Upper Left Coast

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The RNC version of the $200 toilet seat?

I received a lovely questionnaire in the mail a few days ago from the Republican National Committee, asking my thoughts on a variety of security, economic, educational and social issues. I felt so important, because it said I was chosen as a representative sample of my fellow Republicans!

And oh, by the way, could I send a generous contribution to the RNC so it could send out more such questionnaires and expand the number of GOP candidates throughout the nation? If you can't support the RNC, could you at least send $11 to cover the costs of tabulating your survey?

So, feeling very important, I filled out the survey, except for the donation part. I also enclosed this note:
Dear Republican National Committee,

Thank you for asking my opinion. Your questionnaire is enclosed. Please note that I have not enclosed any funds. There are two reasons for this:

1) I cannot risk any money going to Lincoln Chaffee’s reelection campaign;

2) If it costs you $11 to tabulate an 18-answer questionnaire, you need to reexamine your costs. That sounds too much like a $200 toilet seat.

Thank you.
Eleven dollars to tabulate an 18-answer questionnaire. No wonder Congress doesn't understand the fuss over earmarks and deficits.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Borking isn't like it used to be

From Cliff May on The Corner in today's NRO, on the tactics used 20 years ago vs. Robert Bork:
One of the issues raised by Judge Bork’s detractors was his video rental history – which was leaked to the press. This, from Senator Kennedy & Co., a wing of the Democratic Party which today is exercised about the possibility that intelligence officers are monitoring the library computer usage and phone calls of terrorists.
For the record, May says, Bork did not rent any terribly controversial videos. But if it succeeds in smearing a conservative, does it really matter?

Ron Wyden: back on the Kool-Aid

Who said this (emphasis mine)?
Some of the policy watchdogs I respect the most, and agree with on so very many issues, have asked that I oppose Judge Alito 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 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 Samuel Alito 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 2006 can be used against a progressive nominee in 2009 with equal disregard for the Constitution and the individual.
These words were spoken by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden . . . about soon-to-be-Chief Justice John Roberts in September. I changed Roberts' name to Alito, changed 2005 to 2006, and took out a reference to the "next nominee." Has anything changed since then? To my knowledge, the only thing that's different is that Sandra Day O'Connor -- the holy grail of "moderation" on the Supreme Court -- is the justice to be replaced.

Wyden refused to filibuster Roberts and, in fact, voted to confirm him because he recognized that such a move would be just as unconstitutional as a Republican-led filibuster against a candidate nominated by a future Democrat president. But apparently, Wyden's days of moderation and respect for the constitution are over, because Ron Wyden was one of 25 senators to vote for a filibuster of Alito.

Sen. Wyden, your double standards and allegiance to the Blue Oregon crowd make me ill.

This would be drop-dead funny...

...if it wasn't so drop-dead scary. OK, it's still kinda funny. It's called "It’s In The Koran," and it's probably a good thing there are no people appearing in it, or recognizable voices, or someone would have a jihad on their head about now.

Here are the lyrics:
In our days of glory now centuries past,
the Kingdom of Islam stood mighty and vast.
Then we failed our faith and watched your power grow,
But soon our greatness will return and this is how we know:

Because it’s in the Koran, it’s written in the Koran,
A world united under Allah is the future of man
How could it not be so when most opposing us panic,
And surrender once a few of them have bled.

We’re happy to torture, we’re eager to rape,
We savor your last screams on videotape,
We massacre children, we ransack a shrine,
And all our acts are sanctified by Suras 2 through 9

Chorus 2:
Because it’s in the Koran, it’s written in the Koran,
That we should fight and slay the infidels however we can,
We’ll blow ourselves to bits if that gives us an advantage,
Or we’ll slit your throats while you’re asleep in bed.

Those heathens who scold us are wasting their breath
Over the millions we’ve butchered and starved,
We’re men who would let girls be trampled to death
Rather than see them in public unscarved.

So don’t look for mercy when you’re at our feet,
The justice we’ll give you is harsh and complete.
We danced in delight when your Twin Towers fell,
And you’ll weep with your slaughtered as you burn with them in hell.

Chorus 3:
Because it’s in the Koran, it’s written in the Koran,
Your fate was settled long before this latest battle began.
We’ve found our holy purpose and we’ll never abandon it
as long as there’s a sinner to behead

In other words we won’t rest
‘til everyone in the west
is a slave, a Muslim or dead.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A milestone for Upper Left Coast

About 15 minutes ago, Upper Left Coast received its 5,000th visitor, someone from Santa Rosa, Calif. Yippee!!

Of course, that's over the course of almost nine months. Some blogs get almost that many every day. Still, I should really come up with some sort of door prize...

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quote of the Day: Jahn Carree kant speke

From James Taranto in Opinion Journal's Best of the Web today, on the Democrats' complaints about Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination:
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts complained that Alito was nominated because "the president was under fire from his conservative base for nominating Harriet Miers, a woman whose judicial philosophy they mercifully attacked."

The Democrats' adopting Miers as a liberal martyr -- and the false claim that conservative opponents of her nomination objected to her on grounds of "judicial philosophy" rather than qualifications -- was a frequent theme. But we cite the Kerry quote for another reason: Is there any doubt that if President Bush said "mercifully" when he meant "mercilessly," the media would mercilessly make fun of him for his inability to speak?
Media double standard aside, I think the "attack" on Miers -- which was about her qualifications as well as her philosophy -- was merciful: it spared us a continuation of the Miers debacle, and brought forth Alito. From where I'm sitting, the only thing merciless was the Democrats' pathetic showing in the judiciary committee, and their ongoing drive off the cliff from the floor of the Senate.

