Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Critiquing the courts when accused rapists go free
“AMAN [sic] ACCUSED of raping a 7-year-old girl and of sexually assaulting an 18-month-old toddler is walking the streets today, thanks to a court ruling that ought to be reversed.” Bad Interpretation - washingtonpost.com
They then give a fair outline of the issues involved (although the accused, Mr. Kanneh, being denied a chance to vindicate himself hardly seems that significant matter – least of all to Mr. Kanneh). But a fair editorial is marred by this nonsensical conclusion:
“This case has garnered extraordinary publicity -- among newspapers and bloggers and on television. Some of that attention has been disturbing. The judge has been unfairly pilloried for doing nothing more than exercising her best judgment in interpreting the law. This kind of abuse only serves to erode confidence in the justice system as a whole and may make another judge think twice before issuing a decision he or she believes is right but is likely to be unpopular. When that happens, justice itself is undermined.”
I wonder if the following counts as pillorying for Washington Post purposes:
"Judge Savage’s America is a land in which sexual assaulters are free to force little children into back-alleys, toddlers sit too afraid to eat their lunch, perverts could break down infants' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be free of worrying about released pedophiles, rapists could be freed at the whim of a judge over mere technicalities”
Is that fair? Of course it isn’t but for context here’s Ted Kennedy commenting on Judge Bork after the Judge was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Reagan.
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government." Robert Bork - Wikipedia
And so impressed the Post must have been with the Senator’s style and manner that they later gave him a voice in their Op-Ed section. As usual, Ted Kennedy took the opportunity to enhance our appreciation of our Judiciary:
“Our new justices consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law.” Roberts and Alito Misled Us (Ted Kennedy in the Washington Post – July 30, 2006)
Of course, the Post is also a consistent contributor to our overall appreciation and respect for justice, even when they disagree:
“Nearly as galling is the majority's paternalistic pretense that the law can be justified by Congress's interest "in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession" and in protecting pregnant women from making a choice they may come to regret…
“The willingness of the two new justices to stray so far from the court's previous rulings is disappointing and ominous.” A Shift on Abortions - washingtonpost.com April 18, 2007
The judiciary is an equal branch with the executive and legislative branches – no more, no less. Their actions are therefore just as deserving of our scorn (or praise) as any action of the other two branches. The Post has long acted accordingly – it should not be so sanctimoniously aghast when others join in.
A War David Ignatius Can Support.
Actually, I have no idea what David Ignatius is saying…which is alright because I doubt anyone else reading him will gleam anything useful from this piece: Sept. 10 in Waziristan
After noting the National Intelligence Estimate’s report on Al Qaeda’s taking up refuge in the Waziristan portion of Pakistan, he settles on a best alternative approach to nullifying that threat:
“[Former CIA officer Henry] Crumpton argues that the United States must take preventive action but that it should do so carefully, through proxies wherever possible. The right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq.”
Of the utmost importance is “It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, the United States should be prepared to go it alone, Crumpton argues.”
Well that certainly narrows it down. Later, Mr. Ignatius explains why such an approach is important:
“Intervening in another Muslim country is risky, to put it mildly. That's why a successful counterinsurgency program would need Pakistani support…”
I love his conclusion:
“The United States can begin to take action now against al-Qaeda's new haven. Or we can wait, and hope that we don't get hit again. The biggest danger in waiting is that if retaliation proves necessary later, it could be ill-planned and heavy-handed -- precisely what got us in trouble in Iraq.”
A few items:
1) Let’s remember that we are still fighting (and dying) in Afghanistan. The Left long ago made the political calculation that criticizing our entry there would not gain much partisan advantage and so have concentrated their ire on Iraq. The Taliban was toppled but no doubt much of what’s constituted in Waziristan is from Afghanistan.
2) The David Ignatius-approved plan has us going into Pakistan with or without Pakistani help. While I don’t necessarily disagree with him on this, how does going in alone not come across as heavy-handed? Since he has seemingly bought into the we-create-terrorists school of thought, he should explain how this potential unilateral action would not also be a creationist event.
3) Since he has to know that the UN would never, EVER!! approve such a move, would he have us even bother to seek such approval? And if not, how does this ever get out of a Democratic Congress?
In a piece outlining a suggested military approach to a growing Al Qaeda presence in Pakistan, he litters his column with snide asides about our efforts in Iraq. I’ll suggest those efforts are the reason he can now concentrate his considerable military prowess on Waziristan instead of lamenting an entrenched, well-organized Al Qaeda’s presence throughout the Mideast.
Good News from Iraq? That would suck!!
“But of late there have been signs that the commander of U.S. forces might be preparing something more generally positive. Clyburn said that would be "a real big problem for us." Clyburn: Positive Report by Petraeus Could Split House Democrats on War - washingtonpost.com
Monday, July 30, 2007
A Blast from the (thankfully) Past
“Almost all of that evolution, under presidents and vice presidents of both parties, has been positive -- until now. Under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it has gone seriously off track.” Walter F. Mondale - Answering to No One - washingtonpost.com
He explains that the VP attains any power only through delegation by the president. He notes that President Bush has so delegated. Somehow our former vice-president finds this nefarious. Other points are just petulant potshots:
“Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him.”
Well, the people did RE-elect him…unlike some other VP from 27 years ago. But what I key off on was his parting shot:
“…I remain enormously proud of what we did in those four years, especially that we told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace.”
