Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Breaking: US delegation pulls out of Durban II conference

Most people wouldn't remember the United Nations’ World Conference on Racism in Durban , South Africa in 2001. It was just days prior to 11 September, and the attacks washed the conference then from the news headlines. But it was the racist, anti-Semitic tone that the conference took that prompted then Secretary of State Colin Powell to not only leave the conference, but take the US delegation with him. President Barry said that he would send a delegation this year when Durban II is convened in Geneva, Switzerland, and he was taking it on the chin from Prime Minister Harper in Canada, warning him of what would be going on in Geneva.

It appears that President Barry has had a change of heart, and is opting out of the US being present at the conference:

White House aides told Jewish leaders on a conference call today that the United States will boycott the United Nations' World Conference on Racism over hostility to Israel in draft documents prepared for the April conference.

The aides, including an advisor to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Jennifer Simon, and longtime Obama advisor Samantha Power, said the administration will not participate in further negotiations on the current text or participate in a conference based on the text, sources on the call said.

They left open the option of re-engaging on a "much shorter, much different text," a source said.
The draft outcome document, typically negotiated in advance and available
here (.pdf), contains sharp and specific criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, and Western European nations and Canada have also signaled that they may boycott the conference in Geneva.

The conference is known informally as Durban II after a 2001 conference in South Africa that included a heavy focus on Israel and calls to reinstate a U.N. resolution equating Zionism and racism. Libya is chairing the preparatory meetings for this year's conference, one of several factors prompting boycott calls.

Obama is expected to issue a statement on the subject later this afternoon, and the participants were asked not to discuss the call until a formal statement is released.

OK, mark this down in the record books because President Barry has done something we agree with. Now if he would just pull us out of the UN, and cease all these foreign payments to nations that dislike us, things might be a little better for us. But this is a start, and hopefully it remains a "tradition" for the US to boycott these sorts of conferences. It's clear from the initial conference in 2001 that the world bodies participating in it could really care less about Israel, and like to busy themselves coming up with reasons to continue hating Israel.

The pressure seemed to mount on both America and Western Europe to boycott the conference when Stephen Harper discovered that Durban II appeared to be more of the same from Durban. We can probably attribute his pressure on President Barry to reconsider our participation in the conference on racism that tends to engage in, well, racism. Kudos to the president for making the right decision.

Publius II

Addressing the unconstitutional move by Congress

A few of you might be scratching your heads and wondering what the Hell I'm talking about. (Of course, a few more might be shaking your heads and asking "Now what the Hell did these idiots do now?") Well, to put it mildly, they have voted to give Washington, DC voting rights within the House which is beyond the idea of unconstitutionality. The final Senate vote went down 61-37 with six Republicans voting in favor of it -- Specter, Collins, Snowe, Voinovich, Lugar, and Hatch. (Baucus and Byrd were the two Democrats to vote no on the initiative.)

Folks, the Constitution is explicit about who has control over the District. Congress has the power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases concerning the federal District. The District was composed of two parcels of land from both Virginia and Maryland. In 1846 the Virginia portion was retroceded back to the state, and while no challenge has arisen from this move, no justice on the Supreme Court has stated one way or another if the action of retrocession was constitutional. In 2004 that idea was tried by Congress, but ended up failing in committee, but had it passed, the remaining portion of land -- the one taken from Maryland -- would have been returned to the state. The problem with this idea is that Maryland doesn't want the land back. That and in 1964 Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy deemed it not just impractical, but also unconstitutional (don't know about the latter as RFK wasn't a sitting Justice, so his opinion on the constitutionality is moot, at best).

In 2000 a series of cases wound their way through the federal courts from DC residents claiming that they have been denied their voting rights in Congress by unconstitutional means, and that there was no need for a constitutional amendment to alleviate their grievance. The courts disagreed with them. (Adams v. Clinton, 2000)

The only legally acceptable recourse the District has, and that Congress could pass, is an amendment that either A) Gives DC statehood; B) Gives them a seat in the House, complete with voting rights; C) Enacts Maryland retrocession, which would solve the representation factor. All three are viable. In 1977 a proposed amendment was passed by Congress, but failed to get the three-quarters majority of the states in the allotted seven year time frame. That amendment would have given the District voting representation in Congress "as if it were a state."

But the end run pulled by Congress yesterday was simply unacceptable. Congress isn't some imperial parliament. They are constrained by the very document they swore to uphold, protect, and defend. There wasn't a lot of that going on yesterday in either House. The editors at National Review put it succinctly yesterday:

An option to grant Washingtonians a voice in the House, without requiring the high demands of a constitutional amendment, already exists: retrocession. Just as Virginia absorbed a chunk of the District in 1846, Maryland could take in large sections of it now. Let Maryland’s political establishment, including Democratic governor Martin O’Malley and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, explain why this is not acceptable.

The District’s promoters aren’t talking about retrocession. Instead, they’re trying to get around significant constitutional obstacles by ignoring them. Specifically, their proposal would increase the size of the House of Representatives by two members, from 435 to 437. One of the new seats would be awarded to the District on a permanent basis. The other would go to the state that’s next in line to receive one, based upon existing formulas of apportionment. At the moment, this happens to be Utah. Its House delegation would expand by one member — at least until 2012, when the results of the next Census take effect.

Some call this a praiseworthy example of bipartisan compromise. Whereas Washington certainly would elect a Democrat, Utah presumably would elect a Republican because it is one of the most GOP-friendly states in the Union (even though one of its three current representatives is a Democrat). What would happen in 2012 and beyond, however, is an open question, except for the fact that D.C. would retain its seat.

Such political scale-tipping should have nothing to do with it, however. The Constitution is explicit: It forbids the District, a non-state, from enjoying the full benefits of congressional membership. Senators and representatives who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution should do their duty and vote down this unconstitutional ruse.

This foolish decision by the Congress must be overturned by the Supreme Court. No law enacted that is contrary to the Constitution is valid. The constitution is the highest law of the land, and it states that the District doesn't meet the requisites to have this representation. We would suggest to all of the States to begin filing suit in federal court, and march this issue straight into the Supreme Court's hall. There it is almost assured they will strike down Congress's unconstitutional end-run.

Publius II

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jindal's response: What's with all the dumping on him, anyway?

Last night President Barry addressed Congress and the nation on the state of things going on right now. Every pundit and commentator in the MSM talked about how well his speech was delivered. Great. Peachy. Too bad the fact-checkers are already calling BS to many of his assertions in the speech. But what irritates me is those same commentators, both liberal and conservative, are dumping all over Bobby Jindal's response.

Now, I'll grant them that his entrance was obviously planned and rehearsed. I'd also remind them that he gives the response in a room with just a few media people in it that are told to keep quiet. He doesn't have an audience of over 500 people, like the president had last night. There are no boos, no laughs, no nothing. It's just him delivering a simple response to a complex speech that sounded like the A-typical campaign speech we've heard from President Barry before. But I challenge those that panned on Governor Jindal to READ his remarks. Imagine he's not there, and tell me his response was garbage. [Emphasis is mine below. Pay attention to it.]

