Sunday, July 23, 2006

U.S. Navy Renames the Persian Gulf

Rich Galen's July 5th column alerted me to an update to an earlier post, Iran Gets Something Right - the U.S. Navy has joined in the effort to rename the Persian Gulf. Today's example comes from the Fifth Fleet, "the seaborne component of the US Navy's Central Command operations."
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander, 5th Fleet's area of responsibility encompasses about 7.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 27 countries, includes three critical chokepoints at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
Interestingly, the CUSNC website contains 15 pages referring to both the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Gulf. Overall, has at least 574 such documents. However, the Navy has 25,700 pages with the term "Persian Gulf" vs. 26,800 with the term "Arabian Gulf." It sounds like some geography (as well as consistency) lessons are needed.

The fleet also provides a map, including a notation for the well-known Arabian Sea, which should now be named the Indian Sea to avoid confusion with the neighboring gulf. Since there's already an Indian Ocean, the Indian Ocean will henceforth be known simply as "The Ocean".

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Reuters Misreports "Clean Water" Decision


US court fails to decide wetlands regulation issue

A splintered U.S. Supreme Court failed on Monday to decide whether the federal government can regulate wetlands away from navigable waters in a case that provided the first indication of anti-environmentalist views by President George W. Bush's two appointees.


Clean Water Act Reach Limited: U.S. Supreme Court Overview

The U.S. Supreme Court limited the reach of the Clean Water Act, saying it applies only to wetlands with a close connection to a river, lake or some other major waterway.

Notice the difference yet?


By a 5-4 vote, the justices set aside a U.S. appeals court ruling that upheld the government's authority to regulate the specific wetlands at issue and sent both cases back for more hearings.

While the court did not decide the issue at the heart of the case, it was the first indication of anti-environmentalist views by Bush appointees Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito on a significant environmental issue.


The justices, voting 5-4, ordered a new round of hearings for two sets of Michigan landowners whose efforts to build on their property have been stymied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The majority was divided in its reasoning, with Justice Anthony Kennedy refusing to join four other justices in putting even more restraints on the federal regulators.

Kennedy's separate opinion now becomes the controlling law. He established a new test, saying the Corps can regulate only wetlands that have a "significant nexus'' to a major waterway. He also said that in both cases before the justices, the Corps had at least some evidence of that type of connection.

In what is currently a case of statutory interpretation (apparently turning on the meaning of the word "adjacent"), the Reuters report does a disservice to readers. Only Justice Kennedy supports the Kennedy test, but as a practical matter it is the law for now.

The two cases generated five separate opinions from the nine members of the high court.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas joined Scalia's opinion. The case marked the first environmental test for the court's newest justices, Roberts and Alito.
Reuters does not explain that Scalia's opinion represented four justices (as did Stevens' dissent), implying a much more fragmented Court.

Bloomberg also reports on a much more important question:

"The court is clearly troubled by the federal government's view that it can regulate every pond, puddle and ditch in our country,'' said Reed Hopper, a Sacramento, California, lawyer who represented landowner John Rapanos in one of the cases. "We are encouraged by this decision and believe it represents a good first step toward common sense regulation.''

In focusing on the meaning of the Clean Water Act, the court didn't decide a more far-reaching question presented by the case -- whether Congress has power to regulate those wetlands under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

Under the Commerce Clause, any waterway that cannot be used for interstate commerce should fall outside of Congressional authority. That's a question of following the Constitution, not environmentalism.

In a better article, the Washington Post includes a good summary of the near-majority opinion:

In his opinion, Scalia wrote scathingly of federal regulators, saying they have gone too far in expanding the definition of "waters of the United States" over which they have jurisdiction.

The Corps of Engineers "exercises the discretion of an enlightened despot" in deciding whether to grant or deny permits to build on wetlands, and the average applicant for an individual permit has to spend more than two years and $270,000 to complete the process, Scalia said. The result is that more than $1.7 billion is spent each year by the private and public sectors to obtain wetlands permits, he said.

The case against Rapanos illustrates "the immense expansion of federal regulation of land use" under the Clean Water Act without any actual change in the law, Scalia wrote. In the past 30 years, he said, the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency have interpreted their jurisdiction over "the waters of the United States" to cover up to 300 million acres of "swampy lands," including half of Alaska and an area the size of California in the lower 48 states.

He said the Corps "has also asserted jurisdiction over virtually any parcel of land containing a channel or conduit" through which rainwater or drainage may flow, even occasionally or intermittently. The definition of "waters of the United States" thus has come to include storm drains, roadside ditches, ripples of sand in the desert that may contain water once a year, and lands that are covered by floodwaters once every 100 years," Scalia wrote.

In applying the definition so broadly, he said, "the Corps has stretched the term 'waters of the United States' beyond parody."

And it is opposing that extraorginabuse of power that Reuters labels "anti-environmentalist."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Iran Gets Something Right

For once, I find myself agreeing with the Iranian government on the propriety of renaming goegraphic locations:

(AP) Iran has banned The Economist magazine for describing the Persian Gulf as merely "the Gulf" in a map published in the latest edition, state television reported late Wednesday.

It is the second time in two years that Iran has prohibited a publication of international repute for failing to use the term "Persian Gulf" in its maps. In November 2004, it banned the National Geographic atlas when a new edition appeared with the term "Arabian Gulf" in parenthesis beside the more commonly used Persian Gulf.

Tehran believes in aggressively defending the use of the historical term Persian Gulf. It regards the name Arabian Gulf, used by some, as a name dreamed up by Arab nationalists.

