Wednesday, May 31, 2006

U.S. Economy Needs Guest Workers

Irish Pennants reminds us that one reason so many illegal immigrants have come to the U.S. is because our economy produces enough jobs to employ millions of illegal immigrants while our country has only 1.4 million long-term unemployed citizens. That gap has to be filled one way or the other. A guest worker program makes sense in the context of our economic situation.

The problem is how to control the foreigners who come to the U.S. to work. Currently, the control is virtually absent. Border control is not adequate to keep illegal immigrants out. Enforcement within the country is not adequate to prevent illegal immigrants from finding employment. Employers that try to verify the worker's status may even subject themselves to discrimination lawsuits, thus reducing whatever desire they may have to weed out illegals.

Our economy needs guest workers. However, effective enforcement is a necessary component of any guest worker program.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Senate Confirms Hayden to Head CIA

After all the ranting and raving about the NSA programs to intercept Al Qaeda communications and to collect phone call data, the Senate decided the complaints were not well founded. In voting 78-15 to confirm General Hayden, the Senate clearly decided not to hold his role in these programs against him. That would not have happened if the Senate truly felt that the programs were illegal or improper.

Here are the 15 senators who voted against confirming Hayden:

Bayh (D-IN)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Obama (D-IL)
Specter (R-PA)
Wyden (D-OR)

The list includes 14 Democrats and only one Republican (Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania). The senators voting for confirmation included several critics of the NSA programs, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

What happened to the argument that the NSA programs violated the law and did not contribute to national security? Oh well, never mind. When it came down to a serious vote on someone involved in the NSA programs, most complaining senators ignored their own critical statements.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Will Immigration Be a Partisan Campaign Issue?

Votes on the immigration bills in Congress reveal a partisan divide on what to do. The House bill, essentially an enforcement-only bill, is a Republican measure and passed with only 17 Republicans voting against it.

The Senate bill is mainly a Democrat proposal, despite the support of the President. It is a comprehensive bill, providing amnesty-like treatment for illegal immigrants already here, a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants, and other provisions granting favorable benefits to illegal immigrants. Democrats voted for it 38-4 (39-4 if you count the nominal independent who votes with Democrats for organization purposes), and Republicans voted against it 32-22.

The two bills now go to a conference committee, which will determine the final compromise version to be voted on. The House conferees should insist on strict border control and tough enforcement for future violations. If that requires a compromise on other provisions, a compromise is in order, but the Senate bill goes mush too far in giving benefits to illegal immigrants.

Voters back home are paying attention to this immigration issue. Immigration is one of the issues that separate the parties. Voters need to pay attention to which party is taking care of the security of U.S. citizens and which party is taking care of special interests.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Politician as Dope

The quote of the day comes from a commenter named Vintner at Volokh's Conspiracy:

Seen on a bumper sticker in the San Francisco Mission district yesterday:

"Grow your own dope! Plant a politician."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Is a Congressman's Office Shielded from a Search?

The FBI is investigating Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) for bribery. In a search of his New Orleans house, the FBI found $90,000 in cash in his freezer.

Several months ago, the FBI requested that Jefferson provide documents from his office. Jefferson ignored the request.

Therefore, the FBI sought and obtained a warrant to search Jefferson's congressional office. To oversee the search, the FBI assigned a special agent to assure that the agents conducting the search did not take any documents related to the work of Congress. With the warrant in hand and the special agent on hand to oversee the search, the FBI searched Jefferson's House office.

Leaders of the House of Representatives, including Republicans, complained that the search violated the constitutional separation of powers. The Constitution does not expressly provide that congressional offices are above the law. The relevant parts appear to be the Fourth Amendment, which limits searches, and the Speech and Debate Clause in Article I, which protects Congressmen from arrest and prosecution.

Similar to the protection of Congress under the Speech and Debate Clause, the First Amendment protects the press. The courts have ruled that the First Amendment does not shield newspaper offices from reasonable searches pursuant to a warrant. It seems that similar reasoning should apply to congressional offices and the Speech and Debate Clause. Thus, the Speech and Debate Clause does not prohibit an otherwise reasonable search with a warrant of a congressional office.

The Speech and Debate Clause reads:

The Senators and Representatives . . . shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Courts have held that the Speech and Debate Clause applies only to core legislative functions. It therefore seems that the FBI should be able to seize documents not related directly to legislative acts. I understand that the Justice Department may use initial document reviewers separate from the prosecution team. This would prevent the prosecutors from learning anything from documents that they should not see.