Kept the peace? After four years of Jimmy Carter, the world was enjoying an Iraq-Iran war, a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Sandinistas taking over in Nicarauga. And of course there were our own embassy folks in Tehran who spent the final year of the Carter-Mondale presidency in considerably less–than-peaceful conditions. My lasting memory of those difficult times is not the relative peace on earth “kept” by that administration. It remains an ongoing mystery to me how anyone prominently identified with the Carter presidency can feel anything but self-conscious over criticizing any other administration.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
The Eloquence of Ellison
“Whole days – even weeks – have gone by without me being asked to speak on behalf of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world.” On Faith: Muslims Speak Out Blog
…and having heard some of his previous comments, I can understand why:
“On comparing Sept. 11 to the burning of the Reichstag building in Nazi Germany: "It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you." Atheists applaud Ellison's views on Cheney, Libby, 9/11
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Professor Ahmed writes a play
“Ahmed says his goal is to enlighten Americans about the diversity in the Muslim world.” Akbar Ahmed's 'Noor,' a Paean to Religious Tolerance - washingtonpost.com
The impetus behind the article is that Mr. Ahmed has written a play:
“"Noor," directed by Shirley Serotsky, is the tale of three brothers who try desperately to rescue their sister Noor, who has been kidnapped by unidentified soldiers during Ramadan….Each brother represents a different ideological position in the contemporary Islamic world….The catastrophe deepens when the mother of Noor's fiance breaks off the engagement, refusing to allow her son to marry a girl who almost certainly has been raped.”
Mr. Ahmed is from Pakistan (although born in India) and is now a professor at American University. By most accounts, he is quite accomplished in his field. But please:
“He says that what the West views as violence motivated by religious extremism is actually often motivated by mainstream Muslims' attempts to defend their honor and dignity. He also is highly critical of the American media for propagating images of Muslims as mindless and bloodthirsty.”
Honor and dignity? Here’s Amnesty International about one aspect of Pakistan’s sense of honor:
“The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men. Male relatives virtually own them and punish contraventions of their proprietary control with violence. …But if women begin to assert their rights, however tentatively, the response is harsh and immediate: the curve of honour killings has risen parallel to the rise in awareness of rights.” Pakistan: Honour killings of women and girls - Amnesty International
Amnesty International is too PC to identify exactly why honor killings are so popular there but even a non-academic like me feels comfortable in ruling out any strong Judeo-Christian influence. Mr. Ahmed’s play apparently touches on the idea that perhaps the woman kidnapped has also been raped. In Mr. Ahmed’s Pakistan however, rape is no excuse, as Amnesty again relates:
“For a woman to be targeted for killing in the name of honour, her consent -- or the lack of consent -- in an action considered shameful is irrelevant to the guardians of honour. Consequently, a woman brings shame on her family if she is raped.”In March 1999 a 16-year-old mentally retarded girl, Lal Jamilla Mandokhel, was reportedly raped several times… A jirga of Pathan tribesmen decided that she had brought shame to her tribe and that the honour could only be restored by her death. She was shot dead in front of a tribal gathering.”
My first thought then when reading the Post summary of the play was if and how the playwright addresses this issue and still somehow helps bridge the gap between our cultures. Because there are a few chasms that just can’t be bridged.
And that first thought of mine no doubt exemplifies just why the professor laments our perception of Muslim violence. Yet I’m not sure he grasps just why the perception is so. Writing last year in Newsweek, he applauded a German opera house’s decision to not go forward with a Mozart piece because of its presentation of Mohammed. He thinks it showed great cultural sensitivity; many of us instead think it was a cowardly capitulation and in any event, merely reinforced the idea that the perceived potential for nameless Muslim crowds rioting acted as a bully seeking to impose its own ideals on the West. He sees the conflict thusly:
“The West continued to insist on freedom of expression and the Muslims continued to insist on their right to protest when the central figure of their religion, that is, the Prophet of Islam, was under attack. Lives were lost and property damaged across the world.” Mozart and Muslims: What Have We Learned?
Well, the right to protest is part of our freedom of expression but when lives are lost and property damaged, we tend not to chalk it up to mere protest. Instead, it propagates an image of the protesters as “mindless and bloodthirsty.”
Good luck with that play Professor.
Sidenote: Professor Ahmed is a Muslim scholar from the Arab world who fled to the West. And part of the problems we are having between the cultures?
“What deepens the divide, Ahmed says, is the brain drain of Muslim scholars from the Arab world, many of whom have been killed or have fled to the West. "The scholarly vacuum," he lamented, "leaves thugs and tyrants."
The professor’s presence here vice back in the Arab world therefore propagates an image all its own.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Diversity under attack
“Seventeen-year-old Quantae Williams doesn't understand why the U.S. Supreme Court struck down his school district's racial diversity program.
“He now dreads the prospect of leaving his mixed-race high school in suburban Louisville and returning to the poor black downtown schools where he used to get in fights.”
Yep – it’s the end of diversity as we know it. And Reuters’s Andrea Hopkins is there to document its demise. Students, schools fear end of racial diversity - washingtonpost.com
Perhaps constrained by space, Ms. Hopkins doesn’t get a similar quote from the poor schlub who had to be bussed to the “poor black downtown schools” where Mr. Williams once fought. No – this is a we-are-the-world piece - complete with one of those one-of-my-best-friends-is quotes (in this instance: “One of my best friends is Guatemalan”). The emphasis is on how diversity is PERCEIVED to be threatened in the wake of this dastardly act by the Supreme Court
Of course, nowhere in Ms. Hopkins piece does she – or any of her sources – explain exactly how the recent Supreme Court decision now forces Mr. Williams or anyone to go to a certain school. It doesn’t. It merely says you can’t deny entrance to a certain school simply because that school is maxed out on the color of the prospective student.
Ms. Hopkins explains:
“The Supreme Court's new conservative majority declared that taking race into account to integrate a school is just as bad as using race to segregate one. Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's sole black member, agreed.”
(For the uninitiated, the term “conservative” is usually a pejorative in the Reuters lexicon…and why do you think she specially mentions Justice Thomas?)
