OpinionMeister

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Journalist Goes to Jail

I have very mixed feelings about the jailing of Judith Miller for refusing a grand jury demand for information on a confidential source. On the one hand, this is another case of a special prosecutor gone wild. It was obvious from pretty early on that no crime had been committed, and it was only because such powerful forces as the New York Times demanded the creation of a special prosecutor that the case has proceeded. Special prosecutors keep going as long as they can get a big budget funded. Regular prosecutors would have ended this investigation long ago.

As to the question of protecting confidential sources, I believe Miller is wrong. A very large distinction needs to be made here, but most commentators lump it all together. If an employee of a government agency knows of some abuses of power or even downright illegalities going on at the agency and gives this information to a reporter, that fits the definition of what should be protected. But imagine a man coming up to a reporter and telling him or her that he had committed a murder. The reporter wrote all of the gory details of the murder, but refuses to name the first-person source. That should not be protected.

In this case, if a crime had been committed, it would have been the very act of telling the reporter about Valerie Plame. This is not a case of a person telling a reporter of an offense he or she had witnessed. This is a case of a reporter witnessing a person committing an act that the special prosecutor was created to determine if it was a crime. I do not believe that the leak constituted a crime, but if the special prosecutor can prove otherwise, Miller is protecting a felon.

Some Thoughts on the SC Nomination Fight

As for who it should be, I only have two thoughts for the President. 1) Do not go with a "moderate." This fight is winnable, so get a truly conservative jurist. By this I do not mean someone who would actively advance politically conservative policies, but one who will interpret the constitution as the founders intended. 2) From a political point of view, any of the three filibustered jurists that got in on "The Deal" would be hard for the Democrats to attack quite as ferociously as they might others. Having found them acceptable only a month ago, their attacks would sound rather hollow, and if a filibuster starts and cloture fails, some of the 7 RINOs who were in on the deal will likely vote to change the Senate rules.

This will not be a repeat of the Bork fight. For one thing, the Republicans now form a majority in the Senate. Yet even more important is what they learned in the Bork fight. That was like the war on terrorism before 9/11. Al Qaida had declared war on the US, but the US did not notice and was not at war with al Qaida. While the Democrats followed the rule that "all's fair," the Republicans thought they were in a gentlemanly dispute. That will not happen this time. Both sides will mobilize, and in a situation like that, the majority Republicans will prevail.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cause and Effect

Apropos of the post below, UPI reports on the latest poll conducted by the Democrats. Link.
A poll on the political mood in the United States conducted by the Democratic Party has alarmed the party at its own loss of popularity.
Conducted by the party-affiliated Democracy Corps, the poll indicated 43 percent of voters favored the Republican Party, while 38 percent had positive feelings about Democrats. [...]

Stanley Greenberg, who served as President Clinton's pollster, [...] told the Christian Science Monitor he attributes the slippage to voters' perceptions that Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view."
Given the total lack of ideas and a policy of total opposition to anything the president favors, the surprise should have been that the numbers have held up as well as they did, not that they have dropped.

Rushing to Prove Rove Right

I see a great deal of irony in the statements of Democrats in the last few weeks. First, they were attacking Carl Rove for correctly saying that liberals (he never said Democrats, and he identified specifically some of the liberals he was talking about) were more appeasers than fighters in the war against terrorists.

This continued right up until the day when President Bush addressed the American people on the situation in Iraq. He said nothing new, but he very impressively reiterated his stand on Iraq and its place in the war on terror. He identified Iraq as the main front in that war, which had begun on 9/11/01, and he restated the connections between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations, which had been spelled out in the congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion, which many Democrats had voted for.

Following the speech, leading Democrats ran for the news microphones to tell the world that they had no idea what had been in the resolution they had voted for and that there was no connection between Iraq and any parties that had anything to do with 9/11. They attacked the president for mentioning 9/11, as if it were some distant historical issue that had no relevance to our present situation.

