Friday, June 30, 2006

Court Victory for al Qaeda

Who would have thought one of al Qaeda's greatest victories would come at the hands of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy?

Yesterday witnessed perhaps one of the worst, most poorly grounded constitutional decisions ever issued by the United States Supreme Court. (This travesty of jurisprudence can be found here. Have your vomit bag at the ready.) Justice Kennedy, writing for the liberal majority, demonstrated better than any conservative blogger ever could precisely what "legislating from the bench" means. He -- along with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer -- revealed not only their ignorance of the Constitution and the historically accepted leeway afforded the executive in times of war, but also their misunderstanding of the very limited tenets of the international treaties and their never-ending quest to shoehorn personal preferences into Court holdings. It is also worth pointing out that this gang of alleged stare decisis-philes decided to buck a painfully clear, unambiguous line of case law that supported the course of conduct taken by the Bush administration in classifying those captured in the course of the War on Terror as enemy combatants.

Since the decision is lengthy and multi-faceted, and it would take me days to tackle its nonsensical content in its entirety (what better way to hide poor legal reasoning than with reams of paper?), I will address the one aspect of the decision I have actually previously researched: the applicability of the wartime conventions to enemy combatants. As early as the Hague Convention, which was ratified in 1910, the international community had established standards of treatment for sovereign nation's soldiers captured during wartime. The premise was somewhat straightforward, albeit naive: many felt that establishing certain basic standards of decent treatment for captured enemy soldiers would go a long way toward making war (which, by its very nature, is uncivilized) a little more civilized. Soldiers of nation-states, engaged in war against each other, would be entitled to proper treatment if their nations were signatories to the agreement and the soldiers themselves adhered to one or more of the following criteria: (1) they operated under a clear and organized military command structure; (2) they wore or displayed distinctive emblems or uniforms of the nation-state for which they fought that could be identified from a distance; (3) they carried arms openly; and/or (4) they conducted their operations in accordance with other long-established rules of engagement or customs of law.

Conversely, the Hague Convention made it clear that individuals who did not adhere to these norms of combat were vulnerable to classification as "unlawful combatants." The term "unlawful combatant" (which has been replaced by the slightly modified phrase "enemy combatant") was tied to conduct (or lack of conduct) rather than national affiliation, although it is also worth noting that an assumption made at the time of these conventions was that soldiers would only be members of nation-states. Non-governmental organizations were not even on the radar.

In the wake of World War II, these basic principles were essentially retained via the Geneva Convention. It is worth stressing that the Geneva Convention continued to apply these basic protections to prisoners of war but not to enemy combatants. It is also worth stressing that the Geneva Convention was (and therefore is) applicable only to the signatory nation-states, meaning that its rules for treatment do not apply, under any circumstances whatsoever, to either soldiers of non-signatory nation-states or soldiers affiliated with non-governmental organizations.

Supreme Court case law unflinchingly upheld these standards, without fail and without variation. In Ex Parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), a case dealing with German nationals who were captured on American soil with specific plans to attack American manufacturing plants and infrastructure and undermine the war effort, the Court did not hesitate to classify these individuals as "unlawful combatants," and did so based upon their surreptitious conduct. In no uncertain terms, the Court found that the German nationals' failure to adhere to the principles of conduct laid out in both the Hague and Geneva Conventions rendered their conduct in “violation[] of the law of war” and therefore justified their status, which in turn permitted trial before military tribunals.

Subsequently, in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), the Court rejected -- without exception and without hesitation -- the idea that enemy combatants captured abroad and tried before a military tribunal were entitled to any form of due process in our federal court system. Of particular relevance to our discussion is the Court's declaration in that decision that “the nonresident enemy alien . . . does not [receive] this qualified access to our courts” for national security and other practical reasons.

Why this devolution of power away from the peacetime-oriented court system? Because the text of the Constitution demands it. Several specific "war powers" provisions of the Constitution provide fairly broad leeway for the execution of wartime functions by both the legislative and executive branches: namely, Congress’ authority to "provide for the common Defence," Art. I, § 8, cl. 1, to "raise and support Armies," Art I, § 8, cl. 12, to "provide and maintain a Navy," Art I, § 8, cl. 13, and to "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces," Art I, § 8, cl. 14, and the President’s authority to use his "executive Power," Art II, § 1, cl. 1, command the Armed Forces, Art. II, § 2, cl. 1, and appoint and commission officers of the United States, Art. II, § 3, cl. 1.

(Note bene: I encourage all of you to read these decisions in their entirety, as I gave them only the briefest of treatments.)

Before today, there was really only one clear path for the Supreme Court. International treaties (of which the United States was a signatory), coupled with ample and uniform Court precedent, made it clear that individuals who violated the rules of war could be treated as enemy combatants, which in turn permitted them to be tried via military tribunals outside of the habeas pipeline.

Enter today's disaster at the hands of Kennedy & Co., which, in essence, stated the following: (1) conduct is not the key determinative factor of classifying someone as an enemy combatant (even though the Hague and Geneva Conventions, and prior Court case law, say otherwise); (2) non-signatories, particularly non-signatory non-governmental organizations, can avail themselves of the protections of the Geneva Convention (even though the Geneva Convention says otherwise); and (3) even people properly classified as enemy combatants cannot be tried in military tribunals (even though prior Court case law says otherwise).

A quicker description of what happened today is thus: Kennedy and his ends-oriented colleagues on the Court called upon and cited international and domestic precedent that did not support their conclusions in the slightest. It is an embarrassing day for the Court for many reasons, not the least of which is their complete and utter twisting of the very rules which they cite in support of their conclusions. It is disgusting.

I generally do not advocate for the overruling of Supreme Court case, but in light of the fact that this case is the jurisprudential equivalent of a non-sequitur, with no grounding whatsoever in either international domestic law, it ought to be overturned, posthaste.

I wonder if Osama Bin Laden is celebrating right now . . .

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Presidential Signing Statements

Lost amongst and between the end of the OT 05 Term and the political developments of recent weeks was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the legality and constitutionality of signing statements issued by Presidents of the United States. The testimony of the witnesses can be found here, and I recommend reading them all, as they provide a pretty complete and well-balanced overview of the issue. Click Read More to continue reading.

So why take up a post here at TPS about such a mundane, esoteric topic? Well besides the fact that these are the types of things that I’m developing a reputation for, I wanted to demonstrate that I am capable of discussing and advocating for something other than the privileges and prerogatives of Congress. Simply put, I don’t believe that signing statements are unconstitutional or illegal in any way. I think that they are part of the inherent functions of the Executive branch and are consistent with the institution’s “duty to take care that the laws are faithfully executed.” That said, it seems to me that from an interpretation point of view, signing statements must be given no more weight than congressional legislative history, and in many ways are arguably less important than that.

First, let’s make sure we’re clear about what we are discussing. When the President signs legislation into law, he often, more often in this administration than any other, issues a statement which attempts to put his gloss on what exactly he is signing into law. In several high profile situations, most recently the Detainee Treatment Act, which was part of the Hamdan decision, the President’s statement has arguably indicated that he will not enforce the law in the manner that Congress intended. Rather than veto legislation that contains provisions the President believes to be unconstitutional, some have argued that the President has utilized these “signing statements” to instruct the executive branch as to which parts of laws they can ignore or not abide by. Others have argued that the statements represent no such thing, but rather are interpretations that guide the executive branch as to “how” to interpret or enforce congressional enactments consistent with the powers and rights of the President. Fact is that I think both positions over inflate the importance of such statements.

