My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


On Memorial Day

I was trying to find words appropriate to the occassion of Memorial Day. I found--luckily--that the only words worthy of the men and women who have given "the last full measure" in defense of their country and their freedoms have already been written, though the dates may be a little off. Besides which, every once in a while it's good to reread important primary source documents.

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."


And Speaking of Delusional . . .

Harry Reid came out yesterday with scathing critique of the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid yesterday in a speech laying out Democrats' agenda accused Republican leaders of being so consumed with partisan political "sniping" that they've neglected a troubled economy and a weak national defense.

"Democrats are the party of national security," Mr. Reid said at the National Press Club. "And we have an agenda to defend America from danger."

First of all, this "troubled" economy is only so in the minds of Democrats. Unemployment down around 5.4%, growth revised yesterday upwards to 3.5% for the 1t quarter, and the stock market finally showing signs of life, with the Dow closing over 10,500 and the NASDAQ back over 2,000 yesterday. By any numerical measure, the economy is just fine, Senor Senator.

And "the party of national security?" Don't make me laugh.

But, seriously, what is this ambitious agenda the Democratic leader is touting?

Specifically, Mr. Reid said Democrats want to increase the military by 40,000 troops, raise the minimum wage and allow cheaper generic drugs to be imported even if they violate patents held by American drug makers.

Well, okay. So this is the big agenda? Grow the military even though the military brass itself doesn't think we need to, raise the minimum wage to be a bigger burden on business and put more people out of jobs, and all but guarantee that the most robust drug R&D in the world comes to a screeching halt.

Good agenda. Whoo-hoo.

And they wonder why they're a minority. I only spend an hour a day thinking about this stuff, and I can think of a dozen items that the Dems could put up as an agenda that would dwarf all three of these ideas. In fact, maybe I'll do that later, as an exercise in Dem-think. I welcome ideas from the peanut gallery for this list, later on tonight.

What Is Wrong With The Senate?

That it turns men into blubbering, blathering fools? Honestly, if you haven't heard the tape of George Voinivich (R-OH) breaking into tears at the prospect of voting on the nomination of John Bolton, you should go out of your way to get a hold of that tape.

Short of that, here's the Cleveland Plains-Dealer account:

Ohio Sen. George Voinovich choked back tears on the Senate floor Wednesday as he pleaded with colleagues to vote against John Bolton's nomination for United Nations ambassador.

After delaying Bolton's passage through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month and sending the entire Senate a letter on Tuesday to explain his objections, Voinovich delivered a 45-minute speech that argued Bolton's abusive personality make him an inappropriate diplomat.

"This appointment is very, very important to our country," Voinovich concluded as his voice cracked with emotion. "At a strategic time when we need friends all over the world, we need somebody up there that's going to be able to get the job done.

"I know, some of my friends say, 'Let it go, George. It's going to work out,' " said Voinovich, currently the sole Republican to publicly oppose President Bush's appointment. "I don't want to take the risk. I came back here and ran for a second term because I'm worried about my kids and my grandchildren. And I just hope my colleagues will take the time and . . . do some serious thinking about whether or not we should send John Bolton to the United Nations."

With that, Voinovich returned to his seat and fidgeted with a yellow highlighting pen until he regained his composure.

Set aside for a moment the fact that Voiny does not make one, single, tiny argument either in support of his position or against Bolton. Just the fact that this business brings a grown man to tears while engaging in such hystrionic rhetoric is enough to make you wonder if the Senate isn't the most crippling influence on intellect in the entire country.

And, really, based on his words, what is Voiny's concern?? Is it that Bolton will go to the U.N., be mean to somebody, and then the U.N. will attack us? Cuz that's sure what the argument sounds like.

What a pompous, self-important wimp.

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Senate Democrats have demonstrated their willingness to work together on the nation's agenda and rebuilding an atmosphere of trust and comity by . . . wait for it. . .FILIBUSTERING THE FIRST AGENDA ITEM AFTER PRISCILLA OWEN.

After hours of heated exchanges, the Senate failed Thursday evening to close off debate on President Bush's nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations.

The cloture vote would have paved the way for a vote on whether to confirm the controversial nominee.

Republicans needed 60 votes to end debate. They fell short by four, 56-42. The split was mostly along party lines.

And while there is a memo out there (according to FOXNews) from Biden to his colleagues stressing that this IS NOT a filibuster, Harry Reid kinda blew that play by calling it just that:

"This is the first filibuster of the year, and maybe the last. [I] hope so," the Nevada Democrat said.

Now they go on break for a week, and then come back to dither some more.



First Reactions

I was scheduled to go in to my county GOP headquarters today to help get out a big mailing. Below is the text of the e-mail I just sent.

Dear Fellow Republican--

I am scheduled to come in and help stuff envelopes today. Unfortunately, in light of what the Republican Party has come to stand for, I can not, in good conscience, devote my time to that effort on this day.

When a small group of seven GOP Senators joins hands with their colleagues across the aisle to throw the Constitution overboard in the interest of Senate "comity," I have to wonder whether this party stands for anything worth fighting for. I have devoted countless hours over the last several years to getting Republicans elected, especially to the U.S. Senate, on the theory that majorities matter, and that only majorities can accomplish the agenda that I agree with. Apparently, I was wrong. Majorities, apparently, are not enough to accomplish anything within this party, and I think I can spend my time much more productively at the driving range than in the GOP office today.

Please, I encourage you to forward this e-mail to the offices of Sen. Frist and the NRSC.



It's just a small gesture, but those tend to add up. And if the frustration I sense in the blogosphere begins to manifest itself in ways like this across the country, our elected representatives may actually notice.


