Date ►►► November 28, 2008
Two Steps Forward, One Tantrum Back
In the last few days, we have enjoyed two stunning successes over the militant Islamist terrorist axis that has spread like a contagion around the globe for near a century now -- particularly noticibly since 1979. And as horrific as they were, the attacks in Bombay yesterday were really no setback to the increasingly successful campaign of quashing the Islamist death cult at the back of the seemingly random violence.
First, the victories:
- Yesterday, the Iraqi parliament overwhelmingly (75%) gave final approval to the U.S.-Iraq security pact, allowing American and Coalition forces to remain in Iraq until January 1st, 2012.
While the current pact requires us to leave then, three years is a long time; as Iraqis grow more comfortable with an American presence that does not, in fact, run their country or police their nation, they may well be open to permanent American bases there (it's good for their national security and their economy, especially with oil prices plummeting).
But in any event, for at least three years, neither Iran nor Syria will dare invade Iraq directly, knowing that this would force the hand of even the most left-liberal of Obamatons.
- And on the domestic front, four days ago, the Holy Land Foundation was convicted on all charges of aiding, abetting, supporting, and fostering Islamist terrorism, mostly Hamas.
The HLF "charity" has now been proved in a federal court of law to be nothing but a terrorist front organization. It has been supported by numerous other American and European Islamic groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which are now themselves in the legal crosshairs. This decision will have an even greater impact over the long war than the decision by Iraq's parliament allowing our forces to remain in situ for a few more years.
The HLF verdict will have very significant fallout for the quasi-legitimate enablers of terrorism, without which terrorist insurgencies necessarily fail. Most important, it gives us a legal opening to go after other terrorist front groups, like CAIR: Having had extensive and intertwining financial connections with the HLF -- now proven to have been a terrorist financing, supporting, and enabling organization -- these other groups stand in legal jeopardy themselves; all that needs proving is that they knew with whom and with what they collaborated, which should not be that difficult an argument to sustain.
A Barack H. Obama administration should be overjoyed to prosecute group after group, since it gives them the opportunity to fight the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis the way they want to do... in the courts!
But it also sets a precedent that even the most spineless Western ally can follow: Follow the money. Now we see the extraordinarily folly of the New York Times "outing" the SWIFT Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. Like everything else in the modern world, international terrorism is very expensive. It's not inherently a moneymaking enterprise; straight robbery and kidnapping for ransom produce only a very tiny portion of their funds. World-wide terrorist attacks depend upon financial and logistical support from, e.g., the government of Iran and individual wealthy Saudis, willing or un-, from non-terrorist supporters of terrorism.
This why we took out Saddam Hussein: Not to steal Iraq's oil, not to "liberate" Iraqis, but to remove the government that was, in 2003, the second biggest supporter of Islamist terrorism (Iran was probably the biggest).
Military force is one way to go after terrorist enablers, but another way is to dry up their funds through legal action. Funding requires banks and other financial institutions; banks must necessarily leave a huge footprint on world financial institutions (they cannot be completely invisible, as a terrorist organization strives for), and this extrusion into the civilized world gives us a handhold by which we can grab them and shake.
Too, even the most terrorist-enabling banks have other concerns besides financing Hamas and PIJ; that is, they have a lot to lose -- so are much more easily intimidated or frightened away than a terrorist bomber who expects to die in the holocaust he causes. Simply put, attacking terrorism by filing criminal cases against its semi-legitimate financial and logistical enablers is an extremely effective (and non-military) strategy; in the elite media's rampaging BDS, they attacked one of the few anti-axis programs that would meet with liberal Democratic approval.
Filing many court cases against Islamist terrorist enablers, to be tried in the ordinary civilian court system, would be right up the Obama adminstration's sleeve -- or even John Kerry's! -- and it would actually be extremely effective, to boot. This is win-win for the incoming "office of the President Elect," and I very much hope that he realizes his opportunity.
Now, to the disastrous attack yesterday in Bombay: While it is of course devastating to everyone personally involved, the reality is that, if it has any effect at all on India's tactics against Sunni terrorism, it will be to intensify and redouble its efforts against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and related death cultists in Pakistan, China, and India.
It's hardly a shock; many people don't realize that India has the
second third largest Moslem population of any country in the world, and the largest Moslem population of any non-Moslem dominated country. [Doh! When I first wrote this, I completely forgot about Indonesia. Yeesh.] Indonesia has the largest population, at 204 million Moslems; Pakistan is second and India third -- but just barely. Although only 13.4% of the Indian population is Moslem, according to the CIA World Fact Book, India's 1.1 billion population yields about 154 million Moslems (larger than the entire population of all but a few countries on earth)... compared to 164 million in Pakistan, which is 95% Moslem.
With such a staggering number of Moslems in a Hindu-majority country, the sad fact is that mass terrorism is a fact of life. It's typically confined to the "disputed" southern region of Kashmir -- the only dispute is that India possesses it and Pakistan wants it -- but Sunni terrorists from India and Pakistan have struck in nearly every large Indian city in recent years. This latest attack is similar in casualties, though larger in scope, to some of the train bombings in the last decade... to be fair, on both sides (though I believe that Moslems are still driving the lion's share of the conflict). It seems large to us because we don't often hear much about the violence in India that has been ubiquitous for centuries before India and Pakistan separated in 1947.
The two countries fought actual wars over Kashmir in 1947, 1965, and 1971; and terrorism is omnipresent. I just don't see that the Bombay attacks could possibly result in, say, India giving up their portion of Kashmir: The land was divvied up between India and Pakistan during the partition; and in the 1950s, China grabbed a chunk of Kashmir in the Northeast. Nothing that happened yesterday is going to change that.
Nor does the current, quasi-democratic government of Pakistan have any intention of fighting another war with India... particularly since both nations have nuclear weapons. In the history of the nuclear age, no two nuclear-armed countries have ever fought a direct war with each other, though "proxy wars" have been frequent. India and Pakistan obviously share a border; the temptation for the loser in such a war, fearing being overrun, to resort to the nukes is so great that I cannot imagine either nation deciding to roll the bones.
So the attacks were really nothing more than a horrible, murderous temper tantrum by the Islamists... or, as I prefer to see it, a mass human sacrifice by an Islamic death cult... senseless, futile, and ritualistic.
Thus, the last week has seen two giant strides forward against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, tainted only by a vile immolation of innocents by the modern-day equivalent of Moloch worship. No matter how one works the accounts, this has been a very, very good week in the clash between civilization and utter barbarity.
Date ►►► November 26, 2008
Typekey (or the Comments Facility) Appears to Be Messed Up
Alas, I still have (unrelated) computer problems and cannot access my server's helpdesk. Sorry!
I might have my computer back in play Wednesday; if so, I'll launch a help ticket and see if they can take care of it. But more than likely it's a Typekey problem, so only Typekey can do something about it.
Date ►►► November 25, 2008
Rangel Dangle: the Democratic Tsunami of Corruption
In an unusually blunt assessment, the New York Times as much as calls longtime, powerful Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel (NY) a crook:
Representative Charles B. Rangel has helped raise $11 million for a City College of New York school of public service to be named in his honor. In recent months, as questions have emerged about his fund-raising, he has insisted that he has kept his efforts to attract donors scrupulously separate from his official duties in Congress.
But Congressional records and interviews show that Mr. Rangel was instrumental in preserving a lucrative tax loophole that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while at the same time its chief executive was pledging $1 million to the project, the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at C.C.N.Y.
On a nutshell, shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Nabors Industries opened offices in the Caribbean to take advantage of tax shelters to duck paying "tens of millions of dollars annually," projected to be more than a billion over a decade; Rangel bitterly denounced the company in 2002-4 for doing so, even sponsoring (failed) legislation to prevent it.
But then in 2007, the CEO of Nabors, Eugene M. Isenberg, pledged a million dollars to help build the "Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at C.C.N.Y."... and lo and behold, Charles B. Rangel abruptly saw the light; and now, as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Rangel vigorously defends those selfsame tax shelters.
Not to worry, though; both Rangel and Isenberg insist "There was no quid pro quo." In fact, Mr. Rangel goes so far as to say he had no idea about the megabuck donation to the Rangel School until a year after the fact.
Yet the Times also reports:
What is clear is that Mr. Rangel played a pivotal role in preserving the tax shelter for Nabors and the other companies in 2007. And while the issue was before his committee, Mr. Rangel met with Mr. Isenberg and a lobbyist for Nabors and discussed it, on the same morning that the congressman and Mr. Isenberg met to talk about the chief executive’s potential support for the Rangel center.
In other words, Rangel flatly lied when he "maintained that he did not even know about [Isenberg's $1 million pledge] until this summer, more than a year later."
The essence of this story is not that Nabors Industries made use of a tax shelter; in fact, I'm all for tax shelters -- so long as they're open to any company, not limited to particular congressional "favorite sons." So far as I know, Nabors did nothing wrong or illegal; indeed, in 2004, the Republican 108th Congress gave its nihil obstat to those very shelters, including Nabors'. I have no reason to believe there was anything wrong or fishy about that decision.
No, the core of this story is the convoluted set of interactions between liberal idealism, ideology, and demagoguery, where raw political pragmatism always seems to triumph; administrations may go and come, but the Left abides -- whether under Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama.
In 2006, the chattering classes were all agog about "the Republican culture of corruption;" the cry likely played a great role in the terrible loss by the GOP that year, when both the House and Senate tumbled from the right to the left hand.
As the Minority Leader of the House became Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%), she kept up a bombardment of furious denunciation of the "corrupt" GOP, lumping together everything from votes that favored business in general to successful fundraising to Mark Foley's clumsy passes at former congressional aides (who were adults).
Indeed, poll after poll showed that the attacks worked, with a majority of Americans believing the GOP was uniquely corrupt, or at least far more corrupt than their counterparts on the left. After winning the congressional elections of 2006, Pelosi was still on that hobby horse:
"The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty in Washington, D.C., and the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," Pelosi said.
Yet without the slightest sense of irony, she proved adamant in her refusal to lift a finger to rein in the most obvious, if not biggest, example of rampant corruption and abuse: earmarks. She also made no serious effort to purge the Democratic caucus of even the most egregious examples of "cold cash for legislation" (remember Rep. William "Freezer Bill" Jefferson, still a Member of Congress from Louisiana, despite being indicted last year for corruption?)
And the Democratic response to the continuing soap opera of Charles Rangel's ethics problems? He was just unanimously reelect him as chairman of Ways and Means last Thursday. So much for "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history"... and the elite media's only reaction was a collective yawn.
They have no excuse; this story was published on the New York Times website yesterday and is on the front page of the print edition today; it is now part of "all the news we see fit to print," and it should be part of our national political dialog. So as a famous failed presidential candidate said more than a decade ago, "where's the outrage?"
Is the Washington Post going to pick up the story? They certainly haven't yet. Neither has any other major news outlet (unless one counts UPI as "major"). Nothing on the networks, not a word on CNN, MSNBC is silent; even Fox News seems to have missed the story -- which is not surprising, alas. We'll keep an eye on them to see if their consciences belatedly bait them into acknowledging this latest nigh-Jeffersonian (William, not Thomas) level of corruption by Mr. Rangel, but I doubt they will.
One would think that the elites would be a bit less reticent, given the powerful cover offered by the king of elite liberalism, the Times, which back on September 14th went so far as to call for Rangel to resign his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Evidently, however, "corruption" is defined as something that the Right does to the Left... just as liberals consistently define "racism" as something that whites do to blacks. By definition, it's not bribery if a Democrat -- especially a black Democrat -- accepts money in exchange for reversing his policy... but it's the rankest form of corruption if a Republican pursues policies, like tax cuts or the war in Iraq, that are supported by the folks who support him. (Republicans must continually prove their honesty by only supporting policies antithetical to everything their core constituencies want... which too many of them are all too eager to do.)
