Friday, July 29, 2005

Congressional Action: First Christian Church of Weirton

On July 29, Senator Jay Rockefeller -- who apparently (and quite properly) has not fallen for the notion that the U.S. Constitution mandates a "separation of church and state" -- rose on the floor of the Senate to endorse the good works of the First Christian Church of Weirton, West Virginia:
Mr. President, it is with great honor that I rise today to publicly recognize the 175th anniversary of the First Christian Church in Weirton, WV. The church has ministered to the Ohio Valley since West Virginia was recognized as our country's 35th state.

The Christian Church, which is also known as the Disciples of Christ, is a Protestant denomination of approximately 800,000 members in the United States and Canada. It is one of the largest faith groups founded on American soil. The founders of the Christian Church were Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander Campbell. Both of these men and other distinguished leaders of the Disciples of Christ ministered at the First Christian Church in Weirton.

Members of the church have been faithful in serving their country. One of the church's original members, in fact, received a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1898. Mr. Uriah Brown received the award for his heroism in the Civil War, especially at the siege of Vicksburg.

Weirton is very much a city that reflects the struggles of the steel industry in our Nation...

Since 1830, the First Christian Church has provided a place of hope, faith, shelter, and witness for the people of West Virginia. I join with them in celebrating its good works and wishing it all the best as it prepares for another century of service.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Medical Malpractice Liability Reform Blog Debuts

There's a new blog being published to cover medical malpractice liability reform and related issues.

The LIABILITY UPDATE by Donna Baver Rovito blog describes itself as:
Featuring news, commentary and legislative action about the medical liability crisis, which impacts both physicians and patients by limiting access to quality medical care
Hat tip: Point of (always my first stop for civil legal reform news and discussion) and Kevin, M.D., a medical blog I have featured on my personal Yahoo page (which means I never miss new entries).

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:44 PM

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Congressional Action: MTBE

On July 28, speaking on the floor of the House, Rep. Joe Pitts blamed Congress for MTBE contamination:
Mr. Speaker, I am going to support the energy bill later today, but I am amazed that Democrats in this town have convinced the majority party that law-abiding citizens must clean up Congress's mess.

When Congress mandated use of cleaner-burning gas, MTBE was the only way companies could obey its orders. Upon learning MTBE was linked to environmental concerns, Congress did not accept responsibility, change the policy, or invest in alternatives. Congress told the companies to clean up the mess themselves. Trial lawyers loved it. Congress's inaction signaled that obeying law warrants a lawsuit. Now they sue anyone who might have even had a thought of using MTBE.

Mr. Speaker, these companies did not cover up bad data. They did not set out to save money by cutting corners. They did not even choose to use MTBE over a cleaner alternative. Congress made them do it.

The Democrats' own energy chairman in 1990 admits that. He says MTBE "was the only commercially viable alternative at the time.''
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Boy, 4, Found On Beltway; Mother Jailed

This Washington Post story is horrifying -- though the boy is safe now.

I can't imagine how anyone, let alone a mother, could let a child be unattended on such a dangerous road for even a minute, let alone abandon him entirely.

God bless the little fellow.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:10 AM

CAFTA Approved

The Central American Free Trade Agreement was approved a few minutes after midnight, July 28, by 217-215.

CAFTA previously was approved by the Senate 54-45 June 30.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:28 AM

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Congressional Action: Elvin Oren Craig

On July 27, Senator Mike Crapo rose to pay tribute to the father of Senator Larry Craig:
Mr. President, I would like to honor the life of a special Idahoan who is also the father of my colleague from Idaho, Senator Larry Craig. Elvin Oren Craig, who passed away last week, left many legacies and will be missed by many people. In Idaho, he served as a lifelong advocate for Idaho agriculture, and a leader in Washington County, Midvale and Weiser. He also was very active in his local VFW Post in Midvale, ID. At 87 years old, he had remained active despite a diagnosis of prostate cancer. In fact, he worked until only about 6 months ago when he decided it might be time to let up a little bit. Elvin Craig's legacy also lives on in my colleague and in Senator Craig's consistent and honorable service to Idahoans over his years in public office. I know that Elvin was proud of his son's service to Idaho and the country -- first in the Idaho State Senate, then in the U.S. House of Representatives, and now in the U.S. Senate.

Elvin's family and friends know of his community service and his persistent commitment over many years to Idaho's farmers and ranchers and his own family. He worked hard while maintaining his sense of humor. His full life was an outstanding example of what it means to be an Idahoan. I am pleased to pay tribute to a remarkable man, Elvin Oren Craig, and to share my condolences to my friend, Larry Craig, and his family upon the passing of a great man.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Heritage Foundation CAFTA Corner

For anyone wondering what the CAFTA fuss is all about, The Heritage Foundation has established a CAFTA Corner on its website.

"CAFTA Corner" contains a CAFTA blog, links to eight papers on CAFTA (some by Heritage experts, others by outside experts such as Depurty Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick and diplomats from other affected nations), CAFTA commentaries and other resources.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:15 PM

Demonization of CAFTA Unwarranted

National Center Policy Analyst takes a look at environmentalist criticism of CAFTA and finds the criticism, but not the proposed free trade agreement, wanting:
Objections leveled against the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) by the environmental establishment organizations are exaggerated and unfounded, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.

CAFTA, a trade agreement to establish a virtual tariff-free zone among the United States and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, was approved 54-45 by the U.S. Senate June 30. A vote in the U.S. House of Representatives could come as early as this week.

Groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice (formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), Friends of the Earth and others say CAFTA would undermine U.S. and Central American environmental standards. A report by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research (NEBR), however, refutes their assertion that relaxed trade barriers will privilege business interests at the expense of the environment.

"The hard environmental left's demonization of CAFTA is unwarranted," said National Center Policy Analyst Ryan Balis. "Reducing trade barriers not only invigorates competition, spurs needed development and fights poverty, it also, on balance, works for the good of promoting good environmental impacts."

For example, according to NEBR's report, an average 50 percent lifting of American trade barriers on manufactured goods between 1978-1994 coincided with a 51 percent increase in American manufacturing output and a 344 percent increase in imports from developing countries. And, contrary to the claims of the environmental left, imports manufactured through environmentally-detrimental processes actually dropped.

NEBR's report, "Does the U.S. Outsource Polluting Industries?," says there is "no evidence that domestic production of pollution-intensive goods in the U.S. is being replaced by imports from overseas."

Also, the proposed CAFTA treaty includes a $15 million per year penalty on member governments failing to enforce their domestic environmental laws. Furthermore, an "Environmental Affairs Council" and independent arbitration group will be established to handle environmental concerns and disputes.

Balis adds: "The environmental left's opposition to CAFTA is straight from the playbook of Al Gore-style alarmism..."
Addendum: James Knott, Sr. writes to say:
Riverdale Mills Corporation ships about 25 percent of its product out of the U.S. and brings about percent of its raw materials into the U.S. from other countries. When NAFTA came into being, we began buying steel in Canada without paying duties and shipping finished product to Mexico without paying duties. Like NAFTA, CAFTA is a winner for both sides.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:15 AM

Just Noticing?

Hill a Steppingstone to K Street for Some

-Headline, Washington Post, July 27, 2005

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:08 AM

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Congressional Action: CAFTA

On July 26, several Members of Congress discussed CAFTA on the floor of the House. Two samples of these speeches, one opposed to CAFTA, one supportive of it:
"Mr. Speaker, Chicago used to be known as the Candy Capital of the World. Unfortunately, sugar makers, food processors, and other sugar users have been driven out of the city by high prices.

