31 July, 2008

The Candidates And the Seventh Amendment

This is the seventh post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Seventh Amendment of the Bill of Rights. This amendment follows up on the Fifth and Sixth's discussion of criminal trials with civil trial protections.

Here's the text:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

As usual, we'll start with Barack Obama.

The only thing I can find about Barack Obama relating to civil trials relates to "tort reform". And he's been somewhat dichotic with respect to that, generally voting with the trial lawyers, but not always. However, despite my own opinions on tort reform, it does not generally appear to cross the boundaries into a Seventh Amendment issue, in my opinion.

Next to John McCain.

I had the same troubles with McCain, however there's much more on him with regards to "tort reform".

Senator McCain's record on tort reform is generally positive. These votes include:

  • Sponsored the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 which sought to curb lawsuits by shifting suits from state to federal courts, by requiring judges to review all coupon settlements, and by limiting attorneys' fees in non-cash settlements[65]
  • Voted for a bill that would bar lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of firearms[66]
  • Voted for a bill that would place caps on damage awards in medical malpractice suits against obstetricians and gynecologists[67]
  • Voted for a motion to proceed to a bill that would cap non-economic and punitive damages in medical malpractice suits[68]

This generally positive record, however, is tarnished by Senator McCain's sponsoring of and outspoken support for the Patients' Bill of Rights,[69] which encouraged an increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed against healthcare providers. He also voted against the Litigation Uniform Standards Act, which limited the conduct of securities class actions under state law.[70]

There's some important stuff here and it does skirt around the edges of the Seventh Amendment. While he has placed caps on damages, he has also supported the 'Patients' Bill of Rights". He's hammered against "frivolous lawsuits" and and acted to restrict civil lawsuits against people acting in accordance with the law. But, the Seventh Amendment doesn't say anything about citizens having the right to make a civil claim, but only how civil claims should be handled.

This is a difficult case. In general, Obama's views on civil trials have sided with the plaintiff, and McCain's have sided with the defendant. But not always, as we see with the Patients' Bill of Rights. Either way, they're supporting one person's rights over another's.

But it's vague, as I said. You have to stretch a bit to make any of their statements or votes apply directly to the Seventh Amendment.

So, on to the grades.

Typically, if I can't find anything in my research that directly shows views contradictory to an amendment, I have given the candidate an A+. However, neither candidate seems to warrant such a grade in this case, since they have skirted around it. I've decided to knock them down just a bit.

Obama: B

McCain: B

I would've dropped McCain to a C without his support of the "Patients' Bill of Rights". Obama gets a B solely by virtue of his brevity of public service. Frankly, I'm not terribly comfortable with either of these grades, but I don't know what else to give them. If someone can provide additional information or make better arguments than I have, I'm certainly willing to listen and adjust their scores.

Seventh Amendment: No Advantage

UPDATE: Grades lowered per this post.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

Ted Stevens - Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

I really don't have anything much to say about the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), but I didn't want to be accused of ignoring Republican scandals and only mentioning Democratic ones.

I'm glad he got indicted. I wish it had happened sooner. With his pork problems and obvious ethical challenges, he's not the type of person we need in Washington, DC. With luck, he'll resign or at least drop his re-election campaign and we can replace him with someone of better character.

30 July, 2008

Democrats Want To Test My Theory

Democrats want to see if they can lose Congress in '08 after all.

Mark Hemingway quotes a GOP Press Release:

Do-Nothing Democrats Vote to Adjourn House of Representatives Without Taking Action to Lower Gas Prices

Putnam: "It's Time Democrats Put Their Boarding Passes Back in Their Pockets"

WASHINGTON – Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL), Chairman of the House Republican Conference, issued the following statement shortly after the House of Representatives voted 213-212 – with no Republicans voting in the affirmative – to adjourn for five weeks in August and September without taking action to lower gas prices and break our dependence on foreign oil:

Of course, I'd say that it's not time to take their boarding passes away, but to give them new ones.  For one way tickets out of Washington, DC.

As Mark puts it:

Not taking action on this is a gift to Republicans up for election. They can now spend the next five weeks on the campaign trail railing against their opponents for not doing anything about gas prices.

Hopefully they will do just that.  As I keep saying, "It's the price of gas, stupid."

Tax Cuts For the Rich

The Tax Foundation has summarized the latest data from the IRS regarding individual income taxes.  Read their report here.

A few highlights to whet your appetite:

Table 6
Total Income Tax Shares, 1980-2006
(Percent of federal income tax paid by each group)


Year Top 1% Top 5% Top 10% Bottom 50%
1980 19.05% 36.84% 49.28% 7.05%
2006 39.89% 60.14% 70.79% 2.99%

Yes, you're reading that right. The top 1% of taxpayers now pay twice as much of the entire tax revenue than they did in 1980. For the top 5% the results are similar, and the top 10%'s tax burden grew by 40%.  Meanwhile the tax burden of the bottom 50% fell to below 3%

So, can we dispense with the nonsense of talking about "tax cuts for the rich"? We'd have to slice their taxes by ridiculous amounts to even get to 1980 levels. The reason why the bottom 50% rarely receive tax breaks isn't because evil Republicans are trying to benefit their rich friends. It's much simpler.  They don't pay taxes. You can't give a tax cut to someone who doesn't pay taxes already. Ok, so you can, and we do, but that's a discussion for another time.

Obama's VP Options

There's been more buzz lately about Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and who's going to be his VP nominee. I'm going to take a look at some of the leading contenders here too.

This post will be a bit different than the one I did for Senator John McCain (R-AZ). It's going to be much shorter.

Why? Because Obama's needs are different than McCain's. While McCain needs someone to help him with the base, Obama just needs someone who won't be a drag on the ticket. Anything that the nominee might provide in way of assistance ot Obama is just gravy.

So, despite the many names that are being tossed around, I'm only going to look at four people. Note, it's not that I think it will definitely be one of these four. It's just that only these four provide anything noteworthy to the campaign.

Hillary Clinton, Senator NY. No. No. A thousand times no. I've commented on why before.

Bill Richardson, Governor NM. I like Bill Richardson. He caved to his party a little bit in the primaries, but for the most part he's been a lone voice of common sense. He's got the executive office experience and he was one of the few people to come out of the Clinton administration looking good. He's a straight shooter, and knowledgeable. None of that matters. What matters is that a) he won't be drag, and b) he could bring NM to Obama. Andrew Tanenbaum (yes, that Andrew Tanenbaum) over at Electoral-Vote.com says that VP candidates rarely help bring any specific states. Yet, the data he uses doesn't apply to modern 50/50 nation politics, in my opinion. NM is very tight, and McCain is probably going to need either NM or NV, so Richardson could be a good choice.

