Friday, January 27, 2006

ABC Poll: Is Washington Corrupt?

ABC poll today presents the idea that the general public is upset about the Republican lobbying scandal in Washington.  Which is not surprising.  As with most polls, though, the data rises and falls on the questions that are asked, the sample group, and the trend in data.

The data is fixed (British meaning) to support the case that Bush’s political ethics leave a lot to be desired among the citizens of the U.S.  In this case I would like to talk about trends and the difference over time on some of these poll questions.

1. The first question asks whether you “approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling ethics in government.”  Never mind that it’s a seriously broad question, but since everyone has the Abramoff scandal in their minds, people will generally lean to the disapprove side, regardless of how Bush has performed in other areas.  So the data here makes sense.

                Approve Disapprove
1/26/06 42              56
1/8/06  45              52
12/18/05        48              49
So the statistically minor change in numbers is probably because of the Abramoff scandal.  But it’s not really evident that the President is even involved, and his reluctance to release files in this case is probably due to the administration wanting to review them for forewarning of any appearance (as opposed to actual) of impropriety. 

2. Next question: “Which political party, Dems or Reps, do you trus to do a better job standing up to lobbyists and special interest groups.

                Democrats       Republicans             Neither
1/26/06 46              27                      20
12/18/05        42              34                      17
How to interpret these numbers.  Again, not surprising considering that the Abramoff affair is going to hit the Republicans harder, as they received more money.  Note that they didn’t have a majority of votes in the first place.  My guess is that, despite the majority that the Republicans have had in the past few years, there is a growing number of moderate Republican and Independent voters who have noticed that their representatives, no matter what affiliation, can’t be trusted with standing up to money for influence.

Note that the moderates didn’t flee toward the Democrats, but instead recall why they wanted the Republicans in power in the first place in the early 90s.  It was because the Democrats couldn’t be trusted either.  Whereas the Democrats don’t have that long of a memory.  Apparently.

3. Next question:  “Do you think the overall level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has risen, fallen, or stayed the same with Bush as President.”

What’s interesting is what ABC included as a reference.
                Risen           Fallen          Same
1/26/06 18              43              38
11/2/05 17              43              39
10/29/05        15              46              37
3/27/94 17              24              58
1/23/94 14              23              58
Note that the last 2 dates fall into the Clinton administration.  Also note that it was pretty early in his administration.  Before he suffered the worst of his scandals, so is this a fair comparison?  Nevertheless, there’s virtually no statistical difference between any of the dates listed.  No trend here.

4. “Do you think this case (Abramoff) is limited to a few corrupt individuals or do you think it is evidence of widespread corruption in Washington?”

                Limited Widespread
1/26/06 38              55
1/8/06  34              58
This is going in the opposite direction!  But there really is not enough data to show any sort of trend here.  I think the press is treating this too superficially, in that the real problem is not the lobbying itself but that the system in place allows for so much corruption.  I.E.  corruption is part of the design.  Limiting lobbyists isn’t going to solve the problem.  So this one is meaningless until people understand why corruption is present at all.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Personal Note

My blogging has been kind of uninspired this week. I'm still reading, but not as much as usual. It might be that the SuperBowl is coming up, and I've been reading a bit on that. It might be that I'm lost in visions of shoosing down fluffy white slopes of snow on two waxed boards, as it's ski season and I love to ski.
It might be that I've been pretty busy at work and at home and haven't had the time to come up with too many coherent thoughts. Whatever the case, I was reminded the other day that I haven't put up a post about some geographic issue or a synopsis on another country for a while. So I'll be looking for a good country or something to write extensively on.
Hope that everyone is having a terrific winter.

If you can't beat them - tax them

Oh my. What do you think of this:

Betting that black-market cash can aid efforts to fight crime, a maverick Republican lawmaker is pushing a plan to fund police by taxing drug dealers.

The illegal drug excise tax, patterned after measures adopted in nearly half the country, would set up a state system to distribute tax stamps for illegal drugs and alcohol.

In addition to any criminal fines, dealers busted with drugs or moonshine not bearing the stamps would be assessed the specific tax rates - for instance $200 for each gram of cheap street drugs. The cocaine tax would be $50 a gram.

"It's just our little way of saying 'Thank you' for bringing some money into the state, even though you do it the wrong way," said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy.

Um. Isn't that, like, the state regulating drugs that are considered completely illegal by the federal government? Is taxing these drugs a form of legitimizing their existence? Will the feds take offense to this at all?
Basically, what has to happen is that drug dealers can apparently, go buy the stamps anonymously and then they have to affix the stamps to their product. If the product does not have the stamps on them if and when they are caught, then the financial penalty is far greater than just, say, getting caught with drugs? Isn't this like 6-1/2-dozen the other?
I'm not sure that I agree with Campbell's philosophy on taxation. We don't like what you are doing, in fact if we catch you, we'll throw you in jail. But we'd like to take your money and stick it in our coffers. Does anyone else see that as a problem? Or is it just me?
Roguepundit doesn't see the financial benefit for the state:
Of note though is that few of these laws have ever generated significant revenues (for instance, over $1 million per year), much less maintained that revenue generation after successful legal challenges. And, most of the limited success has been labor-intensive and thus costly. So, the odds of building a self-funding bureaucracy based upon money generated by a drug stamp tax are extremely small.
Campbell seems to be counting on the extra revenue that this was supposed to bring, but the state actually might lose money on this.

Credit where it's due

Ron Wyden, the Democratic Senator for Oregon, has been on my short list for a while for a variety of reasons. Number one of which involves prancing around showing off his pork to all the constituents of this fine state.
But he does do some things right. Or at least OK. He is actively trying to continue the program that funnels federal money to rural counties that maintain federal land. Some of the counties in Oregon and Washington have upwards of 50% of their land base covered by National Forests and BLM land. Since counties get their income from property and business taxes, that land is basically non-income generating. The counties that used to rely on that money to keep schools running and basic services coming are having a hard time making up the difference. Face it, folks, tourism and service industry are not taking up the slack there.
I'm sure the connection to logging scares some urbanites and environmentalists. But, this issue strikes at a key rural concern in most Western states, the high percentage of federal land and how that limits communities. Oregon is one of only five states where more than half of the land is owned by the federal government.
More than half of the land that makes up Josephine and Douglas counties in southern Oregon are covered by federal land.
Just in case you think that this is a recent phenomenon brought about by the decline of the federal timber sales in the last decade:
If it were not for this permanent reservation the lands would gradually pass into the hands of private individuals, lumbering and grazing industries would be built up and the lands would return considerable revenues to the States and counties in taxes. Under present conditions however, these vast areas produce no revenues to support the local governments.