And equally evident is that the drive-by media are very comfortable letting the Democrats walk off with the cash register under one arm. No surprise there, either.
Date ►►► November 24, 2008
Go West, Young Man
I don't believe anybody has yet noted that President-Erect Barack H. Obama, by choosing (as it now seems clear) Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as his Secretary of Homeland Security (!) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his Secretary of Commerce, has opened the door a crack for Republicans in those states.
Both governors are very popular... and both states are up for grabs. It's not like selecting Joe Biden as running mate; there was never any danger that Biden's Senate seat would end up being filled by a Republican. But both Arizona and New Mexico are battleground states, up for grabs in the 2012 presidential election.
Arizona voted for John S. McCain in the election, of course; but that's hardly surprising, with a favorite son running. However, it was a disturbingly close: 52.5% for McCain to 45.1% for Obama, a margin of 7.4%. New Mexico was a bigger win for the Democrats than Arizona was for the Republicans: Obama took it by 56.9% to McCain's 41.8%, a 15.1% Democratic victory. I believe in both states, a popular Democratic governor wooed a significant portion of the voters to the left (and of course, in both states, a very large percentage of the voters are Hispanic, and Hispanics lined up behind Obama this year).
In the previous election, New Mexico went to the GOP by the slim and unconvincing margin of 49.9% for George W. Bush to 49.0% for John Kerry, a difference of less than one percent; while Arizona went to the GOP by double digits, 54.9% Bush to 44.4% Kerry (Bush +10.5) -- considerably more robust than it went for Arizonan John McCain this election. Had McCain been from somewhere else, I suspect Arizona would have teetered on the knife-edge and might well have fallen to the Democrat.
Clearly, Obama thought that selecting the two governors for his cabinet would advantage the Democrats: Both Richardson and Napolitano are term-limited out in 2010; they would have to leave anyway. But their successors will get to run for reelection in 2010 as incumbents, instead of duking it out for an open seat.
In New Mexico, the successor to Bill Richardson is a Democrat, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish; but in Arizona, the successor to Janet Napolitano is Secretary of State Jan Brewer -- a Republican (Arizona has no lieutenant governor, so the secretary of state succeeds the governor upon the latter's resignation). Thus, Napolitano's selection immediately puts a Republican in the Arizona statehouse and sets her up as an incumbent to win in 2010.
But what about Denish in New Mexico? It's clear that she is given a boost by getting to run as the incumbent; but even so, I cannot see her as anywhere near as strong a candidate as Richardson was in his two elections. Though Obama has done what he could to help out in that race, the GOP has more of a chance there than they did in either 2002 or 2006.
It may seem a small thing, having a chance to convert two Democratic governorships to Republican hands. But it's of such "little things" that big results can flow. If Brewer can hold Arizona, and if a Republican can defeat Diane Denish in New Mexico, then it's somewhat more likely that in the presidential election of 2012, the GOP can once again hold Arizona's ten electoral votes (which had seemed dangerously close to flipping) and might even return New Mexico's five back into red territory.
Without the "rage against the red" that characterized 2006 and 2008, its unlikely that former red states such as Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Nevada will remain blue; while even states that have been drifting a bit leftwards (such as Virginia and Colorado) will be more winnable by the Republican nominee... particularly if the nominee is someone exciting, like Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal, running against a Barack Obama who has lost his aura of newness, change, and hope in the crush of day to day governing.
Add in a possible New Mexico, and we have the nucleus of victory in 2012. Every little bit helps.
Date ►►► November 21, 2008
If You Wonder Why Posting Is Pretty Slack Lately...
...It's because we've been having serious computer problems at Lizard Central:
- Norton SystemWorks 2005 failed; it kept calling its own files, which were mysteriously corrupted (I've been using this version of NSW since 2005 with no previous problems). A round of tech support hijinks ensued.
- I couldn't even boot until I booted off the Windows CD and deleted the errant files.
- Almost immediately thereafter, one of our hard drives failed deader than a clam (I don't know if 1 and 2 are related). With the disk dead, booting up took about 7 minutes each time -- presumably the system was looking for all sorts of applications and such on the dead disk.
- I bought SystemWorks 2009, hoping to (a) fix problem 1, and (b) restore the dead drive of problem 2 using its most recent Norton Ghost image.
- Then I had terrible problems installing NSW 2009; another round of tech support.
- Got NSW working, but still couldn't do anything with the disk. Partition Commander could not even detect it, so I unplugged it.
- Bought a new disk, a SATA drive. I hoped to format it, then restore from the Norton Ghost image; but the disk wouldn't work with my SATA card.
- I decided it was high time to upgrade my system anyway... so I ordered a new motherboard with onboard SATA (Gigabyte EP45-UD3R) and a new chip (Intel Core 2 Duo). They arrived yesterday, and I started reading the installation instructions.
- Discovered the board needed a 400 watt power supply; mine was 300 watt. Went to Fry's and bought a 500 watt power supply -- Antec Neopower 500.
- Late last night (ca. 3:00 am), tore computer apart and started replacing the motherboard. Realized my venerable graphics card was a GeForce 4-something... AGP. ("But nobody uses AGP anymore, and there isn't even a slot for them on modern motherboards!" "Yeah, thanks for the post-hoc heads-up, Mr. Turing.")
- Went back to Fry's today and bought a GeForce 9800 GT for PCI Express 2.0, which is what the Gygabyte board uses.
- Assembled everything, plugged everything in, turned on the power... nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zed. Several hundred dollars, and I don't even have a half-working machine.
- Took whole shebang in to a repair place; they said that no power at all was getting to the motherboard; when they used another power supply (one that had enough power but didn't have the proper connector for the chip power), they at least got some lights to light... they believe the new power supply I bought yesterday is defective; but the motherboard may be as well -- couldn't tell without a proper power supply.
So that's were we stand. I'll be back to Fry's tomorrow to exchange the power supply, and the nightmare continues. As Sachi is out of town on a business trip, I'm posting this from her (yecch) Mac Mini; of course, she hasn't the clean, obvious, well-organized load of bookmarks that I have... so it's a struggle to find the right links to go the Big Lizards posting URL.
Bill Patterson is right: We're not yet in the computer era. We won't be in the computer era until computers become invisible. I take him to mean until everything works right out of the box, all things work together, nothing requires configuration (or refrigeration), and nothing must be physically connected via cables.
Until then, we live in a primitive, half-civilized condition, able to envision the promised information revolution but unable to achieve it. I feel like Moses... or maybe like a eunuch in a harem.
In the meanwhile, don't shed your skin if posting is kind of light. You think you have troubles?
Date ►►► November 20, 2008
I Scream Napolitano
I start reading through the AP newswire, and the first thing I see is that Barack H. Obama's "top contender" for Secretary of Homeland Security is -- Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano?
Janet Napolitano cabinet post within grasp
Has the President-Erect gone barking mad? What in the world remotely qualifies her to assume the second most important cabinet position in the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis? Oh, wait; perhaps it's somewhere on this list:
- Anita Hill's attorney during the Clarence Thomas lynching;
- Former U.S. Attorney -- in Arizona;
- Former Attorney General of Arizona;
- First female governor elected to follow another female governor;
- First female governor to be re-elected;
- Would be first female Secretary of Homeland Security;
- Would be first sexually ambiguous Secretary of Homeland Security;
- Endorsed Barack Obama for president during the primaries and joined his transition team.
- Strongly opposes security fence along U.S.-Mexico border;
For some reason, one of these career highlights jumps out at me as likely the most important qualification of all. Can anyone quess which? I am shocked, but not surprised, to discover that Obama considers the Secretary of Homeland Security to be a sinecure to be bestowed upon an early supporter, like ambassador to Luxembourg.
Looking back, there were two previously confirmed Secretaries of Homeland Security and one acting secretary:
- Tom Ridge, first Secretary 2003-2005: Combat veteran of Vietnam and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security from 2001–2003.
- James Loy, acting Secretary 2005: Admiral in the United States Coast Guard; 21st Commandant of the Coast Guard; Administrator for the Transportation Security Administration; Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.
- Michael Chertoff, Secretary 2005-2009 (est): Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department; led the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui; crafted much of the "legal war" against al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist organizations; authored much of the USA-PATRIOT Act of 2001.
To this list, perhaps we shall shortly add...
- Janet Napolitano, Secretary 2009-?: Endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, soon to be her fellow cabinet secretary.
Add this one to the list of Obamappointments that already includes Attorney General Eric "September 10th" Holder, Secretary of State Hillary "Climber" Clinton, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom "DaschilleryCare" Daschle, and I think we have a very clear -- and disturbing -- vision of the upcoming administration: a return to treating terrorism as just another crime, like carjacking or credit-card fraud; the re-erection of the wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement; a return to Clintonian, September-10th foreign policy; and the resurrection of the slain hydra of universal socialized medicine (should've cauterized those stumps).
Perhaps if we're lucky, Treasury Secretary Barney Frank, Education Secretary William Ayres, and Energy Secretary Ralph Nader will join the crowd.
Is "forward to the past" the sort of change we want to believe in?
Date ►►► November 19, 2008
If the California Supreme Court Doesn't Trust the People...
...Then perhaps it should dissolve them and appoint a new people
As Big Lizards predicted earlier, the California State Supreme Court has agreed to decide several lawsuits that seek to overturn Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment -- on the grounds that it's unconstitutional. The lawsuits advance a novel legal theory of governance by the consent of the governors:
The lawsuits argue that voters improperly abrogated the judiciary's authority by stripping same-sex couples of the right to wed after the high court earlier ruled it was discriminatory to prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying.
In other words, the voters improperly interfered with the court's right to decide all major moral issues.
Not to mention the fact that Proposition 8 does not "prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying." It doesn't even mention gay men or lesbians.
Nor does it prohibit anyone from marrying any one (or any group); it only says such marriages will not be "valid or recognized in the state of California." Go ahead and marry a person of the same sex; call yourself married by the lights of your own house of worship; just don't check "married filing jointly" on your IRS 1040 form, unless you're inordinately fond of institutional cooking.
(And of course, it's just as valid for a gay man to marry a lesbian as for a straight man to marry a straight women. Or a lesbian.)
There is another exciting legal argument offered by at least one of the sets of plaintiffs' lawyers in one of the cases:
"If given effect, Proposition 8 would work a dramatic, substantive change to our Constitution's 'underlying principles' of individual [sic] on a scale and scope never previously condoned by this court," lawyers for the same-sex couples stated in their petition.
[Where the expression "never previously condoned by this court" means "at least not since May 15th, 2008," when the Court held -- for the very first time -- that the state constitution required marriage to be "gender neutral."]
The measure represents such a sweeping change [all the way back to the olden times of six months ago!] that it constitutes a constitutional revision as opposed to an amendment, the documents say. The distinction would have required the ban's backers to obtain approval from two-thirds of both houses of the California Legislature before submitting it to voters.
In other other words, the CSSC can utterly upend Western civilization by a simple 4-3 majority... but it takes a supermajority if two-thirds of both houses of the legislature in addition to a majority of voters to change it right back to the status quo ante, the law of the land before May, 2008... which, by an amazing coincidence, happens to be the exact same wording that is now called a "dramatic," "sweeping," "substantive change" to the "underlying principles" of our constitution. (Or the "underlying principles of individual," whatever that's supposed to mean.)
