Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Common Sense About Price Gouging

Walter Williams explains why the accusations of price gouging when gas prices went up after Katrina are so ludicrous.
Let's start off with an example. Say you owned a small 10-pound inventory of coffee that you purchased for $3 a pound. Each week you'd sell me a pound for $3.25. Suppose a freeze in Brazil destroyed half of its coffee crop, causing the world price of coffee to immediately rise to $5 a pound. You still have coffee that you purchased before the jump in prices. When I stop by to buy another pound of coffee from you, how much will you charge me? I'm betting that you're going to charge me at least $5 a pound. Why? Because that's today's cost to replace your inventory.

Historical costs do not determine prices; what economists call opportunity costs do. Of course, you'd have every right not to be a "price-gouger" and continue to charge me $3.25 a pound. I'd buy your entire inventory and sell it at today's price of $5 a pound and make a killing.

If you were really enthusiastic about not being a "price-gouger," I'd have another proposition. You might own a house that you purchased for $55,000 in 1960 that you put on the market for a half-million dollars. I'd simply accuse you of price-gouging and demand that you sell me the house for what you paid for it, maybe adding on a bit for inflation since 1960. I'm betting you'd say, "Williams, if I sold you my house for what I paid for it in 1960, how will I be able to pay today's prices for a house to live in?"
Prices at the gas pump must be some of the hardest prices for sellers to manipulate through monopoly and gouging. They're posted in large letters right there at the pump for everyone to see. If politicians would learn some basic economics, they would stop making these wild accusations just so they can demonize someone and make political points.

Doubling Immigration

Robert Samuelson wonders why the media did not cover how the Senate immigration bill would double the numbers of legal immigration and make that a focus of debate of the Senate bill.
The Senate passed legislation last week that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) hailed as "the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history." You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration. But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million.
As Samuelson writes, this is a major change, but it was not a question that advocates of the Senate bill have had to answer when they appear on media shows.
Democracy doesn't work well without good information. Here is a classic case. It is interesting to contrast these immigration projections with a recent survey done by the Pew Research Center. The poll asked whether the present level of legal immigration should be changed. The response: 40 percent favored a decrease, 37 percent would hold it steady and 17 percent wanted an increase. There seems to be scant support for a doubling. If the large immigration projections had been in the news, would the Senate have done what it did? Possibly, though I doubt it.

But if it had, senators would have had to defend what they were doing as sound public policy. That's the real point. They would have had to debate whether such high levels of immigration are good or bad for the country rather than adopting a measure whose largest consequences are unintended or not understood. What arguments would they have used?
Perhaps, we'll see those voting for the bill now defending that number, but Samuelson is right. The media needs to be reading the bill and making sure that the public hears what is in it so that the public can get a full picture of what is being considered. Most poll questions have been about broad plans: tighter border security, guest worker program, or earned citizenship. How about media reports and polls that cover one-by-one the various provisions in both the House and Senate bills so that the full public, not just those reading blogs, know what is in both bills.

Verdict First; Investigation Later

That seems to be the way that Haditha is being covered now. Mary Katharine Ham has excerpts from the way that Chris Matthews is just salivating over this story and she notes how the media is quick to throw in comparisons to My Lai and then use their own references as the framework for the story.

If the story, as has been leaked to the press, turns out to be true, all Americans will be horrified and those responsible will be prosecuted, convicted, and punished. But, let us not decide the verdict in the media before the investigation is complete. As Time Magazine reported, the military is doing a very thorough investigation that has impressed the residents of Haditha.
Belated as the investigation was, the residents of Hay al-Sinnani say they were gratified by its thoroughness. That there have been three separate enquiries suggests the U.S. military “want to get at the truth,” says Walid Abdel Khaliq, the doctor of the Haditha morgue where the victims' bodies were taken.

They were especially impressed by the NCIS investigators. “They must have visited the houses 15 times,” says Khalid Raseef, a spokesman for the victims' kin and uncle of Emaan and Abdel Rahman Waleed, the children who lost almost their entire immediate family in the massacre. The investigators “asked detailed questions, examined each bullet hole and burn mark, and took all sorts of measurements. In the end, they brought all the survivors to the homes and did a mock-up of the Marines' movements. It was a very professional investigation.”
As Michelle Malkin writes in her column today, politicians like Representatives John Murtha and John Kline are doing the country a big disservice by going out in the press and stating the conclusions before the investigation has concluded. I understand, as former Marines, both men must be heartsick at the thought that Marines may have targeted civilians in a revenge episode. But, when the investigation is not yet complete, it does no one, except those who wish the American military ill, to go on TV broadcasting your own verdict.

The Canadians Come Around to the U.S. Way of Thinking on Fighting Terrorists

Remember all the horror that the U.S. was not using the Geneva Convention with those we captured in Afghanistan and put in Guantanamo. The world was horrified that we weren't applying the rules of war to those who fought out of uniform and treating captured fighters under the regular rules for prisoners of war. Well, the Canadians have come to the same conclusion.
Canadian troops in Afghanistan have been told the Geneva Conventions and Canadian regulations regarding the rights of prisoners of war don't apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured on the battlefield.

That decision strips detainees of key rights and protections under the rules of war, including the right to be released at the end of the conflict and not to be held criminally liable for lawful combat.
Now captured fighters can be treated as criminals or handed over to the Afghanistan authorities who might not be so tender of the fighters.

Thus, having fought in Afghanistan, the Canadians have come to the exact same conclusion that the Bush administration did and for which the U.S. was criticized by all sorts of groups such as Amnesty International. We'll see if Canada gets the same treatment.

More Rioting in France

Young thugs are rioting again in France.
Around 100 youths armed with sticks and baseball bats clashed with police in a Paris suburb, in the worst such violence since the riots of last November, police said.

The violence broke out in the town of Montfermeil east of Paris with trouble also erupting in nearby Clichy-sous-Bois -- the epicentre of last year's riots.

Clashes erupted Monday night when a gang attacked the mayor's home in Montfermeil, shaking its gates and hurling stones at the windows before facing off with police who responded with rubber bullets.

Youths also targeted the town hall, shattering its glass facade with stones and throwing Molotov cocktails which failed to ignite, and set fire to four cars and a large number of garbage bins.

Some 250 police officers were deployed as the violence spread to the nearby Bosquets housing estate, where gangs of masked youths clashed with police for more than four hours. Around 60 youths also clashed with police on a housing estate in Clichy-sous-Bois.
But the authorities insist that this is not related to the rioting that France experienced last year. They just regard it as normal rioting.
"These events should not be linked to the November riots -- they are sporadic incidents which, unfortunately, regularly accompany the work of police officers," the prefecture said in a statement.
"Regularly accompany the work of police officers?" Does that mean that it is the norm to have 100 youths storming the mayor's house and the town hall? Some state of normality over there.

And, of course, they blame the mayor for having his house attacked.
Local left-wing leaders charged in a joint statement that the trouble was sparked by the "heavy-handed" arrest of a woman from the Bosquets estate whose son was wanted in connection with a robbery.

Prosecutors confirmed that incidents broke out between youths and police after a woman and her son were taken into custody on Monday.

The mayor's office earlier said the trouble was sparked by the arrest of a youth accused of assaulting a bus driver, whom the mayor helped to identify.

The Montfermeil area has been tense since centre-right Mayor Xavier Lemoine in April passed two decrees seeking to ban gatherings of more than three youths in the town centre.

The decrees -- which caused a local outcry -- were blocked following legal action in an administrative court.

The UNSA police union issued a statement blaming the violence on the mayor's "rash decisions", while the statement by left-wing leaders accused his law-and-order policies of fuelling tensions.

"We are not surprised that the slightest spark -- in the circumstances -- leads to such violence," it said.
You got that? The mayor tries to take some action to prevent more riots and then helps to identify a hooligan who attacked a bus driver and now the police union is blaming the mayor for these kids rioting. Isn't that just typical of the French? They blame the one who is trying to stop the violence and thuggery, not the criminals themselves. Can't have that law-and-order attitude in France; that just gets the criminals all angry.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

That William Jefferson - What a Guy

Read this story that Byron York reports on from an affidavit filed by an FBI agent about how Jefferson tried to hide some documents from the FBI while they were in the middle of searching his house. If he was trying to sneak away documents under the noses of the FBI agents, just imagine what he would have done if he'd had any advance notice of the search of his Capitol Hill offices?

Nancy Pelosi - Speaker?

The New York Times looks at some of the criticisms and praise for Nancy Pelosi. Now, keep in mind that the staff at the NYT is hoping that they will be writing Speaker Pelosi come January. That is why they let her get away with this whopper.
Asked why she makes such a popular Democratic bogyman, or bogywoman, Ms. Pelosi shrugged, smirked and, finally, smiled.