This Deal Is Not About What You Think It Is

First, before I expound on the title of this post, let me sample some of the reactions from around the blogosphere.

First, from the Right:

Powerline: What a hideous deal! The Democrats have agreed to cloture on only three nominees, and they have made no commitment not to filibuster in the future, if there are "extraordinary circumstances." Of course, the Dems think any nominee who is a Republican is "extraordinary." The Dems have just wriggled off the hook on some of the nominees that, politically, some of them did not want to be seen voting against.

Someone explain to me why the Republicans haven't been rolled once again.

Captain's Quarters: This, in short, has been a clear victory for the Democrats and a massive failure for the GOP and the White House. The GOP just endorsed the filibuster, and will have no intellectual capacity to argue against its use later on. They sold the Constitution just to get less than half of its blockaded nominees through, and the result will be much less flexibility on future Supreme Court nominations.

Ramesh Ponoru: So: Democrats can filibuster nominees in "extraordinary circumstances," to be determined according to the "discretion and judgment" of Ralph Neas--I mean, of each individual senator. Republicans, on the other hand, are not getting any wiggle room to vote for a rules change in "extraordinary circumstances"--such as the Democrats' abuse of their wiggle room. It looks as though the majority party got taken in this deal.

And so it goes. The general feeling is very consistent across the board.

And, from the Left:

Ralph Neas: Nonetheless, we cannot endorse every aspect of the deal that was announced today. We are deeply concerned that it could lead to confirmation of appeals court judges who would undermine Americans’ rights and freedoms. We will urge Senators to vote against confirmation of nominees who have not demonstrated a commitment to upholding individual liberties and the legal and social justice accomplishments of the past 70 years.

Joshua Micah Marshall: We're supposed to say we got a great deal to win clearly through spin what could not be won so clearly on the merits. It seems an awfully bitter pill to forego the filibuster on both Brown and Owen, particularly the former. And the main issue isn't resolved so much as it's delayed. The moderate Republicans agree to preserve the filibuster so long as the Democrats use it in what the moderate Republicans deem a reasonable fashion. And yet the use of the filibuster, by its very nature, almost always seems unreasonable to those whom it is used against.

Talk Left: The worst, the compromise is in. Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor are in. Total capitulation by Democrats. Total victory for Frist. Let them spin it how they want, it's a loss for the Democrats. Henry Saad of Michigan is the fall guy. He won't get a vote. No one cared about him anyway. That's tossing the Dems a chicken bone.

Ken Salazar. Traitor.

So, while us on the Right are quite verklempt about this deal, it's not exactly Happy Days Are Here Again on the Left, either. So who really won in this deal?

Well, it's easier to start by talking about who lost first.

Bill Frist--anybody who can't hold a majority caucus together cannot be trusted to run the Executive Branch.

John McCain--a party that is still ticked off about Campaign Finance Reform will NOT forget about this deal. His ultimate ambition will have to happen from outside the Republican Party.

Chuck Hagel--while not one of the signatories on this deal, his wobbliness on the issue surely empowered its creation. Also, one whose Presidential ambitions are now a thing of the past.

the NRSC--the phone banks at the pledge center are probably powered by Cricket--or is it that they resemble the sound of crickets. . .

George W. Bush--et tu, Brute? Social Security, Tax Reform, now judges--the entire domestic agenda is screeching on the tracks.

Now, the winners. Actually, just one winner, and here's where I get back to the title of this draft.

Hillary R-Clinton--who has been conspicuously silent about the whole thing. In fact, she doesn't even have a statement on her website about the filibuster, the judges, or any topic related to this.

Why does Hillary win? Because, with the exception of the delusional John Kerry, she has no serious competition for the Dem nomination in 2008. And now, arguably the top three candidates from the GOP have just been taken out; on top of that, count on small Dem pickups in the mid-terms, and it will look like she's riding a wave of progressive sentiment into a momentous 2008 Presidential bid. When, in reality, she's just hanging out in the troughs between waves of GOP faithful anger.

That's right, in the long run, this battle will be about the 2008 Presidential campaign, and right now there's only one viable candidate still standing.

When You Have No Good Argument . . .

of your own, you have to either resort to lying, censoring, or thuggery. And sometimes all three. And sometimes the state will help you out.

This is the first in what is going to be a series of posts on this topic.

If you don't think I've got a point, check out the story of what happened to a group of people who came together to discuss how to put an end to Denver's policy of sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Check out how this goup got kicked out of a bar they had made a meeting reservation at after the kitchen manager came out of his kitchen and got beligerent with them. Check out how, after removing themselves to a Westminster park, a police officer then kicked them out of the park.

Oh, wait. You can't check this out . . . because this story is getting ZERO press coverage!!

Do you think that would be the case if, instead of trying to end Sanctuary, if this group had come together to plan Cinco de Mayo activities? Yeah, me neither.

As I get more info and more links, I'll follow this story around to wherever it goes.


Another "Lie" With More Than Just A Hint Of Truth

Remember how we said "Saddam supported torrorists?" Remember how the Left has thrown that in our face, absent any material proof (I guess--other than the training camps put in place by Saddam. But I digress .. .)? Well, turns out we were more than just a little right.
Jordan's King Abdullah revealed Thursday that Iraq's former Baath regime had refused to deport Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, blamed for ongoing terrorism in Iraq. . .

Since Zarqawi entered Iraq before the fall of the former regime we have been trying to have him deported back to Jordan for trial, but our efforts were in vain," Abdullah added.

Sounds a little like providing safe haven--sounds a little like material support.

