Saturday, September 24, 2005

Let's take abortion away from the court

David Gelernter editorialized in LATimes The abortion issue is a catastrophic wound in U.S. cultural life. It has inflicted unending battles on American society ever since the Supreme Court seized control of the issue from state legislatures in 1973 — in one of the grossest power grabs American democracy ever faced. Young people pondering U.S. democracy today might easily conclude that all really important laws must be decreed by the high court.

With the terrible state of our schools, I am not sure whether young people have any idea how laws are passed.
We could heal the abortion wound, end the battles and reaffirm the integrity of American democracy if we had the guts to use the Constitution's own mechanism for introducing big, permanent changes to American law. We should get Congress to propose and the nation to ratify a constitutional amendment.

Ever since the 7-2 Roe decision, supporters of abortion rights have been nervous — with good cause. The right to have an abortion could be abolished by a one-vote majority of the Supreme Court. It was only created in the first place because of the Make-a-Wish theory of jurisprudence. The American people had never written it into the Constitution, but the justices (closing their eyes and wishing hard) discovered it there anyway.... The solution is to take abortion out of the court's hands and give the issue back to the people. The court could dump Roe and let state legislatures make abortion law, as they used to. But this is not going to happen any time soon. A stable majority of Americans has backed legal abortion for years. (Majorities also favor restrictions after the first trimester and parental notification for minors.) Overturning Roe, moreover in the face of majority support, would be a spectacular gesture for the Supreme Court, which no longer likes making spectacular gestures. How can democracy reassert itself given American political reality? Congress could propose, and the nation could ratify, a two-part constitutional amendment.

Part one would legalize abortion with suitable restrictions. Part two would nullify Roe and reaffirm that only Americans and their elected representatives have the power to make law in this nation. All courts would be implicitly instructed by this slap-in-the-face clause to butt out of law-making.
How about more than a slap in the face. How about making it a criminal act for a judge to legislate from the bench.
Obviously, pro-abortion liberals would gain if such an amendment were ratified.
It depends on what restrictions were included. You have stated that the majority favor restrictions after the first trimester. What restrictions would the pro-abortion liberals agree to. Right now they have abortion on demand, and any restrictions will be challenged in the court. Are you foolish enough to think they would agree to no abortions after first trimester unless approved by Congress? Highly unlikely.
Anti-abortion conservatives would too — not in their fight against abortion, perhaps, but as Americans. They can live in a nation where abortion is legal and democracy is under a cloud, or a nation where abortion is legal and democracy has been resoundingly reaffirmed.
How about a third alternative. A nation where abortion is not legal, except perhaps in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the LIFE of the mother, or at lease one where the state legislatures are required to authorize any abortion.
Abortion poses vitally important problems, but liberty and democracy are even more important. If we lose them, we lose everything — including all possibility of making things better in the future.

To pass a constitutional amendment is hard, but plenty have been approved in short order. Direct election of senators (proposed 1912, ratified 1913), women's suffrage (proposed 1919, ratified 1920), term limits for the president (proposed 1947, ratified 1951), abolition of poll taxes (proposed 1962, ratified 1964), voting at age 18 (proposed and ratified, 1971).

The ratification process would give conservatives a chance they haven't had for years, to make their case to a public that is empowered to act. If the amendment were ratified, which would be likely, abortion rights would at least be backed by the legitimate authority of the people instead of the usurped authority of the court. Democracy would have been vindicated. When the people finally have a chance to speak, this wound would finally have a chance to heal.


Offer of buses

Chicago Tribune reported Two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, as images of devastation along the Gulf Coast and despair in New Orleans flickered across television screens, the head of one of the nation's largest bus associations repeatedly called federal disaster officials to offer help. Peter Pantuso of the American Bus Association said he spent much of the day on Wednesday, Aug. 31, trying to find someone at the Federal Emergency Management Agency who could tell him how many buses were needed for an evacuation, where they should be sent and who was overseeing the effort. "We never talked directly to FEMA or got a call back from them," Pantuso said.

Why call FEMA. Did he think about calling the Mayor of New Orleans, who was the one that needed the buses? Or did he call the Governor of Louisiana?
Pantuso, whose members include some of the nation's largest motor coach companies, including Greyhound and Coach USA, eventually learned that the job of extracting tens of thousands of residents from flooded New Orleans wasn't being handled by FEMA at all. Instead the agency had farmed the work out to a trucking logistics firm, Landstar Express America, which in turn hired a limousine company, which in turn engaged a travel management company. Over the next four days, those companies and a collection of Louisiana officials cobbled together a fleet of at least 1,100 buses that belatedly descended on New Orleans to evacuate residents waiting amid the squalor and mayhem of the Superdome and the city's convention center.
It would have been better to use the 600 buses in New Orleans, but Mayor Nagin let them get flooded out.
The story of the bus evacuation of New Orleans is partly one of heroism by a handful of people who, when called upon, acted quickly and improvised in the face of desperate need. But the story also underscores a critical failure in the disaster plan: the inability of government to provide even the most rudimentary transportation to take people out of harm's way.
And that responsibility lies with the local and state government. Both had disaster plans that called for the use of buses.
The day before the storm hit Aug. 29, the city of New Orleans had ordered its residents to flee but had not made provisions for upwards of 100,000 residents too old, too poor or otherwise unable or unwilling to leave. Mayor C. Ray Nagin has acknowledged in television interviews that the city had hundreds of transit and school buses available to at least begin an evacuation ahead of Katrina's arrival but couldn't find enough drivers willing to chance getting caught in the huge storm.
Instead he sent everyone to the Superdome, where there was no food or water or other provisions for them. Did he at least think about moving the hundreds of transit and school buses to the parking lot of the Superdome. I suspect he could have found drivers among those trapped there. One schoolbus, abandoned on the street, was used to get people out, and they are threatening the driver with legal action
When Katrina's storm surges breached the city's levees, putting much of the city under water, it was up to state officials and FEMA to oversee a gigantic evacuation. But they, too, were caught unprepared. Though it was well-known that New Orleans, much of it below sea level, would flood in a major hurricane, Landstar, the Jacksonville company that held a federal contract that at the time was worth up to $100 million annually for disaster transportation, did not ask its subcontractor, Carey Limousine, to order buses until the early hours of Aug. 30, roughly 18 hours after the storm hit, according to Sally Snead, a Carey senior vice president who headed the bus roundup.
He may have known that both the Local and State disaster plans called for them to use local buses, and did not know he would need to provide any.


President's Swagger

WaPo reported President Bush flew here ahead of Hurricane Rita on Friday to show command of a federal disaster response effort that even supporters acknowledge he fumbled three weeks ago.

The Federal response in New Orleans to Katrina may have not been as much as everyone would have wanted, but I think that most of the blame lies with the Governor and the Mayor, because even with Katrina the response was better in Mississippi, and for Rita the Governor and Mayor worked closely with FEMA and that is why there was a better response there.
The president said he wanted to see the emergency response system from the ground floor at U.S. Northern Command headquarters. "I need to understand how it works better," he told reporters before leaving Washington. But Bush was also embarking on a broader, and possibly more important, mission: restoring strength and confidence in his presidency.

Hugh Hewitt blogged The Washington Post today runs another "low point of the presidency" piece, that argues the president "finds himself struggling to reclaim his swagger." The reporters start with their premise and then seek out folks who will agree with it, which is about par for reporting these days, and the approval rating is cited as the key bit of data.
And it is a typical technique used by the MSM to try to tear down the president.
.... Even six months from now, and certainly six years from now, September '05 will be one of the crucial moments in the Bush presidency, but not because of his start down a long decline, but because of the elections in Afghanistan, the adoption of a draft Constitution in Iraq and its endorsement by the Ayatollah Sistani --the most crucial bit of news not widely absorbed this past week-- the placement on the SCOTUS of another GOP Chief Justice, keeping the judiciary's number one post in solid hands for many years to come, and a nomination to the Court yet to come will mark September '05 as a month where difficult decisions made long ago began to show the sort of undeniable success that not even a partisan media could distort.... October 15's vote in Iraq is a huge day in the near future, as will be the day the president names his next nominee. There is little that America can do to influence the vote on the 15th except secure the roads that day and provide the purple ink. If the Iraqi constitution is adopted, it won't matter whether Ray Nagin spends a month denouncing the president. If it fails, the weariness in this country will get worse because the insurgents will get a second wind and a second reason to continue their massacres.