If H.L. Mencken were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.
Riddle Me This...
The Bush administration has provoked a "furor" by promulgating a new rule designed to protect health-care professionals from being forced to perform or assist in abortions, sterilizations, or other medical procedures that might shock their consciences:
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."
It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to "assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity" financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Opponents of the new rule offer two main objections:
- First, that it's unnecessary and duplicative, as federal law already protects such employees. "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, [Reed] Russell said, and the courts have defined 'religion' broadly to include 'moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong, which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.'" [Russell is legal counsel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.]
- And second, that it would deny women access to abortions. "[President-elect Barack] Obama has said the proposal will raise new hurdles to women seeking reproductive health services, like abortion and some contraceptives."
Perhaps I'm just being unusually dense today, but -- don't those two arguments completely contradict one another?
If federal law already protects health workers' right to refuse to participate in abortions, some contraceptive procedures, and human research if they have "religious or moral objections;" if that is already the law, and this rule adds nothing; then how can the rule possibly "raise new hurdles?"
I have the distinct impression that in fact, argument number 2 is correct, while argument 1 is simply made up on the spot to try to make the rule appear redundant. The article itself says as much, though not so clearly:
Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, said that in recent years, "we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations."
But the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, 28 senators, more than 110 representatives and the attorneys general of 13 states have urged the Bush administration to withdraw the proposed rule.
Pharmacies said the rule would allow their employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and could "lead to Medicaid patients being turned away." State officials said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.
The Ohio Health Department said the rule "could force family planning providers to hire employees who may refuse to do their jobs" - a concern echoed by Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In other words, no matter what federal law says, in practice, the right of medical workers to refuse to perform tasks that violate their religious or moral precepts is not really universal; it only applies in a very narrow set of circumstances that usually leaves the religious health-care provider unable to refuse to perform the "procedure." Once again, I believe the pro-abortion Left is being disingenuous to the point of mendacity.
As it happens, I support abortion rights -- up until a particular point of foetal development which usually occurs near the beginning of the third trimester; prior to that development, I don't consider the nascent human being to be a "person" who has any rights. My objection to fraudulent rhetoric is not a back-door scheme to outlaw all abortions; I want to see abortion unfettered until that developmental point. Any conservative worth his Saltines would call me "pro-abortion," and I wouldn't object.
But I despise argument by hysteria, argument by "noble falsehood," and argument by tendentious befuddlement... each of which I see being used by the pro-abortion side in this donnybrook.
Here is the real argument opponents of the new regulation have, and I wish they would just straightforwardly make it, instead of resorting to subterfuge:
The [Connecticut] state attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said the proposed regulation "would blow apart solutions and compromises that have been reached by people of good will in Connecticut and elsewhere."
This is a very reasonable argument, and honest and well-informed people can stake out either side of it. One can argue that abortion is such a contentious issue, with disputants disagreeing on when personhood or even human life begins, that it should only be resolved by compromise at the state level. Or one could argue that if, in fact, a foetus is morally equivalent to a born baby, then there can be no compromise about abortion... which in this formulation is tantamount to infanticide. The beauty of federalism is that different states can come down on different sides.
But sooner or later -- and it's been 35 years since Roe v. Wade first "blew apart solutions and compromises" that people of good will had hammered out -- our society is going to have to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: We must eventually decide the epistemological question of how we are to decide, in a case by case, state by state basis, whether a particular pregnancy is a person with the right to life... or a living but dependent entity that has not yet attained personhood, and therefore has no rights.
Until we hold that national dialog (in individual states), we will continue to straddle the barbed-wire fence... which is a very painful, not to mention awkward and perilous, social posture to maintain. And that means the courts must get the hell out of the way and allow the democratic branches of government to do their jobs.
Date ►►► November 18, 2008
All signs point to President-Elect Barack H. Obama naming Eric Holder to be his Attorney General. Holder is basically a nonentity whose only claim to the office is that he represents continuity and stasis with the Clinton administration, having moved into Jamie Gorelick's job when she abruptly resigned in 1997 to become vice chairman of Fannie Mae.
We essentially know only one thing about Holder: He favored the pardon of fugitive financier and justice mocker, the aptly named Marc Rich. In fact, President Bill Clinton said that Holder's support as Deputy Attorney General was a key factor in Clinton deciding to issue the pardon (that plus the millions of dollars Rich's wife Denise donated to the Clinton library fund).
Funnily enough, the one thing we know about Holder is also the one thing that may stand in his path to the AG's job:
The only hesitancy about Holder’s selection was that he himself had reservations about going through a confirmation process that was likely to revive questions about his role in signing off on the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Although there is no evidence that Holder actively pushed the pardon, he was criticized for not raising with the White House the strong objections that some Justice Department lawyers and federal prosecutors in New York had to pardoning somebody who had fled the country.
Well, let's be a little more specific: Rich fled the country to escape prosecution for income-tax evasion and trading with Iran while Iran was holding American hostages and on the banned-nation list; he renounced his American citizenship as well.
Mark Rich was close friends with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which gave him access to lucrative illegal trade deals. Prior to Khomeini's ascension, Rich put together a deal to make a fortune by exploiting the Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974; his contacts with the corrupt governments of Iran and Iraq allowed him to buy cheap oil and sell it for more than a 100% profit in the United States.
Rich spent his exile in Swiss chalets and ski slopes with his fellow ultra-rich ex-pats and multinationalist vagabonds. After a few years of such penance, Clinton decided that the oil-crisis profiteer had suffered enough; the president gave Rich a full and complete pardon on the last day of Clinton's administration, despite the unease of his own Justice Department -- excepting Eric Holder, of course.
Thus, Holder is now nervous that his limp support and incuriosity -- Holder never wondered why the president would pardon a man who used his vast wealth (about $1.5 billion) to laugh at the American criminal-justice system -- might damage his chance to become the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States. But not to worry, because the Obama administration has the killer counterargument:
But after reviewing the evidence in the case, and checking with staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Obama aides and Holder both decided the issue was highly unlikely to prove an obstacle to his confirmation, one of the sources said -- especially given the Democrats’ more sizable post-election majority in the Senate.
Yep; that's about the "size" of it; the Democrats have the votes, so to hell with the concerns of law enforcement.
Barack Obama: Stuffing his administration full of former Clintonistas; bullying the opposition; announcing practically the moment after his election that he didn't feel bound by any of his campaign promises; and already crowning himself with the glory of Franklin Delano "President Government" Roosevelt and (absurdly enough) Abraham Lincoln before serving even a single day as president. This is quite definitely "change I can believe in" from our President-Elect.
Date ►►► November 17, 2008
Does She Get a "Bye?"
Rich Galen, of Mullings fame, wrote a cybercolumn about the 63-question "questionaire" that the Obama transition team now requires all applicants for administrative positions to fill out; it includes a very large number of very intrusive questions, which Galen compares to the "are you now or have you ever been a Communist?" type questions asked during the heyday of McCarthyism (which "ism" I happen to applaud, by the way, but that's not germane to this point).
Immediately after reading that issue of Mullings, I read this:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is among the candidates that President-elect Barack Obama is considering for secretary of state, according to two Democratic officials in close contact with the Obama transition team.
Clinton, the former first lady who pushed Obama hard for the Democratic presidential nomination, was rumored to be a contender for the job last week, but the talk died down as party activists questioned whether she was best-suited to be the nation's top diplomat in an Obama administration.
The talk resumed in Washington and elsewhere Thursday, a day after Obama named several former aides to President Bill Clinton to help run his transition effort.
This raises an immediate impasse: How on earth is Hillary going to be able to answer even half the questions on the questionaire? Here are a few examples, complete with Sen. Clinton's answers (leaked to Big Lizards by someone who identified himself only as "Ted"):
- If you or your spouse have performed any work for, received any payments from and/or made any payments to any foreign government, business, non-profit organization or individual, please describe the circumstances, and identify the source and amount. Also please specify if you or your spouse has ever been registered as an agent for a foreign principal.
- If you or your spouse have ever lived or worked abroad, please describe the circumstances.
- Briefly describe the most controversial matters you have been involved with during the course of your career.
- Testimony: Please identify each instance in which you have testified before Congress or other legislative, administrative, investigative or regulatory body, and specify the subject matter of the testimony. If available, please provide summaries or transcripts of your testimony.
- Speeches: Please identify all speeches you have given. If available please provide the text or recordings of each such speech or identify any recordings of speeches of which you are aware.
- Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.
- Please specifically describe any affiliation you, your spouse or any member of your immediate family have, or have had, with any financial, banking, mortgage or insurance institution that is currently the subject of federal government intervention as part of the ongoing economic crisis. This question includes, but is not limited to, the following: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, and Washington Mutual.
- Other than the entities identified in questions 15-19 above, please provide the names and details of any individuals and organizations with which you or your spouse have been associated with which might present a conflict of interest with your proposed federal office, or have the poetntial for embarassment.
- Please list any lawsuits you or your spouse have brought as a plaintiff or which were brought against you or your spouse as a defendant or third party, or in which you or your spouse have testified at trial or deposition. Include in this response any arbitrations, mediations, and contested divorce proceedings or other domestic relations matters.
- Have any members of your family or close social or business associates been arrested for, charged with and/or convicted of a crime, other than a minor traffic violation? If so, please identify and describe each such arrest, charge, or conviction. Please provide the same information for anyone under your professional supervision, or anyone of your superiors.
- Have you or your spouse ever been accused, formally or informally, of any violation of government or agency procedure (specifically including security violations)?
- Have any civil judgments or liens been rendered against you or your spouse? If so, please provide details.
- If applicable, please list the names, addresses and phone number of cohabitants within the last ten years. A cohabitant is a person with whom you share bonds of affection, obligation, or other commitment, as opposed to a person with whom you live for reasons of convenience (a roommate).
- Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.
- Have you had any association with any person, group or business venture that could be used -- even unfairly -- to impugn or attack your character and qualifications for government service?
- Do you know anyone or any organization, either in the private sector or government service, that might take steps, overtly or covertly, fairly or unfairly, to criticize your nomination, including any news organization? If so, please identify and explain the potential basis for criticism.
- Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarassment to you, your famliy, or the President-Elect.
Oh heck. Maybe they'll just pencil-whip her through without the silly, old questionaire at all.
Date ►►► November 14, 2008
Is Obama Now Ready for "Preconditions" Before Summit Meeting?
Is President-in-Waiting Barack H. Obama finally agreeing to only hold a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after serious and substantial preconditions are met? It would appear so from this story:
Medvedev said he had spoken with Obama by telephone and hoped to meet him in person soon.
"We hope to create frank and honest relations with the new administration and resolve problems that we were not able to resolve with the current administration," he said.
But what about that precondition? Oh yes, here it is:
In an interview with French daily newspaper Le Figaro published on Thursday, Medvedev said Moscow had no choice but to react to U.S. plans to set up a network of missiles and radar systems near its own frontiers.
"But we are ready to abandon this decision to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if the new American administration, after analyzing the real usefulness of a system to respond to 'rogue states', decides to abandon its anti-missile system," he said.
Thank goodness President-elect Obama finally realizes that we cannot have a summit between the President of the United States and the head of some hostile state without some major precondition... and it appears that Obama is now considering whether to agree to that concession.
I'm sure that once Obama meets Russia's pre-meeting demand, Medvedev will be more than happy to join him for some of that hopey-changey talk we can believe in.