Despite all of my other misgivings, I had hoped that CAFTA would provide us with some relief. But, unfortunately, to let in only 151,000 metric tons of sugar from CAFTA countries over a 15-year period will not put a dent in sugar prices. It will not help the candy makers and food processors in Chicago. Therefore, I shall vote against CAFTA and urge all of my colleagues to vote likewise."

-Rep. Danny Davis

"Mr. Speaker, this week we will debate CAFTA. All of the Nation's major newspaper editorial boards support CAFTA. Listen to these quotes.

The Washington Post cites a study that shows U.S. income would increase by $17 billion under CAFTA. The Wall Street Journal says CAFTA would expand the market for U.S. goods with the 44 million consumers of six Central American countries. The Journal goes on to say that American farmers would be among the biggest winners under CAFTA.

USA Today says CAFTA would slash tariffs on agriculture products coming from the U.S. The L.A. Times says the benefits of free trade are evenly spread across society, citing rapid growth and higher income of free trading nations.

Even the New York Times claims that this free trade agreement "deserves to approved.''

In addition to these editorial boards, Central American workers and leaders overwhelmingly support this agreement. Mr. Speaker, they cannot all be wrong. I, therefore, urge my colleagues to vote in favor of CAFTA. More trade means more jobs."

-Rep. Joe Pitts

Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

On Endangered Species: or

Why is asking visitors to its website to send their Congressmen a pre-written letter ("As your constituent, I'm writing to urge you to support the 'Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act,' Rep. Richard Pombo's effort to reform the Endangered Species Act, and help restore American property rights...") when...

1) The legislation has not been introduced;

2) Drafts of a bill made available to independent property rights advocates (who mostly are being kept out of the loop -- never a good sign) show it could be a property rights disaster?

A better approach seems to be one along the lines suggested in a letter signed by over 60 conservative leaders to Rep. Pombo in which Americans are compensated for any endangered species-related taking of their property (unlike any draft of the Pombo bill we've seen or heard of).

I'm also wondering about something else.

Isn't it a little disingenuous of to quote Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center as if DeWeese supported the as yet non-existent "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act" when the American Policy Center's website headlines a strong attack on drafts of the proposal ("Due to recent confusion and half-truths concerning the coming effort to reauthorize Endangered Species Act, the American Policy Center feels it is time to clear the air a bit. Some of our frequent allies on property rights are playing word games with grassroots property rights advocates in hopes of deceiving them into supporting what appears to be a bad bill...")?

Wouldn't it be better for to quote someone who actually thinks it is a good deal for Americans to be paid 50 cents on the dollar as compensation for the government taking their land against their will?

I expect I agree with 99 percent of the time, but their work on this matter has me puzzled.

Addendum: I stand corrected. Over 70 leaders/institutions, not 60, have signed the letter to House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo that calls for, among other things, "compensating landowners for any [emphasis added] taking of their property or loss of use of their property resulting from the ESA."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:27 PM

Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005 Draft Analyzed

The National Center for Public Policy Research has a new press release out today examining House Resources Committee Chairman's "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005" (a bill that actually has not been introduced) based on available drafts.

The Center for Biological Diversity says the proposal would gut the Endangered Species Act; independent property rights advocates are taking the opposite view -- looking askance, for instance, at a provision that would extend the ESA's reach into coverage of "invasive species."

The press release follows:
Pombo Proposal Wouldn't Gut the Endangered Species Act: It Could Give it Formidable New Teeth

Critics of Rep. Richard Pombo's Endangered Species Act reform initiative - critics such as the Center for Biological Diversity -- are simply wrong when they claim it would gut the Endangered Species Act, says The National Center for Public Policy Research.

"Richard Pombo's bill, if unchanged, could give the ESA alarming new powers," said David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center and a long-time activist on land issues.

Pombo's proposal is called "The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005" and, until recently, was expected to sail quickly through the House Resources Committee. Rep. Pombo chairs the Committee.

"Property rights advocates are voicing concern about a provision that would extend the ESA's reach into so-called 'invasive species' -- never before regulated under the law," said Ridenour.

Under an Executive Order signed by President Clinton, invasive species are "any species, including seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem."

"By this definition," says Ridenour, "almost any living thing could be considered an 'invasive species,' thereby giving federal bureaucrats broad new powers to regulate human activity -- where we live, what we plant in our yards, and where and how we vacation."

"Rep. Pombo may have been attempting to create a more narrow definition of invasive species," he said, "in an attempt to pre-empt more onerous regulations. If so, he should be applauded for his good intentions. But good intentions or not, such regulations could do more harm than good."

"Extending regulations to cover invasive species is a Pandora's Box that once opened may never be closed," Ridenour continued. "We won't need to wait for its ill-effects: Since equestrians, dirt bikers and ATV enthusiasts can carry seeds on or in their clothing, equipment and horses, these regulations can immediately be used as a pretext for kicking recreationists out of our national parks and other public lands."

The draft legislation also includes a compensation provision for property rights losses due to the ESA. But it would only kick in after a landowner loses 50 percent or more of the affected portion of his/her property value. Many small landowners can't afford a 25 percent loss of their farmlands, homes, ranches and investment property, much less 49.9 percent.

And even those who hit that magic 50 percent trigger may never see any money, as property owners would still be required to jump through costly and time-consuming bureaucratic hoops that can make it uneconomic to file a claim.

"The protections offered to private landowners are a lot like having the French on your side in war -- largely symbolic," said David Ridenour. "Chairman Pombo could have done better, especially in light of the growing public support for property right protections in the wake of the Supreme Court's Kelo v. City of New London decision."

The National Center identified other problems with the draft legislation, including:
* It would require property owners who are compensated for losses under the ESA to transfer title to their land to the federal government. This may permit the government to acquire land at bargain prices. It is not clear, for example, if government could gain 100 percent title by paying for a 50 percent loss.

* The proposal would exempt ESA advisory committees from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which, among other things, requires public disclosure of advisory committee membership. Important decisions should not be made in secret by unaccountable and anonymous committees.
"I applaud Chairman Pombo for recognizing the importance of fixing the ESA, but I don't believe his bill will produce the results he hopes," said Ridenour. "You can't fix an already poisonous law by increasing its dosage. Unfortunately, I believe this is what some of the provisions of the bill would do."

The Endangered Species Act is already one of the most powerful statutes on the books. Critics say this is one of the main reasons it has failed so miserably.

Of the nearly 1,300 domestic species listed as either endangered or threatened since the ESA went into effect over 30 years ago, less than 1% of these species have recovered sufficiently to be delisted.

A similar number of species have gone extinct over that time.

Environmentalists claim that the 1 percent extinction rate is a sign of the ESA's success. This, they say, means the ESA has "saved" 99 percent of the protected species from extinction.

Critics call this position "delusional."

"The act of delisting species -- including those long since extinct and those that were never in danger in the first place -- is so politically-charged that it practically takes an Act of Congress to get a species off these lists," said Ridenour. "Continued listing of a species can be more of a statement on the power of the environmental movement than it is the true condition of a species. The only measure that counts is recovery."

Recovery of species, Ridenour says, is linked to strong property rights protections.

Close to 80 percent of all species listed as either endangered and threatened species have habitat on private lands. Thus, private landowners are critically important to the survival of these species.

