates being talked about in Washington and on Wall Street is half what it was before the Nov. 2 election, when prominent Democrats such as former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin were considered hot prospects had Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won the White House.

With Bush's re-election, the focus is on Republicans. Candidates include Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Reagan administration; Columbia University professor Glenn Hubbard, who was Bush's first CEA chairman; Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor; and Federal Reserve board member Ben Bernanke.
If I were more of an economics wonk, I would almost certainly know who some of these candidates are and might even be able to form an informed opinion about who would be a good successor and who would not.

There is a question in my mind as to whether it really matters who's in charge of the Fed so as (s)he is a reasonable person capable of dressing him- or herself in the morning. Reading The Creature from Jekyll Island didn't make me a big fan of the Fed and it's shady economics, and I'm unconvinced that the Chairman of the Fed does a whole lot more than attempt to look macho while trying to stay on the bull for eight seconds.

Regardless of my perceptions of the Fed, this appointment is sure to receive a lot of scrutiny due to the perception (dare I say irrational exuberance?) that Greenspan was personally responsible for the incredible economic booms that took place during his tenure. Depending on how right or wrong I am about the Fed, I think it's either the most or least important of Bush's pending nominations.

Rattling the Wallet

There's some scuttlebutt afoot that the United States would consider reducing its funding of the United Nations if they don't come clean about Oil-For-Food and start implementing major reforms in the wake of that fiasco.

Recent interviews with Congress members and staff investigators revealed growing shock and outrage at the scope of history's biggest financial scandal, in which Saddam Hussein is alleged to have ripped off $21.3 billion from a humanitarian program intended to provide food and medicine to the Iraqi people.

The officials said there is increasing sentiment to take drastic action, including cutting U.S funding if the United Nations doesn't make radical changes in its secretive policies and questionable management procedures.

The $1.12 billion annual U.S. contribution to the United Nations represents 22 percent of the world body's budget.
It important to note that this report is largely quoting unnamed sources and that no formal demand has yet been issued by either the congressional investigators or the Bush administration. Odds are that the sources in question leaked this to press to tighten the screws on the uncooperative Annan regime.

And tighten the screws they should. It's believed that Saddam Hussein skimmed some twenty-one billion dollars from the Oil-For-Food program and accepted bribes from companies competing for Oil-for-Food contracts. If the United Nations believes that it somehow has the right to shield itself from the consequences of its actions, I see no reason why it should be allowed to do so with American funding.

Furthermore, I fail to see why the United States should continue to shoulder so much of the financial burden for the operation of the United Nations. China, France and the United Kingdom are all among the ten largest economies in the world. As permanent members of the Security Council, they can afford to pony up a larger ante to sit at the big table.

11/26/2004

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Via Instapundit, it appears that the hoohah surrounding the United Nations Oil-For-Food program is about to get worse.

One of the next big chapters in the United Nations oil-for-food scandal will involve the family of the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, whose son turns out to have been receiving payments as recently as early this year from a key contractor in the oil-for-food program.

The secretary-general's son, Kojo Annan, was previously reported to have worked for a Swiss-based company called Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein's Iraq under the oil-for-food program. But investigators are now looking into new information suggesting that the younger Annan received far more money over a much longer period, even after his compensation from Cotecna had reportedly ended.

The importance of this story involves not only undisclosed conflicts of interest, but the question of the role of the secretary-general himself, at a time when talk is starting to be heard around the U.N. that it is time for him to resign, and the staff labor union is in open rebellion against "senior management."
Should these allegations turn out to have some merit, it's hard to imagine this story getting any worse. If the family of the Secretary General of the United Nations has been profiting from the circumvention of the sanctions against Iraq, what moral credibility can that body purport to wield?

...

Okay, now that we've all had a good laugh about the UN's moral authority, let's get back to it. Even as this story continues to grow, the head of the independent panel investigating the mess is refusing to turn over evidence to U.S. congressional investigators.
Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker instead pledged to make virtually all the evidence public at his own pace, beginning early in 2005.

Volcker, who leads the Independent Inquiry Committee on the scandal-ridden U.N. relief program, had been asked by two U.S. senators for immediate access to documents and U.N. witnesses for use in a parallel investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, head of the investigations subcommittee, and the subcommittee's top Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan, last week accused both Volcker and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of engineering a massive cover-up of U.N. wrongdoing by blocking their access to documents and potential U.N. witnesses.
It's reassuring to see that both sides of the aisle are holding Volcker's feet to the fire in this matter, although it remeains to be seen what will actually come of all this hand-wringing. Until now, I would have been content with Kofi Annan's resignation. As more facts are brought into the light, I'm starting to wonder if the man shouldn't be brought up on criminal charges.

Anchor Away

In a piece entitled Dropping the Anchorman, best-magazine ever The Economist offers up a few pieces of insight on the fall of Hurricane Dan. Far from being a right-wing gloat piece, the article is more an observation on the changing nature of American media.

Mr Rather's retirement epitomises two broader shifts of power. First, the old media are losing power to the new. And, second, the liberal media establishment is losing power to a more diverse cacophony of new voices.

Given America's fractious politics, it is easy to look at Mr Rather's retirement merely in terms of a left v right scorecard. But, more fundamentally, it is about choice.

The erosion of the old media establishment probably does entail some shift to the right, if only because so many of the newer voices are more reliably pro-Republican than Mr Rather. But the new media are simply too anarchic and subversive for any single political faction to take control of them. There are plenty of leftish bloggers too: such people helped Howard Dean's presidential campaign. And the most successful conservative bloggers are far from being party loyalists: look at the way in 2002 that they kept the heat on the Republicans' then Senate leader, Trent Lott, for racist remarks that the New York Times originally buried. It is a safe bet that, if the current Bush administration goes the way of previous second-term administrations and becomes consumed by scandals, conservative bloggers will be in the forefront of the scandal-mongering.

Mr Rather's passing does not mean that the liberal orthodoxy is about to give way to a new conservative one. It means that all orthodoxies are being chewed up by a voraciously unpredictable news media, which is surely all to the good.
To me, it is choice that has been the largest factor in breaking the stranglehold on public opinion held until recently by a small few. Two innovations that started off as fads but became ubiquitous - cable television and the remote control - gave television viewers not only the ability to find new channels from which to get their entertainment and information; they no longer had to leave the couch to do it.

It was the rise of cable television that began the slow and steady erosion of network television audiences, and now the internet is attempting to further divide the public attention pie. In an environment where so many alternatives are available, viewers are no longer forced to endure the biases of the Dan Rathers and Tom Brokaws as the price of getting their news.

A good thing, indeed.

A Unique Side Dish

Along with the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, a generous helping of justice was handed out this week.


The man whose savagery in the October, 2000 Ramallah lynching of two IDF soldiers was broadcast worldwide has finally been brought to justice.

An Israeli military court handed a life-sentence this week to the man who proudly displayed his blood-drenched hands after he joined a lynch-mob of other Arabs and carried out the grisly double murder. Vadim Norzitch and Yosef Avrahami were the two reserve soldiers killed in the lynching at a Ramallah police station in 2000.

Aziz Salha was part of the Arab crowd that attacked the two after they were brought to the "safety" of the Ramallah police station. In television footage of the brutal lynching, he was seen standing at the police station window after Norzitch’s body was thrown out of it, proudly displaying his blood-soaked hands to the murderous mob below.
The article does not offer any insight as to why justice was delayed so long in this case, nor does it speculate that the absence of Yasser Arafat from the scene might have created a climate that was more amenable to allowing this case to finally reach a conclusions.

Whatever the case, it's satisfying to see that Salha has gotten most of what he deserves. In my view, it would have been more appropriate to execute the man. In the superiority of the holiday, however, we should be thankful for what we have rather than being resentful for that which we do not.

11/24/2004

Wictory Wednesday

Today is Wictory Wednesday.