Second, let me make clear that I do not think, as some do, that these statements are unconstitutional or illegal. The President, like Congress, is perfectly free to offer public interpretations of what the Constitution means and how those interpretations are going to be used by officers and agencies of the executive branch. So if that’s the case, what, if anything, is the big deal about these statements? Well, there are a couple of things. Initially, if the President thinks that Congress has unconstitutionally encroached into executive powers, he should simply veto the bill and issue a veto message to that effect. Signing the legislation into law, regardless of constitutionally, arguably invokes the President’s duty to faithfully execute it. Presumably, our system works like this, Congress passes laws, the President enforces laws, and the Court interprets what the law means. Permitting the President to interpret the law before executing it arguably muddles this tripartite system. Now, sure, one can argue that the President’s duty to take care only extends to enforcement consistent with the Constitution, but when the two branches disagree as to what that involves, what is the remedy? Go to court? Maybe, but that takes time and often there is no “case or controversy” because nothing has happened yet, or there is no actual injury to anyone (as with many of the President’s signing statements that merely reject “reporting requirements” to Congress) and, therefore, no standing to bring the issue to a court. Here is where this Administration has been exceedingly creative and cautious. Few, if any, of the provisions objected to via signing statements create justiciable “cases or controversies” as required by Article III of the Constitution. Rather, they are needles in the side of the legislative branch, heckling them and attempting to expand the scope of Executive power, because they know that Congress isn’t going to do anything about it. Are the statements, wrong? No, at least not in a legal or constitutional sense, but are some of them misguided; absolutely.

Especially misguided, in my opinion, are the ones relating to congressional reporting requirements. Congress is entitled to information from the Executive branch, regardless of whether they want to disclose it or not. The only real remedy the Executive has is claims of “executive privilege,” which, for good reasons, they are loathe to invoke. Any claim that the Executive branch is inherently authorized to withhold information from Congress due to “deliberative process” or some other such rationale is totally without basis in history or law.

Other signing statements, the vast majority of them, in fact, are perfectly begin and permissible, even to be expected. Signing statements have a long history that dates back to Andrew Jackson. President’s Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton used them extensively, especially in the face of a hostile, opposition Congress. This history, of course, makes the current Bush Administration’s use more interesting because for the most part he has faced a politically friendly, compliant, and timid Congress that has challenged very, very few of his prerogatives.

This of course leads to the final point. If signing statements are for the most part begin and permissible, what, if anything are we to do with them, especially when a statute or provision is before a reviewing Court? In other words, to the statements carry with them any use in interpreting statutes? In my opinion, no, they do not, or should not be used at all by Courts. I can reach this decision in two ways. One is to adopt the Justice Scalia and Thomas method of statutory interpretation. If, according to them, the only interpretive tool is the text of the statute itself, than statements of the President, like traditional legislative history is meaningless and not to be considered. Alternatively, persons like me, who don’t reject the use of “legislative history” outright, can argue that presidential signing statements are of little interpretive value because the President is not a “legislator” and, therefore, his views are not entitled to be considered. True, the President plays a role in the legislative process, but so do 435 Congressmen and 100 Senators, so are we to consider their individual views as well? No. of course not, and even I, as a legislative history advocate, don’t argue we should. There is a hierarchy to the use of legislative history and the views of individual members rank at the very, very, bottom of the list. Hence, the President, who is not a legislator, in the first place, would rank at the very end of the hierarchy of person’s to consider when interpreting the meaning of a congressional statute. This is not to say that the President’s statement isn’t worth the paper it is printed on, because as previously discussed the statement does have value in that it instructs the executive branch and the public on the President’s views, but it should not have any real meaning or import when determining what a statute means.

In the end, the hubbub over signing statements is an interesting one, but not vital or crucial to our constitutional system. President’s like everyone else are entitled to their opinions and ought to have a forum to express them. Signing statements shouldn’t be used, however, to contravene the legislative process, or be used to avoid exercising veto power over actions of Congress. There are more serious institutional problems with using them in those ways, but as far as the President interpreting the Constitution his way and instructing the rest of the executive branch to follow suit, there are no problems with that, except for the fact that I, and others, may disagree with the President’ views.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gitmo No Mo'

I'm surprised that the Con Law jocks on both sides of the spectrum have been quiet about today's Supreme Court decision in the Gitmo case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. It's likely due to a busy Thursday more than anything else. I'm probably not the best attorney around here to analyze the decision. I have no plans to read it either. I wasn't partial to Con Law and I'm especially put off by the dreaded words "separation of powers." However, I thought I'd a quick post would be in order in case anybody out there cared to comment.

The Court's 5-3 decision essentially prevented the President's from moving ahead with military war crimes trials for the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay without either the specific authorization of Congress or by using a recognized form of our judicial process, such as a military court-martial type trial or the ordinary criminal justice system.

I'm mixed about the effects of this decision. This is one area of the "war on terror" where I still tend to agree with the President. I believe most of these characters were rounded up in Afghanistan - such as the appellant in this case, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former personal bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden. As such, I think a better case can be made here for the need for some sort of extra-legal war crimes tribunals.

Yet, I also feel that this is another instance where the President's merger of the "war on terror" into the "war in Iraq" and more has muddied the issue and lost momentum for the good fight. Although there were six separate opinions, Justice Breyer probably summed it up well in his concurrence by saying: "Congress has not issued the executive a blank check."

I may still have sided with the dissent in this case myself. I dunno. But I think there's something to be said for the separation of powers issue. I do admire the manner in which Justice Thomas marked the importance of the verdict by breaking his tradition of being low-keyed and orally delivering his dissent from the bench. But I think the Court's decision is a reflection of general frustration with the Bush administration trying to roll everything into the "war on terror." Afterall, the Court had already rebuffed the administration when it denied these same prisoners access to counsel two years ago. I just don't think Congress voted for all that (nor for actions like warrantless monitoring of phone calls) when it authorized military action in Afghanistan or Iraq. Whether they're looking at intent, precedent, or text, the Court clearly thinks the president has gone too far and many Americans agree.

My final thought. Bush recently said, "I'd like to close Guantanamo." Well I say, do it. It'll send a good message to the rest of the world that our military and our legal system can handle the fight on terrorism. We don't need to go out-of-bounds - literally and figuratively - to fight al Quada. Because if we do, then we've lost much more than even those tragic lives lost on September 11, 2001.

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Moderation schmoderation

This is not exactly a response to Big Daddy Jeff, as I have been sitting on writing this post for about four months, and strictly speaking this is not about moderates. But, at least he (and mouldfan) did motivate me to finally get to typing this out.

I come to bury moderates, not praise them.

