Did Corruption Kill New Orleans?

New testimony suggests that the flawed levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain from the New Orleans basin may have failed not only due to design defects, but also from decades-old corner cutting during their construction. The New York Times reports that interviews with the workers themselves that built the levees suggest that the construction crews failed to build the levees even to the faulty design specifications, leaving them inadequately anchored for resistance to large storms:

“These levees should have been expected to perform adequately at these levels if they had been designed and constructed properly,” said the expert, Raymond Seed, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Not just human error was involved,” Professor Seed said. “There may have been malfeasance.”
Professor Seed, whose team was financed by the National Science Foundation, did not offer hard evidence to back up his accusation. But he said after the hearing that the team had been contacted by levee workers, contractors and, in some cases, widows of contractors who told stories of protective sheet pile being driven less deeply than plans called for and corners cut in choosing soils for construction, among other problems.

The news that corruption may have played a role in building levees in New Orleans should shock few, if any, familiar with the reputation of the city. It didn’t get the nickname The Big Easy without a reason. With both the design and the construction now shown or suspected to fall below standard, it again shows that the levee failures could not easily have been predicted by the people on the ground, especially as Katrina turned father to the East and hit the city with the Category-3 force that all systems were designed to withstand.
Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the committee dealing with Homeland Security, promises to ask the Army Corps of Engineers “tough questions”. Better that Congress ask a few of itself and the state of Louisiana. Over the years, the government has allocated more public-works funds to Louisiana than almost any other state. Has Congress done much to determine where that money gets spent? Has it demanded progress reports on its project monies? Besides, grilling the existing Corps may not tell them much; most of the work on those sections were done decades ago, with modern improvements only being additions onto the early work.
We need to fix the levee system around New Orleans, but this time, we need much better oversight than we have realized in the past. That can only come if Congress takes responsibility for its own part in ensuring the cash flows properly and gets used effectively.

Muslims Try To Outdo Von Choltitz

As the Nazis started falling back in France, Hitler devised an insane plan to burn Paris to the ground before any possible withdrawal. He put General von Choltitz in charge of the city, who stalled Hitler for as long as possible before surrendering the city intact to invading Free French forces. The German general could have easily destroyed major parts of historical Paris, and nearly sacrificed both his life and those of his family in keeping the City of Light intact.
What von Choltitz preserved, Paris’ own Muslim population appears intent on destroying now. For a full week, night has brought riots and destruction to the City of Light, while the French government seems paralyzed and unsure about how to stop it. It started when French police investigated a robbery in an area known to law enforcement as a “no-go” area, one in which even police dare not intrude on Islamist territory:

President Jacques Chirac warned yesterday of a “dangerous situation” and the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, called an emergency cabinet meeting after a wave of serious urban unrest spread to more than a dozen towns and housing estates around Paris.
“The law must be firmly applied in a spirit of dialogue and respect,” Mr Chirac told ministers. “An absence of dialogue and an escalation of disrespect will lead to a dangerous situation. There cannot be no-go areas in the republic.” …
The unrest was triggered by last Thursday’s accidental death in Clichy-sous-Bois, five miles from Aulnay, of two African teenagers who were electrocuted while hiding in a power substation from what they believed, apparently wrongly, was police pursuit.