Under the current ESA structure, because the discovery of such species on private land can result in severe land use restrictions that can lead to economic ruin, private landowners have strong financial incentives to make their land as inhospitable as possible to rare species.

"If landowners are punished for being good environmental stewards, we should not be surprised if many of them are not good stewards," said Ridenour. "Compensation to property owners for losses resulting from species conservation is an effective means of ending this perverse incentive system. Species would benefit; people would benefit."

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, DC. Founded in 1982, it has promoted innovative, market-based solutions to environmental problems.

For more information, contact Ryan Balis at (202) 507-6398 or email him at [email protected]

Cross-posted on The Commons Blog.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:21 PM

Monday, July 25, 2005

Congressional Action: Junko Cushman

On July 25, Senator John Kerry shared a resolution written for another legislative body regarding the death of San Diego community and Democratic Party activist Junko Cushman:
Mr. President, I wish to submit to the record the following resolution regarding the passing of Junko Cushman.

Beloved by all her friends and neighbors, Junko always found time to serve her community. Whether working to bring arts and culture to her community, or improving the quality of healthcare, Junko always showed uncommon passion and determination in her efforts. She discovered very young that the key to a fulfilling life is a life of helping others. Junko's community may be weaker for her loss, but is no doubt stronger for her service. It is my privilege to honor her on the Senate floor today.

The resolution follows:

Whereas, the passing, at 60, of a distinguished California resident, Junko Cushman, whose good deeds earned her the respect and admiration of her colleagues and the countless individuals whose lives she touched, brought immense sorrow and loss to people throughout the state; and

Whereas, although she never sought attention, Junko Cushman's natural sense of style and hands-on commitment to charitable causes were impossible to overlook; and

Whereas, a Japanese-born San Diegan, she entertained with international flair, excelled at multicultural floral arrangements, and took a leadership role in the Union of Pan Asian Communities; and

Whereas, Mrs. Cushman served as chairwoman of events benefiting the San Diego Museum of Art and the Arthritis Foundation and had been on the boards of the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego Foundation, and Burnham Cancer Institute; and

Whereas, Mrs. Cushman dedicated her time and service to San Diego State University's Japanese Cultural Fair in Balboa Park; and

Whereas, in 1987, Mrs. Cushman served as Chairwoman of a Union of Pan Asian Communities dinner dance on Harbor Island and, in 1989, she played a similar role for the Arthritis Foundation; and

Whereas, Over the years, Mrs. Cushman has shown her strong support for California's political system through her affiliation with the Democratic Party; and

Whereas, in 1989, Mrs. Cushman and her husband, Larry, were honored for their community service at a Meals on Wheels dinner dance; and

Whereas, born in Nagano, Japan, and raised in Tokyo, Mrs. Cushman graduated from the prominent Tamagawa High School and, at age 19, she moved to Los Angeles, California, where she studied English for two years before returning to Japan; and

Whereas, she leaves to mourn her passing and celebrate her legacy her husband; Larry; her brother, Hisato Hara; her stepdaughters, Diane Cushman and Janice Ziegler; her grandson, Zachary; her two granddaughters, Ashley and Sarah; her niece Mari; and her nephew Yasuto; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by Assembly Member Juan Vargas, That he expresses his deepest regret at the passing of Junko Cushman, and extends his heartfelt sympathy to her bereaved family and friends.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Saturday, July 23, 2005

AFL-CIO Breakup: Priorities, Priorities

This New York Times article examines the possible impact of a breakup of the AFL-CIO on the Democratic Party...

...but forgets to examine the impact of an AFL-CIO breakup on workers.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:46 PM

Kathleen Parker: Easy Virtue

This piece by Kathleen Parker is pretty funny:
I hadn't realized how unaware I was until the woman seated next to me snapped a strip of leather around my wrist and whispered: "This is hottest thing in Hollywood right now."

Looking down, I admired my new adornment. Embossed on the soft caramel leather band were the words "Stop Global Warming." Almost immediately, I was aware of wearing a bracelet. I was also aware of an unfamiliar warmth. Not the global sort, but that which radiates from one's Inner Virtue.

I could feel other people in the restaurant looking at me and knew that they knew. As I walked down the street later, strangers glanced discreetly at my wrist, whispering and nodding. Their faces betrayed their thoughts:

"There goeth forth a woman who opposes global warming," and all were glad.

And soon the planet would cool, and the glaciers would freeze again, and Mother Earth would smile upon her diverse and virtuous children...
Read the rest here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:01 AM

Friday, July 22, 2005

Congressional Action: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

On July 22, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter and Rep. John Shimkis addressed the House regarding H. Con. Res. 128, Expressing the Sense of the Congress Regarding the Baltic Countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the text of which reads:
Whereas the incorporation in 1940 of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the Soviet Union was an act of aggression carried out against the will of sovereign people;

Whereas the United States was steadfast in its policy of not recognizing the illegal Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania;

Whereas the Russian Federation is the successor state to the Soviet Union;

Whereas the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, including its secret protocols, between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union provided the Soviet Union with the opportunity to occupy and annex Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania;

Whereas the occupation brought countless suffering to the Baltic peoples through terror, killings, and deportations to Siberian concentration camps;

Whereas the peoples of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania bravely resisted Soviet aggression and occupation;

Whereas the Government of Germany renounced its participation in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 and publicly apologized for the destruction and terror that Nazi Germany unleashed on the world;

Whereas in 1989, the Congress of Peoples' Deputies of the Soviet Union denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 and its secret protocols;

Whereas President Putin recently confirmed that the statement of the Congress of Peoples' Deputies remains the view of the Russian Federation;

Whereas the illegal occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries by the Soviet Union remains unacknowledged by the Russian Federation;

Whereas a declaration of acknowledgment of the illegal occupation and annexation by the Russian Federation would lead to improved relations between the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and the people of Russia, would form the basis for improved relations between the governments of the countries, and strengthen stability in the region;

Whereas the Russian Federation is to be commended for acknowledging grievous and regrettable incidents in the Soviet era, such as the massacre by the Soviet regime of Polish soldiers in the Katyn Forest in 1939;

Whereas the truth is a powerful weapon for healing, forgiving, and reconciliation, but its absence breeds distrust, fear, and hostility; and

Whereas countries that cannot clearly admit their historical mistakes and make peace with their pasts cannot successfully build their futures: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that the Government of the Russian Federation should issue a clear and unambiguous statement of admission and condemnation of the illegal occupation and annexation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991 of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the consequence of which will be a significant increase in good will among the affected peoples and enhanced regional stability.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

John Kerry, Hypocrite?

From the AP, "Kerry Seeks Release of Roberts' Documents":
Democratic Sen. John Kerry urged the White House on Friday to release "in their entirety" all documents and memos from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' tenure in two Republican administrations.

"We cannot do our duty if either Judge Roberts or the Bush administration hides elements of his professional record," said the Massachusetts senator who was his party's presidential candidate last year...
Pardon me, but isn't this the same guy who expected their voters to do their duty when casting presidential ballots in 2004 without seeing elements of his professional record?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:13 PM

Politics of Personal Destruction: Keep Kids Out of It, Project 21 Says

Project 21 member Michael King has nothing good to say about a conversation on the left-wing Daily Kos blog about the little son of Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts.

Michael, by the way, is the host of the Rambling's Journal blog.

While we are on the topic of the way the Roberts family is being treated, allow me to once again endorse Michelle Malkin's thoughts on the topic (here and here).

Once again, I agree with Mary Katherine Ham as well.

