Thursday, June 30, 2005

Republicans Make Money At Dean Fund Raiser?

Via Daily Thoughts via an open thread at the Hedgehog Report:

State DNC executive director Lachlan McIntosh says $5000 in donations had already come in for the event. The event was expected to raise at least $15,000 more. The party has sent out a note saying it will refund the money.

Dean’s absence didn’t stop state Republicans from screaming all the way to the bank. The state GOP meanwhile held a Dean scream contest in anticipation of Dean’s arrival. State GOP executive director Scott Malyerck says the party raised $22,000 in contributions in response to Dean’s planned visit.

Nothing more to say, really.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Poll Results Regarding Bush's Speech

The hedgehog report has a link to a flash poll related to Bush's speech last night, performed by Gallup. Things look generally positive, which I find interesting give my survey of ... ahem ... unbiased sources last night.
Very/Somewhat Positive 74%
Very/Somewhat Negative 24%

WHO IS WINNING? (Before Speech)
US/Allies 54% (44%)
Terrorists 7% (9%)
Neither 35% (44%)

Stay Until Things Get Better 70% (58%)
Set Timetable For Withdrawal 25% (37%)

Yes 63% (56%)
No 35% (42%)

Does this mean, in reference to my question from yesterday, that some people are listening?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Is Anybody Really Listening?

So I conducted an experiment tonight. I purposely didn't listen to President Bush's speech regard Iraq. I didn't watch it live, I didn't read any live-blogs, I didn't read the pre-released text. Instead, I decided I'd gauge the speech by the reviews on the web. Where shall I start?

How about at Alexander McClure gave his analysis, noting, among other things:
3. Did he tie the Iraq War back to the War on Terror?

Yes, in a very eloquent conclusion, the President made the strongest case yet that the War on Terror will be fought and won, or fought and lost, in Iraq.

Overall, I thought it was an excellent speech. More on it later.

Lorie Byrd also added her thoughts here, starting with:

Excellent Speech

I agree with Mort Kondracke that tonight’s was one of George Bush’s best speeches.
Wow, I guess I missed a good one. OK, lets check Kos...I'm sure the view there must be just as positive:
Fake applause; speech numbers

ABC's Terry Moran just reported that the only time Bush got applause was in the middle of his speech when a White House advance team member started clapping all on their own in order to cajole the soldiers into clapping, which they dutifully did. So even the applause was fake.

Did the people at Kos watch the same speech? Hmmm. Better check CNN:
Seeking to turn around sagging public support for the war in Iraq, President Bush tonight told the American people that the sacrifices being made were "vital to the future security of our country."
And right below the story are links to two polls titled "Poll: U.S. war confidence slides" and " Poll: Bush disapproval hits high".

Things look grim indeed. I bet the boys at powerline must be upset:
Excellent Speech

Clear, confident, substantive. There was nothing in it that we and our readers didn't already know, but the message is one that many rarely hear. And the networks all carried it after all. That's good; President Bush nearly always does well when people see him, instead of seeing Democrats talking about him, as they will on the evening news.

The only thing I thought was odd was the unnatural quiet in the hall. It was like the audience at a Presidential debate, which has been cautioned not to express approval or disapproval. Only at the end, apparently, were the soldiers permitted to applaud.

Or not.

Can it be any more clear that people hear what they want to hear? I'm sure you are shocked that polipundit and powerline thought it was great speech and that kos and CNN thought it was more doom and gloom? About all I learned that was interesting was that the applause wasn't allowed (and it was interesting to see kos take it and run the other direction).

So I'm left asking: Is anybody really listening?

No Bias At All

Front page, CNN:
President Bush is using the first anniversary of Iraq's sovereignty to try to ease Americans' doubts about the mission and outline a winning strategy for a violent conflict that has cost the lives of more than 1,740 U.S. troops and has no end in sight.
Contrast that with the good news series from Arthur Chrenkoff, linked yesterday. The truth, I imagine, lies somewhere in between.

Monday, June 27, 2005

You Have Been Keeping Up, Haven't You?

Good news from Iraq. Perhaps you've already read about all this on CNN. Then again, perhaps you haven't.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Private Property Rights

As Dan already pointed out, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision this morning that the city of New London, CT could use eminent domain to seize a number of homes in order to make room for private development, in particular for the Pfizer Corporation. Links to all the opinions can be found here.

The liberal wing of the court plus Justice Kennedy formed the majority in this case. Justice Steven's opinion relies heavily on precedent and provides little actual argument. It says that based on previous Court rulings we should take a broad view of the term "Public Use" in the Fifth Amendment, one that allows us to include this type of private redevelopment. The Court should defer to the CT legislatures view of what is good for the public. As is typical of many of the opinions from left, this strikes me as nothing more than declaring Constitutional anything that the judges feel is good public policy.