While Iran dominates the eastern side of the waterway, the western shores are held by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

I am still surprised that they allowed The Economist in Iran in the first place, but Iran definitely has a right to be upset. Changing names should normally raise eyebrows, but this particular change is beyond questionable. Besides the fact that "Persian Gulf" is the nearly universally accepted name, "the Gulf" doesn't make any sense. Is it the only gulf in the world? The map itself looks weird because of it. It is a relatively small body of water, not the moon.

Attempts to use "Arabian Gulf" is not only a suspicious change, it is a more ambiugous one. The Arabian peninsula, surrounded by seas and gulfs, already gives its name to the Arabian Sea - a larger body of water to which the Persian Gulf is eventually connected. Places on the Arabian peninsula already give their names to the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Bahrain.

Iran (Persia until 1935) is only tied by name to the one body of water - the Persian Gulf - and borders its entire northern edge.

Applying the name-changing logic closer to home, perhaps the Gulf of Mexico should be renamed the Gulf of Texas, the Caribbean Gulf, or simply The Gulf. Why not have more than one?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Some Hawaiians Seek Race-Based Government

From a recent mistitled AP article, "Native Hawaiians Seek Right to Self-Govern":

Hawaii politicians are scrambling to gather enough votes in Congress to pass a bill that would grant Native Hawaiians a degree of self-government and possibly a share of the land ruled by their ancestors.

After seven years of debate, the proposal to recognize Native Hawaiians as indigenous inhabitants of the 50th state - a legal status similar to that of American Indians - has finally been promised a vote in the Senate...

Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka says he has solid support from his party, but will need help from Republicans to pass the proposal.

The bill provides a process to set up a Native Hawaiian government and then start negotiations to transfer power and property from state and federal authorities to Hawaiians. The form of government and the amount of public land to be granted wouldn't be decided until then.

Besides the basic problems with creating an exclusive race-based government, "native" Hawaiians never had a relationship with the U.S. comparable to recognized Indian tribes. Hawaiians are already represented and self-governing through the appropriately named State of Hawaii.

A wide range of opponents stands in the way, from Native Hawaiians who won't support anything short of secession to lawyers who claim the bill is a racial entitlement program.

A report from the Washington-based U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommended that Congress reject the bill because it would discriminate on the basis of race. Some Republican senators argue that recognizing a Native Hawaiian group is creating a subgroup with different rights from other Americans.

Another opponent, Honolulu attorney H. William Burgess, said he fears a breakup of the state of Hawaii, the relinquishment of hundreds of thousands of acres of land and a new set of race-based privileges.

"Hands are constantly being held out for more and more and more. Gimme, gimme, gimme," Burgess said. "I don't think it's fair to anticipate this government is going to be one which doesn't discriminate on the basis of race."

The plan cleary is a racial entitlement program. Its sole purpose is to be given property to redistribute based on a racial litmus test.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racist voter qualifications for a similar governmental body, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs:

The court said the state's argument for the voting restriction "rests on the demeaning premise that citizens of a particular race are somehow more qualified than others to vote on certain matters.

"There is no room under the (15th) Amendment for the concept that the right to vote in a particular election can be allocated based on race."

Despite the fact that Hawaii was (usually) independent until 1898, only voters descended from the pre-1778 racial group were allowed to vote. Hawaii was not even united until 1810 (with Western arms). Hawaii never had the racist government that this bill would impose.

Independence advocates also question the tactic:

Members of the Koani Foundation, a Hawaiian sovereignty advocacy group, fear federal recognition would forever put indigenous people under the authority of the Interior Department, said director Kaiopua Fyfe.

"More Hawaiians are coming to understand just how bad this federal recognition would be. It would be the final nail in the coffin for Hawaiian issues," Fyfe said.


Public opinion is difficult to judge, with polls tending to support the views of the organizations sponsoring them.

As long as U.S. military bases can remain permanently, I see little reason to oppose independence for our most remote state. However, popular support for such a move in Hawaii appears to be very limited.

Last week, the current bill failed to survive a procedural vote, prompting a more emotionally mistitled article from the Washington Post: "Native Hawaiians' Hope Dashed by Senate."

...Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it violated both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. "I can not and will not support a bill whose very purpose is to divide Americans based upon race," he said.

Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, in a letter Wednesday to Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the administration "strongly opposes" the bill because it would reverse the country's melting-pot tradition and "divide people by their race."


The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a report that came out in May, recommended against passage, saying it "would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups."

If the bill resurfaces, hopefully that strong opposition will translate into a veto. 21st Century America should be moving away from race-based splinter governments, not towards them.

For more information, I highly recommend the Heritage Foundation event "An Unconstitutional Act Is Back: The Return of the Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Act" (or the National Center's summary and policy paper).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Latin America's Historic Election

The Investor's Business Daily reports on Colombia's historic presidential election:

Colombia's re-election of Alvaro Uribe not only stands conventional wisdom on its head about Latin voters' rejection of free markets. It also proves that democracy lives south of our border.

Most pundits don't have a lot to say about Uribe's sweeping victory... other than it's an anomaly in a region supposedly swinging left. That misses the point.

Colombia's voters had choices. But they went for Uribe's bold resolve against terror, and for tax cuts, free trade pacts and a no-apologies friendship with the U.S.

Throw in proven leadership, plus a growing and diversified economy, and it was no wonder Uribe had huge appeal. Sixty-two percent of Colombia's voters backed him; just 22% went for his nearest rival. The landslide not only exceeded predictions. It also was bigger than his 54% victory in 2000. And it was the first time in 98 years that anyone has been re-elected president in Colombia.

