Upper Left Coast

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

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Can someone explain

why this guy gets 75 years in prison for conspiracy and financing of terrorism, but a guy who actually intended to turn the Los Angeles International Airport into a smoking pile of rubble and random body parts gets 22 years (including five already served)?

Yeah!! What he said!

Talking about one of the more recent efforts to insult our country and its veterans — the attempted removal of a veterans' memorial in the form of a cross on San Diego's Mt. Soledad — Citizen Smash at the Indepundit hits the nail on the head, and with passion.

Here's a little bit of background, and a quick explanation of the chief protagonist:
A 16-year battle over the Mount Soledad cross began when [athiest Philip] Paulson sued the city, arguing that the religious symbol's presence on public land violated separation of church and state provisions in both the U.S. and California constitutions.
Read it. Read it again. And if you're opposed to such a display, try to come up with a constructive solution that might satisfy all parties, instead of figuratively punching the country in the face by hitting the ACLU's number on your speed dial.

UPDATE: Links are fixed. Thanks to the editor (AKA Mrs. ULC).

Unveiling their true feelings

This morning's Oregonian includes a very revealing story about an issue being held close to the vest, er, chest.

Sorry about the puns, but the O started it with this headline: "Nude cyclists expose lack of bike lanes."

It seems that the free-wheeling exhibitionists, er, cyclists, didn't like the fact that the St. Johns Bridge — which has been undergoing a $38 million renovation for the last two years — would not have more room for two-wheeled transportation. The bridge will continue to offer two lanes in each direction, with sidewalks on either side; the bikers wanted the bridge (which is a prime transportation route for trucks going to the North Portland industrial sites) reduced to one lane in each direction, with bike lanes in place of the other two vehicle lanes.

Thus, the 14-person protest was intended "to literally demonstrate the naked vulnerability with which [the Oregon Department of Transportation] expects us to travel this bridge," according to a Buff on the Bluff protest letter. (The Bluff is an area not far from the bridge, where the University of Portland is located; as they were "preparing" for the protest, a UP security guard asked if they could do so in another location. It sounds like the guard was very polite, and the bikers were happy to oblige.)

As an aside, wouldn't a "literal demonstration of the naked vulnerability" of cyclists feature one of them being drop-kicked across the bridge by the bumper of an 18-wheeler? Possibly, the letter-writer was thinking of a "figurative demonstration," as Wall Street Journal writer James Taranto has opined (last item). But I digress.

Here's my favorite quote from the O's story:
Clumped together, the protestors took up a full lane both ways across the bridge. Aside from a few annoyed motorists, [organizer Allan] Folz said, the cyclists mostly received cheers and honks of support. A couple of cops standing in front of North Precinct clapped and waved, he said.
Yeah, I'm sure those cheers and honks were intended to support their cause. It had nothing to do with the fact that they were STARK RAVING NAKED!

Oh, by the way, Folz said "you can't even tell the difference" between clothed and non-clothed cycling. In case you wanted to know. Of course, it was about 80 degrees the day they rode — I'd like to see them make that protest in January.

Strike that. I wouldn't want to see anything of the sort.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Where has this guy been?

From the US News & World Report website:
Senate Democrats and Judiciary Committee minority staffers are miffed that conservative bloggers appear to have more information about Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts than they do.

"They've got material out there that we don't know about," complained Sen. Edward Kennedy, who's leading an effort to force the White House to turn over any documents it has on Roberts.

Other Democrats said that they believe the White House is providing supportive bloggers with information that paints Roberts only in a positive light. Kennedy, speaking to reporters last Friday, said that he was unaware of the prolific GOP blogging on behalf of Roberts until his wife pointed it out. Kennedy has said that while he doesn't want to mount a fishing expedition into Roberts's past, he will demand paperwork on most of the cases he has handled as a judge and lawyer.
My question on the part I highlighted above: if Ted Kennedy was unaware of "prolific GOP blogging on behalf of Roberts," what planet has he been living on?

Could it be that the bloggers are just doing the research that the Dems think they can ignore in the hopes that the White House will turn over all those confidential memos from Roberts' solicitor general days? Maybe he could hire some net-savvy staffer to research the blogs.

The Real World

Claudia Rosett, a journalist who has been at the forefront of exposing Saddam Hussein's Oil-For-Food exploitation, reveals to me once again that I have little idea what the real world is like.

In this case, it's the horrible atrocities committed by Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe, as detailed in this morning's Opinion Journal.

A few of the "highlights":
  • The government's latest atrocity has been to "clean up" the cities by evicting hundreds of thousands of poor people, destroying their dwellings and leaving them jobless, homeless and hungry.
  • One of Mugabe's first moves after coming to power was to invite in North Korean advisers, to train the shock troops known in Zimbabwe as the "Fifth Brigade." In the 1980s, Mugabe dispatched this Fifth Brigade to massacre an estimated 18,000 Zimbabweans opposed to his rule — far more than the number of people slaughtered, say, at Srebenica, and more than six times the number murdered in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
  • Starting in 1998, the country's farm invasions escalated in Zimbabwe not only into the eviction of white land-owners, but the ruin of the country's agricultural base — replaced not by fair distribution of property and rule of law for blacks, but by plunder, violence, and enrichment of Mugabe's chums at the expense of millions of black Zimbabweans. The model for this was not equitable land reform, but Communist China's cultural revolution, the methods of which Mugabe and his crony "war veterans" learned in the 1960s and early 1970s at the knees of Mao Tse-tung himself. And the mobs who invaded the farms, while described as war veterans, did not consist on the ground of the aging satraps of Mugabe's elite circle--who profited from the policy. They were youth militia, unleashed by the aging Mugabe in an effort to thwart a growing opposition movement, and keep his grip on power.
And this doesn't even touch on the United Nations' duplicity in the situation by refusing to call a spade a spade. I'm not sure what world the United Nations lives in, but on a daily basis, the UN provides yet more evidence that it's a worthless institution for those who live in "the real world."

I think I'll start looking for a bumper sticker that says: "Regime change begins with Robert Mugabe, with Kofi Annan not far behind."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Quote of the Day

From Wendy Long, legal counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, writing on National Review's Bench Memos about Supreme Court Nominee John Roberts:
The main point is: President Bush and Judge Roberts understand that judges cannot make policy — pro-Catholic, anti-Catholic, or otherwise. Everything in Judge Roberts’ record tells us that he is committed to the same judicial philosophy as that of President Bush: to apply the Constitution and laws as written, and not to make laws up or rewrite the Constitution in judicial decisions. Judges can’t make the laws governing abortion, marriage, or anything else. All they can do is apply them. Accordingly, in the view of President Bush and Judge Roberts, a Supreme Court justice’s personal, political, or religious views cannot be used as the basis to decide a case.

...The religious inquisition of Judge Roberts, then, is really a smokescreen for the liberal litmus test about issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Along with Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Schumer, and others, Senator Durbin treats judges like policymakers who wear black robes and are appointed for life. Like all liberals, they fundamentally misapprehend the role of the judge under our Constitution: to be a neutral umpire, applying the laws as written by the elected representatives of the people.
Did you get that last part? The part I highlighted? Read it again. It's crucial to understanding the proper role of the judicial branch in our government, and it's a role that 30 years of liberal meddling has converted to a bastardized version of judicial restraint.

I would never make it in the ACLU...

...and Rich Lowry of National Review spells out why in today's National Review column about surveillance cameras.

I could never understand the arguments about invasion of privacy, when the camera was in a public place. Maybe it's my memories from journalism school, where I learned I could take a picture of anyone in a public place without their permission — whether it was appropriate was another question, but it was legal.

My take, in general, is this: if you're following the law you have nothing to worry about. That applies not only to surveillance cameras, but also to photo radar, random drug testing and bag searches. The only people who need worry about these things are those who are vandalizing, speeding, using illegal drugs, or possessing banned (say, from ballparks) or stolen (e.g. shoplifted) items.

That's why places that have installed cameras see a decrease in vandalism and drug dealing. That's why places that use photo radar see a decrease in the overall speed limit. That's why stores with bag checks (and cameras, in some cases) see a decrease in theft.

