Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not Just Immoral, but Stupid

Given his inability to be discreet about his indiscretions, one must wonder if there is an appearance on Springer in Mark Sanford's future?

One suspects that he is more likely to do Springer than to remain married.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Speaking Evil of the Dead Quote of the Day

Now, of course, I understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty. I do. But I thought that we all had come to the conclusion that Jacko was about as innocent of child molestation as O.J. was of killing Nicole.

Was I wrong?

Because if O.J. dies and I have to watch film of him playing football and people honoring and mourning his death, I’ll lose it. I’m gonna need a heads up on that one, so let me know.

--A.C. Kleinheider, explaining why he is not joining in honoring Michael Jackson. Mr. Kleinheider, of course, is correct.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scroogish VBS Quote of the Day

"I know my childhood home church made an investment in VBS, and I know the message was worthwhile. But as the Gospel seems to have taken a back seat to Glitz it has become harder and harder for me to see VBS as a net gain for any local church. While the Gospel message is of paramount importance I no longer see that as the primary driver for modern VBS."

--Katherine Coble, who is absolutely correct with regard to the way that the vast majority of churches now do Vacation Bible School. Sadly, one can substitute any number of other programs now common in evangelical churches and draw similar conclusions.

The Obama Style

Peggy Noonan argues that by attempting to do everything, the Obama administration runs the risk of accomplishing nothing. She suggests that successful Presidents have focused priorities that can be summarized in a single sentence.

In making that case, she refers to a problem that is related to one that this correspondent has noted in the Obama style. By his incessant presence in press conferences and speeches, the President has seemed to indicate that his personal intervention is necessary to push forward agenda items, both major and minor, on virtually every front.

In that regard, the current President is the exact opposite of his predecessor, who deserved criticism for failure to sell his policies, both with regard to Iraq and domestic concerns, other than during campaigns. However, the Obama strategy of taking personal responsibility for taking the lead role for seemingly his entire agenda spreads the President too thin, and at times his administration has the appearance of a shell lacking sufficient infrastructure to actually accomplish what he is advocating.

That weakness might hearten conservatives, who now sense weakness in the effort to push through the President's hard left agenda. However, it is not good for a country that continues to face serious issues with a President with both wrong solutions and a style that will not suit a position of the magnitude of the Presidency.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Lonely near the Top Quote of the Day

“That is one of the major problems of politics. You don’t have accountability groups generally because you don’t want to confess your sins to someone who may be running against you in the future."

-- Charles Colson, as quoted in World Magazine

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crying for One's Self in Argentina

Regarding the sordid episode in the life of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a few observations:

1) Once again, numerous people seem to find no discomfort in expressing exuberance over the personal tragedy of one who happens to be a political opponent. This malady afflicts persons across the political spectrum. One might wish that those who engage in this sort of thing would take a good hard look in the mirror and realize the kind of persons they have become.

2) Some have suggested that Mr. Sanford should be required to resign as a result of his admission of having had an affair, but, of course, this is just a combination of partisan silliness on the left and chest thumping regarding family values on the right. Requiring all office holders who had engaged in such dalliances to resign would necessitate an intolerable public expense for all of the special elections that would have to be called as a result. Besides, while the Governor has committed a transgression that most would find to be repugnant, in so doing he did not do something that made him unfit for office -- not in the narrow sense anyway. More on that momentarily.

3) Those who disagree on item two might counter that Mr. Sanford is unfit as the result of hypocrisy, as he said harsh things about former President Bill Clinton's comparable failures. However, hypocrisy also must not disqualify one from holding office. If it did, all current office holders would have to resign, and there would be no replacements among the living. Besides, everyone surely knows that, whatever the merits of the case against President Clinton, it was never suggested that the President should be impeached for having received services from Monica Lewinsky. Rather, he faced the question of whether he should be impeached for having lied under oath regarding the receipt of such services.

4) For reasons that are not entirely clear, Governor Sanford effectively disappeared for a week in order to wrap up matters related to his dalliance. His failure to temporarily provide for the transition of power during his absence from the country left his state without constitutionally authorized leadership. That is a serious dereliction of duty that must not be overlooked.

The fact of Mr. Sanford's affair gives his family much to think about and decisions to make. The fact of his irresponsibility in the exercise of his office is a matter for the people of his state. It is for that latter reason, not the former, that the governor should resign.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Do Journalists Ever Get Embarrassed to Be Doing This?

This unattributed AP story on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is nothing more than a puff piece. It begins by gushing that the judge has shared stories with female senators about reading Nancy Drew as a child.

