Tuesday, October 31, 2006
John Kerry = Idiot
“You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
So I guess only idiots end up in the military, huh?
Well, Kerry is a vet.
Every Time A Soldier Dies, A Liberal Gets His Jollies
And why should they hold back their glee over American deaths? They have, after all, taken their strong anti-American bias to the next level by actually aiding and abetting foreign terrorists, and providing them with recruitment fodder to boot, all under the phony guise of objective journalism.
The Clinton, er, Cable News Network (CNN) confessed earlier this week that it had solicited access to terrorist insurgents operating in Iraq and promised, in exchange for that access, an airing of pro-terrorist footage of Iraqi snipers killing -- yes, killing -- American soliders on its network and a "fair shake" in its coverage of the terrorists.
The American Spectator provides the full account (as do other news sources), but I just wanted to include this paragraph to hammer it home:
"Anti-Americanism pays off for us over there, no doubt about it," says [an anonymous] CNN employee. "Questions were raised about this video and the way we got it. Once it was confirmed that it was real, the next question was how did we get it. And the answer was, we promised to give the terrorists a fair shake. I know that we are saying there was soul-searching here about running the tape. But I didn't see much of that. There were somber people here, but there was also a segment of people on staff, once the tape had run and created a firestorm, that celebrated. They thought they were so courageous."
This is the intellectual and moral equivalent of Edward R. Murrow having had a sit-down exclusive with Hitler during the D-Day invasion. It is disgusting and nauseating, and I hope we can now finally dispense with the notion that CNN is an objective news source.
P.S. For those of you out there who think the violence against American troops in October is coincidental: do you think terrorists do not know when our elections are? And is there really any question which American political party they want to succeed next Tuesday?
P.P.S. Since it appears CNN has taken up residence in the enemy's camp, when can we start launching guided missiles at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta?
Friday, October 27, 2006
I think we all knew it wouldn't be long before Vicente Fox, the outgoing president of our alleged ally to our south, would throw his two pesos in:
Mexico's president sharply criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's signing Thursday of a bill to build hundreds of kilometers (miles) of additional fencing on its southern border, calling the move an "embarrassment."I think Fox is just bitter because the United States has taken a step, albeit an all-too-small one, toward reinforcing its own sovereignty, which thereby interferes with Mexico's Aztlan strategy. He is probably also unhappy about the fact that he does not get to personally preside over the reconquista. Too bad.
. . .
President Vicente Fox told reporters in the Caribbean resort city of Cancun that the fence would not stop millions of Mexicans from heading north in search of jobs.
"It is an embarrassment for the United States," Fox said. "It is proof, perhaps, that the United States does not see immigration as a subject that corresponds to both countries."
Hey, Vicente: if you can somehow get over the border (illegally, of course, like the rest of your countrymen), we might be able to find a Taco Bell for you to manage.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Christian Theocrat Watch
A Christian theocracy is suppodedly emerging in America, especially if you listen to the shrieks of people like Andy Sullivan and the like. And there's no doubt much about Christianity that is suspect, especially as regards religion. Take this story out of Australia:
Australia's most prominent Catholic priest was threatened with deportation today after he was reported to have said that women who "sway suggestively" and do not cover up can provoke sexual assault by men.
He went on to say to "worshippers in Sydney that women who display their bodies were like 'uncovered meat'."
This comes on the story of this Washington Post story.
When dealing with a "disobedient wife," a Christian man has a number of options. First, he should remind her of "the importance of following the instructions of the husband in Islam." If that doesn't work, he can "leave the wife's bed." Finally, he may "beat" her, though it must be without "hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost."
[snip]The notion of using physical punishment as a "disciplinary action," as Sheha suggests, especially for "controlling or mastering women" or others who "enjoy being beaten," is common throughout the Christian world. Indeed, I first encountered Sheha's work at my Morgantown church, where an Christian student group handed it out to male worshipers after Friday prayers one day a few years ago.
Truly shocking. Of course, in the actual stories above, the words Catholic and Christian are replaced by Muslim, priest by cleric, and church by Mosque. But you won't be seeing too many books about the horrors of impending Muslim Theocracy in your local bookstore. While Kevin Phillips is railing about the evils of Bush's theocratic regime, this sort of bile is being spread throughout much of the world.
It's staggering that we've willfully blinded ourselves to the true horrors of this world in order that we can focus on the impending doom of global warming and the like. (And yes, I am currently reading Mark Steyn's new book, can't you tell?) The internal combustion engine might be the greatest threat to human civilization, though an enraged jihadi with a suicide bomb strapped to his body can do an awful lot of damage, and if things keep going as they are in Europe, there will be a lot more of the latter to worry about than the former.
So, secularists, keep fretting about the evils of the Bush regime. We surely can't deal with this oppressive theocracy.
Oh, by the way, the New Jersey Supreme Court has basically thus mandated gay marriage be permitted in the state.
When will this Christian theocracy be stopped?
Never Cross a Tolkien Fan
Mother Jones details how Santorum stepped in it, as well as how his comments spawned an entire exchange among Tolkien fans about the applicability of the LOTR story line to the present War in Iraq. I do not necessarily disagree with Santorum's analogy regarding the Eye of Mordor (or the Eye of Sauron, or whatever the heck you prefer to call it), but I just find it amusing that a stump speech spawned a raging debate amongst Tolkien fans. (Also, those of you who get as far as the comments at the bottom of the page will note that I couldn't resist throwing my two cents in.)
Now, where are my Magic: The Gathering cards?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The above is an excerpt from today's NJ Supreme Court decision in Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, etc., et al., recognizing a right to same sex unions, the full text of which is available here. The summary on pages 1-2 give a succinct overview of the court's legal reasoning.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Why I'm Happy These Days
I'm proud to announce that the little guy above is my new son, Joseph Thomas Briscoe. We are very blessed as our third child was born healthy and reasonable happy on October 10, 2006 in Port Charlotte, Florida at a full 9 pounds, 15 ounces, and 21 inches long. He has dark green eyes and a full head of dark brown hair. Having a 4 year-old, a 2 year-old, and a newborn has proved a challenge these past 2 weeks. And I'm sure it'll drive me crazy at times! But it has also been even more rewarding. I know that being a Big Daddy will continue to define my life as I slide into my 30s this year.
