Friday, May 27, 2005

French Leaders Admit Defeat

French leaders have admitted that the upcoming vote on the EU constitution is lost (hat tip Instapundit). I've read elsewhere that this will affect the EU and I've also read that it isn't that big of a deal. I'm not knowledgeable enough of EU politics to know which view is correct.

I do think the vote is a significant failure for Chirac. He has proven very resilient as a politician, however. It will be interesting to see how he handles this new failure.

Murder charges dropped against marine

Charges have been dropped against a Marine Lieutenant, 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, who was charged with murder for shooting two Iraqis last year. CNN story here. The incident occurred when a Marine unit stopped and searched a car driven by the deceased. The defense maintained that the shootings were in self-defense. The investigating officer (the equivalent of a grand jury) had recommended the charges be dropped but some non-judicial punishment be levied for poor judgement - firing excessive rounds and leaving a sign with the slogan, "No better friend, no worse enemy" in the car. The Division commander elected to impose no punishment.

I've been following this story for several months now particularly because the exonerated Marine is a childhood friend. I'm very pleased to see how it has turned out.

I strongly feel that all of our servicemen should be given strong benefit of the doubt. Certainly not a license to commit acts of mayhem. But we need to understand that decisions made in potential life and death situations must be judged in the light of the situation. On the other hand, the fact that we are willing to investigate claims such as these to make sure that soldiers and marines are not abusing their power speaks well of us as a country. In this case due process has been served and I believe justice as well.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

It Is Not 2008

I started to blog about this CNN story this morning, but deleted it before posting, deciding that I was making a big deal about nothing. But it continues to get press, and now I feel compelled to comment.

Since early this morning, CNN has had the results of this poll on the front page. The poll concerns the electability of Hillary Clinton. The original headline was something to the effect of "A majority would vote for President Hillary Clinton". Is it correct to give her that title? Wishful thinking by the folks at CNN? The data point they were pushing was the following:
The poll found 29 percent were very likely to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton for president and 24 percent said they were somewhat likely.

Seven percent were not very likely and 39 percent said they were not at all likely. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The headline is now changed, reading "Poll: Mixed messages for Hillary Clinton." This is a more accurate description of the poll results which include:

But those saying they are virtually certain to vote against her topped those virtually certain to support her by 10 percentage points in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
My point was that it isn't 2008 and it is irresponsible (or at least shows a blatant bias) for a major news organization to be starting the campaign already. Or should we assume that Democrats plan to bicker with Bush and try to accomplish nothing for the next three years? My hope would be that no one would give the premature poll any press, but it has been picked up by polipundit:
However, it isn’t too early for Republicans to start targeting the likely opposition. According to a new Gallup Poll, 56% of registered voters consider the New York Senator a “liberal.” 29% said that they were very likely to vote for the Senator, while 39% said they were not at all likely.
McClure may be right--it might not be too early. But for the sake of the country, let's hope that it is. Three years is much too long a time waste in gridlock.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

To What Purpose?

The news is all over the web and the MSM that an al-Qaida web site has stated Zarqawi is injured. The web site calls for the prayers of Muslim people for his recovery. This is obviously a strange admission by an organization that at least attempts to use propaganda and press to its advantage.

One interesting theory is that he isn't really injured and that when he "recovers" later, al-Qaida can point to the power of Muslim prayer. If that's the plan, someone forgot to tell the people of Iraq:
On the streets of Baghdad, many like Saliha Elaibi, covered in black dress from head to toe, were praying the news of his injury was true.

"We are praying for his death. We ask God to save us from him and from his car bombs," she said.

Hats off to the AP for not spinning this story with any bias.

Judicial Filibuster Deal

There's a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on on conservative blogs right now about the deal. Polipundit's top post right now is entitled "TREACHERY!". I ventured over to DailyKos and Democratic Underground to scope out the other side and the consensus there is that the deal means that Democrats have won this battle. So, are they right? Did the seven Republican Senators sell out their party? Did Frist lose badly?

It's far too early to tell. Both sides get something out of the deal right now. The right gets approval of three judges that give the left heartburn. The left gets to maintain the possibility of filibustering, which they desperately want for upcoming Supreme Court openings and can still stall on several of the Bush nominees. But nothing is really settled yet.

As with evaluating baseball trades you have to wait to see how things play out over time to know who "won" or "lost". Example: how will the term "extraordinary circumstances" get employed in the future? If Democrats claim that anyone "to the right of Karl Marx" is extreme and filibuster accordingly then the deal looks worse for the right. If the Pryor/Brown/Owens confirmations set a precedent for not filibustering qualified judges then it looks a lot better. Obviously a Supreme Court opening is the test here. I suspect that Democrats will call an opening on the High Court extraordinary circumstances no matter who is nominated.

The biggest thing that the deal does is avoid a dramatic showdown which would have very uncertain political fallout. If the constitutional option is executed (and it still could be in the future) and the Democrats respond by slowing down the Senate both sides would be gambling their political capital. The left has already painted such a rules change as an abuse of majority power. On the other side there's precedent (Gingrich's government shutdown) for the public looking unfavorablely on obstructionists. Most Senators are by nature conservative - in the sense of conserving their own jobs. It's not surprising at all that "moderates" from both parties would support this deal. They're the ones who are most likely to get hurt by any political fallout.