Reliable sources who must remain anonymous (because they are making it up as they go) predict that next quarter, Obama will agree to reduce Israel to its 1948 borders and disarm the Jewish state, formally recognize Tibet, Nepal, and Japan as provinces of the People's Republic of China, install Iran as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and introduce sharia courts into Utah... following which, the Palestinians, Red Chinese, Hezbollah, and the Nation of Islam will each agree to bless Obama with a summit.
But at least no one can ever again accuse him of talking to other heads of state without preconditions!
Date ►►► November 13, 2008
The Democrats' First 1,461 Days: War Crimes, War Crimes, War Crimes!
...And crimes against humanity, history, the environment, and "international law."
Well, it's official: The incoming Democratic majority of the 111th Congress has announced it intends to "investigate" the Bush administration... for the next four years straight:
“The Bush administration overstepped in its exertion of executive privilege, and may very well try to continue to shield information from the American people after it leaves office,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who sits on two committees, Judiciary and Intelligence, that are examining aspects of Mr. Bush’s policies.
Topics of open investigations include the harsh interrogation of detainees, the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, secret legal memorandums from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the role of the former White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers in the firing of federal prosecutors....
“I intend to ensure that our outstanding subpoenas and document requests relating to the U.S. attorneys matter are enforced,” said Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “I am hopeful that progress can be made with the coming of the new administration.”
Actually, much of the article in the Times is devoted to examining the inconvenient truth that there is some precedent for President George W. Bush continuing to assert executive authority to withhold internal documents from Congress, and prevent former aides from testifying, even after he leaves office; the precedents flow from Harry Truman through Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. But I find the comments from Democratic leaders like Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 100%) more illuminating than the legal dithering.
This one, for example:
“If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated,” Mr. Obama said, but added, “I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.”
But even if his administration rejects the calls for investigations, Mr. Obama cannot control what the courts or Congress do. Several lawsuits are seeking information about Bush policies, including an Islamic charity’s claim that it was illegally spied on by Mr. Bush’s program on wiretapping without warrants.
And Congressional Democrats say that they are determined to pursue their investigations -- and that they expect career officials to disclose other issues after the Bush administration leaves. “We could spend the entire next four years investigating the Bush years,” Mr. Whitehouse said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, 95%) is on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, well situated to make good his promise.
Democrats are obsessed with investigating the Bush administration for two reasons:
- The Democratic rank and file -- and many (but not all) of the leaders themselves -- still suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome and will likely continue to show symptoms for as long as they suck air.
To many of them, especially unreconstructed Obamatons and Kossaks, "getting Bush" (and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove) is more important than America succeeding. In fact, some may be so overwhelmed by their psychosis that they actively want America to collapse, as punishment for having betrayed ourselves by allowing George W. Bush to "steal the election" -- twice!
- But even those who are more sober and responsible, such as Reps. Conyers and Barney Frank (D-MA, 95%) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 93%), will support such investigations... because they realize they have no workable ideas how to solve those "many problems" that President Barack H. Obama mentioned. They need "investigations" both to distract voter attention and scapegoat the previous administration, thus taking the heat off of the incoming Obama nation.
What do they have on tap that any rational human being imagines will resolve the staggering unfunded liability of "entitlement" programs? What wonderful plan have they developed to take care of the millions of people who voluntarily reject health-care insurance because they don't expect to get sick or injured? Iraq and Afghanistan will take care of themselves, if Obama just leaves those policies alone; but what have Democrats proposed that will actually keep Iran in check, deal with Red China and Russia, or find a good compromise between civilized Israel and the primitive but militant Islamists in Hamas, Hezbollah, PIJ, and other such so-called "jihadi" groups?
By definition, this second group comprises those Democrats not infected by BDS: They may be corrupt, they may be concerned only with power, they may even be "evil" by some definitions; but they are by definition rational -- and they realize that they have nothing in their pockets but a pair of hands with some fingers on them.
But the good news is that ordinary voters have a much lower tolerance for investigations than do members of Congress; this is probably the "policy" where Democrats are most likely to overreach -- and the one that is most likely to infuriate voters, as Republicans found out in 1998. In fact, by 2010, after two solid years of investigate, investigate, investigate!, the GOP can surely use that itself as a major campaign issue: "The majority Democrats are wasting time and taxpayer money trying to 'get' a guy who isn't even in public office anymore, to cover up the fact that none of their policies is working!"
The recession will have mostly receded by then, but the underlying problems that caused it in the first place won't have. And all that "change" that Obama promised will have failed to materialized: The first two years of the Obama administration will look remarkably like the last two years of the Bush administration -- except the partisan rancor will be even worse, incubated by the mean-spirited and precedent-setting investigations themselves. The Democrats' own obsession will undercut everything voters thought they were getting by voting for B.O.
And that's good news for us. The "headwind" against Republicans will be nowhere near as intense in 2010 as it was in 2006 and 2008; in fact, the windsock may have swung around entirely by then, giving us the first tailwind we've had since 1994.
Maybe. Everything depends upon whether the pared-down GOP can finally clarify what it stands for, and whether it can make the case clearly to the American people. We must once again become the party of "hard America," not "soft America," to use Michael Barone's dichotomy. We cannot win the battle of airy-fairy hopey-changitude, where Democrats, as the party of vagueness, will always have an edge.
Date ►►► November 12, 2008
Hey, My Memory Yet Lives
We all know what's right with this picture -- but what's wrong with it?
Pirates caught redhanded by one of Her Majesty’s warships after trying to hijack a cargo ship off Somalia made the grave mistake of opening fire on two Royal Navy assault craft packed with commandos armed with machineguns and SA80 rifles.
In the ensuing gunfight, two Somali pirates in a Yemeni-registered fishing dhow were killed, and a third pirate, believed to be a Yemeni, suffered injuries and subsequently died. It was the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory.
We'll get back to what's wrong with this picture in a moment. First, a little more of what's right. The HMS Cumberland noticed a dhow towing a skiff (cool maritime words whose meaning is lost on me, except they're both types of boats); they realized they'd detected some pirates that attacked a Danish ship yesterday, so they dispatched some Royal Marines in the Brit equivalent of a couple of Zodiacs. The pirates decided the best response would be to open fire on the Marines ("Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time"), and the rest is predictable:
Moslem pirates surrender
It sure was a vast improvement over this:
The gun battle was in stark contrast to the Royal Navy’s last encounter with a boatful of armed men - when crew members of HMS Cornwall, also a Type 22 frigate, patrolling in the Gulf in rigid raiders, were surrounded by heavily armed Iranian Revolutionary Guards in March last year. Eight sailors, including a woman, Leading Seaman Faye Turney, and seven Marines were taken hostage without a shot being fired, and detained for 13 days. The Commons Defence Committee described the incident as “a national embarrassment”.
The Times (of London) dryly remarks that the Marines evidently have "a new policy of maximum robustness," which nowadays includes fighting back when attacked. Jolly good!
Oh, back to what's wrong with the last sentence of the second paragraph quoted at the very beginning of this post: "It was the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory." I note for the record that some of us have "living memories" that stretch all the way back to 1982 (and even earlier!)
Date ►►► November 11, 2008
The FEC Shrugged
Obama's Brobdingnagian fundraising is simply too huge to be investigated
Politico casually drops a bombshell (and of course, tilts the story a bit towards Barack H. Obama):
The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.
Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.
It turns out that when Obama broke his word and refused to accept public funding in the general election, the first presidential candidate to do so in the modern era, he thereby skated away from the automatic audit that accompanies acceptance of such cash; while John S. McCain's honesty in accepting public funding as he promised is exactly why he will be audited.
Worse, the very hugeness of Obama's fundraising -- over $600 million through September and probably topping $700 million overall -- means that not even the millions of dollars of questionable and completely unmonitored credit-card donations will be investigated either: The formula the FEC uses to decide on an audit takes into account the amount in question as a percentage of the total raised by the candidate. Thus, substantial and well-founded allegations of even $5 million of potentially criminal fundraising would represent less than 1% of Obama's funds raised, and therefore the FEC is not required to investigate.
Of course, the commission could still simply vote to authorize an audit, no matter what their formula says about automatic audits; but it's unlikely to trouble itself. The commission membership is deliberately kept to an equal number of Democrats and Republicans (whether or not it's fully staffed or even has a quorum); and, well, the Democratic commissioners have signalled that they're going to vote en masse against any audit of Barack Obama's fundraising practices. Thus any vote on an audit will at best be a stalemate, with three for and three against (a majority is required except for automatic audits).
So Obama will almost certainly waltz away without any audit at all, while McCain will have to spend millions of dollars defend his own fundraising practices. Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Riverboat ride tonight.
Meanwhile, it appears, astonishingly enough, that even now, Politico is completely ignorant of the real scandal of the Obama fundraising machine: They deliberately disabled fraud monitoring of credit-card donations. This despite the fact that reputable conservative blogs with hundreds of thousands of daily readers -- more than many mainstream newspapers -- have published many substantial blogposts on the issue... for example, this sequence of posts from Power Line:
- Who is John Galt?
- What did Della Ware?
- ObamaFraud: Still Not News
- Obama shrugged
- Obama Shrugged: The Website
- Obama Shrugged: An update
- Obama Shrugged: Neil Munro is on the case
- An irregular campaign
That series of eight posts represents quite a substantial and in-depth analysis of probable criminal violations not only of the McCain-Feingold fundraising laws but also credit-card fraud: The Obama campaign evidently turned off all fraud-monitoring processes whatsoever, in order to make it easier for anybody to donate any amount under any name... or even to charge donations to the credit cards of people who never authorized such charges.
You'd think such a substantial allegation of deliberate criminal fraud would deserve at least a mention in an article specifically on the possibility that Obama's campaign fundraising might possibly, but probably wouldn't be audited. But either Politico never heard a word of it... or else they're still in the tank for the One, even after he has been safely elected. Either nonfeasance or outright malfeasance; that's a heck of a dilemma that bodes ill for future reporting.
And they're hardly alone; the entire elite media has been mimicking the three monkeys (see-no, hear-no, report-no) throughout the 114 years of this campaign (except for Neil Munro at National Journal; see link 7 in the list above); and many appear determined to maintain the frantic pace of campaigning even after the campaign has ended. What started as rewriting the election is now metastisizing into rewriting history even as it's being made.
So it goes. And so it will go for the next four or even eight years... welcome to Obamaland.
I suspect there is only one solution to this problem: The GOP should likewise disable all monitoring and throw the fundraising valve wide open. We might not raise as much as Obama did, but at least we'll be at less of a disadvantage than we were this time, when we foolishly played by rules that were, in reality, "no longer operative."
If Chicago rules are the to be the new rules of the game, then we'd better begin playing by them as well. We should appoint nothing but absolute GOP partisans to the FEC, and they can deadlock on every vote on an audit of Republican candidates, just as the Democratic commissioners already do for their side.
In a bizarre way, the FEC's inaction is good: It makes the complete failure of campaign finance reform brutally clear. It's a backdoor way finally to overturn the unworkable, thoroughly discredited, and unconstitutional (no matter what the Supreme Court says) McCain-Feingold "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act," BCRA.
Too bad its collapse must take with it the perfectly reasonable laws against donations by foreigners; but as A.E. Housman says, we find ourselves "In a world [we] never made":
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.
Date ►►► November 10, 2008
What on earth was California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinking? (Don't worry, I'll tell you.)
Understanding Arnold is not easy in the best of circumstances -- and I'm not even talking about that thick Teutonic accent that he practices into a tape recorder every night. He almost epitomizes the cult of macho, and he's very pro-business; but on the other hand, he's a typical handwringing Hollywood liberal on every soft-hearted, soft-headed social issue you can imagine.