The slide down in the polls is actually a good thing for conservatives. The president needs his base to stay rock solid, and there is no quicker way to crack that base than with a sideways nomination to the SCOTUS vacancy. Does the Post really want swagger back? Look for an announcement a week from Monday of a solid judicial conservative and listen for the shreiks from the left that will underscore the moment. The exhibition season is over.
The Post focuses on the fact that social security reform stalled in the face of the Senate Democrats refusal to engage in the policy discussion. From early this year I have been arguing that the debate was a win-win for the president. Either he got reform, or the country got a clear picture that its most serious domestic problems cannot be solved unless an obstructionist Democratic Party is punished at the polls in '06, especially in Senate races in Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Washington State. Realignments aren't quick, and the framers set up a system that allowed for "last stands" by obstructionist factions. The Democrats are "stuck on stupid," to use the phrase that defined September as well as any other, and the wags who are burying the president refuse to deal with the realities of the political trends over the past six years. The presidents' opponents have been declaring him down and out since the fall of '00. Keep the clippings handy for election night '06.


An Election Not to Be Ignored

James S. Robbins wrote in National Review Online Democracy took another important step forward earlier this week, though you might not have heard about it through the hurricane coverage and the Supreme Court hearings. Afghanistan held its first legitimate parliamentary election since 1969. About six and a half million people, 53 percent of the electorate, turned out to vote for candidates for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (People’s Council, the lower house of the national assembly, the equivalent of our House of Representatives) and for 34 provincial councils. The election came off with comparatively little violence — 19 attacks leaving nine dead, including the first French soldier to die in the country.

Another good step forward toward Democracy in the area.


Palestinians Fire Missiles Into Israel

WaPo reported Palestinian gunmen fired a barrage of homemade missiles from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel before dawn Saturday, wounding five Israeli civilians, a military official said. Attack helicopters responded hours later by striking a weapons factory and warehouse in Gaza, the first Israeli military operation inside the strip since Israel completed its withdrawal from the area this month.

Good for the Israelis. Now what they need to do is announce that this time a rocket attack was answered by two targets being destroyed. The next attack witll result in 4 targets in Gaza being destroyed, then 8, then 16, then 32, etc. etc.

Maybe they will understand it does not make sense to attack Israel.
The operation followed a horrific blast Friday in the Jabalya refugee camp north of Gaza City. A truck carrying a group of armed men and makeshift weapons exploded during a Hamas rally, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 80, according to hospital officials and witnesses.
It looks like Hamas is setting up more bomb and rocket factories, but that Israel has already killed those that knew how to make them without blowing themselves up.
Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, accused Israel of firing missiles at the vehicle from an unmanned aircraft, which Israeli military officials denied. Witnesses said the explosion did not leave the telltale crater of a missile strike, a method Israel has used frequently against Hamas leaders and gunmen in the past.
Isarel can respond with unmanned aircraft, or planes, or helicopters, or rockets. Whatever is required for the target.
Palestinian security officials said they believed homemade explosives in the truck may have ignited, sending shrapnel slicing through a dense crowd of several thousand people.
Maybe the peaceful citizens in Gaza should consider whether they want this sort of thing going on in their cities, or whether they would rather show they can live in peace with their neighbor, and thus not risk either being blownup by Hamas incompetents, or by Israeli response to an attack by Hamas


Saturday, September 24

This Day In History

  • 1755   John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Germantown, Virginia.
  • 1789   Congress passed the First Judiciary Act, which provided for an attorney general and a Supreme Court.
  • 1869   Financiers Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to corner the gold market, sending Wall Street into a panic and leaving thousands of investors in financial ruin.
  • 1896   Author F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minn.
  • 1934   Babe Ruth bid farewell to the New York Yankees. It was the Babe’s last game in Yankee Stadium and for the team. The Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox, 5-0.
  • 1955   President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while on vacation in Denver.
  • 1957   The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.
  • 1960   The USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News, Va.
  • 1968   ''60 Minutes'' premiered on CBS.
  • 1969   A trial began for the ''Chicago Eight,'' who were accused of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic national convention.
  • 1976   Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst was sentenced to seven years in prison for her part in a 1974 bank robbery.
  • 1991   Children's author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, died at age 87.
  • 1991   The album ''Nevermind'' by Nirvana was released.
  • 1995   Israel and the PLO agreed to sign a pact at the White House ending nearly three decades of Israeli occupation of West Bank cities.
  • 1998   Redesigned $20 bills meant to be harder to counterfeit went into circulation.
  • 1999   Kip Kinkel, 17, abandoned an insanity defense and pleaded guilty to killing his parents and two classmates at his school in Springfield, Ore.
  • 2001   President George W. Bush froze the assests of 27 suspected terrorists and terrorist groups.
  • 2002   British Prime Minister Tony Blair asserted that Iraq had a growing arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and planned to use them, as he unveiled an intelligence dossier to a special session of Parliament.
  • 2003   The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature adopted redistricting plans favoring the GOP after four turbulent months, three special legislative sessions and two Democratic walkouts.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1755   John Marshall (attorney: 4th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; died July 6, 1835)
  • 1896   F. (Francis) Scott (Key) Fitzgerald (writer: This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night; died Dec 21, 1940)
  • 1924   Sheila MacRae (Stephens) (comedienne: The Honeymooners)
  • 1936   Jim (James Maury) Henson (creator of the Muppets)


Friday, September 23, 2005

Stuck on stupid

David Limbaugh wrote in Townhall I believe General Russel Honore’s classic admonition to reporters, "Don’t get stuck on stupid," was one of the best lines so far of the new millennium. Part of its enduring value is its uncanny applicability to politics these days. Honore made the statement to reporters who insisted on asking questions about Katrina when he was trying to focus on Rita. He said there would be plenty of time later to sort through inadequacies in the government’s response to Katrina, but for now they need to deal with Rita’s impending wrath. "Don’t get stuck on stupid," thus became an instant metaphor -- at least to me -- for "Quit playing gotcha, quit dwelling in the past, and help us with solutions."

Honore’s metaphor perfectly fits the behavior of Washington Democrat politicians and caterwauling liberal loons since 2000 -- that’s right, the entire millennium, so far. In their singular obsession with George W. Bush -- "hatred" is probably more accurate -- they have been "stuck on stupid."To clarify, I’m not calling Washington Democrats and the whacko left fringe stupid.

They may not be stupid, but they are certainly filled with hate, so maybe the expression should be "Don't get stuck on hate."
Far from it. I am saying, though, that their perspective has been tainted by their consuming antipathy for George Bush. They don’t even deny their contempt for President Bush but wear it proudly. I think they would deny, however, its irrationality and poisonous effects. Many of them seem to think it’s a completely rational reaction to his "contemptible" policies, particularly the war with Iraq. What they don’t tell you is that their ill will for him significantly preceded our invasion of Iraq, which many of them, by the way, supported. Their unhealthy hatred for Mr. Bush dates back to the 2000 election, which they -- irrationally again -- believe he stole from Mr. Gore. The fact is, Mr. Gore was trying to steal the election himself and almost succeeded, through one of the most egregious perversions of the rule of law in our nation’s history, by the Florida Supreme Court.
And that is why they are so ticked off. It is because they did not succeed in stealing the election. They are used to winning elections through voter fraud, but that was not enough in 2000. And they really wanted to win. And were really very mad when it did not work out the way they wanted it to.
But the real source of their animus is even more basic. They resent him because he represents their expulsion from power over the executive branch, which the Clinton eight-year heyday should have ensured them in perpetuity.
They also were ticked off because the Republicans had both houses plus the White House.
You’ll recall that their "entitlement" to the legislative branch was stolen from them in 1994, which is one of the reasons they consider Newt Gingrich another personification of evil. Adding insult to cumulative injury, they’ve also lost their monopoly on the media over the last 15 years. The intensity of their blinding hatred for Bush compels them to view all problems through their anti-Bush lenses.
And their blinding hatred prevented them from getting a number of things they wanted. Bush campaigned about being a uniter rather than a divider because he was able to work with the Democrats in the Texas Legislature to come up with compromise solutions. But the Dems in Washington were so filled with hatred that they resisted all of his efforts to reach out to them for compromise.
How many of them could bring themselves to rejoice, for example, over the historic elections in Iraq and the people’s courageous embracing of self-rule and representative government there? And how about their unconscionable politicizing of Katrina? They are stuck on stupid.

Indeed, the real challenge for Democrats, politically, is whether they’ll be able to unstick themselves from stupid as we approach the 2008 elections -- not to mention 2006. Are they capable of thinking clearly again? Can they offer alternative solutions to the nation’s problems, beyond carping at President Bush -- who won’t be running -- and tearing down Republican ideas?

One great irony is that Hillary Clinton figured this out a long time ago. She realized that she needed to rise above this pettiness and demonstrate an appreciation for the global evil we face in the War on Terror, among other things. But just when she had almost succeeded at extricating herself -- opportunistically -- from the Democrat "stupid" quagmire, she was jerked right back into it by the formidably powerful crazies that dominate the party today. Hillary just got trounced in an unofficial poll among the far-left kooks -- hundreds of thousands of them -- and she’s understandably nervous. Properly chastened, she’s started hurling obligatory invectives at President Bush again.
Which is good, because the more she does that, the harder it will be to convince independents she is a moderate.
If Republicans weren’t stuck on stupid as well -- in an entirely different way -- they would have nothing to fear from Democrats in 2008, notwithstanding the enormity of the problems we now face, foreign and domestic. But Republicans just don’t seem to know how to be consistently true to the principles they champion. Though a majority of the country probably leans conservative, the GOP is still scared to death to govern that way.

