Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Burying their heads in the sand -- condom promoters.

I was on WCCO radio with John Williams yesterday morning regarding a Star Tribune story that reported the Pawlenty Administration refused to pursue federal condom dollars.

Williams, who's a dyed in the wool liberal, is incredulous that anybody could seriously be opposed to promoting condoms to kids in our schools. One's simply burying one's head in the sand.

I would argue the exact opposite is true. Those with their heads in the sand are the condom promoters. We have an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and far too many teen out of wedlock births. What's been the approach to this epidemic over the past 30 to 40 years? Condoms, condoms and more condoms. What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Condom promotion doesn't work because the implicit if not explicit message is kids will have sex and it's fine if they do. On the contrary what needs to happen is changing kids behavior. Having them wait to have sex until they are married. Yet of course marriage is never mentioned much less discussed as the proper place to to have sex.

Kids need to be given a vision for and an understanding of the beauty and wonderment of marriage. That a lifelong union is a beautiful and achievable goal. In their heart of hearts kids (and adults) desire that. But they're never given that message. Sex is presented as a sterile, function activity. It's a leisure sport. A form of entertainment with the goal being doing as much as possible without contracting a disease.

The vision for the good life, in the classical sense not modern narcissistic sense, understands sex is inextricably linked to marriage. The purpose and beauty of sex is fulfilled in that context.

Modern liberals don't see it that way. They generally don't understand what marriage is and definitely don't understand the purpose of sex.

The problem is they're foisting their vision of sex on kids today. The result is only more sickness, disease and broken hearts.

Interestingly, liberals argue, "Well, kids are going have sex anyway, so they better be safe." This a classic case of blaming kids. It suggests kids are animals in heat who have no control over their hormones and sexual organs. The fact is lots of kids haven't had sex in high school and there would be a lot more who wouldn't if they received the proper encouragement. We expect kids to do the right thing in other areas of their life why not with their sexual organs.

Of course, this mindset can also be applied to drug use, drinking and cigarettes. Well, kids are going to do it anyway so we better accept the fact and give up trying to encourage them to abstain.

Certainly, some kids will do the wrong thing whatever you tell them. Many of them end up in jail and prison or die early. But there are lots who will and we need to be encouraging them to do the right thing. That's where giving them a vision for marriage and the purpose of sex are so important. And that's where children of the 60s and 70s, the John Williams of the world, come up empty.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The devastation of infidelity.

In a People's magazine story, Elin Nordgren, Tiger Wood's now ex-wife, discusses how she's "been through hell" as a result of Tiger's infidelities.
"I've been through hell," Nordegren said in an interview with People magazine released Wednesday, two days after she and Woods were officially divorced. "It's hard to think you have this life, and then all of a sudden — was it a lie? You're struggling because it wasn't real. But I survived. It was hard, but it didn't kill me."
I've been told by psychologist who's counseled thousands of people that women who experienced rape and infidelity found the infidelity more damaging. I found that hard to believe but he said multiple women had told him that.

Unfortunately, our culture and society have so devalued marriage and devolved to doing whatever makes you "happy" that we've opened the door wide to unilateral divorce and infidelity. As a result there are a lot of walking wounded in our midst.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Horner's misleading, big government budget revisited.

Tom Horner is a big government candidate for governor. He just doesn't like the DFL's big government budget. Either way, it's big government and that's the fundamental problem.

With the state state facing a projected $5.8 billion deficit, Horner wants to actually increase spending, using the euphemism "new investments", by $360 million.

He wants to increase taxes $2.15 billion over the next two years, primarily through sales tax increases.

His budget cuts are only $1.35 billion which are misrepresented as $2.45 billion. The extra $1.1 billion are redesign savings which is another way of saying we'll get rid of the inefficiencies of government and save boat loads of money. He would set up 10 "redesign teams" to change the way government does business. Those sorts of efficiency savings never materialize.

And then there is the $1.8 billion in delayed payments to schools. That's merely kicking the can down the street. Not dealing with overspending.

In his favor, Horner doesn't want to raise taxes on businesses and those business owners who create jobs. That means the tax increases are targeted at the poor and middle class through sales tax increases.

