1/31/2005

Howard Dean Hates You

Howard Dean, pushing hard for the chair of the Democratic Party, announced his hatred for those on the other side of the aisle this weekend.

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for, but I admire their discipline and their organization," the failed presidential hopeful told the crowd at the Roosevelt Hotel, where he and six other candidates spoke at the final DNC forum before the Feb. 12 vote for chairman.
This is the sort of thing that Democrats could get away with saying at such functions; in the past, no one really paid much attention to the process by which the parties selected their chairpersons. When one was named, there was a brief news blip, but not much more. That's different now, with the Democrats still smarting from a 3.5-million-vote thumping at the hands of George W. Bush. The race for the Democratic Party chair is news, and comments like this get some play.

It would appear that Dean didn't realize just how much attention the race was getting, or he might have softened his rhetoric a bit. If Dean wants to put the Democrats back on the road to winning national elections, he's going to have to win some hearts and minds. Specifically, he's going to have to convince more than a few people to stop voting Republican. Starting the conversation by saying "I hate you and everything you stand for" does not make for a constructive dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe's take on the weekend caucus was that a "Stop Dean" movement appeared to be taking shape.
"The issue for all of us is how to keep Howard from winning on the first ballot," said Wellington Webb, a former Denver mayor and the only African-American candidate for the DNC chair.
...
"I'm from a red state," said Tim Roemer, former congressman from Indiana and member of the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "We need a chair that doesn't only represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
This is a big week in the election process - the state party chairs should release their endorsements today and some big labor endorsements are said to be following tomorrow or Wednesday.

Dean looked unstoppable early on in the Democratic primaries, and was all set to win until the voting actually started. Those of us on the right who believe that America needs a credible opposition party will be watching and hoping that someone - anyone - finds a way to beat Howard.

Kojo a Gogo

In December of last year, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's son Kojo flatly denied that he ever had anything to do with the UN Oil For Food program.

Kojo Annan, in his first public comment on the subject, told CNN in a written statement: "I have never participated directly or indirectly in any business related to the United Nations."

"I feel the whole issue has been a witchhunt from day one as part of a broader Republican political agenda," Annan said in his statement to CNN.
According to Sunday's London Times, Kojo's statement to CNN may not have been entirely accurate.
The son of the United Nations secretary-general has admitted he was involved in negotiations to sell millions of barrels of Iraqi oil under the auspices of Saddam Hussein.

Kojo Annan has told a close friend he became involved in negotiations to sell 2m barrels of Iraqi oil to a Moroccan company in 2001. He is understood to be co-operating with UN investigators probing the discredited oil for food programme.
Sometime in February, Paul Volcker will issue his report on the Oil-For-Food program, though it is not believed to contain any smoking guns that lead back to Kofi Annan directly. Annan's had a rough stretch lately, with his bumbling mismanagement of a sexual harassment issue at the U.N. and now with further questions about his family's involvement in Oil-For-Food. If it becomes clear that there's genuine merit to the allegations about Kojo, it will be hard for Annan to maintain the little credibility he has left with the United States.

The U.N.'s record for selecting men to serve as Secretary General is spotty, at best. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar was certainly a credit to the office, personally negotiating an end to the decade-long Iran-Iraq war. His tenure, however, is a bright spot in the recent list of men to hold the post. In between Pérez de Cuéllar and Annan was Boutros Boutros-Ghali, whose term was highlighted by the U.N.'s inaction during the Rwandan Machete Party.

Of course, Pérez de Cuéllar's predecessor had his own problems, but being a brownshirt comes with all sorts of political baggage.

1/28/2005

Where Do I Sign Up?

The Detroit Free Press has identified one of the reasons why the American car industry is having a problem being competitive - 10,000 employees being paid not to work.

Amid falling U.S. market share, shuttered plants and production cutbacks, Detroit's three automakers and largest auto supplier are paying about 10,000 hourly workers in the United States and Canada full wages and benefits not to work, a Free Press survey shows.

The number appears to be up from the last few years and will likely grow again this year, though it still won't be as high as a decade ago.

Most of the companies refused to say how much they are spending to pay all these workers, but it's likely well over $1 billion this year, given the number of workers and typical union wage-and-benefit packages.
This is insidious. If you're an unemployed auto worker, why on Earth would you look for another job if you're getting paid full salary to do nothing? Going out and earning a living might actually net you a pay cut. Furthermore, these aren't people who are just out of action for a month or two; typically, these people pull down their money-for-nothing for eleven months or more.

There is a long list of reasons why American car manufacturers are losing ground to foreign competition; many of the industry's problems are of their own creation. It's probably a safe bet, however, that no other nation's auto industry is paying a billion dollars a year to workers who - literally - do nothing.

Quote of the Day

In a New York Times piece about the dust-up over Hillary Clinton's recent comments on abortion, Planned Parenthood spokesperson Carla M. Goldstein dropped this gem:

Reporters and the general public really need to understand the dangers of parental notification.
One-third of Planned Parenthood's income comes from performing abortions. With that in mind, the motivation for their opposition to parental notification becomes obvious - they're protecting their revenue stream. The "danger of parental notification" is that it might actually reduce the number of abortions in this country, and that would hurt Planned Parenthood's bottom line.

In Hillary Clinton's New York, a minor can't get a tattoo - even with parental consent. Yet, the Empire State considers those same minors to be capable of giving informed consent to an invasive medical procedure. Hell, in 2002, Planned Parenthood held a Roe v. Wade Poster Contest, and children under 18 couldn't even submit an entry without their parent's permission.

Whatever your stance on abortion, it is hard to argue that children should be allowed to have them without parental consent.

Update: On a somewhate-related note, Planned Parenthood president Goria Feldt has resigned after an eight-year tenure.

1/27/2005

Alarming Traffic

Welcome, Alarming News readers! I'm grateful to Karol for the link, and I'm honored that you've decided to stop by. I hope you'll find some interesting reading.

Update: Welcome, also, to those of you coming here from The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler! The Emperor is too kind for linking to me.

The Black Curtain

On March 5th in 1946, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, after receiving an honorary degree. It was in that speech that Churchill coined the most famous term of the Cold War: iron curtain.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.
Almost sixty years later, the power of Churchill's metaphor is not diminished. During a meeting of Israel's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the panel's chairman invoked Churchill as he sounded a warning about Iran's nascent nuclear program.
Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said the minute Iran turns into a nuclear power, a "black curtain" will drop over Israel, the Middle East and the entire free world. But, he added, there is still time for the free world to foil the project that is threatening world peace and prevent the creation of an Iranian nuclear threat.
With regard to Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israrel is characteristically refusing to rule out any option, including a military one. Uncharacteristically, Israel is saying that this is not a threat that they can face on their own.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday that Israel will follow the US lead in dealing with Iran's nuclear aspirations, but did not rule out military action if diplomatic and economic pressure fail to stop Teheran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The United States has to decide, not us," he told Army Radio. "If we go it alone, we will remain alone. Everyone knows our potential, but we also have to know our limits. As long as there is a possibility that the world will organize to fight against Iran's nuclear option, let the world organize."
...and organize it must. Iran and North Korea are often mentioned in the same breath, but Iran is far more likely to become a real problem. North Korea is an economic ruin, dependent on its Chinese patron to stave off a complete societal collapse. Iran, on the other hand, requires no such support. Her economy is the 34th largest in the world (larger than Israel's), and ran a budget surplus in 2004 of some $5 billion dollars. We can generally count on China to keep North Korea on a short leash; all we can count on in Iran is the self-restraint of the mullahs.

Still, there is reason to hope, so long as we are quick to act. If one replaces "Soviet Russia" with "Iran", there is a compelling call to action from Churchill's speech in Fulton all those years ago.
I repulse the idea that a new war is inevitable -- still more that it is imminent. It is because I am sure that our fortunes are still in our own hands and that we hold the power to save the future, that I feel the duty to speak out now that I have the occasion and the opportunity to do so.

I do not believe that Iran desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.

But what we have to consider here today while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement.