I thought the Roberts family looked great that evening.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:05 PM

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Congressional Action: RU-486 Kills Women

On July 21, Rep. Chris Smith addressed the floor of the House:
Mr. Speaker, the FDA issued a stern warning on Tuesday about the dangers to women from RU-486, the abortion drug the Clinton administration aggressively pushed through approval without proving its safety. Not only is RU-486 baby pesticide, killing unborn children up to 7 weeks, it is poison to the women themselves. Licensed by the Population Council, manufactured in the PRC, and widely disbursed by Planned Parenthood, at least five women have died in the U.S. after taking this dangerous drug. As a result of these women's deaths and serious concerns that many more women have died as well -- underreporting is a serious problem--new drug labeling will warn women that serious danger of sepsis and blood infection can occur.

Because RU-486 was rushed to approval by the Clinton administration using the expedited FDA subpart H process, which is supposed to be used for HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases, numerous safety concerns were suppressed, trivialized and overlooked. The Clinton FDA approval process was a gross sham. The approval of RU-486 is a scandal that is today killing women. The FDA must pull this dangerous drug...
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Project 21 Chides the Left

Project 21 has a new, rather amusing new press release out that compares recent statements by liberals about Judge John Roberts to statements made by the left about then-Judge David Souter when Souter was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court back in 1990.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:09 PM

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Congressional Action: What Judges Do

On July 20, Senator Orrin Hatch, in a floor speech about the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, discussed the role of judges:
An effective process for hiring or selecting someone to fill a position, any position, must start with an accurate description of that position. I am reminded of a 1998 article by Judge Harry Edwards appointed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. I was in this body at the time. He was that court's chief judge from 1994 to 2001 and a colleague of Judge Roberts. Judge Edwards warned that giving the public a distorted view of what judges do is bad for both the judiciary and the rule of law.

The debate about judicial selection is a debate about what judges do, about their proper place in our system of representative government. Getting the judicial job description right is necessary for a legitimate and effective selection process. It defines the qualifications for the job. It identifies the criteria we should apply. It guides the questions that may properly be asked and answered and the conclusions that should be reached.

Judges take law that they did not make and cannot change, determine what it means, and apply it to the facts of a legal dispute. That is what judges do. That judicial job description applies across the board. It does not depend on the parties or the issues before the court. It does not depend on the law that is involved in a particular case. And it certainly does not depend on which side wins or should win.

I believe we must help our fellow citizens better understand what judges do so they can better evaluate what we will be doing in the weeks ahead as we consider this nomination now before us.

Without in any way trivializing the work of judges, I want to use a practical example because I believe it can be simple without being simplistic.

Judges are like umpires or referees. They are neutral officials who take rules they did not make and cannot change and apply those rules to a contest between two parties or multiple parties.

How would we evaluate the performance of an umpire or referee? Would we say he or she did a good job as long as our favorite team won the game? If we were hiring an umpire or referee, would we grill him or her about which side he or she were likely to favor in the upcoming matches? Of course not.

Desirable results neither justify an umpire or referee twisting the rules during the game nor are automatic proof that the umpire or referee is fair and impartial. Umpires and referees must be fair and impartial from beginning to end during the contest before them. They do not pick the winner before the game starts, nor do they manipulate the process along the way to produce the winner they want.

In the same way, we must not evaluate judges solely by whether we like their decisions or whether their decisions favor a particular political agenda. The political ends do not justify the judicial means.

This is a very important point, something we must keep in clear focus throughout the weeks ahead.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

The Moon

Look close. It really is made of cheese!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:36 PM

Judicial Task Force Formed by Project 21

Project 21 has announced the formation of a Project 21 judicial task force to address issues of judicial nominations and questions of Constitutional law.

Principal members include:
Cheryl Harley LeBon, a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee;
Brian Jones, a former general counsel to the Department of Education and a former Senate Judiciary Committee staff member;
Peter Kirsanow, a labor lawyer and sitting commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Other members include:
Anthony Anderson, a prison youth counselor;
Jerry Brooks, a former public affairs television show host;
Reverend Steven Craft, a reformed convict turned prison minister;
Marc Elcock, an attorney for the Iowa House of Representatives;
Lisa Fritsch, a freelance writer and speaker;
Day Gardener, director of Black Americans for Life;
Eddie Huff, an insurance agent and host of the "NewBlackThought" blog;
Michael King, host of the popular "Ramblings Journal" blog;
Charles Johnson, a criminal defense attorney and former professional football player;
Darryn "Dutch" Martin, a frequent contributor to;
Kevin Martin, an environmental contractor;
Mychal Massie, a columnist and talk show host;
Geoffrey Moore, a graduate student in business;
Council Nedd II, a health care consultant and ordained minister;
Donald Scoggins, founder of the Frederick Douglass Republican Leadership Forum;
Ak'Bar Shabazz, a business consultant;
Bishop Imagene Stewart, who runs a shelter for battered women and is a talk radio host.
In a press release announcing the formation of the task force, Peter Kirsanow commented upon President Bush's selection of Judge John Roberts to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor:
Judge Roberts is a superb pick for the Supreme Court. His integrity, intellect and judgment are unassailable.
Lisa Fritsch seconded the praise:
In selecting Judge Roberts, President Bush has proven once again that polls and ad campaigns are not driving his decisions. This judge is a respected representative of sound and balanced jurisprudence.
Jerry Brooks expressed a hope that the confirmation process will be dignified:
We can only hope that the Senate will not turn this process into a political three-ring circus. President Bush should be able to have him nominees considered in the same timely manner enjoyed by his predecessors. This is a golden opportunity for senators to show decorum as well as common sense.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:38 PM

Slang is No Ticket to Success

Project 21 members are saying that teaching ebonics in the public schools, as San Bernardino, California now proposes to do, is no way to give students a passport to personal fulfillment and professional success.

Says Project 21's Michael King:
Teaching Ebonics, which is nothing more than urban slang, will not provide a means for an individual to acquire a job. It will not help someone maintain a living. It will not provide an individual with the skills necessary to compete in an academic setting, let alone a professional setting. It does absolutely nothing positive for those to whom it is taught. I don't see professors trying to justify hacker geek-speak or online shorthand as their own separate language!
Says Project 21's Kevin Martin:
There are some who would prefer the San Bernardino school system and other schools throughout the United States take the easy way out by sending our children into the world without a grasp of basic English skills. This is a disservice to the black community that will severely limit our children's skills in the job market. This is a prime example of what people call 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.'
Read Project 21's entire press release here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:15 PM

Scotty Beams Up

Thanks for the memories, James Doohan.

Before Doohan's death, he arranged to have his ashes sent into space.

My Dad was an engineer. It was nice to see the "Scotty" character demonstrate that engineers can be heroes.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:53 PM

I'm With Michelle On This

The photos of young Mr. Roberts are hilarious.

My take is the same as Michelle's. I identify totally with the parents -- but I am impressed that their children are so clean. Did the kids get dressed 10 feet offstage, and 1 minute before? Probably -- smart parents!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:13 PM

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Project 21 on Bush Supreme Court Nomination

Project 21 released comments Tuesday afternoon on the President's then-pending Supreme Court nomination:
Black Activists Speak Out on Bush Supreme Court Nomination

With tonight's announcement of a Supreme Court nominee, members of the black leadership network Project 21 implore senators to engage in a quick and fair confirmation process that is free of partisanship and political power-plays.