Memo to Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake

Earlier this week, Mayor Drake gave his State of the City address, and despite the fact that his speech practically ignored the issue, it seems the main thing people wanted to talk about was the city's "annexation policy."

Translation: people still aren't happy about the fact that the city of Beaverton has attempted to forcibly annex thousands of homes in unicorporated Washington County, mine included. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill that gives Nike, Tektronix, Electro Scientific Industries and Columbia Sportwear an exemption from annexation for the next three-plus decades, but left the little people -- those of us without a multi-million-dollar stable of lawyers at our disposal -- out of luck.

That's why I'm not shedding any tears when Beaverton cries about having to spend thousands of dollars to defend itself against Nike's public records requests. Especially when the hard drive on the mayor's computer is "accidentally" erased.

I thought Circuit Judge Gayle Nachtigal was exceedingly kind in calling the city incompetent and negligent, rather than fining the city for deliberately erasing the files. (Have you seen the IBM Thinkpad commercial where the first Thinkpad in a fictional company goes to Ned, the biggest clutz in the building, to make sure it's well-built? Well, I think the Beaverton equivalent of "Ned" was told to "back up" the hard drive and -- oops -- he erased it. Sorry 'bout that.)

This segment of the Oregonian story sums up the issue nicely:
Jim Cape, a Cedar Hills resident, said Drake had promised as a candidate for mayor in 1992 and again in about 2001 that he would never forcibly annex Washington County property owners. "So why should your speech today be believed?" Cape asked.

Drake said that things had changed. A county policy adopted in 1986 and state legislation passed in 1993 had set in motion changes to urban services that are coming to fruition.

Whitney Bates, who lives in unincorporated Raleigh Hills, told Drake that he couldn't see any advantage to being annexed.

Drake said the county -- including the sheriff -- offers good service. But the city gives more of it. "We provide more detail," Drake said.
The city gives more of it. There's the real reason the city wants to annex all this land: the tax revenue it would bring (my taxes would increase about 50 percent, I think I remember hearing). Drake went on to talk about how it plans to spend $50,000 in the current budget for "visioning," along with much more next year; how the city recently bought the Westgate Theater to continue development around the Round (he didn't mention that the city spent $5 million, which was more than the appraised value, and did it without any citizen input); and that he supports upcoming tax measures for the school district's building needs and the county's public safety and libraries.

Umm, Mayor Drake? Thanks, but no thanks. I don't want more of your services. I don't want your vision. I don't want your multi-million-dollar transit-oriented running joke called the Round. And I don't appreciate that you think it acceptable to shove yourself upon me and my neighbors without so much as asking first.

If you're not reading NW Republican...

...you should be. Coyote called this almost six weeks ago.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

We sue, you bow down

That seems to be the tactic that the left takes with its lawsuits against the government.

Remember a couple of years ago, when the Partial-Birth Abortion ban (oops, that should be the "so-called" Partial-Birth Abortion ban) passed? Planned Parenthood and a group of abortion doctors sued to stop the ban, claiming it lacked an exception for the "health" of the mother. They also claimed that they had experiences where such a "health" exception was necessary.

OK, the Justice Department said: prove it. As the defendant in the case, the Justice Department asked the doctors to provide specific examples -- without any identifying information -- that documented their claims.

No way, said the doctors said -- that violates the privacy of our patients. Never mind that the government specifically asked for any identifying information to be blocked out. Never mind that it was responding to specific claims in a lawsuit brought against the government. Never mind that if the government were hiding information in such a fashion, the ACLU would be all over it like white on rice. The right to privacy is paramount to the right to a fair trial, among other things, so the big bad government is out of luck. And the courts played right along with this game.

Now comes word of a new chapter in this game. The Congress and president passed the Child Online Protection Act, which was intended to keep children away from online pornography. Predictably, the ACLU sued, claiming it was an infringement of free speech, and the lower courts agreed. It went to the Supreme Court, and the court -- while expressing concern about the law -- invited the government to prove its case with more information.

So, the government asked the largest internet search engines -- Yahoo, AOL, MSN and Google -- to provide a week's worth of searches. Any week. Without any identifying information. Sound familiar?

All but Google complied with the request. Google -- which comprises almost half of all internet searches -- is now the champion of the ACLU crowd because it stood up to the big bad government. Granted, this is different. It's not like Google sued the government and is now refusing to provide information relevant to the case. But Google's stance in this case comes across less as pertaining to privacy and more as "We're going to make life difficult for George W. Bush at every opportunity."

Jonah Goldberg, writing on this topic in today's National Review, notes that much of the left's response to this topic seems to stem from a newly-discovered disease related to hatred for Vice President Dick Cheney, who is presumed to be leading the charge against our online privacy rights:
...the heretofore-unknown disease of Cheneyphobia seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. It seems to cause some people to believe that the vice president of the United States has superhuman powers and that he is capable of personally reading hundreds of millions of e-mails while listening to thousands of hours of phone conversations and — simultaneously — scanning trillions of web searches.
He also notes that the left has been, um, inconsistent in its protests against privacy invasions:
But the same crowd celebrating Google's decision has generally been quiet about, for example, public health surveys that ask doctors to report all sorts of really private information (anonymous, of course) for epidemiological purposes. If you're going to consider it a grotesque infringement on personal liberty for the government to find out that some anonymous person Google-searched "lesbian love goats," you'd think you'd also be upset by the National Institutes of Health cataloging how many people fitting your description have had prostate exams in the last year. The intrusion is at least as serious, but because no one imagines that Dick Cheney cares about your prostate — yet! — the First Amendment thumpers don't offer a peep.
Goldberg then moves into a discussion of where technology is taking us, noting the "article of faith that technology is always on the side of liberty." However, he said, it also requires a constant reevaluation of how technology interacts with our lives. He concludes:
Technology brings change and requires adaptation — by the state and the individual alike. It's not obvious how we should view Google searches, for example. Are they like letters or diary entries or something else entirely? It's revealing that no sane person would condone local libraries giving stacks of hardcore porn to little kids. But some Internet voluptuaries see nothing wrong with pretty much the exact same thing over the web.