Moving right along, I know there has been a lot of pessimism expressed on this blog over the past few months. And sure I know there are lots of real problems out there for which no candidate appearing on any ballot this November offers any real solutaions. But, personally, I'm pretty pumped about the state of our country's politcal spectrum these days. Whether the Democrats take Congress or the GOP manages to hang on, I think a strong message has been sent to Washington and, more specifically, to the President that we're ready for political change. All signs point towards 2008 being a watershed election in our nation's history. And that's something we should all welcome, regardless of politcal party.
Take the issue of Iraq for example. In another era, this could have easily become another Vietnam where protestors were forced to reside on the fringe of our culture (damn hippies!) and it takes 10 years or more to accomplish real change in a flawed government policy. Not anymore. With the internet, talk radio, blogs, satellite technology, an aggressive and embedded press, and all sorts of outlets for public expression, we don't need the candlelight vigils and annoying protest marches anymore. Those of us who have been standing up to the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense on Iraq for several years have now gained the clear moral backing of the America public. And I believe we'll see real change soon.
My final thought. The next time you hear a Republican defend Bush's Iraq policies by saying "we need to leave decision making in Iraq to the generals on the ground", remember that if Abraham Lincoln had done the same during the Civil War, we might still have two Americas to this day. Yes, we need to trust and consider the judgments of our generals. However, we also must remember that it is our elected leaders in Washington who oversee all aspects of our government -- including our military. Let's hold them accountable, and not allow blame for the mess in Iraq to be passed either to our brave soldiers or their leaders on the ground.
Hope everyone is well. 2 more weeks till Election Day!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
In his monthly press conference today in front of 10 Downing Street, the departing British Prime Minister reaffirmed, in no uncertain terms, that it is unacceptable for Great Britain's increasingly bold Muslim population to continue to isolate itself from the larger British community. Says the West Australian:
Blair is being decried as a racist and bigot by the usual suspects, but he is only expressing what used to be a common-sense proposition: namely, that integration was a key feature of any successful Western society. Of course, I think what we all need to remember is that the vast majority of the global Muslim community has no interest integration.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has signalled a shift from multiculturalism to integration, saying yesterday that Muslim women wearing full face veils in public was a “mark of separation” in society that made other people feel uncomfortable.
Mr Blair backed a West Yorkshire education authority which suspended Muslim teaching assistant Aishah Azmi for refusing to remove her veil during lessons.
His comments came as a British Airways employee who was stood down for refusing to cover a small Christian cross necklace appealed to a jobs tribunal.
The case has fuelled a national debate on religious expression and seen politicians attack BA.
Asked at a press conference if a woman who wore a veil could make a full contribution to society, Mr Blair made it clear it was an issue that should be debated.
“It is a mark of separation and that is why it makes other people from outside the community uncomfortable,” he said.
“No one wants to say that people don’t have the right to do it. That is to take it too far. But I think we need to confront this issue about how we integrate people properly into our society” while allowing them to develop their “distinctive identities”.
In a related story, France has surrendered, again - this time, to its own Islamist high tide. (I wonder if Pipe Bomb Making will be a three-credit or four-credit course?)
Have we learned anything in the last five years? The time is rapidly approaching when we will have to remove our own veils.
Monday, October 16, 2006
More on the Decline of Institutionalism (at least in Congress)
The first story is a front pager, albeit below the fold, about Speaker Hastert and his inner circle with respect to their dealing with the Foley issue. I’m not concerned or interested at all in the specifics of the story as they relate to “Foley-gate,” rather I found a couple of comments much more worthy of exploration. At several times the article notes that Hastert is the leader of the GOP caucus and that his focus has been on running that group as opposed to being the leader of the House of Representatives. For example, the article notes that “[e]ven Hastert’s defenders acknowledge that his top priority as speaker has been protecting the GOP majority, not investigating the president or his own caucus.” A couple of other quotes, one from a Democrat and one from a Republican, seem to bear this observation out. According to Rham Emmanuel (D-Ill), “[w]hen it’s come to a choice between the integrity of the House or the Republican majority, he's always put his thumb on the scale to protect the majority.” According to Grover Norquist, “… everyone knows he represents the caucus agenda, not his own agenda.”
The shift from viewing the role of Speaker first as the leader of the House and then as caucus or party leader, to Speaker as party leader and then, when it’s politically convenient, as leader of the House, has been one of many examples of the decline of “institutionalism” that I’ve witnessed over the last 6 years. Perhaps much of this decline is due to the fact that the President and the Congress are led by members of the same party. While that may explain some of the decline, I’m not convinced that it explains all, or even most, of it. Rather, what seems to be happening is a general lack of interest and understanding of the roles that our respective institutions qua institutions are supposed to have in our tri-partite system of separation of powers. More depressing, at least for people like me -- who see Congress (and to a lesser extent state legislatures) as the cornerstone of a republic like ours – is that the other institutions (SCOTUS and the President) don’t appear to be suffering from the same institutional malaise. One often hears the President speak of “the Presidency,” or more broadly, what is in the best interest of the Executive Branch, which he is the constitutionally appointed leader. Similarly, if one pays close attention to the Court, you’d find similar sentiments coming from the Office of the Chief Justice, who is the constitutionally appointed leader of the Judiciary, and the only named officer in Article III of the Constitution. Conversely, one never, or hardly ever, hears anyone, not the Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, or anyone else; speak about the House or the Senate as a body independent of the current political party that is currently in control. (I suppose one could point to the debates over the so-called “nuclear option,” where there was some mention of the “good of the Senate,” but outside of that I challenge anyone to find me examples of concern for the body itself)
Lest it not be forgotten, the Speaker of the House is a “constitutional officer,” at least in the sense that the position is specifically referenced in the Constitution. See U.S. Const. Art. 1, sec. 2, cl. 5. Unlike the Senate Majority Leader, who is not mentioned as the leader of the Senate (that is the Vice-President, though one could argue we’ve effectively changed that even without an amendment), the Speaker of the House arguably has a “constitutional” duty to protect and defend the interests of the body whenever challenged or threatened, either internally, by the actions or inactions of rank and file members, or externally, by the other branches. Again this harkens back to issues about rules and procedures, which are not the subject of our current political discourse, which, as previously noted, is preoccupied by innocuous spewing and meaningless platitudes about “issues” that aren’t ever going to be actually be addressed. The quiescence of Congress over the last 6+ years is doing damage to the institution itself. I say this regardless of which party controls.
