November 9, 2006

Wait a Minute, Hugh

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:57 pm

Looking backward obsessively is not the best thing in the world, but making sure that the historical record is correct, and known, is darned important.

This explains the double-take I did today when I heard Rush read from Hugh Hewitt’s mostly excellent column looking at the missed opportunities in the 109th Congress. I had read Hewitt’s column previously, but didn’t grasp the significance of this paragraph until I heard it:

And while the Senate twiddled away its days, crucial nominees to the federal appellate bench languished in the Judiciary Committee. The most important of them –Peter Keisler who remains nominated for the D.C. Circuit– didn’t even receive a vote because of indifference on the part of Chairman Specter.

W-W-W-Whoa.

Who was defending the idea of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter ascending to the Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee shortly after the 2004 election?

….. For the first time in decades, the GOP has the margins in both House and Senate to cooperate with a Republican president in the defining of the country’s course for the next century.

….. Parties do have to agree on some non-negotiables. For Republicans that list includes a commitment to battle obstructionism in the judicial confirmation process, but it ought not to include a loyalty oath on every nominee.

….. conservatives should pause before overthrowing a system that celebrates seniority in the Senate. Where will it stop? Some conservatives are particularly annoyed with Specter, but it isn’t as though he’s the only moderate Republican who has offended GOP majoritarian beliefs in the past.

….. Beginning a new era with a purge is simply the worst possible politics, a self-inflicted wound, and one the consequences of which could be far reaching and awful.

Prudence. Prudence. Prudence.

Hugh Hewitt wrote the above. Look what “prudence” has achieved.

The ascendancy of Arlen Specter to Judiciary was arguably the first in what turned out to be a long series of disappointments to the prolife and strict-constructionist GOP base. Even before the 109th Congress convened, it set the stage for the two years of timidity and accommodation, in essence a majority not governing like one, that Hewitt bemoans in his column. All of this ultimately led to the loss of the party’s Senate majority.

Hewitt’s big fear was defection to the Democrats by several Senators. The score in the Senate was 55-45 at the time, the victory was fresh, and the Democrats were in full blame-the-electorate and “find me a ticket to Canada” mode. Why not dare Specter and other recalcitrants to bolt, if it came to that?

We see what happened instead. The formation of the Gang of 14, assuming it would have happened anyway (likely, given John McCain’s me-first outlook), “should” have led to many more successful judicial nominees after the initial flurry. Instead, Specter, with the acquiescence of Bill “won’t be missed” Frist, dawdled and dithered. Conservatives who should have known better told themselves, “That’s all right, we’ll get around to it.”

Now, as Hewitt notes, a historical opportunity is gone. The fault is primarily Specter’s, but Hewitt should have known better than to champion and defend him. As one of conservatism’s leading spokespundits, he should own up to his role in setting the intellectual tone that leaves the GOP where it is today.

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UPDATE: Let’s see some other reax at the time –

  • Patterico, 11/18/2004“I don’t support Specter for the chair position, but I can live with it — as long as he does what he’s told.” Did he?
  • Calblog, 11/12/2004“I still maintain that Senator Specter shouldn’t be let within a mile of the Judiciary Committee, let alone its chairmanship.”
  • Specter himself, in a 11/3/2004 press conference, noted at The Corner“Nobody can be confirmed today who didn’t agree with Brown v. Board of Education on integration, and I believe that while you traditionally do not ask a nominee how they’re going to decide a specific case, there’s a doctorate and a fancy label term, stari decisis, precedent which I think protects that issue (that would be abortion on demand — Ed.). That is my view, now, before, and always.”
  • A Pittsburgh Tribune editorial, 11/14/2004 , noting the groundswell of protest against Specter’s ascension and the Senator’s reaction — “Outrage from pro-life forces has only intensified; they and pro-family groups are planning to protest in Washington on Tuesday. And conservatives at large seized a golden opportunity to start publicizing Specter’s overall record and his penchant for substituting constitutionally proscribed dictatorial judicial activism for the constitutionally prescribed legislative process. ….. An honorable Sen. Specter would holster his vanity, recognize the distraction he has become, and remove himself from Judiciary chair consideration. But we’re talking about Arlen Specter, aren’t we. (sic)”
  • Here is the remnant of the notspecter.com web site that was active at the time.

UPDATE 2: Just wondering — 12 or 18 years from now, if the Democrats happen to control the Senate at the time, who in their right mind thinks that Democrat Senator Bob Casey, if he remains truly prolife, would be allowed to become Judiciary Chairman?

UPDATE 3: Ramesh Ponnuru had what was probably the best column at the time on why Specter becoming Chairman of Judiciary should have been opposed.

Your Home Is Your Castle, As Long As Your Neighbors Don’t Force You to Sell

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:49 am

This isn’t eminent-domain “lite,” as claimed, it is eminent domain “nearly-automatic”:

Cities pushing to get back limited eminent domain
Article Last Updated:10/29/2006 04:05:57 AM MST

In mid-September, the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) passed a resolution urging the Legislature to reinstate the right to condemn property for redevelopment purposes.

But instead of cities initiating condemnation, the league wants affected property owners to ask for it. These would be residents who agree to sell their properties and relocate so a developer can launch a commercial project.

Think of it as “eminent-domain lite.” Such a request by a majority of landowners would then allow the city to condemn the property of their neighbors who are holding out.