Evan Bayh, Senator IN. Bayh would have almost certainly been Hillary's VP nominee. I'm of little doubt on that score. He's recently been talking to the Obama people and they're impressed with him. He's got the same kind of youth as Obama, but more experience and a strong name. None of that matter. What matters is that a) he won't be a drag, and b) he could bring IN to Obama. The margin in IN is also currently razor thin, and McCain must win IN to have any shot. I've said before that I think McCain's chances in IN rest with Governor Mitch Daniels' (R) chances of getting re-elected, so Bayh would be a good counter-balance to Daniels. However, in the end, IN went 60% for Bush in 2004, so all things being equal (and Bayh vs. Daniels makes it equal), McCain should pull out the win here. Also, Bayh as VP would mean that the Democrats would likely lose his seat in the Senate to a Republican. (I think. I haven't been able to verify that yet.)

Tim Kaine, Governor VA. Kaine is someone with even less experience than Obama. And despite that, a better record of achievement. He's not as charismatic as Richardson or Bayh. He is a little older than Obama, giving the appearance of age and wisdom. But, his inexperience could be a drag on the ticket. Obama's already going to get hammered on that. He doesn't need to provide additional ammo to the Republicans. On the other hand, he could bring VA to Obama. The margin in VA is just as thin (or thinner) than IN, and there's no Governor Daniels to help McCain here, and McCain absolutely must win VA to have any shot at all. On the whole, he's probably a net positive to the ticket, but just barely. But barely may be all that Obama needs.

There are many other names being mentioned, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), for example. But almost all of these names are insignificant. If one of them gets chosen, he'll just be the guy in the suit standing next to Obama. Even Biden fits into that category.

UPDATE: I did verify that the new Governor of Indiana will appoint Bayh's replacement in the event he is the Vice-President Elect. And, it's reasonable to believe that having Bayh on the ticket might help Jill Long Thompson (D) win the Governer's race, but that's still betting a Senate seat on a campaign that appears to be slipping. Not a bet I'd make, or that I imagine most Dems would be happy about Obama making. But, it's his (and Bayh's) choice.

The Candidates and the Sixth Amendment

This is the sixth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. This amendment follows up on the Fifth nicely and discusses criminal trials.

Here's the text:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Another sort of "kitchen sink". We've got speedy and public trials, impartial juries, facing accusers, providing witnesses, knowing what the charges are, and defense counsel.

As usual, we'll look at Barack Obama first.

Ok, I'll be honest. I can't find anything on Barack Obama with respect to any part of the Sixth Amendment except in relation to the Guantanamo detainees. He appears to be in favor of providing Sixth Amendment protection to the detainees.

And now to John McCain.

I can't find anything on him either. If you search "john mccain" and "sixth amendment" or "trial by jury" using your favorite search engine, you'll get a few hits, only to discover that those are just pages that happen to have both of those items mentioned. Once again, he was opposed to providing Sixth Amendment protection to the detainess.

You'll notice that I once again added in how the candidates feel about rights for enemy combatants. However, I will once again, be ignoring those feelings when assigning grades. I feel that rights granted to enemy combatants are at best peripheral to the discussion of American citizens rights.


Obama: A+

McCain: A+

Sixth Amendment: No Advantage

UPDATE: Grades lowered per this post.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

28 July, 2008

Kathryn Lopez is Wrong on IVF

Kathryn Lopez is deeply opposed to IVF.  You can read her article here. I've e-mailed her. Perhaps The Corner will print my rebuttal. Perhaps they'll do a New York Times and not. Fortunately, I have my own blog and I don't have to rely on The Corner. :)

The text of my e-mail follows:

Sorry, Kathryn, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

But sometimes what we want isn’t what is best for us — or for the children. And sometimes the more compassionate thing — as anyone who has ever gone through or watched a couple go through the grueling, expensive emotional and biological rollercoaster of assisted reproduction knows all too painfully well — is not to opt for IVF

The point you miss here is that these couples go through this rollercoaster every month without IVF. They do everything they can. Sometimes they take medicine to assist. Men take special vitamin complexes to enable their swimmers to “get off their barcoloungers” (Friends quote--TV). They track their fertility cycle.  They “do the deed” during the right time of the month. And then they take the test. And nothing.

Every single month.

And each month drops them farther and farther down that black hole of despair. Is God punishing them?  Is God trying to tell them they’re not fit to have a baby?  Did they screw up when they were younger and harm their bodies somehow making reproduction impossible?

And they scream at each other. Not blaming the other, but just lashing out in frustration. And they go to bed every night praying, not for a baby, not for a quick way out, but for God’s sake, something, anything that will help them turn their spouses back into the people they married, and not some self-hating anger-driven person they barely recognize.

And for many, IVF is the answer to that. And no, it’s not perfect. And there are lots of doctors practicing it that shouldn’t. But, just like anything else, there are IVF support groups on the net.  People can go there to get answers to their questions, to find out if their doctors are “men behaving badly”.

And, it’s expensive. And insurance doesn’t cover it.  And not just IVF, but any assisted fertility treatments are left by the wayside by most insurance companies. Despite the fact that every insurance plan in America covers abortions 100%. You want to rail on something, rail on that. The insurance companies have made it quite clear that they’ll fund killing babies, but not fund helping people have them.

And people spend much more money on it than they can afford.

And adoption is an option.

But why shouldn’t IVF be one too? There’s no “slippery slope” here, and it’s wrong to even claim that there is. The slippery slope is that we devalue human life to the point where we feel that it’s not worth doing everything we can to help people have children.

Here’s another quote that shows that you clearly don’t get it:

Would a society taking into consideration what the mechanization and laboratorization of sex has done to marriage and families, do it again?

Mechanization? Laboratorization? You make it seem like we’ve entered some Logan’s Run type society where people never have sex. They just go to the doctor to have a baby. That’s not what IVF is all about. And it’s not nearly as mechanized or laboratorized as you seem to think. Most of the steps are taken at home and in privacy and bring the couple together even more than any sexually intimate act could hope to.

There’s the hormone shots, the shots to make the eggs more viable, the shots and other medicines to fight off antibodies in the women’s system that think the egg is in invader and must be killed. There’s the special diets, and again with the vitamins and medicines for the male as well. And, let’s not forget the endless trips to medical specialists for both parties, making sure that there’s nothing wrong with their reproductive parts, or possible surgeries to attempt to fix either one of them if there is. Meanwhile, the spouse comes also to all of these doctor visits, and for the surgeries, sits in the waiting room and prays that “this time they’ll find something”, “this time they’ll fix it”. 

This isn’t mechanization. This is love. Completely and 100%. You don’t go through all of this without loving your partner, and you demean the people who have survived infertility when you call it that.

if you’ve tried again and again and have gotten nowhere, you might have other thoughts.

But, as I said, infertility couples have to deal with this stark reality every single month. And have to deal with it with our without IVF. IVF gives them the chance for hope again. Is it a good chance? No, even the best IVF doctors will tell you that you’re looking at about 1 chance in 3. Per $12,000 treatment. If you do everything right and everything goes perfectly, you might be able to raise your odds to 1 in 2. But you’re still throwing darts.