There's a lot of crap that gets my blood boiling. The New York Times' treasonous actions, people who stand to the left on the elevator on the Metro, liberal Catholics, and people who think Derek Jeter is a better player than Alex Rodriguez - all bug the hell out of me. But there's nothing more annoying than a person who claims to be a moderate in the blogosphere. Most of the time - though certainly not all - the person's claims to moderation are nothing more than a sanctimonious attempt to sound smarter than all those "ideologues on the left and right." You see, Mr. Moderate doesn't confine himself to the left or right. Oh no, they take each issue as they come, and they form independent judgments. They're not weighed down by one particular ideology or the other.

Bullshit. Anyone who takes the time to comment on a political blog, or vote, or in any other way shows interest in political affairs has an ideological bias. It might not be a bias that the individual concerned is aware of, and it might not exactly fit into the categories that we normally assign to left and right, but make no mistake, we ALL have political biases.

The statistical evidence proves my point. Over 70% of people who claim to be "independents" routinely vote for the same political party in every election. Normally statistical evidence is used to backup anecdotal evidence and not the other way, but just for a second ask yourself how many "independents" do you know that always seem to vote for the same party? Oh sure, they talk a big game, but when it comes time to pull the lever they have a mysterious way of voting in the same way they did before.

Now, you're probably objecting that I'm conflating the term moderate and independent, and no doubt that's true. But the terms are often used interchangeably in today's political discourse. Putting that aside for the moment and taking the term moderate on its own, I must ask, what does the term even mean? Is it a person of the center? But if that's the case, what exactly is the center? Is it a person whose political positions are halfway between the right and left? But considering the diffusion of interests on the right and left, who can identify what the center is? Take the bloggers on the Political Spectrum. What person truly represents the middle? Big Daddy would claim that mantle, but couldn't it be argued that in many ways he's further to the right of Gipper Clone and I?

Perhaps the problem is inherent to the concept of a right-left dichotomy to explain political ideology. But what I'm getting at is, even if you want to break down the political cleavage into two distinct camps, there's enough internal disagreements within each camp to muddy the waters. Both John Podhoretz and I are of the "right," but we're clearly divergent in many ways. So which one of us is to the right of the other?

But I'm wandering far afield of my main point, which is this: we all have our fundamental political biases. I generally disdain psychological explanations of political action, but psychology might be the best explanation of this phenomena. I believe that just about everyone who seriously thinks about politics has certain ideological predispositions. There might be a broader spectrum of views than our current liberal-conservative divide, but that's not really important. We all tend to have a certain reflex attitude to issues. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have an at least subliminal reaction to any bit of news. Our minds race to fit that bit of information into the way we normally view political affairs.

We're all ideologues. Our ideologies might not exactly match, but we possess them. It's simply an admission of reality. I am not speaking negatively - I obviously consider myself a conservative ideologue. But I can admit my bias, unlike so many who pat themselves on the back and call themselves moderate.

In fact I often find that the most narrow-minded ideologues are the ones who call themselves moderates. All one has to do is read the comments section at St. Blogs and see those that pipe in disparaging both the right and left. These commenters like to pontificate against both sides, and yet almost to a man they take pretty much the same position on all issues. For example, it's settled fact that the Iraq War was unjust. Any argument against goes in the dustbin because, hey, you're just a blind Bush supporter, and speaking of Bush, he's a bumbling idiot who is a lying dictator, blah blah blah. Oh yeah. You're a moderate. And I'm a Yankees fan.

The question is not whether or not we're truly ideologues, but whether we let our ideology control us. Being open-minded does not mean listening to both arguments before making a decision - let's face it, no one really does that (for the most part). We have a default setting, and all being open-minded means is being willing to be persuaded by other arguments. We're not blank slates, but we can have our minds changed. If you're open-minded.

The real threat comes not from ideology or ideologues, but usually from the self-professed non ideologues who seem incapable of being persuaded by fact, logic or reason. Again, look at St. Blogs. I was attacked by a supposed moderate on Mark Shea's blog because of my position on immigration. My interlocutor never really addressed my arguments, but instead took refuge in comparing me to a Klansman. I attempted to dialog with said individual, but he just dug in, unable to come to terms with the fact that someone could legitimately have a different opinion than he did. But he was a moderate.

Paleo-conservatives are much the same. No, they don't pretend to be moderates, but rather the usually claim to be upholders of the Burkean tradition of non-ideology. The rest of the political universe are made up of ideologues. These folks pretend to be it above it all. And yet there is no more ideological intransigent individual than a paleo-conservative. For example, they have decided that long ago that the war in Iraq was unjust, largely based on a conviction that any foreign interventionism is wrong. And oh, by the way, have they told you about the neocons? Now, that's surely not to say that all opposition or even conservative opposition to the war is of this nature, but the Buchananites checked out long ago, and they had no intention of ever being persuaded by the facts. Instead, they are driven by an archaic and immoveable conviction about foreign policy that is only dimly related to reality.

Libertarians also generally put abstract idealism ahead of all facts. Thomas Paine once wrote of Burke that he pities the plummage but forgets the dying bird. It was as close to an accurate charge as Paine ever made against Burke, though still ultimately wrong. But to me that phrase is a clever alternative to "missing the forests for the trees." Libertarians are ever vigilent to protect their ideological purity, no matter how abstract. Liberty is an absolute value, no matter what the cost. But as Burke once wrote, "Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to fecilitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty?" Libertarians often seem more concerned about the abstract value of liberty, never seeming to consider that there might be occasions that call for some curtailment of liberty. They so prise liberty in the abstract that they would ultimately give up the Nation rather than in any way violate their absolutist principles.

I can respect that on some level. But we cannot be blinded by ideology that we never for a moment consider occasions for temperance of said ideology. Rigid ideological dogmatism in the political realm is no value. But neither is it a value to pretend to be something you are not. All of us, on one level or another, have our ideological biases. It is silly to pretend otherwise. Just because you can be open to other points of view does not negate the fact that you're going to be inclined to some way of thinking. Being open minded does not equal being a moderate. It doesn't because, when you boil it all down, moderates are like male-friendly lesbians - they don't exist.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Opinions of the Court

Over the last few days the Court has issued opinions in some very interesting cases. Of personal interest to me are the two “election” cases Randall v. Sorrell and LULAC v. Perry, as well as a case involving the Vienna Convention and the International Court of Justice Sanches-Lamas v. Oregon. All Court opinions can be accessed from the Court’s opinion webpage. Hopefully, once I have a chance to read all of the opinions I’ll post some thoughts, but for now I’ll just leave you with the line-up from LULAC v. Perry and ask can anyone help me with a pie chart to figure out what the law now is?

KENNEDY, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of
the Court with respect to Parts II–A and III, in which STE-VENS, SOUTER,
GINSBURG, AND BREYER, JJ., joined, an opinion with respect to Parts I and IV, in
which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined, an opinion with respect to Parts
II–B and II–C, and an opinion with respect to Part II–D, in which SOUTER and
GINSBURG, JJ., joined. STE-VENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and
dissenting in part, in which BREYER, J., joined as to Parts I and II. SOUTER,
J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which
GINSBURG, J., joined. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and
dissenting in part. ROBERTS, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in part,
concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part, in which ALITO, J.,
joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and
dissenting in part, in which THOMAS, J., joined, and in which ROBERTS, C. J.,
and ALITO, J., joined as to Part III.