To partially offset these perceived inequities, Congress acted in 1906 to set aside 10 percent of all money received from each national forest during any fiscal year, which was to be paid at the end of each year to the State or territory treasury, and to be expended as the State or territory prescribed for the benefit of public schools and public roads of the county or counties in which the forest reserve was situated.

So Wyden didn't think up this gem on his own, he's just continuing a pretty long tradition of compensating the counties that don't get income from land inside their borders. But at least he's actively seeing to the interests of all of the citizens of Oregon instead of just those in the upper Willamette valley.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Salvadoran Communist leader dies.

Schafik Handal, communist guerrilla leader and head of FMLN in El Salvador just died of a heart attack.  The FMLN got involved in the political process after years of violence and war in the small central American country, and El Salvador is recovering.

A.M. Mora y Leon wonders if a new crop of leftist leaders will emerge, or if the movement will die with him.
I’m wondering whether El Salvador is indicative of what’s going on with religious groups in the middle east suddenly putting down arms and participating in the political process in many countries.  So I’m curious to see what happens on this side of the pond.

Leon also has reports on Venezuela.  The infrastructure is crumbling.
There is one TV station in Venezuela that is defying Chavez’s orders to censor what they report.  They are displaying tremendous courage and professionalism, reporting the facts about what is going on there.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Protest Hugo

Marching in Caracas, Venezuela, here.  Politically, it’s interesting to watch the happenings in our economic trading partners from the south.  I read an article recently that compared Chavez to loads of terrible dictators of the past, and why he was different in his approach.  Where traditional dictators visibly oppress with force, isolate themselves and do their best to coddle western nations (if they can get away with it), Hurricane Hugo changes the rules.

Venezuela presents itself as a Democracy, and Chavez claims authority by the people, no matter how rigged the elections were.  He publicly decries America and President Bush, while making friendly visits to Middle Eastern Mullahs and Islamist leaders.

But will that work?  It’s pretty obvious that, by allowing this to happen without actively suppressing it, that there is a large portion of the population that does not want him there.   And protests like this are only going to bring that fact to international attention.  That along is not proof that Hugo isn’t legitimately the head of state, but exit polls in the last election had Hugo losing pretty badly.

Honestly, I think the only thing that keeps him in power is the oil economy that he can fall back on.  And the main problem there is us.  I mean the U.S., as we buy most of the oil.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sudan reprise

Just in case you weren’t looking (and I know for all the press pays attention to this sort of thing, you couldn’t have seen it anyway), Sudan broke the ceasefire with southern, SPLM controlled, Sudan.  So now they are moving against an area they are committing genocide in and an area they used to commit acts of genocide in.

The article notes that the SPLM was supposed to remove it’s troops out of the invaded area within the year, but didn’t, so perhaps Khartoum just thinks they are forcing the SPLM to comply with the ceasefire accord. 

Let’s just keep an eye on them in the meantime.  I’m not saying they can’t be trusted or anything…

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

Joe Katzman is thinking glass almost empty thoughts on Iran right now.  I’ve lately been hearing very much noise in that direction from many sources.  Indeed, even the EU-3 (England, Germany and France) all realize that peaceful negotiations with Iran at this point are going to be fruitless.  The next piece of the proverbial puzzle for them is that the UN is going to be an exercise in futility as well.

      I do, however, believe the extremist mullahs in Iran mean exactly what they say. They are steeped in an ideology that believes suicide/murder to be the holiest and most moral act possible. They have been diligent in laying strategic plans for an offensive Islamic War against Israel, America and the West. Plans backed by 25 years of action, and stated no less clearly than Mein Kampf. I believe that Ahmedinajad's talk of 12th Imam end-times and halos around his head at the UN aren't the ravings of an isolated nut, simply an unusually public (and unusually noticed) expression of beliefs that are close to mainstream within their ruling class. That class of "true believer" imams and revolutionary guard types have been quietly consolidating their control over all sectors of Iranian society over the last few months, and I do not believe anyone in the world today has both the will and the capability to stop them. A key pillar of The Bush Doctrine is about to fail.

Katzman wonders whether there is going to be some concerted effort to take out Israel and the U.S. to some extent, or if the “inner contradictions of a civilization” will bring down the Muslim civilizations in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Once I thought that, in the wake of what’s going on in Iraq, that we just needed to wait on and support the peoples of Iran, who for the most part don’t agree with the policies of their non-representative government.  However, that may not happen anytime soon.

      Let's get real. Whatever they may think of the mullahs, the Iranian people, and such civil society as they have built in the shadows, have no stomach to seriously oppose them. The mullahs have proven that they are quite willing to kill, with their Basij hitler youth corps and al-Qaeda mercenaries, as many Iranians as necessary. Nonviolent measures like the commendable struggle of decent people like Akbar Ganji or even Ayatollah Montazeri are, in this situation, useless.

Joe also discusses the probable reluctance of the west and the U.S. to do anything, including the fact that Israel might be to constrained politically to perform any sort of pre-emptive response.

He also goes over the options and theorizes that an American strike to Iran’s infrastructure (oil and gas), crippling their weapons programs and driving the economy into the ground.  Promise the opposition aid if they overthrow the mullahs, and sit back and wait.  None of the other world players will have the guts to resist after that, as they have their own concerns to deal with.

So is all this inevitable?

Thomas Holsinger argues that we need to invade, as inaction in the 1930s caused much tragedy and unnecessary effort during WWII.

And, in case you didn't get the title, it was a spoof song in the early 80s played on the radio, sung to the tune of Ba ba ba, ba Barbra Ann.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gonzales v. Oregon cont.

OK, I finally got around to reading some of the opinions in the Gonzales v. Oregon case regarding Assisted Suicide.  I must admit that I'm pretty flummoxed by all this.  Scalia seems on the money that Congress seems to have given the AG the latitude to make decisions like the one he is trying to make, although I do not have access to the legal guidelines that drive his process to add and subtract the list of controlled substances and that control his ability to register and deregister.  Not having that, and assuming Scalia is correct, it would seem he has the legal high ground, if we are talking about following the law as it stands. 

Thomas is also correct that the court isn't being consistent due to it's recent arguments in Reich.  I was disappointed with the legal rabbit trail that decision created. 

