Kerry Flip-Flops On Concession

For those who argued that an official recount demand from the Ohio Democratic Party did not implicate John Kerry by association, the Kerry campaign removed all doubt by joining in a legal fight to require all counties in Ohio to abide by the recount demands:

Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign asked an Ohio judge yesterday to allow it to join a legal fight there over whether election officials in one county may sit out the state’s impending recount.
A pair of third-party presidential candidates, who said that reports of problems at the polls on Election Day are not being addressed, are forcing the Buckeye State to recount its entire presidential vote. But David A. Yost, a lawyer for Delaware County, just outside Columbus, won a temporary restraining order last week blocking any recount there. He told the Columbus Dispatch that a second count would be a poor use of county resources. President Bush won the mostly Republican area handily, unofficial results show.
Lawyers for the Kerry campaign asked to join Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb, Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik and the National Voting Rights Institute in the fight to force the county to participate in the recount. “If there’s going to be a recount in Ohio, we don’t want it to exclude Delaware County or any other county that might decide to follow Delaware County’s lead,” Kerry lawyer Dan Hoffheimer said. “It should be a full, fair and accurate recount.”

I notice that they’re not asking for “full, fair, and accurate” recounts in states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, where the margin of Kerry’s victories were much smaller than Bush’s in Ohio. This leaves no doubt that Kerry intends on setting himself up as the frontrunner in 2008 by attempting to delegitimize Bush’s victory in the media. You can expect the Kerry campaign to support the recount requests by Badnarik and Cobb in New Mexico and Nevada as well.

UN Proposes New Paths To Greater Irrelevancy

The UN has proposed sweeping changes to its structure and its regulations based on the long-anticipated report from Secretary General Kofi Annan’s blue-ribbon team. Those changes include enlarging the Security Council and reforming the Human Rights Commission, but also requires nations to get UN approval before taking pre-emptive action to protect themselves:

The United Nations on Tuesday proposed the most sweeping changes in its history, recommending the overhaul of its top decision-making group, the Security Council, and holding out the possibility that it could grant legitimacy to pre-emptive military strikes.

In this case, however, “granting” legitimacy involves arrogating unto itself all authority to grant permission for action in the first place:

But it acknowledged that a new problem had risen because of the nature of terrorist attacks “where the threat is not imminent but still claimed to be real: for example, the acquisition, with allegedly hostile intent, of nuclear weapons-making capability.”
It said that if the arguments for “anticipatory self-defense” in such cases were good ones, they should be put to the Security Council, which would have the power to authorize military action under guidelines including the seriousness of the threat, the proportionality of the response, the exhaustion of all alternatives and the balance of consequences.
Apparently in anticipation of objections from Washington over that requirement, the report said, “For those impatient with such a response, the answer must be that, in a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk to the global order and the norm of nonintervention on which it continues to be based is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act is to allow all.”

In other words, bring your case to the Security Council, where we will take your time-critical situation and debate it endlessly. If you’re still alive when we finally get around to a vote, we’ll authorize the use of force, as long as France, Russia, and China don’t veto it. If they do — well, it sucks to be you.
It’s the John Kerry global test, minus Kerry’s charm.
The rest of the report hardly sounds encouraging, either. While it does attempt to codify terrorism as attacks primarily targeting civilians in an attempt to persuade a government to commit an act or to abstain from one, the text appears so broad that the missile strikes on Iraq in 1998 could conceivably fall under its definition. As I recall, the claim that these strikes equated to terrorist bombings in Haifa pizzarias was endlessly repeated by Islamofascist apologists at the time. Now they would have this questionable clause on which to base their smokescreen allegations.
The changes proposed to the UNSC provide another broadened path to irrelevancy. The panel recommended expanding the Council to 24 members, creating six new permanent seats to the five existing original members. While the new members would not have a veto under the proposed changes, even the New York Times hints that the General Assembly would likely grant the veto when it comes to a vote:

One alternative would add 6 new permanent members – the likely candidates are Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Egypt and either Nigeria or South Africa – as well as 3 new two-year term members. The other would create a new tier of 8 semipermanent members chosen for renewable four-year terms and one additional two-year term seat to the existing 10.
The right to cast vetoes, a power coveted by the nations seeking permanent status and one they are likely to press for, would continue to be limited to the 5 original permanent members.

