Sunday, June 29, 2008

Disgrace

Meet Rep. William Delahunt (D, Mass.). During a House committee hearing last week, Rep. Delahunt decided to sink his teeth into Cheney chief of staff David Addington. In a particularly digraceful moment, after Addington noted that certain details could not be discussed due to the fact that C-Span was broadcasting the proceedings, Delahunt noted his pleasure that, finally, Al Qaeda has a chance to see what Addington looks like.

This cannot be construed as anything other than a statement of encouragement for Islamic terrorists to target an official of the Executive Branch. Here's the exchange:



A disgrace. Delahunt should be censured at the very least. Unfortunately, no Congressional Democrat seems to have any problem with what Delahunt did. Power Line has much, much more.

Voila! Introducing ... Viola.

I am tickled to death to introduce you to a dear friend of mine (nom de blog: Viola), who shall soon be joining and contributing to our little corner of the Interwebs. Unlike Benedick and me, Viola is not an attorney, so that's already one reason to like her very much. Amongst the other reasons: she is smart as a whip; she is a boffo economic-type person and yet is still witty, cool, and fun to be around; and, as I have been trading creative writing samples with her since our early high school days, I can personally vouch for the fact that she is one heck of a writer.

After working in the venture capital field, Viola studied at the London School of Economics, spent a year in a mostly-unstable South American country trying to streamline its sputtering economy (bringing home with her a fluency in Spanish, a beginner's guide to avoiding kidnapping and the like, and a darling little bunny rabbit named Ailey - because he dances), has traveled in Africa, and now has an M.B.A. to add to her impressive resume. Though I confess that my wee lawyer brain doesn't fully understand what it is that she does in her workaday life, I do know that one of her primary areas of focus is getting the economies of developing countries to, well, work. Thus, Viola's take on things will likely be more economically- or efficiency-driven than my own or Benedick's -- or maybe I am just talking out of my backside. Time will tell!

With that as background, I yield the stage. Welcome, Viola! It's good to have you here.

BENEDICK ADDS: I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Viola as well. Though I haven't met her personally, our correspondence and Puck's endorsement have me excited about her contribution here at PR. By the way, Viola, you're officially in charge of anything that involves math.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Burge on Court, Iowa Floods

For modern-day political satire, it just does not get any better than Iowahawk. To read his humorous take on three recent Supreme Court opinions, click here. For a laugh about the Iowa floods, try this.

Warning: if you're prone to the odd snarf and want to protect your keyboard, don't eat or drink while reading.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why is Blogspot...

eating my paragraph separators?

Feh!

BENEDICK: Because they are tasty.

The Couth and Maturity of Liberals

As usual, on full display in San Francisco, where there is a voter movement to rename the city's sewer treatment plant after President George W. Bush. That there are at least 8,500 people in San Francisco who think this is a good idea is very disturbing.


I wonder what would have happened if a group of conservative-minded folk tried to get a local brothel named after President Clinton?

Mac vs. PC

Over at NRO, Jonah posits a metaphor; I think he's on to something:
Liberalism promises an Apple government. One that is seamless, smooth-running, sleek, chic and aesthetically uplifting. It is a world of Deweyan positive liberty, where the government takes so many of the hassles out of life that it liberates you to be all you can be. That's why liberals think the extra money is worth it. And frankly, if government could be an Apple government, I think the money would be worth it.

But Apple government, call it MacTopia, is fool's gold. It will always be a PC government, because that's what government is: a bunch of perpetually outmoded parts that have trouble talking to each other. It sells itself as the cheap fix but ultimately costs you more because of its constant system errors, freeze-ups, and faulty patches that only kick problems down the road. It is a system of impenetrable jargon designed not to improve efficiencies but to empower the bureaucrat-technicians who wield a gnostic-like power over the rest of us simply because they know what gets plugged in where and what an alt-dot-sys-bat file is. Citizens must take their word for what we need because the PC government system is rigged to keep us in perpetual stupefaction about how the system works.

If there is a MacWorld (aside from the magazine), it is the private sector. Consumers matter more in the private sector than citizens do in the public one. The private sector is set up so that the people are happy with what they get. In the public sector the system is set up so that people have no choice but to stick with it (just look at school choice where liberals want to take scholarships from poor black kids for the good of the public school system). The government can — and sometimes does — borrow good ideas from MacWorld, but it cannot be MacWorld because the incentives are different.

*Update: Yes, I know Microsoft's Mac development unit is called "Mactopia." The irony is not lost on me either. This is the equivalent of a bunch of bureaucrats, idealists and hacks promising that their collection of schemes amount to a "Great Society."

Doesn't that ring true?

Still Packin'

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced its much-anticipated decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, a case that teed up the issue of whether the Second Amendment preserves the right of private citizens to keep handguns in their homes for personal protection.

Justice Scalia, writing for a 5-4 majority, concluded that citizens do have such a right and that it is not tied to participation in any state militia.

The origin of the case was a claim by Dick Anthony Heller, 66, an armed security guard, who sued the District of Columbia after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Heller's favor and struck down Washington's handgun ban, saying the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to own guns and that a total prohibition on handguns is not compatible with that right. Today's opinion affirms the appellate court's holding.

