Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It Ain't Perjury

Ruth Marcus of the WaPo says Attorney General Alberto Gonzales didn't commit perjury, so Democrats wanting to turn this into Watergate should sit their asses down.

Well, ok, she didn't say it exactly that way. This is what she said:

In his Senate testimony last week, Gonzales once again dissembled and misled. He was too clever by seven-eighths. He employed his signature brand of inartful dodging -- linguistic evasion, poorly executed. The brutalizing he received from senators of both parties was abundantly deserved.

But I don't think he actually lied about his March 2004 hospital encounter with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. I certainly don't think he could be charged with -- much less convicted of -- perjury.

It's really no wonder Democrats have latched onto perjury charges as the magic bullet to fell Republicans. They used it against Scooter Libby, who perjured himself when no crime was committed. They've tried repeatedly to say every person in the White House--from the President to the janitor (well, almost)--have lied about a whole host of issues: WMDs, reasons for war in Iraq, Cheney's energy summit, Halliburton, the government's role in 9/11, Halliburton, the Patriot Act, Halliburton, and, well, Halliburton.

Now Democrats are hopping up and down trying to get a perjury charge against Gonzales, a Bush loyalist from the days when he was governor. It seems like the Dems strategy is to investigate, investigate, investigate, and when they don't find anything, just make shit up. After all, they have the nutroots ready to lick their boots at every opportunity.


That's the number of reasons there are to have sex, according to a group of psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin.

Why 273? Well, the researchers asked 400 people to give their reasons for having sex, then asked 1,500 others to rate the reasons in importance. The list includes:

-- "I was drunk."

--"I wanted to feel closer to God."

-- "It's a good cure for a headache."

-- "Someone dared me."

-- "To burn calories."

-- "To return a favor."

-- "I was curious about sex."

You get the idea. Why have sex? Just because!

UPDATE: Sister Toldjah laments that love takes a backseat to hormones in the survey.
Top 10 Reasons To Have Sex For Men

I was attracted to the person.

It feels good.

I wanted to experience physical pleasure.

It’s fun.

I wanted to show my affection to the person.

I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.

I was “horny.”

I wanted to express my love for the person.

I wanted to achieve an orgasm.

I wanted to please my partner.

Top 10 Reasons To Have Sex For Women

I was attracted to the person.

I wanted to experience physical pleasure.

It feels good.

I wanted to show my affection to the person.

I wanted to express my love for the person.

I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.

I was “horny.”

It’s fun.

I realized I was in love.

I was “in the heat of the moment.”

We Interrupt Your Normally Scheduled GPWOW...

I just wanted to put up a post apologizing for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks. Real life has been interfering in my blog life, and, as everybody knows, the real world takes priority.

I wish I could say I've been doing really important things or there's been a major crisis, but that wouldn't be true. Being the dog days of summer, I've been busy doing a lot of those little things people do...like enjoying my family and taking care of some family stuff.

My hope is that by next week, things will return to normal. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Polls Says Supreme Court "Too Conservative"? Why Polls Don't Matter, Part 3

In our continuing series on Why Polls Don't Matter, we look at the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll which says a minority of Americans think the Supreme Court is "too conservative."

About half of the public thinks the Supreme Court is generally balanced in its decisions, but a growing number of Americans say the court has become "too conservative" in the two years since President Bush began nominating justices, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Nearly a third of the public -- 31 percent -- thinks the court is too far to the right, a noticeable jump since the question was last asked in July 2005. That's when Bush nominated John G. Roberts Jr. to the court and, in the six-month period that followed, the Senate approved Roberts as chief justice and confirmed Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The two have proved to be reliably conservative justices, and the increasingly polarized court this year moved to uphold restraints on abortion, restrict student speech rights and limit the ability of school districts to use race in student assignments, among other issues.

The public seems to have noticed the shift. The percentage who said the court is "too conservative" grew from 19 percent to 31 percent in the past two years, while those who said it is "generally balanced in its decisions" declined from 55 percent to 47 percent.

It's no wonder the public might have noticed a shift in the Supreme Court, considering the confirmation hearings of Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts were media circuses.

But is it earth-shattering news to say that "a growing number of Americans" think the court is too conservative, when that number is still well below half, and half of all Americans think the Court is fine?

Taking a page from Captain Ed's playbook, I decided to look at who the WaPo surveyed. Once again, the poll's sample under represents Republicans. In other words, the poll is skewed to support the idea that a "growing number of Americans" think the Supreme Court is too conservative. If your sample contains largely the sorts of people who support liberal ideas, of course they are going to disapprove of a court that's no longer wedded to the idea that the judiciary is a super-legislature that can just make shit up when it suits a particular need.

Yet, even this sample was split on how it felt about recent SCOTUS decisions.
Fifty-five percent of those polled -- including majorities of both women and men -- approved of the court's abortion ruling. The decision significantly shifted the court's abortion jurisprudence, marking the first time justices have upheld a restriction on a specific abortion procedure and one that does not include an exception for a woman's health.

But a majority disagreed with the court's decision that sharply restricted the ability of local school boards to use race when making school assignments to achieve diverse student bodies. Fifty-six percent of those polled disapproved of the decision; 40 percent approved.

Three out of four blacks disapproved of the court's ruling in the race case, as did a narrow majority of whites. Seven out of 10 Democrats disagreed with the ruling, while Republicans and independents both were evenly split.

Given that the sample is skewed, this would probably mean that most Americans actually approved of both cases, since, as Captain Ed points out, the sampling problem creates a 24% under representation of Republicans. And while the link shows an abortion-related question, there is no example of a question related to the Seattle and Louisville so-called "voluntary" integration plans cases. Depending on how the question was worded, there could be slant in that question to explain the numbers, as well.

This post is about the sample errors that regularly occur with the WaPo polls, but it could also be about liberal media bias. The headline for this story was Fewer See Balance in Court Decisions, which is accurate as far as it goes. Unfortunately, it doesn't accurately reflect what the poll numbers show: that most Americans do not feel the Court is too conservative. The lede does begin with the fact that most Americans are satisfied with the Supreme Court, but it doesn't explain that a liberal court has been in place 40 years and that tilting back to the right provides balance.

In short, the poll confirms what the WaPo wants its readers to think: that
Chuck Schumer is right when he says the Court is "dangerously out of balance." It's sad when even their polling is biased.

Cross-posted at Common Sense Political Thought.

UPDATE: Think Progress is out there lying about what the Supreme Court holdings say.
In June, the court ruled that local school authorities "cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together."

Of course, that's not what the Court held. What the Court said was
Kennedy said that race could perhaps be considered in the tools that school districts use to bring "together students of diverse backgrounds and races." He mentioned magnet schools, "strategic site selection" of new schools, redrawing attendance zones and other measures.

Sounds different, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Liberals Target FoxNews Advertisers

I don't watch much TV. Outside of a handful of entertainment shows (I'm particularly fond of dance shows for some reason and game shows), I just don't watch television. But I may have to start watching more since I found out liberals love free speech so much they want to boycott FoxNews advertisers.

MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America's Future and liberal blogs like DailyKos.com are asking thousands of supporters to monitor who is advertising on the network. Once a database is gathered, an organized phone-calling campaign will begin, said Jim Gilliam, vice president of media strategy for Brave New Films, a company that has made anti-Fox videos.

The groups have successfully pressured Democratic presidential candidates not to appear at any debate sponsored by Fox, and are also trying to get Home Depot Inc. to stop advertising there.

At least 5,000 people nationwide have signed up to compile logs on who is running commercials on Fox, Gilliam said. The groups want to first concentrate on businesses running local ads, as opposed to national commercials.

Well, I'm all for the right to protest. That's why I've started patronizing the Blue Star Deli in Farmers Branch, which is being boycotted by pro-illegal immigration thugs. But keep in mind that the same people who think targeting FoxNews advertisers is acceptable howled in protest when advertisers didn't want their ads to run on Air America.

Back then, they were angry--very angry--that advertisers were interested in having their products peddled on shows that actually had listeners. It was censorship, according to the Media Matters types.

But, apparently, they aren't bothered by threatening advertisers.
The groups seem particularly angry at Fox's Bill O'Reilly, who has done critical reports on left-wing bloggers. On July 16, O'Reilly said the DailyKos.com Web site is "hate of the worst order," and sent a reporter to question JetBlue Airways Corp. CEO Dave Barger about the airline's sponsorship of a gathering run by DailyKos.

He'll never ride on JetBlue again, O'Reilly said.

MoveOn.org is campaigning against Fox because it says the network characterizes itself as a fair news network when it consistently favors a conservative point of view, said Adam Green, the organization's spokesman.

"We're not trying to silence anybody," Green said. "Rush Limbaugh has a right to be on the air—he admits his point of view. Fox doesn't."