However, I still can't help but think that the conservatives are missing something here.  Scalia said:

      It is entirely reasonable to think (as Congress evidently did) that it would be easier for the Attorney General occasionally to make judgments about the legitimacy of medical practices than it would be for the Secretary to get into the business of law enforcement. It is, in other words, perfectly consistent with an intelligent “design of the statute” to give the Nation’s chief law enforcement official, not its chief health official, broad discretion over the substantive standards that govern registration and deregistration. That is especially true where the contested “scientific and medical” judgment at issue has to do with the legitimacy of physi-cian-assisted suicide, which ultimately rests, not on “science” or “medicine,” but on a naked value judgment. It no more depends upon a “quintessentially medical judgmen[t],” ante, at 20, than does the legitimacy of polygamy or eugenic infanticide. And it requires no particular medical training to undertake the objective inquiry into how the continuing traditions of Western medicine have consistently treated this subject.

OK, since this is a value judgment, why does the Attorney General get the say so of what is covered and what is not, when a plurality of the general population of one state declared what they believe is the opposite. 

This seems to be extending from the logical argument Thomas used, in that it is historically consistent for the Federal government to use the commerce clause to restrict activity that it feels is detrimental to the public interest. 

I'm really not convinced that you can compare the transport of lottery tickets and women over state line to what we are talking about here.  It was within the Feds power to restrict that activity because it was truly interstate activity.  Treating women as objects for sale is something that we reached a national consensus on long ago.  Lottery tickets are a strictly economic activity that is state by state regulated, and therefore the interstate transport of these renders it illegal in many states anyway.

I'm not convinced that something that applies to the individual uniquely is interstate activity.
I'm also leery as Kennedy is about broad powers by a partisan-appointed office to decide for himself what is and isn't illegal.  We are restricting and codifying morality here.  I realize it has been done in the past, this isn't a unique situation.  Not knowing what latitude the AG has when making these decisions is my concern.

However, I like I said, Scalia's dissent seems air-tight as far as the strict legality of what powers congress has given to the AG are.  Was congress correct?

Here are the AG’s guidelines as listed in Kennedy’s argument:

      When deciding whether a practitioner’s registration is in the public interest, the Attorney General “shall” consider:

      “(1) The recommendation of the appropriate State licensing board or professional disciplinary authority.

      “(2) The applicant’s experience in dispensing, or conducting research with respect to controlled substances.

      “(3) The applicant’s conviction record under Federal or State laws relating to the manufacture, distribution, or dispensing of controlled substances.

      “(4) Compliance with applicable State, Federal, or local laws relating to controlled substances.“

      (5) Such other conduct which may threaten the public health and safety.” §823(f).

OK, number 4 is really telling the AG that he should be consulting the states for guidance, and since he is battling the state of Oregon he’s not following that one.  But number 5 really supersedes all of the other ones.  How broad a statement is that: Such other conduct.  Doesn’t that give the AG pretty broad power to control whatever substance he wants?

One last note, a reader sends this in support of the majority:

      Realistically, most people who want to kill themselves can do it without a doctor’s approval and State sanction.  Such sanction might actually push the boundaries beyond making suicide acceptable, and eventually invoke pressure to end one’s life if it became inconvenient to others.  That is a definite “public health and safety” concern.  I do think the Federal government has the legitimate moral authority, as the representative body of our nation as a whole, to establish a value for life, and not allowing State sanctioned, or fostered,  suicide is part of that.

Good point.

Oren Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy notes the decision, but only calls it "pretty interesting" and by the way he posted, I'm wondering if he isn't foreshadowing how the court will treat Bush's use of NSA surveillance.

Other than that, the blogs I read haven’t made much noise about it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gonzales v. Oregon

Doctor assisted suicide has been an issue here in Oregon for quite some time now.  Normally I would expect a radical and liberal type issue like this to come up in California first and then slowly make it’s way across the country as the general population succumbs to Hollywood's values.  OK, that’s not an absolute, but there’s no denying that the influence of entertainment on cultural values is great.

So a few years ago the State of Oregon voted, by referendum, to allow doctors to prescribe medication to end the life of an individual who was diagnosed as having an illness or condition that would end that person’s life within 6 months, and that the person would be in great pain and anguish during that interim time period.

Opponents of that measure have been fighting it ever since.  Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Oregon law by a vote of 6-3.  I won’t bore you with who voted against it, you should know the answer to that question.  It’s a left/right hot-button issue, think about it.  (Here’s a history of articles regarding Assisted Suicide at the Oregonian.  It’s not a very complete one, nor do all the links work for some reason.)

Let’s get one thing out of the way:  I don’t like the law.  I have a real problem with doctors helping people to die, instead of helping them to live and heal, as they are supposed to.  It’s part of their oath on becoming doctors.  Surveys have shown that the vast majority of doctors will NOT prescribe terminal medication, and rightly so.  It should be voluntary at the very least.

I also think that the decision to terminate your own life is bereft of wisdom.  That extends from my Christian learning.  I realize that I’ve never been in the position that people in the position of knowing they are going to die are in.  I just can’t believe that I would be willing to out-think God in the decision as to when my life is supposed to actually end.  For a Christian it would actually be an affront to God, basically saying to God, “I don’t like what you have planned here and I’m taking things into my own hands.”  Biblical doctrine states that means pretty crappy afterlife for you.

But, since we life in a secular society here, I’m not sure I can stand up and say that I’m going to use the Government to stop people from making their own decisions in this area.  I’m generally anti-government intrusion into peoples lives, and I’m very much a state’s-rights proponent.  Does the constitution of this country really allow the federal government to control this issue? 

The tool that Atty. General Gonzales pulled out of the federal toolbox was the Federal Narcotics laws.  Remember – narcotics laws are an extension of the modern interpretation of the interstate commerce clause of the constitution.  Since that clause, as well as the issue of state’s rights, is in the middle of so much debate right now, I think that we can add this judicial decision to that fray for both reasons.

The swing voter in this decision wasn’t O’Connor (although she voted in the affirmative as well), it’s Kennedy, no stranger to being the swing man himself, who authored the decision.  Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

      Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker recently explained why Kennedy sometimes parts company with his buddies on the court's hard right wing. Of the court's conservatives, only he has an abiding affection for all things foreign, including—to the intense chagrin of some of his colleagues—foreign law. Kennedy's pragmatic reason for citing to foreign courts as a means of fostering worldwide legal respect is a part of his rather grand vision for the lofty role of the Supreme Court in government.

      But another key to understanding Kennedy's role as a swing voter is simpler: He just really, really likes the power. In his book Closed Chambers, Edward Lazarus, a former clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun, writes that Kennedy bragged about his ability to occupy one of the pivotal positions on the court, deliberately and craftily espousing views at conference that would make him a "necessary but distinctive fifth vote for a majority." Like O'Connor, Kennedy may be a legal politician before he is an ideological purist. And with O'Connor soon to be out of the picture, Kennedy may now get the chance to really make some constitutional hay.

