Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Quote of the Day 2

From an interview with columnist Mark Steyn. The question to him was: "In your opinion, why is it that Europe has become so much more secular than the United States, where Christianity is still strong?"

Here's his very enlightening answer:
The short answer is separation of church and state — and I use that phrase as it was intended to be used: The founders’ distaste for "establishment of religion" simply means that they didn't want President Washington also serving as head of the Church Of America and the Archbishop of Virginia sitting in the Unites States Senate — as to this day the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church Of England and the Archbishop of York sits in the House Of Lords. Most European countries either had de jure state churches, like England, or de facto ones, like Catholic Italy. One consequence of that is the lack of portability of faith: in America, when the Episcopalians and Congregationalists go all post-Christian and relativist, people find another church; in Britain, when Christians give up on the Church of England, they tend to give up on religion altogether.

So the dynamism of American faith exemplifies the virtues of the broader society: the US has a free market in religion, Europe had cosseted overregulated monopolies and cartels. The other salient point is that obviously Europe does have a religion: radical secularism. The era of the state church has been replaced by an age in which the state itself is the church. European progressives still don't get this: they think the idea of a religion telling you how to live your life is primitive, but the government regulating every aspect of it is somehow advanced and enlightened.

Judicial term limits?

Jack Kelly, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, writes on his blog that the time has come to consider abolishing lifetime judicial appointments.

I like this idea is some ways, as it would lend some accountability to an institution that has absolutely zero accountability at the moment, and that has led to a situation where we're force-fed a series of rediculous decisions without much recourse.

The main problem I have with this solution is that the current climate of the Senate would guarantee even more gridlock on judges. If a conservative judge came up for renewal, the liberals would deny that renewal by whatever means was possible, regardless of qualifications and past performance. (And I'm not so sure the climate would be any better with a liberal judge against senate conservatives.)

All this means the number of judicial hearings would increase as old ones were "term-limited" out. Pretty soon, nothing would be accomplished.

And this doesn't even take into account the fact that such a change, as I understand it, would require a constitutional amendment. This means 67 senators and 290 representatives would have to vote for the amendment just to forward it to the states, and then it would have to be approved by 38 state legislatures. With the kool-aid drinking and blind loyalty to "the party" on both sides of the aisle, I don't see that happening. Ever.

What's wrong with this news story?

From an Associated Press report in the Guardian:

First paragraph:
A Muslim cleric formerly held at Guantanamo Bay prison said Tuesday that U.S. guards there regularly desecrated the Quran by putting it into a toilet, although he added he never witnessed it himself.
Paragraphs 3-6:
Vakhitov said at a news conference organized by the state RIA-Novosti news agency that guards in Cuba threw the Quran in the toilet. However, he later told The Associated Press he did not witness the actions.

"A Palestinian named Mahir, who was in a neighboring cell, had seen it and told me about that,'' Vakhitov told the AP. "Many other people in Guantanamo also told me about that.''

A spokesman at U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees the prison, declined to comment on Vakhitov's specific allegations. But an investigation released last month showed "no Qurans are flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo,'' said Lt. Col. Jim Marshall.

The investigation, however, disclosed five instances in which U.S. guards mishandled the Quran.
Eighth & Ninth paragraphs:
Vakhitov said that when he was held by U.S. forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, he personally saw Qurans desecrated there.

"In Kandahar, they tore up copies of the Quran and even put it in a bucket of feces,'' he said.
Twelfth (and last) paragraph:
A statement from Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico also did not address Vakhitov's specific allegations but said "it is important to note that al-Qaida training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations.''
By the way, this same Airat Vakhitov wrote to his mother, Amina Hasanova, while he was in prison at Gitmo, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted his mom in an August 2003 story:
Hasanova said she learned of [Vakhitov's] fate after receiving a letter from him last November. She said her son is feeling well and is satisfied with the conditions of his detention at Guantanamo. "He writes that he is treated kindly and with respect, that he has good food, cleanliness, and as he says in his letter, he feels better than if he was at the best Russian sanatoriums," Hasanova said. Vakhitov's mother said he also writes that his fellow detainees are friendly toward him, and that they often lend each other copies of the Koran and pray together.
So what's wrong with the story? 1) Al-Qaeda prisoners routinely lie about conditions, but that tidbit appeared at the very end of the story, after every allegation of American wrongdoing could be listed. 2) A blogger did more homework than the AP writer to prove this prisoner was, at best, changing his story a bit.

Media bias? Nah.

(HT: Alendalux via BOTW)

Quote of the Day

OK, it's really the Quote of Yesterday, but I didn't have a chance to read it yesterday. From Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com:
The Supreme Court this week and last issued many rulings, and though they were on different issues the decisions themselves had at least one thing in common: They seemed to reflect a lack of basic human modesty on the part of many of the justices. Many are famously very old, and they have been together as a court for a very long time. One wonders if they have lost all understanding of how privileged they are to have lifetime sinecures of power and authority. Do they have any sense anymore of common human wisdom, of the normal human arrangements by which Americans live?

Maybe a lot of them aren't bothering to think. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no longer in the habit of listening to arguments but only of watching William Rehnquist, and if he nods up and down she knows to vote "no," and if he shakes his head she knows to vote "yes." That might explain some of the lack of seriousness in the decisions. Local government can bulldoze Grandma's house because it's in the way of a future strip mall that will add more to the tax base? The Ten Commandments can appear on public land but not in a courthouse, but Moses, who received the Ten Commandments can appear in the frieze of the House but he'll be sandblasted off the Supreme Court? Or do I have that the other way around?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

There's no God in them thar Decklahrayshun...

