Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Final count


Harry Reid in Trouble with the DNC?

I saw a couple of minutes with Harry Reid last night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. They brought up Howard Dean's statement on Fox News Sunday that any Democrat who'd done favors for an Indian tribe and received money directed by Jack Abramoff was in trouble.

That describes Harry Reid. Minority leader in the Senate. He admits to receiving the money and to writing a letter in support of a particular tribe for some issue, but he says those are unrelated. Could be, but it's worth checking into.

Also interesting was his reaction when asked whom the leader of the Democrats is. I figured that would technically be Dean, right? Reid refused to answer the question! My, that was an odd answer, no?

57 to 37; still counting

Alito confirmed

That's it. 11:09 AM, and Alito has just earned 51 votes. They're still calling the roll, but he's in, now.

Strange, again, about my earlier comment on the Democrats not (apparently) being present when their names were called. That includes Byrd, for instance, who had said he would be voting for Alito. Why's that?

UPDATE: Fox News just noted the same thing. They don't know why, either, but they suggested that some of them might have planned to vote in a second round.

Liveblogging the Alito vote

So they're voting on Alito right now. Something strange I'd never noticed on an earlier vote. The roll is being called, and all of the Republicans have been present and voting "aye." But until just a minute ago, most of the Democrats were not answering the clerk's call at all. Not present? Now they're up in the S's, and a larger fraction of the Democrats are present and voting "no."

I wish the clerk would call it "nay," though--it preserves a nice tradition.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Is emigration ethical?

Sure, ummm, unless you're a professional, says the UN. Actually, it's an "alternative proposal" that has come out of the United Nations Development Program and unveiled at the Davos meeting. To prevent the so-called "brain drain" of well-educated professionals from poor countries immigrating to richer, freer Western countries, one proposal is, as the Independent puts it:

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: An international code of ethical guidelines overseen by bodies such as the World Health Organisation (for doctors and nurses) to monitor the harm that migration of professionals causes.

So. Let's say you're a Ph.D. astrophysicist from a poor, corrupt, and somewhat repressive country. (Pick any of those three, or in combination.) You see the United States as the beacon of freedom and opportunity, and you want to emigrate from your native land and immigrate to the United States. Good for you! We welcome you in with open arms. But be warned: you are being unethical, according to the UN. Your duty, as a national resource, owned by your country, is to stay put and make do with the rotten conditions you find in your own country. Conditions that Americans, rich or poor, wouldn't put up with. You are not a human being, free to make your own decisions on your future. You are merely an object, something to be added to the national statistics and compared by one country against another.

I propose we let the UN rewrite "The New Colossus," the great and famous poem inscribed beneath the Statue of Liberty. No longer should it read,

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Instead...well, I'll have to think about this. I'll come up with something good, later.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Howard Dean flails on Fox News Sunday

I listened to Fox News Sunday today, replayed on C-SPAN, and all on XM radio. It's nice--I'd gotten to enjoy Sunday afternoons back when I lived in D.C. and Baltimore, driving around after church listening to C-SPAN Radio, as it replayed the Sunday political talk shows. C-SPAN was only on the radio out of D.C. (although they might have gotten some other transmitters recently). And since I'm elsewhere now, the satellite radio really helps.

Anyway, Howard Dean was being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. He stayed on-message most of the time, attacking Republicans for corruption, real and perceived and maybe-if-we-dug-around-a-little. And I absolutely agree that the GOP needs to clean up its own house right now. He tried to make the President look shady, because Abramoff had been at a White House event and shook his hand. Incidentally, I've read that Mrs. Carter had her photo taken with John Wayne Gacy, the now-convicted serial killer. Obviously, she didn't know he was a killer then, but it'd be an awfully embarassing photo, and I wouldn't expect the Carter White House to have publicised that picture. Clinton had his photo taken at White House events with a drug dealer. We conservatives made hay out of that in the '90s, but mostly to the point of "what kind of background checks are they doing over there?!" Bush has his picture taken with a political lobbyist. If Abramoff didn't give Bush money, then there's really nothing that can be made from it, aside from an embarassing picture.