I do not see a constitutional issue in the present case. To me, the Members of Congress seem overly sensitive and too eager to extend their limited privilege from arrest and prosecution. For some other views on the constitutional issues, see Orin Kerr, Volokh's Conspiracy, and Cato@Liberty.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If Democrats Want Higher Taxes, Let Democrats Pay Higher Taxes

Democrats want higher taxes, and Republicans want lower taxes We can satisfy both of them. I propose a voluntary tax. The tax might fund debt reduction, or it could fund unnecessary expenditures and programs that seem to have a perpetual existence (for example, all congressional earmarks, the Netional Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities). Either way, the tax form would have a line for the voluntary tax. The line description could read, "If you favor higher taxes, enter $3,000 or 15% of your income tax before credits, whichever is higher, to add to your income tax". Better yet: "If you voted for a Democrat in the last election for President, enter $3,000 or 15% of your income tax before credits, whichever is higher, to add to your income tax".

The response to this voluntary tax will be lower than the checkoff for contributions to the presidential election campaigns.

Monday, May 22, 2006

More Examples of Intolerance by the Left

In the last few days, liberal students at college commencements booed and heckled Secretary of State Condileeza Rice and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who were receiving honorary degrees, and disrupted their speeches.

Many liberals preach diversity but shout down opposing viewpoints.

Many liberals preach tolerance but practice intolerance.

Intolerance has become a hallmark of the Left, especially on college campuses.

Amnesty for Employers of Illegal Immigrants

The Senate immigration bill contains a provision to protect employers. The bill says:

Employers of aliens applying for adjustment of status under this section shall not be subject to civil and criminal tax liability relating directly to the employment of such alien.

That sounds like amnesty to me.

Two Real-Life Illustrations Regarding Immigration

Let me give you two illustrations of immigration.

The first illustration: My wife went to a garden store this past weekend. She asked about "grass", a common lawn-and-garden request. The clerk did not understand her. Several employees were working, but only one spoke English, and he spoke with a thick accent. My wife told him what she wanted, and he translated her requests for the other workers. The store is at a freeway location surrounded by typical neighborhoods. My wife concluded, correctly I think, that all the workers were illegal immigrants.

The second illustration: My wife and I were walking through a local park this past weekend. As we walked along a path, a Hispanic family approached from the opposite direction. As we passed, the parents were speaking to each other in Spanish, but the children were speaking to each other in unaccented English.

The first illustration shows the bad side of immigration, the illegal side with fraudulently obtained employment and with no apparent assimilation. The second illustration shows the good side of immigration, an intact and happy family unit with the children assimilating into the broader American society.

The picture of immigration is not a consistent one. Draw your own conclusions.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Senate Vote Forgives Identity Theft

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) submitted an amendment to the immigration bill. His amendment would prohibit illegal immigrants from getting credit for Social Security purposes while they were working illegally. Many illegal immigrants steal other people's social security numbers. This identity theft creates problems and confusion for legal Social Security participants.

The amendment seems sensible, doesn't it? Nonetheless, the Senate rejected the Ensign amendment 50-49.

Among the opponents of the amendment was John McCain (R-Ariz.), who plans to run for president in 2008.

Senate Votes on English Language

The U.S. Senate voted 63-34 to make English the official national language. Currently, the U.S. does not have an official language.

The vote was on an amendment to the immigration bill. Sen, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate minority leader, called the amendment "racist" because "it is directed at people who speak Spanish".

To confuse the issue some, the Senate voted 58-39 to approve an amendment calling English the "unifying language", whatever that means.

After the Senate passes a final immigration bill, the Senate and House will send representatives to a conference committee to agree on the provisions that will be in the immigration bill. Then, both the Senate and the House must pass the conference bill to send it to the President for his signature, which would make the bill law.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Endangered Europeans Seek Safety in U.S.

Hirsi Ali has resigned from parliament in The Netherlands and is moving to the U.S. Ali has been a critic of radical Islam. Because of that, she has received multiple threats of death. Therefore, she was under constant guard and lived in an apartment with bullet-proof windows. The other residents of the apartment house sued out of fear of terrorist attacks on Ali, and a Dutch court ordered her out of the building.