The elections aren’t over yet. There are two Congressional seats in Louisiana that will be decided in a couple of weeks. If either party wins both these seats, it will be big news.

Louisiana just elected a Republican senator for the first time ever. Republicans already hold 4 of the 7 House seats. If the GOP can win the two run-offs (a distinct possibility), then it will control 6 out of 7 House seats and Louisiana will have gone firmly Republican, the way of Georgia.

But to accomplish this, the local GOP needs your help. You can easily contribute to the Louisiana Republican party online.

Another View

David Horowitz has another perspective on Al Franken's performance over the weekend.

According to Al Franken, who pretty well spoke for the other leftists present (Jesse Jackson Jr. and Loretta Sanchez), the press was to blame (no I'm not making this up). You see the press should have done a better job explaining to the public that Republicans were wrong on the facts. I ask myself, how can you reach middle age in this life and think that politics or any serious human conflict is about either side's inability to understand the facts. Consider what that reveals about Al Franken's contempt for 59 million Americans. They're stupid. Otherwise they would have voted for Kerry.
I disagree with David on his assertion that Frank "spoke for the other leftists present". From my reading of the transcript it appeared that Franken was ranting and Chavez and Jackson were sounding moderate and reasoned notes.

I agree with David with regard to his summary, however:
Of course in Franken's view the reason they're so stupid is that they listen to Rush Limbaugh instead of Al Franken. I'm going to help Al though it's pretty evident he's beyond help at this point. Al Franken needs to listen to Rush Limbaugh. If he did he would learn something. The something would not be a fact but a perspective. It would be how the rest of us see people like him. If he listened he could reconsider the attitudes and actions that got him where he is. He could learn. That's really the only way anyone learns: by listening.[Emphasis mine.]
I can't possibly overstate the importance of this. We don't have to agree with each other, but it's important that we listen. Most importantly, its imperative that we listen to the voices with which we disagree.

Getting It

Instapundit pointed out Sunday's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, primarily for the remark by Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) that "The media certainly is not in our hands any longer". That's a fairly interesting observation, by nature of what it seems to imply: We used to control the media, and now we do not.

To her credit, Sanchez didn't accuse the media of laying down for the Republicans. That didn't stop Blitzer from serving her up a softball question with which to make the point.

BLITZER: What do you think? Loretta Sanchez, what do you think?

SANCHEZ: I agree with Jesse. I agree with my colleague. I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition's hands, and they use it effectively against us.

BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media -- when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?

SANCHEZ: No, that's not what I said. I'm saying that -- if you would let me finish -- that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn't in the hands of the Democrats anymore.

Many years ago, the Republicans made a very effective play. They sat down. They made a strategy. They decided they were going to put big thinktanks around, that they were going to fund them. They decided that they would buy radio, that they would use that to talk to people. And people drive in their cars, they're listening to the radio all the time. They're getting a lot of information that way.
Sanchez was included in a segment that featured Democrats talking about the future of the party. Also involved in the discussion were Al Franken and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL). Franken (whose doing Stuart Smalley schtick on his radio program these days), was more than happy to lay blame for Kerry's defeat on the doorstep of the Fourth Estate:
BLITZER: But why have -- the Democrats, as you recognized, had a great opportunity this time because of those issues that you're just raising right now. Yet, despite that, Bush got 51 percent of the vote.

FRANKEN: Well, I think that a large part of it is that the media hasn't done its job.
From where I stand, it is not the "media's job" to articulate the message of either political party - that's the job of the parties themselves. Yes, yes, I hear the words "Fox News" forming on your lips; I'll give you Fox News if you give me The New York Times, The L.A. Times, CBS News, and NPR.

I thought the wisest observations in the segment came from Congressman Jackson.
Democrats need to focus on two areas: message and organization. We must take the time to create and articulate guiding principles that withstand the test of time and not just see this process as every two years and then four years and six-year election cycles. We must make that commitment.

But we must also emerge as a national party and not a party that writes off the South, that writes off the Western states, that ignores whole regions of the country while pursuing a few electoral votes to deliver the presidency. [Emphasis mine.]
Jackson appears to understand that sentiments like "Fuck Middle America" are part of what got Democrats into this mess to begin with, and has correctly identified the right way out - connecting with Middle America.

I hope that voices like Jackson's are given a fair hearing in the raging debate over which way to take the DNC.

11/23/2004

From Bad To Worse

MyDD, a website that is nowhere near as naughty as it's name suggests, reports that Howard Dean looks rather likely to ascend to the chair of the DNC.

The date has been selected for the DNC meeting that will elect the Democratic Party's national leadership. The meeting will be held the 10-12th in DC, with the election of the Chair occurring on the 12th of February.

Here was the breakdown among the 155 members of the DNC that were polled 11/15-19 by the Hotline:
Who are your top 3 preferences among the following candidates [rotated]: Tom Vilsack, Harold Ickes, Howard Dean, Jim Hodges, Simon Rosenberg, Jeanne Shaheen, Wellington Webb, Ron Kirk, Brad Carson, Leo Hindery, Joe Erwin, Roy Barnes or someone not mentioned on this list?

Dean 45
Vilsack 37
Shaheen 27
Ickes 13
Webb 12
Barnes 9
Carson 7
Hodges 6
Hindery 4
Rosenberg 4
Kirk 3
Erwin 0
From these numbers, it looks as though Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack could challenge Dean. Problem is that Vilsack said yesterday that he doesn't intend to seek the position.
Citing his responsibilities as governor, Vilsack said "these challenges and opportunities require more time than I felt I could share. As a result I will not be a candidate for DNC chairman."
Many Republicans are, no doubt, rooting for Mr. Dean. I am not. I fear that a Democratic Party under Howard Dean would be yanked harder to port than the Titanic on first sight of the iceberg. I fear that the Democratic Party might meet the same fate, and with a crappier soundtrack.

That Didn't Take Long

The Boston Herald has managed to produce an expert that lays the blame for the Pacers-Pistons brawl at the feet of President Bush.

This is just a reflection of today's violent society, said University of Massachusetts at Boston sociologist Simak Movahedi.

In the hippie '60s, people took their cues from the peace and love that were in the air; now the war in Iraq and other factors make fans and players more prone to violence, Movahedi said.
If only John Kerry had been elected, this never would have happened. Hell, if Al Gore had been elected in 2000, Artest might have leapt into the stands for a chorus of "Kum Ba Ya".

Two Bush victories have produced the unthinkable: someone has managed to replace Dennis Rodman as the face of everything that's wrong with the NBA. I feel like anything is possible now.

11/22/2004

DeLaying The Inevitable, continued...

An unnamed official involved in the investigation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says that DeLay is not likely to face indictment.

"No, no, I really don’t think DeLay will be indicted," the official told CBSNews.com. "And to be quite honest, [DeLay’s] lawyers know that."

"To indict and prosecute someone, we have to be able to show not just that they were aware of something," the official explained. "We have to show that they engaged in enough conduct to make them party to the offense."

"For a penal code offense [such as money laundering] we would have to find something done in Travis County, Texas, to be able to indict," the officials said. "And [DeLay] wasn’t here very often."
This is certainly good news for DeLay and other House Republicans, although their pre-emptive move to protect DeLay's leadership position now looks more than a bit foolish.

What's most important to me in this article is what appears to be a lack of any genuine evidence of wrongdoing on DeLay's part. Of course, CBS goes with "DeLay Appears To Be Off The Hook" as opposed to something like "Case Against DeLay Falls Apart" or "Official:No Evidence Against DeLay". It's probably unreasonable on my part to expect anything else from CBS.

Rather Encouraging

Cindy Adams at the New York Post drops this mouthwatering tidbit in her column today...

