The Spitfire's Grill
Regular Rants from a Pragmatic Liberal
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Hastert v DeLay

This man might not look like hero material, but I'm really starting to admire Denny Hastert. As you likely know by now Republicans, under Hastert's leadership (not DeLay's) have reversed the ethics changes they made. I guess its ok to flip-flop if you're a Republican. But this was clearly led by Hastert, and it might easily be the cause of DeLay's downfall. NYTimes:

"I am willing to step back," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the moving force behind ethics revisions forced through by the majority in January.

After a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Mr. Hastert indicated that the reversal was primarily motivated by a need to resolve the torrent of questions surrounding the conduct of Representative Tom DeLay, the majority leader.

Mr. Hastert's relenting to Democrats' demands marked a startling turn as Republicans confronted the fallout from a stalled ethics process that Democrats said was rigged to protect Mr. DeLay, who was admonished three times by the ethics committee last year.

Hastert is an extremely conservative man, he really mirrors the policy beliefs of Newt. But he does think first and make comments later, unlike DeLay. He also is not willing to let DeLay be the reason he loses the Speakership to a Democrat, whereas DeLay is willing to let his party drop out of the majority in order to protect his own power.

It is further evidence of a power struggle going on within the Republican party. It has problems, just not everyone will admit its problems, and a few are willing to fix them. Good job Denny!
In with the wrong Lott...
(sorry for both the pun and the fact that I haven't posted much lately, been gearing up for exams)

It looks like Trent Lott--who, by the way, has been making pushes to be majority leader again after Frist retires in '06--has noticed that the White House has come to DeLay's aid but never comes to his:

The Hill

Like all politicians, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has a long memory.

Asked yesterday about President Bush’s support for embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), in contrast to Bush’s failure to come to Lott’s aid when he was being forced out as majority leader, Lott told The Hill:

“You need to remember those that support you. They need [DeLay]. He is the strongest man in the leadership today in either body. They already lost the strongest leader over here — me.”

Although Lott added, “That was in all due humility,” it probably won’t endear him to Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The difference is simple: DeLay is going down because of corruption, Lott went down because the man was (and still is) racist and publicly endorsed segregation efforts. Since the Bush White House has given into the very same business interests as DeLay (but Bush hasn't been flown around the world on corporate dollar--he's got Air Force One and the American tax payer's to thank for his trips), he comes to DeLay's defense. Don't get me wrong, Lott eats corporate money like a 12-year old takes down cookie dough, he's just not as good at it as DeLay.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Supreme Court Update
In a baffling roll-reversing decision by the US Supreme Court today, Scalia and Thomas voted with the Gun-Control lobby along with Kennedy while the rest of the Supreme Court voted WITH the gun lobby. The case, Small v U.S., presented the question of whether a conviction in another country (in this case Japan) prohibited one from buying a gun in the United States. Essentially, current law states that if you are convicted of a serious offense "in any court" you cannot purchase a gun within the United States. On the most literal level (which Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, who wrote the opinion, side), Japan's court would indeed qualify as "any" court.

This is actually a very hazing complex issue. Imagine someone is charged with spreading capitalist ideas in North Korea. Under the assumption that person is able to leave North Korea alive, should that person then be barred from purchasing a firearm? Certainly not.

It seems odd that Scalia, who scolded Kennedy for looking to international law in a previous decision, would uphold such an international law under this standard.

I guess it all depends upon the scope of this case. If this is a far-reaching case affecting any type of serious crime committed abroad, then certainly the majority is correct, in my opinion. But if this is a very narrow-scoped case, then I'd side with Scalia and Thomas--not normal company for me.

You see it just so happens that the serious crime that was committed was gun smuggling. So I'd say that if a serious crime committed abroad was gun-related and, moreso, the country in question has a legal system that upholds the same values as ours (which Japan does), then the foreign conviction should matter.

Regardless, Scalia and Thomas--conservative icons--voted against the gun lobby. And that just delights me, especially after watching the NRA convention the other day where the new NRA Prez praised Scalia so much.

A lesson to conservatives, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Another African Democracy Denied
For all the Bush Administration's tough talk on Democracy, they did little to nothing in Zimbabwe and now have let Togo turn away from democracy as well. I don't think the results are in yet but the massive amount of fraud seems to indicate this election might just be a hoax, similar to Zimbabwe.

Publius has far better coverage than I could ever give on the subject.

Hopefully there are enough people voting to overcome the fraud, but somehow I don't have much hope for that.
Partisan Politics
I'm way to P'd off to make any commentary about this. I suggest you read Atrios' post because he's (barely) able to put words around it.

What if these people voted for Kerry because they believe in gay marriage or they are pro-choice? If they were loons that didn't want the U.S. to remain a leader in the telecom industry then I could understand not sending them. But these are all telecom employees that have nothing to gain by hurting U.S. telecom interests.
DeLay's Downward Spiral
Fascinating article today in the Washington Post. They basically lay down a case that the Ethics Committee CANNOT ignore. Its against House Rules to pay for a trip with non-profit money if that non-profit will be reimbursed with a lobbyist's money. But that wasn't the case at all. DeLay paid for his London trip, among others, with Abramoff's own American Express. Talk about smoking gun.

This will take a few days to penetrate the Beltway, but when it does it'll be clear DeLay's been lying all along. With such solid evidence, perhaps even the new stacked Ethics Committee will be forced to vote against DeLay. Maybe. We'll see about that.