Matthew Franck, writing in National Review Online's Bench Memos today, talking about David Souter's comments yesterday regarding the Kentucky Ten Commandments case:
(Souter) went on to profess himself "puzzled" by the county's statement that the influence of the Ten Commandments may be "clearly seen" in the Declaration of Independence (also a part of the exhibit). What? What? There's no God in that there Declaration, he opined: "the Commandments are sanctioned as divine imperatives, while the Declaration of Independence holds that the authority of government to enforce the law derives 'from the consent of the governed.' "

Who sabotaged Justice Souter's copy of the Declaration? In my copy, the first paragraph justifies the independence of America under "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." Three other references to God appear in the Declaration: as "Creator," as "Supreme Judge of the World" (take that, you robed ninnies), and as "divine Providence."

From what source does Souter think the people derive their authority over their government, via that "consent of the governed" of which he makes so much? They get it from the fact that they were created equal, as bearers of natural rights antecedent to all human laws and government. In other words, in the view of the signers of the Declaration, all political authority is grounded in principles for which God is responsible as our Creator.
Just for good measure, here's a related comment from George Will of the Washington Post (also available at townhall.com without a registration requirement):
Never mind the court's minute reasoning about the finely tuned criteria it has spun over the years. Instead, consider — as the court should have done years ago, when it began policing religious displays — a few facts about the era in which the establishment clause was written.

In 1789 the First Amendment was drafted by the first Congress — after it had hired a chaplain. Although President Jefferson's religion was a watery deism, he regularly attended Christian worship services, often with the Marine band participating, in the hall of the House of Representatives. The House was used because of the shortage of suitable venues in the newly founded District of Columbia. Jefferson, who coined the metaphor "wall of separation" about relations between church and state, also allowed the War Office and Treasury to be used for religious services that were open to the public. The Supreme Court chamber also was used for services.

On the Fourth of July, 1801, a minister took up a collection on the House floor to support services he conducted at a nearby hotel. Jefferson contributed $25 to the cause. The speaker's chair served as a pulpit for Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Quaker clergy. In 1813 a Massachusetts congressman reported that "two very Christian discourses" were "preached in the hall introductory to a contribution for the purpose of spreading a knowledge of the gospel in Asia." Services were conducted in the old House, now Statuary Hall, until 1857.

The generation that wrote and ratified the First Amendment obviously thought that none of these practices — all recounted in James H. Hutson's book "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic," published by the Library of Congress and based on an exhibit there — violated the establishment clause. So why is today's court preoccupied with the supposed problem of mere displays of the Commandments? Because beginning about 25 years ago the court evidently decided that the establishment clause's historical context, and the Framers' intentions regarding it, are irrelevant.
But then again, the trend of ignoring historical precedent and, even, putting the Constitution in secondary status to foreign law, is nothing new with this court.

Gitmo still gets no good news from the O

I have to read this in the Washington Times, because The Oregonian apparently refuses to give any legitimate play to good news about Guantanamo Bay, even when there's a local angle:
Two Democratic senators just back from reviewing U.S. detention facilities and interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said they saw no signs of abuse and said it would actually be worse to close the facility and transfer the detainees elsewhere.

"I strongly prefer the improved practices and conditions at Camp Delta to the outsourcing of interrogation to countries with a far less significant commitment to human rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who toured the U.S. facility along with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat.

Oh, great...

I guess the Iranian president-elect won't be hob-knobbing with the U.S. anytime soon.

This commentary in the Wall Street Journal (free subscription required) makes it clear that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a past that makes his "moderate" competitor Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (a former president) look like the Pope in comparison.

Here's the text. Pay special attention to the "training" Mr. Ahmadinejad has had (any emphasis is mine):
To gauge the radicalism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's next president, consider that prior to Friday's run-off election Western media widely described him as a "hardliner," whereas rival candidate Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was a "moderate."

Mr. Rafsanjani is the former president whose tenure was marked by repression at home and dozens of terrorist attacks and assassinations abroad, including the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. Yet that record seems positively benign next to Mr. Ahmadinejad's. If there's a silver lining here, it is that the West may at last see the unveiled face of the Iranian regime and begin acting accordingly.

A student radical during Ayatollah Khomenei's revolution in the late 1970s, Mr. Ahmadinejad was involved in planning the seizure of the U.S. embassy and helped organize Khomenei's Islamic Cultural Revolution, during which universities were shut down and ideologically suspect lecturers and students were arrested and shot.

In the mid-1980s, he worked as an interrogator, or worse, in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison, according to Iranian sources. Mr. Ahmadinejad then joined the Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards, where he was an officer in the "Jerusalem Force," which had responsibility for terrorist attacks and assassinations abroad, including against prominent Iranian dissidents.

In the late 1990s, he was one of the organizers of Ansar-i-Hezbollah, government-sponsored vigilantes assigned to break up peaceful demonstrations. In April 2003, Mr. Ahmadinejad was appointed (not elected) mayor of Tehran, where he set about organizing "Abadgaran" (Developers) groups, which seek to return Iran to sterner Khomeinist principles.

Now this man is president-elect of Iran. Some reports have explained his victory as a populist backlash against Mr. Rafsanjani's corrupt clericalism. Yet such "analysis" ignores the facts that 1,000 reform candidates were banned from running, that all the presidential candidates were chosen to run by Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, that the first round of voting was marred by fraud, that turnout was low (notwithstanding the regime's claims), and that the winner benefited from the strong-armed tactics of his erstwhile comrades in the Revolutionary Guards and Ansar. Whatever else Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory represents, it does not represent the will of Iran's people.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory also has consequences abroad. His regime may well create more trouble in Iraq in order to disrupt the chances for a democratic, pluralist and moderate Shiite government. The same goes for Lebanon, whose tenuous democracy is imperiled not only by Syrian meddling but by the Shiite Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in the country.