What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.
We must engage the Iranian government to find a way to slow their race for the bomb, but it's folly to think that we can delay them indefinitely. The best way to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs is to help the Iranian people throw off their yoke. The freedom movement in Iran needs our support, our encouragement, and almost certainly our dollars. If there is any reasonable chance that the Iranian people can take hold of their own liberty, then it our nation's specific obligation - our calling, if I may - to help them do it.

The most effective way to secure the future of every land is through this pursuit, set forward by Churchill and echoed in the inaugural address of a week ago - the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. If we tire, if we falter, if we fail, the consequences will not be a "black curtain" over the Middle East; it will look more like a black shroud.

1/26/2005

Ignorance and AIDS

Yes, ignorance perpetuates the spread of AIDS. This is a truism accepted by all reasonable people. But, that's not exactly the type of ignorance I'm talking about.

More than 20 years after the AIDS epidemic arrived in the United States, a significant proportion of African Americans embrace the theory that government scientists created the disease to control or wipe out their communities, according to a study released today by Rand Corp. and Oregon State University.

That belief markedly hurts efforts to prevent the spread of the disease among black Americans, the study's authors and activists said. African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to Census Bureau figures, yet they account for 50 percent of new HIV infections in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly half of the 500 African Americans surveyed said that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is man-made. The study, which was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, appears in the Feb. 1 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
Some of the other items in the study:
  • More than 25% believe that AIDS was produced in a government lab.
  • 12% believe that it was created and spread by the CIA.
  • More than half believe that there is a cure for AIDS, but it is being withheld from the poor.
  • 15% said that AIDS is a form of genocide against blacks.
This might seem like an aberration, but there is a segment of the black community that appears willing to believe even the most ludicrous conspiracy theories. One need only look to the Tropical Fantasy scandal in New York in 1991 to see further evidence of it.
Tropical Fantasy was brought onto the market in September 1990 by Brooklyn Bottling, a small family-owned soft drink manufacturer established in 1937, that was in 1990 only just getting by on its line of seltzers. Fantasy's comparably low price (49¢ per 20-ounce bottle versus Coke and Pepsi's 80¢ price tag for a 16-ouncer) led to a stunning initial success, and overnight a moribund firm became a bottler now with per-month sales of $2 million plus.

In April 1991 rumors began circulating in black neighborhoods that the beverage was laced with a secret ingredient that would cause sterility in black men, and that the Ku Klux Klan were the actual bottlers.

Sales of the beverage plummeted by 70%.
When one asks the indelicate question of why African-Americans seem so eager to believe these tales, the answer is often that it's a response to slavery, or the Tuskegee syphilis study, or racism in general. But that doesn't address the question of why an individual, presumably a person who's reasonably intelligent, would choose to believe something as patently ridiculous as the notion that America is trying to kill blacks with the AIDS virus.

It's a facet of human nature that if we believe something to be true, we tend to view the world around us as supporting that viewpoint; if someone believes that all white people are out to get him, hearing a story about a fruit drink that will make him sterile sounds plausible. The problem is not just his willingness to believe a conspiracy theory, but also the underlying view of the world that is coloring his perception.

That underlying view is perpetuated from without and within. Yes, racism is real. Yes, the syphilis study was real. But Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, says that "holding on to [the syphilis study] is killing us." Wilson calls these conspiracy theories a "bogeyman" that gives people an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. Past discrimination, he says, is no longer an excuse for embracing conspiracies that allow HIV to fester.

It's a shame that Wilson's message doesn't play as well as stories about AIDS and the CIA.

DOMA Survives Court Challenge

Back in November, I wrote that I did not expect the Defense of Marriage Act to survive judicial review. Much to my surprise, a Federal District Court in Florida has proven me wrong (PDF link). In its decision, the court directly addressed the question of whether or not DOMA is contrary to the "Full Faith and Credit Clause" of the constitution.

Congress’ action in adopting DOMA are exactly what the Framers envisioned when they created the Full Faith and Credit Clause. DOMA is an example of Congress exercising its powers under the Full Faith and Credit Clause to . . . regulate conflicts between the laws of two different States, in this case, conflicts over the validity of same-sex marriages.

Adopting Plaintiffs’ rigid and literal interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause would create a license for a single State to create national policy.
I was surprised when I read this decision, but quickly learned that my surprise was based on some ignorance on my part. Much of the talk about DOMA has been how it's so obviously a violation of the "Full Faith and Credit" clause. In most of these conversations, that clause is quoted like so:
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the Public Acts, Records and Judicial Proceedings of every other State;
That seems fairly straightforward. However, I made the mistake of assuming that the people quoting FFAC were quoting the whole thing. Alas, they were not. It is said that "the devil is in the details," but in this case, the devil is after the semicolon. The complete text of FFAC reads as follows:
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the Public Acts, Records and Judicial Proceedings of every other State; And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Judicial Proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof. (emphasis mine)
This complete reading of the clause puts the court's decision in a clearer light. Yes, FFAC says that legal proceedings in one state are binding in another. It goes on to say that when those proceedings are in conflict, Congress is empowered to pass law to settle the dispute.

To my eye, this would tend to give DOMA a much better chance of surviving review by the Supreme Court, although it may be a while before a DOMA case makes it that far. The plaintiffs in this case have decided not to appeal the court's decision.
"With the present Supreme Court not willing even to hear the Florida adoption case, and the possibility of newly appointed Supreme Court judges by the Bush administration being even more conservative, it would not be prudent at this time to continue this effort," said Ellis Rubin.
I can understand that the couples in question are weary of their struggle and that they face an uphill battle, but I think they are making a mistake by not pushing the case. An uncontested legal decision tends to become precedent more quickly than a contested one, because judges are more comfortable using a case as a basis for their own decisions if that case has no pending appeal. Allowing this case to stand uncontested for a period of time will increase the likelihood of similar decisions from other courts, thus creating a wider precedent - a precedent that the Supreme Court may one day decide is too firmly entrenched to reverse.

Hat-tip to RightPundit.

1/25/2005

Stop smoking, dammit

Taking the fight against smoking to a new level, some companies are firing workers for smoking - even if they don't smoke in the office.

A Michigan health care company has fired four of its employees for refusing to take a test to determine whether they smoke cigarettes.

The company enacted a new policy this month, allowing workers to be fired if they smoke, even if the smoking takes place after-hours, or at home.

The founder of Weyco Inc. said the company doesn't want to pay the higher health care costs associated with smoking.
I have a hard time coming down firmly on either side of the fence with regard to this issue. On one hand, I support the right of employers to decide for themselves who they choose to employ. On the other hand, it does seem unfair to punish someone for something that's legal if they don't do it in the office.

It's not hard to see where this idea got its origin: state lawsuits designed to recover costs related to the medical care of smokers. If state governments can go to court to recover these costs, it logically follows that employers should be allowed to take steps to avoid incurring those costs in the first place. After all, most employers that provide health care to their workers pay a significant portion of those insurance premiums. If a company can get lower premiums by guaranteeing a smoke-free workforce, why not do it?

My concern about this sort of thing is not for the smokers (stupid filthy disgusting obnoxious habit); it's more for what I see coming down the road. If it becomes commonly accepted to terminate smokers because of the health care costs associated with smoking, that mindset could very easily be extended to someone who falls into the category of overweight or obese. How'd you like to come back from Christmas vacation and have to worry that the family dinner may have cost you your job?

That may sound silly, but it was silly just a few years ago to think that people might sue fast-food restaurants for making them fat.

Child Porn

Via Michelle Malkin...

Would you let your teenage daughter go to a prom in this dress? It sells at a Manhattan store for $495 and is a top-selling gown for the designer, according to the New York Post.

This prom dress is so skimpy, even the designer's CEO wouldn't let his teenage daughter wear it. But the dangerously revealing gown, prominently advertised in Seventeen Prom, YM Prom and Teen Prom, and on sale in a Midtown shop, is a top seller for the company this season.

"I was shocked when I first saw it, but now it's one of our top 20 dresses nationwide," says Nick Yeh, the CEO of Xcite, the Stafford, Texas, company that designed the dress and some 200 other styles this season.

"I have a 15-year-old daughter and, no, I would not recommend she wear this dress.