And glossed over in the middle of the article is how the Supreme Court came to opine on the matter in the first place:
“Some schools remain majority black, however, and some parents resented having their children bused to a lower-performing school in the name of racial diversity.
“Crystal Meredith sued in 2003 when her 5-year-old son was refused a place in his preferred schools because he was white.”
Ms. Merdith’s son was little more than a human pain pill, used to try to assuage liberal guilt in Louisville. For all their talk about diversity, I’m going to guess none of the struck-down program’s defenders would go on record criticizing such non-diversity programs as the United Negro College Fund or the gender makeup of Smith College. We should want to ensure that the likes of Mr. Williams have access to decent schools but not at the expense of Ms. Merdith’s son.
I dunno – maybe look into vouchers?
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Responding to "Confused in VA"
“A burly man known for his bravado and rhetorical punch, he ascended in Annapolis, first as a delegate and then as a senator, becoming one of Maryland's most powerful public officials. But the swagger that drove Thomas L. Bromwell's remarkable rise in politics is gone now as he plans to plead guilty this morning to federal racketeering and tax crimes.” Bromwell Says He Accepts His Fate - washingtonpost.com
I was alerted to this bit of news by the posting of reader “Confused in VA” who notes:
"Here's my confusion, for some reason, the WP never actually identifies TB's political party. Is this because TB is a Republican and the WP seeks to limit that party's embarrassment, or am I missing something?” Comment July 24, 2007
Well, Confused, it’s understandable that living in Virginia you may not be familiar with politics here in Maryland but the phrase “powerful public officials” is rarely ever uttered in connection with Republicans. Oh sure, they’re occasionally sighted in Annapolis and there was that whole Ehrlich mess of a few years ago but basically, this as a Blue a state as you’ll find.
I offer all this as a primer before telling you that yes, as you astutely noticed, the Post does not mention Mr. Bromwell’s political affiliation but not for the reason you suggest. No, it turns out that Mr. Bromwell is actually a Democrat from Baltimore County. That the Post didn’t reveal that factoid can only mean that they didn’t consider his party membership at all relevant to his accession to power in an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature. You know, the power that made him so attractive to outside interests. Apparently, the Post believes he would have similarly disgraced himself had he been a Republican. It would be cynical of us to suggest a more partisan reasoning so I won't. ..but thanks for reading.
I'd check my next legal bill...
Two reasons to wonder why we continue to turn our lives over to lawyers:
1) Amy Jenkins – Summer Intern at Steptoe & Johnson and making $2,700 a week there:
“Her last serious job was working as a camp counselor in North Carolina.
"I definitely feel like a grown-up for the first time, because it's the first real responsible type of job I've had, as opposed to taking girls out to the river," she said, flanked by two tables of twentysomething contemporaries.”
(Ed. Note – Unless her employer has completely lost it – and paying any law school student that much money does cause one to wonder - Ms. Jenkins has zippo responsibilities this summer; certainly none that compare with taking girls out to a river and, you know, being responsible for their lives.)
2) "I feel like I deserve it," said Vincenza Battaglia, 25, a rising third-year law student summering at Steptoe & Johnson. "We work really hard in law school."
(If working hard in grad school somehow morally compels the market to pay you these rates, then the bidding for med school students should start at at least $10,000/week.)
These young, overpaid, soon-to-be lawyers are probably good-grades students from so-called top tier schools. When they finally start working, they’ll make lots of money while working long days. Their billing rates will have no relationship to actual value. Most will decide it sucks and go work elsewhere.
The article makes it sound like we are facing a shortage of lawyers; we’re not. There are plenty of us out there. However, few (if any) industries are as school-focused as the law. It is not uncommon for a want ad to ask for 5 years experience and a Top-10 law school degree. Any shortages then are probably self-imposed. Believe me – at half these rates, a law firm could probably go to American University or the University of Baltimore and get plenty of competent help. Instead…
“They're hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs.” Outsourcing the Picket Line - washingtonpost.com
Monday, July 23, 2007
Alice in Mallabyland
“But the villagers involved in Tecnosol's project are being cheated. They are not getting paid for reducing emissions, even though solar conversions are good for the climate, good for health and good for poverty reduction.”
…but, most of all, good for the VILLAGERS! The solar conversions allowed those villagers to have the energy to develop and irrigate farmland, heat and light homes – all the things we take for granted in our connected energy grid system. Only in Mr. Mallaby’s world would that constitute being cheated. I suspect it was more than just space limitations that accounted for the lack of pity-me quote from one of those cheated villagers. (…and perhaps because it wouldn’t have dove-tailed nicely with the overall tone of this piece, there is also no mention of the US contribution to Tecnosol’s success.)
But he’s not done yet; this is a global warming bit and he predictably laments US non-participation in worldwide efforts:
“The Kyoto system represents the culmination of a huge global diplomatic effort, and the United States was wrong to turn its back on it.”
That gentle chide is immediately followed up though with this:
“Nevertheless, the system has not lived up to its promise. Nearly all the trading under the Kyoto mechanism involves comparatively rich developing countries such as China and projects that generally don't benefit the poor, such as capturing greenhouse gases created as byproducts in industrial processes. Almost no money goes to the least developed countries or to poor people. The reasons are partly understandable: It's easier to trade bulky industrial offsets than to collect small tokens of progress from dozens of remote villages. But even with that caveat, the Kyoto mechanism works badly.”
Yep – Kyoto sucks but we should still be part of it. Remarkably, he concludes:
“But if Congress creates a mandatory cap-and-trade system that mimics Kyoto's clunkiness, it will funnel billions to Chinese industrialists, creating perverse incentives for greater emissions. And Nicaraguan villagers will be cheated.”
