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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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A Look at Senate Staff

The New York Times has an interesting look at some of the Senate staffers working on the filibuster rules change debate.

Apparently, one of the top GOP Senate rules strategists learned his craft in part by watching Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).


Gregory Kane on Janice Rogers Brown: Two Uncle Toms Are Better Than One

Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane discusses the Janice Rogers Brown nomination in a (very frank) way, raising points I haven't quite seen anywhere else:

Black folks have so much invested in hating [Supreme Court Justice Clarence] Thomas that seeing him depicted as a handkerchiefhead, a lawn jockey and a shoeshine boy moved us in ways that more serious and important stories couldn't. Hating Thomas has been cathartic for most of us.

That's why we should be the ones demanding that the Senate confirm Brown. Because if one shuffling black conservative-Uncle Tom-handkerchiefhead-Sambo-house-nigger on a federal bench has been good for us, imagine what TWO can do.

And don't listen to the naysayers like Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a sister who wrote that Brown "does not belong on the federal bench." Tucker didn't argue that Brown was unqualified...

Read it all here.


Top Five Reasons Senate Democrats Oppose Ending Partisan Judicial Filibusters

From husband David, who says he is writing only slightly tongue-in-cheek:

The top five reasons why Senate Democrats oppose an end to partisan judicial filibusters:
5. Tom Daschle, we shall avenge you!

4. To preserve the right of out-of-the-mainstream politicians to define which judges are out of the mainstream.

3. To protect the principle of separation of powers by separating the majority from its powers.

2. We might need filibusters again to stop pesky civil rights legislation.

1. To preserve America's long tradition of one man, one-and-one-quarter vote.


Noble History of the Filibuster

The noble history of the filibuster:

Filibusters were particularly useful to Southern senators who sought to block civil rights legislation, until cloture was invoked after a fifty-seven day filibuster against the Civil Right Act of 1964... The record for the longest individual speech goes to South Carolina's J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
(Yes, the word "noble" in the title is sarcasm.)


Black Activists Praise Priscilla Owen

Project 21 members have thoughts about Justice Patricia Owen:

Priscilla Owen is one of the finest jurists in the country. The fact that she has been forced to endure more than four years of public humiliation and character assassination is appalling. While her antagonists have tried to portray her as outside of the mainstream, quite the opposite is true. She is precisely the type of jurist our Founding Father intended to see in our courts. - Mychal Massie

Priscilla Owen is among the most respected judges from Texas. Not only was she overwhelmingly supported by the voters, but she enjoys the respect and admiration of her peers as well. - Michael King


Five-Second Rule


I thought the five-second rule was the law of the land.


David Bellamy Challenges Global Warming Orthodoxy

Husband David has some thoughts on a recent news item:

You ever wonder why environmental groups walk in such lock step on the global warming theory? Maybe it's because they censor colleagues who disagree.

The Sunday Times (UK) reported last Sunday that Professor David Bellamy is about to be forced out as figurehead of two leading environmental organizations, Plantlife International and the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, because he refuses to believe in human-induced global warming.

Bellamy, a former botany lecturer at Durham University, is the author of over 40 books and more than 80 scientific papers on the ecology and the environment. He has written and presented over 400 programs for the British Broadcasting Corporation and Britain's Independent Television. This work has won him the British Academy of Film and Television Arts' Richard Dimbleby Award.

His environmental work has earned him the Dutch Order of the Golden Ark and the United Nations Environmental Program's Global 500 Award, among others.

In January, Bellamy told the Royal Institution in London, "Global warming is largely natural phenomenon. The world is wasting stupendous amounts of money on trying to fix something that can't be fixed... The climate change people have no proof for their claims. They have computer models which do not prove anything."

The Sunday Times article is worth reading in its entirety.


The Shape of Days: Web Typography

This essay could have been written by many [hyphen] but wasn't.

Jeff did it justice.