Nah, they don't want to silence anybody. The fact that a network without advertisers doesn't survive very long--unless it's PBS and can suck its budget from ordinary taxpayers--doesn't compute with these people.

Look, boycott FoxNews, nutroots. Please. I don't expect many advertisers are going to listen since FoxNews outpaces the other cable news networks as far as ratings go.

What I'm looking forward to is a debate on FoxNews after the primaries. If the Democrat candidate refuses to attend because the debate is on FoxNews, it will give the country a chance to finally listen to a candidate that makes sense.

UPDATE: Ken Wheaton of Advertising Age notes that MoveOn's been trying to get this story out for weeks without success.
Funnier still is that MoveOn, until now, has been unable to get much media coverage -- unless one counts The Huffington Post and DailyKos as the sort of media that's going to move the masses. Both of those, by the way, are part of this little coalition of speech police, so that's kind of like getting recognized by your parents for a job well done.

Now the coalition, unable to accomplish much on a national level, has gotten media attention for declaring its intention to monitor local businesses that advertise on Fox News.

That will really hit Fox where it hurts.

Wheaton suggests that local advertisers frequently don't have control over when their ads run. So if Joe's Deli has an ad on Bill O'Reilly's show, he might not have even requested the spot. On the other hand, if he did pony up for that spot, he'll be willing to take the heat from the moonbats because Joe thinks Bill O'Reilly fans will want to eat at his deli. Funny how advertising works, eh?

UPDATE x2: Bill O'Reilly responds to the venom spewed by the gored KOS Kids.

So You Think You Can Do Political Dances and Insult Marines Without Comment

It looks like So You Think You Can Dance discovered it's an entertainment program, and guess what? People don't consider anti-war dances--especially the same dance repeated 10 times--to be entertaining.

As the Webloggin Editor says, who the hell is pro-war? Nobody likes war, but some of us are grown up enough to understand that you have to go to war sometimes. And even if you don't agree with the reasons for the war, grown ups also understand that it's childish and naive to cram your anti-war message down the throats of people who turned on a dance program. After all, if I want to get preached to about peace, I'll just go watch reruns of Cindy Sheehan.

Nigel Lythgoe, the head judge of the show, seemed to be perplexed that viewers protested the anti-war dances.

"Who would’ve dreamt — with the dancers using words like ‘humility,’ ‘love’ and ‘passion’ — that I would be defending a television show that uses words like that?" asks Lythgoe, who also apologized on air.

But at the same time, Lythgoe stood his ground. "Art should be allowed to make statements," he said. "I’m so proud to be part of a show that allows freedom of expression," says (Mia) Michaels. "Nigel has allowed us to be who we are. He never edits us and he lets us express ourselves as artists. I think that is rare and extraordinary."

Of course art should be allowed to make statements. But art doesn't get to make statements without others endorsing or rejecting those statements.

Part of my frustration with the Left in America is that they want consequence-free freedom of expression. There's no guarantee of that in the Constitution. We all get to say lots of things, especially political things, but that doesn't mean there aren't negative consequences when we say things that aren't popular. So, don't choreograph an anti-war dance and then expect the public to applaud it.

But the fun on So You Think You Can Dance didn't end with the anti-war choreography. Choreographer Mia Michaels wore an upside down Marine logo on her jacket that got Marines and their families up in arms.
She had no idea that anyone would be offended by it, she says. She simply thought she was being fashionable by wearing a navy blue military jacket that happened to have a Marine emblem, upside down, on the sleeves. After hearing the feedback, Michaels tried to make amends on the air. "I understand why people were upset and I respect that," she says. "That symbol is sacred to the Marines, it’s what they earned. The problem needed to be addressed and I’m glad we addressed it. That’s why I made a public apology."

Military personnel take their uniforms seriously because virtually every piece is rife with symbolism. Michaels shouldn't have been wearing a Marine uniform in the first place, and to be ignorant of the various symbols is even worse.

But while Michaels apologized for offending Marines, she claims that the protests she received were "hate mail." Puh-lease. Frankly, I'm tired of wimpy liberals demanding that their feelers not get hurt by somebody pointing out their stupidity and insensitivity.

It's just beyond reasonable to expect a person not to wear a military uniform jacket as a fashion statement. And it's also reasonable to not be subjected to anti-war lectures from holier-than-thou choreographers. Let's face it. Without the military fighting the bad guys overseas, I seriously doubt Al Qaeda would support Wade Robson's inane dances, anyway.

Don't expect the anti-war messages to go away, though. Via Webloggin, Matthew Sheffield at Newsbusters has a post about the rash of anti-war movies Hollywood has planned to cram down our throats. Because, hey, they don't need a Fairness Doctrine for the movie industry. Everybody knows it's just entertainment, right?

Washington Pharmacists Sue Over Morning After Pill

Is it freedom of religion, freedom of expression, or a violation of one's obligation to an employer when pharmacists refuse to sell the morning after pill?

Washington state pharmacists think requiring them to sell the morning after pill is a violation of their 1st Amendment rights, and are suing the state over a new law requiring them to sell the pill. (Via ifeminists).

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule that took effect Thursday violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between "their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."

"The stakes really couldn't be much higher," plaintiffs' attorney Kristen Waggoner said.

The state ruled earlier this year that druggists who believe emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion cannot stand in the way of a patient's right to the drugs.

I agree with the principle that we shouldn't be forced to sell things which violate our freedom of conscience, but that doesn't mean an employer doesn't have a right to expect a person to perform his/her job. In short, if you don't like portions of the job, then do something else (or find an employer who will work with you).

I don't think there's a constitutional right to the morning after pill, and the law may be a bit heavy-handed here. And, indeed, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for one's religious preferences. But the requirement of accommodation stops where such accommodation becomes an "undue hardship." Is allowing pharmacists to refuse to distribute the morning after pill an undue hardship? I'm not sure. I can see both sides of that argument.

Democrats as Victims

Who knew that the lesson Democrats drew from the '04 election was that declaring victimhood will win over the voters. It seems to be the "in" thing to do.

First, John Edwards claimed that the forces of Satan want to "shut him up" about health care reform, and that's why his pricey haircuts made news.

I hate to break it to Edwards, but the reason his $400 (or more) haircuts made news is that he's always running around talking about how poor he was as a child.

MATTHEWS: What‘s it feel like? I‘ve never been poor. You have. I‘m not talking about the haircuts and all the nonsense. I‘m talking about your own personal experience as a human being. You know what it is like to be poor. Tell the people watching right now who have not been what it is like.

EDWARDS: Well, you go into a restaurant with your family and you sit down, and everybody—especially when you‘re young—that is the only time I was poor, Chris. And you sit down, and then you start to order something, and your father says, we have to leave, because we can‘t pay for this. And you get up and leave, and it is humiliating. It feels humiliating when you are young. And it is particularly humiliating to see your mother and father have to go through that.

Edwards' dad was a manager at the mill. That's not exactly poor. And he wouldn't be the first person to walk into a restaurant, look at the menu, gasp at the prices, and walk out. That's frugal, not poor. Poor is hunting squirrels to feed eight people, like my dad recalls doing when he was a kid.

So, if Edwards is taking a hit over his expensive haircuts, it's because it's pretentious, not because we don't want him talking about health care.

Next, Hillary Clinton joins the victim brigade claiming fellow Dem candidate Barak Obama "attacked" her by calling her "Bush-Cheney lite." I hate to break it to Hillary, but whining that she's getting called names isn't doing much for the feminist in me. If you wanna play with the big boys, you gotta get tough. The big boys call each other all sorts of names (although, I'll admit that comparing President Bush to Hitler is a bit out of bounds). It doesn't seem inappropriate to me that Obama would want to tie Hillary to a president who is very unpopular with his party's core.

But Hillary wasn't done being the victim. Next, she was supposedly victimized by WaPo fashion writer Robin Givhan, who noted Hillary's cleavage as she spoke on the Senate floor. Is pointing out that her boobies are on display now "victimizing" her? It's just a fact: Hillary was showing cleavage. Even Givhan pointed out that it wasn't the most important issue of the campaign. So, why is Hillary making a big deal out of it?

Because Hillary learned a long time ago that playing the victim helps her with her feminist base--who think all women are victims of Teh Patriarchy--and she's looking to cash in.

Because the victimization of Democrat presidential candidates is all about getting campaign money. Edwards used his wife's cancer as a fund-raising event. He also used snide remarks by Ann Coulter to raise cold cash. Hillary sends out fund-raising letters every time someone looks at her funny.

This just highlights the disgusting underbelly of liberal politics: everybody is a victim. No one is responsible for the things that happen to them, and no one can take care of themselves. We need the government to come in and take care of life for us.

