Upper Left Coast

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

Friday, September 30, 2005

A surprise from Ron Wyden

Much to my surprise, it seems Ron Wyden has been pushing aside the Kool-Aid recently. He was one of 78 votes in favor of John Roberts for Chief Justice of the United States.

In his floor comments, Wyden said:
I reject the suggestion that a Republican nominee is per se objectionable. A number of moderate justices nominated by Republican Presidents belie such a claim. The decision that each Senator must make should be based on the judicial nominee that is before the Senate, not the one that we wish were before us.

To put this into historical perspective, under the advice and consent responsibility assigned to the Senate, the President’s judicial nominees to the Supreme Court have traditionally been given a large degree of deference. For instance, in spite of the divisive national debates surrounding gays in the military, universal health care, Travelgate, Filegate and the Whitewater investigation, this deference translated into 96 votes for Justice Ginsburg and 87 votes for Justice Breyer when their nominations came to a vote before the Senate. And yet these are two of the most progressive voices in the over 200-year history of the high court.
I suspect there's a degree of scheming on Wyden's part. He knows that Roberts is replacing another conservative, so the balance of the court does not change in Republicans' favor. If President Bush nominates an equally-stellar nominee for Sandra Day O'Connor's seat and Wyden votes against that nominee, we'll know he's playing politics despite his claims otherwise:
Some of the policy watchdogs I respect the most, and agree with on so very many issues, have asked that I oppose Judge Roberts because he is not one of us; because he is too conservative; because he is young; because he may prove effective. “He is not who we would choose,” they say, and on that point, I am in full agreement.

Should the test to confirm a Chief Justice be, “He is not who we would choose?” I ask my friends to imagine the mess we will have left for our nation if the Senate uses this test and votes solely on the basis of a nominee’s political beliefs.

Friends who a year ago said, “We don’t want ideologues appointed to the Supreme Court,” now want John Roberts and the next nominee to show up at the witness table and submit to an ideological litmus test.

Here’s my message to those friends: a sword forged in ideology in 2005 can be used against a progressive nominee in 2009 with equal disregard for the Constitution and the individual.
Did you catch that last part? The part about disregarding the Constitution? That, to me, is a not-so-tacit acknowledgment that the Democrats' filibusters over the last few years and their insistence that a nominee make commitments about "continuing the march toward progress" are unconstitutional abuses of the Senate's Advise-and-Consent role.

In some ways, Wyden's comments about deference are amusing, considering he voted in favor of filibusters on numerous occasions. It's even more amusing considering the letter he sent me earlier this year, talking about how many of Bush's District Court nominees the Democrats approved (as if filibusters of Circuit Court nominees are perfectly acceptable if the lower court nominees are approved in high numbers).

Granted, none of those votes were for Supreme Court positions, but I fail to see how it's OK to play politics with a circuit court nominee and forswear such tactics with the highest court.

Nonetheless, I'll take a victory with Wyden where I can get it. On the next nomination, I'll be sure to remind him that the Senate approved Ginsburg and Breyer by overwhelming margins, even though Republicans had the numbers to filibuster if they wanted, and even though, by Wyden's own admission, they were "two of the most progressive voices in the over 200-year history of the high court" (translation: two of the most liberal SCOTUS nominees ever).

Using Wyden's admission, there should be no issue with approving a strong conservative for the next nomination, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another reason not to pick Alberto Gonzales

Or Harriet Miers. From John Podhoretz of the New York Post, in today's Corner:
One of the Democratic talking points that is getting some traction is the Crony Talking Point -- the idea that this presidency is made up of friends and friends of friends who all do business together and whose qualifications matter less than their connections to GWB. Since nobody on earth aside from Bush would actually consider Gonzales or Miers a suitable Supreme Court nominee, the appointment of either would smack precisely of the cronyism with which he is (in my view) being unfairly tarred. Bush would be giving his critics some very serious ammunition to use against him at a time when he can't afford to do such a thing.
Don't do it, Mr. President!

Profiling Hysteria

Andrew McCarthy, writing about a New Jersey kerfuffle over racial profiling, argues that someone's Muslim beliefs are an entirely relevant consideration as one part of law enforcement efforts against terrorism.

Key graphs (emphasis mine):
Islamic groups . . . are voicing “long-standing fears of unequal treatment” for Muslims . . .

The interest groups would undeniably have a point if the global scourge of terrorism cut across sectarian lines. Broadly speaking, though, it does not. The vast majority of the terrorism committed in the world, and virtually all of the terrorism targeted against the United States for the past dozen years, has been spawned by radical Islam.

This is obviously why the interest groups are trying mightily to alter the underlying assumptions of counterterrorist theory. Terrorism, they insist, is a reaction to political conditions; it is not doctrinal in nature. But this conflates context with cause. On the same account, one could argue that, say, mafia racketeering is an economic phenomenon, unrelated to any sort of criminal culture.

And facts being stubborn things, the activists have three hurdles they can’t clear. First, it is never an acceptable response to “political” disputes to mass-murder civilians — civilized people do not make their points that way. Second, while political disputes are similar the world over, the people who have reacted to them by bombings (and who, in Israel, claim the right to regard civilians, including children, as legitimately targeted combatants) have almost exclusively been Muslims. And third, regardless of how partisans seek to explain away the atrocities, the militants actually committing them tell us, unabashedly, that it is Islam which commands them to act.

Islam, therefore, cannot sensibly be thought irrelevant to the formulation of precautions to be taken against what is, incontestably, Islamic terrorism. That does not come close to meaning every Muslim should be in a terrorist database. But there are many who should, and that regrettable situation will obtain until terrorism stops being committed on a singular scale by Muslims. And, significantly, until the self-appointed representatives of Islamic interests stop saying lamebrain things, like that blowing up people and buildings is an understandable “political” response to anything.

There is nothing wrong with profiling a known, ongoing threat. In fact, people charged with protecting us would be irresponsible if they failed to do so. Moreover, just as we know the militants are Muslims, so, too, we know that the vast majority of Muslims are not militants. There is consequently a lot more to the equation than just religious affiliation.

A Muslim goes to the mosque. So what? That proves nothing. But does he go to a mosque that is known to promote violent jihad? That, to the contrary, would be a very big deal. We know that such mosques have catalyzed terrorists in the past. Plus, there are lots of mosques that don’t preach that sort of thing, so if a Muslim chooses to attend the radical mosque, why should we not take that into account? It would be reckless not to.

A Muslim gives to charity. Again, who cares? We should all give to charity. But if they are charities with a history of underwriting terrorist organizations, that is not something that can responsibly be ignored. Maybe the individual Muslim in question doesn’t know — but why is that a risk society should take? After all, what we are talking about here is who might merit investigation. No one is being locked up for being in a database.

Suspecting people because of who they are rather than what they do is unacceptable. But ignoring who they are in the course of scrutinizing what they do is equally unacceptable if — as with militant Islam, Italian mafia groups, Russian organized crime, Chinese tongs, etc. — who they are is relevant to the determination of whether they are likely to pose a threat.
If I attended a church that advocated the murder of abortion doctors and the bombing of clinics (I don't), and if I gave money to "charities" that pursued similar aims (ditto), do you think anyone on the left would argue those were irrelevant factors that should be ignored? Would I be supported by the ACLU as exercising my right to free expression and association? Could I get away with saying I didn't know they advocated those positions?

Not a chance. It's no different with Islamic militants.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I'm alive


Sick for a few days. Hammered by deadlines for a couple more. Back soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Out of the mouths of babes...

