Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fighting Joe Lieberman

Here's Ralph Kostant's latest:

In the 2000 election, when Joe Lieberman received Democratic nomination for Vice President, I was proud that a fellow religiously observant Jew could rise to the top of his (and my) party’s leadership. Nonetheless, I voted for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, because it is the top of the ticket that counts, and I did not want to entrust the nation’s security to Al Gore. I guess that makes me a pre-9/11 Bush Democrat. I have never regretted that vote, and I found my choice to re-elect President Bush in 2004 an even easier decision, given my party’s nominee. Indeed, it is precisely because a candidate such as Senator Lieberman, who takes national security seriously, can get so little traction in today’s Democratic Party that I almost surely will continue to vote GOP in all national elections. Alas, it looks like 2006 and 2008 will be no different. Senator Lieberman continues to be a Cassandra in the Democratic Party, mocked and ridiculed when he is not ignored. Hillary is pilloried because, to her credit, she refuses to join the “cut and run” set (unlike her husband). The “Vietnam syndrome” fever swamp mentality of Dean, Feingold, Kerry and Gore continues to hold captive the party of FDR, Harry Truman and JFK.

Let us nonetheless give credit where credit is new. Read “Fighting Joe” Lieberman’s excellent column on Iraq, published today on Opinion Journal Online.

Ralph B. Kostant

What Do Republicans Really Think About Illegal Immigration?

A commenter to my post below does not accept the results I cited there of a Tarrance Group poll conducted for the Manhattan Institute. That response reminds me of a bewildered Pauline Kael's famous statement after Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in a 49-state landslide. She couldn't see how such a thing could happen, and said, "I don't know anyone who voted for Nixon."

I still think liberals like Kael are far more likely than conservatives to live in a silo, in which they are never exposed to a conservative idea; but there are still many conservatives (including pundits of what I call the "angry Ingraham right") who think their views are those of the majority of "the Anerican people." It sometimes turns out, however, that the views of National Review Online, Ingraham, Hannity and others aren't representative of even the majority of Republicans.

Maybe that's why the results of this poll produce disbelief among my fellow conservatives who want to deport all illegals in the USA, or as many as we possibly can. Could it be that like Pauline Kael, they don't know anyone who disagrees with them?

Consider this conclusion from the pollsters:

This new public opinion data indicates that Republican voters do not think it is possible to deport the illegal immigrants already in the country and do not favor an enforcement-only approach often preached by hard-line conservatives. On the contrary, the rank and file want realistic solutions to deal with future immigrants and the millions of undocumented workers already here.

Although hardliners dominate cable television and conservative talk radio with calls to seal the border, the majority of Republican voters believe in sensible, practical immigration reform that includes an earned legalization process and increased border security, according to this new poll.
Here's a summary of the more important numbers:

According to the new poll, 78% of likely Republican voters favor immigration reform that includes increased border security, tougher penalties for employers who hire illegal workers, a policy that allows illegal immigrants to come forward and register for a temporary worker program that eventually placed them on a path to citizenship. Facing a choice between a registration and earned-legalization plan and a plan that includes deportation and enforcement-only, respondents favored the earned legalization plan 58% to 33%. In addition, 67% of respondents indicate they would have a more favorable view of President Bush if he supported an earned legalization reform plan.
Now, I do not think polls are last word on any issue. But this is the only serious evidence I have seen of what Republicans really think about this issue. If there's contrary evidence, I'd like to see it. If you don't accept the poll's results, tell me why, and offer some other evidence of what Republicans really want to see done about immigration.

The way in which immigration hard-liners try to shout down people who disagree with them tends to chill discussion and intimidate those who are in the majority as identified by the Tarrance Group poll. It seems to me that a more tolerant, open discussion is in order.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Worth Watching

Thanks to MEMRI, we can all watch this translated version of al Quaeda's video celebrating the recent triple suicide mass murders in Baghdad. Note in particular the group's happiness and excitement as they watch one of the bombs explode and many of their countrymen die. Consider also the resources and know-how that must have gone into making the video.

It's important to be reminded regularly of the nature of the creatures we are fighting.

If You Have 60 Seconds to Waste

Try out this site. Harmless and smile-producing.

Some Plain Truths About Immigration - And Why Many on The Right Are Wrong About It

I offer the following as simple, plain truths about our porous borders:

1. As this editorial argues, the first order of business is to secure the border. This must be done before implementing complex guest worker programs or tinkering with the Constitution's provisions stating that native-born babies are citizens. President Bush's speech yesterday suggests he now understands this.

2. The second order of business is to enforce existing laws prohibiting the hiring of illegals. The president has not shown much enthusiasm for this in the past; from yesterday's speech it sounds like he is starting to "get it."

3. It is neither practical, politically feasible, nor humane to attempt to round up and deport the 11 million illegals who are already here. Some kind of guest worker program will be essential to any solution. The great majority of Republicans agree with this.

It is that last bit of truth that may sink conservative support for Bush's plan. Guest worker plans drive bloggers on the right like Michelle Malkin and talk show hosts like Laura Ingraham right up the wall. They simply can't stomach anything that even looks remotely like amnesty.

This is very short-sighted, as this blog has discussed at length many times, including here, here, and here. Opponents of guest worker programs do not offer a credible alternative approach. Forgive me for quoting myself now:

For example, Laura Ingraham, of whom I am a great fan and whose show I love, consistently insists on the blinkered approach: Send them home and seal the borders. Many others seem to agree. Scott at Power Line suggests that Edward
is the voice of the opposition to Jacoby's view, but the Washington Times
Scott refers to seems to be simply about the impending dilution of
American culture by uncontrolled immigration-- again, stating the problem well,
but not offering a solution. Erler does the same thing here and here. Not a
proposed solution in sight.

The practical problem is that if the Malkins and Ingrahams of the world refuse to get behind a plan, then Republicans won't support it and it won't be enacted. That's the problem with some elements of conservatism-- they can't make things happen, but they can stop things from happening. This is partly because they give new meaning to the word "tenacious."

The anti-guest worker group would have you believe they know what "the American people" want. Indeed, they seem quite certain that they know. Well, they should get out more. Tamar Jacoby wrote recently of "a national poll of 800 likely Republican voters . . . By the Manhattan Institute:"

[W]hen pressed about what the government should do to get a grip on illegal immigration, not even a majority think that enforcement alone will solve the
problem. An astonishing 84% understand that it would not be possible to deport
11 million foreigners.

And when asked to chose between a combination of enforcing current law and deportation, on the one hand, and, on the other, a registration program that would allow unauthorized workers to come in out of the shadows and earn legal status (the approach often pilloried as "amnesty"), the Republicans surveyed opted resoundingly, by a margin of 58% to 33%, for earned legalization.

The solution they favor (a remarkable 78% say they would support it): an enforcement-plus package much like the one reformers propose that would combine tougher border security, increased penalties for employers, registration for a temporary worker program and, provided those workers pay taxes, learn English and stay on the right side of the law, a path to eventual citizenship.
We can be sure the White House has the above polling information. The anti-guest worker group probably doesn't care what the poll shows; sometimes it seems they'd rather be certain than right. But by preventing a solution like the one Bush proposes from occurring, they help ensure either that no solution will be enacted, or that Congress, desperate to show it has taken some action, will pass something that tilts more toward the left.

It's one thing to stick to principle; it's quite another to cling stubbornly to a position on an issue. That's neither good policy nor consistent with conservative principles. When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he announced his absolute opposition to payroll withholding of state income taxes. In Reagan's obituary the L.A. Times reported his famous reversal on the issue:

"My feet are in concrete," he said, over and over. But in 1970, when the
state faced a serious cash flow crisis, Reagan finally gave in. "That sound you
hear," he told reporters, "is the concrete breaking around my feet."

I hope the opposition of some on the right can find similarly nimble feet. Otherwise, immigration will continue to be merely a noisy and divisive debate with no solution in sight.

UPDATE: Kuru Lounge thinks the conservative opposition to guest workers is a case of "the perfect as the enemy of the good." I wish I had said that.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Main Street Republicans?

