Archive for October, 2005

An ear for moderation

October 31, 2005

Sen. Evan Bayh continues his visits to important Democratic presidential primary states. His recent speech was said to matter more than most:

His prescription for change — unity, opportunity, real security and accountability — are four themes the moderate Democratic Leadership Council is pushing in a bid to reach beyond the party’s liberal wing and take back the White House and Congress.
Doesn’t do much for me. But maybe I’m so far in the rightwing-extreme camp that I don’t know what "moderates" want to hear.

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In the zones

October 31, 2005

Masson’s Blog continues to collect all the time-zone reaction from around the state (note especially the map in this post, which gives an easy-to-grasp picture of where we are right now). Except for the justifiable consternation over the possibility of St. Joseph and Elkhart counties being in different zones, most of the reaction seems to me to make too much of the issue, which has played about as well as a political process can.

For this to be easy, you’d have to make the case that Indiana should be either all Eastern or all Central. Given the state’s position at the point where the two time zones come together, that’s a tough case to make. Counties adjacent to bordering states are going to want to go with the zones in those states. Out to a certain point, counties adjacent to those bordering counties are going to want to fall in line (again, with the obvious and problematic exception of St. Joseph County). If you accept that two zones make sense, then somebody has to make the decision. No matter where the lines are drawn, or by whom, some people near those lines are going to be upset.

It would make sense for the governor just to declare we want the state to be one zone or the other, and ask the Department of Transportation to act accordlinngly, only if Indiana’s interests were all that mattered. But time zones affect the whole country, so it’s a legitimate federal issue along the lines of establishing a national currency. The DOT is making its judgment based on a sensible criterion — patterns of economic activity — and seeking local input to try to determine those patterns.

This may all be very messy, but it’s federalism in action. Sometimes, it seems there’s not actually a lot of that left.

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Disorderly application of the law

October 31, 2005

What the members of the Westboro Baptist Church do at military funerals is despicable; may they be consigned to the lowest circle of hell. But as a legal matter, should they be really be treated differently from other protestors who protest at other types of events? Yes, charge them with disorderly conduct if it applies. But making such conduct a felony at military funerals and keeping it a misdemeanor at other events doesn’t seem very much like equal treatment under the law. And it’s disingenuous to say that the "public safety" exception, which is why disorderly conduct at an airport is a felony, should be applied here. When a law is proposed, one of the first questions that should be asked is, "Will it apply to all people equally?" If the answer is no, the law is suspect and should face much tougher scrutiny.

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A case about itself

October 31, 2005

Regardless of the circumstances leading up to it, lying to a grand jury is serious and has to be dealt with seriously. I wrote that more than once during Bill Clinton’s legal troubles, and it also has to be applied to Scooter Libby’s problems. If the prosecutor’s allegations are true, Libby’s lies were especially stupid. He was contradicting his own notes, which he had handed over, and he was trying to cover up what apparently wasn’t even a crime.

But that brings up a point that hasn’t been really explored, as far as I can tell. This case was about a very specific law concerning the outing of a "covert" agent. One of the authors of the law says it doesn’t cover this case, and Prosecutor Fizgerald acknowledged as much in his Friday press conference about the indictments. Shouldn’t determining whether the law had actually been broken have come very early in this lengthy case? If that determination was made — that the law had not been broken — why did the case proceed? If it wasn’t made, why in the world not? It appears to an outsider that at some point this case took on a life of its own and became entirely self-referential rather than dealing with any outside substance. Is that the wrong take? (If anybody wants to say the same thing happened in the Clinton case, go right ahead.)

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No intent, no crime

October 31, 2005

See if you agree that this is a case of overzealous prosecution. Two Marion County children engaged in sexual activity with each other other from the time the boy was 9 and the girl was 6 until the time the boy was 14 and the girl was 11. Now the boy, 17 and a high school student, is being charged with child molesting for that activity, even though state law says children that young can’t legally consent, which should mean that they can’t form the proper intent to commit a crime, either. The presecutor seems to agree with this, but then says that "Either the Court of Appeals can weigh in or the legislature can weigh in." Even if the prosecution thinks it has a cleaar victim and a clear perpetrator, this seems like a risky and questionable case.

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Categorically speaking

October 28, 2005

Kitkat You know the Jeff Foxworthy routine, "You just might be a redneck if . . ."? A friend who knows I have cats sent me a link to this site titled "You know you’re a cat person when . . . " I noticed this one right away:

You get birthday cards for each of your cats from family, friends, and the vet. (Bonus if you keep them on the refrigerator for more than a month.)

Pathetic, you’re thinking. That’s not the half of it. The cards I SEND to people are from me AND my cats.