Good evening. I'm Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American President stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the President completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall ... to Gettysburg ... to the lunch counter ... and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the President's personal story - the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, who grew up to become leader of the free world. Like the President's father, my parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4 months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a 'pre-existing condition.' To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery - so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.

As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country - and they instilled in me an immigrant's wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: 'Bobby, Americans can do anything.' I still believe that to this day. Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.

As the President made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.

Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don't care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the President's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.

Let me tell you a story.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: 'Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!' I asked him: 'Sheriff, what's got you so mad?' He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, 'Sheriff, that's ridiculous.' And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: 'Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!' Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes - and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you - the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.

That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families ... cutting taxes for small businesses ... strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers ... and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.

But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history - with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a 'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. And to create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times - including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences, and worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, DC.

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump - and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation ... increase energy efficiency ... increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels ... increase our use of nuclear power - and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything - and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage - period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage. We oppose universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients - not by government bureaucrats. We believe Americans can do anything - and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system - opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana is under water - and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation - and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, DC - so we can rid our Capitol of corruption ... and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen.

As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops. America's fighting men and women can do anything. And if we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive ... defeat our enemies ... and protect us from harm.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope - but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you - the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democrats' view that says -- the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.

In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear - because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust - and rightly so.

Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share ... the principles you elected us to fight for ... the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America's best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery ... overcame the Great Depression ... prevailed in two World Wars ... won the struggle for civil rights ... defeated the Soviet menace ... and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man - and the American spirit will triumph again.

We can have confidence in our future - because, amid today's challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens ...the most abundant resources ... the most resilient economy ... the most powerful military ... and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Thank you for listening. God bless you. And God bless America.

For all those that are Barry water-carriers, and claim his speech was "Reaganesque" read Governor Jindal's response. It reminded me of another speech given by another governor. Only that governor was giving it at his first inaugural as President of the United States. In that speech, President Reagan highlighted the problems facing the nation, but he also recognized that we, the people, would overcome it with our tenacity, our rugged individualism and our entrepreneurial spirit.

That's the message that Governor Jindal was delivering last night. Pan him for performance, but don't berate the man for the words he delivered, or the vision he sees for America. He's right. "Americans can do anything." President Barry's wrong for asking people to put their faith in the same government that caused this financial mess. And for all the conservatives out there who groaned and complained about his speech, obviously you were looking for style over substance. Next time, pay attention to the substance.

Publius II

Stocks drop after Obama's non-SOTU address

Let me start by saying we didn't watch the speech last night. Why not, you ask? Don't we have an obligation to readers? Well, yes, we do, but we had better things to do last night than watch President Barry pontificate and lecture the nation. Now we did read the transcript of his speech, and despite what I said on Hugh's show last night, there wasn't nearly as much doom and gloom as I expected. It wasn't, however, Reaganesque. That prediction I made came true. We knew he could never fit in the Great One's shoes.

But Wall Street isn't reacting well to the speech. Already this morning it's dropped almost 100 points at the opening bell:

Stocks fell on Wednesday due to disappointment U.S. President Barack Obama shed little new light about how his administration would stabilize the economy in a major speech before Congress.

Long-standing worries about recession and the fate of the banking sector persisted, sending shares of financial services companies, big manufacturers and energy companies lower.

Bank of America (NYSE:
BAC - News) shares fell 9.3 percent to $4.29 following news that Merrill Lynch & Co lost $15.84 billion in the fourth quarter, about $533 million more than previously estimated by Bank of America, which bought the Wall Street bank.

Shares of Citigroup (NYSE:
C - News) fell more than 14 percent to $2.22 following reports that the bank may sell both its Japanese investment bank and brokerage as the embattled U.S. lender looks to raise cash from a sale of global assets.

"The market is starving for something tangible on which to hang its hat," said Andre Bakhos, president of Princeton Financial Group in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "There was little of anything tangible in Obama's speech to bring hope to the market today."

The Dow Jones industrial average (DJI:
^DJI - News) fell 90.64 points, or 1.23 percent, to 7,260.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (^SPX - News) shed 9.41 points, or 1.22 percent, to 763.73. The Nasdaq Composite Index (Nasdaq:^IXIC - News) lost 16.26 points, or 1.13 percent, to 1,425.57.

Late on Tuesday Obama sought to reassure Americans the country would emerge stronger from the crisis but investors found little in his speech that could help the market sustain its attempted rebound on Tuesday from 12-year lows.

As I type this, the Dow is down a total of 147 points, and it looks like it's going to be another down and rocky day for stocks. Why is this happening? Simply put, he offered Wall Street investors nothing last night in that speech. Late in the speech there was some "we-don't-like-bankers" boilerplate BS, but that hardly qualifies for the drop in the market. He didn't instill confidence to the markets or investors.

I don't really know why the markets are tanking. I can't really put my finger on one specific thing. Well, there was this part of the speech last night:

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

You realize what this is, right? It's going to be a tax increase on anything that produces carbon. Those trucks that bring produce to your local grocery store, the trucks that bring your mall fashions to the mall stores, the trucks that deliver Coca-Cola to your local convenient store ... Their prices will go up, and that gets passed onto the consumer. While it may not be a "tax increase" in the general sense of the term, it will be a cost of living increase. He's basically saying that he's going to raise the cost of gas, diesel, and coal so that solar and wind LOOK cheaper. It's a shell game, and it's pathetic. And Congress sat there and applauded this crap.

As I close this post out, the Dow Jones is down 173 points. Wall Street wasn't impressed with President Barry's speech last night at all. In fact, it looks like they have no confidence in this rube running the nation at all.

Publius II

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

IL legislature set to tackle toughest issue of their new session

Like the headline at Ace's place reads "Illinois Legislature Takes A Break From Impeaching Governors And Investigating Senators To Do Something Important..."

What's so important? What matter of great state gravity needs their attention at this very moment? What trumps Roland Burris's alleged perjury during his testimony before the state House?

Reversing the scientific community's declaration that Pluto isn't an planet, and designating it as, well, a planet. HT to Double-Plus Undead for this act of legislative @$$-hattery.

Like some sort of rulers of the universe, state lawmakers are considering restoring little Pluto's planetary status, casting aside the scientific community's 2006 decision downgrading the distant ice ball.

An Illinois Senate committee on Thursday unanimously supported planet Pluto and declaring March 13 "Pluto Day." The idea now moves to the full Senate for a vote.

(There's the first snort of this piece. Anyone know what day 13 March falls on? Yes, it's another Friday the 13th.)