"I am an Italian-American Catholic grandmother," she said, "very traditional in terms of values."

She repeated this three times, as if to emphasize that her self-image was at odds with more common descriptors, like "San Francisco liberal."
Hmmm, any guesses what her traditional Catholic grandmother values lead her to believe on such issues as abortion or gay marriage?

And, if the media were just, this little comment would get as much publicity as the phoney story of George H.W. Bush purportedly not knowing how scanners on a cash register worked.
"I had a hamburger last night and it was my breakfast, lunch and dinner," she said last week. "And I had these strange things. I realized they were French fries." She made quick spiraling gestures with her fingers to show what they looked like.

It was apparent that she was not familiar with curly fries.
Ooh, crikey! How can the woman be third in line for the presidency if she is so out of touch with America that she has never seen curly fries before?

As Tom Elia points out, Pelosi is not the smoothest of speakers.
In the course of two interviews, Ms. Pelosi repeated herself frequently, even by the hyper-repetitious standards of politicians:

¶About how the Republican House leadership was presiding over a "culture of corruption."

¶About how Democrats were committed to fiscal responsibility.

¶About how Democrats would restore civility to the House.

¶About how "when Democrats win," President Bush will be a "lame duck," upon which she switches poultry metaphors and drops in the cautionary cliché about not counting chickens before they are hatched.

She repeated Jesse Jackson-like alliterative sound bites in halting un-Jackson-like cadences. Republicans, she said, "are engaging in deluge and desperation," while her Democratic caucus "is a great collection of idealism, intellect and" — she paused while trying to summon the third "i" — "integrity."
I especially like that canard about how the Democrats would restore civility to the House. Sure, they'll just be as civil as can be about Republicans and the President. As if. I challenge anyone to compare the statements that Democratic leaders make about President Bush and those he makes about them and to say that the Democrats are the exemplars of civility they claim to be.

If the Democrats did take the House, they most likely would have a very narrow majority and so would have to keep their members in line on every vote and demonize the GOP on every issue. Have we ever noticed a tendency in the past quarter century by either party? Or even before that? It's not a tea party, for gosh sake! If these politicians can't take political rhetoric then they can retire and go home. Politics has been vitriolic ever since the first parties formed back in the 1790s. Political rhetoric can be ugly now and it has always been thus.

Don't Mess with a Marine

Let this be a lesson to would-be robbers.
A former Marine used a pocket knife to fend off a group of would-be robbers, killing one and wounding another, police said.

Thomas Autry, who authorities said will not be charged, had been walking home from his job waiting tables Monday night when four people got out of a car and chased him, Atlanta police detective Danny Stephens said.

One of the attackers had a shotgun and another had a pistol, Stephens said.

The suspects caught up with Autry, who yelled for help and pulled a knife out of his backpack. He kicked the shotgun out of one of the attacker's hands and stabbed both a 17-year-old girl who jumped on him and a man who also attacked him.
Unfortunately, the girl died, but that's a risk you take when you start jumping guys in the street.

Poor Jacques Chirac

It's his last year in office and he's going out as a subject of ridicule and derision. First, there is a movie Dans La Peau de Jacques Chirac (Being Jacques Chirac or, literally, In Jacques Chirac's Skin)whose ridicule of the President is winning praise from critics.

But that is not all. There are beaucoup other scandals and embarrassments.
The impression of a leader doomed to see out his last year of office engulfed by damaging setbacks was strengthened during his absence. A furious reaction greeted news of his amnesty for a disgraced ally.

Guy Drut, a former athlete and sports minister, was pardoned six months after being given a suspended jail sentence for accepting a £2,000-a-month salary for a bogus job.

The case stemmed from a saga of corrupt political financing that would have led to the questioning of Mr Chirac but for his presidential immunity.

Meanwhile, yesterday was the anniversary of France's humiliating response to his gamble of a referendum on the EU constitution, which the voters rejected.

Further embarrassment could be in store today when police interview a man at the centre of the so-called Clearstream scandal, in which false corruption allegations were made against Mr Chirac’s adversary and would-be successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, among others.

Mr Chirac's problems extend further. A book by a respected political commentator, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, describing him as the embodiment of all France's failings, is a runaway best-seller.

And Etienne Pinte, a senior member of his UMP party, yesterday gave him a month to sort out "the mess we find ourselves in".

Mr Giesbert concluded that Mr Chirac had become so afraid of mass protest that he had abandoned ambitions of social and economic reform.

That view was reinforced by a comment from the far-Right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said the only reform the president had achieved was to change the phone number for directory inquiries.

Libération also pointed yesterday to Mr Chirac's habit of confusing dates and becoming lost for the right word whenever he departs from prepared text.
One might almost feel sorry for the guy, mais non. The ridicule is just too richly deserved.

A Political Party for Everyone in the Netherlands

You'd think that the Dutch have enough problems to worry about with the tensions between radical Muslims and traditional Dutch values in their country and violence threatened against anyone who criticizes radical Islamicism. But, apparently, there still are some issues out there that aren't being addressed. So, a new political party is forming.
Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals.

The Charity, Freedom and Diversity (NVD) party said on its Web site it would be officially registered Wednesday, proclaiming: "We are going to shake The Hague awake!"

The party said it wanted to cut the legal age for sexual relations to 12 and eventually scrap the limit altogether.

"A ban just makes children curious," Ad van den Berg, one of the party's founders, told the Algemeen Dagblad (AD) newspaper.

"We want to make pedophilia the subject of discussion," he said, adding that the subject had been a taboo since the 1996 Marc Dutroux child abuse scandal in neighboring Belgium. "We have been hushed up. The only way is through parliament."

The Netherlands already has liberal policies on soft drugs, prostitution, and gay marriage, but the NVD is unlikely to win much support, the AD quoted experts as saying.
Maybe the new party will be able to band together with those Muslims who support child marriage.

It just goes to show that where society draws few limits, there will always be some who want to take those limits even further.

The Great American Novel

Powerline is hosting a poll of which novel its readers think is the best American Novel. You can go here and vote. How anyone can not choose Huckleberry Finn is beyond me.

And Phooey! on those who picked The Scarlet Letter, a book that has tormented more high school students than any other.

Higher Education British-Style

In Britain, university lecturers who are responsible for grading students' exams are on strike thus threatening the graduations of around 200,000 university students. This is what they are arguing over.
The last offer tabled by employers was worth 12.6 per cent over three years, but the unions refused to put it out to ballot. They are seeking 23 per cent.
Meanwhile, as if a strike that threatens the future of so many students didn't give the academics' union enough to do, they have decided to single out Israel for a boycott.
Britain's biggest lecturers' union has backed a call for a boycott of Israeli universities in protest at its government's "apartheid" policies towards Palestine.

Delegates at the annual conference of the 69,000-strong NATFHE, the university and college lecturers' union, voted to urge all their members to consider boycotting all Israeli institutions and academics who did not publicly dissociate themselves from their government's policies.
Of course, no other country in the world excites their anger and votes for boycotts. They would rather single out a democracy in the Middle East rather than the dictatorships there. No vote against Iran or Saudia Arabia. No vote against China, Zimbabwe or Sudan. No concern about the terrorism that Israel has suffered or the violent chaos now going on within the Palestinian Authority. They are shameless.

Michael Barone Dispels Myths

Michael Barone reminds us how they myths that the media have accepted about how we went to war against Iraq are just that, myths.
For large swathes of the mainstream media, the debate is over. In their view, George W. Bush misled the nation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, his officials manipulated the intelligence and cherry-picked items that supported their views and there was an "intelligence failure" on the issue of whether Iraq had WMD programs.

But all these points are false. Bush accurately reported what the intelligence agencies, not just our own but those of other countries, reported. Neither Bush nor his leading officials manipulated the intelligence, according to both the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission on intelligence. And the so-called "intelligence failure," I would argue, was not a failure at all -- and if the conclusions of the intelligence agencies were wrong (and remember that we don't know for sure whether Saddam spirited WMDs out of the country), that only reflected the inherent limits on the intelligence craft.

Put yourself back in the frame of mind of administration officials and citizens generally in the months before our military action in Iraq. We knew some things for certain. Saddam's regime had developed and used WMDs before. It had a nuclear weapons program that, we found after the 1991 Gulf War, was farther along than we thought. Saddam had repeatedly refused to cooperate with inspections and had violated resolution after U.N. resolution.