This is a subject worth arguing about. But it's difficult to take people seriously when their core argument is, "If Dick Cheney's for it, I'm against it."
That seems to be the driving force among the left in America -- focused mainly on Cheney's boss -- but it holds little water if you're looking for a healthy debate and instead end up facing the ideological equivalent of holding your hands to your ears, screaming "I'm not listening!"

UPDATE: From KRT News via Pajamas Media:
Google announced that it is officially launching its services in China, a move that will require the Internet firm to subject itself to self-censorship.
Nice set of principles. We stick it to GWB, but bow down to China because it might make us some money.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Young enough to dream, old enough to deliver"

Jason Atkinson, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Oregon governor, got a nice write-up in World Net Daily, the Grants Pass-based web publication that reaches a national audience.

It covered many of the themes that Atkinson has championed -- including what I thought was the best write-up yet on Atkinson's message of returning power to the voters. WND wrote that Atkinson "champions the Progressive Movement of 100 years ago when special interests in the United States were rebuffed and the 'voice of the people' was strengthened." It added that he favors "a conservative approach which is actually a populist approach -- to give the people their government back."

It also included a nice testimonial from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has endorsed Atkinson and "believes he'd be a good governor for the state of Oregon," said a spokesman for Perry. "We will be doing what we can to see that he's elected."

But my favorite portions of this story -- besides the fact that the Atkinson for Governor blogger network was mentioned -- highlighted what I perceive as his strong character traits:

Being Real: WND wrote that when he was considering whether to run for governor, there were several factors he took into consideration, including whether he could maintain his message and identity during both the primary and general elections:

The candidate criticized the method he says Republicans traditionally use to run for governor in Oregon: "They raise a pile of money from the same 10 people and say, 'I'm going to get real conservative in the primary and then real moderate in the general election.' "

Such an approach, he says, obviously has proven unsuccessful, so he's using the lessons of the past to chart a different strategy.
Being Honest. When talking about the power of special interests in Oregon, Atkinson doesn't mince words.
"In Oregon, we've got a system of special interests that command the agenda," he said.

The senator pointed a finger directly at the teachers' unions, saying education lobbyists care only about getting more money from government coffers while disregarding the true needs of rank-and-file union members.

Noting the state's elected officials all say education is a priority, Atkinson emphasized that the K-12 funding bill is routinely the last spending bill to pass -– thanks to the power of special interests that "bottle up the bill and force delay."

He says the education special interests play games with budget numbers to vilify Republicans and paint them as indifferent toward schools.

"Since I've been in office for eight years, education funding has gone up a billion dollars," he said, but lobbyists are able to manipulate the media into reporting that "Republicans cut education."

Added Atkinson: "It's not about children with the special interests; it's about money and power."
Being Faithful. One of Atkinson's favorite sayings thus far is that he is "running to serve as governor, not to be governor." This story reveals that the basis for that phrase isn't political calculation.
While Atkinson is open about his Christian faith, he believes some Christian in politics have "been martyred" by standing for one position so strongly that they become ineffective or are defeated at the polls.

"Some have been so ideologically rigid that they were actually irrelevant in public discourse," he explained.

Referring to his own faith, Atkinson commented, "I can't say that I believe in the model that Christ gave of servant leadership if I didn't try to live it –- and that's who I am."

Is that momentum I hear? Just 112 days and counting until the May primary, when we get the first answer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another Quote of the Day

From Oregon education guru Rob Kremer, on the Metro government's Open Spaces Initiative:
They want another $220 million to buy land for habitat protection. What a farce. About 96% of Oregon is open space already. The only reason we feel crowded inside the UGB is because land use laws won't let us build outside of it. So Metro wants money to mitigate a "problem" its own policies have created.
Well said.

Why Roy Blunt should NOT lead the House GOP

It's not often that I listen to anything that Howard Dean says, but this is one time where Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives should pay careful heed to his comments. Dean was speaking yesterday in Kansas City, where the lede in the Kansas City Star read:
Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said today that his party relished the thought that Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt might soon become majority leader.

“If you like Tom DeLay, you’re going to love Roy Blunt,” Dean said at a Democratic rally at the Uptown Theater. Blunt, he added, is ethically challenged.
I don't know much about any of the candidates -- Blunt, John Boehner or John Shadegg -- though I like what I've heard about Shadegg. Regardless, it seems to me that electing Blunt as the successor to DeLay is inviting more Democrat accusations of corruption, and will do nothing to help the GOP shed its reputation as bought and paid for by Jack Abramoff.

Republicans would be well served to select a leader who puts as much distance as possible between their party and Abramoff, and Dean's comments make it clear that Roy Blunt is not that leader.

Quote of the Day: Democrats & the Constitution

From George Neumayr on National Review:
...ignoring the Constitution as written is the de facto policy of the Democratic party. Hence the Democrats' endless babble about a “living Constitution,” which is just a euphemism for saying that they don’t particularly like the actual one and have no intention of honoring the Constitution the moment it frustrates their ideology and will.