The article proceeds to improve on "conventional wisdom" by analyzing political trends in Latin America:

[Uribe's re-election is] embarrassing to pundits who insist that free markets and democracy are not what Latin Americans want. This victory took place in a region supposedly veering dangerously left — and where pork-barrel populism is said to be all the rage.


Changing times and increased globalization have brought out many new political parties in Latin America. But there are three distinct political trends.

There are Reaganesque free marketers such as Uribe, Antonio Saca of El Salvador and, more dimly, Vicente Fox of Mexico.

They seek to end poverty not by ladling soup into every bowl, but by fostering private-sector growth. They are balancing budgets, simplifying rules, forcing transparency, breaking up monopolies and encouraging new businesses.

Sadly, these leaders are often dismissed as "far right" and thus out of touch with "the people." But they keep winning elections. Along with understanding free markets, this group often makes security a priority, based on the legacy of wars as well as citizen revulsion at violent crime. And it is America-friendly.

The second trend is described as the "soft socialism" of the current leaders of Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile, who are often wrongly combined with the likes of Cuba's Castro and Venezuela's Castro-with-oil.

The third political force is the anti-democratic populist left led by quasi-dictators like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

This movement hides behind the veneer of socialism, but has virtually nothing in common with it. It equates growth with pork-barrel spending, declares the private sector the enemy, can't distinguish party from government, divides a nation into loyalists and traitors, abuses foreign investors and in the end seeks to collectivize the population into total dependency.

The model here is Fidel Castro's Cuba, and it seemed to have the momentum. Uribe's impressive election, however, is giving the pundits pause.

I'm not sure that it ever had "momentum" outside of the media, and then only by greatly oversimplifying and relying on erroneous "conventional wisdom."

We'll know a lot more after voters in Peru and Mexico go to the polls... More conservative candidates (like Uribe) stand a good chance of winning.

If they do, the Castros and Chavezes won't seem nearly so ascendant.

The moderate, anti-Chavez candidate won Peru's presidency earlier this week.

(AP) Alan Garcia staged a remarkable comeback in Peru's runoff election, beating a fiery nationalist backed by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to regain control of the country 16 years after his first presidential term ended in economic ruin and rebel violence.

"I want our party this time to demonstrate to the Peruvian people, who have called it to the highest responsibilities, that it will not convert the state into booty," Garcia said, referring to widespread corruption that marked his first term from 1985-90, when tens of thousands of party members landed state jobs.

Garcia said voters in Sunday's runoff had sent an overwhelming message to Chavez, the anti-American leader of Venezuela. They rejected the "strategy of expansion of a militaristic, retrograde model that he has tried to impose in South America," Garcia said.

Chavez had endorsed Ollanta Humala, a political upstart many Peruvians saw as dangerous to democracy. He extended his regional influence last year with the election of a loyal ally, Evo Morales, as Bolivia's president. Like Morales, Humala had pledged to punish a corrupt political establishment and redistribute wealth to his country's poor Indian and mestizo majority.


Chavez was sharply criticized in Peru for meddling in the presidential campaign, prompting a diplomatic spat in which both countries have withdrawn their ambassadors.

Garcia adroitly turned the race into a referendum on Chavez, depicting Humala as an aspiring despot who would fall into lockstep with the Venezuelan's populist economics and Cuba-friendly anti-Americanism. Chavez in turn called Garcia "a genuine thief, a demagogue, a liar."

Mexico votes July 2nd.

The conservative tied for first place in Mexico's presidential race said on Thursday he would counter the influence of U.S. foe Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Latin America if elected.

Felipe Calderon told Reuters he wanted Mexico, which has close trade ties with the United States, to play a more active role in the region.

"It is going to be a factor of deliberation, balance and good sense compared to the leadership and active policies, to give them their polite name, of Hugo Chavez," Calderon said.


Mexico and Venezuela withdrew their ambassadors from each other's countries last year in a dispute after Chavez called Mexican President Vicente Fox a "lap dog" of Washington.

With the frequent accusations of U.S. "imperialism," I think Mr. Garcia put it best:
"Our homeland's independent destiny was at stake here, threatened by total domination and imperialism," Garcia told supporters Sunday night. "Imperialism does not come only from great powers but also from nearby domination, by those who seek to subordinate and steer us because they have wealth."
For more on foreign policy in Latin America, I recommend a review of last November's OAS summit, "Bush 29, Chavez 5" (Investor's Business Daily, Nov. 7, 2005).

Update, July 7: Calderon appears to win in Mexico, 65% vote against Obrador, the leftist candidate.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

North Carolina Claims America's Only Recorded Coup d'Etat

The AP covers an interesting development from American history:

A state-appointed commission is urging North Carolina to provide reparations for the 1898 racial violence that sparked an exodus of more than 2,000 black residents from Wilmington.

The 500-page report that was produced after six years of study also said the violence, which killed as many as 60 people, was not a spontaneous riot but rather the nation's only recorded coup d'etat.


The 1898 violence began when white vigilantes, resentful after years of black and Republican political rule during Reconstruction, burned the printing press of a black newspaper publisher, Alexander Manly.

Violence spread, resulting in an exodus of 2,100 blacks, the commission concluded. Then the largest city in the state, Wilmington flipped from a black majority to a white majority in the months that followed.

Before the violence, which led to a Democratic takeover from Republicans and Populists, black men in North Carolina had been able to vote for about three decades. But Democrats quickly passed voter literacy tests and a grandfather clause, which disenfranchised black voters until the civil rights movement of the 1960s.


Some previous historical accounts had portrayed the incident as spontaneous, although more recently, historians have described it as a coup d'etat.