Most important is the question of Iran's nuclear program, with which Mr. Ahmadinejad promises to press ahead even as he holds out the prospect of further negotiation with the Europeans. We have been skeptical of past negotiations, not least because we did not think there were "moderates" in Iran who could be relied upon to honor the commitments they failed to honor in the past. Still, we're sorry to see Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory prove the point so brutally.

There will be time in the coming months to devise a serious policy to contain the Iranian regime and defeat its nuclear ambitions. The best place to start is not to be deceived by its nature, which Friday's election unmasked.
I just have one word: Ugh.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Regime Change at PBS

So goes the headline in today's Oregonian about an editorial on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The gist of this editorial is that the Bush administration is "playing politics" with the CPB with the installation of "conservative PBS-basher" Kenneth Tomlinson as the CPB's chairman and Patricia de Stacy Harrison — "Her main qualification? She's a former party fundraiser and Republic National Committee co-chairwoman who ended up in a State Department job"— as CPB chief executive.

I fail to understand why a liberal running the CPB (pick any chairman prior to Tomlinson) is termed an "independent advocate" for the corporation, or some such thing, while a conservative running the CPB is suddenly a toy of a conservative administration hell-bent on destroying the entity.

The editorial then rebuffs the claims by conservatives that the CPB is elite and left-leaning:
Elitist? That's not true. Nationwide, "Morning Edition" is the most popular radio news program in the United States. In Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting is the city's most popular radio station in the morning and evening drive times.

Left-leaning? Surveys show that a majority of the public does not perceive bias in public broadcasting.
The problem with these claims? First, the Arbitron ratings don't include public radio, so I'm told by someone much smarter than me about Portland media (I'll tell who if he gives me permission) that this information probably got into the O's hands from someone at OPB who contacted the editorial board with research it has done about itself. My source also said no Portland radio station does news coverage during the afternoon drive (other than in snippets), so it's an easy and irrelevant claim to make.

And that alleged survey showing that a majority of the public perceives no bias in public broadcasting? It was commissioned and paid for by — you guessed it — the CPB. The survey results have never been released (only a synopsis from the CPB), even though the survey was done two years ago, so we have no idea what questions were asked, who they were asked to, or how reliable the results might be.

Oooh, the survey was done jointly by a Democratic and a Republican polling firm. But check out the "Republican" firm's client list, and other than Trent Lott & Tom DeLay, I see a lot of what I'll generously call "moderate" Republicans.

The Oregonian finishes:
When PBS and other public programming has veered from the moderate middle -- and it has -- its large, highly engaged audience and hundreds of stations have been quick to jerk its chain. That's their role, not that of political hacks atop the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Show me where audiences and stations have "jerked the chain" of the CPB. I don't think you can, unless you mean examples where the liberals have pulled it back from a moderate lean away from the left (like they're trying to do now). Conservatives have been trying to jerk that chain for years, but the liberal CPB establishment wouldn't let them close enough to effect change. The CPB has shown its unwillingness to enact self-examination, listening only to the "highly engaged audience" on the left side of the political spectrum, so the only recourse is political.

I'm a little late on this...

...but I'm not at all happy with the Supreme Court's ruling last week in Kelo v. New London.

According to the SCOTUSblog, the ruling said a government entity is within its constitutional rights to confiscate private property in order to allow profit-making private re-development, declaring that this constitutes a "public use" under the Constitution.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy — the five favorite justices of the nation's liberal wing — concurred in the affirmative, forcing seven families in New London, Conn. to sell their homes to the city to make way for offices, upscale condos, and a waterfront hotel. In essence, the city could get more in property taxes, jobs and aesthetic value from the new development than from the homeowners, so out they go.

This ruling should be distressing to anyone who accuses the Bush administration of favoring big corporations over the common folk, because this ruling does exactly that — it allows big corporations to sell a pretty picture to a city council in Anywhere, USA, and allows that city to remove any private property owner who gets in the way of that pretty picture. Big Corporation gets lots of revenue from selling the redeveloped property, Big City gets lots of revenue from the new taxes on the redeveloped property, and little homeowner gets nothing but a muncipal boot in the butt. Yes, the homeowner gets "just compensation" for the property, as the Fifth Amendment states — "private property (shall not) be taken for public use, without just compensation" — though I fail to see how "public use" includes private offices, hotels & condos. But "just compensation" isn't necessarily comforting for a family that has held its property for generations and intended for future generations to grow old there.

''The fallout from this decision will not be random," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the dissent. ''The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. . . . The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more."

I like how Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, noting how this ruling will disproportionately affect the poor, summed it up:
It isn't the high and mighty on whom avaricious governments and developers prey. Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy are responsible for this execrable decision. But they'll never have to live with its consequences.
Jacoby adds: "Would your town's tax base grow if your home were bulldozed and replaced with a parking garage? If so, it may not be your home for long."

Big Brother has always been interpreted as the government, with the judicial branch as the main roadblock to government intrusion. With this ruling, it seems the judicial branch has given government a free pass to not only stick its nose in our business, but to decide if it has more important things to do with it.

Buried in the Sunday Oregonian

From yesterday's Oregonian, the headline reads: "Visitors see progress at Guantanamo"
Progress has been made to improve conditions and protect detainees' rights at the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists, House Republicans and Democrats, including one who has advocated closing the facility, said Saturday.
Gee, a news story that says good things about Gitmo? Yeah, we ran the abuse stories on Page A1, but we can't put that good story on the front page, right?

Nope. Page A19. It's the front page of a 4-page A section behind the main section, so it might get more viewing than if it were page A17 at the end of the main section, but still.