The opinion is limited, however, and does not create free-fire zones or dramatically change the status quo in America. It specifically acknowledges that regulation of gun ownership is permissible to some extent, such as restrictions on gun ownership by felons and the mentally handicapped, or the possession of guns in areas such as school zones and government buildings. In other words, it formalizes the common sense approach to gun ownership that has largely prevailed for centuries. Most existing state and local laws regulating gun ownership will stand; others -- those, such as D.C.'s, that overreach -- will undoubtedly face challenges by the NRA in weeks and months to come.

Regulated gun ownership makes sense. If an armed individual breaks into your family's home with intent to do physical harm, what can you do? Call the police? Will the police get there in time to intervene? Can you be sure? Do you simply hide and cower? What about the children down the hall? The government can only do so much. Individuals must be empowered to protect themselves when nobody else is in a position to do so. Reasonable regulation of gun ownership is appropriate, of course, so long as it isn't inconsistent with this basic right of self-defense.

PUCK ADDS: This is good news, particularly after yesterday's jurisprudential belly-flop. I particularly like this quote from the majority opinion (penned by Justice Scalia), responding to Justice Breyer's proposal for an "interest-balancing" approach to the constitutionally-enshrined right to bear arms:

We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding “interest-balancing” approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government – even the Third Branch of Government – the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth [his emphasis] insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope is too broad. (emphases mine)
You bet. Liberals, take note: if you want to take away a right reserved for the people in the Constitution, amend the freaking Constitution. Was this a not-so-subtle message to the five who signed onto the no-death-penalty-for-child-rapists opinion? I think so.

BENEDICK ADDS: I've now had a chance to read the opinion, and -- in addition to being forcefully persuasive -- it is absolutely replete with delicious Scalia-isms. Here are a few quotes:
JUSTICE STEVENS is dead wrong to think that the right to petition is "primarily
collective in nature."

* * * *

But it is easy to see why petitioners and the dissent are driven to the hybrid definition. Giving "bear Arms" its idiomatic meaning would cause the protected right to consist of the right to be a soldier or to wage war—an absurdity that no commentator has ever endorsed . . . . Worse still, the phrase “keep and bear Arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.” Grotesque.

* * * *
If “bear arms” means, as the petitioners and the dissent think, the carrying of arms only for military purposes, one simply cannot add “for the purpose of killing game.” The right “to carry arms in the militia for the purpose of killing game” is worthy of the mad hatter.

* * * *

Faced with this clear historical usage, JUSTICE STEVENS resorts to the bizarre argument that because the word “to” is not included before “bear” (whereas it is
included before “petition” in the First Amendment), the unitary meaning of “to keep and bear” is established . . . . We have never heard of the proposition that omitting repetition of the “to” causes two verbs with different meanings to become one. A promise “to support and to defend the Constitution of the United States” is not a whit different from a promise “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And On A Decidedly Less Funny Note...

The Supreme Court today held that imposing the death penalty on a child rapist amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

I have gone back and forth on the death penalty. I know all the arguments about how it costs more to kill a prisoner than feed and house him for the rest of his life in prison. I admit that there is something inconsistent about being against abortion -- which I am, in most but not all cases -- but pro-death penalty. And there's always that nagging doubt: what if the man on death row is innocent?

But when it comes to pedophiles, who do this (warning: very graphic), and who, according to recidivism rates, are damn likely to do it again the instant they get out of prison (and they will get out), there is no doubt in my mind that we would be better off with such persons six feet under. And soon.

So from a moral perspective, this decision disappoints.

From a legal perspective, this decision flies in the face of the Constitution. As Matthew Franck points out, on NRO's Bench Memos:


Ed Whelan has already quoted some of Justice Kennedy's "insufferable blather," including his statement that “[e]volving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person”— the rapist, that is. That paragraph ends with this:

"[R]etribution [as a rationale for punishment] . . . most often can contradict the law’s own ends. This is of particular concern when the Court interprets the meaning of the Eighth Amendment in capital cases. When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint."

These are the accents of the moralist and the legislator. They are not those of a judge adjudicating a case under the law of the Constitution. But Anthony Kennedy has never known the difference.
Precisely. For more analysis of this case, see here, here, and here.

Oh, and if you were wondering how the presidential nominees -- one of whom may be appointing as many as two or three justices over the next four to eight years -- responded to the opinion, John McCain said the following:


"As a father, I believe there is no more sacred responsibility in American society than that of protecting the innocence of our children. I have spent over twenty-five years in Congress fighting for stronger criminal sentences for those who exploit and harm our children. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an assault on law enforcement’s efforts to punish these heinous felons for the most despicable crime. That there is a judge anywhere in America who does not believe that the rape of a child represents the most heinous of crimes, which is deserving of the most serious of punishments, is profoundly disturbing."
The Obama response:

*crickets*

UPDATE: Senator Obama says he disagrees with the decision. Good for him. As Geraghty at NRO's The Campaign Spot points out, however, "Too bad all his favorite justices disagreed with him."


BENEDICK ADDS: I've gotten squishy about the death penalty in my adulthood, and for reasons beyond the obvious horror of the prospect of innocent people being put to death. The idea of the state ending a life, under circumstances unrelated to an immediate need to preserve the life of another, simply pinches a philosophical nerve.

That said -- this is the sort of issue that, under our system of government, must be answered either by legislatures or by constitutional amendment. It's not for the courts. They can (and do) interpret the Eighth Amendment to "adapt" the law to modern sensibilities, but doing so tramples the very notions of federalism and separation of powers.