"This sets the record straight," Wright said. "Now there is an official document confirming this part of North Carolina's - and America's - history. Nowhere in the United States has a legitimate government ever been overthrown."

The basic problem with reparations is that the amount of time passed is beyond any imaginable statute of limitations. The people who were hurt are long dead, as are any who might have been at fault.

The story is interesting because of its historical label, not because the violence or results stand out in history. There doesn't seem to be any indication that the Democrats' coup was endorsed by the state itself. While broadly demanding state and federal funding for special projects, there is little indication of who could still be considered liable.

Several of the so-called "reparations" measures would be based on racial discrimination rather than identification of the descendents of actual victims. By that logic, Republicans must equally deserve reparations - regardless of actual connection to the event in question.

In other views, a UNC law professor sees this as a perfect excuse for reparations, but doesn't address why those not effected should benefit or why those not at fault should be punished. On the other side, at Rhymes With Right, a history teacher analyzes in detail the appropriateness of reparations, concluding:
So I encourage the building of monuments to prick the conscience, the establishment of educational programs to dispel the ignorance that is racism, and the recommitment of our society to eradicating government imposed barriers to equality for all Americans. But financial reparations at this late date would be simply one more injustice added to the tab of those who overthrew the elected government of Wilmington, murdered its citizens, and destroyed a community.
Wilmington, North Carolina now claims America's only recorded coup d'etat. That's interesting, but not a reason to confiscate and redistribute money from unconnected citizens or enshrine racial discrimination as a belated and convoluted attempt at a remedy.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Are Citizenship Tests Easier Than Voting?

George Will has an article out today which provides some interesting history and analysis of the role of the English language in political discourse:

In 1906, the year before a rabbi in a Passover sermon coined the phrase "melting pot" during torrential immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, Congress passed, and President Theodore Roosevelt signed, legislation requiring people seeking to become naturalized citizens to demonstrate oral English fluency. In 1950 the requirement was strengthened to require people to "demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language."

Hence, if someone needs a ballot written in a language other than English, that need proves the person obtained citizenship only because the law was not enforced when he or she sought citizenship. So one reason for ending ballots in languages other than English is that continuing them makes a mockery of the rule of law, including even the prospective McCain-Kennedy law that pro-immigration groups favor.

It contains several requirements that those aspiring to citizenship demonstrate "a knowledge of the English language" or "English fluency" in order "to promote the patriotic integration of prospective citizens into the American way of life" and into "American common values and traditions." How can legislators support language such as that and ballots in multiple languages?

...what public good is advanced by encouraging the participation of people who, by saying they require bilingual assistance, are saying they cannot understand the nation's political conversation? By receiving such assistance they are receiving a disincentive to become proficient in English.

The problem comes from a 1975 amendment to the Voting Rights Act "requiring bilingual ballots in jurisdictions with certain demographic characteristics." As a practical matter, the use of non-English ballots is a bit strange. Besides the fact that American political campaigns and debate are conducted in English, ballots are very simple. They require little more ability than basic name recognition, a simple task for any informed voter. Even with English-only ballots, it should require far less understanding of English to vote than to pass a citizenship test.

Mr. Will also has some interesting comments on Senator Harry Reid's recent race-bating:

It takes political bravery to propose pruning the Voting Rights Act, given the predictable charges of racism that are hurled so promiscuously nowadays. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, for example, has a liberal's reflex for discerning racism everywhere and for shouting "racist" as a substitute for argument. During Senate debate last week on a measure to declare English the national language, he said: "While the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist."

Questions crowd upon one another. Was his opaque idea -- well, perhaps it is not opaque to liberals -- of unintentional racism merely a bow to Senate rules against personal slurs? What "race" does Reid think is being victimized? Are Spanish speakers members of a single race? Evidently Reid thinks something like that, because his next sentence was: "I think it is directed basically to people who speak Spanish." Indeed, it is, but what has that to do with racism?

Perhaps someone could provide the Senator with a dictionary, and a history lesson.

There is little doubt that much of the Voting Rights Act is outdated, but will Congress admit that? Don't hold your breath.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A "Civilian" Agency?

Critics of President Bush's nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to be Director of Central Intelligence have raised a suspicious objection - whether a military officer can lead the CIA.

(WaPo) Hayden ran the super-secretive NSA from 1999 until last year, when he became the top deputy to the new national intelligence director, John Negroponte, who oversees the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies.

It could prove a contentious battle to switch to the CIA, given the reaction from lawmakers on the Sunday talk shows. They said the CIA is a civilian agency and putting Hayden atop it would concentrate too much power in the military for intelligence matters.

(UPI) Rep. Pete Hoekstra has said he respects Gen. Michael Hayden... but that a military person should not lead a civilian agency.

(AP) It will fall to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to keep order on the panel as it considers Hayden's confirmation. But even Roberts has acknowledged there is concern about someone from the military heading the CIA.

(Eugene Robinson - WaPo - the guy that forgot about internment and World War II) And given Donald Rumsfeld's ongoing power grab, we should really have a civilian, not an Air Force general, in charge of the CIA.
Quick note: Secretary Rumsfeld is a civilian and has been for decades. But beyond that, much more qualified people disagree:

Gen. Michael V. Hayden isn't the first active-duty military officer tapped to lead the CIA -- he is in fact the fifth -- but many intelligence experts and officers have bemoaned the idea of a general leading the agency at a time when the Pentagon is expanding its ability to engage in global spying and man-hunting, traditional realms of the CIA.