On the specific issue we're on about today, same-sex marriage (SSM), he's been all over the map: He first said he was opposed to SSM but supported domestic partnerships; in fact, in 2005 he famously vetoed SSM legislation passed by the California legislature on the grounds that the people of the state had spoken in Proposition 22 five years earlier, and the will of the people was paramount:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today delivered on his promise to veto legislation that would have given same-sex partners the right to marry, but said he would not support any rollback of the state's current domestic partner benefits.
But today, after the people spoke yet again -- this time with a state constitutional amendment, Proposition 8 -- Schwarzenegger suddenly decided that the will of the people is not paramount -- not when it conflicts with the vision of the judicially anointed. He called upon the California Supreme Court to declare the constitutional amendment unconstitutional... which I think might be a first:
Reporting from Sacramento and Lake Forest -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. He also predicted that the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already wed would not see their marriages nullified by the initiative.
"It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end," Schwarzenegger said in an interview Sunday on CNN. "I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area."
The theory, evidently, is that an amendment to the constitution is unconstitutional if it conflicts with any previously adopted section of the constitution... including whatever section it amends! If you follow this reasoning, it means that no constitution can ever be amended, except to add new rights that never previously existed. (For example, the Twenty-First Amendment is "unconstitutional" because it repeals the Eighteenth Amendment allowing the prohibition of alcohol.)
Schwarzenegger is very politically savvy; given that Proposition 8 passed handily, primarily due to the votes of Hispanics and blacks, isn't it a rather peculiar flip-flop for Schwarzenegger to undertake? What in the world is going on here?
All right, I said I would tell you what he's doing; here we go. There are a few California facts you must bear in mind:
- California has term limits for governor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger must leave office following the 2010 election. He still has aspirations for national elective office, however.
- At the same time, longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) has been dropping hints all over the place that she plans to run for governor in 2010, when she wouldn't have to face the Schwarzenegger juggernaut. (Her term doesn't expire until 2012, but as governor, she could appoint her successor -- as Gov. Pete Wilson did following the 1990 gubernatorial election.)
- Here's where it gets interesting... if Feinstein is vacating her seat to run for governor, and Schwarzenegger is vacating his seat because of term limits, then it makes perfect sense for each of them to grab for the other's seat. It's the best chance for both of them to strike for an open seat, rather than trying to knock off a longstanding and popular incumbent.
- But there's a problem: The Republican brand is at a pretty low ebb in California right now. And in any event, Feinstein is certainly not going to appoint a Republican to replace her.
So my prediction is this: Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to switch parties and then run for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat in 2012; he might even lobby her to appoint him in her place, if he agrees to caucus with the Democrats for the first two years. Then he would endorse her and campaign for her as governor.
Even if she won't appoint him, he will still have a very good shot at winning in 2012, since whoever replaces her will not have the name-recognition and built-in base that Feinstein enjoys.
Now, it would be ludicrous for Schwarzenegger to switch from Republican to Democrat immediately after campaigning for the GOP nominee for president; so my prediction is actually that he will switch parties to independent after he leaves office, then run for the Senate two years later -- either as the incumbent, if Feinstein appoints him, or as the challenger of an unelected appointee.
Eventually however, probably after the 2012 election, I believe Schwarzenegger will caucus with the Republicans; he will become our Joe Lieberman.
The change in his stance on SSM, then, can be seen as an "olive branch" to the left-leaning independents and moderate Democrats in this state. He assumes he'll retain most of his Republican base anyway; after all, they know he's been a liberal Republican (on social issues) for a long time -- no surprise there.
So I predict that Arnold Schwarzenegger will switch to independent and run for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat. Just remember, you read it here first!
Date ►►► November 8, 2008
Conservatives: Obama's Secret Army
According to the Ass. Press:
Democrats made up 39 percent of the electorate and Republicans 32 percent in a national exit poll for The Associated Press and television networks. That left the share of voters considering themselves members of the GOP lower than in any presidential election since 1980 and was a sharp contrast with the 37-37 split between the two parties in the 2004 election.
But there was virtually no change in the ideological spectrum: This year 22 percent called themselves liberal, compared with 21 percent in 2004; 44 percent moderate, compared with 45 percent; and 34 percent conservative, same as four years ago....
Then again, some voters can't be pigeonholed by ideology. For instance, one in five self-described conservatives voted for Obama. One in 10 liberals voted for Republican John McCain.
Let's hop aboard my Syllogismobile and go for a ride...
- 34% of voters called themselves "conservatives."
- Of that 34%, 20% voted for Barack H. Obama; that means 6.8% of the electorate both called themselves conservatives and also voted for Obama. (Would that include Christopher Buckley and his ilk?)
- Contrariwise, only 10% of self-dubbed liberals voted for John S. McCain. Conservatives defected at twice the rate of liberals.
- Suppose, just for a giggle, conservatives had only voted for Obama at the same percentage that liberals voted for McCain... in other words, that conservatives were no more likely to defect than liberals. In that case, half of the conservative defectors would have remained loyal, and 3.4% of votes would shift from Obama to McCain.
- According to the most recent quasi-official unofficial tally, the popular tallies for the two nominees were 52.6% for Obama and 46.1% for McCain.
- Switching 3.4% from left to right yields 49.2% for Obama and 49.5% for McCain. (Note McCain number higher than Obama number.)
- Conclusion: Had conservatives defected at the same rate as liberals, instead of twice the rate, then John McCain would have won this election.
Date ►►► November 7, 2008
The Great Leap Forward: How the Heck Can We Win Anyway?
It's a serious question: If a candidate like John S. McCain can be beaten by an empty suit with no experience spouting policies that "seem vague but are in fact meaningless," then what the heck are we supposed to do in order to win next time?
Surprisingly enough, I'll tell you what we should do. So there.
In this election, each side did a great job of turning out their partisans: CNN's exit polling shows that McCain got 90% of the GOP vote, while Barack H. Obama got 89% of the Democratic vote. But Obama surged among independents by 8%, 52 to 44 for McCain. As far as ideology, Obama did somewhat better among liberals (89%) than McCain did among conservatives (78%); but again, it was the moderates that really killed McCain's chances, giving Obama a 21-point advantage, 60-39.
Clearly, Republicans are not able to appeal to independents merely by running "centrists"; it didn't work with McCain, George W. Bush, Blob Dole, nor George H.W. Bush. The last time Republicans won the nonaligned vote was with Ronald Reagan (remember those "Reagan Democrats" and "neoconservatives?") -- but Reagan was certainly not a moderate.
But on the other hand, running a staunch conservative is no guarantee of success, either, as President Barry Goldwater can attest.
Perpetual guest blogger DRJ at Patterico's Pontifications has an interesting take; I think she is correct but too specific... her thesis can be broadened a bit. She argues that what doomed McCain's candidacy was that he never presented (or even developed) a comprehensive economic policy with, one presumes, an overarching philosophy. Obama did -- however vague it was -- and that made all the difference on the issue of the economy... which turned out to be the only issue that mattered in this election.
But let's broaden this out a bit. It doesn't matter even if a candidate has a comprehensive economic policy, if he's unable to communicate it effectively to voters. And everything said about McCain's inability to communicate a comprehensive economic policy (whether or not he had one) can also be said about his inability to communicate a comprehensive policy on energy (drill everywhere -- except ANWR"), on climate change (his "drill, baby, drill" motto conflicts with his insistance that globaloney is real and the most urgent problem we face), on the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis (fight the war with everything we have -- but don't harshly interrogate captured terrorists, don't hold military tribunals, close Guantanamo Bay, and release the prisoners), on immigration (he argued for a process to allow eventual legalization of illegal aliens but never explained how that helps the American economy or national security).
I believe that all of those cases could have been made. Some would have required McCain to change some of his policies:
- Coming up to date about the new evidence casting much doubt upon anthropogenic global climate change;
- Admitting that oil can be drilled from ANWR without damaging the environment;
- Dropping or at least mitigating his objections to harsh interrogation techniques and agreeing that terrorist combatants should not receive civilian trials alongside carjackers and check kiters.
But other cases could have been made by more effectively explaining the very positions he already held: for example, the benefit to our economy and even our national security by immigration reform and a process of legalization of those here illegally. But the fact is that John McCain never really made any of those arguments; in some instances, such as energy and immigration, he didn't even try.
He never even really articulated a long-term plan for resolving the financial meltdown, nor for dealing with the real root causes -- the "money for nothing" syndrome so evident not only in subprime lending but also in the Social Security and Medicare boondoggles. McCain really needed to tie everything together under a few simple precepts:
Money has to come from somewhere. Ultimately, every dollar spent comes from your pockets. That doesn't mean we shouldn't spend anything; but it does mean we must be honest about how we're going to pay for things we like... including retirement programs; medical programs for senior citizens, veterans, and the poor; and rescuing American citizens from the folly of Wall Street bankers.
We must cut expenses, or America is going to go bankrupt. And that means finding a better way to fund Social Security (privatize), reforming and revamping Medicare and other medical entitlement programs (ownership, portability, innovation, defined contribution, MSAs), and being more careful about how we inject liquidity into the mortgage market (lending rather than letting government buy -- partially nationalize -- the banking industry).
Energy is not "free" either; all of the electricity, gasoline, and natural gas that we use to power our society comes at the expense, to some extent, of the environment. The only way to prevent 100% of all environmental damage would be to smash all the technology and go back to the way people lived in the Dark Ages.
We cannot power our country on biomass, solar cells, and wind; but they can help somewhat in the margins, and we should pursue them, so long as it's not too expensive. That said, we must strike a balance between the environment, which we all need and which we all want to be able to enjoy, and the raw energy we need to live, work, and prosper. My administration will pursue every, last method of producing energy, but we'll do so in as environmentally friendly a way as practicable. Sometimes that will mean less energy and more wilderness; but other times that must mean less wilderness for more energy.
Immigration also requires a delicate balance: On the one hand, we must control our borders; that's the primary duty of any country. But on the other hand, we cannot allow a population in the millions that lives inside our borders -- but as outsiders to society. On the third hand, we haven't the means to round them up and deport them... and it would kill our economy, which has come to rely upon lower-wage workers in many areas.
The solution is an overarching policy that America is for those of any nationality who have American values: We should only admit immigrants who plan to become citizens... and only immigrants who are willing to assimilate and Americanize. No "guest workers," no hordes of immigrants who want to turn the United States into a carbon copy of whatever country they left behind. But no immigrant who truly wants to become an American should be rejected arbitrarily or without being told why, and what he can do to qualify next time.
I believe that the next Republican nominee for president must himself have a comprehensive and consistent set of policies, driven by an optimistic and truly American overall philosophy:
- One that can easily be explained to people (the philosophy, not necessarily each individual policy);
- Whose pieces should all fit together;
- And the whole of which, while small-c conservative and big-C Capitalist, should be neither rigid nor inflexible, nor seem censorious, dour, defeatist, or gloomy.
Nor should it be some airy-fairy fantasy about getting everything for nothing when "the world all comes together as one." We need realism, optimism, consistency, and an overall guiding philosophy... coupled with the ability to fully and effectively articulate this vision to the entire country.
That is what Ronald Reagan offered, but not a single Republican nominee since then has even attempted. Instead, except for 1988, Republicans have tried to negotiate the presidency. (In 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush simply coasted into la Casa Blanca by sheer momentum of the Reaganism that he personally despised).
We keep trying to put together a coalition of special interests (military hawks, deficit hawks, entrepeneurs, free-traders, libertarians, and social conservatives), then pick one from Column A, two from Column B, and so forth. This has usually worked, but it's not reliable -- as we just saw, where a decent, intelligent man of substance by beaten by a shiny, rainbow-colored soap bubble.
