Sunday, May 31, 2009

Viva La . . . British Revolution?

Is England on the verge of revolution?

To those who know this most peaceful of nations intimately, the question is bound to sound bizarre. Boasting attachment to the rule of law and democratic government, the English have not had a revolution since the 17th century.

Nevertheless, these days it is hard to be in the company of Englishmen without hearing talk of the need, indeed the imminence, of revolution.

Amir Taheri, Coming Soon, An English Revolution, May 29, 2009

[Art: Oliver Cromwell After The Battle of Marston Moor, by Ernest Crofts]

The British sat silently by for years as the Labour government deconstructed society. Englishmen have suffered an ever growing nanny state with nary a peep. When, last year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown reneged on a promise to hold a referendum about transferring British sovereignty to the EU, there were no mass demonstrations. I have long expected the British rank and file to one day say, enough is enough, but given their collective placidity, I had no idea when it would be or what it would take to light the fuse.

Well, the fuse has now been lit, it would seem. And the matches are the expense claims of the elected Members of Parliament (MP's). All across the UK, people are dusting off their copies of Oliver Cromwell's speech to the MP's dissolving the Long Parliament in 1653. That's the speech that begins:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice . . . "

The irony of it all is just amazing, since, by all rights, this is far more the story of a corrupted system than it is the story of an intrinsically corrupt political class.

Britain's MP's are well remunerated - but only partly by salary. A British pound is worth $1.62 today. Per capita GDP is about 20,000 pounds. According to Brits At Their Best:

MPs earn £63,000. They have allowed claims "on everything from staff costs of over £100,000 to the additional cost allowance of up to £24,006 and a so-called incidental-expenses provision of £22,190".

Dr. North, at EU Referendum, documents that the MP pay structure was changed in the 1970's in an effort to increase MP remuneration without raising the ire of the electorate. Parliament established an expense allowance scheme that ostensibly would allow MP's to claim reimbursement for costs relating to their duties. But it was never simply that. Indeed, few if any in Parliament, over a period of decades, treated this as anything other than a pay raise in disguise. MP's have routinely been told to submit any sort of reimbursement claims for rubber stamp approval. As Dr. North explains it:

That is the way the system was designed, and it has worked this way for over thirty years. This is exactly what Booker wrote yesterday: "MPs are told they can claim their 'allowances' as an automatic right, so long as they go through the charade of handing in largely meaningless invoices."

That may be the case, but as Britain suffers the severe effect of the current recession, rank and file Brits upon whom this deception was being played went ballistic when they were told about some of the expense claims. This from the WSJ:

A week or so ago, the Telegraph newspaper got its hands on some of the juiciest secrets in Britain -- the dubious expenses claimed over the last few years by British politicians. The scale of the cupidity is astonishing. The evidence suggests that members of all parties -- Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, even, most impressively, representatives of Sinn Fein, the Irish republican party whose members for years actually refused to take their seats because they didn't recognize Westminster's writ -- have been bilking the system for all they're worth.

The scandal threatens to be as corrosive as anything seen in Britain in decades -- this isn't just about a party abusing power; it threatens to undermine the public's remaining faith in the probity, not just of politicians, but of Parliament itself.

. . . Politicians have sought and received reimbursement for claims ranging from a bag of manure and light bulbs to home-cinema systems.

The perquisites claimed offer a colorful reminder of the resilience of the class system in Britain: from the Tory MP who claimed for the upkeep of the moat at his country house [my personal favorite], to the Labour man who charged for a couple of toilet seats.

Some have been caught "flipping" their designation of a second home, for which they receive an allowance, from one residence to another, each time collecting money for redecoration.

Communities Minister Hazel Blears submitted expenses for £5,000 ($7,588) of furniture for second homes over a three-month period and has now paid back £13,332 she claimed for a housing tax. Elliot Morley, a former environment minister, has been expelled from the Labour Party over allegations that he claimed expenses of more than £16,000 for interest payments on a mortgage he had paid off more than 18 months earlier. Andrew MacKay, a Conservative member of Parliament, resigned as political adviser to party leader David Cameron after it came out that he claimed a full "second-home allowance" on his London address -- while his wife, fellow Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride, claimed the full allowance for another home. . . .

This has all hit Britain like an atomic bomb going off in the middle of London. It has become a focal point for a host of issues with the current state of Britain. As Camilla Cavendish wrote in the Times:

. . . one of the reasons public anger goes a lot deeper than Sir Peter Viggers's duck pond is because we feel we can no longer change our laws by voting out politicians. The EU machine marches on, constraining everything from the future of the Post Office to what vitamins we can take. The promised referendum on the Lisbon treaty has been ditched. The quango nanny state has acquired a momentum of its own. Politicians have given away powers that they held in trust for the people. They cannot be altogether surprised if people now lump them all together in impotent fury.

You can see the same reflected in this post from An Englishman's Castle:

BBC NEWS Politics MP's fears of expenses 'suicide'...MPs were walking around "with terror in their eyes" and likened the atmosphere to that surrounding Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts"...