Private property is a fundamental right that is guaranteed by our Constitution. It is no less important than freedom of speech, or freedom from self incrimination, or any of the other rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. If the Government has the right to take away our property at will, simply because they feel someone else can make better use of it then we don't have any property rights. Justice Thomas' dissent makes this powerfully clear and actually provides an argument and not just a list of other cases.

Thomas also points out that this ruling from the liberal wing produces a result that is generally un-liberal. Eminent domain of this will usually be employed against the poor and possibly minorities. Thus this ruling allows the government to take away property rights of those who are generally disadvantaged in order to aid the wealthy and powerful (the developers). Such a wonderful liberal result! Though I suppose one that could be justified by some on the left who take a highly paternalistic view ("we're going to help these people by getting them out of blighted communities, whether they want to or not"). I suppose one argue that this makes the ruling one of principle and not of policy preference, but the other facts in the case argue against that interpretation.

Near the end of the majority opinion Justice Stevens says that while he doesn't believe the federal constitution prohibits this kind of taking, various state laws and constitutions do so people who would oppose this should turn to their States for a remedy. Ah, federalism! But if this is the case then why don't we return to the original (pre-Fourteenth Amendment) interpretation and say that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to the states? Then we can all appeal to the states without any of this pesky federal involvement, at least when it's not Congress doing the taking.

Update: The following comment on a thread at the Volokh Conspiracy discussing the case expresses my feeling perfectly:
Can someone explain to this non-lawyer how it can be that such a very basic issue about the very old concept of eminent domain can be new before the Supreme Court?

Some outrages are so outrageous, it can take a couple of centuries for someone to work up the nerve to perpetrate them, and then actually try to defend them in court.

New Supreme Court Justices Needed

I must admit I haven't had much interest in all the politics and rhetoric surrounding the appointment of judges. Part of this is born from the fact that high court judges are often so extreme to one side or the other, that I find little common ground with them. (I am frustrated by judges creating new law from the bench as opposed to interpreting existing law, but that is a different subject for a different time.) The truth is, also, that I find legal discussions dreadfully boring.

All that being said, sometimes there's a decision that makes me want to see a change in the Supreme Court, which ruled today that local governments may seize private property for private development. It's one thing for such things to happen for public development; a new highway is needed and private property much be purchased. But for private development? A free real estate market should rule here. If you want to build a resort where I have my home, offer me enough money to motivate me to move. If I value my house too much to make it economically feasible to build your resort, then find a new location.

It should be interesting to see if any privacy / libertarian groups speak out against this ruling. I suppose since it doesn't involve any references to gulags and Nazi's, it will quickly pass from national interest.

Update: Via Instapundit, a long list of reactions where people are unhappy with the decision.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Downing Street Memos Fake?

There's been a lot of press recently about the "Downing Street Memos" and the claim that President Bush had intelligence faked to justify the war with Iraq. There was even call for impeachment by some unimportant senator, I believe. Captain's Quarters blog has a great post about how the memos may actually be fake.

The story is quite amazing. The reporter "destroyed the originals" to protect his source--the supposed memos have been retyped. But where they retyped into a computer? No. An old fashioned typewriter was used, apparently in an effort to make them seem more real.

Follow the link, follow the story. Outrageous that something like this wasn't checked for authenticity. I guess to some the truth doesn't matter as long as your goals are accomplished. I hear that the case for impeachment builds.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Having often posted on bias in the MSM, I feel compelled to point out this story. I must admit I was shocked that CNN ran a positive story about four brothers serving together in Iraq. The 5th brother has just returned from Iraq and their sister would have gone, but hasn't completed her training. Even more shocking was that this was the top story for the entire day, complete with a picture on the front page.

Below the picture, was a related-story link about the recently freed hostage praising Iraqi and U.S. troops.

While I still believe that the MSM is horribly biased in its choice of stories and its language, it is only fair to point out counterexamples. Hats off to CNN for prominently running these stories.

Senate apologizes for failing to pass anti-lynching laws

Yesterday the US Senate issued a formal apology for failing to pass anti-lynching laws in the first half of the 20th century. Such a law was supported by seven presidents (according to numerous stories, including this one from the NYTimes) and actually passed the House three times.

I understand the purpose of these types of resolutions. For all that it has absolutely no effect on either the past or the future, it will make some people feel better. It's just a nice gesture that doesn't cost taxpayers anything. On the other hand, it is another case of ritual prostration to atone for sins committed by those long dead, similar to the Wachovia case. At least this time there are still some living survivors of lynch mobs. None of the current members of the Senate bears any responsibility for the failure to pass these laws. While it is certainly important to admit past failures the best way to do this is to correct the mistake, which has certainly been done long since in this case.