CNN rumors up the kazoo. One concerns Dan Rather signing for their 8 o'clock news.
On the heels of this tasty rumour comes news of a corporate shakeup at CNN.
CNN News Group on Monday said it has tapped an online media CEO as its new president overseeing U.S. news, just a little over a year after it hired a former local TV newsman to run its domestic operations.

Jonathan Klein, founder and chief executive officer of The FeedRoom Inc., a high-speed Internet news network and video streamer, will assume the role of head of U.S. news operations, answering to CNN President Jim Walton.

Klein was the former executive director of CBS News, with oversight of its flagship "60 Minutes" program.
Klein's former ties certainly add fire to the speculation. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Update: At PowerLine, The Big Trunk points out that Klein is the man responsible for the now-infamous "pajama" characterization of bloggers:
"You couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of check and balances [at 60 Minutes] and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing."
I should have spotted that.

Frightening Specter

After some early irrational exuberance on my part that Arlen Specter's chairmainship of the Senate Judiciary Committee might settle the frayed nerves of pro-abortion advocates, it appears that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has extracted written oaths of fealty from Specter.

Frist told Specter he must produce a written statement pledging his cooperation as chairman. What he wrote pledged only that judicial nominations would get out of his committee. That was not good enough, Frist told him Wednesday night. He would have to pledge support for Bush judges and declare himself open to a rules change blocking filibusters of judicial nominations. Specter must have been frightened. He wrote a new four-paragraph statement incorporating the majority leader's demands.

Even so, when Judiciary Committee Republicans assembled behind closed doors Thursday, two conservative Southerners still had their doubts about him: Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas believe voters across the country on Nov. 2 voted for an end to the tactics that have blocked action in the Senate. Although he never mentions it, Sessions has to remember that Specter helped block his nomination to the appellate court before he ran for the Senate.
Although I'm not so naive to think that this sort of strong-arming is uncommon or exclusive to the Republicans, it still dismays me to see it.

After the 1994 elections, Congressional Republicans misread the national mood and took their success as an indicator that they had the overwhelming support of the people. Many of the House Republicans came from safe districts with overwhelming majorities and all they heard whenever they went home was "get the bastard!" This misconception led to the ordeal of the Clinton impeachment - an enormous waste of political capital considering that there was never a chance of securing a conviction.

Now, I fear that Congressional Republicans are on the verge of repeating their historical mistake. Coming off a hard-fought election, some people are unadvisedly throwing around the word mandate and conducting business as though the American people are lining up behind the GOP.

Yes, the GOP has the Oval Office, the House, the Senate, and a majority in the governorships. They have the advantage, but they must not make the mistake of trying to snuff out their opponents completely. Nor must they foster the perception that they are not willing to tolerate differences of opinion within their own ranks.

Democrats are already have a great deal of success portraying us as Nazi thugs goose-stepping up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. We shouldn't give them ammunition with which to do so.

11/19/2004

Albright For Arnold

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright believes we should amend the Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to be president.

"We are a country of immigrants. I think that it would be not a bad thing to try to figure out how to allow foreign-born people to become president," Albright told the Little Rock Rotary Club while in town to attend the opening of Bill Clinton's presidential library.
I agree with Ms. Albright. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a classic example of an American success story. An immigrant who came to America with a dream to be successful and the ambition to bring his dream to fruition. Arnold's stature on the culture landscape is such that the fact that he's an immigrant is all but lost.

The former Secretary of State goes on to say that foreign-born citizens should be required to live here for "some very long period of time" before being eligible to pursue the Oval Office, and this seems like a reasonable prerequisite. Kudos to Ms. Albright for taking a progressive position that happens to favor someone on the other side of the aisle.

Dropping the Rall

The Washington Post has given Ted Rall the boot.

Rall said he thinks the site dropped his work because of a Nov. 4 cartoon he did showing a drooling, mentally handicapped student taking over a classroom. "The idea was to draw an analogy to the electorate -- in essence, the idiots are now running the country," he told E&P.

"That cartoon certainly drew a significant amount of negative comment from our users," said WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Doug Feaver when contacted by E&P. But he added that the decision to drop Rall was a "cumulative" one that had been building for a while.

"Ted Rall does very interesting work," Feaver said. "Some of it is not funny to an awful lot of people. We decided at the end of the day that it just did not fit the tone we wanted at WashingtonPost.com."
Guess what, Ted? When you call half of the country "idiots", the odds are curiously close to fifty percent that you're going to piss off someone who pays to read your comic strip (i.e. newspaper subscribers). People generally don't like to pay for the privilege of being insulted, and they sometimes complain about it.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), this move comes as the Post is telling its writers to write shorter stories and use more pictures and graphics. You can be fairly sure that Rall and those who appreciate his scribbles will point to this and attribute his removal from the Washington Post to a "dumbing-down" of the paper.

Good riddance, I say. The Post just became a better paper.

Halls of Education

Students in Dothan City, Alabama will no longer be allowed to take cough drops at school unless they have written permission from a doctor, and they won't be allowed to "administer" them without assistance from an adult...

Board members OK'd the policy revision during a regular board meeting held Monday night, but some weren't happy with the extent of the new restrictions, which also require written permission from a doctor for elementary-age students to take things like Tylenol and will prohibit adolescent girls from administering their own monthly pain relief.

"I realize that all of this is mandated, but I really just thought it was ridiculous," Gayla White, the board's District 3 member, said Thursday, adding that the cough drop policy upset her most because her own son regularly carries lozenges to school to soothe a drainage problem. "I mean, I really think parents have enough sense to know whether or not their child needs cough drops."
I have a hard time imagining any reasonable person standing up and defending a policy that requires a student to have a doctor's note before taking a Luden's cherry cough drop. Then again, the school nurse at the school in question seems enthusiastic about the measure.
"This is a really good thing," she said, "because if you work in the front office and you have to administer eye drops, at least you'll know how to do it right."
I suppose that it's possible that the students in Dothan City don't know how to take cough drops without adult supervision. If that's the case, however, shouldn't the school immediately be taken over by the state and all the teachers fired?

Violating the medication policy by carrying unauthorized drugs to school is considered a Class III offense - according to Dothan City Schools' Secondary Code of Conduct - and it could be punished with suspension, a stay at alternative school, placement in the Permanent Alternative Program at P.A.S.S. Academy or even expulsion.

Words fail me.

No Confidence

Via InstaPundit...

UN employees were readying on Friday to make a historic vote of no confidence in scandal-plagued Secretary General Kofi Annan, sources told AFP.

The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for the embattled Annan and UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN’s top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.
It's not clear what effect such a vote would have on Annan's tenure, if any. I do not know if the bylaws of the United Nations are such that a vote like this would trigger a larger vote by the General Assembly.

If the people who work for Annan are prepared to denounce him in a formal vote, it does not appear to me that he can operate effectively. If the vote passes and the staff union does declare "no confidence", it hard to imagine a rationale for Annan to stay on.

11/18/2004

DeLaying the Inevitable

As reported in the New York Times, House Republicans voted yesterday to abandon an 11-year-old party rule that required a member of their leadership to step aside temporarily if indicted.

Meeting behind closed doors, the lawmakers agreed that a party steering committee would review any indictments handed up against the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, or any other members of the leadership team or committee chairmen, to determine if giving up a post was warranted. The revision does not change the requirement that leaders step down if convicted.
House Republicans were in a no-win situation on this. As New York Judge Sol Wachtler famously said, district attorneys now have so much influence on grand juries that “by and large” they can get them to “indict a ham sandwich.” Faced with what they considered to be a politically-motivated investigation of DeLay, they had a choice of letting Democrats remove their leader or change the rules to allow him to stay.

Democrats are already crying "foul", which is to be expected. Of course, if you make it down to paragraph 18 of the article, you'll discover that Democrats have no such rule for their own party leadership.

It's sad to see the Republicans reducing their ethical standards to that of the opposition.