By the way should one respond by saying that the Democrats are/were no better when they controlled the House, I’d have to respectfully disagree. For example, Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil (D-Mass.) was arguably single-handedly responsible for the creation of the House General Counsel’s office, which is the body that represents the interest of the House during litigation. Prior to O’Neil, the House relied on the Department of Justice or individual Members to represent the body in litigation often merely though amicus briefs. While arguably not the most notable example or even a widely known one, it demonstrates a concern that the House as an institution needed its own legal representation and at times would have to defend its actions in court against a strong executive who’s positions may not always be in accord with what Congress needed or wanted done. I’ve got no sense that the current leadership (or any potential future democratic leadership) could do or would do what O’Neil did with respect to legal representation.
My second example deals with the line of Presidential succession, which was discussed in a small blurb on the federal page of today’s Washington Post. The article concerned the fact that there is a “non-public” (post says “secret”) document that contains a line of succession for the Speaker’s office for “continuity of Congress” purposes. This was reportedly done shortly after Sept. 11, due to the fear that a terrorist attack could potentially wipe out numerous Members of Congress and cripple the government. As I’m sure most of you know, the line of Presidential succession is determined in part by the Constitution and in part by a federal statute, 3 U.S.C. § 19 (2000). The Constitution, specifically the 25th Amendment, deals with succession from the President to the Vice-President, while the federal statute deals with other contingencies, including no eligible Vice-President, in which case the line proceeds to the Speaker of the House then the President pro-tempore of the Senate and down through the cabinet officials. Of course there has been a tremendous amount of debate over the statutory provisions as there constitutionality is at least questionable (though practically I think there is some merit to them). The fact that in the face of these unanswered and arguably unanswerable constitutional questions, the House would choose to potentially add further confusion to the issue by appointing a “non-public” line of succession to the Speaker’s office is a bit befuddling and at least to me demonstrates a bit of a “tin ear" with respect to the seriousness of these issues.
While there is nothing, in my opinion, illegal or unconstitutional (see U.S. Const. Art. 1, sec. 5, cl. 2 (granting each House the ability to make its own rules)) about a line of succession for the Speaker’s office in the event of a national emergency, the fact that such an action may have implications on the potential line of succession of the President appears not to have been considered, or if was considered, the rationale not made known. Moreover, I don’t really have a problem with the list itself being secret; what I object to is the potential oversight of the consequences (both intended and unintended) that the utilization of such a list might cause. One should keep in mind that the qualifications for Members of the House, the Senate, and Presidency are all different. Thus, it is possible for a person to be Speaker to be constitutionally ineligible to hold the office of President (for example, a Speaker could either not be 35 years of age, or he/she could not be a native born citizen). That’s just the tip of the iceberg with respect to potential legal/constitutional problems with such an action. While on one hand I applaud the House for taking steps to ensure its continuity during a crisis. On the other hand, it seems a rather ill-conceived formulation and something that the general public arguably has a right to know about. I suppose my point is to reference another example of long-term institutional security getting second fiddle, when it should be the ONLY concern of Members regardless of party. I don't mean to suggest anything untoward here, I'm sure there were good intentions as much of the continunity issues have been dealt with in a bi-partisian manner. I'm merely suggesting that concern for the institution wasn't the main concern when it should have been, and that reflects poorly on all Members involved.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Das Vidanya, Air Amerika
According to the Associated Press, Air Amerika, the belabored liberal radio talk show network, officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday, which (as the AP also noted) was contrary to what the network had claimed was in the offing as little as one month ago. The AP went on to say that a network spokesperson confirmed that Air Amerika’s most recent attempts to secure additional funding from a creditor had fallen through, prompting the present filing. It is unclear how long Air Amerika will remain on the air, or if it will be able to remain on the air at all.
None of this should be at all surprising. Air Amerika was founded with one simple goal (by its founders’ and supporters’ own admissions): to become the radio industry’s counterweight to what is generally regarded as the conservative talk radio revolution. The prevailing view among leftists in the mass media was that conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and a whole host of others were having undue influence on voters (perish the thought – a competing ideology?), which was causing untold damage to liberal issues and Democrats’ chances. It was theorized that countering that conservative heft with liberal hosts was just the solution.
Air Amerika took to the air in March 2004, right about the same time that John “Hey, did you know I was a Vietnam Veteran? I have a plan to let you know that” Kerry’s (D-Denial) presidential campaign was getting into half swing. As Wikipedia reports, however, hopes may have been high for the network, but very little else about it was (with the possible exception of Al Franken):
Air America was started by a group called Progress Media, which said it had amassed $30 million in venture capital prior to its debut, a claim which later turned out to be untrue (only $6 million was initially collected). Two individuals from Guam, Rex Sorensen and Evan Montvel Cohen, were involved in raising the capital but denied any wrongdoing. Cohen has since been implicated in indictments against employees of a children’s charity for the misuse of the charity’s funds including Cohen’s use of $825,000 of the charity’s money to fund Air America.(These are just some of the problems that plagued Air Amerika right up until Friday’s bankruptcy filing. In the interests of brevity, I did not include them all, but you can read about them until your heart’s content on Wikipedia, or other news sources, such as this one.)