In the past I have referred to myself here on this blog as a "Main Street Republican." I had read that appellation elsewhere, and to me it meant that I came not from the country club set or any other elite group, but from that plucky group in U.S. society that went to church, played by the rules, and stood for solid conservative American values.

Main Street Republicans, to me, are the folks that wore overalls to work, or who worked in small businesses, or as blue- or white-collar workers; who voted for Eisenhower, Nixon, Goldwater, Nixon again, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Dole and Bush. Regular Republicans, you might call them-- thoughtful, hard-working patriotic people who believed in personal responsibility, distrusted big government and big institutions generally, thought taxes and government should be small and national security maintained. These folks became natural Reagan Republicans when the Gipper ran in 1980.

Now, to my horror, I find that the name "Main Street Republicans" has been appropriated by an entirely different group of Republicans calling themselves the Republican Main Street Partnership. The group's stated goal is "to further a centrist, pragmatic Republican agenda-- one that could accommodate bipartisan legislative results. . . . and "craft a moderate Republican agenda with a fiscally conservative background." Tellingly, the group says it was formed as a way to offer a counter-weight to the Contract with America in 1994. You can read about the Mains Street Republicans here. I should have known about this group; I guess I need to get out more.

The sole purpose of this post is to make it clear that I say I am a Main Street Republican, that means I am trying to be one of the folk I describe above, not those of the Republican Main Street Partnership. That group certainly has the right to press its agenda, but I don't think that agenda is the stuff of a winning long-term strategy. Most of all, I don't want to be a counter-weight to the Contract with America-- I want the Contract to continue!

So if any of you were confused by my prior statements, don't be. Main Street Republicans are not moderates and are not a faction of the party-- they're the party's vital core.

Should President Bush Hold "Fireside Chats?"

Yesterday on "Meet The Press" Senator John Warner, an only occasionally-reliable Republican, called on President Bush to hold the modern equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats" about the war in Iraq (and presumably about the global war on terror also). It's an intriguing idea, and I hope the White House considers doing something along those lines. Even so, one wonders how helpful it would be in today's world. Here's how the idea came up yesterday:

MR. RUSSERT: Should the president go before the American people with a map of Iraq and say, "Let me explain to you what is going on in the war. This area's secure. This area is difficult. This area we had captured but now the terrorists have gotten it back"? Take people through it in a very honest, straightforward way, a status report, an update.

SEN. WARNER: Tim, I'm old enough. I served in the last year of World War II in the Navy. Franklin D. Roosevelt did just exactly that. In his fireside talks, he talked with the people, he did just that. I think it would be to Bush's advantage. It would bring him closer to the people, dispel some of this concern that understandably our people have about the loss of life and limb, the enormous cost of this war to the American public, and we've got to stay firm for the next six months. It is a critical period, as Joe and I agree, in this Iraqi situation to restore full sovereignty in that country and that enables them to have their own armed forces to maintain their sovereignty.
(Full transcript here.)

So let's reflect on this idea. With apologies for its length, here are excerpts from an FDR fireside chat:

Fireside Chat 27 (December 24, 1943)
On the Tehran and Cairo Conferences

My Friends:

I have recently (just) returned from extensive journeying in the region of the Mediterranean and as far as the borders of Russia. I have conferred with the leaders of Britain and Russia and China on military matters of the present --especially on plans for stepping-up our successful attack on our enemies as quickly as possible and from many different points of the compass.

On this Christmas Eve there are over ten million men in the armed forces of the United States alone. One year ago 1,700,000 were serving overseas. Today, this figure has been more than doubled to 3,800,000 on duty overseas. By next July first that number overseas will rise to over 5,000,000 men and women.

That this is truly a World War was demonstrated to me when arrangements were being made with our overseas broadcasting agencies for the time to speak today to our soldiers, and sailors, and marines and merchant seamen in every part of the world. In fixing the time for this (the) broadcast, we took into consideration that at this moment here in the United States, and in the Caribbean and on the Northeast Coast of South America, it is afternoon. In Alaska and in Hawaii and the mid-Pacific, it is still morning. In Iceland, in Great Britain, in North Africa, in Italy and the Middle East, it is now evening.

. . .

But everywhere throughout the world -- through(out) this war that (which) covers the world -- there is a special spirit that (which) has warmed our hearts since our earliest childhood -- a spirit that (which) brings us close to our homes, our families, our friends and neighbors -- the Christmas spirit of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men." It is an unquenchable spirit.

. . .

But -- on Christmas Eve this year -- I can say to you that at last we may look forward into the future with real , substantial confidence that, however great the cost, "peace on earth, good will toward men" can be and will be realized and ensured. This year I can say that. Last year I could not do more than express a hope. Today I express -- a certainty though the cost may be high and the time may be long.

At Cairo, Prime Minister Churchill and I spent four days with the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek. It was the first time that we had (had) an opportunity to go over the complex situation in the Far East with him personally. We were able not only to settle upon definite military strategy, but also to discuss certain long-range principles which we believe can assure peace in the Far East for many generations to come.

. . .

I met in the Generalissimo a man of great vision, (and) great courage, and a remarkably keen understanding of the problems of today and tomorrow. We discussed all the manifold military plans for striking at Japan with decisive force from many directions, and I believe I can say that he returned to Chungking with the positive assurance of total victory over our common enemy. Today we and the Republic of China are closer together than ever before in deep friendship and in unity of purpose.

After the Cairo conference, Mr. Churchill and I went by airplane to Teheran. There we met with Marshal Stalin. We talked with complete frankness on every conceivable subject connected with the winning of the war and the establishment of a durable peace after the war.

Within three days of intense and consistently amicable discussions, we agreed on every point concerned with the launching of a gigantic attack upon Germany.

. . .

The Commander selected to lead the combined attack from these other points is General Dwight D. Eisenhower. His performances in Africa, in Sicily and in Italy have been brilliant. He knows by practical and successful experience the way to coordinate air, sea and land power. All of these will be under his control. Lieutenant General Carl (D.) Spaatz will command the entire American strategic bombing force operating against Germany.

. . .

To the members of our armed forces, to their wives, mothers and fathers, I want to affirm the great faith and confidence that we have in General Marshall and in Admiral King who direct all of our armed might throughout the world. Upon them falls the (great) responsibility of planning the strategy of determining (when and) where and when we shall fight. Both of these men have already gained high places in American history, places which will record in that history many evidences of their military genius that cannot be published today.

Some of our men overseas are now spending their third Christmas far from home. To them and to all others overseas or soon to go overseas, I can give assurance that it is the purpose of their Government to win this war and to bring them home at the earliest possible time (date).

. . .

Less than a month ago I flew in a big Army transport plane over the little town of Bethlehem, in Palestine.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve, all men and women everywhere who love Christmas are thinking of that ancient town and of the star of faith that shone there more than nineteen centuries ago.

American boys are fighting today in snow-covered mountains, in malarial jungles, (and) on blazing deserts, they are fighting on the far stretches of the sea and above the clouds, and fighting for the thing for which they struggle.(,) I think it is best symbolized by the message that came out of Bethlehem.

On behalf of the American people -- your own people - I send this Christmas message to you, to you who are in our armed forces:

In our hearts are prayers for you and for all your comrades in arms who fight to rid the world of evil.

We ask God's blessing upon you -- upon your fathers, (and) mothers, and wives and children -- all your loved ones at home.

We ask that the comfort of God's grace shall be granted to those who are sick and wounded, and to those who are prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy, waiting for the day when they will again be free.

And we ask that God receive and cherish those who have given their lives, and that He keep them in honor and in the grateful memory of their countrymen forever.

God bless all of you who fight our battles on this Christmas Eve.