I think what I'm saying is that we need to nominate a great communicator and leader, not a great compromiser; not a nominee designed to appeal to just enough members of each interest group to hold the coalition together. There's a saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee; since our last strong horse in 1980, we've nominated nothing but camels, camels, camels, all the way down.
I also agree that we should look beyond the "usual gang of idiots" to candidates outside the D.C. beltway. Sarah Palin was a great choice precisely because she was the governor of an important state that was about as far away from the District of Columbia as possible (Hawaii is too liberal). Her problem was twofold: She was too recently elected, and the McCain camp did not let Sarah Barracuda be herself; they tried to micromanage her into a John McCain "mini-me." The electorate had never heard of her before the nomination, and many moderates and independents were furious that an "inexperienced" and "out of her depth" "lightweight" was put into such an important role.
The McCain campaign really blew the roll-out; but that shouldn't hurt Palin herself in 2012, provided she follows my advice below.
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is also a strong contender... another "beltway outsider" with real experience governing. But we could look even further afield. How about Gen. David Petraeus? If it turns out that he has a comprehensive and consistent overarching philosophy of government that fits within the GOP orbit (which I strongly suspect to be true), he might be a fantastic candidate. We already know he's a wonderful communicator.
President -- how?
But whoever is the nominee should make it clear very soon now -- no more than a year from today -- that he (or she) is going to run for president. Then he should barnstorm the country, talking to anyone and everyone: from the Elks and Masons, to the local councils of La Raza, to NRA chapters, to businesses large and small, to campus groups -- lots and lots of campus groups! -- to various forums to which women voters pay attention, to organizations of black businessmen, to churches, synogogues, and mosques, and so forth. It doesn't matter if the group agrees or disagrees with the future candidate's policies; what matters is that he makes it clear that they matter to him.
And I have one final suggestion: When the campaign starts in earnest, I want this candidate to refuse to participate in mass "debates." Instead, he should challenge every other major candidate to a one-on-one debate... and offer to pay for it.
Any opponent who refuses should be mercilessly mocked for being afraid to face the candidate. These mass "debate" events are monkey debates; they're not really debates at all but just collective press conferences. The one-on-ones that our candidate offers would be real debates, a town-hall format where, besides questions from the audience, each candidate also puts questions to his opponent.
I think voters would find this format far more interesting, stimulating, even exciting, than the warmed over mashed potatoes we get nowadays. And it would also play to the strengths of the outsider candidate, rather than consummate insiders like John McCain, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden.
In other words, a presidential election is a nonviolent war, where the stake is leadership of the free world; for God's sake, can't we plan the next one with the same intensity that we would plan a military campaign?
It's Official: a Rise in "New Registrations" Means Nothing - UPDATED
If you'll recall, the big concern in the months leading up to the election was how many new voters, homeless voters, felon voters, and young voters the campaign of Barack H. Obama registered via groups like ACORN and Project Vote... millions and millions of them; in fact, a study released today by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University found ten million new registrations.
But in the actual vote, this mass of new registrations did not translate into any increase in the percent of Americans over the age of 18 who voted. I'll use the total population as a proxy for the population of those over 18, because the former is easier to find. According to the U.S. Census Department, between 2004 and 2008, the U.S. population increased from 293.2 million to 305.6 million, a gain of 12.4 million or 4.2%.
And according to the study linked above, the number of voters increased from 122.2 million in 2004 to between 126.5 and 128.5 million this year; this translates to an increase of from 4.3 to 6.3 million -- or from 3.5% to 5.2%, with a midrange percentile increase of 4.3%. Thus, as Shakespeare put it, all that sound and fury appears to have signified nothing (not surprising, since it was a tale told by the idiots in the elite news media.)
In fact, there is little evidence even that registrations went up by much more than the ordinary increase in the American population would have predicted; registrations increased between 2004 and 2008 by about 4.8%, as compared to the population increase of 4.2%; the difference of 0.6% is the number of "extra" new registrations over and above what we would have expected.
The population increase alone accounts for 8.7 million of the 10 million -- leaving only 1.3 million "extra" registrations. But of that 1.3 million extra registered voters, better than one million of them failed to vote. At the midrange value, this means that all the hoopla and hullabaloo was over a measely increase of 300,000 new voters, or 0.2% of the vote.
That still might have made a difference in one or two battleground states; Obama won Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Virginia by 200,000 votes each. But even if the extra voters were perfectly distributed only within those four states, they cannot account for Barack Obama's victory. Absent those paltry few new voters, Obama would still have won at least three of those four states -- and John S. McCain needed to prevail in all four of them (along with Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri, the last of which McCain may still get).
Bottom line: New voters, felons, and bums did not impact the vote in any significant way. ACORN failed; Obama won the election not by bringing "new blood" to the voting booth but by doing a better job than McCain at wooing the traditional voter, the guys and gals who always vote.
Date ►►► November 6, 2008
Post-Mortem for the First Post-Partisan Partisan Election
I find myself curiously untheatrical about Barack H. Obama's victory last night, much as I'm appalled by his dishonesty, his radicalism, and his friends. I think I had seriously internalized that Obama was reasonably likely to be elected, so I got all the hand-wringing out my system early.
Besides, there's little to analyze there. I'm more interested in comparing the popular vote to the final polls released by the various pollsters. According to CNN, the current figures for the popular tally are 53% for Obama, 46% for John S. McCain. (We don't have complete figures, however, because the CNN site does not give actual tallies for those votes that went for neither major-party candidate; we'll have to take CNN's word for it.)
That gives Obama a 7% victory over McCain. So let's look at the final poll numbers.
Pollsters vs. voters
They range from a low of 3.5% from the averaged Battleground poll to a high of 11% from both Zogby and Gallup. The pollsters who came closest were CNN, Fox News, and Ipsos, who all appear to have called it exactly. Pew Research came close with 6%... but this was after having the spread as high as 15% (!) just a week before the election. This is an astonishing example of pollsters letting Obamania run away with their reason, then "walking the dog" back to rationality for the final polling release.
The following table ranks the polls from most Republican to most Democratic and includes both the raw difference and also the percentile difference; in that last column, for example, a pollster who predicted Obama by 11 points would have a raw differential of 4 (a predicted number of 11 minus the actual number 7), and a percentile difference of 57% -- 4 points differential divided by 7 points of actual victory:
|Pollster||Final Obama poll lead||Poll minus actual||Percentile difference|
|Battleground||3.5%||-3.5 points||-50% off|
|Hotline||5%||-2 points||-29% off|
|CNN||7%||Direct hit||On the money|
|Fox News||7%||Direct hit||On the money|
|Ipsos||7%||Direct hit||On the money|
|IBD||8%||+1 points||14% off|
|NBC/WSJ||8%||+1 points||14% off|
|ABC/WaPo||9%||+2 points||29% off|
|CBS||9%||+2 points||29% off|
|Marist||9%||+2 points||29% off|
|Gallup||11%||+4 points||57% off|
|Zogby||11%||+4 points||57% off|
First, it's very clear that, as expected, McCain significantly outperformed his final poll numbers -- and correspondingly, Obama significantly underperformed. Four polls underestimated Obama's lead, three got it right on the money -- and seven of the fourteen (half) overestimated Obama's lead. Clearly, the pollsters underestimated Republican strength in this election.
Just as in the primaries, McCain closed noticibly on Obama in the actual election... and just as in the primaries, when Hillary Clinton closed on Barack Obama, it wasn't quite enough: The big lead that Obama had built up proved insurmountable.
The Democratic victory -- convincing but not overwhelming
That out of the way, here is a comparison to bear in mind... Obama came into this election with:
- A huge headwind against Republicans in general;
- A Republican president with a job approval below 30%;
- A "wrong track" number of 84.2% (!);
- A fundraising and spending advantage that boggles the mind;
- The weight of the massed elite media behind him 137.4%;
- A complete collapse of the world financial markets -- wrongly blamed on Republicans -- just a couple of weeks before the election, with the market hitting a local nadir on October 27th, just eight days before the vote;
- A massive boost from being the first black presidential nominee with a serious chance of winning (obvously);
- A unified base that was ravenous for la Casablanca;
- And a disunited GOP base, many of whom still harbored rage over McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, the Gang of Fourteen, and so forth; many of whom pointedly voted for Librarian nominee Babar instead of McCain. (In the end, though, I believe McCain retained more Republicans than Obama retained Democrats; but I just heard that, I haven't seen the figures.)
Yet even so, Barack Obama did not do as well in the election as did Bill Clinton in 1996, the previous Democratic victory.
Obama has won at least 349 electoral votes, possibly as many as 375 (if he ends up taking both Missouri, where McCain leads by 6,000 votes, and North Carolina, where Obama leads by 14,000); and he had a 7% victory over John McCain. But in 1996, Bill Clinton won 379 electoral votes with a margin of 8.5% -- and that was after numerous substantiated allegations of corruption and wrongdoing by the president. (If McCain ends up winning either Missouri or North Carolina, then Obama will have done worse than both of Bill Clinton's elections.)
Obama's was not a landslide victory; it was more substantial than either of George W. Bush's victories, but it was still less than the average presidential margin of victory of the past few decades. There have been 27 presidential elections from 1900 to 2004; at least 17 of them (63%) have been more substantial than this year's, and possibly as many as 19 (70%).
The Democrats have definitely picked up at least five net Senate seats; but the Republican leads in three of the four outstanding races -- Georgia, Minnesota, and Alaska; the Democrat leads by about 8,000 votes in Oregon. If these results hold up, Republicans will retain 43 seats... probably enough to maintain a filibuster against the worse excesses of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid troika. (If, as some aver, Joe Lieberman switches to Republican after he is stripped of all his committee assignments from vengeful Democrats, that would bring the total up to a more comfortable 44 Republicans.)
Finally, Democrats gained at least 18 House seats, with 8 still undecided; if the parties split the undecideds, that would mean a gain of 22 for the Democrats -- nine fewer than they gained in 2006. (By contrast, Democrats picked up 52 net seats in 1930, and an additional 101 seats in 1932; Republicans recaptured 81 seats in 1938 and 54 seats in 1994. There have been many, many other elections -- possibly a majority -- where more than 22 seats changed parties.)
By all measures then, Democrats won a substantial victory Tuesday, but not an overwhelming one.
I had three priorities in this election; two succeeded, one failed:
- The election of John McCain (failed);
- Holding onto enough Senate seats to allow the GOP to filibuster the most egregious of insane Democratic proposals (appears to have succeeded);
- And the passage of California Proposition 8, the restoration of the traditional definition of marriage, after our rogue state Supreme Court decided to cram same-sex marriage down our throats (definitely succeeded).
That last is on the list because I believe traditional man-woman marriage is a cornerstone of Western civilization; I will be happy to debate Patterico -- or anyone else with a similar standard of rationality, honesty, and decency as he -- on its importance, but for now, I'm just very happy that it won, even in a down year for Republicans and conservative causes in general.
But in fact, conservatives fared quite well on our ballot initiatives here, except for Proposition 4, which would have required parental notification before minors could get abortions. For such a liberal state, California is still pretty conservative. The release-a-thug initiative failed big time, as did the global-warming "renewable energy" initiative; another victims' bill of rights initiative passed; and the bond initiative to pay people to buy "alternative fuel" vehicles was crushed.
There were no conservative issues with which I took issue this time, so I could stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with movement conservatives this time.