Frying Rice

Political cartoonist Pat Oliphant has apparently decided that he wants to be Ted Rall. Oliphant actually appears to have some drawing talent, so it's doubleplus disappointing to see him choosing such bad company with cartoons like this one.


The buck-toothed, thick-lipped sambo caricature of African-Americans is a staple of racist cartoons throughout American history. The only thing missing from this bit of political "humor" is a depiction of Rice as a monkey.

The above cartoon is already a day old and yet, there is no firestorm of angry criticism in the media. Nor will there be. Why? Because the American Left only likes a certain kind of African-American - the liberal kind. Any African-American who crosses over to conservatism becomes a sellout, an Uncle Tom, or a "house nigger" (as Harry Belafonte so famously put it).

Oliphant owes Dr. Rice and all African-Americans an apology.

11/17/2004

Meet Harry Reid

"Who?" I hear you say.

Harry Reid is the Democratic senator from Nevada who will replace lame-duck Tom Daschle as Senate Minority Leader. Daschle is the first Senate leader to be defeated in fifty years, and the one-two punch of the defeats of Daschle and Kerry have left Senate Democrats in disarray.

Enter Harry Reid. Hours after Daschle had conceded defeat to John Thune, Reid was telling people that he had enough votes in the Senate to assume the leadership position. There was some thought that Chris Dodd of Connecticut might challenge him, but Dodd's effort failed to gain any traction.

So who is Harry Reid? He's a four-term Senator, a Mormon, and staunch abortion opponent who:

  • Voted YES on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004)
  • Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)
  • Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999)
  • Voted YES on disallowing overseas military abortions. (May 1999)
  • Rated 29% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
Reid's virtually unopposed ascension to the Senate leadership poses interesting questions. Conventional wisdom holds that President Bush will have the opportunity to name some justices to the Supreme Court in his second term. With a 55-44-1 majority in the Senate and a pro-life ally heading up the opposition, it looks as though Bush might have an easier road with judicial nominations than was earlier believed.

Oil For Murder

The Associated Press is reporting that Saddam Hussien used money from the UN Oil-For-Food program to pay off the families of Palestinian Islamikaze bombers.

The former Iraqi president tapped secret bank accounts in Jordan - where he collected bribes from foreign companies and individuals doing illicit business under the humanitarian program - to reward the families up to $25,000 each, investigators told The Associated Press.
The United Nations does not have enough face for all of the egg waiting to be deposited upon it. Between the entire Oil For Food fiasco, its shameful handling of the situation in Darfur, and Kofi Annan's out-of-hand dismissal of a sexual harassment claim against a senior UN official, it's hard to give the United Nations the benefit of any doubt.

The United Nations under Kofi Annan has been a disaster, and it's time for him to resign. The UN should not be "Nations United Against America and Israel", but that is precisely how the body behaves.

Enough.

11/16/2004

Going Nuclear

National Review ponders the nuclear option - changing the rules of the Senate that pertain to filibusters.

The question is especially pertinent after Senator Bill Frist spoke at the annual Federalist Society convention in Washington last week. The Senate Majority Leader indicated that he is inclined to support the so-called "nuclear option," in which the Senate - now with a more muscular Republican margin of 55 to 45 (44 Democrats plus one independent) - would vote to change its procedural rules so that a simple majority (51 senators), rather than the current super majority (60), would be required to bring a nominees name to the floor for a decisive vote.
A filibuster is an extremely long speech that is used primarily to stall the legislative process and thus derail a particular piece of legislation, rather than to make a particular point per se. Although the general perception of a filibuster is Jimmy Stewart speaking non-stop, actual speeches are not required any more; a "procedural filibuster" is allowed under the Senate rules which accomplishes the same thing.

The notion of changing the rules in this way brings three questions to my mind:
  1. Can they?
  2. Will they?
  3. Should they?
Can They? - Yes, I think they can. Changing the rules of the Senate in this way requires only a simple majority vote. Senate Republicans can put this change up to a vote, and have a safety margin of five dissenters within their own party. Arlen Specter would almost certainly vote against it, and I could see McCain opposing the measure as well. Nevertheless, the votes appear to be there.

Will They? - I don't think they will, simply because of the enormous political ammunition that it would give to Democrats. As McCarthy points out in the National Review article, "Democrats and their mainstream media allies would scream bloody murder." A move like this would run the risk of Senate Democrats turning the upcoming confirmation hearings of Gonzales and Rice into circuses not seen since Robert Bork and John Tower.

Should They? - I'm torn on this. During Bush's first term, Senate Democrats used the filibuster ten times to prevent votes on President Bush's judicial nominees. It's true that the Republican Senate of the mid-90's ushered in the modern era of Senate obstructionism, but it wasn't right then and it's not right now. If the Senate Judiciary Committee sends the nominee to the Senate, I feel that the nominee deserves a vote. Moreover, the current sixty-vote rule actually puts the power in the hands of the minority; you only need forty-one votes to prevent a full Senate vote. This sort of arrangement runs counter to the "majority rule" concept that drives our government.

There's certainly precedent for changing the rule. In 1975, a Democratic majority voted to reduce the number of votes required to break a filibuster from sixty-seven to sixty. This change was largely in response to southern senators using the filibuster to block civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s, including Strom Thurmond's record-setting twenty-four-hour-and-eighteen-minute speech of 1957.

My thought is that the "nuclear option" should be held in reserve. Rather than get the new Congress off to a bitterly contentious start, Senate Republicans should try to get a sense as to how obstructionist the new Senate is going to be. Odds are that the Senate will give President Bush his new cabinet with little fuss and then dig in their heels when it comes time to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. If Senate Democrats refuse to allow a Senate vote, the Republicans will be able to make a credible case that they need to change the Senate rules to allow the people's will to be heard.

A Conspiracy of Dopes

Via Power Line...

Amnesty International is circulating this flyer at Penn State University. It's a shame that an organization that once had goals and principles that were above reproach are now reduced to nothing more than another arm of the Hate-Bush cult.

The comparison between Bush and Hitler is so ubiquitous that it seems to have its ability to outrage reasonable people. What started out as hyperbole to make a point has now become a point of view that people actually hold. Bush is as bad as Hitler. America is becoming Nazi Germany. The Fourth Reich is upon us.

This country is a lush, green meadow of liberty. Trees of self-determination grow tall and offer up low-hanging fruits of freedom to just about anyone willing to raise their hand above their own head. Any one of us may put foot to bark, wind our way to the highest of the branches and exclaim ridiculously that President Bush is a Nazi.

No one comes and slaps a yellow star on your clothing.

You are not hauled off as an enemy of the state.

You don't get a number tattooed on your arm.

Those among us who insist on making moronic proclamations that America is becoming Nazi Germany are refuting themselves with every repetition of the charge. The beauty of it is that most of the people decrying the rise of the BUSHITLER don't appear to get the joke.

It's an irony as delicious as freedom itself. I'm taking big bites, letting the juice run down my chin, and wiping it up with Amnesty International Flyers. Mmm-mmm good!

11/15/2004

Victory Near For Terri Schiavo's Parents?

This story was drowned out in the din of the election, and I want to get it posted before the Condoleeza Rice story consumes all thought.

On November 2, Terri Schiavo's husband Michael filed a motion to vacate the indefinite stay placed on the case by the courts. At the same time, his lawyer told the press that if his motion is denied, he may just give up the case.

George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, said Monday that Schiavo may not participate if the 2nd District Court of Appeal considers a request from Terri Schiavo's parents.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer has ruled that Schiavo cannot remove his wife's tube until the appeals court decides the appeal, a process that could take days or months.

Felos has asked the appeals court to lift Greer's ruling. If it refuses, Felos said, "Mr. Schiavo is seriously considering just simply not participating in appellate proceedings."
To me, it appears as though Mr. Schiavo has already decided that he's had enough. His attorney's statement certainly looks like a clear signal to the courts of no mas, and his filing of the motion to vacate on election day seems engineered to generate as little attention as possible.