God bless us all. (God) Keep us strong in our faith that we fight for a better day for human kind -- here and everywhere.
Let's just suppose President Roosevelt gave this fireside chat today. Would there not be instantaneous "news analysis" by MSM talking heads, including experts (and Democrats, some running for president) with opposing points of view? For example:

  • There would likely be biting commentary on Chiang Kai-Shek, to whom FDR referred as "a man of great vision, (and) great courage, and a remarkably keen understanding of the problems of today and tomorrow." Imagine the Time cover story on "The Real Chiang,"with a page or two on his past sins, his detractors, and so forth. (There might be some muted worries expressed about our involvement with Stalin, but the left was never too concerned about him.)
  • There would be a biographical summary of Dwight Eisenhower, announced in this chat as the Supreme Allied Commander. Because FDR referred to Eisenhower's performances "in Africa, in Sicily and in Italy" as "brilliant," you can be sure that evaluation would not go unchallenged, especially anything related to "the way to coordinate air, sea and land power." Would the MSM unearth assorted anonymous claptrap about Ike?
  • FDR's acknowledgement that "some of our men overseas are now spending their third Christmas far from home" would probably result in on-camera interviews with soldiers' parents and spouses who miss them, and probably at least one interview with a loved one whose soldier won't ever coming home.
  • Finally, the overtly Christian nature of the message (delivered on Christmas Eve, no less), with its references to Bethlehem and the direct mention of God in each of the last five paragraphs would produce howls of protest, claims of insensitivity to non-Christians, and accusations that FDR is only cynically using religion to bolster his position.
So I wonder if the old media would allow such fireside chats to be effective or helpful today, if President Bush were to attempt broadcasts like the one above, updating the American people on what is happening in Iraq and what he plans to accomplish in the near future. I suspect Bush's broadcasts would be derided as an effort to copy FDR's successful talks with the American people. Even so, I do think the president should consider something along the lines of fireside chats. With the aid of talk radio and the blogosphere he would have a decent change of getting a regular message out and shaping the debate.

UPDATE: John Schroeder at Blogotional has an excellent idea: Why not a White House blog-- or even a presidential blog? The president could post the text of his message and add video and audio-- maybe even podcast.

Indeed-- why not?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How I Spent My Thanksgiving Vacation

Well, I haven't spent much of it blogging or even reading blogs, I must confess. I was visiting family back in my home town and spending time with my own kids. I did find time to exercise, as the photo at left establishes. (I think photographic proof is still pretty good evidence, especially when the photo is taken by someone unrelated to the subject. In this case, it was the Salt Lake Tribune's Al Hartman.) The caption on the photo is: "Lowell Brown, visiting from Northridge, Calif., takes a brisk walk Saturday morning in a break between snowstorms at the 11th Avenue Park in the Avenues in Salt Lake City."

Okay, my 15 minutes have now expired. I can report on a few items:

  • It's cold up in those mountains.
  • Williams-Sonoma's Turkey Gravy Base can make any Thanksgiving cook seem like a genius.
  • Reynolds baking bags are a close second. (A decent meat thermometer helps.)
  • No, my legs were not cold.
  • Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire is the best Potter movie yet. Every minute was a pleasure to watch. Isn't this what movies are supposed to be?
  • Although we Yanks tend to lump all British accents together, they are many and varied. For example, just listen to the way different actors in Harry Potter say the hero's last name: Some say "Pottah," as we might expect, but many simply say "Potterr," just as most Americans not from Maine, Boston, or Queens might say it.
Time for church.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Very Fine Thanksgiving Piece

Christopher Hitchens writes in today's Opinion Journal of "the most distinctively American holiday." As you reflect on your Thanksgiving meal, read Hitchens' piece; it's a very interesting immigrant perspective and will add to your enjoyment of the day. (HT: Real Clear Politics.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Take The Hugh Hewitt Thanksgiving Weekend Straw Poll

You'll find it here. Hugh's description:

Welcome to the first GOP Presidential Straw Poll -- a
Thanksgiving special! Vote below on your favorite GOP candidates -- front-runner or fantasy. Tell the poll where you're from and a little bit more about yourself through the "tag the vote" feature so we can get some solid demographic data out of these results. Included are bonus questions on the GOP-majority Senate and ANWR. As always, bloggers can poll their readers by linking to this post and then checking out the blog-by-blog breakdown on the results page.

Be sure to note you got to Hugh's poll from The Hedgehog Blog!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Rocket Attacks into Israel: This Story is Personal

Ralph Kostant e-mails us the following thoughts:

Hugh Hewitt commented on his show yesterday on the importance of political and military developments in Israel for all Americans. Of course, for Jewish Americans, with ties to Israel, the attachment is more personal. My wife, Laura, and I lived in Kiryat Shemona for three months just after our marriage, from October through December 1976, while attending an “ulpan,” or Hebrew language school. The Chief Rabbi of the town, Tzefania Drori, is married to a woman from Los Angeles (whose brother, Lee Samson, is a client of the Hedgehog’s law firm). So we feel a personal connection to this story of a rocket attack Monday on Kiryat Shemona and other communities in Northern Israel, carried out by Hezbollah, operating from southern Lebanon. Hezbelloh guerillas actually crossed the border into Israel, seeking to kidnap Israeli soldiers from northern outposts. As related in this story from the Jerusalem Post, a yeshiva (religious school) student now serving as a sniper in a paratroop unit of the Israel Defense Forces is credited with killing four of the infiltrators single-handedly.

It was precisely rocket attacks from Lebanon on these communities in Northern Israel that brought about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. For the next 18 years, Israel’s occupation of Southern Lebanon protected these communities, because Israeli troop positions in Lebanon bore the brunt of such attacks. Since the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon in September 2000, Hezbollah regularly stirs up trouble on the northern border, and the Lebanese government has thus far been either unwilling or unable to disarm this independent militia, acting under Syrian and Iranian sponsorship.

Israel now receive rocket and artillery attacks on a regular basis on two of its borders, in the north, from Lebanon, and in the southwest, from Gaza (since the removal of Israeli settlements and troops from that area). It is highly likely that withdrawals from Yehuda and Shomron (the “West Bank”), as favored by the United States, Ariel Sharon’s new party, and the leftist Labor Party, will expose the populous, urbanized center of Israel to such attacks, from the West Bank. Would Americans tolerate regular mortar and rocket attacks from Canada and Mexico?

Ralph B. Kostant

Lincoln, Thanksgiving, And Us

I'm off on a family Thanksgiving trip, but will try to post when I can. Meanwhile, David Gerlernter has an excellent piece in The Weekly Standard. He begins:

FOUR THEMES FLOW TOGETHER AT one of the most remarkable points in American history--the evening when Abraham Lincoln for the last time proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving. It was April 11, 1865: two days after the Civil War ended with Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox; four days before the president was murdered. Our national Thanksgiving Day is a good time to remember the president who had more to do with the institution of Thanksgiving and the actual practice of thanking God than any other, and to recall his last public speech.
Read the whole thing. You'll enjoy Thanksgiving all the more.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Worth Watching: "X" Marks The Spot

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt and his guest blogger Mary Katherine Ham for this link. Watch it and wonder.

Rathergate: Buckhead Speaks

Those who followed the Rathergate story will recall that it all started with a post on the Free Republic web site by someone calling himself Buckhead. (Buckhead is the name of a tony area of Atlanta, which I have visited many times.) It turned out that "Buckhead" is an Atlanta lawyer who knew a lot about type fonts. He was not very vocal, however, about "how he knew," and so he remained shrouded in a bit of mystery.

Now he has come forward, and in a short, well-written discussion here explains what prompted him to make his now-famous post. It's a must-read.

Power Line has more, expecially about how the MSM is handling the makeover of the Rathergate facts.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thought for The Week (for The Year, Really)

"We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war."

--North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, in a 1990 interview with historian Stanley Karnow. (HT: Opinion Journal.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Roe v. Wade: Bad Judging

It's my understanding that the tiny person at left got here safely. Lots of others have not. Abortion is such an emotional subject that we often forget to discuss the simple legal question: Wasn't Roe v. Wade a deeply flawed decision?