Congress needs to be purged of slime like DeLay on both sides of the aisle. The greater public accountability we see out of Washington the less pork Congress will shove through and the faster our economy and dollar will turn around. We need younger representatives who understand the problems that real Americans face. A Congressman who flies around the world on someone else's dollar--whether its within the rules or not--is simply not in touch with the American People. Period.

P.S. Slate Handicaps DeLay's Replacement.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
The Pope
Being a liberal Roman-Catholic, I've seen a lot of discussion on the new Pope. I've kept to myself on the issue but, alas, our media has done a murderous job of creating problems where there are none and ignoring problems that do exist.

WaPo's Richard Cohen did a decent job. The fact is that the Catholic church ignores reality in many cases. Some times they ignore reality because they must take the moral high ground (eg, War on Terror, Abortion, etc). The church can't come anywhere near condoning these activities because they fear that might lead to more. Hopefully the stance that abortion is a sin, a mortal one certainly, will deter abortions. Anyone, in my book, who might be convinced not to have an abortion because the Pope says it is a sin probably shouldn't have it in the first place. Abortions are for young girls who realized they screwed up and want to make sure that screw-up doesn't change their life (because young boys who make the same mistake tend to get away scott-free). So taking the moral high ground on these issues certainly saves lives.

But some issues a "moral high ground" is just unrealistically disastrous. Cohen discusses condoms in Africa--a continent stricken by AIDs. Africa has a significant number of Catholics, and its numbers there are growing quickly. Getting off the moral high ground and getting realistic when it comes to condoms in Africa could realistically save tens of thousands of lives. Alas, Benedict XVI won't do this.

Why? Well as Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents fame) told TIME Magazine when asked why the Church is far more obsessed with abortion than other culture-of-life issues: "If you look at the history of the church on moral issues, there's always been great emphasis on anything the do with sex."

While I'm not a huge fan of the idea of married priests, I'm warming up to it. While they might lack the absolute moral authority, there would be more of them, they'd be less obsessed with sex, and we'd likely avoid many of these nasty scandals.
Conservative Bloggers
One of the great things about the most well-known conservative bloggers is that they're mainly lawyers (Glenn Reynolds, the Powerline bunch, etc). This means they aren't the anti-judiciary sect and they'll willingly admit that the christian right is going a little too far in their judge-bashing.

See this Instapundit post.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Republicans Know The Filibuster
Read this kos post. I despise hypocrisy. The GOP has every right to want an up-or-down vote on the Senate Floor. But when Senators and GOP spokesmen and strategists go around saying how Democrats are "undemocratic" in their use of the filibuster, that's just a flat out lie. I might be too young to remember when they used it last (because I was in middle school when the GOP gained the majority), but I knew they had used it several times.
Thank You Barry Goldwater
However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.' -- Sen. Barry Goldwater (R)

(emphasis mine)

Via Hunter at DailyKos
Thursday, April 21, 2005
My specialization and research in school is wireless networks. Hence WiMAX is an exciting topic for me. Looks like Intel is putting out an intial chipset. While things are not WiMAX certified yet, equipment manufacturers will take some time to come out with the necessary base stations as well as individual cards for desktops and other units.

For those non-tech junkies, this will have significant political impact. Imagine a total change in the telecom industry, imagine greater Internet access for the poor. These are merely two of the dramatic changes WiMAX will bring about.
Oh Please

There must be twenty times the number of millionaires that are conservative than liberal, why do conservatives always pick on Soros? O'Reilly demonizes him and right-wing bloggers seem to think he's super-evil yet ignore individuals like Ken Lay?

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline has a moment of sheer rational thinking. My only response is that there are some in his party that claim a moral mandate, those who don't believe in the "Big Tent" mentality. If you don't get them under control, that tent will shrink fairly quickly in the next couple years.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
China-Japan Starting to Make Nice?
We better hope so.

While we tromp around in the Middle East, let's remember we'd have to defend both Taiwan and Japan if China decides to get real aggressive. Japan has basically been pulling a Germany lately trying to cover up its past. I'm not so much against that as I am Japan trying to, at the same time, push all the "good" things they did in China and the Korean Peninsula. Japan can't have it both ways, talking down the bad and talking up the good. In actuality, there's little good to talk up, more like Japan is starting to make stuff up. Claiming things like the king of Korea asked Japan to conquer it doesn't sit well with their neighbor to the west, South Korea. Japan should leave history to the historians, not the government.
Journalism Takes a Hit
Looks like Matthew Cooper (Time) and Judith Miller (NYTimes) might be heading to jail for refusing to disclose their sources. The federal appeals court yesterday rejected an appeal. "It also serves as a firm rebuke to major news organizations and First Amendment groups who had weighed in on the case, legal experts said."

This goes back to the Valerie Plame case. It's unfortunate that the U.S. Attorney investigating this case had no where to go but these two reporters. While many would like to see individuals in the White House take the fall for what happened to Plame because of her husband's anti-Iraq War stance, I'm not sure it'd be worth it. The chilling effect on both whistle blowing as well as reporting would be crushing. We have ourselves in a real lose-lose situation.

I'd bet quite a nice sum that someone else that the U.S. Attorney has access to could have provided a new lead in the case, thus avoiding this situation. But the Attorney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is reportedly done with his investigation with the exception of Miller and Cooper's testimony. Unfortunate.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Side Effect of REAL ID Bill
If so many illegal immigrants have drivers licenses, why not revoke them? There are too many cars on the road right now, too much pollution and gas demand caused by those cars, and unnecessary wear on our road infrastructure cause by people who, for a large part, don't pay taxes.