The push for a state decree on Pluto comes from state Sen. Gary Dahl, a Republican whose downstate district includes Streator, birthplace of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh. Dahl told colleagues Pluto is important to the local community, which considers the vote to downgrade Pluto to "dwarf" planet was unfair as it involved only 4 percent of the International Astronomical Union's 10,000 scientists.

Dahl noted that Tombaugh is the only American ever to discover a planet. Tombaugh first detected Pluto in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Dahl called Thursday's committee vote a key step forward, not only for Pluto and Streator, but also for bipartisan cooperation in the Senate. He said previous Democratic leadership sat on the proposal last year but new Senate President John Cullerton let it advance.

Cullerton cast a humorous light on the vote in view of the recent partisan turmoil over political appointments and special elections in the state.

"I supported Senator Dahl's effort even though I was kind of surprised that apparently Pluto was decommissioned as a planet by a vote of scientists. But he claimed the vote was a very small percentage of the scientists," Cullerton said. "So he ... chose to have us basically appoint Pluto to be a planet rather than have a special election among the scientists."

(SNORT!!!) Folks, you can't make comedy like this up. So here's the Illinois legislature taking up this most important issue because one guy felt that the scientific community disrespected the discoverer of Pluto -- an Illinois resident, and the only American to ever discover a planet -- and took away his claim to fame. OK. I can do that. I mean, that would be like all the enviro-wackos out there voting that Thomas Edison didn't make the first light bulb. They did. Those retarded and highly hazardous compact fluorescent bulbs. (Frankly, I think the enviro-wackos are all a bunch of dim bulbs.)

But seriously, does the legislature have nothing better to do than this? Don't they have a budget to balance, or some investigations to run? Have they figured out how they're going to spend their cut of the Pork-A-Palooza yet, or did Mayor Daley already claim it all for himself? Sheesh, these guys are pathetic.

(For the record, both Marcie and I were taught Pluto was a planet. We believe Pluto is a planet. Pluto will always be a planet in our solar system. And we don't really give a rat's rear end what a bunch of revisionist scientists have to say on the matter.)

Publius II

NorKs rattling sabers again

He's so bloody "ronery", and he wants people to know that. So what's up Krazy Kim's sleeve this time? Just your garden variety missile test: (HT to JammieWearingFool

Analysts have claimed North Korea is secretly preparing to test-fire a long-range missile designed to strike U.S. territory.

The fears came after Pyongyang announced today that it is set to launch a satellite on one of its rockets. Analysts claim the rocket launch is a cover for the missile test.

If the long-range rocket flies successfully, Pyongyang would have a missile with a maximum range of 6,700 km (4,200 miles), designed to eventually carry a nuclear warhead that could hit U.S. territory - though not the continental 48 states, analysts said.

This would, for the first time, pose a direct security threat to the United States.

The announcement follows weeks of angry rhetoric from Pyongyang aimed at the conservative government in South Korea and warnings that the Korean peninsula was on the verge of war.

Analysts said Pyongyang was using brinkmanship to put pressure on the new U.S. government and its main allies in the region, South Korea and Japan, to reverse tough policies against the North.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a trip to Asia last week, warned North Korea against any provocative moves.

I'm sure the NorKs are just shaking with fear over Hillary issuing warnings. What was that Jo Mr. Gaffe-tastic" Biden said back in October at a Seattle fundraiser? Oh yeah. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama ..." Well, we just barely passed the one month mark for President Barry (Sorry, I must have missed the media fanfare and the celebrations) and already he now has a direct, existential threat to the United States. And what's our answer?

A milquetoast warning from the Secretary of State. Though I can't confirm it but I have my hunch that she's speaking with the UN Security Council on how to draft a sternly-worded letter.

Seriously, the NorKs do this every time the focus is taken off of their neck of the woods. Kim Jong-Il really has to be "ronery" with President Barry trying to focus on a tea-and-crumpets talks with Iran, cozying up to the Palestinians, and new ways to "soak the rich". So, he's not paying attention to the little sawed-off dictator with the bad hair-do. As for those threats towards South Korea? They don't appear to be concerned, but they are watching this missile test, and they're not buying the whole "launching a satellite" story being pushed by the NorKs. On thing's for sure, the last thing Kim Jong-Il wants to do is repeat his previous failed missile test. You haven't seen "ronery" until you get labeled a loser.

Publius II

Jeff Flake: Not making friends in DC ....

... but he is making tons of friends outside the Beltway. If you thought the Pork-A-Palooza was the end of spending in DC, think again. Left over from the 110th Congress is a $400 billion omnibus spending bill that is just overflowing with pork barrel spending and earmarks. A lot of it comes from members of Congress that are paying back a lobbying firm that was recently raided by the feds. So what does this have to do with Jeff Flake? Is he one of the firm's cronies? Hell no. He's doing what he does best. He's pi$$ing in the congressional pool, and he's fresh out of chlorine:

As lawmakers prepare to consider a $410 billion spending bill carrying pet projects for clients of a lobbying firm under FBI investigation, the House will vote as early as Tuesday on whether to start an ethics investigation into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions.

The vote could put majority Democrats and at least a few Republicans in an uncomfortable spot. They will have to choose between authorizing the House ethics committee to investigate the most delicate of political relationships or publicly voting against such a probe.

The action comes as House Democrats are trying to pass a massive fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill (HR 1105) that carries thousands of earmarks, including several for clients of The PMA Group, a lobbying firm that is disbanding in the wake of an FBI raid of its offices and an investigation into whether it used straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws.

The pitcher of this political curveball is Rep.
Jeff Flake , who introduced a resolution late Monday that calls for an ethics investigation into “the relationship between earmark requests already made by members and the source and timing of past campaign contributions.” Flake’s resolution qualifies as “privileged,” meaning it has priority status for floor consideration.

Flake, an Arizona Republican who has become the scourge of congressional earmarkers, cited numerous recent news stories about PMA’s campaign contributions, its ability to secure earmarks for clients and the FBI probe into whether it complied with the law in making donations.

The resolution, which the House must dispose of by Wednesday, would instruct the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is known, to report its findings within two months.

Often when a privileged resolution involves a politically thorny issue, the majority party will move to table — or kill — the measure. The roll call vote probably will be on the motion to table Flake’s resolution rather than the measure itself.

The timing of Flake’s call for a vote could hardly be less auspicious for Democrats. A list of Democratic-sponsored earmarks in the omnibus that are targeted to clients of PMA was circulating Monday night on Capitol Hill.

Flake’s office released a compilation of eight earmarks worth $7.7 million in the bill. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, sent out the same list and identified the individual sponsors of the earmarks as Reps.
Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, Tim Ryan of Ohio, John B. Larson of Connecticut, Brad Sherman and Jane Harman of California, Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri. Reps. Mike Doyle and Jason Altmire , both of Pennsylvania, were identified as cosponsors of one earmark.