If, like me, you think it was, you'll find this article by Tim Carney interesting. Among other bits of interesting analysis, Carney quotes scholars and commentators who are pro-abortion (or "pro-choice," if you prefer that terminology) but who also admit that Roe represented terrible Constitutional jurisprudence:

"One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found." Laurence H. Tribe, "The Supreme Court, 1972 Term--Foreword: Toward a Model of Roles in the Due Process of Life and Law," 87 Harvard Law Review 1, 7 (1973).

"As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. I say this as someone utterly committed to the right to choose, as someone who believes such a right has grounding elsewhere in the Constitution instead of where Roe placed it, and as someone who loved Roe's author like a grandfather." Edward Lazarus, (former clerk to Harry Blackmun) "The Lingering Problems with Roe v. Wade, and Why the Recent Senate Hearings on Michael McConnell's Nomination Only Underlined Them," FindLaw Legal Commentary, Oct. 3, 2002

"Blackmun's [Supreme Court] papers vindicate every indictment of Roe: invention, overreach, arbitrariness, textual indifference." William Saletan, "Unbecoming Justice Blackmun," Legal Affairs, May/June 2005.

"What is frightening about Roe is that this super-protected right is not inferable from the language of the Constitution, the framers' thinking respecting the specific problem in issue, any general value derivable from the provisions they included, or the nation's governmental structure. Nor is it explainable in terms of the unusual political impotence of the group judicially protected vis-à-vis the interest that legislatively prevailed over it. . . . At times the inferences the Court has drawn from the values the Constitution marks for special protection have been controversial, even shaky, but never before has its sense of an obligation to draw one been so obviously lacking." John Hart Ely, "The Wages of Crying Wolf: A Comment on Roe v. Wade," 82 Yale Law Journal 920, 935-937 (1973).

Roe "is a lousy opinion that disenfranchised millions of conservatives on an issue about which they care deeply." Benjamin Wittes, "Letting Go of Roe," The Atlantic Monthly, Jan/Feb 2005.

Richard Cohen's critique, in which he called Roe "a bad decision," was in his Post column, titled "Support Choice, Not Roe."

Alan Dershowitz attacked Bush v. Gore as illegitimate by likening it to Roe in his book, Supreme Injustice. He wrote that the two decisions "represent opposite sides of the same currency of judicial activism in areas more appropriately left to the political processes[.] Judges have no special competence, qualifications, or mandate to decide between equally compelling moral claims (as in the abortion controversy)[.] [C]lear governing constitutional principles . . . are not present in either case." (p. 194).

The whole thing's worth a read.

The Cure for What Ails the GOP

Hugh Hewitt lays it out here. Read the whole thing; send the e-mails, make the calls. We're watching a slow-motion train wreck but there's still time to stop it.

Also read Power Line today, which zeroes in on the Senate's Iraq resolution and John McCain's dead-on New York Post op-ed today. All these are must-reads, and highly motivating.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

And Another Question for Muslims about Islamofascism

In reponse to my post below , referring to the five questions Dennis Prager would like Muslims to answer, commenter DL asks another excellent question that has been screaming for an answer for many years now:

Another, to the point, question to ask of a supporter of a religion like the
radiacal Islam that is presenting itself today is, "Why do you worship a God who
encourages and sanctifies murdering the most innocent of his creations in the
most terrifying way possible?"
There is no good answer to that question, but it's an important one to ask.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Emanations and Penumbras And All That

My friend Steve Finefrock regularly publishes thoughtful, well-written essays on politics and culture. He does so only by e-mail, however, and has resisted my urgings that he start a blog. Even so, I was able to persuade Steve to allow me to post one of his latest e-mails, this time a meditation on the Constitution and original intent. Enjoy!


Fareed's Screed, et al: MY 'EMANATIONS'

by Steve Finefrock
aspiring TV tsar

Fareed Zakaria took his low-blow, low-octane, high-ego whack at George Will recently on "This Week" . . . as Will insisted (with the usual liberal-led interruptions) that the Founders used language precisely, and knew precisely what they meant when they chose certain words, and not other words, to insert into the Constitution. Fareed is not the first, nor the last, in our lifetimes, to believe in the Holy Grail of lefties -- the Living Constitution.

No less a brainiac than economist Walter Williams asserts at every opportunity -- including sub-hosting for Rush Limbaugh -- that he'd just love to play a game of poker, where the rules are "living" and thus changeable. Assuming of course that Williams' viewpoint would give "life" to the ever-changing card game's rules. Zakaria's interruption of Will was simple, and typical, regarding the document's original intent in allowing Congress to regulate commerce between the states: "George, those words were written 225 years ago."

Slam Dunk?

Thus spake Zakaria. To liberals,that clever utterance is supposed to clear the matter. Such Old Words! They can't possibly limit us today. Yet, the lefties have a great, passionate, unyielding love affair with certain Other Words of the Constitution. Like a Chinese Menu, they like to pick and choose which rhetorical dishes they wish served up to America, by SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States -- now common-usage by many pundits, drawn from Secret Service vernacular). Fareed's grinning, smug face revealed that he thought he'd closed the matter with the interrupting retort.

Hardly. Let's examine a few Holy Grail elements of the Constitution, which the Left would decry at being given a "living" quality of legal flexibility, 225 years after they were written. Consider the six clauses/rights enumerated rather concisely and precisely within the First Amendment -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." On Number Three -- the press -- SCOTUS has pretty well made that right an absolute, insofar as any court can do so.

Perhaps those words -- written 225 years ago -- didn't really mean "no law" and that perhaps the freedom the media has acquired after SCOTUS' rendering NY Times v. Sullivan was going too far. As the Court has found "emanations" from the document's words (and 'implications'), perhaps they can find an emanation of its "living" meaning to alter those clarifying words, "no law" and allow Congress to do as it wishes. Just as SCOTUS has given the Commerce Clause (Article I, section 8 of the Constitution proper) endless meaning, so that Congress can meddle in virtually any matter it chooses.

The Sixth of the First

But, there does seem to be a lot of "living" going on with SCOTUS when examining the Sixth (clause) of the First (Amendment), when Congress is allowed in Buckley and other opinions to regulate money given to candidates and causes, to win elections. There is no better way to send a message -- e.g., 'petition' -- when you have a grievance with government's agents -- legislators and executives whose names are printed on the ballot -- than to throw the rascals out. Or make them tremble at the prospect of losing their exalted succor at the public trough. Money is speech -- ask California's unions, spending $180 million in speaking very loudly, and constantly, against Arnold this past six months -- and any speech designed to address any grievance should be protected assiduously. At least as firmly as is the third-clause, for the media -- who can do pretty much as they wish, yet citizens and groups of citizens are limited in their speech output.

Looking elsewhere, let's ask about SCOTUS' opinion of the 'living' quality of the Third Amendment, one not well-known: "No soldier shall, in time of Peace be quartered in any house, without consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." Barracks and kitchens and dining halls are expensive outlays for the Pentagon. This amendment, also 225 years old, was a reaction -- perhaps an over-reaction -- by the Founders to the Redcoats' ordering colonists to quarter soldiers in their own homes. Quartering thus saved a lot of cost, and it provided intimidation as well as a source of intelligence: the soldier kept the colonists nervous, and might pick up a little useful 'intel' here and there, to report to his commander during duty hours.

And, under the Third's several clauses, there is the chance that Congress might, in time of War, decide to prescribe by law, to do exactly what we once feared: quarter troops in homes, without permission of the Owner, much as we've seen SCOTUS approve the confiscation of land for any purpose whatsoever, by the government. Them words, so old, 225 years ago they were written. Maybe a little quartering of GIs needs to be prescribed by law, and since we're not truly at war -- no declaration yet issued by Congress -- but the defense budget is a bit tight these days, we can save money to spend instead on bullets and bombs, by transferring costs of feeding and housing our soldiers to citizens' homes -- which, after all, benefit from the local military base. Would be the biggest Unfunded Mandate in U.S. history. Possible with a "living" Constitution endless flexibility.

Will SCOTUS look favorably on that variation on 225-old words? Would Fareed Zakaria? Cokie Roberts? Georgie-Porgie?