Don’t feel left out if you’re a dog owner. Some of the symptoms seem suspciously similar, though.

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Moore or less

October 28, 2005

Michael Moore edited someone’s particpation in "Farenheit 9/11" in an unfair way to make it come out the way he wanted??!? I’m shocked — shocked and outraged, I tell you. Never would have believed it.

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2,000 and counting

October 28, 2005

It’s no big surprise that as soon as American war deaths in Iraq reached 2,000, a whole lot of people would be using that magic number to advance their own causes. It would be too depressing to list all of them. Here’s one that’s representative of the rest: Stastically speaking, at least 25 of the dead probably were gay. We need to remember that the number is an artificial mark noticed — even anticipated — by people with agendas and ulterior motives. The 2,000th death is just as important, no more or no less, than the first death, and people who forget that deserve nothing but scorn. Putting the deaths in perspective is important, yes, but even that seems oddly out of place.

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Got mine, get yours

October 28, 2005

I don’t especially like "the trolley is going off the tracks and the people who should care don’t" pieces, but Peggy Noonan says it so eloquently. Noonan’s lament isn’t quite the same as Jimmy Carter’s famous malaise speech (in which he didn’t use that actual word); he blamed the American people in general. Noonan zeroes in on a more specific group:

Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they’re living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they’re going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley’s off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I hope she’s wrong and, as she notes, it’s nothing that can be proven. But not once in reading the piece did I think, "Oh, no, that’s not right."

UPDATE: See the two comments attached to post for readers who agree with Noonan. Not everyone does. Phil Bowermaster tells her to cheer up. And Justin Katz wonders if it’s really the "whole ball of wax" that’s falling apart or just an articficial construct.

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Gettin’ kinda chilly in Hades

October 28, 2005

Are you sitting down? Sure you’re ready? Here goes: President Bush has actually proposed a budget cut to offset hurricane-relief spending. Why don’t we just cut federal spending, say, 5 percent a year across the board until it approaches something reasonable.

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The profit motive

October 28, 2005

You know the Rosa Parks story. Now, here’s the rest of the story:

Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem. Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the 19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to segregate the races.

Libertarians keep saying that a government big enough to give us all we want is big enough to take all we have, but nobody listens to us.

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Rice eyes

October 27, 2005

Rice Rice2

The blogosphere is abuzz about USA Today’s doctoring of Condoleezza Rice’s photograph, giving her demon eyes. Conservative commentators see it as just one more example of the mainstream media’s attempts to demonize and marginalize the Bush administration. I don’t disagree that a large part of the media are liberal in general and anti-Bush in particular. But USA Today did acknowledge the inappropriateness of its editing, and I’m inclined to accept the explanation:

Editor’s note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY’s editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.

Besides, I like the demon-eyes Condi. Just imagine arrogant, insufferable foreign leaders being subjected to that steely gaze from President Rice.

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The heart of Condi

October 27, 2005

Condoleezza Rice has moved beyond race, sex, circumstances of birth, all the baggage that weighs most people down, to become a remarkable, unique individual. Some people can never forgive her for that, like this idiot, who thinks she just isn’t black enough and certainly not liberal enough:

When Rice was growing up, her father stood guard at the entrance of her neighborhood with a rifle to keep the Klan’s nightriders away. But that was outside the bubble. Inside the bubble, Rice was sitting at the piano in pretty dresses to play Bach fugues. It sounds like a wonderful childhood, but one that left her able to see the impact that race has in America — able to examine it and analyze it — but not to feel it.

You just think too much, Condi; you have to show ’em that you feel. Bleed a little to show you have heart.

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Don’t joke with the White House

October 27, 2005

The Onion, is, you know, a humor publication. If stuff like this keeps happening, some might suspect that people in the White House have no sense of humor:

"It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28 . . . Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement." Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception.

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Get the point?

October 27, 2005

There is so much room on the Web for people with such specific interests, like this site that is about nothing but pencils. And these folks demand to be taken seriously:

First, no, this site was not created as a joke, and many hours a week and money do not go into it as a joke. If some folks do not like pencils and prefer pens or computers, they are perfectly free not to be a part of our community.

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The light at the end of the bulb

October 27, 2005

I like my brightly lit places; the house is blazing all hours of the day and night. So I hate light bulbs. Friends give me sacks and sacks of them at Christmas, and I still run out before spring ends. I try to stock up at Sam’s Club, but it usually carries only one kind at a time; I need 100-watters and 40-watters, and I can’t tell you how many times it has had nothing but 60-watters.