The riots typify French reaction to Islamism, and spring from a European approach to the Islamic wave of migration into Europe. After WWII, the French built so-called “sink estates” for the workers they encouraged to emigrate to help rebuild the nation, as did Germany. Most of these workers came from Turkey and colonies in North Africa. Instead of planning for their integration into society, however, the French allowed these communities to grow and fester in economic and social isolation. After two generations, the sink estates have proven to be nothing more than preplanned ghettoes, and the workers have no future except as second-class citizens of the nations they helped rebuild from devastation.
Even absent radical Islamism, the French should have foreseen the disaster that has presently come upon them, and had a plan to handle it. After 9/11, the French should have responded proactively to counter the push for French Muslims to join efforts with al-Qaeda and other kinds of terrorist groups. Whether through fatalism or Gallic arrogance, the French has refused to acknowledge the danger — and now the economic frustration has joined with the religious lunacy of Islamofascism to turn parts of one of the capitals of the West into little more than Fallujah-sur-Seine.
The police have long avoided patrols in these areas, preferring to leave the Muslims there to their own devices — and they have understood the message: France will not fight for her own territory. Even responsible Muslims have no choice under those circumstances to work within the power structure that arises in these ghettoes, thanks to French surrender. The result has not been rioting, as understood by the press, but rather a series of running battles between France’s belated response to the violence and proto-terrorists using the same hit-and-run field tactics seen by Coalition forces in Fallujah and other cities in Iraq. The only weapons they lack are explosives for IEDs, and so the fatality rate has stayed low — at least thus far.
The French still dither when they should act instead, sending the message even more clearly that they will not act in their own defense. The Muslim Uprising will soon become an al-Qaeda rallying point; not an intifada, as some have surmised, but an actual military front in AQ’s war on the West. They intend to turn the sink estates into holy land and ensure that their bloody rule cannot be dislodged. If the French do not act quickly, they may soon find out what happens when fascists without the humanity of a von Choltitz will do to their beloved Paris once they have enough power.

The Palestinian Version, However, They’re Fine With

Sometimes, it really appears that people have an unending capacity for unintentional satire. Take for example the Guardian (UK) on a new, non-lethal Israeli tactic against the Palestinians. The newspaper reports on the UN’s disapproval of sonic attacks on Palestinian strongholds in Gaza during the engagements caused by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel in recent weeks after the Israeli disengagement:

Israel is deploying a terrifying new tactic against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by letting loose deafening “sound bombs” that cause widespread fear, induce miscarriages and traumatise children.
The removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip opened the way for the military to use air force jets to create dozens of sonic booms by breaking the sound barrier at low altitude, sending shockwaves across the territory, often at night. Palestinians liken the sound to an earthquake or huge bomb. They describe the effect as being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and “leaving you shaking inside”.
The Palestinian health ministry says the sonic booms have led to miscarriages and heart problems. The United Nations has demanded an end to the tactic, saying it causes panic attacks in children. The shockwaves have also damaged buildings by cracking walls and smashing thousands of windows.

Does it really take a genius to see what the UN and the Guardian have missed here? The Israelis tried to dissuade the Palestinians from attacking them through non-violent means — the use of sonic booms to confuse and disrupt them, make them stressed out, but leave them alive. The Palestinians, on the other hand, toss bombs indiscriminately over the border and in restaurants and buses, killing whomever happens to be around at the the wrong place and time. And what do the Israelis get in return? A scolding from the UN and fifteen paragraphs in the Guardian about how damaging this tactic is to the Palestinian collective psyche.
Let’s try to get this right, shall we? A review.
When the Israelis use sonic weapons, the sounds “cause widespread fear, induce miscarriages and traumatise children.” When the Palestinians use real bombs, they cause widespread fear, kill pregnant women, and their born and unborn children.
When Israelis use sonic weapons, the shock of the bang is like “being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and ‘leaving you shaking inside’.” When the Palestinians toss rockets over the border and explode them in Israeli cities, Israelis get hit by a wall of sharpnel that causes full-body bleedouts and leaving pieces of human meat shaking on the broken walls all around the blast area.
When Israelis use their non-lethal tactic, it “damage[s] buildings by cracking walls and smashing thousands of windows … causes panic attacks in children [the UN says] … have led to miscarriages and heart problems.” Palestinian bombing of pizzerias, bars, and buses damage buildings by driving nails through the windows and walls, usually still along with the human flesh of its victims still stuck to them. They cause spontaneous abortions by killing the mothers and heart problems by blowing the innards out of Israelis whose mistake was going out to enjoy a meal or a bus ride.
On the plus side, the Palestinian bombs cure panic attacks in children … permanently.
Does the UN really need this kind of publicity at a time when we already question their integrity and judgment? Do they want to pick this moment in their organization’s history to show that they are this irretrievably stupid as well? And as for the Guardian, the paper has long had a problem with balance when it comes to Israel or just about any other subject, but in this case its intellectual dishonesty has gone so far as to make a case for utter hopelessness of ever walking it back.