All but one of those earmarks is in the section of the bill written by the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which is headed by Visclosky.

With $219,000 in checks to his political committees since 2001, Visclosky is the leading recipient of campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee and its employees, according to a
review by CQ MoneyLine.

Doyle and Ryan ranked among the top 10 House members in PMA contributions.
Larson, Altmire and Sherman were in the top 40, receiving between $15,500 in Sherman’s case and $37,850 in Larson’s case. Harman and Lynch have each received more than $10,000 in PMA contributions over the years.

Cleaver has not received any money from PMA or its employees.

Though The PMA Group is often most closely associated with Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman
John P. Murtha , D-Pa. — and has been a heavier contributor to his campaigns — Murtha’s name was not tied to any earmarks that turned up through early reviews of the omnibus, which was released Monday afternoon.

None of the companies that used PMA as a lobbying firm have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Democrats plan to have the omnibus on the floor Wednesday. They may choose to deal with Flake’s resolution Tuesday to avoid juxtaposing the two votes.

But Democratic aides said Monday night they weren’t yet sure which day would see a vote.

PMA is closing its lobbying shop at the end of March, and many of its lobbyists have already left to join or start other firms.

Flake’s resolution did not mention The PMA Group by name, but he referred to it directly in a brief floor speech.

Some may argue that the absence of a visible quid pro quo with regard to earmarks and campaign contributions absolves us from the responsibility to take the action outlined in this resolution. After all, investigations are moving ahead and we should let them take their course. That is certainly an option,” he said. “But consider the cost to the reputation of this body. Should Department of Justice investigations, indictments, and convictions be the standard for taking action to uphold the dignity of the House?”

HT to Captain Ed

Now I know a few people here in Arizona that don't like Jeff Flake. He broke his self-imposed term limit pledge, and he has ticked off his fair share of colleagues in the House, both Republican and Democrat. But one thing can't be denied: He is the most prominent anti-pork politician in the House, if not DC itself. That is his pet issue, and he works it quite well.

This call for a probe puts those listed in a pickle, and it puts the Democrats in a bind. As CQ notes:

They will have to choose between authorizing the House ethics committee to investigate the most delicate of political relationships or publicly voting against such a probe.

If they approve of the probe, they're likely to fall under scrutiny, and that could be damaging to their political reputations. Remember, these guys are ALL in the House, and they're up for reelection in 2010. Being tied to a lobbying firm raided by federal investigators gives opponents -- Republican and Democrat alike -- firepower they don't want to deal with. While some in the nation may like to elect Democrats, and will turn the other cheek on somethings, the last thing the public wants to see is kickback money tossed in a spending bill, and knowing that money was theirs to begin with.

If they vote against the probe, that's more firepower. "What were you trying to cover up? "Who were you protecting?" "How much of the public's money have you spent placating this allegedly dirty lobbying firm?" Those are questions these people don't want to face during their reelection bids. The Democrats rallied around John Murtha in 2008 to keep him from losing his pork-laden, dirty seat in the House. It worked, and he won his reelection bid against Bill Russell. But can the DCCC afford to protect all of these people? Harman hails from California, and chump change isn't exactly what's used to win there.

This is a difficult pickle these guys are in, and kudos to Jeff Flake for painting them into a corner. It'll be interesting to see how this one turns out, and if heads are going to roll. One thing is assured. Jeff Flakes "enemies" in the House will be sharpening their long knives to stop his reelection bid in 2010. They know they're going to have to end this anti-government waste crusader's career if they're ever going to be able to wheel and deal again without prying eyes watching over their shoulders.

Publius II

Don't tread on me

There is a movement afoot, and it's one that Marcie and I fully endorse. The movement is simple on it's face, and complex in the repercussions. Simply put, eleven states thus far have passed legislation asserting their sovereignty anand more are are likely on the way to doing the same thing:

State governors -- looking down the gun barrel of long-term spending forced on them by the Obama “stimulus” plan -- are saying they will refuse to take the money. This is a Constitutional confrontation between the federal government and the states unlike any in our time.

In the first five weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has acted so rashly that at least 11 states have decided that his brand of “hope” equates to an intolerable expansion of the federal government’s authority over the states. These states -- "Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, California...Georgia," South Carolina, and Texas -- "have all introduced bills and resolutions" reminding Obama that the 10th Amendment protects the rights of the states, which are the rights of the people, by limting the power of the federal government. These resolutions call on Obama to “cease and desist” from his reckless government expansion and also indicate that federal laws and regulations implemented in violation of the 10th Amendment can be nullified by the states.

When the Constitution was being ratified during the 1780s, the 10th Amendment was understood to be the linchpin that held the entire Bill of Rights together. The amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The use of the 10th Amendment in conjunction with nullification garnered much attention in 1828, when the federal government passed a tariff that southerners believed affected them disproportionately. When the 1828 tariff was complemented by another in 1832, Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned the Vice Presidency to lead his home state of South Carolina in pursuit of an “ordinance of nullification,” which was no less a declaration of the sovereignty of each individual state within the union than the declarations now being made.

Calhoun was simply exercising what he recognized to be his state’s right to defend liberty within its borders by rejecting the dictates of an overbearing central government. While his efforts culminated in a tense affair referred to as the “nullification crisis,” which witnessed everything from threats of a federal invasion of South Carolina to an ongoing and near union-rending debate over national power vs. state’s rights, they also succeeded in turning back the tariffs that had been passed in spite of the Constitutional limits on federal power.

This time around, in 2009, appeals to the 10th Amendment are not based on tariffs but on unfettered government expansion in Obama’s “stimulus bill,” federal mandates on abortion that violate state laws, and infringements on the 1st and 2nd Amendments, among other things.

Read the whole thing, folks. It's well worth your time.

The Tenth Amendment has been a seemingly long-forgotten amendment. The Supreme Court has trampled on it. the federtal government has run roughshod over it. It is high time that the States finally demand their sovereignty be recognized, and abided by. And as the piece in Human Events explains, this goes betyond the stimulus bill. It also includes the prospect of the Freedom of Choice Act's passage and enactment.

The Tenth Amendment was the last check against a strong, central government by making sure it's power stayed limited. That is, to make sure it didn't trample the rights of the States, or the people. Some think that it simply gives states the ability to regulate and legislate on matters not under federal purview. But the states involved in this effort are telling the federal government that if the power isn't enumerated to it via the constitution, they won't recognize the mandate from Congress.

In an age where we witness and ever-encroaching federal government, emboldened by one-party rule, this effort is something that every state in the Union should be enacting to send a message to DC "This far, and no further." All we can add is congratulations to state legislatures for locating their spines and their brains, and to DC, don't press your luck. This nation will resist any further, radical encroachments.