Ali is not the only one.

Across Europe, dozens of people are now in hiding or under police protection because of threats from Muslim extremists. Dutch police say politicians reported 121 death threats last year. The number this year will likely be much higher. ...

In Germany, several researchers, journalists and members of Parliament receive police protection because of threats by radical Muslims. Hans-Peter Raddatz, an Islamic-studies expert under police protection, recently moved to the U.S.

Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, is also mulling a move to America, at the urging of friends and security contacts. ...

As Tiger Hawk observes:

The organized threat of Islamic radicalism is such that once powerful European countries -- erstwhile seats of empire -- are no longer able to preserve the security of their leading citizens, including legislators and newspaper editors. What are these people doing? On the advice of fellow Europeans and security experts, these persecuted people are moving to the United States, the only Western country whose government at least arguably acts as though it is at war with militant Islam.

When your life is in danger, you move to safety. Ali did not move to another country in Europe or to Canada. She moved to the U.S.

The Europeans made a fundamental error decades ago by letting in Muslim immigrants who did not share basic Western values of freedom and tolerance. Now they are reaping the consequences. Even worse, the Europeans do not seem to realize they are in a conflict, whether or not they choose to engage in the battle.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Senate Votes for Fence on Border

Today, the Senate voted 83-16 to put 370 miles of triple-layered fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers on our border with Mexico. All 16 "no" votes were cast by Democrats, proving once again that Democrats are less serious about border issues.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Comprehensive" Immigration Reform

I cringe when politicians speak about a "comprehensive" solution for illegal immigration. The word "comprehensive" too often sounds like a code for amnesty while doing little on border control.

The only essential part of the solution is border control. Without border control, the problem of illegal immigration remains and grows.

The other elements of a proposed comprehensive solution are not required to be in the final legislation on immigration. However, they may be necessary in a political sense in order to put together the votes to pass an immigration reform bill. That is acceptable so long as the final bill contains true border control.

Round-up of Reactions to Bush's Speech

The Amboy Times has a good round-up of bloggers' reactions to Pres. Bush's immigration speech last night. Check it out, and follow the links to posts that interest you.

Liberals Define Cultural Racism

The Seattle Public Schools are very concerned about "Equity and Race Relations". Part of the concern is "cultural racism". Examples of "cultural racism" include "having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard". (Hat tip to The Corner.)

So, you are a cultural racist if you go to college in order a better future. You are a cultural racist if you favor capitalism over the more collective ideology of socialism. You are a cultural racist if you favor a standard form of English so that we can all communicate effectively with each other.

In other words, liberals define "cultural racism" to exclude proven American values. Liberals, at least the ones who run the Seattle Public Schools, have gone over the edge.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some Thoughts on President's Immigration Speech

The overall tone of Pres. Bush's immigration speech struck me as an effort to get in the middle of the road on the immigration issue.

Sending National Guard troops to the border will help. Since the Guard will not engage in enforcement, the help will be limited.

I like hearing about building a fence. The absence of specifics means we must wait to see what kind of fence will be built. Still, a barrier of some kind is essential, at least near the populated areas. A fence that is not effective, however, will be a waste of money.

The proposed guest worker program may be acceptable, but only as a supplement to effective border control. A guest worker program without effective border control will be worthless. Immigrants may enter the U.S. legally as guest workers, but they may want to stay illegally when the guest worker visa expires. What will prevent them from becoming illegal immigrants at the end of their time as a legal guest worker?

A path to citizenship is amnesty, no matter what distinction the President wants to draw. This may be acceptable as part of a political compromise, but only if effective border control is put in place to stop the flow of new illegal immigrants into the country.

A tamper-proof identity card for foreign workers seems a good idea on the surface. If the card is only required for foreign workers, an employer must first be able to distinguish between American and foreign workers. How does an employer tell with certainty that a worker is American or foreign? Will a card only for foreign workers eliminate the forgery of other identification documents?

The President's speech was balanced and moderate, but it hinges on effective border control. The President did not give specifics on the fence to be built. Therefore, we must adopt a wait-and-see posture until more specifics are known and we can tell how serious the government, including Congress, will be about border control and enforcement of immigration laws.

Immigration Speech Must Introduce Effective Border Control

Pres. Bush speaks shortly on immigration. No matter what else the speech addressed, the President must introduce effective border control measures. A good start would be a real fence in populated areas.

