Wednesday, November 26, 2008
There was nothing "culpable" about the 2003 Texas redistricting
I'm angered to read the following passage in a very silly and badly informed article called The End of Gerrymandering, and in particular, I'm dismayed to read it in the Weekly Standard:
But Republicans have not been without culpability, especially in recent years. The mainstream media has naturally sought to highlight this, especially the "DeLay Plan" to gerrymander Texas to the GOP's advantage mid-decade without even waiting for a new census. This occurred in 2003, when the Texas legislature, newly controlled in both houses by Republicans, redrew lines established by a court in 2001 after legislative deadlock. The gerrymander, which created several more GOP-leaning seats in the Texas delegation, ultimately was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Incoming Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, then chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, opined: "Every redistricting is a partisan political exercise, but this is going to put it at a level we have never seen. That's the gift that the Supreme Court and Tom DeLay have given us."
I have several questions for the authors, Christian Whiton and Larry Greenfield: Why do they think it was appropriate for the citizens of our nation's second most populous state — a state that has trended Republican since the early 1990s, and been solidly Republican for more than a decade — to continue to live with a pro-Democratic gerrymander from the 1990s that no longer remotely reflected Texas' majority-Republican status? Why should we have to continue to submit to a Congressional district map that was specifically designed to give, and in fact gave, Democrats a majority of Texas' seats in Congress when not a single Democrat could win election to a statewide post? Why should we pretend that a three-judge federal court — one whose judges candidly and expressly recognized their own lack of political legitimacy, since it was comprised of unelected judges holding life tenure from the single branch of the state or federal government least responsive to small-d democracy — was entitled to have its decision (which made the least possible changes necessary to the 1990s pro-Democratic map to accommodate Texas' new seats due to the 2000 Census) written into stone?
Why, in short, are Christian Whiton and Larry Greenfield swallowing hook, line, and sinker the most incredibly misleading anti-democratic clap-trap of the disingenuous Hard Left (viz: Rahm Emanuel!), describing as "culpable" a readjustment of Texas' districts to closely reflect modern-day Texans' own voting patterns?
What Rahm Emanuel meant was that Tom DeLay and the Supreme Court had given lying Democrats like him a fact-pattern that they could continue to twist, in order to mislead people into thinking that a legitimate democratic process reflecting the wishes of a majority of Texas voters, as expressed through their elected state legislators and governor, was instead a racist and improper one.
I expect better of the Weekly Standard's editors than to print this kind of drivel. The byline tells us that "Christian Whiton is a State Department political appointee. Larry Greenfield serves on the Resolutions Committee of the California Republican Party. The views expressed are their own." But that frankly doesn't excuse the fact that this piece goes out of its way to insult the citizens of Texas and their duly elected state leaders.
Far outside the Beltway, here in Texas, we don't see a problem with our own elected officials — rather than even very good federal judges — drawing our Congressional district map. Culpable? No, that's democracy. That's why America has a Census every ten years, and that's why redistricting is supposed to be done by the combined action of state legislatures and state governors thereafter. Indeed, the voters of Texas reacted to the Dems' 2001 stonewalling in the state legislature by electing more Republicans, who as a result were able to break the Dems' attempts to stonewall and boycott in 2003. There's nothing wicked about voters punishing a party which was badly abusing even its minority status; rather, it's a text-book example of the success of representative democracy.
(The rest of the Whiton and Greenfield piece expounds the great virtues of the new system just passed into law for California that is supposed to make redistricting "nonpartisan." That's about as clever, and is about as likely to be effective, as passing a constitutional amendment requiring state legislators or state governors to be "wise." Redistricting is inherently a political exercise. Moreover, Supreme Court precedent and civil rights legislation, most prominently the Voting Rights Act of 1965, make it impossible for states to redistrict in a random, apolitical fashion anyway: Even if they try to avoid partisan issues, the law's assumptions (among them the repugnant proposition that only Democrats can represent blacks and hispanics) and repercussions will require them to consider the political effects of their actions. I have no confidence that the new California plan will work; indeed, California seems to me and many of my fellow Texans to be most useful as the political laboratory for testing out the most conspicuous failures that the other 49 states can then observe and avoid. (See point #5 here.) But I wish them luck in what I nevertheless believe to be an impossible and unrealistic task, and I would thank those like Whiton and Greenfield who believe otherwise to withhold their insults to the State of Texas at least until the day — indeed the decade, or two — in which the new California plan has proven itself to be an even arguably viable alternative.)
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Beldar's reaction to rumors of Hillary for SecState
Per the AP:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, was expected to decide soon whether to take the job [of Secretary of State in the Obama Administration], which associates said she believes is hers if she wants it. Transition officials for President-elect Barack Obama said the former first lady had not formally been offered the job and other candidates have been vetted. But several Clinton associates said Obama has told her she is his top pick.
My first reaction was to immediately review the line of presidential succession, to count how many Secret Service teams will need to be beefed up once Hillary is formally in line for succession to the Oval Office. The answer is four: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi (as Speaker of the House), and Robert Byrd (as President Pro Tempore of the Senate).
Biden and Byrd would have to get used to spending lots of time in lonely, undisclosed locations, I suspect — never in the same room with the other two.
On the merits: As always, I'm disappointed to see either Clinton taken seriously for any serious responsibility because they are completely amoral, and their effectiveness is overrated. But there are worse alternatives for this job, and worse alternatives who've already been proposed for other offices. And again, as always with the Clintons, there is the small, cold comfort that their overwhelming ambition to retain power will probably compel Hillary to triangulate to some extent, rather than being an utter captive to the MoveOn.com/dKos Hard Left Dems.
Obama, by contrast, is wimping out big-time if he's seriously considering this appointment. In his own mind, he excuses that, probably, by thinking he's Lincoln and Hillary will be one of his Team of Rivals. Rivals he can find, but he's no Lincoln, and the point of Doris Kearns Goodwin's excellent book about Lincoln's cabinet was in part that only a Lincoln can succeed in riding herd over a team whose members are pulling in different directions. Since my priority is the future of the Nation rather than the specific success of Obama's particular administration, I'm somewhat more reassured by the Clinton triangulation likelihood than I'm distressed by the Obama emasculation likelihood.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Blog noir at Patterico's
Wikipedia tells us that "film noir," literally "black film," is
a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography, while many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression.
But my friend and fellow lawyer-blogger Patrick Frey is exploring two frontiers simultaneously: One is the citizen-journalist-blogger paradigm, where a knowledgeable blogger (day job: California state-court prosecutor) digs through the debris that the mainstream media have discarded or, perhaps, buried, to bring you not just punditry but fresh and genuine reporting.
The second frontier is what we might call "blog noir" because it involves crime, moral ambiguity galore, and so many of the sorts of characters that give these fictional films their glamor — the prize-winning star reporter who may make, or cover up, as much news as he reports; the rich entertainer who's been brutally murdered; the snitch; the fall guy; and an assortment of other cops, lawyers, press types, and Hollywood stars and wannabe-stars. I'm still waiting for Patterico to find a cool blonde dame with legs down to there and an attitude up to here as part of the mix — but Patterico's writing about real life, and maybe there's not a Kim Bassinger role in this drama.
Or maybe she doesn't show up until Act II, which is promised for later.
Mickey Kaus' teaser post could be the blurb for the book jacket:
Poor "Pulitzer" Chuck Philips! Patterico is on Philips' case, he doesn't seem about to give up, and he has a hot doc. ... P.S.: This isn't the embarrassing Philips screw-up that led to a spectacular LAT retraction in April. This is another, potentially more-than-embarrassing, incident — but also related to the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls murder stories.
Peel this one like an onion, folks, starting with Patterico's executive summary and then working down as deep as you care to drill.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Twisted dollop of evil scum Bill Ayers claims his and Weather Underground's bombs were mere "protests" and never terrorism, but that U.S. gov't "murdered" thousands every month
I know that when John McCain called Bill Ayers just "some washed up old terrorist," he was trying to minimize Ayers' significance and deprive him of any current relevancy.
But that was just another of McCain's well-intentioned misjudgments.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, there is evil in the world, and Bill Ayers was, and remains to this very day, a twisted dollop of evil scum. Perhaps he hasn't set off a bomb in the previous few years — although I wouldn't bet the ranch on that, and he still refuses to rule out future violence — but he's as totally inappropriate a candidate for the phrase "washed up" as Adolf Eichmann was just because he hadn't gassed any Jews in the previous few years before his trial and execution in 1962.
Proof: In a post-election interview yesterday with ABC News, this piece of excrement had the nerve — one might say, "the audacity" — to simultaneously contend that the bombings he and his comrades in the Weather Underground did were "not terrorism because [they didn't] target people, to kill or injure," but that "thousands of people were being murdered every month" by the lawful, elected, democratic government of the United States of America. That's a despicable, intentional, unforgivable, scurrilous lie, immediately followed by another.
It is a terrible mistake to try to minimize great evil. Ayers already lacks legitimacy; he cannot be further delegitimized or marginalized by wishful, inaccurate thinking like that represented by McCain's dismissive language.
I can excuse, barely, Chris Cuomo of ABC's "Good Morning America" for speaking to this vile bastard without overtly judgmental statements: Sometimes journalists arguably have to sheer away their own humanity to expose evil to public view.
But anyone else who could sit in the same room with Bill Ayers without complaint, without speaking out about his continued depravity, has deliberately chosen to ignore evil — and by ignoring it, to perpetuate and implicitly defend it. That this worm has taken Barack Obama's election as his cue to crawl from his hole and spew his nasty lies is one of the sickest and saddest things I've ever seen happen in America.
And to the extent John McCain's characterization of Ayers was a suggestion that nobody ought to care anymore, then even McCain had lost his own moral compass.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Regarding the Obama camp's leaks about confidential talks with the POTUS
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States. We call him the "president elect" in recognition of that fact, and it's an important fact. Indeed, since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment, being "president elect" has had constitutional significance.
But until he takes the oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama is also still the junior senator from Illinois — complete with a goofy pretend seal of office (you'd think he would have learned, but no; and he even chose his tie color to match it) for his temporary new job, and with the apparent political maturity of an eighth grader.
Permitting his staff to leak details of his private discussions with the current President of the United States — completely apart from the fact that those details were given a political spin which both the White House and the Obama transition team were then at pains to deny within hours — is like peeing in the pool, and then bragging about it.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Beldar on Brooks on conservatism
My subject in today's post is David Brooks' column in yesterday's New York Times on the future of conservativism. And here on my blog, I am going to give that column every bit of the thoughtful discussion, and exactly as many hyperlinks, as it deserves, given the current credibility of its author on this subject and the source of its publication.
Thank you for your careful attention.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Meanwhile, in the Oval Office
Ann Althouse is right: This photograph of Dubya and Obama in the Oval Office is "[a]rtfully composed and deeply historic." It's flattering to both men, and although it cannot soothe all or even most of my worries about the impending Obama Administration, it's nevertheless reassuring in many important ways.
Professor Althouse's link to the photo, this one, contains a claim by the Associated Press that it owns the copyright to the photo, and a stern warning that it "may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed." Poppycock. Perhaps the Associated Press and the mainstream media consider the presidency a gift that they have bestowed upon Barack Obama, and they certainly did their best to determine the election's outcome. But their photographers didn't take this photo — it was made instead by White House Photo Director Eric Draper — and the Associated Press doesn't own or have any rights the image whatsoever. The AP's just flat-out lying again, in other words.
This photo belongs to America — and it, and all that it signifies, is a gift from us to the world.
Note that the leather chair between the flags is empty, as are the small guest chairs on either side of the desk. George W. Bush, a/k/a Chimpy McBusHitler and all sorts of other vile names, has no need or wish to play status games with the next occupant of this office.
More importantly: There will be no tanks on the Mall. There will be no manufactured crisis to justify the 101st Airborne seizing the Metro stations while Dick Cheney directs the suppression of the Obama Transition Team from a bunker in an unspecified location. There won't even be any "O" keys pried off computer keyboards. The barking moonbats who've been saying for years that we're already living under a Dubya-imposed military government would be ashamed if they had the decency necessary for that emotion.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
No to Gorelick for AG
The Democratic Party's ethical standards have now plummeted significantly below those which prompted Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards to joke in 1983 that "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."
It appears that we have no example extreme enough to provide an answer yet to this critical question: How badly do you have to screw up to stop getting promoted, much less destroy your career, in the Democratic Party?
Oddly enough, one of the first series of posts I wrote when I began blogging in August 2003 was to defend Jamie Gorelick — a Clintonista liberal Democratic Washington lawyer — from charges that she was ethically disqualified to serve on the 9/11 Commission because the law firm she had just joined, then known as Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, also had prominent Saudi clients (whom she did not personally represent, but some tiny percentage of whose fees would flow to her through the law firm partnership). I continue to believe that her law firm's Saudi clients were not a legitimate source of serious objection to her service on the 9/11 Commission.
But I didn't know then — nobody much outside the Clinton Administration knew — that she had been the principal builder of the "wall" between domestic and foreign intelligence that, more than any other single factor, made possible the success of the 9/11 attacks. Now that was a huge, glaring, substantive, and disabling conflict of interest. And her decision on that matter while in office showed such incredibly bad judgment on a crucial matter of mixed legal and national security concerns that it ought to have disqualified her from ever serving in any future president's cabinet.
Then there's the little fact that from 1997 to 2003, she was the vice chairman of Fannie Mae.
And yet: The New York Times says Jamie Gorelick is under serious consideration to become Barack Obama's attorney general (h/t InstaPundit). The NYT allows how "Some conservative bloggers have already begun trying to derail Ms. Gorelick’s possible nomination as attorney general, pointing to her experiences at both Fannie Mae and the Sept. 11 commission." To that, my response is to jump up and down with both hands waving frantically as I shout, "Damned right we are! Damned right!"
Short of appointing an actual member of al Qaeda, I cannot imagine a more offensive symbolic repudiation of the Global War on Terror — nor a more enthusiastic embrace of the chronic mismanagement, cronyism, and graft which led to this fall's credit crisis — than the appointment of Jamie Gorelick as attorney general.
When Obama choose an amoral, souless Hard Left hitman like Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff, I was willing to grant that such is his right for such a position, and I didn't even grumble. Indeed, because Emanuel is likely to be effective in doing his principal's wishes, that simply means that Barack Obama himself can be held strictly accountable for his administration's successes and failures: Emanuel is a switchblade, and every political corpse he leaves behind him (some of whom will also be Democrats, although of which flavors we do not yet know) will be stacked in a large pile directly at Barack Obama's feet.
But the prospect of Jamie Gorelick heading up the Department of Justice is worth filibustering, if anything or anyone is. She's not "change you can believe in," she's "change guaranteed to cause even more cosmic calamities" because she's done that consistently in the past.
Visualizing Obama's victory
A new reader I've known for a long time emailed me with this link to a series of fascinating maps (with explanations for how they're prepared) created by Mark Newman, the Paul Dirac Collegiate Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan. I'll reproduce one of the most interesting (and, arguably, meaningful) here:
So what do you think Obama's victory looks like? A large bird, taking wing and headed for the left, as viewed from behind? If so, is it eagle, phoenix, or buzzard?
Here, by contrast, is the analogous map for Bush's 2004 victory:
It makes me think for some reason of a profile-shot, attacking from right to left, of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Perhaps Obama found the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to use against McCain.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
A plea to John McCain: Find and expose the anonymous sources telling lies about Sarah Palin and use the McCain temper to "make them famous"
In the many hours I spent online doing background research on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin before I wrote my first post about her on June 8, 2008, I read many dozens of newspaper stories about her, dating back to her time as mayor of Wasilla in the late 1990s, in the state's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, as well as in some of the smaller Alaska newspapers. I was specifically looking for negatives: I knew that the Democrats would be too, in the (then unlikely) event that Gov. Palin became a serious possibility as the GOP Veep nominee.
The single most frequently recurring theme was that Sarah Palin's political opponents underestimated her. In every campaign, her opponent attacked her as inexperienced. None of them argued, however, that she was stupid. The closest any opponent ever came to that was one of her two opponents in the 2006 gubernatorial race, Andrew Halcro, who claimed that she didn't immerse herself in the minutia of policy detail in which he himself reveled. Halcro is a wonk, and an annoying, patronizing twerp, and a sore loser, and the people of Alaska recognized that by leaving him an embarrassing distant third in that race, with less than 10% of their votes. But even Halcro didn't claim that Sarah Palin was stupid.