But my question for the people who believe this is, do you really want to elect another victim as president? If pointing out your cleavage is enough to send a candidate into a pearl-clutching frenzy, how is that person going to react when faced with the wrath of France?! If complaints about your expensive haircuts gives you the vapors, what happens when some U.N. yahoo gets on the floor and criticizes the U.S. for not giving even more of our taxpayers' money for senseless (and useless) projects?

Don't you want someone to be president who isn't busy being a victim?

Upping the Ante

Chuck Schumer threw a temper tantrum yesterday over Supreme Court Justices Alito and Roberts. Apparently, Schumer just noticed they're conservative.

Well, he's not going to take this lying down! No, sirree! Schumer says no more Supreme Court nominees for President Bush!

"We should reverse the presumption of confirmation," Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. "The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito."

"Dangerously out of balance?" As Power Line pointed out, I guess "dangerously out of balance" now means 5-4 decisions that don't go the liberal way.

It's amazing, really. We spend 40 years with Supreme Court justices finding "rights" hidden under stale cups of coffee, but two decisions in one term that don't go their way, and they're complaining about a "dangerously out of balance" Court. Actually, the Court has been out of balance since 1937, when FDR tried to pack the Supreme Court. FDR wanted to appoint new justices because the old ones actually adhered to stare decisis and wouldn't approve his socialist programs.

But, apparently, it's perfectly acceptable for the Court to be "dangerously out of balance," provided it votes the liberal way all the time.

Captain Ed points out that Schumer knew George Bush was elected twice, at least in part, because he promised to nominate Supreme Court justices "in the mold of Scalia and Thomas." Schumer also voted against Alito and Roberts because he didn't like their judicial philosophy. So, how could he, with a straight face, claim the Senate was "duped" by the two attorneys? It is quite astonishing, this supposed naivety of our distinguished Senators.

Jules Crittenden explains that the problem is a "dangerously out of balance" Congress, which is trying to usurp more executive power.
Dems’ presumptive jubilee day of 1-20-09 is still, let’s see, 17 months and 24 days away, but they’re all done with the Constitution, mandate of the people, etc. The one that elected George Bush president in 2004. Again...

Dangerously out of balance. There’s an interesting idea. That exactly describes what is happening with the United States Congress. The senator from New York may be on to something. It may be time to reverse the presumption of liberty for elected leaders who in time of war and grave threat to national and global security have sought to undermine this administration’s ability to prosecute the war, intercept enemy communications and hold illegal enemy combatants. Particularly seeing as they are so easily "duped." Clearly not suited to leadership.

So, we have a Congress that can't read the Constitution, which thinks it is the decider in times of war, which claims it was "deceived" about Supreme Court nominees who were clearly conservative (reminds me of the claims that "I love you" before consensual one-night stands were "deceptions"), and which thinks it has the right to make hiring and firing decisions for the executive branch. Seems fairly obvious which branch of the federal government is "out of control."

Friday, July 27, 2007

The White House and Executive Privilege

Captain Ed suggested and participated in a conference call with the White House to discuss the administration's view of executive privilege. This is an extremely important issue, what with Congress' attempt to usurp presidential power of appointment (as well as other powers).

As Patterico pointed out in this post to which I linked earlier, there is a governmental power grab here, but the branch grabbing power is Congress, not the president.

The president has always had the power to hire and fire at will concerning executive branch employees. U.S. attorneys are executive branch employees. As the White House rightly points out, this fracas is simply an attempt to embarrass and bully the White House and has no historical basis whatsoever. Coupled with the fact that the Bush administration has repeatedly cooperated with Congress--by providing thousands of pages of documentation and offered to allow questioning (without oath or transcript) of various White House officials--it is obvious that the purpose of this "investigation" isn't to find out what happened to the fired attorneys. It is to cripple the executive branch's powers.

Read the Q&A at Captain's Quarters for more information.

GOP Candidates Afraid of YouTube Questioners?

Apparently so. Only perennial loser John McCain and nutbag Ron Paul have signed up for the GOP YouTube debate. The rest are trying to "no comment" their way past this graveyard.

Mitt Romney even made fun of the format.

In an interview Wednesday with the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, Romney said he's not a fan of the CNN/YouTube format. Referring to the video of a snowman asking the Democratic candidates about global warming, Romney quipped, "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."

Sure, candidates are free to participate or not in any debate forum they wish. But, as Patrick Ruffini points out, it's hard to slam the Dems for being afraid of FoxNews while the Republican candidates are afraid of questions from ordinary folks.

There's little doubt that the softball questions the Democrat candidates got wouldn't be available for Republican candidates simply because CNN is not that kind to the GOP. But that doesn't mean that Republican candidates couldn't have used the opportunity to score wider points by answering questions they might find uncomfortable. In any event, there's just something smelly about candidates scared to talk to the folks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Packing the Court

So, what can be done when the Supreme Court starts deciding cases in ways you don't like (if you're a liberal, that is)? Why, recommend packing the Court, of course.

If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two. Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues might do well to bear in mind that the roll call of presidents who have used this option includes not just Roosevelt but also Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant.

Thumbing its nose at popular values? Which popular values would these be?

Most Americans support restrictions on abortions. So, with that in mind, the Court's Gonzales v. Carhart decision seems to be upholding a popular value.

And while most people support the idea of diversity, lots of folks don't like busing (see here, here, and here for starters). So, how was the Supreme Court out of step with the mainstream in striking down so-called "voluntary" integration plans in Seattle and Louisville?

It seems to me that the folks thumbing their nose at popular values are the liberals complaining because the SCOTUS doesn't lean so far to the left anymore. But I guess that's because they thought the court system was for them and not for the people who really support popular values.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Assault on Prosecutorial Independence

U.S. Attorneygate has reached new depths with the news that Congress has issued contempt citations for Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten.

Patterico has an excellent post analyzing what is happening in this case.

Glenn Greenwald has argued that the showdown between Congress and President Bush over executive privilege is an example of one branch of government asserting extraordinary and unprecedented powers that properly belong to another branch. He says that the overreaching branch is mounting an “assault on prosecutorial independence.”

He’s right about that. But he’s wrong about which branch is out of control. It’s not the executive branch. It’s Congress.

We are witnessing an attempt by Congress to take over a core function of the executive branch: the duty to execute the laws, which includes the discretion over when to prosecute violations of criminal law. Despite what Big Media would have you believe, this controversy isn’t about President Bush exerting undue influence over United States Attorneys. It’s about Congress trying to usurp the executive’s constitutional powers, by trying to force the Department of Justice to bring a prosecution that DoJ believes should not be brought. And it’s about congressional attempts to destroy any notion of executive privilege, by summoning executive officials before various congressional committees to interrogate them about high-level executive deliberations.

President Bush’s arguments on these issues are consistent with similar assertions of privilege made by at least six presidential administrations — both Republican and Democrat — since the 1950s. His position is supported by case law, logic, and the structure of the Constitution.

Patterico's post is worth the read.

Harry Potter Is in League with Teh Patriarchy

That's the premise of Echidne of the Snake's post on Harry Potter.

I wrote a post about this earlier where I suggested that there would have been no comparable mania if the books were about Harriet Potter. Boys don't want to read about girl heroines. Girls are fairly used to reading about boy heros (sic) and on the whole don't seem to mind it as much. I'm pretty sure that this difference is not an innate one but has to do with the fact that being a boy is still a better thing than being a girl.

This silliness gets debunked in Echidne's own comment section where numerous people give examples of popular children's books with female protagonists. One of the more interesting examples was the Frank Baum Oz books.
Oz was huge. It's hard to reckon now, but I would say that it was much like Harry Potter in its day. There was an immensely popular stage production, written by Baum, there was music, there were silent movies, and later, radio shows too. Baum's writing was originally intended to be the first truly American fairy tale, and I think he succeeded, creating something new, and pretty wonderful. Baum wrote in very colloquial language, especially in the later books, which made them much easier to read than Alice, Peter Pan, and other children's novels of the time. Although it was easier to be a popular children's author in those times; there wasn't much literature being published for children at all. And it was pretty much US only, since at the time (early 20th century), it was much, much more difficult to sustain a worldwide fad.

There were many more examples of hugely popular children's fiction with female leads, and it surprised me that Echidne--who prides herself on her research--would publish something so obviously uninformed. Plus, her analysis of the Harry Potter series left out a few inconvenient facts: the single most intelligent student in Hogwarts was a girl. Hermione wasn't just the lovable sidekick of Harry Potter, and she was frequently more interesting than he was precisely because she took the academic angle of magic more seriously.

Besides Hermione, there were many more girls in the Harry Potter story who played powerful roles: Ginny, Luna, the Patil twins, Pansy Parkinson, Professor McGonagall, Professor Trelawney, Mrs. Weasley...the list goes on and on. And the farther into the series you go, the more important those other characters become.