Majority Leader Frist: Unreasonable?

A quote from today's Hotline:

"It appears that the Majority Leader cannot accept any solution that does not guarantee all current and future judicial nominees an up-down vote."

-- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, on the Senate floor, 5/17/05

A quote from the U.S. Consitution:
[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for...
I'm just guessing, but I think than when the Founders wrote "advice and consent," they were thinking of -- I know I am going out on a limb here -- a vote.

I don't have to take a position on any particular nominee to know that we elect Senators to vote. If the public does not not like the nominees who are approved (or likes ones who are not approved), the public can let the Senators know the next time the Senators run for re-election.

Ultimately, the public speaks -- which is how it should be.


Funding PBS

An argument against the existence of PBS:

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical. And just as a democracy can die of too many lies, that kind of orthodoxy can kill us, too.
This quote comes from Bill Moyers, who, strangely, thought it was an argument in favor of government-run news broadcasting.


Star Parker Nails it on Social Security

Black leader Star Parker on Social Security:

The simple truth is that the Social Security system needs to be replaced with one in which American workers retain their own money and invest in their own retirement accounts. Our task is to devise a plan to let workers opt for personal accounts. And, in the meantime, we must tap our resources to meet existing obligations to current retirees. That's it. Clear and simple.
Addendum 5/24/05: Blog of Doom thinks we're wrong.


Yukos Verdict

Voice of America seems to be of two minds in its story today about a verdict in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky of the Russian oil company Yukos.

The story's headline reads: "Russian Businessman Found Guilty of Fraud, Tax Evasion."

The story begins: "A Moscow court is expected to find the former director of Yukos Oil company guilty of charges including fraud and tax evasion."


Pity Poor Fairfax County

While parts of the U.S. are reeling after the Pentagon's announcement of proposed base closings in their areas, some lawmakers in Northern Virginia are complaining because a local base, Fort Belvoir, is gaining 18,000 jobs.

One of the lawmakers, Fairfax County, VA Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat, says the Pentagon and federal government should "provide resources to help localities absorb the impacts that they are creating with these changes."

Senator John Warner of Virginia (R-VA), and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), are said to be working with Connolly to get the federal government to pony up hard cash -- and lots of it -- to help Fairfax County deal with the hardship posed by these new jobs.

Based on its median household income of $81,050, Fairfax County, Virginia is the second-wealthiest county in the U.S.

The median household income for the U.S. is $41,994.

Addendum 5-16-05: Virginia can't seem to decide what it wants. Check out this May 8 AP story, Virginia Working To Keep Its Military Bases Off Closing List:

(AP) - Virginia's robust military community is on edge, awaiting release of the Defense Department's list of bases that it wants to be closed or consolidated.

A commission appointed by Gov. Mark Warner has spent nearly $2 million building a case to the Pentagon to preserve -- or even expand -- the military presence in the state when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission makes the first cutbacks in 10 years.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to let his choices for downsizing be known by the end of this week, a Warner spokesman said. 'We've been focused on this ... date for two years,' said David G. Dickson, executive director of the Virginia Commission on Military Bases. 'People are ready to get to it.'"

The commission has been working under the Defense Department's premise that up to 25 percent of military installations would be close or consolidated, but Rumsfeld said last week that only about half that number would be affected.

Even so, Virginia has a lot to lose...


Rep. Robert Wexler on Social Security: The System is Sound, But Insolvent

Speaking of Rep. Robert Wexler, he seems to be of two minds about the soundness of the Social Security system.

From Rep. Wexler's website's Social Security page, paragraph one:

First, let me assure you that Social Security is a sound program.
From paragraph two:
Any attempt to create separate individual accounts for Social Security will only drain the current system, thereby bankrupting the system sooner than expected.
Note to Congressman Wexler: If a system is expected to become bankrupt, it is not sound.


Be Fair to New York Plan

A Democratic Congressman is following Dan Rostenkowski's advice and proposing a Social Security rescue plan.