Maybe Lou Dobbs is wearing me down, but if we're going to take cars off the road, let's not limit American Citizens.

BTW, I'm quite in favor of Bush's temporary worker program...
People think they elect a person to a political office. In reality they elect a person and his/her staff. A congressman or senator's staff is just as important as the congressman or senator is. How could Mel Martinez answer every phone call from concerned citizens? How could he communicate with dozens of other offices on dozens of political issues? Not possible.

The State of Florida elected Mel Martinez AND his staff. This means Mel SHOULD have done two things:

1. Taken Responsibility for the Schiavo memo
2. Replace members on his staff that create a culture of irresponsibility

He's done neither, and both myself and the St Pete Times aren't very happy about it.
More Thoughts on Bolton
Powerline gives a decent version of the recent Bolton developments.

I agree with Hinderaker that the Dems have had a fairly dubious method of assaulting Bolton. I was watching Norm Coleman speak during the confirmation hearing and he made the point that most of the people who testified had never known Bolton for more than a couple minutes, one witness merely had a three minute conversation with the man.

While that brings doubt upon their testimony, as Hinderaker points out, it does lead credence to the notion that Bolton can somehow piss someone off so much in a three minute period that the person will spend days fighting against him.

Ultimately I don't know of any other way that Dems could approach this issue. It is kind of an ends justify the means sort of approach, which I don't like, but I don't see an alternative.
Interesting Supreme Court Case
There have always been limits on religious freedom, those limits have tended to parallel other 1st Amendment limits. But like those other freedoms, the limits on them are quite vague. In a case that the Supreme Court decided to take up yesterday, there's a conflict between our drug laws and the right of a religious group to import narcotics:

The court said it will hear the government's appeal of a 2002 injunction issued by a New Mexico federal judge giving an Albuquerque group, O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), the right to import hoasca, a psychedelic substance brewed in herbal tea, for use in certain rituals.

It isn't suprising the Bush Administration wants this reversed, although if practising Christianity involved some kind of psychedelic they might change their tune. I think the Native American group should have the right to use the substance under extremely tight circumstances. This, of course, works under the assumption that the group has a long-standing tradition of using the substance and not abusing it also. Sometimes a lot of big government and red tape is the way to make sure things get done right, and if the UDV is honestly concerned about using this "hoasca" then they'll be willing to go through those regulatory hurtles.
John Bolton
Looks like he might have gotten de-railed.

Liberal Oasis:
GOP Sen. Voinovich, 4:35 PM ET -- "...I wasn't present during the hearing on John Bolton ... I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton."

GOP Sen. Hagel at Bolton hearing, 4:30 PM ET -- "I will vote for moving Bolton out [of committee], but I would also say, that doesn't mean that I will support his nomination on the [Senate] floor. I think these charges are serious enough to demand -- they cry out for further examination."
Republicans have a 2 member majority on the Foreign Relations Committee, if Voinovich votes against him, it'll create a 9-9 tie, so his nomination would be dead in committee.

The U.N. is not a wonderful, rosy, organization. It needs reform, big time. Would a tough talker like Bolton have been able to reform it? Maybe. But chances are that he'd have a Clinton-effect: people would just refuse to even listen to him or consider his ideas. If Voinovich does indeed vote against Bolton as opposed to abstaining (not sure on Foreign Relations Committee Rules) then hopefully Bush will nominate a true uniter. A Bob Dole? A
Christine Todd Whitman?

If Bolton does get to the floor of the Senate, it might take weeks. Its a good thing the UN isn't such a worthwhile organization after all...

UPDATE: Steve Clemons of the Washington Note seems to be the best informed on this situation. If you read his posts today you'll get an interesting timeline.

Monday, April 18, 2005
Pro-DeLay Roundup
Perhaps you might like a summary of what some of the conservative leaning press thinks about Tom DeLay...

NYPost's Arnold Ahlert comments on Democrat's strategy. Points out how DeLay can't really get off the hook while the Democrats are boycotting the Ethics Committee. Notice how Ahlert never disputes DeLay's guilt or comments on whether the Ethics committee will make an honest, non-partisan decision.

WashTimes' Tony Blankly dares quote Oscar Wilde (an attempt at intelligence by association...) to blame Democrats for being nothing but negative. His best quote: "I have been a card-carrying Republican since 1963, when my candidate, Barry Goldwater, suggested cutting off the Northeast and letting it float out to sea. It was a good idea back then, and still has some merit. Too many Republicans up there are born without backbones..." (If he wants to give up those Republican Senate & House Seats, we'll take em). As usual for the Washington Times, they really don't add anything to the debate either.

Rush Limbaugh seems to think that the Washington Post is Chris Shay's lapdog.

Weekly Standard
builds the case that DeLay is extremely vital to the Republican Party, therefore Democrats are going after him: "The truth is that Tom DeLay is a special target because he is the first legislative power broker to be an authentic Red State conservative."

All these outlets focus on a common logical set:

1. DeLay is important for conservatives
2. Democrats can't get their agenda out
3. Therefore, Democrats attack DeLay

Logically, this would make sense. But that only makes sense if you clarify "Democrats" to mean "National Democrats". Last time I checked, DeLay's problems started in Texas and TRMPAC and then Abramoff, did they not?