The only stupid-goofy initiative was the PETA-inspired, if not actually PETA-backed (I have no idea) free-range chickens initiative, which passed almost 2-1. Proposition 2 mandates that "calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely," with a few trivial exceptions. It sounds great -- but is it necessary? Is there really a problem? Is this even a current issue?
I voted against it for two reasons: First, we have no idea if this is necessary, because none of us has the relevant knowledge of current practices. Those who do -- farming communities -- seemed mostly opposed.
Second, this initiative was sold entirely on the basis of raw, seething emotion, complete with a "smoking gun" videotape propagated virally, showing chickens being abused.
Mercy For Animals (MFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal advocacy organization that believes non-human animals are irreplaceable individuals who have morally significant interests and hence [sic] rights, including the right to live free of unnecessary suffering. MFA is dedicated to promoting nonviolence towards all sentient beings through public education campaigns and demonstrations, undercover investigations, and open rescues.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also produces videotapes that it propagates virally; and many have been revealed as either very old (decades out of date on treatment), creatively and tendentiously edited, or even containing completely fabricated sequences. This doesn't prove that Mercy for Animals' YouTube is similarly propagandistic... but I think it's a pretty good bet.
Patterico totally bought into this video, embedding it on his site; but the video consists of a series of images (many of them repeated) of some chickens being killed and some chickens with injuries, while an MFA narrator tells us about all sorts of chicken atrocities observed by an "undercover" MFA "investigator." But such investigators (or even the narrator, for that matter) are about as impartial and believable as a charter member of Klanwatch "investigating" racism and incipient Naziism at a local NRA chapter.
Patterico sees that movie as dispositive. He may be correct, he may be wrong -- I don't know, and neither does he, because there is no way to check out MFA's claims unless we, ourselves, go "undercover" in an egg factory... or rather, many egg factories, so we can compare them; else we have only Mercy for Animals' word that this is really a problem, that these images are current, that they are widespread, that they spread disease, and so forth. I doubt that Patterico (and about 2/3rds of California voters) did so before jumping wholeheartedly aboard this bandwagon.
For that matter, much is made in the video of killing chickens by holding them by their feet and shaking them vigorously, to break their necks. They show images of such chickens still thrashing about after being allegedly killed. But in the first place, we all know that chickens can thrash and even run around even after being decapitated; and if Patterico doesn't like chickens killed in that manner, how would he prefer them killed? I know he's not a vegetarian.
But let's leave the realm of animal-"rights" hysteria and return to the very real issue of the survival of traditional marriage. With 100% of precincts reporting, the quasi-final tally on Proposition 8 is 52.5% yes, 47.5 no; no recount is going to change a five-point result, so I'm quite confident that the California constitution now formally recognizes only the traditional definition of marriage.
(To quote Larry Elderberry, "and now, the big butt...")
But, it will doubtless take several months before this result becomes final. Several things will happen in the interim:
- A state-court case will be filed to declare the constitutional amendment unconstitutional; this will be thrown out of court.
- A federal case will be filed in district court to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional according to the United States constitution; the plaintiffs will judge-shop, and the judge will find in their favor, nullifying the initiative constitutional amendment just passed.
- On appeal, I cannot say what the three-judge panel of the 9th Circus Court of Appeals will do; it depends upon the makeup of the panel.
- But regardless the decision, it will be appealed to the entire 9th Circuit sitting en banc, and they will overturn the district-court judge's decision, restoring the just passed initiative.
- This decision will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which will deny certiorari. At that point -- and not until then -- it will become official.
I'm very glad that Arnold Schwarzenegger is our governor; he is a socially liberal Republican who personally supports same-sex marriage... but he has a history of upholding the rule of law on this very issue.
If we had a Democratic governor such as Cruz Bustamante, I have no doubt that he would simply ignore the initiative as if it had been merely a bad dream. We would have to find someone with standing to sue to force California to follow its own constitution.
Still, I feel sad and angry: A bunch of very nice and totally sincere same-sex couples who "got married" after the California Supreme Court decision will find their supposed marriages abruptly nullified, causing them to feel very understandable pain. But it's their own fault: They foolishly trusted radical "progressives" who told them, to hell with what voters want; the people will think what we, the anointed, tell them to think!
I feel sorry for those same-sex couples who just wanted to get married. They knew (or should reasonably have known) that the proper way to change the secular institution of marriage would be to qualify a clean initiative onto the ballot to overturn the year 2000's Proposition 22 -- which had the exact same wording as Proposition 8, but created only a law, not an amendment to the constitution. If such a clean initiative passed, we would have enacted same-sex marriage through the ballot box (and would be the first state to do so). This is the only valid way to change such an important principle of American culture... by the vote.
But many same-sex marriage supporters allowed themselves to be suckered into a dirty short-cut. Probably, they were convinced by the Left that there were so many bigots and homophobes in California (that bastion of conservatism) that the only way they could win was to force the decision through the courts. In any event, now it's a part of the California constitution... and all because professional political proponents of same-sex marriage (and in many cases, polygamy, polyandry, incestuous marriage, and eventually, the abolition of legal marriage altogether) decided to force it on the state, "whether you like it or not," as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom triumphantly crowed during an earlier attempt.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the California electorate, which rejected the vile, slimy no-on-8 campaign... culminating in that despicable video assault that depicted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- by name! -- invading the house of some poor lesbian couple, trashing the place, and tearing their marriage certificate in half, while laughing at the pain they're causing.
What religious bigots. What bastards. I revel in the pain felt by the anti-religion, anti-democracy, and anti-marriage activists, even as I feel the pain of ordinary same-sex couples, a pain I ascribe almost entirely to the moral depravity of everyone who applauds judicial imperialism "for our own good."
But that wasn't the only state proposition that went in a direction away from Liberalism; here are a few other initiatives that appear victorious, from the CNN elections website:
- A ban on same-sex marriage in Arizona and Florida, as well as California;
- A ban (or at least limitations) on "unmarried 'sexual partner[s]'... adopting children or... serving as foster parents" in Arkansas;
- A bill to end affirmative action in Nebraska. A similar bill in Colorado is trailing by 14,000 votes with 92% of precincts reporting; but for some unfathomable reason, the Colorado Secretary of State Election Center website does not report any election results, or if they do, they hide the fact. Evidently, it never occurred to the secretary or his web designer that viewers might, you know, want to know how things turned out.
So take heart, mateys; it was a bad election, but it probably won't be catastrophic. Don't throw yourselves into the Komodo dragon pit -- at least not just yet.
Date ►►► November 4, 2008
No Last Minute Surge for Obama in States; Lizardly Analysis Unchanged
In the final state polls released today, there were no significant changes in either direction. Therefore, our analyses over the last few days still hold. The three electoral stages are:
- After polls close in the Eastern time zone, watch Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
- After polls close in the Central time zone, also watch Florida.
- After they close in the Mountain time zone, keep an eye on Colorado.
John S. McCain needs to hold Ohio, Virginia, and Florida; then he needs to take either Colorado or Pennsylvania. That's the likeliest route to victory.
If Barack H. Obama can take Virginia, Ohio, or Florida, he will probably end up winning... unless McCain takes Pennsylvania and Colorado.
The wild card is Minnesota: Most polling puts it out of McCain's reach, but the most recent poll there by Survey USA -- which typically leans a bit to the left -- has it a 3-point race. If this isn't just a polling fluke, then Minnesota could be an opportunity for McCain to replace Colorado, if necessary.
I've read in several places that the elite media have declared that they plan to call the election at 8:00 pm Eastern time -- presumably whether it's callable or not. The implication is that they feel comfortable enough wallowing in the wake of the red wizard that they just don't care if everyone knows whose side they're on. But this may be an exaggeration or sheer bravado; we'll have to wait and see.
Frankly, I'm skeptical of the prediction that, assuming McCain is doing well in VA, OH, PA, and FL, the drive-by media will go ahead and falsely and knowingly call the election for the One anyway. The hit they would take to their credibility would dwarf what has happened over the past eight years and might even lead to the complete collapse of one or more major media organs.
Therefore, I expect they won't call any state early unless it's so obvious that there's no chance they could be mistaken... for example, if Obama were winning in Virginia even in the most conservative areas. But that's very unlikely, in my mostly uninformed opinion.
In any event, ignore any pronunciamentos about "Obama's historic landslide victory!" that are promulgated while polls are still open in the Pacific time zone; if made, they're meant as propaganda to demoralize Republicans, not legitimate "reporting." The media are not our friends.
Date ►►► November 3, 2008
Big Lizards Election Night Viewing Protocol on a Nutshed
Here's all you need to watch, in the order of poll closings:
- Step 1: John S. McCain must win Virginia and Ohio (234 electoral votes, counting the other states he's bound to win). Yes, technically he could lose Ohio and win Pennsylvania; but you know he's not going to. Just assume he must win these two states. If the media calls either of these states for Obama (after the polls close in the West, so there's a least a chance that the call is honest), the election is over. All hail the One.
- Step 2: If McCain makes it past that first hurdle, then he must win Florida (261 electoral votes). (Ditto.)
Step 3: Assuming he gets past these three states, then it all comes down to Colorado (270 electoral votes -- winner!) and Pennsylvania (282 electoral votes -- winner!):
- If McCain wins at least one of those two states, or both (290 electoral votes -- convincing winner!), he wins the election.
- Contrariwise, Barack H. Obama must take both states (277 electoral votes) to win.
That's it; that's all you need watch for.
Perhaps the "H" Stands for Hubris
We can assume that when Barack Obama takes the oath of office, unlike every other president in history, he will omit his middle name -- since it is a no-no to bring up that it is “Hussein.”
Perhaps he may substitute “Hubris.” With all these speeches that “the One” gives about how the sea levels will fall and that change will begin as soon as he takes office, Obama’s arrogance is not only getting pretty hard to take, it’s also setting him up for a potential fall from a great height should things not work out quite as he planned.
I recall with amusement the last politician who was that overweeningly self-confident about how much the universe was going to change when he took charge.
“In a Spitzer administration, the road to responsive and responsible government will begin on Day One.” That was former New York Governor Elliott Spitzer on the day of his election. In less than a year, his poll numbers were in the toilet... and that was before news broke that he was carrying on with a high-priced hooker.
I’m not saying that Obama is cavorting with loose women. Far from it. But I think that a lot of his radical past is being swept under the rug by the media that is determined to have a Democratic president and no ifs, ands, or buts, by God! So we might see some honest reporting once they have accomplished their task.
And what happened to Jimmy Carter, who began to take his initials a little too seriously, could happen to Obama. Someone who is so inexperienced yet so supremely self-confident -- someone who has always gotten his way in the past and rarely experienced a setback -- is cruising for a comeuppance.
Four Paths to Victory
Looking at the current Real Clear Politics electoral map, it seems clear that John S. McCain has four possible paths to victory. Realistically, however, each begins with winning all the states that are currently considered toss-ups. It's still possible to win if, for example, he loses Ohio but wins Pennsylvania -- but that's an unlikely outcome. (Not impossible, but less likely.)
If McCain can pick up the so-called toss-ups states, the ones that are colored neither red nor blue on the map, then the four paths to victory are these. If McCain...
- Wins Pennsylvania (Mason-Dixon says Obama by 4, Zogby says by 14), or --
- Wins Colorado (Mason-Dixon says Obama by 5, ARG says 7), or --
- Wins Minnesota (Survey USA says Obama by 3, Maxon-Dixon says 8, Rasmussen 12), or --
- Wins both Nevada (Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen say Obama by 4, Zogby says 8) and New Mexico (Survey USA says Obama by 7, Rasmussen says 10) --
Then he wins the election and becomes President-elect John McCain. Otherwise, say hello to President-elect Barack H. Obama.