Lowry quoted Heather Mac Donald from last week's City Journal, noting a 9-month-old Los Angeles Times story about the installation of video cameras in a crime-infested LA park. The story said police watched “in amazement as crime plummeted, gangs, drug dealers and pimps disappeared, and families with children began returning to the 40-acre expanse in one of the city’s poorest areas."

"In fact," Mac Donald wrote, "the only people whom public cameras inhibit are criminals; they liberate the law-abiding public."

Yes, Big Brother is watching. If you're willing to follow the rules set down by a civilized society, his gaze will move on to other, more desirable targets. If not, it's your own damn fault.

Unions as partners with management? Not!

Pie-in-the-sky from OpinionJournal.com, writing about the schism in the AFL-CIO:
What the labor movement really needs is a new generation of leaders who understand the emerging competition to U.S. workers from the likes of India and China. Rather than oppose imports to protect textile jobs that can't be saved, such leaders would work to reform education so future Americans can compete in the knowledge industries that will grow the fastest. They'd also work to make pensions and health insurance transportable from company to company, so a worker wouldn't be trapped by benefits in a job or industry he didn't like. They'd be partners with management, not antagonists.
That sounds great, but I can't believe it will happen in my lifetime. Labor unions are so entrenched in left-leaning politics — they are a "wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party," the editorial astutely pointed out — that they are unable to recognize the reluctance of their own members to continue pursuing those policies. They are so out of touch with reality that they continue to scream for compensation that non-union Americans — some 92 percent of the private workforce — recognize is unfundable and unreasonable.

Antagonism is in their souls, and they can't separate the soul from the body without death. It may take the death of a union before they willingly endure the exorcism of that antagonism.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another reason Roberts needs confirmation by October

The Supreme Court last week released its fall schedule, which begins Oct. 3. The first day features cases on worker's pay and Indian rights. The second day is free. The third day?

Gonzales v. Oregon, case #04-623 — federal power to bar use of drugs for assisted suicide.

Nov. 30 will also be an interesting day:
  • Scheidler v. NOW (04-1244) and Operation Rescue v. NOW (04-1352) — use of RICO law to stop abortion clinic blockades
  • Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of N. New. England (04-1144) — need for health exception in teen abortion parental notice law

Hold a vote, unless we don't want you to

Sunday's Oregonian included an interesting editorial (some of which I actually agree with) about SB1000, the measure to create civil unions for gay couples. However, the complete lack of consistency with previous issues makes this a laugher.

SB1000 passed in the Oregon Senate by a vote of 19-11; Joanne Verger, a Democrat who represents parts of the Oregon central coast, was the lone member of her party to vote against the bill. Of the other 10 nays, all were rural Republicans except for Charles Starr and Bruce Starr, who represent Hillsboro and areas nearby, and Jackie Winters from the Salem outskirts. The yeas came from 17 Democrats, along with Republicans Frank Morse (Corvallis/Albany) and Ben Westlund (Bend).

The bill was then referred to the state House of Representives, where the House Majority Leader refused to bring it to a vote. Thus, the first three graphs of the O editorial:
Count up the failures in this legislative session, and you'll tick off a long, sorry list. But one stands out. One will be remembered as the most galling of all: The Oregon House's failure to vote, up or down, on Senate Bill 1000.

This is the bill that would have created Vermont-style civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and outlawed discrimination against them in housing and employment. The Senate approved it two weeks ago. The House should have approved it, too, but at the very least, it should have voted on it.

Oregonians deserved that moment of consummate clarity, cutting off the rhetoric like a buzzer: Make up your mind. Yea or nay. Instead, House Speaker Karen Minnis maneuvered to keep it from coming to the floor.
Funny that the Oregonian is so insistent on a vote when it was — on two different occasions a few months ago — so sympathetic to the judicial filibuster in the United States Senate.

In "Nuking the Filibuster" on April 10, the Oregonian defined the filibuster as a "mechanism by which a senator may extend the debate on a measure by standing up and giving a long, long speech. Only a vote by 60 senators can make the senator sit down and shut up if he or she doesn't do so voluntarily." Now they want to "(cut) off the rhetoric like a buzzer."

In April, it noted the Republicans' 10-vote majority in the U.S. Senate, but sung the praises of the filibuster to "hold up the judicial nominations from President Bush that [Democrats] consider to be particularly odious." The filibuster, it added, offers "a bulwark against rushing to legislative judgment . . . partly as a check on domination of the process by one party." Now, when the Democrats are rushing to pull the wool over the eyes of voters who approved Measure 36, when that party wants to dominate the process, it's the Republicans who are playing the part of a minority thorn in the side of Democrats. (Yes, they have a majority in the House, but the Senate and the governor's mansion are held by Ds.)

Less than nine months ago, Oregon voters stated by a 13-point margin that "Only Marriage Between One Man And One Woman Is Valid Or Legally Recognized As Marriage." No sooner was the ink dry on the Measure 36 tally than (mostly) Democratic legislators were scheming with Basic Rights Oregon for ways to thwart the will of the people.

You didn't vote on "civil unions," they said with a smile. They're not the same as marriage. Really. (Never mind that SB1000 says civil unions are "substantially equivalent" to marriage.)

So what do I agree with in Sunday's editorial? First, I admit that Speaker Minnis looks like a chicken-little for refusing even a vote. While I don't like the idea of gay marriage, in whatever form it takes, I also don't like parliamentary shenanigans. Conservatives' arguments about judicial nominations include the idea that the people should be given the opportunity to make decisions, rather than having their decisions made for them. In our form of government, the people make decisions either through their elected officials, or through referendum, and Minnis should let that process work. If Oregonians differ with the legislature's decision, they can gather signatures and put the question on the ballot.

That brings me to my second point of agreement: the Oregonian calls on gay-rights supporters to do exactly that: put it on the ballot. As the editorial concluded, "We've heard speculation ad infinitum about what Oregonians think. It's time to let them speak for themselves."

Friday, July 22, 2005

We need men like him to keep us free

In the current crop of stories on Tech Central Station, Pejman Yousefzadeh writes a very interesting and eye-opening profile of the recently-deceased Admiral James Stockdale. And for the second time in three days, I'm reminded of where my head was at during and just after college, versus where it's at today.

In 1992, I had only been out of the liberal University of Oregon for a few years. I was just beginning a journey away from the socialist tendencies I had learned by association in Eugene — free abortion at any time, the military is evil and its funding should be transferred to social programs and education, rich people should be taxed until everyone has enough money to live comfortably — and toward the exploration of more centrist roots.

As part of that journey, I was invited by a work friend to attend a growing, vibrant church; within that framework, I joined a three-man Bible study that included a (different) friend in his early 40s and a music pastor of roughly the same age. We gathered for breakfast once a week to talk about God, even though it was at some ungodly time of the morning.

Shortly before the November election, the topic moved to politics, and who we planned to vote for. The pastor would vote for Bush, he said — I think he cited some favorable Bush policies, but don't remember. My friend would vote for Perot — there was just something about him that he liked more than the other two, he said. I would vote for Clinton — I still had enough liberal blood in me that a vote for a Republican was akin to voting for the antichrist, and I thought Perot was an oddity with big ears and a nasally drawl.

I'll never forget the look from the pastor when I announced my voting intentions — a quick look of shock, followed by quick recovery and a comment along the lines of, "That's OK," which I took as "I don't agree, but I'm not going to push it."

I had taken a political science class during the 1988 election (in which — full disclosure — I voted for Michael Dukakis — !!), and that sparked an interest in politics. So in '92, I paid more attention to the campaign. The vice presidential debate featured (in my mind) the very reasonable Al Gore, the incredibly stupid Dan Quayle (Remember "potatoe" and railing against Murphy Brown?), and the exceedingly strange James Stockdale.

I'm not even sure I knew Stockdale was a military veteran, but it wouldn't have helped him in my eyes (wasn't the military a creation of Ronald Reagan, and thus evil?). Never mind that Gore was in the Army during the same war; details aren't important if they get in the way of the candidate you support. When Stockdale opened the debate with, "Who am I? Why am I here?" I knew we had a certifiable basketcase on our hands. Reagan was suspected of suffering from Alzheimer's, I thought, and we sure didn't need another White House resident with that affliction.