Good, as they say only the guilty have anything to fear, but they are all complicit in creating a Britain where ordinary people are spied on, reported on, fined and criminalised for "innocent" mistakes. Every self-employed person lives every day in fear of the State "investigating" their business and personal circumstances. So it is excellent news that every single Member is now getting to feel just a little bit what it is like to be a subject..

As Mr. Taheri writes, revolution is in the air. The real question is to where it will lead. I do not doubt that, as Mr. Taheri writes, the next set of elections will bring about an entire class of new faces to British Parliament. But whether any of this will result in the type of structural changes from which the UK might benefit is another matter entirely. The British Parliamentary system is a sort of tyranny of the majority at the moment, with no real system of checks and balances - at least not since Blair finished tinkering with the House of Lords - no constitution,** and what appears today to be a monarchial rubber stamp. Some have talked about changing that. For discussions on the topic, see EU Referendum (here, here and here). You will find similarly intelligent discussions in some of the posts at Brits At Their Best (here).

Whether this current state of affairs may lead to substantive change, that is an open question. Reforms will clearly be aimed at cleaning up the system of remuneration for MP's. Beyond that, nothing will happen unless there arises someone who can actually capture the public's imagination with some specific plans. I am not hearing that anything like that yet in the mainstream British media. But, being a deeply committed anglophile, I will remain very hopeful.

** For those who maintain that Britain has a Constitution, but merely one that is in pieces - i.e., the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Rights of 1689, the Coronation Oath, etc., I concur. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution is not all that much more than a codification of those rights as they existed in 1776. I strongly believe that those documents should be collated and formally recognized as the British Constitution. But the reality is that Parliament has long claimed precedence over those documents. Thus do British citizens no longer have the right to "keep and bear arms," for example, even though such right is granted all Protestant citizens of the realm by the Declaration of Rights of 1689. See Justice Scalia's discussion of the 1689 Declaration of Rights here. Perhaps formally recognizing these documents as creating a Constitution might be a starting point those who want to see structural change arise out of the current civil discontent.

Update: Speak of the devil . . . today in the Times (UK):

We Need A New Constitution For Britain — And The Debate Has Begun

For the first time since the suffragettes, constitutional reform has become a popular issue. The crisis over MPs’ expenses has convinced many that Parliament has become insulated from the people. MPs must become accountable between general elections, not just once every five years.

MPs have also lost authority. If, far from being better, many are worse than the rest of us, their right to monopolise legislative power comes into question. Many people believe that they are at least as well qualified to take decisions as their MPs. That means more direct democracy — primaries, recall of MPs and referendums.

Gordon Brown has long been a constitutional reformer. He supported devolution long before it was fashionable and, in 1980, co-authored a book on the subject. He appreciated that reform must mean more than a shifting of the institutional furniture.

Yesterday he suggested that the agenda of constitutional reform should embrace reform of the electoral system, reform of the Lords, a Bill of Rights, votes at 16 and a written constitution . . . .


An Educational Revolution In California?

Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: "We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multi-cultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots, and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply."

Mitchell Landsberg, LA Times, Spitting In The Eye of Mainstream Education, May 30, 2009

And the schools to which the author refers, the American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools near Oakland, are apparently producing some of the top test scores in the state. That is really not suprising at all the more you read about the very welcome policies of these schools. The only real criticism seems to come from . . . surprise, the teacher's union.

This from the LA Times:

. . . These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hard-scrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television's "Colbert Report." They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded "self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort," to quote the school's website.

Students, almost all poor, wear uniforms and are subject to disciplinary procedures redolent of military school. One local school district official was horrified to learn that a girl was forced to clean the boys' restroom as punishment.

Conservatives, including columnist George Will, adore the American Indian schools, which they see as models of a "new paternalism" that could close the gap between the haves and have-nots in American education. Not surprisingly, many Bay Area liberals have a hard time embracing an educational philosophy that proudly proclaims that it "does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance."

It would be easy to dismiss American Indian as one of the nuttier offshoots of the fast-growing charter school movement, which allows schools to receive public funding but operate outside of day-to-day district oversight. But the schools command attention for one very simple reason: By standard measures, they are among the very best in California.

The Academic Performance Index, the central measuring tool for California schools, rates schools on a scale from zero to 1,000, based on standardized test scores. The state target is an API of 800. The statewide average for middle and high schools is below 750. For schools with mostly low-income students, it is around 650.

The oldest of the American Indian schools, the middle school known simply as American Indian Public Charter School, has an API of 967. Its two siblings -- American Indian Public Charter School II (also a middle school) and American Indian Public High School -- are not far behind.

Among the thousands of public schools in California, only four middle schools and three high schools score higher. None of them serve mostly underprivileged children.

At American Indian, the largest ethnic group is Asian, followed by Latinos and African Americans. Some of the schools' critics contend that high-scoring Asian Americans are driving the high test scores, but blacks and Latinos do roughly as well -- in fact, better on some tests.

That makes American Indian a rarity in American education, defying the axiom that poor black and Latino children will lag behind others in school.