So what's on the front page?
  • Congress' efforts in the fight against methamphetamines
  • A 10-year-old boy who accidentally shot his sister to death in 1996, and how he's grown up to be a nice Mormon boy
  • Multnomah County's financial inability (unwillingness?) to keep non-violent criminals behind bars, and a state law that might help them
  • And Billy Graham's last U.S. crusade.
What was ahead of Gitmo in the A section?
  • A2: The death of an Iowa National Guard soldier
  • A4: A new Pentagon database to track potential recruits
  • A6: Canada's decision not to ban U.S. beef despite a new mad cow case
  • A7: The NAACP's new president
  • A10: The nuclear future of Iran under a new president
  • A12: More military deaths, and the status of armored Humvees
All interesting. Were any deserving of placement ahead of a story deflating the relentless accusations of abuse? I would argue that only the Iran story might merit higher placement. I can see the meth story on the front page, as it's a huge issue in this area.

But there's no bias against the military. Really. Yeah, we ran three stories critical of the military on Pages 2 and 12, and buried the Gitmo story on 19, but there's no bias.

I'm back...

from vacation. Various observations to come.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I'm off...

for a week of fun in the sun with the family. Have a good week!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Terri Schiavo's autopsy

With the release of Ms. Schiavo's autopsy last week, supporters of her "right to die" are trumpeting the results as vindication of the court's position. "See?" They seem to yell. "The autopsy proves we were right!"

Well, actually, the autopsy on Ms. Schiavo proves very little. It can't prove whether she was in a persistent vegetative state — that diagnosis has to be made on someone who is still alive. Yes, it clearly indicates Ms. Schiavo's brain function was limited at best; is this something we didn't know in March? No.

Andy McCarthy writes an eloquent response to those who supported Michael Schiavo's efforts to end his wife's life. Here's my favorite passage:
During the debate over Terri Schiavo, while she was being starved and dehydrated for two weeks, those supporting federal intervention made two contentions. First, that the proof that she was actually in a PVS was not strong enough and was suspect because basic tests that could easily have settled doubts were being resisted. Second, that the evidence that Terri had actually expressed a considered preference on the momentous decision of whether to end her life was appallingly thin.

This was not, as [the Washington Post's E.J.] Dionne suggests, about “toss[ing] around unwarranted conclusions.” It was about insisting that conclusions on so grave a matter be warranted by firmly proven evidence. The federal government did not legislate a prohibition on terminating life; it called for a searching examination to ensure that the fact-finding was sound.

Most of us did not question that a PVS patient who had credibly expressed a choice to die could lawfully be starved and dehydrated to death. We simply argued that being starved and dehydrated to death by court order was a matter of great moment — something, indeed, that our society would not permit to be done to a convicted terrorist. Therefore, if it was to be done to an innocent person like Terri, the proof on the two predicates better be convincing. As it wasn’t convincing; and as there was no pressing need for Terri’s life to be ended in March as opposed to, say, June, there was no good reason not to delay to make sure we had it right.

The mainstream media scoffed. Without thoughtful examination of what actually went on in the shoddy Florida court proceedings, without the slightest concern about the absence of basic tests for brain function, the Big Government-lovin’ press — the same people who would mandate DNA testing for death-row inmates to avoid the slimmest possibility that a murderer might be wrongfully executed — became overnight federalists, demanding to know how the big, bad federal government could even think of interfering with a matter of sovereign state law.
It's great. Read the whole thing.

We need fathers

And this column from Rich Lowy tells why, using data from the National Fatherhood Initiative. Contrary to the arguments of the pro-gay-marriage crowd, statistics show that children who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely to suffer from child abuse, poverty, low academic achievement, drug use, emotional and behavioral problems, and suicide.

Here is but one key paragraph:
The rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce have leveled off recently. But cohabitation — no substitute for marriage — has continued to climb. Children of cohabiting parents are closer in their indicators of well-being to the children of single parents than they are to children of two-parent families. Three-quarters of cohabiting parents split up before their children reach age 16.

So, promoting involved fatherhood means promoting marriage.
Don't believe otherwise — fathers matter, now more than ever.

Durbin's Doozie

A blogstorm is brewing, but I'm thinking it'll fizzle out faster than a dust twister in a rainstorm.

On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the Democrats' No. 2 man in the Senate, read a report supposedly from an FBI agent about abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Here's the report (which, by the way, has reportedly not been verified), followed by his comments:
'On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.'

If I read this to you, and didn't tell you that it was an FBI agent, describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime, Pol Pot or others, that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that's not the case. This was the action of Americans in treatment of their own prisoners.
Durbin is now facing a storm of criticism for comparing US troops to Nazis, in yet another violation of Godwin's Law. While the conditions described (allegedly) by an FBI agent are not akin to summer camp, they are not remotely close to the conditions that took the lives of millions in Nazi death camps, Soviet gulags or Cambodian Killing Fields (not to mention Saddam Hussein's torture chambers) and no one with any knowledge of history and sense of decency would contemplate the comparison.

In this morning's Los Angeles Times, David Gelernter notes that somewhere between 15 million and 30 million people died in the Soviet gulags. Upwards of 10 million people died in Nazi concentration camps. During the rule of Pol Pot, an estimated 2 million Cambodians (approximately 30 percent of the country's population) died by starvation, torture or execution. That's at least 27 million people — roughly the entire state of Texas, with neighboring Louisiana thrown in for good measure.