That election was turned into a running joke on Saturday Night Live, with Phil Hartman's very funny imitation of Stockdale (not to mention his Reagan & Clinton gigs and Dana Carvey's imitations of Bush and Perot).

Fast-forward to 2005, and back to Pejman's article. It turns out that Stockdale's military service wasn't just competent, it was heroic. He was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese for more than seven years, and he did everything in his power to continue his country's fight against its enemy, including disfiguring his face with razor blades and a stool so they could not use him to repeat fictional "confessions" in propaganda materials.

Pejman also notes Stockdale's deep familiarity with philosophy, which helped him survive and resist the North Vietnamese for so long (to survive his captivity, Stockdale said, he was helped by the works of philosophers Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius — I'm lucky to have heard of either one, much less know their philosophical perspectives).

Pejman concludes this way (and I would share the sentiments):
Stockdale's question ["Who am I? Why am I here?"] was mistaken as the puzzled musings of a lost and confused man. In reality, it was an admirable application of Marcus Aurelius's lesson about "first principles." While Dan Quayle and Al Gore were busy explaining what made them good political leaders, Stockdale tried to explain what kind of man he was. It is an indictment of us as a society that we were unprepared to listen when he tried to speak to us. It certainly was an indictment of me that I so readily dismissed him.

We certainly need more men like Phil Hartman to keep us laughing. But over and above anything, we need men like James Stockdale to keep us free.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Toronto & Portland, separated at birth

Australian blogger Chrenkoff notes that the PC police in Toronto, Ontario, Canada forced the newly-crowned Miss Universe — a 23-year-old Canadian named Natalie Glebova — to remove her official sash during an appearance at a local festival.

The reason? A law on the books that forbids "activities which degrade men and women through sexual stereotypes or exploit their bodies to attract attention," according to a story on News.com.au, which I think is the Australian version of Fox News.

This brought a response in Chrenkoff's comments section from one Kate Shaw:
Toronto is so deeply involved in sniffing the underwear of the Gay Pride / Gay Marriage / Gay Universe voters, er, citizens that heterosexuals can simply take a hike; hence the focus on 'gender stereotyping'. A man wearing a g-string in Nathan Phillips Square would be worshipped, as long as he declared his homosexuality. In fact, a man dressed as Miss Universe would be given a royal reception by our Socialist Mayor and his minions.

It's all about what they used to say about Arafat -- Toronto never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Had Miss Universe worn a bandolero instead of her sash, and shouted "Death to America!", the bureaucrats would have remained mum.

Or possibly if she had had sex with another woman on stage.

Toronto is a ringside seat at a train wreck.
This comment reminded me of something . . . oh yes, the mayor of Portland!

As you might remember, the Mrs. Oregon America pageant asked Mayor Tom Potter to sign a letter acknowledging his support for the event, which was held last month. Potter's office turned down the request "because its contestants must be married to a man. The rules also require contestants to be natural born females," according to an Oregonian story which is no longer available online. "In a statement, Potter said city policy requires it not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The pageant's rule 'fails to recognize the other loving relationships in our community,' his statement said."

Mayor Potter apparently thinks the pageant should be open to anyone who wants to show up, including gay and transgender women. Much like Ms. Snow pointed out in her comments above, the local Socialists, Critical Mass riders, environmental terrorists, and gay pride parade marchers can say and do almost anything they want, but a simple pageant for heterosexual married women gets dissed. (Actually, we're just assuming they're not gay because they're married, but they could just be in denial; if they'd just own up to their sexuality, I'm sure Potter would be first in line to support their efforts!)

Wanna place any bets on Potter's response if a cross-dressing festival were to solicit the mayor's support? As Portland's Jack Bogdanski wrote about the pageant a few months back on his blog: "The group celebrates traditional marriage. If the lesbians want to have a pageant that celebrates lesbian unions, I'd be fine with the city endorsing that one, too. Indeed, Tom Potter would support that one so fast and furious that your head would spin. There'd be no talk of 'discrimination' then."

Toronto and Portland: the cream of the crop in achieving political correctness.

Quote of the Day 2

Who said this:
It is offensive to suggest that a potential Justice of the Supreme Court must pass some presumed test of judicial philosophy. It is even more offensive to suggest that a potential justice must pass the litmus test of any single-issue interest group.
The answer? Sen. Edward Kennedy, in the 1981 confirmation hearings of Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court.

Think he'll follow his own suggestion? Me either.

Ronald Reagan's faith

There's a great story on the Stand to Reason blog this morning, talking about a new book called "God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life." Here's the relevant blog passage from Melinda Penner, from a talk that author Paul Kengor gave this week at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
Paul relayed a story that Reagan's daughter Patti has told when she asked Reagan what he prayed whenever he flew in a plane. She knew he was afraid of flying and presumed he asked God to deliver the plane to a safe landing. No, he said, he was asking God to give him the grace in the event of an emergency to . . . trust his life and those he loved into God's hands. He was praying to be the kind of person God would have him be. Reagan believed the circumstances of his life were God's business and he's accept what came. He exemplified that over and over at difficult times in his life, even when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
I know the left is hugely threatened by the Christian faith of an American president, but it gives me comfort to know such a man was (and, I believe, is) in the Oval Office. My goal is to learn how to, as Kengor said, pray "to be the kind of person God would have (me) be."

Quote of the Day

From Orrin Hatch, regarding the upcoming confirmation hearings of John Roberts:
I don't think the American people are going to put up with any more crap from the Judiciary Committee.
"Dumbass questions"? "Crap"? Uh, Orrin, I think you've been away from Utah too long.

(I found this on National Review, and on an archived page from RedState.org, neither with attribution. However, I can't find it anywhere else.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Winning friends and influencing people

From a story on the American Spectator website:
"This choice sends the message that this President has the desire to not get boxed in by his enemies," says a White House source. "He could have taken the easy way out, or comparatively easy way out, and nominated a perfectly acceptable woman like [Edith 'Joy'] Clement, or even [Edith] Jones. But he didn't. He replaced a woman justice with a man, and real conservative one at that. If that doesn't send a message to Republicans about where this President's head is at, I don't know what will. It makes those buffoons who spent all their time harping on [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales look like petty whiners. Now these folks are going to try to take credit for the Roberts nomination, but they have nothing to stand on. Credit for this nomination belongs to the President, Karl Rove, Senator Bill Frist and the White House and Senate leadership staff who did the heavy lifting."

"Another point," says a senior Senate staffer, "is that despite all the talk of compromise and consultation, the Roberts pick was not something Democrats would have supported wholeheartedly under any condition. This is a nominee who is disliked by Senators Schumer, Leahy and Kennedy. This is a shot across the extremist left bow, and it shows that the President is perhaps willing to sacrifice on the legislative agenda front for the big, long-term gains a Roberts on the court represents."
The story details some of the rumors that were floating around Washington yesterday — rumors about Clement, Jones, Michael Luttig and, finally, Roberts — and how the left-wing flame-throwers responded similarly to each name.
By 8 p.m., liberal groups had essentially deleted the name of Clement on their press releases and e-mails and inserted Roberts' name. At that point the White House strategy, and those of such top-flight outside advisers as Ted Olson, Barbara Comstock, and Boyden Gray became apparent. The similarity of liberal reactions to Clement and Roberts gave lie to the extreme left's approach to any nominee: smear first, learn later.

"We've boxed the MoveOn types and the Ralph Neas types with today," says a Senate Judiciary Republican staffer. "They have no standing. They'd attack anyone, regardless of credentials."
I'm thrilled that the White House thinks John Roberts is a "real conservative," and I love that it exposed the left's hypocrisy for what it is. However, I'm not sure that calling your core supporters "buffoons" or "petty whiners" is a good way to win friends and influence people.
This is similar, in my mind, to the president's reaction to criticism of Gonzales. Bush said:
I don't like it when a friend gets criticized. I'm loyal to my friends. All of a sudden this fellow, who is a good public servant and a really fine person, is under fire. And so, do I like it? No, I don't like it, at all.
I don't care about who gets credit, but when the White House is floating trial balloons on the acceptability of Gonzales, there's nothing wrong with trying to shoot down those balloons before they gain sufficient altitude to be unreachable. It had nothing to do with Alberto Gonzales as a person; it had everything to do with how his presence on the highest court would shape the legal landscape away from three decades of constitutional reinvention.

