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Europe to Moscow: Apologize

From the Boston Globe:

Reuters - Baltic nations urged Moscow on Friday to apologize for five decades of Soviet occupation, hours before the arrival of President Bush on a trip to fete new democracies and the 1945 victory over the Nazis.

In Brussels, the European Union sided with the three Baltic countries against the Kremlin by saying that the collapse of the Berlin Wall, rather than the defeat of Nazi Germany, marked the "end of dictatorship" in Europe...
Fat chance Putin would have this kind of integrity, but it is nice to see the truth spoken -- with the EU chiming in on the right side, no less.


Army Pay: AWOL

My niece's husband is serving his second tour of duty with the U.S. Army (3rd ACR) in Iraq. I thought I'd share with blog readers an e-mail she sent to her Congressman, Rep. Joel Hefley, on Thursday about a little difficulty he is having: The Army isn't paying him.

I'm not usually one to criticize the U.S. Army (no doubt this is in part because I have never been in it), but I do think it is not too much to ask that we actually pay our combat soldiers.

Our niece is doing fine. She has income from her own job and she and her husband, married just one year (long-distance first anniversary), have no children. But, as she told me on the phone tonight, she's worried about the Army wives who have small children and no income except their Army pay.

Dear Sir:

My husband is currently serving our country in Iraq as of the beginning of March 05. We were due to get out in Feb but we were "stop-lossed." I am not sure if you are aware of this but the system that they have is so unorganized that they somehow OUT processed him at the end of April and back dated it for February 28th and took back all the money they had paid us in March and mid-month April, and gave us a "no pay due" for the end of April.

So my husband is in Iraq not getting paid and from what I hear from him, unable to get anything accomplished over there to resolve this, and it all has to be taken care of over here, which I am trying to do.

Although they've been willing to give me the money in advance until this is resolved, I still feel that someone should be aware of this since half of our troop has ETS dates for this summer. I can't imagine how much more of a hardship this would be for a family with kids or already in financial distress.

I cannot express how disappointed I am in our "system." If you are unable help us, please help the other servicemen who are over there putting their lives at stake.

Please feel free to contact me at the provided telephone number...

My niece says Rep. Hefley's staff was quite sympathetic on the phone today, but it is too soon to say if they can/will help. She also was similarly complimentary of Senator Harry Reid's staff (her husband is a Nevadan).

I know we don't pay our soldiers much, but we surely could do better at making sure they actually get their money. Maybe this is one problem that actually could be solved in a bi-partisan manner.


Labor Unions, Social Security and the Law

UPI's Peter Roff is reporting that the Bush Administration isn't taking a certain type of labor union intimidation lying down:

The AFL-CIO has been at the forefront of the effort to derail President George W. Bush's plan to add personal retirement accounts to Social Security. In fact, the country's preeminent labor group has gone so far as to organize -- not workers, but demonstrations -- outside the offices of financial-services companies and brokers like Edward Jones and Charles Schwab to pressure them to drop out of business groups and coalitions working toward reform of Social Security.

Now, in a counterstrike, the Bush administration has issued a letter warning that unions that use the financial power of their pension funds to influence corporate decisions on reform may be violating the law.

Responding to what it called reports that union officials have suggested "plan trustees could make decisions on the hiring and firing of plans' service providers based upon their opinions on Social Security reform," the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration reminded the labor group in a May 3 letter that the use of pension-plan assets for political purposes likely violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act...


Bad Guys Won World War II?

From today's Washington Post:

As troops march past and planes streak overhead, President Bush will assume his place in the reviewing stand on Red Square in front of Lenin's tomb, marking the 60th anniversary of the Soviet victory (emphasis added) over Nazi Germany...
Nice of the Soviets to win that war for the rest of us, no?

To be fair, the sentence above quoted above ends with this: event that also ushered in decades of totalitarianism for half of Europe.
So I guess the Post, while crediting the Soviets with the victory in World War II, isn't happy they won it.

Or something.