Despite such qualms, intelligence specialists say Hayden's appointment may turn out to be a clever move by intelligence czar John D. Negroponte to help him assert authority over Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his burgeoning intelligence bureaucracy. Negroponte, who by law oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, has expressed frustration that he has not made more progress in managing the agencies under the Defense Department's jurisdiction.

In addition, a rear admiral and a general each held the position of Director of Central Intelligence before the Central Intelligence Agency replaced the Central Intelligence Group. Another general preceded them as Director of Strategic Services during World War II. At least seven other directors had military experience.

To provide the history that critics were too lazy to check up on, here are the Directors of Central Intelligence, with their highest military ranks held before taking office:

Souers1946Rear AdmiralNavy
Vandenberg1946-47Lieutenant GeneralArmy (Air Forces)
Hillenkoetter1947-50Rear AdmiralNavy
Raborn1965-66Vice AdmiralNavy
Goss2004-05Intelligence officerArmy

And here's one interesting fact:
Although he comes from the world of high-tech signals intelligence, Hayden was an early proponent of scaling back the CIA's responsibilities so it could concentrate on human intelligence. As Negroponte's deputy, he helped reshape the CIA's directorate of operations into the National Clandestine Service, an effort that many CIA officers applauded.
Hopefully the Senate will be able to look at Gen. Hayden's qualifications without descending too far into ignorance, fear-mongering, and partisan obstructionism.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Laziest Protest Ever

As a part of Monday's pro-illegal-immigration pseudo-boycott, one of the laziest possible methods of participation is being promoted:
Participation in the pro-[illegal] immigration events can range from marching in mass rallies to wearing white on the job.
Of course in many industries, that's basically the same as saying people will be protesting by either (1) not going to work or (2) going to work.

They've actually found a way to be dumber than "Red Fridays."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Washington Post's Half-Baked Fundraising Report

The Washington Post misses some crucial conclusions with their mistitled article, "Senate Democrats Ahead in Cash Race." While fundraising numbers for the RNC, DNC, NRCC, and DCCC are buried in the article, the big picture is ignored.

Here are the totals, dollar amounts are in millions:

RaisedOn hand
R Total275.683.9
D Total183.365.1
R Lead92.318.8

For direct comparison, the top three GOP groups raised 50% more than Democrats, and have almost 30% more in the bank. In dollars, the DSCC's lead over the NRSC is more than made up for by the other top Republican organizations.

It also makes some sense that the NRSC would have some fundraising problems - it can be hard to explain that as a practical matter, 55 Republican Senators are not enough to control the chamber and prevent obstruction by the minority party.

Unfortunately, most media reporting focuses on comparing two of the organizations that raise the least money, leaving out the context.

Update, June 12: Republicans Continue to Outraise Democrats

Friday, March 17, 2006

Supreme Court Rebukes Law Schools

Just over a week ago, in a decision suprising for its unanimity:

The Supreme Court... unanimously upheld a federal law that forces colleges and universities to permit military recruiting on campus, despite the schools' objections to the Pentagon ban on openly gay people serving in the armed forces.

By a vote of 8 to 0, the court upheld the Solomon Amendment, which permits the denial of federal funding to schools that do not allow military recruiters the same access given to all other job recruiters.

The lawsuit was started by FAIR, a coalition of law schools and professors that claimed they had the right to take federal money without following federal requirements (and simultaneously doing a disservice to their students).

Not only did the greedy, pretentious academics lose in their attempt to bite the hand that feeds their overpriced institutions, they lost more than most expected (and more than the headline news could explain):
So thorough was the court's rejection of FAIR's arguments that it ruled Congress could have achieved equal access not only indirectly, by threatening a funding cutoff, but also directly, through legislation based on its constitutional power to raise military forces. In fact, the court suggested in passing, even colleges and universities that do not receive any federal funding could be compelled by Congress to allow military recruiters.
So while federal funding an acceptable condition for requiring schools to not discriminate against military recruiters, it isn't even necessary.

The schools lost because recruiter access is conduct, not speech. The New York Times' Adam Liptak adds:

And if the result was not embarrassing enough, there was also the tone of the court's unanimous decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In patient cadences, the kind you use in addressing a slightly dull child, the chief justice explained that law students would not assume that their schools supported the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy if they saw military recruiters on campus.

"High school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so," he wrote. "Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school."


Peter H. Schuck, a Yale law professor who thought the law schools' legal position was misguided, said that many professors were so indignant about the military's treatment of gay men and women and so scornful of the military itself that their judgment became clouded.


The elite law schools have for decades been overwhelmingly liberal, Professor Schuck said, and that may have blinded professors to problems with their arguments. Only one law school brief, organized by members of the faculty of George Mason University School of Law, supported the military.

It certainly says something about American law schools when the Supreme Court unanimously spurns the arguments presented by every school except for one. The signers of the George Mason faculty brief should be applauded.

For more information, check out:
Rumsfeld v. FAIR, No. 04-1152, Mar. 6, 2006
"U.S. Military: 8 Elite Law Schools: 0 How did so many professors misunderstand the law?" (Weekly Standard)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Don't Let Arabs Sign Our Paychecks!

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Tuesday that a deal allowing an Arab company to take over [the operation of] six major U.S. seaports [from a British company] should go forward and that he would veto any congressional effort to stop it.
Opposition appears to be based more in fear and pandering than genuine policy concerns. As the President explained:

"I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, 'We'll treat you fairly.'"


"This is a company that has played by the rules, has been cooperative with the United States, from a country that's an ally on the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through," the president said after emerging from his helicopter on the South Lawn.