Two weeks after its debut, Air America Radio [AAR] was pulled off the air in two key markets due to a contract dispute. Multicultural Radio owned two stations contracted to carry the AAR signal, in Chicago and Santa Monica, California. Air America alleged that Multicultural Radio had sold time on their Los Angeles station to both AAR and another party, and claimed that that was why they stopped payment on checks due to Multicultural while AAR investigated.
Multicultural Radio noted that Air America bounced a check and claimed they were owed in excess of $1 million. Air America Radio filed a complaint in New York Supreme Court, charging breach of contract and was briefly granted an injunction to restore the network on WNTD-AM in Chicago. On April 20, the network announced the dispute had been settled, and Air America’s last day of broadcast on WNTD was April 30. The New York Supreme Court ultimately concluded that the injunction was improvidently entered and that Air America Radio’s court action was without merit, dismissing Air America’s complaint and awarding over $250,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to Multicultural. According to a subsequent lawsuit filed by Multicultural, Air America Radio never paid the sums ordered by the court.
Four weeks after Air America’s debut, its CEO, Mark Walsh, and executive vice president for programming, Dave Logan, left the network. One week after those departures, its chairman and vice chairman, Evan Cohen and his investment partner Rex Sorensen, also left. Some attributed Cohen’s departure to investor unhappiness with how he handled the dispute with Multicultural Radio Broadcasting.
Why did Air Amerika fail? The overall answer is simple: no one ever really wanted to listen to it.
For all of their hatred for the likes of Rush Limbaugh (who deserves credit for being the guy who put talk radio, of whatever political bent, on the map) and others who have followed in his footsteps, Air Amerika’s founders and supporters never quite grasped that their popularity and successes were due to the fact that people actually wanted to listen to them. Rush almost single-handedly forged a previously unknown medium: a radio talk show that combined current events and political insight with humor and entertainment. We take such programs for granted these days, given their ubiquity, but Rush truly did something novel that did not take long to catch on.
Whereas Rush built his program (and his success) from the bottom up, going from a handful of affiliates to nationwide syndication and what amounts to his own media empire, Air Amerika has adopted a supply-side approach (which is ironic, given their unending derision of the supply-side concept), which is that they started an entire network without any demonstration whatsoever that people actually wanted to listen to a liberal talk show network in the first place. Rather than building liberal or progressive talk show programs from the ground up on different radio stations across the country, and slowly shifting them to syndication after they hit their stride, Air Amerika went out and secured funding (from legitimate and illegitimate sources) to fund a product that no one was buying. Without a dedicated listening audience, advertisers did not stick around long enough to provide the network with revenue, which meant that Air Amerika could not sustain itself once its startup capital was spent. Hence, we have what happened Friday.
Why was no one buying what they were selling? That is, of course, a tougher question. Having never listened to Air Amerika myself, I can only speculate. If I had to take a stab at it, however, I would guess that it has less to do with any sort of political bias of potential audience members (although I do think this country is more conservative than not – but that is a discussion for another day) and more to do with the fact that liberals are not very entertaining or optimistic people. Love ’em or hate ’em, the conservative hosts that I have heard offer their audiences political discussion with an optimistic view of our nation and entertaining twists throughout. Humor, news, and good cheer coexist in the talk radio format in a way that occurs nowhere else, and the hosts (even the conservative ones) that cannot combine the above factors eventually disappear.
Liberals (please note that I am referring to the few liberals I have heard on the air, not liberals in general; most of my liberal friends crack me up; maybe Air Amerika should have signed them up) tend to be dour, unpleasant, pessimistic types. I don’t think this is so much because these liberals are incapable of humor – quite the opposite. I think the failure can be attributed to liberalism itself, as liberalism is an ideology that perpetually focuses on all that is wrong with society. It therefore is not such a mystery why shows that preach nothing but doom and gloom cannot compete with shows that both educate and entertain their audiences.
Das vidanya, Air Amerika. But cheer up: at least you still have the MSM to force the liberal viewpoint down American throats.
Friday, October 13, 2006
On Campaigning and Voting for Members of Congress
Of course, as readers of this space have noticed, and some have appropriately labeled me, I’m a big nerd/geek/wonkish type who pays far too much attention to minute details and finds things interesting that few if anyone else does. I could try to blame much of this on my profession, which requires, inter alia, an arcane knowledge of law, history, politics, and congressional procedure, but there are too many of you who know me personally for that to get me very far. All of this is by way of pointing out a flaw in my own position. Namely, that the average voter doesn’t care about procedures, they are only concerned with results. This rather obvious observation, I think, explains in large part why a “line-item veto” is so popular with the voting populace, even though I so firmly believe it to be a procedural disaster and an accident of destructive proportions just waiting to happen. In other words, support for the “line-item veto” has nothing to do with intelligence or even knowledge it has to do with getting a palpable change in the federal budget, primarly one that makes it smaller. GC is a very smart, intelligent person who has my utmost respect, and he supports the idea, though for very sophisticated reasons not often articulated by others. Support comes from the fact that the “line-item veto” will produce results, where as opposition appears to be a vote for the status quo (a bloated federal budget with too many special interest earmarks), which many people object to.
Yes, I’m oversimplifying to a huge degree. Nevertheless, I’ve been forced to ask the question, is it possible to elect better Congresspersons or I’m I merely deluding myself? I fear the latter may be true, especially when I get home and see TV ads for local candidates talking about how they “love puppies” (Michael Steele) or how they will “change the culture of Washington” (Ben Cardin). I mean come on, are these the criteria that we are supposed to use when electing Members of Congress? With crap like this from both parties, I can see why our very own Paul Zummo has taken a hiatus from politics blogging. Most campaigns are supposedly about “issues,” but too often the candidates don’t have a clue what the hell they are talking about. I’m not limiting this to the substance of these so-called "issues," but if I hear one more candidate say that if you send them to Washington they will “fix health care,” “reform social programs,” or “end the war in Iraq,” I’m going to punch someone. Members of Congress, especially freshman Members can’t do any of these things. They can’t investigate government waste, fraud, and abuse or other excesses by government actors; let’s be honest here, freshman Members can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time. They simply don't know enough. Congress is a complicated place; it is unlike any other office or group body in the country, even state legislatures or city councils can't measure up to its complexity. It litteraly takes years to master the rules and procedures. Thus, much of a Member's first couple of terms are spent just figuring out what the heck is happening around them on a daily basis (these observations, by the way, are some of the many practical reasons to oppose term limits, legal objections aside).