Hat tip: Captain's Quarters


Genuine Education Reform

Colorado voters could be asked next year to mandate that 65 cents of each education dollar go to the classroom or athletics, leaving 35 cents for everything else. . .

Currently, Colorado schools spend about 58 percent of their School Finance Act dollars on direct classroom costs, ranking 47th highest in the nation for such spending, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That's the lede from the Rocky Mtn News article today. This whole idea follows a trend of such proposals all across the country, an idea that I first heard about in a George Will column a couple months back. What's the argument against?

"Low-income school districts have to provide additional services outside the classroom to ensure academic success," said Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver. "There are counselors, mental health professionals, nutritionists, tutors."

And yet, with all that support, so-called low-incom school districts perform abyssmally in the classroom. I know, I know--imagine how bad they'd be without all the support. Or, maybe it's because their priorities are so far-flung, and we in the education profession have been asked to be all things to all people, but only rarely be real teachers.

How are Colorado school districts doing so far?

Just seven of Colorado's 178 school districts reach or exceed the 65 percent mark. Cherry Creek school district is just below it at 64 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

And Cherry Creek is one of our best and brightest school districts, and the others on the list of seven are not (well, except, I suppose, Aspen)what I would call other havens of high-income people.

Just for balance, here's the Denver Post lede:

House Minority Leader Joe Stengel wants Colorado voters to consider a national conservative-backed measure to increase classroom spending by diverting money from buses, buildings and lunches.

Stengel, R-Littleton, said he and several other Colorado Republicans will announce today their plan to require school districts to spend 65 percent of their funding on teacher salaries and other classroom expenses.

First off, to take the easy one--SCHOOL LUNCHES ARE EITHER PAID FOR BY THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES OR HANDLED BY FEDERAL PROGRAMS. In other words, not to effected by this at all.

Secondly, I'm not sure how this is a conservative plan, other than that it's being carried by Joe Stengel and first came to my attention via George Will. It's not mandating lower spending, it's not calling for greater accountability in performance, and it's not putting more power (or less, for that matter) into the hands of local units of government. All it's saying is spend the taxpayer's money in the classroom, not in the administration building or elsewhere.

And, to put it rather succinctly, as my friendBen put it in an e-mail: "would you give your money to a charity if you knew that less than 65 cents of every dollar was actually going to those served by the charity?" I wouldn't.

Keep your eyes on this one--it could be very interesting.


I Got Your Renovation

John Hinderocker writes on the U.N.'s ambitious plans for itself, courtesy the U.S. taxpayer:

In the midst of these controversies, the United Nations is proceeding with plans to upgrade its Manhattan headquarters. The organization's headquarters at Turtle Bay were completed in 1950 and renovated in the 1970s. The United Nations now believes that another renovation project is necessary, and has prepared a $1.2 billion plan to carry out the work.

While the construction is underway, the organization will need to be housed elsewhere. In its original form, the U.N. plan included construction of a new, 35-story building over Robert Moses Playground, a park near Turtle Bay, at a cost of an additional $650 million. This new building was slated to be the U.N.'s home during the renovation project, and to continue in use by the organization thereafter.

It begs the question: how much would the total cost be to relocate the U.N. headquarters to Brussels or Geneva? If they have to build a new building anyway, why not do it somewhere else? I'd be pretty happy to spend $1.2 billion, if, at the end of it, Kofi and his Gang of Incompetents were off of our shores.

Better yet, let's move the U.N. to the Sudan, Iran or North Korea. Perhaps then this pointless organization would be willing to look at the REAL injustices going on in the world and get off our back.


Does Anybody Think This Was An Honest Mistake?

Newsweek apologized yesterday for an inaccurate report on the treatment of detainees that triggered several days of rioting in Afghanistan and other countries in which at least 15 people died.

Editor Mark Whitaker expressed regret over the item in the magazine's "Periscope" section, saying it was based on a confidential source -- a "senior U.S. government official" -- who now says he is not sure whether the story is true.

Big deal, right? A News magazine messes up the reporting on a sensitive issue, has to retract and apologize.

Except for that whole 15 dead thing.

For a pretty good deconstruction of this whole incident, see Powerline, and many others are starting to jump all over this story.

A Different Direction

Tonight I depart from my usual fare of politics to answer the call of the Hugh Hewitt Essay Contest. Keep in mind that I am no theologian, and writing on things religious is well out of my normal fare. But some of these topics have been percolating for a while, so it's good to get them on paper.

I hope I don't offend, and I welcome--encourage--thoughts and comments.

It’s All In The Next Six Words

“Your sins are forgiven . . .”

This most-powerful statement is at the very core of Christianity. The idea that one’s transgressions can be erased through the Grace of God is the foundation for Christian living—without this one belief, no person could have any hope for Salvation. And without that Hope, what would be the purpose of living the Christian life?

But, even more powerfully, the idea that one man—God incarnate—holds the power to forgive our sins is the core of our Faith. Only such a man, wholly God, wholly human, could be able to sit in judgment of our shortcomings, and still love us, and still forgive us, and still welcome us into His Kingdom. And, even beyond that, for one man such as Jesus Christ to become one of us, to take on the weaknesses inherent in this form, only to suffer a horrible death for the purpose of opening the Gates of Salvation to all people gives us the example of loving sacrifice that we should all strive towards.

In short, to believe that one statement—“Your sins are forgiven . . .”-is to acknowledge God’s power over us, is to recognize that Jesus Christ IS God on Earth, is to submit ourselves to His Mercy, and is to hold onto the Hope of Eternal Salvation.

On these central ideas, I don’t think religious persons of any denomination disagree. Whether Episcopal, Catholic, Congregationalist, or even Jewish or Muslim, the acknowledgement of God’s Power, His Mercy, and our Hope are common elements. And even though some disagree about the role of Jesus in this event, the general form of the issue is framed in very similar terms.