The point is -- if some specific principle is so deeply and widely held by the American conscience that it should be universally enshrined for all citizens and all levels of government, subordinating all other laws and regulations, then it's important enough to be specifically enshrined in the Constitution. You want the death penalty to be off limits altogether? Amend the Constitution. If you can't muster the votes for ratification, that's clear and convincing evidence that your principle doesn't warrant universal application, and our system is designed for state and local government to approach the issue in the way that best meets the expectations and sensitivies of those particular communities.

(Ditto for abortion, by the way.)

Now, this case is a little bit different There are crimes for which the death penalty would be "unusual," even if not "cruel." For example, it would be unusual to put someone to death for the crime of tax evasion, and so I think courts would act properly if they struck down a hypothetical law that made tax evasion a capital crime. Child rape is clearly a tougher call. Do I think the Court got it wrong? Yes. Because I think close calls like this one are supposed to be made by legislatures. That's their job.

Mile-High Comedy

The Democrats are feverishly preparing for their national convention in Denver, which is set to begin August 25th. Today's Wall Street Journal unveils some of the rather peculiar preparations and arrangements that are underway. It's a veritable cornucopia of feel-good, interest-group-pandering nonsense that beautifully illustrates the just-can't-help-themselves penchant of liberals for expensive, intrusive fluff. Examples:
The host committee for the Democratic National Convention wanted 15,000 fanny packs for volunteers. But they had to be made of organic cotton. By unionized labor. In the USA.

Official merchandiser Bob DeMasse scoured the country. His weary conclusion: "That just doesn't exist."

Ditto for the baseball caps. "We have a union cap or an organic cap," Mr. DeMasse says. "But we don't have a union-organic offering."
That's officially the first time I've ever seen or heard the term, "union-organic offering." I hope it's the last.

So, other than fanny packs and hats, what else does a political convention need? Why, balloons, of course. How complicated and expensive can that be?
Convention organizers hired the first-ever Director of Greening, longtime environmental activist Andrea Robinson . . . . To test whether celebratory balloons advertised as biodegradable actually will decompose, Ms. Robinson buried samples in a steaming compost heap. She hired an Official Carbon Adviser, who will measure the greenhouse-gas emissions of every placard, every plane trip, every appetizer prepared and every coffee cup tossed. The Democrats hope to pay penance for those emissions by investing in renewable energy projects.
I see. Director of Greening. Official Carbon Advisor. Check and check. Testing the biodegradability of balloons. Check. Running around with a clipboard counting how many lightbulbs are on. Check. Is there any way to make this more complicated still?
Decked out in green shirts, 900 volunteers will hover at waste-disposal stations to make sure delegates put each scrap of trash in the proper bin. Lest a fork slip into the wrong container unnoticed, volunteers will paw through every bag before it is hauled away. "That's the only way to make sure it's pure," Ms. Robinson says.
Pure trash. I was thinking the same thing.

Well, okay, the Democrats are the only people who care about the environment, so I guess we can expect and accept some of this sort of silly eco-showmanship. But how about the really basic things, like, say, food? How could the Dems possibly complicate food? Well they wouldn't be liberals if they didn't impose intrusive and ill-conceived restrictions -- you know, for the good of the people:
Among [the restrictions]: No fried food. And, on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include "at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white." (Garnishes don't count.) At least 70% of ingredients should be organic or grown locally, to minimize emissions from fuel burned during transportation.
So not only are the Democrat Overlords controlling what their delegates are allowed to put in their bodies, but they're mandating that those substances conform to appropriate, pre-selected symbol-colors.

Local vendors are doing their best to play along (probably with no shortage of forced, nervous smiles), but a few cracks are starting to show:
Laura Hylton, general manager of Biscuits & Berries catering, agrees in principle. But she has been testing her recipes using local ingredients for weeks and still can't get the green peppercorn sauce right when she uses white Colorado wine. The state's high-altitude wine industry took off in the early 1990s and produces some award-winning labels, but Ms. Hylton says diplomatically, "It's a little...lacking. Our wineries out here aren't what you'd see in California or France."

Joanne Katz, who runs the Denver caterer Three Tomatoes, will take one for the green team by removing her fried goat-cheese won tons with chipotle pepper caramel sauce from the menu. But she questions whether some of the guidelines will have the desired earth-saving effects.
What's that, Ms. Katz? These regulations are not only impeding private businesses from efficiently (and effectively) doing what they do best, but they might be ineffective to boot?

Can anyone say "microcosm"?

Seems to me, the Dems should take all that money they're spending on Directors of Greening and Official Carbon Advisors, and hire themselves a Common Sense Inspector and an Abject Silliness Detector. I might apply for such a gig, but I don't accept payment in carbon credits.

PUCK SAYS: It's become a cliche, but the Democratic Party has gone beyond parody. This is the party I grew up believing was the epicenter of all that was good and decent and common-sensical in government.

But Ho-lee-Jeez. They have morphed into a bunch of *@&!ing loons.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again

This just in: scientists announce they've discovered a "wonder drug" that can cure shyness.

I thought it was called beer.

I'm Shocked, Shocked

Last Thursday: Israel and Hamas declare truce.

Yesterday: Hamas rains rockets down on Israel.

Rinse. Repeat.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bold, Brilliant . . . But Look Over Here!

John McCain today proposed offering a $300 million prize to any company that can invent a car battery that is 70% more efficient. It's an idea that amounts to a Manhatten Project for energy in the private sector.