(BTW, if any doctor tells you your chances are 1 in 2 or better, run, don’t walk, out of his office. This doctor is not to be trusted)

But for many, this 1 in 3 chance  is a far far better chance than any other chance they’ll have.  And make no mistake, they’ll go through this monthly pain you bring up every month even without IVF. IVF gives them the chance to find the end of this painful cycle once and for all. Most reputable doctors will tell you that after two or three times if you’ve still had no luck, then it’s time to consider adoption or something else. You read all the time about people how have gone through 5 and 6 (or more) treatments, but they should never get there. And it’s attitudes like yours that put them there. You want to keep the genie in the bottle. You want to move back to the 70s. If we move forward, if the information becomes more well known, if more standard practices are realized, then people will be less likely to be seduced by quacks and will have the real information and will have the opportunity to make the right decisions for them and for their family.


UPDATED: Fixed bad link to Karthryn's article, which was posted at NRO in general, not specifically The Corner.

24 July, 2008

McCain's VP Options

There's been a lot of buzz recently that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will make his VP announcement in the coming days (perhaps as early as today). So, I wanted to take a look at some of the names being thrown around and give my opinion on them. Unfortunately, my news is nearly universally bad.

Leading Contenders

Mitt Romney, former governor of MA. Let me be blunt. Romney would be a horrible choice. While "Christian Conservatives" like him because he wears his faith on his sleeve, when you look up his past, there's little doubt that he's much more than a RINO. Which is unsurprising, frankly. The only way a Republican wins the governorship in MA is if he's a RINO. Now, I'm not one to loathe RINO's as some do. I'm glad they've joined the Republican party and are part of the conservative ideal in at least some areas. And I'm realistic enough to look at the political map and know that if I want someone with an (R) by his name and that person comes from MA, or PA, or CA, or NYC, then they're probably going to be more centrist than I would typically prefer. Anyway, my original point here is that McCain's biggest weakness is support of the base. Adding another RINO/centrist to the ticket doesn't help him at all.

Tom Ridge, current Director Homeland Security, former Senator from PA. See Mitt Romney, above.

Charlie Crist, Governor FL. Crist is more of a true conservative, so would be a good choice based on that, but many want him on the ticket to "secure FL". Once again, I'll be blunt. If McCain needs Crist to "secure FL", then the election is already lost. FL can't be a battleground state for McCain to win. With all the retirees and Jews there, he should be looking at a +5 margin here, minimum. So, if that's your reason for putting Crist on the ticket, look elsewhere. Also, I don't like someone from FL on the ticket because I think it reminds centrists and right leaning Democrats of 2000. I know Crist wasn't involved in that, but I don't think McCain wants to associate himself with the 2000 election in any way shape or form.

Bobby Jindal, Governor LA. He's a young conservative, and dynamic. People like Jindal are definitely the future of the Republican party, if it has a future. However, once again, he has the potential to remind voters of something McCain would rather not mention: Katrina. The other problem with Jindal is risk. He's the governor of the state more noted for corruption in politics than any other. This has been true for close to a century or so. Now, Jindal may be (and probably is) completely clean. However, there's so much political corruption in the state, the likelihood that he can be tied (if only by innuendo and speculation) to someone known to be corrupt is high. The only area that I can think of that's as bad as LA is Chicago, IL. I'd never nominate someone for national office from LA, just as I would not for Chicago.

Joe Lieberman, Independent Democrat Senator from CT. See Mitt Romney. He can't even claim to be a RINO. He's a true blue Democrat that only agrees with Republicans on one issue: Iraq. Now, there is a place for Lieberman on the campaign trail and in the administration, if McCain is bold enough to do it. I've felt for some time now that McCain should name Joe Lieberman as his Secretary of State, and do it before the convention. Lieberman as SoS doesn't hurt McCain with the base like he would as VP, and he still manages to hit Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) where it hurts. Obama may be the first Democratic Presidential candidate to lose the Jewish vote in the last 50 years. Adding Lieberman on as SoS would make that climb even steeper for Obama. It's a win position for Lieberman too, because no matter what, he's serving his last term in the U.S. Senate. Come 2012, the Democrats will work harder than ever to defeat him, and they won't have to defeat him twice like they did in 2006. Also, the Republicans will likely nominate someone who's capable of obtaining more than a couple hundred votes, unlike 2006.

Tim Pawlenty, Governor MN. Pawlenty has his ups and downs. He also comes from a very blue state, and that's obvious in his politics, as for the most part they're fairly centrist. He gets high marks from Republicans on taxes and illegal immigration though. He would appeal to "Christian Conservatives". He won't be able to get MN for McCain, but he might be able to at least bring the state into play and require Obama to spend some time there. He's young an energetic and would add charisma to the ticket, but I'm not sure if he's the man to energize the base. The best thing you can say about Pawlenty is that he appears to have fewer negatives than most of his competition, but he also has few positives.

Personally, I still like Condolezza Rice, but McCain doesn't and she doesn't appear to be interested in the job. Yes, she brings more criticism of McCain being McSame and Bush III, but there's no doubt that she's as smart as a whip, and that she has loads of foreign policy experience. And, it definitely wouldn't hurt to have a black and a woman on the ticket. However, McCain's weak domestically and she doesn't help there. I still think this ticket would be close to unbeatable, but I appear to be in the minority.

I'll be doing a similar, but shorter post on Barack Obama in the coming days, and I know i still need to finish my series on civil liberties. I haven't forgotten it, but other things have had more urgency.

23 July, 2008

Battleground States 2008

Here's my take on the battleground states for Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ). "Bellwether" states in bold.

  • Michigan (17): Democrat last 4 elections, Obama currently leads by 5 pts.
  • Indiana (11): Republican last 4 elections, Obama by 1 pt.
  • Ohio (20): Picked winner in last 4 elections, McCain by 6.
  • Missouri (11): Picked winner in last 4 elections, currently tied.
  • Pennsylvania (21): Democrat last 4 elections, Obama by 4 (this state likely goes Obama–I only include it because of his blue collar worker issues and his bitter/cling faux pas–If Obama somehow loses this state, he loses the election, possibly by a big margin)
  • Iowa (7):Picked Winner in 3 of last 4 (had Gore in 2000), Obama by 10. (this state likely goes Obama–I only include it because GWB did take this in 2004 and would be a loss for McCain in 2008 that would need to be compensated by a pickup elsewhere)
  • Virginia (13): Republican last 4 elections, currently tied.
  • Florida (27): Picked Winner in last 3 elections, McCain by 2. (this state likely goes McCain–I only include it because of it’s recent history as a battleground state–If McCain somehow loses this state, he loses the election, probably by a big margin)
  • Colorado (9): Republican last 3 elections, Obama by 7.
  • New Mexico (5): Picked Winner in 3 of last 4 (had Gore in 2000), Obama by 5.
  • Montana (3): Republican last 3 elections, Obama by 5.
  • North Dakota(3): Republican last 4 elections, currently tied.
  • Nevada(5): Picked winner last 4 elections, Obama by 2.

Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and New Mexico don’t carry much weight but are symbolic to McCain’s problems. These states should be colored in red. The fact that they aren’t shows how weak Republicans are in general.

There are scenarios where Connecticut and New Hampshire get thrown into the battleground mix, but that doesn’t seem likely, and would be bad news for Obama.