Further, the U.S. is an economic magnet to people living in Latin America. The difference in living standards between the U.S. and Mexico is the greatest in the world for neighboring countries. With that in mind, a comprehensive and constantly maintained database or some hard-to-forge employment identity card is necessary. Employers need an effective and efficient way to verify the identification produced by new employees. Once that is in place, employers can be held fully accountable for hiring illegal immigrants.

Without effective border control, illegal immigration will continue and will increase. The problem will not go away by itself.

State of Washington Removes Dead and Duplicate Voters from Rolls

The close 2004 election for governor of Washington revealed problems with registration and voting. From the Seattle Times (via Betsy's Page):

The Secretary of State's Office has deleted about 55,000 registrations from Washington's voter rolls after finding duplicate records and dead voters with the aid of a new statewide database.

The database, put in place earlier this year, allowed the state to find 19,579 dead people still on the rolls and 35,445 duplicate voter records.

Sound Politics points out in 2 posts that problems remain. King County, where Seattle is located, still can not reconcile its mail-in ballots for the 2004 election.

Probably every state has dead people and duplicate voters on its rolls. I encourage every state to create a database of appropriate records (deaths, all voter registrations, etc.) and to use the database to eliminate dead people and duplicate voters on the voter rolls. It would be better to do this before a close election calls into question the integrity of the voter rolls rather than after as Washington has done.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Troops on the Border?

Karl Rove met with some Texas Congressmen early this morning. One of them said in a radio interview that Rove said that Pres. Bush was exploring putting National Guard or military troops on the border.

Border control is the first priority in resolving the illegal immigration problem. Without control of the border, illegal immigration will become an ever greater problem.

Today, the White House announced that Pres. Bush will speak to the nation Monday evening about immigration. If he says that troops will be stationed on the border, that will be encouraging. We will wait and see.

Qwest and Privacy

Qwest was the only major phone company that did not share its phone call records with the government, but Qwest's own privacy policy allows it to share customer account information with affiliates and with companies having a business relationship with Qwest. In other words, Qwest shares account information when it stands to make a buck selling or marketing to you but not when it might save your life.

Not "Sincerely Yours" or "Best Wishes"

Earlier this week, Pres. Ahmadinejad of Iran sent a long letter to Pres. Bush. Instead of our familiar "Sincerely yours", Ahmadinejad's closing salutation is "Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda", which means "Peace only unto those who follow the true path". A New York Sun editorial tells us more about the salutation:

It is a phrase with historical significance in Islam, for, according to Islamic tradition, in year six of the Hejira - the late 620s - the prophet Mohammad sent letters to the Byzantine emperor and the Sassanid emperor telling them to convert to the true faith of Islam or be conquered. The letters included the same phrase that President Ahmadinejad used to conclude his letter to Mr. Bush. For Mohammad, the letters were a prelude to a Muslim offensive, a war launched for the purpose of imposing Islamic rule over infidels.

Whether the closing salutation indicates a declaration of war, as the Sun and some others believe, I am not sure. I am sure that the salutation is not the same as "Best wishes".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Too Much Outrage over Phone Data Collection

The news story of the day is the NSA's collection of domestic telephone records. The story was leaked by anonymous sources, and the leak appears timed to hurt the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden for CIA director.

The NSA has been building a database of external data on phone calls (for example, number calling, number called, time of call). The government does not listen to any calls or collect any information on the substance of the call.

Liberals have been outraged. (Where was their outrage when the Clinton White House was illegally reading FBI files?) Their outrage is over the top.

Imagine for a minute that a prominent Democrat suddenly was anointed President. Do you think that the Democratic President would terminate this NSA program? Before you answer, consider that, when the widely expected terrorist strike does occur on U.S. soil, the president who terminates the program that would have contributed in hindsight to preventing that attack will become the most reviled president in U.S. history. On the other hand, can a Democrat who criticizes the NSA intelligence programs justify a change of mind once in the White House? Will a Democrat in the White House be willing to risk American lives for a temporary partisan political gain? The current outrage voiced by Democrats shows you that too many Democrats are more motivated by temporary partisan political gain than they are by genuine concern for the lives of Americans.