House Defeats Blogger Speech Bill

Despite the efforts of bloggers in promoting an exception to the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance rules for on-line punditry, the House has defeated the measure on a procedural vote. The lower chamber turned down the measure, already passed by the Senate, by failing to gather the needed two-thirds majority to overcome technical obstacles placed in its path by original BCRA sponsors Christopher Shays (R) and Marty Meehan (D):

Online political expression should not be exempt from campaign finance law, the House decided Wednesday as lawmakers warned that the Internet has opened up a new loophole for uncontrolled spending on elections.
The House voted 225-182 for a bill that would have excluded blogs, e-mails and other Internet communications from regulation by the
Federal Election Commission. That was 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed under a procedure that limited debate time and allowed no amendments.
The vote in effect clears the way for the FEC to move ahead with court-mandated rule-making to govern political speech and campaign spending on the Internet.
Opposition was led by Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., who with Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., championed the 2002 campaign finance law that banned unlimited “soft money” contributions that corporations, unions and individuals were making to political parties.

The bill did get a majority of the vote, but thanks to heavy Democratic opposition, it failed to gather the supermajority needed to overcome the Shays-Meehan procedural block. Of the 225 supporting votes, only 46 came from Democrats. Of the 182 opposing the measure, only 40 came from Republicans.
I don’t want to unnecessarily turn this free speech issue into a partisan battle, as this fight has united the blogosphere across the political spectrum, and I want to see that dynamic continue. Harry Reid, after all, originally introduced this legislation to the Senate and deserves credit for his efforts. However, when one sees the roll call vote, the partisan split on free speech appears rather obvious. One party voted 179-38 for the bill, and the other voted 143-46 against it. (Bernie Sanders, Socialist, provided the other Nay vote.)
Both houses of Congress promise to return to this topic with a narrower exemption for bloggers, and the blogosphere will welcome that. It still doesn’t address the real defect of the BCRA, though, which regulates political speech by treating it as a purchasable commodity. The First Amendment specifically protected the free exercise of political speech, and yet under the BCRA the First Amendment now offers more protection to nude dancing and pornography than it does to political candidates who want to communicate with prospective constituents.
Somehow, I don’t think it takes an originalist to understand just how wrong that result is.
UPDATE: In the interest of cleaning our own house, here are the Republicans who voted against the bill:
Boehlert………Hobson………Platts………Upton
Bradley (NH)…..Johnson (CT)…Ramstad……..Walden (OR)
Castle………..Johnson (IL)…Regula………Walsh
Coble…………Kirk………..Saxton………Wamp
Emerson……….LaHood………Schmidt……..Weldon (PA)
Frelinghuysen….LaTourette…..Schwarz……..Wilson (NM)
Gallegly………Leach……….Shays……….Wolf
Gilchrest……..LoBiondo…….Simmons……..Bass
Gillmor……….Osborne……..Smith (NJ)…..
Hefley………..Petri……….Turner………

Democrats: Racism OK For Liberals Opposing Conservatives

The Democrats in Maryland have decided that they like racism, especially racist stereotypes such as slave gibberish and minstrel-show caricatures of African-Americans, and have publicly come out in favor of their use in political campaigns. While such imagery would get a Republican immediately denounced as a hatemonger, Democrats feel free to use them as long as their targets are conservative African-Americans, such as Michael Steele:

Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican.
Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an “Uncle Tom” and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log. …
“There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names,” said a campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a black Baltimore Democrat, said she does not expect her party to pull any punches, including racial jabs at Mr. Steele, in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.
“Party trumps race, especially on the national level,” she said. “If you are bold enough to run, you have to take whatever the voters are going to give you. It’s democracy, perhaps at its worse, but it is democracy.”
Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.

One of the excuses used by these Democrats is that Steele refused to object when Governor Robert Ehrlich met with supporters at a club that has no black members in its history. The Elkridge Club held a fundraiser attended by Ehrlich and widely decried by the Democrats as an indication of GOP pandering to racist whites in the south. They failed to mention, however, that several Democrats have made their own use of the Elkridge Club, including the brother and chief political advisor to their gubernatorial candidate to replace Ehrlich.
That shows the leadership of the Democrats as they truly are — a hate-based faith system that takes any means necessary to win elections. Cheating, violence, smears, and now racism are all acceptable as long as Republicans are the targets. If the Republicans happen to be members of minority communities, so much the better.
After all, it’s not discrimination when you hate someone more because of the color of their skin or their ethnic background, is it?
Not if you’re a leftist Democrat, it isn’t.
UPDATE: Robert Ehrlich, not Mike. Thanks to a number of CQ readers who pointed out the error.