. . . "They really should be the model for public education in the state of California," said Debra England, of the Koret Foundation, a Bay Area group that has given more than $100,000 in grants to American Indian. "What I will never understand is why the world is not beating a path to their door to benchmark them, learn from them and replicate what they are doing."

So what are they doing?

The short answer is that American Indian attracts academically motivated students, relentlessly (and unapologetically) teaches to the test, wrings more seat time out of every school day, hires smart young teachers, demands near-perfect attendance, piles on the homework, refuses to promote struggling students to the next grade, and keeps discipline so tight that there are no distractions or disruptions. Summer school is required.

Back to basics, squared.

"What we're doing is so easy," said Ben Chavis, the man who created the school's success and personifies its ethos,. . . He began by firing most of the school's staff and shucking the Native American cultural content ("basket weaving," he scoffed). "You think the Jews and the Chinese are dumb enough to ask the public school to teach them their culture?" he asks -- a typical Chavis question, delivered with eyes wide and voice pitched high in comic outrage. There is no basket weaving at American Indian now -- and little else that won't directly affect standardized test scores. "I don't see it as teaching to the test," said Carey Blakely, a former teacher at the school who is writing a book about it. "I see it as, there are certain skills and knowledge that you're supposed to impart to your students, and the test measures whether your students have acquired those skills and that knowledge."

. . . Under Chavis, the school also relied on humiliation to keep students in line, ridiculing miscreants and sometimes forcing them to wear embarrassing signs. When one boy was caught stealing, Chavis shaved his head in front of the entire school. (The boy, Jeremy Shiv, now a straight-A student at American Indian High, considers what Chavis did "pretty cruel.")

A framed poster in a hallway quotes Chavis: "You do outstanding things here and you'll be treated outstanding. You act like a fool and you'll be treated like one."

That concept isn't dead at American Indian, but it has been toned down.

All American Indian students have 90 minutes of English and 90 minutes of math a day.

. . . American Indian's administrators believe that one of the secrets to success in middle school is having one instructor teach all subjects except physical education. The goal is to have that teacher stay with the same children all three years -- a policy that seems to be more theory than reality, given high teacher turnover.

. . . All students at American Indian take Algebra 1 in 8th grade, and the school prides itself on its math achievement. Last year, every 8th grader scored "proficient" or better on California's state algebra test. Statewide, only half the 8th graders even took algebra, and fewer than half of those scored "proficient" or better.
. . . One of the most common questions about charter schools is whether they "cherry pick" the best students and most motivated families.

Charters are required to take all applicants -- or, if they have more students than seats, to hold a lottery. American Indian has never done this, and was denied a charter to open a new school last fall in part because school district officials said administrators were "unable to describe" the selection process.

Both Roberts and Chavis say they have never had more applicants than seats, which is why they never held a lottery. They also say that they attract a representative sample of students from local elementary schools.

But Ron Smith, the principal of nearby Laurel Elementary, who sent both of his own children to American Indian, says that's not the case for students from his school.

Of those who go from Laurel to American Indian, "I'd say 70% are academically strong, and 30% are a cross-section. . . . They have kids who I know could go anyplace in the state and succeed."

. . . "They've had a reputation among the local public schools as being very interested in kind of recruiting kids who are going to do well, and getting rid of kids who won't," said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Assn., the teachers union. Both Chavis and Roberts strongly deny this, and say their method works with all children. "Give me the worst middle school in America and let us run it," said Chavis. "I guarantee it will improve." . . .

And is there anyone who wouldn't like to see precisely that?


This Day In History - May 31

Art: Lady Godiva by John Collier

May 31 1279 BC – Rameses II (The Great) (19th dynasty) becomes pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Regarded as the most powerful of all of the pharaohs, he ruled Egypt for 66 years. He was famed both as a warrior and a builder. In greek, he was called Ozymandias - and it is he about whom the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote his famous sonnet, Oxymandias.

526 AD – A devastating earthquake struck the one of the great cities of the ancient world, Antioch, killing 250,000. Antioch was famed for its loose morals, and of it, famed historian Edward Gibbons wrote: "Fashion was the only law, pleasure the only pursuit, and the splendour of dress and furniture was the only distinction of the citizens of Antioch. The arts of luxury were honoured, the serious and manly virtues were the subject of ridicule, and the contempt for female modesty and reverent age announced the universal corruption of the capital of the East."

1076 - The execution of Waltheof of Northumbria ended the Revolt of the Earls against William the Conqueror. William was actually in Normandy during the revolt. England's "warrior bishops," Wulfstan, Odo of Bayeux, and Geoffrey de Montbray actually led seperate elements of the King's forces to defeat the Earls. This was the last act of rebellion to contest the Norman conquest.

1223 – One of the great cavalry battles of history, the Battle of the Kalka River in Georgia – was fought between the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan led by Subutai against the Kievan Rus and the Cumans. The result was a huge victory for the Mongols.

1647 - Jules Crittenden adds his own familial connection to this date: "Kent being the center of a spreading revolt against Parliament, sparked by the banning of Christmas celebrations in December 1647, that became known as the Second English Civil War; on the afternoon of June 1, 1648, the New Model Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax fronted up at the bridges over the Medway at Maidstone. . . ." Read his whole post.