If Schiavo is actually conceding the case, it appears to me to be a tremendous victory for Terri, for her parents, and for common sense. Terri Schiavo left no document stating her wishes and in cases such as this, erring on the side of life - rather than death - strikes me as the right thing to do.

Curiously, CNN has no mention of this development in the case, despite the motion being filed nearly two weeks ago. Their coverage of the events around Terri Schiavo has been fairly consistent up to this point. I won't speculate as to why they seem to have lost interest.

The Secret Behind Red and Blue

I haven't been losing sleep over why the Republicans are the red states and the Democrats are the blue states, but it is a curious piece of cultural trivia. It turns out that there is a method behind the madness, as Kevin Drum explains in Washington Monthly...

Since the advent of color TV, there has been a formula to avoid charges of giving any party an advantage by painting it a "better" color. Here is the formula: the color of the incumbent party alternates every 4 years.
Kevin's post also shows a table that explains why the Democrats have so often ended up red.

Neat reading!

Site Update

I have added Haloscan commenting and trackbacking to this blog. This provides the quick, anonymous commenting that most people have come to expect from their blogs. It also gives me cool behind-the-scenes stuff that probably wouldn't interest you.

Update:I realize that in moving to the Haloscan comment system, I lost the comments that were already in place. I apologie for that.

William Safire Retires

The last writer in recent memory to be threatened with a presidential ass-kicking will hang up his pen on January 24 of next year.

Safire is currently the house conservative for the New York Times op-ed page, a position as lonely as a George Lazenby fan at a James bond convention.

New York Times publisher Arthur Sultzberger says that the Times without Safire is "all but unimaginable".

All but unreadable is more like it.

...And Bingo Wednesday Night

"AARP Opposes Bush Plan to Replace Social Security With Private Accounts," blares the headline of this article from Friday's New York Times. At least columnist Robert Pear had the decency to expose himself as a partisan hack before the first paragraph.

Not that the first paragraph gets off to any better of a start...

Gearing up for battle over the future of Social Security, AARP, the influential lobby for older Americans, said Thursday that it opposed President Bush's plan to divert some payroll taxes into private retirement accounts.
The Bush plan does not "replace" Social Security. The Bush plan does not "divert" payroll taxes. The Bush plan gives individual contributors the option to put some of their money into a private account. You'll find this out if you manage to make it all the way to paragraph 21 of Pear's article.
"I do not favor 'privatization' of Social Security,'' Mr. Bush wrote last month in the AARP Bulletin. "Those workers who do not want a personal account would continue to receive their benefits from the federally administered Social Security system. Even those who choose a personal account would continue to draw traditional Social Security benefits.''
The editorial board of the Times serially refuses to correct these characterizations when they show up in the articles of their columnists. Either they consider the characterizations to be accurate, or they're happy with misrepresenting the facts when it serves their agenda.

In either case, the Times' credibility is fast approaching that of a church bulletin; fascinating to the congregation, and irrelevant to just about everyone else.

11/14/2004

Speaking Ill of the Dead

Writing for the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, New Republic editor Marty Peretz says "Good Riddance" to John Kerry.

Still, the extreme and bitter judgments against the citizenry after this election are especially tendentious. For what the electorate did on Nov. 2 was essentially (or maybe just merely) turn down John Kerry, a candidate who until very late in the Democratic primaries was almost no one's choice as the nominee, the party's last option because it could rally around no one else. What a pathetic vessel in which to have placed liberalism's hopes! A senator for two decades who had stood for nothing, really nothing.
The charge that John Kerry stood for nothing was a central part of the Bush campaign's efforts. During the campaign, of course, it was widely derided as nonsense, but now it appears that even liberal stalwarts like Peretz are admitting it.

The argument from folks on my own side is that Democratsd would have voted for anyone the Democrats nominated, so strong was their hatred for George W. Bush. I tend to agree with this assessment, and told my wife that the only way most Democrats would not vote for Kerry would be if a photo surfaced that showed him bayonetting a pregnant woman. Maybe.

None of that matters now. John Kerry will eventually take his place alongside Al Gore, Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale in the hagiography of coulda-beens. Before that can happen, tradition dictates that his defeat be dissected and that the state of his party be laid at his feet. Afterward, he will move on to his final destination as the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.

11/12/2004

A Generation At Risk

Via Little Green Footballs comes this report from The IowaHawk, entitled "Blue State Blues as Coastal Parents Battle Invasion of Dollywood Values".

"I'm not sure where we went wrong," says Ellen McCormack, nervously fondling the recycled paper cup holding her organic Kona soy latte. "It seems like only yesterday Rain was a carefree little boy at the Montessori school, playing non-competitive musical chairs with the other children and his care facilitators."

"But now..." she pauses, staring out the window of her postmodern Palo Alto home. The words are hesitant, measured, bearing a tale of family heartbreak almost too painful for her to recount. "But now, Rain insists that I call him Bobby Ray."

Even as her voice is choked with emotion, she summons an inner courage -- a mother's courage -- and leads me down the hall to "Bobby Ray's" bedroom, for a firsthand glimpse at the psychic devastation that claimed her son.

She opens the door to a reveal a riot of George Jones CDs, reflective 'mudflap mama' stickers, empty foil packs of Red Man, and U.S. Marine recruiting posters. In the middle of the room: a makeshift table made from a utility cable spool, bearing a the remains of a gutted catfish.

"This used to be all Ikea," she says, rocking on heels between heaved sobs. "It's too late for us. Maybe it's not to late for me to warn others."
Pass along this article to your friends and neighbors, lest they lose their children.

The Architects

In her column entitled "The Architects of Defeat", Arianna Huffington quotes James Carville from late in the campaign.

"If we can't win this damn election," the advisor to the Kerry campaign said, "with a Democratic Party more unified than ever before, with us having raised as much money as the Republicans, with 55% of the country believing we're heading in the wrong direction, with our candidate having won all three debates, and with our side being more passionate about the outcome than theirs, if we can't win this one, then we can't win shit! And we need to completely rethink the Democratic Party."
Huffington starts from this quote and proceeds to place the blame for the electoral defeat squarely at the feat of Carville and his fellow Clintonistas, concluding:
As at almost every other turn, the campaign had chosen caution over boldness. Why did these highly paid professionals make such amateurish mistakes? In the end, it was the old obsession with pleasing undecided voters (who, Greenberg argued right up until the election, would break for the challenger) and an addiction to polls and focus groups, which they invariably interpreted through their Clinton-era filters. It appears that you couldn't teach these old Beltway dogs new tricks. It's time for some fresh political puppies.
Carville was probably correct when he said that the time has come to "re-think the Democratic Party", although I am concerned where that re-thinking is going to lead. McCauliffe is on his way out, and the bitter frustration resulting from two consecutive defeats at the hands of Bush/Rove may have some Democrat insiders pondering a purge of the Clintonistas from the hubs of power.

It's hard to imagine a worse choice, either for the Democrats or the country.

For all his despicable rhetoric ("Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find."), Carville and those of like mind are moderates - Democratic Leadership Council members who believe that the party needs to run close to the center to be competitive in national elections. Nonsensical whining about moving to Canada and secession aside, the last two elections have been competitive. Two races lost by a total of four million votes is not the 525-13 electoral body slam that Reagan laid on Mondale in 1984.

If Carville and other DLC-ers are shown the door, it seems likely that the Democratic "re-thinking" would result in a hard turn to the left; perhaps culminating in the ascension of Howard Dean to the party chair. With Dean at the wheel, the danger is that his notions of pacifism and isolationism would steer the party away from the center and away from the mainstream. Huffington seems to believe that the election swung on the war and terrorism. If that's the case, Dean probably would have taken a worse beating in the general election than Kerry did. The party quickly distanced itself from Dean's message once the primaries started, and with good reason.