President Bush should ignore the polls and the conventional wisdom that he has lost too much political capital to implement his agenda. He must abandon all fantasies of placating the implacable Left. He should appoint a conspicuously conservative originalist, like Janice Rogers Brown, to replace Justice O’Conner, then proceed to make his income tax cuts permanent, eliminate the estate tax, reform Social Security, reform immigration, cut pork and continue building up Iraqi forces -- and let the other guys stick on stupid.
I agree completely.


Cannot Save New Orleans

Daniel Henninger wrote in OpinionJournal So we are sending all the king's horses and all the king's men to fix the Humpty-Dumpty of New Orleans. Put it back together on a sinking wall of mud and see if it falls off again. President Bush has proposed a Gulf Opportunity Zone, which will test the novel idea of whether market forces can function while some $200 billion of public money is coursing through Louisiana.

Actually Bush never suggested $200 billion of public money; that figure came from others. He proposed
  • the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment, tax relief for small businesses, incentives to companies that create jobs, and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again. It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity; it is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty; and we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.
  • the creation of Worker Recovery Accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work. Under this plan, the federal government would provide accounts of up to $5,000, which these evacuees could draw upon for job training and education to help them get a good job, and for child care expenses during their job search.
  • that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government, and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity. Home ownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region.
As far as I know, the federal government does not own that much property in the part of New Orleans that is below sea level, but I am sure they do own plenty of land that is above sea level, and where people displaced from New Orleans could build a home to live in, in a new city unincumbered with all of the dishonesty that has been in New Orlenas since Hewey Long's days. And he never said he was going to build the houses for them, he said "they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity" (neither of which would cost the government any money.
Louisiana political culture has run that drill for about 60 years; the result was New Orleans, before the storm. Congress's idea of giving back is to open the spending levees. A short list of the federal bureaucracies on the case include FEMA, DHS, EPA, HHS, SBA, HUD, plus their partners in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.... The answer to whether we--America--should rebuild New Orleans is not obviously and simply yes. We have a precedent. The answer to whether the World Trade Towers should be "rebuilt" in some fashion was also obviously and overwhelmingly yes. Four years on, nothing has been rebuilt largely because there is no evident market need for 10 million square feet of commercial space in lower Manhattan, and also because New York's politics is a distant relative of Louisiana's.... So what should New Orleans now become? It could resume life as what it was, a tourist venue
Which is reasonable. The French Quarter is above sea level, as are many other parts of New Orleans. Protect them with levees, but dont try to protect land that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level.
... New Orleans probably needs more than a storied past.... Several years ago, Sir Peter delivered a lecture in Glasgow called "Creative Cities and Economic Development." If New Orleans' next incarnation is to become anything other than a fancy future slum, its new city fathers (and they'd better be new) should lend him an ear. What, Peter Hall asked, enabled the rise of six famously potent centers of urban creativity--Athens, Florence, London, Vienna, Paris, Berlin? They "were all capitalist cities," he answered, and "they were all great trading cities." New Orleans, site of a famous port, could be both, but isn't.... What is New Orleans today? It is the impoverished, lawless product of Huey Long's anti-capitalist populism, cross-fertilized with every poverty program Washington produced the past 60 years. The currently popular notion that "the country" somehow failed to notice that much of New Orleans had become a social and economic basket case is false. Every college student knows the basic storyline of "All the King's Men" if not that of former Governor Edwin Edwards (1992-96), now serving 10 years for extorting businessmen.


The Future is Now

Manuel Miranda wrote in OpinionJournal Today's debate over Roberts is really about Justice O'Connor's replacement.... The liberal debate is simple because, to put it bluntly, Democrats lost the 2004 election and then they lost the filibuster in May. Their debate is not over Judge Roberts's merits. In fact, even the best liberal opposition to Judge Roberts first concedes that he is excellent, and then it reveals its true concern: whether Chief Justice Roberts will rule their way on this or that.

USSC Justices should not be picked based on which way they will rule on this matter or that. They should be picked because they will do their job as judges. If Dems want a particular law passed, they need to convince a majority of both houses to pass it, and then they need to convince the President to sign it. Or they need to convince 2/3 of both houses to support passing it over the President's veto. And if they want something they fear the USSC will say is unconstitutional, then they need to persuade 2/3 of both houses, and 3/4 of the state legislatures, to approve a Constitutional Amendment, which will force the USSC to allow them to do what they want. You say they can't convince that many they are right? Well maybe it should not be done, then.
Often, the ideologue's goal is put in colorful language such as "He will turn back the clock." What liberals mean by that, of course, is that they fear that George W. Bush's nominee might move the clock at all beyond the hour at which they peaked, circa 1973.

Even so, liberals know that Judge Roberts will have been confirmed a week from now. They know that the fight is now all about the next nominee. They also know that they have only one approach left: to intimidate Mr. Bush and defeat him even before he makes the next selection. Their aims are twofold: to get a less conservative nominee and to ensure that the president does not send someone up who will excite the widest possible spectrum of conservatives and unite them with blacks, Hispanics and religious swing voters--groups with which the GOP made inroads into Democratic turf in 2004 as never before.
And by the same token, that means that George Bush needs to be looking for a nominee that will do exactly what the Dems fear.
There is another goal: to ensure that, if the president nominates a woman, she is their kind of woman.
I.E. one that does not mind killing babies.
Remarkably, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did some politicking on this point earlier this week. On Wednesday, Justice Ginsburg told an audience that she doesn't like the idea of being the only female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, but that in replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "any woman will not do." There are "some women who might be appointed who would not advance human rights or women's rights."
That is not the court's job. That is the legislature's job. The court's job is to make sure that laws passed by the legislature are consistent with the Constitution.
When she was counsel for the ACLU, Justice Ginsburg advocated that there was a constitutional right to prostitution and that the age of consent should be lowered to 12. With a "human rights" standard as high as that, Mr. Bush's job just got a whole lot tougher.
I recall a state legislature where some woman proposed a law to lower the age of consent to 15, and then found some of the others in the legislature that thought they would have a little fun with her, and so they introduced an ammendment to lower it to 12, and she found herself having to fight that ammendment (apparently she did not agree with Ginsburg). They thing ended when another legislator proposed an ammendment to raise the age of consent to 21, but make it mandatory.

I don't thing George Bush wants to go there.


Water flows over New Orleans levee

CNN reports Water poured through a breached levee protecting New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward on Friday, flooding the low-lying but largely empty neighborhood that was devastated last month by Hurricane Katrina.

Is anyone stupid enough to suggest that they should make another attempt to rebuild the levees to protect that part of the city that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level? Build a levee to protect the French Quarter and those parts of the city that are above sea level, but tear down the other levees and form a new Lake Orleans, and build any new housing in a new city thirty or forty miles away, on land that is above sea level.
An 8-foot storm surge from approaching Hurricane Rita overtopped a damaged section of the Industrial Canal levee where the Army Corps of Engineers had made temporary repairs, Brig. Gen. Robert Crear said. The rushing waters appeared to have pushed aside any sandbags or other temporary barricades that had been placed there to plug the breach.


New Orleans Relives Flooding Nightmare

Yahoo News reported Hurricane Rita's steady rains sent water pouring through breaches in a patched levee Friday, cascading into one of the city's lowest-lying neighborhoods in a devastating repeat of New Orleans' flooding nightmare. "Our worst fears came true," said Maj. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard. "We have three significant breaches in the levee and the water is rising rapidly," he said. "At daybreak I found substantial breaks and they've grown larger."

It is a good thing that Mayor Ray Nagin did not proceed with his overambitious plan to get people to come back

A mandatory evacuation order was also in effect for New Orleans on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, and police said people in the city's Algiers section on the other side of the river would be wise to get out, too. But thousands stayed put. "I'm sticking it out," said Florida Richardson, who sat on her front porch in Algiers, holding her grandson on her lap. "This house is 85 years old. It's seen a lot of tornadoes and a lot of hurricanes. You can't run from the power of God."

True, but unless you want to go see Him earlier than planned, it is a good idea to evacuate when told to.


Let's Deploy the 'Little Platoons'

Iain Duncan Smith and Rick Santorum wrote in OpinionJournal For all the differences between the United States and Europe, we share a common challenge: how to improve the social well-being of our citizens without a massive growth in the size and intrusiveness of government. We're convinced that conservatism--properly understood--offers the surest road to social justice.... Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond are charting a new vision of social justice. It recognizes that the problems caused or aggravated by the growth in government cannot be corrected by a crude reduction in its size. Policy must also deliberately foster the growth of what Edmund Burke called "the little platoons" of civil society: families, neighborhood associations, private enterprises, charities and churches. These are the real source of economic growth and social vitality.