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Pimpin' Ain't Easy

Lest anyone had the impression that Congress may actually accomplish anything worthwhile other than base-pandering nonsense between now and November, or well, ever, for that matter...Sen. Grassley's new proposal to set up a new IRS unit to tax pimps and sex workers should be enlightening...

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Destroy the Earth?

We hear a lot of talk from a lot of sources these days about how humanity is "destroying" the Earth. From Al Gore on down, the message is that human beings are doing irreparable damage to our planet in such a way that it might collectively lead to its literal destruction.

Blah blah blah, says Sam Hughes of Things of Interest, who actually tackles the question of what it would take to destroy the Earth somewhat seriously – perhaps too seriously. Check out his tongue-in-cheek, Hitchhiker's Guide-style Top Ten Ways to Destroy Earth.

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Coulter quiz

LOVE it...

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Stupid is as Stupid Does

Okay, after about a month or more of silence (mostly work related), I’m back to offer more of my left wing propaganda. Well not really, but at least I’m back to having a few minutes to actually contribute to this little space on the internets rather than just being a spectator. With that I will turn my attention to what I see as two of the stupidest things that this Congress could possibly do, namely, enact a “Flag Burning” Amendment to the Constitution, and abdicating even more of its power to the executive branch by adopting a “line-item veto.”

UPDATE 6/28: Well, thankfully I was wrong about a couple of things: First, we didn't get FOUR days of debate over the flag burning amendment, mostly, it appears, due to the fact that NO Senators could be found to use floor time to bloviate either for or against the proposal. Second, the amendment failed to get the 67 votes required to pass and be sent to the states for ratification. For now, it seems that cooler heads have prevailed. Me thinks that while this isn't the last we've heard of this issue, it is the end for at least another couple of years, or until that supposed epidemic of flag burning picks up again.

First things first, with respect to the Flag Burning Amendment, I really don’t know where to start. The whole thing is, in my opinion, so stupid that it hardly merits the attention of anyone with half a brain, yet we’re going to be blessed with FOUR, count them, FOUR days of debate in the United States Senate over this monstrosity. Look, this is simple; flag burning is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, period, and end of discussion. The fact that it took not one, but two, Supreme Court cases to establish this is an embarrassment in and of itself, there is no need to compound the stupidity. Does this mean that flag burning is a “good” idea, politically persuasive, or even something that I support? No, of course it is none of those things. That, however, is 100% beside the point. The fact that I wouldn’t personally burn a flag or support anyone who does, doesn’t mean that it is somehow less of a protected expression of discontent with the government. Flag burning, as personally abhorrent as I may find it, is quintessential political speech, precisely the type of expression and activity that the First Amendment was designed and intended to protect. I may not find it persuasive, dignified, enjoyable, or necessary, but fortunately that is not the standard, unless you are a member of Congress. Previous attempts to enact this abomination, thankfully, were stopped by the august members of the Senate, but now, with mid-term elections quickly approaching, it appears that even some of them have lost their nerve and will jump ship in favor of what is nothing more than politically expedient. Ah, blatant politics with the Constitution before an election, my favorite time of year. Anyway, I could go with this diatribe, but I’m running out of child friendly negative words to use when describing this amendment. I’d love to hear from people who support this idea, keeping in mind that there are lots of things that we personally don’t like or find offensive, but nevertheless demand the greatest protection under the First Amendment. Thus, I’m hoping to prevent the comments along the line of “flag burning is wrong and an insult to out soldiers and veterans.” True, it may well be all of that and much worse, but it is still an expression of political opposition, which is precisely what those brave men and women have died to protect. They may not like everything that is said or done under the guise of freedom of expression, but they fought valiantly to protect the abstract right and that needs to be respected and endured. Such an amendment only, in my opinion, erodes their sacrifice and diminishes their significant accomplishments. I’ll stop here and look forward to my tongue lashing in the comments.

My second comment is a bit more obscure and probably won’t be the subject to much discussion given what I’ve said above, but it is equally as stupid and yet, it seems, that few, if any, members of Congress recognize that fact. I’ve given you all the history of this before so I won’t repeat all of that. Instead I’ll simply reproduce the last few paragraphs which bear repeating now that it appears this idea will actually come to a vote.

Basically I have three objections to the line-item veto in whatever form it takes. First, it disrupts the balance of power established by the Constitution and it erodes Congress’s constitutional authority over the Treasury and appropriations process. Second, it destroys any incentive for change within the Congress, by shifting the burden and the political blame to the President. Finally, it won’t reduce spending.

Let me elaborate a bit. The balance of power argument is simple, Congress, not the President controls the purse. Now this is not to say that the President plays no role, for he clearly does. He proposes an annual budget, and he reserves the right to veto legislation that he does not like, subject of course to Congressional override. To allow the President, any President, to item-by-item object to provisions significantly weakens Congress’s role in the process, especially if a President is politically powerful. It’s one thing to include outsiders, including the administration in the law making process, there are excellent reasons for doing so, and the President is an active required participant in every law that is passed, but currently inclusion is at the will of Congress. If Congress doesn’t want to include the President until presentment it is under no obligation to do so. Line-item veto will inject the President into every one of the 12 appropriations bills that go through Congress. If every member has to clear or pre-approve every spending request with Administration officials to ensure that it will not be vetoed, then the process will drag to a screeching halt and never be completed. Congress needs to have the ability to act independently and be independently politically accountable for its actions. If the President doesn’t like provisions in a bill he already has a constitutionally approved remedy, he can veto the bill and send it back. Line-item veto requires Congress in essence to pass appropriations laws twice, once as a package and then again on a line-by-line basis after the President has exercised his power.

Second, there are already ways internally that Congress can address some of the ills of the appropriations process. Just for example, it could strengthen the procedural protections of the Budget Resolution, making it harder to waive it’s application. Second, it could self-impose more transparency on the process by eliminating the ability of Members to insert provisions in conference reports. It could make conference reports amendable for appropriations purposes only, thus allowing full votes on earmarks that are last minute insertions. It could self impose earmark limits, say 1 per member per year or total cost not to exceed 1 million per member per year, this would force members to choose more wisely the projects that they were going to expend political capital on and limits the increase in discretionary spending to $535 million per year, a paltry sum in a 2.4 trillion dollar budget. These are only a few ideas off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many others. Point is, none of these will happen if the line-item veto passes, as Congress will look to the President to fix the problem after the fact and the politics and finger-pointing will destroy what little incentive there is to actually fix the problem.

Finally, reducing spending; yeah, right. Anyone who seriously thinks that this will accomplish that is seriously deluding themselves. Congressmen and 1/3 of the Senate are up for re-election every time the President is, so every 4 years or so, you can pretty much guarantee there wouldn’t be any line-item vetoes, and if there were, Congress would simply override them in order to protect their jobs. No President is going to cut funding in an area where he/she will eventually have to campaign in, and no member is going to stand by while funding is cut, thereby giving an opponent an easy election year issue. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. True the appropriations process is horribly broken, but the line-item veto isn’t the solution.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Do Generals Cut and Run Too?

I'm looking for a Bush supporter who is now going to accuse General George Casey of wanting to cut and run. Troop withdrawals in October, just weeks before the elections? So Democrats are cowards for supporting such an idea last week in Congress, but it's perfectly ok for Casey to do so because he's a Republican-supported general, right?