Ultimately, as government grows bigger and bigger, the poor and middle classes ultimately get hit the hardest. Either through seeing their taxes increase or lack of jobs because the government crowds out the private sector.

Either the liberal approach to big government or the Horner approach to big government, there's an attitude of we know what's best for society and we'll use government to socially engineer towards that goal. That's why we need to keep spending a lot of money and keep taxes high.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Planned Parenthood likes Mark Dayton's "vision for the state". Will mean abortion and condoms any and everywhere.

Not surprisingly Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/SD endorsed Mark Dayton after their first endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher lost to Dayton in the DFL primary.

In announcing their endorsement, PP said they like Dayton's "vision for the state". I presume that means taxpayer funding of abortion on demand and a condom for every teenager. And of course millions of taxpayer dollars going into PP's coffers each year.

They say they want to point out Emmer's "abysmal record on women's health and safety." Let's see what are the effects of PP's record on "women's health and safety." With Planned Parenthood's philosophy of free sex the entrenched establishment policy we have an epidemic of STDs, teens struggling with suicide and depression, out of wedlock births, and over 12,000 abortions annually in Minnesota. If that's the result of Planned Parenthood and Mark Dayton's vision for the state, I think Minnesotans should unequivocally reject it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is 2010 election shaping up to be a 1994 election or worse?

Here's an interesting story in the Washington Post comparing the upcoming 2010 election to the 1994 election in which the Republicans gained 50 or so seats in the US House and took control of the US Senate.

It's of course speculative but nonetheless interestintg.

Is it deja vu all over again for Democrats?

Some neutral observers and senior strategists within the party have begun to believe that the national political environment is not only similar to what they saw in 1994 -- when Democrats lost control of the House and Senate -- but could in fact be worse by Election Day.

They look at generic ballots and presidential approval numbers.

A quick look at the broadest atmospheric indicators designed to measure which way the national winds are blowing -- the generic ballot and presidential approval -- affirms the sense that the political environment looks every bit as gloomy for Democrats today as it did 16 years ago.

"President Obama's job [approval] number is likely to be as bad or worse than [Bill] Clinton's when November rolls around, the Democratic generic-ballot advantage of plus 12 to plus 15 in 2006 and 2008 is now completely gone, and conservatives are energized like 1994," said Stu Rothenberg, an independent political analyst and editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, a well-read campaign tip sheet.

The generic ballot -- would you vote for an unnamed Democrat or an unnamed Republican? -- is either similar or worse for Democrats (depending on which poll you look at) than it was in 1994.

In an August 1994 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 49 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Democrat while 42 percent said they would back the Republican. Last month, 47 percent said they would support the Republican while 46 percent chose the Democrat.

The results were strikingly similar in several other national surveys. In an August 1994 Gallup poll, 46 percent said they would vote for the Democrat and an equal 46 percent said they would support the Republican. The most recent Gallup data give Republicans an edge of 50 percent to 43 percent over Democrats. A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that in August 1994, Republicans had a generic-ballot lead of 46 percent to 44 percent, a margin similar to the numbers in CNN data, 48 percent to 45 percent, this month.

Presidential approval numbers paint a slightly more optimistic picture for Democrats. In mid-August 1994, Clinton's approval rating in Gallup polling stood at 39 percent; Obama is at 44 percent approval in Gallup's most recent weekly tracking poll. (By Election Day or slightly before it in 1994, Clinton's approval numbers had bumped back up to 46 percent.) In the Post-ABC survey, a similar trend is borne out: Clinton was at 44 percent approval in August 1994, and Obama is at 50 percent this month.

Combine the similarities between 1994 and 2010 on the generic ballot and presidential approval with a clear intensity gap between the Republican base (fired up to vote) and the Democratic base (less so), and Democratic strategists are worried that they are watching history repeat itself.

Voter turnout was critical.

"Our losses occurred because Republican turnout was massive," said one senior party strategist deeply involved in the 1994 campaign. "The right was motivated in 1994, and while it would have seemed impossible to me then, it feels like the Republicans are much more motivated to participate in this election" than they were then.