So, 147 EV’s out of the 270 needed to win are up for grab right there. Over half.

Bellwether states:

McCain: OH, FL (47)
Obama: IA, NM, NV (17)
Tied: MO (11)

EV Totals: McCain 47, Obama 78, Tied: 27
If we look at the rest of the map and use 2000 and 2004 as the base, we get:
McCain 172, Obama 214.

(if my math is off somewhere, I apologize–doing most of this in my head)

McCain is giving Obama a 42 EV head start in the base and is currently losing the battlegrounds. Not good. The only good news is that he's doing well in the "bellwether" states, at least in EV count.

However, I've looked at the details in the polls for Indiana, and I consider an Obama victory here unlikely. McCain's chances here appear to ride with Governor Mitch Daniels' (R) chances of being re-elected.  He faces Jill Long Thompson (D), and the polls are pretty much tied. However, Mitch leads in the "depths" of the polls, on questions such as "who would you vote for no matter who they were running against", and "who would you never vote for no matter who they were running against". He also has a huge money edge.

So, Obama just needs to hang on and he wins.  That's simple.  What does McCain need to do to win?

To start, McCain needs to win all three the states that are currently tied, MO, VA, and ND, and flip IN, MT, and CO. That gets the two candidates to 269 each. I don't think a tie is likely though. So, McCain probably has to look next at NV and NM.  Those should be good states for him being from AZ. As an aside, I'm constantly amazed at how blue or at least purple NV is in national elections. In state elections, it's very very red.

As another aside, the mere fact that IN is a battleground also shows McCain’s troubles. President George W. Bush (R-USA) got 60% of the vote here in 2004.

In the end, I think that the 4 states we’ll be talking about right up until election day are IN, VA, OH, and MO. If either candidate can pick up some momentum in these 4 states and take any of them off the battleground list, it is bad news for the other camp. Unfortunately for McCain, it currently looks like he has to go 4 for 4 in them, and still pick up another state.

I don't think McCain can win in PA unless the election becomes a landslide, but it's currently competitive and that's good news for McCain. MI has also been competitive in some polls, even having McCain leading in May. Flipping either of these states are disastrous for Obama, but highly unlikely. Same is true in reverse for FL, and the latest poll has that state very close, but compared to other polls, that appears to be an outlier. It's very very bad news for McCain if it isn't an outlier. He needs to remove this state from the battleground list.

And People Call Bush Arrogant?

President George W. Bush (R-USA) could take arrogance lessons from Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and his team.

From a senior advisor, discussing his speech in Germany (emphasis mine):

“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.

And remember the earlier quote I brought up from the Senator (emphasis mine):

I wasn't saying anything I hadn't said before, that I didn't say a year ago or when I was a United States senator.

Did the election already happen?  I must've missed it.

I'm not the only one who's noticed.  I've seen three different articles this week about Mr. Obama's ego.

Joan Vennochi in The Boston Globe has it this way:

JUST LIKE the Obama girl, Obama has a crush on Obama.

She compares him to Senator John McCain (R-AZ):

McCain's humility comes through in his book, "Faith of my Fathers," which he wrote at age 63, after completing a career in the US Navy and moving onto politics. Obama wrote the more self-reverential "Dreams from My Father," after he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review.

Charles Krauthammer is more blunt in Investor's Business Daily:

Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted "present" nearly 130 times.

As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

And then there's Tom Bevan for Real Clear Politics who quotes both Jim Geraghty and Marc Andreessen in his dissection of Obama's ego:

SPIEGEL: Critics say the trip is nothing but a PR stunt to strengthen his foreign-policy credentials and that he has only rarely been to Europe before.

Rice: Senator Obama has travelled to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia many times before. He lived in Asia. He bows to nobody in his understanding of this world.

Intentional or not, the phrase "he bows to nobody" is the kind of tone deaf rhetoric that reinforces the narrative about Obama's arrogance.

That from Geraghty, and also:

Far more telling than what a surrogate says publicly, however, is what the candidate himself says privately. And the Der Spiegel item reminded me of this post by Netscape founder and internet wunderkind Marc Andreessen. The post is dated March 3, 2008, but in it Andreessen recounts a conversation he had with Senator Obama in early 2007 as he was gearing up to run for President.

Near the end, Andreessen asked Obama directly about his lack of foreign policy experience, and this is how Obama responded:

We then asked, well, what about foreign policy -- should we be concerned that you just don't have much experience there?

He said, directly, two things.

First, he said, I'm on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I serve with a number of Senators who are widely regarded as leading experts on foreign policy -- and I can tell you that I know as much about foreign policy at this point as most of them.

Even the McCain team has noticed, calling Obama "The One":

"I don't know that people in Missouri are going to like seeing tens of thousands of Europeans screaming for The One," quipped a McCain aide, deploying a moniker some in the campaign use to poke fun at Obama's exalted status in certain quarters.

And Glenn Reynolds opined:

If Barack Obama is elected President, he'll be far more warlike than President Bush, and far more warlike than his pre-election rhetoric suggests. Because before he's elected President, attacks on America are just attacks on America. But after he's elected President, attacks on America will also be attacks on Barack Obama.


Add it all up, and it's definitely not good for Mr. Obama.

Jonah and Tom Get It On Iraq

Jonah Goldberg and Tom Bevan each realize that the success of the surge is actually a bad thing for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and good for Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). A point I made over a month ago. Welcome to the party gentlemen.  You're a bit late, but there's still food at the buffet tables.

Goldberg says:

But the tragic Catch-22 for the Arizona senator is that the more the surge succeeds, the more politically advantageous it is for Obama.
Voters don't care about the surge; they care about the war. Americans want it to be over -- and in a way they can be proud of.

And Bevan brings up some recent Quinnipiac polls:

MI: Economy 56, Iraq 18
CO: Economy 47, Iraq 19
MN: Economy 51, Iraq 21
WI Economy 50, Iraq 20

As I said in June, the surge has put Iraq largely out of the minds of the electorate. People are concerned about other things. McCain needs to concentrate on the things the people are concerned about.

Actually, I would dispute even those Quinnipiac polls.  I don't think people have the economy as their #1 issue. They have the price of gas as their #1 issue and economy #2 (no, the two are not unrelated).

So, as I keep saying:

It's the price of gas, stupid.

McCain Team Takes On the Media

I may have to go back to my 15 points post and see how well Senator John McCain is doing.

What an Idiot

Ok, I try to keep this blog relatively snark free, despite my obvious disdain for some people and their politics.

But, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is an idiot.

Not content to be stupid once, he does it again.

It's the Price of Gas, Stupid

I've been using the "It's the price of gas, stupid" line for some time now, but I finally have a post worthy of the title.

One candidate finally appears to get it.  One candidate clearly doesn't.

18 July, 2008

The Irony of Attacks on Michelle Obama

Here's a wonderful quote:

[Senator Barack] Obama [(D-IL)] said the attacks are ironic because his wife is "the most quintessentially American woman I know."

You don't get out much, do you Barack?