Flexible Treason

The Constitution's 225-year-old language also defines very narrowly the terms of a prosecution for treason, again an "overreaction" of our Founders, 225-years ago, to the British summarily trying and hanging anyone who dared dissent in the colonies. Nifty device of intimidation, the easy and careless throwing of the 'treason' charge against one's enemies. So, section 3 of Article III might need a bit o' living, providing emanations to fit the changes in the 225 years since the Founders seemed to write words not applicable today: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on confession in open Court."

Again, words that are ancient, 225 years old, that need to be "flexible" and "living" to meet modern requirements. What is "aid" and "comfort" in today's digital domain? And why two witnesses? Why not one witness of living flesh, and another of a document which gives 'witness' to the treason? Or two witnesses, each testifying to a separate act! Why must it be an 'overt' act? Surely the SCOTUS brains can help that language "live" to fit modern needs! Why open court? Why not accept confession given in a secret court, since the exigencies of today's troubled times were not "foreseen by the Founders" those so many years ago?

Clearly the Founders knew what they meant, when they wrote the words, of all the Constitution. And the quickly-submitted first ten amendments, comprising the Bill of Rights. By ex post facto prohibition, they meant exactly that which words uttered, though Congress has redefined that term in tax law to mean a tax year: thus, a tax hike can be retroactive -- ex post facto application, or 'after the fact' -- to as many as eleven months' income, earned well before the president's pen puts the law into effect at the IRS computers. SCOTUS is highly flexible in interpreting the document, for the purpose of getting your money, but absolutely faithful in those 225-old words that give the media such a carte blanche in harassing citizens and public officials.

Four of the Fourth

Then there's the guarantee to each State for a republican form of government, so written 225 years ago into the fourth clause of the Constitution's Article IV. Maybe those 225-old words need a little "living" flexibility. Or, consider section 9 of Article I, prohibiting titles of Nobility: We're no longer under threat of old English customs being used against us, with Britain being our long-established friend. Surely we can accommodate new values and practices, and give ego strokes to beneficial citizens, with a little nobility's title here and there, a Duke or Earl or Lord attached to a name being a way to encourage good works. Duchess Barbra Streisand! Earl Bill Gates! A little 'living' Constitution could go a long way to encouraging exceptional citizens with an award that is more energizing than the unheralded Medal of Freedom. The medal goes into the trophy case. But a title! Why, it's on your stationery, envelopes, cable-TV invoice! It is something is truly "living" and eternal. To be inherited by your descendants.

There's a target-rich environment in the Constitution, for SCOTUS archers, aiming their arrows for targets of "flexibility" and "emanations" and "umbras" and "penumbras" and "shadows" that exist nowhere in words, but occupy a lot of space in the left-leaning Justices' ever-fertile minds. That little inconvenience in amending the Constitution -- 2/3 majority of each chamber of Congress to submit an amendment's text to the states, then 3/4 of the state legislatures to ratify -- might be made "flexible" by something we'd think up -- oh, wait, they have achieved that already!

By having SCOTUS 'interpret' which 225-old words mean exactly what they say, and which are subject to the mental gymnastics of five concurring Justices, the Judicial Jacobins whose revolutionary inclinations ignore what the words mean. Unless, of course, they mean exactly what the five Justices want it to mean. Madison and Washington and Hamilton and Hancock and Franklin -- 225 year-old fops in wigs, whose words were just a 'starting point' to be interpreted and giving a "living" existence.

Unlike the suffragettes seeking women's voting rights, and the abolitionists seeking slavery's demise, and the suffering wives hostile to demon rum, SCOTUS today would find a way to just ignore the 2/3-3/4 requirement for amending our most precious document, and render as totally unnecessary the 19th, 13th, 18th amendments. And upon finding Prohibition's evil, the SCOTUS solution today would be to simply say that the 18th's words don't mean what they say, and make unnecessary also the 2/3-3/4 process for the 21st amendment -- which repealed the 18th's anti-booze sentiment.

Amendments? We don't need no stinkin' amendments

It's a short Constitution as such documents go. And the conventioneers -- who met that hot summer of 1787 in a closed hall ensconced by Philadelphia humidity -- meant what they wrote. Many committee meetings were held on phrasing, and composition, and meaning. Some of them may just have been smarter than Fareed and Cokie and Georgie-porgie altogether. But short though it be, SCOTUS and its living-constitution adherents have a substantial collection of constitutional phrases and sections and clauses and articles to 'interpret' and make into 'living' enhancement of their Great and Good Vision.

I prefer the Founders -- any one of them, especially Madison -- to the whole lot of SCOTUS tinkerers, and their thousands of intellectual teammates, to tell me what should be the Basic Document. Their words were clear, and very concise, 225 years ago. And their meaning should stand firm and un-living -- until an amendment is submitted and ratified.

Why can't today's liberals (or progressives, as you wish) undertake the amending process, as it was written? Oh, I know that answer, and so dost thou: the provisions of the Constitution for amending are words which themselves over 225 years old. Ah, do ya get it -- SCOTUS has declared, by implicit behaviors, that nasty Article V of the Founder's original writing to be null-&-void. Amendments? Ratified by the several legislatures? As written in the original Constitution?

We don't need no stinkin' Constitution! We got SCOTUS, who just could authorize the Pentagon to quarter troops in your home, in peacetime (which we've had since the end of WW2), to save the Defense Department a few hundred million a year. Or a billion. Or ten billion. Who's to stop 'em? They've got the Living Constitution on their side.

And also the support and encouragement of the law faculties of Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. The Dr. Frankensteins of the Constitution, letting loose the monster of their living constitution onto the landscape.

All the more reason Dubya needs to be supported, and the GOP needs your contributions, to get some sense back on the Court. Life in politics is hard by the yard, but a cinch by the inch -- but only if we keep at it with every inch, for there are a lot of inches between us and the shackling of the liberals' Living Constitution, so that the Original Constitution can live again.

The conservative -- e.g., George Will/Walter Williams -- position is, the Constitution was quite alive when passed, and has never been ill or irrelevant, nor has its language, as intended by those who wrote it, who conflicted and compromised and composed with brainpower greater than most anyone serving in Washington, D.C., or on all the faculties of all the liberal law schools combined. It's periodic maladjustment to serious new contingencies can be remedied by the amendment process. Just as it was very effectively for women, blacks, senators' election by the people, etc. We don't need no stinkin' SCOTUS -- to tell us what Madison meant, or Washington wanted, or Ben believed.

Which Dubya understands very well. So, it's time to revive the old battle cry, Anno Dominatus Dubyae, the year of dominance by Dubya (yep, really, in Latin). Or shorted as "ADD" for the remaining "year" of Dubya's term.

A.D.D., and them some.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Reality Therapy for Lefties: Bush Did Not Lie

From Ralph Kostant:

Every Hedghog reader should carry around copies of Norman Podhoretz’s column in today’s . . . Opinion Journal . . . , to be distributed whenever one hears a Lefty friend decry how the Bush Administration deliberately misled the country regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Perhaps caring friends and family members of Robert Scheer and Ariana Huffington could stage a deprogramming intervention, in which Scheer and Huffington would be forced to listen to repeated readings of this column until their brain-washing is reversed. Or would that be condoning torture?

Ralph B. Kostant

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I've Been Wondering The Same Things

In today's Los Angeles Times Dennis Prager asks "Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered." He calls them "sincere questions that law-abiding Muslims need to answer for Islam's sake, as well as for the sake of worried non-Muslims." They're the questions that have been on many minds at least since 9/11.

It really will be interesting to see if any credible Muslim representative does respond, and what the responders say.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday Musings: Middle Earth Calling

According to this test, if I were a resident of Middle Earth I would be a Numenorean. (I must admit I do not recall clearly exactly what a Numenorean is. I haven't read those books since college.)

What are you?


Go here and take the test to find out.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans' Day 2005

That's Arlington National Cemetery on the right. All Americans should visit Arlington at least once in their lives.

On this day for honoring veterans, I submit once again this, my favorite poem about war and its cost:

In Flanders Fields

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
"In Flanders Fields" is by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician who served in World War I. McCrae was no stranger to the real suffering of soldiers wounded in battle. According to the Arlington National Cemetery web site:

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

The story behind McCrae's famous poem is a must-read. It is here.