Publius II

An unconstitutional move by Democrats

No, not the seizure of the Census from the Commerce Department, which could be construed as an unconstitutional power grab. This is about the Democrats in Congress attempting a jamdown by passing a law to give Washington, DC a representative in the House: (HT to Hugh Hewitt)

Debate opened Monday on a bill to give the 600,000 people of Washington D.C. a full vote in the House. A new Democratic president, Barack Obama, and heftier Democratic majorities in Congress have improved the prospects for the decades-long effort that would certainly ensure another Democrat lawmaker in Congress.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by some 4-to-1 in the capital.

In a bit of horsetrading to offset the Democratic pickup, the bill would award a fourth House seat to Republican-leaning Utah, which narrowly missed getting that extra seat after the 2000 national census. With the two new seats, the House would have 437 representatives.

The time is ripe, said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote, to end a situation where "we are the only capital of a democracy on the planet that denies voting representation in the national legislature."

While we can sympathize with Mr. Zherka, and his desire to have his voice be heard the same way people in the state do, he lives in the District of Columbia. Article I, Section 8, Clause 13 is more than specific in detailing who oversees the District:

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;

So to Mr. Zherka there appears to be only one option for the residents of DC to have representation in the Congress. That would be a constitutional amendment. That's the only recourse they have. The representation in the House is established through the Census, and the Congress doesn't have the authority to make itself larger. There are two ways for seats to be gained int he Congress. Either the admission of a new state, or if the Census deems that state(s) have grown in population enough to deem seats be added. Or, as I pointed out beforehand, a constitutional amendment.

So why don't the Democrats take that route? Because despite the fact they have overwhelming numbers in the House and Senate, they don't have the numbers to pass an amendment. The Congress needs to pass amendments by a two-third's majority. If it passes the Congress, then it moves onto the states, where three-fourth's of them must pass it to make it an official amendment to the Constitution. The Democrats know they don't have those votes. That might be why they're offering an olive branch to the Republicans; offering a fourth seat to Utah. Utah missed getting that seat in the 2000 Census. The horse trade is simple. Democrat-dominated DC would get a seat, and GOP-dominated Utah would get a seat. Fair, right?

No, not really. At least not to the rest of the states which would have standing to bring suit in federal court. Furthermore, the USSC would more than likely weigh in on the idea before it reaches the president's desk, should the Congress move forward on this bill. Now, if this were a proposed amendment, the high court wouldn't interject whatsoever. They'd keep silent as the amending process went forward.

The GOP needs to bring attention to this stupid and unconstitutional bill. If residents of DC want representation, then may I suggest they move to a nearby state? Maryland and Virginia are close enough for commutes, and there's the only option DC residents have. The District is not one "of the many States" that gets representation in the Congress, and the only way that'll happen is if a constitutional amendment is passed, approved, and ratified.

This has been a problem since the beginning of the 111th Congress. Since it was convened Democrats, lead by Granny Rictus and the Cryptkeeper, are emboldened to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and the Constitution be damned. Let this be a lesson to the nation that this is what happens when you let one party run the show, and you put the extreme fringe of the party play the lead in the three-ring circus.

Publius II

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh goody! Mr. Gaffe-tastic will oversee the stimulus plan

We know, we know. There are a lot of people that at the time this was announced wanted the world to stop so they could get off. I mean, after all, what could possibly go right with Vice president Joe "Mr. Gaffe-tastic" Biden heading this up,right? Yes, I'm being snarky, but it's a slow news day, and I hate missing an opportunity to note when Biden's allowed out of his undisclosed location:

President Obama has turned to his own vice president to oversee implementation of the $787 billion economic stimulus package, part of which will be available this week for state Medicaid programs.

Obama announced his decision before the National Governors Association in Washington on Monday, saying Vice President Joe Biden will help ensure the distribution of the money is not just swift, "but also efficient and effective."

"The fact that I'm asking my vice president to personally lead this effort shows how important it is for our country and future to get this right," he said.

Hey Barry, you may live to regret this move. You know, sort of like letting Biden swear in the White House staff?

Biden, in his new role, would meet regularly with key members of the Cabinet, governors and mayor to make sure their efforts are speedy and effective. He is expected to make regular reports to the president that will be posted online at www.recovery.gov.

With Biden at the helm, $15 billion from the recovery package will be freed up Wednesday for the health care programs, Obama said.

The administration projects the money will help states struggling with budget deficits and maintain Medicaid coverage for 20 million recipients.

Except the fact that most states out there have deficits that will barely be scratched with the money they're receiving. Too much of the stimulus is going to pay for special interests who got President Barry elected, like ACORN and unions. The money is being misspent on things that will not provide any sort of stimulus to the economy in the short term, and the long term look by many economists is when the bulk of the spending occurs, after 2010, is that it will be too late to turn things around. Most economists agree that we needed to ease the tax burden on the people, businesses, and investors so that the capital from those three demographics could be put into the economy.

Responding to some criticism of unemployment assistance in the stimulus from GOP governors, Obama also urged governors and lawmakers not to lose perspective on the package. He said the subject of debate composes just a "fraction" of the overall plan.

The unemployment aspects of the stimulus is a raise in welfare payments (the stimulus killed the cap enacted under Clinton and the GOP Congress under Welfare Reform), and an extension of medical assistance via Medicare/Medicaid to the unemployed. The assistance should have come in the form of job training for those out of work so they could find another job in a new industry, or something akin to that. Just handing out more welfare money doesn't help anyone unemployed right now locate another job.

Obama also appointed Earl Devaney, the inspector general at the Interior department, to serve as watchdog for the distribution of the funding.

Did anyone else catch that? Biden's been tapped to make sure the stimulus money is spent effectively and efficiently, but yet Mr. Devaney will be overseeing the distribution of the money? Can anyone say redundant? Or is this a shrewd move on President Barry's part to make sure Mr. Gaff-tastic has a babysitter? I'm guessing it's the latter so that it keeps Biden out of trouble, and off the media's radar.

As for the oversight, well, don't hold your breath. Remember, Mr. Gaffe-tastic used to be a senator. When was the last time you knew of any member of Congress, former or current, taking the oversight of funds seriously? And as you contemplate that, remember it was the Democrats in Congress that are forcing this nation to eat the "crap sandwich" that President Barry claims is the best stimulus plan that money printed can buy.

Publius II

More headaches for Roland Burris

HT to Captain Ed

Y'all remember Roland Burris, right? He's the guy that impeached Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich appointed to President Barry's vacant Senate seat. Together they made Harry Reid, AKA the Cryptkeeper, look like a fool when he blustered that he wouldn't seat Burris. Well, Burris is in some deep trouble right now because it appears he was not as truthful as he claimed about how he got the Senate seat. He's under investigation in Illinois as to whether or not he perjured himself before the state House. The Senate Ethics Committee is also investigating him. And if you think the headaches end there, think again. Federal authorities are involved now, and the death watch for Burris has begun:

Federal authorities questioned Sen. Roland Burris on Saturday — a long-awaited interview involving his Senate seat appointment — the Chicago Sun-Times-NBC/5 team has learned.

