Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

adrag1 at [until the QP server gets fixed]
willv at


Virginia Pundit Watch Will Vehrs' Weekly Column at Bacon's Rebellion

DC Metro Blog Map

UVA Center for Politics and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Predictions 2002


Spinsanity - Countering rhetoric with reason


On the Third Hand
A blog by a proud member of the Bellicose Women's Brigade


Newsrack Blog

Mark A. Kilmer's Political Annotation

A Nickles Worth of Free Advice

Where HipHop and Libertarianism meet

Note To Self
"Crash"'s way kewl blog

The Rallying Point

Mind Over What Matters

MaxSpeak Weblog


Off the Kuff

What She Really Thinks

Unqualified Offerings

Talking Points Memo


Matt Welch


the talking dog

Cornfield Commentary

Cooped Up

The Rittenhouse Review

The Lefty Directory

Sneaking Suspicions

Derek Crane

Common Sense and Wonder

Jim Miller on Politics

Croooow Blog: Rantings and ravings on the news of the day.

Ipse Dixit

The Road to Surfdom

Jason Rylander


Smythe's World

Weblog Central



War Liberal

Andrew Sullivan

The Volokh Conspiracy

Counterspin Central
perfunctory links(We think it's "the Mother of links pages for news and pundit junkies" - eds)

Independent Gay Forum
Independent Gay Forum

Town Hall: Conservative News and Information - The Conservative Movement Starts Here

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Lest We Forget: Dec 7, 1941

Tony Adragna
Hey, did we forget the aniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor? I can think of no more fitting words to invoke than these for the people who are out there right now defending our country and risking their lives
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
It's own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard,
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amid the storm didst sleep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Holy Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the waters dark and rude,
And bid their angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Hymn for Travellers and the Absent
William Whiting, 1825-78
Remembering all those who have given their all in defense of our nation, but especially on this day those who have gone down in the sea
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace Amen

"Unfunded Mandates" Redux

Tony Adragna
We've seen this refrain before, Will. 'Twas part of the "Contract With America", and supposedly fixed, but the cure ended up a "Toothless Tiger". Warner does make good points this go-'round, but I'm not sure his medicine has any more efficacy than the old prescription. When "best laid plans" run into "Murphy's Law", you just gotta "grin & bear it"...

The problem right now is that we just don't have enough money coming in to pay for everything we want to do, and that's true no matter the source of the funding. It's ever gonna be the case that even plans which were affordable when passed become unaffordable at some point. If the program is important enough, then you find a way to fund it, or you decide it's not important and let it die. This means setting priorities & making choices, instead of trying to have everything you want no matter the cost.

I think part of the problem in Congress is this desire for political reasons to vote for things that are popular, but then not wanting to vote to raise taxes to pay the bills. Well, that's not a problem for everybody on The Hill, but these folks aren't in charge right now.

On the particular problem faced by states where the state tax scheme is tied to federal tax rates, see Fritz's take. I hadn't thought about this issue, but it appears that the federal tax rate cuts — & raises — have in some states an impact greater than just the amount of federal dollars available to fund federally mandated state administered programs.

I look forward to this week's PunditWatch — I'm sure there are some brighter people than me who have said some more insightful things. I do also wonder whether Trent Lott's comments are gonna get even a mention...

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Wow, Tony, you were all over the O'Neill/Lindsey resignations like a CNN anchor. Great job. I'm looking forward to compiling all the pundit reactions for tomorrow's Punditwatch. I don't expect anything more insightful than what you and Zathras have already posted.

Oh, and you know how I love it when you tweak Tim Noah.

Not long ago, when Republican governors dominated a large majority of the state houses, they were the fuel for any notion that the GOP was the party of ideas. Their message was much more appealing than the message from Congressional Republicans and one of their own, George W. Bush, made it to the White House.

The same phenomena may be repeating itself, but this time on the Democratic side. Democrats have almost achieved parity in numbers with Republican Governors. Congressional Democrats are seen as bereft of ideas. Virginia Governor Mark Warner, with a head start of one year on his newly elected Democratic colleagues, seems to be bidding for leadership of a Democratic Governors' message, a message that also has bi-partisan appeal. Republican governors are facing the same challenges.

Warner gave a preview of this potential Democratic agenda from the state perspective. He spoke yesterday at Council of State Governments annual convention, conveniently held here in Richmond, VA. Warner castigated the federal government for shortchanging the states, heaping unfunded mandates on them, and denying them flexibility.

He combined the criticism with the outlines of a program:

States should demand three basic principles, Warner said.

"First, no new federal programs that share today's costs, but shift them to states tomorrow," he said. "Second, no new federal requirements that foist major 'matching' requirements on cash-strapped states."

"Finally, let's put politics aside. In particular, it's time to stop scoring political points by announcing new federal programs when the fine print shows you're just repackaging an old one."

For their part, the states must demonstrate fiscal discipline, act as "good stewards of taxpayer dollars and look to the federal government as the funder of last resort," he said

For the wonkishly inclined, it's a sensible, appealing message. Translating it into a bumper sticker or Clintonian turn of phrase that resonates with voters will be the challenge if it is to garner political advantage. One has to wonder if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will carry the message of Democratic governors in Washington. The least capable governor of capitalizing on the Warner message resides in her state, California: Governor Gray Davis.

Warner and several other newly elected Democratic governors have the advantage of following a Republican in the state house, so they can shift blame and demonstrate a contrast. Poor Davis has no one to blame but himself.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Post-Mortem of a Treasury Secretary

Tony Adragna
The New Republic Online: &c. offers two possible reasons for O'Neill's departure, similar to the reasons offered by our Zathras. I take exception with the "wrong reason" verbiage at &c..

