Thursday, July 28, 2005

Maintaining Some Perspective

The Founding Fathers had a great organizational concept when they cranked up this Constitution of ours. They drew from the theories of Montesquieu who thought that rather than a fusion of powers in a government ala British Parliament, we should separate the powers and organize with some checks and balances. We all remember those key phrases from our sixth grade civics class: “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.” It would be good to review the concept occasionally and might even be beneficial if our current crop of elected officials and pontificating media talking heads did so as well.

The idea was that the legislature would make the laws, the executive would administer and enforce the laws of the legislature, and the judiciary would insure that the laws were interpreted properly while at the same time making sure that the rights of the minorities would not be trampled by a tyranny of the majority. There would be a little bit of overlap in each branches areas of responsibility to insure that no branch became predominant.

But, how many times in the last few years have we heard about “legislating from the bench”? We might not be sure exactly what that phrase means, but we know instinctively that it is a bad thing. It must mean that the poor legislators are unable to conduct judicial activities while the activist judges are not only judging but making laws as well. Not exactly.

What it usually means is that an ideologue is offended by a ruling of the courts that disagrees with a particular position. That’s why the coming confirmation hearings for John Roberts are going to be such a carnival. We’ve already seen Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid posturing with pious demands for everything that Roberts has ever said, written or even harbored in the back of his mind. They want to know his “views” so that they can foresee how he might rule in the future on sensitive issues. Chappaquiddick Ted has already suggested that Roberts ruling that a California frog was not engaged in interstate commerce means that all of us old folks are going to lose our Social Security, Medicare and our rights to an abortion.

Thomas Sowell, one of my favorite editorialists, has a great column pointing out that judges are obligated to rule on the merits of a case in accordance with the law. Searching for Relevance Judges might harbor contrary personal opinions, but the rulings must be justified by the written law. They might be personally in favor of prayer in schools, but they must rule based on what the First Amendment says about religion, government and free speech. What a concept! In other words, lets give a bit of credit to experienced lawyers selected to become judges that they might be able to function with a bit of objectivity.

Sowell also does a wonderful job of pointing out that in the boardrooms, executive offices and round-table discussions of leaders with their staffs, the supporting players must be able to offer unconstrained opinions and advice free from apprehension that years later their thoughts might be used to vilify and publicly pillory those individuals when nominated for a position of responsibility in our government. Advice rendered under that sort of apprehension might be very timid indeed.

Never Forgive--Never Forget

Somehow, we in America seem to equate fame with intellect and insight. If your name becomes a household word, you then gain respect for your evaluation of political questions and international relations positions. We overlook the fact that while actors might have a certain talent, they specialize not in mouthing their own thoughts but in simply repeating emphatically that which has been prepared for them to say. Because Martin Sheen plays the president on West Wing doesn’t mean that he actually has any expertise at all in running a real nation. And, simply because Jane Fonda has married a number of successful directors and starred in the role of a prostitute in a series of movies ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous doesn’t mean that her opinions on what is worth fighting and dying for are worth more than mine.

Dear ol’ Jane—and she is old—is now pulling the ultimate distasteful publicity stunt to put her name in the papers and pump the sales of her pathetic autobiography. She’s loading a bus and planning to drive across the country to protest America’s efforts to build a democracy in the Middle East and forestall future terrorist attacks on this country. Fear not, she won’t be wasting precious resources like gas and oil. Her bus will be powered by vegetable oil. Gimme a break! Yep, Jane’s figured out that the war is wrong—actually she does support war if it’s against America—and she’s going to once again appear on the front pages as a great humanitarian and simplistic bimbo. Last time it was in the seat of a 37MM anti-aircraft gun, surrounded by the guys who were trying to kill me every day and grinning up a she imagined shooting down a passing Thunderchief or Phantom. Maybe this time she’ll pose with a suicide bomber’s belt strapped around her beautifully liposuctioned waist with tiny blocks of C-4 supporting here silicon enhanced breasts. One can only hope that a static discharge is in the neighborhood.