The expansion only deepens the likelihood of stalemate on the UNSC, as the divergent aims of dictatorships assuming the extra seats on the council will aim at keeping any positive action for democracy at bay. Can anyone imagine Egypt, for example, supporting the expansion of voting rights and multiparty elections in Southwest Asia?
The fundamental problem with the UN comes from its constituency of oppressors and kleptocrats. Any structural changes in their committees and regulations only amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

A Question Of Values

The Netherlands admitted today that Dutch doctors have carried out euthanasia without requests from the patients or their families. The hospital where these killings took place had requested that the government promulgate a “protocol” for killing newborns they judged doomed, and the admission formed part of the request:

A hospital in the Netherlands – the first nation to permit euthanasia – recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.
The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives – a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.

Unfortunately, opponents also saw it as a natural evolution, which is why they opposed allowing euthanasia in the first place. When a society loses sight of the special nature of human life by allowing the innocent to be slaughtered for the sake of expediency, the question of where to stop cannot be answered philosophically. The answer only comes at the limit of convenience.
Much has been made of the supposed “values vote” in the last American election, probably too much, as the data on which the speculation is based is too flawed for broad assumptions. However, the euthanasia debate is completely about values: the value of human life and its meaning to human society. It is one thing for a person to take their own life, or for the family of a brain-dead relative to pull life support. What makes this different is the state apparatus taking on that decision for themselves, deciding who among the citizens supposedly under their protection has no worth and eats up too many resources to go on living. It profoundly repudiates millenia of Western thought, which teaches that individual human life has a precious — the religious would say sacred — value.
Without this value at the heart of any society, when humans are valued only for their potential production and devalued for their perceived cost, the decision to end those lives deemed inconvenient to the state comes next. At first, the state limits the killing to those who cases find the broadest acceptance: unborn fetuses, terminally ill patients, and the like. After that threshold has been crossed, the next step is for someone to promulgate a protocol for the state to make the decisions about who lives and who dies. Who becomes inconvenient? The mentally retarded. The insane. The chronically ill, especially those who have incurable communicable diseases.
How long is it until we get to the Jews? Political dissidents? Those who don’t fit a particular superficial profile, like “non-Aryans”?
I thought about this question quite a bit today, and I believe the problems stems from an aggrandisement of the state. Our founding fathers’ genius was in their understanding of the potential for evil in an overly intrusive central government. When government assumes responsibility for all of the choices in individual lives — when the central government pays all of the bills for their care, for example — then they reduce individual life to a ledger amount, a profit-and-loss statement. It opens the door to the rationing of such services in order to save resources for “the greater good”. That’s when we get Groningen Protocols — and lose our souls.
I’m reminded of the old joke about the man who offers a million dollars to a woman for her sexual favors. When she assents, he pulls out a hundred-dollar bill and gives it to her. When she throws it back at him and asks, “What kind of a girl do you think I am?”, he replies, “We’ve established what kind of girl you are. Now we’re just negotiating over the price.”
The Netherlands have determined their value of human life. The debate over the Groningen Protocol is just negotiating over the price.

Bye, Ty: Notre Dame Fires Willingham

In a move that could hardly be called unexpected after Saturday’s third consecutive beating by USC, Notre Dame fired its football coach, Ty Willingham. Willingham amassed a record of 21-15, but couldn’t break .500 over the past two seasons:

Coach Tyrone Willingham was fired by Notre Dame on Tuesday after three seasons in which he failed to return one of the nation’s most storied football programs to prominence.
Willingham went 21-15, including 6-5 this season. The Fighting Irish lost 41-10 to No. 1 Southern California on Saturday.
“We simply have not made the progress on the field that we need to make,” athletic director Kevin White said. “Nor have we been able to create the positive momentum necessary in our efforts to return the Notre Dame program to the elite level of the college football world.”