Look, if O'Neill's acting on his "principled positions" was seen by the President as adversely impacting the administrations ability to advance the policy agenda, then that's just as bad as being simply "boneheaded". Even if the decision has no basis in anything but "politics", it's still a "right" decision. It really depends on the "principle" that the decision tries to follow.

But, this inquiry is really inane — these folks serve at the pleasure of the President, so that either of the reasons cited, a combination of both, or no reason at all, is ultimately the "right reason". The real question is "what now?" Or, as Zathras put it
All this begs the question: if the economy is only down for the moment, why push O'Neill and Lindsey out now? And, if (as it appears to me) the economy will be headed downward for some time to come, why would changing the Treasury Secretary and the chief White House economist make any difference politically or otherwise?
Well, it does make a big positive difference if Mr. Bush "upgrades" [Z's usage] the team, gets the agenda passed, and the economy turns around. But, if things don't turn around, then the change makes no difference, and if the situation worsens, then it's a potentially disastrous negative difference.

Of course, staying the old course wasn't getting the administration anywhere either — except maybe into some rocky shoals. So, maybe a new course to go along with the new crew is exactly what's indicated. My esteemed colleague Will suggests that's what's happening a la
[...]the Dept. of Homeland Security, Bush is taking the Democrats' idea and making it his own. They wanted a new economic team; they'll get it. It's hard to run against Bush by saying, "Hey, he did what we told him to do." Democrats couldn't use it on the tax rebate or on Homeland Security. It also buys the administration some time while the new team gets in place.
I agree on "ownership", and so does Slate's William Saletan
If the economy had seemed to be recovering, O'Neill's candid capitalism might not look so bad. But Friday's Labor Department report puts the unemployment rate at 6 percent, the highest in nearly a decade. If the economy is still limping along a year from now, Bush can't afford to look like a capitalist faith-healer. He needs to put the kind of visible effort into economic recovery—PR as well as policy—that he put into national security. He needs to buy some ownership of the issue. Sorry, Paul. That's show business.
This is especially important since, as Saletan's Slate colleague Daniel Gross notes [for anybody who didn't already know], "[The Bush administration's] economic program is nonexistent." I only take minor exception with Daniel's "until then" point — in my opinion, we've had since the begining of this administration "an Ichabod Crane economic policy—headless, and galloping wildly on a horse named Tax Cut." I mean, I like O'Neill, but he never did lead on economic policy, and what leadership came out of the White House has "tax cuts" as its alpha & omega and just about every other alephbeta in between.

If Mr. Bush is able to claim ownership of an issue where Democrats are traditionally favoured, it will only be because Democrats failed — yet again — to Lead with their own ideas.

By the way, Tim Noah has been heard from — on "Whopper of the Week" and Trent Lott's "support" of segregationism vis a vis some fluffy statement about "follow[ing] our lead" when Strom Thurmond ran for President and made an ugly statement. I think Noah doesn't allow that the statement by Lott may just have been without thought to the implications, rather than a "gaffe" — Trent Lott certainly didn't look up that Thurmond quote before making his remarks.[Update: OK, I'll grant that Trent Lott ought to have known the implications, so that even if he doesn't hold those views himself, he should've realized what a stupid statement it was.]

But, Noah has yet said not a thing on the O'Neill resignation, and that's particularly peculiar considering that from Oct 2001 to Jan 2002 he wrote 7 "O'Neill Death Watch" pieces predicting Sec. O'Niell's departure from the Treasury [ "The O'Neill Death Watch, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7] before deciding to "retire the O'Neill-in-peril theme" on March 19.

I'm not suggesting that Noah might want to gloat over having been vindicated... OK, I actually did suggest exactly that... but you'd think he would at least say something...

Update 12:41 PM: It's been 2½ hours since the wire reports, and no word yet from Slate's Tim "O'Neill Death Watch" Noah. I'm sure he's working on something smug & gloatful...

Update 1:25 PM: Still nothing from Noah, but I've already posted in the Chatterbox, and Moira's replacement picked up on it. I wanna hear from Tim!

Update 2:25 PM: Still nothing from Tim Noah, but I've got something to carry us over. Via Max Sawicky I read a Bob Novak column dated Nov 14, 2002. Boy did Bob call it correctly
If Lawrence Lindsey resigns as President Bush's national economic director, would the administration's economic leadership problems be solved while Paul O'Neill remains as secretary of the Treasury? The confidential answer from the White House is an unequivocal ''no.''

Lindsey will not stay much longer, but published reports that he will go while O'Neill stays at Treasury as the administration's chief economic spokesman are not in touch with reality. Bush's business supporters have told him for months that he must fill the Treasury portfolio with someone who believes in his tax-cutting strategy, or else follow his father as a one-term president. There are signs the president finally has accepted this advice.

Neither Lindsey nor O'Neill will be handed a pink slip immediately but will slowly fade away, saying they have resigned to tend private concerns. Delay is necessary because there is no clear successor at Treasury. After O'Neill, the White House flinches at the thought of picking another CEO. Nobody in Wall Street looks good. Something very different at the Treasury may result...
The whole thing is worth a read, even if you disagree on which — O'Neill v. Lindsey — is the real stinker.

Update 9:07 PM: See the post above for more.

What the Hell!?!?!...