1669 – Citing poor eyesight, Samuel Pepys records the last event in his diary.

1678 – The Godiva Procession is first held in Coventry, celebrating the famed naked protest of Lady Godiva. According to legend, somewhere about the time of the Norman Conquest, Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering under her husband's oppressive taxation. She appealed repeatedly to her husband to lower the taxes. He steadfastly refused until at last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word and rode naked through Coventry market and the assembled townsfolk. Her husband lifted the taxes. Given the various taxes that Obama is considering, I think we could do with one of the lady's progeny now. And we have our own precedent - we have the ladies of "Breasts, Not Bombs." What we need are a new group, "Tits, Not Taxation."

1759 – The Province of Pennsylvania bans all theater productions. Shades of Cromwell.

1859 – Big Ben Starts keeping time. Much more on this at the exceptional blog, Brits At Their Best, including such interesting tidbits as this: "The five-and-a-half ton clockwork mechanism keeps the time accurate to the second. On top of the clock's pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins, which are laid on or removed to alter the pendulum and keep the clock precise."

1862 – Confederate forces under Joseph E. Johnston engage Union forces under George B. McClellan outside Richmond, Virginia in the Battle of Seven Pines. The battle saw 11,000 casualties and led to a retreat in June by Union forces.

1864 – The Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee engages the Army of the Potomac under Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Cold Harbor. It was Lee's last victory of the war. He held strong defensive positions and, from there, was able to stop repeated frontal attacks by Grant, inflicting some 13,000 Union casualties over twelve days.

1889 – In the Johnstown Flood, over 2,200 people died after a dam broke, sending a 60-foot wall of water over the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It also led to a change in the law. After the flood, victims suffered a series of legal defeats in their attempt to recover damages from the dam's owners. Public indignation at that failure prompted a major development in American law--state courts' move from a fault-based regime to strict liability.

1902 – The Treaty of Vereeniging ends the Second Boer War and ensures British control of South Africa.

1911 – R.M.S. Titanic, the first "unsinkable" ocean liner, is launched. Less than a year later, it would sink in the ice cold seas of the Atlantic following a collision with an iceberg.

1916 – The WWI Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle in history, took place roughly due south of Norway in the North Sea. It involved a total of 250 ships split between the British Royal Navy and the German Imperial Navy. It was the last naval battle conducted between battleships. Fourteen British and eleven German ships were sunk with the British suffering about 6,000 killed, the Germans 2,500. Despite their smaller losses, the battle ended when the Germans left the engagement under the cover of nightfall and returned to port. The Germans thereafter turned to submarine warfare and did not again attempt to engage the British fleet.

1921 – The Tulsa Race Riot, the deadliest race riot in American history, occurred in the racially segregated Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. During the 16 hours of rioting, over 300 were killed, 800 people were admitted to local hospitals, an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire, and $1.8 million in property damage was caused.

1927 – The last Ford Model T rolls off the assembly line after a production run of 15,007,003 vehicles.

1943 – The Zoot Suit Riots began in Los Angeles.

1962: Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer known as "the architect of the Holocaust," was hung following a trial in Israel.

1973 – The United States Senate votes to cut off funding for the bombing of Khmer Rouge targets within Cambodia, hastening the end of the Cambodian Civil War. Two years later, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot took total control of Cambodia and instituted one of the bloodiest genocides in history.

1977 – The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System completed. Since its completion, the pipeline has transported over 15 billion barrels of oil


1613 – John George II, Elector of Saxony (d. 1680)

1819 – Walt Whitman, American poet (d. 1892)

1857 – Pope Pius XI (d. 1939)

1860 – Walter Sickert, English painter (d. 1942)

1930 – Clint Eastwood, American film director and actor Holidays and observances Today is the Christian festival of Pentecost.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Watcher's Council Results & An Opening

Each week, the Watcher's Council holds a contest for best post. The Council members submit a post they have written and one post by someone outside the Council for consideration. The Watcher tallies the votes and announces the winners each Friday.

There is an opening on the Council. If you would care to submit your blog for consideration, please visit the Watcher's site. You will find instructions on the right side bar for applying to join the Council.

On to the results. This week's winners were:

Coming in first place in a runaway was Bookworm Room thought provoking post (does she do any other kind?), Does Brown v. Board of Education constitute the Supreme Court’s one free pass? Tie for second place were two other fine posts, Right Truth's Home grown terrorism and the media and The Provacateur's Deconstructing The Criminal Enterprise ACORN.

In the Non-Council category, the winner was British columnist Melanie Phillips with A Wary Encounter. Coming in second place was Der Spiegel's Hitler’s European Holocaust Helpers.

You can find the full results of the voting at the Watcher's site and read his take on the winners.


"Try Them Or Release Them?" How About Reading Them Their Rights?

President Obama’s proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free.