Anti-Filibuster Forces Add Strength As Bush Reaches Out To Moderates

Two stories out of Washington help explain the frustration felt by Harry Reid yesterday and his need to pull a splashy stunt to try to capture the press’ attention away from the Alito nomination. The first, a Washington Post story, reports that the Bush administration has started expanding Judge Alito’s Senatorial visits to moderates outside of the Judiciary Committee to feed the momentum that appears to have built for his confirmation:

A day after President Bush nominated him to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Alito spent the day on Capitol Hill introducing himself to more lawmakers. He focused on Democratic senators representing Republican-leaning states as well as Republican members of a bipartisan coalition that headed off judicial filibusters this year.
White House strategists assume that they will lose at least the 22 Senate Democrats who voted against confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in September. But they hope to win over enough red-state Democrats to thwart any attempt to block Alito. If the Republican leadership can hold together its 55-member caucus, it would need five Democrats to break a filibuster and ensure Alito’s confirmation. …
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another member of the Gang of 14, said that “it’s way too early to talk about extraordinary circumstances.” The group — seven Republicans and seven Democrats — plans to meet tomorrow in the office of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to talk through its approach to the nomination.
Alito, a potent conservative voice on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, was chosen by Bush after conservatives forced the withdrawal of Harriet Miers’s nomination last week. Alito began his tour of red-state Democrats yesterday with Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.). He is to visit Nelson today and Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) tomorrow.
None of the three sits on the Judiciary Committee, whose members are usually visited first by Supreme Court nominees, and all three said the White House offered the courtesy calls without being asked.

It demonstrates that the White House understands the need to get in front of the radical Left’s efforts to define Alito before they do it for him. It contrasts with the reluctance that the White House showed in having Miers meet with anyone more than necessary in her brief stint as the nominee and underscores the confidence that Bush has in Alito’s ability to convince moderates of his outstanding qualities. Getting moderates on board now, at least to the extent of opposing a filibuster, will keep the Democrats from sinking Alito’s nomination. If a floor vote gets taken, Alito will win it, and probably rather easily.
The key may still be the GOP votes in the Gang of 14, however. Two have already stated categorically that they will not support the notion of “extraordinary circumstances” for Judge Alito. Those two, Lindsay Graham and Mike DeWine, are generally considered the most conservative of the Republican squishes anyway. However, the Washington Times notes that a pro-choice member of the group also has her doubts about using a filibuster, given the candidate involved:

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and another group member, was largely positive about the nomination despite her “troubling concerns” about Judge Alito’s dissent in a 1991 case in which he said it was not an “undue burden” for a woman to notify her husband before an abortion.
“I do not yet see a basis for invoking extraordinary circumstances,” she said. “He clearly has the legal credentials, the professional excellence and the integrity required of a Supreme Court Justice.”

That makes three Republican votes in the Gang of 14 that have publicly repudiated “extraordinary circumstances” or significantly played it down. Two Democrats joined Collins as well in her skepticism about applying an extremist label to Alito, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Both come from solid red states, and neither want to have to fight their next re-election campaign with a filibuster against an Alito on their record.
Barring some horrendous and highly unlikely revelation from this well-known and long-time jurist, this nomination looks like a lock. That has Reid scrambling to distract the Left by providing cheap-trick circuses for the press, desperately trying to force the Bush administration back on the defensive. However, with their fizzled Fitzmas rapidly dissipating and another clear winner for Bush on the Supreme Court, the Democrats have lost that momentum and have to settle once again for the role that voters selected for them last November and in the last three elections: powerless.
UPDATE: Susan Collins is pro-choice, not pro-life, which goes to show you that the Captain should not miss his morning cup of Earl Grey before venturing out onto the blogospheric seas. Thanks to a number of CQ readers for that correction.