Absolutely. These are the "Points of Light" that George H.W. Bush (41) referred to.
The social justice agenda we endorse is grounded in social conservatism. That means helping the poor discover the dignity of work, rather than making them wards of the state.
Absolutely! Let us give them a hand up, rather than a hand out.
It means locking up violent criminals, but offering nonviolent offenders lots of help to become responsible citizens. It endorses a policy of "zero tolerance" toward drug use and sexual trafficking, yet insists that those struggling with all manner of addictions can start their lives afresh.

In America, this vision emerged a decade ago with bold conservative initiatives aimed at empowering individuals and grassroots groups helping the nation's neediest, such as the Community Renewal Act and other antipoverty initiatives. Today's CARE Act is part of the same tradition. Likewise, the Bush administration's plan to create a Gulf Opportunity Zone after Hurricane Katrina would offer tax relief and small-business loans to support a culture of entrepreneurship.


Syria Seeking Deal In U.N. Hariri Probe

WaPo reported Syria is trying to negotiate a deal to prevent punitive action by the United Nations if, as is widely expected, the Damascus government is linked to the Feb. 14 assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, according to U.S. and European officials. Over the past month, the government of President Bashar Assad has been inquiring about the potential for a deal,

If he is trying to cut a deal, that pretty well makes it clear he is guilty as sin.
roughly equivalent to what Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi did to end tough international sanctions imposed for his country's role in the 1988 midair bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the officials said. Gaddafi eventually agreed to hand over two intelligence officials linked to the bombing for an international trial, a move that began Libya's political rehabilitation.
They not only handed over two intelligence officials, they also paid a LOT of money. How much money is Assad prepared to pay to Lebanon? They also got rid of their nuclear program, but that was after the Iraq invasion. But while we still have a LOT of troops in Iraq, how about Assad turning over the stockpiles of WMD that Saddam shipped into Syria just before the Americans invaded, and how about closing the Syria/Iraq border so more insurgents can't keep coming in every day?


Carter says Gore won 2000 election

The Raw Story reports Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter delivered a shocker at an American University panel in Washington Monday.... There is "no doubt in my mind that Gore won the election," the erstwhile President declared, saying the 2000 election process "failed abysmally."

I know Carter has been busy with Habiat for Humanities, building houses, but he should make sure he wears a hard hat when working there. Apparently something fell and struck him in the head.
.... You can listen to the audio here.


Political Bloggers Demand Speech Freedoms

Yahoo! News reports Political bloggers who offer diverse views on Republicans and Democrats, war and peace argued on Thursday that they should be free of government regulation. The notion was echoed by some members of the government agency trying to write rules covering the Internet's reach in political campaigns.

I completely agree.
Amid the explosion of political activity on the Internet, a federal court has instructed the six-member Federal Election Commission to draw up regulations that would extend the nation's campaign finance and spending limits to the Web. The FEC, in its initial rules, had exempted the Internet. Bloggers told the Committee on House Administration that regulations encompassing the Internet, even ones just on advertising, would have a chilling effect on free speech. The FEC vice chairman also questioned the necessity of any rules. "I strongly believe that the online political speech of all Americans should remain free of government review and regulations," said Michael E. Toner.


House OKs Faith As Head Start Hiring Issue

Yahoo! News reported The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances. The Republican-led House approved a bill that lets churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion, yet still receive federal tax dollars. Democrats blasted that idea as discriminatory.

Democrats are idiots. It would be discriminatory to not allow faith-based preschool centers to participate, or to require faith based centers to hire people that do not agree with their faith.
Launched in the 1960s, the nearly $7 billion Head Start program provides comprehensive education to more than 900,000 poor children. Though credited for getting kids ready for school, Head Start has drawn scrutiny as cases of financial waste and questions about academic quality have surfaced nationwide. Overall, the House bill would insert more competition into Head Start grants, require greater disclosure of how money is spent, and try to improve collaboration among educators in different grades. Yet on Thursday, the dispute over religion eroded the bipartisan support for Head Start's renewal. The House passed the bill 231-184; only 23 Democrats voted for it.
That is because Democrats hate religion more than they like children.
GOP lawmakers, with backing from the White House, contend that preschool centers should not have to give up their religious autonomy in order to receive federal grants. "This is about our children, and denying them exemplary services just because the organization happens to be a religious one is just cruel," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. The Republican plan would, for example, let a Catholic church that provides Head Start services employ only Catholic child-care workers.
That is very reasonable. And there is nothing to prevent a Protestant, or Jew, or Muslim from setting up a center to teach young people, and only employ Protestant, Jewish, or Muslim workers.
Democrats and Republicans offered different interpretations of whether the Constitution, federal law and court rulings protected — or prevented — federally aided centers from hiring based on religion. "Congress should not be in the business of supporting state-sponsored discrimination," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. Said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.:
The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law .... prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
"The (Republican) majority has decided to choose religious discrimination over what could have been a rare bipartisan agreement."
In other words if those mean old Republicans had done it our way, and allowed us to penalize faith based programs we would have been happy.
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican chairman of the House education committee, said former President Clinton signed four bills into law that allowed religiously based hiring.
I guess the Dems thought it was ok if he did it, but not ok if Bush does the same thng.
Boehner rejected appeals to withdraw the religion-based amendment. The House passed the amendment 220-196 along near party lines. Ten Democrats voted for it. That vote came before the final vote on the overall bill. Without a change in law, Boehner said, "Faith-based organizations are forced to relinquish their protected rights to hire individuals who share their beliefs." On academics, the bill would prod Head Start centers to work with school districts and teach to state academic standards or risk losing their federal money. That strategy of academic coordination helped win bipartisan support for the bill, very different from the last time. By a single vote in 2003, the House passed a bill that would have let up to eight states apply for control over Head Start, drawing opposition from every Democrat. That experimental shift in power died when Congress didn't pass a Head Start law that year, and the new bill does not include the provision. The bill would temporarily halt the federal test given to hundreds of thousands of 4-year-old and 5-year-old children in Head Start until a National Academy of Sciences review is completed.
Are they worried about teaching Evolution vs Intelligent Design? I would think it would be better to teach them the alphabet, and how to count, both subjects that are the same whether done in a secular or religious setting.
The Government Accountability Office found this year that the test, called the National Reporting System, has numerous flaws. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., asked for the suspension and Boehner agreed, saying the test should not be given until Congress is assured its results are accurate. The House bill, approved 48-0 by the chamber's education committee in May, would reauthorize the Head Start program through 2011. A similar measure in the Senate is pending.

James Joyner blogged This is a classic case of two parts of the Constitution coming into conflict and having to be balanced. Here, the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, both of the First Amendment, clash. If churches aren't allowed to hire based on faith, then they are being denied the right to exercise their religion--not to mention the non-textual right to freely associate that is implied by the First Amendment. On the other hand, by interfering in church matters in dictating hiring practices--or, conversely, allowing churches to discriminate on the basis of religion while acting as quasi-government agencies--Congress would violate the Establishment Clause.

The House has struck a reasonable balance here. Church groups have proven to be excellent volunteer organizations for Head Start. So long as they don't discriminate on the basis of faith in which students are permitted into the program or attempt to teach religious doctrine as part of the program, the intermingling of church and state here is virtually non-existent.


Extremists twisted his mind

TimesOnline reports The uly 7 suicide bombers told how her “innocent and naive” husband had been poisoned by elements in radical mosques as she cradled their new born baby daughter in her arms.

That is why Britain is clamping down on the radical mosques, and why every country should do the same.
Samantha Lewthwaite said that she “totally abhorred” the actions of her husband Jermaine Lindsay, who killed 26 people on a Piccadilly Line tube train near King’s Cross; but she said that she still wore the white gold ring her husband had given her and would pass it on to their first child, a son, Abdullah, when he marries. Ms Lewthwaite, 21, a Muslim convert, said that her husband had been a peaceful man whose behaviour changed when he began visiting mosques in London and Luton. She said: “His behaviour gradually began to change. He turned from the man that I married. In hindsight I can now see exactly what was happening to him and why. How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful. He was an innocent, naive and simple man. I suppose he must have been an ideal candidate.”


Protecting tax cuts

Left Wing Sirotablog reports In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush and Republicans in Congress have refused to consider rolling back the $336 billion in new tax cuts that the richest 1 percent are slated to get over the next five years.

Left wing nuts just can't understand that the tax cuts stimulated the economy and resulted in INCREASED tax revenues, and that reversing them would amount to a tax increase that would cut weaken the economy and reduce total tax revenue
They say we need to pay for reconstruction not by asking the wealthiest to sacrifice just a little bit, but by massive cuts to spending.
Which is true.
And now we see what that means: The Navy Times today reports that those cuts "include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care." This, while troops are in battle.