The other noteworthy part of this story is the partisan bickering that accompanied it. John Kerry is offended that there weren't 100 co-sponsors of the resolution (there were 80) and that "there's not an up-or-down vote." It passed by unanimous consent, which means that no one objected to it (what 21st century politician would?). Why waste the time taking a vote? So we can make our little political statements, of course. I've also read griping that the resolution wasn't brought to the floor until after Senate working hours. As if it's necessary to spend time "debating" and posturing over an issue that is completely uncontroversial.

I'm often annoyed when I read about the silly, non-binding resolution that both houses of Congress issue from time to time. They commend this, recommend that, condemn a third thing, declare a national day for somethingorother. They are wasting their time and my money on things that are totally useless. But then I realize that issuing non-binding resolutions is often the least-harmful thing that Congress can be doing. When they're occupied with this, they're not raising taxes, increasing regulation or wasting money on pork barrel projects. Which is something to be glad for.

BTW - in any of the statements by Democrats on this issue was there any mention of the mechanism that was often used to stop anti-lynching laws? You know, that hallmark of democracy, which protects the rights of the minority, the filibuster. No? I'm shocked.

Peremptory challenges to prospective jurors

This week the US Supreme Court threw out the conviction of two accused murderers on the basis of racial discrimination in jury selection. The court ruled that prosecutors had used peremptory challenges to ensure an all-white juries that would be more likely to convict the black defendants. Jury selections or strikes that are based solely on race are unconstitutional. (Miller-El v. Dretke, Johnson v. California)

In a concurring opinion Justice Breyer argues that peremptory challenges should be eliminated entirely. This would eliminate the practical problem of a court determining whether an attorney's Jury strikes are based on unconstitutional grounds and avoid situations like the two cases in question. The AP reports on Breyer's opinion with some context here. One of the points made is that jury-selection has become a highly sophisticated process, essentially trying to game the system.

I have to agree with Breyer here and my reasons go beyond the practical considerations. The jury system is an important guarantee provided by the Constitution and more broadly the Anglo Saxon tradition that protects individuals from arbitrary or malicious actions of government or judges. The system makes the most sense, however, when the jury is composed of a fully random sample of the populace. Certainly screening out those perspective jurors who have a vested interest in the case or a particular bias is appropriate, since the goal is a fair, unbiased jury. These strikes are done for cause and I have no argument with them. Allowing attorneys to select who they don't want to see on a jury, however, destroys the spirit of the system. While proponents will say that they are acting to try to remove biases that they can't prove, it seems much more likely that it is employed to ensure that the jury is in fact biased, but biased to one side.

Courts of law should be about law, not gut feelings or intuition. If there is no cause to eliminate a prospective juror he or she should serve.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Voting Machine Paper Trails

I disagree with the NYT editorial board so much that I almost feel obligated to comment when they write something that I think is eminently sensible. In "An Important Election Safeguard" they support a House measure that would require electronic voting machines in a federal election to produce a paper record of each vote, which could be tallied after the fact to verify the electronic count.

Paper receipts are an obvious feature that should have been required in any electronic voting machine the first time they were used. It's a very easy step that would improve the reliability and verifiability of elections. Voting machines that produce paper output would still serve their primary purposes of easing the voting process and streamlining the vote counting process (at least for uncontested elections). The additional cost of adding printers to machines and establishing procedures for storing and counting the receipts is easily balanced by the benefits.

Certainly some of the push on this issue is fueled by moonbattery. There are some who believe that all of the Republicans' recent electoral success is based on election fraud. But that false motivation shouldn't stop us from taking reasonable steps.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Supreme speculation

Yet another story about the fight over a potential Supreme Court vacancy appeared on the AP wire today. CNN has it here. Nothing much new here. I find this rather humorous. Clearly you have a bunch of court reporters who aren't satisfied simply reporting about the court's decisions, even the significant ones like Gonzales v. Raich. They want to see the real political drama that will ensue with a court opening and are frustrated waiting for it.

Then again, maybe it's just a market based decision. The AP does have other SCOTUS stories - I just noticed this one from Monday reporting that the court rejected a case where college wrestlers contended that Title IX implementation unfairly burdened some male athletes. but this story doesn't get front page coverage on CNN's web site. They're probably right that the knockdown fight over a nomination makes a better story than the technical details and implications of an actual ruling.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

So what's the deal with Dean?