So, to summarize: With US help, some Nicaraguans now have clean, plentiful energy where previously their sources were harmful and limited. Also, the Kyoto system is not doing what it was supposed to do and Congress should not seek to emulate it here. The Mallaby Take on all this: The Nicaraguans got a raw deal and we should be part of Kyoto.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Another Washington Post lecture
“In both cases, the favorite fantasy of elected politicians is that the pressure on undocumented residents will drive them out of the county and into the waiting arms of the feds. Not likely.
“Illegal immigrants are in Northern Virginia for the same reason that they are in so many other parts of the country: Their labor is in demand. That's not going to change, unless the powers that be in Prince William and Loudoun have discovered a way to defeat market forces.” Nativism's Toxic Cloud - washingtonpost.com
NOW the Washington Post cites market forces?? Does anyone recall the Post ever seeing a minimum wage hike it couldn’t support? Don’t minimum wage rates simply defy the market forces – with the mere passage of a law - that have people working at a lower wage rate?
To the extent that illegal immigrants are in demand (idle thought - do you think the Post has any on their editorial staff?), such demand is not just for their labor but for their labor at a certain price. Anyone with even a basic understanding of supply-and-demand knows what more supply at cheaper prices does for any market.
The Senate failure to pass immigration reform is just an outward sign of their political unwillingness to address the part of the problem that most would seem to agree on – enforcement of current standards. I applaud Loudon and Prince William Counties for attempting to take care of their little part of the world – perhaps their efforts will make life uncomfortable for illegals trying to settle there. If that chases them off to their more “progressive” neighbors to the north – even better. Of course, best of all would be if the problem relocated into the comfy neighborhoods occupied by these enlightened and condescending denizens of the Post editorial staff. That would give them a long overdue opportunity to walk the walk.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Great moments in Political Responsibility
“The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution yesterday that would limit illegal immigrants' access to county services and penalize employers who hire them, … One week after Prince William County officials took a similar step, Loudoun's supervisors voted unanimously for the resolution, which they said was necessary to stop blight and curb crime, especially on the county's border with Herndon and Fairfax County.” Loudoun Approves Measure Targeting Illegal Immigrants
“Voted unanimously” – that’s why you got to love this bit of political blame game:
“Loudoun Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge) complained that he was being "railroaded" on a complex and sensitive issue. "To be handed a resolution on the day we meet, and to be asked to vote on it without understanding the consequences or the content of that resolution, is irresponsible," he said.”
To be clear, for Mr. Burton to be asked to vote on a resolution “without understanding the consequences or the content of that resolution” – that’s irresponsible. On the other hand, I guess actually voting for a resolution “without understanding the consequences or the content of that resolution”…
No One Chooses to be a Terrorist; We Create Them
“The White House faced fresh political peril yesterday in the form of a new intelligence assessment that raised sharp questions about the success of its counterterrorism strategy and judgment in making Iraq the focus of that effort.”
I read it to mean that Iraq is now the key ongoing Al Qaeda operation so our continued attention to it is a worthwhile endeavor. Obviously we disagree...whatever. What’s irksome to me though is that Mr. Abramowitz allows one Daniel Benjamin the last word and he uses it to repeat that tired canard of how our presence in Iraq “creates” terrorists:
“Referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Clinton administration official Daniel S. Benjamin, who has written books and articles on international terrorism, said: "These are bad guys. These are jihadists." He added: "That doesn't mean we [should] stay in Iraq the way we have been, because we are not making the situation any better. We're creating terrorists in Iraq, we are creating terrorists outside of Iraq who are inspired by what's going on in Iraq. . . . The longer we stay, the more terrorists we create."
I simply cannot accept such banality. The US was subject to terrorist attacks long before this latest foray into Iraq – terrorists’ numbers didn’t seem to want through the Clinton administration. When Khobar Towers made the news in June 1996, Daniel Benjamin was working as a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Presidential Speechwriter (he would later serve as Director for Transnational Threats for the National Security Council). Do you think he was then forcibly arguing to the President that our forces staying in Khobar probably “created” those terrorists? Perhaps it will come to light in a subsequent release of Presidential papers but I’m going to guess that Mr. Benjamin wasn’t that obtuse. For that matter, did the USS Cole’s stop in Yemen in October 2000 quickly “create” the terrorists that attacked the ship?
This all seems part and parcel with the tedious tendency of many of our brethren on the left to ascribe (blame) wanton human behavior as a creation of Society – more specifically, American Society. The U.S. has had troops stationed around the world for years (and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of those forward deployments). They attract their detractors but, by and large, I would think it be tough to blame any terrorists’ activities in Germany, South Korea or Japan as of our “creation”. Honestly, doesn’t part of the blame for the “creation” of terrorists – like, say, 99.99% - rest with the terrorist themselves?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Great moments in Reading Comprehension
“We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland.” NIE Document July 17, 2007
Here’s Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, take on that:
"The NIE released today points out that the real threat to the U.S. homeland emanates from Afghanistan and Pakistan, not Iraq," Reyes said.” Intelligence Report Warns of al-Qaeda's Capabilities - washingtonpost.com (UPDATE: here’s Rep. Reyes full statement: Statement on NIE, July 17, 2007)
Which would be worse: that he commented without reading the report (the actual Judgments are only two pages) or that he commented having fully read it?
Dog Bites Man; E.J. Dionne wants more Campaign Finance Reforms
“The small-donor uprising, which began in the 2004 campaign, could fundamentally alter the direction of American politics without any changes in the law.”
But, of course, liberals can’t be liberals without getting government even more involved:
“But if Congress took some modest steps, it could ensure this revolution's success and do so in a way that even judicial conservatives could accept.”
These “modest” steps include:
“A big part of that fix should be to offer large matches of public funds -- perhaps $5 for every dollar raised privately -- but only for contributions of $100 or less. The aim should be to give candidates strong new incentives to raise small money rather than big money. Congress should give tax credits of up to $100 for political contributions and consider vouchers of, say, $25 that every registered voter could direct toward the campaign of his or her choice.”