But, where I believe we get to the definition of the so-called Religious Right is in what follows that first statement.

Whether it is in John 8 (“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”) or John 5 (“See, you are well again. Stop sinning . . . ), or Luke 7 (“Your sins are forgiven . . . go in peace.”), the basic message is the same. I have an easy time remembering it the way my father taught me: “Your sins are forgiven; go now, and sin no more.”

“Go now, and sin no more.” Like I said, it’s all in the next six words.

There are many implications of this one statement. First, and easiest, is the idea that forgiveness is not a blank check—that genuine repentance and a sincere effort to change behavior is expected.

But Jesus also says to “go”, which, if one reads later, also carries with it some responsibility. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “Go into all the world and preach the good news” (Mark 16:15). When Jesus speaks to those who believe in Him, he makes it abundantly clear that part of their responsibility is contained in The Great Commission, and it is equally clear that those whom he healed should be included in the numbers of Believers.

So the complete message is more like “I have the Power to do so, and will show My Mercy by forgiving your sins; I expect you to return to the world and live a life that brings others to My Kingdom.”

It is not “conditional love,” or even “conditional forgiveness;” it is more an issue of instructing his followers on how to be worthy of Him.

And it is on this count that the so-called Religious Right parts ways with the Religious Left or the a-religious secularists.

In those last six words is a call to stop sinning—the Left and the secularists have a difficult time accepting the idea of absolute “sin,” therefore it is anathema to describe any behavior as necessary to stop. In those last six words is the implied exhortation to be worthy of the Kingdom—the Left and secularists have a difficult time accepting any Kingdom not of this Earth or not of their own construction. And in those last six words is the call to Evangelize through behavior—the Left cannot accept Evangelization because Evangelization operates on the premise that one truth is superior to others.

And, by the way, while my knowledge of other religious traditions is limited, I know from seeing how people act that there are elements of this thought process in the other traditions, as well.

Therefore, I believe one workable definition of the “Religious Right” is as follows:

:one who believes absolutely in the existence of a higher power and
an afterlife
:one who believes absolutely that that higher power has an interest in our
lives, and will be merciful
:one who believes that there is an absolute scale of right and wrong
:one who believes that these other beliefs MUST guide and inform our choices
in this life

A member of the Religious Right, therefore, likely attends worship frequently to be informed of God, prays for forgiveness, strength and other things in the belief that God will grant us these if it fits His design, tries to act in their lives in accordance with God’s will, and takes an active role in trying to spread the Kingdom of God.

Many on the Left will argue that working in a soup kitchen does more to spread the Kingdom than, say, protesting at an abortion clinic. Bet even in the short term, while ministering to the poor is noble and excellent, the seeming unwillingness of those Lefties in the soup kitchen to spread the message of God (wouldn’t want the ACLU knocking on our door) puts them in a different classification from the Religious Right. And the complete unwillingness to name “sin” while at the soup kitchen belittles the wondrous opportunity for Salvation present in that ministry.

The first four words give us all Hope; but it’s in those next six words that the differences are drawn.


And Speaking of Judges

A showdown is coming:

Setting the stage for a long-anticipated showdown, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced Friday he will seek confirmation next week for two of President Bush’s conservative judicial nominees blocked by Democrats.

Well, now. Once more unto the breach, dear friends?? At the same time:

NBC's Ken Strickland reports that the floor vote may not happen for a few days to allow more time for debate. Although it's rare for nominees to get confirmed without committee recommendations, Strickland notes that Clarence Thomas was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 without one, and was approved by the full Senate, 52-48. But there's also the prospect of a Democratic filibuster. And given the timing of a Bolton floor vote, it could happen right around the same time that Bill Frist decides to hold a vote to eliminate the filibuster on judicial nominations. (Per the New York Times, however, Frist’s chief staff notes that it could come after the vote on the filibuster. See below.) Remember that Senate Republicans have insisted that the move to eliminate the filibuster would only apply to judicial nominees, but some Democrats have suggested Republicans would apply it to other issues, as well.

So, let's play this out a little bit. Say Bolton comes to the floor early next week, and the Dems decide to filibuster his nomination. Does Frist go nuclear on that one early, and save the trouble on the judges? Or does all the talk of the "judicial" filibuster tie his hands and make it impossible to move on John Bolton? And, if his hands are tied up by the filibuster, does that freeze any action on judges for next week? And would he be strong enough to force their hand on this filibuster and keep them in session until the proverbial cows come home?

So, this could all be very entertaining. Somebody pop some popcorn, turn on the CSPAN, and sit back and see what happens.

What Is Wrong With Nebraska?

Silly question from a CU alum, right? But there is a serious side to this.

First, some numbers from the 2004 election:

Bush 66%, Kerry 33%

Fortenberry (R) 54%, Connealy (D) 43%
Terry (R) 61%, Thompson (D) 36%
Osborne (R) 87%, Anderson (D)11%

Just looking at raw numbers, this looks like a pretty safe GOP state. Yet, in 2000 it elected Ben Nelson (D) to the Senate, and then followed that in 2002 by electing Chuck Hagel (R). And then there's this:

A federal judge on Thursday struck down Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the measure interfered not only with the rights of gay couples but also with those of foster parents, adopted children and people in a variety of other living arrangements.

Okay, we've seen this before, haven't we? A federal judge assers that there's a right to ease-of-contractual arrangement somewhere in the state Constitution.

Where, exactly, in the state Constitution, you might ask?

The amendment to the state's Constitution, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in November 2000.