Strangely, the rest of the piece is pretty good. (Maybe writer Peter Baker's simply been listening to too many Russians. Some of them tend to underestimate the contribution of the western allies in defeating the Nazis in World War II.) The article notes, for instance, that the Bush Administration has tried to convince Putin to denounce the Stalin-Hitler Pact, but Putin has declined. Baker writes: "Putin described [the Stalin-Hitler Pact] this year as merely an effort by Moscow 'to ensure its interests and its security on its western borders,' and the Kremlin told the Americans he saw no need to renounce it."

I bet the Poles just love Putin.

Appropos of nothing, I'm wondering how many Czechs liked Hitler in September, 1938.

Addendum: If the topic of this post interests you, check out Peter Baker's follow-up report in the May 6 Washington Post, which begins: "Russia issued a testy rebuke of President Bush yesterday on the eve of his departure for Europe, denying that Moscow had forcibly occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 1940..."


Congress' Top Ten Bills Since 1955

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call compiled a panel of Congressional scholars and asked them to name the ten most significant bills approved by Congress over the last fifty years.

The newspaper says the scholars, who included Joel Aberbach of UCLA, Scott Adler of the University of Colorado, David Boaz of the Cato Institute, David Brady and Morris Fiorina of the Hoover Institution, Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation, Allan Lichtman of American University, Burdett Loomis of the University of Kansas, David Mayhew of Yale, Bert Rockman of Ohio State, Steven Smith of Washington University, Rick Striner of Washington College, James Thurber of American University and Eric Uslaner of the University of Maryland, "reached a clear consensus" on the top five bills, but then diverged wildly.

The top ten (with parenthetical notes from me to identify a few of the bills younger readers might not recognize):

1. Civil Rights Act (1964).

2. Voting Rights Act (1965). (Roll Call opines that this legislation "made possible America's turn to the right on economic, social and foreign policy since the 1980s." Really?)

3. Medicare and Medicaid Acts (1965).

4. Federal-Aid Highway Act (1956). (Creation of the Interstate Highway System.)

5. Economic Recovery Tax Act (1981). (President Reagan's signature tax cuts.)

6. National Defense Education Act (1958). (Federal education aid bill sold on the notion that it would help the U.S. best the Soviets.)

7. Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964).

8. Amendments to Immigration and Nationality Act (1965). (Removed national-origins quotas for immigrants, boosting legal immigration.)

9. Clean Air Act Amendments (1970). (The feds claim authority over states on environmental policy; era of command-and-control environmental rulemaking begins in earnest.)

10. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996). (Welfare reform. It took three tries by Congress to get President Clinton to sign it. Change of heart or election year politics? Few wonder.)

The Roll Call piece also notes that Congress has approved approximately 28,000 bills since 1955. It does not estimate how many of them we really needed.


The FEC and Bloggers

The Washington Post brings us this objective article on "crack[ing] down on bloggers who write about politics."

I counted 11 paragraphs in favor of a federal government crackdown on those nasty bloggers who apparently still believe in the First Amendment (naughty, naughty bloggers) and six opposed.

The six paragraphs citing arguments opposed to the crackdown, of course, were the last six paragraphs of the article.

Meanwhile, an article expressing concern (by "some observers," natch) that the Washington Post does not carry a disclaimer citing its political affiliations was nowhere to be found...


Global Warming Censorship?

Pejmanesque is on the case.


Cupertino Teacher Update

The Cupertino public school teacher who was banned from distributing documents written by America's Founding Fathers because of their religious content has won a round in federal court.

A federal judge has dismissed the school district's attempt to get a dismissal of the central claim to the teacher's case, in which he states he was treated differently because he is a Christian.


Ryan Balis: Airbus Isn't Green

Ryan Balis has a piece in the Houston Chronicle, among other papers, asking the question: Is Europe's new government-subsidized Airbus A380 super jumbo jet environmentally-friendly?

And, if not, why are European leaders on our case about Kyoto?

Addendum: Professor Bainbridge has an entirely different, but interesting take on the Airbus A380.


Everything I Know Is Wrong: 2005 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators

Everything I Know Is Wrong is justifiably plugging the Pacific Research Institute's 2005 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators.

For ten years now, the Pacific Research Institute has provided this report card on environmental progress. I read it every year.