NYT, President’s Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition, 22 May 2009

Oh, leftie heads are about to explode. The Obama Administration, in its latest Friday bad news dump, took the Bush position in its brief filed with the Supreme Court yesterday that, even though a federal court has ordered that the seventeen Uighur Chinese currently being held at Guantanamo must be released, federal Courts have no power to order them released in the United States. According to the Obama DOJ, they can retained at Guantanamo indefinitely until a suitable country agrees to take them. All those lefties who have been crying 'try them or release them' are going to need therapy.

That said, Obama is in fact moving away from Bush in one very critical area. He is returning us to the failed 9-10 law enforcement model to combat radical Islamic terrorism.

This from Andy McCarthy at the NRO:

The Uighurs, Chinese Muslim detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, received terrorist training at al Qaeda affiliated camps . . . and were captured after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. They are the Left's combatant cause célèbre. The military took the incoherent position that they were trained al Qaeda terrorists but that their real beef was with China, not us. Thus, the federal courts have held that they are not enemy combatants. The government has been trying to relocate them for years but no country will take the remaining 17 — other than China, where our treaty obligations arguably forbid us from sending them because there is reason to believe they'd be persecuted.

Of course, it's one thing to say that they are not enemy combatants and should therefore be released. It is quite another thing, though, to say that they should be released into the United States (which, because of their terrorist affiliations, would violate federal immigration law). . . . [F]ederal judge Richard Urbina did try to order their release into the U.S. (Here at NRO, the editors weighed in on Judge Urbina's absurd decision, here.) Fortunately, in a well reasoned decision authored by Judge Raymond Randolph . . . the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Judge Urbina, holding that just because courts have the power to review whether a prisoner is properly designated an enemy combatant does not mean they have the power to order the release into the United States of those found not to be enemy combatants.

The Uighurs appealed, and today the Justice Department filed its responsive brief. Solicitor General Elena Kagan argued — consistent with the Bush administration position — that the Uighurs have no right to be released into the U.S. As Lyle Denniston recaps at SCOTUSblog:

The brief holds to the position of the Bush Administration that a court’s power to issue a remedy in a habeas case — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s mandate that the detainees have a constitutional right to seek their freedom — is limited to a finding of eligibility for release, without an actual release from captivity while diplomatic negotiations to resettle a prisoner continue. . . .

Read the entire article. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence.

But it would seem that there might be wailing and gnashing on both sides of the aisle. As Andy McCarthy points out in a separate article, Obama is moving us towards a 9-10 law enforcement model for dealing with terrorism, putting the FBI back in the drivers seat. Read the article here. As McCarthy documents, that did not work out well when tried in the 1990's.


Despicable Identity Politica Of The Left

As anyone who lived through the Clarence Thomas hearings can tell you, to earn the support of the left, you must be a member of a victim group AND graciously accept your victim status. The converse is also true - the quickest way to earn the vitriolic condemnation of the left is to be a member of a lefty recognized victim group, yet not toe the approved victim line. Thus Judge Sotomayor is a darling of the left - a historic nomination of a Hispanic to the Supreme Court. To challenge her is to be painted as a racist or misogynist.

Yet, in 2001, it was the left who used all of the tricks at their disposal to prevent Miguel Estrada being named to the DC Court of Appeals - concerned that he was a "LATINO" being "groomed for the Supreme Court." Byron York explores the story of Mr. Estrada and his despicable treatment by the left in some detail today.

This from Byron York writing at the Washington Examiner:

. . . [S]ome of the very people who are today praising Sotomayor spent their time [in 2001-03] devising extraordinary measures to kill Estrada's chances.

Born in Honduras, Estrada came to the United States at 17, not knowing a word of English. He learned the language almost instantly, and within a few years was graduating with honors from Columbia University and heading off to Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, was a prosecutor in New York, and worked at the Justice Department in Washington before entering private practice.

Estrada's nomination for a federal judgeship set off alarm bells among Democrats. There is a group of left-leaning organizations -- People for the American Way, NARAL, the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, and others -- that work closely with Senate Democrats to promote Democratic judicial nominations and kill Republican ones. They were particularly concerned about Estrada.

In November, 2001, representatives of those groups met with Democratic Senate staff. One of those staffers then wrote a memo to Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, informing Durbin that the groups wanted to stall Bush nominees, particularly three they had identified as good targets. "They also identified Miguel Estrada as especially dangerous," the staffer added, "because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment. They want to hold Estrada off as long as possible."

It was precisely the fact that Estrada was Hispanic that made Democrats and their activist allies want to kill his nomination. They were determined to deny a Republican White House credit, political and otherwise, for putting a first-rate Hispanic nominee on the bench.

Durbin and his colleagues did as they were instructed. But they had nothing with which to kill the nomination -- no outrageous statement by Estrada, no ethical lapse, no nothing. What to do?

They brainstormed. Estrada had once worked in the Justice Department's Office of Solicitor General, right? (Appointed under the first President Bush, Estrada stayed to serve several years under Clinton.) That office decides which cases the government will pursue in the Supreme Court, right? And that process involves confidential legal memoranda, right? Well, why don't we suggest that there might be something damaging in those memos -- we have no idea whether there is or not -- and demand that they be made public?