Alas, Durbin dug himself in deeper with his statement on Thursday:
I have heard my colleagues and others in the press suggest that I have said our soldiers could be compared to Nazis. I'd say to the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I do not even know if the interrogator involved here was an American soldier. I didn't say that at any point. To suggest that I am criticizing American servicemen, I am not. I don't know who is responsible for this. But the FBI agent made this report, and to suggest that I was attributing all the sins and all the horror and barbarism of Nazi Germany or Soviet Republic or Pol Pot to Americans is totally unfair. I was attributing this form of interrogation to repressive regimes, such as those that I noted. And I honestly believe the Senator from Virginia, who I respect very, very much, would have to say that, if indeed this occured, it does not represent American values. It doesn't represent what our country stands for. It is not the sort of conduct we would ever condone. I would hope that the senator from Virginia would agree with that. That was the point I was making. Now sadly, we have a situation here, where some in the right wing media have said that I have been insulting men and women in uniform. Nothing could be further from truth. I respect our men and women in uniform. I have spent many hours, as I am sure the senator from Virginia has, at funerals of the servicemen who have been returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, writing notes to their families and calling them personally. It breaks my heart every day to pick up the newspaper and hear of another death. Now the total this morning, 1,710. To suggest that this is somehow an insult to the men and women serving in the uniform, nothing could be further from the truth. But it is no credit to them or our nation for this sort of conduct to occur.
If you go back to his original statement, he said, "This was the action of Americans." Of course he was talking about US troops! Also, read the last sentence of Thursday's statement: "But it is no credit to them or our nation for this sort of conduct to occur." Who is the "them"? It's "the men and women serving in the uniform" of the United States military!

As a result, people on the conservative end of the blogosphere are calling for Durbin's head, his resignation, or (at least) official Senate censure.

But let's be realistic: the Democrats (as Opinion Journal noted yesterday) are party without a center, a party of the Kool-Aid left, and Durbin is a leader of that party.

In addition, Durbin was re-elected in 2002 by a margin of 23 percentage points, and newly-elected colleague Barack Obama won by 43 points. Durbin's home state is at least as left-wing as my home state of Oregon. Here's a little Illinois primer, based on information from the Illinois state legislature website, and from an election wrapup in the Washington Post:
  • The Illinois state senate is controlled by Democrats by a margin of 31-27, with one independent.
  • The state house is Democrat-controlled (65-53)
  • The governor is a Democrat.
  • The state is represented by 10 Democrats and nine Republicans in the US House. The average win by Democrats in 2004 was 51 points, whereas the average Republican win was "only" 30 points.
  • John Kerry won the state by 10 points, though he only won 15 of 102 counties (Al Gore won by 12 points)
  • A poll in today's Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette asks, "Should Senator Dick Durbin apologize for comparing U.S. troops guarding prisoners to Nazis, Stalinists, or Pol Pot?" Granted, Champaign is a fairly liberal town due to the presence of the University of Illinois, but throughout the morning, "No" has been winning by anywhere from 12 to 21 points.
Durbin might be censured by the Senate, though I doubt it. But he certainly will keep his job and his rank. Voters in Illinois wouldn't have it any other way.

UPDATE: Durbin apologizes. Sort of.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Who's Imposing What on Whom?

As a certain big-name blogger would say . . .


From today's Best of the Web:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that "Evangelical Protestant Republicans are far more likely than other groups to want courts to stay out of controversial social questions," the Post reports:

Asked whether they trusted their state legislatures or state courts more to address the question of same-sex marriage, 69 percent of self-identified evangelical Protestant Republicans chose lawmakers. Nineteen percent backed the courts, and 11 percent said neither.

In contrast, a slim plurality of 45 percent [of all those polled] nationwide preferred that legislatures deal with same-sex marriage, 40 percent favored the courts, and 11 percent said neither.

Likewise on abortion, 66% of EPRs favored legislatures and 26% favored courts, while the entire sample split 44% to 44%. At one level these results seem obvious, given that the courts have been so hostile to the positions prevalent among EPRs.

Still, it's worth noting that evangelical Protestant Republicans have more trust in the democratic process than do Americans in general, and presumably far more than secular liberal Democrats. It is the SLDs, then, who are guilty of the charge they make against the EPRs--namely, trying to impose their views on others.

Opinion Journal rocks

The Wall Street Journal's online opinion page, OpinionJournal.com, has three excellent pieces in today's edition. I'll excerpt parts of all three, but you need to read all of them.

ITEM A: The Doughnut Democrats are a party without a center

This is a long excerpt, but it's difficult to find a short key passage:
The Democratic leadership has arguably never been more overtly hostile to free markets, deregulation, tax reform and free trade than it is today. The National Taxpayers Union reports that last year the House Democrats recorded their lowest taxpayer rating ever, having voted just 13% of the time for smaller government and less taxes.

A centrist group of Democrats called Third Way recently issued a report explaining the Democrats' 2004 election debacle. It concluded that voters with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 a year, or almost half the electorate, delivered "healthy victories" for President Bush and Republicans in Congress. The report concludes: "Rather than being the party of the middle class, Democrats face a huge crisis with middle-income voters."
. . . .

• With the notable exception of Joe Lieberman, there are virtually no Scoop Jackson defense hawks remaining in a party that has made Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo its main policy touchstones for the war on terror.
• The party that voted en masse for income and capital gains tax cuts under JFK now has but one message on taxes: Raise them.
• On trade, the Democrats who delivered 102 House votes for Nafta and Bill Clinton in 1994 will, at last count, provide all of five House votes for the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
• The Clinton Democrats helped enact the most momentous social policy legislation of the past generation: welfare reform. Now Democrats conspire every day to gut work-for-welfare requirements and prevent the renewal of welfare reform by Congress.
• Above all, there's the know-nothing-ism on Social Security. The Democrats in unison proclaim that Mr. Bush is advancing a risky right-wing scheme to destroy Social Security by creating private investment accounts for workers.

But wait. How dangerous can this idea really be? After all, only a few years ago there was a long and esteemed list of elected Democratic leaders who endorsed personal accounts. John Breaux. Chuck Robb. Bob Kerrey. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Charles Stenholm. Tim Penny. Today in the entire United States Congress there is exactly one Democrat, Allen Boyd of Florida, who has endorsed personal accounts, and he has been shunned for his apostasy.