Beldar eases my fears a bit

Writing at BeldarBlog, attorney William Dyer writes about why he's not worried that John Roberts will turn out to be "another Souter":
Through documents and through first-hand opinions of solid and reliable conservatives who've worked closely with John G. Roberts — in his capacity as a private counselor, and not just a public advocate — Dubya does have full access to what Judge Roberts has thought and said when he's been at his most candid, under pressure and entirely outside the public spotlight.

Hugh Hewitt pointed out on his radio show tonight, entirely correctly, that when John Roberts was a lawyer for the Reagan Administration, that Administration was under legal siege: times were tough, stakes were high, and wise, private legal judgments were desperately needed. Seeing from a client's viewpoint how a lawyer functions as a counselor — how he privately answers key questions like "Is this wise? Is this principled? What are the downsides? What do we really think, public façade aside?" — is extremely revealing. Quite arguably, this sort of information can tell one even more about how a nominee will perform in the future than what he's written — always for publication and usually after compromise with others on the bench — as a judge on a lower appellate court.

Thus, through people like former Solicitor General Ken Starr (and, perhaps, Chief Justice Rehnquist?) with whom John Roberts has worked very closely, and through privileged documents that Judge Roberts must have written himself while a government lawyer, Dubya and his staff certainly know vastly more about Judge Roberts' character and core beliefs than, for example, Poppy Bush ever could have known about David Souter or than the Gipper ever could have known about Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. Instead, Dubya and his staff have the same kind of first-hand, pertinent, and highly reliable knowledge about John Roberts that Richard Nixon and his staff had about William Rehnquist. And that worked out pretty well over time, didn't it?

Again, for reasons of precedent and preservation of executive privilege, Dubya won't and can't share those private, confidential documents, nor those private, confidential personal assessments, with you, me, or the Senate. But he has them; they're incredibly meaningful; and we have every reason to believe that Dubya has made very, very good use of them. Don't misunderestimate your president, my conservative friends. Rejoice and have faith!
I have been guilty of "misunderestimating" the president (not that he hasn't given me reason at times), but I found it difficult to believe he would nominate a squishy Souter-type justice. He understands the significance of Supreme Court nominations. As Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote, he gets it.

Countdown to the SCOTUS fall session

Seventy-five days. That's how long the Senate has to vote on Roberts before the Supreme Court begins its fall session. Bill Clinton's two Supreme Court appointments lasted an average of 58 days, so there's no excuse for not holding a vote before the court's start on Oct. 3.

Note: I did not say "there's no excuse for not confirming Roberts before the Court's start on Oct. 3." I'm just asking for a vote.

Update on Judge Roberts

After spending time reading a little more about Judge Roberts, I'm not as excited as I was, but I'm still optimistic.

A lot of the doubt I see in the blogosphere relates to Roberts' short tenure as a judge — and thus, the relatively limited sources for determining his "judicial temperament." I don't think you can make much of a determination from his role as Solicitor General under Bush 41 — like any lawyer, he was arguing the perspective of his client, the United States government.

Because of those limited sources, some people are afraid Roberts will turn out to be another David Souter, about whom right-leaning folk supposedly swore up and down that he would be a solid conservative. (I was barely out of my teens at that point, didn't pay near as much attention to politics, and was also closer in my politics to Ginsburg than Souter, so I don't remember much about those SCOTUS appointees.) This will have to play out as the interest groups dig deep into Roberts' record; however, they already did most of that for Roberts' confirmation hearings for the DC Circuit Court, so other than the last two years on that court, I'm not sure there's anything else to find.

Of course, if Democrats hadn't played games with his nomination, Roberts would have been confirmed to the DC Circuit when Bush 41 nominated him in 1992, and there would have been plenty of information for Democrats to chew on.

The fact that internet opinion on Roberts is all over the map makes me a bit nervous, but here's my take for now: Roberts is a "mainstream" conservative, which may not be as conservative as I'd like, but is certainly better than O'Connor. The Kool-Aid drinking left will attempt to destroy him, but they'd do that with any nominee; watch for the double-standard of whining when Roberts declines to answer some questions, even though Ruth Bader Ginsburg did the exact same thing (with Democrat approval) in 1993. The mainstream left will realize Roberts is not a flame-throwing, right-wing Ted Kennedy, and will reluctantly approve him, and I think that's part of Bush's plan. He's going to have at least one more SCOTUS nomination, and if he can nominate a solid conservative to replace the middle-of-the-road O'Connor, satisfy the conservative base and keep from ticking off the left, he will have some nomination capital left for the next Supreme Court battle.

I hope.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A fight well worth waging

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my concern regarding the potential nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court. Part of my post said:
Regardless of the nomination, the Senate will be a war zone -- the Democrats have already said so. So why waste this fight on a nominee who the left will attempt to block, and the right will refuse to embrace because of questionable positions? If there's a fight to be had, then at least nominate someone worthy of fighting for.
Well, I'm happy to report that George W. Bush has nominated someone worth fighting for in John Roberts. Much remains to learn about Roberts' record, but from what I know at this point, I couldn't say it better than Shannen Coffin on National Review:
If there is to be a fight, it will be a fight well worth waging. Our Constitution and our nation will be better off with John Roberts on the Court.

Quote of the Day

OK, it's not really from today. It's from the 2003 confirmation hearings of John Roberts for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, as reported on FoxNews.com. Here's Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), speaking to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) on some of Schumer's questions to Roberts:
Some I totally disagree with. Some I think are dumbass questions, between you and me. I am not kidding you. I mean, as much as I love and respect you, I just think that's true.
Surprised, Schumer asked if he heard the chairman correctly, to which Hatch said yes. Schumer asked Hatch if he would like to "revise and extend his remark," congressional speak for change his mind. Hatch's response:
No, I am going to keep it exactly the way it is. I mean, I hate to say it. I mean, I feel badly saying it between you and me. But I do know dumbass questions when I see dumbass questions.
Any guesses on how the confirmation hearings will go?

Welcome back...

to Charlie at Duckwriter. And I don't say that just because we share the same love for a certain fluorescent-clad football team.

Monday, July 18, 2005

No really, the press is NOT biased...

...it just picks selectively from the facts according to the situation.

From one of my favorites, Andy McCarthy, writing in National Review about the Valerie Plame kerfuffle:
Just four months ago, 36 news organizations confederated to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington . . . The thrust of the brief was that reporters should not be held in contempt or forced to reveal their sources in the Plame investigation. Why? Because, the media organizations confidently asserted, no crime had been committed . . . As it happens, the media organizations informed the court that long before the Novak revelation . . . Plame's cover was blown not once but twice.
As the media alleged to the judges . . . Plame's identity as an undercover CIA officer was first disclosed to Russia in the mid-1990s by a spy in Moscow . . . If Plame was outed to the former Soviet Union a decade ago, there can have been little, if anything, left of actual intelligence value in her "every operation, every relationship, every network" by the time anyone spoke with Novak.

Of greater moment to the criminal investigation is the second disclosure urged by the media organizations on the court. They don't place a precise date on this one, but inform the judges that it was "more recent" than the Russian outing but "prior to Novak's publication."

And it is priceless. The press informs the judges that the CIA itself "inadvertently" compromised Plame by not taking appropriate measures to safeguard classified documents that the Agency routed to the Swiss embassy in Havana. In the Washington Times article — you remember, the one the press hypes when it reports to the federal court but not when it reports to consumers of its news coverage — [reporter Bill] Gertz elaborates that "[t]he documents were supposed to be sealed from the Cuban government, but [unidentified U.S.] intelligence officials said the Cubans read the classified material and learned the secrets contained in them."

Thus, the same media now stampeding on Rove has told a federal court that, to the contrary, they believe the CIA itself blew Plame's cover before Rove or anyone else in the Bush administration ever spoke to Novak about her. Of course, they don't contend the CIA did it on purpose or with malice. But neither did Rove — who, unlike the CIA, appears neither to have known about nor disclosed Plame's classified status. Yet, although the Times and its cohort have a bull's eye on Rove's back, they are breathtakingly silent about an apparent CIA embarrassment — one that seems to be just the type of juicy story they routinely covet.
I have cut and pasted generously, so read the whole thing for context.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Quote of the Day

From John Podhoretz in The Corner:
So we learn, at last, from the New York Times, that Robert Novak called Karl Rove and said he heard Joseph Wilson's wife, who was NOT a clandestine agent at the time, worked for the CIA. To which Rove replied -- of the women who was NOT a clandestine agent at the time and who he almost surely had no reason to know had at some point in the previous years BEEN a clandestine agent -- "I heard that too."