OK, Will, I just saw the reports
Treasury Secretary O'Neill Announces Resignation
Economic Chief Becomes First Member of Bush's Cabinet to Leave

Associated Press
Friday, December 6, 2002; 10:12 AM

Paul O’Neill, whose outspokenness won him praise as a captain of industry but often landed him in hot water as President Bush’s treasury secretary, announced his resignation Friday....
Man, this was the only member of the Cabinet that I really liked![not despite his Kinsleyan "gaffing", but because of it] Who's gonna replace him? Not Lindsey — he resigned, too!
White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey has submitted his resignation, a senior White House official said Friday.

The resignation came shortly after Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced his resignation.

"Larry Lindsey has submitted his resignation to the president to pursue endeavors outside the government," the senior official said
You think Kudlow would want either of these jobs?

Errata: In the silver lining dept.: hopefully somebody with more political acumen can get the White House to get serious on fiscal policy

In the gold lining dept.: Lindsey is gone...

061505Z Dec 02
FM: CB Det Hyattsville, Maryland
TO: SC, North Pole Station
Info: CB Detachment Chesterfiled, Virginia


Santa's Christmas Village is what it looked like when I got home last night, Will. I'll try to get William to take some pics with the digicam [then I gotta find somewhere to upload 'em].

Didja have any troubles travelling? Or didja stay home? Believe it or not, but I actually got William to take public transit yesterday morning. We had no problems catching a bus, since we live right off of Rt 1 and there are two bus services with multiple routes services 3 seperate Metro stations in the area. And there were seats aplenty on the train.

Taking the car this morning, however, was a pain in the bum. Sure, Rt 1 is clear of snow, as is the Alt Rt 1 bypass to which our lane connects. But, getting up the lane from our house, which is near the dead end of the lane, to the throughfare... At least we didn't have a big berm of snow blocking off access from the lane to the main road — that phenomenon is quite common in DC...

State budget woes have the governors pointing their fingers at DC. Our Mark Warner [yes, Will, I claim him too] is repairing to appear in Richmond today "with state lawmakers and other governors, including Parris N. Glendening (D) of Maryland, to demand federal help to cover mandated expenditures for Medicaid, road construction and emergency response." One quote I found especially agreeable:
"I realize the federal government can't go in and rescue everyone. It's not all their fault," said Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). "But when we hear that the government is going to bail out the airlines, to heck with the airlines. We're providing the services that you're supposed to be providing. Help us out."

Addendum: Rather, picking up where I left off before seeing the reports on the resignations...

I agree with you on the gay marriage issue, Will. I want it dealt with as a matter of principle, not set aside as a non-issue by the availability of work-arounds.

Most significantly, as I previously noted, I don't think there's any chance of getting government out of this realm. Not just because people are going to want the government involved in enforcing the covenant/contract, but also becuase people are still going to want the "benefits" granted by legislation seeking to advance the social policy [nevermind that [the argument on "social policy" is] counterfactual [seeing that there's no] evidence of "family stability" being positively impacted by the benefits granted. My own opinion, again previously voiced, is that marriage has suffered from state regulation and legislative grants]

A Churchill quotes is always on point, Will, and those words quoted in the homage to Bunning — "They never asked the question, 'What shall we gain?' They asked only the question, 'Where lies the right?'" — are especially apropos at this moment...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, thank you and posters in The Refuge for the comforting words about Cassie. I hope she was at heaven's gate this morning for her morning walk because she wasn't at my front door.

Privatizing Marriage Tony, gay marriage appears to be the hottest of coming hot button issues and I just cringe when I think about all the interest groups it will rouse and all the single issue voters who will demand fealty from candidates on this issue. There will be rampant demogoguery and dissembling.

That said, I'm sympathetic to the "privitization of marriage" concept, but not if it's just a back door attempt to allow gay marriages to be recognized. That's too transparent and will be instantly recognized for what it is. I favor it as part of a larger governmental streamlining effort.

We need to deal with the real issue, painful as it will be. There's a middle ground on this, I'm sure, but zealots on both sides would probably rather have the issue than a workable compromise.

Media Bias E. J. Dionne, Jr. tackles the issue today and finds (surprise!) the bias tilts in a conservative direction:

The media world now includes (1) talk radio, (2) cable television and (3) the traditional news sources (newspapers, newsmagazines and the old broadcast networks). Two of these three major institutions tilt well to the right, and the third is under constant pressure to avoid even the pale hint of liberalism. These institutions, in turn, influence the burgeoning world of online news and commentary.

I find most of the general media bias claims to be tiresome. Most people with half a brain can sift through any "bias" easily. Others hear or see what they want to see. I wish the argument would shift to "balance." I don't care if an outlet is "biased," as long as it presents opposing viewpoints with a modicum of respect. In that regard, I would praise the Washington Post, seen as "liberal," much more than the New York Times, also seen as liberal. Cable talk show hosts might tilt one way or another, but presenting the other side, even if it is to denigrate it, is what they are all about.

Shoulda Last Sunday, when I wrote Punditwatch, I decided to pay close attention to Tim Russert's Senator John Kerry interview for something that I found troubling: Kerry's fixation on his Viet Nam service. I was going to write a piece on it, but decided against it for a variety of reasons. I should have gone ahead, because along comes TNR's Peter Beinart with the same idea and a very perceptive analysis. Mine wouldn't have been so good, but I could have claimed, "Advantage, Punditwatch!" Beinart writes:

By my count, Kerry mentioned Vietnam nine times during the interview--often straining to link his service to unrelated issues.

I counted seven mentions that were not prompted by Russert and two that were.