I cannot imaging any stronger verification of Carl Rove's speech. Rove might as well have been the speech writer for the Democrats.

Friday, June 24, 2005

New Israeli Screen for Terrorists

The World Tribune reports on a new screening technology developed in Israel. Link.
The passenger places his passport on a scanner and the other hand on a sensor. He is then asked to answer written questions indicated by the passport while a special detector measures physiological responses.

Executives said the SDS-VR-1000 system, meant to replace human selectors, was based on the expertise of former officials from the Mossad and Israel Security Agency. [...]

"What this does is collect objective data out of the passenger's ID — and it analyzes the data compared to the subjective data it collects while the passenger is asked different questions," Shoval said. "The process takes about three minutes, and the passenger either receives a transfer printout authorizing him to advance to the next stage of entry to the country, or an announcement that he is required for further questioning. A monitoring official will then escort the passenger to another area for further questioning."

Executives said that in trials the SDS-VR-1000 achieved a success rate of 95 percent. They said Israeli authorities have approved the system and would undergo testing later in 2005 in Israel at an unidentified U.S. airport.

With very good reason, Israel for years has been in the forefront in developing technology to screen passengers for terrorists. I am reminded of two other articles I read that fit together very well with this one. One quoted an Israeli security expert who commented that at US airports they look for bombs or other weapons. At Israeli airports, they look for terrorists.

The other told of another screening technology that is already in use. It is not automated, but rather assists human screeners by identifying when a person is lying, based on a profile of his voice. I imagine that passengers flagged by the new SDS-VR-1000 will then be questioned by human screeners using this "older" technology (the quotes are because this is only older by a few years).

I would recommend that, not only should TSB buy both technologies for all international airports in the US, but in addition the Custom Service should buy the one that is used by human screeners. Today, Customs agents ask mobs of people a few questions and make a quick call on such factors as whether they see perspiration on the passengers lip.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Another Bad 5-4 Decision

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court decided that local communities can seize your home for a private development. Link.
The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use." [...]

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers. [...]She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The majority had an abominable reading of the takings clause of the constitution. We need more justices like Thomas, Scalia and Rehnquist. Unfortunately, Rehnquist is the most likely near-term retirement of the nine. When he does, my choice for Chief Justice is Thomas.

Rove Hits Nail on the Head

While Republican elected officials lined up to accept Dick Durban's non-apology, the NY Times reports that Carl Rove differed with them. Link.
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.

Citing calls by progressive groups to respond carefully to the attacks, Mr. Rove said to the applause of several hundred audience members, "I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble." [...]

Mr. Rove also said American armed forces overseas were in more jeopardy as a result of remarks last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who compared American mistreatment of detainees to the acts of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others."

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

I hope that the Republicans holding their fire is only temporary. In Congress, they have to work with the Democrats, so there is reason for restraint (even though Democrats in both houses see no such reason for restraint).

Come next year, Republican challengers should echo Rove in their attacks of the incumbents they face. If their opponents attacked the Guantanamo guards, tell the voters that they have put our troops in greater danger, and increased the number of casualties we have suffered. If they had called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, they should try something like, "My opponent wants to turn Iraq over to the terrorists, where they will have safe camps to train fanatics to come to the US and kill American civilians. I prefer that, if we must have terrorists, they spend their time bombing Iraqis in Iraq, rather than Americans in the US."

For Republican incumbents, they can use the same arguments, just against generic Democrats rather than their specific opponents, until they make similar statements in the campaign, and then attack them specifically.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Latest Hillary Book Seems Avoidable

I avoided commenting on Ed Klein's latest Hillary book, because the published excerpts seemed so outlandish and unprovable. But John Podhoritz's review hit some nails on the head. Link.
This is one of the most sordid volumes I've ever waded through. Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. [...]

Despite a distinguished journalistic pedigree including stints as the editor of both Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine, Klein has chosen to emulate the works of the highly dubious bio-defamer Charles Higham, who with the slimmest of evidence wrote books claiming that Errol Flynn was a gay Nazi spy and Howard Hughes was a bisexual.