Although few savvy Democratic strategists debate the difficulty of the national political environment, they do note that there are two important differences between the 1994 election and this one.

Couple of unpredictable variables. Republican brand and democrats understand what they're up against. (Though from President Obama's actions and statements on a wide range of topics, I don't know that he knows how to respond differently than he has.)

The first is the relative weakness of the Republican brand. In 1994, Republicans had been out of power in the House for four decades, and most voters had a limited sense of what a GOP House would be like. In 2010, the American public has fired Republicans -- in the House, Senate and White House -- twice in the past four years. And, in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, the GOP had its lowest favorability ratings ever. (We repeat: ever.)

Second, Democrats understand the building frustration and desire for change in a way that the party simply didn't get 16 years ago. "The one advantage Democrats have is early-warning radar that we are facing a tough environment, and many of our incumbents have geared up their campaigns much earlier than in 1994," said Fred Yang, a leading Democratic pollster. "The possible wave may be too big for any campaign, but we're going to be ready this time and run harder and more aggressive campaigns."

Yang's last point is the central question on which the comparison between 1994 and 2010 rests: Can well-run and well-funded campaigns by Democratic incumbents save them from being dragged out to sea politically? Democrats think so, Republicans hope not.

And then of course there's the economy which is substantially worse than in 1994.

Charlie Cook, a political handicapper and editor of the Cook Political Report, acknowledged that every election has "its own set of unique characteristics and dynamics" but added that Democrats shouldn't take too much comfort in that. "Is 2010 the same as 1994? No, it isn't," he said. "But that doesn't mean that the outcome can't be roughly comparable."

Cook also noted that the state of the economy, which may have mitigated Democratic losses in 1994 with an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, almost certainly will exacerbate them this year, as unemployment now stands at 9.5 percent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Horner wants to raise everybody's taxes, delay payments and cut a little bit. Proposal makes him more fiscally liberal than Matt Entenza.

Independent candidate Tom Horner who's trying to fashion himself as the third way candidate released his plan for balancing a projected $6 billion budget deficit. It turns out he's more liberal fiscally than Matt Entenza.

He does it by cutting spending by $1.3 billion, $1.8 billion by delaying payments to schools and local governments and raising a lot of taxes which will hit everyone. He'd raise taxes by $2.2 billion.

He also wants to get the state into the gambling business in hopes of raising $125 million in new taxes. And he's hopes to reduce another $1.1 billion by the proverbial "streamlining government".

Horner has tried to fashion himself a conservative fiscally but his budget is anything but. Only about 20% of his budget balancing comes from cutting spending.

To give you a perspective of where he stands on the political spectrum. I talked with Matt Entenza, one of the more liberal DFL candidates, the weekend before the DFL primary. I asked him how he'd deal with our projected $6 billion deficit. He said a third, a third, and a third, e.g. spending cuts, delayed payments and tax increases. Matt Entenza in fact supported more budget cuts than Horner. One can't say Horner is much of a fiscal moderate much less a fiscal conservative.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Who is Barack Obama and what does he believe?

The controversy over the proposed Mosque in New York City and President Obama's ambiguous, vaguely supportive comments on it have only reinforced people's confusion about the President religious beliefs.

One story says:
A new poll showed that nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, believe Obama
is Muslim. That was up from 11 percent who said so in March 2009. The survey
also showed that just 34 percent said Obama is Christian, down from 48 percent
who said so last year. The largest share of people, 43 percent, said they don't
know his religion. A new poll showed that nearly one in five people, or 18
percent, believe Obama is Muslim. That was up from 11 percent who said so in
March 2009. The survey also showed that just 34 percent said Obama is Christian,
down from 48 percent who said so last year. The largest share of people, 43
percent, said they don't know his religion.

While there's a bump in the number of people who believe he's a Muslim, there's also a significant drop in the number of people who believe he's a Christian. In other words, his actions and words don't communicate the idea that he's a Christian man. This is not surprising given the secular sensitivities that emanate from those on the left. Faith is at best a purely private matter that has no impact on one's public life. That seems to be the impression President Obama is leaving with people.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homosexualization of Higher Education?