Echidne's premise that girls will read books with boys as protagonists but boys won't read books with girls as protagonists is shaky, at best. My son, for instance would rather read books with animals as protagonists than any book with kids in the lead. My oldest daughter was a huge Matt Christopherfan. And none of this mentions the fact that elementary school-age kids tend to sex select. That is, girls go with girls' stuff and boys go with boys' stuff (besides the fact that there's far more variation in girls' stuff than boys' stuff).

I hate to rain on Echidne's Teh Patriarchy parade, but many of the sex stereotypes she's complaining about don't really apply to modern children's entertainment choices. Go to the Disney Channel's home page, and you'll find a large number of shows that feature female leads, from That's So Raven to Hannah Montana to Kim Possible (and this doesn't include past favorites like Lizzie McGuire and Sister Sister).

The entertainment industry is making a much bigger effort to create shows that appeal to girls as much as boys. That's because girls' parents are just as willing as boys' parents to shell out money for books, movies, games and more that show children as empowered and intelligent individuals.

This isn't 1972 when male stars dominated children's literature and entertainment. The industry is far more savvy than that now.

Lancet Study Debunked

Some people like their propaganda simple. Unfortunately, these people (*cough*Blubonnet*cough*) can't be convinced by reason that their theories are half-baked at best and thoroughly reprehensible at worst.

But other people need to sugar-coat the lies using statistics. As this thread illustrates, you can't use logic on these people. When I asked where the graves for all those bodies were, and then provided photos of what real graves in Iraq look like, the troll dashed in a cloud of dust.

Well, unfortunately for said troll, there's more statistical evidence debunking the Lancet figures.

Much of the math here is mind-numbingly complicated, but Kane’s bottom line is simple: the Lancet authors “cannot reject the null hypothesis that mortality in Iraq is unchanged.” Translation: according to Kane, the confidence interval for the Lancet authors’ main finding is wrong. Had the authors calculated the confidence interval correctly, Kane asserts that they would have failed to identify a statistically significant increase in risk of death in Iraq, let alone the widely-reported 98,000 excess civilian deaths.

An interesting side note: as Kane observes in his paper, the Lancet authors “refuse to provide anyone with the underlying data (or even a precise description of the actual methodology).” The researchers did release some high-level summary data in highly aggregated form (see here), but they released neither the detailed interviewee-level data nor the programming code that would be necessary to replicate their results.

One of the charges made by the above-mentioned troll was that no respected person had debunked the Lancet figures. But that's not really true. According to Kane, others had attempted to replicate the Lancet figures but could not because Lancet won't release its data. If the data is good, why not release it?

President Bush's Approval Numbers: Why Polls Don't Matter, Part 2

Back in May, I wrote this post about why polls don't matter. The long and the short of it is that polls are only as good as the samples used.

This is a timely reminder because the WaPo is pretending the President's poll numbers are lower than they are...again.

President Bush is a competitive guy. But this is one contest he would rather lose. With 18 months left in office, he is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low.

In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only twice has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- Harry S. Truman, who hit 67 percent during the Korean War, and Richard M. Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before resigning.

We could file this under media bias--comparing President Bush, whom Democrats screech about impeaching, to President Nixon, who resigned to avoid impeachment. But that's only part of the story. The devil is, as they say, in the details, only the details didn't get mentioned in this story.

What are the details? Namely, who was polled and with which party do they affiliated?

But Captain Ed noticed the sampling problems.
After a few years of relative equality, Democrats have pulled ahead of Republicans in party affiliation, as NBC noted in February. Nationally, Democrats enjoy a 34.3%-30.4% advantage in registrants. This has caused some analysts to predict that the GOP will have a tougher time in the Electoral College than in the last two elections, which was the general point of the article.

Now let's look at the Washington Post sample. On question 901, respondents answered that they were 35% Democrats, which is close enough to the national average. However, only 23% identified themselves as Republicans, which amounts to a 24% underrepresentation of the GOP in this sample. In fact, the Post consistently underrepresents Republicans, and has for the past two years. The last time it came close to reality was in November 2006 -- when the Post needed to make sure its election predictions came close to the results.

Not surprisingly, that was also the last time the Post's polling on George Bush's approval ratings came close to reality, too. His disapproval then was 57%, which the elections seem to have confirmed. At the time, Rasmussen -- which has been historically more accurate than the Post -- had it at 56%. They now have it at 59%, actually down from a high of 65% in the first part of July during the immigration debate.

None of this means President Bush is particularly popular. There are lots of people upset with him for lots of different reasons. But not quite as many people are upset with him as the Washington Post would have you believe.

Grandstanding on Judicial Philosophy

Arlen Specter--the Republican In Name Only-- has decided to reread the confirmation testimony by Justices Alito and Roberts because--gosh darn it!--they're not acting like liberals!

"There are things he has said, and I want to see how well he has complied with it," Specter said, singling out Roberts.

Other than grandstanding, what is the value of this exercise? To cast dispersions on the judiciary? Congress can't fire Supreme Court justices just because they don't like the way they rule.

The fact is, Justices Alito and Roberts answered the grilling from the Senate Judiciary Committee in the way necessary both to tell the truth and to win confirmation. That means they didn't Bork themselves.
Roberts said there would be instances that called for a reconsideration of prior decisions. But, he added, "I do think that it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent. Precedent plays an important role in promoting stability and evenhandedness."

Alito called stare decisis "a very important doctrine," although it was not an "inexorable command."

"I agree that, in every case in which there is a prior precedent, the first issue is the issue of stare decisis," Alito said. "And the presumption is that the court will follow its prior precedents. There needs to be a special justification for overruling a prior precedent."

Yes, special consideration means the prior cases were ridiculous efforts to make crap up and serve it up as judicial opinions.

The problem for liberals is that they aren't used to any judicial activism (which is what they call reading the Constitution) that doesn't move farther to the left. And let's face it: they aren't used to Supreme Court decisions that don't reaffirm every moonbat idea in existence. So, when the Court says that Congress has the Constitutional authority to ban certain late term abortion procedures, the nutbags on the Left go ballistic. And when the Court determines that discriminating because of race is still racial discrimination, liberals have a sort of cognitive dissonance going. Racial discrimination bad! But discriminating so some kids get to go to better schools than others is good! Or something like that.

I wonder, while Specter's pouring over confirmation testimony looking for inconsistencies, could he go back and look at the testimony of, say, Justice Souter? Or maybe Sandra Day O'Connor? Or maybe Harry Blackmun?

I mean, if justices are supposed to decide cases exactly as they were expected during confirmation hearings, then surely those justices deserve the same treatment, right?

UPDATE: The nutroots display an interesting notion about what the interview process is about.
It has long been my view that the Senate should ask specific questions of the views of SCOTUS nominees. They should be able to ask "do you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned?" If the nominee chooses not to answer a question like that, then Senators should vote no on that nominee, or table the nomination until he/she does answer the questions.

Just replace the case
Roe v. Wade with Plessy v. Ferguson and see the reaction from the Left.

Stevens Says 90% Overturn Rate for 9th Circuit Is "Misleading"

In a recent speech at a 9th Circuit judicial conference in Honolulu, Justice John Paul Stevens said we shouldn't read too much into the overturn rate of the 9th Circuit.

The 9th Circuit's dubious record of a 90 percent reversal rate last session, reversing 19 of 21 cases, is "misleading" and does not reflect where it really stands, Stevens said. He pointed out in the Seattle schools case, Parents United v. Seattle School District, 127 S.Ct. 2738, that the 6th and 1st Circuits had ruled similarly and that three appeals courts ruled the same on so-called partial birth abortion cases, which were later overturned. The Seattle schools case, by 5-4 vote, held the city could not use race as a factor in making school assignments.

I have to disagree with Stevens. More 9th Circuit cases end up before the Supreme Court than any other circuit. Why is this? Because the 9th Circuit issues more rulings that disagree with other circuit court. It's only when there's a disagreement between the circuit court that the SCOTUS will typically take up a case, so as to resolve the conflict. And the 9th Circuit cases are reversed nearly all the time. It doesn't seem to me like that statistic can be misread (like so many statistics are). But if you're a guest, it's rude to point out that the carpet's dirty, right?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Cornerstone of Conservative Ideology

Lower taxes? No.

Less regulation of business? No.

Education reform? No.

Immigration reform? Oh, heck no!

No, according to Peter S. Canellos, the cornerstone of conservative ideology is protecting innocent life. Well, he doesn't call it that. He calls it being "anti-abortion," which lets you know where he sits and what he thinks of this cornerstone.

The sheer number of Republican leaders who've morphed from abortion-rights defenders to strict moral opponents invites both skepticism and credulity: There has to be some element of political expediency in all these shifts, but the leading lights of the GOP can't all be craven opportunists. To some degree, at least, they must be mirroring the journey of their constituents.

More than even a few years ago, opposition to abortion rights is now the cornerstone of the conservative ideology. Other conservative positions grow out of its foundations.