Oh, great, that makes me feel so much better about having him on the court as opposed to Alito.  She pulls this quote from his opinion in the recent gay-rights case:

      ... times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.

You mean like this one?  Or Roe v. Wade? 

I haven’t seen lots of comments on the Blogs yet.  So this is just up for discussion.  Does the constitution speak to this issue?  Do the feds have the right to shut down the State of Oregon by using federal drug laws?

Gore v. Gore

Gateway pundit has the quotes from the Clinton administration, made by none other than Jamie Gorelick, that the President (at the time Clinton) has the constitutional authority to conduct warrantless surveillance and searches in the name of national security.

So it’s either right or it’s wrong, but it’s not Bush’s fault.  So can we have an honest debate without using it as an excuse to clothespin the current President?

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK goodness

Happy Martin Luther King day. 
Just poking in to link to a good post or two commemorating the day and the man.
Powerline has a good one on  some of the letters he sent from prison in Alabama and one from a well wisher after he was stabbed at a book signing before 1960.

Another letter from the Armed Liberal.

While I'm here, check out Michael Totten’s posts on the pyramids at Gaza in Egypt.  It isn’t just a touristy look at the monuments, but Totten’s unique look into the people that he meets and the atmosphere of the city.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What about the women?

In their cover story, World magazine goes after the supposition that women prefer the right to choose what they do with their bodies, and that liberal female congressmen truly represent all the females of this nation.
But what about all the women who have had abortions in the last 30+ years since Roe v. Wade.

A 2005 study added academic weight to anecdotal claims. University of Oslo researchers compared the mental distress of women who had miscarried with those who had voluntarily aborted their pregnancies. While women who miscarried suffered more initially, those who aborted carried lasting emotional scars. After five years, fewer than three in 100 women who had miscarried still experienced mental distress. But one in five post-abortive women still suffered mentally and emotionally and said they had to make an effort to avoid thinking about the event.

Indeed, Susan B. Anthony was anti-abortion, so the equivalence of woman's rights with pro-abortion is fallacy.

Canadian Elections coming up

In case you weren't aware. Paul Martin, of the Liberal party, is on his way out, as the Liberals have been hammered recently by scandals left and right. The fun thing about Canadian politics is that minority parties, forming coalitions, can force elections before they are due. It's called a vote of no confidence in the party in power. If you saw the Episode One of Star Wars, you recall that princess Amidala brought down the chancellor that way, clearing the way for Palpatine's ascendancy. Public sentiment against Martin's stay in the PM spot is at a crescendo, and so the Conservatives are on the rise. Not that I'm equating Stephen Harper with Darth Sideous.
The election is on January 23rd, which is tough for Canadians, as this is winter and parts of the country are going to be under lots of snow and bearing temperatures below zero.
Frankly, the Liberals have enjoyed a pretty long stay in a position of power, or part of the coalition in power, and the rise of the Conservatives is a remarkable thing. One writer remarked that if the Canadians were allowed to vote in the US 2004 elections, Kerry would have beaten Bush by astronomical numbers.
However, even the fairly liberal Canadian press is altering it's direction of fire. Target: Martin and the Liberals.

Porkbusters Alert

If you believe in stopping the coruption and proliferation of federal dollars sucking the taxes out of the average joe, you know that there is a blog out there fighting for you. No, not me.
There is a petition they are creating, not so much to get the maximum number of signatures on, but to illustrate how much of the blogosphere is aware and pushing for change and reform. They are singling out Rep. John Shadegg and supporting him for Majority leader in the House.
This is a great coda to my last post concerning freedom of expression, in that in addition to attempts to supress free speech, those in positions of power only seek to gain more. And doing favors and throwing federal money around is one way to maintain power in a place called Washington DC.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Freedom of Speech at TheGrich

Instapundit didn’t comment on this essay by Brian Anderson, only to say that he “warns of efforts to crush dissent.”  However, I think that he should have said a bit more about this article.  It is very long, and covers a lot of ground, but sums up the dangers of campaign finance reform very well, and with McCain-Feingold on the books and more to come due to the Abramoff scandal on the rise we should be thinking hard about this, as more regulation from congress is likely. 

In a lengthy argument, Anderson lays out the vast territory that campaign finance and other regulatory moves by congress, and supported for the most part by Supreme Court decisions over the last few decades, have crossed in limiting how Americans can express themselves.  So far the majority of this is limitation is monetary contributions and corporate activity, but Anderson wonders where all this is going and what will happen post-Abramoff.

      It’s easy to see why liberals have spearheaded the nation’s three-decade experiment with campaign-finance regulation. Seeking to rid politics of “big-money corruption,” election-law reforms obstruct the kinds of political speech—political ads and perhaps now the feisty editorializing of the new media—that escape the filter of the mainstream press and the academy, left-wing fiefdoms still regulation-free. Campaign-finance reform, notes columnist George Will, by steadily expanding “government’s control of the political campaigns that decide who controls government,” advances “liberalism’s program of extending government supervision of life.”

Anderson is attacking Democrats mostly here, but not without laying ground as to why.  One half of the essay is about what campaign finance proponents are truly after:  government babysitting of political speech and involvement.  Pew Charitable Trusts pushed hard getting the media to convince congress (and the public) that there was massive public pressure to reform campaign financing.

      “The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot—that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform.”

Fortunately for them, no one noticed that it was all fabricated public desire. 

      The ultimate pipe dream of the reformers is a rigidly egalitarian society, where government makes sure that every individual’s influence over politics is exactly the same, regardless of his wealth.

Sound familiar?  Anderson goes over various acts of congress and court decisions in the past 40 years and regulations of the FEC to outline why he thinks the left is up to full control of political speech. 

One of the newest trends resulting from modern technology is the ability to have public journals, blogs, and say whatever you want.  Some of these become quite popular and many talk politics.  However Democrats have those in their sights as well.

      Are the hundreds of political blogs that have sprouted over the last few years—twenty-first-century versions of the Revolutionary era’s political pamphlets—“press,” and thus exempt from FEC regulations? Liberal reform groups like Democracy 21 say no. “We do not believe anyone described as a ‘blogger’ is by definition entitled to the benefit of the press exemption,” they collectively sniffed in a brief to the FEC. “While some bloggers may provide a function very similar to more classical media activities, and thus could reasonably be said to fall within the exemption, others surely do not.” The key test, the groups claimed, should be whether the blogger is performing a “legitimate press function.” But who decides what is legitimate? And what in the Constitution gives him the authority to do so?