"The President has chosen. It is now prudent that this nominee be accorded fair and timely proceedings that are free of the rancorous hyperbole Americans have witnessed in the Senate over the past few years," said Project 21 member Mychal Massie. "This process is not about left or right, but rather about the nominee's willingness to support and defend the Constitution. Let us hope that those who have asked to share their opinions with the President and had their voices heard do not now choose to apply an ideological litmus test to the process."

President George W. Bush met with Senate leaders about potential candidates prior to tonight's announcement, and he and members of the White House staff have had direct contact with at least 60 senators during the selection process.

"Let's hope this confirmation process is free of any and all litmus tests and other types of political wrangling," said Project 21 member Darryn "Dutch" Martin. "A nominee should be judged on their merits and strict adherence to our Constitution."

Project 21 takes no position on the confirmation of any particular judicial nominee, but believes that it is in the best interest of the United States that judicial vacancies are filled with appropriate speed....

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:13 PM

Congressional Action: Kennedy's View

On July 19, Senator Ted Kennedy delivered a speech outlining his view of the Judicial nomination process. An excerpt:
It is a fundamental part of our system of checks and balances that the power to appoint judges, especially Justices of the Supreme Court, is shared by the President and Senators from all fifty States, so that the Nation's diverse interests can be represented in this important choice.

The Founders believed that the whole Senate and the President together would do the best job of confirming independent Supreme Court justices, who would be above politics, and not beholden to any politician or political party. They wanted an independent, impartial Supreme Court that would give everyone a fair hearing, rather than favoring powerful corporations or special interests with political clout.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work. Opinions and facts represented in this feature do not necessarily represent the views of Amy Ridenour or The National Center for Public Policy Research, nor is this feature intended to express an opinion on any measure under consideration by the Congress.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Monday, July 18, 2005

Congressional Action: Independent Judiciary

On July 18, Senator Max Baucus delivered a speech supporting a judiciary independent of other branches of government. It included the following story:
...President Eisenhower, who appointed Chief Justice Warren, tried to influence the Chief Justice on that landmark case. [Warren biographer Jim] Newton reports that during the period when the Court was considering Brown v. Board of Education, President Eisenhower invited Chief Justice Warren to join him at dinner with a number of guests. That was while that case was pending.

It turned out that President Eisenhower had also invited one of the lawyers for the Southern States in the Brown case.

As the President and Chief Justice stood up from the table -- this was dinner, remember, with one of the lawyers for the Southern States there, a private dinner, Chief Justice Warren was there, and President Eisenhower, who appointed Chief Justice Warren, was there -- as they stood up from the table, the President took the Chief Justice by the arm. The President motioned to others in the room and then whispered into the Chief Justice's ear: "These are not bad people."

The President told the Chief Justice that they were only concerned about their "sweet little girls" having to sit in school beside African-American children.

That is what President Eisenhower said at that dinner to Chief Justice Warren when Brown v. Board of Education was pending. So it mattered that we had a Chief Justice who was independent enough not to listen to the President who appointed him.

It mattered that Chief Justice Warren was independent enough to write for the majority:

We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal...
Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Health of Supreme Court Justices: Is It Our Business?

There are a number of interesting questions raised in this Washington Post story about the health of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The article raises other questions, but some that occur to me are:
* Is it ethical for the head of one of the three branches of our federal government to keep the public from knowing details of his serious medical disorders?

* Should a distinction be made between disorders that are purely physical versus those that are reasonably likely to affect his judgment (speaking purely hypothetically, a hip replacement versus growing memory loss)?

* Is it less important for the public to know the health status of the Chief Justice because he lacks the power to send troops to war?

* Since the public "sees" the President (on TV) and hears from him often, and pretty much every official move the President makes is followed and analyzed by the press, yet (for some reason) there is a zone of privacy around Supreme Court justices, does it actually become more important for a justice to affirmatively make public personal matters of potential public concern?
Personally, in questions of this nature I think public officials should err on the side of public disclosure.

Columnist Ellen Goodman wrote a piece on this issue last January. Although she and I do not share many political views, I agree with her on this one.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:43 PM

Friday, July 15, 2005

Congressional Action: Colin Powell Honored

On July 15, the Senate approved S. 1413, to rename the Federal building in Kingston, Jamaica, formerly known as the Crowne Plaza, as the "Colin L. Powell Residential Plaza."

The building is a staff housing facility for the United States mission in Jamaica.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and co-sponsored by Senator Joe Biden (D-DE).

Note: "Congressional Action" is a blog feature highlighting an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Social Security Reform Votes are Months Away

Apparently, there's still plenty of time to share your views about Social Security reform with Members of Congress:
Congress will not move on President Bush's desire to overhaul Social Security before this fall, key Republican leaders said Thursday.

"There are additional ideas relating to retirement savings building support within this House," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas said just minutes after the chamber recessed for the week. "I expect that the House will focus on these issues in the fall."

The announcement came several hours after senators cut short a planned Social Security strategy session, filing out of a Capitol meeting room for a series of votes without an agreement to return or when to meet again...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:17 PM

Congressional Action: Homeland Security Nomination

The Senate received from the White House the nomination of Stewart A. Baker of Virginia for the post of Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security.

According to The White House, Mr. Baker is presently a partner with Steptoe & Johnson, LLP in Washington, D.C. He previously served as General Counsel for the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Prior to that, Mr. Baker served as General Counsel for the National Security Agency. Earlier in his career, he was a law clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens, U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Baker received his bachelor's degree from Brown University and his J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Note: "Congressional Action" is a new blog feature. It highlights an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Regarding Gitmo Torture Allegations...

...if wearing a bra and being forced to stay awake 20 hours straight constitutes torture, 99 percent of all mothers of newborns qualify as torture victims.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:44 PM

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Congressional Action: Avoiding Personal Agendas

Reverend Dr. Arnold B. Lovel of the Second Presbyterian Church in Knoxville offered a prayer at the start of the July 13 session of the House of Representatives:
Eternal Father, strong to save; throughout the centuries You have guided the hands, hearts, and lives of the founders, leaders, and citizens of this Nation. We invoke Your presence and power today for those upon whom the mantle of leadership has fallen. As the Members of Congress gather this day, give them courage, clarity of vision, and compassionate hearts, that in their frailty as human beings they might carry out the enormous task of service to which they have been called.

May the decisions made in the deliberations of this day be governed by the common good, virtue, and the principles of participation, affirming the equality that all men and women have before You, O God. Give our representatives strength and honesty to avoid the politics of personal agendas, power, and partisanship, that they might serve the public good. And may all glory be given unto You, Almighty God. Amen.
Note: "Congressional Action" is a new blog feature. It highlights an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Women and Inexperienced People are OK for Court

This AP lead strikes me as a rather sexist:
President Bush said Wednesday that he would consider nominating a woman or someone with no experience as a judge to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor...
Why toss women in with inexperienced people? And why is it newsworthy to mention women at all? Who besides the AP thought women weren't being considered?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:07 PM

Congratulations to Ron Nehring

Congratulations to former National Center staff member Ron Nehring, who who has been appointed to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Says a statement released by the governor's office:
Ronald Nehring, 35, of El Cajon, has been appointed to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. He has served as senior consultant for Americans for Tax Reform since 1998 and is currently a member of the Governing Board for Grossmont Union High School District. Nehring is also the vice-chairman of the California Republican Party. He was previously director of development and public affairs for the National Center for Public Policy Research. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Nehring is a Republican.
Long-time readers of this blog will recall that, in 2003, I covered Ron's comments (here and here) regarding a major forest fire that came within a whisker of burning down his house (read the story and see photos here).