The ones voicing outrage over this NSA program should consider that many private enterprises have similar information about individual Americans. The telephone companies already have the data they passed to the government. Grocery stores have and sell the information about your purchases if you have their discount card. The IRS has your basic financial information and has the power to obtain all of it in an audit. Are any of these entities any more trustworthy than the NSA?

Since 9/11, the U.S. has not experienced another terrorist attack. This has not happened by chance. This NSA data collection program and other intelligence programs help to prevent terrorist attacks.

In the final analysis, this program of collecting phone call data, which was initiated in the wake of 9/11, serves a valid national security purpose. The infringement on privacy is virtually infinitesimal. On balance, the program is worthwhile. The outrage is not deserved.

Media Ignores Important and Positive Iraq Story

Irish Pennants relays the results of some research by Tapscott's Copy Desk. The subject was an Al Qaeda document captured last month in Iraq. (See "Al Qaeda Weakening in Iraq" posted on Tuesday.) Among other things, the document says, "every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin's control and influence over Baghdad".

Tapscott's Copy Desk could not find any story on the captured document in the mainstream media (MSM). Irish Pennants also could not find any MSM story on the captured document.

Irish Pennants concludes by asking, "why have we read this story only in the blogosphere?" The answer is too obvious. The bias of the MSM is real, and the bias runs deep.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Explanation of High Gas Prices

Betsy's Page finds one of the best explanations of high gas prices. Surprisingly, the explanation is in an NPR article, not exactly a conservative outlet.

The writer breaks down the price of gasoline. Out of the average $2.90 per gallon, $1.60 is for crude oil, 64 cents is for refining, 55 cents is for taxes, and 11 cents is for distribution and marketing.

Though the public seems to blame oil companies for high prices, the NPR article explains that prices of crude oil are set by the global market rather than by oil companies. According to the article:

So you have a situation where demand has been growing steadily and inexorably, and the system of supply is quite vulnerable. That's the basic recipe for high prices.

Despite high gas prices, use of gasoline in the U.S. has increased from a year ago, as the article points. How do we reduce the price of gasoline? The answer, according to the author of the article, is to increase supply and to decrease demand.

Even NPR understands what causes high gas prices and what can fix the problem. When will the mainstream news media inform the public? Until the public realizes the truth about gas prices, politicians will pander to the public and not address the real underlying causes.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Military Officer Can Be CIA Director

Pres. Bush has nominated Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as CIA director. Hayden has a lot of experience in the intelligence field. Opponents of the nomination base part of their opposition on Gen. Hayden's military status. They think that a military officer should not head a civilian intelligence agency.

If confirmed, Hayden will not be the first military officer to serve as CIA director. Pres. Truman nominated 2 military officers for CIA director. Most recently, Pres. Carter made Admiral Stansfeld Turner his CIA director.

Opponents of the nomination worry that a military officer will answer to the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense. Admiral Turner recently addressed the concerns over a military officer as CIA director. Turner said that, while he served as CIA director, he did not report to anyone in the Defense Department or the military and that no one ever suggested that he should.

The concerns over having an Air Force general as CIA director are misplaced. The concerns reflect more an anti-military bias. Many of the opponents of the nomination would oppose any nominee put forward by Pres. Bush. Gen Hayden should be evaluated as any civilian would be. If he is qualified, he should be confirmed. His military status should not be a factor in the confirmation process.

Al Qaeda Weakening in Iraq

The mainstream news media in the U.S. paint a gloomy picture of what is happening in Iraq. However, Al Qaeda sees the situation more clearly and recognizes their weak and deteriorating position. In a document captured April 16, an unidentified Al Qaeda operative acknowledges that "every year is worse than the previous year". Why does he say that?

The strength of the brothers in Baghdad is built mainly on booby trapped cars, and most of the mujahidin groups in Baghdad are generally groups of assassin without any organized military capabilities.

There is a clear absence of organization among the groups of the brothers in Baghdad, whether at the leadership level in Baghdad, the brigade leaders, or their groups therein. ...

The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. ...

At the same time, the Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin's control and influence over Baghdad.

The resistance in Iraq is losing, and they know it. Our efforts in Iraq are producing progress, but slowly. The pace of progress does not suit the American preference for quick results, but it is the best way to wage the war in Iraq. How long will it be before the American mainstream media recognize the reality on the ground in Iraq?

Monday, May 08, 2006

American Theocracy?