My family, which lives on the west side of Portland, had reason to be in Southeast Portland last night. We came back home by crossing the Hawthorne Bridge, and saw a group of maybe a couple hundred people protesting the war.

My 7-year-old daughter asked what they were doing, so I explained that they opposed our country's involvement in the war, and thought they could make a difference by standing on the bridge and carrying the peace signs as drivers passed by.

She thought about it for a few seconds, and then said, "Well, that's not going to do them much good."

If a second-grader can get it...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Quote of the Day 2

On Nation Review's Bench Memos, Ed Whelan noted that the concluding remarks of the Judiary Committee Democrats yesterday featured a recurring theme: religious language. Stating that he was gaining "a new appreciation of the threat posed by public officials who invoke religious authority," Whelan noted in particular the comments of Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin. Durbin said:
“The greatest compliment one can pay a judge is that he is wise, that in his work on the bench he's shown the wisdom of Solomon. In the Scriptures, Solomon was often described as the wisest man who ever lived. But in Chapter 3 of the First Book of Kings, we learn what Solomon wanted more than wisdom. It is written, In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said, 'Ask what you wish me to give you.' Then Solomon said, 'So give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?' . . . I will pray that John Roberts will prove, as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, that he has not only a great legal mind but also an understanding heart.”
But it was Whelan's commentary in response, based on this passage in the book Durbin cites, that earned it today's blog entry:
Note to Senator Durbin: In case you missed the point of Solomon’s most famous demonstration of his wisdom, he was actually opposed to cutting up babies and recognized that a loving mother would not willingly cause the death of her own child.
But really, Durbin was only praying that Roberts would have "an understanding heart" like that of Solomon. Despite the position held by Durbin and his fellow Democrats, Durbin never indicated that such a heart would lead Roberts to uphold Roe v. Wade, so maybe this was super-secret code to Karl Rove that he's pro-life!

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Quote of the Day

From Jonah Goldberg in today's G-File on NRO, talking (at least in this part of the column) about the John Roberts Supreme Court hearings:
Joe Biden who by personal acclamation is the smartest man in his party, ultimately resorted to debating Roberts by flashing his teeth at the nominee like a semaphore signal. If you study the video of his meandering soliloquies you’ll discover that while he was ostensibly opining on the inadequacy of the “umpire” metaphor, he was in fact delivering a coded dental message “I CANNOT STOP TALKING. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WILL SOMEONE STOP ME?”

Thursday, September 22, 2005

At the center of a parent's universe

Betsy Hart, an author and syndicated columnist, recently wrote a book called, "It Takes a Parent." Here's the description on Amazon.com:
Tyrannized by "experts." Obsessed with perfection. Harried and anxious to the point of misery. Columnist and commentator Betsy Hart sees these traits in what she calls today's "parenting culture" – that is, a nation of parents who refrain from making moral judgments, who put their kids on a pedestal whether they deserve it or not, who shy away from disciplining or even criticizing when kids misbehave, and who generally cede the responsibility for making decisions, large and small, to their children. Hart argues that the consequences of this hands-off approach can be seen on the faces of dependent, wayward, and even violent children and teens – not to mention miserable moms and dads.

A mother of four, Hart presents a smart, passionate, and provocative argument for the crucial – and currently unfashionable – role of parents who lead rather than follow. From parents who insist on giving their kids a choice about everything and make excuses for their bad behavior, to those who drive their kids to excel at any endeavor and who turn to trained professionals for every problem, It Takes a Parent questions some tightly held cultural assumptions, and sheds light on the everyday concerns of parents across the nation.

This insightful, commonsense book will help shift the focus back to the role and responsibilities of parents – for guiding the character and hearts of their children, so they will grow up to be responsible adults themselves.
She was interviewed about the book on National Review Online. Among the topics covered:

Like so many people, I never wanted to become a single parent. I was shocked — and devastated — when that decision was made for me by another. But the tragedy of my (impending) divorce occurred as I was writing this book, and it’s part of the fabric of who I am in talking about these matters.

First, in that I’d been writing for years about the sacredness of marriage, and none of that changed because my own marriage ended — in fact, I think my own experience just reinforces, to me at least, what I’d been saying for so long about the importance of marriage; and second, when the reality of being a single parent set in, it didn’t take me long to figure out that what my kids needed more than ever is what every child needs (besides love and affection) — a confident parent willing to guide his child. In one sense, nothing had changed because I was a single parent — I felt it important to communicate that in It Takes a Parent.
Raising Kids With Religion:
Well, it depends what you mean by “raised.” In one sense yes, they can be raised to be ethical, caring people. We all know such folks who have no religious conviction. But I say in It Takes a Parent that my goal for my children is Heaven, not Harvard. (Let me be clear — there is no early indication that my kids are headed for the latter.) If Heaven is our goal, religion is not an option.
Letting Kids Be Kids:
I have a psychologist friend in New York City who tells me that all New York City parents think their child rates in the top 95 percent of. . . everything. You do the math, but it seems to me that doesn’t really leave the little one free to be who he is, free to be a child, and free to fail — does it? Some children do have outstanding intelligence, or talents. That’s great. But even those kids have some pretty ordinary aspects too — and in any event nothing qualifies anyone to be the center of the universe.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t encourage the special talents of our child — I am encouraging moms and dads to ask themselves, “is it really okay with me if my child is ‘wonderfully ordinary’?” Sadly, I think the answer is less and less “yes.”
Criticizing the child's behavior, not the child:
This is one of the basic tenants of the parenting experts. “Separate the behavior and the child.” Huh? We don’t do that when the child is showing virtuous or unselfish behavior — we’re thrilled at what this tells us about his character. But suddenly when he lies, or is unkind or selfish — that behavior showed up in the cereal box or something. Yes, a child can behave badly because of fatigue or ignorance but probably just as often it is simply this — a true reflection of his heart at the moment. And we have to see that heart for what it often really is — flawed just like ours — if we are going to help him overcome the selfish tendencies of his heart.

At its core, I think the “separate the behavior from the child” silliness robs us of the full dignity of our humanity.
I haven't read the book, but it sounds like this lady gets it. First, I appreciated her willingness to be real about her divorce. She has four kids, and she could get bitter about her circumstances, but instead she realizes that the failure of her marriage does not negate the importance of marriage, it simply reminds her of the crucial need for a mom and a dad. This is something the same-sex marriage lobby doesn't seem to understand — they criticize "straights" by telling them to get their own marriage house in order, while straights insist that the failure of some marriages does not diminish the need for strong families. Some in that lobby do claim to understand the sacred nature of marriage — that's why we want it, they say — but refuse to acknowledge the crucial roles that men and women bring to the family structure.

I liked her answer about religion, but I may have to read the book to better grasp her perspective — the answer in NRO was pretty thin.

Finally, I appreciated her rebuttal off the "criticize the behavior, not the child" tripe. I'm not a child psychologist, but do we really think when we criticize our child's behavior that they think, "Oh, it's OK. Dad's just talking about how I act, not how I am as a person." I don't. I believe the child's behavior is "a true reflection of his heart at the moment," as Hart said, and you can't separate the heart from the action. You can only help the child change his or her heart for the better.

As she said in the concluding question, her parents "loved me like crazy," but they also made sure she knew she "wasn’t the center of the universe."

How can we get one of these?

John Fund, writing about Virginia Gov. George Allen, said Virginia has a rule that requires the legislature to restrict bills to a single subject.

I want one of those! No more of this stuff-an-unrelated-bill-with-someone's-pet-project crap.

(Fund wrote on OpinionJournal.com's Political Diary, which is available only by subscription. However, it was quoted by Rich Lowry on The Corner here.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Jason Atkinson is on the web

His new website — Atkinson for Governor — is up and running.