Klein may offer a few words here or there about Whitewater or Travelgate, but what really floats his boat is the Higham-like notion that Sen. Clinton is secretly a lesbian. [...]

Everything in this book that matters has been written before, and better. Everything else in it shouldn't have been published.

This work sounds so bad that it might discredit well researched anti-Hillary works. Perhaps that is its purpose. I usually blow off conspiracy theories, but Ed Klein's background as editor with Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine definitely precludes his membership in the "vast right-wing conspiracy." But not in the "vast left-wing conspiracy." Could he be trying to improve Hillary's chances by making her a victim in such a clumsy manner?

The Arnold Revolution Continues

Pete du Pont, former governor of Delaware, has an article in Opinion Journal with an overview of what the Governator is doing in California. Link.
A week ago the governor called a special election for Nov. 8 to vote on three policy changes that the Democrat-controlled legislature has refused to consider: stronger state spending restraints, higher standards for public school teachers, and retired judges rather than legislators drawing legislative district boundaries.

The most economically important is Measure 1131, which would put additional controls on state spending. Mr. Davis drove spending up by one-third in his five years in office; Mr. Schwarzenegger's proposition would limit spending increases to average revenue growth over the previous three years and give the governor the power to reduce spending if revenue decreases and the legislature fails to act to correct the deficit.

A second proposition seeks to improve the quality of California public school teachers' skills by requiring five instead of three years of work before they gain tenure and making two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations sufficient reason to fire a teacher.

Finally comes the most politically explosive Schwarzenegger proposal--mandating the drawing of legislative district lines by retired judges. [...]

Two other emotional proposals have already qualified for the November vote--parental notification and a two-day wait for unmarried girls 17 and under to receive an abortion, and requiring a public employee's written consent before a union can spend his dues money for political contributions.

This will be a very important off-year election. All of the best laws passed in California are by initiative. The legislature is only interested in selling special privileges to special interests. Only the initiative process allows the people to get any laws that work in their favor. Yes, sometimes left-wing interests get initiatives on the ballot, and sometimes they pass, but the bits of glaring sanity greatly outnumber them.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

UN Celebration is a Low Priority

The New York Times reports that a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the UN will only rate a low level attendee. Link.
Organizers of a celebration here to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations had expressed concern for weeks that the Bush administration would shun the event as a snub to the world body.

On Wednesday, organizers learned that big-name invitees - among them, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - would not attend.

In their place, said Nancy L. Peterson, president of the United Nations Association of San Francisco, the administration indicated that it would send Ambassador Sichan Siv, the United States representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

If it were not for the Dem's filibuster, we would have a UN ambassador to sent to the event. Barring that, the administration made the right call. Unless John Bolton succeeds in bringing about major reform, the UN is worthless, and the administration should let them know that they are worthless.

Murder vs Rap Music - Durbin Says There's No Difference

Dick Durbin's latest speech on the Senate floor demonstrates that he has completely gone over the edge. Link.
The Senate's No. 2 Democrat has compared the U.S. military's treatment of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay with the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot, three of history's most heinous dictators, whose regimes killed millions.

His basis for this statement was an accusation by an FBI agent:
that one al Qaeda suspect was chained to the floor, kept in an extremely cold air-conditioned cell and forced to hear loud rap music.

In all the reports and books I have read concerning the Nazi and Communist death camps, I never learned that they had used air conditioning and rap music as weapons of choice. If Democrats think that this is torture, what name can we give to what really happened in the various death camps, concentration camps and reeducation camps.

For decades, the Democrats had to fight against an image that they were soft on crime and criminals. Dick Durbin just handed on a silver platter the new image that Democrats are soft on terrorism and terrorists. They fall over each other to complain against the treatment of terrorists, but when was the last time you heard any of them have a word to say about the victims of terrorism?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Bolton Filibuster

The Washington Times reports on a new attempt for closure. Link.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday he will force another vote to end a filibuster of President Bush's pick to be ambassador to the United Nations at the end of this week, and called Democrats' recent letter requesting information "absurd."