Nor did anyone else of consequence make that claim during Gov. Palin's first year-and-a-half as governor. She was criticized for having "sharp elbows," for holding political grudges, and for disfavoring those who'd crossed her — complaints leveled by losers left behind in the wake of every successful politician, because that's the loser-side view of being held accountable for ones actions and positions. But dim? Provincial? Uneducated? Nobody in Alaska had ever seriously charged Sarah Palin with being an airhead — not even the political enemies she'd left bleeding in the dust.
Because she was relatively unknown outside Alaska, however — and, very frankly, because she is an attractive woman who could therefore be easily tagged with the most cruel and sexist of stereotypes, the airhead — from the day John McCain announced her as his vice presidential nominee, her political opponents simply began manufacturing lies about her, many of which were designed to reinforce that airhead stereotype.
It did not surprise me that partisans opposed to the GOP ticket would believe these lies. But it very much surprised me that some smart centrists and even nominal conservatives did too.
I'll give you an example — one that makes me sick at heart. I've read Dr. James Joyner's blog, Outside the Beltway, regularly since before I started blogging myself in 2003. I regarded him as one of the most articulate, knowledgeable, and reasonable right-of-center bloggers around. I was tickled to be invited to participate by telephone in his podcast immediately after the Palin announcement in late August, and I agreed with him and the other participants that Gov. Palin was an exciting choice. Some time shortly after that, however, something changed Dr. Joyner's mind about Gov. Palin. And he now seriously purports to believe, for example, that Gov. Palin "couldn't even name a newspaper she read." That's not an isolated or snarky comment; that's consistent with everything he's written about Gov. Palin for weeks in perfect seriousness. And it's no different than if he were to insist that really, seriously, Joe Biden can't count to four because he claims "J-O-B-S" is a three-letter word. People joked about "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and about "Palin Derangement Syndrome" as its successor. But at some point this kind of thing stops being a joke and becomes a genuine cognative disability — an inability to process and deal in a rational fashion with objective data because of a bias that is so intense that it blocks out reality.
I can't explain it. I just hope it's a temporary, acute problem rather than something long-term or possibly organic, like the sort of brain tumors or lesions of which Dr. Oliver Sachs writes in his book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." I'm not being at all snarky here. Rather, I'm entirely serious, because I have considered Dr. Joyner a friend, and I am genuinely concerned for his mental health. He, Andrew Sullivan, and others in their camp are completely persuaded that they can see a degree of ignorance in Gov. Palin which is utterly inconsistent with anyone's ability to function as the governor of any state, but to which hundreds of thousands of Alaskans were absolutely blind for many years despite a much better opportunity to assess Gov. Palin first-hand. That kind of thinking represents a break with reality, one that's not funny at all, but genuinely sad.
The latest of the deliberate liars — the people who are inventing stuff out of whole cloth, maliciously and without any pretense of a factual basis, without any regard for their utter implausibility — are the cowardly, sniveling pieces of garbage who've been masquerading as "campaign aides" for the McCain-Palin campaign. They are the worst kind of traitors in politics. Like the scumballs who invented the list of books that Sarah Palin had supposedly wanted burned when she was mayor of Wasilla — and who included in the list Harry Potter books that hadn't even been written when Gov. Palin was mayor — these anonymous assassins don't even bother to come up with plausible lies: Why bother, when mainstream publications like Newsweek will uncritically regurgitate them to millions without doing the most basic fact-checking?
It's time for this to end. It's time for the liars to be identified to the public and held accountable.
To Carl Cameron and others at Fox News: Shame on you for granting these people anonymity. There is no basis in journalistic ethics for you to do that. Shame on you for reporting this garbage at all.* With the exception of a few there like Greta Van Susterin who've refused to buy into this nonsense, you are rapidly eroding such credibility and respectability as your network had earned among Americans disgusted with the mainstream media in general. Stop what you're doing immediately.
To Sen. John McCain: Although you were far from my first choice as the GOP nominee, I've spent hundreds of hours working on your campaign's behalf, as have many others who were thrilled by your selection of Gov. Palin as your running mate.
I never thought I would have cause to label you, of all people, as a coward or dishonorable. You're acting in a cowardly and dishonorable fashion, however, by permitting people identified with your campaign to make these anonymous attacks on Gov. Palin. Identify them. Make them famous. If what they say is true, then make them back it up. If it is not — and I believe it is not — then expose them as liars so that no GOP politician will ever again dare hire these sniveling worms. They have no honor, but they are besmirching yours. And your silence is compounding this problem with every hour that passes. It's time, and past time, finally, for your long-suppressed temper to be unleashed, because you finally have targets who deserve the worst public tongue-lashing you can deliver.
To any and every potential GOP leader, including Mitt Romney: If I ever learn that you are knowingly employing any of these traitors, I will oppose your candidacy for any office, and do everything within my power to persuade others to oppose you too. Gov. Romney, you need to be heard on this matter too, immediately and forcefully, regardless of whether those responsible are in fact, as is being widely reported, former or prospective aides of yours.
UPDATE (Sat Nov 8 @ 2:05pm CST): It's helpful for other campaign aides to go on record, by name, denying these things (see, e.g., here, here, and here). But that's not remotely adequate. McCain needs to be personally involved — on the record, on video that will be carried by the national media. The exposure and discrediting of these traitors needs to replicate as closely as possible the opening scenes with Chuck Conners in "Branded" — except these people are not innocent, and none of them is a real man:
UPDATE (Sat Nov 12 @ 4:30pm CST): I embrace and adopt the sentiments of Allahpundit and Michelle Malkin: John McCain has failed this test of his own character.
The would-be commander-in-chief surely still had the clout to summon the top twenty-five or so campaign aides into a room for a "Come to Jesus" meeting, a "we aren't any of us leaving this room until I know who leaked those comments" meeting, a "you aren't any of you ever going to work in politics again until we find out who's to blame for this" meeting.
Instead, he goes on Lenno and shrugs his shoulders, minimizing the whole episode. That didn't make anyone famous. That affirmatively encouraged this crap to continue, not just in this campaign but in future ones.
I practice a profession in which secrets are important. I understand the concept of fiduciary duty. I've employed people, professionals and staff alike, who — simply by virtue of working for me — have been made subject to the same bright-line, absolute standards that I'm subject to. Very, very rarely, someone in my employment has breached that trust — and my reaction has been ruthless and thorough and instantaneous. Yes, there have been a few times when I've enjoyed firing someone, and have gone out of my way to make sure that anyone who cared to make future inquiries about hiring that person would find out exactly why they were fired.
McCain's background as a military officer ought to have acquainted him with high ethical standards and the need for their consistent and vigorous enforcement. He almost flunked out of the Naval Academy at the end of every year he spent there, based on conduct demerits, but he never once had an Honor Code violation.
Senator, this was an Honor Code violation by someone on your staff. And you just blew it off. There was no shame in losing the election. But there is definitely shame in this.
BeldarBlog re-design done (for now)
Many thanks to those of you who've provided feedback on the changes in format I've been experimenting with here.
I've decided to stick with a fixed-width white container for post text, and to go with something wider than the 500 pixels I'd used since 2003. But I've dialed that back from 800 to 700 pixels to keep the line lengths from becoming too long.
The consecutive comment numbers seem to be working okay, and I've widened the text entry box.
I think the RSS syndication feed (now being redirected through Feedburner) is working okay now.
One reader asked that I incorporate buttons in the sidebar that would increase and decrease the text size. Unfortunately, TypePad advises that they have neither a widget or script to do that, although they've added that to their "new features to-do list" for future development. In the meantime, if you'd like a larger, or different, font, you'll need to use your browser settings for that.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Yard sign, remodeled
Dave from Sugarland sent (and gave me permission to republish here) a photo of his yard sign — which is not the product of vandalism, but rather, of his intentional remodeling:
Simple. Energy-conscious (re-cycling). Works for me.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Changes in comments format
While I was tinkering with other things tonight, I think I've figured out how to make two changes to the format in which comments are displayed.
First, comments will no longer display email addresses (even with what's supposed to include no-spam harvesting code). So if for some reason you want to give out your email address, you'll now have to do that in the text of your comment. And those worried about spam and privacy in general need not, I hope, worry about accidental disclosure of their email addresses. As before, however, if you enter a URL in that blank, your name at the bottom of the comment will contain a hyperlink to the website you link.
Second, before the commenter's name at the bottom of each comment, there should now be a number listed that corresponds to the display sequence of that comment (in ascending order, chronologically from the earliest and top-most). This may help commenters be more specific in referencing each others' comments for discussion within a comment thread. As before, there will still be a permanent hyperlink at the bottom of each comment that permits direct links to individual comments.
Let me know if these changes seem not to be working properly, or if you have any other requests/suggestions.
Some things about the internet, I know about. Some things I don't. Some things I don't know are known unknowns, and some are unknown unknowns, but one of my known unknowns is the whole subject of feeds, aggregators, and the like.
My blog hosting company, TypePad, has provided some sort of feed, which I think I have turned on properly, so that those of my readers who use aggregators or feed-readers (is there a difference between those terms?) can see when I've posted new stuff. I think it's linked from the very bottom part of my right-hand sidebar, where it says "Syndicate this site (XML)," but I'm not 100% sure of that. But no one's complained lately. Me, I like to use the old Mark I eyeballs rather than a feeder/aggregator, and I just hop around using my bookmarked favorites and/or my own blogroll.
However, in doing some other site maintenance today (especially futzing with the width of the text container in my style sheet, which is very much a trial and error process in which I'm slightly afraid that I will crash the entire internet), I also decided to enable a new TypePad feature which is connected to something feed-related that Google has apparently recently acquired, something called "Feedburner." Now it might be that if I knew what it was and how to configure it, it would make my life 20x easier and ensure that both sides of my toast were the same color every morning. But in the process of turning it on — which included "republishing my site" — I've noticed that what that link now produces when I click it is a summary of my 10 or so first-ever posts from 2003.
I think that's a function only of having "republished," which I've actually done now three or four times as I've been figuring this out. And if so, then with this post, folks who have feeders/aggregators should see it at the top of the list as "new content." If that's wrong, I hope someone will clue me in. And if I've caused anyone confusion — even a fraction of my own — from suddenly getting posts dating back to 2003, welp, consider this a Steve Martin "Excuuuuuse Me!" moment. And if I'm wrong about the whole thing and this hasn't inconvenienced or confused anyone except me, then consider this an Emily Litella moment: "Never mind."
Of course, it occurs to me that if I've broken the feed, then anyone using an aggregator probably won't get this post. Catch-22!
Are the wider margins better?
When I first started blogging in 2003, most folks used lower resolution settings on their monitors, and there were very few wide-screen monitors. My sense is that both of those things have changed, so at least temporarily, I've widened the white text-box for my posts (as opposed to my grey-colored sidebar on the right) to make each of the text lines 300 pixels longer than before (now 800 pixels total), at the expense of the dark blue borders on each side.
A few readers may now have to use a slider-bar to get the full text of each post on-screen, but I'm hoping this won't require them to constantly adjust it as they scroll down. And everyone will have to scroll down less frequently.
I'd be interested in readers' opinions — whether practical, technical, or aesthetic — either via email or, preferably, in comments.
UPDATE (Thu Nov 6 @ 7:15pm): Joanna comments below that she finds the longer text lines less appealing especially for long posts. When I'm blogging — as compared to when I'm writing, say, motions and briefs for trial courts — I tend to write shorter paragraphs. But I certainly write plenty of them. So you might want to consider this question while reading a longer post, such as the post immediately before this one. And I'm also interested, of course, in how this change affects the comments. And while I'm at it, I'll solicit any other general suggestions (although I'm fairly fond of using Verdana for headings and Georgia for regular text).
Is Barack Obama a good man?
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the charismatic and popular 35th President of the United States, was a war-hero who'd managed to get his PT boat cut in two by a Japanese destroyer. He was the son of a mob-connected bootlegger, and he won the presidency in one of the closest elections in American history — his margin of victory came from manufactured votes in Chicago and dead people voting in alphabetical order in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. A compulsive adulterer (despite being the father of young children and husband of one of the most beautiful women in the world), he deliberately and rigorously concealed from the American public both his infidelities and his very serious health problems, the latter of which included him secretly taking drugs that could have affected his mood and perception.
His foreign policy was a dangerous farce. By approving, and then withdrawing American support in the middle of, the Bay of Pigs operation in April 1961, he created an impression of irresolution and ineptitude, which he then promptly reinforced in a disasterous face-to-face summit with Soviet premiere Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961. Khrushchev, in response, escalated the long-simmering tensions over Berlin by throwing up the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and then securing the rest of the Iron Curtain borders with the West, followed by increased Soviet support for the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, and then by the installation of offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962. The resulting crisis, including an American naval blockade of Cuba, brought us closer to nuclear war than we've ever been before or since. To secure the missiles' removal, Kennedy had to make a secret promise to withdraw American missiles from Turkey and a pledge that the U.S. would not invade Cuba to overthrow Castro's government there — thereby selling the Cuban people into communist oppression and guaranteeing an anti-American Soviet client state 90 miles off the coast of Florida that has, in fact, outlived the Soviet Union and persists to this day. JFK's inconsistent policies in Vietnam also led to the Diem assassination in November 1963, in connection with which the most competent elements of that struggling ally's army were also purged and several years' progress against the Viet Cong lost; as a result, LBJ was obliged to intervene more dramatically, with vastly more American ground troops, in 1964 and 1965.
Domestically, JFK succeeded in passing some tax cuts, but most of the rest of his "New Frontier" agenda, including the civil rights portion of it, was bottled up in Congress. Arguably, the greatest success of his entire administration was his support for the nascent American space program, which in May 1961 he committed to the goal of a moon landing by the end of the decade. Cynics will say that even that had disguised motives — a backhanded way to re-label money that otherwise would have been called part of the defense budget, something to bribe and occupy LBJ, and a series of tailor-made TV appearances and ticker-tape parades that would reflect glory on JFK.
We'll never know whether Jack Kennedy would have become a more effective president because he was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. I was a first grader then, in a heavily Democratic state but with Republican parents who'd voted for Nixon in 1960. Yet if asked, I would have said then, without hesitation, either on the day before or the day after he was shot, that John F. Kennedy was "a good man." Of course, I know much more about him now than I did then. I recognize that he was sharp, energetic, patriotic, and a great leader despite his many failings, but overall, I do not much admire John Kennedy. I no longer think that he was anything close to being a good president, much less the "great president" that the circumstances of his death pumped his already inflated reputation into.
Despite all that, however, I still think John F. Kennedy was, on balance, a good man.
I could write a similar series of paragraphs about Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter, respectively the 37th and 39th Presidents. In both of their cases, I'd end up concluding that they started off as "good men," but then went so far astray that I could no longer make that claim for either of them. (In Carter's case, that would actually be based on his post-presidential conduct.)
I likewise will readily conclude that — to move forward from JFK as an arbitrary starting point — LBJ, Ford, Reagan, Bush-41, and Bush-43 have all been "good men."
And I have no doubt at all that despite his political skills and brilliance, Bill Clinton was, and is, a bad man — easily as bad as Nixon ended up becoming, and worse than Carter.
Your mileage may vary. This is obviously a very subjective subject.
My blogospheric friends Jeff Goldstein and Patrick Frey are engaged in a debate over whether Barack Obama is a "good man." They are both fine advocates, and each makes good points. I think that Jeff's passionate opposition to Sen. Obama, however, has taken him into territory where Patrick and I aren't yet willing to go.
I do not know, for example, if John F. Kennedy personally authorized the details of the voter fraud that was committed on his behalf to get him elected in 1960. I think it's unlikely that he did, although it's likely that he probably was generally aware that there was something crooked being done and that he failed to investigate or interfere. But if it were proved to me that he'd known of and authorized the exact actions, or given a clear authorization that included such actions, then I would change my opinion of him. He had ethical responsibilities that which he clearly failed to fulfill, but I don't think that he was guilty of any actual crime himself, and while that certainly is a black mark in his record, I don't think it outweighs all the other good things that would lead me to conclude that, overall, he was still a good man.
Similarly, if I were to learn that Barack Obama made the decision to turn off his campaign website's credit card anti-fraud measures — an action that cannot be explained on any basis other than an intention to facilitate campaign finance fraud — then I would join Jeff in arguing that Obama is a "a con man and a thief." I am disappointed that Sen. Obama has not yet publicly identified and fired the person or persons who did make that decision, and I would agree that puts his entire new administration under an ethical cloud, just as was the Kennedy Administration by virtue of the voter fraud in Illinois and Texas in 1960. I just don't have the facts I need to draw further conclusions beyond that yet.