The sheer willfulness of the Democrats makes them the least plausible defenders of the Constitution and the rule of law. Almost every browbeating question the Democrats asked of Sam Alito was designed to make him cry uncle and accept their “living Constitution.” They were testing him not for fidelity to the Constitution but infidelity to it. In effect they were asking him: Do you promise to disregard the Constitution as written and follow our will instead? The nonsensical monologues and hectoring questions about “stare decisis” were simply an attempt to extract from Alito a pledge to cement in place their activists’ rawly unconstitutional jurisprudence.

If the Founding Fathers wanted government by stare decisis, they wouldn’t have bothered to write a Constitution. The essential fraudulence of the Democrats’ stare-decisis claim is evident in their repudiation of the Constitution as itself a precedent worthy of respect.

The Wal-Mart Law

From Arnold Kling on TCS Daily, on Maryland's new law dictating the amount of money spent by large employers (read: Wal-Mart) on healthcare coverage. He wrote this as the start of a series of essays written for liberals by a libertarian/conservative:
The law requires Wal-Mart to spend 8 percent of its payroll on health care, whether or not this is enough to keep its workers from needing to rely on Medicaid. If Wal-Mart came up with a way to provide outstanding health care to its workers for 6 percent of its payroll, it would be in violation of the law unless it found a way to waste the other 2 percent on unnecessary health care. Conversely, if Wal-Mart offers a really lousy health plan, it would be in compliance with the law as long as it spent 8 percent.

If the Wal-Mart law is for the benefit of Wal-Mart workers, then why is it that they are not the ones rejoicing over its passage? Why does the law specify a spending percentage, which would seem to be of greater interest to Wal-Mart's competitors? Why did the pressure for the law come from people who do not work at Wal-Mart?

Liberals see the market as an arena in which evil corporations inflict their greed on innocent victims. I wish you would see that motives matter less than consequences. I wish you could see that greed is at work when laws are passed that regulate markets, because regulations always produce winners and losers. I wish you could see that those winners and losers are often not who you think they are. I wish you could see that competitive behavior and free choice are forces that operate in the market as a check against greed. Finally, I wish you could see that greed is most difficult to restrain when it is exercised through the medium of government.
I wonder if those who rejoiced in the passage of Maryland's law -- and who, I'm relatively certain, gave little or no thought to Kling's questions in that piece -- would be equally in favor of proposals around the country to dedicate at least 65 percent of school funds to the classroom? I haven't done a serious amount of research into the latter proposal, but it seems that the main argument by opponents is summed up in this story in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:
Some critics say they see a high-stakes gimmick -- an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all formula that could force districts to cut everything from librarians and guidance counselors to janitors and bus drivers.
A high-stakes gimmick. An arbitrary, one-size-fits-all formula that could force cuts. Hmmm. Why is it OK to impose such a gimmick on the company liberals love to hate (Wal-Mart), but it's not an appropriate remedy for the funding problems that plague the liberals' sacred cow (public education)?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

You have the Democrats' word...

Unless they decide they didn't really mean it.

From the Washington Times:
Senate Democrats have scrapped a "good-faith" agreement they made two months ago to allow the Judiciary Committee to vote today on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Under the terms of the November arrangement presented to reporters by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, Republicans agreed to conduct the confirmation hearings after the holidays and Democrats agreed to allow a committee vote on the nomination today.

The only conditions for violating the agreement mentioned at the time by Mr. Leahy was "if something extraordinary comes up that neither Senator Specter nor I anticipate or expect."

Yesterday, Mr. Leahy was not claiming that anything extraordinary had come up. The only explanation he has offered is that Democrats didn't want to cut short their Martin Luther King Day holiday.

But, according to his office, the November agreement was not binding anyway because it wasn't in writing.
So the lesson: the word of a Democrat isn't worth the spit it takes to get it out of their mouths.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What is the city doing (or not doing)?

Last week, Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten insinuated that the Portland Business Alliance is spending its funds to fight Sten's campaign finance proposals, which he said has the "appearance of the misuse of tax dollars."

Ronald H. Beltz, a member of the business group's board of directors, wrote an op-ed in today's Oregonian responding to Sten's complaint. Tellingly, at least from the PBA's perspective, Sten chose to air this fight in the media instead of dealing with it as a grown-up: "Unfortunately, we can only guess what his concerns are, because he and his staff have not directly contacted anyone from [the PBA]," Beltz wrote. "We only know what we read in the newspaper."

First, let's correct a couple of, um, misconceptions that Sten creates, by quoting from the Oregonian:
At issue is a fee that downtown businesses impose on themselves, which Sten calls a tax. Businesses and property owners in 213 downtown blocks pay the fee each year, with proceeds paying for increased security, maintenance and marketing in the urban core. The city collects the money; the alliance, through an independent nonprofit known as Portland Downtown Services Inc., spends it.
So, it's not a tax. The business owners impose the fee on themselves, and spend it through "an independent nonprofit"; the city's only involvement is collecting the money. There may be rules that Portland Downtown Services has to follow as a nonprofit, but it's not a tax, and Sten -- perhaps beyond encouraging the city not to help in collections -- doesn't seem to me to have a dog in this fight. But Sten's rant doesn't do much for the city's anti-business reputation, does it?