Indeed there is precious little in the Constitution that guides the function of the press, other than the part where it is supposedly free to operate without constraint from the government.

Blogs are all about everyday people speaking their mind in a public forum.  Should bloggers have to ask permission to speak their mind?

      All this massively begs the question: Why should any American need government permission to express himself? Instead of a media exemption, blogger Glenn Reynolds sarcastically commented at a recent conference, maybe we need a “free speech exception, in which you are allowed to say what you want about political candidates without fear of prosecution by the government.”

All this is derived from a string of warped logic telling reform proponents that radio time and web site speech is a “contribution” to a politician or campaign.  And how would you value that contribution?  No one really knows, but they would like to guess in order to control it.  How much is it really worth?  Priceless, folks.  The ability to speak your mind in a public forum without censor or government control is the whole idea behind this free society that was created 230 years ago.

Anderson talks about radio and the Fairness Doctrine, which was an FCC regulation that stated if you wanted to air a political talk show with a partisan bent, you needed to have another show on as well that promotes another viewpoint.

Economically infeasible, most media outlets just refused to air any talk shows.  Perhaps there is a reason that more liberal show are not economically attractive to the media industry.  Besides, the number of media outlets, cable, satellite, and the internet today make finding an alternative viewpoint a virtual lock. 

But Democrats want to bring back the Fairness doctrine.

      Small wonder, then, that House Democrats proposed two bills in 2005 to bring the Fairness Doctrine back—and as a law, rather than a mere agency regulation. New York Democratic representative Louise Slaughter, who introduced the first of the two bills, says that Right-ruled radio is a grave threat to American freedoms, “a waste of good broadcast time, and a waste of our airwaves.” People “may hear whatever they please and whatever they choose,” she tells PBS’s Bill Moyers, in a statement as incoherent as it is illiberal. “And of course they have the right to turn it off. But that’s not good enough either. The fact is that they need the responsibility of the people who are licensed to use our airwaves judiciously and responsibly to call them to account if they don’t.”

In other words, we all don’t know enough to police our own viewing/listening/reading habits to get all the information we need to make informed decisions.  Big Brother in the flesh.  Anderson also quotes Gore, Kerry and Howard Dean, indicating that this attitude permeates the Democratic party up and down.

What happened to the Democrats?  Aren’t “liberals” supposed to be the ones that keep government off our backs and support the freedom of the individual?  I try as hard as I must to use the term, “Left” instead of liberal, because you can’t even refer to the prevailing political viewpoints of Democrats as liberal any more.

I think that we, and congress, should be very careful attempting to tread on the rights of individuals while attempting to deal with the Abramoff issue.  It’s pretty evident, if you have been paying attention since McCain-Feingold, that lobbying money and campaign contributions are not the real problem in congress.  Or, rather, you are not going to be able to stop that form of expression apart from outright suppression from the government.  The real problem is how much power and money the government controls. 

As government grows, it controls the flow of more and more federal dollars.  It regulates and controls the flow of goods and the activities of peoples.  The more it does this, the more corrupt individuals can use the government to their advantage.  Trying to stop people from trying to influence congresspersons is proof that we haven’t learned anything from the last 100 years of communism and fascist tyranny.  The only solution to this is to reduce the power, scope and size of our own government.

Powerline also noted this essay by Thomas West called The Liberal Assault on Freedom of Speech, in which he argues that Americans have less freedom of speech today than it has ever had.  Which again is a contradiction, as a “liberal” wouldn’t assault individual freedoms; but I nitpick.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Most stuff the Media isn't telling us

Seriously underreported story out of Italy of three Algerians planning an attack on the US.  The theory is that it would support the surveillance that Bush has authorized.  It was pretty heavily reported worldwide.

Also, people are starting to think that perhaps the attacks on 3/11 in Madrid were NOT caused by Muslim extremists.  The evidence of what bombs were used vs. what were suspiciously left at the scene unexploded don’t match up and the word is finally getting out.

Venezuela sets the price

Robert Mayer has a great post arguing that we should expect that democracies in the middle east are going to be religious and conservative.

      It is therefore reasonable to expect that, if representative elections are held in the Middle East, that the new regimes they produce will not be liberal. So I would like to take Hamzawy’s argument one step further. The question foreign policy makers must now ask themselves is: How do we help create societies in this region that are liberal so that, if elections are held, they produce genuinely liberal governments? Pushing for democracy in the Middle East doesn’t just mean elections. There’s much more. Hitler was able to come to power through elections, after all.

      What needs to come before political reform above all else is economic and legal reform. Property rights, small business, free trade, fair courts, and uncorrupt police forces all have a role to play in creating the basis by which political openness can occur. This basis is economic development. The more money people have, the more of a stake they have in forcing pragmatic governance, and in order for that to happen, it requires them to develop civil society. Opportunity itself is the precursor to liberalism. Political openness will follow naturally, because society will take up that issue itself internally without the need for outside influence.

We’ve seen more of this thing in the far east, which China, Vietnam, and Indonesia in the midst of liberalizing their economies, if not their political systems.  It’s definitely more encouraging than hoping for functional democracy in the mid-east. 

However, there is still hope for Iraq, as the U.S. has tried to instill democracy and reform all at the same time.

And, hey, we might have a revolution in Syria before long.

Haiti elections

Haiti has declared that they will have their first elections since former President Aristide was forced from power last year on February 2nd.  The locals are striking and there has been lots of violence.  Par for the course there in Haiti.  Locals are complaining that the UN peacekeepers haven’t kept the peace.

      "I think the role of MINUSTAH was to bring peace and security - to bring security back, and help the government to carry elections. Elections cannot take place in such an unsecure environment. So, therefore, we think there are enough troops in this country, 7,400 international troops. There is enough know-how and technical expertise in MINUSTAH to basically get in with the minimum casualty in the civilian society, and get rid of the gangs, disarm the gangs," said Mr. Boulos.

OK, Mr. Boulos, what you ‘think’ and what reality is bears some introspection on  your part.  Point to me anywhere in the world where UN troops actually did keep the peace amidst a riotous population or oppressive government.  Really, if Mr. Boulos would note the UN mandate, it will tell him all he needs to know about what the UN is really there for, and it’s not to protect the citizens of Haiti.

One has to sympathize with the locals, even if the elections go forward.  How can you be sure that your elected officials will be able to control the population or if the President won’t be corrupt himself.

More Alito hearings

More on the Alito hearings today.