"As a businessman," he adds, "I'm not judging what a teenager should wear or not wear. It's up to the parents to decide for their own children."
Teenagers will always be drawn to aspects of culture - music and fashion, most notably - that are likely to annoy their parents. The process of separating from your parents and establish your own identity is a healthy and proper part of growing up, and I understand that. Still, when I look at a dress that I would expect to see (briefly) on a stripper, I don't think I'm being unreasonable when I put my hands up and say "Whoa, hold on here."

The sexualization of young girls has been underway in our culture for some time. It was at a Philadelphia Soul game last year where it really leapt out at me. During a timeout for a TV commercial, the "Junior Soulmates" came on the field for a performance. Girls as young as eight years old performance a hip-hop dance routine in uniforms just like these:


In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have been very surprised. Public schools now issue athletic uniforms to students that have the school's name printed across the rearend. Abercrombie & Fitch sells thongs in kid's sizes. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I'm intensely more aware of this sort of thing than I ever was before.

For me, the most depressing aspect of this phenomenon is that so much of it is taking place with parental approval. While I'm sure that there are some enterprising young women who are shelling out their own cash for dresses like the one pictured above, it's likely that most of them are being purchased with money (and approval) from their parents. The eight-year-old girls "working it" with the Junior Soulmates aren't getting themselves to the stadium - their parents are bringing them, and dressing them, and applying their garish whore paint stage makeup.

As a parent, it's my duty to do my best to prepare my children for life as an adult. Part of this process involves letting my children make some of their own decisions. The flipside of that is my obligation to provide them moral guidance as to what is appropriate and what is not. Sometimes, this is going to involve cliche phrases like "you are not going out of the house in THAT outfit," and tolerating the eye-rolling and foot-stomping that follows.

Parenting is not a popularity contest. A parent who strives to be their child's best friend will succeed at neither. If more parents were concerned about being parents instead of being pals, there would be fewer sixteen-year-old girls wearing prom dresses like this.

1/24/2005

The Myth of British Islamophobia

The British magazine Prospect has a piece called "Islamophobia Myth" which looks at the anti-Muslim "backlash" supposedly taking place in the U.K.

Last summer, the home office published figures that revealed a 300 per cent increase in the number of Asians being stopped and searched under Britain's anti-terror laws. Journalists, Muslim leaders and even the home office all shouted "Islamophobia." "The whole Muslim community is being targeted by the police," claimed Khalid Sofi of the Muslim Council of Britain.

The bald figure of a "300 per cent increase" suggested heavy-handed policing at the very least. But dig a little deeper and the figures show that just 3,000 Asians had been stopped and searched in the previous year under the Terrorism Act. Of these, probably half were Muslim. In other words, around 1,500 Muslims out of a population of at least 1.6m had been stopped under the terror laws—hardly a case of the police targeting every Muslim.

A total of 21,577 people from all backgrounds were stopped and searched under the terror laws. The majority—14,429—were white. Yet when I interviewed Iqbal Sacranie, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, he insisted that "95-98 per cent of those stopped and searched under the anti-terror laws are Muslim." The real figure is 14 per cent (for Asians). However many times I showed him the true statistics, he refused to budge. His figures appear to have been simply plucked out of the sky.
Some unscrupulous Muslim leaders believe that talking up Islamophobia shores up their own power base. I am told that in his book "On War", Carl von Clausewitz said that "noting causes a group to galvanize as much as an external enemy."

Using the myth of an "anti-Muslim backlash" as their bogeyman, these Muslim leaders do their people a terrible disservice. The lesson of American immigration teaches that immigrant populations prosper and thrive when they successfully assimilate into their host society. When Mr. Sacranie tells his people that rank-and-file British folk hate them, those Muslims tend to sequester themselves among their own population.

This "Balkanization" plays right into the hands of those who would like to see some sort of British state governed under the law of Sharia. Once there are a significant number of Muslims concentrated geographically, a de facto state will exist, lending support to the notion that a de jure state should follow. It's not hard to see this as the intended end of tactics like those of Mr. Sacranie.

1/22/2005

Top 40

It's a wonderful evening here in Pennsylvania. Snow is piling up outside, I have a cuddly toddler sitting in my lap, and Slowplay has named Disintegrator as one of their Top 40 Blogs.

40. The Northerner
39. Up for Anything
38. Michael The Archangel
37. Blue Eyed Infidel
36. Disintegrator
35. Chrenkoff
34. INDC Journal
33. Anti-idiotarian Rottweiller
32. Right-Thinking from the Left Coast
31. Jihad Watch
30. One Hand Clapping
29. Davids Medienkritik
28. Backcountry Conservative
27. Expat Yank
26. The Diplomad
25. California Yankee
24. Political Junkie
23. The Political Teen
22. Blogs for Bush
21. Protein Wisdom
20. ScrappleFace
19. Captain’s Quarters
18. Outside the Beltway
17. In the Bullpen
16. Brad Wardell
15. Say Anything
14. HundredPercenter Newswires
13. Little Green Footballs
12. Instapundit
11. Michelle Malkin
10. The Dead Pool
9. La Shawn Barber’s Corner
8. The Media Drop
7. Dummocrats
6. Young Pundit
5. Right Wing News
4. Ace of Spades HQ
3. Alarming News
2. Powerline
1. Wizbang
Being on anyone's list of Top 40 Blogs would surprise me - being included in the above company is far more than I deserve, and I'm grateful that Slowplay thinks so highly of Disintegrator.

1/21/2005

Like Father, Like Son

CNNMoney is reporting this morning that FCC Chairman Michael Powell is resigning from the agency.

A senior government official says Powell, a member of the FCC since November 1998 and the chairman since early 2001, will announce his resignation later Friday. His term on the commission runs through 2007.

FCC spokesmen were not immediately available for comment, though one person in the press office said a new release is anticipated.
Oddly enough, it was only yesterday that The Economist ran a piece on Mr. Powell, lauding his work in protecting nascent technologies like VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) while chiding him for his agency's crusade against "Janet Jackson's errant breast".

In a way, Powell is the C. Everett Koop of the FCC. Just as Koop was the first Surgeon General whose name became a household word, It's a challenge to name any previous chairs of the FCC. Powell's tenure has been a mixed bag. His agency's focus on broadcast decency appeared to cast aside any first amendment considerations. Yet, Powell never undertook any effort to extend the regulatory reach of the FCC to subscription services like cable or satellite TV. New media has certainly flowered on his watch: cable TV, satellite radio, and the internet continue to make headway against the old media of broadcast TV and radio. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether his efforts on deregulation will eventually prove themselves boon or boondoggle.

I tend to regard the FCC as something of an unruly watchdog; effective in what it's supposed to do so long as its leash is kept very short. Powell's hand was on the leash for four years, and I think it's fair to say that the FCC rarely did more than bark a lot and annoy the neighbors. I'm willing to call that a success.

SCOTUS Mulls Schiavo Case

WorldNetDaily reports that the Supreme Court is meeting behind closed doors today to decide whether or not to take up the Terri Schiavo case. For those who don't know, Schiavo is the brain-disabled Florida woman whose right to live is at the center of an ongoing euthanasia battle in the Florida courts.

In a 27-page brief filed early last month, attorneys for Gov. Jeb Bush asked the nation’s nine top justices to review and eventually reverse the Florida Supreme Court's Sept. 23 ruling that struck down "Terri’s Law" as unconstitutional, arguing that the lower courts had denied the governor’s and Schiavo's federally protected rights to due process and equal protection.

The attorneys contend the governor was never allowed a "day in court" to defend his 11th-hour rescue of Schiavo from death by court-ordered starvation 15 months ago or the law the Legislature had passed authorizing his actions.

"[The state court's ruling] fails to allow for the governor and the legislature to afford protections that they deem necessary to provide for wards in this situation," said Ken Connor, Bush's lead attorney, during a teleconference held minutes before the papers were filed Dec. 1.
This case has been dragging on for years - the earliest CNN piece is from July of 2001 and by then the courts had been involved for over a year. Late last year, Terri's husband Michael indicated that he might be ready to give up his fight to have Terri's feeding tube removed, but still the case lumbers forward.