We'll have a pretty good idea early in the election how things are going, because Virginia (polls range from Mason-Dixon, Obama up by 3, to Zogby, 6), North Carolina (Mason-Dixon and Zogby say it leans McCain), Georgia (all polls say McCain leads), and Florida (Mason-Dixon, Quinnipiac, and Zogby say Obama leads by only 2, ARG says 4) are all must-win states, all but the last being entirely in the Eastern time zone. If any of these is called for Obama -- after the polls close in the Pacific time zone, of course -- it's almost certain that Obama will win. But if McCain can hold them all, that's a very good sign.
(Again, beware of states that are narrowly called based upon exit polling; it's generally not representative of the entire vote.)
If they're still not being called late into the night, that too is a good indicator; in an Obama blowout, at least one of those would clearly resolve into a Democratic pickup (probably Virginia).
It's also essential that McCain win either Ohio (Mason-Dixon says McCain leads by 2; others range from Survey USA, Obama by 2, to Quinnipiac, Obama by 7) or Pennsylvania (see above), both in the Eastern time zone. If both go to Obama (again, after the polls close here in California, so we're sure the call is not a voter-suppression tactic), then that's the unmistakable sound of the fat lady's last aria.
Ergo, we ought to have a good idea by, say, eleven o'clock Eastern, as soon as the polls close in the West, whether we'll be popping champagne or sobbing into our beer.
A Different Kind of Unity
As the country collectively gets ready to point a gun barrel into the roof of its mouth and pull the trigger, it’s interesting to reflect that for most of the two years that Barack Obama has been running for president, his main theme is that he is the kind of guy who can bring us all together in love and unity.
Increasingly it is becoming clear that the Obama formula for unity is to silence those who disagree with him as much as possible -- or else to make sure that those on a soapbox aren’t able to shout their messages very far.
It never was particularly believable to begin with, given that roughly half of the country is going to object to a straight socialistic program that isn’t really different in any signficant degree from the left-wing programs that the Demcoratic party has been banging the drum on for many decades.
It’s just that this time, the country as a whole is allowing its deep disgust with the Republicans to translate into turning over the reins to what will, at best, be an extremely liberal program.
There’s certainly going to be as many people on the right objecting to Obama’s left-wing program as there were vocal left-wingers who objected to George W. Bush’s programs. Remember, Bush was supposed to be the president who was going to bring us together and be bipartisan.
Or going back even farther in history, here’s a statement that Richard Nixon made right after his 1968 win over Hubert Humphrey: “I saw many signs in this campaign. Some of them were not friendly. Some were very friendly. But the one that touched me the most was -- a teenager held up the sign ‘bring us together.’ And that will be the great objective of this administration, at the outset, to bring the American people together.”
Bring us together might acquire a similar meaning under Obama. Bring us together -- forcefully, might be more what we’re talking about. Kind of makes you wonder what Obama is thinking when he calls for a “civilian national security force,” as he did in a recent speech.
Now, that could be something perfectly innocuous, like a beefed up CERT force, funded with federal dollars and ready to help with emergencies like Hurricane Katrina; but it does set the suspicious mind ruminating.
I’m not one of those people who, when Bill Clinton was president, predicted darkly, “when it comes time for his term to end, he’ll find some excuse not to have an election,” because I know that our republic is strong enough that if a president were fruity enough to try that, he would not be obeyed.
When Congress returns to do its work under the new president, it will be interesting to see just how many of the liberals in the chamber will be true to the liberal tradition of supporting freedom of speech.
Conservatives expect -- because liberals have been pretty open about it, that there will be a strong attempt to bring back the Orwellian “fairness doctrine,” which is about as fair as infanticide is “pro life.” The purpose of regulating the airwaves in this way is to return all major media to their proper orientation, i.e. towards the Left.
Talk radio will not go quietly into that good night. And given that talk radio hosts helped orchestrate the defeat of “comprehensive immigration reform” last year, the Democrats may wish that they had done something less painful, such as stepped naked into a nest of rattlesnakes.
Still, if they have the 60 seat majority in the senate, they may be able to force it through.
That wouldn’t shut down Rush Limbaugh and company, although it might force them into exile on Satellite and Internet radio.
Once again, is a battle of this kind what Obama has in mind when he talks about bringing us all together in unity and brotherhood?
This willingness to trash freedom of expression isn’t confined to the leaders of the Democratic party. The rank and file, when polled are quite comfortable with it, especially when it is pointed out that a reimposition of the doctrine will drive shows like Limbaugh and Sean Hannity off the air.
“Bring it on!” the Left seems to be saying.
Date ►►► November 2, 2008
Another Bright Ray of Hope - UPDATED
While Barack H. Obama pulled into a bigger (but still catchable) lead in most of the national polls, John S. McCain has suddenly started improving in the more critical state polling, bizarrely enough. Ohio is now back to being a toss-up state, with a new Mason-Dixon poll showing McCain leading for the first time in a long, long time, after nearly a week of the average leaning towards Obama.
Whoops, correction: The national polls did not tick up for Obama today; I spoke too soon. When the rest of today's tracking polls came in, Obama's already small lead shrunk 0.7% down to 5.3; this is based upon Rasmussen (holding steady), Gallup traditional (Obama drops 2 points from yesterday), Zogby (Obama up one tick), and IBD (Obama down two ticks). We're still waiting for the newest release of the Battleground poll.
One other interesting point on the national polling: Rasmussen has a ludicrous (in my opinion) turnout model where Democrats will outperform Republicans by 6.5%! In 2004, the gap was about 1.5% on election day; in 2006, it was 6.1%. But there are two related points to note:
- First, what Rasmussen is measuring is not turnout but rather the party affiliation claimed by respondents in a separate poll of adults. In other words, at best, Rasmussen is measuring total party registration (self reported) -- not what percent of each party will turn out. Thus, when they weight their polling on that basis, they're making the stealth turnout assumption that all the first-time registered Democrats and youth Democrats and such are just as likely to vote as older Democrats or Republicans who have voted every election for many years, that 6.5% more registered Democrats directly translates into 6.5% more votes for Obama. This is a questionable projection, to say the least.
- Second and even more intriguing... Rasmussen predicts a 6.5% Democratic advantage in turnout and adjusts its polling accordingly; but even so, they have Obama up by only 5%. Aren't they tacitly admitting that McCain will do significantly better in winning over Democrats than Obama will in turning Republicans to the dark side?
Now let's get back to the state polls released today...
Virginia is on the bring of becoming a toss-up (it's been leaning Obama for a while), and would already be except for one CNN poll; Nevada, while still technically leaning Obama, would also be a toss-up, except for one single-day poll I've never heard of -- Suffolk -- from a week ago.
Colorado is achingly close to being a toss-up as well; the most recent Denver Post/Mason-Dixon poll has Obama ahead by only 5 points, and Obama's overall lead is only 5.5.
If we change those states to toss-ups on the RCP electoral map, Obama drops below the magic 270 for the first time in a couple of weeks -- a stunning improvement for McCain. If the most recent polls are accurate, that means that John McCain can now win the election by only winning enough of those toss-ups, without having to take a single state where Obama has a significant lead right now.
But that's not all... in Pennsylvania, where John McCain and Sarah Palin have been campaigning heavily (against the advice of well-meaning Democrats, who have been advising McCain that he can't win there, so he should pull out), there are five polls in the RCP average; one of them, Marist, is clearly an outlier (Obama +14, twice as big a lead as the next nearest poll). Take Marist out of the mix, and Obama only leads by 5.3% in Pennsylvania -- making that state as close as makes no difference to a toss-up as well.
If we make Pennsylvania a toss-up, that leaves Barack Obama at only 243 in the electoral count -- rather, 242, since McCain is very likely to win that one electoral vote in Maine decided by a Republican-leaning district.
I have always assumed that McCain will win every state that is already a for-real toss-up in the RCP average right now, since he's a closer... and in the primaries, Obama underperformed his polling in nearly all the later races against Hillary Clinton. Thus I give McCain Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana, and Arizona. Those are all states that went to George W. Bush in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections; McCain has improved his standing in each of those states recently, so he has momentum; and in fact, McCain currently either leads by more than 1% or is tied (less than 1% lead for one or the other nominee) in all of those states except Florida, where he trails by only 3.3 points, within the margin of error (I don't count the addlepated Los Angeles Times poll).
Everything then comes down to four states: Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All except the last are states George W. Bush won twice. Obama must win two of them -- and the correct two -- to take the election away from McCain; he has to win one of either Ohio or Pennsylvania, and then he must win Colorado. If McCain wins both Ohio and Pennsylvania, or if he wins one of them plus Colorado, then he wins the race, 270 to 268.
I suspect McCain is going to win Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, giving him a narrow but comfortable victory of 275 to 263... but he might sweep all four on a reasonably good night, making it a more convincing 296 to 242.
The real election looks much, much better today than yesterday. The country might be saved. But much more important, I might not have to pay off my gambling losses on Tuesday after all!
Date ►►► November 1, 2008
Another Caution: Ignore Projections Based Upon Exit Polling
This is another tip for watching the returns Tuesday night: You cannot project the winner of a state from the exit polling, becuase by its very nature, the respondent pool is not representative of the voters themselves..
The respondent pool in any exit poll of a state comprises:
- Those voters who waited to vote until election day and --
- Who voted at one of the precincts where the pollsters were polling --
- At the time of day during which they were polling --
- Who volunteered to stand still and be asked a bunch of intrusive questions that, in spirit, violate the sanctity of the secret ballot and --
- Who decided to tell the truth about how they cast their votes.
Needless to say (but try to stop me!), none of these characteristics fits the voting population as a whole. A very significant portion of voters in most states vote early or absentee; pollsters don't lurk at every polling place but only a select few; they don't stay there from opening to closing, but only as long as they have money to pay for workers; Democratic voters tend to be more eager than Republicans to talk to pollsters (they see kindred souls); and of course, the "PC effect" is at super strength when voters are being interviewed face to face, without even the anonymity of the telephone: Many people are apt to tell you that they voted the politically correct way, no matter how they actually voted; they don't want an interviewer to think them ignorant, bigoted, or unsophisticated.
Predicting how the state will turn out was never the reason for exit polling, because most good pollsters realize the two pools (poll respondents and voters) are quite divergent. Rather, it was supposed to be an informational tool for statisticians to study elections after the fact and determine why people voted the way they did.
How do they do that? It's actually interesting: Rather than using the poll to predict the actual vote -- setting the stage for losers to think "we wuz robbed" -- valid pollsters collect all the exit-poll data, then align the respondent pool to the actual vote in that precinct, rather than the other way 'round. This allows them to draw reasonable inferences about what caused voters to vote a certain way... "Voters for Barack H. Obama were most persuaded by arguments or policies A and B, while McCain voters were most persuaded by C, D, and E." This allows for a post-mortem on the entire election, giving a wealth of data and correlations to all parties.
But it's incompetence bordering on malfeasance to attempt to project from the unrepresentative exit polling to declare who will win the state. Unless, of course, the goal is to suppress the Republican vote by projecting an Obama landslide.
(Contrariwise, it's perfectly proper to project who will win a particular state based upon the partial count by precinct -- provided you know enough about each precinct and polling place to know which voting patterns correlate to victory and defeat. Michael Barone, author of the Almanac of American Politics, is particularly adept at doing this.)
So don' t be a sucker: Ignore any state projection based upon exit polling -- even if they're calling it for John S. McCain.
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