I'm sorry . . . come again? The judge ruled that a Constitutional Amendment, approved by the voters, was itself UNCONSTITUTIONAL??? How can that be?

The judge in the Nebraska case, Joseph F. Bataillon of Federal District Court, said the ban "imposes significant burdens on both the expressive and intimate associational rights" of gay men and lesbians "and creates a significant barrier to the plaintiffs' right to petition or to participate in the political process."

Judge Bataillon said the ban went "far beyond merely defining marriage as between a man and a woman." He said the "broad proscriptions could also interfere with or prevent arrangements between potential adoptive or foster parents and children, related persons living together, and people sharing custody of children as well as gay individuals."

But he doesn't, apparently, explain how a Constitution can be UnConstitutional. If this is not a prime example of a judge finding himself above any other powers-- executive, legislative, or popular--then I don't know what is. Surely, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who warned of a judicial "Oligarchy", are turning over in their graves at this.

Think we don't need a Defense Of Marriage Amendment? Try again. I, for one, would prefer that issues like this stayed out of the federal Constitution. But if judges can take it upon themselves to ignore the Constitution's enumerated powers (which give the right to decide licensing to the LEGISLATURES) and their own states' Constitution's clear instructions, then some power is going to be required to limit the judiciary's ability to create law out of whole cloth.

And Speaking of Over The Top

Vincent Carrol pointed this one out yesterday:

"This, my friends, is the Gestapo," said Kirton, a United Methodist minister. Later, Kirton defended his description saying, "I said Gestapo, and I meant it."

Kirton was among speakers who rallied behind Salazar at a news conference at the state Capitol. In a supportive letter to Salazar, the group condemned "the pursuit and abuse of earthly power," which was driving religious groups to support an up-or-down vote of President Bush's court nominees.

"These are the actions of an American Taliban, of reactionary, religious zealots," said the Rev. Peter Morales, head of the public policy commission of the Interfaith Alliance.

Gestapo? Taliban? Well, I suppose that's a little bit of moderation compared to "Anti-Christ," but it's still, well . . .

But it goes on:

Speakers at the Capitol news conference included Polly Baca, a former state senator, and several state legislators.

Which state legislators? I want names, and I want to know from their offices if they support the use of this language in this discussion, or if they, like Sen. Salazar's spokesperson, would condemn that language:

"Obviously, people on all sides of this issue have strong feelings," Cody Wertz said. "But I can say for sure that Senator Salazar would not associate himself with those remarks."

Okay, well, maybe "condemn" is too strong a word, but you get the idea.

Oh, and, to add to the files of "Democrats With Clear Convictions and Positions File," I submit the following quotes:

Speakers denied that they were engaging in the same derogatory speech tactics that they accused the religious right of using.

"Some individuals (here) feel that way, and that's their right," said Denver's former director of public safety, Butch Montoya.

However, Montoya said later he was bothered by characterizations like "Gestapo" and "American Taliban."

"That's when I sat down," Montoya said. "I thought, 'Oh, my god.' We want to be mainstream - we don't want to be extremist."

Yeah. Well, I think that ship has sailed there, Butch. And, in truth, of course, it's not that they don't want to BE extremist--it's that they don't want to APPEAR extremist. Notice it was only "later" that Montoya was bothered by the language. It appears to have escaped his attention earlier.

And. . .

Baca defended Salazar as an active member of a Catholic parish. But, she said, he doesn't use his faith to influence public policy.

"Ken has a very deep-seated faith that grounds his values and that drives his behavior," Baca said. However, that doesn't mean one's faith should necessarily drive one's public life, she said.

"It's not that clear-cut," she said. "You can't stereotype it like that, although it's a part of who we are."


So, what? I guess public life and public policy don't fall under the heading of "behavior." Though it's not that clear-cut. . .

Perhaps it's "complicated." Maybe he's explained his "plan" for dealing with this on his website, www.johnker . . .

Where's Chuck Schumer on This One?

A couple days ago the ubiquitous Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called on the President to help tone down the rhetoric of the debate over the judicial filibuster.

So, I wonder where Sen. Schumer was yesterday when his party's leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) broke with both decorum and the rules of confidentiality to wildly smear one of the President's nominees--Henry Saad.

Minority Leader Harry Reid strayed from his prepared remarks on the Senate floor yesterday and promised to continue opposing one of President Bush's judicial nominees based on "a problem" he said is in the nominee's "confidential report from the FBI."

Those highly confidential reports are filed on all judicial nominees, and severe sanctions apply to anyone who discloses their contents. Less clear is whether a senator could face sanctions for characterizing the content of such files.

Do you suppose this might qualify as "over-the-top", Senator?!?

Standing Rule of the Senate 29, Section 5: "Any Senator, officer, or employee of the Senate who shall disclose the secret or confidential business or proceedings of the Senate, including the business and proceedings of the committees, subcommittees, and offices of the Senate, shall be liable, if a Senator, to suffer expulsion from the body; and if an officer or employee, to dismissal from the service of the Senate, and to punishment for contempt."

Furthermore, a "Memorandum of Understanding" covering the use of FBI background reports limits access to committee members and the nominee's home-state senators. Mr. Reid would fall into neither category.

So, in one fell swoop, Sen. Reid:

:admitted to being privy to the contents of a file which he should not even have access to

:characterized the contents of that file in a way that is a clear violation of the rules of the Senate

:characterized the contents of that file in a way which can never be substantiated OR refuted--simply a wild smear

Let's all remember, please, that a Republican staffer was dismissed not very long ago for simply accessing a file on a Democratic computer referring to judicial nominees. What he did was neither illegal or unethical (as the computer was left in a common area), nor did he publish for general consumption anything confidential from within the computer. And he got fired!!