      Durbin also spent a fair bit of time on the question of discrimination, revisiting the CAP controversy, as well as several specific cases, trying to infer that Alito is insensitive to racial and gender inequity, and also that Alito tends to rule in favor of institutions, not individuals.  (He covered a great number of Alito’s supposed positions and flaws.)  Alito had an answer for everything, since most of what Durbin said was quite a reach, picking a few limited cases to try to claim a pattern.  Alito made the point that statistics are often misused, and that sometimes a pattern can be the result of cause, and sometimes the result of chance.  Durbin brought up a decision from Alito regarding mining, on the surface so that he could say that Alito ruled in favor of the institution, but it was really so that he could repeatedly use the phrase “the crushing hand of fate.”  Durbin likes hyperbole.

      Brownback then went on to discuss Alito’s view of the Constitution and his view of religious liberties.  Alito had some interesting things to say about the Constitution, starting with the opinion that the Constitution means something in and of itself, not what any member of the Judiciary wants it to mean.  A judges job is to interpret its meaning, and to do so the judge must look at the text, and the meaning of the Constitution at its adoption.  He said that statutes change, but the Constitution is meant to endure.  It does so by being a basic structure, protecting fundamental rights, but times change, so the Constitution is not a specific code.  The framers left it for the courts and legislature to apply the principles established in the Constitution.  As regards religious liberties, i.e. displays in the public square, Alito expressed the position that there should be a robust rather than naked public square, with people of all religions and backgrounds able to express themselves, rather than no one being at liberty to do so.

      Coburn covered some of the same territory as the others, but also returned to yesterday’s topic of whether foreign law should influence US law.  Alito’s main point during the exchange was to say that the Bill of Rights’ purpose was to give people rights recognized almost nowhere in the world at the time it was written, so looking to other countries to interpret the Constitution is inappropriate.  Coburn hit on many other topics already addressed at length; Stare Decisis, abortion, Sandra Day O’Connor, and whether Alito was too inclined to the Executive branch.

Mostly the questions seemed a lot like yesterday, covering Abortion, abortion, CAP, abortion, congressional authority, and abortion.  But some action occurred later, to the joy of all of us hoping for some verbal fisticuffs.

      Very fun fireworks between Kennedy and Specter.  Kennedy is still flogging the CAP question that he says deals with the fundamental issues of equality, continuing to try to make it out that Alito is a racist and opposed to women getting an education.  He now wants to subpoena papers from the time that Alito was in CAP.  Specter said he’d consider it, but that Kennedy had never requested it before, so basically it couldn’t have been that important before, or something to that effect.  Specter didn’t get to finish because Kennedy jumped on him, saying that he had mailed a request and he wants an executive session to protest Specter’s ruling.  Specter said he hadn’t made a ruling, since this was the first he’d heard the request, so there was not going to be an executive session.  Specter also said that there could be a difference between what Kennedy had sent and what Specter had received.  Kennedy threatened to call for a vote on executive session over and over until he got what he wanted.  Specter replied with, “I’m not concerned about your threats to have votes over and over again.  You’re not running this committee, and I take umbrage at your telling me what I received.”  These are not exact quotes.  Things were going pretty fast and furious, and voices were definitely raised and agitated.

The subpoena request is ridiculous, though, because, as Specter would point out later in the day, the NY Times got full access to those documents in the midst of their own investigations of Alito, so why does Kennedy need to have some legal action to get them?  Showboating.

The afternoon:

      The topics of the afternoon – abortion, abortion, CAP (now spoken of with impunity by Dems as a radical organization – eventually they will declare Alito a radical himself, without even a blush at how far they have come, from discussing his support for the ROTC to declaring him a racist misogynist), abortion and sometimes abortion.  Oh wait, Biden spoke a bit about maternity leave.  The Democrats have determined what they see as Alito’s areas of weakness, and now are pounding away at the truth until they can reshape it to fit their needs. 

      Biden took the first turn of the afternoon.  His Smoothness actually asked some specific questions, briefly even, and listened to the answers.  His foci were abortion notification, family medical leave, and the inadequate leave provided for women who have complications during their pregnancies.  He questioned Alito’s approach to the Undue Burden Standard and St Sandra’s determination that State statutes that require a doctor to explain the pros and cons of abortion are acceptable, because it is the State’s responsibility to promote life.  Biden protested what he said was Alito’s extension of that to require the notification of a husband.  Almost all of Biden’s questions/statements this time around were related to women’s issues.

      Kyl played advocate for the nominee, really just giving Alito the chance and the impetus to answer some of the other Senators questions again in a way that made him look good.  He focused on –DRUM ROLL – abortion and CAP.  The Republicans are all pretty much filling the same role which Kyl assigned to himself – make the nominee look good.  I won’t bother writing their various approaches to this task, unless any one of them is particularly creative about it.

      Kohl again came back to the main topic of the day when he took up his next turn.  He questioned Alito on why he would answer some questions about his opinion on Supreme Court rulings and not others.  He named specifically the ruling on Brown vs. the Board of Education, One Man/One Vote, and the Griswold decision, which determined that couples have a right to privacy and birth control.  His question was that if Alito would state an opinion on those rulings, and say he agreed with them, why would he not make such a statement on Roe.  Kohl claimed that these other decisions were just as likely to come before the court “on the margins” as Roe, so Alito should feel free to opine about abortion.  Alito’s response pretty much ignored the inanity of Kohl’s saying that issues like Brown were likely to come before the Court again, (can he really believe that the Court’s are going to reinstitute segregation?), and simply said that he had to make a distinction between the other cases Kohl mentioned and Roe, because abortion cases are very likely to come before him, either on the Supreme Court, or the 3rd Circuit.  He said the others are not realistically in question.  I’d love to know where Kohl get the idea that the SC is going to decide that birth control should be at risk.  Kohl moved on from there to immigration, again coming at Alito from the tack that he rarely finds for the little guy.  He said specifically that Alito only overturned immigration judges, in favor of the immigrant, in one out of eight cases.  Alito’s response was perfectly reasonable.  He made the point that Congress has set limits on the Appeals Court’s ability to overturn immigration judges.  The lower Court can only be overturned if it can be concluded that a reasonable person could not have come to the same conclusion.  The Appeals Court cannot make a judgment based on the facts of the case, but only on whether the case was handled properly in the previous trial.   Kohl really had no substantive response to this very reasonable (and deferential to Congress) answer.