The university took action just before students planned demonstrations calling for the removal of Willingham, a spectacle that everyone should be glad to have avoided. Willingham managed to spark the Irish in his first season to a 10-3 record, including an eight-game winning streak at the beginning that had everyone hoping for a national championship. Unfortunately, the Irish went 13-15 from that point forward.
Willingham has been successful at all levels of football. He was one of Denny Green’s staff with the Minnesota Vikings before going back to Stanford as the head coach. He has the talent to succeed in most areas — but Notre Dame has elevated expectations. One expectation is that the traditional rivalries will generate wins. After getting blown out by 31 points three successive times against the Trojans, well, the handwriting was on the Dome.
Who’s next? The AP report mentions a former Lou Holtz protege, Urban Meyer, currently leading Utah to an unbeaten season. I think that the Irish may want to look for someone who has run a high-profile program before, rather than go after a good coach making his first big stab at the brass ring. I would expect them to approach NFL head coaches who may be looking to return to the college level, someone with proven success but who may no longer fit into their current position. The only problem would be that the Irish need someone in place before January, when recruiting gets into full swing, and the best NFL coaches will be in the playoffs.
Of course, Lou Holtz is now available ….
Note: I got a lot of e-mail on this, but James was the first to let me know about it. Managed to do it without any of that California triumphalism coming through, too …

Ridge Resigns From DHS

The Washington Times reports that Tom Ridge will resign as director of the Department of Homeland Security at a press conference scheduled for 2:45 ET this afternoon:

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has informed the White House and department staff that he has resigned, U.S. officials said today.
In an e-mail circulated to senior Homeland Security officials, Ridge praised the department as “an extraordinary organization that each day contributes to keeping America safe and free.” He also said he was privileged to work with the department’s 180,000 employees “who go to work every day dedicated to making our company better and more secure.”

As the Times notes, the US has not had another terrorist attack under Ridge’s watch. Despite taking on such a difficult and unwieldy task, he has performed extremely well. We all owe a debt of thanks to Ridge.

Campaign Finance Reform In A Nutshell (Where It Belongs)

A small case of campaign-finance comingling here in Minnesota provides an excellent object lesson as to why the McCain-Feingold reforms do nothing to eliminate checkbook politics. The Star Tribune’s Dane Smith reports on a $300,000 personal contribution made by Matt Entenza, the DFL House minority leader, to a 527 that essentially laundered the money:

Faulting both major political parties for an elaborate “shell game,” national campaign experts say it may be difficult if not impossible to trace the path of $300,000 that DFL House Minority Leader Matt Entenza contributed to a national “527” organization, which in turn spent generously on campaigns and voter registration in Minnesota.
Minnesota Republican Party officials are trying to build a case that the Entenza donation to the 21st Century Democrats was improperly reported and illegal, and that the money was spent directly on behalf of DFL House candidates in Minnesota through a 21st Century political action committee that paid for field workers.
Entenza and 21st Century officials contend that his contribution was perfectly legal and that not a penny of it flowed to 21st Century field staff on the House campaigns. Rather, they claim, Entenza’s money was donated to the Young Voter Project, a separate 21st Century program aimed at turning out students on college campuses and other young voters in several presidential battleground states, including Minnesota.