The basic criticism is essentially guilt by association:
Critics have noted that some of the 9/11 hijackers used the UAE as an operational and financial base. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.
Similar observations could be made about many countries, including the U.S., without refusing to do business with them. The UAE, however, is also an important ally and business center:

U.S. warships regularly dock at Dubai's Jebel Ali Port, which is also managed by DP World, and the emirate became the first Middle Eastern port city in 2004 to sign a U.S. pact aimed at deterring the use of shipping containers for terrorism.

The UAE provides logistical support for some U.S. military operations in the region, including Afghanistan. The Gulf Arab state, an OPEC oil producer, is negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States.

There is a more reasonable reaction than blocking the takeover. The port authorities should have some say over who they do business with:
[Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich] and New York's George Pataki, also a Republican, have indicated they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states because of the DP World takeover.
The Washington Times explains what "operating" a port really means and interviewed actual Baltimore port workers (rather than posturing politicians):

Work at the port will continue to be performed by unionized longshoremen under the deal in which state-owned Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates purchased London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. for $6.8 billion.

P&O provides stevedoring and terminal operating services at Baltimore's Seagirt and Dundalk Marine terminals, the largest of the Maryland Port Administration's seven terminals, and at five other U.S. seaports.

The company also hires the terminal work force and ensures cargo is delivered or shipped at the port. It employs about 65 workers at the Port of Baltimore who handle mostly containerized cargo.

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection provide security... Port operators "just make sure every ship and every truck is unloaded," said Mike Bowden, president of International Longshoremen's Association Local 1459.


"I don't think it will affect me," said a 61-year-old longshoreman in an orange jumpsuit, who stopped by the same Citgo station to buy a stack of lottery tickets yesterday evening. "Everybody coming through on the ships are foreigners already.

"They have to go through customs and all that. ... It's the same ship, just somebody different who owns it."

As workers rolled out of the port at the end of their shift, one longshoreman, who also didn't provide his name, summed up the situation: "Nothing is going to change for us, man."

Rich Galen draws a useful analogy to explain port operations:

...the cable news programming geniuses have been talking about the US outsourcing "port security" to Dubai.

This is like saying the company which operates your local airport - which is to say it decides how much you pay for parking and where in the terminal the Starbucks will be located - is responsible for airline security.

It isn't.

Nor will DP World be responsible for port security. That remains with Customs and the Coast Guard...

Want to know what's really behind all this?

It's an even numbered year and we are 253 days from election day.

It's not about port security; It's about incumbent security.

Misunderstanding how ports work has spawned many false-premised reactions and editorials, like the Washington Post's "Wanna Buy a Port?" which begins "We're selling our harbors to an Arab government." Then there's an overly-emotional and less than factual letter reported by the AP:

"In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO - but HELL NO," conservative Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., wrote Bush in a terse letter on Wednesday that she also posted on her Web site.

No matter that no American port is actually being sold, Bush faces a spreading rebellion among Republicans, Democrats and port-state governors.

(The Washington Post quoted Myrick's letter without pointing out the false statement.)

Allegations of "anti-Arab bias" do not seem misplaced:
Meanwhile, Arab-Americans have said that the focus on the Dubai company is based on anti-Arab feelings rather than security concerns. "I find some of the rhetoric being used against this deal shameful and irresponsible," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, "There is bigotry coming out here." He accused politicians of exploiting fears left over from the 9/11 attacks to gain advantage in an election year. "Bush is vulnerable so the Democrats jump on it. The Republicans feel vulnerable so they jump on it. The slogan is, if it's Arab, it's bad. Hammer away" he said.
Meanwhile, more important issues are being ignored:

But whatever happens, experts in port operations said they feared broader issues about security in the country's docks were being lost in the controversy...

Stephen E. Flynn, a specialist in maritime security at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that although the company is state-owned, several members of its top management are Americans -- including its general counsel, a senior vice president and its outgoing chief operating officer, Edward H. Bilkey, who is a former U.S. Navy officer. And since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States has increasingly depended on such foreign port operators to cooperate in inspecting cargo before it heads for U.S. shores.

"It's a global network at the end of the day that we're trying to secure here," Flynn said. "And that doesn't happen by the United States owning every bit of it. What we should be focusing on instead is the question, are the security standards adequate?"


"What I hope for out of this whole debate is that, as Americans suddenly realize most of our marine terminals are managed by foreign-owned companies, they ask, given that that's a reality, how do we secure it?" Flynn said. "I also hope this current situation doesn't lead to a feeding frenzy [against foreign operators], because if we want things to be secure over here, we're going to have to work with foreign counterparts."

With a deeper understanding of how ports operate, it's much harder to defend opposing this deal, which, as Rich Galen described it, was "known to the financial community since November, [and] approved by one of those alphabet commissions which happens to involve SIX Cabinet Departments including Treasury, State, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Justice..." I will be very surprised if opponents decide to use fact-based reasons to stop the transfer. While ports should still be able to reject having a new partner forced on them, I have yet to see a good reason to oppose the takeover entirely.

For more information, check out:
Der Spiegel's overview of the UAE's development and economy
"Background Note: United Arab Emirates" (State Department)
"Ports of Politics: How to sound like a hawk without being one" (Wall Street Journal)
"Security and the Sale of Port Facilities: Facts and Recommendations" (Heritage Foundation)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lock Up the Court?