Opposing abortion has become a shorthand way of siding with the simple values of the American heartland against the permissive attitudes of the two coasts. By defining themselves against coastal elites, Republicans play into a rich trove of resentment stemming from the notion that people on the East Coast and West Coast don't respect "flyover country."

It makes sense that being "pro-life" takes in more than just opposition to legalized abortion. People who are pro-life tend to favor other traditional values and the rights of individuals over greater government regulation and social permissiveness. In other words, if a person is pro-life, they usually aren't just opposed to abortion. For pro-life supporters, the argument starts with abortion but continues through a host of other issues including parental rights, education, property rights, embryonic stem cell research, and so on.

Canellos says that the abortion issue will sink Rudy Giuliani's presidential hopes, and explains the apparent flip-flops of candidates Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. I'm not convinced that being pro-choice will prevent Giuliani from being the Republican candidate. That will depend largely on how well the Iraq War is going by that time. Let's face it: security and the war will be the big issues of the '08 election because those are the main problems we face right now.

Abortion isn't a big issue currently. We have a more pro-life Supreme Court, which means that we can expect more pro-life leaning opinions in the future. That takes pressure off all candidates on that issue. And while there are people who simply will not vote for a pro-choice Republican, I think that number is relatively small.

I haven't seen any Republican candidate so far that excites me. Like most Republicans who are still looking for a better candidate, I haven't made up my mind who will get my vote in the primary yet.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this morning at about 4 a.m. It took me approximately 16 hours to read the 750+ pages (which is very good for me. I'm a slow reader).

Right now, my husband is closeted away reading it. I can't talk about it to him until he's done.

So, if anybody wants to talk about it in comments, I'd love to. ;)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Judge Dismisses Plame Lawsuit


A federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit filed by former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband against Vice President Cheney and other top officials over the Bush administration's disclosure of Plame's name and covert status to the media.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said that Cheney and the others could not be held liable for the disclosures in the summer of 2003 in the midst of a White House effort to rebut criticism of the Iraq war by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. The judge said that such efforts are a natural part of the officials' job duties, and, thus, they are immune from liability.

"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," Bates wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials."

Did anyone take Plame's suit seriously?

Christian Alternatives to Harry Potter

The Washington Post ran an article yesterday about the growing Christian fantasy market.

Christian fantasy, which had been a slow seller, has caught fire recently, industry analysts say, ignited by the success of the Potter series, which has sent some Christian readers looking for alternatives.

One of the websites I referenced in in this post led me to LaShawn Barber's Fantasy Fiction for Christians site. It doesn't surprise me that many Christians would want to find fantasy works that comport with a Christian worldview. The popularity of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings trilogy speaks to the interest of Christian readers.

According to the WaPo story, Christians can't get enough of the genre, despite the disdain of some churches for Harry Potter.

So, why can't the moonbats just leave Christians to their own versions of fantasy novels? Melissa McEwan, who thought she was unfairly targeted as anti-Christian, earns her bona fides yet again as a true Christian-basher.
Between the ridiculously popular incarnation of clean-slate Christianity currently permeating American culture, and books catering to the idea that it’s possible to live a sin-free life once one’s been “saved,” it’s no wonder there are so many sanctimonious pricks running around, judging and condemning those of us who are just trying to live the lives we were given and exerting no effort to hide that we’re flawed and make the occasional mistake.

The sad and infuriating thing about these wankers is that they don’t even understand the most basic principle of Christianity—if there were such a thing possible as a clean-slate life, there wouldn’t be Christians in the first place. Jeesy Carpenter didn’t crawl up on that cross because no one would ever sin again; he did it because they would.

McEwan's misinterpretation of Christian theology is only surpassed by her pomposity. Is it really possible to be so ignorant of the reasons Christians try to live the sin-free life?

Well, Melissa, Christians think that Christ's death isn't a license for licentiousness. They view it as a reason to try to lead as sinless a life as possible. That is, don't sin because Christ died to save you; try not to sin so you don't make a mockery of salvation. After all, the reason not to sin was because it was an abomination to God, not because it sucks the fun out of everything.

One Guy We Should Be Celebrating

Gregg Easterbrook has a column about the American Nobel Peace Prize winner who isn't Jimmy Carter.

The greatest living American is Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, and joins Jimmy Carter as the two living American-born laureates around whose necks this distinction as been placed. Do you know Borlaug's achievement? Would you recognize him if he sat on your lap? Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize, yet is anonymous in the land of his birth.

Born 1914 in Cresco, Iowa, Borlaug has saved more lives than anyone else who has ever lived. A plant breeder, in the 1940s he moved to Mexico to study how to adopt high-yield crops to feed impoverished nations. Through the 1940s and 1950s, Borlaug developed high-yield wheat strains, then patiently taught the new science of Green Revolution agriculture to poor farmers of Mexico and nations to its south. When famine struck India and Pakistan in the mid-1960s, Borlaug and a team of Mexican assistants raced to the Subcontinent and, often working within sight of artillery flashes from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, sowed the first high-yield cereal crop in that region; in a decade, India's food production increased sevenfold, saving the Subcontinent from predicted Malthusian catastrophes. Borlaug moved on to working in South America. Every nation his green thumb touched has known dramatic food production increases plus falling fertility rates (as the transition from subsistence to high-tech farm production makes knowledge more important than brawn), higher girls' education rates (as girls and young women become seen as carriers of knowledge rather than water) and rising living standards for average people. Last fall, Borlaug crowned his magnificent career by persuading the Ford, Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates foundations to begin a major push for high-yield farming in Africa, the one place the Green Revolution has not reached.

Basically, Borlaug single-handedly allowed the way of life most Americans enjoy. By inventing a process that increased crop yields exponentially, he created a way for food to stay cheap and easily available for both animals and humans.

I was talking to my dad along these lines just last night. One of the golden oldiest station was playing songs from 1969.

"Bread cost 23 cents a loaf in 1969," said the radio personality (are there disc jockeys anymore?), "and the average American made $5,000 per year."

$5,000? That's $2.60 an hour. So, a loaf of bread cost far more than the average loaf does these days (about $2).

If not for Borlaug's invention, that loaf of bread would be far higher and, rather than having a problem with obesity in this country, we'd have more malnutrition.

It's a pity that Borlaug's accomplishments are ignored by our society. And while I don't completely agree with Easterbrook's assessment, he is correct that it's a shame when body counts, political stunts, and a teenage wizard get far more notice than the accomplishments that have enriched all our lives.

Democrats Cut Protection for "John Does" from Homeland Security Bill

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that we haven't had another terrorist attack since 9/11 is because citizens are more alert and aware of what is going on around them, and they aren't afraid to report suspicious activity.

Well, that was true before the the flying imams decided to sue passengers on their flight for reporting their suspicious behavior.

It seemed logical to me that authorities would want citizens to report suspicious behavior rather than ignoring it. Isn't that one of the ways we hope to prevent the next 9/11?

I guess the Democrats in Congress don't think so, which is why they cut language that protects citizens from lawsuit from the final Homeland Security bill.

Congressional Democrats today failed to include a provision in homeland security legislation that would protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack, according to House Republican leaders.

"This is a slap in the face of good citizens who do their patriotic duty and come forward, and it caves in to radical Islamists," said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Republicans wanted the provision included in final legislation, crafted yesterday during a House and Senate conference committee, that will implement final recommendations from the September 11 commission.

There's no reason given why Democrats cut this provision. Suing people who speak up is a common tactic to silence individuals. Without this sort of protection, fewer people will be willing to get involved. And it isn't like people couldn't be charged with filing a false report if that's what happened.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jeromy Brown Hopes He Can Get a Pony, Too

I wasn't going to write about this here, but oh, well.

I posted on Common Sense Political Thought about the celebration going on with the announcement that Jesurgislac wasn't going to comment there anymore.

Jes took up resident at Jeromy Brown's site Iowa Liberal, where Jes has continued peddling the same hash of lies and mischaracterizations as usual: first that I seemingly deleted its comments because I disagreed with them (even though there are lots of comments here that disagree with me) and that I "lied" about the reasons for deleting them. Then Jes went on to lie about why it threw a temper tantrum and left CSPT. Anyone who actually read the comments at this post would recognize why Jes had to lie about the situation (even a Pandagon commenter agreed that Jes's interpretation of events was stretching the truth, to describe it kindly.

But now Jes has found a soul mate in Jeromy Brown, who also believes that if you can't fight the arguments presented, just make up your own version and go with that.

The discussion centered around gay marriage, starting because I praised Dana's arguments at Jeromy's site. Jeromy decided to come to CSPT to debate the issue, sure that he could win any discussion on the issue.