Pelosi Stands Firm Against Offshore Drilling

You know for 8 years, I've listened to people complain about how stubborn President George W. Bush (R-USA) is.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-06) and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have him beat hands down.

Now, with gas prices soaring, those drilling restrictions are facing their most severe test in years as calls intensify to more aggressively pursue domestic oil. Yet despite increasing pressure from President George W. Bush, a full-bore assault by congressional Republicans and some anxiety among her own rank-and-file Democrats, Pelosi is not budging.

"The president of the United States, with gas at $4 a gallon because of his failed energy policies, is now trying to say that is because I couldn't drill offshore," Pelosi said in an interview. "That is not the cause, and I am not going to let him get away with it."

Her voice carries considerable weight since, as speaker, Pelosi is in a position to prevent a vote on expanded drilling from reaching the floor

And she and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, appear intent on holding the line against calls to approve drilling in areas now off limits.

Gas is "at $4 a gallon because of his failed energy policies"? Sorry, Ms. Pelosi, the numbers just don't add up.

They mount the counterargument that the oil and gas industry is not aggressively exploring large expanses it has already leased on land and offshore. They also have urged Bush to pour some fuel from national reserves into the commercial supply chain in an effort to lower prices.

Congress is so smart about managing business.  I'm sure that the oil industry could learn from them on how to get oil out of the ground cheaply and effectively.

These are two more bums that need to be thrown out. For Harry Reid we have to wait until 2010.

Throw Da Bums Out!

Here are a few more bums we can throw out.  Since all of these are in the House, they're up for re-election.

  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03)
  • Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-01)
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11)
  • Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT-04)
  • Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA-32)
  • Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA-10)

Why these six wonderful people?  They've sponsored the Transportation and Housing Options for Gas Price Relief Act of  2008 which would allocate taxpayer money (sign me up anytime you start a bill with that phrase) to:

-- expand public transportation;
-- encourage “pay-as-you-drive” auto insurance policies that reward low-mileage drivers with lower insurance premiums;
-- reduce commuting costs by providing incentives to employers and employees to take transit, bicycle, carpool, walk, or telecommute to work;
-- help local governments create "walkable, bikeable" communities;
-- help Americans make "smart" transportation and housing choices by educating them about their options;
-- create “location efficient mortgages" that would make owning a home near transit more affordable.

Democrats really think we can "conserve" our way out of this. I'd be laughing if I weren't crying.

More bums we can throw out:

  • Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV-03)
  • Rep. Nancy E Boyda (D-KS-02)
  • Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN-07)
  • Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-11)
  • Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-02)
  • Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS)
  • Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14)
  • Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-08)
  • Rep. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY-20)
  • Rep. John J. Hall (D-NY-19)
  • Rep. Paul W. Hodes (D-NH-02)
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11)
  • Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ-13)
  • Rep. Zachary T. Space (D-OH-18)
  • Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13)
  • Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN-01)
  • Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
  • Rep. Charles A. Wilson (D-OH-06)
  • Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-KY-03)

No doubt you're wondering what these 19 people have been up to.

They've sponsored the wonderfully named Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act of 2008 (DRILL).

Wait, I'm for drilling, so I should be for this act, right?


Trying to demonstrate that Democrats are not opposed to drilling in acceptable locales, the House is scheduled to vote on Thursday on a proposal that would deny oil companies any new leases unless they can show they are diligently exploring existing holdings. It would also require annual lease sales from lands in Alaska set aside as a National Petroleum Reserve, and directs the Interior Department to make sure a pipeline is linked to the reserves. Democrats, not subtly, are calling the measure the Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands, or Drill, Act.

So, before oil companies can lease any more land, they have to prove that they're using the lands they're already leasing. Once again, apparently Congress thinks that oil companies lease land just for fun.

This act is the opposite of "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less."  It's "Testify Now. Lease Later. Pay More."

High Price of Gasoline? Blame India and China, Not Congress

So says Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) (emphasis mine):

I put more responsibility on China and India who are using the oil. This is not a situation where the blame game really applies, though there is really enough blame to go around. But Congress is no more to blame than India and China.

Ummmmm....ok. That's not entirely wrong.  I've mentioned here before that increased worldwide demand is a big reason for the higher prices. However, Mr. Nelson, it doesn't matter if "Congress is no more to blame than India and China". Because there's little we can do about China and India.  We can do something about Congress.

We can "throw da bums out"! You seem like a good one to start with. Unfortunately, we have to wait four more years for that.

Mr. Nelson, there are always two sides of high prices. It's the law of supply and demand.  We may not be able to do much about China and India's demand, but we can increase our supply.

17 July, 2008

Speaker Pelosi (D-CA-06) on Drilling

From Michael Ramirez, courtesy of Power Line (click to enlarge):

The Candidates and the Fifth Amendment

This is the fifth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment is the "kitchen sink" amendment from the framers regarding legal procedures and trials.

Here's the text:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Ok, so we have Grand Juries, double jeopardy, self incrimination, due process, and eminent domain.

Yippee. This is going to be a long post.

As usual, we'll be starting with Barack Obama.

Doing some research, the first thing that I stumbled upon is that the telecom immunity provision of the 2008 Amendments to the FISA Act is under criticism not only for violations of the Fourth Amendment (as I documented here), but also the Fifth. Fifth Amendment protectors claim that your phone records and conversations are private property and cannot be seized without just compensation. Seems a little bit of a stretch to me, but I'm no expert on Constitutional Law.

Doing a search on Mr. Obama and the Fifth Amendment only yields FISA criticisms and criticisms of his associates who have used the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment.

So, we'll have to look at the specific clauses and not just the amendment as a whole.

I can find nothing in Obama's speeches or writings that leads me to believe that he wants to endanger Grand Jury rights. I'm personally not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I can find nothing in Obama's speeches or writings that leads me to believe that he wants to endanger rights to protection from double jeopardy.

Barack Obama has interesting and frankly inconsistent views regarding due process.

He supports due process for Osama bin Laden:

“The first thing I’d support is his capture, which is something this administration has proved incapable of achieving,” Obama said. “I would then, as president, order a trial that observed international standards of due process. At that point, do I think that somebody who killed 3,000 Americans qualifies as someone who has perpetrated heinous crimes, and would qualify for the death penalty. Then yes.”

and Guantanamo detainees:

And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, “Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.”

and for illegal immigrants:

Obama opposes the “Shuler bill,” HR 4088, which establishes what many consider a deeply flawed national worker identification program and would use the Social Security system to require employers to fire any workers whose names do not match their Social Security numbers. Obama says the privacy of all U.S. workers must be protected and no one should be fired without full due process.

Yet not for infants (he strongly opposed the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act):

I just want to suggest ... that this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny.

Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – child, a 9-month-old – child that was delivered to term. …

I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional.

These positions are remarkable in their inconsistency.

I find nothing in Obama's speeches or writings that lead me to believe he has any interest in curtailing the use of eminent domain. As I've mentioned before, he's remained completely silent on the Kelo decision by the SCOTUS, but he has praised the justices in the majority on that decision as the types of justices he would nominate.

Whew. That's a lot. And I tried to be brief.