Is it too much to ask that our candidates actually know a thing or two about how Congress works? Instead of the questions normally put to candidates wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear someone ask about how a “motion to recommit” works, or how about ensuring that there are more “open rules” and, therefore, more actual substantive debate on the House floor? Why don’t we judge prospective members on the things they actually control, like whether to expand the jurisdiction of the ethics committees, or reduce the power of committee chairmen by requiring the express consent of the ranking member before proceeding to new business, taking votes, or passing bills? What about establishment of jurisdiction over committees, to ensure that the right people actually get to review substantive legislation before it goes to the floor, or inserting a 72-hour reading rule that isn’t able to be waived by a mere majority vote so that Members and staff can actually read the laws they pass?
I know, I know, we’d all rather read and talk about “maccaa” or what Jim Webb said about Naval Academy women 25 years ago, because that’s what really matters when you send people to Congress. Face facts folks, the procedures matter, the rules matter, the arcane history matters, it matters more than almost anything else up here. I don’t expect people to care deeply about these things, but I do expect that they at least expect their elected officials to care. Keep sending the pretty smiling faces, and the rich connected real estate moguls to Washington and you’ll continue to get more of the status quo, not because they like it, but because they don’t know or care enough about how to change it.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Red Storm Closing
One of those original blockbusters was not, however, part of the Jack Ryan series, but stood alone. That book was Red Storm Rising, a fairly powerful vision of what a conventional war between the Soviet Union, the United States, and their respective allies might have looked like. Those of you who read the book will remember that the United States Naval Air Base located in Keflavik, Iceland, played a fairly prominent role in the book, as it was a prime target of the initial Soviet assault on American air and sea forces in the Atlantic.
For all you Clancyites who were planning on making a pilgrimage to the Keflavik air base in the near future, cancel those plane tickets. The New Zealand Herald's online edition reported that, on Friday, September 30, 2006, "[t]he United States withdrew its last 30 military personnel from Iceland as it shut a naval air base that in its Cold War heyday was the sixth largest town in the island nation."
The Washington Post reported further on this story prior to the completion of the withdrawal, noting that the departure does not signal any abandonment of Iceland as a NATO ally, but rather a reflection of a changing military reality:
A newly cemented defense deal between the two countries contains a U.S
pledge to rush to Iceland's aid, even though there will be no American military
on the island.
[Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde] said the "new era" of the
U.S.-Iceland defense relationship was a product of new realities.
"We're not really worried about a territorial threat any more. We don't
perceive a threat from any other country in the old sense," Haarde said.
"There are other dangers, there are other threats, here as everywhere else,
and we need to cooperate both with our American friends and other NATO allies
and Europe in general on those."
Strange how terrorism can make you long for the good ole days of the Cold War, eh? At least the Soviets were rational.
Hat tip to a fellow Clancyite.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The National Democratic Party wants to talk about North Korea now that the midget king lit off a nuclear device. More correctly, they want to paint a picture of a government so consumed by the Iraq war that it negligently encouraged the acquisition of nuclear technology by Kim Jung Il.
(All quotes lifted from FoxNews online.)
Harry Reid, that powerhouse of the American political machine, stated that, "[d]istracted by Iraq and paralyzed by internal divisions, the Bush administration has for several years been in a state of denial about the growing challenge of North Korea, and has too often tried to downplay the issue or change the subject."
Fearful that he might be perceived as other than a “team player” during this critical period of toadying, Robert Menendez, Sen-D-NJ, echoes his bosses in asserting that "[w]hile George Bush bogged our military down to topple a regime that had no weapons of mass destruction, a brutal dictator in North Korea has strengthened a nuclear arsenal that has the potential to threaten the West Coast of the United States." (I thought only the Administration engaged in “fear mongering.” The fear of nuclear annihilation must be REAL… After all, a Democrat is saying it. I mean, it is not like we are talking about terrorism… What are the chances that a rag-tag, fugitive army, led by an Islamist fanatic would attack the US on our own soil? What was the Administration thinking by laying out such a far-fetched tale?)
Fortunately, the collective memory of Washington is regularly inhibited by the heady pursuit of power or my Democratic counterparts might be forced to remember that Bush Sr. and Clinton failed to bring that evil Korean Oompah-Loompah to heel. Menendez has a particularly limited recollection of history, leading me to wonder if he has not suffered from some recent head injury. To illustrate, he stated that, “[w]e had the opportunity to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear power, but George Bush went to sleep at the switch while he pursued his narrow agenda in Iraq. When the world was crying out for leadership, George Bush gave it negligence. The war in Iraq has tied our hands and our enemies know it."
Such noble concern about our enemies’ use of internal dissention and collective ignorance.
But, it is an election year and one can certainly be assured that calmer heads will prevail; that those politicians with a good head on their shoulders will make substantive, pertinent observations, without spin or misrepresentation. Take, for example Claire McCaskill’s observation that "[u]nder the Bush administration, North Korea dropped out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, kicked out inspectors, reprocessed nuclear fuel, flagrantly tested their delivery systems, and built an arsenal of six-12 nuclear weapons they did not have six years ago." (I assume from this idiotic diatribe that McCaskill sees the relationship between Mini-Me and Clinton to have been quite amicable and productive. Never mind the frank, and to their credit, acknowledgement by the former Clinton Whitehouse that Korea is a particularly thorny problem, exacerbated by the ill-will and deceitful character of its leadership.)
It is, however, refreshing to note that international crisis convinced the ever insightful Ted Kennedy to lift his head up from the bar long enough to state "[t]he Security Council should respond quickly and decisively to this act. And it is abundantly clear that the administration must go into diplomatic overdrive, working 24-7 with our allies in the region and the world to advance an effective response and prevent further North Korean tests." Thanks Ted. Where would we be without you? Hopefully your suggestion will be taken to heart and the Administration will replace its plans for the hiring of a voodoo priestess with your sage advice.