The American Spectator has offered some insights into the trip: The Traitor's Return

I don’t think things bode well for Ms Fonda’s triumphal excursion across the heartland. Having watched more than 300,000 motorcycles roaring through the nation’s capital last Memorial Day in the Rolling Thunder rally, I suspect that there might be more than a few incidents along her route. While the usual, liberal, pacifist, anti-American whimperers will certainly appear, there will be a lot more disgruntled veterans who remember her last treachery and a lot of newly patriotic Americans who still have the image of the smoking towers of 9/11 etched in their minds. This isn’t going to be a pretty picture.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


As the senate prepares to put its worst foot forward on national TV in a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it may be appropriate to return to the topic I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, abortion. (Return to my May 24 post, “Political Questions” for a quick review.) Whether the situation regarding John Roberts' appointment pivots on the issue is keeping the left-wing media agitated: Time for Roe to go?

Some pundits are predicting a relatively straight-forward confirmation process for John Roberts. He appears exceptionally qualified. He went to the correct school. He’s been cited by many observers as able to render judgments on the law rather than imposing an overlay of his own opinions. He’s even clerked for the Chief Justice. The proper squares have been filled and it looks as though the President has made a good choice. Hopefully there will be no illegal alien nannies in the background. It seems that a goodly number of senators from the left side of the aisle have recognized that they will look a bit too obstructionist if they get muddy in the questioning.

But, there are still a couple who haven’t gotten the word. Kerry Demands Roberts' SF-180 Good ol’ John “I voted for it before I voted against it” Kerry wants to review everything that the nominee for the court has ever touched on the off-chance that something incriminating might show up. John is probably pretty familiar with the idea of stuff being hidden in records. One need only return to those thrilling days of 2004 to recall the convoluted efforts of the good senator to avoid signing an SF-180 to provide for total and complete release of his military records. And, then there is the current lawsuit by Kerry’s team against the folks that compiled a documentary video of his own words in various public forums accusing his nation’s military of atrocities and war crimes. Stolen Honor Yep, John knows how incriminating stuff can come back to haunt you.

I’m betting there will be a lot of questions regarding John Roberts views on Roe-v-Wade. Everyone’s got an opinion, of course. But, how many of us can stand back and objectively determine the question for the court that will emerge? Here’s my take on it:

The essential question is what the role of government is. It shouldn’t be a biological issue such as “when does life begin,” but rather it should be a question of what the Constitution requires of government when exercising power delegated by the people. Only if the issue is isolated from the emotional language of babies and bodies and personal choices, will it be possible to bring some semblance of logic to the issue.

Is the role of government in a free society one of interposing legislation between a woman, her family and her physician to restrict her actions? Is it reasonable to have politicians making medical decisions based on their personal morality?

Or, is the role of government one of protecting the helpless? Should government intervention be allowed to preserve a life which would be endangered? Isn’t that a basic function of all governments?

The language of political questions is always telling. Note that those who favor banning of abortion call their position, “pro-life”. But, the opposition doesn’t label themselves as “anti-life” or even “pro-death”! That wouldn’t work. They call themselves “pro-choice”. It’s always more marketable to be for something than against it. The anti-abortion crowd counters with a campaign to “choose life,” even though they seek to pass laws making the wrong choice a felony.

Public policy in a representative democracy doesn’t get made without overwhelming support. Polling of attitudes on abortion consistently demonstrate that such support doesn’t exist on either side. The pro-life/pro-choice balance hovers very close to 50-50. Extreme or inflammatory positions such as the late-term or so-called partial-birth abortion skew the results, but in most of the population the policy preference runs to limited government action. In fact, even the most ardent pro-life folks will acknowledge that if they achieve their goal of a Constitutional amendment banning abortion, they really won’t influence much of a change in behavior.

So, in the coming months we’ll be entertained, (I use the term loosely) by the Senate angels dancing atop the pin of Roe-v-Wade. They will try to mobilize their political bases and emphasize their staunch credentials for life or choice. They will posture and pontificate, and in the process will undoubtedly damage the reputation of John Roberts. In the end he will be confirmed. And, in the end, he will be highly unlikely to move the question of abortion in America one way or the other single-handedly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

MAD-Cap Congress-Critter?

Ahhh, as a former potential nuclear warrior, a student of International Relations, a plain-speaker, and a Coloradan, it did my black heart good to hear Colorado Congress-Critter Tom Tancredo suggest that maybe some mutually assured destruction might be strategically sound in the War on Islamic Terror. Of course, the whiners, the hand-wringers and the “it’s our fault” crowd are all now vilifying poor ol’ Tom. Take a look at what he said: Deterrence an Option?