But on a sliding scale, with Adolf Hitler and Jesus at either end, there's an awful lot of room in between those ends, and an awful lot of room even between either end and the half-way mark. (NB: I don't intend to define "good" here in a strictly religious sense, and I picked Jesus as someone who I hope is a familiar and noncontroversial exemplar of a righteous and good life; but substitute an Old Testament prophet of your choice, or Buddha, or a hypothetical "maximum goodness" figure if you wish.) Jeff allows that Obama is (or at least he appears to us all to be) a "good politician, sure[, and a] dedicated husband and father." Even if the former isn't worth much territory on my sliding scale, the latter is. So is patriotism. So is a willingness to work hard.
This is an interesting debate, but it's not terribly productive. It's pretty Keith Olbermannesque (and yeah, I'll agree that he's a bad man, although mostly he's just an annoying one). We certainly ought not let this argument generate any hard feelings among those who remain — as I think Patrick, Jeff, and I all are — political opponents of the prospective Obama Administration. Obama's already making decisions that deserve scrutiny, even before January. It's not like we're short of blogging topics.
I still very badly want an answer to my question about the credit card anti-fraud protections: What did Obama know, and when did he know it? And I agree with — and incorporate by reference, as if fully set forth again here — Patrick's many reservations about Obama and his bad policies. I'll add to those that I think Obama has knowingly, and inexcusably, chosen to associate with some bad people — among whom I'd certainly include twisted dollop of evil scum Bill Ayers and convicted politician-buyer Tony Rezko. Obama's decisions to associate with those folks, and with several organizations who shelter and attract bad people, would lead me to agree that Obama has consistently demonstrated very bad judgment.
But "bad man"? Naw, I'm just not there yet. Might get there, but not there yet.
I don't think that's because I'm being "noble," and I would vigorously dispute that it's because I'm being naïve. I'll go so far as to concede that I'm deliberately giving Obama the benefit of the doubt on some of his associations, to call that merely "bad judgment" as opposed to evidence that he, himself, is also a "bad man." And I respect Jeff, and others, who disagree, and I credit them with good faith in making that decision (at the same time I urge them to return that respect to those who haven't).
That's where I come down, anyway. I don't think the president-elect knows or would much care. And you might not either — but hey, nobody forced you to visit this blog, eh?
Thanks and farewell [to HH.com] from Beldar
This, in all probability, is the last of my teaser posts here noting a guest-post of mine at HughHewitt.com.
It's been great to have the traffic at Hugh's place. It's been frustrating to have no control over the comments there, however, which are sometimes indistinguishable from things you'd read from the more immature posters and commenters at dKos.
I'm grateful to Hugh for the chance to guest-post there, but it's good to be "home." Thanks to those of my regular readers here who've read what I wrote there, and by all means, I encourage you to continue visiting there for Hugh's views too. To anyone who's visiting here for the first time, by all means put up a bookmark, syndicate my XLM feed in your aggregator if you'd like, and pull up a chair.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 6, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I first became personally acquainted with my gracious host here, Hugh Hewitt, during the 2004 presidential campaign as part of the exposure of the phony Killian Memos relied upon by CBS News' "60 Minutes" program during Rathergate. CBS executive vice president Jonathan Klein had derided the bloggers who were writing daily about the forgeries and CBS News' then-still-ongoing efforts to defend the indefensible — famously saying that "you couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances [at CBS News and "60 Minutes"], and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks."
I was another one of those pajamas-wearing bloggers, and Hugh appreciated the irony that CBS News had nevertheless thought enough of me some years earlier to employ me (without pajamas) as its own lead counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, when I successfully defended a summary judgment in CBS News' favor in a defamation lawsuit based on another of its national broadcasts. That led to Hugh and me trading some emails about common judicial clerkship and law firm experiences, plus a couple of occasions on which I was a telephonic guest on Hugh's show, and we've stayed in touch by email at least occasionally since then.
Still, I was very surprised when Hugh asked me in September of this year to guest-blog here through the election. He offered, and I accepted, because this blog would put my writing in front of more eyeballs. And we both had hopes that that might, in turn, do some good for our side in particular, and for the country in general — especially given my early interest in, and consistent support of, Gov. Sarah Palin on my own blog. This has been a volunteer effort, motivated by mostly by principle (and just a little by ego, since even those of us who blog in our pajamas like to have our stuff actually read by more people).
Despite the outcome of the election, I'm personally satisfied that I did all I could to try to counter the relentless and unconscionably vile smears against Gov. Palin that were made by the Obama campaign, its allies on the Hard Left, and their allies in the mainstream media. My only regret, in fact, is that I spent more than a week pondering Hugh's invitation before accepting it — and then Hurricane Ike left me without power and internet access for another week almost immediately after I had started guest-posting here.
The reason for my delay in accepting was simply a desire to maintain absolute editorial control over everything I wrote, without even an appearance of being beholden to any one else's view. And although I've had other, similar offers from high-traffic sites that I also admire and respect, I knew from being a regular reader of this blog over the last several years that Hugh's views and my own naturally run parallel most of the time anyway. Hugh is a partisan, of course, but a joyous one rather than a bitter one. I shoot for that same quality, although with less consistent success.
I knew that I could take Hugh at his word that he wouldn't edit or otherwise attempt to influence what I wrote, and he's kept his word most scrupulously. It ought to go without saying (but in lawyerlike fashion I'll not neglect to say again anyway) that everything I've written here should be taken as representing my own views, and ought not necessarily be imputed to Hugh or the fine folks of Townhall.com just because they've made it possible for you to read my views here.
In hindsight, I wish I had had the benefit of the higher traffic here during the first days after Sen. McCain announced that he had chosen Gov. Palin, because I think that's when a lot of the lies and invective against her first began to stick. But I've only myself, and then a hurricane, to blame for the delay.
Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, Sen. McCain would have secretly made his pick back in late June or July. His aides could have started helping Gov. Palin prepare for a more aggressive, less defensive national roll-out on the QT, and we'd all have been better able to respond more effectively to the tsunami of lies that were unleashed against her. But we don't live in the best of all possible worlds, and I am confident that given her success in Alaska, her fabulous speech at the GOP convention, her performance at the Veep debate, and her strong finish in the campaign, Gov. Palin's future in national politics remains very bright indeed.
(Were I advising her, then assuming the GOP holds on to Ted Stevens' seat and his motion for new trial is denied, forcing his resignation, I'd advise Gov. Palin to appoint a short-term replacement who has disclaimed any intention to run in the resulting special election, and then to run herself for that seat. That would be better than appointing herself, which would likely not sit well with Alaska Republicans who are still upset that Gov. Palin's predecessor, Frank Murkowski, appointed his daughter Lisa to his own seat in December 2002. Lisa was re-elected in her own right in 2004, but changes in Alaska law since then, as a direct reaction to dismay over this appointment, now require a special election within 90 days after a temporary appointment by the governor. Besides striking another blow in the ethical clean-up of Alaska, Gov. Palin taking over Stevens' seat would put her in a better position for a national campaign in 2012.)
Of the future of conservatism and the GOP, I'm skeptical of too-glib arguments too close to this electoral defeat. However, I'll hazard a few points anyway:
Of the five major GOP candidates in the primary, Sen. McCain was my fourth choice. I disagreed with him on a great many issues, and there were times throughout the campaign that I nearly bit off my own tongue to hold back a snarky criticism. But he's always had my respect for his service to this country, and he earned more of it with this campaign (in particular, with his selection of Gov. Palin). Although, as he is the first to concede, he made his share of mistakes in this campaign, I am grateful to him for his efforts.
I do not think that we necessarily need a whole-scale reform of the current GOP primary system, which is front-loaded to produce an early winner and to avoid the kind of sturm-und-drang that afflicted the Democrats until June because of their dreadful proportional voting and caucus schemes. It's unfortunate, but true, that the race for the 2012 GOP presidential primary started yesterday. I think it's unlikely that we'll have such a splintered field by the time the primary votes start coming in.
I'm also of the strong view that we need a committed conservative at the top of the next GOP presidential ticket. Nominating a "centrist" lets the Democrats morph into whatever they need to be in response, which is how Barack Obama — of all people, Barack Obama! — was able to campaign credibly (at least in the eyes of the gullible) as a middle-class tax-cutter. We cannot become the party of political triangulation, because the Dems already have a corner on that market, and it would corrode our hearts anyway. Let them either compromise their principles to campaign more effectively against us, or better yet, let them run on their own real principles (tax, spend, and run-away-home) and let the American people have a clear choice.
That said, I'm equally persuaded that we cannot become rigid and intolerant as a party or a political movement, particularly with respect to hot-button social issues. I will give you a specific example of where we need to be on that:
The first veto that Gov. Palin exercised after being elected was of a law passed by the Alaska Legislature that would have attempted an end-run around an Alaska Supreme Court decision which compelled the state to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners equal to those the state offered to opposite-sex married couples. Gov. Palin disagreed with that court decision, and indeed, she had said she would support an amendment to the state constitution to overturn it. Although she opposes social bigotry toward gays and is personally tolerant toward them, Gov. Palin had also campaigned in 2006 as opposing either legislation or a state constitutional amendment that would permit same-sex marriage. But she was unwilling to subvert the Rule of Law and separation-of-powers doctrine to reach a politically and socially conservative result by signing into law the Alaska Legislature's disingenuous end-run of the state supreme court ruling, even though (quite arguably anyway) the court had overstepped its own bounds in its interpretation of the state constitution to reach the politically and socially liberal result.
Clear and consistent on our own principles; committed to democracy and democratic institutions operating within their proper spheres; unwilling to rig the game just to reach desired results; and personally tolerant and respectful of those with opposing views. That's complicated conservatism, perhaps, but it's not squishy or internally inconsistent or driven by political expediency.
One of the ironies of my profession as a courtroom lawyer — a/k/a my "day job" — is that things that are awful for my clients sometimes, quite perversely, turn out to be great for me personally. So it is with this election: I'm convinced that without Gov. Palin on the ticket, Barack Obama might well have even carried the State of Texas, because his energized supporters certainly turned out in large numbers in the state's more urban areas. And as a direct result, almost all of the incumbent GOP state-court civil and criminal judges in Harris County were narrowly defeated. The GOP nominees held on in the state-wide races, so the Texas Supreme Court's philosophy isn't likely to change. But tort reform is effectively dead at the trial court level in Harris and Dallas Counties, and although I'm more often on the defense side (typically representing small businesses) than otherwise, my profession is likely to see boom times soon as a result.
So while I'll return to blogging at my own site, beldar.org, it probably won't be with the frequency that I've written here in the last several weeks, and I'll likely also return to writing somewhat more often about legal and non-political topics. By all means, feel free to visit me there. (Maybe Hugh will even see fit someday to add me to his blogroll, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) My regular audience there is much smaller, and dissenting views are welcome in the comments — although I don't permit as much incivility and subject-changing as the folks who moderate comments at Townhall.com. Mine is a simple, noncommercial site and I pay for the bandwidth, so I refuse to subsidize those whose main goal is to make personal attacks on the host (me) or other commenters.
To all who've taken the time to read what I've written here, whether you found it persuasive or not, and especially to my gracious and generous host, Hugh Hewitt — thanks very much.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Congratulations to President-elect Obama
Okay, with this post, I'm caught up again on cross-posting here for the guest posts I've made so far at HughHewitt.com. If you're reading down the page from this post, keep in mind that the teasers here for posts since late October were all done in the wee small hours after I already knew the disappointing election results. And I've also copied and posted at the foot of each teaser post here the full text and photos from those guest posts, just for archival purposes.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
[As always, I'm speaking here only for myself, not necessarily for Hugh — but with thanks for his generous invitation to me to guest-post here during this election season, and thanks to all of the many additional folks who've read my blogging as a result (of all of which, more later in a more sentimental but less consequential post tomorrow).]
Congratulations to you, Sen. Barack Obama, junior senator from Illinois, on becoming the President-elect of the United States of America.
Congratulations to your supporters, and to the entire United States on this historic occasion.
Mr. President-elect, you have been, and will remain even more frequently, in my prayers.
I pray that you will succeed in bringing America into a post-racial future. In that regard, I pray that you will take to heart the prescription of Chief Justice John Roberts: The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. You are uniquely positioned to help us achieve that, and I pray that you will find the path to do so.
I pray that you may acquire wisdom — wisdom beyond your tender years, your thin experience, and your inconsequential legislative achievements — wisdom as a public servant in office, rather, that is at least commensurate with the skill you've shown as a campaigner, which has been a genuine marvel.
I pray for your health, because, with due respect, I regard the prospect of your Vice President-elect having to step into your shoes with genuine panic. Let's hope that he can continue to be Crazy Uncle Joe, less of a danger to the nation as Vice President than as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
You have said, at times, that you recognize that your greatest flaw is pride. I pray that your prayers for help in overcoming that flaw will be answered. You are surrounded, unfortunately, with an entourage who share that very flaw. Between now and January, I hope you will find time to read modern American history, and in particular, histories about John F. Kennedy, who you resemble in so many ways. Kennedy's youthful arrogance and ignorance nearly incinerated our planet — a fact of which you seem to be unaware, and that frightens me more than anything else about the prospect of your presidency. Mr. President-elect, you must learn history, so that you can avoid at least its most conspicuous mistakes — like those John Kennedy made in Vienna 1961 when he, as a young and presumably naive president, was tested and found completely wanting.
I pray for your family, that they may continue to give you strength and comfort and perspective. If you will do your best for your own beautiful young daughters, then I have grounds to hope that will also be good for mine.
God bless you and keep you, sir. I have been among your harshest critics, in good faith I hope, and I will continue to speak out when I think you're wrong. I pray for the grace, though, to acknowledge those times when you are right, and for the decency to accord you with the full respect that is due to anyone who holds the office upon which you are about to embark.
You will be my president too, and while I am filled with trepidation, I congratulate you as sincerely as I am able, and I wish the very best for you and our great country.
Congrats to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on his re-election
I'll blog more about state-wide Texas races, probably, but I wanted to go ahead and congratulate Sen. John Cornyn before the wider audience at HughHewitt.com.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I haven't blogged at all this election season — not on my own blog, and not as a guest-blogger here — about my home-state senator John Cornyn.
I would not want that to be interpreted as a lack of support for him in any way, but rather a reflection of my absolute confidence that he would win re-election anyway, and my further considered judgment that his opponent, while a decent enough fellow, was awfully boring and not an example of a first-string candidate from the Democrats.
(My old friend and former Texas Law Review colleague, Bill White, currently mayor of Houston and before that, a cabinet deputy in the Clinton administration, would have been a far more credible candidate, but I think he had better sense than to try in even this tough year for GOP candidates nationwide.)
Sen. Cornyn is among the best examples of a genuine "public servant" ever to come from the great State of Texas. Indeed, I thought of him when Gov. Palin, in giving her acceptance speech at the GOP convention, referred to elected officials as needing "a servant's heart." He was a fine state district judge in San Antonio, a fine Justice on the Texas Supreme Court, and a fine Texas Attorney General.
As the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, John Cornyn has reflected the views of his constituency with dignity and grace. I was particularly proud of him during the debate on so-called comprehensive immigration reform, a subject into whose details he dove with remarkable enthusiasm and growing expertise, and with more subtlety — including sensitivity to Texas' large and proud Hispanic population, in a state still fiercely proud of the fact that its independence from Mexico was won by Anglos and Hispanics fighting side-by-side and arm-in-arm — than most of even his other border-state Senate counterparts (including, conspicuously, Sen. John S. McCain, with whom Sen. Cornyn not infrequently clashed on this issue).
I'm proud of Sen. Cornyn. I'm proud to be among his supporters. I'm proud to have voted for him. And I look forward to his steadfast presence — and, when necessary, his votes against invoking cloture — in the coming United States Senate.
Mark Stein also found a photograph of Sarah Palin voting that I like. Thank you, Mr. Stein.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
I want to definitively associate myself, on the record, with the remarks of Goat-Hate-Speech Defendant Mark Steyn, who, on NRO's The Corner, links to the picture below (from a Tim Blair blog post in Australia's Daily Telegraph, hiya Tim!) with this comment:
I like this picture of Sarah Palin voting. Heavy on the Caribou, light on the Barbie. She didn't need to be dunked in RNC bling. And the more the campaign went on and the more she wiggled free of her minders, the better she sounded. If you've got organic style, you shouldn't be shoehorned into generic campaign issue. If the night goes the way it seems to be heading, the differences between the Governor and the campaign will be one of the most interesting parts of the GOP post-mortem.