That particular fire played a major role in getting Rep. Scott McInnis of Colorado's Healthy Forests Restoration Act through Congress, in large part because former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock, in easily some of the most riveting talk radio monologues I have ever heard, guest-hosted the Rush Limbaugh program and described how San Diego was all-but-surrounded by flames.

Though it doesn't cite Hedgecock or the Limbaugh program, a December 3, 2003 AP story seems to agree with my basic thesis:
Legislation aimed at speeding decisions on where to allow timbering in national forests had languished in Congress for three years until the recent fires in California, which burned 750,000 acres and destroyed 3,640 homes, forced a compromise.
As National Center Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso, recently writes, however:
President Bush's 2002 Healthy Forests Initiative, a blueprint for protecting national forests from catastrophic fire, and the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act were supposed to close a chapter on devastating fires. The new reforms promised to change the old, outdated laws that have restricted logging, causing a build up of dense fuel loads over the years and creating lethal fire conditions. They were to limit activist groups' endless appeals and frivolous lawsuits that have halted critical, time-sensitive thinning projects. They also were to fast-track treatment of forests by eliminating the time-consuming environmental review process for those thinning projects that do not threaten the environment.

But by all accounts, we're not out of the woods yet. Attempts at reform to shift priority to fire prevention are being challenged by a small yet fanatical group of eco-activist groups who argue thinning projects kill habitat and species.

Today, more acres of forests blanket this nation than in past decades (we grow more than we cut), supporting vast amounts of wildlife habitat and species once threatened by extinction. But the steady increase in forestland over the years also places them at enormous risk for fire. Over the past five years, wildfires have become more severe and widespread, harming human life, homes, air and water quality, and of course, wildlife.

The population of the northern spotted owl in the Northwest, for example, has declined despite a rise in the number of old growth forests and habitat. A new study by scientists at the Forest Service finds that wildfires are among the possible reasons for the endangered owl's waning numbers. Fires, the report concludes, have been a greater threat than logging projects.

Granted, it will take time to see the effects of the Act's and Initiative's new reforms. But in the meantime, activists' challenges to these measures have brought crucial thinning in high-risk forests to a standstill, threatening to ignite another season of unmanageable fires.
It looks like Ron Nehring and everyone else involved in preventing and fighting forest fires will have their work cut out for them. Good luck to all of them.

Addendum July 16: In the silliness category, this left-wing blog is calling on the California State Senate to refuse to confirm Ron Nehring's appointment, in part because Ron worked with the African-American leadership group Project 21. How does working with black conservatives reduce a person's ability to help develop sound forest policies? The silly leftie blogger also thinks anyone in the conservative movement is "guaranteed to vote the wrong way" on forest policies -- as if righties like seeing their houses burn down more than lefties do! (Some folks are just way too partisan.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:35 AM

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Congressional Action: Napa Valley Honors

Rep. Mike Thompson of California extended his remarks July 12 for the purpose of honoring a Mr. Angelo Regusci, who, Rep. Thompson says, has been named the 2005 Agriculturalist of the Year by the Napa County Farm Bureau.

The Regusci Winery, located in the Stags Leap District, is one of the Napa Valley's first wineries.

Note: "Congressional Action" is a new blog feature. It highlights an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, to provide an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

No FEC Regulation of Bloggers, Conservative Leaders Say

Jim Boulet of the group English First has organized a letter by conservative leaders to the FEC, urging the FEC not regulate what Americans say on their websites and blogs and in their e-mails.

Among other things, the letter says FEC regulation of bloggers would be "the equivalent of investigating a Silver Spring, Maryland, barbershop for an illegal corporate contribution because it displayed a 'Kerry for President' sign in its front window."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:15 AM

Monday, July 11, 2005

FEC Hears Bloggers' Bid to Share Media Exemption

A revealing excerpt can be found in a Washington Post story Tuesday about bloggers and the FEC:
"Bloggers want it both ways," said Carol Darr, head of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. "They want to preserve their rights as political activists, donors and even fundraisers -- activities regulated by campaign finance laws -- yet, at the same time, enjoy the broad exemptions from the campaign finance laws afforded to traditional journalists."
There's a word for what this debate is about (freedom) and a simple way to end FEC-related conflicts (deregulate).

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:56 PM

Protect Yourself from Terror Attacks

The Fox News Channel website has an interview posted with a terrorism expert, Juval Aviv, who predicts a terror attack on U.S. soil within the next 90 days.

Aviv has this advice for people who use mass transportation:
...have with you, a bottle of water, a small towel and a flashlight. What happened in London is exactly a point to look at. Those people who were close to the bombs died, then others were injured or died from inhaling the toxic fumes or getting trampled. The reason you take a bottle of water and a towel is that if you wet the towel and put it over your face, you can protect yourself against the fumes and get yourself out of there.
Aviv also advises:
Don't be bashful. If your gut feeling tells you when you walk onto a bus there is something unusual or suspicious, get out and walk away. You may do it 10 times for no reason, but there will be one time that saves your life. Let your sixth sense direct you.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:49 PM

Congressional Action: London Sympathies

The Senate, returning from recess, approved on July 11 S. Res. 193, a resolution introduced by Majority Leader Bill Frist expressing sympathy for the people of Great Britain following the terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005. The resolution was sponsored/co-sponsored by every member of the Senate.

Note: "Congressional Action" is a new education feature of this blog. It will highlight an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, for the simple purpose of providing an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Arlen Specter's Weird Idea

This, from the New York Times, is weird:
Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, suggested on Sunday that President Bush could name Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring from the Supreme Court, to the position of chief justice if it opens up.

"I think it would be very tempting if the president said to Justice O'Connor, 'You could help the country now,' " Mr. Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and a pivotal player in any confirmation hearings, said in an interview on the CBS program Face the Nation. "She has received so much adulation that a confirmation proceeding would be more like a coronation, and she might be willing to stay on for a year or so."
How can Senator Specter hold the position he has and not realize that the right would oppose (tooth and nail) her confirmation? (And not just because it is his idea, as Senator Specter seemed to imply in the Washington Post.)

Second, how would it help the country? The Senator's suggestion that O'Connor could serve as Chief Justice for a year would mean two Chief Justice confirmation battles during President Bush's second term instead of one (IF the Chief Justice job happened to be vacant, which, at the time of the Senator's comment, it wasn't). Confirmation battles probably do serve a useful educational function (the press cries "woe is us" because they are "divisive," but let's be realistic -- they are a debate about ideas, not a battle with bullets), but I have the impression that Senator Specter was not thinking of that.

Third, O'Connor's resignation becomes effective at the time her successor is confirmed, so her replacement as associate justice would have to be confirmed before she could be appointed chief justice, anyway.

Finally, aside from Senator Specter, who really thinks President Bush is going to waste one of his Supreme Court nominations on a 75-year-old?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:16 AM

Friday, July 08, 2005

Originalism Defined

An e-mail from Barbara Ledeen:
As Senator Specter and others have attacked originalism or constitutionalism, it might be helpful for everybody to have this explanation. It comes from Judge Bork's opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 15, 1987.
The judge's authority derives entirely from the fact that he is applying the law and not his personal values. That is why the American public accepts the decisions of its courts, accepts even decisions that nullify the laws a majority of the electorate or of their representatives voted for.