Much to the chagrin of my fellow conservative bloggers, I'm still reserving judgment, but I like much of what I've seen so far.

Let the games begin.

If the UN started today, how would it work?

That's a question Claudia Rosett asks today in her excellent, ongoing coverage of the scandal-plagued United Nations. Here are a few more questions she asks along those lines:
  • Would we choose to start with an organizational chart anything like that of the U.N. today — a labyrinth so vast and secret that according to Mr. Volcker's findings even the U.N.'s own management cannot decipher it?
  • Would we create a Security Council in which the despotic People's Republic of China holds a permanent seat and a fascist state such as Syria rotates through the presidency, but democratic Israel is systematically excluded from serving at all?
  • Would we create a General Assembly in which Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma and Turkmenistan all wield a vote, but the elected leader of democratic Taiwan is not even allowed to set foot on the premises?
  • Would we create a U.N. in which the financial accounts are secret, the auditing is inadequate, and the standards are double or worse — lax for the highest officials and severe for lower-tier staff who lack patrons in the right places?
All good questions. No good answers. And very little optimism that the UN will reform itself into a functioning contributor to world affairs.

One other thing I wonder: why would liberals sing the praises of the UN, intentionally ignoring the obvious fact that much of its scandal is linked to nepotism and cronyism, but criticize President Bush (rightly) for filling governmental positions on the basis of that same cronyism?

Just wondering.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How will Kevin Mannix's campaign go?

If you have any doubt about it, just read this story in The Oregonian:
Kevin Mannix, who a recent poll showed is the early front-runner in the Republican governor's primary, is struggling to pay $460,000 in debts left over from his 2002 race for the same office.

Although Mannix had talked earlier of erasing the debt this year, a new disclosure report shows that he so far repaid a fraction of the loans he took out during the past campaign.

His continuing debt load has given his political opponents campaign ammunition and raised questions about how it will affect his ability to stockpile money -- both for the primary next May and, if he wins, for the general election in November.
Knowing that Mannix is the front runner, the press will do its best to push this story. It will not go away, no matter how many times a campaign consultant says "Mannix owes only a small group of supporters who are willing to delay repayment to ensure that he can run a strong race," as the story claims.

After three failed attempts at statewide office, Mannix is damaged goods, boys and girls (no matter what someone like Jack Roberts says). Ron Saxton flat-out admits he'll make the debt an issue in the campaign; Mannix's debt "says a lot about his character," Saxton said.

If you want to know about character, read the next paragraph: Jason Atkinson — "the other candidate in the race" — pledged to avoid debt in the campaign, but declined to criticize a fellow Republican. I'm starting to like this guy.

Also, read this:
Oregon Democratic Chairman Jim Edmunson said Democrats are also ready to make Mannix's campaign finances an issue if Mannix wins the primary. "Borrow and spend seems to be the Republican style these days," Edmunson said.

Mannix supporters said they don't think the debt will gain traction with voters.

"This isn't about who can raise the most money," said former Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts. "It's about who would be the best governor."

Roberts, who ran against Mannix in 2002 but now supports him, said voters weren't bothered that Republican Gordon Smith had a big debt from a previous campaign when he ran and won a U.S. Senate seat in 1996.
The difference, Jack, is that Gordon Smith wasn't trying for the fourth time to win a statewide office. Mannix might make a heckuva governor, but he has to win two elections to do so. The debt baggage will not only hurt him, it will take the attention away from other candidates (e.g. Atkinson) who are trying to get their names before voters by running a positive campaign. Who will get more press and media advertising — the candidate with negative baggage, or the candidate trying to discuss the issues facing Oregon? Here's a hint:which one is the subject of this Oregonian story?

Regardless, it's clear Saxton and the Democrats plan to milk the debt issue for all its worth. This isn't going away. Mannix should back out of the race now, but I get the feeling his ego won't let him.

Rich Lowry thinks so, too

From the Corner this morning, on the president's poll numbers:
...the danger to the White House is that there is now massive pressure to “move to the center” in various ways (say, the next Supreme Court appointment) and, in his reduced state, these pressures will be more difficult to resist. If he gives in to them on something important, he loses his base, and then it's Bush I all over again. You already see some of this erosion happening with regard to the Katrina spending. One last point: in the initial days after Katrina various folks in here--I think JPod in particular--wrote that we were watching some of the political lifeblood getting drained from the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, they were exactly right. It is going to take months and months of spadework to try make up for the missed opportunities of those first 24 or 48 hours.

All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall

Coyote is pulling his brick. Is GWB's wall starting to crumble?

Key section:
There is a reason GW's polls are so low. It is because he is NOT the conservative that he said he was. Something funny happens when you lie about who you are when running for office. The air tends to go out of your balloon. According to Tony Blankly Republicans need a popular President with a solid vision of where this country is going in order to gain or even hold congress. We don't have either, so get ready to rebuild.

But what will the building, that we are to rebuild, look like? Hopefully a lot different than George W. Bush's building, that's for sure.

Which is why it is time to conservatives to walk away from this President. I mean he has no real major initiatives for conservatives to get behind, and walking away really would not mean anything horrible in the sense that he is a lame duck anyway. However it will tell other potential political leaders that HIS is not the path we want this country to go down.
What do we gain by "walking away" from the president? After all, as Coyote noted, he is a lame duck. The answer is this: walking away isn't really about this president. George Allen and Sam Brownback and Bill Frist and Mitt Romney are not lame ducks — they're the potential future leaders of our country — and they need to hear that the status quo is not acceptable. The 2006 and 2008 election voters want to hear a reason to support Republicans, else they assume there's no point in their participation.

George W. Bush still has some time to lead, time to build that wall for future election cycles, but right now he seems to be treading water. As Coyote points out, the opposition party's descent to the bottom of the pool is making it easy for Republicans to dog-paddle, but even a dog-paddle eventually gets the dog where he wants to go.

Where is this dog taking us? Not to a Democratic takeover of the Congress, I would argue; too many political planets have to align to make that foreseeable (I'm not saying it's impossible, just highly implausible). But it's very likely that the Republicans will be wounded in 2006 if there's vast perception of presidential drift, which would lead to two years of governmental wandering in the wilderness.

Unless someone in the '08 elections can demonstrate that they would do things much differently from GWB without violating Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment about criticizing your own party, the result will be President Clinton. Additionally, we'll continue to hear babble like Tom DeLay's boast that government waste has been conquered, and our money, our courts and our values will be wasted.

That's why Coyote is right — other leaders (presidential hopefuls as well as congressional leaders) need to hear this message.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Quote of the Day

From Christopher Hitchens, who — when he's not slamming people of faith — wields an extraordinary mind (if a bit off-color in this case). Here's part of his column on the recent "debate" between he and George Galloway (who, as Hitchens reminded us, was "expelled from the [British] Labour Party in 2003 after it interpreted some of his comments as an incitement to attack Coalition troops"). Hitchens asks the reader to imagine himself in the following hypothetical:
Mr A challenges Mr B, saying that he appears on the available evidence to be a handmaiden to dictators and a recipient of their hospitality. Mr B replies that Mr A is a piece of ordure, or some other unmentionable substance. The riposte is hailed as a tremendous piece of repartee, as well as a full and complete answer to the challenge. Perhaps my own professional journalistic colleagues do not wish to seem to favour one of their own, but I have always had difficulty in seeing the pith or brilliance of this.