And lastly

      Lindsay Graham just said another gem.  They were discussing Princeton again, CAP and Alito being tarred by someone else’s statements, which Alito has vehemently disavowed.  Graham made the point that Alito could be saying he disagrees with racist views simply because now he wants to be on the Supreme Court, and really be a closet bigot.  The Senator said that the thing which made it clear that this was not the case is the way Alito has lived his life.  He said he had reams of testimonials, from African American judges, liberals, and women saying what a good man Alito is, and how much they support him, even while disagreeing with many of his views.  Graham said that he was sorry that Alito and his family have had to go through the smearing of his character in this process.  Here’s the gem – “Guilt by association is going to drive good men and women away from where you’re sitting now.”  Such a good point.  How many people will be willing to go through this process in the future if it is acceptable for even the highest character to be dragged through the mud, rather than judged by his qualifications?


Schumer’s now up, and pounding…Roe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

As Republicans go...

Politics:  This opinion in the Wall Street Journal seems to hint that the Republicans are starting to resemble the Democrats of the 80s and early 90s, in that they are running out of ideas and trying to hold on to power and incumbency at the expense of doing anything resembling achievement or at least reducing the size and weight of government.

This is only moderately good news for Democrats, who won’t pick up nearly as much as a result of this unless they create a few ideas of their own and prove to Americans that they aren’t the Dems we knew in the late 80s and early 90s.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito hearings

A friend of mine has been watching the Alito confirmation hearings in the Senate today.  I read a bit from the blogs and papers, but I liked my friend’s summaries better, so here is most of it.


      The hearings begin in earnest.  These hearings are thus far very like the Roberts hearings.  Same players.  Same approaches.  New Judge, but much the same level of competence, although I think Alito is a bit more forthcoming.  Specter came out hard, right out of the box, on Roe vs. Wade.  His questions were lifted straight out of the last hearings.  What do you think about Stare Decisis?  Roe has been upheld 38 times – does that mean it’s a super precedent?  Alito came back rather forthrightly.  He mentioned that all courts should be insulated from public opinion, and solely concerned with the rule of law.  At the same time, he said stare decisis is the first thing a court must consider when approaching a given case.  He said it’s important for Reliance – the ability of society, lower courts, etc, to know what the law is and how to behave accordingly.  He also said that, while stare decisis is the first consideration, he would not say that no precedent should ever be overturned, but simply that a case needed special circumstances to be overturned.  He said that every time a precedent is reaffirmed it strengthens the precedent, but stare decisis is not an inexorable command.  His main point was that Constitutional principles and rights do not change, but that situations and factual applications to each case do.  He dealt with his own statements on Roe from ’85, stating a personal opinion that Roe was wrongly decided, basically dealing with the difference between the role of an advocate taking a position and a judge taking a position.

      Specter and Leahy both spent considerable time looking at Presidential and Congressional power.  Leahy in particular went after Alito on the issues brought out in the last few weeks about the NSA surveillance, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Presidential immunity vs. Congress’ power to pass laws.  Leahy brought up the recent bill passed by Congress forbidding torture, that the President signed, but with a statement that this basically didn’t apply to him or those under his command.  Leahy’s questioned whether if Congress passes a law making an activity illegal, does the President have the right to immunize himself and those under him from the law?  Alito said that the Bill of Rights still applies during time of war, especially since that’s when there is the most temptation to stray from them.  He said all theoretical issues have practical applications, and that no one is above the law, including the President and the Supreme Court.  He also said, as far as Presidential vs. Congressional powers that there is a “twilight zone” where the President’s power is at its lowest ebb, but questions of the constitutionality of a given law passed by Congress applies.  There was a lot more, about strip-searching 10 year olds and surveilling Quakers, but really I would only put those in as examples of colorful Senatorial oration, so I will not expand on the full content.

      Orrin Hatch spent his whole half hour inoculating Alito from Democratic attacks.  He discussed the hot button issues raised in the last couple days of his CAP membership, and Vanguard recussal issue.  (CAP being a Princeton group he joined in college to protest the ROTC being kicked off Princeton’s campus, which turned out to have had some questionable positions on other issues.  Alito says he was never an active member and was unaware that the group objected to women at Princeton.)  The Vanguard issue is a made up bit of flotsam, a mutual fund where Alito had money when a case came before him.  He didn’t know the conflict, because the person pressing the suit was representing herself, and the standards for paperwork are lower in those circumstances.  He saw to it there was a second trial when he realized the conflict, and the second court upheld his decision.  It’s a silly thing raised to imply Alito has integrity issues, and doesn’t hold any water. 

      Kennedy’s being Kennedy.  He’s using phrases like “an all powerful Presidency.”  Enough said.


      Up to the break there weren’t a lot of fireworks.  The Dems speechified, but didn’t question Alito too closely.  The Senators as a whole spent a whole heck of a lot of time on executive power.  When Grassly came to the plate he mentioned that he had a much more positive view of Alito than Kennedy did, and his only concern was that maybe Alito was too cautious and paid too much attention to precedent.  He brought up search and seizure, surveillance, etc, and gave Alito a good deal of time to actually talk rather than listen to Senatorial Pontification.  The general gist of Alito’s responses is as follows:  There are problems facing government today that the framer’s of the Constitution could not foresee, since cars, telephones, cell phones, the internet, etc. weren’t in existence.  The court therefore has to be guided by the Constitutional principles the framers put in place.  He said judicial restraint is important, that it is hard enough focusing on the matter and the facts at hand, and going beyond them magnifies the chances of getting it wrong.  Congress makes laws.  The judiciary interprets.  Grassly mentioned that Justice Souter said the Court should fill in legal vacuums, the places where Congress had failed to make laws.  Alito disagreed, and also stated that results oriented jurisprudence is never justified.

      Biden’s soooo smooth.  He couches things in such “non-threatening” terms as he’s trying to trap the object of his questioning.  It’s inspirational in a way.  Biden passed a fair bit if his time praising Saint Sandra Day O’Connor.  He claimed that whom Alito would replace was pivotally important, since O’Connor was the linchpin upon which our entire court was balanced, and Alito could shift the balance of power and throw our whole system of jurisprudence into the bleak chasm of chaos and confusion (paraphrase.)  The Smooth One went on for a while about the discrimination SDO’C faced in her younger days, and used that to transition to the topic of discrimination in general.  He made the point that discrimination has become more subtle in recent years, and so it’s harder to make a case.  He tried to prove that Alito comes down too often on the side of the establishment rather than the individual.  He failed.  My question is, if discrimination is becoming more subtle, does that mean that society is changing and it’s no longer as societally acceptable, and thus the laws put in place to stop various forms of discrimination are working?  Based on his questioning I think that Biden would argue that it simply gotten craftier and learned how to go underground.  He dwelled a lot on specific cases, mostly taking a “How could you rule this way.  I’m not judging, just trying to understand, because your rulings baffle me” approach.  <ED: Which says more about Biden than Alito, really. – R>

      Kyl’s only had part of his time.  He’s focused thus far on how foreign law applies to US law.  Alito’s response was that there are times when foreign law applies to some extent - treaty law, for example, or contract law where the parties involved include both US and foreign citizens.  However, he said foreign law should not be used to interpret our own Constitution.  A huge sigh of relief went through the entire Republican Party at this point in the proceedings.