Durbin and his colleagues knew the Bush Justice Department would insist the internal legal memos remain confidential, as they always had been. It wasn’t just the Bush Administration that thought releasing the documents was a terrible idea; all seven living former Solicitors General, Republican and Democrat, wrote a letter to Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy begging him to back off.

But the Democrats didn't back off. They had a new, very serious question to ask: What is Miguel Estrada hiding?

The answer was nothing, of course. But the strategy worked. Democrats stonewalled Estrada's nomination, and, after losing control of the Senate in 2002, they began an unprecedented round of filibusters to block an entire slate of Bush appeals-courts nominees, Estrada among them. . . .

And that was how Democrats treated the last high-level Hispanic court nominee. Think about that when you watch their lovefest with Sonia Sotomayor.

Read the entire article.


Idiocy On The Right

There are several very disturbing things about Obama's nomination for the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor. For example, there is her seemingly casual reverse racism, there is her belief that the Second Amendment is not binding on the states, and there is her pro-plaintiff orientation that she takes the plaintiff's side even in cases where the law is so clear that her decision is overturned by a unanimous Supreme Court. These are serious. But we will never get to them - and never have a chance to explain them to the public at large - if the idiots are let loose to make ad hominem attacks on Judge Sotomayor.

Case in point - at the top of Memorandum today, sucking the air away from everything that really matters, is an entry by Think Progress memorializing talk show host G. Gordon Liddy's attempt at humor, saying of Judge Sotomayer.

Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.

This is the type of ad hominem attack I would expect out of the left. It is not what I would expect out of the right. It is puerile and counterproductive in the extreme. Let's hope someone smacks some sense into Mr. Liddy in the near future - and indeed, all on the right who are exaggerating the case against Judge Sotomayor. I have previously commented on the non-issue of her statement saying that appellate courts make policy - they in fact do, and that is not coextensive with judicial activism. And see No Oil For Pacifists, who takes on today those on the right who are exaggerating the attack on Judge Sotomayor in other ways. If we don't clean this up and focus on what matters, it will allow the left to effectively discount all of our arguments.


May 30 - This Day In History

1431 - At the age of 12, Joan of Arc was an illeterate farm girl who began to have visions and hear the voices of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret whom, she said, told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. At the age of 16, she petitioned to be sent to visit the Dauphin at a time when France was on the verge of defeat in the 100 Years War. The Dauphin, with no other options, allowed her to be outfitted as a knight and sent her to Orleans. There, she led the French to adopt an agressive strategy that resulted in a series of victories, wholly changing the fortunes of war. Captured during a minor engagement, she eventually was given over to the English who tried her for heresy. On May 30, 1431, at the age of 19, she was burned alive at the stake. Her conviction for heresy was later overturned by the Pope and, in 1920, she was elevated by the Church to sainthood. She is the patron Saint of France.

1536 – King Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting to his first two wives. She died from the complications of childbirth a little over a year later.

1539 – Hernando de Soto landed at Tampa Bay with 600 soldiers with the goal of finding gold.

1635 – The Peace of Prague was signed by the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II, and most of the Protestant states of the Empire. It effectively brought to an end the civil war aspect of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648); however, the war still carried on due to the continued intervention on German soil of Spain, Sweden, and France. The Thirty years war was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The war was fought primarily in Germany and at various points involved most of the countries of Europe. Initially the war was fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, although disputes over the internal politics and balance of power within the Empire played a significant part. Gradually the war developed into a more general conflict involving most of the European powers. The devestation was so severe that the population of Germany decreased by some 30% and most of the combatants were bankrupted by the time of the war's end.

1806 – Andrew Jackson killed Charles Dickinson in a duel after Dickinson accused Jackson's wife of bigamy.

1942 – Britain finally began to go on the offensive in WWII. On this day in 1942, 1000 British bombers blackened the sky over Cologne, Germany in a 90 minute bombing run. The total tonnage of bombs dropped was 1,455 tons with two-thirds of that being incendiaries. Two and a half thousand separate fires were started by the bombs, resulting in mass devestation to the city.

1958 – Memorial Day - the remains of two unidentified American servicemen, killed in action during World War II and the Korean War respectively, are buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

1989 – Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: the 33-foot high "Goddess of Democracy" statue was unveiled in Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators.


1909 – Benny Goodman, American clarinetist and bandleader (d. 1986)


1593 – Christopher Marlowe, English playwright (b. 1564)

1640 – Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish painter (b. 1577)

1744 – Alexander Pope, English writer (b. 1688)

1778 – Voltaire, French philosopher and author (b. 1694)

1912 – Wilbur Wright, aviation pioneer (Wright Brothers) (b. 1867)

1947 – Georg Ludwig von Trapp, World War I Austrian submarine commander. His family was the basis for the movie, The Sound of Music.

Holidays and observances

Today is Canary Islands Day in the Canary Islands and Parliament Day in Croatia.

Feasts today are held in honor of Saint Isaac of Dalmatia and Saint Joan of Arc.


Links On Saturday

Doug Ross has continued his work on Dealergate. Despite what you have read, this one is far from done yet. And Doug even gets some surprising help from Olby.

Doug Ross was also kind enough to include me in his collection of links. Do please pay him a visit.