It's brilliant, of course, which is why the AP article covering it devotes half its space to flogging the McCain campaign for an aide's off-the-record -- and completely unrelated -- remark earlier that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil would help McCain's campaign. (Which, by the way, is true. Another attack would indeed have the effect of shaking a large number of complacent voters out of Hopey-Changey Land and back into the reality that millions of Muslims want to kill us.)

Pay no attention to the old man with the realistic policy agenda. More Hope! More Change!

Scott in the NY Post

I've written previously about my occasional correspondence with Scott Johnson, one of the three bloggers at the indispensable Power Line.

Today Scott has an op-ed published in the New York Post. In it, he explains why Obama's view of the struggle against Islamic terrorism as a mere law enforcement problem is as dangerous as it is divorced from fact.

I think calling it the "law enforcement" approach is too kind. I'd go with "ostrich theory."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Few, The Proud . . .

. . . The Soon-To-Be-Making-John-Murtha-Pay.

You may recall the case of the Haditha "Massacre," in which eight U.S. Marines were accused of slaughtering innocent Iraqi civilians in cold blood. The Marines insisted, to the contrary, that they had been trapped in a vicious firefight and simply did what they were trained to do in an effort to survive; indeed, according to the servicemen involved, most -- if not all -- of the civilian deaths attributed to Marine ordnance were in fact caused by a terrorist-planted IED (improvised explosive device).

The issue received extensive media attention in late 2005 and throughout 2006, as mainstream outlets and Democrats jubilantly smeared the U.S. "stormtroopers" and "jackbooted thugs" for "crimes against humanity." Comparisons to the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam abounded. Political pressure mounted, and the military filed knee-jerk criminal charges against them.

One of the most notable condemnors of the accused Marines was U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D. Pa.), who (despite having served as a Marine himself decades ago) could not resist his party's eagerness to condemn U.S. military personnel for partisan reasons. Said Murtha: "There was no firefight, there was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

And so criminal proceedings commenced in December 2006. Since then, however, the charges against six of the eight have been dismissed, most recently those pending against Col. Steven Folsom. Another Marine, Lt. Andrew Grayson, was aquitted outright of all charges. Presently, only Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani still faces charges, and -- given the other outcomes in this matter -- it seems only a matter of time before Lt. Col. Chessani is vindicated as well.

So, what does Rep. Murtha have to say about this? Any apology for smearing his fellow Marines. Nope. He has refused, on camera, to revisit his judgment -- notwithstanding clear evidence to the contrary. His conduct is no less than an outrage.

Which is why I'm heartened to learn this morning that Lt. Col. Chessani is exploring a lawsuit against Murtha for fueling the baseless proceedings against the Marines with his ignorant (and, legally speaking, slanderous) public comments.

Of course, the entire Haditha issue has likely slipped from your attention over the last year or so. Why? Well, as soon as the cases against these servicemen began to fold like bad poker hands, our beloved mainstream media outlets decided the matter wasn't interesting anymore (didn't fit the narrative, you see). As attorney Brian Rooney (himself a Marine) noted, the New York Times featured the case on the front page when it was being compared by war critics to the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam. But now, with evidence the Haditha accusations were a smear, the story has been relegated to the back pages.

It can be difficult to successfully sue a sitting Congressman for slander; there are braod protections for public statements by public servants on matters of public import. But reckless or intentional conduct is not necessarily privileged under applicable precedent. If nothing else, I hope Lt. Col. Chessani's lawsuit proceeds so that Murtha's calumny receives a public airing and all the outrage and scorn that ought justifiably follow.

Of course, Democrats in my home state of Pennsylvania will continue to re-elect Murtha, no matter how outrageous his conduct (or how crooked his dealings, for that matter).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tee Hee

Obama Campaign To Muslims: Get Out of the Picture!

I'm No Economist....

... but this sure makes an awful lot of sense.

High oil prices are at the root of high gasoline prices. And behind those prices is the basic law of supply and demand. In recent years, the world's demand for oil has grown dramatically. Meanwhile, the supply of oil has grown much more slowly. As a result, oil prices have risen sharply, and that increase has been reflected at American gasoline pumps. Now much of the oil consumed in America comes from abroad — that's what's changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. Some of that energy comes from unstable regions and unfriendly regimes. This makes us more vulnerable to supply shocks and price spikes beyond our control — and that puts both our economy and our security at risk.

In the long run, the solution is to reduce demand for oil by promoting alternative energy technologies. My administration has worked with Congress to invest in gas-saving technologies like advanced batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. We've mandated a large expansion in the use of alternative fuels. We've raised fuel efficiency standards to ambitious new levels. With all these steps, we are bringing America closer to the day when we can end our addiction to oil, which will allow us to become better stewards of the environment.

In the short run, the American economy will continue to rely largely on oil. And that means we need to increase supply, especially here at home. So my administration has repeatedly called on Congress to expand domestic oil production. Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal — and now Americans are paying the price at the pump for this obstruction. Congress must face a hard reality: Unless Members are willing to accept gas prices at today's painful levels — or even higher — our nation must produce more oil. And we must start now. So this morning, I ask Democratic Congressional leaders to move forward with four steps to expand American oil and gasoline production.

First, we should expand American oil production by increasing access to the Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS. Experts believe that the OCS could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to match America's current oil production for almost ten years. The problem is that Congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s. Since then, advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills. With these advances — and a dramatic increase in oil prices — congressional restrictions on OCS exploration have become outdated and counterproductive.

Republicans in Congress have proposed several promising bills that would lift the legislative ban on oil exploration in the OCS. I call on the House and the Senate to pass good legislation as soon as possible. ...