I have a much better idea for Senator Frist. Get the Republican caucus together and arrange for a disciplined vote as follows: After the cloture vote fails, hold a vote on a Senate rules change to ban filibusters on nominations of UN ambassadors, and force a majority vote up or down.

Imagine the impact if this passes. No issue will have been created for the Democrats to exploit, because lifetime appointments to the bench are not involved, but a huge vat of ice water will have been poured on the heads of Democrats planning filibusters of future judicial nominations. What better demonstration could there be that the Republicans stand ready to change the Senate rules to ban judicial filibusters, if it becomes necessary.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Unions to AFL-CIO "Get Lost"

The Washington Times reports that five unions, representing about 40% of the AFL-CIO membership, are talking of setting up a new umbrella organization that will spend its money on union organizing, rather than on politics. Link.
The new group would include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Unite Here, Laborers' International Union of North America, and Teamsters union. [...]

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said following an executive committee meeting yesterday that the labor federation must pursue a dual strategy.
"Union growth and workers' political power are fundamentally linked and we must strengthen both simultaneously," he said.
Mr. Sweeney gets credit for boosting the AFL-CIO's political efforts, but critics blame him for failing to stop a decline in membership. The number of people in unions has fallen from 35 percent of the work force in 1955 to 12.5 percent, or 13 million workers, today. Only about 8 percent of private-sector workers are in unions.

European unions, which first organized when workmen did not have the vote, have always been very political, since they had been an alternative to electoral governance. In the US, workmen had the vote long before unions began to organize, and it was the non-political unions, whose only concern was "More", that attracted the most members.

As unions lost their appeal in the private sector and government employee unions became a majority of the AFL membership, political action served the interest of those members, but was unwelcome to the private sector members. The interests of government employee unions and private sector unions are very much at variance and maybe it is time to recognize that a single umbrella organization that tries to represent them both is a dinosaur.

Old Europe Beats New - EU to Appease Cuba

The New York Sun reports that the appeasers, led by Spain, defeated the hard liners, led by the Czech Republic, to extend the "temporary" suspension of sanctions against Cuba. Link.
The European Union decided yesterday not to restore diplomatic sanctions it imposed on the island in 2003, affording Mr. Castro a year of "constructive dialogue" before next reconsidering whether to ban high-level diplomats' visits to Cuba, open embassies in Havana to Cuban dissidents, and take other measures that have greatly irked Cuba's strongman.

The decision was issued at yesterday's External Relations Council meeting, a gathering of the foreign ministers of the 25 E.U. member states, in Luxembourg. It was the most recent development in a diplomatic saga that began in March 2003, when Mr. Castro rounded up and jailed 75 independent academics, journalists, and librarians, among other opponents, in what is known on the island as the "primavera negra," or "black spring."

In the aftermath of the crackdown, in June 2003, the E.U. responded with diplomatic sanctions on the island. Among other measures, the European Union suspended high-level diplomatic contact with Havana, and began inviting dissidents to celebrations of national holidays, where members of the opposition movement were afforded valuable access to representatives of the world's second largest economic power.

The Europeans' retaliation infuriated Mr. Castro, who promptly declared a "freeze" on his relations with the continent, posing difficulties for countries with economic interests on the island. That freeze thawed in January, when Spain - under the governing hand of the Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and his foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos - pushed the E.U. to lift the sanctions for a six-month trial period.

High-level diplomatic contact was reinstated, and dissidents were uninvited from the national holiday celebrations, with the hope that ending some of the E.U. practices bothersome to Mr. Castro would foment "constructive dialogue" with the regime in order to bring about reform.