But if you think the city's anti-business rep is poor, read on in Beltz's piece. This fee, which raises almost $4 million annually, has been in place for twenty friggin' years. And what does it go for? Here's a list:
  • We are providing 19 armed security guards seven days a week in downtown Portland, and we pay for three Portland Police bike patrol officers. (A private group is paying for security? Where is the Portland Police Bureau?)
  • We pay for 11 beds for the homeless. With these funds, Portland Downtown Services is augmenting a pilot program launched by the city last fall with Central City Concern. (A private group is paying to help the homeless? I'd argue that's the way it should work.)
  • We clean sidewalks seven days a week, partnering with Central City Concern, which hires previously homeless individuals to fill these jobs. (A private group is paying for sidewalk cleanup? Where is the city?)
  • We put 10,000 strands of twinkle lights on 750 trees for the holiday season. (A private group is paying to make downtown attractive? Does the city ignore this and hope POVA or the chamber of commerce will pick up the slack?)
  • We provide 10 "downtown sidewalk ambassadors" to help Portland residents and visitors find their way around our great downtown. (Ditto.)
  • We staff the Downtown Community Court program and provide a legal assistant to the district attorney's office. (A private group is paying to help the DA's office? What is the city funding?)
  • We work with retailers to promote downtown as an attractive place to shop, dine and be entertained. (See previous comment about the chamber.)
Meanwhile, the city is giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a group of, um, farmers adjacent to the Tryon Creek State Natural Area. It has been giving millions to school districts in Portland (and last time I checked, the city is not in the education business). It has lost millions upon millions in the city water bureau (an Erik Sten-created problem, by the way). It has, as the Oregonian discussed yesterday, spent billions on the Big Pipe project, raising city water rates to among the nation's highest, only to find that the feds aren't happy with the amount of effort or money spent.

Erik Sten needs to shut up until he and the city are ready to act like grownups and fund the right things instead of throwing money -- without asking how much it will cost -- at the next tram idea.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, MLK

While reading from Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail today, I found this section fascinating (all highlights are mine):
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote.
Clearly, the context of this letter was the racial struggles of Alabama in the early 1960s, but it seems we should be able to take some lessons for today. I'd like to hope we can follow Dr. King's lead in the creation of just laws -- man-made codes that square with the law of God -- but each interest group defines "just" and "law of God" to suit its own perspective.

Can laws against same-sex marriage simultaneously fall under the category of "squaring with the law of God" and "degrading the human personality"? How does Dr. King's final implication -- that a law is just if the minority had the unhampered ability to vote -- fit in? If there's a conflict among those statements, how to resolve the conflict? Was Dr. King's reference to "human personality" referring to traits that all human beings share? If so, how does that play into the same-sex marriage debate?

In my mind, the law of God takes precedence (I already hear Barry Lynn fans screaming about how I want to impose a theocracy -- spare me), but I don't claim there are any easy answers. I think it's interesting, however, that Dr. King's writings are plentiful enough to provide competing perspectives with the ammunition they seek to defend themselves. In some ways, it's like Scripture itself -- it takes some time and guidance to read it correctly, and it can provide guidance or it can be misconstrued to place inappropriate weight or perspective on an issue.

I pray for wisdom in voting for laws that square with the law of God; that uplift human personality; that avoid giving me a false sense of superiority; that I'm willing to follow in my own life, not just impose on others; and that are implemented with the understanding of how they impact the minority in question.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Quote of the Day: the future of SCOTUS

From Hugh Hewitt, on the fears of the left once Samuel Alito joins the court:
But the prospect of tightly argued opinions in defense of majoritarian choices within our constitutional framework which honor the traditional morality of the vast majority of Americans -- well, that is something to look forward to if you are not a member of an elite who is certain that your views, while not widely shared, are nevertheless preferable to those of the unwashed masses.

If you are an elitist countermajoritarian, though, you will be losing sleep as you lose your last bastion of power. Now you will have to win elections if you want to make policy, and that's a daunting prospect indeed.
The left has, to a certain respect, shrugged off losses at the ballot box, knowing that its friends in the judiciary will render many legislative losses moot (not so much on the left coast, but certainly nationwide). Now, they see their judicial options going the way of the legislative, and they're sweating bullets.

I've got you now, my pretty!

Says the WWW (aka Chuck Schumer) to Sam Alito:

Dr. No returns?

Former Governor John Kitzhaber is expected to announce today whether he plans to run for his old job, taking on fellow Democrat (and incumbent) Ted Kulogoski. The alternative for him is to push for a ballot measure on providing health care coverage to all Oregonians.

As I noted a few days ago, conservatives should come up with their own health care proposals and push hard for them, or Kitzhaber's socialized medicine ideas will come dangerously close to realization. However, the issue is an important one to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Oregonians, and the debate needs to occur.

That said, I hope Kitzhaber declines to enter the governor's race. Eight years of Kitzhaber demonstrated very little, other than his ability to veto the Republicans' ideas (thus the moniker "Dr. No"). If he runs in 2006, the entire campaign becomes one of health care, to the detriment of other issues important to the state. Health care is one important topic of discussion, but -- even if Kitzhaber gets no further than the May primary -- it will be a distraction to the candidates who want to address the myriad of issues that need attention in the state of Oregon.

Just say no, Dr. No.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Peggy Noonan strikes again

Today's column on the Alito hearings, which I finally got a chance to read almost 24 hours after it was released, is a hoot. The whole thing is hilarious, but here's just one part that I liked:
The great thing about Joe Biden during the Alito hearings, the reason he is, to me, actually endearing, is that as he speaks, as he goes on and on and spins his long statements, hypotheticals, and free associations--as he demonstrates yet again, as he did in the Roberts hearings and even the Thomas hearings, that he is incapable of staying on the river of a thought, and is constantly lured down tributaries from which he can never quite work his way back--you can see him batting the little paddles of his mind against the weeds, trying desperately to return to the river but not remembering where it is, or where it was going. I love him. He's human, like a garrulous uncle after a drink.