Let’s consider the option. We know for certain that the jihadists would really, really, really like Santa to bring them some WMD for Christmas or Ramadan. They’re sick and tired of making do with used airliners full of innocents and borrowed Mercedes sedans packed with C-4 as tools to make their point. They want the big bang for the buck in a small, man-portable package. They’d really love to have some sort of gadget that could kill us infidels by the millions instead of the paltry thousand or so at a time. Yep, you’d have to be pretty ignorant to deny that they’d wipe out New York, Washington, Chicago, or San Francisco in a camel’s heartbeat if they could.

So, the question that you’ve got to be asking yourself is, “do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?” What can convince these fanatics to desist? What is the equivalent of Dirty Harry’s Smith & Wesson Model 29? What’s the “world’s most powerful handgun” equivalent in the War on Terror? How about the classic “Silver Bullet” in about a 345 kiloton range?

The question is where do you apply this convincer to get the job done? If they live in caves, hide in spider-holes, and don’t really care much for the goodies of this world, how can you give them an outcome to contemplate which would actually deter? What’s the thing they supposedly revere more than any other? Why, ostensibly, it is their faith, their Q’uran, their holy cities.

So then, if they understand that should they acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them against our population centers then we would respond by total destruction of Mecca, Medina and any other holy sites that we determine it is conceivable that they might be deterred.

Classic strategic deterrence which worked so well in the fifty-eight years since the nuclear balance of Western-vs-Soviet Union powers was created in 1947 requires a couple of things. First, there has got to be a credible second-strike capability. Both sides must understand that a pre-emptive strike will not take out the ability to respond. OK, the terrorists can probably figure that out pretty readily.

Second, the concept depends upon recognition that the retaliating nation possesses the will to respond and carry out the threat. This gets a bit tougher, since we so regularly demonstrate the shriveling of cojones that comes from generations of liberal media and university indoctrination. (Can you picture Ted Kennedy, Charlie Rangel, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Nancy Pelosi or Howard Dean going to any kind of war?)

And, third, strategic deterrence requires rational leadership on both sides. Now, that looks like the shakiest requirement of the package. But, I’ll offer that although the rationality of a suicide bomber might be questionable, the sanity of the leadership which out-sources the task is much more credible. And, the rationality of the majority of the Muslim world, the Maoist ocean in which the terrorist swims, will certainly come to the fore and become a significant restraining force against the jihad.

I kind of like the whole idea. Heads up, Osama. You’ve got incoming. And, the good news is that you’ll be able to find plenty of parking for your Mercedes on the green glass parking lot we’ll be installing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Revolution, Terror, Insurgency?

As Americans we should understand the basic concept of revolution. Our nation was founded by revolution, throwing off a repressive regime after clearly announcing the justice of our cause for all the world to see—you may recall that as the Declaration of Independence. That’s why it is so difficult to understand the motivation, the justification, the rationale of the terrorists of the Jihad.

Terrorists don’t have the political authority to conduct a revolution. That requires a dissatisfied majority of the population. You’ve got to have numbers to take to the streets and overthrow a government. No, terrorists don’t have the numbers. But, by attracting attention to their cause and then demonstrating to the populace that the existing government cannot fulfill the basic function of a government—security of the state they hope to muster support and eventually achieve the plurality necessary to gain power and achieve their goals. At least that’s the theory.

But, the goals have traditionally been to bring stability, prosperity, justice and a hope for a better life to the nation or the region. What then is the motivation of the suicide bombers? Despicable "warriors"

Political action should be for the purpose of improving your life not ending it. How does one justify a movement that encourages giving up your own life, not for a greater good, but simply to create the maximum of mayhem? If I am successful and you are not, you might be envious. If I ignore you and maybe even take from you to benefit myself and arguably to make your lot even worse, you might resist me. But, if I am successful and I reach out a hand to aid you, improve your existence, elevate your lot in life—maybe not to the wealth level of my own, but significantly above your current wretchedness, why would you try to bring me down to your level rather than try to raise yourself and your family to a better life?