In those circumstances, Saddam was not entitled to a presumption of innocence. To the contrary, any responsible American president would have had to assume that he was continuing to develop and might be prepared to use WMD. Bill Clinton was acting responsibly when he so assumed in the late 1990s. George W. Bush was acting responsibly when he did so in 2002 and 2003.

And, indeed, we were told in September 2004 by weapons inspector Charles Duelfer that Saddam retained the capacity to start up WMD programs at any time. But it also appears that those programs were not active during the run-up to March 2003. That information was unknowable at that time, however. What intelligence information could have convinced us beyond a reasonable doubt that Saddam's WMD programs were dormant? Information from someone high in the regime? Quite possibly disinformation. The failure of inspections to locate WMD installations? They were easy to hide in a large country. A sworn affidavit from Saddam himself? You've got to be kidding.

The precise facts were unknowable, and so decisions had to be made on the facts that were known -- all of which pointed to Saddam's developing WMDs. Intelligence agencies in the past overestimated the time it would take regimes -- the Soviet Union, China, India, Iraq -- to develop nuclear weapons. Under the circumstances, it was prudent to act on the assumption that WMDs would be developed sooner rather than later.
There were no good choices with Iraq just as there are no good choices on Iran. Life is like that for leaders. But it doesn't help to make decisions based on myths from the past.

The Presidential Wing of the Democratic Party

If you look at the 78-15 vote on General Hayden's confirmation as head of the CIA, you'll notice something interesting. As the New York Sun points out, all sorts of people who have been critical of the NSA and the President's approach to fighting terrorism ended up voting for Hayden. All the brouhaha about the NSA's surveillance program of those communicating with Al Qaeda overseas and the program to data-mine from phone numbers fizzled out.
The 78 senators who voted to confirm General Hayden included nearly all the Republicans and plenty of moderate and even center-left Democrats. Senator Schumer, who has party-wide responsibilities at the moment, split with his New York colleague, Mrs. Clinton, and voted to confirm. We tip our hat to him; indeed the sweatband of our hat is getting frayed acknowledging Mr. Schumer's growing gumption. Senator Levin of Michigan, who has been a pest to the administration on national security issues, voted to confirm. Senators Biden, Feinstein, Lautenberg, and the Democratic leader, Senator Reid, voted to confirm. Senator Lieberman, locked in a Democratic primary battle with an anti-war challenger, Ned Lamont, voted to confirm, in a vote that shows he is no summer soldier.
Yet, those Democrats who are checking out a run for the presidency in 2008 made sure to keep faith with their netroots and voted against Hayden's nomination. Here is the list of those who voted against. Senator Specter was the only Republican to join them.

Bayh (D-IN)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Obama (D-IL)
Specter (R-PA)
Wyden (D-OR)
I guess that they figured that how they voted on this nomination wouldn't come back to haunt them in the general election, but they couldn't risk casting a vote for the man associated with these NSA programs despised by their leftist wing in the Democratic primaries. Such votes will cast the debate in those primaries over national security in a distinct light. Candidates will have a tough time showing themselves to understand that we are in a fight against those who wish to kill as many Americans as possible when they cast votes based on the hysteria on the left that sees violations of civil liberties in every move that this administration makes.

Wizbang Politics

Wizbang has incorportate Alexander McClure and Lorie Byrd, formerly of Polipundit, to launch a new feature called Wizbang Politics which will look at races around the country.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Akaka Bill is Baaaack

At a time when we're discussing the importance of assimilating immigrants to this country to be Americans and are concerned about the increasing tribalization of our country, the Senate is about to debate and probably pass a bill to designate Native Hawaiians as a separate group deserving of special self-governing privileges similar to those which Native Americans have had.

The bill, the Native Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005, commonly referred to as the Akaka Bill after its chief sponsor, Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. What the bill aims to do is to establish a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity that only Native Hawaiians could vote for. A commission would be established to determine who qualifies as a Native Hawaiian. They would have to prove that they have a direct lineal descent from those "aboriginal, indigenous, native people" who were either on the islands in 1893 or in 1921 when Congress passed another law establishing special programs for native Hawaiians. So, they will create a special list of voters for which people would have to submit marriage and birth certificates to prove their ancestry. Is this really what America is about, adding qualifications for voting in an election that depend on proving whom your grandmother married or where your great-grandfather was born? And with high intermarriage rates, are we now going to adopt a one-drop qualification to prove that you are indeed a Native Hawaiian? Doesn't this violate the Fifteenth Amendment's provisions against race-based voting qualifications?

Once this new Governing Entity would be established, it is not clear what its responsibilities would be. To counteract suspicions that the main purpose was to establish gambling permission for a newly identified Native Hawaiian tribe, the bill forbids that. However, the real purpose is to govern the lands of the islands that native Hawaiians would like to claim.
Upon the reaffirmation of the political and legal relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian governing entity, the United States and the State of Hawaii may enter into negotiations with the Native Hawaiian governing entity designed to lead to an agreement addressing such matters as--

(A) the transfer of lands, natural resources, and other assets, and the protection of existing rights related to such lands or resources;

(B) the exercise of governmental authority over any transferred lands, natural resources, and other assets, including land use;

(C) the exercise of civil and criminal jurisdiction;

(D) the delegation of governmental powers and authorities to the Native Hawaiian governing entity by the United States and the State of Hawaii; and

(E) any residual responsibilities of the United States and the State of Hawaii.
These involve incredibly valuable lands that, as the Supreme Court, has recently ruled, cannot be run solely for the benefit of one race. In the case Rice v. Cayetano in 2000, the Court in a 7:2 decision struck down the Office of Hawaiian Affairs because its provisions allowed only one racial group to vote for the office which administered benefits on behalf of native Hawaiians.
In a 7-2 opinion delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court held that "Hawaii's denial of Rice's right to vote in OHA trustee elections violates the Fifteenth Amendment," in creating a race-based voting qualification. "A state may not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, and this law does so," Justice Kennedy wrote for the Court. The court rejected the state's argument that the voting limitation was one based on ancestry, not race. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for himself and Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the majority's decision "rests largely on the repetition of glittering generalities that have little, if any, application to the compelling history of the state of Hawaii."
Apparently, race-based qualifications for voting don't seem to bother Justices Stevens and Ginsburg.

More recently, in August of 2005, the Ninth Circuit struck down the race-based qualifications for attending the prestigious Kamehameha Schools of Hawaii. As those in Hawaii who are seeing their race-based benefits dwindling through court decisons get more desperate to maintain their control of these goodies, they have latched onto Akaka's bill to basically declare native Hawaiians to be like a tribe with the rights of self-governmnent. The fact that they have never been regarded as a tribe, don't live together in a separate geographic classification and have an intermarriage rate close to 50%, doesn't deter them. There is a whole lot of money and land at stake here.

Sadly, it seems that a bipartisan group of senators support this bill. The Alaskan senators have traded their support on this bill for the Hawaiian senators' support for drilling in ANWR. Logrolling at its finest.

And lovely Senator McCain says he will vote for the bill because so many of Hawaii's state officials from the Republican governor on down support it.
McCain, who had raised questions about the bill in the past, said he will vote for the bill primarily because it has the support of so many Hawai'i officials, including Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

"Here in Washington, it's hard for us to go against the view of the governor, the Legislature — Republican and Democrat — the senators and the congressmen," said McCain, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Gee, who knew that McCain was such a strong supporter of states' rights?

The one senator who has heroically been fighting against this bill is Senator Kyl who has raised many questions about the constitutionality of the bill.
No matter how many times S. 147's supporters say that the bill is not race-based, or that the new political entity that the bill seeks to create will not be race-based, the definition above demonstrates the inextricably racial nature of the bill. Moreover - unlike with Indian tribes, which have the right to determine their own membership, in ways essentially unreviewable by federal courts - the bill requires the federal government itself to apply this racial test by hiring federal employees in the Department of Interior on the exclusive basis of the above racial test. Those federal employees then must police the racial definition for future participants. Such a scheme is contrary to the basic principles of the United States Constitution.
One more example of why Senator Kyl is my favorite senator. Sadly, there are five Republican senators co-sponsoring this bill: the two Alaskans, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski; plus Norm Coleman, Lindsey Graham, and Gordon Smith. The Republican governor, Linda Lingle, has been fighting hard for this bill. The Justice Department has mostly stayed out of the picture and doesn't give us much hope that Bush would come out to oppose the bill. My one hope is that the House, fired up as they are about immigration, wouldn't see any advantages to passing such a racially questionable bill right now.

The Commission on Civil Rights has recommended against the bill and any other measure that divided people by race or national origin. Perhaps our government could pay attention to such a recommendation.