Kerry clearly deserves great credit for serving in a war that the privileged of his generation, right and left, generally evaded. He also clearly understands that any Democratic challenger to George W. Bush will have to convince the United States, above all, that he can be trusted to defend it in a time of war. The big question facing Kerry's candidacy is whether he is going to try to earn that trust on the strength of his ideas or merely on the memory of his service.

Strom Thurmond turned 100 yesterday and one of the least known things about him probably was that he participated in the D-Day invasion. I don't think we could have taken 50 years of him mentioning that, just like I don't think we'll be able to stand Kerry's incessant reminders. Military service is usually something that's a background item, not a constant refrain.

The Democrats' problem isn't that Americans think they're wimps who lack personal courage--were that the case, Cleland never would have lost. Their problem is that Americans think, rightly, that they lack an agenda for protecting the country. Bush understands that in this terrifying new era, what Americans want from their leaders isn't heroism; it's clarity and direction. Maybe John Kerry can provide that--but it won't be because he served in Vietnam.

I think Beinart is on the money with that analysis. When someone such as Kerry announces the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, he/she ought to concentrate on all the behind the scenes activities necessary to get a campaign going. They should shut up unless they have their complete message ready and the media ought not puff them up or tear them down until they're official. Senator John Edwards got chewed up when he came to the starting gate a little early; the same thing might happen to Kerry.

Louisiana Weekend Howard Kurtz reviews the line on Louisiana's Senate run-off tomorrow and most signs seem to point to trouble for incumbent Mary Landrieu. I'm not in the business of predicting faraway races with lots of local intrigue, but I'd put my money on Landrieu.

Virginia Corner Tony, one of our favorite people, Josiah Bunting, ends his tour as Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute today. The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page has a nice tribute to Bunting today that I'll think you'll enjoy--they quote your hero, Winston Churchill. Bunting was the proverbial gentleman and scholar.

Excess When I used to send in 10-15 Caption Contest entries during the "good old days," I always felt a twinge of guilt--it seemed so selfish and self-absorbed. I worried that I was overwhelming Dodd's quirky little sideline operation.

Well, I was St. Francis of Asisi compared to the current crop of entrants. A total of 91 entries from two people? That's what Howell Raines and Mickey Kaus really call "flooding the zone." I'm happy I managed to tie one of the perps, Charles Austin, but I fear for the future of the contest. Will Dodd begin to consider restrictions on "soft" entries? Will he raise the limit on "hard" entries? Will special interest entries take over, allowing no voice to the "people?"

As usual, Dan and JulieC had great entries. Rags had an excellent submission, but someone ripped off her long-running idea and got billing ahead of her. Tony, I thought maybe you'd continue your tentative plunge into the contest, but it was not to be.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Strictly Speaking...

Tony Adragna
While you've been focusing on Virginia, Will, I've been trying to catch up on some blogs I haven't read in awhile. In so doing, I found an interesting post & discusion at Arthur Silber's blog. My interest was piqued not just by the very topic — which I've written on previosly — but the turn that the discussion takes.

Arthur suggests, and he's onto something here [though it isn't a novel idea], that the "state" ought get out of the business of marriages. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the state has no interest in regulating marriages. Rather, I would argue that since much of state regulation in marriage law is analogous to contract law, then the state should treat the legal institution of marriage as if it's any other legal relationship.

In fact, that's exactly what I argued back in March.

The idea that's new to me — or, it's actually not "new" to me, but signified by verbiage I've not seen before — is "privatizing marriage". There's much of this that goes on already, in the form of enforceable contracts, and it's all fundamentally in the interest of protecting property rights — the reason at the foundation of state involvement in marriages. Marriage isn't the only way to secure enforceable property rights, but it is the least cumbersome and obtains the most deference.

And "deference" to the relationship is what I think is necessary. The problem with the current work-around legal relationships is that often times natural family is able to successfully challenge these arrangements.

Ultimately, I think it's impossible to totally remove the state from the [regulation of marriage] — there's still a reliance on courts to enforce the agreements, and state's will still be involved in defining what constitutes an enforceable agreement. That's in effect the totality of state regulation today — just remove the language that restricts marriage to "a man and a woman" and the law is fixed.

What's not so easily overcome are those laws granting government benefit based on marriage as a means of advancing a social agenda.

I've also seen in the discussion a bit of explaining about different levels of "scrutiny", and as usual the explainers' rule-of-thumb does not justice to the question.

First "alienage"[non-Citizen status] may qualify a case for "strict scrutiny". See NYQUIST v. MAUCLET, 432 U.S. 1 (1977). That is because of my second point: the breakdown matters not when the law in question interferes with "fundamental rights"[i.e. "privacy", "liberty", "free expression" see SHAPIRO v. THOMPSON, 394 U.S. 618 ], or when the classification is "inherently suspect"[see GRAHAM v. RICHARDSON, 403 U.S. 365].

Is marriage a "fundamental right"? If so, then any infringements -- whether based on race, age, national origin, and I include "sexual orientation" -- must be subject to strict scrutiny. Are laws which specifically target gays as a class -- like the TX sodomy law -- "inherently suspect"? If so, then they must be subject to strict scrutiny.

While the Court in Romer v. Evans rejected the lower court's "strict scrutiny" on the "fundamental right to" engage in the political process [they couldn't find such a right], neither did the court hold that strict scrutiny ought never apply in "sexual orientation" cases. Rather, Justice Kennedy's majority opinion never addresses the question of whether strict scrutiny ought apply on a "class" basis, because Colorado's Amendment 2 wouldn't even pass the "rational basis" test.

But, looking at the language Kennedy uses — begining with his citation of the first Justice Harlan in Plessy, to "the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected", and "conclud[ing] that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else" — I get the impression that he would be perfectly willing to use the stricter test in a "sexual orientation" case where it might apply. Such a case is on the calendar this term...