Once again, Republicans are making me sympathize with someone like Nancy Pelosi:

Democrats reacted angrily, saying the Casey plan appeared similar to their calls for the administration to draw up a timetable for troop withdrawal, and for which Republicans had accused them of wanting to "cut and run."

"Instead of offering real strategies for success, Republicans continue to play politics with this war," Pelosi said.

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Up For Grabs: In Praise of Moderates

Since deciding I could no longer walk in lock-step support with the leaders of the Republican Party, I've felt a tremendous sense of political empowerment. It's probably the biggest reason why I've recently dedicated a lot more energy to blogging.

At the risk of over-simplification and offending the political scientists, I believe the direction of American politics ultimately falls to the determination of that 20% of the voting pool ubiquitously termed "moderate." Over periods of time, this pool may change its location, shape, and even its priorities. But as far back as I can see, and as long as we have this republic, it will be that 20% with the final say.

What exactly is a moderate? Is it someone who falls right of left or left of right? That's too confusing and instinctively I know it can't be a fitting description. Rather, I think a better definition is much simpler. More than any other quality, I think moderates are those who put their votes (or even whether they will vote) up for grabs.

From that description come the insults. Whether it be Rush Limbaugh on the right or Al Franken on the left, the loser of the competition for the moderate's vote will accuse the moderate of standing for nothing. That's right. The "Reagan Democrats" who made the Gipper one of our most effective and popular leaders apparently stood for nothing. And that same group - the very same voters who grew dissatisfied with those who inherited Reagan's legacy and supported an outsider named Bill Clinton while still trusting Republicans with the power of the purse in Congress - is accused of being without principle simply because they reserve the right to change their political minds.

I don't see it that way. While I'm confident that an appraisal of my own opinions would earn the label "right of center," I too have put my vote up for grabs. So does this mean that I now stand for nothing? Are my otherwise conservative thoughts on spending, defense, crime, and taxes now invalid because I may vote for Bill Nelson over Katherine Harris? No. I think it merely means that for the first time in my life, I want to be part of that 20% who will determine the result of an election.

In two previous elections I failed to vote for the Zell Miller for the sole reason that he had pledged to vote for Tom Daschle as Senate Majority Leader. I have come to view this decision as a mistake and am glad my fellow Georgians did not follow my lead. In fact, this was a prime example of when I should've put my vote up for grabs and realized that one letter cannot encompass a person's political worth.

I'll conclude with a personal note. Since getting married a few years ago, my wife and I decided we'd always vote the same ballot. Upon doing so, we felt an equal sense of empowerment because we each controlled 2 votes. If I had voted for Bush in 2004 while Dana voted for Kerry, in spite of the worthiness of casting our votes, we would have indeed offset our choices in both state and national tallies.

I now feel the same way about the camps on the left and right wings in this sharply divided political climate. It will be the 20% that again determines who controls Congress later this year. And I may not be able to stomach voting for Nelson afterall. I don't know yet. But I do know that this time I'm fine with being one of those moderates.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006


I think I'm done blogging. It is a sign of my co-bloggers' decency that they have not accused me of stopping long ago.

I'm tired of reading the news and getting angry. Angry about our president's assault on the rights of Englishmen. Angry about judges establishing rights to ejaculate in or around whomever the ejaculat-or pleases. Angry about the American worship of our soldiers, who murder people. (Of course, not all American soldiers murder people. But I have not been convinced that the percentage of virtuous 19-year old soldiers is greater than the percentage of virtuous 19-year old non-soldiers -- a very small number, indeed.) Angry about Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans, and having to push a number on the telefono so the person on the other end knows I want to speak in English. Angry about the existence of the nation-state of "Israel". Angry about an administration that has deluded people into thinking it is family-friendly when the wife of the VP is a pornographer and the daughter of the VP is a lesbian.

As an undergraduate I sat in on a graduate class taught by Msgr. Sokolowski at CUA. It wasn't much of a graduate course -- far too large for that. (And far too much adulation of the professor, about whom there is much to criticize (and much to praise).) But one thing I took away was the good Msgr's lesson about reading the news. Informed by and embodying the ethical lessons begun by Aristotle, the good Msgr was critical of people who chattered about news developments they had no control over. Deliberation was the process, to be perfected over a well-lived life, of determining the means that would reach a particular end. The vast majority of people have no effect whatsoever on bombings in Bali, shellings in Serbia, or what-not, and should not waste their energies deliberating over such things. Instead, they should practice deliberation so that in their own lives they would be prepared to respond: knowing the true, doing the good, and delighting in both.

So I think I'm done blogging. The only event that would possibly stand in my way is if the path I have guessed will resign my membership in this blog doesn' t work. We shall see...

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Pathetic bastards

Let’s play a game.

What do these two quotes have in common?

“Batiste met several times in December 2005 with a person purporting to be an Al Qaeda member and asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 in cash to help him build an "'Islamic Army' to wage jihad'," the indictment said. It said that Batiste said he would use his "soldiers" to destroy the Sears Tower.”


“The FBI said Mrs. Furnish agreed in January to pay an undercover agent $4,500 to kill Mr. Furnish — her husband of five months. She told acquaintances the 80-year-old retired union carpenter was worth $2 million.”

Give up?

Both are from news articles about morons.

Here is a hint folks… If the person you ask to help you commit murder says they know someone, HE IS A COP!!! You see, normal people don’t know people who kill. So, when you go to a bar, looking for seedy characters to kill your spouse or you find yourself sending off a request to, be assured that you are really contacting the authorities.

Geesh… Amateurs.

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What a Joke

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page has become a complete embarassment on the immigration issue.  They have yet to offer an editorial that provided any meaningful insight on the issue, but instead they have preferred to issue silly ad hominem attacks on those the paper has decreed as "anti immigrant."

The latest bit of bluster comes from today's lead op-ed.  True to form, the editors attack rather than argue.  For example:

Republicans came to this strategic epiphany after concluding that Representative Brian Bilbray won his special election victory in California this month by demagoguing immigration. But all that election really proved is that a GOP Beltway lobbyist could keep a seat in a 60% Republican district so long as he outspent an opponent who committed the final-week gaffe of encouraging immigrants to vote illegally. Replicate that trifecta around the country this November, and Republicans wouldn't need to campaign.

Yawn.  So Bilbray's principled stand against the influx of illegal immigrants is nothing but "demagoguery."  Wow.  That's just so deep.  And of course the paper is so self-satisfied with its "progressive" stand on open borders that they can't even see how they completely contradict themselves in one paragraph.  They openly admit that Busby's "gaffe" in encouraging illegals to vote may have had an impact.  And why is that, oh so wise opinion makers?  Could it have anything to do with the fact that many Americans are troubled by the illegal immigration issue, and Busby's comments merely affirmed their feeling that some lawmakers and potential lawmakers are fumbling this issue very badly?  Well, I guess that would just make them a bunch of ignorant, anti-immigrant racists according to the WSJ's enlightened editorial board.