Certainly there are significant cultural differences in play here. But, there is a commonality of humanity one should be able to discern despite the religious difference. How does a movement that seems intent on total destruction continue to attract adherents? How does a morality supposedly bequeathed to man by a benevolent deity square with killing of innocent women and children? How does sending young men and women into crowds with bombs strapped to their bodies lead to an improvement in the political environment?

This clearly isn’t revolution. It has little popular appeal. Most assuredly it is terrorist. The jihadists seek to undermine the very basis of society and they provide no alternative which is demonstrably better than the status quo. And, the use of the word “insurgent” to describe these animals is way too charitable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sharks Smelling Blood

So, you’re probably saying I got it wrong a couple of days ago. Now, the buzz in the media is that Karl Rove really is the leaker of Valerie Plame’s name. And, you’re watching the sharks circle and the usual suspects of Congressional hysteria are demanding a purge.

But, have you asked the essential questions? Did Rove give Plame’s name? Was Plame a “covert operative” as alleged? Or, was she a Langley bureaucrat who was more political than analytical when it came to the Bush administration requests for intel data upon which to justify an intervention?

Today’s Wall Street Journal sustains my interpretation of a lot of this issue: Someone Agrees With Me

If Plame wasn’t covert, no harm done. If Plame’s name wasn’t released, no guilt. If Cooper wrote the email, how do we know that he really got the info he said he did from Rove? And, why did a Time correspondent wind up supplying background on this story to Newsweek?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Creating the Legend

Lots in the news these days about the noble journalists et al, stoically guarding their sources, lest the whistle blowers no longer feel secure in blowing their whistles. It makes good fodder for First Amendment debate. How can we have a free and unfettered press to leash our runaway democracy if reporters have to validate their sources? Ahh, maybe I’ve inadvertently stumbled upon something here. Has anyone noticed that the free press recently has wallowed increasingly in the mire of lost credibility? Can you say Dan Rather?

Of course, we’ve got the blockbuster disclosure of the noble Mark Felt, AKA “Deep Throat”—remember what that nom de guerre refers to? But, regardless of the source of the codename, there’s the courage of Woodward and Bernstein in guarding the leaker who could, more nobly have been working from his high-ranking sworn law-enforcement officer position to correct the situation he decried in less flamboyant fashion. Yes, we’ve got to guard the sources of the reporters lest the Constitutional protections be eroded.

Take a look at this fine piece of opinion writing from the Denver Post columnist Jim Spencer: Leap of Faith Read it carefully and see if you note a problem. I’ll give you the answer in just a paragraph or two.

It was a little more than a year ago that we had the Jason Blair debacle that nearly brought the Gray Lady to her knees. The Jason Blair Fiasco Hiding behind his non-existent sources could have prolonged Mr. Blair’s paycheck and saved the jobs of a couple of high-level panjandrums at the NY Times. The security of sources can create a situation in which anything can be said and there is no accountability at the end game. It isn’t slander or libel if I destroy your career and good name if I’ve got “facts” from undisclosable sources. Why, I can become a millionaire in the service of what I know instinctively is best for my country, even if my reporting is overly creative. What a deal!

Or, how about this one? An apology for an editorial oversight at the venerable Times: Creative Quoting Let me see if I understand what happened here. An editor, who is supposed to be correcting text, fitting a story to the allocated space and insuring the reporter is using verifiable facts; that editor facetiously puts in some of his/her own dialog as a quote from a military officer. Just a little bit of office humor to brighten up the type-setter’s day. It was supposed to be removed after everyone had a good chuckle and before the press run. Gimme a break.

Now, about the Jim Spencer piece. Did you notice how several paragraphs in, he mentions that Newsweek alleged that Karl Rove MIGHT have been the leak of Valerie Plame’s name. Can I say that Newsweek’s agenda is a little bit questionable since the Quran desecration fiasco turned out to be more innuendo and mirrors than fact last month?

Anyway, Newsweek suggested a Rove involvement. Nothing more. No facts. No quotes. No sources. But, by the end of the Spencer column, we’ve got the ungrounded assertion becoming the gospel according to St. Jim. So, Spencer quickly takes the leap of faith and concludes that the two NYT “journalists” are covering for the Bush White House.

Does that seem as illogical to you as it does to me? Would the decidedly liberal and unquestionably anti-administration NYT really go to the mat to protect Karl Rove? Hardly! It’s the scoop of the young 21st Century.