Committee broke for lunch.  Then:

      Hah!  I knew it.  Feinstein hit the Commerce Clause and Congressional powers first, and then went on to Roe.  Feingold is starting right off with the NSA surveillance/ warrantless searches and Presidential crimes.  These people are so predictable.


      Lindsay Graham just got in a good one.  Russ Feingold spent a VERY long time trying to hammer at Alito for potential ethics issues concerning the Vanguard case I mentioned earlier, and his failure to initially recuse himself.  Apparently he had made a promise to the Senate 12 years before, when he was first put on the 3rd Circuit that he would do so, despite the fact that it was not legally required.  Alito basically said he didn’t recuse himself from the Vanguard case earlier because of an oversight and memory lapse, although he corrected the situation when it came to his attention.  Feingold had a very hard time accepting that he could have forgotten the issue after 12 years.  When Graham’s turn to question Alito came he started with a comment that he hoped that the Senators could forgive the memory lapse in the same way they would want their memories to be forgiven when they come before the Judge to be questioned about Abramoff.  Nice shot I thought.

Yes, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve heard from Graham too.  He is putting on the “no nonsense” face for this hearing.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Trees not helping

Just when you thought that we know the scientific answers to world problems, you get smarty pants researchers from back woods universities like Stanford

      Canada's forests may actually worsen global warming rather than cool the planet, says a controversial study by a Stanford University physicist and environmental scientist.

      This doesn't mean we should bulldoze forests to fight global warming, says Ken Caldeira. Forests are still valuable ecological features in many ways.

      But he says it's "premature at least," and maybe even dead wrong, to plant new forests and maintain existing ones in the belief that this will cool the Earth. If we want to stop global warming, he says, we'd better begin by burning less fossil fuel.

And of course our own Oregon State University

      The study, to be published Friday in the journal Sciencexpress and later in Science, comes as conservationists and the timber industry battle over a bill in Congress to speed up the process of evaluating whether to harvest burned trees and plant new seedlings on the millions of acres of national forests that burn every year.

      "These results surprised us," said Dan Donato, a graduate student in forest science at Oregon State University who was lead author of the study. "Even after a huge high-severity fire in a place that is really tough to grow trees we are finding abundant natural tree regeneration."

Just goes to show that there are very few absolute proven truths in science, just theories that everyone is pretty sure are true.  Well, at least they line up pretty well with all the data collected so far.  Well…most of the data.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year

Hope everyone had a happy New Year celebration.  One filled with fun and games, maybe a little partying and no inebriated driving home.  I remember when I was young we would sit in front of the television and watch Dick Clark all night, counting down with everyone when the ball fell in Times Square.  Now days where ever I am, we are usually wrapped up in some fun game or in animated discussion with friends until someone looks up at the clock and notices that it’s about midnight.  This year we just looked up and said, “hey it’s about that time.  Happy New Year!” and then quickly went back to the game.  Just another excuse to have fun and ponder how long it’s going to take before you quit unconsciously putting last years date on your checks.

But in the end, it’s just another day.  The change from 2005 to 2006 is just how we track the passing of time, but it was a Saturday night, and the next morning we got up and went to church, just like every other Sunday.  Paul the apostle once wrote that we shouldn’t take some days as being more important than others.  Sunday isn’t the only day of the week that we should think about God.  Christmas isn’t the only day of the year we should be thinking about Jesus.  God is our God every day.  Creating weekends and holidays are our way of breaking up the monotony and enjoying the time we have here, in this life.  We should be enjoying the time we have, and putting it to good use. 

We spend a lot of time worrying about what tomorrow will bring, and what the meaning of our life is supposed to be, or else we just ignore it and drown that feeling out with lots of partying or work. 

But it’s our final destination that determines how we live.  Those of us who understand that the end is not really the end, live our lives accordingly and take joy in the life that is given to us in the mean time. 

Think about this.  The following is from Steve Jones of

      "When I first started I had it all wrong. I was focused on the mechanics of the walk. It's turned out to be more about the journey."

      That quote is from a story on C|Net about Steve Vaulk's walk across America and it's one that I think is important in life. You can read more about the journey at if you want. It's certainly an interesting story and in these days of "reality entertainment", a potentially profitable one.

      But that quote is something that seems like it's been forgotten around the world, in every industry, not just the health and exercise one. There are sometimes quick fixes and sometimes instant gratification. But in most cases, life is a journey and learning to enjoy the journey, not the end result, is the important thing.

      We have forgotten how to be craftsmen and craftswomen in many cases, forgotten that the time spent accomplishing something is really the time to enjoy. Whether it's writing code or driving in the car with your kids. Life is short, and passes quickly. The older you get, the more you will see this to be true. I measure many things in years now that I would not have imagined even a decade ago.

      Stop and enjoy your life. Look for enjoyment in the little things. The next time that you are annoyed with your kids, your job, or something else, take a deep breath and a minute to reexamine things and enjoy the journey of getting places.

      Or at least think how relieved you'll be when things are over.

OK, except for that last line, I found this statement refreshing in a sense.  I too have gone through periods where I wondered why I do what I do and getting annoyed with little things. 

In a theological sense, I wonder if the Christian life is like the journey that Jones talks about.  Pack yourself, wife, and kids in a car for a road trip.  Are you focused entirely on the destination, or is the drive itself part of the adventure?  Certainly the destination is something to look forward to and is your ultimate goal, but this life is the journey that takes us to that end, and on the way we learn a bit more about God and ourselves.  The direction we pick will determine if we get there at all, and we’ll probably make mistakes along the way, but in the mean time the stuff that happens and the trinkets we pick up along the way are a small part of the big picture, so keep your eye on the goal, and enjoy the ride.

Lebanon the Model

Michael Totten argues that Lebanon is the model for Democracy in the Middle east, not Iraq.  He makes a good argument too, that if Iraq does get out of this crazy democratic birth period and develops a self sustaining, working democracy without the presence of U.S. troops, it will be the 2nd successful democracy in the middle east, not the first.