So, what sort of punishment should we expect Harry Reid to face? Heh heh heh--sorry, sometimes I crack myself up.

OF COURSE HE WON'T FACE ANY PENALTY!! C'mon, there are no rules for Democrats, only ends and means, and the one always justifies the other. Besides, the GOP leadership has shown no stomach for the sort of ethical confrontation this would require.

Even Judge Saad can't defend himself:

Confidants of Judge Saad said yesterday that the judge would release the file but that he has never seen it, let alone obtained copies of it. Judge Saad is not permitted to see the file, Senate staffers said.

What does this add up to?

Michael Bouchard, sheriff of Oakland County in Michigan and a personal friend of Judge Saad, said he is "absolutely" certain that the FBI file doesn't contain anything damaging.

"I think Harry Reid is lying," he said. "He's hiding behind something he knows he'll never be asked to show. Harry Reid is a coward."

Beyond Embarrassing

U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman volunteers, The Washington Times has learned.

This is the sort of news-grabbing lede that just leaves you speechless. So let's dig in a little and see if there's any "there" there.

Another agent said the Naco supervisors "were clear in their intention" to keep new arrests to an "absolute minimum" to offset the effect of the Minuteman vigil, adding that patrols along the border have been severely limited.

Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar at the agency's Washington headquarters called the accusations "outright wrong," saying that supervisors at the Naco station had not blocked agents from making arrests and that the station's 350 agents were being "supported in carrying out" their duties.

And what would an immigration discussion be without the input of Tom Tancredo?

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, yesterday said "credible sources" within the Border Patrol also had told him of the decision by Naco supervisors to keep new arrests to a minimum, saying he was angry but not surprised.

"It's like telling a cop to stand by and watch burglars loot a store but don't arrest any of them," he said. "This is another example of decisions being made at the highest levels of the Border Patrol that are hurting morale and helping to rot the agency from within.

Thanks, Tom.

Look, I honestly think that the Border Patrol agents are tasked with an impossible job, and that their supervisors are tasked with an even harder job because they have to deal with the political fallout of anything that happens. And, absent a clear and distinctly articulated policy from the policy makers that run things, everything they do will be subject to some sort of fallout.

That said, if there is a concerted effort to avoid legitimizing the Minutemen by downplaying their effectiveness, it is both pathetic and potentially disastrous.

By the way, is there any evidence the Minutemen may have made a difference?

Several field agents credited the volunteers with cutting the flow of illegal aliens in the targeted Naco area, saying the number of apprehended illegals dropped from an average of 500 a day to less than 15 a day. . .

Area residents, in a half-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Sierra Vista Herald, told the volunteers: "Thanks for doing what our government won't -- close the border to illegal aliens. It was the quietest month we've had in many years ... You made us feel safe because the border was closed."

Huh. 500 . . .15 . . .500 . . .15. Maybe it worked--but just a little bit.

Kinda Like Winning A ShootOut in Soccer

It's not pretty, it does nothing to burnish anybody's image as "dominant", and the other team will forever shine about the rules of the game rather than the game. But, in the end, it still goes in the "win" column.

That's kinda how I look at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote yesterday to pass through John Bolton to the floor of the Senate without recommendation.

This all hinged on the personal whim of the Senator from Ohio, John Voinovich, and, in the end, became an ugly kerfuffle that shows that the GOP Leadership in the Senate is only just barely able to hold its ranks together. But, in the end, this will go to the floor, and John Bolton will go up to the U.N. to represent America's interests.

One can only hope that he lives up to the worst of his reputation and very "undiplomatically" calls on the corrupt bureaucracy to reform or to get out of the game.

Given the U.N.'s track record, if it were me, I'd be happy sending Bobby Knight to represent the U.S. at Turtle Bay. Honestly, an organization that sanctions and protects rapists, embezzlers, and legitimizes regimes like Sudan and Libya deserves to be spoken to harshly.


This Is A Stupid Idea

The WaPo lead editorial this morning tries to elevate Sen. Ben Nelson (Nebraska) to the level of deal-maker.

Mr. Nelson's proposal is that six members of each party sign a memorandum of understanding under which the Republicans would pledge to oppose the "nuclear option" and the Democrats would pledge to support cloture on some of the seven currently filibustered nominees. They would also pledge to refrain from supporting future filibusters except under the most extraordinary circumstances.

First of all, SOME of the currently filibustered nominees?? Which ones? Under what circumstances? So the GoP should just hang a few of these judges out to dry while the Dems get everything that they want in the procedural battle--some compromise.

What exactly would constitute such extreme circumstances is not entirely clear -- which is actually the point. Democratic signatories would know that their understanding of extreme circumstances might not correspond to that of the Republican signatories. A decision, in other words, by any of the six Democrats to support a future filibuster could -- if the Democratic case is not widely accepted -- cause the Republicans to consider themselves released from the deal. The deal would therefore preserve the current rules, yet it would also give Democrats genuine reason to think twice before derailing a future nominee who enjoys majority support.

Which, if I'm not mistaken, is exactly where we are right now. In what way does this deal give the majority party anything that it wants?!? Why should the current rules be preserved if any of six members of the Democratic Caucus can go back on this deal at any time? The point of the rules change is to preserve the CONSTITUTION--this deal does nothing to accomplish that.

If the reporting on FOXNews from last night is accurate, Snowe, Collins, and Chaffee are goners from the rules change, as well as McCain. Hagel, Warner and Specter are the undecideds, with powerful committee chairs Warner and Specter considered unlikely to break from the party. That leaves the ball in Hagel's court, and even if he goes with the Dems, it would be a 50-50 tie which VP Cheney will break.