In this, in the hearings, he is unlike Ted Kennedy in that he doesn't seem driven by some obscure malice--Uh, I, uh, cannot, uh, remembuh why I hate you, Judge Alioto, but there, uh, must be a good reason and I will, um, damn well find it. When he peers over his glasses at Judge Alito he is like an old woman who's unfortunately senile and quite sure the teapot on the stove is plotting against her. Mr. Biden is also unlike Chuck Schumer in that he doesn't ask questions with an air of, With this one I'm going to trap you and leave you flailing like a bug in a bug zapper--we're going to hear your last little crackling buzz any minute now!
Suddenly, I'm hearing the cackle of the Wicked Witch of the West: "I'm going to get you, my pretty!" Can you picture Schumer's face on the witch's broom?

OK, I can't help it -- I've gotta add one more part:
This is the authentic sound, though not the authentic words, of Joe Biden, and this is what Judge Alito has to discipline himself not to respond to:

What if a fella--I'm just hypothesizing here, Judge Alito--what if a fella said, "Well I don't want to hire you because I don't like the kind of eyeglasses you wear," or something like that. Follow my thinking here. Or what if he says "I won't hire you because I don't like it that you wear black silk stockings and a garter belt. And your name is Fred." Strike that--just joking, trying to lighten this thing up, we can all be too serious. Every 10 years when you see me at one of these hearings I am different from every other member of Judiciary in that I have more hair than the last time. You know why? It's all the activity in my brain! It breaks through my skull and nourishes my follicles with exciting nutrients! Try to follow me.

How does Judge Alito put up with this?

How does any nominee?

Must he sit there bland-faced and unmoving as they say what they say? Yes, of course. Judge Alito and the White House know they have to let these men talk. They don't want the senators to feel resentful or frustrated. They know each senator feels he has to play to his base. They know the senators are, by nature, like Conair 2000 hairdryers: They just love to blow, and hard. Fwwaaaaahhhhhhhhh. And they know it is good, it is helpful, to let each senator reveal himself through his own words. I think senators feel that their words, when strung together, become little bridges. I think the White House feels that their words, when strung together, become little nooses.
Conair 2000 hairdryers . . . only Peggy Noonan could come up with such an apt description. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Exit Strategy?

From today's New York Times:
Iraqis are increasingly saying that they regard Al Qaeda as a foreign-led force, whose extreme religious goals and desires for sectarian war against Iraq's Shiite majority override Iraqi tribal and nationalist traditions.
So Al Qaeda is an occupying force intent on imposing themselves on the Iraqis. When are the Democrats going to call for Al Qaeda to develop an exit strategy?

Quote of the Day: Abortion

From Tim Graham on NRO's The Corner:
In today's Kate Michelman puff piece in the Washington Post . . . Madeleine Albright is cited paying tribute to Michelman in a speech: Michelman had provided "a voice for those who didn't have a voice and a brain for those who didn't have a brain."

Doesn't Albright or the Post realize that people who favor terminating the unborn probably shouldn't claim too loudly that they represent the "voiceless"?

Russ Feingold is an idiot

Oh my goodness! The administration helped Sam Alito, its nominee to the Supreme Court, to prepare for the judiciary committee hearings! Scandal! Independent investigation! Impeachment!

Just like the Clinton administration did with Breyer & Ginsburg. Just like the Bush 41 administration did with Thomas & Souter. Just like the Reagan administration did with Kennedy, Scalia & O'Connor (not to mention Bork).

But suddenly it's a scandal? Can you say "Grasping at straws"?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Good luck to Jack

Jack Roberts, that is. According to Gully, Roberts will hold a press conference Thursday to officially declare his candidacy for the Oregon Supreme Court.

"Supreme Court Justice Jack Roberts" has a nice ring to it. And the court -- not to mention the state -- would be better for it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

One of my favorite Portland bloggers...

...is Betsy at My Whim is Law. To celebrate the new year, she moved to a new site. Check it out.

Quote(s) of the Day: Alito

Oregonian Columnist David Reinhard, in the Sunday edition, wrote about an unusual pair of Samuel Alito supporters: San Francisco attorney Jim Goniea and his wife, Susan Sullivan -- both liberal Democrats who wouldn't vote for George W. Bush even if you offered Jack Abramoff's bank account. You see, Goniea and Sullivan worked as clerks for Alito in the early 1990s.

Here are a few excerpts from Reinhard's column:
Jim: "I'm a Democrat. I voted for Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. I did not vote for George W. Bush, and I'm not supportive of his administration. Personally, I think it's a disaster for this country. The one thing I can say is that a decision . . . by George W. Bush that I agree with is the decision to nominate Judge Alito to the Supreme Court."

Susan: "If I didn't know [Alito], if I hadn't worked closely with him, I probably would have the same reaction of suspicion and distrust that these liberal groups have, that I have of the administration that picked him. Based on working with him, I know he's not intent on advancing a political agenda."

Jim: "I would not be supportive of any Supreme Court justice . . . who came to the bench with a political predisposition towards deciding a case . . . I know [Alito] is process-driven. I know that even on cases that have tremendous political importance . . . he views his role as a judge to be interpreting the law."

Susan: "What I have observed, is opponents cherry-picking the cases to illustrate particular results without balancing that analysis by discussing the cases with liberal outcomes."