Against all common sense, the editors encourage the Republicans to pass a bill that most Americans oppose simply so that they can claim that they did something.  Well whoop-de-freaking-doo.  I'm sure that passing a toothless bill that will do more to encourage more illegals to enter our country is just what the country is clamoring for.  This is the sort of brainless political advice that would make Dick Morris and the Main Street Republicans proud.

Sorry, no deal.  Sometimes doing nothing is in fact better than doing something, especially when that something would make our southern border even more meaningless than it already is.

Oh, and as for the suggestion that taking a hard line on immigration will cost the Republicans their majority status - I know you're a bunch of libertarians, but that doesn't mean you have to dabble in hard drugs.  Methinks there a few more issues that imperil Republicans, and this is one issue that can actually salvage the party - if it does the complete opposite of what the Wall Street Journal advises.

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Memories of Murtha

For many people my age, Representative John Murtha (D-Okinawa) burst onto the political scene for the first time in late 2005, when he broke from the House wallflowers and became a very vocal critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. Many in the MSM bestowed upon Murtha instant credibility, citing his decades of military experience. While I strongly disagreed with Murtha, I confess that I really knew almost nothing about him.

Thank God for small reminders. I was paging through Charlie Wilson's War, George Crile's excellent book documenting former Representative Charles Wilson's (D-Tex.) efforts to support the mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when I was reminded that soon-to-be-beatified Murtha was one of the key targets of the ABSCAM investigation. ABSCAM, you may recall, was a long-term investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1980 that used a phony Arab sheikh to expose corrupt congressmen. A bipartisan (but predominantly Democrat) handful of congressmen were caught on videotape accepting cash bribes; some of them were eventually convicted in federal court and expelled from Congress for their corrupt behavior.

Murtha ultimately escaped prosecution. Why? Crile and others point out that Murtha was captured on videotape rejecting the offered bribe but being quite explicit in his request to have the offer kept open. Crile credits Wilson and then-House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill for mounting a defensive effort that ultimately spared Murtha the fate of his colleagues, but the ABSCAM video nonetheless made it clear that Murtha was very much open to the idea of pay-to-play.

There is more. Paul over at Power Line points out how Murtha's shadiness continues to this day, MSM adulation notwithstanding. His assessment of Murtha's current questionable conduct can be found here.

Murtha's darling status may be fading, as each day brings with it new information that tarnishes his golden sheen. The more we learn, the less credible he becomes -- and the more he does damage to Nancy Pelosi's dreams of speakerhood.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Set the dial to "Sexy"

I had my I-Tunes on random while bathing the children and had to abruptly run over to skip “Darling Nikki” by Prince & the Revolution. The lyrics are too… well… dirty for my five year old to hear. (Can you imagine her innocent questions and the scarlet hue of my big, bald head as I tried to dodge them.) This got me thinking… what popular song has the dirtiest lyrics and why do we like it?

For whatever reason, I am fond of “When I Think About you I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls and my wife likes Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” (better known by its refrain… “I want to F*** you like an animal). I started liking the Divnyls song when it was used in Austin Powers: Man of Mystery, but I don’t think it is merely the use of the song that makes it entertaining. The tune certainly has much to recommend it and it got a lot of airtime. But the words… the words are… so… LEWD.

I don’t think I’m a “stick in the mud,” but what is it about lewd songs that attract us so?

Consider Billy Idol’s “Mony, Mony.” The words really aren’t “Get laid, get f***ed;” but, at the last wedding I attended everyone knew those words. There were people, dancing and singing, spanning at least three decades. Even where there aren’t rude words, we seem to happily add them.

Then, of course, we have to include the “seduction songs:” songs like Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” and “Sexual healing.”

Then, there are the “clever ones;” you know, the ones that EVERYONE knows what they are singing about, but they never actually SAY it, like the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”- “Really love your peaches, want to shake your tree.”

Hmmm… What songs SHOULD be on the list of “songs about sex” and why?

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Introductions are always a proper way to begin one's contributions to a blog. Many may be familiar with my opinions from comments here at TPS. I'm a conservative who has left the Republican party as a homebase. And I'm not willing to do it half-heartedly either. I'm not willing to say, "I'm no fan of the Republicans, but they're still better than the alternative." No, I'm going to make sure that my exit is just as pronounced as the actions have been of those who have forced out people like me from the GOP.

And no issue typifies my frustration with the administration more than the War in Iraq. I don't mean for this to be a war post, but I'll share my own background because I think it's likely true for a majority of the average American public. I was horrified by 9/11. In its wake I willingly made an undocumented leap-of-faith connecting the evil of al Queda and the evil of Saddam Hussein. I listened to Colin Powell's case-for-war to the U.N. and trembled at the mysterious satellite photos. I put my faith in George Bush, Don Rumsfeld, and the intelligence operations of the US military and supported our looming invasion of Iraq. I had full confidence that our troops would win the war, we'd set up a new government, and then make Iraq a beacon of democracy for the Middle East. And the best part was that Paul Wolfowitz told us that this war would pay for itself within six months. The prospects of stable oil prices completely sealed the deal for me. The war happened, I cheered the triumphant stories of the embedded reporters, and willingly believed Bush's declaration of 'Mission Accomplished' meant just that.

But our "accomplished" mission still continues. And over the past 3 years, I've come to regret my support of the war. I guess I have no choice but to sympathize with guys like Murtha and even Kerry. I've come to believe that there was no legitimate connection between the secular Hussein and the Islamist al Queda movement. I've come to believe that Saddam didn't possess the feared WMD's and there's no evidence that as of 2003 he was actively stockpiling and mobilizing them for current use. I've come to believe that Iraq is a war we cannot win, that militant Shiites will eventually tie that country's fate to their more-ominous comrades in Iran, and that our continuing presence in Iraq will only result in more American casualties. Sadly, it seems actually to be spurring the recruitment efforts of anti-American terrorists like al Queda - the preventing of which is the very reason pro-war advocates still cling to the fighting in Iraq.

If I were in charge, I'd fire myself. My judgment about the case for war in Iraq has proven to be crap. But I'm not the president and my judgment was actually the very same as his. So who's the one who should be fired afterall?

I'll leave it at that. I'm sure we'll revisit the issue of Iraq many times in the coming months. The exchange of ideas is always healthy. That's one thing I've always loved about this blog. If nothing else, true debate shows we all do care about the fate of the American boys over there. My father-in-law served a 12 month tour in Iraq and is now home safely. I have no doubt that his experience influences my own opinion.

Moving right along, I'm equally disappointment with the Republican Congress' abandonment of the principles of the 'Contract With America.' Hastert and Frist have allowed Democrats to make a credible case that they're the party of fiscal responsibility. On social issues, I lean strongly Republican. I'm a former prosecutor who is dismayed at how soft many American jurisdictions treat crime. I get fired up on hot button issues like illegal immigration and same-sex marriage. And I'm pro-life and believe Bush's outstanding judicial nominations will go down as the high water mark of his presidency. I'm sure we'll explore many of these issues too in future posts.

So that's me. I enjoy being controversial and have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth. But I rarely take offense at attacks thrown my way since I don't take myself very seriously. So thanks again to my co-bloggers for adding me to the crew and let's have some fun!

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WMD Found in Iraq

Check it out: the left was wrong, again.