Pirates Man Your Women, taking stock of the calamity of the first six months, asks of Obama, "what is next burning the Constitution using the Flag?" Heh.

You can read my post below on the Nancy Pelosi and the left's plans for a massive expansion of government and taxation using the excuse of limiting carbon emissions. I include in there a mention of the internationalists who want to soak the U.S. with a carbon tax payable to the UN for redistribution to third world countries who have supposedly suffered injury due to global warming. And here is a story today on the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) who plan to move this issue to the top of the list at the next IPCC / UN Summit in Copenhagen. They claim 315,000 deaths last year due to global warming. Given that the world has been on a cooling spell for the last seven years, excuse me if I might think the numbers a bit cooked and the motivation not quite as stated.

And in a couple of related notes, across the pond, Bishop Hill actually goes behind the story to see how the numbers were cooked. A.J. Strata notes that "Global warming BS is popping up everywhere." Meanwhile, the boys at Crusader Rabbit have taken a look at their local forecast (brrrrrr) and are now casting about to find something to burn, hoping to release more carbon dioxide in their local atmosphere.

The Paragraph Farmer offers some cogent thoughts on the religion in America and the rewriting of history. You can also find an exceptional speech on the canard of a "wall between church and state" and the damage it has wrought by the brother of William Buckley.

Ted Leddy documents with distate the return to sectarianism in Ireland, telling the story of the 49 year old father beaten to death by a gang of hooligans following a Catholic versus Protestant soccer match.

I wonder, when I see things like this, if the Brits think doing away with the death penalty was a good thing.

Stop the ACLU notes that even the NYT is a bit miffed at Obama's naked cronyism in choosing ambassadors.

Peace through superior firepower at Ace of Spades HQ. It beats the hell out of the M203 Grenade Launcher.

At A Corner of Tenth Century Europe, there is a fascinating discussion of ancient coinage and economies.

Darwinism proven in the negative at the Whited Sepulchre.


Friday, May 29, 2009

So Much For The Promise Of A Post Racial America

Not that there was any chance of a post-racial, post-discrimination America occurring on Obama's watch to begin with. Anyone who ignored the implications of Obama's relationship to Rev. Wright et. al. in order to to take Obama at his promise was simply naive beyond reason. Obama is at the far left end of the far left, and their stock in trade is marxian identity politics and reverse racism. Thus it is little surprise that we are treated today to two outrageous acts of the Obama administration - the dismissal of voter intimidation charges against three members of the New Black Panthers (think KKK, just differnt colored hood(ies)), and then both Obama and Gibbs attempting to excuse the racist comments of Judge Sotomayer.

It has literally become part of the Dem playbook to claim voter intimidation and other fraud when they loose an election, even where none exists. Yet now, "political appointees" of the Obama Dept. of Justice have dropped the prosecution of three thugs from New Black Panthers who engaged, on camera, in voter intimidation in favor of President Obama during the Presidential election. This is after a judgment had already been entered them. The Washington Times has the story. Micelle Malkin, PJM, Power Line, Hot Air and others have blogged this. There is nothing that I can add but my sense of ever growing outrage over the reverse racism that is tolerated and excused by the left.

Then there is Supreme Court nominee Sotomayer. Her 2001 statement that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life" is reverse racism, pure and simple. There is just no other way to interpret that statement. Indeed, as Andrew McCarthy notes at NRO, it is a remark sufficiently clear in its racism that, were it read during jury selection, she would not qualify as an impartial juror. She would be tossed by the Court. And she is qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice?

And it becomes all the more vivid when considering the manner in which Sotomayer summarilly dealt with the reverse discrimination claim of nineteen firefighters. She did not even deign to consider their arguments in rendering her decision.

All of this is outrageous, but what brings it trulyhome was listening today to President Obama and Robert Gibbs seperately attempt to explain this away. They did this not by indicating that Sotomayer had some explaining to do on the topic, but by claiming that what she said did not mean what she said. They are playing us for idiots and, worse, excusing casual racism in the process.

While I may be appalled, I am not suprised by any of this. I wrote an essay earlier in the year discussing the post Civil War history of racism in America, pointing out that the Republican Party has always been the party most closely aligned with equality, that racism has always been most prevelant on the left, and indeed, that racism is at the heart of today's far left political philosophy. To quote from that essay:

. . . Sometime about 1968, the far left movement emerged as a major wing of the Democratic Party. This far left wing hijacked the civil rights movement and made it, ostensibly, the raison d'etre of their wing. Gradually, the far left has grown until it is now the dominant force in Democratic politics. JFK, Truman and FDR would recognize precious little of today's Democratic Party.

The far left fundamentally altered the nature of the Civil Rights movement after they claimed it as their own. They imprinted the movement with identity politics, grossly distorting the movement's goal of a level playing field for all Americans and creating in its stead a Marxist world of permanent victimized classes entitled to special treatment. The far left has been the driver of reverse racism and sexism for the past half century. That is why it is no surprise that, with the emergence of a far left candidate for the highest office in the nation, Rev. Jeremiah Wright should also arise at his side and into the public eye preaching a vile racism and separatism most Americans thought long dead in this country. Nor is it any surprise that the MSM, many of whom are of the far left, should collectively yawn at Obama's twenty year association with Wright. Wright is anything but an anamoly. To the contrary, he is a progeny of the politics of the far left.