Burris is not accused of wrongdoing, but he was questioned in the case that centers on ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his alleged attempts to sell President Obama’s former seat.

Authorities interviewed Burris at his lawyer’s office, ostensibly to keep the exchange out of the limelight Burris has recently found himself in.

The questioning, first reported online Saturday by the Sun-Times and NBC/5, went on for several hours. It likely dealt in part with conversations between Burris and Robert Blagojevich. At least one of those conversations was caught on tape.

Burris admitted last week that his lawyers were in contact with the FBI about sitting for an interview, but denied that the contact was his motivation for controversially amending sworn testimony before a House impeachment panel.

Burris’ lawyer, Timothy Wright, said Saturday: “I know for a fact that he’s not a target of any investigation.’’

Really? A state attorney in Illinois is investigating Roland Burris to determine if he perjured himself. Seems to me that falls under the definition of "target" doesn't it?

The interview comes a day after the White House sent a message that Burris carefully consider his future.

A growing chorus, including most recently Gov. Quinn, has called on Burris (D-Ill) to resign after the Chicago Sun-Times first reported last week that Burris failed to initially disclose under oath to a House panel that he was hit up for campaign cash in three conversations with Blagojevich’s brother, Robert.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics has opened a probe and the Sangamon County prosecutor is reviewing Burris’ testimony as part of a possible perjury investigation.

So, if he's not under investigation why does it look like others disagree with Burris's lawyer? Maybe it's because the lawyer is trying to put on a smiley face as things proceed so Burris isn't worried. But really, folks, his statement that Burris isn't under any investigation is simply asinine.

What's going to happen to Burris? That's a great question, and I'm not sure if we'll get a halfway decent answer. A lot depends on what investigators find on him. If they find he perjured himself, he'll be gone. The calls for his resignation will reach a fever pitch, and he will be left with little choice. It'll be time for him to go.

This really makes us sad. We stood by and demanded he be seated. Not because we supported him, or supported Blagojevich, but because it was within Blagojevich's right and duty to appoint a successor to President Barry's vacant seat. Had Burris been clean, then there wouldn't be a problem, but it's clear now he's not as clean as he claims he was. (Is anyone really surprised? The guy is a product of the Chicago Machine.)

One way or another, this little drama will come to a close soon, and it looks like Burris is a political dead man walking.

Publius II

George Will exposes Russ Feingold's next trick

And this isn't just Feingold on board this utterly idiotic idea, but John McCain's on board with this foolishness. Basically, Feingold would like to see the 17th Amendment amended to where a special election filled a vacancy. While we have had our disagreements with George Will, he is spot-on with his idea that the 17th shouldn't be amended, but rather repealed:

A simple apology would have sufficed. Instead, Sen. Russ Feingold has decided to follow his McCain-Feingold evisceration of the First Amendment with Feingold-McCain, more vandalism against the Constitution.

The Wisconsin Democrat, who is steeped in his state's progressive tradition, says, as would-be amenders of the Constitution often do, that he is reluctant to tamper with the document but tamper he must because the threat to the public weal is immense: Some governors have recently behaved badly in appointing people to fill U.S. Senate vacancies. Feingold's solution, of which John McCain is a co-sponsor, is to amend the 17th Amendment. It would be better to repeal it.

The Framers established election of senators by state legislators, under which system the nation got the Great Triumvirate (Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun) and thrived. In 1913, progressives, believing that more, and more direct, democracy is always wonderful, got the 17th Amendment ratified. It stipulates popular election of senators, under which system Wisconsin has elected, among others, Joe McCarthy, as well as Feingold. ...

Feingold says that mandating election of replacement senators is necessary to make the Senate as "responsive to the people as possible." Well. The House, directly elected and with two-year terms, was designed for responsiveness. The Senate, indirectly elected and with six-year terms, was to be more deliberative than responsive.

Furthermore, grounding the Senate in state legislatures served the structure of federalism. Giving the states an important role in determining the composition of the federal government gave the states power to resist what has happened since 1913 -- the progressive (in two senses) reduction of the states to administrative extensions of the federal government.

Severing senators from state legislatures, which could monitor and even instruct them, made them more susceptible to influence by nationally organized interest groups based in Washington. Many of those groups, who preferred one-stop shopping in Washington to currying favors in all the state capitals, campaigned for the 17th Amendment. So did urban political machines, which were then organizing an uninformed electorate swollen by immigrants. Alliances between such interests and senators led to a lengthening of the senators' tenures.

The Framers gave the three political components of the federal government (the House, Senate and presidency) different electors (the people, the state legislatures and the electoral college as originally intended) to reinforce the principle of separation of powers, by which government is checked and balanced.

Although liberals give lip service to "diversity," they often treat federalism as an annoying impediment to their drive for uniformity. Feingold, who is proud that Wisconsin is one of only four states that clearly require special elections of replacement senators in all circumstances, wants to impose Wisconsin's preference on the other 46. Yes, he acknowledges, they could each choose to pass laws like Wisconsin's, but doing this "state by state would be a long and difficult process." Pluralism is so tediously time-consuming.

Irony alert: Feingold's amendment requiring elections to fill Senate vacancies will owe any traction it gains to Senate Democrats' opposition to an election to choose a replacement for Barack Obama. That opposition led to the ongoing Blagojevich-Burris fiasco.

By restricting the financing of political advocacy, the McCain-Feingold speech-rationing law empowers the government to regulate the quantity, timing and content of political speech. Thanks to Feingold, McCain and others, the First Amendment now, in effect, reads: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech unless it really, really wants to in order to guarantee that there will be only as much speech about the government as the government considers appropriate, and at times the government approves."

Now Feingold proposes to traduce federalism and nudge the Senate still further away from the nature and function the Framers favored. He is, as the saying goes, an unapologetic progressive, but one with more and more for which to apologize.

Mr. Will is correct. It was progressives who wanted the electorate involved in the election of senators, but that was the wrong way to go. The Framers didn't believe in direct democracy. If they had, they wouldn't have established a representative republic. Educated, respectful representatives would have never tampered with the Constitution the way these so-called progressives have.

Russ Feingold is an ass. He thinks he knows better than the Framers, and he has his former co-conspirator with him. No offense to McCain supporters, but that doddering old fool is as much an ass as Feingold is. Seriously, what is it about these idiots who think they know better? Why do they always apologize and bemoan how they don't want to amend the Constitution, but that they have no choice?

Personally, I don't think this amending idea will make it through the Congress. Remember, you need 2/3's of the Congress and 3/4's of the States to approve any amendments made to the Constitution. That means Russ Feingold's idea has a dwindling chance of passing, but I'd put my money on it going down in flames.

Senator Feingold, leave the bloody Constitution alone. Just sit in the Senate like the potted plant you were elected to be.