The league’s membership passed the resolution last month, according to Lincoln Shurtz, ULCT legislative analyst.

“There were a few ‘no’ votes, but of the 700-plus members in attendance, about 95 percent voted for it,” Shurtz said.

As he sees it, the league’s resolution is a step toward a legislative compromise.

“It would reinstate some authority [to the cities], but would have private-property protection built into it as well” – if a majority of those affected oppose a project or the use of eminent domain, he said.

The resolution is in response to the Legislature’s action two sessions ago to forbid cities to use property condemnation, or eminent domain, for commercial projects involving private developers.

This isn’t Kelo “lite” — It takes Kelo to a new level. Under what ULCT wants, the original New London dispute would never have gotten to court, as the majority in the Fort Trumbull area sold out, and if they had the power, would have forced Susette Kelo and the other holdouts to sell. It would have been over before it started.

Don’t be fooled. This is an extreme extension of Kelo, not a “lite” version of it.

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UPDATE: John Stossel has a great column at Townhall.com about theft by eminent domain and the situation in Long Branch, NJ. Imagine if Long Branch’s city fathers and developers had the power that the Utah League of Cities and Towns would like to see them have.

‘Great Expectations’ Report

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 8:22 am

From BBC:

Websites face four-second cut-off
A low loading site can mean web shoppers give up

If a website takes longer than four seconds to load, shoppers are likely to abandon it, a survey suggests.

The research by Akamai revealed users’ dwindling patience with websites that take time to show up.

It found that 75% of those questioned would not return to websites that took longer than four seconds to load.

Geez, I hope these people realize that a lot of time it not just the vendor’s “fault” if it takes of all six seconds instead.

UPDATE: Just tried BizzyBlog after clearing cache. It took four seconds, but five for a couple of the graphics. Please forgive that minor amount of sloth. :–>

What Is the Deal, Hamco?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:13 am

Visiting the county’s Board of Elections site, you have to conclude that they either didn’t bother updating their results page (small PDF) one last time, or that there are 4 precincts out 880 still not counted.

But a visit to the Secretary of State’s site (link is to gov results, where you can see the totals are slightly higher) indicates that the final 4 precincts ARE in the totals there. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. And no, the “Final Results” (currently an  empty PDF at link) aren’t posted.

George Soros Speaks: Comment Not Required

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:07 am

Well, the fact that I’m bolding certain parts of this excerpt is, in a sense, commenting (HT SOX First):

Legendary financier and pro-democracy campaigner George Soros is a self-confessed corporate social responsibility sceptic. He spelt out his reasoning at a recent conference.

At the European Academy of Business in Society conference in Milan in September keynote speaker George Soros, piped in from the US via video, talked of his concerns about corporate social responsibility being used as a cover for business-as-usual practices by companies.

A self-confessed sceptic on corporate social responsibility, because of its “built-in incentives for hypocrisy”, Soros said that, in his experience, if there is a conflict between making money and social responsibility, then making money tends to dominate.

However, he said, to maximise money-making opportunities in modern times it is important for companies to pretend to be interested in corporate social responsibility. The right attitude is therefore one of scepticism, he told the audience at Bocconi University. “But that does not mean I am opposed to it, I prefer hypocrisy to ignoring the common good,” he said.

How Orwellian of Them

From Techdirt (para breaks added by me):

A week ago, people were surprised to see how a Chinese government official publicly stated that the country does not censor the internet, in spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary. It looks like this is becoming the official Chinese government line on the topic.

Following the announcement from Reporters Without Borders that China was one of the “enemies of the internet” due to censorship, the Chinese government is again protesting the claim that they censor the internet. However, if you read the response, you can see that it’s very carefully worded to tip toe around the definition of censorship. The official stated: “As in other countries, the Internet is managed according to international standards, the law, and the self-management of Internet service providers.”

It’s that last part where the trickiness is involved. China’s censorship policy has recently been focused on making it clear to ISPs that they need to censor access to “undesirable” content online. This lets the government claim that they don’t do any censorship at all — and that it’s simply “self-management” by ISPs in accordance with what makes sense. It’s a sneaky way of getting around the issue, but it’s not clear who they think they’re fooling with these claims. Perhaps just themselves.

Reporters Without Borders is among the not fooled, and mentions BizzyBlog Internet Wall of Shame members Cisco and Yahoo! at the linked article.

Positivity: Hero Has Surfboard Stolen, Replaced

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

In San Diego:

POSTED: 3:41 pm PST October 30, 2006
UPDATED: 3:57 pm PST October 30, 2006

The old saw about “”no good deed goes unpunished” might apply to a local surfer.

According to officials with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, surfer Dustin Lackey helped rescue a man who dived 25 feet off Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach on Sunday. Authorities said that Lackey’s board was stolen during the rescue.

After the man dived off the pier at about 2 p.m., he came up moments later, but he wasn’t moving, said officials. Lackey left his board and tried to help the man. Lifeguards eventually took over, and the man was taken to the hospital.

That’s when Lackey realized his brand new $700 surfboard was apparently stolen.

Officials with the mayor’s office learned what happened to Lackey, they called Cox Communications, and the company agreed to buy Lackey a new surfboard.

Paramedics who treated the man said he told them that he had no feeling below his neck. The victim, whose name was not released, was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.