In 2000 Senator Moynihan declared that a personal thrift savings plan for Social Security would allow hourly wage earners to "retire not just with a pension but with wealth. And the doorman will have a half million dollars, not just the people in the duplexes." Share the wealth. What could be a more traditional Rooseveltian idea than that?

Mr. Bush has spent the past six months reaching out on Social Security to centrist Democrats, only to discover that there aren't any. At his own political peril, he proposed a means-testing plan that would trim future benefits for wealthier seniors in order to improve the solvency of the program. But again he found no takers.
ITEM B: Gov. Bush's voucher program is improving public schools, but Florida's Supreme Court may strike it down.

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida signed a 1999 law allowing students to transfer out of failing schools to better schools, or providing public funds for private school tuition. The ACLU, People for the American Way, and teacher unions filed suit, despite evidence that the program is actually improving public schools.
...only 750 children are attending private schools using opportunity scholarships. But their footsteps have reverberated across the state, prompting failing public schools to reform. Steps taken by failing schools have included spending more money in the classroom and less on administration, hiring tutors for poor performing teachers, and providing year-round instruction to pupils.

Defenders of the status quo insist that such reforms were already under way. But a freedom of information request by the Institute for Justice from school districts that lifted schools off the failing list revealed ubiquitous reference to the dreaded V-word: Without such measures, school officials warned, we wind up with vouchers. The rules of economics, it seems, do not stop at the schoolhouse doors.

The results have been stunning. Even with tougher state standards, nearly half of Florida's public schools now earn "A" grades, while a similar percentage scored "C's" when the program started. A 2003 study by Jay Greene found that gains were most concentrated among schools under threat of vouchers.
ITEM C: We need PBS, but we could do without the politics.

By one of my favorite writers, Peggy Noonan:
Conservatives argue that in a 500-channel universe the programming of PBS could easily be duplicated or find a home at a free commercial network. The power of the marketplace will ensure that PBS's better offerings find a place to continue and flourish.

This I doubt. Actually I'm fairly certain it is not true. And I suspect most people on the Hill know it is not true.

We live in the age of Viacom and "Who Wants to Be a Celebrity," not the age of Omnibus and "Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts." A lot of Democrats think that left to the marketplace, PBS will die. A lot of Republicans think so too, but don't mind.

At its best, at its most thoughtful and intellectually honest and curious, PBS does the kind of work that no other network in America does or will do. Sumner Redstone is never going to pay for an 11-hour miniseries called "The Civil War"; he's not going to invest money and years of effort into a reverent exhumation of the rich loam of American history. Les Moonves is not going to do "Nova." . . . They live in a competitive environment. Such programming would be expensive, demanding, and a ratings disaster. It would earn Les Moonves the title, "former CBS chief."

. . . Why, then, doesn't Congress continue to fund PBS at current levels but tell them they must stick to what they are good at, and stop being the TV funhouse of the Democratic Party? Nobody needs their investigative unit pieces on how Iran-contra was very, very wicked; nobody needs another Bill Moyers show; nobody needs a conservative counter to Bill Moyers's show. Our children are being raised in a culture of argument. They can get left-right-pop-pop-bang anywhere, everywhere.

. . . PBS should be refunded, because it does not and will not exist elsewhere if it is not. But it should be funded with rules and conditions, and it should remember its reason for being: to do what the networks cannot do or will not do, and that somebody should do.
Incidentally, I'm not sure I agree with Ms. Noonan from this respect: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is happy to take our money, but will never agree to the rules and conditions she suggests. They will label it prior restraint, they will call it censorship, they will scream about Big Brother. And the Democrats (see Item A) will be all too happy to play along with CPB's game.

Double Standard of the Day

Let's compare a couple of statements.

First, we have Eric Rudolph (1996 Olympics bomber), speaking of bombs he planted at abortion clinics:
The abortion was the target of the first device. The murder of 3.5 million children every year will not be "tolerated." Those who participate in anyway in the murder of children may be targeted for attack. The attack therefore serves as a warning: anyone in or around facilities that murder children may become victims of retribution. The next facility targeted may not be empty.
Next, we have Bruce Friedrich (.wav file in link), director of vegan outreach for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals:
If we really believe that these animals do have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then, of course we’re going to be, as a movement, blowing stuff up and smashing windows. For the record, I don’t do this stuff, but I do advocate it. I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation … I think it would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, and these slaughterhouses, and these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows, and everything else along the line. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.
Granted, Rudolph carried out the acts; Friedrich only advocated them. But if a pro-life advocate said what Friedrich did about abortion clinics — "I don't bomb them, but I think it's great when others do" — he would be (at the least) roundly excoriated and might even be sued for conspiracy to commit violence by a group like Planned Parenthood or NARAL. So how is it that the actions of Eric Rudolph are soundly condemned (rightly so, and have led to his serving four consecutive life sentences), but the comments of Friedrich get a pass?

(HT: Tech Central)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Just call me...

"a right-wing fascist suffering from religion-induced dementia."

Read the comment below the cartoon — be warned, though: it uses a naughty word

Friday, June 10, 2005

Everything I need to know about Spielberg

Newsflash: Steven Spielberg is not a fan of George W. Bush.

OK, not so surprising. He is, after all, part of the Hollywood Elite. What was somewhat surprising was this:
Legendary movie maker STEVEN SPIELBERG has hit out at Hollywood for not rallying round for Democrat JOHN KERRY's election campaign last year.

The SCHINDLER'S LIST director supported Kerry in his unsuccessful battle for US Presidency against GEORGE W BUSH, but he was outraged that the influential film industry weren't more vociferous in their support of the Democrats in comparison to the backing they gave to charismatic former leader BILL CLINTON in the 1990s.