One more thought: if Hagel goes the other way on this one, not only will I vote against him in a GOP primary and work for whoever his opponent is, but Nebraska is not too far away to prevent me from going there a few times to work for his opponent in the next Senate election.


Coming To A Theater Near You

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans for Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to be the judicial nomination on which he uses the "nuclear option" against Democratic filibusters later this month, according to Republicans familiar with his plans.
Justice Owen, first nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals four years ago yesterday, has often been seen as the most likely nominee to be pushed though. And when Mr. Frist, Tennessee Republican, made his final offer to Democrats last month to avoid a showdown, he mentioned only one nominee: Justice Owen.

Just one question: when the Democrats pull back from the brink and refuse to filibuster Owen, then what? If she is, indeed, the most likely to be pushed through, doesn't that also make her the worst pick to lead off this fight? At least, from the perspective of someone who is itching for this fight.

If she does go through, I hope Frist queus up Janice Rogers Brown within a week.

Why Can't We Protect Our Little Girls?

I am getting tired of hearing stories like this one:

The news that two girls out on a Mother's Day bicycle ride were stabbed multiple times and left to die near a bike path has shaken the residents of this small city near the Wisconsin line.

Now the search is on for those responsible, but Police Chief Doug Malcolm said Monday that authorities have had not identified any suspects and there were no solid leads.

"It was a crime not only against those kids but against all of us," Malcolm said Monday

As a father of two girls, the recent rash of killings of little girls is enough to make me want to lock them in the basement and never let them out.

Or to rip the limbs off of the people who would do something like this to our most innocent citizens.


Do You Wonder Why American Education Isn't Working?

A majority of high school students in the USA spend three hours or less a week preparing for classes yet still manage to get good grades, according to a study being released today by researchers who surveyed more than 90,000 high school students in 26 states.

Is it that students are lazy? Not Particularly. More like undisciplined.

Researchers also found that a higher proportion of students are likely to spend four or more hours a week doing personal reading online than doing assigned reading for their classes.

Energy Thoughts

I'm just going to pull a few choice quotes out of this morning's NYT article called "No New Refineries in 29 Years? There May Be A Reason", and let you draw inferences and conclusions for yourself.

About 100 miles southwest of Phoenix, in a remote patch off Interstate 8, Glenn McGinnis is seeking to do something that has not been done for 29 years in the United States. He is trying to build an oil refinery.

Part of his job is to persuade local officials and residents to allow a 150,000-barrel-a-day refinery in their backyard - no small task. Another is to find investors ready to risk $2.5 billion in a volatile industry. So far, the effort has consumed six years and $30 million, with precious little to show for it. . .

Over the last quarter-century, the number of refineries in the United States dropped to 149, less than half the number in 1981. Because companies have upgraded and expanded their aging operations, refining capacity during that time period shrank only 10 percent from its peak of 18.6 million barrels a day. At the same time, gasoline consumption has risen by 45 percent. . .

More refining capacity will almost certainly be needed. Gasoline demand is forecast to rise 39 percent by 2025, to 12.9 million barrels a day, up from today's 9.3 million barrels, according to a long-term outlook by the Energy Information Administration. By then, gasoline alone will account for nearly half the crude oil consumed in the United States.

By contrast, domestic refining capacity is expected to grow only by 0.8 percent from 2005 to 2007, slightly less than the 0.9 percent increase registered between 1998 and 2004, according to Jacques Rousseau, an oil analyst with the investment banker Friedman, Billings, Ramsey. . .

Part of the issue, according to refiners, is that substantial investments were made over the last decade to lower carbon emissions and meet low-sulfur fuels regulations. The American Petroleum Institute estimates the industry invested $47 billion on such investments. More investments will be needed through 2007 to clean up gasoline and diesel.

"This is going to cost you money and the only thing you will get is cleaner air and less emissions - which are good - but no new capacity,"

Kinda makes you wonder why Mr. McInnis doesn't just move his refinery a couple hundred miles to the south, were he might have a chance to be operational some time this decade. Those numbers suggest to me that getting this plant going should be a reasonably profitable venture.

Prayer Request

As others in the RMA have noted, Jim from Thinking Right is in the hospital and putting up a mighty struggle with Guillaine-Barre Syndrome. If you are inclined in that direction, his family has asked for prayers.


Chuggin' Along

From the Rocky Mountain News May 5th (link unavailable)

Metro-area job gains in the business services and leisure sectors helped the state post the eighth-best job growthiin the nation in the first quarter. . .

Seems like pretty good news, all in all. And this growth based on previous legislatures' fealty to TABOR (ahem. . .those who would tinker)


Squeezing the Noose

Big news, of course, is the capture of Al Qaeda's number 3 guy in Pakistan, which the President announced yesterday. Read the stories about it here, here, and here.

I think the most interesting of the three is the third article, mostly because it contains this little nugget by SecState Rice:

``I think that over the next couple of days, we will be able to describe that this is a truly significant arrest,'' she said.

When the former National Security Advisor, who is pretty tight-lipped about stuff like this, drops a little foreshadowing in that way, I would say the odds of there being big news soon are pretty good.

Just Been One Of Those Weeks

So I've missed a few blogging sessions. But I'm back now.

All together, now: yippee.


This Could Get You Sent To TimeOut

People for the American Way and other groups are sponsoring a conference this weekend in New York to get a grip on the threat posed by the religious right, according to the Washington Times.

Secular humanists and leftist activists convened here over the weekend to strategize how to counter what they contend is a growing political threat from Christian conservatives.