To me, the two most important aspects of the issue are:
  1. Terri's Wishes - Terri Schiavo left no living will or any other documentation indicating how she would want a situation like this to be handled. Michael Schiavo insists that she told him that she would not want to be kept alive artificially, but hearsay is a tenuous justification for killing someone.
  2. Rehabilitation - There have been doctors who have testified that Terri can never improve her quality of life, and there have been doctors who have testified that she could benefit from rehabilitative therapy. There does not appear to be a definitive answer one way or the other.
Therefore, it comes down to this: If we're not sure of someone's wishes, and we're not sure if they could benefit from therapy, we should choose to err on the side of life. We don't put criminals to death if they're "probably" guilty; we shouldn't starve a woman to death because she would "probably" want us to.

Note: WorldNetDaily is one of the few news outlets that's following this case with any regularity. CNN's last article on the case is over a month and a half old.

Update: Alarming News has a short bit on this with more on the way.

1/20/2005

Hillary Is Right

First Ted Rall and now Hillary Clinton. If any more Democrats take stances that I agree with I'm going to get kicked off all my conservative blogrolls. Damn the torpedoes!

Speaking at a dinner last night, Senator Clinton expressed strong support for faith-based initiatives.

Clinton said there has been a "false division" between faith-based approaches to social problems and respect for the separation of church of state.

"There is no contradiction between support for faith-based initiatives and upholding our constitutional principles," said Clinton, a New York Democrat who often is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008.

She said there must be room for religious people to "live out their faith in the public square."
I find it fairly remarkable that one of the country's highest-profile Democrats is coming out in such strong support of a concept so closely identified with President Bush. Also impressive is her statement about faith and the public square. The presence of religion in the public square is not an establishment of religion, and it would appear that Senator Clinton understands this.

Of course, the cynic in me looks at this and sees the shrewd politics so often associated with the Clinton name. Many Democrats know that they need to find a way to connect with a wider spectrum of religious voters (See "The Company You Keep"), and if Senator Clinton is considering a presidential run in '08, this is a good step in that direction.

Cynical or not, I must applaud Senator Clinton for taking the right stance. Doubleplus so for taking a stance that is not playing well among the "F*ck Middle America" crowd. A brief perousal of the Democratic Underground reactions to the article shows some fairly strong feelings.

From Connie_Corleone:
I hope Democrats don't vote for her in the primaries.

From mutus_frutex
Pandering traitor..

and from MadHound
How about the Democrats growing a fucking spine and stand up and fight like the opposition party that they are supposed to be, instead of rolling over and pissing on themselves like a pup afraid of it's master?
While these voices are not representative of everyday Democrats, they have held an inordinate amount of sway over the party's direction. The end result of that sway has been defeat; Republicans control a majority in the state legislatures, the governorships, the House, the Senate, and have won the White House in seven out of the last ten elections. Moving towards the American mainstream means alienating the BUSHITLER crowd. Senator Clinton appears to be taking some initial steps in the right direction, and for that she deserves kudos.

Heads Not Yet Rolled

Everyone knows that Mary Mapes was fired from CBS and three executives were asked to resign in the wake of Rathergate. What everyone might not know is that the three executives in question haven't left.

[CBS Chairman]The report's producer, Mary Mapes, was fired as a result of the panel's report. Three others were asked to resign. [CBS Chairman] Mr. Moonves revealed today that none of the three have done so. Asked what CBS will do if they refuse to resign, Mr. Moonves said he could not talk about that situation. "It's a legal issue," he said.
My only guess at this point is that the three executives in question have lawyered up and are fighting to keep their jobs. From my point of view, this is a delightful development.

If a civil action ensues over CBS's demand that these people resign, there will be depositions. No doubt these depositions will detail, for the record, much of what went on behind the scenes at CBS as the story was being put together. What just might come out is what the so-called "independent" Thornburgh report laughably failed to find - evidence of political bias on the part of the people behind the memo story.

CBS is in a tight spot here. If they reinstate the people in question, no one in the organization is going to take them seriously. If they press on in their demands for resignation, they risk civil proceedings and the further airing of dirty laundry. I will confess that I am desperately hoping for the latter. What I expect will happen is that CBS will offer the executives fat settlements severance packages attached to scary non-disclosure agreements.

Boston In The Crosshairs?

The Boston Herald is reporting on a strange situation involving a potential terrorist threat against Boston.

Authorities are scouring Boston for four Chinese nationals and two Iraqi men who may pose a nuclear threat to the city based on a report from an unidentified man calling from Mexico who claims to have smuggled them over the U.S. border.

"They got a call from across the border in Mexico to the California Highway Patrol several days ago, and he said he brought two Iraqis and four Chinese (individuals) across the border and according to him, they stated soon to follow behind them would be some sort of (nuclear) material," said a law enforcement source.

"He refers to some sort of nuclear material that will follow them through New York up into Boston."
The story seems a little oddball to me - why would one of the participants in the plot alert the FBI? Nevertheless, Boston officials and Homeland Security appear to be taking it seriously.

Prior to 9/11, this sort of investigation probably would not have made the papers. In the age of increased "transparency" in investigations concerning possible terrorist threats, even thin leads like this become prominent news stories. Where some people cite these sorts of stories as fear-mongering, I tend to look at it as a good thing. Generally speaking, increased public scrutiny of governmental activities tends to bring about positive change.

Hat tip to MartiniPundit.

Washington Election Update

Just as PowerLine was on point for the Rathergate story, so Sound Politics is taking the lead on the botched/stolen gubernatorial election in Washington. The latest update indicates that there are now three counties where there were more votes counted than there were registered voters. The narrow margin of victory combined with what appears to be a high level of skullduggery make a revote the only way for either candidate to execute the office with any sense of legitimacy. There's just no way to know who won.

I'm still waiting for Barbara Boxer to break down in tears over the injustice of it all.

1/19/2005

Why Social Security Doesn't Add Up, Example #4,986

Reader Babs Kerns of Horsham, PA pointed out something curious about Social Security benefits with regard to divorced spouses.

Last night, my aunt told me about a law that states that someone who was married to someone available for Social Security for at least 10 years is entitled to up to 50% of the value of their SS benefits. Further, it doesn't impact their earnings. And if the divorced wage-earner has died, the surviving divorcee can actually get 100% of the benefit.
Ms. Kerns provided this link to the Social Security website and sure enough - there it is.
A person who is divorced after at least 10 years of marriage may qualify for benefits on the former spouse's Social Security record. To receive benefits as a divorced spouse, the person must be at least age 62 and his/her former spouse must be entitled to retirement or disability benefits.
...
Also, the benefits paid to a divorced spouse will have no effect on the benefit amount paid to other beneficiaries on the record.
Another example of a plan that promises to pay out more than it can possibly take in. When private citizens do this, it's called a Ponzi Scheme. When government does it, it's called Social Security.

But don't worry - Democrats say there's no Social Security crisis.

Barbara Boxer Lies

Via Little Green Footballs...

Condoleeza Rice has been fielding some tough questions from Democrats in the hearings to confirm her as Secretary of State. During the questioning, Barbara Boxer tells a whopper of a lie...

Rice insisted the war in Iraq was not launched solely over WMD. Deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, she said, welcomed terrorists, attacked his own neighbors and paid suicide bombers in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

But Boxer said the resolution that authorized Bush to launch the war in Iraq talked about "WMD, period."
Fortunately, the text of the bill that authorized the war is a matter of public record. It includes the following justifications for the war:
Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;
...
Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;
...
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;
...
Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40); and

Whereas it is in the national security interests of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region.
You can read the text of the resolution for yourself at the Library of Congress THOMAS site. Search on the title: "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002".

This is the bill that was presented to Congress, and it makes Boxer's statement look pathetic. Either she doesn't read the bills that Congress debates, or she thinks that Americans are too stupid to fact-check her ridiculous prevarications.