Second, we should expand oil production by tapping into the extraordinary potential of oil shale. Oil shale is a type of rock that can produce oil when exposed to heat or other process[es]. In one major deposit — the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — there lies the equivalent of about 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That's more than three times larger than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. And it can be fully recovered — and if it can be fully recovered it would be equal to more than a century's worth of currently projected oil imports.

*snip*

.... In last year's omnibus spending bill, Democratic leaders inserted a provision blocking oil shale leasing on federal lands. That provision can be taken out as easily as it was slipped in — and Congress should do so immediately.

Third, we should expand American oil production by permitting exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. When ANWR was created in 1980, Congress specifically reserved a portion for energy development. In 1995, Congress passed legislation allowing oil production in this small fraction of ANWR's 19 million acres. With a drilling footprint of less than 2,000 acres — less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this distant Alaskan terrain — America could produce an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil. That is roughly the equivalent of two decades of imported oil from Saudi Arabia. Yet my predecessor vetoed this bill.

In the years since, the price of oil has increased seven-fold, and the price of American gasoline has more than tripled. Meanwhile, scientists have developed innovative techniques to reach ANWR's oil with virtually no impact on the land or local wildlife. I urge members of Congress to allow this remote region to bring enormous benefits to the American people.

And finally, we need to expand and enhance our refining capacity. Refineries are the critical link between crude oil and the gasoline and diesel fuel that drivers put in their tanks. With recent changes in the makeup of our fuel supply, upgrades in our refining capacity are urgently needed. Yet it has been nearly 30 years since our nation built a new refinery, and lawsuits and red tape have made it extremely costly to expand or modify existing refineries. The result is that America now imports millions of barrels of fully-refined gasoline from abroad. This imposes needless costs on American consumers. It deprives American workers of good jobs. And it needs to change.

So today I'm proposing measures to expedite the refinery permitting process. Under the reformed process that I propose, challenges to refineries and other energy project permits must be brought before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals within 60 days of the issuance of a permit decision. Congress should also empower the Secretary of Energy to establish binding deadlines for permit decisions, and to ensure that the various levels of approval required in the refinery permitting process are handled in a timely way.

With these four steps, we will take pressure off gas prices over time by expanding the amount of American-made oil and gasoline. We will strengthen our national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil. We will benefit American workers by keeping our nation competitive in the global economy — and by creating good jobs in construction, and engineering, and refining, maintenance, and many other areas.

The proposals I've outlined will take years to have their full impact. There is no excuse for delay — as a matter of fact, it's a reason to move swiftly. I know the Democratic leaders have opposed some of these policies in the past. Now that their opposition has helped drive gas prices to record levels, I ask them to reconsider their positions. ....


In case you are wondering, the proponent of these eminently sensible ideas is your president: George W. Bush.

Now, someone explain to me why any of the above are bad ideas.

Techno-Creepy

Video game icon Sega has just released a robot girlfriend for lonely old men.

"She" purportedly kisses, sings, dances, and -- I'm not making this up -- hands out business cards (must be a cultural thing).

Still unclear: Whether "she" takes two hours to get ready for dinner or hoardes shoes like a Nazi logistics officer.

Major Drawback: She's 15 inches tall.

Unsolicited Confession No. 7

I fear that if aliens ever formally visited us, and if it were decided to send an ambassador from Earth to visit the aliens' planet, and if I were selected to be that ambassador, I'd get there and probably wouldn't like the food.

PUCK ADDS: I suspect there'd be lots of things you wouldn't like, big guy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Victoria's Secret Sued for Defective Underpants

Because a little old lady nearly put her own eye out trying on a thong. There was a little metallic thingie attached to the thong. Said metal thingie -- faced with the prospect of spending its useful life adorning a granny's backside -- decided that it rather would not, and jumped for it. Granny got zinged in the eye by the metal thingie, and now she wants some dough.

There are so many things wrong with this story. The very first one, though, is: 52-year old women should not be wearing thongs.

Benedick, I'm sure you'd agree.

BENEDICK ADDS: Well, it all depends on the 52-year-old woman, really. Right, Bo?


[Bo Derek. Date of Birth: 20 November 1956]

Iraqi Pols Snubbed by Obama

The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens reports a few observations from visiting Iraqi Provincial Governors. Among these: Obama wouldn't meet with them; Democrats' insistence on squandering our military's successes (and sacrificing the future of the Iraqi people) terrifies them; and so does the naive insistence of Democrats that we must sip tea with the man who once personally executed American hostages in Tehran.

Read it all.

Canada's New Fascism

Puck and I have written here on several occasions about the "Human Rights Commissions" that have popped up all over Canada to punish citizens for having impure thoughts or for expressing unpopular (read: contra-liberal-dogmatic) views.

Today Jonah Goldberg briefly offers his take on this phenomenon. Jonah, of course, is the author of the outstanding Liberal Fascism, which you should acquire and read post-haste, if you haven't done so already.

Offering a brief summary of the case against conservative columnist Mark Steyn, Jonah points out that the response from mainstream American media has been frighteningly muted:
As the Atlantic's Ross Douthat observed, the New York Times' only story on the case suggested "that the 1st Amendment is a peculiar and quite possibly outdated feature of the American political system, along the lines of, say, the electoral college or the District of Columbia's lack of congressional representation." By implication, it also lumped Steyn in with rabid Nazis and Holocaust deniers.