This abomination of a bill was supposed to come up last summer for a vote, but the vote was postponed because of Katrina. Now it arises in the middle of the immigration debate and provides one more opportunity for senators to demonstrate whether they believe in one government for all or separate governments based on where your ancestors lived a century ago. It will be interesting to see if the Senate will happily vote for such a suspect and racially divisive measure that enshrines into law two qualifications for voting in Hawaii, citizenship and genealogy.

I've written previously about this bill http://betsyspage.blogspot.com/2005/09/it-saddens-me-to-think-that-we-should.htm and here as a guest-blogger on Michelle Malkin's page. Michelle has also blogged about the bill and here is a column she wrote several years ago on the bill. National Review has also been firm in opposing the bill.

More Evidence of Dumb Hollywood Baby Names

First we saw Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes naming their baby, Suri, thinking it was a pretty Hebrew name, but it actually means "get out of here" in Hebrew.

Now Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have named their baby girl, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. Sorta rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Perhaps they chose the name Shiloh for its Biblical connotations as peaceful one, but it has also been used to refer to the Messiah. Do they have more than the ordinary ambitions for their daughter? Or perhaps they like its connotations of "rest" or "silent one," all desired attributes in a baby, but not perhaps in a grown woman.

Or maybe they were naming it after the bloody Civil War battle in which there were more casualties than in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Mexican War put together. Now there is a lovely image for a newborn baby.

Or maybe they were naming their daughter after Al Gore's dog, the one who supposedly got cheaper medicine than his mother-in-law, except that he made those figures up and forgot that perhaps his mother-in-law might have insurance to help her pay for her medicine.

Then go to the middle name for the baby, "Nouvel." I presume they want the baby to have the French word "new" for a middle name. Fine. Except the correct spelling is "Nouvelle." As any French One student would know, "Nouvel" is the masculine form of the adjective used in front of a vowel.

Even if Brad and Angelina are too busy to do a moment's search to find out the meaning of their choice of names, don't they have aides who could Google things for them? Babies aren't playthings or occasions for the parents to play around and come up with a pretty-sounding name. These are real people who are going to have to spend a lifetime explaining shy their parents chose such inappropriate names for them. A little more intensive research, which is quite easy these days, might help the stars not burden their children with stupid names.

Or maybe this is their gift to the less beautiful and rich people out there. We might not have their looks or money, but at least we can comfort ourselves in that we have more common sense.

Memorial Day

One Marine major explains why he is fighting.
Meet Maj. Chris Curtain of the 10th Marine Regiment, a 35-year-old out of Bridgeport, Conn., Norwich University and - most recently - the Syrian-Iraq frontier.

That on-again, off-again hotspot doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. Once upon a time it was a sieve; al Qaeda fighters and other terrorists entered Iraq with virtual impunity and then set about their deadly tasks.

Lately the traffic has been choked down - not eliminated, but perhaps brought under control. That's a critical step in controlling the Iraqi insurgency.

For this, thank Curtain and his comrades.

Pressed for details, the major smiles wryly, a hint of amusement in his eyes, and just keeps his counsel. It wasn't his first trip to Iraq, nor is it likely to be his last - and if not Iraq, then somewhere equally as demanding, equally as dangerous.

Such is life for a major of Marines as the Long War proceeds. He has a wife and three children, but America must come first. They know it, he knows it - and that raises a fundamental question.

Why?

"I love my country," Curtain says.

That's it?

"The adventure," he adds. "And I like the people."

The twinkle leaves his eyes.

"I am part of something larger than myself. I am part of an organization that stands for something."

Indeed it does, and thank God for that.
And for those of us on the sidelines, here at home, there is this word from Christopher Hitchens.
This Memorial Day, one might think particularly of those of our fallen who also guarded polling-places, opened schools and clinics, and excavated mass graves. They represent the highest form of the citizen, and every man and woman among them was a volunteer. This plain statement requires no further rhetoric.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ted Nugent Unplugged

A British journalist has a profile of Ted Nugent and you can sense the guy's horrified amusement at the rocker's pronouncements. You can feel Nugent is having a blast playing with this guy by making outrageous statements and then waiting for the journalist's mouth to close.

The writer, searches for the appropriate hyperbole to introduce his subject.
Like Jesus, Gandhi or Hitler, Nugent tends to inspire this kind of extreme reaction.
Sure. The comparisons that always spring to mind when you hear Ted Nugent's name.

The writer goes through all the most flagrant stories from Nugent's past and then elicits some more in-your-face responses such as this description of the deer he hunts.
They're only interested in three things: the best place to eat, having sex and how quickly they can run away. Much like the French.
Nugent lives in Crawford near the President's home. I imagine that those must be some lively neighborhood barbecues. Perhaps, next time, Dick Cheney can go hunting on Nugent's ranch. That would drive the media crazy.

One Question Settled

It's official. The egg came before the chicken.

The Real Purpose of Congressional Hearings

Senator Dick Durbin inadvertently reveals the real purpose of holding oversight hearings. The Senatorial Judiciary Committee is considering calling in phone executives to ask them about the story about their giving phone records to the NSA. Senator Kyl, my favorite senator, doesn't see the point. If they do bring them in, Kyl, Orrin Hatch, and Diane Feinstein want to question them in closed door session. You know, because it concerns national security and all that important stuff that senators are supposed to care about.

But not the famed Nazi-hunter, Dick Durbin.
Kyl and Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the executives should be questioned in a closed session to protect the effectiveness of the NSA surveillance ordered by President Bush to detect terrorist plots after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) questioned the value of a closed session if members could not publicly discuss what the executives told the committee. "What's the point?" he asked.
Let us translate Durbinese: "If we can't make a big political deal out of these hearings and slam the Bush administration and the NSA, what's the point?"

This is just so priceless. If he were interested in finding out more about the program and if it were accomplishing its goals and if it were violating rights, he'd be happy with a closed-door session. But that is not his goal at all. Pure politics is his goal and so he must not be bound by any sticky little oath of silence that a closed-door session implies.

Ah, If Only Madison, Hamilton, and Jay Had Known About Product Branding

The EU's Constitution was voted down by the French and Dutch which rather put the kibosh on ratification since it must be ratified by every signatory country. But this hasn't forced the constitution's advocates to give up hope. They just figure that they have to change their marketing plan.
But there was a fragile emerging consensus that the text would have to be rebranded and marketed under a new PR strategy to win over deeply sceptical voters.

'I assume this question will come up...should we change the name of it,' said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, adding: 'If someone finds a better name, great.'
That would have made the job of the authors of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, so much easier if they had just realized the importance of rebranding and marketing. None of that philosophizing about rights and government. Just get a better PR strategy.

ANother Reason Why It Is Wise To Emphasize Reading Skills

One of the common complaints against No Child Left Behind was that it emphasized reading and math skills above science and social studies. As a history teacher, I hear that a lot, especially from social studies teachers in the lower grades. However, my thought has always been that if kids don't know how to read well, they are never going to learn history or science that well either. And now here comes a bit of evidence to back that up. The newest National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP scores are out on science and they tell us that students in the younger grades are actually improving their scores in science. Imagine that. Apparently, by learning better how to read, they're able now to read the science textbook and learn the material better. And the low income and minority students showed the most improvement.

There is also bad news to temper that bit of good news. Progress is still flat among high school students.
Science scores among high school seniors have remained flat since 2000, which means that nearly half of high school seniors performed below what the NAEP has called the "basic" level in science. The survey also shows a continuing large gap between African American and Hispanic achievement on one side and that of whites and Asians on the other.

Unlike elementary schools, which have been subjected to the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, many high schools have not yet felt much legal or political pressure to institute accountability measures or to raise requirements. In the past five years, the number of white students taking a full complement of high school science courses has grown by only one percentage point, to 30 percent. The number of black students doing so has dropped, from 25 percent to 22 percent.
We'll have to wait and see if, when the accountability requirements at the high school level have been fully implemented for a four year period, we'll see any increase in those scores. But if those kids are reading at a higher level than their fellow students of today, they will, at least, have an easier time reading the textbooks.

More Liberal Yearning for Gore

Jonathan Chait has a column in the Los Angeles Times touting the ability of Gore to seem a more natural politician of conviction than Hillary Clinton. He reviews how Clinton decided that her main problem in a run for the presidency was that people perceived her as too liberal so she has spent the last six years staking out more moderate and conservative positions. However, this backfired because she ticked off the liberals in the party and just came across as a calculating opportunist who didn't believe anything except what she thought would help her get elected.
What Clinton seems not to get is that few people evaluate candidates as the sum of their positions. Voters just don't know enough about the issues to do it. (Nor, for that matter, do most political journalists.) Instead, they have a basic impression of the candidate's character, and the issues feed into that.