The Republican Talking Points build a good case for WHY Democrats might want to attack DeLay, but it looks over the sequence of events that brought DeLay's ethical problems to light. DeLay's problems started well before the last election. I grant that Democrats have hounded on it for exactly the logical progression stated above, but that doesn't mean DeLay is innocent of the charges. It just means Democrats are playing politics. And playing politics is something everyone's guilty of doing, playing politics is exactly the reason Tom DeLay is so important for the Republican Party.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
NRA Annual Meeting
So I'm watching the NRA's Annual Convention on C-SPAN. Good Stuff. I'm all for a good deal of gun rights. But these people go a little far. For example, the 20 x 100 ft banner that was behind the stage read "The Second Amendment: America's First Freedom". I got kind of a chuckle out of this. Cause last time I checked, not only is the First Amendment (with its FIVE freedoms) placed in front of the Second, its placed there for a reason. Fine, I can deal with that.

Then they talked about how W will be one of the greatest Presidents of all time. Again, silly, but predictable.

Now the Incoming President of the NRA is railing against Judges. Yes, yes, judges. I can't seem to find a transcript, but she asked the crowd how great it would be if the Supreme Court were filled with lots of justices like Scalia and Thomas. That's freakin scary. And oh yeah, they managed to rip on George Soros too..."The Second Amendment safeguards our Bill of Rights. And the Bill of Rights safeguards our Constitution."

UPDATE: Of course DeLay came and spoke...
Kristof on Darfur
He's written about it dozens of times, but this is worth repeating. He starts out by listing some atrocities in the past that the U.S. Government has conviently ignored either because the situtation was too complex or too expensive:

When Turkey was massacring Armenians in 1915, the administration of Woodrow Wilson determinedly looked the other way... A generation later, American officials said they were too busy fighting a war to worry about Nazi death camps... In the 1970's, the U.S. didn't try to stop the Cambodian genocide...Much the same happened in Bosnia and Rwanda.

All good points. All situations were different with one exception. The common tie was that in none of those instances was there a significant public outcry. So far, this unifying theme is also playing out in Darfur. So Kristof drops the bomb:

Now President Bush is writing a new chapter in that history.

Sudan's army and janjaweed militias have spent the last couple of years rampaging in the Darfur region, killing boys and men, gang-raping and then mutilating women, throwing bodies in wells to poison the water and heaving children onto bonfires. Just over a week ago, 350 assailants launched what the U.N. called a "savage" attack on the village of Khor Abeche, "killing, burning and destroying everything in their paths." Once again, there's no good solution. So we've looked away as 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, with another 10,000 dying every month.

The Administration claims to be doing things, but we all know they can do more. The U.S., more than any other country, has a bully pulpit from which to speak. If Bush simply concentrated on the issue, spoke about it in harsh words, critisized the Sudanese government in the language he uses towards Syria, then the world would have to respond.

The people of the world surely don't like the President of the United States, but they just as surely don't ignore him. Bush gets as much press in Europe and parts of Asia as he does in his own country.

We've thrown a trivial amount of money at the problem (under $2 Billion, most of which hasn't been spent yet). But that's just enough to claim we've actually done something. Look at the amount of attention this country is paying to the Social Security debate versus Darfur. Really quite Shameful.

I can forgive this president for having a different opinion on Social Security, judges, and other domestic issues. I can understand his foreign policy decisions on Iraq, Iran, and Syria. I cannot understand--nor will I tolerate--his unwillingness to force Americans and the world to think about what is going on in Darfur.

Use that bully pulpit, Mr. President.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Scalia & Sodomy
What a fun topic.

So I've been hearing for the past couple days about Justice Scalia and his rant on homosexual sodomy. So I went and read his dissenting opinion. Now I'm no lawyer, but my vocabulary ain't so bad, so I can swim my way through a Scalia rant if it'll prove entertaining, and this one certainly was worthy. Here are some fun quotes:

There are 203 prosecutions for consensual, adult homosexual sodomy reported in the West Reporting system and official state reporters from the years 1880—1995. See W. Eskridge, Gaylaw: Challenging the Apartheid of the Closet 375 (1999) (hereinafter Gaylaw). There are also records of 20 sodomy prosecutions and 4 executions during the colonial period. J. Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac 29, 58, 663 (1983). Bowers’ conclusion that homosexual sodomy is not a fundamental right “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” is utterly unassailable. (emphasis mine).

Under that logic, freedom from slavery wasn't a fundamental right "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" around 1850. Apparently, when we get something wrong, we shouldn't fix it. Sounds a lot like the man who plans on making Scalia the next chief justice---hmmm...

On its face §21.06(a) applies equally to all persons. Men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, are all subject to its prohibition of deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex. To be sure, §21.06 does distinguish between the sexes insofar as concerns the partner with whom the sexual acts are performed: men can violate the law only with other men, and women only with other women. But this cannot itself be a denial of equal protection, since it is precisely the same distinction regarding partner that is drawn in state laws prohibiting marriage with someone of the same sex while permitting marriage with someone of the opposite sex.

...that just might make the Top 50 Obvious Yet Utterly Pointless Statements of all time..

Even if the Texas law does deny equal protection to “homosexuals as a class,” that denial still does not need to be justified by anything more than a rational basis, which our cases show is satisfied by the enforcement of traditional notions of sexual morality.

...other than the obvious question of who defines sexual morality (oh wait), doesn't this contradict his statement in the previous quote? Furthermore isn't it a problem that equal protection can be violated if it is justified on a "rational basis"? But let's continue:

Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.

Well at lease we're gettin to the real reason here! This guy thinks that to be gay and have hormones is morally shameful. Why doesn't he address how these evil people came about (oh wait)?

Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means. Social perceptions of sexual and other morality change over time, and every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best. That homosexuals have achieved some success in that enterprise is attested to by the fact that Texas is one of the few remaining States that criminalize private, consensual homosexual acts. But persuading one’s fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one’s views in absence of democratic majority will is something else. (emphasis mine)

Obviously this was written pre-Schiavo. I'm sure Scalia's gotten the memo (pun intended) how it is now Republican's belief that "imposing views in absence of democratic majority" is what will likely be necessary for conservatives to get their way.
Bill Frist vs. Our Constitution
Mr. Frist may want to re-read that little document he swore to protect when he placed his hand on the Bible (or, maybe the Bible isn't as important as '08). The U.S. Constitution:

Article. VI.

Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

(emphasis mine)
By now we all know that Mr Frist is participating in this mockery of religion. I'm sure Mr Frist is highly willing to let Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc on the Court benches. BUT, the loonies he's decided to get in bed with (pun intended) don't have that same desire. They literally want every judge, like the well-dressed white kid in their poster, to rule with a gavel in one hand and a Bible in the other.

So is it Frist guilty by association of putting the Constitution in jeopardy? Absolutely. If he started to court the anarchist vote or the segregationist vote, people would sweat bullets that our Constitution won't be protected.

Hopefully his will to go through with the nuclear option is about as strong as his will to protect the Constitution.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Bush Sides Against DeLay on Judges
While reading through various blog posts I had C-SPAN on in the background. President Bush was speaking at the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention. The question session that followed was the same dribble of Bush not being able to express concisely our policy towards China, trying to communicate he understands both sides but won't change his position, etc etc etc. But then the last question was a gem. An audience member (not sure who) asked about Congress putting pressure on judges to be less activist. His response:

I think there are three distinct branches of government, and they ought to act independently and serve as checks and balances. I'm strongly for an independent judiciary. My focus with Congress on judges is that they're not approving enough of my judges in the United States Senate. And I think my judges ought to get an up or down vote, period. I think they ought to get a hearing, and I think they ought to get to the floor of the Senate, and I think they ought to deserve an up or down vote. But I'm strongly for an independent judiciary.

This is not a rousing support of the Randall Terry's and James Dobson's and Tom DeLay's of this country. I believe Bush is smart enough to know that judges are doing a good job even if sometimes he doesn't agree with them. I'm not sure which pisses me off more though: the fact that he is so conservative to want the judges he recommends (plus his position on stem cells) or the fact that he may well be selling out to the fanatical elements of the religious right for political gain.

For anyone wondering, has a transcript.

Democrats and Culture
I'm very quickly becoming a huge Ed Kilgore fan. On the issue of how Democrats deal with culture, I think he gets about as close to my personal thoughts on the issue.

There's an inherent conflict between free speech and the so-called "moral values" movement. I happen to think that free speech is one of this country's greatest moral values. However, I can agree with that movement on a couple of points. This is generally been coined by conservatives as "Hollywood"...mainly because when you say Hollywood you think of stupid wealthy liberal movie stars who, in order to get press, claim they'll move to Canada if Bush wins, etc. This image works wonders for conservatives because people can easily be jealous of over-hyped movie stars. But this isn't a movie-star issue. This is a corporate issue. Massive studios run Hollywood, and massive studios put out culturally damaging movies, music, television, and Internet content.

Now I don't think anyone is advocating across-the-board censorship. Indeed, Desperate Housewives is just as popular in the Red States. But the issue of parental control and keeping obscene content away from the eyes of children is a central issue to the moral values crowd. So I suggest that you read Kilgore's opinion.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Trouble Brewing in Asia
While I was out in Dallas for a job interview this weekend, I happened upon a copy of the London-based Financial Times. The FT had dueling Asia-Pacific articles discussing the increasing tensions in that region: one about Taiwanese celebrating their role fighting alongside Japan in WWII, another about Chinese boycotts of Japanese goods.

Now this has been going on for quite some time (China and Japan have never liked each other), but it seems to be escalating as of late. Japan is becoming increasing nationalistic, even to the point of re-writing history in its middle school textbooks glorifying Japan's rule over both China and Korea. This has gotten the latter two countries quite peeved off lately, and Japan's formal claim to traditionally Korean islands hasn't made things any better. If this eventually leads to a showdown, it will be a China/N.Korea/S.Korea vs Japan/Taiwan power struggle that will bring the U.S. into a precarious position with allies (Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea) on both sides.

As much as I dislike Condi's firm loyalty to our President's poorly thought out foreign policy, I know she's an extremely capable Secretary of State. This battle will be in her court and I hope her black-boots diplomacy can handle it.

Let's just hope W keeps stumping for Social Security and leaves foreign relations to the professionals.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Loss of Respect for Powerline
I may disagree with them quite often, but at least I respected them.

Until Now.

You see, when you make a mistake, you own up to it. They are spinning it now towards the media and how ABC/WaPo mishandled the situation, completely ignoring how they themselves handled it.

I believe Harry Reid deserves an apology from the folks at Powerline.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Nicholas Kristof
Sometimes I think that Nicholas Kristof must lead a sad, depraved life. Positivity just doesn't seem to be his thing. There are a lot of bad things that are going on in the world, but if I were to dwell on them as often as Kristof, I'd likely shoot myself. But alas, he always has a good point:

President Bush and other world leaders are honoring John Paul II in a way that completely misunderstands his message. We pay him no tribute if we lower our flags to half-staff and send a grand presidential delegation to his funeral, when at the same time we avert our eyes as villagers are slaughtered and mutilated in the genocide unfolding in Darfur.
I think its fairly safe to say that the Pope led by example. It takes a lot of courage to lead by example. Sometimes we feel like fighting injustices with equal injustice, returning violence for violence. That was not the Pope's way. It takes integrity, consistency, and a lot of time to lead by example, and to do so is a tribute to a person's unselfishness.