More Susan: "I think the risk of this administration appointing a real conservative ideologue, as opposed to someone like Judge Alito who is not inclined to advance any political agenda, is greater if Alito isn't confirmed. If Democrats succeed in filibustering Sam Alito, this administration will turn around and appoint a real conservative ideologue, and Democrats won't be able to filibuster because Republicans who may have been reluctant to change the rules on the first go-round will then feel justified in changing them. The consequence of that is that we'll end up with . . . a real conservative ideologue on the court."
Democrats: are you listening? Or are you too wrapped up in the crap that Charles Schumer makes up?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Get ready for a new tax

The Oregonian reported today that the number of Oregon hunters and fishermen has been dropping over the last 20 years, and the result has been a drop in funding for wildlife conservation projects run by the state.

Since 1985, the annual number of juvenile fishing licenses has dropped by a quarter, and the number of juvenile hunting licenses has fallen almost 70 percent. That means the future of these activities, as well as the Department of Fish & Wildlife projects they fund, is in doubt.

This means the ODFW must balance hunting and fishing interests -- which pay for 35 percent of the department's budget -- with other groups such as wildlife activists. The story notes that "the debate over wolves in Oregon is one example. The state's largest hunting group argued the predators would whittle away game herds, limiting hunting. But wildlife activists contended wolves have a vital place on the landscape."

We should expect that this funding battle will mean another state agency (ODFW) gathering at the funding trough, trying to squeeze the same amount of funds into yet more channels. We should also expect proposals for a new tax, either on equipment or access. The story notes that Missouri dedicates a portion of its sales tax to wildlife and forestry. Conservation groups supported a failed effort in congress to raise wildlife money by taxing outdoor-related items such as birdseed and binoculars.

But I have a better idea. Let's make it mandatory that any group that wants to lobby the state about wildlife or conservation pay a lobbying fee. Those groups that already pay for state wildlife and conservation projects through licenses would be exempt.

Backing the GOP into a health care corner

If Democrats are the Party of No when it comes to issues such as Homeland Security and Social Security, Republicans are the Party of No on the issue of health care.

No, really. Go to the GOP website and click on the Issues header. Health care is nowhere to be found. Under Legal Reform, it only talks about "curbing lawsuit abuse with needed medical liability reform." The 2004 Party Platform has a bunch of platitudes like "We want more people to own and control their health care." The 92-page document proclaims its support for Health Savings Accounts, which are an important part of health care, but don't matter a whit to those who have been laid off their job and have no health care. It states support for liability reform because "junk lawsuits add at least $60 billion to health care costs in America," but that's pretty small potatoes compared with the $1 trillion spent on health care by government at all levels in 2003 (not to mention the nearly half-a-trillion spent by employers).

It goes on:
We must attack the root causes of high health care costs by: aiding small businesses in offering health care to their employees; empowering the self-employed through access to affordable coverage; putting patients and doctors in charge of medical decisions; reducing junk lawsuits and limiting punitive damage awards that raise the cost of health care; and seizing the cost-saving and quality-enhancing potential of emerging health technologies.
Don't get me wrong. I think all are worth pursuing, and the idea of government-funded health insurance -- a la Canada -- makes me shudder. But the statement quoted above makes Republicans sound like they don't get it. Democrats have the floor on this issue, and -- as the minority party -- can blame Republicans for blocking any reform they propose.

Some of this, I suspect, is because of the media's love affair with "progressive" ideas and its unwillingness to give equal time to the conservative equivalent. But much of it is simply a lack of ideas from the GOP.

Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam wrote about this -- among other things -- in the Weekly Standard a couple of months ago, theorizing that the huge prescription drug plan has left Republicans gun-shy about health care reform. They call on the GOP to offer "market-friendly health care reform," along with simplifying the system.

They also suggest looking at the issue not "as a problem for the uninsured -- a matter of charity for those less fortunate," but as a problem for those already covered. The people who are most worried about health care, they suggest, are "people whose insurance plans will lapse if they lose or shift jobs, whose plans don't cover expensive crises, and who must pay extra, in the form of higher premiums, to cover the medical bills of the permanently uninsured."

This, to me, seems very short-sighted -- especially when they noted a little earlier in the story that 45 million Americans are uninsured at any given time, but over a one-year period, the number is around 60 million, and jumps to more than 80 million over a two-year period. That means that, yes, 35 million Americans fall into the category of "people whose insurance plans will lapse if they lose or shift jobs," but what about the other tens of millions?

They also dismiss the reformatory fear of Republicans by insisting that "the health care system has become so complex and inefficient that a real reform could be crafted that would eventually pay for itself." They claim the country could move to a "more rational, market-oriented health care system" without spending any extra government money.

I bring all this up because Oregon's former governor, John Kitzhaber, is ready to mess with the state's health-provider machinery once again, in an attempt to provoke the federal government to grapple with how it provides care mechanisms such as Medicare. Kitzhaber, who was a medical doctor and state senator before serving as governor from 1994 to 2002, created the Oregon Health Plan in an attempt to cover the state's most needy residents. Trouble was, it required federal waivers from mandated care requirements, which the feds were never keen on granting. Its attempts to cover some people meant others were left out, and the state's budget woes over the last few years meant tens of thousands of people were dropped from coverage. (There's a good chance I'm completely misrepresenting the OHP, so feel free to correct me.)

Kitzhaber's new idea would require similar waivers, in the hopes that the feds would simply give up and tell Oregon to shut up and go away.

One of the stupidest things, to me, is that Kitzhaber's new proposal -- which would either come in the form of a ballot measure or with his announcement that he's running for governor again -- would eliminate tax deductions for employer-sponsored benefits. That will mean fewer Oregonians receiving coverage from their employers, and will mean the government shoulders greater responsibility (and cost) for that coverage. Which, I guess, is what Kitzhaber wants, but should not be what the Republican Party would want to see the federal (or state) government pursue.