Amen, Brother Steyn. I'll write later, and much longer, about Gov. Palin, this campaign just passed, and her incredibly bright future on the national political scene. But I emphatically agree that this picture — not that it's cheesecake, which it's not (no more than any picture of her is, which is a little, because yes, she is nice looking), but that it's bluejeans on Election Day! — is the future of the GOP and conservatives in the 21st Century.
(I'll let the elite folks at Slate diagram that sentence if they feel the need.)
In 9pm EST calls, NM switches to blue
And it got worse for my team from then on.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
One switch, with the additional states now being called at 8:00 p.m. CST: New Mexico for Obama.
Brit Hume just gave millions of conservatives a short heart spasm by saying, mistakenly, that Fox is also calling Ohio for Obama, but then he retracted that. None of the other networks have called Ohio yet either.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 8:22 p.m. CST): Fox News is calling Ohio for Obama. I'm not channel-hopping, but the other networks' websites have
n't made that call yet also just made that call (except for CNN, curiously enough).
It's not over. And it's clearly not the blow-out that the Dems wanted. I don't think they're going to get to 60 in the Senate. But things do look grim, unless the exit polls turn out to be so very badly off that either Ohio or Pennsylvania turn to red instead.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 8:32 p.m. CST): To heck with the networks. I'm gonna go way out on a limb and call Texas for Palin, er, McCain-Palin. Just 'cause I live there.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 8:43 p.m. CST): CNN's in line with the others on Ohio now, and the networks are all ignoring the end of the fat lady's song, whether wisely or not. Bill Kristol says he thinks Obama will try to make early moves to indicate that he won't govern from the far left; I do not share that belief, and think, with great respect, that that's the most wishful of thinking.
If this plays out the way it looks now, Obama will have a better claim to a mandate than Clinton did in 1992, but not much, if any, more of a mandate than Bush-43 in 2004, based either on Electoral College or popular vote totals.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 8:45 p.m. CST): Ha! Hume says Texas is still too close to call, although he doesn't think there's a lot of doubt. "I don't think Obama ever went there," he says. Oh, no, Brit, you're badly wrong on that, and you should know better: Barack Obama squeezed Texans, especially the plaintiffs' personal injury trial lawyer bar, for many, many millions, but those were at champagne dinners, not at Reliant Stadium.
Too soon IMHO to call Pennsylvania
When I wrote this guest-post, it was. But it's not anymore.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
You will perhaps forgive me if I remain, for a while longer, skeptical of
Obama Broadcasting Company's MSNBC's call of Pennsylvania for Obama already. They may turn out to be right. But right now, they're mostly guessing. I hope no one who's yet to vote will put their faith in the thrills racing up and down any portion of Chris Matthews' anatomy. Note that other networks, including even CNN, are still treating that race as too close to call.
In a close Senate race, if Fox News is correct in calling Kentucky for Mitch McConnell, I suspect that the Senate Minority Leader's seat has just been saved by the Governor of Alaska. Who'da thunk that a year ago?
The fat lady is only mid-song, folks. Hang in there.
UPDATE (Tue Nov. 4 @ 7:20 p.m. CST): Michael Barone is explaining on Fox News that they don't have any precinct data yet for Pennsylvania, and that there are large variations in something called the "WPE" and the exit polling. ABC, however, has joined NBC on this one, or may even have preceded it, based (apparently) on exit polling. I do not trust exit polling, period.
UPDATE (Tue Nov. 4 @ 7:30 p.m. CST): Now Fox joins NBC and ABC on Pennsylvania. I'm discouraged, but not yet persuaded, re this state.
UPDATE (Tue Nov. 4 @ 7:59 p.m. CST): Barone just clarified Fox News' call for Pennsylvania a half hour ago by explaining that was when they'd finally received the "WPE," which he says is the "Within Precinct Error." With that, he says they're confident that the results in Pennsylvania are outside the margin of error of the exit polling. I respect Barone a lot, and when he says they think the odds that they're wrong are "250 to 1," as he just did, I'm sure he doesn't make that statement lightly. But with due and genuine respect to him and all the other "experts," I think I'll wait to see some more actual voting totals before I give up on PA.
And the overall map so far still looks like 2004. But new results are about to be announced.
Steyn's blood and guts assessment
Steyn made me laugh when I wasn't in a very funny mood. Thanks, Mark.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
(Or is it exit pollsters? Or pundits who give credit to exit poll data?)
Don't fixate on a video of a tough black guy with a stick in Philly, 'cause he's not what's threatening our rights
If there's evidence of widespread and consequential voter fraud, I haven't seen it yet, but I remain very concerned about the clear evidence of widespread fraud in voter registrations because I don't think people commit that crime unless they intend those registrations to count for something.
I'm more concerned, though, about Obama's illegal, and deliberately invited, campaign contributions, which I think casts an ethical shadow over his upcoming administration.
This late-Election Day guest post at HughHewitt.com was intended to express these concerns.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Lots of conservative blogs and websites that I'm browsing today have the same video that's posted at Hot Air, or something similar, which suggests that there are a few tough-looking black guys with nightsticks and paramilitary uniforms intimidating potential voters — presumably, I suppose, white ones who would otherwise have voted McCain-Palin. I pick Ed Morrissey's post because he, in typical level-headed fashion, merely says: "Hopefully, this kind of thing will be kept to a minimum today." Others are making a bigger deal.
Friends and neighbors, one or two such guys, at one polling place in one state, is not a meaningful piece of information. It makes a great video clip precisely because it plays on some very ugly stereotypes.
I am untroubled by anecdotal events like these, which are obvious and easily remedied.
Instead, I am deeply troubled by the fact that it's Election Day, and yet Barack Obama has still not identified — much less fired — whoever it was in his senior campaign staff who ordered that his website's credit card anti-fraud protections be turned off.
Those hundreds of thousands of small credit card transactions zipping across fiber optic cables around the world make lousy video clips. But the Obama-Biden campaign has given us no credible explanation for why those safeguards were turned off (other than the obvious explanation, i.e., to facilitate illegal and fraudulent contributions). Nor has it given us any credible reason to believe that those transactions didn't accumulate into millions, and even tens of millions, of dollars in fraudulent and illegal campaign contributions.
Racial fears, nightsticks, tough guys with huge biceps — that's actually 19th and early 20th Century stuff. I'm much worried about bits and bytes, about ISO credit card protocols and pre-paid, untraceable credit cards bought by the case offshore.
Next to that — but frankly, right now it's a distant second — I'm worried about fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent ballots.
Bob Caro's fabulous book about Lyndon Johnson's ramrodding of the little-remembered Civil Rights Act of 1957, "Master of the Senate," quotes LBJ's explanations as to his focus on voting rights ahead of other attacks on Jim Crow laws. Without an effective right to cast a meaningful vote, no other rights mattered. With it, all other rights could be protected. LBJ's threading of a legislative needle in 1957 became the precedent for, and necessary precondition to, the better known and more substantive Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is inconceivable that Barack Obama could be receiving tens of millions of votes today but for those landmark reforms.
But voting rights are under attack again. Not based on race. Not with uniformed officials wielding fire hoses and barely restraining Dobermans, nor with literacy tests or poll taxes. But through garden-variety fraud grown to gargantuan levels and fed with a Niagra of cash.
Win or lose today, my conservative friends, the elimination of financial campaign fraud and voter fraud must become central issues around which our politics revolve, and they must remain such way until we get this fixed. Nothing except national defense is as important.
Brilliant sunlight; instant, continuous, and absolute disclosure; rigorous sourcing back to individuals, through layers of dummy organizations and aggregators — these things, and not dollar limits (which can never work), are the financial reforms we must insist upon. Rigorous and verifiable pre-election registration — again with transparency and online accountability — plus picture-ID presentation at the polls.
If we do not achieve reforms to protect our voting rights, we'll lose not just them, but, eventually, all of our rights.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 7:45 p.m. CST): Please note that you ought not attempt to further confirm the fact that the Obama campaign's anti-fraud software is turned off. It is turned off. The Obama campaign has publicly admitted that it is turned off. There have been hundreds of "test donations" in phony names which more than establish this. And even if done exclusively for purposes of confirming these reports, submitting a donation with a phony name or address is, arguably, technically, campaign finance fraud on the part of the test-contributor. Please don't break the law further.
On the other hand, I've been asked by readers whether anyone's "doing anything about this." The answer to that, so far as I know, is still "No." Hence my post. If this becomes, as some predict, just something that's the subject of a ceremonial slap on the hand and even a multi-million dollar fine for the Obama campaign many months from now, that will be a disgrace and a positive incentive for further fraud in the future. Someone needs to be fired. Someone probably needs to go to prison. We need a convincing and satisfactory answer to the questions: "What did Barack Obama know? And when did he know it?" And laws definitely need to be changed.
Cotton candy beginning to hit the network airwaves
If the exit polls were wrong, they weren't wrong enough to matter. I still think they're evil.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The news networks are beginning to announce and chew enthusiastically over the very first and most preliminary exit poll results, which are on things like "late deciders" or "new voters."
Because I'm a political junkie, I can't not listen to this stuff. But I can simultaneously mock and deride it.
This is me, mocking and deriding it.
Exit polling data is like cotton candy, folks — mostly air, along with spun sugar and some artificial dye. It will give you a bellyache if you consume it too enthusiastically. Its only real purpose is to sell advertising for the networks until they have some actual votes to report, and it's as unreliable as a rain gauge at the bottom of the ocean.
(Did you know that rain gauges are also called "pluviometers" and "udometers"? That is, I guarantee you, more useful information than anything you're about to hear from these exit polls.)
For Pete's sake, don't cancel your own trip to the polls based on anything you hear from anyone.
Marinucci claims SF Chron didn't report Obama's promise to "bankrupt" coal industry and cause "skyrocketing" electric rates because readers weren't interested
My team lost the election, but in this follow-up guest-post about Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry and make electric rates skyrocket over at HughHewitt.com, I believe I thrashed the San Francisco Chronicle soundly.
I suspect they've gotten over it already, huh?
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On Sunday, November 2nd, like many other bloggers, I wrote a long post that included a lengthy quotation from an interview that Sen. Barack Obama gave to the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board in January 2008, in which Sen. Obama promised that under his cap and trade policy, "if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted." And in that same interview, Obama also promised that "[u]nder my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."
In the wee small hours of Monday morning, I followed up on that post with another which noted that — in response to a question being raised by Gov. Palin on the campaign trail as to why the tape of this interview was just now surfacing — Chronicle Political Writer Carla Marinucci was righteously asserting that her newspaper had never "hidden" the interview. I pointed out, however, that in neither the front-page news story that Ms. Marinucci had written about the interview on January 18, 2008, nor in a follow-up op-ed about the interview from Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz, had the Chronicle seen fit to give anyone the slightest hint that buried within the 52 minutes and 336MB of the interview one might find a promise to bankrupt the nation's coal industry or cause national electric rates to skyrocket.
This, I argued, reflected abysmal judgment as to what portions of the interview were newsworthy. I asserted that "anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely 'in the tank' for Obama."
After posting my critique, I emailed Ms. Marinucci with a copy of it. I wrote to her that "I’d be pleased to republish any response you might have, or reconsider with any additional facts you believe I’ve missed."
Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Marinucci sent me this reply, which (in a later email) she specifically authorized me to reprint here in its entirety for your thoughtful consideration:
Simple answer. This was an editorial board meeting to decide the endorsement for the Democratic primary in California, at the time a heated contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
There were lots of issues that California voters wanted to hear from these candidates as they made their decision, but coal was not one of them. The industry doesn't exist here. We wrote about what our readers wanted to hear about regarding the choice between Obama and Clinton at that time: their positions on the war, jobs, tech, the environment, etc.
This response, while gracious, is utterly unpersuasive. In fact, it's so preposterous as to be even more damning than her earlier "we didn't hide it" defense.
The last I heard, California still uses electricity — and some 56 percent of America's electricity is generated from coal. Indeed, it was a series of rolling electrical brownouts and blackouts in California from 2001-2003 which led directly to the mid-term removal of Gov. Gray Davis in the special election won by present Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. For Ms. Marinucci to suggest that the Chronicle's readers aren't interested in supplies, sources, and prices of electricity is far beyond ludicrous. It's like suggesting that Boston wasn't interested in taxes on tea in the 1770s.
Moreover, while I can appreciate that there is presently no coal mining industry to speak of in the fabled hills of and around San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle — founded in 1865, presently owned by the Hearst Corporation, and still "the largest newspaper in Northern California and the second largest on the West Coast" — aspires to be a national publication. I've listened to the full interview now, and I can assure you that almost none of the questions asked in it were specific and particular to the concerns of San Franciscans or even northern Californians.
In fact, the long response from Sen. Obama which contained the promise to bankrupt the coal industry was prompted by a question (at 25:10 in the videotape) that was indeed on one of the specific topics — "the environment" — which Ms. Marinucci acknowledges her paper's readers wanted to hear about:
Q: Senator, you introduced a bill promoting coal-to-liquid fuels, and then you said you'd only support them if they emitted fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. Now: All the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else. So how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?
Indeed, in the long block-quoted segment in my Sunday post that I obtained from ABC News' Jake Tapper and his Political Punch blog, there was an ellipsis in the transcript. Viewing the video, I've confirmed that what that transcription omitted was a repetition of this question:
OBAMA: ... So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives. But —
Q: Alternatives including coal?
OBAMA: — let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there....
If there is a place on the globe more fixated on the notion of man-made global warming than San Francisco, I haven't seen or heard of it. These questions about relying on coal to generate electricity certainly reflect that, regardless of whether coal is mined in northern California. And Sen. Obama's answers almost certainly would have been not only of keen interest, but entirely acceptable, to the liberal majority who subscribe to the Chronicle. Could the Chronicle's table-full of writers and editors all have collectively missed that?
No, gentle readers, it is entirely implausible that Ms. Marinucci and the Chronicle failed to recognize the newsworthiness of these promises by Obama — not just to their own readers, but to all Americans (and arguably to the entire world). And that brings us back to the question of why they didn't report something that was so incredibly newsworthy, and why — after it was found and then made much of by others, including the GOP candidates for POTUS and VPOTUS — they've offered such lame excuses.
And there's only one plausible answer left to that question: Carla Marinucci and her fellow writers and editors at the San Francisco Chronicle deliberately buried these quotes because they knew that in other parts of the United States, they would hurt the electoral prospects of Barack Obama — the candidate they wanted to see win not only the Democratic primary, but also the general election. These are "journalists" who've violated their sacred trust. And you simply can't trust them any more, if you ever did.
Dow-Jones at 9633.01 as I write this
Okay, this is me, grasping at straws in yet another Election Day guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Barack Obama wants you to believe that John McCain was simply insane when he insisted that the "fundamentals of the American economy are strong." Yet the Dow-Jones average is back within striking distance of 10,000 again — which ought to be a huge relief to those who've been fretting over their 401k and other retirement accounts.
That's not to say that all is rosy on the economic front. But we're not in another Great Depression — and the greatest threat on the horizon is that a tax increase could turn a short and relatively mild recession into something worse in 2009.
No surprise, but the NYT says CBS News and others may "call" the election before even Central time zone polls close
This turned out not to be a problem. An election that turns out not to be close hides a great many risky early calls.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
According to the NYT, CBS News is already threatening to "call the election" as soon as 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.
The story quotes CBS News senior vice president Paul Friedman as saying, "We can’t be in this position of hiding our heads in the sand when the story is obvious."
Friends and neighbors, that is a man who has completely trashed any notion that the press should be objective or that it should avoid trying to influence the events it purports to be reporting.
Wait for the real returns. Treat your vote as if the entire election depended on it. Don't believe anyone's projections. What seems "obvious" to Paul Friedman, CBS News, or the New York Times may turn out to be completely wrong — as was true with the projections regarding Florida in 2000 and with the early exit-poll leaks in numerous states in 2004.
Ayers casts his vote at same polling place as Obama
I really, really, really don't like Bill Ayers. It bothers me that he can vote. He should still be in prison.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm sure someone had the job this morning of making sure that they were never in the same room, or otherwise capable of being captured within the same camera viewfinder, at the same time.
Ayers has the legal right to vote only because law enforcement screw-ups prevented him from being prosecuted for and convicted of the multiple felonies to which he's confessed. He remains, however, a twisted dollop of evil scum — a description that I'm quite proud will be forever associated with his name in major online search engines.
A hiss for Prof. Philip Busse, and a cheer for old St. Olaf!
Sign-stealers of either party are criminals, and I was glad to see one such criminal who'd bragged of his crimes on the Huffpo actually pay a price.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Hoorah for St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, for demanding and getting the resignation of Philip Busse, a visiting professor who'd bragged online about stealing and destroying McCain campaign signs. "Busse likened his thefts to an act of civil disobedience and said that stealing the signs was 'one of the single most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.'" Let's hope he'll have some time to contemplate his skewed values from the unemployment line, if not from the county jail. (H/t Power Line.)