The judge, to deserve that trust and that authority, must be every bit as governed by law as is the Congress, the President, the state governors and legislatures, and the American people. No one, including a judge, can be above the law. Only in that way will justice be done and the freedom of Americans assured.

How should a judge go about finding the law? The only legitimate way, in my opinion, is by attempting to discern what those who made the law intended. The intentions of the lawmakers govern whether the lawmakers are the Congress of the United States enacting a statute or whether they are those who ratified our Constitution and its various amendments.

Where the words are precise and the facts simple, that is a relatively easy task. Where the words are general, as is the case with some of the most profound protections of our liberties-in the Bill of Rights and in the Civil War Amendments-the task is far more complex. It is to find the principle or value that was intended to be protected and to see that it is protected.

As I wrote in an opinion for our court, the judge's responsibility "is to discern how the Framers' values, defined in the context of the world they knew, apply in the world we know."

If a judge abandons intention as his guide, there is no law available to him and he begins to legislate a social agenda for the American people. That goes well beyond his legitimate power.

He or she then diminishes liberty instead of enhancing it. That is why I agree with Judge Learned Hand, one of the great jurists in our history, when he wrote that the judge's "authority and his immunity depend upon the assumption that he speaks with the mouths of others: The momentum of his utterances must be greater than any which his personal reputation and character can command if it is to do the work assigned to it-if it is to stand against the passionate resentments arising out of the interests he must frustrate."

To state that another way, the judge must speak with the authority of the past to the present.

The past, however, includes not only the intentions of those who first made the law, it also includes those past judges who interpreted it and applied it in prior cases. That is why a judge must have great respect for precedence. It is one thing as a legal theorist to criticize the reasoning of a prior decision, even to criticize it severely, as I have done. It is another and more serious thing altogether for a judge to ignore or overturn a prior decision. That requires much careful thought.

Times come, of course, when even a venerable precedent can and should be overruled. The primary example of a proper overruling is Brown against the Board of Education, the case which outlawed racial segregation accomplished by government action. Brown overturned the rule of separate but equal laid down 58 years before in Plessy against Ferguson. Yet Brown, delivered with the authority of a unanimous Court, was clearly correct and represents perhaps the greatest moral achievement of our constitutional law.

Nevertheless, overruling should be done sparingly and cautiously. Respect for precedent is a part of the great tradition of our law, just as is fidelity to the intent of those who ratified the Constitution and enacted our statutes. That does not mean that constitutional law is static. It will evolve as judges modify doctrine to meet new circumstances and new technologies. Thus, today we apply the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of the press to radio and television, and we apply to electronic surveillance the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of privacy for the individual against unreasonable searches of his or her home.

I can put the matter no better than I did in an opinion on my present court. Speaking of the judge's duty, I wrote:

"The important thing, the ultimate consideration, is the constitutional freedom that is given into our keeping. A judge who refuses to see new threats to an established constitutional value and hence provides a crabbed interpretation that robs a provision of its full, fair and reasonable meaning, fails in his judicial duty. That duty, I repeat, is to ensure that the powers and freedoms the Framers specified are made effective in today's circumstances."

But I should add to that passage that when a judge goes beyond this and reads entirely new values into the Constitution, values the Framers and the ratifiers did not put there, he deprives the people of their liberty. That liberty, which the Constitution clearly envisions, is the liberty of the people to set their own social agenda through the processes of democracy.

Conservative judges frustrated that process in the mid-1930s by using the concept they had invented, the Fourteenth Amendment's supposed guarantee of a liberty of contract, to strike down laws designed to protect workers and labor unions. That was wrong then and it would be wrong now.

My philosophy of judging, Mr. Chairman, as you pointed out, is neither liberal nor conservative. It is simply a philosophy of judging which gives the Constitution a full and fair interpretation but, where the Constitution is silent, leaves the policy struggles to the Congress, the President, the legislatures and executives of the 50 states, and to the American people.

I welcome this opportunity to come before the Committee and answer whatever questions the members may have. I am quite willing to discuss with you my judicial philosophy and the approach I take to deciding cases. I cannot, of course, commit myself as to how I might vote on any particular case and I know you would not wish me to do that.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:25 PM

Congratulations to Jay Timmons

Congratulations to National Center Board of Directors Member Jay Timmons, who has just been appointed senior vice president of policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, the nation's largest industrial trade association and easily one of the most influential organizations in Washington.

In his new position, Jay will lead the Association's policy and government affairs staff. According to a press release by the National Association of Manufacturers, this staff "develops positions on policy and economic issues in front of the Congress as well as those in the Executive Branch."

Jay previously served for 12 years as chief of staff to Senator and Governor George Allen of Virginia and served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2004 election cycle. Jay presently is employed by the Washington office of the Florida law firm Tew Cardenas LLP.

The National Association of Manufacturers is headed by former Michigan Governor John Engler.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:53 AM

Thursday, July 07, 2005

We're All British Today

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:51 AM

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Rep. Richard Pombo Thinks We're "Far Right"? ... Surely Not

Americans frequently complain about the ugly state of public discourse -- but it's not all the politicians' doing. Tabloid-style journalism, which feeds on controversy, is a big part of the problem.

And I'm not just referring to the Washington Post and New York Times. Small hometown newspapers are in on the act.

Case in point is the Tracy Press in Tracy, California: The publication's readership can practically fit into the office of House Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Pombo - and that may be where most of its readers are, anyway. The Tracy Press, you see, is Rep. Pombo's hometown newspaper.

(The Tracy Press actually has a circulation of around 10,000, but in the spirit of tabloid journalism, why let a little fact get in the way of a good story?)

On Monday, the Tracy Press ran a story with a quote from Richard Pombo's press secretary, Brian Kennedy, suggesting that The National Center for Public Policy Research - this organization - is part of the "far right."

Unless Rep. Pombo has had a complete conversion to the political left that we haven't heard about, or has gotten into some loco weed, we aren't buying the report.

After all, the Congressman wrote a glowing comment about The National Center for our 20th anniversary booklet. Rep. Pombo wrote the forward to one of our books. And Congressman Pombo was kind enough to sign a fundraising letter for us to support our efforts to stop a U.N. land grab.

We will disagree with Rep. Pombo from time-to-time, as we do with many politicians, but we have no reason to believe that we are at odds with the Congressman on the broader conservative agenda.

We also considered the source of the information: A publication with a pretty shoddy record for accuracy.

In our case, the Tracy Press has reported that we are both extreme libertarians and that we are in bed with the environmentalists. It has reported that we both support Rep. Pombo's efforts to amend and reauthorize the Endangered Species Act and that we oppose such efforts. It says we oppose "the existence of a drinking age" -- when what we actually oppose is the federal government's use of federal highway funds to bribe states into adopting 21 as the minimum legal drinking age. (I can't wait to read what our positions will be next.)

In short, think Washington Post with a crayon.

Our advice: Never assume a press story is right.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:58 PM

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Luddites of the World Unite

The Tehran Times comes out against President Bush's position opposing the Kyoto global warming treaty.

I look forward to attending the first joint Mullah-enviromentalist press conference on global warming -- that is, if ladies are permitted to attend.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:54 PM

How to Stop Borking

From the Wall Street Journal's today:
The only way to stop 'borking' as a political strategy is to defy and defeat it.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:57 PM

O'Connor's Replacement Should Not Be...