Yesterday Howard Dean unleashed yet another over the top attack on Republicans. In a speech in San Francisco he said Republicans are "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party." (Quote here.) This coming soon after his comments that most Republicans "never made an honest living in their lives". If politics were sports one might say that Dean is producing lots of locker room bulletin board material to fire up the opposing team.

So what's the strategy here? I don't think Dean has simply gone off the deep end. He must think that this rhetoric will help his party win elections. But how? A possible explanation is that Dean has decided that a motivated base is the most important factor in winning elections. Others have drawn this same conclusion from last year's presidential campaign and Karl Rove's Republican strategy in particular. As a result, Dean may think that his job as Democratic Party chairman is first and foremost to provide red-meat to the party faithful in order to get them fired up. His comments certainly will do that when presented to the right audiences.

This explanation also seems consistent with Dena's fundraising success during his Presidential campaign. He amassed a large warchest through individual donations by appealing primarily to the left wing of the party during the run-up to the primaries. He may think that this approach will translate to fundraising for the party as a whole. To date it doesn't seem like it has been successful - the DNC is trailing the RNC in contributions so far this year.

The obvious negative of making this type of inflammatory comment is the possibility of a negative backlash among moderates. There certainly has been plenty of reaction in the blogosphere. I wouldn't be surprised if previous DNC chairmen have made similar comments in the past but with less publicity. Because of his recent presidential run Dean probably has a higher profile than most party chairmen and the diversification of media has helped to spread the word.

Not a few conservatives seem to think that Dean is shooting himself and his party in the foot with these types of statements. I'm not so sure. Regular blog readers are certainly aware of Dean's remarks, but I'm no so sure the average man on the street is or cares very much. The DNC chairman is a lot less important than the president or a senator and the average, non-political junkie citizen may not care that much. Various Democrats have felt it necessary to distance themselves from Dean, but politicians are always trying to cover themselves (and some Democrats like Harry Reid have supported Dean lately).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Apologies for slavery

Wachovia Corporation issued an apology for past connections to slavery. The bank issued a long report detailing prior practices of two southern banks that were later acquired by Wachovia in order to comply with a Chicago ordinance requiring disclosure of profits from or policies relating to slavery for any company doing business with slavery (CNN Story).

I find it completely asinine that a company is being held up to blame for 19th century slave ownership in the 21st century. Not a single soul working for the corporation has ever owned a slave or had any dealings with corporate slaves. It's unlikely that any of their parents or even grandparents ever did. The crime of slavery is over and done with. We shouldn't forget our country's history, good and bad, but we should let go of the animus and blame game. Individuals and institutions should be judged by their current practices and how they have addressed and remedied sins of those involved now. Very few human institutions can claim a spotless record, especially when hundreds of years of history are being judged.

It's very likely that ordinances of this kind (Chicago isn't the only city to have them) are designed to provide evidence for future slave reparations claims. Another wrongheaded idea - looking to solve the problems of the present by redistributing wealth based on the sins of the long dead. But that's a post for another time.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Lawyers revealing clients' lies

The state of Washington is proposing new ethics rules that would require lawyers to tell the court if they discover that their client had previously lied (story). Current rules do not allow lawyers to lie themselves or put their client on the stand if they know he will lie, but do require admission of "discovered" falsehoods; the lawyer typically is allowed to step down from the case. The proposed rule is consistent with a set of model rules put out by the American Bar Association and a similar rule is already in place in 10 other states.

The changes would "dramatically shift lawyers' duties in Washington, making their obligation to the court more important than their duty to their clients." Some defense attorneys are, not surprisingly, objecting and say that this rule would "crush the whole idea of attorney-client confidentiality".

I've always found it disturbing that our legal system focuses so much on the adversarial relationship between two sides that it neglects the higher duty to justice and the truth. To me (a non-lawyer) it only stands to reason that the truth is more important that blindly advocating a position in favor of your client.

The article cites an example:
What if an arrested man persuades a judge to release him without bail, explaining that he lives with his mother and has a full-time job, and the lawyer later learns that neither is true? The lawyer would have to tell the judge -- probably ensuring that the client gets locked up, [Seattle criminal defense lawyer] Rodriguez said.
I just don't see the problem here. In this hypothetical the man lied about the conditions that were used to justify his release. Without them he would not have been released (without bail anyway). Why should the man gain the advantage of his lie when an officer of the court (his lawyer) knows the truth? Especially since the man likely committed perjury in addition to whatever crime he has been charged with. I just don't see the ethical quandary for the lawyer.

A defendant has a right to a fair trial. The procedures and rules of our legal system exist to ensure that he receives a fair trial. But there is no right to lie under oath.

Hat tip: Howard Bashman's excellent How Appealing blog.

Korans Desecrated

Sometimes there isn't much more to do than post the link.