I am philosophically opposed to public finance so Mr. Dionne and I are just going to have to disagree on this. And I’m not sure what the point of all this is – is his complaint that campaigns cost too much? Then rearranging the money sources doesn’t seem to change that dynamic. Or is he complaining that Big Donors have too much influence? Well, it would be nice if the money-corrupts crowd in the House and Senate would identify who among them has been so corrupted. Otherwise, it’s tough to see why an individual giving $25,000 is any more “corrupting” than a union leader delivering hundreds of bodies for campaign work.
Also not addressed by Mr. Dionne is the unintended consequence of campaigns starting so much earlier because of all the fundraising required. With campaign contributions limited, it simply takes that much longer to raise the cash needed to run a campaign.
Finally, Mr. Dionne continues with this complete miscast of a recent Supreme Court decision:
“The court's recent 5 to 4 decision eviscerating Congress's efforts to regulate the flow of corporate and union cash into campaign activities will require reformers to think anew.”
This is a reference to the recent Wisconsin Right to Life decision. The Wisconsin Right to Life organization is not a corporation in the usual business sense (incorporated for entity structure purposes only) and it is not a union. It was pouring no cash into any campaign. It merely wanted to encourage fellow Wisconsin citizens to contact their two Senators to urge an up-and-down vote on judicial nominees. In doing so it would have named Russ Feingold by name and Russ Feingold was running for re-election. Seriously – can anyone offer a well-reasoned argument on why WRTL should have been allowed to name Herb Kohl but not Russ Feingold…or why citizens in general should not be allowed to name their elected officials in certain media in the days and weeks leading up to an election?
Of course, much of the criticism for this decision is coming from the print media (e.g: E. J. Dionne) which enjoys many privileges (especially press access), can and does make a lot of money running campaign ads (unrestricted as to when they run) and, of course, can print anything they want as news or opinion – using all the names they want – without being subject to federal government interference…you know, because of the First Amendment.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Senator Clinton might want to consult TurboTax
“Hillary Clinton today announced her support for cracking down on the tax loophole that allows some Wall Street investment managers to pay dramatically lower tax rates on their income than those paid by average working Americans. Current tax laws allow investment managers in certain partnerships to take large amounts of their compensation in the form of "carried interest," which is taxed at the low 15% capital gains rate, rather than at income tax rates as high as 35%.” HillaryClinton.com - Media Release
Of course, the classic definition of a loophole is a tax benefit not available to you. Here, I honestly don’t believe Ms. Clinton knows enough about this issue to effectively discuss the mechanics of how partnerships are taxed. In fact, I doubt Ms. Clinton really has much of a grounding in the mechanics of our tax system as a whole. I state this because of this piece of red meat she shoved out to her peeps:
"It offends our values as a nation when an investment manager making $50 million can pay a lower tax rate on her earned income than a teacher making $50,000 pays on her income.”
I’m sorry but that just doesn’t make any sense. Let’s assume our $50,000 a year teacher is married, filing joint and her spouse is also making $50,000 a year. They have no children. I’m also going to assume they have deductions of $20,000 ($12,000 for mortgage interest, $5,000 for state income & property taxes and $2,000 for charitable). That brings their income down to $80,000. Now we can deduct their personal exemption of $6,600 ($3,300 each) and we arrive at taxable income of $73,400. Their tax on that would be $11,465 or an effective tax rate of 11.465% (although they are in the 25% tax bracket for each additional dollar earned).
[Ed. Note: Even if they have no deductions and instead use the standard deduction of $10,300, their effective rate is still less than 14%]
Now look at our $50,000,000 hedge fund manager. Similar scenario only we’ll assume the spouse doesn’t work – he’s a bum who hangs out at the country club trying to break 90. Usually, these managers will make some earned income off the value of the investments being managed so if you’re pulling in $50,000,000, you’re probably managing a rather sizable fund. So it’s not unreasonable to assume she is pulling in at least $336,551 of earned income which puts her into the 35% tax bracket for earned. Because of her overall income, her exemptions and deductions are phasing out (if not phased out) meaning she has little shelter on any of her income. Her effective tax rate will be at least 15% because she’s paying on that huge Cap Gain plus the incremental on her earned income.
Bottom line, the $50,000 school teacher’s spouse would have to make approximately $85,000 (with no change in deductions) before they would approach the 15% effective tax rate. And it’s the latter couple that has an AMT worry…
There may be policy arguments for changing income characterization – although I default to the “no new taxes” position – but once again Ms. Clinton’s turn to demagoguery has me thinking she just isn’t as serious and knowledgeable as she is so lovingly portrayed.
WaPo Gurus on the McCain Campaign
“Many of McCain's current problems can be traced to factors outside the campaign organization, particularly his support for the Iraq war and immigration reform.”
“As the situation in Iraq deteriorated, his staunch support for Bush's troop increase became a drag on his national poll numbers. The problem became worse during an April trip to Iraq, where he walked through a marketplace -- protected by 100 soldiers and their vehicles -- and remarked afterward how safe it was. His comments were mocked by war critics for weeks.”
Yes, his comments were mocked but that had little effect on his fundraising. On the contrary, his steadfast support for our mission in Iraq is one of the few things that keeps John McCain from becoming an asterisk in Republican polling. John McCain’s problems began with his ongoing call to limit speech in the guise of campaign reform – culminating in McCain-Feingold. But that serves only as a backdrop to his recent enthusiastic support for the latest efforts at revising immigration rules. His condescending demeanor to opponents (and he was not alone in this) was a condescending demeanor to many of his potential supporters. It didn’t play well and it's this stance that is singularly responsible for his late tanking in the polls.