This surely qualifies as one of the "hey, big whoop" stories of all time. And I am not saying this because I am some partisan gunslinger. Simple fairness says that an official called by a journalist who volunteers a piece of gossip and then responds, "I heard that too," is not retailing a piece of incendiary information intended to destroy lives and place CIA assets in harm's way.

And I'm going to be blunt here. Anybody who says different has an agenda that has nothing whatever to do with Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, or much of anything else besides doing damage to the Bush administration and character-assassinating Karl Rove.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Washington Post's idle speculation

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Carol Leonnig wrote part 758 in the ongoing PlameGate controversy in this morning's paper, but they engage in a bit of baseless speculation that does nothing but reveal the paper's political bias.

In the latter half of the story, the writers talk (read: speculate) about what sorts of charges Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald might have. They flat-out admit they don't know — "...much of the leak probe remains a mystery to those outside the office of Fitzgerald" — so they list some possibilities. It's not attributed to any source, so it appears they've made stuff up. In the second-to-last paragraph, they write:
Fitzgerald could have evidence, for instance, that Rove or other officials encouraged someone to tell a coverup story to explain their conversations about Plame, which could lead to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Or, they could find evidence, for instance, that Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame are really aliens on a secret mission from the planet Zulu, and Karl Rove (also an alien) controls their every move with his powerful mind rays.

What a bunch of garbage! It's made-up stuff like this, along with irresponsible use of anonymous sources, that have caused the public to trust the media so little. For a concurrent issue that reveals press bias, maybe you should read this and this about the press questions at a White House briefing the other day.

For a comparison discussion on the use of speculation, I point you to a couple of posts in The Corner on National Review. John Podhoretz wrote two very interesting posts about alternative possibilities in the PlameGate investigation, possibilities that will never see the light of day in the mainstream press. They were written late Tuesday and early Wednesday. No matter how interesting they were, however, I chose not to repeat them in this blog because they were — get ready for it — idle speculation that appeared to have little basis in fact. The fact that Podhoretz wrote what he did is a little bit troubling because of its speculative nature. If he would have written what he did, but it appeared in the New York Post (his day job), I would consider him no better than VandeHei and Leonnig. But the fact that he did it in a blog, to me, softens the offense because: 1) As the media are so eager to point out, bloggers are different from those "professional" journalists with their layers of checks and balances; and 2) It was done at a website that publishes opinion (National Review).

Still, if I (as a little blogger in my pajamas — or actually, right now I'm in my bathrobe) can decide to exclude something because it's completely speculative, why can't the Washington Post — with its layers of checks and balances — do the same? Because it appears too many media members will run with an opportunity to paint the Bush administration as law-breaking cover-up artists, regardless of whether it has any basis in fact.

And lest you think I'm violating my own rule by speculating on something without a basis in fact, I would only say this — I can provide plenty of evidence to support my speculation. If the Washington Post has such evidence, it should do the same, or leave it out of a "news" story.

(HT: HH)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More on Stem Cells

From today's Oregonian editorial:
On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee heard testimony about some unproven methods for deriving embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos. These methods are intriguing, but no one knows if they work. Even the scientists researching them admitted as much Tuesday, agreeing that these methods are no substitute for the Senate's passage of the Specter-Harkin bill.

This bill would expand federal financing for embryonic stem-cell research using established methods. The cells are derived from excess embryos that fertility clinics just discard.
The problem with this statement? As the my bolded portion states, no one knows if they work. The same can be said of embryonic stem cell research in general. Adult stem cells, as my previous post noted, have already produced several favorable treatments. In addition, despite left-wing blather to the contrary, there is no ban on embryonic stem cell research, only a limit on federal funding. Non-government research is going on this very day.

So this editorial simply dismisses an "intriguing" method — one which would not destroy human embryos, would not stomp on the ethical concerns over the procedures, but would provide the same promise as the Specter-Harkin bill — while lauding an equally-unproven substitute. But such a position has no resemblance to any "compromise" the Democrats keep shouting for. It is, pure and simple, ideological drivel.

Embryonic stem cells help...how?

Here are the treatments, cures or therapies that have resulted from Embryonic Stem Cell Research:
  • None
  • Zero
  • Nada
  • Zilch
Here are the treatments, cures or therapies that have resulted from Adult Stem Cell Research:
  1. Brain Cancer
  2. Retinoblastoma
  3. Ovarian Cancer
  4. Merkel Cell Cancer
  5. Testicular Cancer
  6. Lymphoma
  7. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
  8. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
  9. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
  10. Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia
  11. Angioimmunoblastic Lymphadenopathy with Dysproteinemia
  12. Multiple Myeloma
  13. Myelodysplasia
  14. Breast Cancer
  15. Neuroblastoma
  16. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  17. Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  18. Renal Cell Carcinoma
  19. Various Solid Tumors
  20. Soft Tissue Sarcoma
  21. Scleromyxedema
  22. Multiple Sclerosis
  23. Crohn's Disease
  24. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  25. Juvenile Arthritis
  26. Systemic Lupus
  27. Polychondritis
  28. Systemic Vasculitis
  29. Sjogren's Syndrome
  30. Behcet's Disease
  31. Myasthenia Gravis
  32. Red Cell Aplasia
  33. Autoimmune Cytopenia
  34. X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Syndrome
  35. X-Linked Hyperimmunoglobuline-M Syndrome
  36. Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome-X1
  37. Sickle Cell Anemia
  38. Sideroblastic Anemia
  39. Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia
  40. Aplastic Anemia
  41. Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
  42. Chronic Epstein-Barr Infection
  43. Fanconi's Anemia
  44. Diamond Blackfan Anemia
  45. Thalassemia Major
  46. Stroke
  47. Osteogenesis Imperfecta
  48. Sandhoff Disease
  49. Corneal Degeneration
  50. Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis
  51. Primary Amyloidosis
  52. Limb Gangrene
  53. Surface Wound Healing
  54. Heart Damage
  55. Parkinson's Disease
  56. Spinal Cord Injury
  57. Scleroderma
  58. Hurler's Syndrome

Quote of the Day

From Jonah Goldberg, writing about Alberto Gonzales in National Review Online:
...friendship is not a qualification for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Period. For a while, when they were working on education policy together, Bush referred to Sen. Edward Kennedy as his great friend. Surely, such encomiums, nice as they were, didn't make Teddy one fraction of a scintilla more qualified to be on the Supreme Court. Either you're a good pick or you're not, and personalities should have nothing to do with it. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a real jerk. But he was a great justice.

...President Bush says that he values loyalty and that this is why he's defending Gonzales personally. Bully for him. But the "attacks" on Gonzales have not been personal for the most part. They've been measured and respectful. Nonetheless, Bush's previous — and very loyal — AG, John Ashcroft, was attacked constantly and repeatedly in profoundly personal terms. And Bush never rose to defend Ashcroft. Indeed, the White House brilliantly used Ashcroft in a good-cop bad-cop routine for the entire first term. If I may mangle a metaphor beyond all recognition, Ashcroft was a Medusa's head which Bush could pull out of his bag to petrify the opposition. Or more accurately, to make the opposition go batty in its hysterical Ashcroft phobia.

Of course, Bush and Ashcroft are not close personal friends. But that's sort of the point. Ashcroft would make a far better appointment to the court than Gonzales — but, again, they're not buddies (and the entire Democratic side of the aisle would spontaneously combust if Bush nominated Ashcroft).

Why ask when you can force it?

The Oregon Legislature, as part of the ongoing debates for funding the state school system, has tried on a couple of occasions to give Portland schools a sweetheart of a deal: the ability to continue levying a tax beyond the date the tax expires.

Portland voters approved local option property and income tax levies to temporarily provide additional funds for school and other local services, but they are both set to expire in the next year. Today's Oregonian details the efforts to allow Portland to levy an extra $15 million in property taxes. The proposal has been made in the hopes of attracting Democrat support for various school funding schemes, though it hasn't worked out that way.