Publius II

Friday, February 20, 2009

Guantanamo Detention Facility Meets Geneva Convention Requirements

This is sure to stick in President Obama's craw. A report assembled by Admiral Patrick Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, shows that the detainees in the detention facility on the Guantanamo Bay naval base are being treated fairly and humanely in accordance with Geneva Convention rules:

A Pentagon report requested by President Obama on the conditions at the Guantánamo Bay detention center concludes that the prison complies with the humanitarian requirements of the Geneva conventions, but it makes many recommendations for increasing human contact among the prisoners, according to two government officials who have read portions of it.

The review, requested by President Obama on the second day of his administration, is due to be delivered to the White House this weekend.

The request, made as part of a plan to close the center within a year, was widely seen as an effort by the new administration to defuse the power of allegations during the Bush administration that there were widespread abuses at Guantánamo, and that many detainees were suffering severe psychological effects after years of isolation.

The review, conducted by Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, describes a series of steps that could be taken to allow detainees to speak to one another more often and to engage in group activities, the government officials said. For years, critics of the prison have said that many detainees spend as many as 23 hours a day within the confines of cement cells and were only permitted recreation alone in fenced-off outdoor pens.

The report, which Admiral Walsh is scheduled to discuss publicly at the Pentagon next week, is being presented to a White House that some government officials have described as caught off guard by the extreme emotions and political cross-currents provoked by Guantánamo. Some critics said that the report’s conclusions are likely to intensify the debate about the prison, and put the Obama White House for the first time in the position of defending it.

Included in the report are recommendations to increase social contact among the 16 prisoners described by the Bush administration as “high value detainees,” the men once held in secret overseas prisons by the
Central Intelligence Agency. Among them are the accused architects of many major terrorist attacks, including those of Sept. 11, 2001.

According to one official, the report notes that some detainees have great difficulty communicating from cell to cell, a contention that many detainees’ lawyers have also made. Though many detainees at Guantánamo are held in their cells alone, the Pentagon has long insisted that none of the men are held in solitary confinement. Military officials instead have said the prisoners are held in “single-occupancy cells.”

A Pentagon official who has seen the report said that a military team with Admiral Walsh conducted a detailed review of many specific allegations of abuse that critics have made about the prison, and that the team concluded that the Pentagon was in compliance with the requirements of the Geneva conventions. The review included some of the most contentious issues, including the forced feeding of hunger-striking detainees and claims that a large number of the prisoners are suffering from psychosis as a result of conditions in the detention center.

The White House did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment.

It has been clear that some Pentagon officials have continued to press the case that the Bush administration’s approach to handling detainee issues — and the Guantánamo Bay prison itself — should not be abandoned. The report is likely to continue that behind-the-scenes struggle.

One Pentagon official, speaking anonymously because no one had been authorized to discuss the report publicly, said it showed that the Bush administration created a humane detention camp that has been unfairly characterized by critics. Speaking of the remaining 245 detainees there, this official said the report underscored that if the men are moved, they may “go from a humane environment to a less humane environment.”

We have long held that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility was the most ideal place to house the illegal combatants and detainees for several reasons. Among them is the fact that they are not here on US soil where the risk of their escape is simply too high. Another reason why we wanted them to stay at the naval base in Cuba is the fact that some legal experts have claimed if they are detained stateside they might successfully lobby for the same protections that we, as citizens, maintain in criminal proceedings.

We think it was a mistake for the president to sign the executive order calling for the closing of the detention facility. It was a move to cater to his far-Left base of antiwar zealots; the same sort of people who would rather hug a terrorist instead of killing them. These people will not be rehabilitated. Too many that have been released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield against our soldiers, and those of our allies. One released last year has been made the deputy commander of al-Qaeda in Yemen.

If this report clears up the speculation surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, then the president should reverse his executive order, and make the necessary changes recommended in the report. The last thing American citizens want to hear is that we are either letting the terrorists into the US, or that they will be sent to other countries for detention which may not have the necessary security measures in place to keep them from escaping.


Netanyahu gets the nod

Since the Israeli elections people have been wondering who will be the new prime minister. Kadima won more seats in the Knesset than Likud did, but Shimon Peres has tapped Netanyahu to form the coalition government:

After the failure of his last-ditch effort to muster Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's support for a unity government on Friday, President Shimon Peres formally entrusted Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu with the task of building a coalition.

Netanyahu arrived as Beit Hanassi on Friday afternoon and received the president's official letter of appointment.

Earlier, after emerging from a meeting with Peres, Livni announced that she had no intention of joining a broad coalition under Netanyahu, despite the Likud chairman's assertion that he was willing to "go to great lengths" in order to induce Kadima to join his government.

"For decades we have not withstood so many challenges at the same time. To face up to these challenges we need to join hands and unite all the forces within the people. I call on all parties, those who recommended me and those who didn't. I turn to [Kadima leader Tzipi] Livni and to [Labor leader Ehud] Barak - let us join hands and pledge for the future of Israel. I hope to meet with you first and discuss a wide unity government."

"It appears that the coalition which has been formed in recent days lacks diplomatic vision," Livni said after the meeting. The Kadima leader rejected the president's plea that she reconsider joining a coalition comprised of the three largest parties - Kadima, Likud and Israeli Beiteinu - and asserted that a "broad coalition is worthless if it is not governed by values."

Netanyahu, who met with Peres shortly before Livni, said that Kadima would be the first party he turns to after receiving the nod from Peres. "I am willing to go to great lengths in the negotiations needed to establish such a government," the Likud leader said after his meeting with Peres, echoing assessments that he would be willing to give Kadima several senior portfolios in his cabinet.

This does not bode well for Israel. Netanyahu needs to prove to Livni that he won't be an extreme, right-wing prime minister. Netanyahu is correct in the fact that there must be unity in Israel right now. They are facing difficult times ahead, and they can ill afford division. For Livni, no one is asking her to throw her ideology out the window. What's being asked is that she support Netanyahu. He is, in our opinion, the person that is needed right now in Israel.

With Iran on the horizon, Hamas and Hezbollah still wishing for Israeli blood, and a president over here that seems more than willing to sit down with Israel's enemies rather than helping Israel deal with them decisively, Israel is living in very dangerous times. Peres might want to have a sit down with Livni and Netanyahu, and hammer out a deal.

Publius II

Walking out on the check

Do we remember the big celebration held in Chicago after the election? You had the Obamas and their supporters partying it up in Grant Park to the tune of $1.74 million that the city paid. Well, Chicago was supposed to be paid back for that celebration but the DNC and President Barry seem content to stick them with the check:

Chicago has yet to recoup the $1.74 million cost of President Obama's victory celebration in Grant Park -- despite a burgeoning $50.5 million budget shortfall that threatens more layoffs and union concessions.