I have no doubt that many in the press have soured on Mr. McCain precisely because of his support of our Iraq involvement. But they should know better than to extrapolate from that nothing-to-do-with-the-GOP sample size and posit the thinking of the Republican electorate.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Lessons to lessen the bad words
“Montgomery County educators are replacing a lesson that called for students to read about and discuss a racial epithet against African Americans as a precursor to reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" in ninth-grade English classes.” Montgomery Finds Racial Slur Offends, No Matter the Context - washingtonpost.com
Apparently this was “…an introductory lesson whose purpose was to prepare…for the racist language in the book.” Prepare? We're talking about ninth graders. The teachers probably had to tell them to turn off their iPods full of Rap to take the class.
And mind you, they’re not replacing the lesson because they suddenly realized it was a colossal waste of time and resources. No – they’re replacing it because it led to that most mortal sin of all mortal sins in this PC-addled county; it “offended” someone.
We hear a lot about how smart today’s kids are supposed to be but we continue to treat them like morons. Awhile ago there was an apparent fear that kids wouldn’t recognize that Joe Camel was not really a camel and, you know, perhaps take him seriously. Now we have them taking classes just to psychologically prepare them to read a classic.
On any serious short list of Greatest American Novels, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a given and myriads of us have read it (again and again) without any long-term trauma. The context of the word’s usage makes it readily obvious that it is NOT a term of endearment. And despite being educated in a county that is at the vanguard of Political Correctness, I’m guessing most kids will recognize that...sans the PC-tripe that this county is always so eager to dish out.
Plan B update
“The popularity of the morning-after pill Plan B has surged in the year since the federal government approved the sale of the controversial emergency contraceptive without a prescription.”
(Don’t most sales ‘surge’ after the item or service is deregulated?)
Anyway, all is not well despite the new-found freedom to buy. Apparently, you have to be at least 18 years old to buy Plan B and I guess this can put a crimp in a 16 year old’s inalienable right to have unprotected sex. Even worse:
“The requirement means women must show proof of their age, which could make it more difficult for some women, such as illegal immigrants, to obtain the pill.”
…yet one more reason why we desperately need a COMPREHENSIVE immigration bill right now.
One only wonders what quick-thinking Dana L. thinks of all this.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The INITIAL Benchmark Assessment Report on Iraq
“A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.” July 9, 2007: Official: Report will say no goals met in Iraq - Politics - MSNBC.com
(…and a mid-season progress report on the Boston Red Sox has concluded that they have not yet met any of their 2007 goals of winning the AL East, the AL Pennant or the World Series.)
A few days later:
“The Iraqi government has made mixed progress in meeting political and security goals, U.S. officials said Thursday citing a report that may add to rising calls for a change of course in the unpopular war.” July 12, 2007: White House gives Iraq a mixed review - Politics - MSNBC.com
Wish I knew who these officials are but unfortunately “the officials… requested anonymity because the report had not yet been made public.” MSNBC tells us this one paragraph after noting that “[t]he widely anticipated report [was] released Thursday”. What’s more, they helpfully include a link to the “not yet been made public” report. Interim_Benchmark_Report.pdf
...which I think you'll have to use if you want to better understand the nuances of the report rather than rely on MSNBC's cadre of U.S. officials.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Wait a minute - John Murtha Lied Again?
That was then, this is now:
“An investigating officer in the case against [Lance Cpl. Sharratt] accused of killing civilians in Haditha, Iraq, has recommended that all charges against him be dropped, concluding that the government's allegations that the Marine executed a group of men in a residential home are "unsupported and incredible." Officer Recommends Haditha Charges Dropped Against Marine
Remember this is the incident about which John Murtha explicitly said “[o]ur troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood." (Lawmaker: Marines deliberately killed Iraqis) He based this claim, he says, on a military briefing but there is a more-than-a-reasonable suspicion that perhaps John Murtha lied about the timeline behind that briefing (in other words, he shot his mouth off BEFORE he had any real knowledge of the incident). Here’s the link to any press releases he may issue in light of this latest information…and not seeing any doesn’t mean the link is broken.
I’ll enjoy comparing and contrasting coverage of this ongoing collapsing case as yet again we learn that, by and large, our military is stocked with a professional and honorable people. Accordingly, I have no problem standing by my earlier comments on this matter.
A Rose - or Voucher - By Any Other Name
“Democrats in the Senate should therefore introduce an amendment to authorize and make easier cross-district transfers — not on a specifically race-conscious basis, but solely to fulfill the professed intention of the law.”
In other words, he thinks students should be able to transfer from poorly performing schools into better schools – even if that means crossing school district lines...oh, and of course, the Federal government should actively involved in making this happen.
Now to me that sounds kind of like a voucher program but, of course, it couldn’t be anything like a voucher program because, as we’ve been told:
“"Vouchers have the potential to rip apart the social fabric of this nation," Kozol said” 2000 WEAC Convention
After hearing that, well, let’s just say that it was a long night on the computer: "Official" Pamela Martin and Associates Telephone Records
Nothing incriminating yet…so thanks to all who offered to be an alibi but looks like I won’t need it.
UPDATE: For the record, this is not at all related to my recent sudden move from Baltimore and the attendant all new phone numbers I received.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Yet another MBAer with a Race-related posting
“I think that there is also in the media a perception of white middle-class immunity to self-destructive attitudes, a false perception. Part of what makes racism so virulent among a lot of blue-collar whites is the recognition among blue-collar whites that they themselves are about one paycheck, one person or one mistake from the problems of many black Americans; the rural or suburban trailer park and the urban "'hood" are not so different in substance, and there are white and black trailer parks and urban ghettoes alike in different parts of the U.S.”