Well, let's look at John McCain.

McCain suffers from the same FISA problems as Obama.

Like Obama, I can find nothing in McCain's speeches or writings that leads me to believe that he wants to endanger Grand Jury rights. Again, I'm personally not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I can find nothing in McCain's speeches or writings that leads me to believe that he wants to endanger rights to protection from double jeopardy.

He has been in favor of giving Miranda rights to enemy combatants. He disagrees with Obama regarding Osama bin Laden and the Boumediene ruling by SCOTUS. In fact, McCain has called the Boumediene ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of the country"

Articles detailing how McCain feels about enemy combatants are the only things I can find on him and due process.

He co-sponsored the Secure Public Networks Act (usually called McCain-Kerrey) which details domestic uses and restrictions of encryption. Since the bill requires that encryptors turn over their keys or passwords to the government, it can be claimed that this is a form of self-incrimination.

Note that this bill also has Fourth Amendment implications, and I missed that in my review of McCain and the Fourth Amendment.

McCain is no fan of eminent domain has been harshly critical of Kelo and has essentially said he will use Kelo as "litmus test" for potential Justices. He wants it overturned.

The protection of property rights lies at the heart of our constitutional system. The Framers of our Constitution drew upon classical notions of legal rights and individual liberty dating back to the Justinian Code, the Magna Carta, and the Two Treatises of John Lockeall of which recognize the importance of property ownership in a governmental system in which individual liberty and the free market are paramount.

In fact, from what I can tell, property rights have been a big deal to McCain throughout his political career.

So, where does that put us? You'll notice that I once again added in how the candidates feel about rights for enemy combatants. However, I will once again, be ignoring those feelings when assigning grades. I feel that rights granted to enemy combatants are at best peripheral to the discussion of American citizens rights.

For Obama we have: nothing on grand juries, nothing on double jeopardy, against due process for infants, nothing on self-incrimination, and against property rights due to his tacit support of eminent domain.

For McCain we have: nothing on grand juries, nothing on double jeopardy, nothing on due process, problems with self-incrimination, and support of property rights.

For the above, nothing is good as it means I wasn't able to find anything bad. :)

Obama: C

McCain: B+ His only negative is McCain-Kerrey.

Fifth Amendment: Advantage McCain.

On a general campaign note, the Obama camp better have a plan for dealing with his stance on the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act. At some point, a 527 is going to release an ad claiming that Obama supports infanticide. It's inevitable. I am sure he doesn't, but hyperbole works in campaign ads, and they don't have to be true to be effective.

UPDATE: Grades lowered per this post.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

16 July, 2008

The Candidates and the Fourth Amendment

This is the fourth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. There's a bit more to speak about regarding this than the Third, especially in light of recent FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) activities.

Let's go straight to the text:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

For Barack Obama, we should get straight to the 2008 amendments to FISA.

FISA is a broad extension of the powers of the government to perform searches.

According to the Wikipedia article linked above, the act:

  • Prohibits the individual states from investigating, sanctioning of, or requiring disclosure by complicit telecoms or other persons.
  • Permits the government not to keep records of searches, and destroy existing records (it requires them to only keep the records for a period of 10 years).
  • Protects telecommunications companies from lawsuits for "'past or future cooperation' with federal law enforcement authorities and will assist the intelligence community in determining the plans of terrorists."
  • Removes requirements for detailed descriptions of the nature of information or property targeted by the surveillance.
  • Increased the time allowed for warrantless surveillance to continue from 48 hours to 7 days.
  • Requires FISA court permission to wiretap Americans who are overseas.
  • Prohibits targeting a foreigner to eavesdrop on an American's calls or e-mails without court approval.
  • Allows the FISA court 30 days to review existing but expiring surveillance orders before renewing them.
  • Allows eavesdropping in emergencies without court approval, provided the government files required papers within a week.
  • Prohibits the government from invoking war powers or other authorities to supersede surveillance rules in the future.

The amendment in bold has caused an uproar from Obama supporters, since he had originally promised to filibuster any bill which contained such an amendment, but instead not only voted for the bill, but also vote for cloture.

Frankly, the whole bill is most likely a loss from a Libertarians point-of-view.

Glassbooth.org has a mixed review of Mr. Obama:

"Supporters of this Conference Report have argued that we should just hold our noses and support the legislation, because it's not going to get any better. That does not convince me that I should support this report. I believe we owe it to the nation to do whatever we can to make this legislation better. We don't have to settle for a PATRIOT Act that sacrifices our liberties or our safety - we can have one that secures both." - Barack Obama

Then he voted yes to reauthorize it, but voted no on extending the wiretap provision. He co-sponsored the SAFE Act, which put limits on PATRIOT.

"Let me be clear: this compromise is not as good as the Senate version of the bill, nor is it as good as the SAFE Act that I have cosponsored. I suspect the vast majority of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle feel the same way. But, it's still better than what the House originally proposed. This compromise does modestly improve the PATRIOT Act by strengthening civil liberties protections without sacrificing the tools that law enforcement needs to keep us safe."

Glassbooth says he's neutral on giving the federal government more domestic surveillance power, but I'd say they're being generous. His only no vote in that area is in the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision and his statement should not be encouraging to defenders of the Fourth Amendment:

"We should strengthen and improve intelligence capabilities. We must reform our domestic intelligence capabilities in a manner that balances the risks of impeding on the civil liberties of our citizens and increase international cooperation on all fronts. We should also give the Director of Intelligence the authority he or she needs over budget and personnel to be effective and accountable."

Q: Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes? A: The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes."

He voted yes on extending the right of habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees.

So, where do we find John McCain on these issues?

Not a whole lot different from Mr. Obama.

He also voted for the 2008 Amendments to FISA. I suppose if you're a Fourth Amendment advocate, you can say that at least Obama said he was originally going to oppose it.

Looking at Glassbooth.org's page on McCain we see:

He also voted for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. He did vote for extending PATRIOT's wiretap provision.

Glassbooth.org says that he supports giving the federal government more domestic surveillance power, when it claimed that Obama was neutral. I see barely a whisker's worth of difference between them.

"Q: Now, you have expressed some concerns about the NSA program. Does this change your mind? A: No. But my concerns are that we should have - the president should come to Congress with a proposal as to how we can best meet these new challenges. Look, everybody's got a BlackBerry now, the e-mails, all of the new technologies for communications, as opposed to, say, 10 or 15 years ago where we all just had a hard line. There are new challenges in the use of telecommunications that, in my view, indicate that we probably need some enhanced powers. But why not just come to Congress? Now Senator Specter is going to have some hearings on it - come to Congress, tell us what we need, what the president needs, and I am confident that he would get that authority. Q: But you do not believe that currently he has the legal authority to engage in these warrant-less wiretaps. A: You know, I don't think so, but why not come to Congress? We can sort this all out. I don't think - I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said here's why we need this capability, that they wouldn't get it. And so let's have the hearings. Let's have the administration come to Congress. I think they will get that authority, whatever is reasonable and needed, and increased abilities to monitor communications are clearly in order."