By way of the Daou Report, which I read nearly every day on Salon for a summary of interesting posts on various blogs, I learned of this post on Ankle Biting Pundits:

You aren't going to believe this (OK, maybe you will). French union workers are demanding to be paid for the extra 1 minute 52 seconds per day that management has asked them to work...
Commenters to the post seemed mostly hostile, and supportive of the French union workers.

There's more to the story than this brief treatment suggests (see the International Herald Tribune for how the controversy came about), but my own take on it is that anytime a person finds himself worrying that he might give away two minutes of labor without getting something for himself in return, that person may have a character problem.

To my way of thinking, doing one's best for one's employer, within reasonable bounds and taking universal human frailties into account, is a moral duty. Likewise, with the same caveats, employers should try to do the best they reasonably can for their employees. It ought to be a matter of pride on both sides.



Condolences to the family of Kevin Aylward of Wizbang upon the loss of their father and grandfather.


Putin's Note on the Door

Speaking of Putin, it appears that he is continuing to micromanage "justice" in Russia.

Reports the UK Guardian, April 28 edition:

The verdict in Russia's most controversial post-Soviet trial of billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been delayed by three weeks, a move announced yesterday in a simple unsigned note pinned to the door of a Moscow courthouse.

The abrupt postponement until May 16 of a verdict on the Kremlin critic saves Vladimir Putin from considerable embarrassment during events on May 9 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE day.

The president has invited dozens of world leaders to Moscow for the occasion, including President George Bush and other vocal critics of the treatment of Mr. Khodorkovsky and his oil firm, Yukos...
On the first VE Day, Western Europeans were liberated, while the Soviet bloc remained enslaved.

Does Putin see the irony?

Read the entire article here.


Chris Cox to Putin

Congressman Chris Cox (R-CA) has sent a letter (note: link is to a PDF file) to Vladimir Putin asking Putin if the Associated Press misquoted him when it reported Putin's lament ("First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century") that the USSR is dead.

Cox's letter says, in part: "The great catastrophe of the last century in Russia was the Soviet Union itself." It is short and to the point. I wonder if he will get a reply.


Analyzing Putin

Instapundit already posted an approving link to this analysis on Publius Pundit of Vladimir Putin's nostalgia for the old Soviet Union, but for what it is worth, I agree with it, too.


Gift of Quintuplets

The surrogate mom, Teresa Anderson of Phoenix, who delivered quintuplets and then turned down the fee must have a heart of gold.

I carried twins, and while it was more than worth it (in spades!) I cannot imagine how hard it might be to carry five. Mrs. Anderson was probably immobilized in bed for months, and I'd be surprised if she was ever comfortable. Issues regarding surrogate parenthood aside, I salute her.

I also hope the new parents get help caring for five infants at once. Just feeding five preemies (all the babies weigh from 3 1/2 to nearly four pounds) will be -- literally -- a full-time job. This Mom and Dad -- and all parents of newborn high-order multiples -- will need some volunteer help.


Asbestos Trust Fund in the Making?

Progress on asbestos?

Depends upon whom you ask.

For background on the issues surrounding the proposed asbestos trust fund, go here.


I Beg to Differ

An AP story today begins:

First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.

-- Russian President Vladimir Putin


On Earth Day, Beware of Leftist Claims

This Earth Day, the National Center's Ryan Balis, among others, is criticizing those in the media who falsely claim evangelical Christians support the a left-wing approach on environmental issues.

Balis notes that an interfaith coalition of theologians, economists, environmental scientists and policy experts met in 1999 to create the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, which chides much of the environmental movement's alarmism and urges a need for environmental policies based on "reason - including sound theology and sound science." The Cornwall Declaration has led, in turn, to the creation of an Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship, whose website is a must-visit for anyone interested in the interplay between religious values and environmental protection.

Meanwhile, read more of Ryan's thoughts on the subject here.


Norm Coleman: Aye on Nuclear Option

Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) gave a pretty good explanation of why he supports the so-called "nuclear option" in a Senate speech Thursday:

Mr. President, I rise to share a few thoughts on the issue of how this body should deal with the confirmation of judges appointed by the President.

When I joined this body, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. That document gives each Senator the responsibility to give "advice and consent" to judges appointed by the President. The Constitution does not talk about filibusters or cloture votes. It just gives me that job to do...