Virulent racism? First, can we please define today’s racism before ascribing words like ‘virulent” to it? Is it the dislike of someone because of their skin color? Maybe there is no animosity but a thought that a certain skin color doesn’t measure up intellectually? Maybe a combination of the two? Let me throw out another form – which really isn’t racism as traditionally understood - but is rather just painting political opposition with as ugly a term as possible (and I honestly do not believe that is what Bruce is trying to do here).
My experience is that much of today’s virulent racism is simply a dislike of the parameters of racial politics. I remember sitting in a neighborhood bar in south Baltimore years ago when the image of the Reverend Jesse Jackson came on the TV. A few stools down from me was a guy just off from work (I think he was a forklift operator at Domino Sugar) who captured him perfectly:
“look at that son-of-a-bitch; I’ll bet that suit costs more than everything in my closet”
I laughed (he was probably right…even if he included the cost of my wardrobe) but I was also struck by his succinctness. I don’t remember what the Rev. Jackson was whining about (actually I’m just guessing he was whining – the sound was down - but does anybody want to bet against it?) but many of us instinctively roll our eyes at the mere sight of him. From the perspective of that gentleman in the bar, he didn’t see where being Black had done Jesse Jackson any great harm nor did he see where being White had done himself any great shakes.
…and no amount of blather from some overhyped sociologists (is that redundant?) is going to change that perception. That guy had no problem with blacks as individuals – clearly he worked and drank with them. What he had a problem with was the idea that he was somehow part of the problem and should do a kind of penance for the past misdeeds of others who happened to share a common skin color.
No one seriously argues that slavery was anything but a stain on our history but many can also trace their lineage to ancestors who died in ridding us of it (well, not completely, there is still the Sudan). Many others can completely trace their ancestry to those who came over well after slavery was gone from here. So, just because racial agitators assign us guilt by pale skin association, there is no requirement that we either accept their verdict - and certainly there is no moral imperative to - nor even pay them much heed.
In other words, many of us are simply refusing to let the professional moral elites from the Left unilaterally set the parameters as to what is or isn’t correct behavior and speech. Refusing a kid access to a particular school because of race is either right or wrong – not just wrong unless it is being done by a bunch of well-meaning liberals. Certain words are either appropriate or they aren’t and I don’t need a hate-inspiring, anti-Semitic like Al Sharpton to give me absolution if he thinks I’ve gone astray.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates this self-righteous equivalence than the uncivil (to put it in almost ironic terms) treatment of Justice Thomas. I am convinced that many guilt-ridden white liberals are so virulently (if I may) disdainful of him because he represents one of the few opportunities for them publicly attack a black without any of the unfortunate political repercussions a similar attack on, say, Rep. Elijah Cummings would invite. Diversity is only as important as the reliability of the vote.
There are obviously numerous other points to comment on in both Bruce and Ken’s postings, entailing more time and thought than I can allocate at this time. So I’ll just close by observing that I share Bruce’s optimism as to the future in this regard. But I do so because I think we are already a lot further ahead than many believe – especially those whose present and future livelihood depends on us thinking otherwise…you know, like Jesse Jackson, John Edwards and a good chunk of the Duke University faculty.
Friday, July 06, 2007
More Proof DC is a Big-Time CIty
As most around DC are aware, the PGA is at Congressional Country Club for an impressive golf tournament and I had planned to be there for the entire weekend…but now this pops up:
Live Earth Concert to Be Held in Washington on Saturday
Now you may not be aware of it but Mr. Gore originally wanted very much to have his show featured in Washington. But, like everything else in life in America, the Republicans got in the way. Here’s Post writer J. Freedom du Lac’s (whose usual beat is pop music) description today of what went wrong with the original schedule:
“Gore had originally hoped to stage the primary U.S. show in Washington, but finding a suitable venue proved difficult. The Mall was booked for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as well as a Christian festival called Together One Unity. A bipartisan effort to bring the concert to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol ran into Republican roadblocks.”
Here’s the same J. Freedom du Lac reporting this past April when the whole thing went down:
“Gore and the Live Earth producers had hoped to bring the North American Live Earth show to Washington, but finding a suitable venue here proved difficult. The obvious choice -- the Mall -- was booked for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as a Christian festival called Together One Unity, and a bipartisan resolution to bring the concert to the Capitol grounds ran into Republican roadblocks.” Washington Was Too Hot, Politically, For Al Gore's Live Earth Concert
Bet he’s glad he put that on a Shortcut-Key.
To complete the record, that bi-partisan resolution was simply Senators Harry Reid and Olympia Snowe trying to get an OK for the concert to be performed on the west side of the Capitol. And the Republican roadblocks consisted of Senator McConnell objecting to a unanimous consent to that resolution and Sen. Inhofe portraying the event for what it is:
"there has never been a partisan political event at the Capitol, and this is a partisan political event."
God bless Senator Inhofe. See you at Congressional.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Power to the Pundit
“A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion.” David S. Broder - A Mob-Rule Moment
Then, while implicitly placing himself among the ranks of Aristotle and Edmund Burke, he laments Congress actually paying heed to the perceived popular will. He is particularly regretful over Congressional inactions on immigration and trade policy.
This not a new meme for Mr. Broder; his 2000 book “Democracy Derailed” hit on a similar theme. I suppose, in the good old days, Congress would instead read columnists like David Broder to delineate their correct course of action and the People probably weren't as informed or as inflamed. Instead:
“In today's Washington, a badly weakened president and a dangerously compliant congressional leadership are no match for the power of public opinion -- magnified and sometimes exaggerated by modern communications and interest group pressure.”
["dangerously compliant congressional leadership"????]