In point of fact, having quoted Mr Galloway's recent speech in Damascus ("The Syrian people are fortunate in having Bashar al-Assad as their leader") and having further pointed out that Mr Assad decided not to show his face in New York last week, as the UN investigation into the murder of Rafik Hariri rolled up more and more Syrian agents, I was given a full answer by being told that I had metamorphosed back from a butterfly into a slug, with a consequent trail of slime in my wake. I did not have the lepidopteral presence of mind to point out, at that moment, that butterflies pupate from sturdy and furry caterpillars.

I reiterated my point that the Syrian people have no say in their own good fortune, since they inherit a Dauphin from an absolute monarch. That did me no good at all in some circles. What I should have done, I now realise, is to say that George Galloway knows all about slime because he's so far inside the posterior passage of a murderous dictator that one can barely glimpse his Gucci buckles. That would have won me golden opinions. I suppose it would also have re-defined the old term "slug-fest".

A new site to visit

Hugh Hewitt's newest project, a blog called One True God, should make for interesting reading. Check it out.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Quote of the Day

From Opinion Journal's editorial today about John Roberts:
This strange new liberal respect for precedent -- stare decisis -- is certainly amusing. Liberals are only too happy to embrace Lawrence (overturning state sodomy laws), Roper v. Simmons (banning the death penalty for juveniles) and numerous other decisions that have overturned well-established precedents in order to achieve liberal social policy goals. But when Republican nominees are before the Senate, the left suddenly declares that the only "genuine conservatives" are the kind who endorse all liberal precedents.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Violence in Iraq isn't widespread. So?

This morning's Opinion Journal features an editorial column on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, in which he notes that the violence in his country is not widespread, but limited to certain areas. He says:
"Two weeks ago I was in Najaf," he says of the holy city (population 560,000) in the Shiite south. "I went into the streets and into the people and it was calm." He claims that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are calm: "All Iraq is not Fallujah and Tal Afar."
I've heard that line of reasoning before, and it's got some usefulness against those who claim the entirety of Iraq is a hellhole. With all due respect to Mr. Talabani, however, it's not that great an argument. Could I get away with this variation?
"Two weeks ago, I was in Atlanta," he says of the city (population 425,000) in the American south. "I went into the streets and into the people and it was calm." He claims that 48 of the country's 50 states are calm: "All America is not New Orleans and the Gulf Coast."
The majority of the country may be calm and business as usual, but that does not mean the situation in the country as a whole is normal when hundreds of thousands of people are either dead, mourning loved ones, displaced, or trying to figure out how to start over from nothing.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What Roberts actually said about foreign law

Here's the text of Roberts' answer I liked so much regarding foreign law:
...I would say, as a general matter, that there are a couple of things that cause concern on my part about the use of foreign law as precedent. As you say, this isn't about interpreting treaties or foreign contracts but as precedent on the meaning of American law. The first has to do with democratic theory. Judicial decisions: In this country, judges, of course, are not accountable to the people, but we are appointed through a process that allows for participation of the electorate. The president who nominates judges is obviously accountable to the people. Senators who confirm judges are accountable to people. And in that way, the role of the judge is consistent with the democratic theory. If we're relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge. And yet he's playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country. I think that's a concern that has to be addressed.

The other part of it that would concern me is that, relying on foreign precedent doesn't confine judges. It doesn't limit their discretion the way relying on domestic precedent does. Domestic precedent can confine and shape the discretion of the judges. Foreign law, you can find anything you want. If you don't find it in the decisions of France or Italy, it's in the decisions of Somalia or Japan or Indonesia or wherever. As somebody said in another context, looking at foreign law for support is like looking out over a crowd and picking out your friends. You can find them. They're there. And that actually expands the discretion of the judge. It allows the judge to incorporate his or her own personal preferences, cloak them with the authority of precedent -- because they're finding precedent in foreign law -- and use that to determine the meaning of the Constitution. And I think that's a misuse of precedent, not a correct use of precedent.
Justice Kennedy, call your office.

The march toward progress

In an op-ed appearing in newspapers around the country last month, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) opened with this thought:
Before entrusting Judge John G. Roberts with a lifetime position on the Supreme Court, the Senate must be able to determine whether he will uphold the fundamental principles of our Constitution and laws to continue our nation's march of progress or whether he will adopt a cramped and contorted view of our Constitution that will turn back the clock.
I've heard the phrase I highlighted — the "march of progress" or, alternatively, the "march toward progress" — several times during the Roberts hearings, and it's struck me as odd every time. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great. After all, who should be opposed to extending progress in America?

But what does it mean? I define it this way: the willingness to let anyone define what makes them happy, regardless of the impact on society, community or family. And the Democrats can't stand it that the nominee for chief justice of the United States isn't willing to play along with their redefinitions of society, their belief in a "living constitution." They can't stand it that Roberts believes it's not a judge's job to "continue the march toward freedom" (nor to restrict the same). A judge's job is to apply the Constitution to the legal question at hand in any given case. Sometimes that will result in expanding or restricting societal reach, but that should not be the objective.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in today's hearings, specifically an exchange between Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roberts:
DURBIN: I said at the outset that I thought one of the real measures as to whether or not you should be on the Supreme Court goes back to a point Senator Simon had made: Would you restrict freedom in America or would you expand it? When you are defending gays and lesbians who are being restricted in their rights by the Colorado amendment, you are trying, from my point of view, to expand freedom in America. That, to me, is a positive thing. That's my personal philosophy and point of view. But then when you say, If the state would have walked in the door first to restrict freedoms, I would have taken them as a client too, I wonder, where are you? Beyond loyalty to the process of law, how do you view this law when it comes to expanding our personal freedom? Is it important enough for you to say in some instances, I will not use my skills as a lawyer because I don't believe that that is a cause that is consistent with my values and belief?

ROBERTS: I had someone ask me in this process — I don't remember who it was, but somebody asked me, you know, Are you going to be on the side of the little guy? And you obviously want to give an immediate answer, but, as you reflect on it, if the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy's going to win in court before me. But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well, then the big guy's going to win, because my obligation is to the Constitution. That's the oath. The oath that a judge takes is not that, I'll look out for particular interests, I'll be on the side of particular interests. The oath is to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States. And that's what I would do.
I loved that answer! The Democrats want a judge who will take sides regardless of the facts, a judge who will continue the party's remarkable 40-year history of shaping society through the courts because they know they will fail (and have failed) through the ballot box. And John Roberts will have none of it. Sometimes the Microsofts and Enrons and flag burners and white supremacists of the world deserve to get slammed. And sometimes they deserve to win. It just depends on what the question is, and what the Constitution says in response.

Durbin gives it one more try:
DURBIN: Would you at least concede that you would take into consideration that in our system of justice the race goes to the swift, and the swift are those with the resources, the money, the lawyers, the power in the system? And that many times the powerless, the person who has struggled and clawed their way to your courtroom, went through a wall of adversity which the power never had to face? Is that part of your calculation?

ROBERTS: Absolutely. And it's, again, what's carved above the doors to the Supreme Court: Equal justice under law. And the judicial oath talks about doing justice without regard to persons, to rich and to poor. And that, of course, is critically important. You do have to appreciate that there are going to be interests who, for one reason or another, don't have the same resources as people on the other side. The idea is not to give the case to the side with the best resources, the side with the best lawyers, the side with the most opportunity to prepare it and present it. It is to decide the case according to the law and according to the Constitution. And as case after case in the Supreme Court shows, that's often the prisoner who's sitting in his cell and writes his petition out longhand. Sometimes the Constitution is on that person's side and not on the side of the corporation with the fancy printed brief. But the judge's obligation is to appreciate that the rule of law requires that both of those be treated equally under the law.
Roberts did a great job of patting Durbin on the back and essentially saying, "Way to champion the downtrodden." But he slyly dispensed with the idea of weighted rights by stating his belief in equal treatment. And that's as it should be.