Q: Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes? A: There are some areas where the statutes don't apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is...I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law.

He opposed extending the rights of habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees. There's a difference, but I want to discuss this one in my summation.

Like Obama, McCain said Guantanamo should be closed, but he wants to bring the specially created military justice system to US soil to try the inmates. He insisted that the inmates should not have access to civilian courts, regardless of where they are detained. "We made it very clear these are enemy combatants," McCain said yesterday, defending his position. "They have not, and never have, been given the rights of citizens of this country."

He's on record as strongly opposing torture of any kind. However, he did vote no on the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 which would've required the CIA to use the same standards for interrogation that are used by the Army.

Before I give the grades, I want to speak about habeas corpus and Guantanamo detainees. My belief on this one is that their positions here is not relevant to a discussion of Fourth Amendment rights. The framers clearly intended the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to apply to citizens of the United States and not to enemy combatants. I agree with McCain that the detention camp at Guantanamo should be closed, but that military courts are the way to handle the situation.

So, I included their positions for those of you that think that it is important, but I will not be using those positions in determining the grades for the candidates.

One could argue then that torture doesn't belong in the discussion as well, since usually when we're talking about torture we're talking again about those same "enemy combatants", but I put it in for McCain because he has been so vocal about his beliefs here, and I think it says something about how he feels about the Fourth Amendment in general.

So, to the grades.

Obama: D+ He'd have made it to C or even C+ if he'd stood by his word on the FISA Amendments. He clearly has issues with the PATRIOT Act, but just as clearly doesn't want to get rid of the whole thing.

McCain: D+ While he supports PATRIOT's wiretaps, he also has many of the same issues with PATRIOT that Obama does. He's on the fringe of dropping to a D because of the wiretaps, but his strong opposition to torture nudges him up just enough to "claim" a D+.

Fourth Amendment: No Advantage

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

15 July, 2008

Two Statements On Offshore Drilling - One Smart, One Dumb

From President George W. Bush (R-USA):

Failure to act is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to me and it's unacceptable to the American people. So today, I've issued a memorandum to lift the executive prohibition on oil exploration in the OCS. With this action, the executive branch's restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away. This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress.

From Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-06):

The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence. It just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas.

Please, if you believe Nancy Pelosi's statement, let me know.  You're exactly the kind of suc--I mean, 'business partner' I'm looking for in my next venture.

As Investor Business Daily has been kind enough to point out:

Oil companies have spent billions of dollars for those leases. Drilling has increased by more than 66% since 2000. They are searching for oil even as you read this. Some parts of those 68 million acres will have oil, some won't. But at $145 a barrel, you can bet oil companies have plenty of incentive to find it.

Let's get a clue here.  Oil companies are in the business of making money. This doesn't make them greedy, by the way, it just makes them like every other business in the world, including the Mom & Pop pizza stand down the street. And if they can make money drilling in those "68 million acres" they will. And they have been exploring and drilling them.

So, Pelosi's statement is dishonest.  It's also stupid. Just because there may or may not be oil there is no reason not to look for oil elsewhere.

Here's more of Pelosi's statement:

If the President wants to bring down prices in the next two weeks, not the next two decades, he should free our oil by releasing a small portion of the more than 700 million barrels of oil we have put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

I'm not altogether opposed to that as long as it's part of "comprehensive plan" (God, I hate  that phrase), but to just open up our reserves without any long term plan attached to it is the height of idiocy. That may provide some small relief for a few weeks or months, but what is Pelosi's plan for next year and the year after?

I'm telling you, Republicans, become the Energy Independence Party, and you can win. 

It's the price of gas, stupid.

Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.

UPDATE: After President Bush rescinded the EO, oil futures dropped over $9/barrel.  Someone tell Ms. Pelosi that she might want to rethink that "no immediate impact" line.

The Candidates and the Third Amendment

This is the third post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Third Amendment of the Bill of Rights. We had fun with the first two, because everyone "knows" those amendments by heart. Few Americans remember much from their high school civics classes past the Second Amendment, though.

For reference, here's the text of the Third Amendment:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Ok, this post is going to be short. Some people claim that the third amendment establishes a right to privacy, but that ground seems more stable under the Fourth Amendment, so we'll talk about that there.

I can find nothing in any of Barack Obama's speeches or writings that leads me to believe that he has any plans that endanger your Third Amendment rights.

I can find nothing in any of John McCain's speeches or writings that leads me to believe that he has any plans that endanger your Third Amendment rights.

According to an article in The Onion from October 2007, the National Anti-Quartering Association says "every politician elected since 1866 has fully supported Third Amendment rights."

Obama: A+

McCain: A+

Third Amendment: No advantage

UPDATE: Grades lowered per this post.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

14 July, 2008

The Candidates and the Second Amendment

This is the second post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and there's plenty of information, especially after the recent Heller decision by the SCOTUS.

For reference, here's the text of the Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Someone's beat me to it at a site called "Gun Owners of America". They also look at Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin, but I have no intention of doing so. Also, the articles here appear to have been written pre-Heller, so I will look at what the candidates have said since then. I'm also going to look at some other sites.

First, lets look at Barack Obama.

GOA doesn't like Barack Obama at all. Here are some quotes.

Obama told Iowa radio listeners last year that he is a "strong believer" in the rights of hunters and sportsmen, and that homeowners should have a firearm "to protect their home and their family." But then in the next breath, he says, "It's hard for me to find a rationale for having a 17-clip semiautomatic [sic]."

Obama supports the existing gun control laws on the books. Nowhere in his literature or in his campaign speeches does he stake out a position in favor of repealing any gun control measure that has passed into law.

Obama supports the gun ban in the nation's capital, saying the "DC handgun law is constitutional."

In 2004, Obama said he supports a national ban on concealed carry because the states that allow it are "threatening the safety of Illinois residents."

Barack Obama's Gun-Related Votes

The U.S. Senate Debated: Obama Voted:
Supporting concealed carry for citizens Anti-gun
Banning many common semi-automatic firearms Anti-gun
Disallowing self-defense in towns where guns are banned Anti-gun
Imposing one handgun a month restrictions Anti-gun
Requiring lock up your safety trigger locks Anti-gun
Protecting gun dealers from frivolous lawsuits Anti-gun
Outlawing gun confiscations during a national emergency Pro-gun
Squelching the free speech rights of gun owners Anti-gun
Restricting the interstate sales of firearms Anti-gun
Repealing the gun ban in Washington, DC Anti-gun

The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action site doesn't like Obama either:

FACT: Barack Obama voted to allow reckless lawsuits designed to bankrupt the firearms industry.

FACT: Barack Obama wants to re-impose the failed and discredited Clinton Gun Ban.

FACT: Barack Obama voted to ban almost all rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting.

FACT: Barack Obama has endorsed a complete ban on handgun ownership.

FACT: Barack Obama supports local gun bans in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities.

FACT: Barack Obama voted to uphold local gun bans and the criminal prosecution of people who use firearms in self-defense.

FACT: Barack Obama supports gun owner licensing and gun registration.