Mark Schmitt, an extremely smart liberal at the New America Foundation, coined a saying that captures the dynamic: "It's not what you say about the issues, it's what the issues say about you."

In other words, the literal popularity of an issue often matters less than the way that issue fits into a narrative of a politician's character. John McCain used his support for campaign finance reform to craft a narrative of himself as a brave truth-teller unafraid of special interests. George W. Bush in 2000 used a couple of issue positions relatively minuscule in scale (faith-based initiatives, education reform) to craft an image as a compassionate innovator.

Clinton's problem is that everything she does to staunch her perceived ideology problem compounds her perceived character problem. What she says about the issues may be popular, but what the issues say about her is that she's a shameless self-reinventor.
Enter Al Gore, man of conviction, who opposed the war in Iraq and was talking about global warming before it was cool.

You know it's bad for Hillary when Al Gore seems a smoother politician than she does.

I still think that the bloggers on Daily Kos or the Huffington Post and writers like Chait who dread a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2008 are dreaming if they think that someone like Al Gore is going to beat her out in the primaries. Al Gore might have looked more personable reading scripted lines on Saturday Night Live, but have they forgotten what a weird mix of wooden campaigner and populist rabble-rouser he was in 2000? Has that man totally disappeared? Do people really want a retread like Gore? I know that I'm not in tune with the Democratic primary voter, but I remember that these were the same sorts of people who were positive that Howard Dean was going to steamroll to the nomination in 2004, at least until he bombed out before the first primary.

The New SAT's Are Harder

David S. Kahn had a column in the Wall Street Journal explaining the changes in the new SAT's and how those changes have made the tests harder. This year's results reflect those changes.

In the verbal section, the emphasis is now less on vocabulary than on reading comprehension. Intensive vocabulary drilling in the months before the exam can help but not as much as previously. Now, the best preparation is, gasp!, actually having a habit of reading.

The math section has also gotten more difficult and students have to know more math, including pre-calculus.
The math section of the test also got more challenging. The SAT used to test algebra, geometry and arithmetic. Students weren't allowed to use calculators on the original SAT, so some of those problems were simply difficult arithmetical calculations (fractions, decimals and percentages). In 1994, calculators were allowed, and the questions got a bit easier--and I watched my students' math scores jump. But last year ETS made it harder by adding pre-calculus questions, and my students have struggled.

Now there are also fewer math questions--each of which counts for more. The 54 math questions count for 11 points each now (on the 200 to 800 scale); before, there were 60 questions that counted for 10 each. So if a student gets 20 questions wrong, he effectively loses 222 points instead of the former 200.
If students are not doing as well on the tests, it is not because the tests are biased against any one ethnic group, but against those who aren't well-educated. If students don't have good reading comprehension then they aren't going to do well in college and admissions offices should have that information.
That the new SAT tests more reading comprehension than the old test did is a good thing. Colleges complain that their incoming students don't have sufficient skills to read and analyze the kind of material that their professors will assign them. I hope that the new SAT's emphasis will make students realize that you can't get much of an education if you can't read.

Maybe the decline in SAT scores will force people to notice that their children are not getting good educations. If your children don't read or do math, why would you think that they would do well on the SAT? I would love to get into a time machine and go back to 1960 and give this new SAT to high-school students back then. I suspect that they would do much better than today's students. If we want people to get good scores on the SAT, I have a suggestion. Stop complaining about how unfair the test is and do your homework.
Don't blame the tests. They're just a measuring device sending the message that kids aren't learning what they need to learn. Address that problem, not the tests.

California Exit Exam Doesn't Exit

The California State Court of Appeals has ruled that California graduation can go on as scheduled and vacated a lower court ruling that had held up implementation of the rules of the exam which had said that those who failed it could not graduate. Finally, some good sense on this policy.

Those students who didn't pass and won't graduate had multiple opportunities to pass the exam which covers 10th grade English skills and 8th grade math skills. They only need a 60% on the English test to pass and 55% to pass the math test. These are multiple choice tests. If they can't pass these tests, then they have not mastered high school material and need more time to learn what they hadn't learned. If a high school diploma is going to mean anything, then we can't go all soft-hearted for those students who aren't going to graduate because they haven't fulfilled California's rather liberal requirements.

This should also be one more argument for intensive English education for all non-English speaking students. Don't waste time with a bilingual approach but take a year or however long necessary and get these kids learning English. In an earlier life, I used to teach English as a Second Language and it is quite impressive what students can learn. I once worked with a high school freshman who had been a "boat people" refugee from Vietnam. She was illiterate in her own language and had barely known any English when she arrived here in North Carolina. Within one semester, she was starting to read her history textbook and to write rudimentary essays in English. Sure, she wasn't on the level of other Raleigh freshmen, but at the rate she was making progress, her future was open and bright. The same progress is possible for those non-English speaking students in California's schools if they get some intensive education in English.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Even More Weaknesses in the Durham District Attorney's Case

A new filing by David Evans' lawyer reveals this little tidbit. There were actually two lineups given to the alleged victim. The first one was given eight days after the party on March 21. On that occasion, she did not pick Evans' picture from the lineup. Then, at the second lineup on April 4, she suddenly had a clarified memory and did pick his picture.
It's unclear whether the woman identified any players in the March 21 lineup because defense lawyers did not receive a report on the procedure. In a lineup done on April 4, the woman picked out four players as possible attackers with varying levels of certainty. During the later lineup, the woman said she was "about 90 percent sure" Evans was one of her assailants, but said he had a mustache that night. Evans' lawyers have said they have photographic proof that Evans did not have mustache. Having a mustache is against lacrosse team policy.

For the March 21 lineup, Durham police used official photos of the lacrosse players, identical to those posted on GoDuke.com, the official Web site of Duke athletics. The police arranged the photos in groups labeled A through F.

Evans' photo was labeled F-5. There was a Post-It note referring to group F that said "Did not pick any".

"Eight days after the alleged assault, and two weeks before the April 4 identification procedures in which she selected (Evans) with 90 percent certainty if he had a mustache, the complainant viewed a picture of (Evans) in this case and did not identify him as one of her alleged assailants," wrote Evans' lawyers, Joseph B. Cheshire V and Brad Bannon of Raleigh. "Incredibly, though, there is no narrative report ... about these photo identification procedures."

The March 21 photo lineup could violate the Durham Police Department's policy on photographic lineups:

-- The policy calls for "filler" photographs of people who are not suspects in the case. The March 21 lineup apparently included only Duke lacrosse players;
-- The officer running the lineup should document the procedures, results, number of photos viewed. Evans' lawyers said they received no report.
It's not clear if she picked the other two defendants in the first lineup. We don't know if she picked anyone from that first lineup.

The defense filling makes fascinating reading. They have a whole list of investigative actions that were taken by the police but copies of which were not handed over to the defense in violation of N.C. law. One of those items was the analysis of the cell phones taken from the house. They report four phones being recovered from the house but only doing tests on three of them. But they only turned over reports on two of the phones but those weren't the inventoried phones that they said they had found there. Incompetence or something else? Was one of the phones the one the woman had? Who knows? There are other items missing from the supposedly complete file that Nifong turned over such as reports from various investigators at different times during the case, reports that the police are required by law to file and Nifong to turn over to the defense.

Nifong is, once again, not commenting on the Durham police's questionable tactics.

And, apparently, her first story to the first policeman who found her at the Kroger was that the players pulled her in to the bedroom to rape her. Later the bedroom became the bathroom.
"Within a few minutes, I was told that she told the [doctor] that she had been raped? I returned? and asked her if she had or had not been raped. She told me she did not want to talk to me anymore and then started crying and saying something about them dragging her into the bedroom."
And the 20 men became three men. And Kim was there in the bathroom or wasn't there in the bathroom. It gets very confusing.

So, let's review. The Durham police did not one, but two faulty lineups with only lacrosse players shown to the woman. In this first one, they're all wearing their lacrosse team shirts so she knows that all she has to do is pick some of them. But the police fail to take the narrative notes or they fail to give the notes to one of the defendants (or probably all of them since they probably got similar boxes of materials.) He has contradictory stories from the alleged victim. After this, the D.A. asks for DNA samples from the entire team, except the black member, saying that the results will clear the innocent and inculpate the guilty. Then she is given another line up on April 4 and she picks Evans with 90% confidence saying that it looks like the guy who attacked her except without a moustache. However, Evans did not have a moustache the night of the party. DNA evidence comes back from the nail found in the garbage in the bathroom with DNA that could match Evans. However, it's his bathroom and there is trash in the garbage that could have had his DNA.