Ted Rall Gets It Right

My dislike for Ted Rall is encoded into my DNA, much like my disdain for the designated hitter and the knowledge that O.J. is guilty. Still, it's important to acknowledge when one's adversaries are on the side of the angels. In an op-ed piece called "Legal, Safe, and Common", Rall does in fact get it right:

While we encourage illegal immigration, we've made it virtually impossible for a foreigner who dreams of becoming an American to do so legally. Legal immigration is limited to people who already have relatives here, are sponsored by an employer or are seeking political asylum from a tiny list of approved countries. Had these rules been enforced since 1776, there would be more Native Americans than any other variety.

A sane immigration policy would reverse these attitudes. We should welcome legal immigrants in much larger numbers. After all, America has always become culturally richer and economically more prosperous as the result of its hard-working newcomers. Legal immigration should become safe, legal and commonplace. At the same time, no nation worthy of the name can tolerate porous borders. We can and must seal our borders to prevent economic migrants, terrorists and others with unknown motives from entering the United States.
Although Rall gives token mention to the notion that tougher immigration policy will improve homeland security, the real motivation behind his stance is clear from the article: wage increases for every American:
Most employers don't hire illegal workers. But they all benefit from the downward pressure illegal immigration puts on wages. It's simple supply and demand: if we deported every undocumented worker, companies would be forced to increase pay at the bottom from sub-minimum to minimum wage levels. This would force employers to entice those currently working for the legal minimum wage with raises, and so on up the scale.
Rall's case for tougher immigration policy is a strong one, echoed by conservative voices like Michelle Malkin and yours truly. His goal of wealth redistribution notwithstanding, Rall's right and deserves credit for being so.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin.

1/18/2005

Dear Sir

I've written a few emails to "mainstream journalists" when I've disagreed with something that they wrote, and I've written emails to other bloggers for similar reasons. My experience has been that the "journalists" respond with snooty well-that's-your-opinion responses and the bloggers are rather receptive.

Case in point: In a December 3rd post, Walter Olson of OverLawyered wrote that "an essential part of the task of proselytizing for one faith is convincing listeners that there is something seriously wrong with or deficient about others." I took issue with his statement and emailed him to that effect. He sent me a very polite email in response, reworded the post in question, and put my criticism on his Letters page.

This is the sort of thing that builds credibility in my book, and it's one of the reasons why I'm one of the teeming masses that regularly submits links to OverLawyered.

David Letterman Probably Skipped This One

Foreign Policy Magazine has compiled a list of underreported stories from this past year entitled "The Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2004". It's a good collection:

  1. Nous Sommes Tous Chinois - France's collusion with China in its intimidation of Taiwan
  2. The Eurotaxman Cometh - The European Union sacks its taxation commissioner after she raises questions about financial irregularities
  3. Not Iraqification, but Kurdification - Increasingly, the only Iraqi troops that U.S. forces trust are Kurdish
  4. Putin to Kvashnin: “You’re Fired!” - Putin boots the army's chief of staff
  5. North Korea—Not Quite Dead - North Korea has quietly introducing free-market reforms to its economy
  6. Pakistan’s Musharraf Stays in Uniform - Musharraf was supposed to quit as President and head of the army at the end of the year. He didn't.
  7. Busting the Bunker Busters - Plans for low-yield nukes die in Congress and give rogue nations an easy way to protect their assets from air power
  8. Warding off the Oil Curse - Chad became an oil exporter and struck a deal with the World Bank requiring the nation to reinvest 80% of the revenues in improving infrastructure and fighting poverty.
  9. Playing it Seif - Libya's Muammar el-Qaddafi appears to a have a progressive son. Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar’s second son, lobbied his father to end the standoff with the West and says that Libyan Jews persecuted in the past are entitled to compensation.
  10. A Wounded Military - Wounded soldiers have a much better chance of surviving today than in the past, but the costs - financial and human - of so many debilitating injuries may be staggering
The FP piece does not offer an in-depth examination of the issues on the list; I'm looking at it as a jumping-off point for a lot of future googlewerk and perhaps the subjects of blog posts to come.

Biological Test for ADHD?

NewScientist.com is reporting that a biological test for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been developed.

The first biological test for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder has been developed. The researchers claim the diagnosis, based on examination of eye movements, is more than 93% accurate and could lead to earlier identification and treatment for children with the condition.

Scientists analysed the eye movements of 65 children aged between four and six in Thessaloniki, Greece. About half of the children had been diagnosed as having ADHD through the standard method of psychological assessment and the use of questionnaires.

The children were placed in front of a computer screen while wearing special goggles to monitor their eye movements and asked to use their eyes to "lock-on to" and follow spots of light that traversed the screen during a 10-minute test.

"Children with ADHD show large difference in eye movements compared with normal children. For example, those without ADHD could follow the light spot for 30 seconds to as much as five minutes, whereas the children with the disorder could only follow the stimulus for about three to five seconds," says Giorgos Pavlidis at University of Brunel, UK, who led the study.
Perhaps this is a result of my medical naivete', but when I hear the term "biological test" I think of tests that are not open to subjective analysis - pregnancy tests, HIV tests, that sort of thing. So, I was a little deflated to read that this was not a diagnostic tool of that caliber.

I'm also skeptical of putting too much faith in the results this study when the sample is so small - sixty-five chidren - and so demographically homogenous. If doctors are going to use this tool as part of a battery of tests to arrive at diagnoses of ADHD, then I support that. However, Mr. Pavlidis seems to think that his test is all that's needed for a credible diagnosis.
"Children as young as three years old could benefit from the test. It could reliably identify those children who have ADHD early on so that effective intervention could be given to reduce loss of confidence and other behavioural and psychological problems," Pavlidis told New Scientist.
I should see if MedPundit has anything to say on this...

The Fallen

RightThinkingGirl visited Shanksville, PA - where Flight 93 went down on September 11, 2001 - and took photos. A small gallery worth your time.

I live in Pennsylvania, and so it would not be inconvenient for me to visit this place. Nor would it be inconvenient for me to visit Ground Zero in New York City. Yet, I have not gone to either place. I've thought about it a lot, and I do feel a certain obligation to spend some time in these places.

Yet, three years after the fact, I'm still not ready to confront the enormity of it in person. I have a Time-Life commemorative hardcover that I look at once a week or so, and the photos still move me to tears. Thankfully, no one that I know was lost on that day. Still, I carry an ache from that day that I don't expect will ever really go away.

1/17/2005

Bush Will Not Lobby For Gay Marriage Amendment

Buried on page 2 of a Washington Post story about Bush's Iraq policy comes this tidbit...

On the domestic front, Bush said he would not lobby the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.

While seeking reelection, Bush voiced strong support for such a ban, and many political analysts credit this position for inspiring record turnout among evangelical Christians, who are fighting same-sex marriage at every juncture. Groups such as the Family Research Council have made the marriage amendment their top priority for the next four years.

The president said there is no reason to press for the amendment because so many senators are convinced that the Defense of Marriage Act -- which says states that outlaw same-sex unions do not have to recognize such marriages conducted outside their borders -- is sufficient. "Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I'd take their admonition seriously. . . . Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate."
I look at this as vindication of what I've been saying all along - Bush never really intended to amend the constitution. The brouhaha over the Federal Marriage Amendment has been nothing more than a complicated political dance that both sides took part in as a means of drumming up support and donations from their bases. Neither side expected FMA to pass. With the president's political capital now earmarked for other endeavors, there's not much reason to engage in a debate of sound and fury that will result in no change to the nation's laws.

Religious conservatives will shriek with outrage over being "betrayed", but the fact of the matter is that FMA was never going to receive anything more than a token push from the president in his second term. Those who thought otherwise were naively hopeful or blinded by their abject hatred of Bush.

The Company You Keep

The New York Times, in a piece called "Democrats Turn to Leader of Religious Left", reports that House Democrats are trying to find a way to reach out to religious voters.

Democrats, reeling from the Republicans' success at courting churchgoers, are focusing new attention on a religious and political anomaly: Jim Wallis, one of the few prominent left-leaning leaders among evangelical Protestants.