American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips is on the New York Times best-seller list. The book's theme is that America under Pres. George W. Bush is a Religious Right theocracy. I guess that explains the absence of prayer in public schools, the widespread and constitutionally protected availability of abortion on demand, and the continuing removal of the Ten Commandments, crosses, and manger scenes from the public square.

Oh, wait! These examples prove the opposite of the book's theme. In reality, the Christian Right has some influence but not nearly enough to dominate American society. Whatever research Phillips did, it was woefully inadequate.

Despite the invalidity of the book's premise, liberals, many of whom are highly prejudiced against religion in general and the Christian Right especially, will continue to keep the book flying off the shelves.

Real Torture

Critics of U.S. actions in the War on Terror frequently make claims of torture, as for example the allegations of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The critics and others need to understand what real torture is and how brutal our enemies are. Thought the identity of the victim has been questioned, this is real torture.

Our enemies are brutal, depraved, and thoroughly evil. The gap between their practices and ours is huge.

Friday, May 05, 2006

CIA Director Resigns

CIA director Porter Goss, a former Republican Congressman and a former CIA employee, resigned today after less than 2 years in the position. The brevity of his time in the office suggests a problem with his performance (not likely) or a conflict within the administration.

Regardless of the reason for Goss's resignation, Goss had been going after the leakers within the CIA. Too many CIA agents consider themselves to be serving some self-determined higher purpose and to be above the law, and the CIA leaks have become a partisan weapon. As a former CIA guy, Goss knew how the agency really worked and how to go after the leakers. Goss's replacement may not pursue the leakers as vigorously or as effectively.

Rep. Kennedy Crashed Car

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), son of Sen Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), crashed his car into a barrier around 2:30 a.m. Thursday. The police who arrived on the scene say they smelled alcohol on Kennedy's breath, but Kennedy denies drinking. When questioned, Kennedy said he was on his way to a vote. (The last House vote was about 6 hours earlier.) A police supervisor overruled the police on the scene and ordered them to take Kennedy home without giving him a breathalyzer test.

Kennedy's truthfulness is in dispute. Two witnesses, a hostess and a bartender, are reported to have seen Kennedy drinking. Kennedy's statement at the scene that he was heading to a House vote is false. Kennedy explains that he was disoriented, but the statement may have been calculated to prevent being arrested because the Constitution prohibits the arrest of a member of Congress going to attend a session of Congress.

The bigger issue to me is the favoritism that the police extended to Kennedy. As Sen. Ted Kennedy ironically asked in 1973, "Do we operate under a system of equal justice under law? Or is there one system for the average citizen and another for the high and mighty?" (Hat tip to commenter kitty at Radio Equalizer.)

The police did not treat Kennedy the same as they would have treated an ordinary citizen. That should not be acceptable in our society. Accordingly, the police superintendent who overruled the police on the scene should be fired.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

History Lesson - Windfall Profits Tax

Angry at high gas prices, Americans are currently considering a windfall profits tax on "greedy" oil companies. In a Los Angeles Times column, Jonathan Williams reminds us of what happened the last time this situation arose.

But lawmakers could benefit from a history lesson. The last time this country experimented with such a tax was the Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax Act of 1980. According to a 1990 Congressional Research Service study, the tax depressed the domestic oil industry, increased foreign imports and raised only a tiny fraction of the revenue forecasted. It stunted domestic production of oil by 3% to 6% and created a surge in foreign imports, from 8% to 16%.

A windfall profits tax will make the problem of high gas prices worse. The tax will increase costs and will therefore reduce supply. Less gas at higher prices is not what American consumers want.

Another Democrat Bribery Scandal

A second man has pleaded guilty to bribing Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who represents New Orleans. The Democrats may try to make an election issue of a Republican culture of corruption, but the Democrats have their own corruption scandals.

As Betsy's Page asks, whose culture of corruption is it?

Iraq - Status Report

For a realistic and unbiased assessment of the situation in Iraq, read about the McCaffrey trip report. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, now retired, was skeptical of the Iraq war in 2003 and has frequently criticized Defense Sec. Rumsfeld. Yet, his report of his mid-April trip to Iraq is mostly favorable, with some cautions. McCaffrey's report this year can be compared to his report made after his trip in June 2005. We are making progress, but we still have much to do.