I’ve been stomping on the same-old, same-old arguments for ten years, and every time your ilk just scurries away like rats, going back to your echo chambers where somebody can tell you, “It’s okay, Sharon, teh gay is wrong, the Bible tells me so! Let’s work on some more rhetorical mishmash flabberjabbery to keep them hommasectuals at bay!”

Make your attempt, Sharon, and get yer scurryin’ boots on. (Comment 4)

Well, unfortunately, the discussion didn't go the way Jeromy wanted,but that didn't stop him from talking smack.
Again, Sharon, if you actually want to contribute to the discussion, or support pretty much anything you’ve said, I’m waiting. I’m not sure if my arguments are outstanding, but they’re good enough to handle anything you’ve got, babe. (Comment 5)

This is hardly my first attempt to outline the distinctions, but there you go again. It’s easy for you to claim projection, but I claim it too, Sharon.

And you will steadily realize that on the merits, I shall earn my claim. (Comment 12)

Not because you’re right, Sharon, but because you’re lost without that. The next step is conceding the argument to me, and people just don’t work that way. So I’ll expect your exit soon. (Comment 15)

Well, you get the idea. Every comment ended with the sort of argumentation I expect off a WWE event. Not very enlightening, not very intelligent.

Jeromy's technique reminded me of Wile E. Coyote, super genius. And it had about the same results.

He even went on with this technique at this post, where I showed that there truly is a slippery slope (and not the logical fallacy kind) between gay marriage and polygamy. That is, the polygamists are starting to use the exact arguments used in Lawrence v. Texas.

But the crux of Jeromy's argument is that the Ninth Amendment prevents the state or federal government from denying homosexuals the right to marry. The text of the amendment says:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

How can one construe this amendment to support gay marriage? According to Jeromy, this link I gave him supports his argument. Only...it doesn't.

Jeromy relies on a concurrence from Justice Goldberg that says,
The language and history of the Ninth Amendment reveal that the Framers of the Constitution believed that there are additional fundamental rights, protected from governmental infringement, which exist alongside those fundamental rights specifically mentioned in the first eight constitutional amendments. . . .

But there are a couple of problems with interpreting his statement as an endorsement of homosexual marriage. First, it is a concurrence. That means it isn't a binding opinion, but merely one (or several) justice's theory about why the holding of the case is correct. Only the sections of a ruling in which the majority all agree can typically be considered binding. Concurring opinions are just opinions.

Secondly, while Justice Goldberg may, indeed, have believed that there are fundamental rights protected by the Ninth Amendment, that is an extremely minority view. And more recent case law debunks the theory propagated by Jeromy and his ilk.

There's the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Gibson v. Matthews, 926 F.2d 532, 537 (6th Cir. 1991):
[T]he ninth amendment does not confer substantive rights in addition to those conferred by other portions of our governing law. The ninth amendment was added to the Bill of Rights to ensure that the maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius would not be used at a later time to deny fundamental rights merely because they were not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

And, from the Wikipedia entry:
Professor Laurence Tribe shares this view: "It is a common error, but an error nonetheless, to talk of 'ninth amendment rights.' The ninth amendment is not a source of rights as such; it is simply a rule about how to read the Constitution."[6] Likewise, Justice Antonin Scalia has expressed the same view, in Troxel v. Granville (2000):
The Declaration of Independence...is not a legal prescription conferring powers upon the courts; and the Constitution’s refusal to 'deny or disparage' other rights is far removed from affirming any one of them, and even farther removed from authorizing judges to identify what they might be, and to enforce the judges’ list against laws duly enacted by the people.

But more than just these arguments, there's this argument:
In the libertarian tradition — and (Randy) Barnett is a libertarian — liberty is understood not as the presence of something, but as the absence of something; specifically, liberty is the absence of state action. Or, to put it another way, we’re at liberty wherever the Government just leaves us alone and does not act to restrain us. This is the liberty man possesses in his natural, pre-societal (and pre-governmental) condition, and all the rights found therein are his natural rights. And it is these rights, according to Barnett, that the Ninth Amendment conserves, for these are the rights “retained by the people” even following the establishment of Government.

But a man’s natural rights hardly include the non sequitur of a right to affirmative state action (i.e., the granting of a marriage license) in the service of his personal relationships. Government doesn’t exist in man’s natural, unrelated condition, and he cannot therefore claim a natural right to Government action on his behalf.

IMO, this is the best argument against the Ninth Amendment argument Jeromy tried to use. Our rights are to be free of government interference. We don't have a right to demand an affirmative state action. After all, if Jeromy Brown could demand that gay marriage be legal because of the Ninth Amendment, why couldn't he demand a pony from the government, as well?

The fact is, the best Constitutional argument for gay marriage is a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause one. As a commenter at Right Side of the Rainbow noted, the court hasn't elevated sexual orientation to the status of a "suspect class," which makes an Equal Protection argument unlikely.

Jeromy bragged repeatedly that I would run from his argument because he "always" wins this discussion. I warned him that I didn't run from arguments. Pity he didn't believe me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Death of Reading

Just ran across this opinion piece by WaPo book critic Ron Charles which doesn't exactly blame Harry Potter for the death of reading, but, then again, doesn't think Harry mania has helped.

(A)ll around me, I see adults reading J.K. Rowling's books to themselves: perfectly intelligent, mature people, poring over "Harry Potter" with nary a child in sight. Waterstone's, a British book chain, predicts that the seventh and (supposedly) final volume, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," may be read by more adults than children. Rowling's U.K. publisher has even been releasing "adult editions." That has an alarmingly illicit sound to it, but don't worry. They're the same books dressed up with more sophisticated dust jackets -- Cap'n Crunch in a Gucci bag.

I'd like to think that this is a romantic return to youth, but it looks like a bad case of cultural infantilism. And when we're not horning in on our kids' favorite books, most of us aren't reading anything at all. More than half the adults in this country won't pick up a novel this year, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Not one. And the rate of decline has almost tripled in the past decade.

I love to read and have since I was in elementary school (I still remember how grown up I felt when I finished Little Women--all 500 pages of it--during the summer between fifth and sixth grades). Both my husband and I are avid readers. All the parenting books and magazines will tell you that if you want your children to read, they have to see you reading. You have to read to them when they are young. You have to keep books available to them.

Don't believe it.

I've read to my children literally since they were born. I still remember reading the editorials to my oldest daughter between colic bouts (maybe the editorials caused them? Who knows?). Oldest daughter also was read to on a nightly basis until around third grade when she was expected to read for herself. We've always had mountains of children's books around, thanks to my mother-in-law who likes to clean out the children's book section of Half Price Books every couple of months. And my husband and I read in front of our children. A lot. I've even taken to reading books I loved as a child to my younger children the past couple of summers, even though the kids can read quite well for themselves. So it isn't like they haven't been exposed to the love of reading.

None of my children exhibit the same enthusiasm for a good book that I have. My son is currently mildly fascinated with the books of Beverly Cleary (he finds Ribsy and Ralph S. Mouse particularly interesting), but neither of his sisters has the reading bug.

According to Charles, I'm not alone in noticing this phenomenon.
Unfortunately, the evidence doesn't encourage much optimism. Data from the NEA point to a dramatic and accelerating decline in the number of young people reading fiction. Despite their enthusiasm for books in grade school, by high school, most kids are not reading for pleasure at all. My friends who teach English tell me that summaries and critical commentary are now so readily available on the Internet that more and more students are coming to class having read about the books they're studying without having read the books.

When I was in high school honors English, in my wild rebellious youth, I decided I wasn't going to read any of the books assigned to us my senior year (I despised Heart of Darkness, and considered it my personal albatross, given that every English course I took in college seemed to require its reading). I managed to ace the course through a combination of CliffsNotes, long conversations with less rebellious friends, and the incompetence of the teacher. I haven't yet told my oldest daughter this story since I don't want to give her any ideas nor dispel the notion that I truly was a model student.

But these days, students don't have to read the books or go through a series of gymnastics to garner enough information about the assigned books to pass tests. There's so much info on the internet that, as Charles notes, students simply feel no need to read Great Expectations or To Kill a Mockingbird or The Odyssey.

Why aren't children reading? Well, my best uneducated guess would be that there are so many other things for them to do that reading has gotten crowded out. There's 24-hour cartoon and children's show channels, video games and computer games. Reading takes effort to get a level of imagination going; turning on a video game, even something as mundane as Harvest Moon, is less work and more visually appealing.

Charles also lays the death of reading at the feet of the mass book marketing machine.
According to a study by Alan Sorensen at Stanford University, "In 1994, over 70 percent of total fiction sales were accounted for by a mere five authors." There's not much reason to think that things have changed. As Albert Greco of the Institute for Publishing Research puts it: "People who read fiction want to read hits written by known authors who are there year after year."

I confess that I read known authors, usually tearing through an entire series and then going on to the next (currently, I'm reading all the Richard Jury novels at present) like a pack of locusts through a field.