Isn’t it much more likely that the source is less credible, more left wing, and if disclosed, more improbable than that?

Enquiring minds really do want to know.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Hero Heads West

Generations have been born since the hostilities in Vietnam ended. But, there are a lot of folks still alive who remember that time and the folks who distinguished themselves in various ways. Last week one of the bravest passed away. The passing was noted in the national media, but not with much emphasis on the heroism, the patriotism, the man himself. No, the media focused on the Vice-Presidential candidacy with Ross Perot in 1992. The media told a very small part of the man’s story and not necessarily the most important. They dwelt on the somewhat bumbling appearance in the Vice-Presidential debates in which the elderly gentleman asked the nation, “Why am I here?”

It was a rhetorical question; one asked to illuminate the political atmosphere that had generated a viable third-party. It was asked to possibly get folks to consider the failure of the two major parties to deal with economic issues, job losses, and the role of the nation in a changing world. Unfortunately, it was employed by the brutal political operatives and the military-despising media to portray the gentleman as someone not quite anchored in space and time.

In recent years, this genuine American hero has been suffering from Alzheimer’s, a terrible debilitating illness that renders the formerly robust terminally feeble. That also was mentioned in the national coverage. But, little was discussed about the Medal of Honor, the leadership of his fellow-warriors in trying circumstances, the unbelievably courageous resistance displayed against his enemies, and the incredible achievements of the man.

Lt. Cmdr. Paul Galanti was a POW in Hanoi along with Admiral Stockdale. He shared the torture, the terror and the experiences for the long years of imprisonment. He has written eloquently of the man and said the things which were unforgivably downplayed by the main-stream media. His insights are worth reading: An Ex-Con Remembers a Hero

Here’s a salute to the passing of a great American. A toast and a smashing of the glass so that it may never be used for a lesser purpose. And, a “nickel on the grass” to RAdm James Bond Stockdale.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Unintended Consequences

Was that a big “ooopsie” I heard coming out of the US Senate last week? Suddenly we’ve got a surprise announcement from swing-justice Sandra Day O’Connor that she’s going to hang up the black robes and stop screwing up the Constitution. But, that’s not the sequence that all the wonks had laid out. It was supposed to be Chief Justice Rehnquist providing the first vacancy and that wasn’t supposed to happen until much later in the year. Despite all predictions to the contrary, Rehnquist has been showing up for work (sort of) and hasn’t been either incapacitated or found comatose in the back office yet. So, there was going to be a lot of time to get ducks in a row and prepare to start vilifying candidates for the Court.

Yep, it was supposed to be Wild Bill, and then maybe Ginsberg, who’s health has been in question for a while. And, only then was Justice O’Connor to be considered. That’s why it was kind of easy for the “Gang of Fourteen” renegades in the Senate to act like adults and exhibit some uncommon sense recently. Seven from each party agreed that they wouldn’t filibuster (or actually simply threaten to filibuster without need for all the talking) to prevent confirmation of federal court appointments by the President. Maybe they realized that the Senate was looking more stupid than potentially presidential (which they all believe they are,) when they weren’t filling the benches with qualified but not necessarily ideologically pure judges.

They agreed that they would refrain from filibuster-threats except in “exceptional circumstances”, like maybe an appointment who was a convicted felon, a former Enron executive, a recent UN secretary-general, or a registered sex offender. Real, qualified, experienced lawyers and judges would get real consideration of their ability to serve and then get a confirming vote. How quaint. Now, they’re stuck with the agreement, at least for the time being and the appointment in question is going to be only one of a sequence.

With the agreement in place to stop behaving like divas for at least another sixty days, the senators are going to be faced with the real thing—a Supreme Court nomination. And, then within a few short months, another one. And probably, within a few months of that hearing, a third one. Wow! Can anyone remember a two or three Supreme Court justice appointment year?

Not only will the Senators have to dig up dirt to sleaze up and discredit another candidate, they will have to work overtime to trash a whole team of potential justices. This is going to interesting.

The guessers, who apparently know these things, have been posting lists of potentials in newspapers across the country. Most of them look pretty darn good, although I’m crossing Attorney General Gonzales off of my short list already. We’ll see how this plays out in the weeks to come. First inning should be within a week when the O’Connor replacement starts up in earnest.