It used to be that gay activist said, when they pushed for anti-discrimination protection, "We just want to left alone." Well, now with the push for homosexual marriage, the mantra has changed to "We demand you endorse and affirm our lifestyle."

Now it looks like the same thing is happening in higher education. A gathering of college presidents, who are homosexual, want to affirmatively advocate for homosexuality in their respective institutions. In other words, they want to use their institutional positions to press the homosexual social agenda.

In a post on "Inside Higher ED", that's explicitly expressed.

Nine college and university presidents gathered in Chicago over the weekend and decided to form a new organization that will promote the professional development of gay academics as well as work on education and advocacy issues.

The meeting was the first attempt to gather the growing number of out college presidents (25 were invited) -- and participants said in interviews after the event that they wanted to encourage more gay academics to aspire to leadership positions and wanted to push higher education to include issues of sexual orientation when talking about diversity. The partners of some of the presidents also attended and held their own discussions, and the new group plans to be a place to talk about issues related to the partners and other family members of gay presidents.

They describe their group as LGBTQ. They want to expand their numbers by reaching out to anyone who feels any inclination to the other categories.

The new organization has been named the LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, said Charles Middleton, president of Roosevelt University and co-host of the meeting. The group plans to reconvene first in a few months, and then perhaps at next year's meeting of the American Council on Education.

"As university presidents, we talked first and foremost about what is our presidential responsibility as leaders in higher education," Middleton said. To that end, the group will focus on leadership development for those who are gay presidents or who aspire to be, professional development for gay people at all levels of academe, and on education and advocacy to promote equity and diversity.

The advocacy dimension is very clear.

Middleton said that it's time for an organization like this to exist. College leaders nationally are talking about the need for new leaders in all kinds of educational fields, and the country cannot afford to write off any one group, he said. Gay academics "need to be taken off the exclusion list," he said.

Several of the presidents noted that they came together at a time when issues of gay rights are very much in the news -- both for society as a whole and higher education in particular. The presidents met the same week that a federal judge rejected California's ban on gay marriage and the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of public colleges to require all recognized student groups to abide by anti-bias policies -- including policies that some religious groups object to because they cover sexual orientation.

Raymond Crossman, president of the Adler School of Professional Psychology and the meeting's other co-host, said that "I think it's no accident that there's an appetite to do this right now. It's a particular moment in the culture right now, and I think we have something to offer about educating the academy."

Crossman said he views such advocacy as a traditional role of a college president, even if the issues being raised may not be same ones on which other presidents have focused. "I think that as presidents of colleges and universities there's always been a role to take positions, to be part of a continuing dialogue in our culture," he said.

Those who attended the meeting included the following:

The college presidents attending the meeting in Chicago were: Theodora J. Kalikow (University of Maine at Farmington), Charles Middleton (Roosevelt University), Raymond Crossman (Adler School of Professional Psychology), Ralph Hexter (Hampshire College), Charlita Shelton (University of the Rockies), Karen Whitney (Clarion University), Neal King (Antioch University Los Angeles), Katherine Ragsdale (Episcopal Divinity School), and Les McCabel (Semester at Sea).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Despite worst recession since the Great Depression, giving down only slightly.

You would think with unemployment up and the economy still weak, the charitable giving of people would be down dramatically. Not the case. Only off 3.6% in 2009.
The GivingUSA report for the calendar year 2009 shows that, in spite of this being the worst year since the Great Depression, with unemployment at massive levels and discretionary spending at a low, America's giving to philanthropic causes declined only 3.6% (or 3.2% when adjusted for inflation.

And this is not the steepest drop in giving, in real terms: in 1974, for example, giving fell by 5.5 percent.

It is absolutely astonishing that Americans gave away more than $300 billion during such a tough year.

This is the first decline in giving (in current dollars) since 1987, and only the second since Giving USA began publishing annual reports in 1956.

In other words, as American prosper, they give away more and more, and when they stop prospering, they still continue to give as much as they can. In 1974, giving
averaged $1,323 per household (including non-donors) which was 1.8% of GDP whereas, in 2009, it averaged $1,940 per household (including non-donors) or 2.1% of GDP.