First Mate Update, Day 5: Home Sweet Home

The First Mate is at home, resting comfortably after her bout with pneumonia. She’s still hacking and coughing, but her meds should take care of that over the next couple of weeks. She has had an ongoing problem with lung infections since the pancreas transplant, as I mentioned earlier, and they want to do a study on the cultures they’ve collected to see if they can determine how to get her past them.
She says to tell you all hello, and thank all of you for the prayers.

Democrats Deny Open Government To American Electorate

In a move that has not occurred in twenty-five years, the Democrats shut the American public out of the Senate chamber and forced a secret session of the upper chamber this afternoon. Without warning, Harry Reid invoked Rule 21 and after an immediate second, chased out the press and Senate staffers, locked the doors — and threw a tanrum over Joe Wilson:

he US Senate held a rare secret session to discuss a scandal that led to the resignation of a top White House official last week and the intelligence used to justify the 2003 invasion of
Iraq.
Opposition Democrats requested the closed door session saying it was necessary to allow for a full, open debate on alleged manipulation of prewar intelligence.

This shows the emptiness of Democrats, both in head and heart. As Bill Frist said afterwards, the minority party proves it has nothing to contribute except cheap political stunts. They know that the Fitzgerald investigation came up with next to nothing on the Plame leak — because it didn’t constitute a crime under US statute. Despite having a prosecutor independent of the Bush administration run wild for almost two years and exceed the original boundaries of his mandate, the only indictment he could muster was one in which a very stupid and probably criminal act by a single person could be verified — and that just had to do with the investigation and grand jury itself, not with the Plame leak.
Reid says that the Wilson/Plame brouhaha proves that the Bush administration lied about the war. This was practically the entire Democratic Party platform last year — and it lost them the White House and four seats in the Senate. One would think that going back to the well a year later would be stupid beyond belief, but apparently Reid forgot about that big poll taken last November. He also forgot about this bipartisan report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which outlines exactly how Wilson’s report in fact bolstered the case that Iraq still wanted to get material for nuclear weapons — and that Wilson had lied about it in leaks to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and then in his own editorial and book. He also lied about how he got his mission to Niger, and has yet to explain how he managed to get that mission and not sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Further, if Reid wanted to really investigate all this, he should be throwing the doors to the Senate wide open, shining a light on the corruption he claims exists in this issue. What he’s doing, however, is merely venting the same old bromides that the Democrats have screamed for the past two years at an electorate that has long since tired of their crybaby, whining tactics. He’s locked the doors to give it an aura of authenticity. Instead, it looks like a big, heaping helping of pompous impotence.
The press should take careful note of this. In all of the debate over the intelligence and diplomacy leading up to the Iraq War, the Republicans never even entertained locking the doors on the Senate or Congress for the debate. Not once. They offered full public hearings on the issues, and only in committee — and only when appropriate — closed hearings on specifically classified issues. Rule 21 should have been reserved for only the most dire circumstances; instead, Reid has abused it for his petulant tantrums.
Will those in the Fourth Estate stand idly by while the Senate locks its doors in their faces?
UPDATE: Some of my liberal friends (I mean that honestly, not sarcastically) in the comments want to argue that it takes a secret session of the full Senate to discuss intelligence. If so, why is this the first time in 25 years it has been found necessary to do so? When the issue of Iraq came up in 1998 to debate the change of policy on Iraq to a commitment to regime change — discussing the same intelligence on WMD that proved out-of-date five years later — the GOP held that in open session, where the American electorate could keep an eye on the proceedings.
I guess when Harry Reid talks on intelligence, the Democrats want no one to listen to what he has to say. Maybe because he doesn’t speak with intelligence on the subject.
This has nothing to do with debating intelligence, and everything to do with flexing what little muscle the Democrats can muster in the Senate. They want to show what will happen if the Byrd option gets invoked. Lindsay Graham and Mike DeWine has given the GOP enough votes to pass it with their comments yesterday and Sunday. It has nothing to do with anything other than that — and if anyone thinks Reid has anything more altruistic in mind, they simply haven’t paid attention.