Here’s how the game works. Entenza donated the money in several installments, presumably to keep the total amount from being realized and reported by the press or the state GOP. The money flowed into the general fund of 21st Century, essentially commingling Entenza’s money with everyone else’s contributions. This so-called “soft money” cannot be used for specific campaigns; it must be used only for party-building activities, such as get-out-the-vote efforts and registration of new voters. 21st Century has these programs, but they also campaigned on behalf of a number of DFL candidates for the Minnesota House. Because Entenza put no earmarks on the contributions, and because 21st Century does not track distribution of specific donations to specific programs, the Minnesota GOP claim that Entenza’s donations amounted to a money-laundering operation to get more cash to his House colleagues.
Entenza, of course, denies this and claims that all of his filings were correct and his donations perfectly legal. (He also donated $75,000 to the DFL House caucus fund.) 21st Century also argues that no requirement exists to create separate funds for different efforts; in fact, they note that money is always fungible, and donations without earmarking will always flow to the program most in need of funding, regardless.
Without speculating on any actual wrongdoing, just this description of the black hole that 21st Century represents shows just how sick this “campaign reform” is in operation. Far from preventing checkbook politics, the necessity of allowing 527s to work around soft-money bans creates an entirely new way to launder money in politics, and this smells to high heaven.
In Minnesota, candidates for the House who receive public subsidies cannot spend more than $27,000 on the race. Entenza’s money allowed DFL candidates an out to spend an additional $20K on the fifteen swing districts through 21st Century instead of their own campaigns. As the GOP argues, Entenza could have donated that money directly to the caucus — but then it would have been distributed directly to the candidates, who would still have had to contend with the spending limits or be forced to bust the caps and waive public financing.
If Entenza broke the law, then he should be prosecuted for campaign finance violations; if 21st Century acted criminally, their tax exemption should be revoked. I suspect, however, that what they did was perfectly legal. Cases like this, even on the local level, should convince voters that all John McCain and Russ Feingold created with their “reforms” is another version of organized crime, a shell game as Aron Pilhofer correctly characterizes it.
This system needs to be dismantled, and in its place put full and immediate disclosure and force contributions to go directly to candidates and political parties. That makes the parties and candidates directly responsible for its use, and allows the electorate to immediately determine whose money funds which candidates and causes. Eliminate “soft” and “hard” money distinctions, get rid of tax exemptions for political-action groups altogether, and quit pretending that checkbook politics can be eliminated while adhering to the First Amendment. Otherwise, we will continue to be amazed at the lengths to which people like George Soros and Matt Entenza can go to push their money into the system without a trace of where it went.

Negotiations Collapse In Kyiv

Negotiations that appeared to promise an end to the Ukrainian political crisis, or at least a means to that end, collapsed today as the opposition led by Viktor Yashchenko pulled out of the talks. Yushchenko’s allies claim that the Kuchma government used the negotiations to “cheat”:

Ukraine’s opposition on Tuesday pulled out of talks to try to end a confrontation over last week’s disputed presidential election and vowed to use “people power” to secure victory.
“The authorities, Kuchma and Yanukovich, used the talks to cheat,” opposition leader Taras Stetskyv told thousands of supporters of losing presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in central Kiev.
“That is why the Committee for National Salvation (opposition group) has decided to pull out of the talks. We are stopping talks with the authorities. We will talk with them only from the position of people power.”

The Reuters report does not make clear what Stetskyv meant by cheating, but the implication is that Kuchma wants to stall as long as possible, perhaps hoping for a friendly decision by Ukraine’s Supreme Court. The reference to “people power” sounds ominous — a threat to seize power via a popular uprising. This surely would be met by Russian military action and would lose the legitimacy that the West has so far provided Yushchenko. It also would result in protestors getting killed, if pressed far enough.
European negotiators from Poland and Lithuania plan on joining Russian counterparts in Kyiv later today. Hopefully they will breathe new life into talks and reach an equitable resolution. Otherwise, Ukraine looks like it may fly apart at the seams, a dangerous and possibly deadly result for all involved.
Don’t forget to keep checking with King at SCSU Scholars for more news and deeper context!

Third Circuit OK’s Banning Of Military Recruiters From Colleges

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal issued a non-sequitur in its decision yesterday striking down the Solomon Amendment, which barred federal funds from universities and colleges that ban military recruiters from their campuses. In its decision, the court incoherently equated colleges with the Boy Scouts:

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, found that educational institutions have a First Amendment right to keep military recruiters off their campuses to protest the Defense Department policy of excluding gays from military service.
The 2-to-1 decision relied in large part on a decision in 2000 by the United States Supreme Court to allow the Boy Scouts to exclude gay scoutmasters. Just as the Scouts have a First Amendment right to bar gays, the appeals court said, law schools may prohibit groups that they consider discriminatory.
The 1995 law at issue in the decision, the Solomon Amendment, barred the federal government from disbursing money to colleges and universities that obstruct campus recruiting by the military. As amended and interpreted over the years, the law prohibits disbursements to all parts of a university, including its physics department and medical school, if any of its units, like its law school, make military recruiting even a little more difficult.