Albert Mohler saw the same thing I did. Writing on Tuesday, he noted Kennedy's comments about the "march towards progress," and noted that the comments by Kennedy and Roberts represent "an honest difference of opinion — two rival views of the Constitution, the courts, and the rule of law."

He continues:
Sen. Kennedy sees the judiciary in general — and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular — as an engine for "the continued march toward progress." In other words, as an institution committed to the expansion of rights according to modern interpretations of a "living constitution." He opposes any view of the Constitution that is limited by the actual words of the document and the intentions of its framers.

When Judge Roberts speaks of a humble role for the judiciary and describes the role of the judge as an umpire, he is defending a very different vision of the Court, of the Constitution, and of the nation. The battle is joined — and this one really matters.
That's an understatement; it's a critical moment in our country (along with the next nomination), and that's why groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and MoveOn.org and their friends are so hot and bothered that the Democrats aren't putting up more of a fight.

Joke(s) of the Day

More from my uncle, the comedian. These are (supposedly) actual exchanges between airport towers and airline pilots:

Tower: "Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o'clock, six miles!"
Delta 351: "Give us another hint! We have digital watches!"

Tower: "TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 degrees."
TWA 2341: "Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?"
Tower: "Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?"

From an unknown aircraft waiting in a very long takeoff queue: "I'm f...ing bored!"
Ground Traffic Control: "Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself immediately!"
Unknown aircraft: "I said I was f...ing bored, not f...ing stupid!"

Approach Control to a 747: "United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, (German designed aircraft) one o'clock, three miles, Eastbound."
United 329: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this...I've got the little Fokker in sight."

A Pan Am 727 flight, waiting for start clearance in Munich, overheard the following:
Lufthansa (in German): "Ground, what is our start clearance time?"
Ground (in English): "If you want an answer you must speak in English."
Lufthansa (in English): "I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?"
Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent): "Because you lost the bloody war!"

Tower: "Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on frequency 124.7"
Eastern 702: "Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway."
Tower: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff behind Eastern 702, contact Departure on frequency 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?"
Continental 635: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern... we've already notified our caterers."

One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee.

Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, "What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?"

The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: "I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I'll have enough parts for another one."

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206:
Speedbird 206: "Frankfurt, Speedbird 206 clear of active runway."
Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven."

The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.

Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"
Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."
Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?"
Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark — and I didn't land."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pledge of Allegiance judge

The Pledge of Allegiance has been ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of California. Here's a quick primer on Karlton, a Carter appointee:
Judge Karlton has also ruled in favor of the rights of Muslim prisoners, and against water rights for farmers in California in order to protect a fish. In May of this year, Judge Karlton ruled that 700 miles of trails had to be closed to off-road vehicles, and in August he ruled that a city could not close hotels because of code violations. In another decision, Judge Karlton shut down a fire reduction project in a National Forest because it ignored the environmental impact of the project. In 2001, Karlton overturned the conviction and death penalty sentence for a man who shot a woman and then allowed her to bleed to death.
Hmmm...he sounds an awful lot like nearly every Democrat in Oregon.

Disgust with spending

I've been meaning to write on this for a while, but it seems every time I forget, another example crops up about the incredible spending spree our government has been on.

And yes, all you Democrats out there, that includes (and in many cases is solely attributable to) President Bush. He is definitely not a member of the "Government works best when it governs least" model, at least as it pertains to spending.

What initially set me off was the gluttonous highway bill recently passed by Congress and signed by the president. He had threatened to veto any bill of more than $255 billion. Instead, he signed a $286 billion bill.

Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman of the House transportation committee, is said to have bragged to a homestate newspaper that he "stuffed (the bill) like a turkey" with pork projects for various congressional districts. In fact, he directed almost $1 billion to his own state, including a $231 million bridge to be named in his honor. Another $223 million bridge will connect Ketchikan with nearby Gravina Island, home to 50 people and the community's airport, currently accessible by a seven-minute ferry ride.

And then he had the nerve to say that the value of the highway bill "is not the funding level that I wanted." Did he want more? He can't argue with a straight face that he wanted less, can he?

According to the Cato & Heritage Institutes, the bill included more than 6,300 specific pork projects (called "earmarks") at a total cost of $24 billion. The previous bill in 1998, by contrast, included 1,850 earmarks; the 1991 version had 548; and the 1987 bill, which Congress passed by overriding President Reagan's veto, included just 152.

What are the current earmarks? Here's just the tip of the iceberg, some taken from a good Boston Globe column by Jeff Jacoby:
  • $480,000 to rehabilitate a historic warehouse on the Erie Canal
  • $3 million for dust control mitigation on Arkansas rural roads
  • $3 million for a film ''about infrastructure that demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier"
  • $600,000 for horse riding facilities in Virginia
  • $5.9 million for a snowmobile trail in Vermont
  • $1.25 million for a daycare center and park-and-ride facility in Illinois
  • $2.75 million for the National Packard Museum in Ohio
Oregon's congressional delegation secured the 11th highest amount of earmarks ($566 million) — not bad, considering the state population ranks it 28th in the country. Some projects include widening I-5 & Highway 217, and beginning the process of replacing the Interstate and Sellwood Bridges. Some of the remaining 129 Oregon projects are, um, interesting:
  • $2.8 million for bike & pedestrian lanes in Eugene's Delta Ponds area
  • $4 million for Portland streetcars
  • $16 million to the Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) at Portland State University
Congressional members like the bill because every $1 billion supposedly creates 47,500 jobs, but really, was this all necessary? Especially in light of the billions of dollars our country will spend to rebuild the Gulf Coast?

Apparently, some people think so. Montana has already suggested giving up its $4 million parking garage to help the hurricane-ravaged area. More states should be thinking like that.

With that in mind, check out this list of government waste compiled by the Heritage Foundation (again, just the tip of the iceberg):
  • The federal government cannot account for $24.5 billion spent in 2003.
  • A White House review of just a sample of the federal budget identified $90 billion spent on programs deemed that were either ineffective, marginally adequate, or operating under a flawed purpose or design.
  • The Congressional Budget Office published a “Budget Options” book identifying $140 billion in potential spending cuts.
  • The federal government spends $23 billion annually on special interest pork projects such as grants to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or funds to combat teenage “goth” culture in Blue Springs, Missouri.
  • Washington spends tens of billions of dollars on failed and outdated programs such as the Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Economic Development Association.
  • The federal government made $20 billion in overpayments in 2001.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $3.3 billion in overpayments in 2001 accounted for over 10 percent of the department’s total budget.
  • Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used government-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 for admission to entertainment events, $48,250 for gambling, $69,300 for cruises, and $73,950 for exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.
  • Examples of wasteful duplication include: 342 economic development programs; 130 programs serving the disabled; 130 programs serving at-risk youth; 90 early childhood development programs; 75 programs funding international education, cultural, and training exchange activities; and 72 federal programs dedicated to assuring safe water.
  • The Advanced Technology Program spends $150 million annually subsidizing private businesses, and 40% of this goes to Fortune 500 companies.
  • The Defense Department wasted $100 million on unused flight tickets, and never bothered to collect refunds even though the tickets were reimbursable.
  • The Conservation Reserve program pays farmers $2 billion annually to not farm their land.
  • Washington spends $60 billion annually on corporate welfare, versus $43 billion on homeland security.
  • The Department of Agriculture spends $12 billion to $30 billion annually on farm subsidies, the vast majority of which go to agribusinesses and farmers averaging $135,000 in annual income.
  • Massive farm subsidies also go to several members of Congress, and celebrity “hobby farmers” such as David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Scottie Pippen, and former Enron CEO Ken Lay.
  • The Medicare program pays as much as eight times the cost that other federal agencies pay for the same drugs and medical supplies.
  • Congressional investigators were able to receive $55,000 in federal student loan funding for a fictional college they created to test the Department of Education.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers has been accused of illegally manipulating data to justify expensive but unnecessary public works projects.
  • Food stamp overpayments cost $600 million annually.
  • School lunch program abuse costs $120 million annually.
  • Veterans’ program overpayments cost $800 million annually.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) overpayments cost $9 billion annually.
  • Better tracking of student loan recipients would save $1 billion annually.
  • Preventing states from using accounting tricks to secure additional Medicaid funds would save several billion dollars annually.
  • Medicare contractors owe the federal government $7 billion.
That's almost half a trillion dollars, folks.