This criticism of the report, of course, is not intended as a negative comment on Ms. Sotomayor, not is it intended to convey the idea that a hit piece might have been any better. However, I would be embarrassed to have written this article.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where the Buck Stops

In a disingenuous article written for the Wall Street Journal, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) argue that their "cars for clunkers" legislation was a good idea until "Detroit auto industry lobbyists got involved." They disapprove of the amended bill that has emerged from the House of Representatives.

The two Senators seem to need a remedial course in basic civics.

Lobbyists represent before government the interests of all sorts of clients.

No lobbyist has ever introduced a bill on the floor of either House of Congress. No lobbyist has ever voted a bill out of committee. No lobbyist has ever voted for a bill on the floor of either the House or the Senate.

Those things are done by Congressmen and Senators.

It is the role of lobbyists to make arguments for their causes. It is the job of legislators to decide. When bad decisions are made, the fault lies with those who cast the votes.

Unlike Senators Collins and Feinstein, many of us would object to both the bill they introduced in the Senate and the one that emerged from the House. Various interests can make those arguments with our representatives. When decisions are made, good or bad, credit or blame belongs to those representatives.

Those representatives should not be passing the buck.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drug Problems

According to a report in The Tennessean, Clarksville, Tennessee pastor Shane West was sentenced to three years probation today after pleading guilty to charges related to his addiction to prescription drugs. The story once again should point attention to the most significant and urgent, yet largely misunderstood and ignored, drug problem in our culture today.

The most significant drug problem in our day does not involve illegal drugs such as marijuana or cocaine or heroine. The biggest problem relates to addiction to prescription pain killers such as Oxycotin, Hydrocodone, or Loritab. The problems of addiction affect all age groups and all portions of the socio-economic spectrum, and they entrap large numbers of people who, prior to addiction, lived productive, law abiding lives. The stories of Rush Limbaugh and other celebrities always receive national attention when they arise. In Tennessee, a couple of years ago the sheriff of Williamson County made headlines when he was arrested for obtaining prescription narcotics illegally. In Dallas, the pastor of a megachurch made similar headlines a few years ago.

The problem also finds its way into the homes of the very poor. A friend -- a nurse practitioner in Tennessee -- has described for me the frequency of Medicaid eligible callers to her office seeking prescription narcotics, which she never agrees to provide to new patients. The callers nearly always decline to make an appointment for an examination.

The true scandal of this is apparent when one realizes that this addiction usually comes about because patients follow their doctors' orders. Medical treatment guidelines almost always stipulate that patients should not receive Schedule II narcotics for more than two weeks for chronic pain due to the risks of addiction, yet many patients receive such drugs for extended periods of time. As approximately 10-12 percent of patients are susceptible to addiction, these prescribing patterns put those patients at risk.

As an example of these irresponsible prescription patterns, consider the drug Actiq. That drug, which is dispensed in the form of a lollipop, was approved by the FDA for use by terminally ill cancer patients who have difficulty swallowing ordinary pain pills. In spite of that rather specific intended use, this expensive ($2,400 for a months supply) pain killer is prescribed so frequently to workers' compensation patients that in 2006 only three other drugs accounted for more expense to the system.

State governments have attempted to respond to this crisis (and in this instance, that word would seem to apply) by adopting guidelines regarding physician prescriptions of narcotics. While this has had some impact, there is a long way to go. For far too many people, chronic back pain or pain following surgery is the beginning of a path leading to addiction and its frequent side effects -- job loss, financial ruin, jail, or sometimes suicide. It is a problem of which we all need to be aware and watchful.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Perceptions and Reality Quote of the Day

A professional journalist managed to write this sentence:

"For years now, Deep Ellum has battled the perception that it's dangerous because of regular reports about late-night fights and assaults."

Saturday, June 06, 2009

An Interesting Contrast

Barack Obama, marking the 2009 anniversary of the D-Day invasion:

"For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man or woman. It has always been up to us."

Ronald Reagan, marking the 1984 observance of the same:

"Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause."

The marked difference between these perspectives may signify nothing more than President Obama's rejection of America's civil religion, for which this blogger holds no brief. However, President Reagan's remarks, which in some ways echo, but do not rise to the level of, similar sentiments expressed by Abraham Lincoln, seem to convey a gracious humility and sense of dependence on Divine favor that have been largely lost on this generation, regardless of political and religious outlook.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Conservative Standard on Judicial Nominations

Jay Nordlinger correctly identifies the debate that exists among conservative Republicans:

One great question for conservatives and Republicans is, What should be our standard? What should be our standard in confirming or rejecting Supreme Court nominations? The Republican practice has been clear: We just wave ’em through. A Stephen Breyer comes up, a Ruth Bader Ginsburg — she was general counsel to the ACLU! And we just wave ’em through.