Let us review what Navy Times wrote:
The House Republican Study Committee, headed by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., is not singling out the military
Sirotablog would certainly want you to think they were targeting the military
as it tries to raise the estimated $200 billion that the federal government will need for various Katrina-related spending.

Their proposal includes freezing congressional pay, charging federal workers for parking and cutting back on legislative earmarking — items added to agency budgets by lawmakers — as ways of raising money.
All very good ideas, particularly the last one
They call their effort “Operation Offset,” and hope to get spending cuts considered before Congress approves any more money devoted to Katrina relief and recovery operations.

Their offset list includes three provisions aimed at military quality-of-life programs:
  • Service members would be offered cash if they are willing to accept reduced health care benefits for their families. “The less comprehensive plan would encourage individuals to be more cost-conscious when purchasing health care products by including deductibles, co-payments and a maximum annual out-of-pocket expenditure limit,” according to a written explanation provided by the study group. Reduced health care benefits could save $2.4 billion over 10 years.
    In other words they are proposing offering service members a CHOICE of whether they want to take some money up front, and control their own health care expenses. You would think that the Democrats, who are so much in favor of CHOICE if it means killing potential babies, would not be so opposed to CHOICE in other areas.
  • The three separate military exchange systems could be consolidated, saving up to $1.9 billion over 10 years, the study group says. The Army and Air Force share an exchange system, AAFES, while the Navy and Marine Corps have their own systems. “Consolidating … would eliminate inefficiencies from duplicative purchasing, different personnel departments, warehouse and inventory systems and management headquarters while retaining the current ability for service embers and their families to receive a wide selection of goods at a low price,” the statement says.
    Removal of bureaucracy always seems to be a good idea, and eliminating inefficiencies from duplicative purchasing is a good idea (that is why WalMart is able to charge such low prices, because it has a fantastic distribution system that buys in bulk and ships things to the appropriate stores). So this is not reducing any service to the military, but just saving money by doing it better.
    The Pentagon has studied the idea of exchange consolidation for years but has been unable to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and opposition from some service officials and industry groups. Several studies of the issue also have raised questions about how much money would be saved.
  • The stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed, saving $788 million over 10 years, the study says.

    “This provision would phase out these domestic schools over time and shift these military children into the local public school systems,” the study group says.
    This is the only one I disagree with. I hate anything that redirects more students into the public school system, which is doing such a bad job. But you would think the left wing wingnuts would be estatic about such a proposal, rather than saying it hurts the military.
The Pentagon also has been studying this idea, but has faced strong opposition from parents of children attending the schools because public schools are seen as offering lower-quality education. So far, the Bush administration has not endorsed any plan to pay for hurricane relief, although President Bush has suggested that reducing spending is one obvious option. At the administration’s request, Congress already has approved $62 billion in Katrina spending by simply adding it to the national debt, because other money is not available and no offsets were approved as part of the legislation.

White House budget officials met Tuesday with Senate Republicans to talk about Katrina relief plans but provided no recommendations on possible offsetting cuts in other programs to cover costs, according to senators who attended the closed-door meetings.

The NavyTimes article specifically says the proposal is not singling out the military, and of the three things related to the military, one gives the serviceman a CHOICE (Dems usually like Choice) on their healthcare, one consolidates purchasing for the exchange services, with no cut in service, and the only one I dont like, but Dems should love, moves students INTO the public school system.

natasha blogged This is how the Republicans want to thank the men and women who followed their orders to go into Iraq and Afghanistan? This is how they would treat their families who don't get to see them for months at a time?

STP blogged Natasha at Pacific Views has a piece on how the Bush Administration's refusal to scale back the tax cuts it wants to give to the wealthiest 1% of this country means those serving in the military are being asked to accept reduced health benefits and a cutback in stateside school programs for military families.


Friday, September 23

This Day In History

  • 63 B.C.   Caesar Augustus was born in Rome.
  • 1642   Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass., held its first commencement.
  • 1779   American commander John Paul Jones is said to have declared, ''I have not yet begun to fight!'' during a Revolutionary War naval battle.
  • 1806   The Lewis and Clark expedition returned to St. Louis from the Pacific Northwest.
  • 1846   The planet Neptune was discovered by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle.
  • 1939   Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, died in London.
  • 1952   Rocky Marciano became the world heavyweight boxing champion by knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round in Philadelphia PA. It was Rocky’s 43rd consecutive victory.
  • 1952   Pay Television for sporting events began with the Marciano-Walcott fight, coast to coast, in 49 theatres in 31 cities.
  • 1952   U.S. President Richard M. Nixon’s dog, Checkers, was the subject of a speech given this day by Mr. Nixon, then a candidate for vice-president. In the televised speech, he stated that he would not give back a gift -- whether it had political ties or not -- because it was a present for his daughter. The gift in question was Checkers and the speech was forever referred to as the ‘Checkers Speech’.
  • 1957   Nine black students who had entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were forced to withdraw because of a white mob outside.
  • 1973   Former Argentine president Juan Peron was returned to power.
  • 1990   Iraq threatened to destroy Middle East oil fields and attack Israel if other nations tried to force it from Kuwait.
  • 1999   The Mars Climate Observer apparently burned up as it was about to go into orbit around the Red Planet.
  • 2002   A 24-count indictment charging conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud was filed against the founding family and two executives of bankrupt cable company Adelphia Communications Corp.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1713   Ferdinand VI (King of Spain [1746-1759]; died in August 1759)
  • 1920   Mickey Rooney (Joe Yule, Jr.) (actor)
  • 1930   Ray Charles (Robinson) (‘The Genius’: Grammy Award-winning singer)
  • 1943   Julio Iglesias (singer)
  • 1949   Bruce Springsteen (‘The Boss’: singer)


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Voter ID mandate

Richard L. Hasen wrote in CSMonitor .... The National Commission on Federal Election Reform headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker looked perfect: a high profile, bipartisan effort to identify ways to fix America's decentralized, increasingly politicized, and underfunded election system. Unfortunately, by taking sides in a fight over voter identification requirements, the Carter-Baker Commission squandered its political capital, perhaps even setting back the cause for reform.

In other words they included something the author does not like.
That is unfortunate for the country. There is much good in the Carter-Baker report, issued Monday. Most important, the commission recommended a move toward nonpartisan election administration. (The US is one of the few democracies that use partisan election officials to run their elections.) Carter-Baker endorsed a suggestion I offered in testimony to the commission that states remove election responsibilities from partisan elected secretaries of State, placing them instead in the hands of professional election administrators appointed by governors and approved by a supermajority vote of state legislators.
In other words, people the Dems think they can bribe.
The supermajority requirement ensures that there is true bipartisan support for the election administrator. At the very least, state election officials should promise to abide by a code of conduct that keeps them out of the business of campaigning for other candidates or ballot measures.

The commission also correctly recommended ways to improve voter registration, including the requirement that states take proactive roles to register voters. Registration reform could significantly lower the chances of post-election meltdown; my study of the post-2000 election litigation shows that many of the court cases involved problems with registration rules.
One good change would be eliminating the Motor Voter law.
But the commission blew it by taking a strong partisan position requiring voter identification at the polls. The recommendation is aimed at preventing voter fraud, but doesn't properly target that problem.
Sure it does, and that is why Dems hate it.
Here is what we know: Some voter fraud (probably not much) occurs on the local level; some voters cast ballots twice, in two separate states; and the bulk of fraudulent voting appears to occur through absentee ballots.
Regardless of where or how it occurs, there needs to be significant criminal penalties for voter fraud.
Requiring voter identification at the polls addresses only the first (and least significant) of these problems.
Not really. They could require you to show the ID to get an absentee ballot.
In addition, voter IDs tied to drivers licenses (as the commission suggests) will place an onerous burden on the poor and those (especially the elderly) who lack driver's licenses.
Not really, since the recommendations included a procedure for getting a photo id if you dont have a drivers license. And you need a photo id to board an airplane, buy booze, cash a check, etc.
National voter identification is needed to prevent real fraud (especially through absentee voting and double voting across states) and to keep public confidence in the election process. But it should be coupled with a government-mandated voter registration plan, so that both Democrats concerned with voter access and Republicans concerned with voter integrity can get on board with the proposal. When someone registers to vote, the state should collect a thumb print that can then go in voter rolls and on every absentee ballot (in such a way to assure secrecy of voting). The voter IDs should be free to everyone, and any voters who show up without their ID should be able to vote by giving a thumbprint.
I like the idea of including a thumbprint, and perhaps even an iris pattern code and other bio factors on the ID. Voting just by thumbrint would be ok only if there is a significant criminal penalty for voter fraud.
The commission compounded the problem with its voter ID endorsement by appearing to stifle dissent. It prevented commission member Spencer Overton from publishing a 597-word dissent, imposing a cap of 250 words. In response, Professor Overton has set up his own website ( to disseminate his important objections to both the voter identification recommendations of the commission and to the process by which the commission reached its decision.