Portland school officials say "taxpayers would barely notice the $15 million because it would only slightly reduce what will be a big drop in Portland school property taxes levied this fall," the Oregonian story said. "Homeowners will see their taxes for the school district drop by about a third."

In other words: your taxes are going to drop this year anyway, so you'll never notice that the drop is (these are made-up numbers) 30 percent intead of 35 percent. It's still a reduction! What's the big deal?

Once again, I'm thanking God that I don't live in either Portland or Multnomah County, but I'm sick about this nonetheless, for this reason: the voters approved these taxes not once, but twice (there was an effort last year to repeal the income tax, but it failed). Opponents of the taxes warned voters that the county and school district might be calling them "temporary" taxes, but they'd find a way to make them permanent. Now that the expiration date of those taxes is on the horizon, those tax opponents are being proved right.

And the legislature, thanks to Portland-area Democrats, are leading the way. Why ask the voters for permission to continue a tax when you can call up the tax-happy Democratic Party and shove it down the voters' throats?

UPDATE: I neglected to note that one of the proposals was floated by House Majority Leader Karen Minnis, so it's not just the Dems. Ugh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Taking it to Dems on SCOTUS nominations

Blogger Patrick Ruffini has an excellent post from a few days ago (which I'm just now seeing). It's so good that you need to read the whole thing, but here is (roughly) the last half:

"For once, let's argue substance. Let's get at the motivations driving Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy. If the Democrats want an ideological war over this Supreme Court nominee, bring it on. It's a war we can win.

The tone of such an argument is exactly as follows:
Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution.
What kind of America do Democrats want by opposing President Bush's judicial nominee? The kind that the judges they prefer are trying to make for us:
  • An America where your children can't pledge allegiance to the United States of America, Under God (Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow)
  • An America where gay marriage is imposed by judicial fiat (Goodridge v. Department of Public Health), and if the people of your state say no, they are silenced (Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning)
  • An America where wealthy developers can take away your home (Kelo v. City of New London)
  • A Banana Republic where elections can be manipulated after the fact to produce the desired outcome (Bush v. Gore; the Dino Rossi litigation)
  • An America where the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are more likely to be set free, possibly to conduct further attacks.
How do we "strict constructionists" frame our "agenda?" As an anti-agenda. As one that opposes the imposition of any particular worldview through the Courts. As a simple sentiment, animated by faith in the body politic, and borne of 229 years of democracy in America:

Let the people decide.

Conservatives would never aspire to use the courts to ban abortion, or to end gay marriage. To state otherwise is patently false. Only through a Constitutional Amendment requiring overwhelming popular approval could these objectives be achieved nationally. We are committed to a healthy and vigorous debate at the state level in which the people decide, not judges.

"Conservatives" are modest and moderate in their views of the judiciary while liberals are radical and reckless and rigidly ideological. It is often noted that the decisions of the Supreme Court reach into the daily lives of average Americans. We don't believe it should be that way -- the Supreme Court is empowered deal only with matters contained in the Constitution, and last we checked, the words "abortion" and "homosexuality" weren't mentioned in the text. These are matters for the people and their elected representatives, not for the courts."

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Judicial activism?

Today's Oregonian had an interesting profile of U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden, who has consistently been a thorn in the side of the federal government's efforts to protect salmon runs. Those efforts date back to the first Bush administration, and Redden, the story said, "has made no secret of his intense concern about the seriousness of the threats to Pacific salmon."

But is that concern based on the law? On science? On his personal opinion? Or some combination thereof?

Based on this quote of Redden, I'm wondering if his personal opinion is getting in the way:
These are important cases, especially Endangered Species Act cases. I think of the salmon, the wild salmon, as worth trying to save.
Whether the salmon are worth saving is irrelevant to this discussion. Judicial opinions should be shaped on what the law says. Does his quote sound like someone who's ruling solely on the law? Like someone who is taking the facts into account? Or like someone whose personal views are interfering with his ability to interpret the law?

The story talks about Redden's history as a Democratic lawmaker, including his key role in shaping the state's open beaches law in the 1960s. It ends with two quotes from Redden, one about removing politics from the discussion, and one about using science to shape the decisions.

Quote 1:
I have said, and I still believe, that we can do it without breaching those dams. I've got to say, let's get the politics out of this and see what we can do with our brains.
And Quote 2:
I think the Endangered Species Act gives us a way to have power and irrigation, and transportation and salmon. What it takes is using science to find the way to do that. I know enough about the science now to think that it is highly probable, and if we don't, it will be because we didn't try.
Based on his first quote about the "worthiness" of saving wild salmon, I view the likelihood that Redden is ignoring politics or relying on science to be questionable at best.

Follow-up to education funding post

I re-read my post from yesterday, and realized there was one point I intended to expand upon, but forgot.

I quoted Kris Kain of the Oregon Education Funding, who advocated the elimination of corporate tax breaks as part of the solution to the education funding issue.

I then paraphrased it this way: She asks that "the evil private corporations that employ those of us in the private sector pay more, since providing jobs is clearly not sufficient."

I intended to throw a bone to Ms. Kain on this issue, because it's clear that some corporations are finding ways around paying taxes, with Portland General Electric being the posterchild. If PGE can collect millions of dollars from customers for taxes, but then not pay those taxes, that's a blatant abuse of the system that deserves to be changed. State Representatives Rick Metsger and Vicki Walker recently wrote in The Oregonian that PGE has charged Oregon taxpayers more than $750 million since 1997, but paid none of that to the state or federal governments.

Another utility, PacifiCorp, charged Oregon ratepayers more than $88 million for state and federal income taxes in 2002 but paid the state minimum income tax of $10.

However, I suspect that even common-sense reforms like the ones Metsger and Walker are advocating will not be sufficient for Ms. Kain, thus my acidic comment that private corporations are "evil" and that those paid by my tax dollars will never recognize the value of the jobs provided by those corporations.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

No wonder we have education funding issues

Today's Oregonian details the costs of education in Oregon with some very revealing statistics. It is specifically about the extraordinary cost of pensions through the state's Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

According to the story, the benefits eat up $2 billion over two years, which is almost 40 percent of the schools budget. Were Oregon to pay the national average, it would free up some $500 million.

Teacher benefits cost just under $12,000 per employee nationwide. In Oregon, the cost is $18,260 per employee, which ranks Oregon third in the country. Much of that is related to the pensions, which is personalized by the newspaper's cover photo of two former teachers in their 50s who retired to Arizona earning 100 percent of their teaching salaries — $115,000 between the two of them. Who's underpaid?

(The average PERS member who worked at least 30 years and retired between January 2000 and November 2004 got a pension averaging 107 percent of final salary, the story said. Post-retirement payments go on for life, and include an annual cost-of-living adjustment. The legislature tried to make changes to PERS in the previous session, but most of those changes were thrown out by the courts.)

And yet, Kris Kain of the Oregon Education Association, has the nerve to say, "Your public school employees are working really hard. They deserve to be adequately compensated. They don't deserve to be the bad guys." (The story doesn't say whether Ms. Kain said that line with a straight face, but I don't know how she could manage to avoid a small smirk.)

Adequately compensated? Adequately compensated? Let's ask the average Oregonian, whose salary is $10,000 lower than the average teacher, whether they are "adequately compensated."

Ms. Kain is further quoted as saying the problems should be fixed by: 1) trimming health insurance costs; 2) closing corporate tax breaks; and 3) having Oregonians invest more money in schools.

So to paraphrase, she's requesting:
  1. That teachers continue to pay nothing toward their health insurance costs, expecting instead that pooling the resources of the state's teachers will provide a miraculous savings. (My thought? Maybe they could get health insurance like the rest of the world, instead of the Rolls Royce of health insurance plans, and maybe they could learn what it means to pay your fair share, again, like the rest of the world);
  2. That the evil private corporations that employ those of us in the private sector pay more, since providing jobs is clearly not sufficient;
  3. The state pay even more than it's currently paying, even though voters have twice declined in the last two years to add to their tax burden to pay for schools.
The Oregonian article also lists two other pieces of info: 1) the student teacher ratio in Oregon is more than 20:1, which ranks fourth highest in the nation (less than 16-to-1); and 2) Oregon's per-pupil spending is $7,587 (the nationwide average is $8,248), for a ranking of 28th.