The far left did not merely hijack the civil rights movement, they also wrote over a century of American history, turning it on its head. . . . The far left managed to paint the conservative movement and the Republican Party as the prime repositories of racism and sexism. The far left has long held themselves out as the true party of equality. They have done so falsely as, by its very nature, identity politics cements inequality. Beyond that truism, the far left has for decades played the race and gender cards to counter any criticism of their policies, to forestall any reasoned debate and to demonize those who stand opposed to them. They continue to do so through this very day.

Read the entire post. It is no surpriste that we see today Obama excusing reverse racism. But that does not make it any less outrageous or unacceptable. It is a cancer that we cannot excuse, regardless whether Obama thinks that he can.




This Day In History - May 29

1453 – Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, making skillful use of cannon and other gunpowder weapons, captured Constantinople (today known as Istanbul), destroying the great Eastern Christian Empire of the Byzantines that had lasted over a millenium. With its fall, Mehmed claimed the title of Caeser and converted the second most historic church in Christendom, the Hagia Sophia built in 532 A.D., into a mosque. Islam, which since its founding had been spread by wars of conquest over Christian lands faster than any other imperialist force before or since, would continue to spread by the sword for another two centuries, reaching its high water mark just outside the gates of Vienna, Austria in 1683.

1660 – English Restoration - Charles II was restored to the throne of Great Britain, reestablishing the monarchy after the English Civil War and the Interregnum period overseen by the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell. As a condition of his return, Charles II promised in the Declaration of Breda to agree to "a free parliament, by which, upon the word of a king, we will be advised" and religious toleration.

1765 - Patrick Henry, only nine days after being seated in the Virginia legislature at Williamsburg, introduced the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions. It was possibly the most anti-British American political action to that point, and some credit the Resolutions with being one of the main catalysts of the Revolution. The proposals were based on principles that were well established British rights, such as the right to be taxed by one's own representatives. They went further, however, to assert that the colonial assemblies had the exclusive right to impose taxes on the colonies and could not assign that right. He finished his speech with the now famous line, "Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!"

1780 – At the Battle of Waxhaws, British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton massacred 113 American soldiers under the command of Colonel Abraham Buford after they had surrendered. Tarleton would later be the basis for the antagonist in the Mel Brooks film, The Patriot, a fictional story loosely based on the great Revolutionary War commander Francis Marion, the "swamp fox," one of the founding fathers of the world's most elite fighting force, the United States Army Rangers.

1790 – Rhode Island becomes the last of the original United States colonies to ratify the Constitution and is admitted as the 13th U.S. state.

1886 – Chemist John Pemberton places his first advertisement for Coca-Cola, the ad appearing in the Atlanta Journal.

1942 – Bing Crosby records Irving Berlin's "White Christmas", the best-selling Christmas single in history.

1943 - Meat & cheese rationed in US

1945 - US 1st Marine division conquerors Shuri-castle Okinawa

1948 – Creation of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation

1953 – Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay are the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on Tenzing Norgay's 39th birthday.

1964 – The Arab League meets in East Jerusalem to discuss the Palestinian situation in Israel, leading to the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

1982 – Pope John Paul II becomes the first pontiff ever to visit Canterbury Cathedral.

1988 – President Ronald Reagan begins his first visit to the Soviet Union as he arrives in Moscow for a superpower summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

1990 – Boris Yeltsin is elected president of the Russian SFSR by the Russian parliament.


1736Patrick Henry, American patriot, statesman, and orator. One of his most famous acts is discussed above.

1874G. K. Chesterton, English novelist (d. 1936)

1903Bob Hope, British-born comedian and actor (d. 2003)

1917John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

1957 – Ted Levine, American actor. I watched this guy for six years play the police captain in Monk before realizing that he was the same actor who played the psychopathic transexual wanna-be Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.


1453Constantine XI Palaeologus, last Byzantine Emperor, who died making a final charge against the Turks at the seige of Constantinople. He was beheaded by the Turks and his head sent to Asia Minor as proof of his death.

1790Israel Putnam, American Revolutionary War general (b. 1718)

1866Winfield Scott, American general (b. 1786)

1939Ursula Julia Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic saint (b. 1865)


Today is International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

And in the UK, its Oak Apple Day, a holiday established in 1660 to celebrate the English Restoration, though seldom celebrated in the modern era.


Today is the feast of Saint Maximinus of Trier, a 4th century French bishop who is today invoked as protection against perjury, loss at sea and destructive rains.

And it is the feast of Saint Alexander of Alexandria, the 19th Pope of Alexandria who held that post from 313 A.D. until his death in 326 A.D. He took part in the First Council of Nicea, organized at the direction of Constantine to organize Christianity, standardize practices and agree on biblical texts.

Art: The Seige of Constantinople, painted 1499, painter unknown.