Six months later, the E.U. has determined that even though "there was no satisfactory progress on human rights in Cuba," it remains willing "to maintain a constructive dialogue with the Cuban authorities, on a reciprocal and non-discriminatory basis ... with the aim of achieving tangible results with regard to human rights, democratization and the release of political prisoners." The E.U.'s diplomatic sanctions "remain suspended" until June 2006, when the union will next reconsider its common position.

In this respect, Zapatero is no different from the liberal Democrats. Both have never met a communist dictatorship that they didn't like. Can anyone imaging Chris Dodd, John Kerry or Ted Kennedy voting with the Czechs. This EU vote certainly passes Kerry's global test. But for a few electoral votes, this is where the US could have been.

Kerry's Form 180

In the Daily Standard, Dean Barnett has an article entitled "Trust, But Verify" that stresses our need to not take at face value the assertions of the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times that they received the complete records until they publish the actual Form 180 and the contents of the file. Link.
First, there's the matter of logistics. When one signs a Form 180, he specifies the party or parties to whom the documents will
be released. In Kerry's case, the specified parties were apparently the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, two newspapers not known for their hostility towards liberal politicians. Other than the parties you specify on your Form 180, no one else gets the records.

Next, there's the issue of completeness. One can sign a Form 180, but doing so doesn't necessarily mean that you intend to have all of your military records released. If you follow the link and look at an actual Form 180, you'll see an entry for "other information and/or documents requested." Below this point, a veteran can limit the information request in any way he sees fit. [...]

What's more, both papers have refused to share Kerry's records with other publications or to post them on their websites. So, in sum, here's where things stand: In order to settle long-standing and serious accusations, Senator Kerry and his campaign dealt exclusively with two partial newspapers. Those papers, in turn, refused to make completely public or transparent either the nature of the transaction or the precise contents of what they received. [...]

But both papers are guilty of failing to comprehend the shifting dynamic in news coverage and consumption. We live in an age where home-schooled journalists have made a habit of correcting once revered institutions like CBS News and the New York Times.

Serious consumers of news prefer to co-exist with the mainstream media using Ronald Reagan's maxim: Trust, but verify. This means readers and viewers want a gander at primary sources whenever practical. It also means that when a media organ says in effect, "Just trust me," the plea will have precisely the opposite effect of what's intended.

The very process Kerry followed screams "Coverup!". Either you open your records or you do not, and he did not. In court, you swear to tell not just the truth, but the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In picking and choosing the records and the recipients of the records, John Kerry may be revealing the truth, but certainly not the whole truth.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Laffer Proved Right Again

An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest findings from the Congressional Budget Office. Link. (subscription required)
Last week the Congressional Budget Office released its latest report on tax revenue collections. The numbers are an eye-popping vindication of the Laffer Curve and the Bush tax cut's real economic value. Federal tax revenues have surged in the first eight months of this fiscal year by $187 billion. This represents a 15.4% rise in federal tax receipts over 2004. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have exploded like a cap let off a geyser, up 30% in the two years since the tax cut. Once again, tax rate cuts have created a virtuous chain reaction of higher economic growth, more jobs, higher corporate profits, and finally more tax receipts.

This Laffer Curve effect has also created a revenue windfall for states and cities. As the economic expansion has plowed forward, and in some regions of the country accelerated, state tax receipts have climbed 7.5% this year already. Perhaps the most remarkable story from around the nation comes from the perpetually indebted New York City, which suddenly finds itself more than $3 billion IN SURPLUS thanks to an unexpected gush in revenues. Many of President Bush's critics foolishly predicted that states and localities would be victims of the Bush tax cut gamble.

The Laffer Curve is a simple truism. Government revenues will be zero either if the tax rate is set at zero or if it is set at 100%. Despite the strong belief to the contrary by Democrats in Congress, if the tax rate is set at 100%, people will not continue to work as much as they do now and give all of their money to the government. They will stop working and earn zero pre-tax, since they will earn zero after tax no matter what.