If the DNC should find itself realigned to serve Howard's ends, it risks giving the Republicans "supermajorities" in one or both houses of the legislature. That outcome is one best avoided.

Flagged

The flag of the United Nations will be at half-mast today to honor Yasser Arafat. Some highlights from the U.N. briefing:

"President Arafat was one of those few leaders who could be instantly recognized by people in any walk of life all around the world."
Being an international terrorist gets you onto the front page of many newspapers. Most people also recognize Osama Bin Laden. Will the U.N. colors dip when he meets his richly-deserved end?
"For nearly four decades, he expressed and symbolized in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people."
Those "aspirations" being, in short, to grind the Israeli people into dust beneath their boots.
"President Arafat will always be remembered for having, in 1988, led the Palestinians to accept the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian state."
An "acceptance" that manifested itself in dozens of Islamikaze bombers killing civilians in markets and on buses.

It is not embellishment or hyperbole to identify Arafat as the greatest enemy of the Jewish people since Adolf Hitler. One needs to look no further than the U.N.'s reaction to his death to understand Israel's distrust of the organization. Rather than bringing their standard to half mast, the United Nations should strike their banner completely and run up a white flag in its place.

11/11/2004

General Disapproval

Alberto Gonzales' credentials as a moderate just got a boost. President Bush is coming under fire from pro-life groups for nominating him to the AG post:

"As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales' rulings implied he does not view abortion as a heinous crime," said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, in a written statement.

"Why is President Bush betraying the babies? Justice begins with protecting the most vulnerable in our midst. Please, Mr. President -- just say no to the unjust views of Alberto Gonzales."
It would appear that Ms. Brown expected the second Bush administration to be a group of Christian soldiers, ushering in the New American Theocracy. She and a number of others were wrong.

Moore of the Same

Michael Moore gives in to the patronizing fiction that Bush voters were uninformed.

Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information (in this election) and we want to educate and enlighten them.
One can hardly blame Moore for looking at things this way. The alternative - that pretty much every voter had access to all of the same information (including Moore's silly-ass movie) and a majority chose Bush - would mean accepting that reasonable and intelligent people disagreed with him.

This view - that the election was decided by idiots, ignorant hillbilly rednecks, bigots, homophobes and Nazis - does not help the Democratic cause; it weakens it. How many times can you call someone a moron before they stop listening to what you have to say?

The Democrats have run against Bush twice by turning their party into a cult of hatred for the man. Result? Oh-for-two. Four more years of decrying how those dopes in the red states turned over our country to the HALLIBUSHITLER will not help the Democrats crack the G.O.P's southern fortress; it will only strengthen the walls.

51% Bush, 48% Kerry

Mookie has published the scariest visual representation of the election results yet. Yikes!

General Approval

President Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Gonzales has served as White House counsel since January 2001. He is a former Texas Supreme Court justice, appointed to that position by then-Gov. George W. Bush. He also served as Texas secretary of state. Before that, Gonzales worked as general counsel on Gov. Bush's staff.

Bush's nomination of Gonzales appears to be, at first glance, one of those rare confluences of good policy and good politics. On the "politics" side, Bush continues to strive for ethnic diversity in his cabinet. On the "policy" side, Gonzales is something of a moderate who recognized the boundary between his beliefs and the responsibilities of his office.

More conservative Republicans, however, have found some of Gonzales' relatively moderate votes on the Texas Supreme court troubling, including a majority vote not requiring some teenage girls to get parental permission for an abortion.

In his opinion on the ruling, Gonzales wrote, "While the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view on the decisions of the legislature."
Gonzales credentials as a moderate are not simply a product of the Republican spin machine. When he was named as Chief White House Counsel in 2001, Hispanic Magazine ran a piece on him called From Rags to Riches which pointed this out:
Evidence of Gonzales' moderate bent can be found in many of his decisions as a Texas Supreme Court justice. He voted with the majority to weaken a state law requiring minors to notify a parent before getting an abortion. He also wrote a landmark opinion that opened the door for some victims of illnesses caused by on-the-job exposure to asbestos to sue more than once over their injuries—a decision decried by some conservatives.
If further review of Gonzales' record reads as positively as his initial press does, it would seem that he's a good choice for the job.

11/10/2004

Minds So Open They Actually Fall Out

A friend pointed this thread out to me from the LiveJournal "Pagan" community. Some of the members have figured out the reason behind the Bush victory...

Gods-damn it! The f*cking Republicans have got Magical help pumping out a clear, unified, focused broadcast, and you can be sure, every sensitive is picking it up. These are the people most likely to vote Kerry, and I'd like to think they are resolute enough not to be swayed by telepathic subliminal advertising, but it's such a rarely-done thing, and so few people are properly trained these days, that I fear it will be more effective. Just watch and see who says "I was going to vote for Kerry, but for some reason I changed my mind at the last minute."
I will forgive any group of people the presence of one lunatic. This person was immediately joined with a chorus of yeah-me-toos. "MoronQueen" chimed in with
"I noticed that, too...not quite as much, but I did. There was enough talk of people voting Democratic in our area that I'm not super worried about 'em being affected. The area I live in is on the poorer side of the spectrum, and seems to be more democratic than most."
Fellow pagan "LooneyLulu" confirmed the dark psychic transmissions:
"So, I am not the only one who has noticed. I hate Bush with a passion, but lately, I seem to think he might be better. And it kinda freaks me out."
Further corroboration came from "WonderWench":
"GAH! I thought I was going NUTS! I heard kinda something like that too... only I didnt HEAR anything specifically... I couldnt sleep this morning either... damn."
Once I wiped the tears of laughter out of my eyes and steadied my breathing, I discovered that quite a few of the people posting in the thread were coming from another point of view. KleenexWoman brought some levity early on:
"I would suggest using a tinfoil hat. It works for me, anyway."
TSuzuki26 had some insight into the real political leanings of magic users:
"All the best mages vote Libertarian."
I have to say, however, that the one comment that really caught my eye among the hundreds of replies was this, from "SaintInHell":
"Maybe God really is on George Bush's side and that's His voice."
The voice of God?

That's just crazy talk.

Generosity Index

Via Michelle Malkin and Powerline...

The Generosity Index is an ingeniously simple metric of charitable giving as a percentage of income. Take the states and rank them in order of average gross income; that rank is the state's "Having" score. Then, take the states and rank them in order of the average itemized charitable contribution; that rank is the state's "Giving" score. Compute the difference between the two scores for each state, and you get a simple number giving you an idea of that state's generosity.

For example, Mississippi is last on the list for average gross income, so their "Having" score is 50. They are 5th on the list for average itemized charitable contribution, so their "Giving" score is 5. "Having" minus "Giving" produces a generosity score of 45, the highest in the nation.

By way of comparison, New Hampshire is 9th on the list for average gross income, so their "Having" score is 9. They are 48th on the list for average itemized charitable deduction, so their "Giving" score is 48. "Having" minus "Giving" produces a generosity score of -39, the lowest in the nation.

The complete list of states and their scores as well as the data behind the scores are at the Catalogue for Philanthropy website.

Oh, by the way. You're going to have to scroll down a bit to find a blue state. Way down. Keep going. You'll have to go to #26 before you find one - New York.

So the next time you hear someone disparaging the ignorant hillbilly rednecks of red-state America, remind them that the people of Alabama make a higher average charitable contribution than the people of New York, California, or Massachusetts. Then tell them to write a check.

Return of the Line-Item Veto

President Bush is asking Congress to give him the line-item veto, this time in a form that will survive a review by the Supreme Court.