So I regarded with interest this story about the possibility of the end of light bulbs:

The main light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork.

An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb.

Guess houses will have to be wired a little differently in the future. In the meantime, what do we do with all those light sockets?

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An antiquated system

October 27, 2005

Paul Musgrave on why Indiana needs to get rid of township assessors:

That most assessors are unqualified, failing to meet international standards, surely contributes to the problem. The lack of qualifications stems from the state’s practice of electing its assessors, something which is probably the worst way to guarantee that the laws are faithfully executed. "Assessment," as the report rightly argues, "is a ministerial function requiring technical expertise and equipment. It is not one in which the assessor is an elected representative of the taxpayer" and as such the assessor has no right to exercise his own judgment or apply his own ideas about the law.

Eliminating the township assessor, therefore, does not deprive anyone of representation. But that argument, and many others, will be advanced by those with a vested interest in the current system. And it is only those who have a vested interest in the system who will want to see it preserved. The question is whether this report will give the proponents of reform the tools they need to overcome this resistance.

Musgrave also references this editorial I wrote for The News-Sentinel, noting that Gov. Daniels seems inclined to try to end the township-assessor system. Indiana has long needed to address the entire antiquated township system, but township officials have had enough political clout to block change. Even changing this one piece of the system will be a daunting task.

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Miered in cronyism

October 27, 2005

Virginia Postrel, someone whose opinions are always worth considering, pinpoints exactly what’s wrong with the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:

At 60 years old, she appears never to have had a substantive conversation about law or policy with any friend. She comes from a closed and cronyish legal and business culture and appears to have gotten ahead through a combination of networking, nose-to-the-grindstone diligence, and willingness to do her law firm’s management, rather than legal, work.

UPDATE: Miers has withdrawn her nomination. President Bush’s reason for "reluctantly accepting her resignation" is that some in the Senate were calling for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege. That sounds a lot like the face-saving way out of a doomed nomination suggested recently by columnist Charles Krauthammer.

UPDATE 2: The Miers candidacy was doomed not by Bush’s opponents but by deep discontent among conservatives. This group, Better Justice, was organized as a grassroots movment by some of the most respected conservatives today. Here’s what some of those conservatives have said about Miers. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal gets to the heart of it:

"…on the major legal debates of her time, Ms. Miers has remained largely silent," the WSJ warned that "the lesson of other Republican nominees without such fixed views… is that they always drift to the left once they get on the Court."

"Mr. Bush should welcome an ideological Court fight, both because it would educate the public about the Constitutional issues at stake, and because he ultimately would have prevailed in putting another conservative jurist on the bench. In choosing Ms. Miers, Mr. Bush missed an opportunity for that kind of debate."

"…a Supreme Court fight over legal philosophy that ended in a conservative victory would have demonstrated to the left that Borking no longer works."

For many of us on the right, whether libertarian or conservative, this isn’t about getting someone who will "make the correct decisions." It’s about getting someone on the court who will approach the Constitution with the respect it deserves.

UPDATE 3: What’s next?

If the President goes with his instincts, he will want a conservative nominee, but someone reasonably close to him. That would suggest someone like a conservative Texan, Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen. But Owen may not be acceptable to some Republican moderates in the Senate, and the President would need their support in the face of a likely Democratic filibuster.

Here are some of the likely candidates from which Bush might choose a Miers replacement. Take "likely" with a grain of salt, though. Nobody saw the Miers nomination coming, after all. Lots more links to reactions here.

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Pence’s promise

October 26, 2005

The Chicago Tribune has a nice profile of Indiana U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, who is getting quite a reputation as THE voice of small-government conservatism. This excerpt gives the flavor of the piece:

At a time when much of the Republican base is growing disenchanted with the direction of the party, Pence is emerging as an emphatic and effective conservative voice. Some believe it is only a matter of time before he achieves true national prominence.

"Mike is the tip of the spear for the small-government conservatives in Washington today," said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

His manner may be easy, but his views are unambiguous. He is a dedicated social conservative who publicly criticized the Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), when the former heart surgeon came out this summer in favor of relaxing the federal ban on stem-cell research. And he is a determined budget-cutter who has repeatedly clashed with his own Republican party leaders over federal spending levels.

RELATED: INDIANA PARLEY reports that Pence and Sen. Richard Lugar, who co-authored proposed shield legislation for journalists, have differing opinions over whether bloggers would be covered. Lugar says no, Pence says probably yes.

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Just the (good) facts

October 26, 2005

If a city pays a newspaper $100,000 to print only good news about it, that’s both bad journalism and an outrageous use of tax money.