Starting from these two extremes, government revenues will increase both with rate increases from zero or with rate reductions from 100%. At some point, the curve will peak at a rate where government revenues will be at their maximum. Any change from there, up or down, will reduce revenues. Rational and intelligent people can disagree as to just where that peak is, but you cannot logically argue that it does not exist.

Where the peak is cannot de deduced by logic. It can only be approximated by experience. When President Reagan cut the top rate from 70% to 28%, government revenues rose rapidly. Unfortunately Congress raised spending even faster. Since the Bush tax cuts, revenues have been rising rapidly, although, again, Congress has been spending more than the additional revenues that are coming in.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Iranian People Among Our Closest Friends

PR Newswire carries a press release from an outfit named Belga concerning a recent opinion poll conducted in Iran. Link.
A recent public opinion survey of Iranians, conducted by The Tarrance Group,
surprisingly found that a vast majority (74%) of Iranians feel America's
presence in the Middle East will increase the probability of democracy in their
own country. The survey, which was the first of its kind, found two-thirds of
Iranians believe that regime change in Iraq has been a positive for both
neighboring countries: with 66% believing that it served Iran's national
interests, while 65% believed the Iraqi people will, in the long-run, be better
off.

Commissioned by the Iran Institute for Democracy, the survey discovered that a
solid majority (65%) of Iranian adults consider fundamental change in Iran's
system of government, especially its Constitution, a must to bring freedom and
more opportunities to their homeland.

Validating reports of widespread discontent with the clerical regime,
three-fourths of Iranians (73%) support the call for a national referendum
through which Iranians are given a chance to choose the form of government of
their choice. Significantly, almost all Iranians reject their government's
attempts to keep exiled Iranians out of the political and economic equation of
Iran. Fully 84% of all Iranians say Iranians living abroad should have a role
in shaping the political and economic future of their homeland.

There has been little doubt for some time that the Iranian people are among the most pro-America population anywhere. The biggest shame is that, while our administration gives lip service to the anti-Mulah demonstrators, we have not supported them in any material way. The breadth of the opposition to the government there in staggering, far more than had been the case in Georgia and Ukraine.

Regime change in Iran should be our number one priority, and all it would take is moral and political suppoirt for the Iranian people. No troops would be needed.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Dems Need a Sense of Humor

While DNC Chair Howard Dean continues to demonstrate a total lack of a sense of humor, RNC Chair Ken Mehlman demonstrates a delightful one. Link.
Dean said last week that a lot of Republicans "have never made an honest living in their lives." The comment sparked a roiling controversy. Some prominent Democrats, including Sen. John Edwards, of North Carolina, criticized Dean for the remark. [...]

In another controversial remark, Dean recently characterized Republicans as "pretty much a white, Christian party."

During an earlier event yesterday, Mehlman poked fun at Dean's comment. At a reception for him by the Republican Jewish Coalition, held at the Duquesne Club, Mehlman quipped: "Good afternoon, my fellow white Christians."

If you are addressing the angry far left, pure hate can work, but you cannot go after undecided voters that way. Dean appears to know how to talk to moveon.org types, but he is turning off middle-of-the-road America. Mehlman, on the other hand, makes an excellent impression (in my opinion) in his TV appearances.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hillary and the Left Coast Left

Bob Novak found strong opposition among California Democrats to Hillary as the presidential nominee in 2008. Link.
LOS ANGELES -- Back east, well-placed Democrats have agreed that the party's 2008 nomination is all wrapped up better than three years in advance. They say that the prize is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's for the asking, and that she is sure to ask. But here on the left coast, I found surprising and substantial Democratic opposition to going with the former first lady.

Both the Hollywood glitterati and the more mundane politicians of Los Angeles are looking elsewhere. They have seen plenty of Sen. Clinton over the past dozen years, and they don't particularly like what they've seen. Two far less well-known Democrats -- Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh -- were hits on recent visits to California, mainly because they were not Hillary. [...]