At the start of the Congressional session, Senate Democrats invited Mr. Wallis to address their members at a private session to discuss issues. A group of about 15 House Democrats invited him to a breakfast discussion about dispelling their party's secular image.
Mr. Wallis is the founder and editor of Soujourners, a Christian ministry "whose mission is to proclaim and practice the biblical call to integrate spiritual renewal and social justice". A look at the Sojourners Action Alerts page reveals a list of causes that certainly seem very Democrat-friendly:
  • Bulldozers in Bethlehem? - Tell Congress to investigate the use of Caterpillar equipment in the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes.
  • Demand Rumsfeld's resignation, independent investigation - Abuses in U.S. military prisons are systemic, not isolated.
  • Stop election dirty tricks! - Organizations funded by the Republican National Committee have been caught pulling illegal dirty tricks that included voter registration workers destroying registration forms filled out by Democrats.
Sojourners doesn't appear concerned about "dirty tricks" in the Washington gubernatorial race, and also doesn't appear concerned about I.R.S. restrictions on political speech by 503(c) nonprofits. But, I digress...

Mr. Wallis is the author of God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. Publication of this book was accelerated so that it would hit bookshelves around the time of the Inauguration. In a review for Slate entitled "The Morals of the Story", Elizabeth A. Castelli sounds some cautionary notes about Mr. Wallis...
Wallis states again and again his overarching perspective: "The real question is not whether religious faith should influence a society and its politics, but how." Religious faith is no generic category here; it means biblical religion.
...
But what is more troubling is the degree to which Wallis frames "religion" as the sole source of a legitimate political vision for social change in the United States. Throughout the book, he argues that "vision" only emerges from religious conviction and that everything else is either cynicism or complaint.
...
Moreover, people without religious convictions or affiliations are largely reduced in Wallis' schema to complaining secularists with "no vision." He calls nonreligious people "secular fundamentalists" with "absolutist" views on the separation of church and state, or else he describes them as "withdrawing" from "moral lessons" and "depriving" Americans of important debate about ethical issues.
The Mike Newdow wing of the Democratic Party is not apt to take kindly to Mr. Wallis' notion that religious conviction is the only source of vision, and Democrats should take caution not to incite this segment of their base. With Howard Dean warning against the Party becoming "Republican Lite",it's easy to see how warming up to Mr. Wallis could be interpreted as exactly that - Republican Lite.

That interpretation, should it become commonplace, would only be pouring coal into the engines of Dean's campaign to take control of the party; a fate best left avoided.

1/14/2005

Inaugural Prayer Update

Michael Newdow's lawsuit to stop prayers at the Inauguration has been rejected.

On Thursday, Newdow told U.S. District Judge John Bates that having a minister invoke God in the Jan. 20 ceremony would violate the Constitution by forcing him to accept unwanted religious beliefs.

But one day later, Bates ruled that Newdow wouldn't get far in his legal challenge and noted the absence of a "clearly established violation of the Establishment Clause."
FindLaw has a PDF of the court's decision. In addition to finding no violation of the Establishment Clause, the decision also notes that the "balance of harms" weighed strongly against Newdow.

Plans Within Plans

Professional atheist Mike Newdow, perhaps sensing that his fifteen minutes were drawing to a close, has found a way to reset the fleeting-fame timer: going to court to stop President Bush from having ministers say prayers at the inauguration.

Michael Newdow, a lawyer and doctor who has fought to keep his daughter from being exposed to the Pledge of Allegiance in her public school, said the inauguration is perhaps the most public of all government-sponsored national ceremonies. It should not provide the president with an opportunity to make nonreligious citizens and non-Protestants feel like outsiders, he said.

Newdow filed suit last month and participated in yesterday's hearing via a teleconference hookup with the federal courthouse in Washington. The judge said he hopes to issue a ruling today. Bush will be sworn in at noon Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.
Mr. Newdow's problem is a simple one - he ignores the parts of the constitution that he doesn't like. A look at his webpage illustrates this:
The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." As I understand it, this resulted from the Framers' awareness of the persecution and animosity that inevitably accompanies state religions.
Mr. Newdow, either through ignorance or a desire to manipulate the argument, inserts a period after the word "religion." Anyone who has actually read the document knows that there's a very important phrase that follows...
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis mine)
Mr. Newdow and others of like mind appear to believe that no public space should be utilized in any form for religious expression. According to this view, public land can't have nativity scenes, public events can't mention God, and public buildings can't hang "Merry Christmas" banners.

To my mind, having a minister offer a prayer is not "a law respecting an establishment of religion"; banning a minister from offering a prayer, on the other hand, certainly seems like "prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

That argument aside, it seems clear to me that Mr. Newdow has ambitions further afield than simply eliminating "Under God" from the pledge. Now that he has made it clear that he intend to press the issue wherever opportunity presents itself, one can logically presume that he'll pursue the removal from "In God We Trust" from our national currency. After all, if we can't say "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and we can't have ministers offer prayers at civic functions, it is hard to see how one can allow for the nation's currency to proclaim any such thing.

And then?

If the courts agree with Mr. Newdow that it is unconstitutional for any public property to be utilized for religious expression, the groundwork will have been laid for the elimination of all radio and television broadcasts of a religious nature. Radio and television airwaves are public property that is administered by the government; a public space. If we can't talk about God on public property, how is it constitutional for the government to allow people to talk about God on the public airwaves?

It would be imprudent to look at this as the unintended consequence of an inadvertently slippery slope. Mr. Newdow has shown that he intends to press the issue on successively wider fronts. It's not hard to see where he's going.

While it would be easy to dismiss Mr. Newdow and his intellectual kin as petulant whiners, we should welcome this opportunity to talk about the real issue. The "separation of church and state" is not a part of our constitution; it was created by the Supreme Court. The result of its implementation has been too much attention being paid to the "respecting an establishment of religion" clause at the expense of "nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Not to mention "abridging the freedom of speech."

1/13/2005

'Cos He Said So

Bill Cosby has taken a lot of flak for his stiff criticisms of the black community. His op-ed in yesterday's Detroit News shows that he is unfazed.

What can the future hold for us with a 50 percent high school dropout rate in many urban areas and with a 60 percent illiteracy rate among inmates and a prison population that's 45 percent black?

Most of these ills stem from several factors, but an important one is the lack of education of too many of our young people. Studies show a correlation between inadequate schooling and a wide range of distressing outcomes, including early death, a propensity toward violence and substance abuse.

Our children are telling us something. Why are we not listening and paying attention to the messages?

Parent power! Proper education has to begin at home. We must demand that our youth have an understanding of spoken and written English, math and science. We must transform our communities with a renewed commitment to our children, and that means parents must show that they value education. We don't need another federal commission to study the problem.

What we need now is parents sitting down with children, overseeing homework, sending children off to school in the morning well fed, clothed, rested and ready to learn.
It's not unreasonable to presume that if Bill Cosby were a white entertainer, his missives on the state of Black America would be quickly dismissed as racist. That convenient pigeonhole is not available in this particular case, and puts many people in the uncomfortable position of having to respond to the content of his comments rather than the color of his skin.

The Cos is not dismissing the effects of racism in this country; he's dismissing the notion that racism gives African Americans a pass on taking any responsibility for their own circumstances. That attitude - that racism and circumstance are insurmountable obstacles that make effort pointless - is summed up perfectly in an MSNBC piece about Cosby's comments:
So many kids on the block would like nothing better than to fulfill Cosby's middle-class fantasies, but they also don't want to be seen as suckers itching to abandon childhood friends and ways for dreams that can never come true.
It's depressing to think that the idea of black parents investing time and energy in their children's education is a "fantasy" and that aspiring to a better future is "a dream that can never come true." It's the ubiquitous nature of that mindset that the Cos is railing against. It's a shame that his voice appears so solitary.

Note: More of Cosby's thoughts on education can be found in Letters to the Next President:What We Can Do About the Real Crisis in Public Education, available at Amazon.

The Tenth Item

Via PrestoPundit...

The Washington Times reports today that Bush's immigration plan is running into some serious opposition among Congressional Republicans.

Last January, Mr. Bush proposed allowing foreign workers to apply for renewable three-year work permits. Illegal immigrants already in the United States would be eligible and would not have to face the deportation and waiting period before re-entering the country that the law now requires.