Update: The Refuge does have a resident practitioner in the area of estate planning & settlement, and he informs me that family challenges aren't as big an issue as I seem to think. I admit that my impression is based reading from years ago, when I believe that families tended to be more successful than not at challenging the wishes of benefactors who willed their estates to homosexual partners. The point we would both agree on is that gay couples do need to make these kinds of arrangments, and they need to make them effective. Families will still make challenges, but proper preparation will defeat those challenges.

Having said that, I come back to making the case that if gay couples who live in long-term committed realtionships could avail themselves of "marriage", then they wouldn't need make these type of arrangements [in deference to Dan, and speaking from my experience as a banker, estate planning is a good idea even for people who don't think they have an "estate"]

To the Dogs I feel for you, Will. I still haven't gotten over the loss of Sasha. She wasn't mine, but I loved her anyway, and she was very loving & protective — she even got along with Dakkar. You'll get another dog, as William did, but there'll be no replacement for Cassie. Just remember this, though — and it's not meant to be platitude: Dogs really do go to heaven!

Cassie, 1989-2002

Will Vehrs
In June of 1989 I was looking for a Cocker Spaniel for my daughter. I wasn't having much luck. When I got to the pet store nearest my home, they not only didn't have any cocker spaniels, they only had one puppy in the whole place. I asked to see it.

The owner took me to the back of the store and opened up a cage where a dark mound of fluff with a pink tongue was sitting. Like a shot, the mound of fluff raced out of the cage and began doing laps around the store. I fell in love with this exuberant creature long about the second lap.

Cassie was a Cairn Terrier who resembled Toto from the Wizard of Oz--if Toto had been on steroids. She was always playful, often naughty. When she was about two years old, I used to run with her in races for dogs in the Washington, DC area. Cassie didn't know the meaning of quit. She finished 11th out of over 200 dogs in the Alexandria Doggie Dash--and no dog her size or smaller beat her. She aced the Rover Run along the C & O Canal towpath.

She loved to wrestle other dogs or young cats. She never failed to bark when the doorbell rang. She waited patiently at the door for me to walk her every morning and every afternoon.

Cassie died today at the vet's. She had been in a slow decline, but nothing unusual until last night. I took her in at noon today and the vet thought she might have Addison's Disease. He began treating her with an IV. She did not respond as he hoped and she left us quietly, on the table, as the doctor prepared another IV.

I'm going to miss Cassie. I'll remember all the good times, when she thought the whole world was her playpen and her antics never failed to bring a smile to my face.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Virginia Corner

Will Vehrs
Tony, I've been immersed in Virginia issues the last two days, so forgive me for being parochial.

Virginia Governor Mark Warner, due to present his budget and attendant cuts on December 20th, is on a "tease and trial balloon" tour. Without giving too many specifics, he's assuring some major constituencies and hinting at pain for others. On Monday, he was in front of educators and told them he would not cut direct aid to schools. He did suggest that he might change some priorities:

"My direction is simple: If an education program cannot show clear results and success in raising student achievement, then we must reinvest its precious dollars elsewhere, in other education programs that work," Warner said.

Yesterday he spoke to state agency heads and indicated that his December 20th budget would not cut many jobs, but would consolidate some agencies and eliminate others.

While I find this time-honored tradition of leaking dribs and drabs of information ahead of a major speech to be an irritating political requirement, I'm impressed by Warner's apparent decision to strongly embrace being the "reform governor," or the "government efficiency governor." I strongly disagree with Professor Larry Sabato's dismissal of reforming state government:

"He's scrambling for a legacy," Sabato said of Warner. "He's got no money and little clout with the legislature. He can make a mark there. I'm not sure it's an accomplishment of historic importance."

I happen to think reforming state government would be quite historic; it certainly could be a model for other states that might grab the cachet of a Tommy Thompson Wisconsin welfare reform.

Today Governor Warner's Economic Development Strategy was released. As with any state activity these days, a normally routine exercise took on greater importance becaue of Virginia's budget woes. The citizen panel Warner appointed presented the plan at the morning session of a meeting attended by some 400 state and local economic development officials. It was a collection of warmed over platitudes and unimaginative approaches, delivered with a singular lack of passion. It contained such oddities as a recommendation to change the name of the Department of Business Assistance to the Department of Small Business Assistance. Many in the audience were struck by the irony of Governor Warner having laid off the Small Business Division of the Department of Business Assistance only a month earlier.

The mood of the meeting changed dramatically when Governor Warner arrived to make a luncheon address. The Governor was upbeat and passionate. His choice of items from the plan to highlight told the group more than the two hour presentation. The most noteworthy change he promised was a consolidation of workforce training, now spread out over 20 separate programs, numerous agencies, and three cabinet secretariots. He told the audience he expected some "pushback" from them when his plan is formally introduced. He's probably going to be getting a lot of bureaucratic whining and positioning in the next 15 days by the agencies that think they might lose their programs.

I was surprised that the Governor's Strategic Plan did not include consolidations of economic development organizations. Perhaps he realizes that reforming workforce training will be the kind of major effort that precludes changing much else in economic development.

From my vantage point, Governor Warner seems to have the confidence and respect of those involved in economic development. While his written plan is uninspiring, Warner's comments hinted at important incremental changes in the economic development philosophy for Virginia. Incremental is the only way to introduce change into hidebound economic developers.

"Islamic Protestantism"...