First, any campus that bars military recruiters exhibit a bigotry of their own and imply that their student body has less-than-adequate ability to make decisions on their own — hardly a stunning recommendation for an institution of higher learning. If their students cannot resist enlisting at the very sight of a man or woman in uniform, then perhaps their admissions offices need a housecleaning. Since when is it a university’s mission to limit the opportunities provided to its students?
Beyond that, the court got this one wrong from the moment they put pen to paper. No one doubts the ability of the universities to ban military recruiters; that’s not just a First Amendment right, but also a Fourth Amendment right as well. However, universities do not have a right to federal monies to operate their institutions. If they deny access to the federal government, then the federal government has the right to disqualify the institution from benefitting from its business. The Third Circuit operates from the belief that universities somehow have an entitlement to federal funds, a judgment that makes a mockery of Congress’ control of federal expenditures.
I suspect this silly decision will be overturned, either en banc or at the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the decision should be stayed immediately.

SCOTUS Harshes California’s Mellow

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in reviewing the constitutionality of California’s medicinal-marijuana laws, and at first blush, it looks as though the justices on all sides view the state’s-rights argument with deep suspicion:

The effort by advocates of the medical use of marijuana to link their cause to the Supreme Court’s federalism revolution appeared headed for failure at the court on Monday.
During a lively argument, the justices expressed little inclination to view drug policy as a states’ rights issue by which California and other states that have adopted “compassionate use” marijuana measures could displace federal regulation of homegrown marijuana distributed to patients without charge and without crossing state lines. …
Mr. Barnett said that relatively few people would meet the medical criteria for legal marijuana use, and that any impact on the overall market for marijuana would therefore be “trivial.” The administration, by contrast, has predicted that 100,000 Californians will avail themselves of the statute if the court upholds the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.
Justice David H. Souter asked Mr. Barnett for the population of California. The law professor shrugged. “Thirty-four million,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a former resident of Sacramento, interjected.
In that case, Justice Souter continued, the government’s estimate of 100,000 was “not implausible” and Mr. Barnett’s prediction of a “trivial” effect “seems to me insupportable.” Justice Souter said the circumstances of the two plaintiffs were “not a realistic premise on which to base constitutional law.” His comment suggested that the marijuana advocates’ litigation strategy of telling their story through two sympathetic female plaintiffs, especially Ms. Raich, whose physical suffering is evident in her wraith-like features and whose doctor says she would probably die without access to marijuana, might have backfired.

In the first place, earlier Supreme Court precedents have allowed Congress to regulate commerce of goods whose market extends nationwide, even if the transactions involved in the suit are intrastate. Wickard v Filburn (1942) even allowed Congress to regulate wheat produced for the farmer’s personal use, a ruling that sounds too far-ranging. It seems to me that the justices have an opportunity to reign in some of Congress’ power in this regard, but they’re unlikely to do so on behalf of marijuana, if at all.
They certainly won’t do it for this somewhat disingenuous presentation by the California contingent. They found the two most sympathetic clients they could provide — one a media-darling waif who is almost certainly terminally ill with brain tumors. The problem is that the California law does not limit itself to those cases. It allows anyone who gets a doctor’s “recommendation” for marijuana to possess and use it, even if its use is intended to treat issues like chronic back pain. The laxity of the requirement makes the government’s estimation of 100,000 users — less that half a percent of California’s population — look like a vast understatement.
Justice Breyer has the right idea. California’s medicinal-marijuana proponents should have applied to the FDA for reclassification of marijuana as appropriate for medical use; a denial would have formed the core of a much more substantial lawsuit, as (I believe) the denial would have been found arbitrary. The FDA has never done a thorough vetting of marijuana’s potential for medicinal use in the manner in which Ms. Raich applies it, and a denial would have been shown to be both premature and unsupported by any evidence.
I am not unsympathetic to the medicinal-marijuana cause, but California’s end-around has always provoked my skepticism and opposition. They want to treat marijuana as a medicine but then allow anyone to self-medicate without the prescription required for almost any other treatment. It also allows anyone to grow their own marijuana, calling into question the quality and the consistency of dosages — certainly an issue if you’re serious about treating marijuana as a medicine. If California wants to treat this more seriously, they need to follow Breyer’s advice to have the FDA reclassify it, and rewrite their law to require a prescription for its use, along with a specific set of conditions for which it can be prescribed.