This deal marks the end of a major battle. But there's more coming and the outcome is far from certain.

And In Other News...

One of the CNN headlines this morning is 8 U.S. soldiers killed in 24 hours in Iraq. It's followed by a nice little link to all the casualties of the war so far. Truly nothing good is happening over there, right?

Once again Chrenkoff has a collection of good news from Iraq, this one being his 28th installment. As usual, it's very long, but if you have the time, I highly recommend reading it.

I still can't decide how much of the MSM's focus on negative events represents a calculated opposition to President Bush. After all, local news programs focus mainly on anything on fire or violent crimes. But it can't be argued that the nature of the coverage presents a very skewed view to the American people. I, for one, am tired of it. Maybe if enough people tire of it, ratings will drop and the MSM will be forced to rethink its approach.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Time For A Change

Redstate links to an editorial, from San Francisco no less, by a self-described "card carrying liberal" who is frustrated with the current state of what I'll call the left half of the Democratic party. The whole piece is somewhat long, but seems very genuine.

I came away from the reading with two thoughts. First, that outrageous and offensive statements, while protected under free speech, can and sometimes do have consequences. These quotes and attitudes:
Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the "courage" of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of Sept. 11 comparable to "automobile statistics." The events of that day were likely premeditated by the White House, Gore Vidal insinuated. Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.
were part of the reason that the author has decided to leave the current progressive movement behind.

My second reaction was one of hope. While many conservatives witness and document the seeming implosion of the Democratic party with a sense of glee, as if watching a hated sports rival choke on national television, I do not. There are many things about a two-party system that I do not like, but worse than a two-party system is a one-party system. If the current liberal thinking had gone astray and is no longer accepted, then it needs to change. I'm sure that I would disagree with a "new liberal" party on many issues--but at least it would offer me and the rest of America a rational choice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Some of the posts on polipundit have been a too extreme for me to recommend, but this one is spot on. The notable part is two quotes by Howard Dean:
I think Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence.
I’ve resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found…I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.
I must admit I was initially curious as to whether Dean's energy could be used to raise funds for Democratic candidates. It is seeming more and more like this was a silly thing to be curious about.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Rebuilding the World Trade Center

There's an article in the NY Post with an interview of Donald Trump. He says he will soon unveil a model of a proposed new trade center, in opposition to the "skeleton" that is planned now. I'm not usually a big Trump fan, but I hope he succeeds with this. This is definitely an emotional response on my part--I don't know how economically viable Trump's plan is. I especially like the attitude and spirit of the idea:
I hope the reaction from the public will cause the political establishment to do what everyone wants to be done, rebuild the World Trade Center, taller and stronger.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Nebraska Gay-Marriage Amendment Ruling

A federal judge in Nebraska ruled yesterday that the state's constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution (story, decision). He cited a whole host on reasons, from the First Amendment to Equal Protection to the Bill of Attainder Clause. The rationale seemed so blatantly wrong that I intended to write something long about this.

As often happens with blogging, someone who is much more knowledgeable than me has beaten me to it. Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy has a long analysis of the decision that basically says everything I could've and much, much more (it helps that he's actually a lawyer). BTW - I think he supports gay marriage, so it's hardly a rant.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Suspension Reduced For Student

A few days ago, I blogged about a high-school student in Georgia who was suspended for 10 days for violating the schools "no cell phones except at lunchtime" policy while talking to his mom, who is stationed in Iraq. It seems that the suspension time has been reduced and the student is now back at school.

My last entry also got few comments suggesting I was overreacting to the situation. I guess what I didn't make clear was that I felt this was just another case of schools swinging too far in the other direction when it comes to discipline. I liken it to stories where students are suspended for "bring a weapon to school" and the weapon turns out to be a rubber band. Truly frightening things have happened as schools in recent memory, but not being able to distinguish between real situations and minor instances isn't going to help the problem.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

" of the greatest wrongs of history"

Good to see President Bush willing to speak out about the Soviets' occupation of eastern Europe at the end of WWII even as he heads to Russia to participate in ceremonies to commemorate the end of the war sixty years ago (CNN story). Speaking in Latvia he emphasized the wrongs committed against the Baltic states even as Putin expressed displeasure that Bush was visiting Latvia and Georgia on this trip. Considering that Putin appears to be increasingly nostalgic about the old Soviet empire it's very important that the leader of the free world speak out about the bad old days. A speech like this is purely symbolic, but symbolism can be important.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Absurd Behavior By School Officials

School officials in Columbus, GA suspended a student for 10-days for using a cell phone after the lunch hour, which is against school rules. The catch is that the student was talking with his mother, who is serving in Iraq.

I certainly hope the family and the community fights this decision.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Why The Iraqi People Will Win

There was a link on polipundit to this story, from a blog of a U.S. soldier currently serving in Iraq. (A mild warning, as the picture in the story is a little disturbing.)