The Big Three On Alito

Four weeks ago, the editorial boards of three most influential liberal newspapers reviewed the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court with suspicion due to her lack of a track record on legal issues. Oddly, the LA Times came closest to mirroring the eventual conservative reaction while the New York Times and Washington Post took a more optimistic approach to the unusual choice, although all three wondered about the role that proximity played in Bush’s selection.
Today, however, Bush’s choice of a clearly conservative jurist with originalist approach has removed all of the suspicion and doubt from the editorialists’ minds. Unsurprisingly, the most definite reaction comes from the NYT, where they decry the “lost opportunity” by picking a “white man” instead of the “wrong woman”:

Whatever the answer, this nomination is yet another occasion to bemoan lost opportunities. Mr. Bush could have signaled that he was prepared to move on to a more expansive presidency by nominating a qualified moderate who could have garnered a nearly unanimous Senate vote rather than another party-line standoff. He could have sent a signal about his commitment to inclusiveness by demonstrating that he understood his error with Harriet Miers had been in picking the wrong woman, and that the answer did not have to be the seventh white man on the court. But he didn’t, any more than he saw Sept. 11 as an opportunity to build a new, inclusive world order of civilized nations aligned against terrorism.

One might point out to the Gray Lady that the Bush administration has once again taken an issue on the latter point to the UNSC, which then watered down a resolution demanding Syria cooperate in a terrorist attack on a Lebanese politician to near-meaninglessness before passing it. After Syria rejected it today, only the NYT would assume that the Russians and Chinese would allow the world body to do anything meaningful — which is exactly what happened when we demanded an end to the twelve-year Iraqi stalemate from the UNSC. The new world order that they envision coming from Turtle Bay doesn’t exist, and won’t ever exist, regardless of whether Bush is in office or not. The only way to build an inclusive world order where Russia and China hold vetos is to surrender to terrorism and consign the UNSC to passing resolutions congratulating itself on its ability to do nothing.
And what, exactly, does that have to do with a Supreme Court nomination? Well … nothing. But the NY Times simply seems incapable of discussing anything without throwing in their tired disagreements with Bush’s foreign policy. They conclude by even tossing Scooter Libby into the mix.
The Los Angeles Times stays a bit more on topic, but doesn’t sound a much more hopeful tone. They do sound more grateful than the NYT for a clearly delineated fight this time, calling Alito the “anti-Miers” for his long and easily perused track record:

Alito’s hearings will mark a return to form for Washington. Most of the time that’s bad news, but hearings for Supreme Court nominees have become such comical spectacles that they turn the conventional wisdom on its head. So long as it’s about legitimate issues, some good old-fashioned partisanship may be just what the judge ordered. …
Now all is right with the world. Liberal interest groups and Democratic senators are criticizing the president’s choice, and his allies are defending it. The battle lines are drawn, and they are familiar. Of course, this is no assurance that the coming fight will be edifying. But better to debate judicial philosophy and constitutional interpretation than executive privilege or Senate procedure. Even those opposed to Alito’s nomination can be grateful for that.

Gratitude aside, partisanship comes as a symptom of what ails the court in the first place — and why the appointment of originalists has become so necessary. In the true mold of the Constitution, politics would play little role in confirming jurists, and a man or woman with Alito’s experience would hardly get any remarks when promoted to the Supreme Court. Only because the Court in recent decades has arrogated legislative powers to itself does partisan politics now play a role in getting nominees confirmed. The very demands that Democrats place on these nominees demonstrates the corrupt outlook previous courts have taken with the Constitution, and why jurists like Alito and Roberts provide the only antidote.
The Washington Post, as it did with Miers, takes the most reasonable tone, although it does take a well-deserved swipe at President Bush for the Miers nomination:

IT WAS ONLY a few days ago that President Bush was touting Harriet Miers as a pioneering woman whose lack of experience as a judge was a selling point for service on the Supreme Court. Yesterday he responded to the implosion of her nomination with a return to basics: a highly qualified nominee who adds no diversity to the court but whose reputed conservatism greatly excites the president’s base — and greatly offends the opposition party. Indeed, as soon as the White House proposed Judge Samuel Alito’s elevation to the Supreme Court, the battle that both sides have been anticipating since the president took office began. Reports and statements praising or denouncing the nominee whizzed around town. Everyone, it seems, had a judgment at the ready. We await a thorough and serious confirmation process before venturing ours. …
One thing that is clear from a cursory review of Judge Alito’s work is that he is not a bomb-thrower but rather a judge who is careful — even in dissent — to be respectful of his colleagues’ work. His opinions probably don’t contain the sort of flamboyant statements that can become defining sound bites in a bruising confirmation battle. Evaluating Judge Alito will necessarily be a more subtle project than assessing some of the judges President Bush has nominated to lower courts.