Nifong considers that this is such strong evidence that he proceeds to seek an indictment of Evans knowing that, in the event of a trial, he'll have to put this woman on the witness stand where she'll be open to questions about the two lineups and the missing moustache. The contradictory stories she gave the police will be introduced. He knows that there will be reasonable doubt cast on the fingernail DNA result. Yet, he finds this enough to indict the young man.

In the meantime, he went on TV and explained that a reason that none of the players had scratch marks on them was because they were wearing long sleeves on a warm Spring night. If he'd taken one peek at the defense pictures, he would have seen that none of them were wearing long sleeves.

Then he implies that she was given a date rape drug even though he knows that, for some reason, no toxicology test was done. But he didn't mind sprinkling a little innuendo out there. Why not cast the doubt that she had been slipped such a drug even though he knew he could never prove that or submit evidence about it? Maybe a prospective juror will hear his hints.

How much weaker can this guy's case get? How much more will we find out about how sleazily he's conducted himself?

What if there really had been a rape that night? I am so firmly convinced that this woman is lying that I view the possibility of a rape as a contrafactual deserving the subjunctive mood. But, if there had been a rape, the police procedure seems so shaky as to have cast serious doubt on convicting the guilty person or people. The D.A.'s behavior blabbing to the media and inciting racial divisions after the story became public are an indication of how shoddily this guy has conducted himself.

Besides these three defendants, the others who are hurt by this travesty of a case are all the real rape victims out there. Once this case is history and a lesson on the injustice perpetrated by a runaway district attorney, there will be increased skepticism directed at rape victims. She'll faced additional distrust because of this case. And we'll have this woman and Nifong to thank for that.

Don't Trust that Nine-Tenths of a Cent at Your Gas Station

As we all guessed, when you buy a gallon of gas, you're not paying in fractions of a penny. They're actually rounding up. And there is no good reason to advertise their prices that way except to fool people into thinking that gas is actually a penny less than it really is.

UPDATE: To clarify, I always wondered why they posted it that way and thought there must be some requirement, but, apparently, it's just a historic artifact that they are continuing in the hopes of making the gas price look a teeny bit less so that people focus on the lower number and not what it rounds up to.

What Some are Missing in the Ahmadinejad Letter

Hugh Hewitt has a good round up of information on President Ahmadinejad's letter. What I haven't heard much about is this phrase in the letter,
"Peace only unto those who follow the true path"
This phrase has historical echoes as the New York Sun points out.
President Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush, widely interpreted as a peaceful overture, is in fact a declaration of war. The key sentence in the letter is the closing salutation. In an eight-page text of the letter being circulated by the Council on Foreign Relations, it is left untranslated and rendered as "Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda." What this means is "Peace only unto those who follow the true path."

It is a phrase with historical significance in Islam, for, according to Islamic tradition, in year six of the Hejira - the late 620s - the prophet Mohammad sent letters to the Byzantine emperor and the Sassanid emperor telling them to convert to the true faith of Islam or be conquered. The letters included the same phrase that President Ahmadinejad used to conclude his letter to Mr. Bush. For Mohammad, the letters were a prelude to a Muslim offensive, a war launched for the purpose of imposing Islamic rule over infidels.
This is very scary stuff. If people don't wake up to what his intentions are and how he envisions himself as a new leader to impose his brand of Islamic control over the rest of the world, then they are seriously deluding themselves. The warning signs are there, just as they were in Hitler's Mein Kampf for those who had their eyes open.

It's a Start

The Treasury Department has cancelled a federal tax.
A pesky, century-old tax on your phone bill is finally being put to rest.
The Treasury Department said Thursday that it will no longer collect a 3% federal excise tax on long-distance calls and would refund about $15 billion to taxpayers.

The tax was imposed in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War. It was designed as a tax on wealthy Americans, back when phone service was considered a luxury.

"It's not often you get to kill a tax, particularly one that goes back so far in history," Treasury Secretary John Snow said.

Treasury said it was conceding its battle to uphold the tax after five appeals courts declared it illegal because of changes in the way long-distance calls are billed.

Phone companies and cellular carriers must stop billing for the tax Aug. 1. Individuals and businesses can file for refunds next year on their 2006 tax returns for excise taxes paid on long-distance calls since March 1, 2003.
It's a good sign that we no longer have to pay for the Spanish American War.

The New New Al Gore

Jonah Goldberg reminds us of how many times since 1987 there has been talk of the new Al Gore. Now, the myrmidons of the Huffington Post and others on the left are all excited about the thought of the newest Al Gore taking on Hillary Clinton to be the last, best hope of the Democrats in 2008. Environmentalism is supposed to be the vehicle that will transport him to the White House. Somehow, I don't think that getting the enthusiastic backing of the Daily Kos and Huffington readers is the winning ticket for defeating Hillary in the primaries.

Meanwhile, Jonah casts doubt on one Gore anecdote.
Gore told Huffington that this was his second trip to Cannes. "The first was when I was 15 years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists - Sartre, Camus. ... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!" This, gushed Huffington, "may explain his pitch-perfect French accent." Perhaps. Though according to David Maraniss' biography of Gore, the former vice president's 15th summer was spent working on the family farm. Remember those stories about how Al Sr. said, "A boy could never be president if he couldn't plow with that damned hillside plow"? That was the same summer.

Apparently, Poppa Gore thought a boy who couldn't both plow a field and parlez French existentialism could never be president either. Then there's the fact that young Al got C's in French at his tony Washington high school, St. Alban's. That's some school if a kid who can intelligently discuss Sartre's "La Nausée" and Camus' "Betwixt and Between" in apparently pitch-perfect French still can't earn a B in French class. Mon dieu!

But let's be fair. Maybe he misremembered the age at which he studied existential philosophy in France (though I could find no mention of such a trip in a quick search of his biographies). Why not trust him? After all, he's not running for anything, right?
Maybe the story is true - does it make Gore more lovable to know that he rivals Kerry in speaking French and knowing the existentialist writers and is the hit of Cannes? Is that what it takes to win over a red state, the goal of any victory-seeking Democrat in 2008? I doubt it.

(Oops, I've fixed the link.)

Making English the National Language is Not Racist

Jeff Jacoby rightly slams Harry Reid and others who seem to think that designating English as the national language is somehow a racist ploy.
It is a column about the English language, which has always been indispensable to the American identity, and without which no citizen can fully participate in American life. It is a column about the power of English literacy, thanks to which, [Frederick] Douglass wrote in his autobiography, he first "understood the pathway from slavery to freedom." And it is about the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of leftist elites like Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who last week denounced as "racist" a bill declaring English the national language of the United States.

"This amendment is racist," Reid said. "I think it's directed basically to people who speak Spanish."

Racist! As if Americans who speak Spanish aren't as capable of learning English as any other linguistic minority. As if it is bigoted and mean-spirited to want all Americans to be able to follow their nation's political debates, read its founding documents, and take part in its civic life. Racist to embrace English as the common American tongue! If Douglass were alive today, Reid's words would make him burst out laughing.
Is Reid implying that Hispanic immigrants are incapable of learning English? The great, great majority of Americans have ancestors who came here not knowing English and, somehow, they or their children managed to make the transition to being English speaking. We didn't need such a recognition that English was our national language then because it was clearly understood. Now, with so many official documents being presented in other languages, that understanding is going fast. I'm not sure what, other than symbolism, the measure in the Senate bill would accomplish, but the fact that people like Harry Reid are ready to cry racism over a symbolic statement like that shows how far we've come.

Charles Krauthammer on Iran's Newest Gambit

Charles Krauthammer cuts through the fog about Iran's newest demand for unilateral talks with the United States. The usual critics always excoriate the U.S. for supposedly going it alone whether it be Kyoto or Iraq, except when they excoriate the U.S. for acting multilaterally as we've done with North Korea and Iran. But, if people like Madeline Albright can't recognize Iran's ploy for what it is, perhaps she could benefit from a private tutorial with Dr. Krauthammer.
Another day, another principle. Bush is now being pressured to abandon multilateralism and go it alone with Iran. Remember: In September 2003, after Iran was discovered cheating on its nuclear program, the United States wanted immediate U.N. action. The allies argued for a softer approach. Britain, France and Germany wanted to negotiate with Tehran and offer diplomatic and economic carrots in return for Iran's giving up its nuclear weapons program. The United States acquiesced.

After 2 1/2 years of utter futility, the E.U. Three had to admit failure and acknowledge the obvious: Iran had no intention of giving up its nuclear ambitions. Iran made the point irrefutable when it broke International Atomic Energy Agency seals and brazenly resumed uranium enrichment.