At a news conference after his re-election, Bush said he wanted a line-item veto that "passed constitutional muster," explaining it would help him work with lawmakers "to make sure that we're able to maintain budget discipline."
Lest anyone begin wringing their hands about this being a Bush/Rove power grab, let's establish a few things about the line-item veto...
  • It was most recently part of the "Contract With America", the agenda that Republicans ran on in their successful 1994 campaign to win a majority in Congress. Swallow that a moment - Republican congressmen campaigned to give increased power to President Clinton.
  • Clinton happily signed the bill, and used it 82 times in 1997, saving the country about $2 billion dollars in wasteful spending
  • John Kerry voted in favor of LIV when it was given to Clinton, and in a campaign press release, stated that he intended to ask Congress for LIV if he were elected.
Now, having pre-emptively debunked the notion of LIV as fascist power grab, let's get on to the meat of the issue.

Support for and opposition to LIV comes from both sides of the aisle; it passed the Senate by a comfortable 69-31 margin. There are two recurring themes in the objections to the LIV:
  1. Judicial salaries - Robert Byrd, one of the most outspoken opponents of LIV, warned that LIV might be used to selectively veto the salaries of judges whose rulings angered the president. This concern does not appear to have been borne out in practice. While Clinton was certainly not shy about unleashing IRS audits on his political enemies, he never used LIV in this way. Bush may have political "capital", but using LIV to punish a judge would be a political and public-relations disaster. It won't happen.
  2. It's unconstitutional - The Supreme Court agreed with this assessment in 1997 when it overturned LIV. It said the U.S. Constitution requires every bill to be presented to the president for complete approval or veto, and that line-item vetoes could only be authorized through a constitutional amendment.
The CATO Institute made an eloquent case for LIV in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision...
One year's experience with the line item veto taught us all an important lesson: the line item veto works. In 1997 President Clinton used this new veto 82 times to delete unnecessary expenditures in 11 spending bills. The savings to taxpayers total nearly $2 billion over five years. True, in a $1.75 trillion annual budget, this is not a huge sum. But even by Washington standards, $2 billion is still real money -- and a whole lot of pork.

None of these vetoed projects served the national interest. Clinton wielded the veto to eliminate funding for a $600,000 solar aquatic wastewater treatment demonstration project in Vermont; a $2 million Chena River dredging project in Fairbanks, Alaska, to benefit a single tour boat operator; a $1 million corporate welfare grant to the Carter County Montana Chamber of Commerce; $900,000 for a Veterans Administration cemetery the VA says it doesn't need; $1.9 million for dredging a Mississippi lake that primarily serves yachts and pleasure boats; $500,000 for the Neabsco Creek Project in Virginia for removal of creek debris; and other such absurdities.
LIV rankles my innate distrust for authority and my reflexive opposition to the consolidation of too much authority in one place. However, more than forty of our nation's governors currently enjoy this authority with regards to state-level legislation. Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle appear to support it; Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Arlen Specter, and Orrin Hatch all voted YES. It has been used responsibly in the past.

Reviving it may require a constitutional amendment, however, in light of the Supreme Court's previous ruling on the matter. This is the sort of issue that is suitable for amending the constitution; a fundamental change in the mechanisms of government. I look forward to the debate on the matter, and I look forward to seeing if the Democrats who once supported giving the authority to a president of their own party will oppose giving it to Bush.

11/09/2004

God Is a Bullet

In a repugnant piece entitled, "Will Someone Please Shoot the President?", excuse me, "Can History Save the Democrats?" New York times columnist Dean E. Murphy offers up a prayer for the assassination of President Bush.

Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton, saw two instances in history when the American electoral landscape resembled that of today. "They are kind of scary examples," Professor Wilentz said. "One is 1860, and we know what happened after that one, and the other was 1896, the McKinley-Bryan election."

"The Republicans are basically unchecked," Professor Wilentz said. "There is no check in the federal government and no check in the world. They have an unfettered playing field."

Until the next act of God, that is.
SUMMARY: The Republican stranglehold on power is so absolute that only an assassin's bullet can break it.

Until now, it was only The Guardian printing such calls for someone to shoot the president, but it appears that the sentiment has crossed the pond.

No Rest For The Wicked

Yasser Arafat wants to be buried in Jerusalem, according to a senior Palestinian cleric. Unsurprisingly, Israel is taking a hard line on the issue...

Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said Arafat "will not be buried in Jerusalem because Jerusalem is the city where Jewish kings are buried and not Arab terrorists."
Some Palestinian officials are saying that such a generous gesture could go a long way towards building trust destroyed in years of fighting.

For me, the question is simple. If Osama Bin Laden were dying and asked to buried in Manhattan, what would the response be? If Timothy McVeigh had asked before his execution to be buried in Oklahoma City, what would the response be? The response, justifiably, would be "go to hell." Israel is being gracious by not launching his corpse into the Gaza strip from a catapult, Return-of-the-King-style.

For justice to be served, it would be necessary to pour molten pig fat over Arafat's body and the fat allowed to harden. Then, like Han Solo encased in carbonite, he would have to be mounted on a wall somewhere. Maybe in a mall in Tel Aviv. People could stand next to him and have their photo taken next to him. For added irony, his Nobel Prize should be affixed to a nearby plaque along with a list of every Israeli butchered by an Islamikaze bomber.

This may sound silly, but it's no more ludicrous than honoring a murderer's request to be buried among the very people he chose to slaughter. He lived as a terrorist and a blight on humanity, and it is approrpriate that he be buried as such.

11/08/2004

Position: Gay Marriage

Sitting down to enumerate my position on an issue of the day is a very good exercise. It forces me to work out the details of what I actually believe, and to confront myself on the facets of the issue to which I have not given enough thought. To this end, I have resolved to make "Position Posts" now and again when I feel it's appropriate. It's a productive endeavor for me, and may serve to provide whatever readers I have with a sense of where I stand.

I believe that same-sex partners should be allowed to marry. I can find no compelling legal or constitutional argument against it. Once you've got two adults giving informed consent, that's the end of the conversation as far as I can see.

Opponents of same-sex marriage often speak of "tradition", and how allowing same-sex couples to marry would somehow weaken the institution as a whole. Looking at our society, it's hard to imagine that marriage could be any weaker than it already is. Phrases like "starter marriage" have worked their way into the cultural consciousness, and it's not uncommon to hear people talking about "divorce parties". The state of the institution of marriage is defined by the character of the people in it. Yes, there will be same-sex couples who trash it; they're late to the party. Heterosexuals have been trashing it for decades. An argument against same-sex marriage that centers on the dire consequences of allowing gays to get hitched fails to compel. Nor is it defensible on a legal or constitutional basis; the constitution does not protect tradition, it protects rights.

I do feel that this is an issue that the individual states should be allowed to decide for themselves. I don't believe that the people of California should be forced to accept the choices of the people of Arkansas. Nevertheless, when an appropriate case finally arrives at the Supreme Court, I'm fairly certain that gay marriage will become the law of the land just as abortion did in Roe v. Wade.

The Defense of Marriage Act was an attempt at compromise on this issue. DOMA gives states the right to "opt out" of the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution with regards to gay marriage. This paved the way for individual states to allow its same-sex couples to marry without requiring other states to recognize it. That part of it seems like wisdom. Unfortunately, DOMA took the additional step of defining "marriage" as being between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law (e.g. taxes). DOMA would have been a fine piece of law without this and would have stood a decent shot at surviving judicial review. As it's written, DOMA will almost certainly be invalidated; perhaps even by the same Court decision affirming same-sex marriage.

I'm going to indulge my inner Libertarian, staking out a position that is both common-sensical and guaranteed never to happen. I think that the government should get out of the business of sanctioning marriage altogether. Marriage is, for the purposes of our society, a civil contract. By signing the papers, you are agreeing to allow yourself to be governed by the huge legal infrastructure surrounding marriage: inheritance, divorce, child support, alimony, spousal privilege, and the list goes on. The ceremony in the church, synagogue, mosque or coven is purely ornamental.