He’s not always so disdainful of public opinion:
“The gap between public opinion and Washington reality has rarely been wider than on the issue of the Iraq war. A clear national mandate is being blocked -- for now -- by constraints that make sense only in the short-term calculus of politics in this capital city.” A War The Public Will End
And before that:
“The latter verdict -- backed by public opinion polls -- carries more weight. So the Democrats are fully justified in their effort to limit the use of war funds by imposing deadlines or target dates for the withdrawal of American combat forces.” Time for A Bargain On the War
Now, can you guess which of these columns he ended the following with:
“You can win elections by promising people what they want. But you win your place in history by doing what the country needs done.”
(Hint, he wanted the immigration and fast-track trade negotiation bills to pass; he is not a current big supporter of our involvement in Iraq)
Per the Post, Gov. O'Malley is Keeping it Real
“Slots would be a mistake, a tax on the poor that would tether the state to an unreliable revenue source that has attracted corruption and social problems elsewhere.” Mr. O'Malley Gets Real
Ah yes, the old tax on the poor. Since playing the slots is 100% voluntary, is the Post suggesting that the poor are too stupid to know what’s good for them and therefore to protect them from themselves, we must place restrictions on everyone?
Of course they are. They’re liberals and that's their mantra: Trust us; we know what’s best for you.
Side Note: Here’s the Post’s suggestion for the Governor:
“A better option would be for the governor to begin speaking specifically about the fiscally sound alternatives that Maryland's obsolete tax code has avoided for years -- including revamped taxes on corporations, services, income, sales and gasoline.”
When they write “revamped”, can someone make the case that in this instance, this isn’t a synonym for “higher”?
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Wait a minute - the Left wants Libby to go to Jail?
June 28, 2007: Hillary Clinton at the Democratic candidates’ debate:
“Nonviolent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system.!” Tavis Smiley . Special Feature . All-American Presidential Forums . Democratic Candidates: Hillary Clinton PBS
Four days later:
“This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice." HillaryClinton.com - Media Release
On a more serious note: Soccer Dad: Libby's pardon; Crablaw's Maryland Weekly: The Libby Commutation
UPDATE: Self-Congratulatory Note - The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto cited this posting in his popular daily “Best of the Web” on Tuesday – for which I am understandably thrilled. Special thanks to Soccer Dad for thinking enough of it to bring it to Mr. Taranto’s attention.
Monday, July 02, 2007
A "Progressive" look at today's Supreme Court
A former Supreme Court clerk for Justice Blackmun, Ed Lazarus, has reviewed the just-completed Supreme Court term and issued a “progressive” spin on it. He begins with a synopsis of some of the bigger cases decided:
“By 5-to-4 votes, the justices upheld limits on abortion, dealt a staggering blow to school desegregation, lacerated campaign finance reform, made it harder for women to sue for equal pay, curtailed the free speech rights of students, loosened various legal restrictions on business and greased the skids for convictions in death penalty cases.”
In other words: “This term at the Supreme Court was a nearly unmitigated disaster for progressives.” Under John Roberts, Court Re-Rights Itself
Normally, I would describe such descriptive nonsense as mere “hyperbole” but for all I know this is really how progressives think. Let’s review:
1 - “upheld limits on abortion” – the Court found that restrictions on late-term abortions were not unconstitutional. SCOTUS - Gonzales v. Carhart
2 - “dealt a staggering blow to school desegregation” – kids were prevented from going to certain schools because there were already too many like-skinned kids at that school. The Court ruled that this was wrong. As Justice Roberts succinctly put it:
"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." (and see Justice Blackmun’s eloquence on this matter Compare and contrast) SCOTUS - Parents Involved...
3 - “lacerated campaign finance reform” –Remember, this case involved content-restricted political speech which should be the lodestar of First Amendment protection from Congressional interference. I usually try to be respectful of opposing opinions but honestly – the criticisms of this decision and defense of the law – beginning with the dissent – have been uniformly vacuous. I’m convinced that had the group been People for the American Way vice Wisconsin Right to Life, the progressive spin would be 180° different.
4 - “curtailed the free speech rights of students” – I can understand opposing viewpoints on this decision (“Bong Hits 4 Jesus”) although I basically fall in with Justice Thomas (who doesn’t think that this matter should be of federal concern; instead we should be respectful of the authorities and responsibilities inherent with a public school’s in loco parentis role). What I can’t understand is the intellectual gyrations a “progressive” has to go through to argue that a high-school kid at a school-sanctioned event somehow has greater free-speech rights than a group of adults urging their fellow citizens to contact their elected officials on a legislative matter.
5 - “made it harder for women to sue for equal pay” – harder as compared to who else? men?…the law clearly states that “An individual wishing to bring a Title VII lawsuit must first file an EEOC charge within, as relevant here, 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1). SCOTUS - Ledbetter v. Goodyear. She was found to have filed after the 180 days. Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent, practically begs Congress to get involved:
“Once again, the ball is in Congress’ court. As in 1991, the Legislature may act to correct this Court’s parsimonious reading of Title VII.”
…highlighting once again one of my favorite points – the left is rarely constrained by Court decisions it doesn’t like; a simple legislative decision awaits.
6 - “greased the skids for convictions in death penalty cases” – the Court issued several Death Penalty-related decisions this past term but I‘m guessing he’s referring to the Washington State case (Uttecht v. Brown) which challenged the dismissal of a potential juror based on the perception that the juror would have a hard time imposing the Death Penalty. I think Justice Kennedy’s decision merely accentuates the need to give deference to the trial court’s decisions when the trial court rules on “…the demeanor and qualifications of a potential juror.”
Justice Blackmun’s tenure on the Court, especially towards the end, has been recently questioned as to just how much of the Justice’s work was his as opposed to his clerks’. Reading this progressive critique of the current Court by one of his former clerks is a non-comforting insight into the often over-hyped intellect of Supreme Court clerks and, by extension, the Justices who hire them.