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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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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.


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.


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.


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.


The Moon

Look close. It really is made of cheese!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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....


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.


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.


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.


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.


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...


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.)