I like George Bush, and I like having a Republican-controlled congress. But a touch of fiscal discipline would be nice here and there.

Quote of the Day

From Hugh Hewitt, on yesterday's confirmation hearings performance by Delaware Sen. Joe Biden:
Long ago [James] Lileks remarked on Senatitus, a peculiar condition affecting members of the "greatest deliberative body in the world" that leaves them wholly unaware of their buffoon quotient, which is high even when in recess, and never higher than when preening on national television.

I confess, I am addicted to Slow Joe Biden. If he comes on the tube, I have to stop and stare, like every driver crawling past an overturned semi with ambulances and firetrucks and stretchers everywhere. Biden is quite simply the only cartoon with flesh I have ever seen, a wholly ridiculous fellow, but one who is completely unaware of his own absurdity.
"Buffoon quotient." I like that phrase, and Biden, Kennedy, Schumer and — surprisingly, at least to me — Feingold certainly have more than their share of it. (Specter and Graham also seem Senatitus-afflicted, but to a marginally-smaller extent.)

Ted Kennedy makes me laugh

He just got done asking a 10-minute question about the voting rights act, to which John Roberts gave an answer of less than one minute.

Kennedy's response: You just gave an "extensive answer" to my question, but I heard in there what I wanted to hear.

If that was an "extensive answer," I can't think of an appropriately-descriptive adjective to categorize Kennedy's question. Even when Kennedy noted he had 35 seconds left and wanted an answer to another question, he still talked for another 30.

I will say, however, that Sen. Kennedy was much less abrasive today. He seemed to get the message from yesterday that he was rude in his frequent interruptions of John Roberts. You could see he wanted to interrupt Roberts in the worst way on several occasions, but he showed remarkable restraint.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Russ Feingold

The senator from Wisconsin (how did the Badger State get two senators on this committee?), who has presidential aspirations, has clearly decided that the best path to the White House is to embrace the Kool-Aid-drinking left. He did nothing for his half-hour than badger (ah, that's why the state has two committee members!) John Roberts, knowing that Roberts couldn't answer the questions he posed, but asking them anyway, and feigning (Feingolding?) outrage with the result.

Someone at MoveOn.org apparently slipped a note to the senator to promise their support if he just acts like a jerk.

Foreign law

John Roberts just gave what I think is an excellent answer about the use of foreign law in deciding American cases. In short, he said: don't do it.

His arguments:
  • Because Americans have no access to hold foreign bodies accountable through the voting booth, it takes away the ability of the people to participate in democratic process; and,
  • Foreign laws include perspectives covering the gamut of a legal questions, so it gives an activist judge a greater ability to promote a pre-conceived perspective. If you don't find it in French law, you'll likely find it in German or Saudi or Pakistani law.

Comments on this blog

Sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm getting tired of deleting spam comments, so Word Verification is now in effect.

Required (and funny) reading...

...if you're not a member of the Kool-Aid-drinking left. Here's a bit of flavor from the columnist in the Irish Times, writing about the post-Katrina political debate:
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush should be held responsible for the terrible poverty in the southern states revealed by the flooding.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody holds Bill Clinton responsible for making Mississippi the poorest state in the union throughout his entire term as president, or for making Arkansas the second-poorest state in the union throughout his entire term as governor. Otherwise, people might suspect that it is a bit more complicated than that.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush should not be concerned by accusations of racism against the federal government.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody remembers that Jesse Jackson once called New York "Hymietown" and everybody thinks Condoleezza Rice went shopping for shoes when the hurricane struck because she cannot stand black people.

Otherwise sensible Americans of all races will be more concerned by trite, cynical and dangerous political opportunism.
Read the whole thing, either via the link at the top or the link at the bottom.

Quote of the Day 2

From George Will, writing about criticism that the federal government's post-Katrina response was motivated by the economic condition of the victims:
America's always fast-flowing river of race-obsessing has overflowed its banks, and last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois's freshman Democrat, applied to the expression of old banalities a fluency that would be beguiling were it without content. Unfortunately, it included the requisite lament about the president's inadequate "empathy" and an amazing criticism of the government's "historic indifference" and its "passive indifference" that "is as bad as active malice." The senator, 44, is just 30 months older than the "war on poverty" that President Johnson declared in January 1964. Since then the indifference that is as bad as active malice has been expressed in more than $6.6 trillion of anti-poverty spending, strictly defined.

The senator is called a "new kind of Democrat," which often means one with new ways of ignoring evidence discordant with old liberal orthodoxies about using cash — much of it spent through liberalism's "caring professions" — to cope with cultural collapse. He might, however, care to note three not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal.
Will goes on to note that nationally, about a third of all American births are to unmarried women. The percentage among African American women is double that, and among Louisiana African Americans (that's the entire state, not just New Orleans), it's three out of four births. "That translates into a large and constantly renewed cohort of lightly parented adolescent males," Will said, "and that translates into chaos in neighborhoods and schools, come rain or come shine."

When will any African American "leader" (other than Bill Cosby) decide to work on that, instead of pointing fingers at White America? Maybe there is some attention to the issue, but I don't hear about it. Do you?

Quote of the Day

This morning on NRO's The Corner, Jonah Goldberg joined an ongoing discussion about Andrew Ferguson's commentary in the Weekly Standard (which I have not yet read). Goldberg, reacting to another writer's opinion that Ferguson seemed to display some condescension toward Rush Limbaugh or Ronald Reagan, said:
In Andy Ferguson's defense, I sincerely doubt he looked down his nose at Ronald Reagan. And, if it helps prove it to you, he didn't mention Rush Limbaugh at all. Ross Douthat did. Andy looked southward down his proboscis at Michael Savage, a position I find generally unimpeachmable.
Me, too.

Joe Biden: bite 'em with a smile

Sen. Biden has an interesting ability to ask a question with a smile, make a few jokes, and then follow up (with a smile, and while Roberts is still answering the question) with thinly-veiled accusations that the answer is a lie. Why not just admit you have no intention of voting for Roberts, label him the second coming of Ghengis Khan, and call it a day?

On the other hand...

Iowa's Charles Grassley served up a bunch of softball questions, and didn't really come across as a great contributor to the committee.

News flash: Ted Kennedy is a blowhard

I just got done listening to half an hour of questions from Sen. Ted Kennedy to Judge John Roberts. He so loves to hear himself talk, is so caught up in his own importance, that he refuses to listen to anyone but himself.

He spoke for at least as long as Roberts did (I'm willing to bet it was 60-40 in favor of Kennedy), and interrupted Roberts' answers numerous times. By my count, Committee Chairman Arlen Specter chastised Kennedy at least four times, telling him to "Let him finish his answer, Senator Kennedy."