Barack Obama and many other Democrats think differently: If a conservative comes up, they vote against him — because he is a conservative. Obama did this with John Roberts and Samuel Alito. He admitted that they were perfectly qualified to serve on the Court. At the same time, they were not qualified — they were unfit — because they were, in a word, conservatives.Should conservative senators vote against liberal Supreme Court nominees on the Obama principle — on an ideological basis? Should the standard be tit-for-tat, in this realm? That is the question.

And I’m not yet sure of the answer. All I know is: Liberal nominees are lucky that conservative and Republican senators don’t operate on the Obama principle.

While Mr. Nordlinger professes not to know the answer, I believe that I do. Senator Obama and other Democrats were wrong about this. If the nominee is qualified, he/she should not be rejected on philosophical grounds.

A Texas Legislative Round Up

The Texas legislature only convenes every two years. However, when they get together, they always make it interesting.

In 2005, the newly minted Republican leadership decided that they were going to take up redistricting. Because of legislative dysfunction, the redistricting following the 2000 census had needed to be resolved by the courts, and legislative leaders realized in 2005 that a legal loophole would permit them to do it again in a way that would benefit the Republican Party in the state. Democrats, understandably unhappy at that possibility, decided that they would try to prevent it by depriving the state Senate of a quorum. Knowing that as long as they remained in the state the president of the Senate could have them arrested and brought to the chamber, these enterprising Senate Democrats on two occasions made for the border, holing up in hotels in New Mexico and Oklahoma in an effort to prevent the legislation from being heard. While the Democrats ultimately gave up, and redistricting passed, their effort reached its zenith when a rumor spread that the Texas Rangers (the law enforcement team, not the baseball club) would be sent into Oklahoma to bring the prodigal senators home. The Democratic governor of Oklahoma made clear that Texas law enforcement officers did not have jurisdiction in his state.

In 2007, some Republicans and most Democrats had tired of the autocratic leadership of House Speaker Tom Craddick, and an attempted coup resulted. Near the end of the session, a member attempted to make a motion that would put the Speaker's continued leadership to a vote. Speaker Craddick's handpicked parliamentarian advised that the motion was out of order, and the Speaker attempted to proceed with business as the chamber descended into chaos. A friend who was present told The Oracle that he saw two fist fights nearly break out on the House floor.

Then, there's 2009. Before the session had even started, the palace coup became successful, and Speaker Craddick was replaced by a neophyte from San Antonio, Joe Strauss. On the Senate side, Republicans infuriated Democrats by suspending a rule that generally requires a supermajority for a vote to be taken in given situations so that they could pass a Voter ID bill. This resulted in protests all session long, as Democrats and their fellow travellers expressed horror that voters might be required to show that they are who they say they are.

With the end of the session in sight, House Democrats saw a poison pill that would allow them to kill Voter ID. Hundreds of noncontroversial bills remained that ordinarily would be quickly passed one after the other by voice votes. However, the Democrats insisted on debating each one. Under House rules, debate could continue for up to 10 minutes before a bill would die, so in each case the Democrats broke off debate after 9+ minutes and allowed the bill to pass. This "four corner" strategy, referred to as "chubbing," was successful, and Voter ID died. Scores of other bills that would have passed also died, including the Department of Insurance "Sunset Bill." Without passage of that bill, the Department of Insurance will cease to exist later this year. The governor's legal advisers are now convening to determine if a special session is necessary.

Occasionally it is suggested that the legislature should follow the example of most other states and meet annually. But, one might ask, could the state handle that much fun?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Monday Satire

Having passed legislation allowing gun owners to carry weapons in state parks and restaurants, the Tennessee General Assembly took up legislation late in the session today that would permit non-violent convicts to carry guns while incarcerated in state prisons. Supporters argued that the mere fact of incarceration should not deprive all felons of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Opponents reacted sharply against the measure, saying that its consideration proved that legislative leaders were not dealing with serious issues. "Instead of allowing guns, we should be shutting down all of the prisons," said Memphis Democrat Jim Kyle in a prepared statement. He argued that if the legislature was doing its job, there would be no need for prisons any more. Sen. Kyle said that he would file legislation next session that would divert all prison funding to the state's beleaguered ethics commission.

However, Representative Stacey Campfield said that the measure didn't go far enough and that he was preparing to pursue an amendment that would also allow violent offenders to carry.

"Some of these guys have just committed one violent offense. That should not keep them from being able to defend themselves," Mr. Campfield said in a heavily edited statement. He added that the measure would likely have the effect of shortening prison terms for some convicts, thus saving the state money.

It is not known whether the measure will come to a vote. Asked for comment, a spokesman for Governor Phil Bredeson said that it would be premature to speculate regarding a potential veto.