McCaffrey's 2006 report praises the "awe-inspiring" morale and fighting effectiveness of U.S. combat forces. He calls the Iraqi Army "real, growing and willing to fight" and "a brilliant success story". His evaluation of the Iraqi police is less glowing. The police "show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program" but still have a long way to go. Making the police reliable and competent "will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face". McCaffrey believes "the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity", overcoming many problems in the political culture.

What about Al Qaeda in Iraq?

The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. Aggressive small unit combat action by Coalition Forces combined with good intelligence - backed up by new Iraqi Security Forces is making an impact. The foreign fighters remain a serious tactical menace. However, they are a minor threat to the heavily armed and wary U.S. forces. They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment.

McCaffrey directs strong criticism at the State Department. He also finds that our detainee policy may have over-corrected.

The AIF [terrorists/insurgents] are exploiting our overly restrictive procedures and are routinely defying the U.S. interrogators. It is widely believed that the US has a “14 day catch and release policy” and the AIF “suspect” will soon be back in action.

This is an overstatement of reality, however, we do have a problem. Many of the AIF detainees routinely accuse U.S. soldiers of abuse under the silliest factual situations knowing it will trigger an automatic investigation.

McCaffrey warns that we are running out of money and political support. He does not trust the allies to fulfill their pledges.

What is his overall conclusion?

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year. Thanks to the leadership and personal sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the CENTCOM team and the CIA – the American people are far safer today than we were in the 18 months following the initial intervention.

Remember that McCaffrey was an early skeptic of the war in Iraq and is not a friend of Defense Rumsfeldsfeld. Nonetheless, McCaffrey gives us an accurate analysis of the situation in Iraq. Read the whole post at The Belmont Club (link at the top of this post).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Moussaoui Gets Life

The jury gave Moussaoui a sentence of life without parole. The alternative was the death penalty.

As Moussaoui left, he said, "America, you lost. Novak, you lost. I won." At least Moussaoui knew that the trial was a contest between his side and ours, even if the jurors did not.

According to reporters, some jurors looked downcast and shook their heads as if they did not agree with the sentence. This seems a credible interpretation and may explain why the jury took so long to agree on a sentence. It will be very interesting to hear the stories of the jurors.

I will take a guess that Al Qaeda's leaders are having a chuckle at the expense of the naive jurors. Moussaoui's life sentence confirms Al Qaeda'a belief that America is soft.

Social Security Finances Declining

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported (hat tip to Ace of Trump):

Social Security and Medicare trustees say the financial condition of the government's two biggest benefit programs deteriorated slightly over the past year.

...

The annual trustees' report moved up the date that the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by one year to 2040 and moved up the date that the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will be depleted by two years to 2018.

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[Sen. Jack] Reed [(D-R.I.)]was ... critical of a finding by the trustees that the amount of general revenue needed to finance Medicare will hit 45 percent in 2012, up from 35 percent currently.

Democrats charged that the administration was using the trustees' reports to try to create an air of crisis to make radical changes in the two benefit programs.

The Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog group, however said the trustees were highlighting serious problems that needed to be addressed.

Social Security is currently running a surplus, with more money coming in from taxes than is being paid out in benefits, but this will change once the post-World War II baby boom generation begins retiring in coming years.

Since the government spends the surplus on other federal programs, the Social Security and Medicare trust funds essentially are government IOUs. To redeem those IOUs to pay benefits, the government must do some combination of increasing borrowing, cutting spending in other areas or raising taxes.

That means that the pinch will occur long before the trust funds are depleted when the cost of the programs exceeds the amount they collect in taxes and premiums each year.

For the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund, that crossover point was projected to occur permanently in 2006. For Social Security, the date that taxes will not cover all benefits will occur in 2017, the trustees said, the same date as last year.

The poor financial condition of Social Security and Medicare is not a surprise. Congress debated the issue last year but was not able to reach a consensus to solve the problem. As each year passes, the problem will worsen, and the solution will require increasingly greater amounts of taxes and spending cuts. Do not expect either the Republicans or the Democrats in Congress to act responsibly.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Rise of the U.S. Anti-war Movement

In my previous post, I asked why Hollywood has not made a patriotic war movie since 9/11, and I compared the War on Terror with World War II (WW2), when Hollywood made patriotic war movies. This comparison raises the question of what changed.