Dean went on in the corruption vein for a while. Then Chris Wallace pointed out to him that Democrats had received money from groups associated with Jack Abramoff (half the amount the GOP did, but that's still a lot of money). Dean had tried to deny this last week, then this week he said that that had nothing to do with Abramoff. Abramoff is a conservative, after all, so he never would have directed anybody to give money to Democrats. Right? Wallace told him--I think--that yes, there is evidence Abramoff directed at least some of these donations. That really got Dean flustered. He actually stammered and garbled a couple of sentences before he got it all straightened out. Actually, I don't think he did get it straghtened out. He finally said that any Democrats having done favors for donations would be punished somehow. Well, yeah. But at least he finally started to admit that there was the possibility that Democrats might have some corruption to deal with, themselves. Actually, he didn't really admit that, but...

Before that, Dean made a really bizarre statement. One of the sort that makes us conservatives glad he's the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He criticized the NSA's no-longer-secret wiretapping program, saying that the NSA should have gotten warrants in each case. OK, now I don't have strong objections to the idea that all of these cases should involve warrants. I've gradually come around to the idea that the President does have Constitutional authority to do this without warrants, when and if the calls have at least one end overseas and involve the enemy. But I think this is a perfectly good topic for debate.

That being said, Dean claimed that the privacy of Americans was being violated, even if the NSA only listened to calls made to al Qaeda, because: people don't know it's an al Qaeda number until they dial it and hear what's going on on the other end. Everything following the colon is nearly verbatim.

OK, so Dean thinks that we regular American citizens, people who have nothing to do with terrorists, go around and dial random phone numbers in, say, Afghanistan or Pakistan without knowing whom we are calling! Who does this?! And people should do this, right? and just stay on the line, talking to this mysterious person until we find out if they're in al Qaeda or not. Because, you know, you never know if it's an al Qaeda number until you hear what's going on at the other end.

Ohhh, pleaaaase let Dean keep talking like this!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Feinstein had a really interesting comment. She brought up a case involving a sale of two machine guns. At least, she called them machine guns, but liberals tend to have very little technical knowledge on these matters, so they could have been semi-automatics, for all I know. I didn't hear much of the context of what she said, but she used this as an example to claim that Alito believes that Congress has only limited powers to pass laws. Interstate sales can be regulated under the interstate commerce clause, but beyond that, there are restrictions on non-interstate sales. (I think she was saying this latter part, too--she hinted at it, at least.)

What amazed me is that she professed shock that Alito would argue Congress' powers are limited at all by the Constitution! I think that many liberals believe the Congress can pass any law it wants to, as long as there is not an Amendment of the Bill of Rights explicitly prohibiting it. On the other hand, most Conservatives believe Congress can only pass those laws that are authorized under Article I, Sec. 8, and subsequent Amendments. You know, the whole concept of "a government of limited powers."

Sad that even a United States Senator would feel no embarassment in professing shock that Congress is not all-powerful. More reason to say that "I love my country, but I fear my government."

Hatch's Comments

Hatch gave an interesting address. He discussed the history of Supreme Court nomination votes and described how Republicans have, even in recent years, voted overwhelmingly to confirm liberal (and, more importantly, anti-originalist) Supreme Court nominees. Unfortunately, the Democrats today are not going to match that record, and they are treating this as a purely political act.

Leahy's comments

Wow. Following Chairman Arlen Specter's comments, the floor went to ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy. My goodness, the guy went off on tangents! Alito was mentioned in passing, but only. Much of his commentary was a list of complaints about President Bush's policies and conduct of the Terrorist War (I prefer this term to "War on Terror") and the Iraq War. Weird. Oh, and he's voting against Alito. Big surprise, that.

(Light) Liveblogging the Alito Vote

...But the Senate Judiciary Committee is too entertaining not to blog about. I've noticed a pattern: the Democrats so far are all against Alito! No, but seriously...the other pattern is that the Republicans are generally starting their statements with, "I will vote to confirm Judge Alito" and then continue with their reasons, while the Democrats start with their harrangue and conclude with, "therefore I will vote against Judge Alito." Why the different order? I assume it's because the Democrats' votes are the only ones in any question, and they want to draw out some suspense as to how they'll vote.

But I don't know how much I buy my own theory. Does anybody think that Leahy is creating suspense as to his vote when he starts off with a bunch of slams against Alito?

I'm Back

Sorry for the lack of blogging the past month. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays gave me a break from teaching, and I felt more like catching up with family than being on the internet all day (go figure!). Blogging will still be light for the next week, though, as the Hubble Space Telescope observing proposals are due this Friday. We're submitting some, one of which might as well involve an entire research program just to make one figure I need. Ugh.