Of course, nothing plays better with the American people than a good game of “Nah-ah!!!” Take, for example, Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kan) retort…"The Clinton administration didn't do much and, even while they were negotiating with the North Koreans, the North Koreans were continuing to develop nuclear weapons." Good one Sammy!!! You really got them there. There is NO way the Dems can retort to that! Hah!
So what you got Pelosi?
Well… Ms. Pelosi, House Minority Leader/D-CA, had some well-considered advice too… She noted that the House had ”recently passed [a] defense authorization bill [that] requires President Bush to appoint a high level coordinator for North Korean policy… That appointment should be made immediately and other nations whose policies on North Korea have also so clearly failed, like China, must urgently develop new approaches as well." Finally, some common-sense brought to the table. What we REALLY need is another negotiator. I mean, we’ve just been spinning our wheels for the last twenty years since we didn’t have anyone working on the problem… Oh, wait… We already have, and have had since the Korean War, a “Korean Desk” within the Dept. of State and a sitting team of negotiators in Korea. I’m sorry Madam Pelosi, what was that you insisted we should do again?
Of course, for the ultimate in comments, not based on knowledge or reason, one simply MUST go to Rep. Ed Royce, R-CA. Mr. Royce believes that the best way to deal with North Korea is “to stop every ship coming in and out of North Korea. And on each of these ships there's only two things they export. One are missiles and, two, they export opium. That will cut off the hard currency going into the regime." Of course Mr. Royce reportedly stops house fires by pouring kerosene on them, but I digress…
Not surprisingly, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. came out with the most “politically savvy” statement of the day, noting that "[t]his demonstration of defiance shows the weakness of the six-party approach as well as the danger of this administration's hands-off approach to North Korea. It is time for the U.S. to directly engage in this crisis and take strong action with the international community to address this threat to our national security." Note the subtlety of the statement… No direct assertion that the Administration has failed… just the conclusion that if we should NOW “directly engage” and “take strong action,” then we must not have been doing so up UNTIL now.
The most competent assessment in the piece was offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA. (I confess I never heard of this Rep before, but an intellect not corrupted by contact with the Hill is a rare find.) Rep. Rohrabacher opined: "[d]uring the Clinton administration we set up a policy and it was continued during the Bush administration, of subsidizing this lunatic regime in North Korea. That regime would have collapsed a long time ago had we not been subsidizing it. And we should immediately cut off that stipend. There is money available, we are in a tight spot now, if we don't get sucked into direct military action against North Korea, which should be the very last thing we look at, we can accomplish this by simply putting limited resources into setting up a missile defense shield now. Second, we are already moving to cut out their access to the banking system. China is now cooperating. They have frozen all the accounts. This means that Kim Jong Il will not be able to pay his generals."
You see? There ARE people in Congress with an IQ of greater than 10, loyalty to something other than their own narrow interest, and a focus on the nation as a whole rather than their respective party. They are just so DAMN rare.
Of Yankees and Budgets
Well, I’m back, and I must admit, I feel a little bit like Rip Van Winkle, as things look a little different than they did before (when did this place become The Political Jeffdom?), and I feel a little out of it. (Another decent parallel would be Han Solo in Return of the Jedi immediately after he is freed from the slab of carbonite and encounters his old pal Chewbacca in a prison cell deep within Jabba’s palace. After hearing from Chewy how Luke Skywalker had become a full-fledged Jedi Knight, Han, in disbelief, muses, "A Jedi Knight?! I’m out of it for a little while and everyone has delusions of grandeur!")
Enough prologue. On to substance. (I will warn you: this post begins with a sports theme. If you can stick with it, it does eventually have the customary TPS twist.)
This past week, I watched my favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, pull off yet another spectacular post-season collapse. Some might say this year’s craptastic performance pales in comparison to their nuclear meltdown during the 2004 American League Championship Series, during which the Yankees made baseball history by blowing a 3-0 lead to the Boston Red Sox, who then went on to shatter the infamous "Curse of the Bambino" and win the World Series. In some ways, it does pale. What made this year’s failure particularly painful, however, was the fact that this Yankees team was allegedly the best-hitting team ever to take a baseball diamond.
In terms of hard numbers, their offensive (i.e., scoring-related, not repugnancy-related) statistics were quite good. There are so many statistics that tell the tale of the Yankees’ offense this season. Since this is not a sports weblog, I won’t bore you with them all (you can see the team’s numbers here, if you really want to), but it is not a stretch to say that the 2006 Yankees had better than decent offensive numbers, even when compared to previous teams that boasted the likes of giants like Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. (I am not saying that any of the individual players on the 2006 Yankees can hold a candle to those Hall of Famers, but I am saying that, on paper at least, the current team had far greater depth than any of Ruth’s or Mantle’s teams. But I digress.)
So why am I complaining? I’m glad you asked. The reason is, all of that statistical prowess yielded negligible results when it mattered most, during the playoffs. What would make a general manager salivate on paper caused dry mouth in reality. The Yankees’ all-or-nothing offense – scoring eighteen runs in one game, getting shut out the next – could not withstand the above-average starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers (who, by the way, deserve congratulations for advancing to the ALCS). Being stacked with musclebound home run hitters, they were unable to fathom that a successful offensive outing sometimes requires more than a 400-foot home run or two. The Yankees were outhit, outpitched, outrun, and outplayed in the field – and as a result, they are out.
Sycophantic apologists for the Yankees’ sorry excuse for a team have expressed disbelief, noting that they did not expect the team with the highest payroll in baseball ($194.6 million at the start of the 2006 season – which means that figure does not include several expensive mid-season acquisitions) to lose to a team with the fourteenth highest (or seventeenth lowest, depending on your perspective) payroll in baseball ($82.6 million at the start of the season). It is worth pointing out that only three of the top ten baseball teams in terms of payroll – the Yankees, the New York Mets ($101.0 million), and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($98.4 million) – even made the playoffs this year. The Oakland Athletics, who will be playing the Tigers in the ALCS later this week, have the tenth lowest payroll in baseball ($62.2 million).