Sherman was surely right when he said "war is hell." I am grateful to live in a democracy, where the "dog of war" is chained. Ideally, in a democracy the decision to go to war is made only after considerable, passionate debate and is always subject to the oversight of the people.

I am also grateful beyond words to those who serve. May we all support them, before, during, and after the battle; and may God bless them, now and forever.

The Emergence of More Conservative Motion Pictures?

I haven't posted intwo days because -- well, I was needed. I'm a little less necessary this morning, so I'll enthusiastically recommend this thorough and thoughtful article by Brian Anderson from the wonderful City Journal. Entitled "Conservatives in Hollywood!?" it's about -- get this-- emerging conservative values in motion pictures. Summary 'graph:

After long using liberal Hollywood as a political punching bag, conservatives are moving to an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them approach. If they can create a popular cinema that artistically reflects a right-of-center worldview—rather than crudely imposes it—it would be a huge advance for the Right in America’s ongoing cultural struggles. After all, it’s not just reason and analysis that will decide the outcome of those struggles. The imagination and the heart—the Dream Factory’s stock-in-trade—will play at least as large a part.
If you like movies but are dismayed or outraged by most of what you see coming out, this is a must-read.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

California: What Now for Republicans?

Here are some ideas from Hugh Hewitt that make a lot of sense. The money 'graphs:

There is no such thing as a fusion candidate, no such thing as a bipartisan campaign or non-partisan issue, and come election night,there are just two
parties, one at the GOP HQ and one at the Dem HQ. There's a winner's party and a losers' party. Last night you were speaking to the losers' party. . . .

[M]ost of your people aren't my friends and colleagues from nearly 30 years around California politics. They are fine folks, to be sure, and I have run into them in many of the seminar rooms of the state's hundred universities, but you have now run into the reality of California politics. The folks who don't care much about politics, well, they really don't care much about politics. They certainly can't get you wins on their own. There aren't enough of them.

As Nixon often remarked: You can't win with just the conservatives, but you cannot win without them.

I hope there is someone in Arnold's office who has influence and reads Hugh's blog.

The Aftermath of California's Special Election

Anybody else feel like they just got back from a football game, and the home team lost 59-0? Some of those propositions were good ideas, yet they all lost overwhelmingly. The (gleeful) views of the L.A. Times notwithstanding, surely the sweeping defeats cannot be blamed solely on the governor's faulty campaign tactics. I wonder if anything can be done to keep California from becoming a permanent haven for liberal Democrat ideas and policies, where labor unions control a Legislature in which every seat is safe?

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

U.N. Security Council Renews Iraq Mandate

Thanks to Ralph Kostant for directing me to this AP story. Key graphs:

The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, Britain, Denmark, Japan and Romania, was adopted in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for the U.S.-led force to remain in the country.

The current mandate authorizing the presence of the force expires on Dec. 31, about two weeks after parliamentary elections — the end point of the political process as defined by the Security Council.

The resolution extends the mandate until Dec. 31, 2006, with a review after eight months. Under its terms, the council will "terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the government of Iraq."
Ralph notes: "This story puts the lie to any charge that the presence of US and allied troops in Iraq violates international law or represents unilateralism."


Legislative Redistricting: Why You Should Vote "YES" on Proposition 77

In 1812, Jeffersonian Republicans forced through the Massachusetts legislature a bill rearranging district lines to assure them an advantage in the upcoming senatorial elections. Although Governor Elbridge Gerry had only reluctantly signed the law, a Federalist editor is said to have exclaimed upon seeing the new district lines, "Salamander! Call it a Gerrymander." The cartoon-map at left first appeared in the Boston Gazette for March 26, 1812.

If you are undecided about Proposition 77, this post is for you. Proposition 77 is Governor Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative, directed at Calfiornia's own gerrymandered setup. Polls are uncertain about this Proposition, but it appears that at least 10% of voters have not made up their minds. If you're in that group, consider the following, which revisits some of what I wrote in my earlier post on the same subject:

What would Proposition 77 do, anyway? Here's the general question on the ballot:

Should the California Constitution be amended to change the process of
redistricting California's State Senate, State Assembly, Congressional and Board
of Equalization districts, transferring the implementation of redistricting from
the Legislature to a panel of three retired judges, selected by legislative

You've probably seen a television ad by the anti-Prop 77 forces showing three old white men in judicial robes, winking at the camera. The ad suggests that Proposition 77 would turn decisions on legislative districts over to the "unaccountable, unelected" judges, who presumably can't be trusted to do what's right.

Guess what? The ad is astonishingly dishonest. Here's what Proposition 77 would do:

1. Voters will be able to vote on the new redistricting plan. That gives the people of California more power and the special interests less.

2. To ensure district lines that are competitive and fair, a panel of retired judges—selected through a bipartisan process with no political agenda—will draw new district lines according to strict guidelines.

3. Voters then may approve or reject the lines. That puts us, Californians, in charge of our elections.

4. Neighborhoods and communities will matter again. Incumbents will no longer be able to draw their own districts, splitting up towns and neighborhoods in an effort to guarantee their own re-election.

You can read all about the proposition here, in the Official Voter Information Guide published by the Secretary of State.

So why all the fuss about this measure? It's all about political power and the entrenched interests protecting their positions. Earlier this year the California Supreme Court rejected a court challenge to Proposition 77, brought by the Democratic Party. The Court ruled that Proposition 77 may remain on the ballot. The Wall Street Journal comments here.

You might ask yourself: Why would the Democrats take a ballot initiative all the way to the State Supreme Court, in a desperate effort to keep voters from deciding the issue? Because the Proposition 77 threatens their power base. For the same reason, most of the Republican establishment is either lukewarm or outright opposed to the measure. Why? The disappointing truth is exposed in this piece by syndicated columnist Jill Stewart, who is in favor of the initiative. She paints a picture that any honest observer of the California Legislature will recognize immediately:

Most people imagine that when they vote, they do so in a real community based largely on geography -- a 'voting district.' That was true once. But now, the legislature uses computer programs to painstakingly divide voters by party -- not community. Without their knowledge, Republican and Democrat are separated into bizarrely shaped 'districts' so overpopulated with one party that our two-party system is effectively quashed. Think 'The Matrix.' You're force-fed to support a creepy apparatus that wants to control your world. You don't even know it. California voters don't know they're corralled in fake 'districts' and force-fed pre-selected party hacks. The insiders who do know -- the media, the think tanks, the supposed 'civic' groups -- prefer to keep the debate among insiders only. It's such trouble to involve the public.

As someone who has worked on a number of legislative matters in the California Legislature, I can verify that it is a zoo up there in Sacramento. For one thing, the districts are drawn so that seats never change hands. In Californa, if you want to be in the Legislature, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat all you need to do is get nominated, and then you're in your seat for as long as term limits allow. But that's not all. The political makeup of each district is such that generally, only very liberal or very conservative candidates can be elected. So we have a permanent majority of hard-core liberal Democrats doing battle with a permanent minority of hard-core conservative Republicans. Is it any wonder that such ridiculous policy emanates from that place?

Jill Stewart follows up with a piece in today's New York Times:

Honest observers on the left and right have long complained that California's voting district map is a masterwork of cynicism that assures victories for incumbents as well as party hacks seeking open seats. The fix is so complete that in 2004 not one of the 173 state legislative and Congressional seats being contested in California changed party hands. Robert Stern, president of the liberal-leaning Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, told me that California's elections are "less democratic than the Soviet Politburo."

The resulting process is ugly. As a general rule, in our legislature policy is not made, it is brokered. Here's how it works: Lobbyists for interest groups who have a stake in an issue write the bills. Often the lobbyists and their clients agree on the legislation, then take the product to a legislative sponsor. Once the sponsor is certain that the bill, as written, has the support of the right interest groups (meaning the ones that donate substantially to him or her) , Legislative Counsel polishes the language, the bill is introduced, and it is voted into law. Depressing, but true.