Tony Adragna
Thomas Friedman thinks that there needs to be "An Islamic Reformation", and he'll get no contrary argument from me. What's telling — in case a read of events in Iran over the last several years hadn't already told — is Friedman's presentation of what looks like a "reformation" that's already in progress
What's going on in Iran today is, without question, the most promising trend in the Muslim world. It is a combination of Martin Luther and Tiananmen Square — a drive for an Islamic reformation combined with a spontaneous student-led democracy movement. This movement faces a formidable opponent in Iran's conservative clerical leadership. It can't provide a quick fix to what ails relations between Islam and the West today. There is none. But it is still hugely important, because it reflects a deepening understanding by many Iranian Muslims that to thrive in the modern era they, and other Muslims, need an Islam different from the lifeless, anti-modern, anti-Western fundamentalism being imposed in Iran and propagated by the Saudi Wahhabi clerics. This understanding is the necessary condition for preventing the brewing crisis between Islam and the West — which was triggered by 9/11 — from turning into a war of civilizations.

To put it another way, what's going on in Iran today is precisely the war of ideas within Islam that is the most important war of all...
The parallels here aren't self-evident if you see the schism of Christianity purely as a struggle focused on doctrine. But, if you look at the Reformation's impact on politics, education, and economics, then the likeness is apparent. And you've got to remember that the influence worked the other way, too — sans the rise of nationalism, a middle class, and a peasantry willing to stand against establishment, the "protest" wouldn't have gotten much coverage. Indeed, it probably would've fizzled without some focus beyond the doctrinal debate.

The "Islamaic Reformation" also has it's own "Martin Luther" arguing against "authority"
[Mr. Aghajari] began by noting that just as "the Protestant movement wanted to rescue Christianity from the clergy and the church hierarchy," so Muslims must do something similar today. The Muslim clergymen who have come to dominate their faith, he said, were never meant to have a monopoly on religious thinking or be allowed to ban any new interpretations in light of modernity.

"Just as people at the dawn of Islam conversed with the Prophet, we have the right to do this today," he said. "Just as they interpreted what was conveyed [to them] at historical junctures, we must do the same. We cannot say: `Because this is the past we must accept it without question.' . . . This is not logical. For years, young people were afraid to open a Koran. They said, `We must go ask the mullahs what the Koran says.' Then came Shariati, and he told the young people that those ideas were bankrupt. [He said] you could understand the Koran using your own methods. . . . The religious leaders taught that if you understand the Koran on your own, you have committed a crime. They feared that their racket would cease to exist if young people learned [the Koran] on their own."...

"Today, more than ever, we need the `Islamic humanism' and `Islamic Protestantism' that Shariati advocated. While [Iran's clerical leaders] apparently do not recognize human rights, this principle has been recognized by our Constitution. . . . The [Iranian regime] divides people into insiders and outsiders. They can do whatever they want to the outsiders. They can go to their homes, steal their property, slander them, terrorize them and kill them because they were outsiders. Is this Islamic logic? When there is no respect for human beings?"
Aghajari even gave his own rendition of the "here I stand.." line, "refus[ing] to appeal his death sentence, saying his whole conviction was a farce." We need to see more of this...

... and other "Protestants" I saw Donahue last night, and was reminded of something that can be descrbed as nothing less than hypocrisy. The Catholic church had long been criticized — and rightly so — by other Christians on "supercessionism". But, while the criticism is valid, it's hardly offered honestly — I can't count the number of times I've been told by "Christians" that I'm going to Hell because Catholics aren't truly Christian...

BTW, I really don't like the verbiage "Protestant" in reference to non-Catholic Christains — it's a relic.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

How Is Israel Like Ireland?

Tony Adragna
Anne Applebaum is back, Will — I've been missing her Foreigners columns. Patience pays, though — not only has Anne returned to her hometown, but she also got a gig on the editorial page staff of the hometown paper. Anne's latest is on today's op-ed page.

I think her thesis is correct, and I hasten to add that there's another similarity between the two scenarios: Notwithstanding the emotionally charged religious & ethnic identity rhetoric, for most people who are immediate parties on both sides of the conflict it's about national identity and the right to self determination. The religious aspects get more coverage because there is, no doubt about it, a strain of Islamic militancy that wants this to be about "jihad", and equally indubitable is the presence of a militant Judaism that wants nothing less than repatriation of their entire historic homeland.

The only problem with Anne's theory of where the conflict is headed — and it's a big PROBLEM — is that I don't see an analog to the Republic of Ireland in the Israel-Palestinian war. Absent a credible third party willing to either exercise influence over Palestinian terrorists to stop their campaign, or aggressively prosecute those who won't stop of their own accord, then the Israelis can't but respond militarily. Mitzna may prefer another way, but I don't see how he'd have a choice — unilateral withdrawal and abandoning the outlying settlements will see an easing of the relationship with the majority, but it's not gonna satisfy extremists on either side.

Courting Justice*: Three good items on equal treatment for gays [shorthand is "gay rights", which I don't use because it implies for some, who then argue on that implication, that homosexuals are looking for "special rights"]

Item 1:
Court to Hear Texas Case on Gay Rights

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a Texas gay couple's challenge to that state's ban on homosexual sodomy, setting the stage for what could be a landmark ruling on gay rights.

The question of whether states may criminalize private consensual sexual conduct between members of the same sex had apparently been settled in 1986, when the court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution permitted Georgia to punish a gay man for violating its sodomy statute.