If the people running most of these baseball teams were running real, honest-to-God, non-antitrust-protected, survival-of-the-fittest businesses, they would in fact be out of business.
While I would like to think that the "spending equals success" crowd is unique to baseball, sadly, it is not. There are way too many people out there who think that there is a direct correlation between how much money is spent on something and the degree to which that thing is successful. We see this sort of reflexive idiocy most prominently in the arena of government spending. Every year, state and federal governments pour obscene amounts of money – tens or hundreds of billions of dollars – into thousands of programs that are allegedly aimed at solving problems. When the problems subsequently find themselves unsolved, legislators and many of their supporters reflexively believe (or at least pretend, for selfish political purposes) that the reason the problems were not solved was underfunding, which in turn leads to increases in spending for these programs.
This sad cycle is repeated fiscal year after fiscal year, which is why state and federal budgets have ballooned in the previous few decades. This is also why Americans have less take-home income than they did twenty or thirty years ago, and why the amount of Americans’ take-home income will continue to plummet in the coming years – particularly if Nancy & Co. somehow manage to win control of Congress in November.
I long for the day when a true-blue conservative politician will step forward and utter what is unthinkable in the current climate: that the solution to many of our economic and societal woes is less spending rather than more spending.
Of course, I also long for the day when my Yankees don’t suck. I may be asking for too much on both fronts . . . but when has that ever stopped a Yankee fan before? And when does Spring Training start?
Truly Out With The Old
I think this bodes well for our nation. Few disagree with the thought that America longs for poltical change. This will be especially true if Democrats take Congress and we experience all those fun roadbumps of a divided government.
I don't know who will be on the ballot come November 2008. Hillary? McCain? Gore? Giuliani? Edwards? Romney? Obama? Biden? Not the most exciting bunch, at least for me right now. But 2008 has all the makings of a watershed election and it should be fun.
It's 4 weeks to Election Day and I'm already looking ahead to the following election! :-)
I have argued that the difference between Iran and North Korea is one of rational and reasonable behavior. I still believe this to be true and humbly suggest that the approach to their respective problems must be individualized. We have reached the same point in both cases- North Korea has gone nuclear and Iran soon will.
Becoming a nuclear power makes both nations unassailable. It is simply as inconceivable today, as it was in 1962, that a conventional assault on a nuclear power could be contained. This effectively takes the "military option" off the table.
With regards to Iran, economic and political isolation dramatically helps the regime maintain itself. She has a largely self-contained economy, however weak, and continued dispute and international condemnation is not likely to be more effective in the next six years than it has in the last thirty.
With regards to North Korea, her people are on the edge of starvation and their economy is nonexistent. South Korea, Japan, and China are in the best position to move things along so we will have to follow their lead.
The point of this post is twofold:
First, I want to suggest that the US has no interest in maintaining the animus with Iran. Iran has a well-educated populous that clearly wants greater freedom of thought and action... albeit in a distinctly "Persian" way. We need to accept that "liberty" may take on different forms and that the Western experiment with unlimited personal and individual freedom may not be adaptable to nations with a root in communalism.
Second, I want to suggest that the US cannot take unilateral action- military, economic, or diplomatic, to bring North Korea to a state of reason. We are dealing with a collective inability to reason and a leadership that is not in touch with reality. Furthermore, our interests in the region are dwarfed by those of China. It is time to come to an agreement with China that increases her international prestige in exchange for a regime change in North Korea.
I am suggesting that the US should privately request the dismantling of the present regime (and the death of the midget king) and the installing of a subject/satellite regime in North Korea, in exchange for public acknowledgement of, and accolades for, China's pivotal role in the region. China is desperate for international prestige and a role in defining the future. We have it in our power to voluntarily cede regional hegemony and should do so.
More broadly, I envision a reinstablishment of the stability that the world enjoyed during the Cold War.
We should carve the world up into sectors of political control and negotiate only with the parties that are in the driver's seat in each sector. Iran can effectively control the Gulf states and South Central Asia. China can effectively keep the lid on Asia proper. Egypt can control North Africa and the western side of the Suez. South Africa can control Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria, with support, can bring Western Africa to heel. Kenya is the natural master of East Africa. Obviously Russia needs to be reinstalled as the undisputed ruler of the mountain lands of Central Asia.
So, what is left for us? Well, the Europeans will easily bring Eastern Europe under their sway, so we needn't worry about them. This leaves the US as the masters of the Western Hemisphere. We can easily bring South and Central America to us with economic and immigration policies that affirm our interrelatedness.
At the end of the day, our security rests not with our trying to control each and every threat to our interests but in placing responsibility for regional security in those nations that have the greatest interest in preventing chaos. Since our greatest contributions to Man stem not from control of land an peoples but from our influence in areas of intellectual development, technology, economic systems, and law, we need to work towards stability.
In my opinion, stability comes not from the world accepting our model of society, culture, and government but from relations between nations, devoid of military conflict. Without conflict, self-interest rules and self-interest is inherently disposed towards economic activity. Since we can't force those out of our sphere of influence, we need to accept regional hegemony as a remedy to national self-determination. If this means accepting brutality by a regional power over a smaller nation, so be it.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Smile, You've Been Fooled Yet Again!
Naturally, the news of the Mark Foley scandal bothers you. But you may feel that he's only 1 rotten apple in an otherwise decent bunch. Perhaps you can get beyond the recent disturbing news in order to focus on actual issues, like illegal immigration and homeland security, for example. And you see the House as the only place where conservatives voices have a chance to be heard. Afterall, it was the House leadership that finally took a stand (even against the will of President Bush) and last week won passage of a law that would construct a 700 mile security fence along our Mexican border. Chalk one up for the good guys, right? Something to take to the voters in November, right?