The Congressman is Robert Wexler, who represents the 19th District of Florida, containing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties. According to the Population Research Center, Palm Beach County has on a percentage basis more residents over 64, 23.2%, than any other county in America. Broward County is fifth, with 16.1% of its residents over 64.

So I guess it isn't hard to figure out why Rep. Wexler is interested in Social Security, and apparently isn't buying into the "Social Security isn't in crisis" rhetoric so popular among other liberals.

It might also lead you to think Wexler might be tempted to avoid proposals suggesting reductions in future Social Security benefit increases, and grasp instead for tax increases on the non-retired.

In this supposition, you would not be surprised.

Wexler's plan consists of a tax increase for workers earning over $90,000 per year. Specifically, Wexler would have the government take 3 percent of income over $90,000 directly from the employee and "tax the employer" 3 percent of the employee's earnings over $90,000.

Other merits of the plan (if any) notwithstanding, so-called "taxes on the employer" are a scam. It is a trick played by the government on the people. Employers hire an employee only if they believe that employee's workplace contribution is worth what it costs to pay him. Whether the employer pays the employee first, and then the government takes the money, or the government takes the money before the employee even sees it, doesn't matter much to the employer. Money is money. But many employees think their taxes are less because they never see the money they earn that is paid to the government directly in so-called "employer's" taxes.

As I said, a government trick designed to deceive taxpayers.

(Next time you visit the website of a liberal "ethics in government" group, see if they have any documents advocating elimination of deceitful "tax on employer' scams. If you find any, email me, please.)

While I'm on the topic of unfairness, here's another thing I think is unfair: The value of a dollar is not the same everywhere in America. $90,000 does not go very far in Manhattan, compared to how far it goes in Kansas (and pretty much everywhere else). So Congressman Wexler's proposal, generally speaking, would hit Manhattanites harder than nearly every other American.

I'm not a New Yorker, never have been a New Yorker, and probably will go to my grave never having lived in New York, so I have no conflict of interest when I ask you, dear readers: Is this fair to New Yorkers?

So with all due respect to Rep. Wexler, who at least -- nearly alone among national Democrats -- is willing to offer suggestions for solving the Social Security crisis, I suggest the rest of America stand shoulder-to-shoulder with New York and tell Rep. Wexler: Thanks -- but no thanks.

Instead, let's be fair. Let's enact a flat rate federal income tax and solve the Social Security crisis with personal retirement accounts.

We could call it the "Be Fair to New York Plan." I presume Hillary will love it.


School Bus Driver Strands Children

This story no doubt sends chills through many parents.

Fortunately, no children were hurt -- or lost.


Filibusters: A History

Blog readers might find this document, being distributed today by the Senate Republican Conference, of interest:

Dates Democrats Want to Forget


The year the U.S. Constitution was ratified without the filibuster as part of it


The year the Senate was originally constituted with rules that permitted a majority vote to end debate


The year that the filibuster became theoretically possible through an inadvertent rules change


The year that a filibuster was used for the first time to block legislation


The year that a "cloture" rule was adopted to control legislative filibusters


The year that the Senate rules were changed to extend cloture to all debatable matters, including nominations


The first time a bipartisan filibuster was used to deny a judicial nominee an up-or-down vote. But the nominee, Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, did not have majority support, and was opposed by one-third of his own party. He withdrew his nomination shortly after the failed cloture vote. In contrast, every one of the filibustered judicial nominees in 2003 and 2004 had majority support.

1977, 1979, 1980, 1987

The years in which then Senate Majority-Leader Robert Byrd employed the constitutional option in order to limit minority and individual Senators' rights

2003, 2004

The years in which partisan filibusters were used for the first time to deny confirmation to a judicial nominee with majority support. Ten nominees were blocked from getting up-or-down votes due to the filibuster


The year the Senate will restore the 214-year tradition of up-or-down votes on every judicial nominee with majority support
Thanks to Barbara Ledeen of the SRC for sharing it.