You and I are not world leaders. But we can follow the Pope's example: help out in programs in our local communities, be a mentor, and lead by example, not words.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Oh, Nancy Nancy Nancy...
It seems like you might have gotten the Delay itch. Now, in Pelosi's defense, this is the Washington Times we're talking about. So I'll consistently use the word might in italics until I see this re-phrased by an outlet that is not the conservative equivalent of CBS News.

I should point out that I have thought for some time now that if the Democrats regain the majority, Ms Pelosi should not be the Majority Leader. She makes for a fairly decent Minority Leader because that job takes more grit and balls than it does tact and suave. Furthermore the Majority Leader really must lead by example (so should the Minority leader, but hopefully you understand my point).

I should also point out that I read the WashTimes piece twice and still haven't quite pieced it all together. Yes, there's money and influence going multiple directions, but these things can be complicated, and the fact that the WashTimes doesn't seem to be un-complicating it any leads me to have some healthy skepticism.

Having said all that, if Nancy Pelosi really did all the crafty little things Stephen Dinan implies, then she should move aside, and people have a right to be outraged. This could be an extremely positive thing for the Democratic Party: both parties have problems, but the Democratic Party FIXES them. It does bother me that no major liberal blog that I've read (I don't read them all so don't quote me...) hasn't covered this.

Oh, either way Tom DeLay is still dumpster scum and should be run out of his party like he was Askar Akayev.
More on Cornyn's Remarks
Cornyn is getting a farily predictable response from the Left. He's certainly giving Democrats some good talking points. Furthermore, hopefully they use it to fend off this nuclear option deal Mr Frist is pondering.

But now, the Right is jumping on the anti-Cornyn bandwagon. Perhaps the best post I've read on this so far, whether a liberal or conservative blog, is this Glenn Reynolds post at Instapundit.

I agree with Reynolds that Cornyn was just rambling (I watched the C-SPAN tape)--and he made plenty of verbal pauses in his speech--his remarks were more of an afterthought. That's obviously not going to stop the liberal bloggers and Harry Reid's war machine. Ultimately, the minority cannot just give in entirely, because if the American people understood what that might mean they would not be happy.

BTW, the machine seems to be working.
The GOP Judicial Activism Challenge
Thanks to Senator Cornyn (R-TX) and Tom Delay (R-TX), its time I laid out my GOP Judicial Activism Challenge.

There's no good definition of Judicial Activism, so let's just define it as "making the Constitution say something it doesn't". The way I see it, there are TWO types of Judicial Activism: Significant Logical Leaps & Just Making Stuff Up. Obviously, making stuff up is a farther stretch of our Constitution than a series of logical leaps, right? So let's look at them in detail:

  1. Significant Logical Leaps. The word abortion certainly isn't in the Constitution. It is derived from the concept of privacy. But is privacy in the Constitution? Well, not quite. It is derived from several bits and pieces (search and seizure, jail w/o trial, 9th & 10th Amendments, etc). So logically, there's a logical leap that we have a Constitution Right to Privacy. Furthermore, things like abortion and euthanasia are logical leaps that, assuming we do have some right to privacy, we have a right to these things as well. I personally am "mildly pro-choice" to borrow from Secretary Rice, and I believe in the Roe v. Wade ruling. But, I grant that it exists on somewhat shaky grounds. No liberal politician would admit it, but most know it. This is obviously the part of the Constitution that the Religious Right and their Judicial Activism craze would like to wipe out.
  2. Making Stuff Up. This is fun. When Justice Kennedy wrote that Capital Punishment for individuals under 18 was unconstitutional, he argued that it went against some "prevailing opinion" and that foreign countries didn't do it either. Did I agree with the ruling? Yes. Did I like how he justified it? Absolutely NOT. But this is quite common. How do you think we justify censorship laws? We use the concept of American Values to simply overlook the First Amendment when necessary. This is how the FCC, with its new censorship-crazed Chairman (as opposed to its old censorship-crazed Chairman...) can get away with the significant amount of censorship it plans to impose.
Now, logically, Making Stuff Up is more judicially activist than making logical leaps such as abortion, no? So we get to the...

GOP Judicial Activism Challenge:

MAKE UP YOUR MIND. If you want to eliminate the Judicial Activism #1 listed above, fine, but #2 has to go also. For our Constitution's (and God's) sakes, have some consistency.

Oh, and threatening judges isn't very consistent with this either.
Monday, April 04, 2005
FL - Gov 2006
Since I'm from Florida and since no one really reads this blog, I intend to discuss Florida politics on occasion. If you're interested in such, the links off to the right devote entire blogs to our politics in the Sunshine State.

Congressman Jim Davis is my Congressman, and I'm a proud supporter. It looks like he's off to an early lead in the Democratic Primary, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Many of my thoughts have been confirmed by this article, including that no South Florida candidate gives Davis the advantage over State Senator Rod Smith. Davis has a bigger support base in the swing section of the state, giving him an advantage in the general election. The key is to win South Florida.