Brian Ross at ABC News seems to have a problem Supreme Court justices venturing outside the Beltway:
At the historic swearing-in of John Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States last September, every member of the Supreme Court, except Antonin Scalia, was in attendance. ABC News has learned that Scalia instead was on the tennis court at one of the country's top resorts, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., during a trip to a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society.
Despite the fact that such seminars are planned well in advance and that Scalia explained this ("I was out of town with a commitment that I could not break"), Ross goes on to pretend to speak for Chief Justice Roberts:
Not only did Scalia's absence appear to be a snub of the new chief justice, but according to some legal ethics experts, it also raised questions about the propriety of what critics call judicial junkets.
The now-deified Justice O'Connor was teaching a class in Arizona on the day her successor, Justice Alito, was sworn in. ABC News has not yet labeled this a "snub."

Then of course there's the fallacious guilt by association:

One night at the resort, Scalia attended a cocktail reception, sponsored in part by the same lobbying and law firm where convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff once worked.

"You know a lot of people would be embarrassed at that. I don't think Antonin Scalia will be embarrassed," Gillers continued.

Should Scalia also be embarrassed to attend White House events because its previous occupant was impeached?

Ross leaves out some interesting details::
  • Scalia was at the resort to teach a Continuing Legal Education seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society, as part of a larger meeting of the organization.
  • Regular attendance at such seminars is required of lawyers in 46 of the 51 U.S. jurisdictions as a condition of practicing law. They are often held at resorts, because attorneys hate having to amass the necessary credits and combining them with recreation ensures better attendance.
  • The seminars are usually taught by prominent members of the bar, and occasionally judges.
And these are not minor seminars:
  • Scalia arrived at the resort after 11PM on the first day. On the second day he taught his seminar, attended a reception and dinner, and played tennis. He left at 6:30 AM of the morning after the seminar. This... a late night arrival, a day of participation, and an early morning departure for the airport, is what Nightline referred to as spending "three days" at the resort.
  • Justice Scalia's materials for his course were 481 pages long. He taught for 10 hours, all in the one day he actually stayed at the resort.
  • How he found the time, not to mention the energy, to play tennis is a mystery.
The basic issue is this:

While there are ethics rules in place for lower federal court judges, there is no explicit code of ethics for the nine Supreme Court justices. Some practices have in turn come under scrutiny, such as accepting trips from groups with political and judicial agenda and gifts from private parties who may at some point have business before the court.

Ron Rotunda, a law professor at the George Mason School of Law, author of a textbook on legal ethics and who is himself a member of the Federalist Society, finds no problem with the Supreme Court justices attending events sponsored by the organization. "I'm a member of the Federalist Society, the NAACP, and the justices get invited to both, and I think that's a good idea," he said. "The organization doesn't have litigation before the judge and is unlikely to have litigation before the judge."

Gifts, including travel, provided to Supreme Court justices are already scrutinized. Other than covering his basic transportation and lodging expenses, Justice Scalia was paid nothing for his efforts. The problem here is the attitude that justices should not be associating with or educating fellow lawyers. Attending lawyers' seminars is simply an extension of the widespread practice of teaching at summer study abroad programs. Or is it less important to have educated practicing lawyers than to provide an excuse for students to study abroad?

It is also hard to see how anyone benefits from a Supreme Court locked away deep inside the Beltway.

A detailed analysis of the issue by a CLE instructor is available at The Ethics Scoreboard.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lower Standards, Lower Success

The Washington Post reports on minorities taking AP classes and exams, but misses a pretty crucial observation on affirmative action.

Across the Washington region, more black and Hispanic students are participating in highly touted Advanced Placement courses. Now, educators say they have to make certain that those students are not only taking the classes but are succeeding in them.


For many years, AP held barriers for minority students, said George P. Arlotto, principal of Wheaton High School in Montgomery County and a former AP teacher. "A lot of schools throughout the country created prerequisites to get into AP classes. Today, we've taken those barriers down. We tell the students, 'If you have the desire, then we want you in the class.' "


At Wheaton... the number of students taking the AP exams has grown almost sixfold -- from 46 in 2001 to 247 in 2005. Arlotto said that's partly because educators are making more of an effort to encourage students to take the difficult coursework.

But Wheaton is a prime example of the next phase in AP. Although more students are enrolling, not all are achieving passing scores on the AP exams. In 2005, only 37.4 percent of the students who took an exam scored a 3 -- the minimum passing score -- or better, compared with 67.5 percent in 2001.

So the school lowered its standards, saw a forty-five percent drop in passage rates, and now they're starting to wonder why.

Then there's this meaningless statement:
In Fairfax County, the number [of students taking AP exams ] grew 32.2 percent, but the percentage of black and Hispanic students taking the tests... remained steady at about 9 percent over the five-year period.
I'll avoid reviewing basic math here, but that means that the number of black and Hispanic students taking the exams also increased around 32 percent. The rest of the article is filled with more statistics without any meaningful analysis.

I took four AP exams in high school, only two of which (Calculus AB & BC) were even arguably attached to a high school course. One teacher questioned whether I would be able to pass the other two (U.S. & Comparative Government and Politics) on my own - but I already knew much of the information and learned the rest independently. I passed them all with 4's and 5's (5 is the highest score). Prerequisites should not be an absolute barrier for AP classes, but just whining about diversity and regurgitating statistics doesn't get us anywhere.

The problem that is apparent from this article is one of the fundamental flaws of affirmative action - putting people in educational settings that they would not qualify for on merit, leading to failure and discouragement. The question shouldn't be why some minorities aren't passing the exams, but why they weren't qualified for the classes in the first place.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Fear and Ignorance in the Washington Post

In The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson writes:
Once upon a time we had a great wartime president who told Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself. Now we have George W. Bush, who uses fear as a tool of executive power and as a political weapon against his opponents.
It's not worth reading beyond this point. The ignorance, whether intended or unavoidable, is too astounding. Robinson embraces the symbolism without substance of attacking one President with another's quotable quote - and he's not alone.