This story must sound strange to people who live here — such a thing would never happen in Fort Wayne, for the simple reason that our officials would never have to buy good news. They get good coverage just because of what they do, because they are the best people ever elected anywhere. Our city council members are the wisest and fairest in the state, and the mayor sets the standard for what mayors everywhere should be like.

(No checks, please; send cash only)

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Smoke ’em if you can get ’em

October 26, 2005

UPS, in an agreement with the New York state’s attorney, will no longer ship cigarettes to individuals in the United States. The agreement, it is said, is part of the ongoing efforts of federal and state governments to cut down on underage smoking and tax avoidance. Which do you suppose is the most important to all those regulators? Here’s a clue:

States lose more than $1 billion a year in tax revenue from Internet tobacco sales, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Oh, and which oufit do you suppose is the only one left still shipping cigarettes to individuals? Yes, the United States Postal Service, a situation the state’s atorney calls "an embarrassment." I guess.

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He said–they said

October 26, 2005

This is a very ugly, very public dispute among professors at the School of Law at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis:

Mr. Bradford went public in a June 26 column in The Indianapolis Star, alleging he was under fire from Ms. Roisman and Ms. Mitchell because of his political views. The following day Ms. Roisman sent Mr. Bradford an e-mail message demanding "an immediate, unconditional, and public retraction."

He refused, and the two sides escalated their paper war. In July Ms. Roisman filed the academic misconduct complaint against him. He then filed the EEOC complaint against Ms. Roisman and Ms. Mitchell. Three weeks later, Ms. Mitchell filed an academic-misconduct complaint against him. Mr. Bradford then filed his own academic-misconduct complaint against them.

In today’s political climate, this is one of those stories that’s a lightning rod for people all along the spectrum. I don’t doubt that, as a conservative professor on a college campus, Mr. Bradford has faced hostility and, quite likely, some discrimination. But he seems to have, to say the least, some other issues as well. Such public name-calling matches have always been around, but they tend to escalate much more quickly in today’s world of nearly instant communication.

(Via Indiana Barrister)

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It’s about time

October 25, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Masson’s Blog, which has led the pack in the time-zone issue, is reporting the federal Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making on the requests of the Indiana counties wanting to change zones. (He also links to the pdf of the entire 18-page DOT document.) Five counties — St. Joseph, Starke, Knox, Pike and Perry — will have their requests to move from East to Central approved. All the rest were refused, although the proposal is tentative, and the other counties have until Nov. 10 to submit additional evidence. The DOT asks specifically for "convenience of commerce" information that might help it make a final decision.

Masson observes that the "the biggest fish, is of course, St. Joseph County." It’s also the oddest one. Opinion was nowhere near overwhelming for the change, and St. Joe’s "convenience of commerce" is at least as much with the East zones as with the Central zones.

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Sitting down for justice

October 25, 2005

One thing I found interesting in reading all the reports about the death of Rosa Parks is that she wasn’t the first one to refuse to give up her seat on the bus.

At least three other people were arrested for refusing to give up their bus seats prior to the Parks incident; they live in near anonymity today. Parks went on to become an icon who received a host of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Why her? What made her so special?

Very simply, Rosa Parks had greatness thrust upon her — and she answered that call magnificently. She was not the first "Negro" to refuse to relinquish a seat in the "white" section of the bus, but she was among the very select few who had the courage to take a public stand against the prevailing institutionalized bigotry of that dark time.

History is full of people who helped change the world but are as unknown today as the three resisters who came before Parks. In all fairness, for example, Israel Bissell should be more famous than Paul Revere. Revere got captured before he finished the job. Bissell, whose unfortunate name doesn’t rhyme with much, eluded capture and finished the job. And here’s a whole list of heroes that history forgot. (Be sure to read the one about the Choctaw Nation.)

The fact that Parks wasn’t first doesn’t diminish her contribution; in fact, it enhances it. Rosa Parks didn’t help change America by one act of defiance; most of us are capable of such momentary acts of bravery. It’s what comes later, in the Oh-my-God-what-have-I-done? stage, where true courage can be found. She recognized that her act could become a powerful symbol, but only if she were willing to give up here life as she knew it by being at the center of a very long struggle.

UPDATE: Here’s a longer, very thoughtful piece that explores the real story behind the "one woman in a single heroic act" myth.

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Playing it straight

October 25, 2005

Hoosier Brian Lamb, president and CEO of C-SPAN, gets well-deserved recognition by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best leaders. Of all the people on the cutting edge of the information revolution, he has done more than anybody to make government more accessible to more people. The headline says it well: Playing it straight. Here’s the camera, there’s the government, it’s showtime. And don’t miss the Q&A with him.

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