But yesterday's announcement by the court, whose personnel has changed considerably since 1986, appears to suggest interest by at least some justices in reassessing that ruling. In their appeal petition, lawyers for the Texas couple specifically urged the court to overturn the 1986 decision, which held that the right to privacy did not include a right to homosexual sex.
The 1986 case — Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 — involved a challenge to Georgia's sodomy laws. Justice White, writing for the Court, held that the statute was constitutional, and so was it's application. This was arrived at despite the fact that, as Justice Blackmun's dissent noted, the statutory language was broad enough to also cover heterosexuals who engage in "any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another", yet only homosexuals were prosecuted under the statute. Sounds a clear Equal Protection claim to me, even if you don't buy the privacy claim.

Building on Blackmun's opinion, Justice Stevens' dissent goes on to opine that:
Like the statute that is challenged in this case, the rationale of the Court's opinion applies equally to the prohibited conduct regardless of whether the parties who engage in it are married or unmarried, or are of the same or different sexes. Sodomy was condemned as an odious and sinful type of behavior during the formative period of the common law. That condemnation was equally damning for heterosexual and homosexual sodomy. Moreover, it provided no special exemption for married couples. The license to cohabit and to produce legitimate offspring simply did not include any permission to engage in sexual conduct that was considered a "crime against nature."

The history of the Georgia statute before us clearly reveals this traditional prohibition of heterosexual, as well as homosexual, sodomy. Indeed, at one point in the 20th century, Georgia's law was construed to permit certain sexual conduct between homosexual women even though such conduct was prohibited between heterosexuals. The history of the statutes cited by the majority as proof for the proposition that sodomy is not constitutionally protected, ante at 192-194 , and nn. 5 and 6, similarly reveals a prohibition on heterosexual, as well as homosexual, sodomy.

Because the Georgia statute expresses the traditional view that sodomy is an immoral kind of conduct regardless of the identity of the persons who engage in it, I believe that a proper analysis of its constitutionality requires consideration of two questions: first, may a State totally prohibit the described conduct by means of a neutral law applying without exception to all persons subject to its jurisdiction? If not, may the State save the statute by announcing that it will only enforce the law against homosexuals? The two questions merit separate discussion.
Stevens answers both of his questions negatively vis a vis the case before him. What chance is there of Stevens' opinion prevailing this time around? I think the prospects are good, and I see Justice Kennedy voting with Stevens. Don't pay any attention to the Boy Scouts case — it belongs in the article as a citation of a case where the conservatives won, but it's distinguished. Look instead to Romer v. Evans, where Kennedy used language in his opinion signalling that he might find (I think he will find) a law which targets homosexuals as a "class" is unconstitutional.

Item 2: Nathaniel Frank — who is a "senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara" — writes of the "Real Evidence on Gays in the Military". Truth is that there's very little evidence on the impact of homosexuals in the U.S. military, though the armed forces of other countries don't seem to be adversly impacted by gays serving openly.

In fact, what evidence there is from abroad, and what information we have about the impact of gays who are serving openly [that is, people know, but nobody — including the subject servicemember — makes an issue of the fact] in the U.S. military despite "don't ask, don't tell", suggests that the only impediment to gays serving openly is that some people just don't want that to happen.

Now, this comes on the heels heels of those linguists having been discharged for being homosexual, and takes me to...

Item 3: From my local gay newspaper
Senate approves gay appointee to national security panel
The U.S. Senate on Nov. 19 approved President Bush's nomination of an openly gay Republican to the National Security Education Board, which advises the government on how to train future leaders on global issues related to national security, including ways to better study "less commonly taught languages and cultures."
The Senate approval by unanimous voice vote of Arthur James Collingsworth, 58, a former national treasurer of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, came less than a month after news surfaced that the Army discharged 10 gay soldiers who had been studying to be linguists, including Arabic linguists. The soldiers were charged with violating the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on homosexuality
Oh, the irony...

*Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court, Joyce Murdoch, Deb Price

Monday, December 02, 2002

Kissing Her In Arabia

Tony Adragna
Will, I think Doc Kissinger is the right choice for what needs to be done right now. 'Course, there are some things that critics of the administration want done, but neither Kissinger nor Mitchell are for that job. In truth, I think we've learned about all we can vis a vis "who knew what and when".

We're well past "could this have been prevented?" There could've been some "strong preventative measures in place", but that criticism would need to extend back further than Mr. Bush's first day in office. And it's more probable than not that stronger measures wouldn't have entirely foiled the plot — the whole point of a coordinated assault by the bad guys is that something always gets through. The best you can hope for is to minimize the damage, but sometimes you end up with a catastrophic failure that's the fault of nobody but the folks who planned & executed the attack.

[Yeah, I've been hard on the folks over at 10th & Penn, and rightfully so. They've some systemic and cultural problems over there that have been known about for years, notwithstanding the current whining over how the law prevented them from doing their jobs]

Noting that Doc Kissinger will be able to get some straight answers outta heretofore silent folks isn't the same thing as arguing that we're gonna find out everything that he does. Honestly, I'm pretty sure that I don't want to know everything that Henry knows or is able to find out — there's some scary things locked away in that attic, Will.

But, that I agree on the Doc being the right guy doesn't mean that I agree with Safire's reasoning — I'm not buying this "new & improved" Kissinger. In fact, I don't believe that any such animal exists, and thankfully so. Kissinger is just as much the realist, and just as apt at realpolitik, as he ever was. Remember how in that op-ed that was the subject of controversy he made the nuanced argument on what our "declaratory policy" should be versus the arguments being made administration & Defense Policy Board hawks?

Disagreeing with David Brooks, I think we'll see Kissinger use his good 'ol fashioned public nuance & back channel network to deliver us a "paradigm shift" in our foreign policy framework — it just simply isn't going to be the shift that folks on both sides of the debate would prefer.