For the country's uninsured, their fear is that they -- or worse yet, their child -- will face a serious illness that will leave them penniless or in even worse health. You can accuse me of buying into the Democrats' talking points on this issue if you wish, but it seems to me that unless the GOP develops some concrete proposals for this issue and trumpets them long and hard, the party risks a backlash for ignoring those fears.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back atcha

From Australia's Daily Telegraph, among others:
Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said overnight that he hoped Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was dead and wished the same for the rest of the Jewish state's leaders, the ISNA student news agency reported.
Well, that makes us even. The free world -- not to mention dissidents in Iran and other dictatorships throughout the Arab world -- is hoping for Mr. Ahmadinejad's death. It appears that Mr. Sharon will beat him, but we can always hope.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ron Saxton: call your office

The Oregon Taxpayer Association governor's strawpoll, announced tonight at the Taxpayer Academy Awards (going by memory because I can't yet find it on the web):

1. Kevin Mannix -- 49 percent
2. Jason Atkinson -- 26 percent
3. Ron Saxton -- 15 percent
4. John Kitzhaber -- 3 percent
5. Ted Kulongoski -- 1 percent

UPDATE: Mannix got 48 percent, and Atkinson was at 28 percent

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"Saying Goodbye"

Over at Karmaville, Scott wrote a moving and heart-breaking tribute about his mom's final hours. Read it, and then go give a liberal dose of hugs, kisses and loves to your family. Quickly now.

DC's gun control laws work well

As Marion Barry learned. But never fear, the former mayor and current city councilor vowed to push for even stricter gun laws, I guess to make sure no law-abiding citizens of Washington, D.C. can defend themselves.

What he said

Writing on NRO's The Corner, Tim Graham asks the same questions I've been asking:
I do wish Couric and others would push harder on the anonymous-source question: how do we know these sources aren't members of MoveOn.org? How do we know they aren't die-hard Hillary Clinton fans, or long-time Bush haters? Just because they're career government officials tells us nothing about their anonymous motivations.

Monday, January 02, 2006

What gets buried in the New York Times?

Here's a prime example, from Sunday's story about the "spying" program that I just wrote about. This was in the sixth and seventh paragraphs in the Oregonian story (which is the one I'm quoting from; it was in print, but isn't available online) but several of the Times' paragraphs were combined in the Oregonian version; it was the 12th, 13th and 14th paragraphs in the Times:
It was unclear whether the White House persuaded Ashcroft to approve the program or moved ahead without his concurrence. However, in early 2004, about the time of the hospital meeting, the White House suspended parts of the surveillance program for several months and instituted more stringent requirements on the National Security Agency on how the program was used, in part to guard against possible abuses.

The Justice Department's concerns appear to have led, at least in part, to that suspension, and it was the Justice Department that oversaw an audit of the program. The audit examined how the NSA determined whether it had probable cause to think that someone in the United States, including U.S. citizens, had sufficient ties to al-Qaida to justify eavesdropping on their phone calls and e-mail without a warrant. That review is not known to have found any documented abuses.
So to sum up: the White House set up an approval process with the Justice Department, that department had some concerns, the White House suspended parts of the program and set up tougher safeguards, and a Justice Department audit found no abuses.

Yep, that Bush Administration. It's violating the Constitution at every turn.

Doublespeak for "double standard"

The Metro section of the Oregonian also had an interview with Portland Mayor Tom Potter, recapping his first year in office. Among the questions asked in the Q&A format was this:
Every time we write about potential reforms to the fire and police pension and disability system, we get phone calls from readers who say you and [City Commissioner and former fire department lieutentant] Randy Leonard should recuse yourselves since you are both beneficiaries of the system. What do you say to people who suggest you have a conflict of interest?
Keep in mind that Potter is the city's former chief of police, and thus draws a pension funded by the city's taxpayers. Here's his answer:
You should tell those folks that I think I can be responsible to the citizens and make a decision that is in the best interest of our community and to the police officers and firefighters. Obviously, if the public thinks I don't make the right decision, they can vote me out.
In other words: I, Tom Potter, stick my tongue out at you cretins who would dare question my integrity. If you don't like it, vote against me in 2008. I'll still win! Ha ha!

If such an answer were given by, say, Karen Minnis in relation to a vote in the Oregon legislature, the folks at Blue Oregon (not to mention the state's Democrats) would be calling for her head. (Oh wait, they're already doing that.)

What a bunch of double-standard nonsense.

Doublespeak for "lawbreaker"

Yesterday's Oregonian featured a page A6 story headlined, "Justice deputy resisted parts of spy program." In it, the New York Times writers revealed that the Bush administration sought Justice Department approval for the now-controversial eavesdropping program, but the top deputy to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- who was temporarily in charge while Ashcroft was in the hospital -- would not sign off on certain aspects. So, the administration allegedly went to the hospital to get Ashcroft's OK.

The part that kills me -- besides the fact that we have to take the Times' word that this is legitimate -- is the second paragraph (emphasis mine):
James Comey, acting as attorney general in March 2004 while Ashcroft recovered from gallbladder surgery, was unwilling to certify crucial parts of the program, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss classified work.
In other words, they willingly broke the law by revealing classified information. You can call it a witch hunt if you wish. You can claim the administration is deliberately classifying information to keep out of trouble. But guess what? When these "officials" took their jobs, they promised to keep mum about this information, and they ignored that promise. They broke the law. They should be identified, prosecuted and punished. Within the law.