The full understanding we had with our allies was that if the E.U. Three process failed, we would go to the Security Council together and get sanctions imposed on Iran. Yes, Russia and China might still stand in the way. But even so, concerted sanctions by America, Europe and other economic powers could have devastating effects on Iran and its shaky clerical dictatorship.

Which is why the mullahs launched this recent initiative. They know, and fear, that if the West persists on its present and agreed course, they face sanctions so serious that their rule, already unpopular, might be in jeopardy. The very fact that Iran is desperately trying to change the subject, change the venue and shift the burden onto the United States shows how close the mullahs believe we are to achieving major international pressure on them.

Pushing Washington to abandon the multilateral process and enter negotiations alone is more than rank hypocrisy. It is a pernicious folly. It would short-circuit the process that, after years of dithering, is about to yield its first fruits: sanctions that Tehran fears. It would undo the allied consensus, produce endless new delays and give Iran more time to reach the point of no return, after which its nuclear status would be a fait accompli .

Entering negotiations carries with it the responsibility to do something if they fail. The E.U. Three understood that when they took on the mullahs a couple of years ago. Bilateral U.S.-Iran talks are the perfect way to get Europe off the hook. They would preempt all the current discussions about sanctions, place all responsibility for success on the negotiations and set America up to take the blame for their inevitable failure.

It is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.
I'm sure the Europeans would be quite happy to dump this whole mess back in our laps now that they have failed. So much better than having to actually vote for something definitive in the Security Council.

More Missing Evidence in the Duke Lacrosse Case

In addition to there being no toxicology report on the alleged victim, the defense lawyers have now filed a motion to say that more evidence seems to have been left out of the pile of material given to them last week. There is only one sentence of an investigator asking her what her alleged attackers looked like.
But lawyers for Collin Finnerty say those documents include only one reference to police asking the accuser for a description, in what appears to be an investigator's note.

"I asked her questions trying to follow up on a better description of the suspects, she was unable to remember anything further about the suspects," the note from Durham police investigator B.W. Himan says, according to the motion filed by lawyers Bill Cotter and Wade Smith
It makes sense that the investigators asked her that question more than once, or, if they didn't, it seems like another hole in their investigation. Did she describe one of the attackers as having a moustache? When she identified the picture of David Evans she made a reference to a moustache and it certainly sounded as if she was referring to something she'd told the investigators previously about one of the men having a moustache. Did Nifong leave that remark out of the material given the defense or did these policemen just take her word for it that she had no memory of what her attackers looked like and make no attempt to gently lead her to remember some key details such as height, hair color, clothing, and facial hair? Can the prosecutor's case get any weaker?

A Movie Recommendation

My daughter and I saw Thank You for Smoking last night and I heartily recommend it. I haven't read the book by Christopher Buckley, but now I'd like to since the movie was such a fine satire of everyone and I've heard that the book was even funnier. The movie skewers all sides, but makes some fine points about politicians scoring easy political points about the evils of tobacco that everyone knows about anyway. You'll enjoy the satire of the sanctimonious Vermont senator trying to get publicity by holding hearings on slapping a skull and crossbones on cigarettes. The movie makes some libertarian arguments about the freedom to choose one's own sins without government getting in the way, but also makes delicious fun of the lengths that lobbyists will go to in trying to protect their products. The movie does soften up its satire by playing up the relationship between the "yuppie Mephistopheles" tobacco lobbyist wonderfully played by Aaron Eckhart and his young son and by making sure that no one actually smokes a cigarette in a whole movie about having the freedom to smoke cigarettes. If the movie is still playing near you, go out and see it. You'll have a lot of fun. They don't make many finely crafted satires like this anymore.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Even the Washington Post Thinks Hastert and Pelosi are Wrong

The Washington Post thinks that the hullabaloo over the FBI search of Congressman Jefferson's office is way overblown.
No one wants to have FBI agents pawing through lawmakers' files. Prosecutors and agents need to exhaust other avenues of obtaining evidence before doing so. If a search is required, they must take care not to trample on lawmakers' privileged activities.

It's not yet possible to make determinations about whether these principles were followed in the apparently unprecedented search of Mr. Jefferson's office. But the material for which agents searched had been under subpoena for eight months; Mr. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, resisted complying. Under those circumstances, seeking judicial approval for a search warrant is more reasonable. And while the "Saturday night raid," as Mr. Hastert called it, sounds melodramatic, it's less disruptive than having FBI agents in the House during normal business hours.

Mr. Jefferson was, according to the search warrant affidavit, caught with cold, hard cash: Agents videotaped him taking $100,000 in $100 bills from a Northern Virginia investor working undercover and then found $90,000 of it in his freezer. This was no fishing expedition.

Moreover, the affidavit outlines precautions prosecutors took to minimize intrusion on politically sensitive material. A team of agents not previously involved in the case were to go through records to find those listed in the warrant; then, a "filter team" of two lawyers and an FBI agent would examine the documents "to determine if they may fall within the purview of the Speech or Debate Clause privilege." If so, those would be set aside for court review before being shared with prosecutors on the case.
They still call for the Justice Department to have consulted with House leadership before conducting the search. Perhaps the Justice Department didn't have much faith in the leaders' ability to keep a secret.

A Truly Stupid Idea

UPDATED: Er, maybe the Michigan Board of Education isn't as stupid as I thought. After I posted this, Glenn Reynolds pointed me to this press release.
In an opinion piece crafted by Michael Warren in today’s Detroit News, the former State Board of Education member incorrectly states that the Michigan Department of Education has “ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.”

No such edict has gone out to school teachers across Michigan, nor will one, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. He explained that an independent association of Social Studies educators has discussed the issue of official U.S. documents or titles, but that any recommendations regarding changes in school curriculum have not even made it to his desk for review.

Inasmuch, Flanagan emphatically stated that, if such a recommendation ever came to his desk, it would be stopped in its tracks.

“We are not seeking to do away with the terms ‘America’ or ‘American’ from classroom instruction,” Flanagan said. “It’s not going to happen. I consider myself an American. We live in the United States of America. We are citizens of the United States of America. But the vernacular is that we’re Americans.”

These curriculum associations consist of curriculum content supervisors who represent diverse views and opinions.

“These are advisory groups,” Flanagan said. “The conversations and internal communications between members of an independent association have been misconstrued as Department of Education policy. This is not a Department of Education policy, nor will it ever be our policy while I’m here. I would never approve the removal of ‘America’ or ‘American’ from our classrooms. Not on my watch.”
Apparently, it was an advisory group that came up with this brilliant idea. The State Superintendant is much wiser. Sorry for the confusion from my post below, but I'm leaving it up just so no one thinks I was hiding anything. It still is pretty amazing that any group in an advisory position to the Board of Education would still come up with such a dumb idea. It shows you something about the mindset of such a group of "Social Studies educators"


Original Post


The Michigan Department of Education, having solved all the other problems with Michigan schools, turns its attention to a problem of cultural insensitivity. As you might know, other people in the Western Hemisphere resent the self-centered way in which people of our country appropriated the words "American" and "America." After all, where do we get off calling ourselves by a name that really should represent everyone in the hemisphere.

So they are considering a measure to ban teachers, state standards and tests from using the words "America" and "American."
In perhaps a well-intentioned, but pernicious example of political correctness, the Michigan Department of Education is attempting to ban the "America" and "American" from our public schools. Even though the word "America" appears in the department's own civics and government benchmarks, the department's style protocol for the Michigan Education Assessment Program requires that "America" and "Americans" be expunged from our testing and grade level expectations. Last week, the department ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.

We're all 'North Americans'

The Department of Education asserts that "Americans" includes Mexicans, Canadians and others in the Western Hemisphere, so referring to U.S. residents as Americans is inappropriate. In the department's view, "America" happens to include South, Central and North America. Accordingly, when referring to the colonial period, the state bureaucracy requires teachers to refer to "the colonies of North America" or "North Americans." After the American Revolution, the nation is called the United States (not of America).
What will you use when you need an adjectival form for our country or citizens? "United Statesian"? Sheesh! This is as dumb as when Oakland passed a resolution to instruct African-American (ooh, that word!) in ebonics.

Whether it was self-centered or not to adopt the word "America" to refer to our country, it's done. It might not be the best name for our country, but we can't go back and change the way that our country's forebears in the colonial era were referred to. And whenever the settlers in all the colonies were discussed, Americans were their name. Get over it.

Of course, of this moment, there is no civics or history book that does not use the banned words. So, publishers will have to have all the textbooks rewritten to excise all such references which must appear on every other page. Or maybe give little stickers to the students so they can block out the dreaded A-words as they read through their books. You wouldn't want the poor little kids to get confused by the sight of the banned words. Of course, you better hope that the sweet little innocents never see a newspaper or listen to a news show. Or, horrors, watch the History Channel.