...the Senate is not a rigid, ancient relic that has remained static for these 200 plus years. The Senate is a great institution because over the generations it has found a way to stay faithful to its ideals and get its work done at the same time. We are at such moment.

Let me illustrate it this way. Mr. President, this (hold up) small booklet is a copy of the Standing Rules of the Senate. It is 71 (thumb to the back) pages long. It is very simple, straightforward and with a refreshingly small number of rules.

This (hold up) fat book, on the other hand, is called Senate Procedure. It has (thumb) 1608 pages. This book (right hand) is the interpretation and application of what this book ((left hand) means. The Senate proceeds by precedent. In a body of this many lawyers, issues come up about what the rules hold. They are presented to the Chair. Once the chair rules, that is the procedure of the Senate until a new precedent is made. This Procedure book is literally hundreds of pages of times precedents have been made and changed by this body.

On several occasions, when Senator Byrd was Majority Leader, and directly responsible for getting the Senate's work done, he established new precedents specifically in the area we are debating: the filibuster rule. They are called "the Byrd precedents." In 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1987, these new precedents either limited the right to extended debate in this body, or removed from the Senate the right to decide certain questions ordinarily reserved to it rather than the presiding officer.

So, there is nothing earth shattering about the Senate establishing precedents or clarifying rules. In fact, let me tell you what my predecessor in the United States Senate said in 1969. The late, great Hubert H. Humphrey from the Great State of Minnesota said:

"There is perhaps no principle more firmly established than the constitutional right of the Senate under article I, section 5 to 'determine the rules of its proceedings.' The right to determine includes the right to amend. No one has ever, to the Chair's knowledge, seriously suggested that a resolution to amend the Senate rules required the vote of more than a simple majority. On a par with the right of the Senate to determine its rules, though perhaps not set forth so specifically in the Constitution, is the right of the Senate, a simple majority of the Senate, to decide constitutional questions."

My point is not to make Vice President Humphrey's point so much as it is to simply underscore that what the majority proposes to do today in terms of clarifying the rules is a hardly novel concept.

But now that the shoe is on the other foot, members of the Minority are talking as if establishing a precedent is some sort of Constitutional obscenity, when the Senate has done it thousands of times over the last two hundred years, many times at their request.

The Senate is between a rock and hard place. We have a Constitutional responsibility, not to vote on cloture motions, but to give advice and consent. But the Minority has adopted the practice, not once but many times, of preventing the Senate from doing its job via the filibuster.

There is a misnomer being thrown around. An attempt by the current Majority Leader to set a new precedent on the specific matter of confirmation of judicial nominees is being called the "nuclear option."

I think it is being applied to the wrong side of the argument.

It is the Minority that has exercised a "nuclear option" time and time again. We are supposed to be the world's greatest deliberative body. We discuss. We debate. We try to reach consensus and often we do. But in extreme cases Senators resort to the filibuster. But what the Minority has done is go "nuclear" - literally blowing up the process - in a way that's never been done in the history of the Senate.

They are filibustering qualified judges who have bipartisan support under the management and direction of their leadership.

I must say to the leadership on the other side of the isle, if you fear the consequences of a new precedent, you are reaping what you have sown.

The Senate must get its work done. These courts need judges to allow justice to be done on a timely basis. The Senate is about to do what it has done countless times before (hold up Procedure): set a limited new precedent that allows us to fulfill our Constitutional responsibility to give advice and consent.

Let me make myself clear, if we were talking about a precedent relative to the legislative calendar, I would come over to your side of the argument in a minute. Even though I object to it on substance, I support your right to filibuster the energy bill and the malpractice bill and the highway bill and on and on and on.

But when you prevent the Senate from achieving its Constitutional requirement to give advice and consent - vote yes or no - you leave the body no choice but to make a specific change or, perhaps more to the point in this case, a clarification in the precedent to allow that to happen.

We bend over backwards to protect minority views in this Senate, but eventually majority has to rule. A duly elected president and duly elected members of the Senate have a right and responsibility to do what they were elected to do.

The best traditions of the Senate, and the best interests of our nation, require us to do that. And speaking as one member of the majority, we are not going to be intimidated into failing that responsibility.