I have two thoughts on those numbers:
First, could there be a correlation between high salaries and benefits and below-average staffing and spending? Could it be that the high salaries and benefits are taking money away from the classroom? It's like those people who note the inverse relationship between incarceration and crime nationwide, but report it this way: 'Crime rates are decreasing despite increasing rates of incarceration.' They don't see the cause-and-effect relationship. The teachers' unions are shooting themselves in the foot — nay, make that shooting the taxpayers in the back — by insisting on high salaries and big benefits, then whining when the money for those big-ticket items gets taken away from the classroom. Who's the responsible party there?

Second, there are (seemingly) a million ways to compute per-pupil spending. Last time I checked (link in PDF), there were about 550,000 public school students in Oregon, so multiplying that number by $7,587, you get just less than $4.2 billion. The state school budget for 2003-2005, according to the Oregon School Boards Association, was $5.3 billion for two years. The difference apparently is made up by taking into account federal and local funds; the Oregonian article notes that Oregon schools can expect about $8 billion to spend in the next two years, but it's all confusing, and how much we pay depends on who you ask, what they're using for data, and what time period the data comes from.

For instance, the Heritage Foundation lists these statistics (for 2001-2002):
  • Public school enrollment: 552,144
  • Students enrolled per teacher: 17.9
  • Current expenditures: $4,572 billion
  • Current per-pupil expenditure: $8,280
I have a longtime friend who's heavily involved in the school funding battle, and she wouldn't be shy about telling you about all the ways that school funding discussions barely scrape the surface of the real issues — things like ESL, learning-disabled kids, federal funding, administration, teacher aides, Title I, etc. Not to mention differences from district to district, and school to school.

I acknowledge all that, and I'll be the first to say my knowledge barely scrapes that real-issues surface. But there are certain things — such as the topic of this blog entry or this story about how the state has granted pay raises to state employees ranging from 8.75 percent to 18.25 percent over two years — that have a bad appearance, that make it difficult to take seriously the cries of inadequate funding.

Friday, July 08, 2005

If only this were true...

From William Saletan, writing in Slate:
Bin Laden's whole game plan is to turn the people of the democratic world against their governments. He thinks democracies are weak because their people, who are more easily frightened than their governments, can bring those governments down. He doesn't understand that this flexibility — and this trust — are why democracies will live, while he will die. Many of us didn't vote for Bush's government or Blair's. But we're loyal to them, in part because we were given a voice in choosing them. And if we don't like our governments, we can vote them out. We can't vote out terrorists. We can only kill them.
This is a great example of a clear-thinking liberal. I only wish that the line I highlighted in bold were true of even a slim majority of those who "didn't vote for Bush's government." Unfortunately, the left has been hijacked by kool-aid drinkers like Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean and Michael Moore, people who display no apparent loyalty to their president, their government or their country.


No kids in the Pearl? How can that be?

Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski made me laugh this morning with this post about The Oregonian's architecture writer, Randy Gragg. (To say Jack thinks lightly of Mr. Gragg would probably be a bit of an understatement.) Gragg wrote this story about Portland's ritzy Pearl District, and here's most of Jack's comment:
...the O ran a big front-page splash, with lots more coverage on the cover of, and inside, the enclosed InPortland magazine. In it, the Graggmeister, exercising his full journalistic might, informs us, that... wait a minute, stop the presses, get ready for a scoop, this is really a big one....

The Pearl District is a lousy place to raise kids, and very few people are dumb enough to try.

Holy moly! You don't say.

Even funnier than the huge play that this obvious fact gets, is the tone that's taken in Gragg's "analysis" of the situation. There's an aura of mystery and wonderment about it. How did this happen? We built huge condo and apartment towers with no real neighborhood around them, settled for a small concrete slab and fountain which we had the nerve to call a "park," and gee whiz, families won't live there. How in the world could this have taken place?

Gee, Randy, I would have thought that your hero, Charlie Hales, who was running a lot of things at City Hall when the Pearl "blossomed," might have told you the reason over coffee. Maybe he did and you were too starstruck to write it down. Or you could have kept talking to Portland's 200 or so paid urban planners, whom I thought we were paying millions to actually think about questions like these in a timely manner, until someone gave you a square answer.

Anyway, let me tell you why there are no kids in the Pearl District: Because families and kids weren't on Homer Williams and Joe Weston and Neil Goldschmidt's punch list of how to get rich down there. And when they said "Jump," [former Mayor] Vera Katz and [former Katz aide and current city commissioner] Sam Adams and [city commissioner] Erik Sten all responded, "How high?"

And that's exactly why the South Waterfront isn't going to have any kids in it, either.

The article adds to the hilarity by contrasting the Pearl with a new development in Vancouver, B.C., where there are gaggles of youngsters living in the high-rises. Suddenly Gragg suggests that we ought to do (or should have done) what was done up there.

You see, that's the whole problem. When the Developer Welfare recipients have a "vision" for Portland, that's just how they sell it. We'll be another Vancouver, B.C. We'll be another Barcelona. To this day you can hear Tom Imeson [a business partner to Goldschmidt] whispering these sweet nothings to Sam Adams over the Caesar salad at Higgins.

What we should be doing is asking, how do we keep being Portland? What has brought so many immigrants to this place? What makes it attractive? What is its history? What are its core values? If we ask these questions, we do not get the Pearl or South Waterfront as the answers. In contrast, when we're always trying to be like somebody else -- and the identity of that somebody else changes depending on the latest spiel being ladled out by the condo moneybags -- we have every right to expect a massive planning failure.

The kind of failure that Gragg's story has belatedly noticed.

And of course, now that it's too late to do anything about it, the O is right on the case.
Even when I disagree with him, Jack is a great read every day. Today, I have no disagreement.

Just say no to a Gonzales nomination

When George W. Bush was campaigning for president in 2000, he was asked who he most admired on the United States Supreme Court, and what sorts of justices he might appoint as president. His answers? Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas; and "strict constructionists."

Partially for that reason, conservatives fought for Bush in 2000, and he won in a squeaker that — somewhat ironically — was settled by a 5-4 Supreme Court majority that included Sandra Day O'Connor. Those same conservatives fought even harder for him in 2004, and he showed gains across the board in defeating John Kerry. It was hard — though the media certainly worked hard to disagree — not to read those victories as validation that a majority of the country approved of the leadership and policies of the Bush administration.

Now that O'Connor has announced her retirement after 24 years on the bench, speculation is running rampant on who her successor will (or should) be. The name that keeps popping up in that vein is one that should not even be contemplated — current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. A Gonzales nomination raises numerous red flags, either outright problems or major questions, that should deep-six the idea before it ever gets legs.

The most significant of these problems stems from his two most recent jobs: Attorney General and White House Counsel. Federal law states that a federal judge must recuse himself from a case if, as a federal employee, he participated as an adviser or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of a particular case. It also calls for disqualification from any proceeding where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

What does this mean? It means a Justice Gonzales couldn't participate in some of the most important issues facing the Supreme Court, thus leading to the potential of a 4-4 tie (which would uphold the lower court rulings) instead of a 5-4 victory for the conservative perspective. Ed Whelan on National Review explains with three upcoming cases:
Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood presents the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s statute providing for parental notification when minors have abortions. The questions presented include the standard of review of facial challenges to statutes regulating abortion. The United States can be expected to file an amicus brief in this case, precisely because the standard-of-review question directly affects litigation involving the federal partial-birth abortion cases. The attorney general would ordinarily take part in a decision like this. Recusal strike one.

Gonzales v. Oregon presents the question whether Oregon’s doctor-assisted-suicide law runs afoul of the federal Controlled Substances Act. The petitioner is the attorney general himself. Although I don’t think that being a named party in one’s official capacity in litigation necessarily triggers a recusal obligation, it is very likely, given the important and difficult issues that this case presents, that the attorney general has personally participated in decisions involving the litigation. Recusal strike two.