Senate Judicial Filibuster Showdown Nears

The Senate showdown on judicial nominations draws ever closer. Majority Leader Bill Frist's office released the following statement today:


Upon completion of action on the pending highway bill, the Senate will begin debate on fair up or down votes on judicial nominations. As is the regular order, the Leader will move to act on judge nominations sent to the full Senate by the Judiciary Committee in the past several weeks. Priscilla Owen, to serve as a judge for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Janice Rogers Brown, to serve as a judge for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, will be the nominees of focus.

The Majority Leader will continue to discuss an appropriate resolution of the need for fair up or down votes with the Minority Leader. If they can not find a way for the Senate to decide on fair up or down votes on judicial nominations, the Majority Leader will seek a ruling from the Presiding Officer regarding the appropriate length of time for debate on such nominees. After the ruling, he will ensure that every Senator has the opportunity to decide whether to restore the 214-year practice of fair up or down votes on judicial nominees; or, to enshrine a new veto by filibuster that both denies all Senators the opportunity to advise and consent and fundamentally disturbs the separation of powers between the branches.

There will be a full and vigorous Senate floor debate that is too important for parliamentary tactics to speed it up or slow it down until all members who wish have had their say. All members are encouraged to ensure that rhetoric in this debate follows the rules, and best traditions, of the Senate.

It is time for 100 Senators to decide the issue of fair up or down votes for judicial nominees after over two years of unprecedented obstructionism. The Minority has made public threats that much of the Senate's work will be shut down. Such threats are unfortunate.

The Majority Leader has proposed his Fairness Rule: up to 100 hours of debate, and then an up or down vote on circuit and Supreme Court nominations. Further, the Fairness Rule would eliminate the opportunity for blockade of such nominees at the Judiciary Committee. And finally, it will make no changes to the legislative filibuster.

If Senators believe a nominee is qualified, they should have the opportunity to vote for her. If they believe she is unqualified, they should have the opportunity to vote against her.

Members must decide if their legacy to the Senate is to eliminate the filibuster's barrier to the Constitutional responsibility of all Senators to advise and consent with fair, up or down votes.



FBI Files: Confidential

Allow me to add my voice to those condemning the action of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he made allegations that the FBI file on Judge Harry Saad contains damaging information about the judge.

Senator Reid must be aware that FBI files contain raw material (unconfirmed allegations) and that Judge Saad himself is not in a position to defend himself, as he would not know what is in the file nor who made the allegations. In short, Reid has made an unanswerable smear.

I have no idea what is in Judge Saad's FBI file, but it would take a lot more than knowing there is uncomplimentary information in it for me to draw a negative conclusion about the judge's character.

Like many people who live and work in the D.C. area, I have been interviewed by the FBI when people I know, or neighbors, have been appointed to governmental positions or sought to acquire security clearances. On at least two occasions within the last few years I have been interviewed about people I have never met and who I would not recognize on the street because they live in our neighborhood. On both occasions, as part of the interview process, the individual was described to me so that I might have some idea if I had ever seen or talked with them. I had nothing negative to say about these people, but what if I had, based on a physical description, misidentified someone and honestly confused them with a person I know something negative about? In an honest attempt to be helpful, I would have shared that information with the FBI. And, presumably, that information would be in their file forever afterward. They would not even know it, and they could never defend themselves against it. Yet the allegation would not be fair, even though I would have meant no harm in sharing it.

Senator Reid owes Judge Saad an apology.


Claudia Rosett Peels an Onion

This Claudia Rosett article on NRO begins...

When Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) last year compared the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal to "an onion," he had just one thing wrong: The more you peel, the bigger it gets.
It has more good lines, but read it for the facts on how Saddam Hussein targeted his bribes to officials of nations with seats on the U.N. Security Council.