If the Carter-Baker commission report is dismissed as a failure, and election reform issues are swept under the rug until 2008, it will be too late to fix problems in time to avert a potential election meltdown. Like dealing with hurricanes or earthquakes, advanced planning is the key to avoiding disaster.


Seven lessons for post-Katrina compassion

Marvin Olasky wrote in Townhall Here are seven suggestions I'm making to political leaders who want to offer long-term, post-Katrina help in a compassionate conservative way:

First, listen to and learn from the real poverty experts, those who have fought their way out of it. Here's one of my favorites Internet offers of personal help to needy evacuees: "I am a black single mom and can house another black single mom and one to two children under 2 for free for three months. ... I have been on welfare and put myself through school. In no way have I been through what you have been through, but I can try to help you navigate confusing systems. Just be respectful of the resources that I can provide. ... No smoking, no drugs, no profanity. ... Also, limited or no TV. ... I can help you make it!!!"

That sounds reasonable. They have "Been There, Done That" and they dont even have a t-shirt to prove it. But they certainly know a lot better than liberals, who have just conspired to keep them in poverty, how to get out of it.
Second, tweak tax rules to make it financially possible for that black single mom, as well as middle-class individuals, to help evacuees for a year or even more. Local officials in the 18th century sometimes paid out-of-pocket costs of citizens who housed or fed victims of emergencies. They saw such payments not as compromising the volunteer spirit, but as allowing poor along with rich families to offer help. We can do the same by providing tax credits (applicable to Social Security as well as income taxes) to all individuals who take evacuees into their homes for extended periods. Why should we have tax deductions for financial contributions but no tax recognition of the far greater commitment that sharing a home represents?
Again, that sounds reasonable. Opening one's pocketbook is easy; opening ones home to the less fortunate that have no home should receive at least the same honor as providing money.
Third, do not discriminate in any way against groups that see the importance of offering spiritual as well as material help. As long as evacuees have alternatives, government officials should not put any pressure on church groups to douse their evangelistic fires. Both givers and receivers of help should have freedom of speech concerning religious beliefs. That's especially important for maintaining the flow of volunteers: Those who care about both body and soul will not be content with gag rules that do not allow conversation about God.
I have always supported the Faith Based Initiative, but particularly in this case, where as some would say an act of God created the problem, it should certainly call for help from people in touch with God.
Fourth, provide student evacuees with vouchers so they can attend any schools in their new communities, whether governmental, private or church-based. Next year, instead of pouring money into the failed New Orleans school system, give returning students similar vouchers. Social services as well should be voucherized whenever possible, with no discrimination against religious groups allowed. Instead of buying 300,000 mobile homes and setting up massive trailer camps -- yes, that's the new FEMA plan -- use rental vouchers to move people into vacant homes.
That makes a lot of sense, and when the Dems scream their opposition, scream more loudly that they are seeking to hurt the poor by not giving them the Freedom of Choice.
Fifth, create the "Gulf Opportunity Zone" (encompassing the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama disaster area) that President Bush has called for, and within it provide tax relief for small businesses as well as other spurs to entrepreneurship. Accompany that with the White House's "Urban Homesteading Act," which would give low-income citizens free building sites on land the federal government currently owns but does not need. The idea is to increase home ownership, often with help from charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
And make certain that the land is not below sea level
Sixth, honor compassionate "first responders" by telling the story of not only what went wrong, but what went right. Journalist (and former firefighter) Lou Dolinar, noting a New Orleans death toll much lower than its mayor predicted, reports that National Guard helicopter crews, volunteers with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who went out in their boats, and other volunteers saved 25,000 to 50,000 people in a response that "was immediate and massive. ... Big government didn't work. Odds and ends of little government did."
In the case of New Orleans the Governor and Mayor screwed up big time, but other aspects of other state agencies did do a good job, as did the military (active duty and National Guard)
Seventh, thank God for His mercy. With everything that can go wrong in the world, with hurricanes each year filling most of the letters of the alphabet, it's worth noting that only a few become infamous. Why should we assume good weather and good health? Why not be thankful for days of clear skies or gentle rains?


Democrats revive filibuster threat

MSNBC reported President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor appeared to be skating on thin ice Wednesday, even though the president hasn’t yet revealed who the nominee is. In the war of nerves leading up to Bush's announcement of his next high court nominee, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and other Democrats were signaling Wednesday that the filibuster — extended debate in order to kill a nomination — is an option they might use.

Let them try to fillibuster it. One of three things will happen
  • The gang of 14 will stay together and break a fillibuster
  • The Republicans will activate the Nuclear Option
  • They will allow the fillibuster to go on, encouraging O'Conner to vote with the Conservatives, and if they hold out till the end of Bush's term, and if a Dem should be elected, he or she will NEVER get a single Judicial Appointment through
.... Praising Roberts, Johnson said, “He has not left a trail of inflammatory, extreme comments behind either on the bench or otherwise.” This seemed a veiled reference to Janice Rogers Brown, a Bush appeals court nominee whom the Democrats filibustered in 2003, but then finally allowed to be confirmed on June 8. Brown, who is said to be on the list of potential Bush nominees for the impending O’Connor vacancy, gave a speech prior to becoming a federal judge in which she called Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal “our own socialist revolution,” a term that rankled some Democratic senators.
Some of her rulings as a California Supreme Court justice were also provocatively phrased: she denounced a San Francisco housing ordinance which exacted a fee from hotel owners by writing, "Theft is theft even when the government approves of the thievery. Turning a democracy into a kleptocracy does not enhance the stature of the thieves; it only diminishes the legitimacy of the government.”
They agreed she was not too extreme to get on the Court of Appeals, and I dont think she has said anything that controversial since then. Do the Dems really want to block a Black Woman?
One Republican senator and potential 2008 presidential contender, Sen. George Allen of Virginia, scoffed that Reid “doesn't have the votes to filibuster.”


Bush's pipe dream by sea

Kathleen Parker wrote in Townhall President George W. Bush's bold plan to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast erased by Hurricane Katrina has confirmed what many conservatives feared. Bush isn't a conservative. Well, he is and he isn't. He isn't a fiscal conservative, if you focus only on his proposed $200 billion reconstruction plan. Stupefied observers and GOP critics have said he's acting like a drunken Democrat, inventing New Deals out of bad credit, and cribbing speeches from that other Texas president, LBJ.

There is one big difference. LBJ wanted to do it in the entire country, and under conditions where the American Public was not contributing major funds to help the poor. GWB wants to do it on one area, hurt by a national disaster, and there are a lot of others wanting to help there along with him.
One day he's oblivious to the catastrophe that obliterated parts of three states and the city of New Orleans. Next thing you know, he's a Bourbon Street reveler waving a stolen Amex card and promising to build a new coast and a shining new city - not on a hill, but back in the same sinking swamp it occupied before.
I disagree with both points. He declared the area a disaster BEFORE the storm hit; he was not oblivious to the catastrophe, he just had to work with a governor that wanted a lot of free stuff but did not want to relinquish ANY control. And he never said the Feds would pay for all of it; he said WE (i.e. everyone, local, state, federal, and private) would rebuild.
It will be hard, yes, but "we will do what it takes," he told a stunned and reeling nation during his speech from New Orleans last week. We may go bankrupt in the process, but as the South's most famous debutante infamously pouted: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

Looking more closely at what Bush has proposed, however - and ignoring for a moment the enormous front-end cost - another scene emerges. Seeing the world as Bush does is like looking at one of those computer-generated pictures that you stare at for a long time, trying to let your eyes unfocus on what's close and obvious in order to see the other, often marvelous, image buried within. You think you're looking at a billion zigzag dots, but then realize you're really seeing a fairy princess fluttering among butterfly gardens and hobbit houses. It's like that with Bush.
I dont know about fairy princes and hobbit houses, but he does believe in the goodness of people, and seeing all of the individuals and corporations that helped in Katrina, he was right.
You think you're looking at billions of dollars being tossed out like Mardi Gras beads to a sea of looters and scammers (and those are just the politicians), but then you unfocus your eyes and see what Bush sees: a beautiful landscape of antebellum Habitat for Humanity-built porches filled with happy voucher-educated African-American children giggling on joggling boards in two-parent homes headed by an entrepreneurial father and a stay-at-home mother. All made possible thanks to Bush's generous reconstruction program wherein - and this is the part that emerges if you stare long enough - he taught the people how to fish.... I'm referring to the truest conservative governing principle - that you don't only give a man a fish, which feeds him just today and fosters dependency. You give him a fishing pole and teach him to fish so that he can feed himself for a lifetime
Sounds good to me. At least it is better than the Democratic approach of taking away their fishing poles, and giving them government sponsored seafood dinners for the rest of their lives.
Bush's Big Deal, from his Urban Homesteading Act to his Gulf Opportunity Zone, is essentially a conservative fishing junket for the disenfranchised - a bundle of incentives and government "lifts" geared toward helping the displaced build or rebuild homes and businesses, all in the spirit of individual entrepreneurship and ownership rather than government dependency. And not incidentally, much of it dispersed through faith-based organizations and "armies of compassion."
People laughed at each of these ideas when suggested without a disaster, but if he holds to his convictions and says for example when the Dems oppose his Urban Homesteading Act that they are seeking to deprive the poor of owning their own house, and when they oppose his Gulf Opportunity Zone that they are seeking to block tax breaks that will give the unemployed jobs they need.
It's a biblical response to a biblical event that both fits George W. Bush's vision of the world and gives him a chance to test-drive his policies in an almost pristine environment. Except for the money-grubbing politicians and other disaster profiteers, Katrina washed clean the slate upon which Bush could attempt to etch a domestic legacy that is, in principle, conservative.