Rumsfeld v. FAIR presents the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which requires universities, as a condition of their receipt of federal funding, to give military recruiters equal access. A number of schools, protesting the military’s policies on homosexual conduct, have challenged the law. It would be very surprising if Gonzales, both as White House Counsel and attorney general, had not personally participated in decisions about this case. Recusal strike three.
There are similar issues with potential cases involving the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, Partial Birth Abortion, and a host of other issues that Gonzales has been involved with.

Then there's the question of whether Gonzales is even a conservative. On issues from abortion to affirmative action to immigration, Gonzales has provided little concrete evidence to suggest he would be the "Constructionist" judge that Bush says he wants.

Oh sure, the Democrats are saying they want someone in the mold of O'Connor — a "moderate" (though that's funny considering they consider Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be a moderate), and some are even calling Gonzales a moderate. But a Gonzales appointment would do no better than maintain the status quo — and would lean dangerously toward a David Souter or Anthony Kennedy legacy that would render Bush’s two electoral victories meaningless.

As Shannen Coffin said Wednesday on NRO:
In the last several terms, Justice O'Connor voted more with Chief Justice Rehnquist than with any other Justice. So it is a bit of a misstatement to say that her seat is so much more important to gaining ground for the conservatives than his. The president has to get this right just to preserve the middle ground that O'Connor at times pulled back from the liberals on the Court. If he gets it wrong, things could be lost for a long time.
In other words, nominating a "moderate" carries too much risk of turning out to be a Kennedy or Souter. Regardless of the nomination, the Senate will be a war zone -- the Democrats have already said so. So why waste this fight on a nominee who the left will attempt to block, and the right will refuse to embrace because of questionable positions? If there's a fight to be had, then at least nominate someone worthy of fighting for.

Sen. Gordon Smith has been successful in Oregon elections because of his ability to appeal simultaneously to the state’s moderate and conservative bases. While he can’t win by steering hard right as conservatives would like, he will face early retirement if the conservative base decides to bow out of his next election and watch from the sidelines.

The filibuster discussion revealed the leading edge of just such a defection. Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters is calling for a financial boycott of the GOP leadership, through his Not One Dime campaign. This campaign is designed to withhold funds from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, instead favoring specific candidates who have demonstrated a backbone. As Ed said in a Howard Kurtz column earlier this year:
“When we donate to the NRSC, that money gets distributed by established party leadership in the Senate to campaigns around the country, as the leadership sees fit. That power essentially ties incumbents to the current leadership, because in order to ensure that they get enough funds to have a shot at winning, they need to be seen as supportive of the people holding the purse strings. If the NRSC hasn't got any money of its own, the leadership loses that influence, and the candidates have to put their loyalty elsewhere.”
Righting the ship that is the United States Supreme Court is important enough to conservatives that another nomination in the mold of Kennedy or Souter will be met with massive withdrawal from the Republican and Smith camps. It will make the Not One Dime campaign look puny in comparison.

Conservatives have been voting for Republicans for decades with the expectation that it will lead to a certain amount of de-liberalization of the courts. With the exception of Scalia in 1986 and Thomas in 1991, they have been disappointed by nominees who were never conservative to begin with, or have proven to be liberals in conservative clothing. Now is the opportunity that has motivated those votes for the last 30 years. A Gonzales nomination will tell conservatives that their support means very little.

It will also prove that a Republican Party that can’t govern when it has control of the White House and a 10-seat Senate majority does not deserve, and should not expect, our support.

The signals from the administration have been all over the board: Gonzales is going to be nominated, Gonzales is not a candidate, the White House is testing the waters, the White House is looking at other names. This schizophrenic approach to judicial nominations simply means we have to act now. A nomination is expected early next week, so Sen. Smith needs to hear this weekend that Gonzales is unacceptable, and his failure to convey that to the White House will be at the risk of his future.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quote of the Day

From NRO's The Corner:
Katie Couric, who knows nothing about anything, including how to dress, just suggested to John McCain that Tony Blair might suffer politically because of the attacks. McCain replied calmly, as if speaking to a child, that he expected Blair's popularity to grow as a result, which is, indeed, what always happens in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. (It was Jose Maria Aznar's weird refusal to acknowledge for 24 hours that the Madrid 3/11 attack was Al Qaeda and not a Basque assault that helped do him in.) Katie Couric makes $16 million a year. Maybe she should spend some of it getting a clue.

We are all Brits


Prayer for Londoners

They will not win. They cannot win.

Psalm 27
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tacky award of the day

goes to the Portland family law firm of Gevurtz Menashe, for this mailer they sent out:

The front panel shows some old books, eyeglasses and a parchment-like document that isn't quite readable.

The text says:
We've helped thousands of people write their name on a declaration of independence.
Here's the middle panel.

It reads:
Happy Fourth of July from the firm that helps people celebrate Independence Day all year round.
I considered not posting this because I don't necessarily want to bring attention to something so tasteless when I have serious doubts it would make any difference, but I can't help myself. It's like Planned Parenthood's "Choice on Earth" campaign; both groups take a commonly and dearly held part of our lives — our nation's birth or the birth of the Christ child — and bastardize it for their distorted purposes.

I would say both groups should be embarrassed to minimize such sensitive subjects in such cavalier manners, but I know better than to expect such a perspective from either party.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

News from the Front

Hugh Hewitt posts two excellent pieces today — one is a story written by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with accompanying comments by the author, about an American firefighter who is training Iraqis in the art & science of firefighting despite the threats to his life; and one is a letter written by a Marine in one of the more dangerous regions of Iraq. Scroll down until you find the green headline: "Isn't fighting fires dangerous enough?" Keep reading through that to the letter from the Marine.

Here is a key segments from Tom Clarkson, the author of the Corps of Engineers article:
How easy it is for those comfortably ensconced in the security of their air conditioned living rooms, with TV controls upon their laps and a laugh track sit-com blaring before them, to haughtily proclaim, “Let the Iraqis do it for themselves. It’s their problem not ours.” If those who enjoy the fruits of freedom are not ready to help those who seek it, then who?

The many Iraqis who bravely are standing up for their beliefs face uncertainties unimagined by those snack munching, video playing multitudes back home who are several generations removed from our country’s own struggles to attain democracy.

Too often, too many of us give cursory indication of appreciation to phrases such as that one poignantly etched upon the Korean Monument on the Mall in Washington , D.C. – “Freedom is not Free.” Here in Iraq , one is daily reminded, that this is much more than mere words.
And from the unnamed Marine:
There are over 14 of the 18 provinces in Iraq our thriving. Even in the Al Anbar province that I operate we are turning the control & have turned the control over to the Iraqis when it comes to provincial and municipal government. Is it perfect? No! Is our government, No! Look at California and its dysfunctional government system!

Business our now starting to operate without fear, the people are starting to work with us more, and they are hopeful for a better tomorrow.

Last week we had two reporters from the Washington area travel through our area. They didn’t want to know of any positive developments, all they were interested in was violence and mayhem.

You constantly hear how recruitment for the armed forces is down. Well can you wonder why when in some areas of the country recruiters are barred from campus, or in many Ivy League colleges there isn’t one ROTC program?

Why does the media continually report on abuse at Abu Graib, or at Guantanmo Bay, but fails to report on the savagery of the terrorist that we are engaged with?. Why do the many sacrifices of its sons and daughters in harms way fail to make headlines? Why doSean Penn, Barbara Streisand, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon make front page news, but when Denzel Washington personally pays for a home for military families to stay while they visit there loved ones in the military hospital only makes the local paper?

Why do we always believe the worst of the armed forces instead of the best?

Even United States Senator Durbin stated that Guantanmo is reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao Se-Tung’s China, and of Pol Pot in Cambodia. During each of these periods millions died. Do people believe that Guantanmo even remotely compares to this?

I may be only a Marine but I believe in what we are doing, and believe that we are bringing democracy and freedom to region that has been void of freedom. If called to serve again I would gladly serve again. We are facing the same threat that a generation of Americans faced at a different time in history, the stakes our the same freedom or tyranny!
Read all of it.

Quote of the Day

From John Stuart Mill (1806-1873):
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

Monday, July 04, 2005

China's internet censorship

It seems that the Chinese government has decided that the internet is a big threat to its survival — and no wonder, considering that bloggers in China have (had) the ability to reveal China's true record of human rights.

Remind me again: why are we sending the Olympics to China? Why are we treating them as if everything's hunky-dory?