It is fascinating that 75% of the giving is by individuals, whereas only 4% is by companies, while 13% is by foundations, and 8% is from bequests.

Even more fascinating: while corporate giving rose 5.5 percent, charitable bequests fell 23.9 percent in 2009 and foundation grantmaking fell by 8.9 percent. However, individual giving fell only 0.4 percent.
I wonder though whether there will be a much more significant drop if/when taxes start going up significantly. Which surely will be the case if President Obama and the current configuration of Congress have their way.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obama's Meltdown: Reason #11

Nile Gardiner, writing in the Telegraph, identifies 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in meltdown. He's right on all counts, but he missed an 11th key reason that Obama is so out of step with the majority of Americans.

Reason #11: President Obama despises America's moral foundation, rooted in the biblical principles of its historically predominant Christian faith, and his administration is actively dismantling that foundation.

Consider his repudiation of America's Christian origin; his appointment of radical pro-abortion and pro-homosexual activists to key positions in his administration from which they have unprecedented power to advance their social agenda; his transparently deceptive executive order promising no federal funding of abortion in Obamacare (the fig leaf provided to Rep. Bart Stupak and other "pro-life" Democrats in Congress to secure their votes for passage); Obamacare's infringement on the right of conscience for medical providers; his administration's rush to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military despite the objections of all of the service chiefs; the administration's sabotage of the defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that resulted in it's being ruled unconstitutional in federal district court in Massachusetts earlier this summer.... and those are just the examples that come immediately to mind as I write this post.

Many Americans regard developments like these not just as an outrageous attack on the country they love, but as a personal attack on them, their faith, their values and their families. They have come to perceive this president more as an enemy than as their leader.

Does anyone need more evidence than this that elections have consequences?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gay marriage, gay judge, and bias in the courtroom.

The three appear to have met up in the recent Prop 8 court decision by US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker who in an incredibly expansive decision ruled California's marriage amendment, Prop 8, unconstitutional.

It turns out that Judge Walker also misrepresented the defense counsel or as court observer Ed Whelan says used "distortions and falsehoods."

Among the many distortions and falsehoods that Judge Vaughn Walker has tried to propagate through his anti-Prop 8 ruling is his claim that the Prop 8 proponents—who intervened as defendants in the case and valiantly carried out the role of defending Prop 8 when the state defendants abandoned their duties to do so—“failed to build a credible factual record to support their claim that Proposition 8 served a legitimate government interest.” (Slip op. at 11.) Walker’s claim, which many in the media evidently unfamiliar with the case have parroted, operates to divert attention from the manifest bias that he exhibited throughout the case and that pervades his ruling. But in fact the Prop 8 proponents offered a thorough case that Walker almost entirely ignored—a case resting on a broad array of judicial authority, recognized scholarship in various academic fields, extensive documentary evidence, and elementary common sense.

Here are some examples.

One stark illustration of Walker’s massive distortion on this broader matter is his assertion (slip op. at 9-10) that “When asked [during closing arguments] to identify the evidence at trial that supported [the] contention [that ‘responsible procreation is really at the heart of society’s interest in regulating marriage’], proponents’ counsel [Charles Cooper] replied, ‘you don’t have to have evidence of this point.’” The clear—and utterly misleading—implication that Walker tries to leave through his grossly out-of-context quotation is that the Prop 8 proponents did not offer meaningful (indeed, overwhelming) evidence and other authority on this point. And plaintiffs’ counsel Ted Olson has compounded the falsehood with irresponsible public statements like this (from his interview on “Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace”):

In fact, they [Prop 8 proponents] said during the course of the trial they didn’t need to prove anything, they didn’t have any evidence, they didn’t need any evidence.

1. Let’s begin by putting Cooper’s statement in its proper context:

At the closing argument in June, Cooper began by stating that “the historical record leaves no doubt … that the central purpose of marriage in virtually all societies and at all times has been to channel potentially procreative sexual relationships into enduring stable unions to increase the likelihood that any offspring will be raised by the man and woman who brought them into the world.” (3028: 13-19.) Cooper cited numerous Supreme Court (and other) cases that reflect this understanding. (3027-3028.)