Moreover, if you're the sort who believes that God works in mysterious ways, that life is a mosaic of divinely inspired pieces, that cataclysmic events are ordained for a higher purpose, then you might just believe that your moment on Earth's timeline isn't accidental and that Big Ideas are waiting to be revealed by those willing to see past the details. George W. Bush, it seems, is one of these.

Notwithstanding the price tag, Bush's plan is a brilliant point of light - if it works. And that's an Iraq-sized IF. I note without sarcasm that creating democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq were also brilliant big ideas. Spreading light and freedom in a dark world of tyranny is a big and beautiful (classically liberal) notion - if only so many people didn't have to die in the process; and if only the eventual beneficiaries of those ideas were equally passionate and dedicated to the mission.

In an uncynical world where money is no obstacle - the world in which Bush grew up - the president is, indeed, a visionary with big ideas. In the real world, where a relaxed focus is more likely to reveal a devastated landscape than a fairy prince's fantasy, he's going to need more than the luck of the well-born. He's going to need a miracle. We can trust he is praying for one.


'No interest' gains interest

Peter Ford wrote in CSMonitor When Abul Rahman and Shalina Begum, two young Bangladeshi immigrants to Britain, got married five years ago, their parents urged them to get into the housing market quickly. They would have liked to, but they couldn't. It would have meant taking out a mortgage, and paying interest on the loan. Mr. Rahman and his wife are devout Muslims; paying interest is forbidden by the Koran. The British banking system could not help them. They found a place to rent, instead. Today, however, the young couple are proudly living in their own three-bedroom terraced house in east London - and not breaking any religious rules. They are among thousands of families taking advantage of a boom in Islamic finance in Britain, offering Muslims bank accounts, home financing, and insurance policies that comply with sharia, Islamic religious law.... Strictly speaking, Rahman and his wife don't own their home. Their bank bought it from the previous owners, and now rents it to the couple, whose monthly fee includes capital repayment. When their payments amount to the price of the house plus an administrative fee, in about 20 years, the bank will transfer ownership to them.

So rather than renting from a landlord, who would have to do certain maintenance on the house, they pay rent to a bank, and before they will own the house they must pay the price of the house plus an administrative fee, rather than the amount of the house plus interest. Sounds to me like they are just calling interest by a different name. But what if they decide they want to sell the house before they have paid the purchase price plus the administrative fee. If the bank owns the house and if they were just paying rent, they don't have any accrued equity. So the bank would just rent the house to some other poor smuck, and Rahman and his wife are out of luck. And they don't even collect any interest on the money they have in the bank.



Claudia Rosett wrote in OpinionJournal Imagining the end of the "world" as we know it.

On Monday afternoon the electrical power blew out at U.N. headquarters, forcing the secretary-general and the foreign ministers of four of the world's most powerful nations, along with France, to evacuate the executive offices on the 38th floor. Nonessential U.N. staff were sent home--leaving a friend to quip, "Does that mean all of them?"

Good point
Power has since been restored. But Monday's blackout was about as close as anything's come to Ambassador John Bolton's much-quoted line that the U.N. could lose its top 10 stories and nothing would be different. The General Assembly session, continued without interruption in another part of the U.N. complex. The global economy ticked along. The world turned on its axis. On schedule, the sun set. All of which led to a taboo line of thought: What if we simply left the U.N. unplugged?
It is worth trying.
In the debate over U.N. reform, that is the no-go zone. It is accepted practice to issue tons of documents outlining endless reform, argue over all of it, despair of most of it, mangle the remainder and then recite as an axiom of the modern universe that the U.N. is a flawed institution, but it's all we've got. To whisper that maybe the U.N. is a relic beyond repair, and perhaps a new age of the world deserves a new and better institution, is to knock yourself right out of the debate. No one would want to do that; or at least no one who has invested the eons it takes to read Kofi Annan's 87-page reform plan, Mr. Bolton's sagely line-edited version of the ensuing reform document, the final version of the "outcome" document, the stack of U.N.-reform-related congressional proposals and testimony, the think-tank documents, the zillion-and-one op-eds, and of course the recent 847-page report of Paul Volcker's inquiry.
I may not have read all of those documents, but I believe we should push the UN out of New York, and make it set up in some third world country, and use the UN building for a new Union of Democratic Nations.
But in the fleeting twilight moment this past Monday of contemplating a U.N. without power, I did wonder what a new world council would look like, if instead of restitching the creation animated by our forefathers in 1945, we created an institution tailored to our own era--not the 20th century, but the 21st.

The upside of an entirely new U.N. could go well beyond better electrical circuits at headquarters, or more agile computer backup (for a while, the U.N. Web site went out along with the lights). The current U.N. dates back to a time when the frontier of information technology was the vacuum tube, the ascendant philosophy in the developing world was communist central planning, and the kind of war the U.N.'s founders sought to prevent was chiefly the domain of uniformed armies clashing under the flags of sovereign states.

The U.N. founders wrote a charter at the end of World War II filled with wonderful words about reaffirming faith in "human rights" and "the dignity of human beings." They then contradicted themselves in practice from day one by respecting thug regimes enough to provide Stalin's Soviet Union a permanent seat on the Security Council and two extra seats in the General Assembly. They set up a U.N. system that not only failed to prevent a long series of wars but today fails to curb terrorism, or even adequately define it. In other words, to create an inclusive gathering of nations in 1945, our forefathers made some big practical compromises with their lofty ideals. In making those tradeoffs, their priorities did not reflect a world in which Osama bin Laden could surf the Internet.
But they did set up a UN that would like to control the Internet, because many of the thug regimes want to control information flow into and out of their country.
Nor did they set up a U.N. replete with the checks and balances and transparency widely recognized these days as necessary to good governance. The U.N. founders did not provide adequate defenses against the tangled growth of U.N. bureaucracy, the packing of the ranks over the decades with cronies and rival national cliques, or the formation of influential lobbying groups of despotic regimes such as the former Soviet bloc or the current Arab League. And in setting up the U.N. as the mother of all multilateral aid agencies, the U.N. founders never came to grips with the vital principle that if private enterprise is the real engine of prosperity--which it is--then the secret is not to jack up government-channeled aid at every opportunity but to push chiefly for more liberty, even if that means a lesser role--and smaller budget--for the U.N.


Iraqi Forces Show Signs Of Progress In Offensive

WaPo reported The Iraqi soldiers had already searched the house, according to a sticker plastered across its front gate.

Never trust stickers on gates or coded indications spray painted. They bad guys can print stickers, or move them from one gate to another, and they can buy cans of spray paint.
But when their commanding general and a U.S. colonel arrived one afternoon last week to praise their performance and observe them in action, the troops wanted to give a demonstration. With theatrical intensity, they charged the two-story structure on the nearly deserted block, rifles at the ready, while other soldiers and two reporters watched from the street. A fiery explosion -- some soldiers said they saw a man throw a grenade, others said the door was rigged to blow -- erupted from inside, followed by bursts of gunfire. The shouting soldiers stumbled out through a cloud of smoke, covered in blood. The rest of the platoon, which had lost a lieutenant in a grenade attack the day before, appeared dejected, some huddling around the wounded, others sitting with their heads in their hands. What happened next, commanders here said, suggested significant progress toward the goal of shifting security functions to Iraqi forces so that the United States can begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. When the clashes grew intense, the Iraqi soldiers did not shrink, American officers said. "Okay, men, it's time to buck up and show our mettle," said a U.S. Special Forces soldier, acting as platoon commander, who allowed reporters to accompany the patrol on the condition that he not be named. "We can't let this stop us. We need payback!"
Go get 'em
They went looking for revenge. When they were ambushed again, in a home one block away, they were ready. After a firefight, they came out smiling proudly, with several raising two fingers to indicate the number of insurgents killed. "A couple of months ago, they might not have been able to pull it together after something like that," said Col. H.R. McMaster, commander of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who witnessed the abortive raid and helped bandage an Iraqi soldier whose wounded hand was pouring blood onto the sidewalk. "They showed a lot of resolve. Eventually, they will be able to control this city."
And they are not talking about a peaceful city. They are talking about Tall Afar


Does increasing democracy undercut terrorists?