The old saw is that "lovers of law and sausage should never know how either one is made." True enough. But in California we'd like to at least have something to say about who is making them. Prop 77 would at least give us a chance.

Vote YES on 77!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Turkey Day Follies

As Thanksgiving approaches, this is a funny site and very much in the, ah, spirit of the season.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Hedgehog Blog November 8, 2005 California State Special Election Advisory

We need to start out with our annual disclaimer: The following are simply our opinions. We are speaking in our individual capacities only. No one but us is responsible for these opinions, and we may be completely wrong. (We think we are right.)

We also have the following advice, which we repeat in all of these advisories: Ignore all radio and television political advertising, especially on ballot initiatives. Those ads are designed to confuse the voters. They seldom frame an issue in proper perspective, and are often paid for by interests from outside California. Read the election summaries in your local papers. (We hope this advisory is helpful too.)

Here’s our breakdown of each ballot measure:

State Measure 73: Waiting Period For Minors Seeking Abortions


We think parents of minors should be informed by physicians before any kind of surgery on their children, particularly an abortion. One can never be sure what the courts will hold, especially here in California, which is part of the Ninth Judicial Circuit at the federal level. The Ninth Circuit is the most liberal in the country and the one most often reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even so, we think Proposition 73 will be found constitutional under the standards already set by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and other decisions. UPDATE: Here's an interesting reason to vote for Prop 73, from Doug TenNapel.


State Measure 74: Tenure and Dismissals For Public School Teachers


In essence, this proposition requires new public school teachers to work successfully for five (5) years before they receive tenure and pretty much have a job for life. Currently only two years are required. On this one, the Governor is looking out for your kids. This initiative will allow school boards to dismiss a teacher who has received poor evaluations two years in a row. How long would you like students to wait before removing a teacher who is not meeting the established minimum requirements for his or her position? A union representative for Los Angeles teachers made a revealing comment to a Granada Hills Charter High School official this past week: "If this measure passes I'm going to have a ton more work!" In other words, even teachers union representatives know that our school systems have many teachers in the classroom who shouldn't be there. We need to be able to support our strong, committed teachers, and police the weaker, less-committed ones. Delaying tenure for public school teachers greatly enhances the schools’ ability to do so. Strong teachers want to work with other strong teachers. It's time to raise the bar.

State Measure 75: Public Employee Union Dues and Political Contributions.


Unions throughout the country are pouring enormous amounts of money into this election just to stop this one state measure. It is a huge battle being watched nationwide, and the stakes are also huge.

Here’s the issue: Right now public employee unions can deduct money from their members’ paychecks and donate it to legislators who vote to raise public employee salaries and benefits. In other words, liberal legislators appropriate the funds, which are then siphoned off and directed back to them in the form of campaign contributions. Prop 75 would require the unions to get written permission from employees before deducting money from their paychecks. Here’s how the Wall Street Journal described the problem:

[T]he passage of Proposition 75, also known as "paycheck protection," would go a long way toward ending California politics-as-usual. By forcing public-sector unions to get written permission from employees before using involuntary dues for political purposes, Proposition 75 has the potential to significantly reduce the political influence of the state's quintessential special interest.

Former Governor Jerry Brown gave public employees the right to collectively bargain back in the 1970s, and now their interests lie directly in their ability to tap into the public fisc through higher salaries, better benefits and larger pensions. "The unions have essentially bought and paid for the California legislature," says Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an advocacy group.
You can read the entire piece here.

We think a vote for Proposition 75 is a vote for a more responsible Legislature.

State Measure 76: State Spending Limitations


If you don't vote yes for this initiative, you might as well have voted for Gray Davis! To summarize, this proposition would require the State to live within its means without annual automatic spending increases. We think opposition advertisements claiming Prop 76 would require cuts in school spending and public safety spending are irresponsible scare tactics. The California Taxpayers Association’s analysis shows that 76 will actually increase the funds available for schools and will protect public safety spending. One might argue that the only reason to vote against 76 is if you enjoy seeing your taxes go up!

State Measure 77: Redistricting


This is a close call because in a perfect world, congressional and legislative districts would be drawn by elected representatives who are accountable to the electorate. But we believe the situation in Sacramento now will not change without drastic action like Proposition 77. Ask yourself: Is our Legislature functional, or does it make policy based on the largest donors, like trial lawyers and labor unions? I've blogged more about this here.

Both parties have carefully drawn district boundaries that assure their own re-election. Once elected, everyone in the State Legislature has a safe seat, until term limits force them to leave. That means that if you are running for the Assembly, for example, all you need to do is get nominated by your party. Once nominated, you will be elected, and the only constituency you need to worry about are the party activists who nominated you. Such activists are always more liberal or more conservative (depending on party) than the electorate at large. So what we have is a majority of very liberal Democrats clamping down on a minority of very conservatiove Republicans. Is it any wonder nothing gets done in Sacramento? As Jill Stewart wrote in today's New York Times:

Honest observers on the left and right have long complained that California's voting district map is a masterwork of cynicism that assures victories for incumbents as well as party hacks seeking open seats. The fix is so complete that in 2004 not one of the 173 state legislative and Congressional seats being contested in California changed party hands. Robert Stern, president of the liberal-leaning Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, told me that California's elections are "less democratic than the Soviet Politburo."
This is not good government. The Governor is right on this one too. Prop 77 would empower an independent, bipartisan panel of judges to re-align the boundaries fairly, and not just drawn to ensure the re-election of one party or the other.

State Measures 78 and 79: Discounts on Prescription Drugs


Both 78 and 79 are supposed to be efforts to reduce the cots of prescription drugs in California for low-income people. Proposition 78 is backed by the pharmaceutical companies, and Proposition 79 is backed by consumer groups. We recommend a “NO” vote on both.

First of all, we don’t think a special election is the way for California to resolve complex health care issues, including finding a way to make soaring prescription drug costs affordable for the uninsured.

Second, the pharmaceutical industry’s proposition seems to be mainly an effort to put forward a proposition that would compete with Prop 79, the consumer groups’ proposition. Some people think the pharmaceutical companies’ goal was to confuse voters and cause 79 to lose. It certainly looks like they succeeded in confusing people. Ask yourself: Do you know anyone who has a clear understanding of these two propositions and the differences in them? Is this any way to make health care policy?

Even if using initiatives were a good way to make policy in such a complex area, we think both propositions are bad policy. Prop 78 is bad because the pharmaceutical companies should not be able to buy the right to govern themselves, and it sure looks like they are trying to do that with an $80 million Proposition 78 campaign.

Proposition 79 is bad because it simply goes overboard. The state would be directly involved in negotiating the price of prescription drugs. If you agree with us that the government should not be involved that way in private enterprise, then you’ll vote no too. Besides, the only people who would make out really well if 79 passes are the trial lawyers. They’ll make millions.

State Measure 80: Electric Service Providers


Proposition 80 would re-regulate electricity. It is an overreaction to the shortages of the Davis years. We do not believe it will make electricity cheaper, and it would introduce considerable government interference into the market.

Statewide Bond Issue: Measure Y

Didn't we just approve a large bond issue for the schools in the past two years? This is the L.A. Unified School District's problem. They don't know exactly where all the money they have now is going. Should we really give them more? We say vote NO.

And . . . we hope all this helps you decide how to exercise your franchise.

Quote of The Day: Robert Bork on The Impact of Roe v. Wade

"If judgments about the prudence of overruling [Roe v. Wade] are invoked, the justices should take note of the fact that Roe lies at the center of the bitter polarization of much of American society. In countries where the issue is decided democratically, no such intense animus exists. Compromises are worked out and each side knows that it is free to continue the public debate in hope of doing better next time. That was, and would be again, the case in America if the subject of abortion were returned to state legislatures and electorates. Overruling Roe would not, as some Democrats will claim, make abortion illegal, but merely the subject of democratic regulation. We have paid a high price for a ruling that rests upon nothing in the Constitution and was arrived at in an opinion of just over 51 pages that contains not a line of legal reasoning."