"The Democratic National Committee has not yet paid us,'' Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city's Office of Budget and Management, said Thursday after questions from the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're reaching out to them this week."

Stacie Paxton, a spokeswoman for the Obama-controlled DNC, explained the reimbursement delay by saying, "We are still looking at various costs and bills.'' She would not say whether parts of the bill are disputed.

The city spent $1 million on police protection for the rally. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications racked up more than $120,000 in expenses, including $19,500 paid to police official Neil Sullivan to quarterback election night logistics.

In late October, Mayor Daley assured that the cash-flush Obama campaign would reimburse the city for every penny spent on the rally. "We have a financial crisis," he said at the time. "The City of Chicago could not afford $2 million on this because we're gonna be laying off people, cutting back. That [cost] would really be unfortunate. . . . It's a huge cost to the City of Chicago.

"This is not a presidential visit. . . . This is a political event, and they've agreed to pay for all those services -- all the expenses of that. ... It's costly, but they raised quite a bit of money. There's no [shortage] of money in that campaign."

The day after the Nov. 4 election, Daley was asked again whether the Obama campaign would pay up.

"Yeah. I don't know why you're so negative. ... What is this? He just won for president, and you say, 'He's not gonna pay his bills,' " the mayor said then.

On Dec. 9, the day the Sun-Times disclosed the $1.74 million tab, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt referred questions to the DNC.

Paxton confirmed then that the rally was a "DNC-sponsored event" and that the party was discussing the itemized bill with the city.

The DNC is stalling as they go over the itemized costs. Mayor Daley is ripping anyone criticizing President Barry's dead-beat ways. It's really pathetic when neither the party, nor the man who is the leader of the party, recognizes that they have a bill they've yet to pay to a city they promised they'd reimburse. This is akin to going to a restaurant, eating a nice meal, and dashing out the door without paying the check .... times 1000. $1.74 million is nothing to sneeze at, and it's not like the city doesn't need it.

Now will that $1.74 million really make a difference to Chicago? City officials claim it will; that the unpaid bill would result in them having to lay-off more city workers. This isn't just the attitude of a dead-beat. It's the attitude of a narcissist. (You really should follow that link and read the piece found by a good friend of mine. The piece is by Dr. Sam Vaknin who is considered one of the foremost experts on the subject of narcissism.) President Barry doesn't care that he's stiffing the city of Chicago because it's nothing that concerns him. Being above board with the city doesn't further any goal he has. So he doesn't really give a rat's rear-end about the bill being paid, and even if he does get some city officials complaining to him, he'll just refer them to the DNC. And, of course, the DNC will continue to drag it's feet.

Hope and change? Not so much. Hell, the city of Chicago will be lucky if they're reimbursed by the time the 2012 election rolls around.

Publius II

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

But I tried, really I did, so can I have the "A", please?

This is scary, and I blame the bleeding-heart, liberally-minded educators for fostering this malarkey. HT to Slublog at AoSHQ for pointing this story out in today's New York Times:

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

Up to this point, I'm cool with this. Grades aren't to be handed out because you try. Losers try everyday and, well, lose. Winners try everyday, and they succeed. Simply put, I can try to work out a physics problem and nine times out of ten, I'm going to fail at it. Why? Because A) Math was never my strong suit, and B) When I did take physics in college, I barely passed it. Even now, I hardly remember it. But if you ask me a history question, or challenge me to lecture on the creation of the Constitution, I can do that with no problem. But what follows really ticks me off:

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

Expected? Just for attending lectures? If it's required you attend a lecture, that's not exactly negotiable, especially if the professor demands you show up for his/her well-prepared lectures. And as for the reading, how else are you supposed to learn hat you're being taught if you don't do the reading? Are they trying to make the case of learning via osmosis?

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Um, it could also stem from the self-esteem BS pushed by the elementary, junior high, and high schools. The whole "You tried so you should be rewarded" crap has led these kids to believe that they're entitled to a grade they didn't earn. I can try all day to break down a physics problem and if I don't get it right, do I deserve a higher grade because I tried? Hell no. I didn't complete it correctly. Just because I show up doesn't mean I should be rewarded with a better grade.

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.

“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

Again, I'm going to call BS to that theory. I was raised in a house where to do better in school I had better be studying. Test preparation has little to do with their sense of entitlement. It stems, in my opinion, from the feel-good crap pushed by educators that every child tries, and none should fail. I mean, there are school districts across the country that have done away with grading papers in red ink because teachers are afraid that they'll hurt a student's self-esteem. Red, according to them, invokes feelings of failure, and a general feeling of criticism. Well DUH! That's what it's supposed to do to show the kids they made mistakes.

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “

In line with Dean Hogge’s observation are Professor Greenberger’s test results. Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

Oh, I don't know. How about RESULTS, you twit. Results are the bottom line. Results in school, results in life, results in work. What you actually do, not how hard you tried. If I went to my boss everyday and said "Hey I tried, but I didn't get all my work done" how long do you think I'll last before I'm fired? Let me tell you, it wouldn't be long. My boss set out what is expected of me each and every day. I don't meet the goals, then I failed, and failure equals unemployment. The same goes in school. If the teacher assigns you work, and you don't do it, or don't do it right, the teacher should grade you accordingly.

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

No, what's wrong is Mr. Greenwood being a twit about this. The question, Mr. Greenwood, are the results. Did the student do the work accurately and correctly? Did they do it in a slipshod fashion? Did they understand what they were reading/doing with the assignment in question. It's all about the bottom line, and if at the end of the day the results don't match what the teacher has demanded, then the grade should reflect that; the work involved, no matter how hard or easy, is irrelevant.

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

Yes, I'm sure Ms. Kinn feels that way, but again, my gripe is that these fools think that simply because they show up, and they do the work, that they deserve the grade based on their work and apparently not based on the results of said work. That's why I connect this entitlement BS with how these kids are taught and treated by educators as they go through their lives. Everything about their idea revolve around the point where educators decided self-esteem was trump over results.

That's not how the real world works, and we're turning these entitlement geniuses out of the schools, and letting them loose on the world. No wonder, as Slublog notes, this nation elected the idiot they did for president. He's a firm believer in entitlements (see the Pork-A-Palooza, and the drawdown of the cap on welfare, the increase in welfare monies, etc. for an example), and is willing to give all those who feel they're entitled to things regardless of whether or not they earned it, or if they merit it.

That which is given has no value was an axiom my grandfather used often. I heard it from him, from my father, from my mother, and even the good Sisters and good Brothers who taught me in school. They're right. That goes for what you have in life, such as a car or home, as well as how you get good grades. You're not given them. You earn them. These kids in school, and the professors in this piece in the New York Times would be wise to remember that. But, of course, if any of these professors are tenured, even if they don't do their work, they won't be fired.

Remember, they're entitled to their jobs even if the results don't meet the bottom line criteria set by the university or national standards. After all, the teachers tried, right?

Publius II