But soon after he made his proposal, the president's aides faced tough criticism from Republican lawmakers at a retreat in Philadelphia, and Mr. Bush seemed to put the proposal on the back burner.

Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who controls which bills reach the floor, all oppose granting legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States.

"And then you come to the rank-and-file guys," Mr. Hayworth said, "who, on nine out of 10 items agree with the administration, this is the 10th item. And now, if it goes to number one on the priority list, it is the item where there will be serious debate and discussion and ultimately rejection of this initiative."
The center of Bush's immigration plan is a guest-worker plan that would provide a way for America's estimated ten million illegal immigrants to earn a legal status that would let them stay in the country for up to six years. Once they register as temporary workers, they would be eligible to begin the long process of applying for citizenship or permanent residency.

At the core of most objections to this plan (including my own) is the notion of rewarding someone for breaking the law. Illegal immigrants have broken the law. The Bush plan not only gives these people a pass on their crimes; it rewards them by giving them exactly what they sought when they decided to break the law in the first place - permanent residency. I know of no plan that rewards shoplifters by giving them a pardon and the merchandise they stole.

The reality of immigration is that there are jobs that Americans won't do; the types of jobs that immigrants are willing to risk their lives crossing Arizona deserts for. Rather than reward these hazardous (and often fatal) journeys, we need to acknowledge the fact that our economy depends on these workers. That means allocating resource to allow more immigrants to legally enter the country, and to do it faster. It also means stepping up efforts to control illegal immigration and exercising tighter control of our borders.

One cannot reward illegal immigration while simultaneously expecting people to come to this country "by the book". All things being equal, people will follow the path of least resistance. True immigration reform (not to mention enhanced national security) will come when that path is through an Immigration office, rather than the deserts of the American Southwest.

Note: Here I am citing the Washington Times right after saying that I don't like to do so. However, the article was buttressed by a parallel piece in the Washington Post, so I felt comfortable with it.

1/12/2005

When Life Hands You a Yemen, Make Yemenade

Via Overlawyered...

On December 26th of last year, the American Embassy in Yemen issued an advisory warning American citizens to avoid the city of Aden, and the Aden Hotel specifically.

The American Embassy cautions all American citizens to be alert and avoid travel to the city of Aden. The Embassy advises of a possible threat against the Aden Hotel in particular. The American Embassy has advised its personnel not to travel to Aden until after January 1, 2005.
The new year came and went, and thankfully there was no incident at the hotel. The hotel has filed a lawsuit against the embassy.
In a statement to the Yemen Times, Fadhl al-Hilali, General Manager at Aden Hotel said the warnings of the American Embassy sparked fear among clients and made them leave the hotel. A number of workers also left the hotel fearing the warnings from the embassy.

He mentioned that the hotel’s administration had already prepared several ceremonial programs to celebrate the occasion as other hotels all over Yemen do and that the celebration was to be sponsored by many trade companies.

"The warning period ended and nothing bad occurred, so this indicates that such rumors have no place of truth," Al-Hilali said. "According to the filed suit, we claim a compensation worth $ US500,000."
It's sad that in our quest to introduce things like freedom and democracy to the Middle East, we've also introduced the mindset of the worst of our lawyers. For every Cher, there's a Sonny, I guess.

From Hero To Zero

It took all of three days for Hamas to completely undermine newly-elected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

A top Hamas leader said Wednesday that the Islamic militant group has no plans to disarm, adding that the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has no authority to order an end to attacks against Israel.

The comments by Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, complicated Abbas' efforts to persuade militants to declare a cease-fire.

"Hamas is not planning to give the weapons of its fighters to the Palestinian Authority, but we will ask Mr. Abbas to protect the Palestinians in face of the repeated occupation incursions," Zahar said in a statement posted on a Hamas Web site.

"As long as occupation and aggression continue, and as long as occupation persists, then no one could disarm us," he added.
Zahar's use of the word occupation is an important one. When groups like Hamas speak of their fight against Israeli occupation, they're not talking about the Gaza Strip of the West Bank - they're talking about Israel. Hamas considers all Israelis to be active participants in the occupation of Palestinian land. So, when Hamas says that they will never disarm (and thus, never stop killing Israelis) so long as occupation continues, what they are saying is that they will never stop killing Israelis so long as there are Israelis to kill.

While Hamas operates freely within areas controlled by the PA, Israel's hard line towards the Palestinians is not likely to soften; nor should it. When Abbas finishes enjoying the warm tongue-bath he is receiving from international leaders leaders and the press, he will find himself between the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis: If he attempts to suppress Hamas and rein them in, he will be acting in the best long-term interests of his people - and his people will hate him for it. Arab leaders are not known for bold action that threatens their hold on power. This does not inspire confidence that peace is around the corner.

When the Palestinian people are ready to reject terror, murder, and those who carry it out, Hamas will lose their de facto immunity from prosecution for their crimes. When that happens, Israel and the world will see that the Palestinian people are serious about peaceful coexistence with Israel. That's when a true Palestinian state - strong at home and respected in the world (as a certain senator from Massachusetts might say) - will come to be. Until then, the Palestinian people will live in the limbo dictated not by the Zionist occupiers, but by their own choices.

1/11/2005

He's Running

After many weeks of speculation, Howard Dean has made it official...

Today, I'm announcing my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state and we must be willing to contest every race at every level. We will only win when we show up and fight for the issues important to all of us.
The statement is about a page long and mostly consists of why Dean thinks he's the right guy for the job. There is one interesting paragraph, though.
But most of all, together, we have to rebuild the American community. We will never succeed by treating our nation as a collection of separate regions or separate groups. There are no red states or blues states, only American states. And we must talk to the people in all of these states as members of one community.
I think that Dean is going to have a hard time selling this concept to his most ardent supporters, like...
  • Those who think that only ignorant hillbilly homophobic redneck Nazis would vote for Bush, or
  • Those who think that we should cut off all government programs in the red states so that those brainwashed fools will come to their senses, or
  • Those who think that JesusLand is funny.
Those people have made it all too clear what they think of Middle America, and I can't imagine they're going to be receptive to the idea of reaching out to people they consider morons.

More to the point, I think that a Howard Dean chairmanship would be disastrous for the party. Taking the party hard a'starboard does not strike me as a reasoned and well-thought-out response to the electoral defeat of '04. Democratic prospects for '08 look good; there will be no incumbent and Senator H. Clinton can probably crush anyone who challenges her in the primaries (not to mention the general election). Dean's isolationist pacifism is not the way to convince Americans that Democrats are credible on the topic of national security.

I'm a conservative and a Republican, and so it's understandable that I would root for Democrats to lose elections. What troubles me about a Dean chairmanship of the DNC is the possibility that the Democrats get thumped so badly in '06 and '08 that the GOP finds itself with supermajorities in one or both houses of Congress. Neither party can be trusted with that much power.

Stop Howard!

Update: SlowPlay follows up with "For Dems, Dean a new kind of poison" where he says that Dean can't compete on the national stage.
Dean has no national credentials and is from a sort of obscure place. As a state pol from Vermont, there is a good chance that Dean won’t have the national clout and experience neede to go into places like New Mexico and round up support for candidates. Some may also think that Vermont is out of touch. You may remember that it was often noted during Dean’s run for the roses that his state has almost no minorities in it. Dean was able to come up with good quips to deflect this criticism ("if number of minorities in your state had anything to do with it, Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King” or something like that), but it is a valid concern as a good chunk of the Dem base is comprised by ethnic minorities.
Give SlowPlay a visit when you get the chance.

Regime Change Redux

I don't usually cite or quote the Washington Times because their reporting is often shoddy. I'm making an exception for "Risks of appeasing Iran's mullahs" by Struan Stevenson. Stevenson is a Scottish Conservative member of the European Parliament and co-chairman of the Friends of Free Iran Intergroup in the European Parliament.

Stevenson makes no bones about the fact that he looks at Europe's current stances towards Iran as "spineless", and goes so far as to use the "A" word and risk invoking the spirit of Neville Chamberlain.