At a dinner party in a private room of a Los Angeles restaurant attended by eight Democratic politicians (including City Council members and a county supervisor), I was asked to assess the political scene. I concluded with a preview of the distant events of 2008. While there had not been so open a race for the Republican nomination since 1940, I said, Clinton was dominant for the Democrats. For someone who is neither an incumbent president nor vice president to have apparently locked the nomination so early is without precedent.

As I made this analysis, the liberal Democratic functionary across the table from me shook his head in disagreement. He left his seat between courses, and then returned with this announcement: "There are eight Democrats in this room. I've taken a little poll, and none of them -- none -- are for Hillary for president. They think she is a loser."

Talking to some of them, I found concern that Hillary carries too much baggage from her turbulent marriage and her husband's presidency to do any better than John Kerry did last year. One female office holder was looking hard for another Southern moderate who could bite into the Confederacy as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had done.

Another woman office holder was hostile to a Clinton candidacy on a more personal basis. "Don't think that Hillary has the women's vote," she told me. "I will never forgive her for sticking with her husband after he humiliated her. It's something I can't get over."

Sometimes in politics, the three most important things are baggage, baggage and baggage. Hillary has got plenty of it. After running one barely contested race, she has been proclaimed a political genius, but her political abilities have never been tested, and a presidential race is a poor choice for on-the-job training. She has the most name recognition of any potential Democrat in the 2008 race, but that is not the same thing as political smarts. She made it into the senate by hiding from the press and the voters, but you cannot do that in a presidential race. The last candidate to try was President Taft in 1912, and he ended up in third place, quite a distinction for an incumbent president.

Dems and the Black Voter

Tony Snow has an interesting article about the Democrats' growing problem with black voters. Link.
In subtle and unstated ways, Howard Dean has aired a dirty little secret. Democrats have a growing problem with black voters, and it stems from three sources. First comes the simple fact that government "help" has proved an unmitigated disaster for low-income black Americans. Eighty years ago, black children in such places as New York, Philadelphia and Detroit were more likely to grow up in two-parent homes than whites. Now, 70 percent of the nation's black children are born out of wedlock, black men comprise 70 percent of the nation's prison population, black graduation rates lag far behind white rates — and all these numbers have worsened by several degrees of magnitude since Uncle Sam launched the war on poverty.

Second comes the fact that the war on poverty itself degenerated into a vast insult against black Americans. Poverty programs assumed that blacks lived naturally in a state of poverty, lawlessness, ignorance and cupidity — and that there was nothing blacks themselves could do about it. The culprits, after all, were "root causes" such as slavery.

In other words, black Americans couldn't conquer hardship without white help. It was a small step for left-wing officeholders to treat minority voters as dependents, who owed absolute fealty to their kind benefactors. This explains why conservative blacks receive such vituperation from the likes of Sen. Edward Kennedy. It is as if an ungrateful child had spurned a generous and loving parent, who could only watch in exasperation and declare: "After all I've done for you!"

Third, a values gulf has opened between the Democratic Party and black voters. The key Democratic interest groups focus on two causes — prolonging the sexual revolution and suppressing conventional religious expression. The party's untouchable cause, abortion, has more appeal to white suburban housewives than to more conservative blacks. Ditto for gay marriage, and the growing Democratic hysteria about religion, which dismisses orthodox religious views as "extreme."

Black voters have trickled away from the Democratic fold without flocking to the GOP. Polling indicates that a growing percentage of black voters identify themselves as "independents."

Republicans should have had an easy time appealing to black voters. The Democrats were the party of slavery and later the party of Jim Crow. It was Democrat senators who killed every anti-lynching and civil rights bill until 1964, and even then they tried unsuccessfully. Their senior member in the senate is a former kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan, who personally participated in the filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed over Southern Democrat opposition because the Republicans voted in large numbers for them.