In an interview on Australian chat show ENOUGH ROPE, he fumed, "I was disappointed that Hollywood didn't do enough for John Kerry's campaign, compared to what Hollywood did for Bill Clinton's campaign.

"The democratic Hollywood base, power base and money base, really didn't come out this year, and I was surprised about that.

"It might have been that Hollywood is very interested in charisma and I do not think that Hollywood felt that John Kerry had the kind of charisma that Bill Clinton had and that they didn't come out in force.

"I thought John Kerry would have been a wonderful world leader and an American president."
One could argue that celebrities were not shy about supporting Kerry. Just ask Michael Moore. Or Bruce Springsteen. Or Barbra Streisand. Or Linda Ronstadt. And it worked splendidly, don't you think?

At the end of the story, the website provided a link that said, "Click here for all you need to know about STEVEN SPIELBERG." I'd argue that everything I need to know about Steven Spielberg is in that story.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Howard Dean's future at the DNC

There is suddenly much discussion about Howard Dean. About the insults he has regularly been hurling at Republicans:
  • "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for."
  • "The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil — and we're the good."
  • Republicans are "brain-dead" (spoken about 10 days before Terri Schiavo died)
  • "Let's face it, [Republicans] have never made an honest living in their lives."
  • "Republicans don't represent ordinary Americans, and they don't have any understanding of what it is to go out and try and make ends meet."
  • "The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They are a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."
The repudiations from the left are interesting. Here's Barney Frank, referring to Dean's comment that Tom DeLay should "go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence" despite the fact that DeLay hasn't been indicted on anything, much less convicted:
I think Howard Dean was out of line talking about DeLay. The man has not been indicted. I don’t like him, I disagree with some of what he does, but I don’t think you, in a political speech, talk about a man as a criminal or his jail sentence.
From John Edwards, who later backed away from this comment:
The chairman of the DNC is not the spokesman for the party. He’s a voice. I don’t agree with it.
From Sen. Joe Biden, who’s been known to be a flame-thrower at times:
He doesn’t speak for me with that kind of rhetoric and I don’t think he speaks for the majority of Democrats.
From Nancy Pelosi, on the "white Christians" comment:
I don't think that the statement the governor made was a helpful statement.
And the self-doubt, while difficult to find, has started among the left at large. This from billmon.org, making a baseball analogy:
Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately, considering the team — the Democratic Party doesn't have a manager with the power to decide whether to yank Howard Dean out of the game. I don't even know how the party would go about firing a DNC chairman, but I imagine it's a pretty painful process. Still, the question still has to be asked: Is it time for the Dems to get something going in the bullpen? As much as I hate to say it, unless Dean can settle down and get off his gaffe-a-day treadmill, maybe it would be best if he hit the showers.
And all this doesn't even count the fact that the current financial picture for the Democrats is not pretty, despite Dean's supposed expertise in bringing in new donors. According to Business Week, the DNC raised $14.1 million in the first quarter of 2005, vs. the Republican National Committee’s $32.3 million. Dean drew about 20,000 new donors, while his rivals picked up 68,200. Republicans have $26.2 million in the bank vs. $7.2 million for the Dems.

On Wednesday, Radio Host Laura Ingraham was taking over-under on the time Dean has left as head of the DNC (six months to a year was the consensus); a poll on her website was evenly split today on whether Dean will survive until the 2006 elections. Others on the right half of the political aisle are speculating about how the (non-MoveOn.org) Democrats really feel about having Dean as the mouthpiece of the party.

But most of the left-wing traffic on the left has this flavor: To all you Democrats who are criticizing Howard Dean, what the *&$#@ are you doing?! We don't criticize our own! You're playing right into the Republicans' hands!

The Democrats nominated Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry (Dean came close) in 2004, and the loudest Democrat voices in America (Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, etc.) are funded by George Soros. Combine that with the fact that other Democrats are invoking (what I think is) a Ronald Reagan rule of politics — don't beat up your own — rather than wondering how America's swing voters might interpret Howard Dean's verbal grenades, and there's no way the Democrats are going to throw Howard Dean under the bus.

My prediction: Howard Dean will last at least until the 2006 elections. Unless the Democrats suffer another blowout in '06, Dean will stay as chairman through the next presidential election.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Will the Supreme Court's Medical Pot Decision...

...spell the end of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act? My fair state claims it can make these decisions without federal interference, the Feds' role in controlling medicine notwithstanding.

With today's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the authority of the Feds to regulate marijuana, Ethicist Wesley J. Smith argues that the state's assisted suicide measure is doomed. Through the DwD Act, a terminally-ill patient uses federally-controlled barbituates (prescribed by a doctor) to end his or her life. If the Feds can control marijuana, one might presume that it can do the same with other substances.

In the meantime, the state of Oregon has suspended the medical marijuana cards of more than 10,000 people while it reviews the Supreme Court ruling. (As a side note, do you really think 10,000 Oregon residents have a medical need for marijuana? Me either.)

It will be interesting to see what happens.

On Gay & Straight Marriage

Maggie Gallagher, writing in National Review Online today, hits on a point I wish would get more attention, instead of the name-calling that has taken its place:
To say that there are no important differences between gay couples and opposite-sex couples is to deny that the one great feature of opposite-sex couples — that these unions, and only these unions, can both produce children and unite that child with his own mother and father — is unimportant. (emphasis mine)
There are hugely important and unique contributions that moms & dads make to the upbringing of their children, and there is no other relationship that can produce these children and provide the balanced upbringing that is proven to be most beneficial.