Something quite quotable from Mychal Massie:
Sandra O'Connor's replacement should not be male, female, black, white, Hispanic or other, and should under no circumstances be Democrat or Republican. Her replacement should be an originalist that understands their singular function is to uphold the U.S. Constitution, not rewrite it. Her replacement should be an American who understands the high court has a specific job that is well defined and narrow in focus.
Read the rest in Mychal's WorldNet Daily column here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:58 AM

Hands Off Our Stuff -- Personal and National Property Rights Deserve Defense

National Center Policy Analyst Ryan Balis is becoming a prolific online author on the topic of property rights -- both personal and, believe it or not, national.

Writing in Human Events Online July 1, Ryan has this to say about personal property rights:
The public interest law firm Institute for Justice [has] found that governments have wrongly threatened or condemned more than 10,000 properties nationwide for private use since 1998.

This is perhaps unsurprising considering the average homeowner lacks the political connections and financial resources to defend against a major corporation with ambitions on their property, and the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo opens the door to more widespread abuse in the future. Now, a profitable business plan could be all that's needed to move people out of their homes and onto the street...the Kelo case underscores the need to place limits on government's power to evict people from their property. Many states - where this ruling is likely to be battled out - do not have well-defined constitutional guidelines on the permissible exercise of eminent domain power. Fewer than 10 states permit the taking of private property to eliminate 'blight,' but otherwise outlaw it.

In response to the Supreme Court's decision, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) recently introduced legislation to clarify the government's use of eminent domain for genuine public use...
Also on July 1, NewsMax published this piece by Ryan about national property rights:
We look to our nation's most valued landmarks this Independence Day as a reminder of the liberty, strength and justice of America at its best.

Yet politics - international politics, to be exact - is threatening the integrity of long-standing national landmarks traditionally thought of as distinctly American: the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park, to name a few. Since 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) - the Paris-based cultural arm of the U.N. - has singled out 22 sites in the U.S. and 788 others worldwide as cultural or natural sites of World Heritage. According to UNESCO, these buildings, monuments and memorials have a special and "outstanding value to humanity." Their preservation, therefore, is a matter of global concern.

It is important to protect national treasures from threats such as visitor overcrowding, theft and weather so that future generations may enjoy their greatness. But managing America's "heritage" at the global level not only is economically impractical, it also confuses the distinctness of our heritage with what the first President Bush called a "new world order."

Heritage within our nation's territorial boundaries belongs to the American people...
Top read the entire Kelo piece, go here; to finish reading about how the U.N.'s World Heritage Areas program essentially cedes a degree of authority over American landmarks to the United Nations, please go here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:22 AM

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Poor, Uneducated and Easy to Command

On February 1, 1993, The Washington Post got into a heap of PR trouble after reporter Michael Weisskopf wrote in a news story that followers of the Christian Right are "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command."

On Sunday, Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley revisits that infamous quotation, but gets it wrong. Kinsley first confuses "followers of the Christian Right" with "evangelical Christians" (they are not interchangable) and then gives the quote (twice, and in quotation marks, no less) as "poor, undereducated and easily led."

Kinsley's article appears in the Sunday Washington Post, whose editors apparently ran his column without noticing he had the quote wrong.

For Kinsley, no excuse. Journalism 101 says quotations should be checked for accuracy before they are used. In this case, it would have been super-easy, too: nearly a thousand Google citations have it right.

But more important questions: Do Post editors not edit? Or did the grassroots firestorm that followed the original "poor, uneducated, and easy to command" slur leave such a slight impression on them that they read Kinsley's piece without noticing the misquotation of a phrase that -- I'm guessing here -- perhaps a hundred thousand conservative Christians have permanently memorized?

And -- even more important -- if the Post can't get the easy stuff right, how can we trust it on the big stuff?

Addendum, July 9: Early in the morning of July 6 I sent the following e-mail to the Washington Post corrections page:
On Sunday, the Post ran an op-ed by Michael Kinsley stating that the Washington Post "got in trouble a million years ago for an article that described evangelical Christians as 'poor, undereducated and easily led.'"

In fact, the original article (1993, by Michael Weisskopf) referred to followers of the Religious Right, not to evangelical Christians (evangelical Christians can be of any political persuasion), and the correct quotation was "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command."

The url for the Kinsley piece is:

As of July 9, no correction has been posted, but the Post has had time to run corrections such as this:
A July 2 Real Estate article said that Michael Halpern had previously helped a friend renovate a house. At the time, that person was Halpern's boyfriend.
(What -- a boyfriend isn't a friend?)

Michael Kinsley quotes aside, corrections pages can be some of the funniest pages in a newspaper. The blog Regret The Error, which collects noteworthy corrections from newspapers and magazines across the country, is one I often visit for a laugh.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:36 AM

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Everything I Know Is Wrong: A Little Blogging Break

I'm late with this news, but keep Sean in your prayers. I certainly will.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 AM

Friday, July 01, 2005

Congressional Action Today

On July 1, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located on Lindbald Avenue, Girdwood, Alaska, as the "Dorothy and Connie Hibbs Post Office Building."

Dorothy and Connie Hibbs are a mother and daughter who both served as postmaster in Girdwood, mother Dorothy from 1954-1976 and daughter Connie from 1979 to 2005.

Note: "Congressional Action" is a new education feature of this blog. It will highlight an an official activity undertaken by or in Congress, very often chosen at random, for the simple purpose of providing an educational snapshot of our Congress at work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:42 PM

Probably They Think Monsters Are in Their Closets, Too

Barbara Ledeen sent over these quotes from left-wing organizations about the new Supreme Court vacancy -- quotes she received from Progress for America:
Planned Parenthood screamed that "Women's Health and Safety [are] on the Line."

People For The American Way breathlessly claimed "our very national identity hangs in the balance and progressives must be loud and clear."

The Alliance For Justice echoed that sentiment, stating "Individual rights and freedoms hang in the balance."

NARAL: "Unless we act quickly and forcefully, it will be filled by a right-wing extremist bent on ending a woman's right to choose." predicts a nominee who's an "extremist who will undermine the rights of individuals and families."

National Abortion Federation warned that women would have to "sacrifice their lives and health by having back alley abortions in order to end an unwanted pregnancy." They have even demanded "a candidate who will win a consensus of at least 60 votes in the Senate."
What is it about interpreting our Constitution according to its actual words that has these folks so frightened? Like many others, I've read the Constitution. Not scary stuff.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:01 PM

Constructionists Only, Please, Says Black Group

Project 21 member and U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow has this to say about the new Supreme Court vacancy, following the announcement today by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor:
I'm confident that the President will nominate someone with integrity and wisdom who understands that the proper role of a Supreme Court justice is to interpret the text of the Constitution, rather than, as Justice Thomas put it, promote 'the faddish slogans of the cognoscenti.'
Project 21 member Mychal Massie adds:
We are not looking for a liberal or a conservative jurist to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. We are looking for a strict constructionist. We are looking for someone who can uphold the Constitution, not rewrite it.
Project 21's entire press release can be read here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:03 PM

Kelo v. City of New London Might Just Be the Beginning

Should the federal government tell Americans what grass seeds they can use for their lawns, what flowers they can have in their flowerbeds and what vegetables they can plant in their gardens?

If you don't think these are powers the Founders intended for the federal government, brace yourself -- another betrayal of private property rights may be on the horizon if draft language for a new (GOP!) bill in the U.S. House of Representatives accurately describes what its sponsor intends.

Kelo v. City of New London may have just been the beginning...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:00 AM

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