On vot field?... I wonder what the Doc thought of RFK Stadium — some folks verily dislike FedEx Field. Have I told you that I'm NOT a sports fan? All the money grubbing really turns me off!

What is this futbol thingy anyway?...

I'M NOT DONE YET! William still has some money in the lighting budget, and he always goes over budget, so I expect to be busy again next week end. Hopefuly we've got some of the white fluffy stuff Christmassy weather stuff coming mid-week!. I'm ready — pulled the thermals out of mothballs last night — I wish I had done that on Saturday...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, your decorations sound pretty impressive, but I'm not ready to concede. I had to spend a lot of precious decorating time raking yesterday. I can't have Frosty, Santa, the sleigh, and the reindeer sitting on a pile of leaves. Lots of work will be done each night this week--the neighborhood judging takes place Sunday and Monday.

Oh, Henry Most observers are dubious (at best) about the choice of Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 Commission. William Safire makes the case in today's NYT for the wily diplomat:

He is neither an extinct volcano nor an erupting one; rather, he oozes a lava of foreign-policy judgment. Unlike John Poindexter, he has learned from his egregious mistakes and may even differentiate government secrecy from personal privacy. Approaching octogenarianhood, Kissinger has become a foreign-policy resource, capable of reassessing his earlier disdain for Wilsonian idealism.

Does that qualify him for chief 9/11 inquisitor? If the main object is to find the sinners of commission, no; if to discover the sins of omission, probably; if to recommend strategic changes in our approach to the war on terror, certainly

I believe Kissinger has one eye on the ultimate verdict of history. He'll do a good job.

Feds to the Rescue? Bill Herbert's column in today's NYT is a conversation with financier Felix Rohatyn on the plight of budget strapped states and localities. Rohatyn favors a "bailout" by the Feds:

He said: "There ought to be some kind of coalition of mayors and governors to petition the Congress as well as the administration for, say, a three-year program of special assistance to state and local governments financed by federal borrowing, since the federal government can do things we can't, namely run a deficit.

I might favor this approach if it required budget cuts or other fiscal discipline to qualify.

Virginia Corner Speaker of the House-designate William Howell, R-Stafford, sat for an interview on a local PBS program, "Perspective." He came off as affable fellow, somewhat overwhelmed by his new job and its parlimentary requirements. He certainly didn't tip his hand on anything substantive, but program host Barbara Berlin didn't exactly grill him. Howell opposed the sales tax referendums that were defeated in November and opposes new taxes. He didn't criticize cuts that Governor Warner has made, but he didn't indicate where he would look to cut when the General Assembly returns. He did say that former Governor Wilder's Commission had some good ideas that were worth pursuing, but he didn't specify which ones.

An editorial in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch takes on Republican criticism that Warner's cuts, especially to DMV, were politically motivated. A "shrug" is their reply and they challenge the Virginia GOP:

The General Assembly controls the purse strings. Republicans enjoy majorities in the State Senate and the House of Delegates. Nothing prevents them from adopting a budget that reflects their philosophy and priorities - and their partisan interests. They can increase funding for the DMV and slash it in other areas. And when - and if - the GOP does so, Democrats will be free to say Republicans are playing politics with the budget.

One has to wonder if Howell will hit the ground running with a vision of the budget to compete with Governor Warner's.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

010012Z Dec 02
FM: CB Det Hyattsville, Maryland
TO: SC, North Pole Station
Info: CB Detachment Chesterfiled, Virginia


Attachment: Waist high chain link fence in front of the house has icicle lights running through the links, and pine green garland wrapped around the top rail. Lighted Frosty The Snowman figure w/waving hand positined in the middle of the gate. Lighted archway [new item], with a festive multi-colored lighted ball [new item] hanging from the center, positioned over the walkway just inside the gate.

Green lights and candycanes lining the walkway up to the steps, over which hangs a six foot swag and star thingy [white lights in the swag, blue in the star]. The rails around the porch are wrapped in more pine colored garland with strings of white lights, and tubes of white lights are wrapped around the columns. Icicle lights are strung from the swag around the rest of the porch roofline.

Now, I've a messalotta net lights that once went on the big bushes, but the bushes are gone. So, I zip tied two 'em to the lattice work detail that runs from the porch deck to the ground. Two more ended up on the wrought iron railings on the front steps. Then I staked a two dimensional Frosty on one side of the steps, and a similar type representation of Frosty & Mrs. Snowman on the other side. Three "light trees"[two new] and two lighted framework reindeer adorn the lawn, along with a "Santa Stop" sign.

The holiday slide projector [currently showing flying reindeer with snowflakes and holiday meesage] focused on a space above the porch, and a single blue candle light in each of the front windows completes the scene...

n.b Did I say "complete"? — jeesh, I'll never learn! I know William is gonna bring more stuff home tomorrow, 'cause he already told me so...

p.s. The above might seem notalotta work, and I wish somebody would say that to my face — I'd wrap these nubby little icilces that were once known as my fingers around a scrawny little neck faster'n Santa can say 'Ho"! 'Tis miserably cold outside and my leather gloves ain't made for working with zip ties. Hadta take alotta hot chocolate [with mini marshamallums] breaks...

Pundit-Made News Trumps Real News

Will Vehrs
Two of the Sunday shows covered run of the mill terrorism, weapons inspections, and 9/11 Commission personnel news. Two others made up their own news. Punditwatch gives you the highlights.

Now, it's back to Christmas decorations. Tony, are you taking this competition seriously? Are you still working?