I expected the anti-war crowd to be incorrect on this issue (and I suspect they won't let this pesky factual finding get in the war of their nonsensical rhetoric). What this story highlights, however, is the Bush administration's inexplicable failure to trumpet the discovery of weapons. Is President Bush intentionally trying to lose this debate?

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Whence This "Direct Talks" Nonsense?

Today's China Post features this article on North Korea's continued insistence on "direct talks" with Washington as a precondition to any promise to not conduct a test launch of its Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile in the near future. Washington, through John Bolton, has thankfully made it clear not only that threats are not the way to induce diplomacy, but also that it will remain firm on insisting that any negotiations be conducted in conjunction with China, Japan, South Korea, and other regional powers.

The story is pretty straightforward, and Kim Jong Il's actions entirely predictable, but I must ask: why is there a recurring theme of dictatorial powers asking for direct talks with the United States? We expect such idiocy from Kim, but I have heard this direct-talks theme echoed among critics of the administration as well. I find the insistence amusing, since these same armchair diplomats who insist that we indulge North Korea in its request for direct talks are the ones who have taken the Bush administration to task for engaging in "unilateral" action in Iraq (I put "unilateral" in quotes because it is not actually true; action in Iraq was the result of a multi-national coalition that was in its inception larger than the coalition that countered Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1991).

North Korea wants direct talks with the United States for two reasons: it wants to stall, and it wants its Asian neighbors kept in the dark about the lack of progress. Fortunately, Kim won't be getting his way on this one.

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All Praise to Lexis-Nexis

Haroly Meyerson evidently assumes that his audience is full of people who will just blithely accept what he writes without bothering to do research.  Unfortunately for him, some of his readers have access to research tools like Lexis-Nexis, and as such can quickly point out contradictory statements.

Take today's article in the Post, for example.  In it, Meyerson excoriates Joe Lieberman, particularly for Joe's assertion that parties should welcome diversity of opinion.  Lieberman is in trouble in the upcoming Senate primary, primarily for supporting the Iraq War.  Well, ole Harold is having none of that:

That's a rather stunning assertion. If parties were based on the acceptance of diversity of opinion on the most important issues of the day, they would lack the definition to be parties at all. And the conduct and duration of our involvement in Iraq is, by the measure of every single poll, the No. 1 issue in the minds of the American people -- a majority of whom believe that the Bush administration has botched the war about as badly as a war can be botched.

So, according to Meyerson, the members of a party ought to vote in lock step on the major issues of the day.

Funny, but Meyerson didn't seem to have a problem with a group of moderate Republicans when they caused problems for President Bush last Fall.  In fact, Meyerson praised the moderates for raising a hue and cry when Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act.  In an article from November 3, 2005, Meyerson writes:

Which makes the Republican moderates understandably nervous. Life is unfair, and it's their seats, more than the more secure ones of their hard-right colleagues, that are being added to the Democrats' list of districts to contest in next year's elections. And who knows? Maybe courage, or judgment, is contagious. Having stood up to the president on Davis-Bacon and lived to tell the tale, they might just tell their colleagues who want to cut back on medical assistance to the poor to take a hike. Over in the Senate, they might even reject a Supreme Court nominee who could imperil a woman's right to reproductive choice. Because one thing is certain: Whatever ails the Republican Party, it's not that it's insufficiently right-wing.

Ignoring the idiotic blather about "reproductive choice," it seems Meyerson has no problem whatsoever with dissidence, just so long as the dissidents are all in the Republican party and steer it in a direction Meyerson approves of.  As for the Democratic party, no insubordination from the leftist dogma will be tolerated.  How open minded of him.

Cross posted at the Cranky Conservative

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

North Korea

Just a quick post since I'm at work...

NK appears to be preparing to launch an ICBM with a range of more than 9000 miles. The damn thing can reach the West Coast. Supposedly, this is a defensive measure only... Yeah... Right.

I don't trust them and have to wonder if they are stupid and insane enough to surprise attack the U.S. It doesn't seem likely, but the insane can never be trusted to act reasonably.

As simplistic as it sounds, I am for blowing the damn thing up over international waters. They launch, we destroy it. They launch a second, we destroy that too.

I know absolutely nothing about military science so I could be way off base here, but how hard can it be? The weapon is 116 feet long. Surely we can handle it.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fitzmas Cancelled

Sorry Virginia, there is no Fitzy Claus.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Farewell from the Hammer

There has been so much concentration on the end of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi over the last few days that few people noticed yesterday was former Representative Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex.) last day in Congress.

I have issues with Tom DeLay. My primary beefs have nothing to do with why the left hates him – to wit, his effectiveness at marshalling legislation and driving the Republican agenda. My issues have to do with the brusqueness of his style and the way he went from being a true-blue conservative to an inside-the-Beltway turf-guarder in the course of his 22 years in power.

That having been said, DeLay’s farewell speech from the House well yesterday is perhaps the most direct and poignant encapsulation of the conservative viewpoint I have heard in years. The whole text of his farewell speech is here – and I encourage you to read it in its entirety – but here are a few key segments that might as well have been penned by Ronald Reagan, and are particularly apt for our dialogue here at TPS:

In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the "good old days" of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.

I can't do that. Because partisanship, Mr. Speaker - properly understood - is not a symptom of a democracy's weakness, but of its health and strength - especially from the perspective of a political conservative.

Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy - and a proud one with a great tradition in this country - with a voracious appetite for growth. In any time or place, on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? "More." More government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and decisions and wallets.

If conservatives don't stand up to liberalism, no one will! And for a long time around here . . . almost no one did.


The point is: we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree. And so we debate - often loudly, and often in vain - to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view. We debate here on the House floor. We debate in committees. We debate on television, and on radio, and on the Internet, and in the newspapers. And then every two years, we have a HUGE debate... and then in November we see who won.

That is not rancor.

That is democracy!


For all its faults, it is partisanship - based on core principles - that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.


It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first-principle. For true statesmen, Mr. Speaker, are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don't.


Conservatism is often unfairly accused of being insensitive and mean-spirited... sometimes, unfortunately, even by other conservatives. As a result, conservatives often attempt to "soften" that stereotype by over-funding broken programs or glossing over ruinous policies. But conservatism isn't about feeling people's pain... it's about curing it.

Amen, Tom. Amen.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Nicholas Berg’s Decapitation

Last night, I was reading about the unfolding story of the bizarre comments made by Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg. Nicholas Berg, you may recall, was an American citizen from West Chester, Pennsylvania, who went to Iraq in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom to work as a freelance telecommunications contractor. Nicholas Berg was subsequently abducted and beheaded by members of al Qaeda – and it is further believed that he was personally beheaded by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It occurred to me that I had never watched the footage of the beheading of Nicholas Berg (Lord knows the media never would have shown it, lest Americans actually understand what we are up against), and so I went in search of it myself.

The footage was not hard to find, but it certainly was hard to watch. It was truly the most horrific and nauseating thing I have ever seen, without exception.