Without outlining what Steyn wrote, the Times launched into a discussion of how "hate speech" is treated in the U.S. and elsewhere. Quoth the Times: "Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France."

Left out of this fascinating tour of speech-control laws around the globe: Mark Steyn is no Nazi, and whatever one makes of his arguments, it is disgusting to insinuate otherwise. If Steyn were in the cross hairs for defending abortion rights, I suspect the New York Times would be more careful about leaping to Nazi comparisons.

But it seems that throughout the West, "leaders" are willing to accommodate those who would stifle, intimidate or, ultimately, ban free speech, all in the name of "tolerance." You could read all about it in Steyn's book. It's not banned -- yet.

Anyone who's attended college in the U.S. over the last two decades is familiar with this phenomenon. "Liberals" are all too eager to punish speech that challenges their orthodoxies. I wonder what might happen if a Democrat-dominated Congress were to join forces with a "Progressive" President and an activist judiciary.

Bah. Not to worry, I suppose. "Change" is a good thing, right?

Equal Opportunity Racism?

Remember when New Orleans flooded and Democrats lined up to accuse the Bush administration of racism because of FEMA's lack of alacrity?

What, then, to make of Iowa?

Apparently, "George Bush doesn't care about white people," either.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gore Vidal Is An Ass

Interview here.

The man strains the limits of pomposity, arrogance, and mean-spiritedness. (Perhaps unsurprising from the foremost liberal "public intellectual" of the last half-century?)

I find the bits about John McCain and William F. Buckley the most reprehensible and the most telling.

Monday Monday

Sorry for the unanticipated hiatus. A crowded workweek was followed by a full social calendar over the weekend (which is nice). This week may actually be travel-free, so I'll try to get some momentum back, particularly as I was fortunate enough to run into some old friends and colleagues on Friday who mentioned that they still check out Primary Reason from time to time. So -- you know who you are -- thanks for the motivation.

Let me kick off the week with a brief movie review (spoilers ahead). Saturday I went to see M. Night Shyamalan's new thriller, "The Happening." Ever since the success of "The Sixth Sense," Shyamalan has famously disappointed audiences with "Unbreakable" (which I actually enjoyed), "Signs" (which I kind of enjoyed), "The Village" (which nobody enjoyed), and "The Lady in the Water" (which nobody saw). The standard knock on Shyamalan has been that, while he does a great job of creating mood, he props up shallow storytelling with dishonest "Gotcha!" twists at the end. This is partly a fair criticism. The twists are undeniable (though he denies them). Yet I think they worked in "Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," and "Signs." The twist at the end of "The Village" made me want to track down Shyamalan and punch him in the face (I resisted temptation). I don't remember much about "The Lady in the Water," including with the twist was, and I think it's an evolutionary defense mechanism at work, with which I am loathe to interfere.

Enter "The Happening." I went in with low expectations but some measure of hope, given the dark, creepy subject matter revealed in the previews (humans suddenly start killing themselves off in huge numbers) and the fact that this is Shyamalan's first R-rated film. To be sure, from the opening scene on, there was no shortage of truly chilling "happenings." The main problem with the story is that the principal character (played by Mark Wahlberg) posits an explanation for the rash of mysterious behavior fairly early in the movie, and subsequent events and dialogue passively accept and confirm that hypothesis -- with the effect that the final hour or so becomes little more than agonizingly slow anticlimax. And far from any sort of paradigm-shifting twist at the end (which I was praying for), the final scene -- while significant to the film's "resolution" -- was in no way a surprise, and left me feeling cheated.

So far, the only critic I've read who enjoyed the film was Roger Ebert, and purely because the film is built on ominous environmental themes, and Ebert's slightly to the left, politically, of Michael Moore. Nobody else, including me, recommends seeing it. Instead, spend your $10 on one of the fine superhero movies (e.g., "Iron Man," "The Dark Knight," "The Incredible Hulk," or the less conventional "Hancock") that are gracing the big screen this summer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What A Waste

It's about 78 degrees out, clear skies, a gentle breeze, and I'm sitting in a windowless, hotel conference room listening to lawyers depose a pharmaceutical company executive about pricing formulas. In West Virginia, no less.

One highlight: for technical reasons I can't quite explain, our court reporter did manage to engage in a brief conversation with a recording of her own voice . . . without realizing she was talking to a recording of her own voice.

Since I'm posting, I might as well provide something other than cinema verite. Herewith, the latest reason to wonder whether I'm disappointed or relieved to have been a small child rather than an adult during the '70s.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Obama's "Community"

Prepare to gag. Power Line (via Little green Footballs) exposes goings-on at Obama's website.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Beatdown

Yikes. I don't think I'll be peeking at my portfolio this afternoon.

On Target

Another successful missile-interception test by the U.S. military.

Given the proliferation of nuclear weapons and worldwide advances in missile technology, aren't you glad our shores are protected by such a system?

Not Barack. He wants to cut it.

I'm sure such a show of goodwill (read: stupidity) will persuade those who daily clamor for our deaths to change their jihadi ways.

Clint Makes My Day

Clint Eastwood has been a target of whiny criticism from Spike Lee lately, owing to the fact that the Eastwood-directed Flags of Our Fathers, a portrayal of the men who famously raised the American flag over Iwo Jima, doesn't feature enough black characters.

This week, Clint fired back, unloading his magazine in a newspaper interview. A few (breathtakingly, wonderfully un-P.C.) excerpts:
"He was complaining when I did Bird [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker]. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that's why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else." As for Flags of Our Fathers, he says, yes, there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima as a part of a munitions company, "but they didn't raise the flag. The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn't do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people'd go, 'This guy's lost his mind.' I mean, it's not accurate."