I find the story compelling because it is told first hand; not through ten layers of editors and producers at a MSM outlet and not through the eyes of some blogger 10,000 miles away. I struggle to find a quote from the story, as the entire text is quotable. Please follow the link and read it yourself. Just in case you don't, here are two sections:
He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn't make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her.
One thing seems certain; the people in that neighborhood share our feelings about the terrorists. We are going to go back there, and if any terrorists come out, the soldiers hope to find them. Everybody is still very angry that the insurgents attacked us when the kids were around. Their day will come.
I don't know what your view on the Iraq war is. You may think prudent and necessary or you may abhor it with every fiber of your being. If it matters to you, I was highly skeptical of the U.S. plan in the beginning, but recent events have suggested to me that I may have been shortsighted. But independent of your opinion and mine, please let it be clear the forms of evil that exist in this world.

This little girl didn't die because of President Bush. She didn't die because of America. She died because some cowardly, reprehensible, pathetic excuses for humans specifically drove a car full of explosives at her. They could have waited. She wasn't an innocent bystander. She was a specific target, who was picked to engender support for an immoral cause.

I have no idea of what the future holds in Iraq, though recent events give cause for hope. But if the world is a just place, then the kinds of people who would commit such an act must fail. And they must fail utterly. I hope against hope that the Iraqi people will come to see that. When they do, they will have already won.

NYT and Saving

The NYT has an editorial today bemoaning the fact that the saving rate in the US is as low as it's been in 70 years. It covers the usual culprits, explaining how American culture is too focused on consumption. It even complains about spending driven by the increase in home prices and equity. All in all a vague picture is painted of future dire consequences. Maybe they're right and there will be serious long term consequences for the US economy.

But what's the real problem here:
The biggest culprit is the Bush administration's profligacy, with tax cuts the most glaring driver of the swing from budget surplus to budget deficit over the past four years. Currently, the deficit offsets most of the economy's net private savings.
And the solution:
The most powerful way to increase national savings is to cut the budget deficit. To do that, President Bush and his allies in Congress must defer the gratification they would derive from showering more tax cuts on the affluent.
It's all those pesky tax cuts! Wars, famine, pestilence and lack of savings can all be traced back there! If we just stopped cutting taxes everything would be better. It's not said, but the implication is also that we'd need to raise taxes again (sorry, "roll back" those cuts) to balance the budget. I wonder if it even entered their heads that maybe Congress could balance the budget by cutting back on federal spending. That way with lower taxes people oculd keep more of their own money, which would make it easier to save.

Their final suggestion: "Lawmakers should also refocus their efforts on increasing personal savings," in particular by encouraging particpation in employers retirement plans. As usual, the suggestions are all paternalistic: "including automatic enrollment upon hiring and the automatic allocation of employee contributions." The government should make you contribute however much they decide because the folks in Washington know better than you do whether you can afford it.

Let's be honest here. The federal government can't legislate and enforce a "savings" culture in this country. Attempting to will only result in lots of unintended consequences. If people want to save they will.

Disclaimer: I think people are usually foolish if they don't contribute to 401k plans (when available) at least to the max employer match, though I can imagine circumstances where someone couldn't afford it. Regardless it's still an individual's right to decide what to do with his own money, even if it's a stupid decision.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

How To Save Money The John Kerry Way

As usual, truth is stranger than fiction. If someone told me that multi-multi-millionaire John Kerry would have been foolish enough to use campaign money to pay off parking tickets and buy Red Sox tickets, I would have laughed. While his behavior is, I guess, laughable, I don't find it all that humorous.

You can find this story all over the web. Here it is at the Boston Herald. Hat tip to an interesting blog called the Hedgehog Report, which you should check out if you don't already know about it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Good policies that are unconstitutional

Instapundit has a long post about the constitutionality of the National ID bill that is working its way through Congress (in conference right now). His point: that the federal government doesn't have the power to force the States to implement the system Congress is proposing. I had this same thought a few days ago. While I am strongly in favor of requiring people to present strong proof of identity and citizenship before obtaining a drivers license, I am skeptical that this law is within the bounds of Congressional power.

Glenn also points out that Congress would have the power to make implementation of this system a condition for receipt of federal funds. I hate this power - I think it allows Congress to ignore constitional limits on its power simply through bribery - but it's certainly constitutional.

When analyzing constitutional issues I think a lot of people fall into the trap of mixing up "constitutional" with "good policy". One does not imply the other but there's a strong tendency to uncritically conclude that a law you like is constitutional and one you don't is not, at least when it's not clear cut. I'll grant that good lawyers are less apt to make this mistake than average people, but they certainly fall victim to it as well leading to charges of judicial activism.

Everyone should be able to think of plenty of "good policies" (having desireable effects) that they realize are unconstitutional as well as the opposite. If you can't then you either don't understand the Constitution or you're not thinking critically about it.

UPDATE: I should have said "proof of legal residency" and not "citizenship" as a requirement for a drivers license. I have no problem with legal aliens obtaining a license to drive. My experiences with the horrible driving of some foreign grad students didn't affect me that much...