Momentum Builds For New Ukrainian Election

The major players in the Ukrainian political crisis all seem to be moving towards the same solution to defuse the massive rejection of the fraud-ridden polling last weekend. Yesterday, both current President Leonid Kuchma and his protege and nominal winner of the discredited election, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, agreed in principle to a new election. Today, Germany reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to “respect” a new election in Ukraine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday to respect the results of any new election in Ukraine, the German government said.
The three-sentence statement from the government suggested a softening of Moscow’s position and appeared to increase the likelihood of a new poll to resolve a week-old crisis triggered by the country’s disputed presidential election on Nov. 21. …
“The chancellor and the Russian president were in agreement that the results of a new election, based on Ukraine law and the will of the Ukraine people, would be strictly respected.”

Seeing as how Russia and Putin represent the 800-pound gorilla on this particular issue, seeing it finally sit on the side of a new vote demonstrates that even the Russians see the uselessness of insisting that the last vote was definitive. It gives Viktor Yushchenko’s opposition more prestige and hope that the situation has moved towards a peaceful solution.
Yesterday, Putin’s ally Kuchma and his hand-picked successor had already retreated to the same position:

Ukraine’s president and prime minister said yesterday they support a rerun of the country’s sharply contested presidential election, even as the Supreme Court began hearing a request that it rule the vote invalid. … Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma accepted that idea in an announcement yesterday, offering a way out of an impasse that has kept crowds of up to 200,000 in the streets of the capital for a week.

Yanukovych did not go quite as far, only offering to re-poll in the regions where his support was strongest and where allegations of voter fraud crescendoed last week. However, the momentum clearly has built for the protestors in the street who have blockaded government buildings and insisted that the election results be overturned. In fact, Yanukovych’s supporters have begun abandoning him publicly:

A dramatic collapse of support for the government from senior officials continued. For the first time yesterday, former President Leonid Kravchuk, who heads the powerful Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), said he favored a new election and blamed Mr. Kuchma for the crisis.
Serhei Tihipko, Ukraine’s central bank chief who ran Mr. Yanukovych’s campaign, unexpectedly resigned from both posts yesterday. He told the Channel 5 broadcast station that if Mr. Yushchenko became president he would become part of a “constructive opposition.” …
Ukrainian diplomats around the world, including those based in Washington, are also supporting Mr. Yushchenko.

Yushchenko announced yesterday that his supporters in Parliament would call for the resignation of the Yanukovych government. Unlike in most Parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister is appointed by the President in Ukraine and Parliament has no mechanism for recalling him. But with Parliament already supporting Yuschchenko and the tide of public opinion drowning Yanukovuch and Kuchma, the call for a resignation may just be successful.
Addendum: Yanukovych’s desperation clearly shows in this last-gasp offer to buy off Yuschchenko:

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, looking increasingly isolated in Ukraine’s deepening political crisis, offered again on Tuesday to make his opposition rival premier if allowed to take up the presidency. …
“If (falsification) is not proven and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of my victory, I am ready… to offer Viktor Andreyevich the post of prime minister.”

Yanukovych also made the strange assertion that if new elections are held, neither of them should run for president. One thing is clear — Yanukovych knows he can’t win in a second, cleaner election and will do almost anything to keep from contesting it.