But the piece Charles misses in his lament is that people who do enjoy reading do it either for information or for pleasure, and, since we are no longer in school, we may not feel compelled to read Bleak House.

Matthew Yglesias wonders why Charles disses Harry Potter fans when they are, at least, reading. I tend to agree. I like the Harry Potter books not because I expect to learn some universal truth but because I believe J.K. Rowling weaves an interesting tale. And evidently, millions of readers agree with me.

Potential Democrat Court Nominees

If anything should energize Republicans to vote, it's the prospect of Democrats nominating Supreme Court nominees, and Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog has a not so short list of potential nominees.

Goldstein's list is interesting for what it tends to focus on: age (between 50 and 60), demographics (no white guys need apply), experience (litigation specialists need not apply), and ideology (no nutroots). It's an interesting criteria designed to gather liberals who aren't too liberal in a day and age where such information would be all over the internet five minutes after the nomination was made public.

Most interesting to me was the age issue. Obviously, Democrats are taking a page out of the Republican playbook of nominating young candidate who would have decades to shape the law of the land. As Goldstein points out, this is a more daunting task for a Democrat president because it has been so long since there was a Democrat in the White House to appoint judges.

The other interesting aspect of Goldstein's list is the color/diversity/gender problem. Because Democrats tend to be so much more concerned about what a person looks like, it limits their ability to nominate white males who might actually advance their agenda. Surely, the first nominee of a Democrat president will be a woman and some sort of minority (perhaps a Hispanic woman? Who knows?). All Goldstein's top picks are female and three of the four are Hispanic (one is black). I suppose when you are most interested in what someone looks like, ideology comes second.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reid to Force All-Night Session

Harry Reid is hoppin' mad that those mean ol' Republicans are acting like the minority party. Why, they are demanding that the Senate actually address their concerns in legislation and not just ram things like that gawd-awful immigration bill through the process without anybody reading it! So now, Reid wants to pull an all-nighter...and not the kind you had in college just before exams.

Forcing his Republican colleagues to put up or shut up on the notion of an up-or-down vote, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just moments ago announced that he will immediately file a cloture motion on the Reed-Levin troop redeployment bill and, if Republicans follow through with a filibuster, will place the Senate in a prolonged all-night session Tuesday to force a true continuation of debate.

"Now, Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end," said Reid. "They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops. They are denying us an up or down – yes or no – vote on the most important issue our country faces."

The Reed-Levin amendment to the Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization Bill requires George W. Bush to "commence the reduction of the number of United States forces in Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act" and mandates a withdrawal of most combat forces by April 30, 2008.

I have to suppress a giggle that Dingy Harry is so upset that he can't get his Support Defeat bill out for a vote. Why, it seems like only yesterday that Reid waxed eloquently on the historical nature of the filibuster (don't let Jeromy Brown know that...he'll swear there's some homophobia somewhere).

Here's Reid in 2005:
A conversation between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington describes the United States Senate and our Founders Fathers vision of it.

Jefferson asked Washington what is the purpose of the Senate?
Washington responded with a question of his own, “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” “To cool it,” Jefferson replied. To which Washington said; “Even so, we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

And this is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail.

It also separates us from the House of Representatives – where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government...Separation of Powers...Checks and Balances.

Mr. President, the filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.

So, there you have it, Mr. Reid. The Republicans are just using the filibuster to keep Democrats in check.

Anonymous Liberal thinks a real Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington-style filibuster would give Republicans such bad press that they would drop it. I guess they don't remember their favorite Senator, Robert Byrd, who used just that sort of filibuster to try to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Remember that? That's the one Republicans supported and Democrats didn't.

Jonathan Singer questions whether it would work better for Democrats this time than it did for Republicans last time. Of course, being a loyal nutroot, he thinks it would. *eye roll*

According to Michelle Malkin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans are happy to debate the legislation.

2d Amendment Case Headed to Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog has the details, but apparently, Washington, D.C. city officials want to challenge the ruling of the D.C. Circuit Court that a city handgun ban was unconstitutional.

I discussed the original decision here.

From SCOTUSblog:

The petition would have been due Aug. 7, but city officials said Monday that they would ask Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., for a 30-day extension of time to file the case. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and city Attorney General Linda Singer disclosed the appeal plan at a press conference, along with local Police Chief Cathy Lanier. (A news release announcing the action can be found here ) The Mayor said: "We have made the determination that this law can and should be defended and we are willing to take our case to the highest court in the land to protect the city's residents. Our handgun law has saved countless lives -- keeping guns out of the hands of those who would hurt others or themselves."

I'm not sure if Police Chief Lanier is smoking the same stuff as former Mayor Marion Barry, but she must be on something to say the handgun ban kept guns out of the hands of bad guys. Given that Washington, D.C. ranked fourth in homicides in 2005, it sounds like the bad guys had no trouble at all continuing to commit crimes.

I'm anxious to see what the Supreme Court will say about this case. There's a clear conflict among the circuit courts, and it would be interesting to see what legal loophole the Court may use not to decide whether the 2d Amendment applies to individuals rather than state militias.

Balancing Work and Career

Virginia Seitz, partner in the law firm Sidley Austin, is the poster child of the part-time lawyer. But in the legal world, there's an interesting definition of part-time.

Although Seitz defines herself as part time, this is the reality: She's in the firm's Washington, D.C., office every day at 6 a.m. and leaves by 2:55 p.m. to pick up her children, 12-year-old Roy and 15-year-old Miranda, from school.

That's a nine-hour day and a 45-hour week. Only a big law firm would call that "part time." A bus driver would be racking up the overtime with that schedule.

The article goes on to describe Seitz's determination to balance work and home in a rather unusual way for the legal world: she gets to work very early, leaves mid-afternoon, and then is fully dedicated to her home life for the rest of the day.
Although many mothers engage in some kind of multidimensional juggling act, Seitz seems to bring a particularly heavy burden of love, anxiety and vocation to the task of motherhood. "I couldn't make any choice that would have a long-term impact on a child's happiness," she says. "I brought them into the world. I feel responsible."

Before she leaves the house in the still-dark morning, she makes sure her children's lunches are packed and the table is set for breakfast. She helps with school ticket sales, car pools and teacher appreciation lunches. She bakes cookies. She sits in the bleachers at baseball games (albeit sometimes while taking a conference call). And although she does work from home some afternoons, she has dinner with her family every single night.

Her regular nine-hour day serves in part as a cushion against the times she has to deal with a child home sick from school or a parent-teacher conference or the other sundry issues that eat away at any mother's day. In other words, not every day adds up to nine hours of face time.

What do her children think of this level of what some might call sacrifice? They don't think about it, Seitz figures. "They expect and believe that I build my life around them," she says. And it's true, she adds. "My feeling is that they should take me completely for granted -- in a polite way."

I have always had the same philosophy about mothering. I told my husband that I want them to think of me as furniture: comfortable and reliable and something they don't spend a lot of time thinking about. But Seitz nails it: they should take us for granted but in a polite way.

Feminists tend to eschew this philosophy, instead focusing solely on the amount of personal pleasure a woman receives from the life she leads (it's all about ME!). They also tend to frown at the obvious guilt involved in a situation like Seitz's, where she is constantly attentive to the juggling act. I'm sure the argument is because Teh Patriarchy is keeping her down.

Yet this woman satisfies not just her family but also her clients. Billing at 60% is no easy task, and Seitz is considered a top lawyer, meaning she goes above and beyond the usual efforts to please clients.

It doesn't sound like an easy life to me, but it does show that when a person determines not to sacrifice their family for their career, it's possible to do it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Who Pays Their Fair Share of Taxes?

The New York Times has an article today on who pays taxes and is it their fair share.

The best source for objective data on the distribution of the tax burden is the Congressional Budget Office. The C.B.O. goes beyond anecdotes and bald assertions to provide hard data on who pays taxes. One can argue about the details of its methods, but there is no doubt that it is nonpartisan and that its tax analysts are some of the best in the business.

The C.B.O.’s most recent calculations of federal tax rates show a highly progressive system. (The numbers are based on 2004 data, but the tax code has not changed much since then.) The poorest fifth of the population, with average annual income of $15,400, pays only 4.5 percent of its income in federal taxes. The middle fifth, with income of $56,200, pays 13.9 percent. And the top fifth, with income of $207,200, pays 25.1 percent.

At the very top of the income distribution, the C.B.O. reports even higher tax rates. The richest 1 percent has average income of $1,259,700 and forks over 31.1 percent of its income to the federal government.

Warren Buffett claims he only pays 17.7% in taxes and that the system is unfair because of it. How does Buffett get away with paying so little in taxes when even the top 1% are paying nearly double that?