Let's treat marriage as what it is - a civil contract. Make the documents available for a nominal charge, and require that they be signed in front of a notary public. Subject those contracts to all of the same mechanisms that currently surround marriage and dispose of marriage licenses and state sanction altogether. The marriage license has served too long as an instrument by which one group of people denies a basic right to another group of people. It's time to abolish it altogether.

11/07/2004

Thanks, Ted

Thanks to Ted Rall, I'll never really lack for things to write about. In his November 2nd column, Mr. Rall explains who is qualified to vote and who is not...

Please, if you live in Mississippi or Colorado or Alaska, don't presume to talk about, much less cast your vote based upon, your "views" of Islamist terrorism. New Yorkers don't lecture you about hunting. Butt out of our business. Or at least have the grace to follow the lead of New York City voters if, contrary to history or logic, terrorism is your number one concern.

The following individuals might disagree with the assertion that Islamist terrorism is the exclusive business of New Yorkers:

Of course, if it should turn out that everyone on that list hails (or should I say, "hailed") from the Big Apple, I'll apologize to Ted.

11/05/2004

A Note of Reason

"American liberalism did not die on November 2. It merely lost an election." Such is the reasoned tone sounded by the editors of The New Republic in yesterday's editorial, and I applaud it.

This country is bigger than its every president. This Constitution is not easy to destroy. This is not the apocalypse. But it is the most formidable challenge to American liberalism in our time.
The editors of TNR are no fans of the president, and her readers need not worry that the liberal stalwart is selling out. The message in this editorial is a good one: This isn't the end of the Republic. No one is coming to take you away in chains. Let's get down to the hard business of choosing our party's direction.

This is wise counsel.

There is some interesting discussion regarding this topic going on over at Race2008.

Arlen Specter Update

Reader Steve S. points out that Senator Specter hasn't been very consistent with regard to his stance on the finer points of the abortion issue, and Stephen from Race2008 points out Specter's backpedalling on his own website...

Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the President about anything and was very respectful of his Constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges.

As the record shows, I have supported every one of President Bush’s nominees in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue and, as the record shows, I have voted to confirm Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Kennedy and led the fight to confirm Justice Thomas.
This is a disappointing retreat, and a lost opportunity for the Republicans. Had Specter not caved, the Bush administration could have issued a statement proclaiming their respect for Specter's beliefs and their faith that he'd make a great Judiciary chairman. It would have killed the controversy and given Bush a chance to do some of that "reaching out" he spoke of in his victory speech.

Now, one can't help but conclude that Specter did the Potomac Two-Step to avoid losing his shot at a powerful Senate job. Badly done, chaps.

11/04/2004

Adult Stem Cell News

The Associated Press (via CNN) has a piece regarding the use of adult stem cells in the treatment of cancer.

Texas researchers say they have perfected a method to deliver cancer treatment directly into tumors, bypassing healthy tissue.

The specialized stem cells -- known as mesenchymal stem cells -- come from bone marrow and help maintain healthy connective tissues. When new tissue is needed to heal wounds or form scars, those special stem cells swell in number.

The work builds on the promise of using stem cells to hunt down brain tumors, outlined in a 2000 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Adult stem cell research is free of the thorny ethical complications surrounding embryonic stem cells. There appears to be some debate - the finer points of which are over my head - as to which branch of stem cell research is more likely to produce practical and meaningful results.

If there is even half the promise in either branch of stem cell research as the hype suggests, there is enormous financial incentive for private industry to be doing this research on its own dime. My understanding is that researchers are free to work with any line of stem cells they choose, so long as the work isn't done with federal money.

It's not unreasonable for the federal government to place restrictions on how its money is spent; colleges that accept federal funding are required to adhere to strict guidelines in regards to admissions. I don't see much difference between that sort of restriction and one that limits federally-funded research to a subset of cell lines. The college that only wants to admit women is free to eschew federal funding, and the researcher who wishes to work on a wider variety of stem cell lines has the same freedom.

The idea that American pharmaceutical companies need to have their research subsidized by the federal government sounds an awful lot like "corporate welfare" to me.

Like Minds

Glenn Reynolds, otherwise known as the InstaPundit, harbors the same secret daydream that I've been talking about in private for some time...

My favorite scenario: Cheney steps down, Condi Rice becomes VP, and runs in 2008. Long-shot, but I'll keep pumping it.
Perhaps it's not so crazy an idea after all.

Reassurance

Senator Arlen Specter (R - PA) is expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee when the dust from the election settles, and he is loudly declaring his intent to protect Roe v. Wade...

The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush on Wednesday against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely," Specter said, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
My own opinion on abortion is in a state of flux right now, but I can't help but look at this positively. Having a senior Republican Senator standing up and loudly telling the GOP to keep its hands off Roe v. Wade may act as a salve to the shattered nerves of Democrats who think that the end times are upon us.

Post-Mortem

PSA:There will be no gloating over the election in this blog. Ever.

In my Livejournal post from November 1st, I looked at the last batch of poll numbers and augered that the death of American conservatism was at hand. It appears that I could not have been more incorrect. I consider myself to be marginally competent when it comes to evaluating political circumstance; where did I go wrong?

The question is not a self-absorbed one. I think that there were many people on the other side of the aisle who looked at this election as the year that they were going to beat back the conservatives who (in their view) were stealing their country from them. While very few reasonable Democrats were popping champagne corks early, a good number of them felt that they had cause to be fairly optimistic about their chances. So, the question of "where did I go wrong" could also be asked as "where did the Democrats go wrong?"

Youth Vote - Like most people, I assumed that America's youth would turn out in record numbers, egged on by the untold sums spent by the Vote or Die, Rock the Vote and other pop-culture efforts gunning for the president. The youth vote was one of the big stories of this election, but not in the way that I thought it would be. While Civic Youth is proudly claiming this election to be a watershed for the youth vote, reporting that 51.6 percent of voters under 30 went to the polls. The devil in the details of these numbers is that less than 10 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 showed up. For whatever reason, it appears that they couldn't be bothered. It may have benefited my candidate, but you know what? Shame on them. Put down your goddamn XBox controller and stop watching Survivor long enough to get off your ass and fucking vote. If anyone in this election can truly be called a "moron", it's the 18-year-old kid who didn't vote. If you know one, berate him or her loudly.

Echo Chamber - I've written before about the "echo chamber" effect; if most of your social set is comprised of people who think the same way that you do, it's human nature to think that your view is commonly held. In the case of Democrats, I think this skewed their perception of how their message was playing to people on the other side. They thought they were winning the argument. In my case, I fell victim to a "reverse echo chamber". My social set is approximately 90% Democrat, and after talking to them long enough, I began to presume that their point of view was commonly held and that conservatives were in the minority across the country. This does not appear to have been the case.

Early Exit Polls - In the aftermath of the 2000 and 2004 elections, I have reached the conclusion that exit polls are a pestilence on the political process and will never be a reliable indicator of how the election is progressing. It's very simple to prove: When you bake a batch of chocolate-chip cookies, the chips are not evenly distributed. Biting into the first cookie and finding four chips does not mean that the next cookie will have four chips, or that four is the average number of chips per cookie. It means that you found four chips. The next cookie may only have one chip. It may have eight. When the 2pm exit polls were released, they showed a fairly positive picture for the Kerry campaign. I took that as validation of what I had seen in the earlier pre-election polls, and many Democrats did, as well. Exit polls do not serve the electorate. The media did an admirable job this time around by not calling states for one candidate or the other until the outcome was inevitable. I hope hey will use that same restraint in the future and eschew early exit polling.

I don't think that these issues are the primary reasons that the election went the way that it did. For me, the short answer is that the Republicans got more people off the bench than the Democrats. Republicans focused on getting religious voters, who largely abstained in 2000 (heh, he said "abstained"). Democrats seemed to focus on youth turnout, and the youth didn't show up.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.