And they better make sure that the kids never get to read George Washington's Farewell Address.
Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
Perhaps, someone could explain to the Michigan School Board what George Washington meant by speaking of pride in the appellation of American.

50 Top Conservative Songs

Natinal Review has a story in its magazine about the top 50 rock songs with conservative themes. It's a great gimmick to get people to buy the magazine. However, the New York Times gets a little revenge on NR by publishing the whole list so people don't have to go out and buy the magazine. I'm such a fogey that I haven't ever heard half the songs.

There is some debate about whether a rock 'n roll song can actually be conservative.
Asked to comment on the list, Dave Marsh, the longtime rock critic and avowed lefty, saw it as a desperate effort by the right to co-opt popular culture. "What happened was, my side won the culture war, in the sense that rock and related music is the dominant musical form, not only in the U.S. but around the world," he said. "Once you lose that battle, you lose the war, and then a different kind of battle begins: the battle over meaning."
The fact taht you have to get into some deep interpretation battle over what songs mean to explain to people why a song is indeed conservative suggests that some of these choices are rather a stretch. However, as John J. Miller points out,
"Any claim that rock is fundamentally revolutionary is just kind of silly," he said. "It's so mainstream that it puts them" — liberals — "in the position of saying that at no time has there ever been a rock song that expressed a sentiment that conservatives can appreciate. And that's just silly. In fact here are 50 of them."
Since liberal ideas are the mainstream in popular culture, any rejection of them is actually revolutionary.

Debate away about the lists and which other songs you think belonged on it.

Hillary Calls for the Return of 55-Mile Speed Limits

I just can't believe that this will be a popular move. Politicians love to take these band-aid approaches rather than address the fundamental causes of supply.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Oooh, Nancy, Now You've Made Them Angry

Now the Black Caucus is angry with Nancy Pelosi for asking for William Jefferson to withdraw from his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
The CBC’s chairman, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), engaged in a heated argument with Pelosi on the House floor Tuesday afternoon after Watt heard reports that Pelosi was considering calling for Jefferson’s ouster, according to one witness.

Members of the CBC are expected to confront Pelosi today in a meeting that was previously scheduled to address separate concerns about Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). That meeting is now likely to focus more on Jefferson, a Democratic aide said.

With 43 members, the CBC is a formidable force in the 202-member Democratic caucus and one Pelosi is unusually reluctant to antagonize. Should Democrats take the House, the CBC would control four, and possibly five, committee chairmanships.

....Most lawmakers would not comment afterwards, but a CBC aide summed up some members’ frustration, saying, “Congresswoman Pelosi, by preemption without any legal justification, has now created a new precedent for how members are going to be treated. Unfortunately, she’s chosen to single out an African-American for this honor.”

Then the aide added an electoral threat, saying, “The African-American community, which overwhelmingly backs the Democratic Party, will not take this lightly. I hope she enjoys being minority leader.”
They're angry that she is calling on Jefferson, a black man, to resign from the Ways and Means Committee but didn't ask Alan Mollohan, a white man, to resign from the Appropriations Committee upon news that he is being investigated for financial shenanigans that he is suspected of engaging in.

They'll talk big and she'll apologize and then they'll be back to voting in lockstep. It's sweet that the CBC is so ready to adopt the "innocent until proven guilty" approach to William Jefferson. I doubt that they are taking the same approach towards Tom DeLay.

Denny Hastert and Nancy Pelosi, Constitutional Experts

Speaker Hastert has issued a joint statement with Nancy Pelosi decrying the FBI search of Congressman Jefferson's office.
"The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.
It's not quite clear what the Constitutional provision they think was violated. Jefferson wasn't speaking or appearing in Congress as part of his legislative duties. He wasn't on the way to Congress. What is the difference between searching his office and his home? Or searching a federal judge's office, as has been done before?

Now the House Judiciary Committee is going to hold hearings on the search.
House officials were drafting a joint resolution frowning on the raid. And Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., announced a hearing next week titled, "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?"
Great. Nothing excites these guys so much as some indication that they aren't quite as special as they thought they were. Here are two law professors they can call to testify. Orin Kerr and Eugene Volokh both don't see a problem with the search.

An Interesting Contrast

Mary Katharine Ham makes some intriguing comparisons to the reaction to the story of the man who rented and then drove an SUV into the midst of UNC students and the reaction to the Duke lacrosse story.
Within days of Taheri-azar’s attack, students were reclaiming The Pit, having interfaith prayer vigils and "dialogues" for religious tolerance on campus, implying of course that it was the campus’ religious tolerance that needed improvement, not the guy who wanted nothing more than to paint his white walls red with some American, non-Muslim blood.

There was one, small anti-terrorism rally put on by a group of conservative students, who wanted the administration to call the incident an act of terrorism. Those students were pilloried by the skittish campus and the administration for "inflaming" the situation and not being "understanding" enough.

In Durham, a poster featuring about 40 members of the Duke lacrosse team, none of whom had yet been charged, was plastered all over campus by citizens and students, associating all 40 of them with the alleged rape.

There is still, months later, a candlelight vigil outside the house where the alleged attack took place, every Sunday night, bemoaning the sexual violence and racial insults which may or may not have happened there.

The New Black Panthers have been to town to protest on behalf of the accuser. Jesse Jackson has offered her tuition for the rest of her college education, regardless of the truth of her allegations.

The lacrosse team’s season was canceled. Its coach resigned. Its recruits are transferring to other schools. The university had a panel investigate whether or not the lacrosse program should even be reinstated.
And, of course, if we switched the stories around and imagined a Christian driving an SUV into a crowd of Muslim students or a group of black athletes accused of raping a white woman, I think we would have reversed reactions from the media and many in the public.

Al Gore's Movie

A professor of climatology notes some inconvenient inaccuracies in Gore's movie.
"An Inconvenient Truth" is billed as the scariest movie you'll ever see. It may well be, but that's in part because it is not the most accurate depiction of the state of global warming science. The enormous uncertainties surrounding the global warming issue are conveniently missing in "An Inconvenient Truth."

Rahm Emanuel - Hypocrite

Tom Elia at The New Editor remarks on something I had no idea about. Emanuel went from being a Clinton aide to earning millions in a few years as an investment banker. After racking up a net worth of $9 million in three years, he ran for Congress and soon was chosen as the head of the Democratic Congressional Comapaign Committee. Now, he's criticizing Republicans for trading for influence for private gain. Why does he think he, a former ballet dancer and campaign aide got a job at a prestigious investment banking firm and was put in a position to earn those millions?

Gas Prices Under Democrats

The GOP has a calculator to figure out how much you'd pay for gas if the Democrats had control of policy.

The ACLU Can't Take the Heat

The ACLU is upset that some of its board members have disagreed with some positions that the organization has taken and had the temerity to criticize board members in public. So, they're mulling the idea of forbidding board members from publicly criticizing other board members. They are afraid that such criticism would play into the hands of their enemies and weaken the organization overall.

So, this same organization that would jump to criticize any effort by the administration to block people from leaking information that would play into the hands of our country's enemies and weaken the country overall, now find that criticism is not so enlightening for the public when it is directed at themselves. Oh, the delicious irony of their hypocrisy.

Don't Forget that it is William Jefferson's Own Fault

Byron York has looked at the affadavit that the Justice Department submitted when it asked a federal judge for the warrant to search Jefferson's office. In it they include a list of all the prior efforts that they had made to get the documents they sought. They explain why they think that a search of his office would be fruitful.
The government has exhausted all other reasonable methods to obtain these records in a timely manner short of requesting this search warrant. A member of Congressman Jefferson's staff has indicated to law enforcement agents that records relevant to the investigation remain in Congressman Jefferson's Capitol Hill office, which the government has been unable to obtain to date. Left with no other method, the government is proceeding in this fashion.
Sounds like they have a source who is talking in Jefferson's own office. What do you want to bet that he deliberately hid documents in his office thinking that he would be able to rely on the Justice Department respecting his taxpayer-funded sanctuary?

They then took extraordinary efforts to set up a special filter team to make sure that they only extracted papers that had to do with their case. Have all these legislators bloviating about their special privileges to be exempt from an FBI search even read this affidavit?

Just as Nixon did not have executive privilege to protect his taped conversations discussing a coverup and Clinton did not have a privilege to protect discussions with aides to cover up an illicit affair, Congressman Jefferson does not have a legislative privilege to protect his activities to accept bribes. There is no constitutional privilege for anyone in any of the three branches to protect them from authorities investigating criminal actions.

When the respect for Congress is at a depressingly low point, could Congressmen have found any surer way to lower it even further?