The quote is from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 Inaugural Address, not anytime during World War II. But beyond that, I am stunned that Robinson does not remember the most fear-based act of the Roosevelt administration - the forced internment of tens of thousands of Japanese, Germans, and Italians during World War II - or at least the 120,000 Japanese that were most notable.

Then there was a panoply of war measures - including war bonds, rationing, victory gardens, and salvage drives - but the most fear-inducing would be the predecessors of "duck and cover" in civil defense:
In May 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD)... By November, all the states and 5,935 towns and cities had set up defense councils... Proclaiming the safest place in an air raid was in the home, [an OCD pamphlet, "What to do in an Air Raid," advised] Americans to stay away from windows and crouch under "stout" tables. The government, with the threat of coastal enemy invasions on its mind, created the Civilian Air Patrol (CAP) whose duties were to patrol the east coast by ship and small plane. In March 1942, by military order, "dim-outs" began. This meant that there were to be no rays of light emitted on the eastern shore and inland for 12-16 miles. These dim-outs, or "blackouts," soon spread across the county and to the west coast. Americans bought yards of blackout curtain material, and magazines offered suggestions on how to comply with the blackout in style: "Bedrooms need not go into mourning," said House & Garden. "Make a blackout shade by seaming together two pieces of fabric, one black and one to match your curtain." Those who did not comply with blackout orders were subject to arrest.
Anyone who makes light of duct tape and plastic sheeting should condemn FDR for blackout curtains.

FDR's wartime message was this: There's nothing to fear but fear itself... and Japs, and Krauts, and death from the air, and death from the sea, death from enemy infiltrators, death by chemical attack, death by vicious rumors, death by sabotage, subversion and disloyalty, and anything unusual.

So Robinson finds a useful contrast between FDR and President Bush? There is one, but not knowing history, he didn't seem to find it. Where are the war bonds? The bomb shelters? Efforts to defend against chemical and biological attack? Americans are not afraid enough.

Oh, if only we could have the peace and serenity of the Second World War again.


Update, Feb. 2: The disease of historical ignorance spreads to Virginia's governor.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What Next for Israel?

With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in critical condition and not expected to return to office, many are asking what will happen to Israel if he cannot return to lead it. Will Israel's next leader continue to pursue the peace and security sought by Sharon's disengagement policies? What about the upcoming national election and Sharon's new political party, Kadima?

With national elections set for March 28, decisions about Kadima's future have been largely frozen during Sharon's health crisis. The party, cobbled together mainly from defectors from Likud and the rival Labor Party, has not selected a candidate list for the elections.

Party unity appeared to receive a boost Sunday when Shimon Peres, the onetime Labor leader and former prime minister, ended his silence about whether he would continue with Kadima or return to his old party by telling Israel Radio that he supported [deputy prime minister] Olmert.

Charles Krauthammer questions the future of Kadima without Sharon:

The problem is that the vehicle for this Sharonist centrism, his new Kadima Party, is only a few weeks old, has no institutional structure and is hugely dependent on the charisma of and public trust in Sharon.

To be sure, Kadima is not a one-man party. It immediately drew large numbers of defectors from the old left and right parties (Labor and Likud), including cabinet members and members of parliament. It will not collapse overnight. But Sharon's passing from the scene will weaken it in the coming March elections and will jeopardize its future. Sharon needed time, perhaps just a year or two, to rule the country as Kadima leader, lay down its institutional roots and groom a new generation of party leaders to take over after him.

This will not happen. There is no one in the country, let alone in his party, with his prestige and standing. Ehud Olmert, his deputy and now acting prime minister, is far less likely to score the kind of electoral victory that would allow a stable governing majority.

Kadima represents an idea whose time has come. But not all ideas whose time has come realize themselves. They need real historical actors to carry them through. Sharon was a historical actor of enormous proportion, having served in every one of Israel's wars since its founding in 1948, having almost single-handedly saved Israel with his daring crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and now having broken Israel's left-right political duopoly that had left the country bereft of any strategic ideas to navigate the post-Oslo world. Sharon put Israel on the only rational strategic path out of that wreckage. But, alas, he had taken his country only halfway there when he himself was taken away. And he left no Joshua.

In The Times (London), Tim Hames takes an optimistic view, arguing that 'Ariel Sharon will not be indispensable — he's altered Israel too much':

Kadima might have needed Mr Sharon to start it; it does not, though, require him to maintain it. He may turn out to have been its Moses figure. If he had died or been removed earlier from political life, even in the first half of 2005, it may not have developed as it has.

The dilemma for Israel and the peace process is not that Mr Sharon cannot continue to serve as Prime Minister. It is that there is no equivalent to Mr Sharon in the Arab world. There is no one willing to acknowledge publicly that the Palestinians cannot have all that they might want, just as Israelis cannot have everything they might desire.

There is no one prepared to state what is absolutely obvious, namely that any return to the boundaries of 1967, let alone those of 1948, is a ludicrous notion. There is no one willing to declare openly that not only do those who surround Israel have to recognise its right to exist, but that their societies will thrive only when they begin to emulate the democratic values, economic ingenuity and cultural diversity that explain why Israel’s gross domestic product exceeds that of its vastly more populous neighbours combined.

The Economist arrived in today's mail and its article on the subject had this subtitle: "The death or departure of Israel's superhawk will darken hopes for peace."

It's hard to tell which view will be right. The departure of Sharon will certainly complicate things, the future may depend on the rest of Kadima's leadership. As we wait for updates and the election approaches, we may have to hope that party unity will show Israel that progress can continue without changing to an unknown course.