He's just warming up, folks.
Lee shouldn't be demanding African-Americans in Eastwood's next picture, either. Changeling is set in Los Angeles during the Depression, before the city's make-up was changed by the large black influx. "What are you going to do, you gonna tell a fuckin' story about that?" he growls. "Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I'm not in that game. I'm playing it the way I read it historically, and that's the way it is. When I do a picture and it's 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people."

Wait for it . . .
Eastwood pauses, deliberately - once it would have provided him with the beat in which to spit out his cheroot before flinging back his poncho - and offers a last word of advice to the most influential black director in American movies. "A guy like him should shut his face."

I wish I could have been there to hear him say that. The hard-ass anti-criminal streak that fed his protrayal of Dirty Harry Callahan hasn't faded either, apparently:
There are actually echoes of Dirty Harry in Changeling, Eastwood says, and he's not making any concessions to liberals: "I get a kick out of it because the judge convicts the killer to two years in solitary confinement, and then to be hanged. In 1928 they said: 'You can spend two years thinking about it and then we're going to kill you.' Nowadays they're sitting there worrying about how putting a needle in is a cruel and unusual punishment, the same needle you would have if you had a blood test."

Spike should probably let this one go. Even at 78, Eastwood could break him in half. But, hey, maybe the punk feels lucky.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Anti-Flatulence Vaccination

For sheep and cattle.

Wives everywhere are intrigued.

"Amazing Poise and Character"

That's how my friend (a/k/a Puck's husband) aptly summarized the video at this link, when he emailed it to me this afternoon.

The More Things Change . . .

Check out this eerily relevant Time essay about Middle America, from January 1970, honoring the "Middle American" as the Person of the Year for 1969. (As familiar as the themes are, so is the subtle, loving condescension in which Time swaddles its protagonist.)

High-brow journalistic sneer notwithstanding, herewith a couple of poignant excerpts:
Viet Nam the war, which has claimed so many of his sons, leaves Middle American in a moral perplexity. Most probably agree that the U.S. commitment was a mistake in the first place. Yet they want "an honorable withdrawal." The idea of a U.S. defeat troubles them. Edward Looney, a Brooklyn bus driver, lost a son a year ago; he was killed by a misdirected American shell. "We may find out some day that what we're doing in Viet Nam is wrong," he says, "but until then, it's my country right or wrong."
Replace "Viet Nam" with "Iraq." Sound familiar?
Where will the Man and Woman of the Year be led by their discontent? The left sees the nation already on the edge of a long night of repression. Nixon, says the left, is subtly calling forth the night riders. The liberal-oriented National Committee for an Effective Congress worries that the Administration is molding the Middle Americans into a respectable new right based on the militant Goldwater morality. "The Administration is working the hidden veins of fear, racism and resentment which lie deep in Middle America," says the committee in its annual report. "Respect for the past, distrust of the future, the politics of `againstness.'"

Replace "Nixon" with "Bush." Sound familiar?

On the whole, the piece reads largely like a National Geographic description of a strange, recently discovered sub-Saharan species. Neverthess, this odd species is appropriately credited with practicality, common sense, and instinctive resistance to political movements that are predicated on the inherent evils of America.

I do hope the Middle American of 2008 lives up to this legacy.

Another Step Closer to the Singularity

Self-replicating robots.

We are doomed.

A Sign of Progress?

Iran threatens to sue western nations for damaging its reputation. Apparently, asking the IAEA to take Iran at its word when it announces its uranium enrichment program is de facto defamatory. Silly? Perhaps. But isn't filing bogus lawsuits to hold others accountable for your own lack of personal responsibility, and maybe even make a quick buck in the process, a sure sign of progress toward a "liberalism" American liberals can believe in?

Damn straight.

John Edwards, call your office.

"Elvis Has Left The Building"

That, of course, is one of the signature exclamations of long-time Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play caller, Mike Lange. It usually describes a goal that puts the game away for the Pens. Unfortunately, last night Elvis left the building in the guise of the Detroit Red Wings, and he took the Stanley Cup with him, as the Wings defeated the Pens to take the series 4-2. I was there; it wasn't pretty.

As disappointing as the Pens' loss is, however, the veteran Red Wings truly were the better team and deserved to win this series. I have no complaints. What the very young Penguins accomplished this season far exceeded anyone's reasonable expectations. They'll be wincing for awhile, but they should be proud of themselves. Their fans surely are proud of them. The city's excitement going into next season will be at an all-time high.

Sadly, we now enter that purgatory of the sports calendar between hockey season and football season when the only thing to watch is baseball. Or, as I like to call it, paint drying. A baseball game is three hours of alternately standing around on the field or lounging in the dugout, punctuated by occasional, ever-so-brief bursts of mild physical exertion. Too tedious to endure, unless experienced live, with beer, and next to my Dad.

Steelers training camp starts when?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Accomplished Candidates

This morning at Power Line, Scott Johnson parses last night's speech by Barack Obama. Scott notes that Obama's in the habit of vaguely paying lip service to John McCain's "many accomplishments" as a prelude to dismissing them.