Appeasement is not the way to contain or change this evil regime. Nor is it the path to avoid another war. A nuclear-armed fundamentalist regime will not spare the EU, either. Iran's missiles already can reach southern Europe. The mullahs are now rushing to develop a third-generation missile system able to reach Paris, London and Brussels.
What Stevenson is not advocating is a sequel to Operation Iraqi Freedom (which would be disastrous). Rather, Stephenson calls on Europe to support the growing freedom movement inside Iran.
For once, we should side with the millions in Iran whose cry is for freedom and regime change. A modern, secular and democratic Iran would not only be the key to regional peace and security, but also a long-term ally as we try to spread democracy across the Middle East and the world.
I can't agree enough that we should be aiding the people of Iran as much as possible in their struggle to rid themselves of the yoke of the mullahs. I'd even go so far to say that it'd be acceptable to arm and train them. At the very least, we should be funding them and giving them things like communications gear. Nothing is more dangerous to a dictatorship than the free flow of information and ideas.

Docs In Socks

Via The Gantelope...

One horse that appears to be making a fine recovery is the Sandy Berger story. You remember Mr. Berger, don't you? On July 19, 2004, it was revealed that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating Berger for allegedly taking classified documents, in October 2003, from a National Archives reading room prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents were commissioned from Richard Clarke about the Clinton administration's handling of millennium terror threats. Berger maintained that the removal (and destruction) of documents in his attache-case and handwritten notes in his pants and jacket pockets was accidental.

Accidentally stuffed into his pants and socks.

Anyhow, the New York Post reports that the investigation has progressed.

The criminal probe into why former Bill Clinton aide Sandy Berger illegally sneaked top-secret documents out of the National Archives — possibly in his socks — has heated up and is now before a federal grand jury, The Post has learned.

"It may have been off the front pages, but the investigation has been active," said a source with knowledge of the probe.

"[Berger] has been interviewed several times by federal agents — FBI and prosecutors."

Berger admits removing 40 to 50 top-secret documents from the archives, but claims it was an "honest mistake" made while he vetted documents for the 9/11 commission's probe into the Twin Towers attacks.

Berger has also acknowledged that he destroyed some documents — he says by accident.
There's not much more to the story than that. At the time the story first broke, my response was that this was probably a non-story. I could see how someone could walk out of a building with a pile of documents they weren't supposed to take. When reports started to surface that Berger had destroyed documents, my take began to change. We're still largely in the dark here and there's not a lot of substantive information to be had. If it should be revealed that Berger destroyed some of the documents he removed, the man should rot in jail.

One Last Whack

The horse that is Rathergate is all but dead, with the official report having been released and almost everyone weighing in, with the exception of PowerLine. PowerLine was the blog that took the lead in dissecting the CBS story in the hours after it aired (a period of time often referred to in the blogosphere as "the sixty-first minute"). It was PowerLine that did the most thorough fact-checking, provided a central point for sharing of information, and was on point for the hairiest days of the affair.

So, it was surprising when PowerLine was slow to post during yesterday's blogging frenzy. But now that they have made a few posts on the topic, I thought I would take one last whack at the horse because some of my readers may not regularly read PowerLine.

The first post was "The Thornburgh Report: What It Says, and What It Doesn't Say". What is says is that Mapes was maniacal in her pursuit of this story:

In fact, the report contains repeated indications that Mary Mapes, in particular, dripped with anti-Bush venom. On July 23, Michael Smith, a freelance journalist in Texas who was working on the story along with Mapes, sent her an email that began: "I am close to something that the Bushies are worried about..." Mapes responded: "I desperately want to talk to you....Do NOT underestimate how much I want this story."

On July 30, Mapes sent an email to one of her superiors at CBS in which she wrote: "...there is some very interesting Bush stuff shaking out there right now...Re...his qualification [sic] and refusal of service in Vietnam, etc. Lots of goodies."

On August 3, she emailed again: "There is a storm brewing in Austin re the Bush stuff....It is much more intense than it was four years ago and there is a strong general feeling that this time, there is blood in the water."

Finally, on August 31, only eight days before the 60 Minutes show aired, at a time when Smith and Mapes were desperately trying to persuade Bill Burkett to give them the anti-Bush documents that they had heard he possessed, Smith sent an email to Mapes proposing that they set up a book deal for Burkett so that he could be paid in exchange for turning over the documents:

Today I am going to send the following hypothetical scenario to a reliable, trustable editor friend of mine...

What if there was a person who might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election but we needed to get an ASAP book deal to help get us the information? What kinds of turnaround payment schedules are possible, keeping in mind that the book probably could not make it out until after the election.

Mapes replied: "that looks good, hypothetically speaking, of course."
Almost as soon as CBS admitted that the couldn't stand by the story, people were speculating that Mapes would be scapegoated for the entire affair. From what appears to be in his report, she hasn't been scapegoated; she's been justifiably terminated for an appalling absence of journalistic ethics. As to what the report does not say...
The second issue that the report fails to address is the communication and apparent coordination between 60 Minutes staff and the Kerry campaign. We now know that there was more communication than had previously been acknowledged. In addition to Mapes's famous phone call to Joe Lockhart, asking him to talk to Bill Burkett, she had several conversations with Chad Clanton, who also worked for the Kerry campaign. Clanton told the panel that Mapes asked him what information the Kerry campaign had gotten from other reporters about the National Guard story, and also told him about the story she was working on for 60 Minutes. So at a minimum, we know that the Kerry campaign knew about the 60 Minutes story while it was in preparation. And it is fair to assume that Clanton put the most benign interpretation on his several conversations with Mapes.

There is obvious circumstantial evidence for coordination as well as communication, given that the DNC launched its "Fortunate Son" ad campaign, which duplicated the themes of the 60 Minutes program, the very next morning after the program aired. The Thornburgh report raises some tantalizing questions about the timing of the 60 Minutes report, but does not try to answer them. First, it notes that early in the summer of 2004, Mapes wrote in an email that the program would air in September--a time usually devoted to reruns. At that time, the story had not yet coalesced; how could Mapes state with such assurance when it would run? Then, the program was moved at the last minute from late September to September 8. The Thornburgh panel attributes the haste with which the show was put together to this schedule change, but never asks why the change was made. An obvious possibility is that 1) the show was moved up because the information being put out by the Swift Boat Vets was killing John Kerry's candidacy, and the Kerry campaign wanted the show moved up to help stem the tide; and/or 2) the show was moved to September 8 to tie in with the DNC's "Fortunate Son" ad campaign. Unfortunately, the Thornburgh group seems not to have pursued this important question.

The relationship between the Kerry campaign and the 60 Minutes story is a subject that badly needs to be investigated, but the Thornburgh group did not pursue the issue beyond noting the communications between 60 Minutes staff and the Kerry campaign.
As I said yesterday, it was almost certainly too much to hope that this panel was going to come forward and point out what many people already believe - the segment was a hit piece specifically designed and timed to help the Kerry campaign. It's telling that the panel teases with these questions but does not follow up.

PowerLine's middle post from yesterday, "Mapes Runs to Daylight", fairly thoroughly fisks Mapes' press statement. I won't repeat it all here, but this should tell you all you need to know about Mapes' stance:
I believe the segment presented to the American people facts they were free to accept or reject, and that as those facts were presented, there was nothing that was false or misleading. I am heartened to see that the panel found no political bias on my part, as indeed I have none.
Any person claiming to "have no political bias" is a liar or a idiot, and Mapes has displayed herself to be quite intelligent.

In their last post of the day, PowerLine put the topic to bed with A Rather Sad Post Mortem", which pointed out The New York Times wrap-up piece on the whole sordid affair. Boiling the entire Rathergate brouhaha down to a short and concise paragraph, they offer this:
For some years now, the party line of the mainstream media has been: of course we're pretty much all Democrats, but that doesn't influence our news coverage. If nothing else, Rathergate should put that defense to rest once and for all.
My apologies for the long post. Barring some Really Big Development in this story, I'm putting this one to bed. I'm in awe of the PowerLiners and the other conservative blogs who were so tireless in following this story. Watching all of these fairly regular people write eloquently and convincingly about something they felt so passionately about contributed in large part to my decision to try my hand ad this daily exercise in thinking and writing. More on that later, I think.