Don't believe the campaign soundbytes this fall, people. The article exposing this lie in today's Washington Post astounded me. Even I didn't think the Republican Congress was this shallow. Congress merely passed a bill that gave Homeland Security $1.2 billion (about the same amount we spend weekly in Iraq) to develop various security measures of its own choosing after consulting with world-renowned security experts like local Native American tribal chiefs.
And here's the real punchline: Bush's Homeland Security Department and its Secretary Michael Chertoff have already stated their opposition to the construction of any physical wall along the border with the money.
Read it and weep.
WASHINGTON, October 6, 2006 -- Shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."
What's more, in a late-night concession to win over wavering Republicans, GOP congressional leaders pledged in writing that Native American tribes, members of Congress, governors and local leaders would get a say in "the exact placement" of any structure.
The office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison yesterday released a letter from House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist promising to ensure that Secretary Chertoff has discretion over whether to build a fence or choose other options.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Foley and Florida’s “Quirky” Election Law
While there are lots of things that one could say and write about the Congressman Foley situation, I only really find one element of it that is interesting to me. That element has to do with what will happen on Election Day in the Florida 16th, Foley’s district. As noted and well-respected Election Law blogger and law professor Rick Hasen has pointed out section 100.111(4)(a) of the Florida Elections Code appears to allow for “proxy candidates” in situations such as this one. By this I mean that former Congressman Foley’s name will appear on the November 7th ballot, but votes cast for him will be attributed to the Republican Party and not Foley himself. Thus, since the Florida GOP has named another candidate for the seat, a vote for Foley is in effect, assuming I’ve read and understood the law correctly, a vote for the replacement candidate. Unusual, for sure, but I’m not convinced that there is anything illegal/unconstitutional about it, nevertheless I’m opposed to such a “proxy candidate” scheme this being applied to congressional or senatorial elections.
So Mr. Hotshot Lawyer, explain that last sentence. Well as I said, my objection doesn’t necessarily stem from a strict legal or constitutional objection, but rather from a democratic and institutional perspective. I concur with Professor Hasen’s analysis of the constitutionality and legality of the Florida law, which you can read here. The Constitution clearly affords Florida the right to pass such a silly election law, but that doesn’t mean that Congress has to accept the results. Art. 1 sec. 5, cl. 1 states that “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members …,” which, of course, means that a person is not a member of Congress until Congress says that they are. Congress has in the past refused to seat members who have arrived in Washington D.C. with election credentials certifying them the winner. See, e.g., Powell v. McCormick, 395 U.S. 486 (1969) (reversing Congress’s decision not to seat Congressman Adam Clayton Powell on qualification clause grounds). Given the precedent for refusing to seat Members, Congress should exercise its right to refuse the seat should a “proxy candidate” wins the Florida 16th race. Simply put, the “proxy candidate” would not have “won” the election; note that I’m defining “won” in the simplest terms, namely, receipt of the most votes.
Congress, to the best of my knowledge, has always decided elections based on who received the most votes, and there is absolutely no reason to deviate from that precedent now. I don’t believe there has ever been a “proxy candidate” situation before, but from an institutional position I believe Congress should reject this idea. Besides it is not like there isn’t a solution. If Mr. Foley wins the most votes (unlikely I’m sure, but possible), he would of course refuse to take the seat and thus a vacancy would be declared and a special election would ensue. This scenario would likely result in a GOP win as the seat is a “safe” one for Republicans, according to almost every source I’ve seen. Allowing a proxy candidate” who only received votes by virtue of a quirky law would, in my opinion, do great damage to our democratic process and by extension Congress has a whole. The winner of the election wouldn’t necessarily be the person with the most votes. Thus, the legitimacy of the process would be questioned and rightly so. Congress depends on democratic legitimacy, the House of Representatives more so than any other part of our government, including the President. To allow a deviation from the principle of “person with the most votes wins,” would, it seems to me, irreparably damage that legitimacy. Of course, it is true that a write-in candidate who wins a majority of the vote outright posses no institutional problems and, therefore, should be seated by Congress. Any other combination, however, and I strongly believe Congress should refuse to seat the person and force a special election.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Blast From The Past
"The notion that it will take several hundred thousand troops to provide security in a post-Saddam Iraq is wildly off the mark."
--Paul Wolfowitz in testimony before Congress, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, February 2003
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Foley's Republican Folly
Credibility matters. I'm much more comfortable with the idea of electing Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) as an openly-gay male in the Democratic party that states its support for gay rights than with the idea of a wolf in sheep's clothing like Mark Foley who gladly accepted the votes and money of evangelical Christians opposed to gay rights for the past 12 years.
As for a possible cover-up, I think there is a strong chance Foley was protected by GOP leadership. And I hope the media stays after this story. I don't know why Dennis Hastert would help Foley stay out of trouble because the 16th district should be a "safe" Republican seat. But how could members of Congress close to Mark Foley not have known about all this? And shame on them for then allowing Foley to chair a House committee desgined to protect exploited children.
BTW, here's a quick check of my own 2006 Outbox. I knew this much and I'm a nobody. I wonder what and when others "in the know" knew?
Wed, 14 Jun 2006 14:37:01 -0700 (PDT)
BDJ: "However, I feel I'm a different type of conservative. Afterall, I'm the one planning to vote Democrat in November in both of my congressional elections for the first time in my life. For me, that means voting against Katherine Harris and Mark Foley. Can you really blame me? Harris is unelectable and probably unqualified. The latter is a very moderate Republican from the Palm Beach area who is a strong supporter of gay rights."
Sat, 2 Sep 2006 00:46:03 -0700 (PDT)
BDJ: "I have decided I cannot vote for Mark Foley. I'm serious about this, but it appears he is actually a Log Cabin Republican. He was "outed" last year by a gay magazine and called a press conference to denounce the story (not deny the story) and say that sexual preferences have no bearing on one's politics. Then this past year he was a leading GOP opponent of the same sex marriage ban ammendment. Hmmm. Guess what? He's also a life-long bachelor in his mid 50s and from posh and artsy Palm Beach."