If there isn't a Democratic candidate from South Florida, then hopefully that particular barrel o' cash will support Davis, even though he is a relative unknown.

Simply stated, we here in Florida are sick of the Bushies, and we need a Democratic Governor again.
Social Security
I first want to get off my chest to any Republican who might eventually read this post: I have no inherent problem with private accounts. I am not morally opposed to them. I do not worry about the political consequences of "every American having a stake in our future", etc etc. Under the right conditions, private accounts would be wonderful. Unfortunately, politicians have a tendency to put off problems, but sometimes putting off the problem is the best choice. Telling people that you're going to put off the problem isn't very politically sexy, but if you look at the numbers I think that we can't have Social Security privatization until after we show some fiscal responsibility and prove to America's backers that we can pay down any debt incurred from private accounts. Cause right now, we just spend spend spend (sometimes I wish we had elected a Republican president...but that's another story for another day).

Now for my main point. Daily Kos quotes a NYTimes article on the President's 60-Day Social Security trek:

Administration officials say they are undaunted and still expect to win the fight. "We're at the halfway mark of our 60-day tour and well beyond our events goal already," Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said on Friday. "The national dialogue that the president called for in the State of the Union is well under way, and Social Security has been elevated to the top of the national political debate. We're making real progress."

(emphasis not mine)
Armando uses this as an excuse to pump up Harry Reid and rip on Tom Delay -- two things I think should be done more often. But I have plenty of beef myself on this issue:

  1. Sham Town Hall Meetings - As a former high school debater, I know that if you can't stand up to your opponent's arguments, you might very well be wrong. Granted, you might very well be unable to defend yourself, but Social Security's problems are actually fairly simple, and a 30 minute session could teach Bush how to counter every argument he might ever get. It doesn't take Americans 60 days to figure this out, which is why...
  2. The Administration's approval ratings are going down, not up. A lot of this has to do with Democratic unity, but Democrats have been unified before and the American public threw them out the door (remember health care?)
  3. This "Everything is on the table" is simply not true, I won't call it a lie just yet. Remember when Bush said in Europe "We are not going to go to war with Iran. Iran is not Iraq. Having said that, everything is on the table." (a misquote, but true to the idea) That was a classic Bushism: if you refuse to flip-flop on even your bad policies, then flip-flop mid-sentence. Now he's saying he's the person with "Everything on the table" and Democrats aren't. Not true. Both sides have 1 reservation. Bush won't raise payroll taxes. Dems won't go with private accounts. Now it is the belief of this blog that payroll taxes shouldn't fund 100% of the Social Security fix, not even close. But many have said that a 2-3% increase in the payroll tax could fix this problem. Remember, employers themselves pay half of that. Increase taxes = job loss? Yes. So don't make that the primary avenue of funding. But if you, Mr President, won't consider it at all, then perhaps you and Dems could "come to the table" without private accounts AND without payroll tax increases. That'd be just peachy.
I'd keep talkin, but you wouldn't keep reading. I'm sure I'll address it at some point in the future.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Hal Turner 3
Hal Responded:

No. He did not say he came "to replace the old way." FAR FROM IT. When Jesus was asked if he was giving changing the laws of God, he replied NO. I change not one jot or tittle of the law.
He also said he was sent to pit mother daughter, father against son, brother against brother. Those who would accept him and his truth would be forever cast out by those who do not.
He told his disciples "Love one another" but look who he was talking to. His disciples! He certainly didn;t mean the savages from darkest Africa.
Ok, technically, Hal has one small point. Jesus said in one passage he was not here to change the old ways, but he made some other point which I can't remember--my Bible skills are a little rusty to say the least. I think it is sufficient to say almost everyone knows that Jesus changed the old Jewish tradition of "an eye for an eye" to the more compassionate "turn the other cheek". Everything else Hal wrote is bogus. I'm a little too tired to respond right now, but I look forward in continuing the dialogue. Possibly after a little Bible brush-up.
Ah, Capitalism & China
Capitalism, like its Social counterpart, Freedom, can be a very ugly thing sometimes. But then, things naturally come around.

It has, and will always remain, the position of this writer and Blog that, in the end, Capitalism and Free Markets will prevail. Millions will lose their jobs and struggle to feed their families, and that does make me truly sad (which is why I'm a Democrat: at least these people should have health care and the protection of bankruptcy laws).

As for the main point of this post, it seems that China is about to slow down. The NYTimes reports that there's a growing labor shortage in China:
The world's most populous nation, which has powered its stunning economic rise with a cheap and supposedly bottomless pool of migrant labor, is experiencing shortages of about two million workers in Guangdong and Fujian, the two provinces at the heart of China's export-driven economy.
This means great things for everybody! (Except the Chinese businessleaders--but, hey, who's counting?) You see, labor shortages with a growing economy will lead to higher pay of Chinese workers. This will make China less competitive and the U.S. (slightly) more able to compete. It with further lead to the industrial rise of India and bring that poor nation of of its economic shape (India is a nation where it is considered "average" for a middle-class family of 4 to have 4-6 servants...which using a mean average is arithmetically impossible).

The upside for you environmentalists out there will be that China will soon fall under the nasty little parameters of Kyoto. If China and India uphold Kyoto, the U.S. will easily (and willingly, I might add) follow. My main hope was that all of this might just happen during my lifetime, and it appears that it shall indeed.

Ultimately--assuming we survive this whole global warming thing (big if)--the only two factors that determine a nation's economic strength per capita will be its education system and its economic growth-related regulations. I have a long rant on these two factors, but that's another rant for another time.