The Post has decided to play it safe this time around. Its editorial remains fairly neutral, pointing out Alito’s experience and advising partisans to keep their powder dry until the hearings. That won’t happen, nor should it; Alito’s record speaks for itself, and people have the right to debate it now if they wish. For their part, the Senators should focus on those qualifications instead of Alito’s politics, just as they did with Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and allow the elected President to seat the well-qualified nominee of his choice. None of the three mention that Alito won unanimous approval from Democratic-controlled Senates to his last two positions, and that nothing he’s done in the fifteen years since has done anything but add to his resume and qualifications to rise to the Supreme Court.
That may be the most germane point of all — and it’s telling that all three completely ignored it.

UN Demands Syrian Cooperation, Syria Refuses

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a watered-down resolution demanding full cooperation from Syria and its dictator, Bashar Assad, in the investigation into the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri. The resolution gained Russian and Chinese support only when the sponsoring nations of the US, UK, and France removed the specific threat of economic sanctions:

The Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to compel Syria to stop obstructing a United Nations investigation into the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri or face unspecified “further action.”
The 15-to-0 vote was a diplomatic shunning of Syria, which has found itself increasingly isolated since the publication 10 days ago of an initial report by the chief United Nations investigator in the case that identified high-ranking Syrian officials as suspects in the assassination. Among the votes was that of Algeria, the Arab representative on the Council.
While the resolution that was approved did not include a threat of specific economic sanctions, as some earlier drafts did, it keeps such options on the table because it was adopted under a provision that gives the United Nations broad powers to punish noncompliance.
The measure orders Syria to cooperate “fully and unconditionally” with the inquiry and to give complete access to places, documents and people that investigators ask for – a caveat that diplomats said included President Bashar al-Assad, who has refused to be interviewed. The measure further orders Syria not to meddle in Lebanon’s domestic politics, and it calls for international travel bans and asset freezes on suspects the investigation refers to a Security Council panel.

The weakened resolution lost some of its power when the two veto-holding nations demanded the last-minute edit. The true power of the resolution came from the threat of economic isolation, which would spell an end to the two-generation rule of the Assad family over the last 40 years. While the new resolution specifies that other actions will be taken if Syria refuses, the failure of Russia and China to support a sanctions regime at even the threat stage doesn’t bode well for any concrete action coming from the UN.
The Syrians did not lose this point, either. In fact, after acting rather strangely in the UNSC debate by accusing the three sponsoring nations of foreknowledge of al-Qaeda attacks, they have rejected the resolution completely this morning:

Syria has angrily rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution that demands Damascus cooperate fully in the investigation into the killing of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri or face “further measures.” …
Syria’s Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said the U.N. report convicted Syria before it faced trial, and he wondered why the United Nations had assumed its forces were guilty just because they were in Lebanon at the time of the bombing.

Since the Syrians supposedly had their forces in Lebanon to “stabilize” their neighbor, then one would at least assume that the carbombing assassination represented a massive failure on the part of the Syrians to deliver on that promise. However, the preliminary report of the murder shows plenty of evidence and testimony that they did more than just show up when the bomb went off, and that evidence comes from a UN investigation that still hasn’t gotten any cooperation from Syria. Their stonewalling has not had the effect they want of killing the inquiry. If the initial report doesn’t “convict” Syria as its foreign minister claims, its refusal to cooperate fully with further investigation shows that Syria has much to hide about Hariri’s assassination, and that the Assad regime in particular has significant involvement.
The UNSC must enforce this resolution immediately. If the Russians and the Chinese veto any meaningful consequences for Syria’s intransigence, then they will not mind if later we just skip the entire UNSC pas de deux when it comes to Iran. If the two expect us to consult them on issues like this in the future, they’d better start coming up with better answers than they have for the past three years on the UNSC. In the meantime, the sponsoring nations can put a big dent in the Syrian economy, perhaps big enough to push Bashar Assad out of Syria altogether.