(Yes, I'd say the same thing of someone who'd similarly bragged about stealing and destroying Obama signs. I just haven't seen any comparable reports of that having happened.)
Election Day news before the polls close is among the least important news of the entire election season
This was sort of a "pay no attention to any of the men behind the curtain" post, again designed to try to encourage people not to be discouraged. More GOTV.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Long, long ago, when I was in high school in the early 1970s in the small town of Lamesa on the prairies at the bottom of the Texas Panhandle, I had a job as a news announcer and disc jockey at the local radio station, KPET-AM. And believe it or not, I learned something in that job that is an important lesson for us all even today. It is this:
Radio stations — and their more modern cousins, TV stations and cable channels — always have to fill the airtime with something, even when there's nothing meaningful to report.
All day long today, the mainstream media will be spewing continuously. And because they, and we, are keyed up — it's Election Day! Finally! — there's naturally some sense, moment to moment, that what they're saying must be especially important, or insightful, or poignant, or something.
That's a dangerous illusion.
In fact, for a large portion of the day today, the flow of news and analysis coming your way today — whether from mainstream American news media, new media like the cable channels, and even bloggers — is almost certain to be among the most speculative, least well-informed, and overall most insipid stuff you'll ever see, read, or hear! [Edit: Except, of course, for Hugh's radio show this afternoon! — Beldar, Thu Nov 4 @ 9:00 a.m. CST.]
If you haven't voted, go do that now — the lines are huge everywhere, that's the only objective fact that the news coverage everywhere can observe and agree upon.
And then remember that despite the importance of the day, the importance of what you're going to be reading, seeing, and hearing during this day can't possibly match up.
Be skeptical, and let not your heart be troubled.
Election morning prayer
This was what it says.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Brave American men and women, at home and on foreign fields of combat, in forces both military and civilian, are protecting your right to vote today.
I worry that the threats and dangers they've successfully suppressed — keeping us safe from a major terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/01 — may be underappreciated by many voters. But that does not lessen my gratitude for those who have stood, and continue to stand, their posts. May God bless and protect them all.
New report from Alaska State Personnel Board concludes that there is no cause to believe Gov. Palin violated the state ethics law
The more closely I read it, the more convinced I became that the Petumenos Report adopted by the Alaska State Personnel Board put a fitting end to Tasergate, conclusively in Gov. Palin's favor, as I wrote in a guest-post and series of updates at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Encouraged by the Obama-Biden campaign, Democratic state senator Hollis French of Alaska masterminded the October 10th release of the so-called Branchflower Report, in which one guy — a lawyer hired by French's committee to conduct a charade of an "investigation" into the Tasergate (a/k/a Troopergate) matter — came to inconsistent conclusions, one of which was unfavorable to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The Alaska Legislature is not in session, and has not approved or adopted that report in whole or part. Rather, the only official action yet taken with respect to it was a noncontroversial vote by French's committee to permit the first volume of the report to be released to the public.
Nevertheless, the Obama-Biden campaign and all of Gov. Palin's elitist enemies went into a feeding frenzy, gleefully lining up to support an admitted child abuser and lawbreaker, Trooper Mike Wooten, in one of the most shamefully thuggish incidents of modern American political history.
Today, however, the entity actually charged by the Alaska state constitution and laws with enforcing that state's ethics laws — the Alaska State Personnel Board — has released its own investigator's report on the matter. As reported by the Anchorage Daily News (boldface mine):
Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
But the new report says the Legislature's investigator was wrong to conclude that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to pressure Monegan and others to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.
The Palins have argued that Wooten was a loose cannon who had tasered his stepson, drank beer in his patrol car, and threatened Palin's father, and that their complaints that he shouldn't be on the force were justified....
The report, released at a Monday afternoon press conference at the Hotel Captain Cook, presents the findings and recommendations of Anchorage lawyer Timothy Petumenos, hired as independent counsel for the Personnel Board to examine several complaints against Palin.
Petumenos wrote the Legislature's special counsel, former state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and also misconstrued the evidence.
His findings and recommendations include:
There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in deciding to dismiss Monegan as public safety commissioner.
There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in connection with Wooten.
There is no cause to believe any other state official violated the ethics act.
There's no basis to conduct a hearing to "address reputational harm," as requested by Monegan.
The state needs to address the issue of using private e-mails for government work and to examine how records are kept in the governor's office. Palin used her Yahoo e-mail account for state business until it was hacked.
I'll be studying the executive summary and the report itself in more detail in the next few hours.
It's also worth noting right away, as Power Line's John Hinderaker has, that the Personnel Board's independent counsel, Timothy J. Petumenos, is a registered Democrat who donated money to Gov. Palin's opponent, Tony Knowles, in 2006 — certainly no crony of Gov. Palin's.
At his news conference in connection with the release of the report, Mr. Petumenos noted the peculiar circumstance that French's committee had gone to the Alaska Supreme Court to confirm its right to issue and serve subpoenas in connection with its investigation, but that after having won in court, Branchflower proceeded to make up his mind, and issue his report, without having serving a subpoena on, or otherwise considering any testimony from, Gov. Palin herself. Mr. Petumenos, by contrast, spent three hours questioning Gov. Palin under oath, and also redressed other huge gaps in Branchflower's massively flawed and one-sided investigation.
Finally (for now), it's also worth noting right away that in contrast to the French Committee's vote to release the Branchflower Report (which had not been approved or vetted by that committee, much less by the entire Alaska Legislature, and with respect to whose conclusions some committee members indeed expressed their substantive disagreement), the Personnel Board has actually made a substantive decision that's consistent with and reflected by this report, a decision that effectively ends the inquiry before it under the relevant Alaska statutes (boldface mine):
As for the last-minute timing — Petumenos gave out his report hours before the polls opened on Palin's bid to become vice president — the investigator said it wasn't ready until now.
"If you think this is being done to favor the governor politically, it certainly would have been much more favorable for her to receive this days before now," Petumenos said.
He'd hoped to release it Thursday, but it wasn't finished, he said. Personnel Board chair Debra English got her copy at about 4 p.m. Sunday.
The board voted to accept the report Monday, ending the investigation.
Unlike the Branchflower Report, in other words, this isn't just "one guy's opinion." There being "no probable cause" to find any statutory violation, there's no need for further gathering of evidence, taking of testimony, or deliberation by the Board. It's finished. Short of impeachment proceedings (for which there's no possible basis, there now having been a finding by the competent state agency that no law was violated), there's nothing further the Legislature could do either.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 6:15 a.m. CST): I really hadn't planned to spend the night before Election Day reading a lengthy report on Tasergate, but it's probably just as well that I did.
Steve Branchflower's report was, frankly, one of those bloated documents that make one sorry for the invention of word processors. It was cobbled together from assorted parts of an investigation that was half-cocked to begin with, and that got worse as it went along. Not only did Branchflower's report suffer from bad writing and muddled thinking, but it was based on a process that contained no passing resemblance to due process. And its two key findings — that it was okay for Gov. Palin to actually fire Monegan, but that it wasn't okay for her to supposedly have merely threatened to fire Monegan — were logically inconsistent with one another. It was, in short, a mess — and an obvious political hatchet job.
The State of Alaska and, indeed, the people of the United States owe thanks, by contrast, to the Personnel Board's independent counsel, Timothy Petumenos, for his thorough investigation, clear thinking, and comparatively crisp 58-page report (125 pages when exhibits are included). It deals comprehensively with both facts and law. The bottom line is this: The report Mr. Petumenos has prepared for the Personnel Board, and that it has accepted on behalf of the State of Alaska, is as thorough and persuasive an exoneration of Gov. Sarah Palin's actions as can possibly be imagined.
The bullet points I've quoted above from Mr. Petumenos' executive summary are accurate. I don't want to re-argue the fine points of statutory construction that I've already gone over in my previous critiques of the Branchflower Report, except to note that in my previous analyses, I missed an important point which, fortunately, Mr. Petumenos caught — which is that the specific provision which Branchflower argued that Gov. Palin had violated is not a substantive description of a possible violation of the law, but rather part of an introductory overview stating the entire statute's general purpose. That further reinforces my own conclusions, to which Mr. Petumenos came independently, that Gov. Palin couldn't have been promoting a "personal interest" within the meaning of the statute so long as her concerns about Wooten even arguably paralleled those which the general public might have about such a rogue trooper. Simply put: Even if she was personally horrified that a child-abusing thug like Wooten was still on the job, that wouldn't have made it legally or ethically improper under Alaska law for her to express concerns about that to Monegan.
I will mention that Trooper Wooten comes off looking even worse in Mr. Petumenos' more detailed and better-organized summary of the total universe of evidence (which includes materials and testimony from witnesses whom Branchflower entirely ignored). How that miscreant still has a badge — indeed, why he's not in prison for defrauding the State of Alaska on a bogus workers compensation claim! — remains the lingering mystery of this entire controversy. (Mr. Petumenos is restrainedly but appropriately skeptical of Wooten's chiropractor's clearance of Wooten to ride his snowmachine for long periods while he's supposedly too disabled — and therefore off work at full pay — to remain seated for more than a few minutes on the job.)
Whatever happens on Election Day, there will be those who will try to resurrect this controversy in the future to besmirch Sarah Palin's reputation. If this report and the Personnel Board's decision based upon it are given their due, however, those folks will have less credibility than the so-called "9/11 Truthers" — crazed conspiracy nuts impervious to being influenced either by evidence, law, or rational analysis.
Tasergate is over, and Sarah Palin has been vindicated.
Thoughts on the eve of Election Day
I wanted to help get out the vote, and specifically to encourage folks not to be discouraged by early reports if they were negativev. This was the first of my guest-posts at HH.com dedicated to that.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The major networks called Florida for Al Gore in 2000 while tens of thousands of voters had yet to vote in the westernmost part of that state which is situated within the Central time zone. The people who made those disastrous decisions at their respective networks that night mostly didn't get fired. They're mostly still there.
In the early afternoon of Election Day four years ago, conservative pundits all over the internet were thoroughly panicked. They were buying into the mainstream media's exit polling and general meme of "It's Kerry!"
They, and the mainstream media, had completely failed to anticipate the record-shattering rank-and-file turnout of traditional conservatives, and of independents and moderates who were persuaded that Kerry was too far to the left to be entrusted with the reins of government during wartime.
As I wrote that evening, my hero of that day was Hugh Hewitt, whose calm reassurance was a sharp contrast to the hysteria at places like NRO's The Corner.
The GOP base was dispirited in the 2006 congressional elections. Now, victory is in sight in Iraq, and our ticket is headed by the GOP leader from the Senate who has most steadfastly supported that victory. The economy is more troubled, but we know better than to seek the sort of remedies — higher taxes, more government programs — that the Democrats always prescribe. And in Sarah Palin, we have a candidate on our ticket who's emblematic of the 21st Century conservatism we'll need going forward — one which may leave the George Wills and Peggy Noonans and David Brookses perplexed, but which energizes common-sense middle-Americans like no Republican politician since Ronald Reagan. The 2006 results, in this context, mean nothing.
This year, however, the mainstream media is at least 10 times as skewed toward Obama as they were for Kerry in 2004 or Gore in 2000. And all of their models are based on assumptions — foremost among them that young voters and newly registered voters who have no history of actually voting will nevertheless break decisively, overwhelmingly, for one side only. They will cling to those assumptions until the bitter end because they fit with their own profound subjective desires. The mainstream media therefore won't begin to report races as even being "close" until the McCain-Palin ticket has a substantial lead.
I would be stunned if the mainstream media maintain anything remotely approximating objectivity tomorrow. And remember, even sources like Fox News that are trying to be report what's happening in an honest fashion are largely going to be confined to the same raw data sources and spin doctors as the other networks — garbage in, garbage out.
I am not pessimistic. Nor am I filled with a false and foolish confidence, because my team are the underdogs — what an utter non-surprise that is! Every plausible scenario for a McCain-Palin victory this year has included a gut-wrenching Election Day. One day out, we are fortunate indeed that this is by no means a lost cause, and that our side has a real fighting chance.
And right now, in fact, my predominate feeling is of curiosity: I'm intensely curious to see whether the American public will demonstrate again that profound seriousness of purpose it demonstrated in 2004, or whether too many of its members will be seduced by visions of hopey-changitude.
Pay no mind to exit polls, nor to any press coverage until the polls are closed in at least all of the continental 48 states. Most important of all: Wherever you live, treat your own vote as if it might decide the election.
I'll be posting here during the day and into the evening, as, I'm sure, will be Hugh. But after you've voted, and after you've done your best to help get out the vote for your team, don't be reluctant to just turn off the TV news and walk away from the computer for a few hours tomorrow. In fact, it might be a great night for dinner out, a movie, or a good book.
Condolences to the Obama family
I'm sorry Barack Obama's grandmother didn't get to see him actually win, and renew my condolences.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Setting aside politics altogether for a moment: I extend my condolences to Sen. Obama and his family on the loss of his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Madelyn "Toot" Dunham, who passed away today after a long fight with cancer. As I wrote here on October 21st, I thought that Mrs. Dunham was the most appealing person portrayed in Sen. Obama's first book, "Dreams from My Father." I have no doubt that she was a positive influence and example for Sen. Obama throughout his own life, and I'm certain her entire family will miss her a great deal.
ChiTrib's Kass seeks fresh answer to question whether Obama would fire U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
Of everything I've written in the last couple of months, what I cross-posted at HH.com under this title is a post I think I might have occasion to refer back to again.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass asks a question that Hugh Hewitt has frequently asked here and on his radio show during the past few weeks: Would a new President Obama fire Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney who indicted and convicted Tony Rezko, and who's continuing his probe into related criminal activities in Obama's hometown? Kass writes (h/t InstaPundit; links in original):
Readers keep asking me the same question: Will the next president keep Patrick Fitzgerald as the U.S. attorney in Chicago?
I really can't say. What are political promises worth from politicians with debts to pay?
But here's what I do know. There is no story more important to the people of Chicago and of Illinois than the future of Fitzgerald, who has systematically hunted down the corruption.
Corruption the Chicago Way doesn't only waste money and burden taxpayers. This isn't only about isolated instances of graft and amusing, earthy rapscallions. That is a cartoon. The reality is that Illinois political corruption is an infection that spreads. The people either are numbed and deny it, or they feel pressured to suck up to their overlords. That's not American. That's positively Medieval.
"If we lose him, we lose everything," said a Chicago FBI agent wise in the ways of Chicago politics and its symbiosis with the Chicago mob. "I can't imagine it happening. He's the guy who pulls the trigger on all these investigations. If it happens, if they get rid of him, forget it."
Kass goes on to write in more detail about how definitive Sen. McCain has been in his commitment to keep Fitzgerald on the job, with quotes that leave no doubt and no wiggle-room.
Unfortunately, however, both of the links in the block-quote just above are busted as of when I write this, and I can't find on the Tribune or elsewhere (and neither do I recall having seen) any independent confirmation that Sen. Obama has ever made the promise which Kass attributes to him. Of the original making of that promise — which Kass clearly at least suspects that Obama might be pressured to break — Kass writes:
Back in March, Obama visited the Tribune's editorial board. He said that if elected president, he would keep Fitzgerald in place.
"I still think he's doing a good job," said Obama. "I think he has been aggressive in putting the city on notice and the state on notice that he takes issues of public corruption seriously."
I have no reason to doubt Kass' description. But the promise he describes appears to have been only verbal and before a small (albeit important) audience.
More significantly, that promise was made before Rezko was convicted on June 4, 2008. Rezko still hasn't been formally sentenced, and there are rumors that Rezko may be cooperating now with Fitzgerald in hopes of obtaining a more lenient sentence. Just last Thursday Fitzgerald's office announced the indictment of "William F. Cellini, an Illinois Republican Party leader, ... for his alleged role in the fraud scheme that led to the conviction of [Rezko.]" And Kass also makes the excellent point that there are other big political fish in Illinois besides Rezko — some of whom, like mayoral brother Bill Daley and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, might be potential Obama Administration appointees — who could find themselves in Fitzgerald's net, if he's allowed to continue casting it.
Thus, what Kass credits Obama as having said to the Tribune in March — before Obama even had the Democratic nomination wrapped up — is now so stale as to be long past the normal "expiration date" of anything said by the Obama campaign. This question needs a fresh answer, made on the record and without wiggle room.