It's also obvious that if any "controversial" memo from Roberts' time in the Reagan administration is raised, Roberts will distance himself from it by noting that he was simply advancing the policy position of his employer.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sometime last Tuesday

...I got my 1,000th unique visit (and a couple of days later, my 1,500th page view), all in about four months' time. I know, small potatoes, but it's fun for me!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Do you remember?

Do you remember the feeling in the pit of your stomach as you watched the towers fall?

Do you remember watching your television for hours on end, seeing the same images over and over again? Images of death, of despair, of confusion, of heroism, of leadership?

Do you remember the thoughts in your head as you heard the first airplane fly overhead a few days after 9/11? How the skies seemed so quiet, so safe, and the intrusion of a jet engine made you question that safety?

Do you remember wondering how you would explain such an act of evil to your kids?

Good. Don't forget.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Pink Wolves and Gray Sheepdogs

Bill Whittle at Eject! Eject! Eject! wrote a much-referred-to and extremely long essay a few days ago that I just got around to reading. It assigns man to three categories — sheep, wolf or sheepdog — and likens them to the current war on terror.

It is excellent, and there are dozens of quotes I could pull out from it, but I liked this mention of the events in the Gulf Coast (emphasis in original):
It may come as a bit of a shock to these worldly sophisticates, who are so quick to point out how parochial and ignorant we simple folk are, that the United States of America has local, state and federal governments! And that this is the order in which crises are dealt with!

A person of some modest education might have remembered that the worship and adulation fostered after 9/11 was for the NYPD and the FDNY. No one was buying FEMA hats after 9/11, because FEMA is essentially a mop-up agency. It's the first responders, the local governments, that will determine if a city will live or die. The State -- that means, the "governor"-- has the sole authority to mobilize the National Guard, and the governor of the state of Louisana was not only slow to do that, she turned down NG assistance from several OTHER states as well. The President does not have the authority to drop precious egg salad sandwiches from Michael Moore's missing helicopters. We do this ON PURPOSE. We limit the power of the federal government, as those of us fortunate enough to have spent time in Civics, rather than Self Esteem classes, are aware. This is so that we do not develop a central power so strong that eventually we end up with idiot inbred royals, or Presidentes for life, on the face of OUR money.

Now, if the critics on the far left are saying that George W Bush needs more power, then by all means let's amend the Constitution before Hurricane season ends. Me, I'm agin' it. I think the man has enough to do, really, besides worry about how many water bottles need to be kept in the basement of the courthouse in Alachua county, Florida and take down the names of every potential bus driver in Torrance California, not to mention the name of every first responder in every town and county in every state of the Union. I've noticed they are not shy about criticizing his performance as President. That's legitimate, because that's his job. His job is not to tell the Mayor of New Orleans which buses need to be at which corners at what times and with what drivers to pick up which people and take them to which destinations. That's the mayor's job.
As is always said, find the time (if you can stomach some foul language) to read the whole thing. You'll understand the title of this post once you do. For the record, I think I'm a gray sheep with developing gray sheepdog tendencies.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Moving life from weedy patches to green fields

For her birthday, my wife got Brave.

No, she didn't jump out of an airplane or strap on the bungie cords. Brave is the newest CD by Nichole Nordeman, one of my wife's favorite musical artists. My musical tastes are a bit edgier than the Missus, but I enjoy Nichole.

My better half left the CD on the counter this morning, meaning to put it in the car but forgetting. So I pulled out the liner notes and started reading. And I read about me. Certainly, Ms. Nordeman doesn't know me from Adam and wasn't intending to write about me — she was writing about herself and her journey over the last couple of years — but it certainly rang a bell in my head.

Here are her thoughts:
I took some time off from the world of music making and touring, because God decided to take my very well ordered and comfortable life and blow it to smithereens by surprising us with a baby. I decided this might require some time for recovery and regrouping, until all the pieces were returned to their original (and preferably alphabetized) state. I'm a bit Type A like that.

Anyone who's ever been down that road is laughing because of course, I never recovered. Or regrouped. I never recovered from the way my heart had to triple in size to make room for all the love (and fear) that would come roaring to the surface. I never regained control again. My life never resumed its clip, cloppy ordered pace. Love can be such a wrecking ball.

My time off also afforded me some great big, open green fields of space, where there had been small and weedy patches at best. Space for other people and time for relationships. I had a chance to learn how to be a friend again, or how to have a friend, for that matter. I learned that relationships don't exactly thrive on 5 minute phone calls, dashing through airports. I learned that a tour bus is not a substitute for a well-rooted home. I learned that the leaves of marriage don't stay green if the soil never gets any water and you stick it in a windowless corner. Barbra Streisand nailed it. People do need people. And God knew that.

So we were born to pour into each other's lives. These songs are the stories that were poured into and out of mine the last couple of years. I've walked into some dark places with some very dear people, and then back into the sunlight. And they, with me. This has been a real honor, and doesn't come all that naturally as I can tend to be a bit of a loner (Type A/loner...nice combo). Anyway, God really took this time...these big fields of space to show me through all these stories of pain and promise that His love is not at all passive. It is so relentless in its pursuit of our terrified hearts. The love of God will hunt you down until you finally spin around in exasperation ("okaaaaay!!!") and admit how cherished you are. It gives us confidence when comfort is MIA. It gives our stories context and hope when somebody else recklessly rips out a chapter. It fills in the blanks. The love of God hoists us up on the shoulders of Jesus and hollers out the promise of St. Paul, "I can do ALL things through Christ, who gives me strength!" It scoops us up and makes us brave.
So what does this have to do with me? Well, around the time of our marriage almost eight years ago, my wife and I:
  • learned (with one day of notice) that the company I worked for was going out of business;
  • decided (with a coworker) to start our own business instead of finding another job; and,
  • found out we were unexpectantly pregnant.
Needless to say, that sequence of events blew our very well ordered and comfortable lives to smithereens, as Ms. Nordeman phrased it.

I'm sure we would have had a child at some point in the near future, as we weren't exactly teenagers when we met, but we planned to wait at least a few months before trying. I doubt we would have started a business under any circumstances, but this was so drop-in-your-lap obvious that we couldn't ignore the opportunity.

It's funny how God allows us to make choices that may or may not be the smartest in the world, or allows circumstances to occur with no obvious reason in the short term, only to reveal the big-picture purpose down the road. Obviously, we never regrouped or recovered from the standpoint of finding our old lives, which wasn't going to happen, anyway, and was exactly Ms. Nordeman's point. Instead, we welcomed a baby girl into our lives, and — though we didn't recognize it at the time — signed up for decades of wrecking ball love.

In many ways, I feel like I'm still trying to regroup. I sometimes miss the days of freedom to do what I want. I miss the fact that my wife and I can't be spontaneous and drive out to the Gorge on a weekend, or go sit in a bar and listen to live music. I look down the road a couple of years when both kids are in school, and I know I'll have a lot more freedom, but we traded some of that freedom with the choices we made and the circumstances we faced.

As I write this, my 3-year-old is climbing on my chair as if it's a small mountain (and my head is the summit), telling me to woof like a doggy. Her grin is contagious — a combination of "look at me!" and "I don't know if I'm supposed to do this, but you're letting me get away with it, so let 'er rip!" — and reminds me of why I wouldn't want to recover my old life, even if I could.

When we knew we were expecting baby No. 2, I decided to take advantage of the flexibility of business ownership to work at home (I didn't want to pay daycare bills anymore, and didn't really want to put the kids in someone else's care anymore, anyway). It's nice to play with the kids, or to write a blog entry at the computer, but in many ways it contributes to another trait I share with Ms. Nordeman, my sense of being a loner.