Scott proposes McCain begin to acknowledge Obama's "many accomplishments," and as explicitly as possible. Scott's first draft for inclusion in a McCain stump speech:
Senator Obama, I honor your work in the private sector for a year or two after you graduated from college, and I honor your work for three years as a community organizer. I understand that as a community organizer you pressured city authorities to remove asbestos from the Altgeld Gardens apartments in 1986 with at least partial success.

When the on-site manager of the apartments didn't take action, you nudged the residents into confronting city housing officials in two angry public meetings downtown. These generated "a victory of sorts," you said later, as workers soon began sealing the asbestos in the buildings, even if the project gradually ran out of steam and money and even if some tenants still have asbestos in their homes, according to current resident Linda Randle, who worked with you in the '86 anti-asbestos campaign.

When you chose to quit organizing the South Side of Chicago after three years, your good deeds did not stop. You rendered valiant service by attending Harvard Law School and winning your first election as the president of the Harvard Law Review.

Your service to the Harvard Law Review did not bring an end to your remarkable benefactions. You returned to Chicago, where you won election to the Ilinois state legislature before the triumph that brought you to the Senate for the past three-and-a-half years. We all know your accomplishments in the Senate.

And last, but far from least, I honor your authorship of Dreams From My Father, a memoir that has spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. You, sir, have served our country with uncommon distinction.

Heh.

Love Is....

...opening the bathroom door to find your two-year old daughter sitting, fully-clothed, on her potty seat, her banged-up copy of Goodnight Moon on the floor beside her, and her hands busily unstreaming the entire roll of toilet paper and stuffing the t.p. into her potty.

It just doesn't get much better than that.

Your "Fair Share"

One of most reliable, long-standing liberal talking points is that the "rich" don't pay their "fair share" of taxes, and that until they start paying their "fair share," the poor are definitionally being unfairly taken advantage of. Those who've worked hard, built careers, and attained financial success are cast as selfish robber barons.

This is the theme that inspires Obama (and virtually every other liberal politician) to insist that we must raise taxes on the "rich." It drives opposition to tax-cutting policies of fiscal moderates and conservatives.

Nevermind that the wealthiest 1 percent of the population earn 19 per­cent of the income but pay 37 percent of the income tax. Nevermind that the top 10 percent pay 68 percent of the tab. Nevermind that, meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent—those below the median income level—now earn 13 percent of the income but pay just 3 percent of the taxes. Nevermind that these are proportions of the income tax alone and don’t include payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

And so liberal millionaire blowhards like Al Franken and Keith Olbermann harangue those of us among the "rich" who don't have lucrative showbiz gigs but who've neverless applied our hard-earned educations into good-paying careers. They chide us for our selfishness. They insist we're oppressing the poor.

Well, perhaps they should lead by example.

Franken, it was recently reported, owes some $70,000 in unpaid taxes in 17 states. Olbermann, for his part, is delinquent to the tune of $150,000 in back taxes in California and New York, stretching back as far as 2000.

What's going on? Absent-mindedness? Naked hypocrisy? Well, perhaps this sheds some light (and note: this is not a right-wing blog -- it's an editorially liberal Philadelphia publication):
Is it OK to cheat on your taxes? A total of 57 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” said yes in response to the World Values Survey, compared with only 20 percent of those who are “very conservative.” When Pew Research asked whether it was “morally wrong” to cheat Uncle Sam, 86 percent of conservatives agreed, compared with only 68 percent of liberals.

Interesting.
A study by professors published in the American Taxation Association’s Journal of Legal Tax Research found conservative students took the issue of accounting scandals and tax evasion more seriously than their fellow liberal students. Those with a “liberal outlook” who “reject the idea of absolute truth” were more accepting of cheating at school, according to another study, involving 291 students and published in the Journal of Education for Business.

Not shocking.
Liberals were more willing to “let others take the blame” for their own ethical lapses, “copy a published article” and pass it off as their own, and were more accepting of “cheating on an exam,” according to still another study in the Journal of Business Ethics.

You don't say. Folks, when people sign on the the leftist dogma that there are no absolute truths -- that everything is relative -- it's not difficult to understand why they find it easier to bend rules or to apply them selectively. That's why liberals so unabashedly assail one of the most fundamental absolute truths held by American conservatives -- that the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law to all citizens. Does this mean there aren't conservatives who cheat on their taxes? Of course not. But those tax cheats, unlike Franken and Olbermann, haven't made a career of chiding others for their so-called greed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Daily Horoscope

Gemini -- June 3, 2008:
Every movement you make should be made carefully today -- you must consider the effects of your behavior. This doesn't mean that you should avoid moving forward on anything, it just means that you have to be aware of the consequences of your actions. By being more aware, you will be better prepared to handle any objections or negative reactions that may pop up from coworkers or siblings. You don't want to make them think you aren't considering them.
Translation: Look out, dude. Today is going to suck big-time.

EVENING UPDATE: Yeah, it pretty much did -- for me and for Puck (for vastly different reasons). Cue Li'l Orphan Annie . . . .

Monday, June 02, 2008

Meanwhile, In the "Other" War

Anyone who looks beyond the New York Times for information about our military's efforts knows that things are going extremely well in Iraq. What's less widely reported is that things in Afghanistan seem to be moving along nicely as well, at least according to the British media.

This will certainly be confusing to Barack Obama, who as of two weeks ago was complaining that the Afghanistan effort was being hampered by a lack of Arabic translators (notwithstanding that Afghanis don't speak Arabic -- oopsie).

If only we'd pulled all our troops out two years ago, none of this inconvenient success would be spoiling the liberal narrative of unmitigated failure.