Understanding and answering the "religious far right" that propelled President Bush's re-election is key to preventing a "theocracy" from governing the nation, speakers argued at a weekend conference.

This is all pretty predictable and boring, until you get to the last couple paragraphs.

. . .Others, however, said such scorn is not helpful.

"If we are going to ask the Christian right to stop engaging in demonization, we need to inspect some of our own language," Chip Berlet of the human rights watchdog Political Research Associates said in his talk Friday night.

"I'm uncomfortable when I hear people of sincere religious faith described as religious political extremists," he said. "What does that term mean? It's a term of derision that says we're good and they're bad. There is no content."

Afterward, in an interview, Mr. Berlet added: "The Democrats do just as much name-calling as the right. It's great for fundraising. [But] it's a heck of a way of building a social progressive movement."

Um, Mr. Berlet--please turn in your guest pass. You will soon be escorted off the scene. I'm surprised the crowd didn't start booing and hissing and throwing stuff at him.

Of course, I'm having a hard time recalling the last time someone from the so-called "religious right" resorted to name-calling, but that's beside the point. The point is that the vitriol from the left must be particularly bad if one of their own even notices it, and comments about it in public. Not that we needed to be told this, it's just kinda, well, ironic, I guess.

But then, we are just a bunch of simple-minded sheep.

Gotta Love The Open-Minded "Scientist"

From the Telegraph:

Two of the world's leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.

A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds.

A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.

So, not only are they clearly editorializing on the subject without good scientific evidence to back it up, but these two journals are actively trying to silence the opposing point of view. Sounds like bad science, bad journalism, bad public-policy advocacy. . .and all rolled up into one tidy little package.

But what is the reality of the evidence on this topic?

Dr Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, [] decided to conduct his own analysis of the same set of 1,000 documents - and concluded that only one third backed the consensus view, while only one per cent did so explicitly.

Oh, now that's not very good. I think Dr. Stannard might have given me a pretty bad grade if I'd tried to slip a lab report past him with that kind of evidentiary support. So, what would cause such an horrific error?

Prof Roy Spencer, at the University of Alabama, a leading authority on satellite measurements of global temperatures, told The Telegraph: "It's pretty clear that the editorial board of Science is more interested in promoting papers that are pro-global warming. It's the news value that is most important." . .

In January, Dr Chris Landsea, an expert on hurricanes with the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, resigned from the IPCC, claiming that it was "motivated by pre-conceived agendas" and was "scientifically unsound".

Imagine my surprise.

He'll Be Good, But I Would've Like Him Elsewhere

Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne plans to seek the Republican nomination for governor instead of a fourth term in Congress.

I had actually been holding out hope that Coach Osborne would turn his eyes to the Senate, instead. Oh, well.

More Signs Of Folding

I wrote last week that I thought David Broder's column on the wisdom of Senatorial compromise was probably the first sign that the Dems know they're in a losing battle over the filibuster.

Today brings us another, though more smartly written from a Democratic point of view.

David Brooks writes in the NYTimes that Bill Frist should have accepted the deal that Harry Reid tried to make with him last week.

Reid offered to allow votes on a few of the judges stuck in limbo if the Republicans would withdraw a few of the others.

But there was another part of the offer that hasn't been publicized. I've been reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush's pick, he'd come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush's nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed.

This sounds an awful lot like the last negotiations of a losing general. In other words, I'll manage to give you ALMOST everything you want, just don't beat me in one more battle.

Of course, this continues to belie the ludicrous claim of Democrats that the judges the President has appointed are activist, neanderthal, out-of-the-"mainstream", dangerous, etc. . . If they really were these things, than any such deal would be wrong, and the person making it irresponsible. The only circumstance that makes a deal such as this palatable is if the filibuster were based on purely political grounds. . .what are the odds, huh?

So, why wouldn't Frist accept this deal? Brooks answers that one, too:

Speculation about why Frist has let it drop goes in different directions. Perhaps he didn't know if he could trust Reid to make good on his promise. Perhaps he didn't think he could sell this agreement to his own base without publicizing this private part of the deal. Perhaps he wants to keep this conflict going to solidify his support among social conservatives for his presidential run. Perhaps he believes as a matter of principle the judicial filibuster must be destroyed.

And then Brooks goes on to paint the situation after the "Byrd Option":

He should have done it, first, because while the air is thick with confident predictions about what will happen if the nuclear trigger is pulled, nobody really knows. There is a very good chance that as the battle escalates, passions will surge, the tattered fabric of professionalism will dissolve, and public revulsion for both parties will explode. . .

Second, Frist should have grabbed this offer because it's time for senators to re-establish the principle that they, not the outside interest groups, run the Senate. . .

Finally, it's time to rediscover the art of the backroom deal. . .

On the other hand, I can think of one or two fine reasons to reject the offer and proceed with the Byrd Option. First, requiring a supermajority to confirm nominees is blatantly unConstitutional. Secondly, applying the filibuster to judicial nominees is a breach of 200 years worth of Senatorial protocol. Thirdly, elections matter, and majorities matter--Democrats have neither, and should stop pretending that they do.

Or, perhaps, to put it better, certain Republicans should stop pretending that the Democrats do.

But by omitting the obvious--that it might not work--Brooks is quietly announcing that Democrats know that they don't have the votes to overrule a ruling from the chair ending the filibuster. Given this, I would be surprised, to a small degree, if the Democrats go ahead and try to filibuster either Owen or Brown when they come up in the next couple weeks. Best to pull this hand off the table while you still have a little of your buy-in left.

But it will be fun to watch the howls of outrage from the left when and if this all goes down.

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