In WW2, the country was almost entirely patriotic, and Hollywood reflected that patriotism. The U.S. did not have a significant anti-war movement in WW2. The Korean War began to change that. The stalemate that developed in Korea tested the patience and steadfastness of the American people, and support for the war declined, causing Pres. Truman's popularity to plummet. As the war dragged on, Americans questioned the value of resisting communist North Korea's naked and unprovoked invasion of the South. Why was the U.S. sacrificing blood and money in a faraway land when North Korea was not likely to attack the U.S.?

Like Korea, the Vietnam War initially was widely popular. Again, the war dragged on, and support waned. As before, Americans asked themselves what was gained by resisting an aggressor that had no apparent aim to attack the U.S. itself. Unlike Korea, the opposition became very open, virulent, anti-military, and anti-American. The anti-war movement became a liberal cause. Some in the ant-war movement openly wished for an American defeat.

When the Vietnam War ended, those in the anti-war movement increasingly opposed American efforts in the Cold War. In the 1980s, Pres. Reagan decided to put missiles in Europe to deter Soviet aggression in Europe. The decision and its implementation was vigorously protested by the anti-war movement, which held one of the largest marches in U.S. history in New York City. Pres. Reagan also pressed successfully for research on a missile defense shield, the so-called Star Wars program, which the anti-war movement reflexively opposed as well. As we now know, Pres. Reagan's defense build-up contributed greatly to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet communist empire.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. led the effort to remove Iraq from Kuwait. In the U.S. Senate, few Democrats were willing to support the resolution to authorize the war. The U.S.'s easy victory in the Gulf War gave Democrats and the anti-war folks a black eye but did not change the attitude of the anti-war movement.

After 9/11, some in the anti-war movement opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The relatively quick victory in Afghanistan prevented widespread opposition to the war there.

Of course, Pres. Bush's decision to invade Iraq united the anti-war movement. With the 2002 elections approaching and the recent-enough memory of the negative fallout from their miscalculation about the Gulf War, however, only 10 or so Democrat senators were willing to vote against the Authorization to Use Military Force. As the terrorist insurgency in Iraq took root and gained strength, the U.S. anti-war movement regained its Vietnam-era confidence, and the American public again showed its lack of patience and resolve. Some in the anti-war movement have voiced a desire for an American defeat in Iraq.

In summary, since WW2, the American public has not had the will, the patience, and the resolve to support a long-term effort in any conflict. The anti-war movement has played to this weakness. The motives of the anti-war movement have been the traditional pacifist opposition to all war, an unpatriotic desire to humble, or at least to weaken, the U.S. and its military, and a further desire to reduce U.S. influence in the world.

United 93

I just returned from seeing the movie "United 93". Good movie. See it.

Some have criticized "United 93" for being too soon after 9/11. Funny thing. No one criticized Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" on that ground when that anti-Bush movie came out in 2004.

I also must point out that the lapse of time from 9/11/2001 to today (4 years, 7 months) is greater than the lapse of time from the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 12/7/1941 to the end of World War II on 9/3/1945 (3 years, 10 months). During World War II, Hollywood put out patriotic war movies. Why didn't Hollywood put out a single patriotic war movie during the War on Terror in the same amount of time after 9/11? The answer has much to do with the anti-war bias of Hollywood, which did not exist in the patriotic environment of World War II.

"United 93" does not take a political stance. It simply portrays realistically the events of 9/11. The Left of today does not want to be reminded of the reality of 9/11.

Monday, May 01, 2006

AP Slants Death Toll in Iraq

From Gateway Pundit, we learn about an Associated Press (AP) story on Iraq. In the second paragraph, the AP writes:

The death toll in two days of fighting around Baqouba climbed to 58 (emphasis mine), including seven Iraqi soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Awad said."

It sounds as though 58 good guys and innocents were killed, doesn't it? However, we learn differently in the 15th paragraph:

"Clashes and raids continued through the night, Iraqi officials said. In addition to the seven Iraqi soldiers, Ahmed said 49 insurgents were killed and 74 others were arrested (emphasis mine). U.S. officials said two civilians were killed and the wounded included 10 Iraqi soldiers, four policemen and four civilians."

In other words, the total death toll of 58 was composed of 7 Iraqi soldiers, 2 civilians, and 49 enemy soldiers. That is a good result, but the AP emphasizes the total, without giving equal prominence to the breakdown, to make the result look bad.

And the mainstream media wonder why the public does not trust them.