The so-called "War on Poverty," which did little or nothing to end poverty, but helped to destroy the cohesion of black families and black neighborhoods, gave its hundreds of billions of dollars not to the poor, but to "poverty professionals." Included in that definition was anyone whom the MSM identified as a "black leader." These people were bought and paid for, and they have spent the decades since telling black voters that the Democrats are their friends and that the Republicans want to reinstitute slavery or at least Jim Crow.

As long as black voters had no alternative to the liberal media monopoly, they never heard the truth about who fought for their rights and who opposed those rights. Now, with the media monopoly broken, more and more black voters are learning that most of their ideas are shared by the Republicans, not the Democrats, and that the Democrats take them for granted.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

No Need For an FDA

Readers of this blog know that I believe that we would be better off without the Food and Drug Administration, or at least with it greatly reduced in authority. I now discover that John Stossel agrees with me. Link.
Without an FDA, how would doctors and patients know which drugs were safe and effective?

The same way we know which computers and restaurants are good ‚— through newspapers, magazines and word of mouth. In a free, open society, competition gets the information out, and that protects consumers better than government command and control.

Why must we give big government so much power? Couldn't FDA scrutiny be voluntary and advisory? Companies that want government blessing would go through the whole process and, after 10 or 15 years, get the FDA's seal of approval. Those of us who are cautious would take only FDA-approved drugs.

But if you had a terminal illness, you could try something that might save your life. You could try it without having to wait 15 years — without having to break your country's laws to import it illegally from Europe ‚— without sneaking into Mexico to experiment in some dubious clinic. If I'm dying, shouldn't my government allow me the right to try whatever I want?

If FDA scrutiny were voluntary, the government agency would soon have competition. Private groups like Consumer Reports and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) might step in to compete with the FDA. The UL symbol is already on thousands of products. No government force was required. Yet even though UL certification is voluntary, its safety standards are so commonly accepted that most stores won't carry products without the UL symbol.

99.9% of the time, private organizations will do a better job than a government agency. Having to make a profit, or even just having to break even for a non-profit agency, introduces a discipline that ususally produces a better outcome than civil service, you-cannot-be-fired-no-matter-how-bad-a-job-you-do agencies.

The only incentive that the FDA has is to never approve a drug that may someday prove to be unsafe, and the only way to insure that is to never approve any drug. They cannot quite get away with that, so instead they require a decade or more of testing beyond when a rational observer would see that a drug is reasonably safe and effective, thus insuring that very few make it through the process.. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Americans die.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Number of Late-Filing Congressmen Goes Up

More and more congressmen keep "remembering" that they had taken trips paid for by others and had not reported it. The Washington Times reports that the total is now up to 200. Link.
More than 200 lawmakers have rushed to correct travel-disclosure statements in recent months as reporters on Capitol Hill discover more discrepancies in the wake of questions about travel by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. [...]

Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., a Tennessee Democrat who is running for the Senate, holds first place as Congress' most prolific traveler since 2000. While his travel reports have been trouble-free in recent years, that has not always been the case.
From 1998 to 2003, he took 61 privately funded trips. During that period, he failed to file a single travel-disclosure form with the House clerk, as required by the chamber's ethics rules. [...]

In terms of travel at the expense of others, Mr. DeLay is far from top of the heap, ranking 30th in value of trips taken, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

In trying to Get DeLay, the Dems have opened up a can of worms that may hurt them significantly in 2006. Tom DeLay had filed the necessary paperwork for each of his trips. It now appears that a majority of congressmen, including lots of Democrats, had not.

Thomas Calls it Right in Raich Case

The Supreme Court was just plain wrong to say that the Commerce Clause applies to situations where a state has legalized medical marijuana. The court has a long history, going back to the New Deal, of finding the commerce clause applicable where there is no tiny bit of interstate commerce involved.

The best argument was in a separate dissent by Justice Thomas.
Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything -- and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

While Justice Scalia's complex concurrence tried to count the angels on the head of a pin, Justice Thomas quickly and simply got to the heart of the matter. This is typical of Thomas, and I think he has the best legal mind and best logical thinking on SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States).