And her solution is obvious, so much so that I knew it before I read it: learn to be a friend, and even how to have a friend. The nitty-gritties of acting on that solution, however, are more difficult. Not that I'm making five-minute phone calls to loved ones while rushing through an airport, or trying to convert a tour bus into home sweet home. But how am I reaching out to others? To neighbors? To acquaintances? To strangers? To Katrina survivors? To survivors of life in my backyard?

It's not all that difficult for me to introduce myself to a new person in church, or to chat with someone walking their dog past our house, but that's not "pouring myself into someone else's life," and that's the hard part for me.

And the concurrent thing that hit me about Ms. Nordeman's monologue: Even though I'm a believer, God has been hunting me down for years, and I've been running. He wants to remind me of that promise made 2,000 years ago through Saul of Tarsus — "Christ gives me the strength to face anything" — to show that pouring myself into the lives of others will come much more naturally if I just stop running and let His love make me brave.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mark Levin's plea (and mine)

In today's Bench Memos on National Review Online:
Mr. President, please reject the Left's current efforts to influence your selection to fill O'Connor's seat. I can assure you, as someone who was involved in vetting judicial candidates under President Reagan, that these are nothing more than sucker punches. Your political enemies wish you ill. Witness how these same voices seek to exploit politically this natural disaster.

Your conservative base has stood with you, Mr. President, through thick and thin. Many of us have had to hold our noses — often and hard — on issues like the new prescription-drug entitlement, federalizing local education, expanding farm subsidies, a pork-laden transportation bill, and immigration. But we could always count on you to defend the integrity of the judiciary with the appointment of solid originalists who embrace the Constitution and respect representative government. The American people are aware and concerned about the enormous power the Supreme Court now wields, and they are counting on you to stay the course.

You have a strong conservative bench from which to choose a nominee. My favorite is Judge Michael Luttig, who meets all the conditions you set forth for a justice. He's a justice in waiting. We all know it. Of course, there are other outstanding candidates. Edith Jones, Janet Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, Sam Alito, Michael McConnell, to name a few. You know them.

I'd like to also mention a touchy subject: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a good man. Your affection for him is obvious. He has served you well in several important jobs. But, Mr. President, in your heart you know his judicial philosophy remains in serious question, and that there are more philosophically reliable candidates from which to choose. And any notion that he would be welcomed by your political opponents is wishful thinking. Remember the so-called "torture memos" and how the Left tried to taint him with them? This in no way is intended to disparage Mr. Gonzales. By all accounts, he's an outstanding attorney general. But we're talking about a lifetime appointment to an enormously powerful Court, and there's simply no room for doubt.

If more people of integrity like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia are not appointed to the Supreme Court, we can expect 5 or 6 justices to continue to impose their personal policy preferences on the people — further eroding private property rights, traditional values, political speech, citizenship requirements, the war on terrorism, and the very rule of law they're sworn to uphold. The stakes for the nation are huge. Now is the time to help the Court find its constitutional way, regain some of its lost respect, and celebrate the Constitution.

More on Chief Justice

The Labor Day version of the Beltway Boys (Barnes, Birnbaum & Krauthammer) speculated on Brit Hume's show last night that by moving John Roberts into the CJ nomination, it eases the pressure on Roberts because he's a conservative replacing a conservative.

However, by doing so, it changed the equation for Sandra Day O'Connor's seat, renewing the calls for a nomination to "bring the country together" — she's a moderate (and a woman), so she needs to be replaced with a moderate woman (or minority).

First off, it doesn't matter whether Roberts is nominated for chief justice, associate justice, or presidential dog washer — the Democrats and their far-left friends will oppose, oppose, oppose. My guess is that any Bush nominee will pass with no more than 65 votes, and the Democrats will use those 35-45 "no" votes (assuming no filibuster) as supposed proof that the president is trying to divide the nation.

Also, I don't know about "moderate" nominees, considering that the Democrats' definition of "moderate" includes Stephen Breyer. Bush is under no more obligation to consider a moderate than Bill Clinton was when he nominated Breyer & Ruth Bader Ginsburg (with full cooperation of a Republican minority that could have easily filibustered the nominations, by the way; their confirmations passed 87-9 and 96-3, respectively), despite the fact that they were hopelessly and irrecoverably liberal.

I'm hoping that if President Bush feels the need for a woman/minority, he considers Janice Rogers Brown or Edith Brown Clement or Emilio Garza or even Miguel Estrada.

My fear: Can you say "Alberto Gonzales"?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Chief Justice Roberts

Hugh Hewitt wrote yesterday:
My hope is that if President Bush looks to a sitting federal appeals court judge to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist, that he switch the Roberts nomination to the position of Chief to accomplish that transition quickly and then follow with the nomination of Judge Luttig from the Fourth Circuit to fill the O'Connor vacancy. Judge Luttig's reputation for intellect, integrity and good humor as well as his long service on the bench make him as qualified as Judge Roberts.
I don't often disagree with Mr. Hewitt, but this is one of those times.

I continue to believe John Roberts will be the conservative we hope for, at least until the hearings prove otherwise. However, Roberts has almost no history that proves that perspective — plenty of opportunities for advocacy in front of the court, which may or may not indicate his personal views of law; loads of documents from his time in government service, which also may or may not indicate his personal views of law; and a few opinions from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, most of which reveal very little.

I want more of a history from the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

I also dislike this decision because, under the scenario of replacing Sandra Day O'Connor with Roberts, his hearings would have started tomorrow and he likely would have been confirmed by the time the court sessions opened in October. Even that's not great, considering a tie vote at the Supreme Court level means the lower court ruling is upheld.

Now, his hearings are destined to be delayed by Democrats and Democrat-in-hiding Arlen Specter, which means only seven justices will be seated in October. That's a liberal majority with Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, & Souter/Kennedy. Roberts, if he's confirmed as Chief Justice, might not hit the court until November, meaning a month of lunacy. O'Connor's replacement, whomever it may be, won't be on the court until probably 2006. That's three months of idiocy.

Bad move, Mr. President. You could have left Roberts in place and nominated a solid conservative to replace William Rehnquist, someone like Mr. Hewitt's suggestion of Michael Luttig. Instead, you leave the court flailing for months, with decades of possible consequence.

UPDATE: I just heard two things that make this even worse: 1) If O'Connor's successor is not confirmed by October, O'Connor will return to the court, which is a crapshoot at best; and 2) If Rehnquist's replacement is not confirmed by October, the seat is occupied by the senior justice on the court, which is (heavy sigh) John Paul Stevens.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Blogger help

Hey fellow Blogger users:

I have a problem with Blogger that limits my ability to post, so I'm hoping someone might be of help.

I work with Firefox 1.0.6 to log into Blogger and post, and work on an iMac G5 on OS 10.3. Last week, Blogger had an problem with WYSIWYG menus showing up, but they fixed it. A couple of days later, I had the same problem. (I'm talking about the menu that lets you bold, italicize, add links or photos, quote outside material, etc.)

Blogger Help has not been able to suggest a fix. They made several suggestions (clear the cache, make sure javascript and cookies are on, upgrade the browser, use a different browser), none of which made any difference. At one point, I thought I had it figured out — there's a preference in Firefox to "allow websites to install software," and when I checked it, the menus showed up, but they disappeared again the next day.

Anyone have any ideas?

I discovered that if I let it sit for a few minutes, the menus eventually show up. Could this be an ISP issue?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Evolution of Math Teaching

Another gem from my uncle:

Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:

Teaching Math in 1950
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1960
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math in 1980
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math in 1990
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math in 2000
Un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80