Public Broadcasting must know somebody

So I'm sitting here at the computer reading, while the little kid watches Sesame Street. I hear this adult woman's voice talking to the monsters, and I think (in that voice reserved for times when I'm not really that concerned about the answer, just throwing out the question in an alternate-state-of-consciousness sorta way), "That voice is familiar. I wonder who it is?" After a few more seconds, I come out of my computer trance and glance around the corner to identify the voice.

It's Laura Bush.

Who knew Sesame Street had so much clout?

Quote of the Day

From James Lileks and the June 6 entry to his new feature, ScreedBlog:
Don't get me wrong. I want us to do the right thing. I don't think there should be a policy that permits interrogators to treat the Qur'an like it was, oh, a Bible discovered in the Saudi airport customs line. But when it comes to the revelations of these Gitmo tales, I cannot care as much as they would like me to care. I cannot. Not to say we should treat the Qur’an with casual disrespect. But if an infidel touches the book with the wrong hand and people react like a two-year-old whose peas are touching the mashed potatoes, well, I understand why this matters, but when measured against the sins of headchoppery and carbombs, it pales to an evanescent translucence.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Editorializing by the AP

This story about Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell caught my eye this morning. The story was about the Republicans' supposed difficulty in finding a challenger for Cantwell, who is considered vulnerable in her re-election campaign next year.

The story, written by AP writer David Ammons, claims the Republican nomination is available for Dino Rossi if he wants it. However, Rossi is neck-deep in a challenge to the 2004 governor's race, which he "lost" to Democrat Christine Gregoire after two recounts (including a slew of ballots that miraculously appeared in the Democrat stronghold of King County) reversed his narrow victory. (A court ruling on that case is expected Monday, and will likely be appealed to the state Supreme Court regardless of the victor.) Rossi says he wants to be chief executive, not one voice in a sea of 100 senators, and he doesn't want to be jet-setting between the Washingtons when he has four school-age children.

Here's the paragraph that caught my eye:
(If this reluctance [of someone to commit to a challenge against Cantwell] sounds familiar, harken back to the last election cycle, when Jennifer Dunn turned down entreaties to run against [Patty] Murray. The eventual nominee, George Nethercutt, looked like stale leftovers and was mowed down.)
Hmmm...isn't that editorializing to call Nethercutt "stale leftovers" and claim he was "mowed down"?

Really, if you look at the numbers, it admittedly wasn't close. Murray, who should have been vulnerable solely for singing the praises of Osama bin Laden a couple of years ago, won 55 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Nethercutt.

Murray's margin of victory was 345,000 votes. However, Murray won King County, home of ultra-liberal Congressman Jim McDermott, by a 2-to-1 margin. (McDermott, who earned the moniker "Baghdad Jim" for his insinuation after a 2002 trip to Iraq that Saddam Hussein could be trusted more than George W. Bush, won 81 percent of the vote in his 2004 re-election bid). Subtract out those results, and Murray won by 60,000 votes statewide, a margin of 2 percent. (I realize you can't "subtract out" King County, but the point is that no Republican is going to come close in that area; it's like John Kerry's chances in Wyoming.)

So, Nethercutt wasn't as successful as the Republicans would have liked (or as Murray gave him room for), but there's no place in a straight news story for a reporter to label him as "stale leftovers" or claim he was "mowed down."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Why I can't take unions seriously

It's because of decisions like this:
Roughly half the workers at Tillamook County Creamery Association went on strike because the dairy cooperative wants them pay a portion of their health insurance premiums.

Teamsters Local 58 employees at the cheese plant currently pay nothing for health insurance. The union represents about 260 production, packaging, cold storage, transportation and other workers.

"We've worked very hard for them to help their company grow and met every production need," said Tomi Dressel, 52, who has worked at Tillamook for almost 30 years. "They've made nothing but multimillion-dollar profits in the last five years, and now they're just kind of snubbing us."

Tillamook has proposed that workers, who earn an average of nearly $15 an hour, receive raises of roughly 3 percent a year for three years, but also pay at least 5 percent of their health care premiums. Workers feel the two facets basically cancel each other out, leaving them with little or no gain.

In a prepared statement Wednesday, the company said its health care costs had doubled since 2000, to about $850 a worker each month.

The cooperative sells more than 100 million pounds of cheese a year nationally as well as milk and other dairy products. Its dairy sales in 2003 were $262 million.
(Gasp!) The employer wants them to pay five flippin' percent of their healthcare costs? Say it ain't so!

They're essentially correct, of course, in their concern that the additional healthcare costs will negate any raise. I figure 5 percent of the average healthcare premium is slightly more than $40, and the average worker will see about a $55 monthly raise after taxes.

The healthcare costs of my company have increased an average of 15 percent every year. To cover my business partner, his wife and son, as well as me and my two daughters, costs us more than $1,300 a month (my wife is covered by her employer). And that's not even counting co-pays, which are running at 20 percent. (By the way, my partner and I gave ourselves a 3.3 percent raise last year.)

Maybe if these unionized workers paid a portion, just a tiny fraction, of their healthcare costs, they'd have a better understanding of the challenges involved in paying for healthcare. Maybe if they feel the pain of a 3 percent COLA vs. a 15 percent healthcare premium increase, they might have a little more compassion for business owners across the country who are trying to pay for out-of-control costs and still reward their employees with decent salaries without pricing their products out of the market.

But then again, maybe they might remain stuck in their alternate version of reality, where the wealthy, evil business owner is trying to milk the common man for everything he can get, and the employees are all scraping by because of their employers' greed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

from Mark Krikorian on National Review's The Corner:

The most notable thing for me about the Deep Throat revelation is how much the MSM reaction reminds me of the bald, overweight old man reliving the glory days of his high school football career. The MSM is pining for the days when “reporter” brought to mind Woodward and Bernstein and not Jayson Blair and Dan Rather.