Even with only a day left until the election, I have no doubt that word will get to Sen. Obama of Kass' column. But I will be stunned if Obama either answers it, or permits any reporter close enough access to even ask it. And without such a fresh answer, I suspect Sen. Obama's "promise" to the Tribune from last March isn't worth even as much as Mr. Kass' busted hyperlink.
SF Chron insists that buried and unremarked Obama promises to bankrupt coal industry and bring skyrocketing electric rates weren't "hidden," but offers no explanation why they weren't newsworthy
Personally, I felt like this post made the San Francisco Chronicle look like they were totally in the tank for Obama.
It occurs to me now that that's never really been in dispute, though, has it?
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On the subject of the bombshell quotes from Barack Obama about "bankrupting" the coal industry and making electric rates "skyrocket" — about which I wrote at my usual tedious length on Sunday evening, and an audio excerpt of which Hugh has since posted separately — the San Francisco Chronicle is now furiously trying to cover its collective fanny in a spectacularly unconvincing fashion.
"Political Writer" Carla Marinucci of the S.F. Chronicle righteously asserts that the audio which contained these quotes has been posted at its website since January 2008, and I have no reason to doubt that. She then offers up the Chronicle's come-back to a question from Gov. Palin on the campaign trail:
''Why is the audiotape just now surfacing?'' Palin asked the crowd, according to a report from CBS News. Someone in the crowd shouted, ''Liberal media!'
Let's be very clear: the Chronicle did not, and has never, hidden any interview, audio or video, of Obama from its readers.
But Ms. Marinucci's firey and "very clear" response is to an accusation that Gov. Palin didn't make, and Ms. Marinucci utterly failed to answer the very clear question which Gov. Palin did ask.
The very clear fact is that Ms. Marinucci, along with staff writer Joe Garofoli, wrote a lengthy news article about the interview on January 18, 2008, in which they and their editors necessarily had to have made the editorial decision not to even mention either Sen. Obama's statement that his plan would "bankrupt" those building new coal-fired plants or that it would cause electric rates to "skyrocket." Ms. Marinucci claims that the Chronicle "promoted" the story of its interview with Obama, and that's true enough — the story she wrote did appear on page A1, where it would make the most favorable impression possible for Barack Obama in his then-fierce battle against Hillary Clinton — but a Google News search of that newspaper for that day reveals six total returns mentioning Obama, exactly none of which also include the words "coal" or "bankrupt" or "skyrocket."
Ms. Marinucci didn't just "bury her lede." Rather, in metaphoric terms, she took it out onto the Golden Gate Bridge, shot it in the back of the head, and pushed it off into an unmarked watery grave in hopes that the corpse would never float to the surface.
Then two days later, editorial page editor John Diaz wrote a puff piece about the interview entitled Obama's Straight-Ahead Style. Its online version did contain a link to the tape (h/t InstaPundit), and it includes this sentence: "He demonstrated depth on an assortment of issues: mortgage securities, coal, California air-pollution laws." What a lovely and informative journalistic choice of words! As Mr. Diaz sees things, a deliberate policy decision to bankrupt an industry and cause electric rates to skyrocket merely demonstrates a candidate's "depth," but is not worthy of further comment. (I would have chosen, I think, a two-word formulation instead, as in: "He demonstrated deep insanity on an assortment of issues ....") Technorati indicates that the Chronicle never again linked to that video, nor to the .mp3 audio version linked today by Ms. Marinucci.
Cumulatively, that constitutes awful, indefensible journalistic judgment — the current national interest in these quotes proves that conclusively, but anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely "in the tank" for Obama.
Leaving these quotes buried in a fifty-three minute, 336MB video is not, in my own judgment, quite as bad as the Los Angeles Times' making (and then hiding behind) an unethical promise to a source not to release a videotape of another newsworthy event (the Khalidi dinner). But certainly when we see how the Chronicle's top writers and editors used such pathetic and compromised judgment in picking and choosing what to report as newsworthy from the Obama interview, the public has even more reason to doubt that the LA Times has been forthcoming, fair, and complete in its reporting on the videotape it's still concealing entirely.
Once upon a time (in 1930s, to be a bit more specific), when a pair of comic book authors named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster needed an identity and a "day job" for the alter ego of their crime-fighting super hero, they dreamed up "Clark Kent," a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. If they were making such choices today, such idealists would do better to cast Superman's alter ego as a used car salesman, a carnival barker, or even an investment banker than as a reporter for any mainstream media source. "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" has been sacrificed for "Spin, Bias, and Obama's The One." With all too rare exceptions, there's nothing "professional" left in the profession of journalism, folks. Lois Lane would probably be in the tank for Obama — foreshadowing lots of future rescues that are going to be needed if he's elected — but I think Clark Kent might weep for his disgraced profession.
Are you now, or have you ever been, a straight-ticket GOP voter in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, straight ticket voting doesn't cast a vote for president. This surprised me. I've since learned that there were lots of warnings on the ballot and at the polls, so my warning was probably superfluous.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Or do you even know someone who fits the title of this post? If so, here's an important reminder, courtesy of Geraghty the Indispensable at NRO's Campaign Spot:
Under a quirk in North Carolina law, casting a straight-ticket ballot does not automatically include a vote for any party's ticket in the presidential election! Instead, you have to manually and separately cast that vote, or your ballot won't be deemed to have cast any vote for anyone for president and vice president.
According to the Charlotte Observer, there's good reason to believe that many folks who've cast straight ticket ballots in the past didn't realize that — and the percentages for whom no effective vote was cast in the past might be determinative in a close race this year:
Unlike in many states, a straight-party vote in North Carolina does not cast a vote for president. A ballot expert says the split makes it more likely that voters – especially new voters – will leave polling places without voting for president.
The split between presidential and straight-party votes has brought national attention to North Carolina this year because the margin between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain is expected to be close.
An unusually high percentage of people in the state who voted in the past two national elections failed to mark a presidential selection.
In an analysis of past election returns, Justin Moore, who received his graduate degree in computer science at Duke University, found that 3.15 percent of voters in North Carolina didn't vote for president in 2000, and 2.57 percent didn't cast a presidential vote in 2004.
Now that is an awesomely important factoid to pass along as promiscuously as you can if you live in North Carolina, or even if you know someone who does. (I've got a former client from there who I'm emailing right now.)
The Palin plus
I liked and linked Byron York's NRO article about how Sarah Palin was playing in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Alas, not quite well enough, as it turned out, but without her, those states would have been Obama blow-outs.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Byron York's latest piece about how Gov. Sarah Palin's being received in Ohio and Pennsylvania rings true to me. Key sentence:
Following Palin around Ohio and Pennsylvania in the last days of the campaign, you meet a lot of Republicans [who] don’t hate McCain — they have too much respect for what he’s done in his life — but they felt a distinct shortage of enthusiasm for his candidacy until he picked Palin.
I haven't been traveling, but I've sure met a lot of Texas Republicans whose exact sentiments are captured by that sentence.
By contrast, every person I've spoken with who's been opposed to Sen. Palin — when I've had at least three minutes to probe their reasoning — has relied on falsehoods about her manufactured by the Hard Left and spread by their mainstream media stooges (e.g., rape kits, book-burning, dinosaurs-and-cavemen, blah-blah). And inevitably, they are completely clueless about the details of the rascals she threw out of power to get into office and her accomplishments once there. I try to fill them in, to which the usual reaction is a raised eyebrow and silence.
Then I ask them which of Barack Obama's two pieces of legislation that he actually wrote as a Senator has made more difference — the one for aid to the Congo or the one to ban exports of elemental mercury? And I ask whether it troubles them that he hasn't managed to get anything else he's actually written and been the principal sponsor for enacted into law.
At that point, I'm inevitably confronted with a counter-argument about George W. Bush. Like clockwork.
Now, I could take the further time to respond to most of their arguments about Bush, but at this point, it's just not worth the effort — not for those folks. They're completely invested in the irrational, and rational arguments cannot dissuade them, but only enrage them. Mind you, I'm not saying they're stupid — many of these folks are extremely bright. They are, however, being willfully naive, and they've been deliberately deceived, and no one can cure them of those problems without their cooperation.
Obama quotes: "[I]f somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them," and electricity rates will "necessarily skyrocket"
You know, you just can't be unhappy that gasoline prices have fallen and that the whole subject of foreign energy dependence seems less urgent as a result. Except that that ended up hurting the McCain-Palin campaign. Energy was the #1 domestic issue in the spring and early summer. Then the Dems started backpedaling on offshore drilling, and the credit markets went into the toilet. By the time anyone figured out that Obama has promised to bankrupt the coal industry, that wasn't nearly as scary as it would have been a few months earlier.
My bet, though, is that the Dems will continue to screw the whole subject of energy up royally, and it will be a fabulous issue for Gov. Palin to run on in 2012!
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
It has already become painfully clear that Harvard-trained lawyer Barack Obama is even more inclined to lie by parsing words than Yale-trained Bill Clinton was. Clinton, you will recall, famously denied having had "sexual relations" with "that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," based on his secret mental reservation to the effect that anything short of genital-on-genital penetration wasn't "sexual relations." Then he argued that he hadn't lied under oath about that subject because "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."
Now Barack Obama has been caught in a very similar and equally sleazy episode of parsing: He's all in favor of using America's vast reserves of coal to help solve our national addiction to foreign oil — so long as we don't actually burn any of it. And anyone who wants can build new clean-coal fired electrical generating plants! It's just that Obama has sworn to tax and fine them into bankruptcy if they do (ellipsis in original, boldface mine; h/t DRJ at Patterico's):
“I voted against the Clear Skies Bill. In fact, I was the deciding vote -- despite the fact that I’m a coal state and that half my state thought that I had thoroughly betrayed them. Because I think clean air is critical and global warming is critical.
“But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.
“But ... let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.
“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal — I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach. The same with respect to nuclear. Right now, we don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain. And so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy. But I tell you what, if we could figure out how to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.
“The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what the best approach is to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.”
That long quote comes from ABC News' Jake Tapper, as taken from a January 2008 interview Sen. Obama gave to the San Francisco Chronicle. (Something about being in that city apparently releases some of his inhibitions and permits him to accidentally tell the truth in between his carefully constructed and lawyerly word castles.) You can see a video clip with a recording of Obama's voice along with some pertinent statistics in the video at Gateway Pundit.
Obama is saying as clearly as it's possible to say that the taxes and penalties he's going to slap on both the coal and nuclear industries will bankrupt them based even on their very best current technology. He's only open to those fuels if there are magical new developments which let us release the energy in coal without releasing carbon dioxide or make spent nuclear fuels completely danger-free. That would require rewriting the basic laws of chemistry and physics — and as brilliant as The One is, he hasn't posted his plan to restructure the universe at a sub-atomic level on his website yet.
And contrary to Team Obama's protestations now, Gov. Sarah Palin was not taking Obama's remarks out of context this weekend, but giving them an absolutely fair interpretation — indeed, Gov. Palin was playing a recording of Obama's own words:
Palin told supporters to listen to the audiotape. “You’re going to hear Sen. Obama talk about bankrupting the coal industry,” she said. The Alaska governor also pointed to comments that Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden made to an environmental activist, promising no more coal-fired power plants in America. Biden was videotaped, likely without his knowledge.
“In an Obama-Biden administration, there would be no use for coal at all, from Wyoming to Colorado, to West Virginia and Ohio,” Palin said.
Tapper was wrong, though: The long quote above is not "the entirety of Obama’s remarks," and indeed, it is far from the only controversial thing Obama said on the subject of coal and energy in that interview. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has yet another video clip and transcript from that same interview (boldface Ed's):
The problem is not technical, uh, and the problem is not mastery of the legislative intricacies of Washington. The problem is, uh, can you get the American people to say, “This is really important,” and force their representatives to do the right thing? That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires them understanding what is at stake. Uh, and climate change is a great example.
You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.
They — you — you can already see what the arguments will be during the general election. People will say, “Ah, Obama and Al Gore, these folks, they’re going to destroy the economy, this is going to cost us eight trillion dollars,” or whatever their number is. Um, if you can’t persuade the American people that yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing lightbulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.
If we can’t make that argument persuasively enough, you — you, uh, can be Lyndon Johnson, you can be the master of Washington. You’re not going to get that done.
A federal government completely controlled by Pelosi, Reid, and Obama can't change the laws of physics, but it damned sure can and will change the tax code, and it damned sure can — and here's Obama's promise that it will — tax and fine entire industries into bankruptcy. Obama thinks doing that to the coal and nuclear energy industries — as based on what he perceives to be the inadequacies of their very current best technologies — would be a good thing in the "long term." The problem is, friends and neighbors, that our economy can't survive the shocks on the "front end" that Obama admits his program will guarantee.
This, gentle readers, is madness masquerading as policy. This is a millimeter-thin patina of "reasonableness," achieved only by lawyerly word games, and it's being used to disguise a plan to radically transform our entire economy as part of some enviro-utopian pipe-dream.
Your very worst fears and nightmares about Barack Obama's policy ambitions are true. The only "dream" here has been the notion that Obama is any kind of moderate.
UPDATE (Sun Nov 2 @ 10:15 p.m. CST): Hugh has now posted an embedded video above which is the same as what I linked to earlier from Gateway Pundit. And apparently the story of this interview first broke in a post on Newsbusters, an update to which links this San Francisco Chronicle article, based on the interview, as proof that nobody at that most sanctimonious of mainstream media outlets bothered to notice the newsworthiness of, or otherwise bring any attention to, Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry as it currently exists.
[Further material originally posted here as another update has now been moved to a new post.]
Working the phones from home for McCain-Palin
Phoning from home is fun, I argued in this Nov. 2nd guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I've cast my own vote. I've blogged on just about every topic relating to the election that I can think of. I've chatted up those of my own friends whose votes might have been up for grabs.
So tonight I made a couple of dozen phone calls as a McCain-Palin volunteer. And I feel better as a consequence.
Maybe you didn't realize how easy it is to do that kind of volunteer work from home. Just go to the McCain-Palin website, register there, and click on the big green "Make Calls" button on the right to get started.
I had plenty of left-over minutes in my cell-phone plan so that the calls didn't cost me anything. And I was particularly pleased that I was able to choose to call voters in Pennsylvania, a swing state, just by selecting that state from the drop-down menu on the McCain-Palin campaign website.
The website is pretty simple to use, and it provides separate short scripts to use depending on whether you reach someone in person or you can only leave a recorded message. When I get an answering machine or voicemail, I use exactly the script the campaign prescribes, which includes a call-back number.
But as in past years when I've done volunteer calling, when I reach a live person, I end up deviating from the script more than following it. The less robotic and more "amateur volunteer" these calls are, the more effective.
And people don't want to be preached at if they've already made up their minds, so after identifying myself as a volunteer and confirming that I've got the right household, I ask straight-away if they've already voted absentee or in early voting, and if not, whether they've already decided whether to vote — and if so, whether they mind telling me for whom.
If they seem reluctant, I never press for more details — but I take that as my cue to try to deliver some advocacy. In those cases, here's what I used, instead of the prepared script from the campaign: [# More #]
You know, the McCain-Palin campaign trusts in Pennsylvanians' common sense to see that only John McCain has ever actually fought for us to keep our country safe. And he and Gov. Palin are the only candidates whose stated goal is an actual victory over the terrorists.
Sen. Obama, on the other hand, already has promised to raise taxes during a recession. Pennsylvanians already know that tax increases will devastate the economy and destroy new jobs.
So the only question is how far down the income ladder Obama, Pelosi, and Reid will push their tax increases. Can I share with you just one quote which might help you apply your common sense?
On Friday, one of the leading Democrats campaigning for Sen. Obama, New Mexico Gov. Frank Richardson, said, quote, "What Obama wants to do is, he is basically looking at $120,000 and under among those that are in the middle class," unquote. That suggests to me that regardless of whatever else he may say now to get elected, Sen. Obama is going to treat small business owners and other folks netting $120,000 or more as being rich, and when he soaks them with new taxes, they're going to have to start laying people off.
I sort of envy you, (Mr./Ms.) ____, because your vote will probably count for much more than mine will here in Texas, if Pennsylvania turns out in 2008 to be like Florida was in 2000. And that's why Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have asked me to call you this evening — to find out if they can count on your vote next Tuesday. Can they?
These are all targeted calls — meaning that the McCain-Palin campaign already has some reason to believe that these individuals might be open to persuasion. And in fact, in a large majority of the calls I made, I never got into the "script" because I got a quick assurance that they were already planning to vote McCain-Palin — in which case I just ended the call by thanking them profusely, and by reminding them to go to the polls early because large crowds are expected and their state may be the key to the entire election.
I don't want to overstate the impact of these calls. Out of the two dozen calls I placed, I figure there's at least a small chance I might have reminded/persuaded someone to go vote who might otherwise have let it slide. And that, by itself, made doing this worth my time, in my estimation.
But I spoke to one woman tonight who said that while her husband is a strong McCain supporter, she had just re-registered this year for the first time since she'd voted for JFK in 1960. But she still hadn't decided whether to vote, or if so, for whom. I ended up chatting with her for a good five minutes, and by the end of that time she said she thought she'd go vote again this year. If indeed she turns out to be a one-vote net gain for McCain-Palin in Pennsylvania, then my time this evening will have been spectacularly well spent.
I'll probably spend another couple of hours making these calls tomorrow evening. Care to join me?
Mainstream media, drunk with Obamamania, refuses to expose Obama as a lapdog for Pelosi and Reid
Okay, one of the Obama lines that most threatened to make my head explode was the one about McCain voting with Bush more than 90% of the time. The fact of the matter is that that's an exaggerated number if we talk about voting with party leadership including during the Clinton and Bush-41 years; and most of the times McCain voted against Bush-43, I disagreed with McCain. But regardless of all that, Obama practically let Harry Reid keep the keys to his secret Senate voting buzzer, because Obama never, ever stood up to his own party leadership on anything important, and he voted with Reid far more slavishly than McCain voted with either the GOP leadership or any GOP president.
In a fair world, when a candidate repeats a misleading factoid as often as Obama repeated this one, a giant hand would come down from the sky and slap him, really hard. That's kind of Monty Pythonesque, I know. But it would be an improvement.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
One thing that frustrates me as we approach Election Day is the degree to which the mainstream media ignores even the thin legislative record that first-term Senator Barack Obama has managed to compile.
In Sunday's Washington Post, for example, we read:
Obama seized on a rare campaign appearance by Vice President Cheney to drive home his theme that electing McCain would represent a continuation of the failed policies of the Bush administration. Speaking in Laramie, Wyo., Cheney declared that McCain is "the right leader for this moment in history," and Obama responded to the endorsement at a rally here in Pueblo.
"I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it," Obama said. "He served as Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years."
What you will not find in this story is any mention of the fact that it is Obama, not McCain, whose career voting record conclusively proves that he's been a virtual slave to his party leadership.
That's the kind of information that — when reported by mainstream media outlets at all — appears mostly on their lower-traffic blogs, as with this entry from CNN on October 2, 2008, in the process of confirming the accuracy of a claim made by Gov. Palin during the vice presidential debate (boldface mine):
Congressional Quarterly examined Obama's votes in the Senate. According to the analysis, Obama has indeed voted with the Democratic Party 96 percent of the time.
CQ — a non-partisan and highly respected journal of Congressional affairs — says Senator John McCain has voted in line with the Republican Party 86 percent of the time. McCain's total number of votes is much larger, since he has been in the Senate since 1986, while Obama is in his first term.
Congressional Quarterly also looked at what it deemed to be "key" votes. That analysis found Obama voted with his party on 29 out of 30 votes, which came out to 97 percent of the time. For McCain, CQ said there have been 335 "key" votes over the years, and that he voted with his party on 266 of them — 79 percent of the time.
Every single time Obama harps on McCain's voting record as paralleling the GOP leadership's or Bush's preferences, an honest reporter would point out that Obama's voting record even more closely parallels his own party leaders'. But that doesn't fit the hopey-changitude meme, and so Obama's hypocrisy goes on largely unexposed.
The Obama Sequence: $250k, $200k, $150k, now $120k, next ... ?
This wasn't a bad title for a November 1st cross-post.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
When a Hard Left tax-and-spend Democrat from Chicago promises you a middle-class tax cut, you have to be awfully gullible to believe him.
When that candidate and his own team keep dropping the border-line — from $250k to $200k to $150k, and now as low as $120k — between the "rich" who won't get a tax cut and the "middle class" who supposedly will, then you have to be completely drunk with hopey-changitude to keep believing him (links in original, boldface mine):
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin charged that Sen. Barack Obama’s tax plan is “so phony that it's already starting to unravel,” continuing an argument made by her running mate Sen. John McCain this week that the Obama campaign’s level for who will receive tax cuts is creeping downward.
“Now, his whole tax plan, really, it is, it's so phony that it's already starting to unravel, and we're gonna call it the way that we see it,” Palin said at an afternoon rally in York, Pa. “It seems like every few days, we're getting a new definition now of middle class, according to their plan, whose taxes he says he won't raise on the middle class.”
Palin pointed to a comment made by Obama supporter Gov. Bill Richardson in a radio interview this morning, in which the New Mexico governor cited $120,000 as the income level where Americans would receive a tax cut under Obama’s plan.
"What Obama wants to do is he is basically looking at $120,000 and under among those that are in the middle class, and there is a tax cut for those," Richardson said. Palin pounced on the remark, adding it to Sen. John McCain’s attack earlier this week after Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden cited $150,000 as the income level where Americans would receive a tax cut.
“And just this morning, Gov. Bill Richardson, a top surrogate for the Obama campaign, he who is working so hard to get Obama elected, Richardson, said Obama's tax plan would define middle class as $120,000 a year and under,” Palin said. “So now, we're down to less than half the original income level and, just give it a little more time, and Barack Obama will be back to raising taxes on folks earning $42,000 a year. We can't let this happen.”
A spokesperson for Richardson responded that he misspoke, meaning to say that those making less than $250,000 would not see a tax increase.
Uh, yeah, Richardson "misspoke." Because, ya know, "two hundred" sounds so much like "one hundred," and, uh, "fifty" sounds so much like "twenty." (Richardson, you will recall, was the guy Pres. Clinton put in charge of securing nuclear waste, among other weighty matters, as Secretary of Energy. I've never thought he was the sharpest tool in the shed, but can anyone believe he doesn't even understand the difference between $250k and $120k?)
If Obama can't keep Biden and Richardson in line, what possible chance does he have to stand up to the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer, and Harry Reid? In addition to the additional $4 trillion that Obama wants to spend, they'll have their own priorities.
The obvious truth is that Biden and Richardson can't be bothered to memorize the phoney numbers floated on the current campagn website because as insiders, they already know those numbers have no correspondence to what will actually start happening come January 2009 if Obama wins. "Changed circumstances," we'll hear then, "require changes in our plans, and after all, we campaigned on a promise to spread the wealth, didn't we?" We've seen this same farsical movie before, in 1993 after Bill Clinton ran on a platform promising a middle class tax cut, but instead pressed Congress for and got a $241 billion tax increase.
"So shut up and pay your new taxes," we'll hear. "It's patriotic."
Look, friends and neighbors, Barack Obama has already broken the biggest financial promise he's ever made, when he decided to reject the public financing he swore he'd take. Not only did he break that promise, he then proceeded to raise and spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars, including millions of dollars in illegal, untraceable contributions gathered through an internet scam based on turned-off anti-fraud software.
Now Obama, his own Veep nominee, and one of their principal campaign surrogates are all over the lot on something as simple as the financial break-point for his tax cut. They can't keep a promise or tell a straight story, but yet they insist that you must trust them with your tax dollars.
The old saying is: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." But what's the old saying for "Fool me over and over and over and over again"?
Oh yeah, I forgot: It's "Change We Can Believe In."
Grats to the Red Raiders
It turns out that losing the national election did pretty much take my mind off my Longhorns losing to Texas Tech.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Congratulations to Coach Mike Leach and his Texas Tech Red Raiders on their last-second come-back win over the No. 1-ranked Texas Longhorns by a score of 39 to 33. Tonight they were the better team, and Leach and his staff out-coached Mac Brown and his. This is probably the greatest win in the history of the Tech football program, and now their challenge — in which I wish them the very best — will be to prove that they're more than just spoilers.
In prioritizing economic versus security issues for purposes of casting your vote, keep in mind that the Marines pay more attention to the POTUS than do macro-economic trends
At last, I'm into November. Hoo-rah for file maintenance!
In hindsight, I like this guest-post title at HH.com less than I did at the time. Too long, too long. Nevertheless, the premise is correct: Come Inauguration Day, every Marine in Washington will snap perfect salutes to the new Commander in Chief, who will deserve them by virtue of the office he holds. The Dow-Jones average is likely to be less deferential.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Given the rather startling photograph on the left, why is it that George W. Bush is not being hailed right now — triumphantly by the GOP, reluctantly by the Democrats — as a genius for definitively and dramatically solving the single most acute economic problem that was facing most Americans this past summer, when gasoline prices at the pump were topping $4 per gallon?
The answer any truthful macro-economist will give you is: George W. Bush didn't have anything much to do with that fall in gasoline prices at the pump. And neither did Congress.
The precipitous fall in gasoline prices in September and October was the result of world-wide economic forces outside either of their control and, indeed, mostly explainable even by economists only through guesswork. The simplest classical economic answers can only hint at part of the price change: worldwide demand for refined gasoline, while diminished at the margin by this summer's high prices, hasn't dropped by anything close to half, and worldwide supply, while increased at the margin by those same high prices, hasn't grown to anything close to double either. Although the cumulative long-term decisions made by governments are certainly one factor in such worldwide economic price trends over time, the role played by any government — be it in Washington or Riyadh or Caracas — in this particular pricing spasm was inconsequential over this time-frame.
Friends and neighbors, it's simply a fact that the general public and the popular press give politicians both too much credit and too much blame for both short-term and long-term economic changes. It wasn't FDR and the New Deal who ended the Great Depression, it was World War 2. It wasn't Bill Clinton who grew the gross domestic product in the 1990s and thereby swelled tax revenues to balance the budget briefly, it was the integration into the national and world economy of the information revolution most clearly symbolized by the personal computer on which you're reading this internet blog post.
I'm not saying that governments don't affect economies. They do, especially at the margin and over long periods of time. Only bad and thoroughly intrusive governmental policy applied across a wide number of variables over a period of decades could have screwed up our health care system to its current point of ridiculousness, to pick a prominent example. The current economic crisis in the housing market, to cite another example, is an acute problem — like a mutli-hundred-billion-dollar bowel inflammation — which was directly caused by well-intended but stupid government attempts to legislate away basic economic laws by pretending that people who really can't afford expensive home mortgages could actually afford them if we just tweaked the terms of their adjustable rate mortgages enough and the real estate market always kept booming. (Yes, it was a government-run Ponzi scheme.)
And really bad government — a government that taxes its most productive people and their capital at confiscatory marginal rates, for example, of the sort we had by the conclusion of the fiasco known as the Carter Administration — can really screw things up. Indeed, the single thing at which government is most effective is taking away money from law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.
So by all means, in deciding how to cast your own vote, or in discussing with undecided friends how they ought to cast theirs, factor in whatever economic concerns you may have for what they're worth. They are important.
But as you do that, just keep in mind that photograph above and to the left. And if you're unwilling to give George W. Bush and/or the Pelosi-Reid Congress credit for that dramatic drop in gas prices at the pump — and indeed they don't deserve that credit — then discount, too, the economic wonders that you expect your preferred political ticket to accomplish if elected.
Gentle readers, if we're not safe on American soil from the sort of suicide bombings that are routine in much of the middle east, it doesn't matter nearly so much what the latest LIBOR index is. If instead of the leader of the free world and its only remaining superpower, America becomes a vacation cruise ship of touchy-feely cultural relativism drifting from Kum-bay-yah recital to recital, while our enemies infiltrate us and exterminate our allies like Israel, then it doesn't matter whose health insurance legislation you think you like better.
I earnestly commend to you Fred Kagan's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, entitled Security Should Be the Deciding Issue.
And I remind you that just like our current one, our next commander-in-chief, whoever he turns out to be, is virtually certain to get immediate and vigorous compliance with the orders he snaps off to his military adjutants, whereas those gasoline price signs and a whole lot of other important economic facts of life are mostly, at least in the short and middle terms, going to do exactly what they were already gonna do anyway.
Top One Reason Why McCain Might Win
Ay-yay-yay. This one doesn't hold up as well with hindsight, but it was a sincere guest-post at HH.com at the time, on October 31st.
I would argue, however, that as a matter of hypertext markup language elegance, finding an occasion to use a single-element ordered list, and then converting that opportunity into reality, was no small aesthetic victory. (But not a large one either.)
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
J-Pod has 10 Reasons Why McCain Might Win, and it's a nice list, worth a glance at least.
With due respect to him, however, I have a better list. It has precisely one item on it:
We haven't had the election yet. So anyone who tells you — based on public opinion polls or science or guesswork or magic or anything else — that he or she knows what the outcome is going to be is lying to you.
Throughout this weekend and all day on Monday, there will be zillions of words communicated — spoken, read, printed, downloaded, whatever — about the result of the upcoming election. Every one of them is nothing better than a guess. We've seen in past elections that notwithstanding the best modern polling techniques, all sorts of polls — including "exit polls" on the very day of the election — have been badly off.
I am not one of those who argues every four years that "This year's election is the most important ever!" I don't know whether that will turn out to be true or not. I am confident, however, that there has never been an election remotely like this one. And you know that too, if you'll just take a snapshot poll of your own common sense.
Treat your own vote as if it might decide the election. Encourage your friends to do that too. Take responsibility. And don't let someone else — anyone else, and especially not some smug know-it-all newspaper or TV reporter, or three-quarter-in-the-bag pollster — persuade you to waste or squander the most precious aspect of your heritage as an American.
Care to cast an internet ballot against Obama?
This guest-post had a link to a poll in which Bill Kristol seriously kicked Barack Obama's butt. Seriously. Ninety-three percent said Kristol was better on "The Daily Show" than The One.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Some will view this as another chance to vote against Barack Obama.
As for me, though, it's a chance to express some solidarity with Bill Kristol as another early and steadfast Sarah Palin supporter. (H/t John McCormack at the Weekly Standard Blog.)
WaPo editorial finally admits that Ayers is vile, but defends Obama, Khalidi, and LAT on pure faith
Halloween was, in hindsight, a good day, and in particular a good day to fisk the Washington Post, as I did in a guest-post at HH.com. (The real target, though, was the LA Times. Whatever, peas in a pod.)
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm a fan of the art of the backhanded complement. Giving someone praise subtly and indirectly can be more effective.
I am not a fan, however, of the backhanded condemnation, of which the Washington Post's editorialists today provide us with a superb and absurd example in the course of a spirited defense of Rashid Khalidi (boldface mine):
In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke. Mr. McCain even threw former Weatherman Bill Ayers into the mix, suggesting that the tape might reveal that Mr. Ayers — a terrorist-turned-professor who also has been an Obama acquaintance — was at the dinner.
For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis — or even to Mr. Ayers — is a vile smear.
At last! At last the Washington Post recognizes — backhandedly — that today's Bill Ayers, and not just the Bill Ayers of the 1960s and 1970s, is such a twisted dollop of evil scum that comparing a mere terrorist sympathizer to him is a "vile smear" of the sympathizer!
But "terrorist sympathizer" Khalidi has indeed been, by anyone's most charitable definition. And one may make a reasonable case that he's been a terrorist enabler as well, in the sense of providing encouragement, advice, intellectual support, and a fig-leaf of social legitimacy to murderous thugs like Yassir Arafat.
The Washington Post's editors are entitled to their own opinion of Khalidi. What they are not entitled to, however, is to chide John McCain or Sarah Palin — or you or me — for wanting the American public to be given access to the best actual evidence of what was said at this dinner attended by Ayers, Khalidi, and would-be POTUS Barack Obama.
The WaPo concedes that "[i]t's fair to question why Mr. Obama felt as comfortable as he apparently did during his Chicago days in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from what the presidential candidate espouses." Yet the WaPo's editors are eager to reach a conclusive judgment on the unimportance of this tape without ever having watched it.
The WaPo insists — with no basis more solid than hope — that Sen. Obama "is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position." But others of us, including many supporters of Israel and some substantial number of as-yet-undecided American voters, distrust what Sen. Obama says is his position, and we may well interpret his placid silence when confronted with those outrages as tacit approval. Some of us who are less phlegmatic by nature than Sen. Obama may find ourselves offended and, indeed, outraged by what was said at that dinner.
Given what the WaPo editors admit — which is that "Listening to Mr. Khalidi can be challenging" even when he's speaking on the record for international distribution — it's not at all hard to imagine that he or his good friends may have said very vile things indeed at this dinner. And some of them may well be so vile that they actually might deter someone previously inclined to vote for Obama from doing so.
What's on this tape may move tens of thousands of votes in a battleground state like Florida. A national election might hang in the balance. Can we imagine Ben Bradlee, Carl Bernstein, and Bob Woodward being equally complacent, willing to place their full reliance on someone else, when it came to reviewing the Nixon White House tapes?
As for the WaPo defending the Los Angeles' Times' journalistic ethics: No promise should ever have been made to the LAT's source that the tape wouldn't be shown. Indeed, it was the making of that promise by the LAT's reporter which was the unethical act: Journalists aren't ethically free to bargain with their sources about what news they will and won't report. Doubling down on an unethical act by blind enforcement of that promise isn't ethical behavior, it's compounding the original sin. And in any event, given that the LAT has already reported that a tape was made, and that they have it, and some of what's on it, no promise of confidentiality to the LAT's source can possibly be impaired by the LAT releasing at least (a) an audio version of the entire tape and (b) a transcript.
Whatever else it may become known for in history, this election will surely top any predecessor in cosmic irony: The Washington Post has morphed from a righteous instrument through which truth is exposed into a besotted apologist for another paper's transparent and unethical cover-up, so that they may jointly save the bacon of their mutually preferred candidate (who once again can't quite seem to "close the deal" on his own). Instead of telling truths, the Post's editors savage and ridicule those like Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin for merely asking that the truth be exposed — so that the American public can decide for itself the significance of that truth. Their editorial finishes with this snide comment:
We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days.
Alas, the only "wind" here is the flatulence escaping from the corpse of American journalism, a once-great institution, now eagerly turned great prostitute, that has bled out all its credibility while scrambling after a basket of Obama hopey-changiness.
Obama is at least badly misleading in minimizing the number of SCOTUS "hard cases" in which judicial philosophy is determinative
Obviously, the reason McCain-Palin lost was because I didn't blog on October 30th. I returned to duty on Halloween with a guest-post at HughHewitt.com about judges.
The election is over. This is still, however, problematic.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Over at NRO's The Corner, Ed Whelan argues that in a televised interview yesterday with NBC News' Brian Williams, Sen. Barack Obama was "lying" when he claimed that differing judicial philosophies would only matter "less than one percent of real hard cases."
I've listened very carefully to the video clip — preparing my own transcription from it, which I reproduce just below, but you can also compare the Chicago Tribune's version if you'd like — and I can anticipate how the Obama campaign would respond to Ed's charge. I'm less certain than Ed that Obama was deliberately lying, but I'm certainly convinced that what Obama said was badly misleading.
(NB: I'm not 100% sure that the liniked video clip wasn't actually recorded substantially earlier in the campaign — although clearly (from the NBC News captions and text crawls) it was at least re-broadcast yesterday — because I can't find any reference to this interview on the MSNBC website, nor elsewhere besides the Tribune transcript I've linked. For what it's worth, the Tribune also reports the interview as having taken place yesterday. But if so, I don't have any good explanation — other than an odd and gross misspeaking — for Obama's closing words about Sen. McCain having the same sorts of conversations with potential Supreme Court Justices "if [McCain] ends up being the nominee.")
Here's my transcript:
WILLIAMS: Senator, a question about the Supreme Court. Everyone running for President always says, especially on the narrow issue of abortion rights, "No litmus test."
WILLIAMS: It's said on both sides of the issue. And if that's true, if you're not going to call a future Justice into the Oval Office, if you're successful in this endeavor, and bring up the subject, how then do you also avoid surprises? I don't think George H. W. Bush-41 ever dreamed that in Justice Souter, he was appointing a dependable liberal vote.
WILLIAMS: And Eisenhower for years called Justice Brennan his biggest mistake in office. Two surprises that just come to mind.
OBAMA: Right. Well, look, I think that what you can ask a judge is about their judicial philosophy. And as somebody who taught constitutional law for ten years, and who actually knows a lot of potential candidates for the Supreme Court on the right as well as on the left — because I've taught with them or interacted with them in some way — I can tell you that how a Justice approaches their job, how they describe the task of interpreting the Constitution, I think can tell you a lot.
And so my criteria, for example, would be, that if a Justice tells me that they only believe in the strict letter of the Constitution, that means that they probably don't believe in a right to privacy that may not be perfectly enumerated in the Constitution, but that, you know, I think is there. I mean, the right to marry who you please isn't in the Constitution. But I think that all of us assume that if a state decided to pass a law saying, "Brian, you can't marry the woman you love," that you'd think that was unconstitutional.
Well, where does that come from? I think that it comes from a right to privacy that may not be listed in the Constitution, but is implied by the structure of the Constitution.
So I can have that conversation with a judge. Now, a conservative who is listening to me right then says, "See, he wants to allow the court to legislate!" No, ninety-nine percent of cases, the Constitution is actually gonna be clear. Ninety-nine percent of cases, a statute or a Congressional intent is going to be clear. But there are going to be 1 percent, less than 1 percent, of real hard cases —
WILLIAMS: Second Amendment, last term —
OBAMA: Second Amendment, last term, is a great example, where the language of the Second Amendment is not perfectly clear. I believe that the Second Amendment is actually an individual right. I think that's the better argument.
And so, I can have those kinds of discussions with a Justice without getting to the particulars of, "Is Roe versus Wade, as currently outlined, exactly what you believe?" Or "Do you agree that the D.C. gun law should have been overturned?"
And I think Senator McCain, if he ends up being the nominee, could have those same conversations as well.
Of this, Ed writes (links in original):
As I explained months ago (when Obama used a figure of 95% for the same general proposition):
As Obama ought to know, the unanimity rate on the Supreme Court is nowhere near 95%. According to the Harvard Law Review’s statistics for the past three terms, cases with dissents accounted for 64.4% (2006 term), 45.7% (2005 term), and 62.0% (2004 term) of all cases. Indeed, last term, cases dividing 5-4 accounted for over a third of all cases, and the three justices that Obama cited as justices he likes — Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter — agreed in the disposition of non-unanimous cases only 61%, 60%, and 63% of the time, respectively.
Obama, far from being an idiot, is very intelligent. And, “as somebody who taught constitutional law for ten years” (as he tells us in the interview), he surely knows that what he is saying is false. In other words, the only plausible conclusion is that he’s lying — and he’s doing so in order to distract attention from the terrible impact that his appointment of hard-left judicial activists would have.
I can think of two ways that the Obama campaign might seek to rebut Ed's charge.
First, they might point to the vast number of decisions by the Supreme Court in which, in fact, there is no indication of disagreement among the nine Justices: the denial of petitions for writs of certiorari. That's the procedural mechanism by which the SCOTUS may mostly choose its own docket using its discretion pretty much however it sees fit. (There are only a very few types of cases in which the SCOTUS simply must hear cases on their merits, either because it has "original jurisdiction," as in lawsuits between States, or because Congress has granted litigants a nondiscretionary "appeal as of right," as in certain rulings from three-judge panels in Voting Rights Act cases.)
But if Obama intended to include all of those "cert petitions" into the mix for purposes of his 1% estimate, that's still extremely misleading: When each Justice votes to grant or deny each cert petition, he's not expressing an actual opinion on the merits of whether the lower court (typically either a state supreme court or one of the federal courts of appeals) was correct. Rather, the Justice is deciding whether that particular case is "cert-worthy" — worth taking up because, for example, there has been a split among the federal courts of appeals or an especially important issue is involved. There are hundreds and hundreds of cert petitions each year in which, for example, Justice Scalia may think that the lower court was right and Justice Stevens thinks that the lower court was wrong on the merits — but they both agree that the case isn't "cert-worthy," and so the losing side's petition asking the SCOTUS to grant a writ of certiorari (and thereby agree to hear the case) is denied.
Second and, I think more likely, the Obama campaign might argue that even though Brian Williams began the discussion by asking specifically about Supreme Court nominees, Obama was responding by describing all federal judicial appointments — intending to describe in his answer not just Supreme Court Justices, but federal district court and court of appeals judges as well. If one includes all of their cases, then there certainly are fewer "hard" cases in which judicial philosophy is likely to be critical. And that's evidenced by the relative infrequency of dissents among the three members of the appellate panels in which the federal courts of appeals typically hear cases. So if Obama had mentally shifted gears — if he'd switched, without indication, to discussion all of the federal judicial appointments a president gets to make, and not just SCOTUS appointments — then he may have been unclear and misleading, without necessarily telling a deliberate lie.
Whether Obama was knowingly lying or simply being obtuse, however, there's no real doubt that Ed's fundamental point is correct: At the Supreme Court level (and that's what Brian Williams was asking about), philosophical differences among potential appointees are going to be crucial in most cases — simply because by definition, the Supreme Court is the final forum in which the Constitution and laws of the United States are interpreted and applied, and because its docket consists almost entirely of the very hardest and most important cases from across the country. At a minimum, Obama is guilty of trying to underplay the importance of him making these picks as compared to John McCain. And thus, I agree that Obama was being very misleading in this interview.
(Jonathan Adler also has a very good article on NRO today about the potential importance of the next president's nominations for those lower courts, with which I agree entirely; I commend it to you wholeheartedly. What kind of judges the new president appoints to those courts arguably has a greater impact on folks' day-to-day lives than the SCOTUS appointees, and it certainly has a greater impact on federal court litigants. Prof. Adler argues, and I agree, that given the current membership on the SCOTUS and the current and likely vacancies in the lower courts, Obama, if elected, would probably have more influence on the lower courts than on the SCOTUS in his first term. In any event, those appointments are hugely important, even though the appointments themselves and the confirmation process for them often largely escapes public notice.)
A final point that disturbs me about this interview:
Sen. Obama is correct that by virtue of having attended Harvard Law School and been president of its law review, and then having been a part-time lecturer at another very good law school (the University of Chicago) for several years, he's rubbed elbows with a great many law professors with reputations vast and stellar. But with due respect to them, and to my host here (for Hugh Hewitt also teaches constitutional law), the very last thing that the United States Supreme Court needs is more law professors. And yet, as Sen. Obama's remark here confirms, law professors are almost certainly going to be the kind of SCOTUS Justices whom he would appoint.
Justice Alito, at least, had some experience as a trial court practitioner as an assistant U.S. Attorney early in his career. But other than him, there's no member of the Supreme Court with broad or deep experience in actually preparing and trying either civil or criminal cases. And while law professors-turned-SCOTUS-Justices may have gained some seasoning and real-world experience as judges on either the trial court bench or, more frequently, at the federal court of appeals level, that still leaves them many levels removed from the nitty-gritty day-to-day experience of the actual practicing lawyer.
Again and again, I read SCOTUS opinions written by brilliant just-graduated law clerks for smart Justices, in which it's painfully obvious that none of them have the slightest clue about, nor much interest in, what's happening in the real world. They create elaborate multi-part balancing tests and procedural gavottes with shifting burdens and subtle formulations — stuff that is worse than useless in the real world because it's not only impossible to implement, it's impossible to use as a basis for predicting how the SCOTUS will rule the next time an issue comes up. It's not too much to ask that at least one member of the U.S. Supreme Court actually have been a practicing lawyer representing private clients in real lawsuits that have actually gone through to verdict. But there's little doubt that in the Age of Obama, law professors would become the most elite of the new elites. And that should frighten anyone who has either common sense or a wallet.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 31 @ 2:40 p.m. CST): Ed has posted a pair of updates (here and here) to his original post in which he elaborates and also responds to a post from Matthew Yglesias. Yglesias doesn't mention the word "certiorari" or directly reference "cert petitions," both of which are admittedly inside-baseball terms through which SCOTUS-watchers and legal pundits communicate, but he does argue that "the Supreme Court has absolute discretion over which cases to hear" (which is nearly, but not quite, correct), so it's clear that Yglesias is advancing the first defense I posited above. It's a weak defense for the reason I mentioned above: cert decisions are emphatically not decisions on the merits, they're screening decisions, and it's inapt for either Obama or Yglesias to suggest that they say much of anything about the importance of judicial philosophy or who's making judicial appointments. Treating Obama's percentage terms as being based on cert petitions, to state it another way, is to impute to Obama a very poor understanding of what the SCOTUS actually does, and I think the odds of Yglesias being right in that imputation are extremely remote.
Yglesias goes on to say:
Meanwhile, in his eagerness to call Obama a liar, Whelan is completely misrepresenting what Obama is saying — he’s not, at all, denying that judicial philosophy is important. He’s just making the point that the cases where it comes into play are a minority of the total docket that sits before the federal judicial system.
This is Yglesias making the second defense I suggested above, and I disagree with that one, too. Any reasonable member of the public watching the Brian Williams clip would conclude that Obama was indeed minimizing the importance of judicial philosophy, and specifically at the Supreme Court level.
As Ed and I both pointed out, Brian Williams was explicitly asking about appointment of SCOTUS Justices. I will admit that it's theoretically possible that Obama — mid-answer, and despite the clear question — spaced out and suddenly shifted from talking just about "hard cases" on the Supreme Court to talking about the entire federal judiciary's caseload. If so, however, Obama ought to have corrected himself by now in public, because he left his listeners believing that he was still answering Williams' question about the SCOTUS.
Moreoever, as Ed points out, the 99% figure is pretty close to the 95% figure he'd used in a previous interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN and in a speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund when he was unquestionably talking only about the SCOTUS and its docket.
No, in my mind, there's no doubt that Obama was being misleading. The only question is whether — as Ed thinks — Obama knew exactly what he was doing and was conscious that what he was saying was false (Ed correctly chides me by email for calling this a "deliberate lie" in the opening paragraph of my original post, which was indeed both a redundancy and a misquote), or whether instead Obama was being unintentionally (but negligently) misleading because he was spacing out. If he was spacing out, it certainly was on a topic for which there's no very good excuse for him to have done that. And it certainly had the effect — which Ed believes to have been a deliberate purpose to begin with, consistent with his other speeches on the topic — of minimizing the difference between the voters' choice of Obama or McCain.
I can't entirely rule out the "spacing out" hypothesis, but it seems unlikely to me. I think it's more likely that Ed's probably right that Obama was just deliberately lying. In any event, however, on matters like this one, given that we're talking about a Harvard-trained lawyer and self-styled "law professor," his misleading of the public — whether deliberate or merely grossly negligent — is just about as culpable either way.
On almost all of the cases the SCOTUS chooses to hear, the difference in judicial philosophy between the kind of future Justices a President Obama is likely to pick and the kind a President McCain is likely to pick will be huge, and increasingly outcome determinative. Some of us are extremely distressed about having to rely on the none-too-reliable Mr. Justice Anthony "Sweet Mysteries of Life" Kennedy as the last semblance of a bulwark against unchecked judicial activism; we're none too thrilled about the idea of a President Obama replacing either Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, or Souter with younger clones likely to be on the bench for another two-to-three decades; and we're absolutely terrified at the thought that Obama might have a chance to replace Justice Scalia. We also know beyond any doubt that even though Obama may have met and worked with some conservative law professors, that ain't gonna be who he picks. He's likely to pick a Cass Sunstein — relying on GOP senators like John McCain to confirm based on objective credentials just like they did Ginsburg — but who's going to be as ideologically driven with a hard-leftist "positive rights"/activist agenda as Brennan and Marshall combined.
Obama's 30-minute ads bought not only with broken promises, but also with broken laws
October 29th having been a busy blogging day, which included a guest-post at HughHewitt.com decrying the fact that Obama was spending millions of dirty money on TV advertisements, I now feel free to confess that I slept through the Obama 30-minute infomercial. And although I'd recorded it on my digital video recorder, I ended up zapping it even before the election.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The McCain-Palin campaign correctly points out that Sen. Barack Obama's "30-minute prime-time address [tonight will be] a 'gauzy, feel-good commercial' that was 'paid for with broken promises.'" But for Obama's undisputed and indisputable violation of his solemn oath to accept public campaign financing, there's no way he could have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, including this hugely expensive cross-network TV buy.
But "paid for with broken promises" is the most charitable characterization. The Obama-Biden campaign deliberately has solicited and received hundreds of thousands of credit card transactions of $250 or less, whose details the campaign won't make available for outside review even though in the aggregate they amount to hundreds of millions of dollars — via a fraud-friendly credit card system (a) which accepts transfers from untraceable pre-paid credit cards, and (b) whose basic anti-fraud measures have been deliberately crippled. The Obama-Biden campaign might just as well have set up dumpsters all over the world into which illegal donors could dump shopping bags full of cash donations made in unmarked small bills.
I suddenly had an epiphany. I know now exactly what happened after that bell over the door tinkled again while the jukebox was playing "Don't Stop Believin'" in the diner, just before the picture cut to black and the sound abruptly stopped: That was Barack Obama walking in the door — coming to hire Tony Soprano and his crew to run his internet finance operations.
If you watch the infomercial, ask yourself: How many minutes of it were bought with illegal money? A third of it? Half?