The reason lies with where one gains one's wealth. Income taxes are progressive enough, as the C.B.O. numbers show. But since Buffett receives most of his income from dividends and capital gains--which are taxed at 15%--this helps explain his lower tax rate. And, as the NYT points out, much of Buffett's wealth is directly attributable to his ownership of stock in Berkshire Hathaway.

I've always said that the people who complain tax rates aren't "fair" enough are welcome to pay as much as they think would be fair. The problem, of course, is that they don't want their tax rates to go up; they want someone else's tax rates to go up. Generous of 'em, huh?

Unfortunately, the NYT doesn't ever actually define what would be a "fair" tax rate. I'm sure many liberals think it would be only "fair" to tax people who make, say, $100k per year something closer to 50%...that is, unless they make that much. And the IRS figures which shows the percentage of taxes paid by various groups shows that almost all taxes are paid by the top 50% of taxpayers.

This is why tax cuts typically don't do much for the lowest wage earners. Simply put, if you don't make any money, you probably won't get a tax cut (although even the poorest got a raise with the increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit). It always makes me scratch my head when liberals argue about how the poor are screwed in this economy. You simply can't go lower than not paying taxes.

That's why liberals have moved the goal post to include things like insurance in their calculations of whether tax burdens are "fair." But the fact is, even people without insurance can get medical care through public health agencies. It may mean one doesn't get the nice birthing suite at the private pay hospital, but one will still get health care.

But still, we're left wondering what is a "fair" share of taxes? I've never gotten a straight answer from a liberal about what would be a fair share. The way I look at it, they learned at least one lesson from Walter Mondale: don't tell people you want to raise their taxes if you want to get elected. That's why liberals always talk about raising somebody else's taxes instead. Just pray you aren't that somebody else.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harry Potter Book 7

I came to Harry Potter mania very, very, very, very late.

As in last month.

I had studiously avoided reading any of the books or watching any of the movies (well, ok, I did see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone about 14 times, but that was only because the kids played it almost as much as 10th Kingdom.

Don't ask me what finally made me decide to catch up. My husband and father-in-law have been wild fans for years, and even my oldest daughter has seen all the movies. But for some reason, I decided I wanted to catch up before the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. So, I spent the month of June reading all six novels, then watching the four movies in anticipation of the latest movie and book.

I will confess I'm now hooked. So, imagine my joy at reading some Harry Potter speculation on the Volokh Conspiracy. That post led me to HogwartsProfessor.com, possibly the most amazing Harry Potter site I've seen.

We are planning to go to the local Barnes & Noble for the release of the last book. My husband will read it cover to cover as soon as we get home, then I'll read it (and, since I'm a slow reader, it will probably take me two or three days). After that, we have a contest we will be settling.

I told my husband to write down all his predictions for book 7 before we get it, and I will do the same. Then, after I've finished the book, we'll compare and see how we did.

I've already seen some of my theories supported both at the Volokh post and at HogwartsProfessor.com. I won't go into any details about my theories until after I read the book, however, so that we don't spoil anything for anyone who hasn't finished it. But I'd love to hear other people's theories at that point. :)

The Video Games Made Me Do It

The New York Times has a story about a couple so obsessed with the internet and video games that they let their children starve. (Via Ann Althouse).

As Ann points out, this is just a high tech version of an age-old problem: some parents are selfish and neglectful. I've been pretty obsessive about online games and the internet before, but I always managed to feed my kids. In a different era, these parents wouldn't have fed their kids because they were too busy doing something else. It's very, very sad.

They Believe in Free Speech, Don't They?

Not surprisingly, Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment designed to kill the Fairness Doctrine for good.

Michigan Democrat Carl Levin said that the amendment was improper, as it should have come out of the Commerce committee, and was taking up valuable time the Democrats need to undermine the war in Iraq.

I can buy the argument that the amendment should have come out of the Commerce committee, if, indeed, that's where such legislation belongs. But do the Democrats really need more time to secure defeat for our efforts in Iraq?

Allahpundit at Hot Air contemplates how the Fairness Doctrine fares under a Democrat president. And what if the Fairness Doctrine gets applied to the internet where it would curtail nutroot activity? Stay tuned.

Confessions of a Former Liberal

Former BBC producer Anthony Jay explains why the MSM are liberal and why that won't change.

And the starting point is the realisation that there have always been two principal ways of misunderstanding a society: by looking down on it from above, and by looking up at it from below. In other words, by identifying with institutions or by identifying with individuals.

To look down on society from above, from the point of view of the ruling groups, the institutions, is to see the dangers of the organism splitting apart, the individual components shooting off in different directions, until everything dissolves into anarchy. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for order, discipline, control, authority and organisation.

To look up at society from below, from the point of view of the lowest group, the governed, is to see the dangers of the organism growing ever more rigid and oppressive until it fossilises into a monolithic tyranny. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for liberty, equality, self-expression, representation, freedom of speech and action and worship, and the rights of the individual. The reason for the popularity of these misunderstandings is that both views are correct, as far as they go, and both sets of dangers are real but there is no "right" point of view. The most you can ever say is that sometimes society is in danger from too much authority and uniformity and sometimes from too much freedom and variety...

I can now see that my old BBC media liberalism was not a basis for government. It was an ideology of opposition, valuable for restraining the excesses of institutions and campaigning against the abuses of authority but it was not a way of actually running anything. It serves a vital function when government is dictatorial and oppressive, but when government is ineffective and over-permissive it is hopelessly inappropriate.

I can't deny that my perceptions have come through the experience of leaving the BBC. Suppose I had stayed. Would I have remained a devotee of the metropolitan media liberal ideology that I once absorbed so readily? I have an awful fear that the answer is yes.

Journalists are taught (some would say indoctrinated) in school that their job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Indeed, it makes sense that journalists should question authority and institutions since too much authority leads to oppression of individuals.

But as Jay points out, we are possibly going too far the other way these days. Because of the individualization (is that a word?) of culture (through inventions that allow us to pursue our own choices), we are in danger of losing the institutions which bind us together.

In former times, families stayed in one room both for heat and company. They ate collectively because that was how food was prepared. They travelled together because it was safest. And because we stayed in groups most of the time, we developed various cultural norms which bound us together.

But modern life is all about the individual.
It is astonishing how many of the technological inventions of the past century have had the effect of separating us off from the group. The car takes us out of public transport, central heating lets each member of a family do their own thing in their own room, watching their own television, listening to their own music, surfing the net on their own PC or talking to a friend on their own mobile. The fridge, the microwave and the takeaway mean that everyone can have their own meal in their own time. Our knowledge of public events and political arguments come direct from the media rather than from a face-to-face group. We still have some local, territorial group memberships, but their importance is now much diminished and their influence weakened.

Jay's argument is that in championing individualism, journalists discounted the importance of institutions and collective identity, even while identifying with their own collective (i.e., other journalists).

I can testify that when I was a journalist, almost every friend I had worked in media. We all had nearly identical attitudes about politics, religion, education, law, and so on. This is why I don't believe the liberalism of journalists is a conspiracy (something Rush Limbaugh used to say frequently), but rather a result of their environment. If you spend all your time with like-minded people, you all start to sound alike (just visit a few nutroots sites--and a few rightwing ones, as well--and you'll see what I mean).

Jay does an excellent job of explaining all this from a British perspective, but some of his points can apply to the U.S., as well.
It was not that we openly and publicly criticised the government on air; the BBC's commitment to impartiality was more strictly enforced in those days. But the topics we chose and the questions we asked were slanted against institutions and towards oppressed individuals, just as we achieved political balance by pitting the most plausible critics of government against its most bigoted supporters. And when in 1963 John Profumo was revealed as having slept with a call girl and lied to Parliament about it, the emotion that gripped us all was sheer uncontrollable glee. It was a wonderful vindication of all we believed. It proved the essential rottenness of the institution.

Sound like any story we've heard lately?

Again, it's understandable when journalists seem gleeful at the downfall of a Newt Gingrich or, to a far lesser extent, Jim Wright. As the champion of "the little guy," journalists are going to attack the institutions they believe are corrupt. The problem is when journalists attack the little guy's institutions, such as the Catholic Church or even a figure like Jesse Jackson, with whom a lot of the little guys identify. That's when charges of media bias come in.

And those charges are well-deserved. As Jay explains,
Its commissioning editor for documentaries, Richard Klein, has said: "By and large, people who work in the BBC think the same, and it's not the way the audience thinks." The former BBC political editor Andrew Marr says: "There is an innate liberal bias within the BBC".

Most Americans notice that bias, as well. That's why they don't trust many of the stories that appear in the MSM (and, unfortunately, fall for the truly reprehensible crap that appears on the web...*cough*9/11 truthers *cough*).

Defending the little guy is a noble cause, but when one's ideology prevents one from attempting objectivity (something every J-school teaches), that's a problem. But as Jay unfortunately confesses, it's only when you leave the bell jar that you stop believing the liberal ideas.