FACT: Barack Obama refused to sign a friend-of-the-court Brief in support of individual Second Amendment rights in the Heller case.

FACT: Barack Obama opposes Right to Carry laws.

FACT: Barack Obama was a member of the Board of Directors of the Joyce Foundation, the leading source of funds for anti-gun organizations and “research.”

FACT: Barack Obama supported a proposal to ban gun stores within 5 miles of a school or park, which would eliminate almost every gun store in America.

FACT: Barack Obama voted not to notify gun owners when the state of Illinois did records searches on them.

FACT: Barack Obama voted against a measure to lower the Firearms Owners Identification card age minimum from 21 to 18, a measure designed to assist young people in the military.

FACT: Barack Obama favors a ban on standard capacity magazines.

FACT: Barack Obama supports mandatory micro-stamping.

FACT: Barack Obama supports mandatory waiting periods.

FACT: Barack Obama supports repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits information on gun traces collected by the BATFE from being used in reckless lawsuits against firearm dealers and manufacturers.

FACT: Barack Obama supports one-gun-a-month sales restrictions.

FACT: Barack Obama supports a ban on inexpensive handguns.

FACT: Barack Obama supports a ban on the resale of police issued firearms, even if the money is going to police departments for replacement equipment.

FACT: Barack Obama supports mandatory firearm training requirements for all gun owners and a ban on gun ownership for persons under the age of 21.

And his comments about the Heller decision were weak, as I've noted here before.

"I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through commonsense, effective safety measures," Obama said.

In fact, it's pretty much impossible to find any article on the net that discusses Obama and the Second Amendment in a positive light.

GOA isn't exactly thrilled with John McCain either. Here are the quotes:

But as he ramped up for his presidential run in 2000, McCain, expanding on the 'maverick' theme, staked out a position on guns far to the left of his primary opponent, George W. Bush. McCain began speaking out against small, inexpensive handguns and he entertained the idea of supporting the 'assault weapons' ban.

As moviegoers flocked to see Pearl Harbor, they were treated to an anti-gun trailer ad featuring McCain. This time the Senator was pushing legislation to force people to keep firearms locked up in the home.

Also in 2001, McCain went from being a supporter of anti-gun bills to being a lead sponsor.

In the post-Columbine and post-9/11 environments, the Second Amendment was under attack as never before. Pro-gun patriotic Americans who stood as a bulwark to keep the Congress from eviscerating the Constitution were dismayed to look across the battle lines only to see Senator McCain working with the enemy.

He's authored the gunshow background checks bill that many have accused of being loaded with "poison pills". The NRA once called him one of the "premier flag-carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment".

However, he was unequivocal in his support of the Heller decision, and at least claims to support gun rights on his website. He also spoke at the NRA convention in Louisville this year and tried to mend fences.

"The Second Amendment isn't some archaic custom that matters only to rural Americans who find solace in firearms out of frustration with their economic circumstances," McCain said.

McCain, who is viewed with suspicion among many gun owners because of his efforts to reform campaign finance laws and his decade-long battle with the NRA over background checks at gun shows, sought to mollify his conservative critics by declaring fealty to the Second Amendment. The presumptive GOP nominee did not abandon his support for background checks, but he tried to cast his disagreements with the NRA as isolated cases separate from otherwise solid support for gun rights.

Looking around the net, it's a mixed bag. Mostly negative articles about John McCain and the second amendment, but there are some (especially more recent ones) that are more positive. This is definitely an area where he's trying to appeal to the base.

So, then to the grades.

I don't think Libertarians would be thrilled with either.

Obama: D- Based totally on his lukewarm support of Heller, otherwise it'd be an F.

McCain: C- I'm tempted to give McCain a C because I agree the statement that his disagreements are isolated. However, they may be isolated, but they are also numerous. I wouldn't classify him an enemy to gun rights, but he's certainly no friend.

Second Amendment: Advantage McCain

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

11 July, 2008

Jonah Goldberg Doesn't Want to Tap the SPR

In a recent post on the Corner, Jonah Goldberg takes offense to Newt Gingrich's advice to dump 1/3 of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to "punish speculators for betting against America".

As Jonah himself puts it:

I thought the SPR was "strategic" in terms of national security, not for "punishing speculators" and managing the price of commodities during an election year.

I think Jonah is right. And wrong.

It's not for punishing speculators or managing prices during an election year. But it's not necessarily only a "national security" reserve (depending upon how one defines "national security").

The SPR was created by The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). This was signed into law by Gerald Ford (R-USA) in 1975, a direct result of the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo.

According to Robert Bamberger, in a report he filed for Congress in 2006, the original text of the act allowed the President to tap the SPR if:

    1. an emergency situation exists and there is a significant reduction in supply which is of significant scope and duration;
    2. a severe increase in the price of petroleum products has resulted from such emergency situation;
    3. such price increase is likely to cause a major adverse impact on the national economy.

All three clauses had to be met.  It's arguable whether or not the first condition has been met, but if you so argued, you wouldn't have a hard time also arguing the second or the third condition.

However, in 1990 Congress amended the act:

permitting the President to use the SPR for a short period without having to declare the existence of a “severe energy supply interruption”

Also, the President can allow "exchanges of SPR oil
where oil is loaned and then returned with additional oil as a premium".

So, it certainly appears from the 1990 amendment that the President has the authority to use the SPR in the current situation, but whether it's right to do so remains in question. Indeed, Bamberger argues against it:

A spike in crude and product prices often stirs calls for use of the SPR. However, the SPR is intended by statute to ameliorate discernible physical shortages of crude oil.

We're in an interesting situation, and frankly not one that is covered by the 1975 legislation.  It's not a physical disruption that's causing us trouble, but a large spike in demand, particularly from China and India.

But here's the money quote from Bamberger and where I think Newt is right and Jonah is wrong:

the price of imported crude oil rose from roughly $4/barrel (bbl) during the last quarter of 1973 to an average price of $12.50/bbl in 1974. While no amount of strategic stocks can insulate any oil consuming nation from paying the market price for oil in a supply emergency, the availability of strategic stocks can help blunt the magnitude of the market’s reaction to a crisis.

So, in a year or so, prices tripled.  This was the "market reaction" to the crisis that the SPR was created to "blunt".

In January of 2007, oil was just below $50/barrel.  It has recently approached $150/barrel. This is definitely a similar "market reaction".  However, here the "crisis" isn't interruption of supply, but increase in demand.

Therefore, we've shown that tapping the SPR in the current circumstances, is in fact, allowed under statute, and also justified. As for "punishing the speculators for betting against America", well, the other reason for the SPR is to reduce the ability for people to use crude oil as a political weapon (yeah, right...how's that worked out?).  Certainly one could argue that speculators are doing just that.

As I've said before, I support limited tapping of the SPR, but only in conjunction with efforts to increase supply/decrease demand. And, I would want a plan to replenish the SPR as quickly as possible.

Of Newt's three points, I admit that this one is the weakest, and is the one that I would not be upset to be set aside, but I don't have a problem with it either, under my aforementioned conditions.