I am posting the footage of Nicholas Berg’s decapitation here for those who have the courage to see it for themselves. (The website contains its own glaring warnings, but I will include my own so that no one can say they were surprised: this video is extremely violent and graphic, and discretion is advised. For planning purposes, you should be aware that roughly the first two-thirds of the recording is Zarqawi speaking in Arabic.) I am not making this available to you for shock value. I am doing this for two very specific reasons. First, I want people to understand that the death of Zarqawi on Wednesday makes the world a better and safer place. Second, and more importantly, I want people to remember why we are fighting this War on Terror in the first place.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

In Defense of Ann Coulter

You’ve got to love Ann Coulter. I certainly do. In many respects, she is a liberal’s worst nightmare. She is a modern, educated, articulate, accomplished woman who is brash and outspoken in her conservative opposition to the dictates of a dying feminist movement. The fact that she is hot is gravy.

I think what liberals despise the most about Ann Coulter is the fact that she also tends to be right a lot of the time. Take, for example, the brouhaha that has erupted over the course of the last few days with respect to her comments about a handful of politically oriented 9/11 widows. Senator Hillary Rodham “My Husband Cheated on Me, So I Should Be President, Too” Clinton (D-N.Y.) slammed Coulter over a few select lines in her latest blockbuster book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism. According to All Headline News:
According to a report by the Associated Press, Coulter writes in [her new book] that a group of New Jersey widows whose husbands perished in the World Trade Center act "as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them."

She also wrote, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

[Clinton] said the remarks were painful for those whom she have known for years after the attack and whose "pain is real" and were "concerned deeply about the safety and security of our country."

Coulter appeared Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, and stuck by her stance, saying the women used their grief "to make a political point."
Coulter then went on to clarify her broader point on the Wednesday, June 7, 2006, edition of Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show (cited, along with a general media recap of the Coulter reaction, here), where she stated (in substance) that Democrat politicians and strategists have made a concerted effort to handpick pro-liberal spokespersons whose personal 9/11 and post-9/11 tragedies would permit them to express liberal policy preferences while being insulated from any and all substantive criticism. (For example: 9/11 WIDOW: “I’m a 9/11 widow and I think President Bush is Satan Spawn.” CRITIC: “I disagree with your perception of the president because—” 9/11 WIDOW: “How dare you disagree with me! I am a 9/11 widow and am therefore infallible! By the way, did you see the article about me in Vanity Fair?”)

Not twenty-four hours after the fiery Coulter defended herself on national radio, another grief-stricken lefty kook proved Coulter’s point better than anything she could have offered in her own defense. Michael Berg, whose son Nicholas Berg was beheaded on videotape by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had some choice words not for the murderer of his son, but for President George W. Bush, with whom he disagrees politically. The exchange (which I heard today on the Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends) is remarkable in that Berg claims that President Bush is at least as evil as Saddam Hussein and doubts that Zarqawi was actually killed today, or at all. (I do not expect you to take my word for it, but I have had difficulty finding either the actual audio or a full transcript. I have, however, found this, which provides the past news cycle’s treatment of Berg and a handful of his comments. I would encourage you all to note that Michael Berg is running for Congress on the Green Party ticket – a fact that evaded detection by two of the three cable networks that spoke to him this morning.)

Ann Coulter’s biggest problem of late seems to be that she is too accurate too often. Maybe I can get her to autograph a copy of Godless for me.

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Oh yeah
The al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a joint attack by U.S. helicopters and Iraqi forces, ABC news reported on Thursday.

It said U.S. helicopters hit a house near Baquba, 40 miles

north of Baghdad, at 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

"Zarqawi was apparently injured at first... The Americans found him. They handed him over to the Iraqis and he later died of his injuries," ABC said.
No doubt the most significant event in the war since the capture of Saddam. As others have said, no, this obviously doesn't end the war, but this is just the greatest possible news at this point.

I hope Zarqawi enjoys those 72 raisins.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Speaker Nancy? Not So Fast

What type of news can coax me out of bed, slipped disc and all, and get me to blog? Good news, of course. Whether the Republican Party wants it or not, they were just handed a blueprint for success in this fall’s elections – and no, Mr. President, it has nothing to do with amnesty for illegal aliens.

Yesterday saw Republican Brian Bilbray defeat liberal Democrat Francine Busby in the special election prompted by the resignation of the disgraced California congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham over his ethical lapses and subsequent criminal indictments. Bilbray’s election would, in a different political climate, have been viewed as a lock in light of the fact that San Diego and the suburban environs that make up that particular congressional district trend Republican. Up until yesterday, however, the impression one might have gotten from listening to liberal Democrat politicians and their willing accomplices in the media was that Republicans were about to see their era of D.C. dominance come to a close – and that their exit would be prompted at least in part by the GOP’s so-called culture of corruption. Party prophets were saying triumphantly that Bilbray’s near-guaranteed defeat would be a portent of things to come in November.

But two funny things happened on the way to the Forum. The first was that Democrats’ cries about a Republican culture of corruption lost a lot of steam in the wake of revelations that Representative William Jefferson (D-La.) had received tens, and perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars in bribes over the last few years – all of which had been closely monitored and documented by the FBI. (While it could be said that Jefferson single-handedly destroyed the Democrats’ only effective campaign theme for the fall, I would also throw Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) in the mix, since the disingenuousness of his behavior after getting into a DWI accident on Capitol Hill and using his Kennedy connection to get him out of hot water showed that no one party has a monopoly in inappropriate and/or illegal behavior. Ditto Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) acceptance of free ringside boxing seats from Nevada’s boxing commission, which is a undeniable violation of ethical rules.)

The other, more directly relevant thing that happened – which, apparently, completely surprised congressional Democrats and pundits – was that the Bilbray-Busby race was won on substance. Bilbray ran an expensive yet effective campaign in which he savaged proponents of the current rudderless immigration “reform” bill (including the president) while calling for stronger border control measures as the baseline for any federal legislation. Bilbray’s firm stance against giving illegal immigrants a pass simply because they followed Taco Bell’s advice was in sharp contrast to Busby’s (captured-on-audiotape) comments telling a Spanish-speaking individual at a campaign question-and-answer session that, yes, he could vote for her and help her campaign without being legally present in the United States. (I’m embarrassed to even have to add this, but since there are liberals who read this site: It is illegal to both vote and volunteer for campaign work if you are in fact illegally present in the United States.) Putting Bilbray’s unwavering stand against illegal immigration (in California, no less) up against Busby’s virtual request for votes and free campaign labor by illegals makes it clear why Bilbray walloped Busby by more than four percentage points.

Yesterday helped put the lie to the notion that Republicans can, in this political climate, only win by pretending to be liberal Democrats. To the contrary: Republicans win when they do what they do best, which is stick to conservative principles such as fiscal restraint and law-and-order tactics. Bilbray did the Republican Party a tremendous service by sticking to his proverbial guns and demonstrating that having the courage of your convictions makes you a winner every time. Whether or not the Republicans choose to learn this important lesson in time for November has yet to be seen.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Golden Oldies

So Karl & Co. are banking on this old dog hunting one more time.... Not only does the amendment stand no chance of passing--since even the most self-proclaimed religious americans won't support enshrining such base discrimination into our Constitution, but this so painfully embodies just how low this administration will sink to try and rally support with fear, prejudice and hatred. Anyone want to take bets on how long until the next orange alert? I think I'll put dibs on October 20, 2006. Shame on you Mr. President.

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