Joseph S. Nye Jr. writes in CSM According to President Bush, one of the reasons he went to war in Iraq was to transform the Middle East through democracy. The roots of terrorism in the Middle East were seen as growing out of the undemocratic nature of the regimes in the region. Removing Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and creating democracy in Iraq would address the root causes of terrorism.

Not just in Iraq, but in the entire area.
Does increasing democracy diminish terrorism? Some analysts are skeptical. Violent extremists exist in nearly all societies. After all, the terrorist attacks in London were carried out by British citizens in one of the world's oldest democracies.
Because they permitted extreme clerics to encourage violence.
And Timothy McVeigh, an American citizen, carried out the Oklahoma City bombing.
A single event. There were not a large number of others working with him, or following in his footsteps.
Moreover, skeptics argue that even if democracy might reduce terrorist recruitment, the Iraq war was the wrong means to promote democracy, and may have increased the recruitment of new terrorists. To be fair, it is still too early to give a definitive answer to these questions. A historical assessment of the Iraq war and its effects on the Middle East will take a decade or more. The January Iraq election was a positive step for the region.
One of several. Egypt had elections; not really fair elections, but you are not going to put the geine back in the bottle. Lebanon kicked Syria out and had elections. Afganistan just had election for Parliment, etc, etc, etc
As Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader said, "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq." Columnist David Brooks observed, "If there is one soft power gift that America does possess, it is the tendency to imagine new worlds."

With the invasion of Iraq and his increased rhetoric of democracy, Mr. Bush transformed the status quo. In the past six months, there have been national elections in Lebanon and local elections in Saudi Arabia. Egypt has amended its constitution to allow its presidential election to be contested. Moderate steps have been taken in Bahrain, Oman, and Morocco. Some of these things would have occurred without the Iraq war; some might not have.
I doubt if any would have.
Democracy, however, requires the tolerance of minorities and individual rights, as well as the development of effective institutions for the resolution of political conflicts in divided societies.
Actually those are not required, but they are good ideas.


I Saw Brotherhood

Rabbi Aryeh Spero wrote In Hurricane Katrina I Didn't See Racism, I Saw Brotherhood

In New Orleans, beginning Tuesday morning, I saw men in helicopters risking their lives to save stranded flood victims from rooftops. The rescuers were White, the stranded Black. I saw Caucasians navigating their small, private boats in violent, swirling, toxic floodwaters to find fellow citizens trapped in their houses. Those they saved were Black.

Actually most were Black, because New Orleans is 2/3 Black, but there were a number of poor White people that were rescued as well.
I saw Brotherhood. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel saw Racism.
Charlie Rangle does not know what Brotherhood is. Everything he sees that involves Black people is Racism. He is a Racist.
Yes, there are Two Americas. One is the real America, where virtually every White person I know sends money, food or clothes to those in need -- now and in other crises -- regardless of color. This America is colorblind. The other is the America fantasized and manufactured by Charlie Rangel, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who constantly cry “racism!” even in situations where it does not exist, even when undeniable images illustrate love, compassion and concern. These three men, together with today’s NAACP, want to continue the notion of Racist America. It is their Mantra, their calling card. Their power, money, and continued media appearances depend on it.
The closer Martin Luther King's dream comes to being realized, the sooner they are out of jobs.
Often, people caught up in accusing others of sin neglect to undergo their own personal introspection. They begin to think they alone inhabit the moral high ground. It is high time these men peered into their own hearts at the dark chamber that causes this unceasing labeling of their fellow Americans as “racist.” They may find in that chamber their own racism -- against Whites.

There is only one real America. Beginning Friday morning in Houston, thousands of regular citizens poured into the Astrodome offering water, food, clean clothes, personal items, baby diapers and toys, love and even their homes to the evacuees who had been bused in from New Orleans. Most of the givers were White, most of those being helped were Black. But there was Jesse Jackson, busy on TV, accusing the country of not putting Blacks -- i.e., him -- on some type of Commission he is demanding. Where was he early in the week? Not sweating with others from around the country who had scraped their last dollar to come help. With Jesse, it’s always about Jesse.

After decades of hearing accusations from Jesse, Al, Charlie, the NAACP and certain elitists about how racist America is, it would have been refreshing to hear them for once give thanks to those they for years have been maligning. These self-anointed spokesmen for the Black community lead only when it comes to foisting guilt and condemnation, and not when it comes to acknowledging the good in those they have made a career in castigating.

As a Rabbi I have a message I wish to offer to my fellow members of the cloth, Reverends Jackson and Sharpton: It is time to do some soul searching. Your continued efforts to tear this country apart, even in light of the monumental goodness shown by your White brothers, is a sin.

There are no churches in the world like the American churches. And there are no better parishioners and members of churches anywhere in the world. These churches are saving the day. Their members -- infused by the special and singular teachings of our unique American Judeo-Christian understanding of the Bible -- are, at this moment, writing an historic chapter in giving, initiative, and selflessness. They are opening their homes to strangers. They are doing what government is incapable of doing.

America works because of its faith-based institutions. It always has. That is what makes it America.

So next time the ACLU tries to diminish and marginalize the churches, saying there is no role for religion in American public life, that an impenetrable wall must be erected separating the citizens from their faith, cry out “Katrina.”

Next time the ACLU goes to court asking that U.S. soldiers not be allowed to say Grace in the Mess Hall and that communities be forbidden from setting up a nativity scene, ask yourself: without the motivation of Goodness sourced in Faith, would people offer such sacrifice? Where else does this Brotherhood come from but the Bible which teaches “Thou Shall Love Thy Neighbor as Yourself.”

I saw brotherhood on Fox News, where 24/7 reporters used their perch as a clearing-house for search-and-rescue missions and communication between the stranded and those in position to save. In contrast, the Old-line networks continued with their usual foolish, brain-numbing programming. Those who always preach “compassion” chose profit over people.

The New York Times has utterly failed America. Its columnists could have used their talents and word skills to inspire and unite a nation. Columnists such as Frank Rich and Paul Krugman, however, revealed their true colors by evading their once-in-a-lifetime chance to help and instead chose to divide, condemn, and fuel the fires and poison the waters of Louisiana. In them, I saw no Brotherhood. . The newspaper always preaching “compassion” verifies Shakespeare’s “They protest too much.”

Similar elitists here in the northeast and on the west coast have over the years expressed their view of the South as “unsophisticated” and Texans as “cowboys.” Well, the South has come through, especially Houston and other parts of Texas, whereas, as I write this on Labor Day, the limousine moralizers are lying on east and west coast beaches thinking they’re doing their part by reading Times’ editorials and calling George Bush “racist.” How sanctimonious life becomes when proving you are not a racist depends not on living in a truly integrated neighborhood, but by simply calling others racist.

Like so often in history, facts trump platitudes. Reality reigns. Those who always preach brotherhood, thus far have acted devoid of it. Those who for decades have been accused by elitists of not having compassion are the ones living it. They are: the churches, the military, and the sons and daughters of the South.



Thursday, September 22

This Day In History

  • 1776   Nathan Hale was hanged as a spy by the British during the Revolutionary War.
  • 1789   Congress authorized the office of Postmaster-General.
  • 1792   The French Republic was proclaimed.
  • 1927   Gene Tunney successfully defended his heavyweight boxing title against Jack Dempsey in the ''long-count'' fight in Chicago.
  • 1949   The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb.
  • 1958   Sherman Adams, assistant to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, resigned amid charges of improperly using his influence to help an industrialist.
  • 1964   The musical ''Fiddler on the Roof'' opened on Broadway, beginning a run of 3,242 performances.
  • 1969   Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants hit his 600th career home run during a game in San Diego.
  • 1975   Sara Jane Moore failed in an attempt to shoot President Gerald R. Ford outside a San Francisco hotel.
  • 1980   The Persian Gulf conflict between Iran and Iraq erupted into full-scale war.
  • 1988   The government of Canada apologized for the World War II internment of Japanese-Canadians and promised compensation.
  • 1989   Songwriter Irving Berlin died in New York City at age 101.
  • 1995   Time Warner struck a $7.5 billion deal to buy Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1791   Michael Faraday (chemist/physicist: early experiments w/electricity; died Aug 25, 1867)
  • 1902   John Houseman (Jacques Haussmann) (Academy Award-winning actor: The Paper Chase [1973]; died Oct 31, 1988)
  • 1956   Debby Boone (Grammy Award-winning singer: Best New Artist [1977], You Light Up My Life [1977], With My Song I Will Praise Him [1980], Keep the Flame Burning [w/Phil Driscoll   1984]; group: The Boone Family; daughter of singers Pat and Shirley Boone)
  • 1961   Scott Baio (actor: Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi)