GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
On the Hill: Obama, Clinton for earmark halt
South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s recent proposal for a moratorium on earmarks won two new converts this week: Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL). Obama even declared that Congress’ “earmark culture... needs to be re-examined and reformed.” While their support was obviously a campaign ploy, Clinton and Obama both saw their home-state counterparts turn on them—Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York. Only three other Democrats joined Clinton and Obama in voting for the moratorium. And unfortunately, there were enough Republicans that think the earmark moratorium is, as Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) so eloquently put it, “stupid,” that earmark foe Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) couldn’t rustle up enough Republican votes to even make the tally close—the earmark moratorium failed Thursday 71-29. DeMint called out his colleagues for behaving like addicts, saying, “We need to go cold turkey.” Otherwise, it’s “like telling an alcoholic, ‘Don’t drink as much’.”
Earmarks is one area in which we have no quibble with the Republican presidential nominee, who promised, “As president, I promise the American people... the first earmarked, pork-barrel bill that comes across my desk, I’ll veto it.” In a recent stump speech, McCain pointed out that Congress had earmarked $3 million for a study on grizzly bear DNA. “I don’t know if it was a paternity issue or criminal,” he quipped, “but it was a waste of money.” Of course, the biologist who headed the bear-counting project (using DNA to count them) noted, “Nobody got seriously hurt. We collected a ton of bear hair. We stayed on budget.” For $3 million, we in our humble shop could stay on budget collecting bear hair, too.
In the House: Suing the White House
In an old story that just keeps getting older, the House Judiciary Committee filed suit this week to enforce subpoenas against Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff, and Harriet Miers, former White House counsel. Bolten and Miers rightly refused to comply with subpoenas that demanded they testify before the Judiciary Committee regarding the firing of nine federal prosecutors in 2006. The Washington Post reported that it is “the first time in U.S. history that either chamber of Congress has sued the Executive Branch to enforce a subpoena.” Nothing like bringing change to Washington.
Of course, the attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President; George W. Bush had every right to fire them. Congress is butting into a matter that is none of its concern, and Miers and Bolten simply refused to be played for Democrats’ partisan advantage. We would note once again that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno never had to answer for firing all 93 U.S. attorneys at the outset of Clinton’s first term in 1993.
New & notable legislation
Speaking of posturing and preening, Democrats brought to the House floor Tuesday a vote on so-called “ethics reform” —H.R. 1031, which passed 229-182 by dubious maneuverings. The measure creates an independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), no longer self-policing House members but instead relying on an OCE composed of six board members, none of whom are sitting lawmakers. This new “ethics” office could conduct partisan witch hunts against members based on accusations from outside groups and individuals, which could then go forward to the full congressional ethics committee for further investigation. What’s most interesting, though, is that the voting on this purported improvement in congressional “ethics” seems to have itself violated new “ethical” rules put in place by the Democrats—holding the voting open longer than officially specified in order to change the outcome. That’s correct—House Democrat leaders could get this passed only by an ethical violation, and House Republican Leader John Boehner has called for an investigation into the floor actions.
Former Hastert seat goes to Democrats
Bad news for Republicans’ election prospects: Democrat Bill Foster won the special election to fill former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s congressional seat this week, defeating Republican Jim Oberweis with 53 percent of the vote. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen was quick to frame the race as a predictor of the national mood by noting that Barack Obama campaigned for Foster and Oberweis had the support of Hastert and John McCain. “The people of Illinois have sent an unmistakable message that they’re tired of business as usual in Washington,” Obama wrote in a letter. This may be true if putting yet another millionaire businessman in Congress is now being considered a rejection of “business as usual.”
Campaign watch: Fighting for votes
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has stepped out of the decision-making process regarding the unseated primary delegates in Florida and Michigan. Rather than acting like, well, a chairman, and making a decision on the matter, Dean is letting the states come up with ideas on how to fix the mess that could sway the Democrat nomination. Naturally, everyone involved in this process has an allegiance to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
Counting the delegates as they currently stand doesn’t make sense to Obama’s supporters, because he didn’t campaign in either Florida or Michigan after the DNC punished the two states for moving their primaries earlier than Super Tuesday. In fact, Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. Clinton won a majority of the delegates in both states—though she would be well advised not to crow too much about having won Michigan, where her closest competitor, “Uncommitted,” received 40 percent of the vote. Of course, Clinton wants to count the delegates as it stands because she desperately needs every single one she can get her entitled hands on.
Obama won big again in Mississippi this week, 61 percent to 37 percent, putting further pressure on Clinton to do something—anything—to stay in the running. Look for some parlor tricks from Team Hillary as the debate over what to do with Florida and Michigan heats up.
Never one to consider himself a backbencher, professional race hustler Al Sharpton has wormed his way into the fight by threatening to sue the DNC if Florida’s primary results are allowed to stand at the convention. Sharpton has met with state residents who claim they skipped the primary because they believed their votes wouldn’t count. While he claims to have no preference in the race, Sharpton’s move clearly favors Obama. Of course, the current proposal is for a mail-in redo in Florida. As late-night comedian Jay Leno joked, “That’s a great idea, combine the reliability of the people in Florida who count the ballots with the efficiency of the Post Office. What could go wrong there?”
From the Left: The candidates’ race
Geraldine Ferraro stepped down from Hillary Clinton’s finance committee this week after Barack Obama’s presidential campaign objected to comments made by the former congresswoman and 1984 vice presidential candidate. To the surprise of nearly everyone, the offending statement was actually quite perceptive: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” Ferraro said. “And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.” To which The Wall Street Journal responded, “Her remarks reveal little more than a firm grasp of the obvious... There is no disputing that Mr. Obama’s skin color has been a political boon for him to date.” Yet the avowedly “post-racial” Obama campaign decided to dispute it anyway by playing the race card, resulting in Ferraro’s resignation.
In the same “controversial” interview, Ferraro made another statement that again demonstrated uncommon insight: “I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he’s going to be able to put an end to partisanship. Dear God! Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship—that’s the way our country is.” Against all odds, it seems that the truth becomes a Democrat’s ally only when said Democrat is losing to another Democrat.
This week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ award
There has been some concern expressed over Barack Obama’s ties to Islam, but as it turns out, he’s actually a “Christian.” In the news this week due to Geraldine Ferraro’s observations are a couple of recent comments from Obama’s pastor, one Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago:
In December, Wright said, “Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger.”
In January, he declared, “Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.”
So is that the kind of “Christian” Obama is?
New York Governor Spitzer resigns
New York’s Democrat Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned this week after being confirmed as “Client 9” of the Emperor’s Club V.I.P., a high-priced prostitution ring under investigation since October 2007 for trafficking, money laundering and a host of other offenses. News of Spitzer’s involvement broke Monday when it was revealed that he had arranged the transportation of a prostitute from New York City to Washington, DC, which is a federal offense under the Mann Act. Spitzer apologized publicly to the voters and to his family for his actions, but there is little forgiveness for the man who made his bones by bullying others for their supposed lack of ethics. He made his resignation official Wednesday.
Wall Streeters who spent years in Spitzer’s crosshairs when he was an overly ambitious attorney general rejoiced at the governor’s steep and sudden fall from grace. “I have never had any doubt about his lack of character and integrity,” noted Ken Langone, the former New York Stock Exchange director who was sued by Spitzer for doling out large pay packages to executives.
Spitzer was once considered a rising star among Democrats. He won the governorship of New York in a landslide in 2006 after eight years as a tough prosecutor of Wall Street cheats, corrupt executives and, wait for it, prostitution rings. His time in office was rocky, as his hard-nosed ultra-partisanship didn’t sit well with Albany’s political leaders. Nor did his attempt to provide driver licenses to illegal aliens, which also embarrassed Sen. Hillary Clinton, for whom he was, until his resignation, a super delegate.
Lt. Governor David Paterson, whom National Review’s Rick Brookhiser calls “liberal to the marrow,” will assume the office of governor on 17 March as Spitzer returns to private life and faces an uncertain future and possibly federal charges.
Admiral Fallon resigns Central Command
CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon was relieved this week by President Bush for insubordination, although the President had enough respect for his 41 years of service to the Navy that he allowed him to resign. Since taking over CENTCOM in March 2007, Admiral Fallon had built up a significant record of offering opinions and making statements that were at odds with the administration. While a recent Esquire Magazine article probably overplayed the idea of Fallon as “a lone voice of reason trying to forestall war with Iran,” Fallon in fact missed few opportunities to cross the White House when it came to Iran. Fallon also reportedly butted heads with General David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq and a White House favorite, although both Fallon and Petraeus deny any significant clashes. Fallon’s replacement has not yet been named.
The usual suspects made the usual asinine statements following Fallon’s resignation, claiming that he had been fired for offering honest but unwelcome advice to the President. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Stalingrad) said, “It’s distressing... President Bush’s oft-repeated claims that he follows the advice of his commanders rings hollow if our commanders don’t feel free to disagree with the President.” Kennedy, who served two years in the U.S. Army, doubtless knows that subordinates offer disagreements to their seniors in private, not in public. The subordinates then either publicly support their seniors’ policies, or they resign. One wonders how Kennedy would react to his chief of staff disagreeing with him in a Boston Globe article, for instance.
While we are not sad to see Admiral Fallon go given his soft stance on Iran, we do take this opportunity to thank a man who gave 41 years of highly distinguished service to his country. Admiral Fallon was one of the few remaining Vietnam veterans on active service and was the Navy’s senior aviator. His awards include, among numerous others, the Defense Distinguished Service medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal. We wish him well in his future endeavors.
Homeland Security front: Tortured politics
Two security items captured the headlines this week. In the first, Congress failed to override President Bush’s veto of a bill that would severely restrict CIA interrogation techniques—namely barring waterboarding—limiting them to the same techniques used by military interrogators.
The limits placed on the military are designed for interrogating armed combatants in traditional military scenarios. However, even the Army Field Manual (FM 34-52) clearly states that in Low Intensity Combat, “Specific applications of the general principles and techniques must be varied to meet local peculiarities.” Insurgent forces are not protected by the Geneva Convention beyond the basic protections of Article 3, which does prohibit “torture.” Congress and international law are pretty clear on what constitutes torture, and there is no credible evidence that the CIA is violating that limitation in any way. Waterboarding is simply a nice propaganda ploy used equally by Democrats and al-Qa’ida sympathizers to embarrass the President.
The second proposed bill would place more restrictions on terrorist surveillance, while it also fails to protect telecommunication companies from litigation surrounding such surveillance—a pre-condition on which the President has held firm. Civil litigation, and all the civil discovery rules that apply, could quickly reveal and undermine the intelligence capabilities we currently employ. The plaintiff-friendly financial burden this bill could place on those companies that chose to cooperate would effectively end the program. A House vote could take place Friday.
The bottom line: These two bills are nothing but partisan political games designed to fire up the Democrats’ anti-war base. President Bush is right for holding firm, and if they could understand the term, we would say shame on Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for playing politics with national security.
Profiles of valor: U.S. Army Lt. Peterson
U.S. Army Lt. Timothy C. Peterson went to Iraq in 2006 with the 321st Engineer Battalion and spent a year leading his platoon in route clearance throughout Anbar province—not exactly an easy task. In pre-surge Iraq, jihadis in Anbar routinely attacked coalition forces. Peterson recalled of his earlier missions, “We’d only go at night because it was too dangerous during the day,” adding that almost every night they were shot at and came across IEDs. His soldiers’ duty was to disarm the IEDs.
In the first phases of the surge, the 321st was on 24-hour patrol for days at a time. During one such stretch, another platoon was hit by an IED, which disabled the lead vehicle. Peterson and three members of his unit took their Buffalo MRAP truck and assumed command of the patrol. As they moved further into hostile territory, Peterson’s Buffalo was hit by a series of IEDs, crippling the vehicle and injuring all four occupants. For his bold actions in leading the convoy, Peterson was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and his third Purple Heart. After recovery, he resumed the lead on an arduous patrol schedule. He tells of an Iraq that is vastly improved because of the surge. Soldiers walked freely during the daytime and citizens were no longer afraid to assist them. As he left Iraq, Peterson said, “Things were changing, what we were doing was working... For the people that lived there, there was a transition.” Due to the courage he displayed and the success of his missions, Peterson was also awarded the Bronze Star.
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
The trouble with Iraq’s money
U.S. auditors reported to Congress this week that Iraq is riding oil revenues to a large budget surplus because it isn’t spending much of its own money. “The Iraqis have a budget surplus; we have a huge budget deficit,” said U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. “One of the questions is who should be paying.” On one point, we agree with the Democrats: “They ought to be able to use some of their oil to pay for their own costs and not keep sending the bill to the United States,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-WV). However, the Associated Press reports that “Democrats say the assessment is proof that the Iraq war as a waste of time and money.” On the contrary, Operation Iraqi Freedom is part of our critical national interest. If one is looking for a waste of time and money, start with practically any other endeavor of the federal government—Social Security, Medicare, counting grizzly bears, etc. As for Iraq, one of the problems with spending the surplus, according to U.S. officials, is that the Iraqi government can’t always allocate the money without it being wasted or stolen by corrupt officials. On that point, we offer this solution: How about reimbursing the $45 billion the U.S. has spent rebuilding Iraq? After all, there aren’t any corrupt officials in Washington.
Income inequality and the rising tide
Recent reports from the U.S. Census Bureau regarding household incomes have been grabbing national headlines. Using information that reaches as far back as 1967, the Bureau has released several results that seem to speak for themselves. The top-earning 20 percent of households in America earn 50 percent of the total income in the nation, while the bottom-earning 20 percent earn only 3.4 percent. Their respective percentages in 1970 were 43.3 percent and 4.1 percent. The media have reached what they think is an obvious conclusion: the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. This widening inequality, they say, shows that the free market has failed, and that the federal government needs to set things right by creating more equality. Demagogues on the campaign trail are thereby supplied with plenty of fodder for their fearmongering.
To be sure, the great disparity between the incomes of the top and bottom earners in America is beyond dispute. However, these statistics from the Census Bureau hide some important information. They neglect the fact that most people do not stay at a particular income level for long. Most important, the numbers say nothing about how much income one is actually taking home; they refer only to the percentage of the pie that various groups are receiving. What the reports fail to include is the simple fact that the pie of American economic productivity has grown tremendously over the past several decades.
The real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product has tripled since 1970. The current GDP of $14 trillion means that the size of total income received by the bottom 20 percent of earners has grown from $181 billion to $476 billion. This means that, yes, the rich are getting richer—but so are the poor. The best thing the government can do to help the poor is to encourage overall productivity by increasing economic liberty. As the numbers show, a rising tide really does lift all boats.
Income Redistribution: Robbing the robbers
The Nevada teacher’s union (NSEA) wants a raise (don’t we all). Being grafted onto the hip of state government, however, the NSEA has to go to the state to get it, and the state legislature and governor won’t give it to them without strings attached. The NSEA may not be sharp enough to learn kids gooder, but they know that “strings” means they might face the wrath of merit pay. Not gooder.
So, the NSEA tried the direct appeal—the ballot initiative. The problem is, the NSEA needs OPM (“other people’s money”) and the trick is finding others willing to share. The NSEA’s solution is to reach into the pockets of Nevada’s brightly lit casinos—they must have extra money. So, the initiative proposed to (1) tax the casinos; and (2) give it to the teachers. Unfortunately, having two issues in one initiative violates the state constitution, so the NSEA is now trying to get signatures on another draft they hope will work.
Meanwhile, the NSEA managed to upset another union, the culinary workers (CWU), when they tried to keep the CWU from endorsing Barack Obama by suing to prevent caucuses in casinos. Plus, stealing from the casinos means less employment (that is, fewer CWU dues payers) in the gaming industry. Taxpayers are also opposed, knowing full well that merely forking over more money will not improve education.
So now The Patriot and ordinary Nevada taxpayers find themselves on the side of casinos and an Obama-endorsing union. Is Rod Serling writing “Twilight Zone” scripts from the grave?
From the Leftjudiciary: CA court v. homeschool
A California appeals court ruling has created a major hurdle for parents without teaching credentials who want to homeschool their children. In a child-welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and parents who had been homeschooling their eight children, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home. Failure to comply could result in the criminal prosecution of the parents, though State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell promises to not enforce the ruling.
According to the court, California parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children, though they failed to point out the constitutional right the government has to educate your children. The court’s opinion states, “A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare,” quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue. Does this sound slightly familiar? Recall the Elian Gonzalez case in 2000.
A 1978 Cuban Law mandates that parents and teachers raise children with a “Communist personality,” and it forbids “influences contrary to communist development.” The “Code of the Child,” a government mandated handbook for raising and educating children, includes passages such as these: from Article 3—the purpose of education is to “foster in youth the ideological values of communism;” from Article 8—“Society and the state work for the efficient protection of youth against all influences contrary to their communist formation.” Any adult who violates the “Code of the Child” can be imprisoned.
Given the “patriotism” in places like San Francisco and Berkeley, it is fair to ask what is taught about “good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation” in California’s mandated education system. It seems that, on this one, the California court would have felt right at home in Cuba.
Around the nation: Violence for animals
More news from California... Regents at the University of California in Los Angeles recently filed a lawsuit for an injunction against several animal-rights groups in an attempt to disrupt violent tactics used against university scientists involved in animal research. Scientists have reported use of explosives, firecrackers and middle-of-the-night visits by activists who threatened to burn down their homes. Named in the suit are UCLA Primate Freedom, the Animal Liberation Brigade and the Animal Liberation Front, plus five individuals associated with the organizations.
While a legal battle may bring the issue of such violence to the public spotlight, it is doubtful that a court ruling will keep scientists safe. “If killing [animal-research scientists] is the only way to stop them, then I said killing them would certainly be justified,” said a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. Despite the presence of hired security for one UCLA scientist’s home, he worried enough about his family’s safety that he has given up animal research altogether.
As violence against scientists escalates, so does concern about filling biomedical-research positions. “I do hear scientists say that they have open positions and nobody to fill them because it’s animal research,” said Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research. We think we’re finally getting the hang of this tolerance thing.
Frontiers of Junk Science: Zero carbon
Everyone hold your breath, a handful of scientists have issued new reports claiming that human carbon output must be reduced to nearly zero within decades in order to avert certain doom. In journals such as Global Biogeochemical Cycles and Geophysical Research Letters, scientists claim that unless drastic measures are taken to curtail all fossil-fuel usage by mid-century, the earth will warm several degrees by the year 2100. “The question is, what if we don’t want the Earth to warm anymore?” asked one researcher. “The answer implies a much more radical change to our energy system than people are thinking about.” In Leftspeak, that means further tightening the screws on the all-too-tired global-warming argument. From the Right, it underscores the absurdity and complete impossibility of the Left’s goals—especially considering the scientists themselves admit the flakiness of the models upon which their studies are based.
Nonetheless, noodling around with climate models of negligible value in search of a carbon-free utopian ideal is apparently de rigueur among today’s Leftist climatology crowd. It’s also apparent some politicians just can’t help themselves as they compete to be the loudest voice among the hand wringers over the supposed looming threat of cataclysmic climate change. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sniffed, “It is hard for me to see how my colleagues can duck this issue and live with themselves.” Barbara, could it be in part because the issue just a tad over-hyped?
Faith and Family: Pollution is deadly
Envy, Pride, Anger, Lust... Pollution? It seems sin is trying to keep up with carbon emissions. On Monday, the Vatican announced the addition of seven new trespasses to the centuries-old list of “deadly sins,” and making the cut was, among other things, pollution. According to Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary, which is the body charged with overseeing confessions and indulgences, priests must now deal with “new sins which have appeared on the horizon of humanity as a corollary of the unstoppable process of globalization.” He continued, “If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that’s especially social, rather than individual.” For that matter, we would argue that pride, for example, has quite a social weight as well.
Furthermore, the notion that sin changes lacks a biblical basis—“there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). While we agree with the principle of responsible stewardship, God’s chief concern is redeeming man’s soul from the internal pollution that plagues it. And does this mean the Catholic Church will begin selling carbon indulgences?
In the continuing saga of District of Columbia v. Heller, 39 of Montana’s elected officials have signed a resolution declaring that a Supreme Court ruling against the individual right of gun ownership would give their state grounds for leaving the union. It seems that when Montana’s settlers signed a statehood contract in 1889, one of the conditions was that the federal government agreed that individuals had the right to keep and bear arms. If the Supreme Court rules that firearm ownership is merely a state or “collective” right, Montana officials say that the statehood contract will have been breeched. “The U.S. would do well to keep its contractual promises to the states that the Second Amendment secures an individual right now as it did upon execution of the statehood contract,” Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson said in a letter to The Washington Times. The Times also notes that the “collective right” interpretation of the Second Amendment doesn’t hold water in Montana because the state didn’t have a militia in the 1880s. “It’s pretty disingenuous as an argument,” Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said. “At the time, they had no image of what a National Guard was. But history and logic don’t always prevail in these matters.” Indeed. Our advice to the Supreme Court is that before they upset somebody with their ruling, they might want to consider which side has the guns.
Veritas vos Liberabit—Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis! Mark Alexander, Publisher, for The Patriot’s editors and staff. (Please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who granted their lives in defense of American liberty.)