UPDATE: Thomas Friedman has a great article in NYTimes Magazine. Haven't read the entire thing yet because I have some work to do, but he does a good job of addressing the whole globalism issue. My favorite quote so far is "the playing field is being leveled", which is not such a good thing for someone who needs to find a job right now, but is great, conceptually at least, for the world. Again, read the paragraph above this one for a summary of how the U.S. can weather this storm which is no where close to being over.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Hal Turner 2
I finished my response:

Yes, but did not Jesus say that he came to replace the old ways? That the new Commandment was "Love Thy Neighbor"?

I'm a young Roman Catholic, so the choice of the next Pope is very important to me. It could literally be the best or worst decision of Pope ever made due to the rise of the Information Age. The Pope can speak to the people of the planet in ways that would make St Peter himself downright jealous.

As for your explanation of why the next Pope must be White...there are several verses of the Old Testament that Christ himself diagreed with, meaning that the physical text itself is important but does not represent, word-for-word, the true decree of God himself, no? It is certainly an immensely important document, but we must first look to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, then look to the Old Testament for answers.

Your logic, written out, looks like this:

1. Adam
-> Poor translation of 'Awdom'
2. Adwom
-> Means 'Ruddy of Complexion'
3. Ruddy Complexion
-> Blood can be seen through skin
4. Blood can be seen through skin
-> Light skin
5. Light skin
-> Belongs to "White" Race
6. White Race
-> All Other Races were created on the SIXTH Day
7. Other Races Created on SIXTH Day
-> Are not God's "Chosen"

Each item above could be logically disputed. For example, #4 above, the blood vessels of even the darkest of Africans are still visible through their skin (that's how nurses are able to withdraw blood). While the red of their blood isn't visible, it isn't in Whites either. Veins are the only blood vessels near the surface of the skin, and they carry de-oxygenated ("blue") blood.

My fear is that you jump so quickly past Jesus' teaching to "Love Thy Neighbor" to a series of fallacious logical steps that you miss the greatest gift Christ himself brought us: Love of our fellow human beings
I honestly can't wait to hear back from him. I tried to be as civil as possible (let me know if I'm not). I love an honest, civil debate. As long as he doesn't go into asshole mode, I can like the man, just not his ideas.
Hal Turner
C&L had a post pointing us to Hal Turner's (blog-like) Website. First of all, if I were to call Turner a far-Right-Winger, it wouldn't be fair to him, and it definitely wouldn't be fair to Republicans. This guy is definitely not a Republican. He believes (like many Democrats) that Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq. But Turner believes its a lie for a different reason. Michael Moore Democrats maintain it is about oil. Turner just plain doesn't like the fact that we freed Iraqies (ie, non-whites (ie, "not God's "Chosen")).

Among Hal Turner's site's more recent posts was this post (not a true blog as there aren't permalinks):

If they do, it will rightly mean the total destruction of the Catholic Church
Non-Whites can never be Pope because they are not of God's Chosen; Jews have been trying to steal the title of "God's Chosen" for centuries, but those of us who understand the Bible know that only whites constitute God's Chosen. It says so in the Bible, Book of Genesis.
Now being a Roman Catholic, the concept that the Book of Genesis says that non-Whites are not God's Chosen perturbs me. As such, I emailed him. Please, if you just want to insult him, don't email him, I believe that the only way to beat stupidity is civility. This is my email:

Subject: Where in the Bible

Does it say "Non-Whites...are not of God's Chosen". You said it says so in the Book of Genesis. Chapter and Verse?
To my delight, he responded:

It simple. In Genesis 1, it reports that on the first day, God created. . . . Second day God created. . . . . etc., until the SIXTH Day. On the SIXTH day, God createed all Human beings? On the seventh Day, God rested. Are you with me so far?

What is the very NEXT thing God did? Genesis 2: God looked at what he created and realized there was no one suitable to take care of the land. So he reached into the dirt, carved out the image of Man and blew the breath of life into him. The man was called "Adam"
If you look at a book such as Strong's Concordance, you will see the name "Adam" was actually Awdom, meaning ruddy of complexion. Where you can see the blood beneath the skin. Which is the ONLY race on earth where you can see the blood under the skin? White people. We're the only one's who can "blush."
Then comes the whole Rib thing with Eve and you have the beginnings of the WHITE race. His Chosen People "Israel."
That's why the "original sin" has only to do with white people. It has nothing to do with non-whites, all of whom are SIXTH Day creations!

Hope this helps.
The email actually seems fairly nice, albeight disgustingly racist. I'm working up a response right now which I'll post when I'm done. But I plan on ignoring the racism aspect entirely. I pride myself on my logical and argumentative skills, so I plan to break down his logic piece by piece and show him just how many logical leaps he takes. I'll attempt to do this as nicely as possible.
I wanted to start this blog off on a serious topic on which almost all of us can reach some sort of consensus. Darfur is a hellish place, where the sectarian violence is recognized in pretty much every place, except maybe by the Sudanese government itself.

I could go on and on about it, but in truth I'm no expert. So it is better that I point you to some bloggers that are, indeed, more knowledgeable than I:

The Coalition for Darfur is a bi-partisan website operated by Feddie of Southern Appeal and Eugene Oregon of Demagogue.

Hopefully bloggers can raise the awareness of what is going on in Darfur. If bloggers can raise it only slightly, if bloggers can speed up the actions of the UN, US, Europe, and the rest of the world only so much as a day, or hour, then it will literally save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

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