--Robert Bork in National Review

A Reservist's View of His Service in Iraq

Thanks to Viet Pundit for his links to State of Flux, a blog by Minh Duc, an American of Vietnamese heritage who served in Iraq as a reservist. Three posts are must-reads:

1. This one was written on the day the Iraqi Consitution passed.

2. Minh Duc's earlier post, on the occasion of the second anniversity of the fall of Baghdad, candidly reflects on the entire experience here. There's no sugar-coating on this one either.

3. For an example of the sheer first-hand information and unique insights that are impossible to get anywhere outside the blogosphere, nothing can beat this post, entitled "Band of Brothers." It's about Minh Duc's experiences with Lieutenant Colonel Khaki, the commander of the 206th Iraqi National Guard (ING) Battalion. The description of how the ING developed during Minh Duc's time in Iraq is alone worth the read.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Radio Blogger Blog of The Week: Vote for Holy Coast

If you read this blog regularly you know I am not shy about taking up a candidate's cause. Until now I've campaigned only for political candidates, but this time I'm recruiting voters for a blog - Holy Coast, which is one of the candidates for Blog of The Week on the Hugh Hewitt-affiliated Radio Blogger site. Holy Coast is run by my fellow Southern California Blogger Alliance member, Rick Moore.

Rick's post, about an astonishing bit of bad judgment at U.C. San Diego, is simply superb. It's here. If you agree, go to Radio Blogger and vote for the Holy Coast entry.

I'm afraid there is a nasty competitive backdrop to this campaign. You see, another of my fellow SCBA members, John Schroeder, who runs Blogotional, challenged another so-called "alliance" to a war in the Radio Blogger" Blog of the Week competition. The other alliance is named Minnesota Organization of Bloggers, or "MOB." Hereafter we will call them simply "TOA," for "That Other Alliance." We were thinking of calling them "The Frosted Few," but decided to be a little kinder.

Members of TOA have won Blog of The Week twice. That is plenty of wins for a bunch of people to whom the word "summer" means one week in early July. (We Southern California Bloggers Alliance guys like to rub it in about the weather. Did I mention that I harvested a half dozen tomatoes from my garden today while I was cleaning my pool? I love these sunny 78-degree days in early November. Hey, TOA members-- do you even have swimming pools up there?)*

Don't let the Blog of The Week go to the land of Paul Bunyan. Keep it here in the home of the Beach Boys! Vote for Holy Coast! Vote now, and vote often! Vote here!

*Of course we are just kidding about all this-- except for the part on voting for Holy Coast.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The World According to Broder, Noonan, and Blankley

David Broder thinks recent events (notably the Miers fiasco) prove that GWB is "President Pushover," because he is so in thrall to his conservative base:

[T]he Alito nomination inevitably looks like a defensive move, a lunge for the lifeboat by an embattled president to secure what is left of his political base. Instead of a consistent and principled approach to major decision making, Bush's efforts look like off-balance grabs for whatever policy rationales he can find. The president's opponents are emboldened by this performance, and his fellow partisans must increasingly wonder if they can afford to march to his command.

Aside from giving the impression that Mr. Broder was in a bad mood when he wrote this, the column suggests that he needs to get out more. In a vacuum his argument might be plausible, but it sure seems to me that conservatives are happy and energized by the Alito nomination. I know I am. Just listen to Rush Limbaugh for 5 minutes any day this week. I don't see anyone wondering if they can march with this president, not right now. The Democrats' stunt in forcing the Senate into closed session was not the action of a party "emboldened" by Bush's problems; it was a desperate attempt to change the subject back to the war.

Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan and Tony Blankley are very, very pleased with themselves and their fellow conservative pundits. Ms. Noonan answers Mr. Broder:

Mr. Broder says Bush got "rolled" by his own supporters in the Miers fiasco. But he did not. He got defeated by them. He made a bad choice, and they resisted. The White House fought back; conservative thinkers fought back even harder;
Republican senators did not back the White House; the White House retreated,
rethought and renominated.

I suppose this is substantially correct. Instead of saying "conservatives" resisted and fought back, she says "conservative thinkers." I guess by that she means the elite conservative commentariat, because, as this Gallup poll documents, a majority of plain old conservatives were unhappy that Miers withdrew. In their triumph the commentariat doesn't want to acknowledge these very inconvenient polling data. I do wonder sometimes if writers like Noonan, Frum, Fund, Krauthammer, and the rest really believe that any conservative views besides theirs matter, but that's a topic for another time.

Tony Blankley is also very, very pleased with the conservative commentariat's recent work:

The successful opposition to Harriet Miers was not a triumph for just some faction of the conservative movement. If it used to be said that the Church of
England was the Tory Party at prayer, then it also could be said that the conservative opposition to Miss Miers was the entire conservative movement on the hunt, at full regimental strength.

The entire conservative movement? Really? Well, you've got to read the whole thing to understand fully just how pleased Mr. Blankley is. He clearly believes that he and his anti-Miers allies represented all conservatives. If only that silly Gallup poll were not out there, undercutting his entire column! Mr. Blankley needs to get out more too.

Anyway, all this is excellent dinner table conversation for my kids, who are learning that even though an opinion may be expressed eloquently, and by a highly-placed and widely-respected person, it still ain't necessarily so.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Conservative Republican Elitism

This op-ed by David Ignatius, "Meet The New Elite," deserves a read. He argues that "we are living in the post-Reagan era. The outsiders of old are insiders; the conservatives are credentialed and networked." (Note: Ignatius' bio states that he "[g]raduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1973, then received a Frank Knox Fellowship from Harvard and went to King's College, Cambridge, where he received a diploma in economics in 1975." So he's certainly got elite credentials himself.)

In college, my political science professors used to joke that the way to get a State Department job was to "go to Harvard and turn left." Now it appears that the road to influence in the conservative Republican world is to go to an Ivy League school and turn right.

I must say that my non-Ivy mind disagrees with Ignatius to a certain extent. It is surely a mark of distinction to attend and graduate from an Ivy League school and (obviously) an even greater distinction to have an impressive academic record there. Since the founding of the nation, such people have risen to the top in government, and the Bush Administration is far from the first to rely on them extensively.

Still, something about this does not sit well with me. During the intra-conservative Miers debate many seemed to be saying (whether they would admit it or not) that by default, if you want a serious job like Supreme Court justice done right, the best person for the job is one who has a highly-credentialed Ivy League background. This view seemed to be everywhere, most notably at NRO's Corner and sites like (One amusing thread at worried about whether Judge Alito is a "feeder judge," an insider term meaning that his clerks go on to be Supreme Court clerks. I had to smile; what did this mean about his qualifications to be on the high Court? Now we were talking about issues that matter only to the elite among the elites!)

Anyway, I'd feel better if we saw more people in high positions who had superb academic records at the Universities of Nebraska, Florida, Notre Dame, Utah, Colorado, Mississippi, Arizona, and the like. Those are not Ivies, but I think the Republic would still be safe, somehow.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CNN Alito Bias Watch

Watch this video clip (go to the link entitled "Reservations over Alito") and see if you think Soledad O'Brien is coming at the story with any particular slant. The interview is with a friend of Judge Alito who is a criminal defense attorney and a liberal. The friend has nothing but praise for Alito the judge and the man, but Soledad . . . well, see what you think. And after you've watched the clip ask yourself if the teaser is a fair summary of the interview: "A friend of Samuel Alito says he has some reservations about the conservative views of the Supreme Court nominee."

Then look at the clip entitled "Alito's Record," at the same link. The teaser is "Jeffrey Toobin takes a look at Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's judicial record, specifically on abortion." I hope you'll note the embarrassingly simplistic description Toobin gives of two cases in which Alito wrote opinions. Then look at this piece in today's Opinion Journal and pay attention to everything Toobin left out of his description of the two cases, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Planned Parenthood v. Farmer. Toobin is an Ivy League-trained lawyer and definitely understands the nuances that are involved, and which he failed to note.

We are going to see this sort of thing wall to wall over the next eight weeks.