When Cooper stated that “the evidence shows overwhelmingly that … responsible procreation is really at the heart of society’s interest in regulating marriage” (3038:5-8), Walker asked, “What was the witness who offered the testimony? What was it and so forth?” (3038:14-15.) Cooper began his response:

The evidence before you shows that sociologist Kingsley Davis, in his words, has described the universal societal interest in marriage and definition as social recognition and approval of a couple engaging in sexual intercourse and marrying and rearing offspring.

Cooper then cited Blackstone’s statements—which were also in evidence submitted at the trial—that the relation of husband and wife and the “natural impulse” of man to “continue and multiply his species” are “confined and regulated” by “society’s interests”; that the “principal end and design” of marriage is the relationship of “parent and child”; and that it is “by virtue of this relation that infants are protected, maintained, and educated.” (3038-3039*.)

As Cooper proceeded to work his way through “eminent authority after eminent authority”—all in evidence submitted at the trial—Walker interrupted him to ask the bizarre question, “I don’t mean to be flip, but Blackstone didn’t testify. Kingsley Davis didn’t testify. What testimony in this case supports the proposition?” (3039:16-18.)

Cooper responded to Walker’s question:

Your Honor, these materials are before you. They are evidence before you.… But, your Honor, you don’t have to have evidence for this from these authorities. This is in the cases themselves. The cases recognize this one after another. [3039:19-3040:1]

Walker: “I don’t have to have evidence?” [3040:2]

Cooper: “You don’t have to have evidence of this point if one court after another has recognized—let me turn to the California cases on this.” [3040:3-5]

Note that only the underlined portion of the passage is what Walker quotes in his opinion.

Cooper then proceeded to present California cases stating (in Cooper’s words, which may include direct quotations not reflected in the transcript’s punctuation) that the “first purpose of matrimony by the laws of nature and society is procreation,” that “the institution of marriage … channels biological drives … that might otherwise become socially destructive and … it ensures the care and education of children in a stable environment,” and that (in a ruling just two years ago) “the sexual procreative and childrearing aspects of marriage go to the very essence of the marriage relation.” [3040]

2. Walker’s question—“What testimony in this case supports the proposition?”—wasn’t just flip. It was downright stupid—amazingly so, from a judge who has been on the bench for more than two decades. Even if one indulges the mistaken assumption that there was any need for a trial in the case (rather than its being disposed of, one way or the other, on summary judgment, with competing expert and documentary submissions), live witness testimony is merely one form of trial evidence. Exhibits submitted in evidence at trial are another form. And a judge is of course free to, and expected to, take judicial notice of certain facts.

3. In context, it’s clear that Cooper cited extensive evidence in the record, as well as relevant legal authorities, in support of the proposition that “responsible procreation is really at the heart of society’s interest in regulating marriage.” Indeed, the evidence that Prop 8 proponents submitted (and cited in their proposed findings of fact) in support of this heretofore obvious and noncontroversial proposition was overwhelming.

4. When Cooper stated “you don’t have to have evidence for this from these authorities”—Kingsley Davis and Blackstone and the other “eminent authorities” that Cooper was ready to discuss when Walker interrupted—and that the “cases themselves” “recognize this one after another,” it’s crystal-clear in context that he wasn’t contending that he hadn’t provided evidence or that he didn’t need to provide evidence or other authority. He was merely making the legally sound observation that the many cases recognizing the procreative purpose of marriage were an alternative and additional source of authority for the proposition.

But you wouldn’t know any of this from Walker’s highly distorting clip of Cooper’s statement—or from Olson’s contemptible misrepresentation of it, or the media’s mindless parroting of it.

Walker’s outrageous distortion on this point isn’t an aberration. As I will show when I have time, it’s representative of his entire modus operandi throughout his ruling.

* It’s not apparent from the transcript which portions of these quotations are directly from Blackstone and which involve Cooper’s linkages. In quoting the transcript in this post, I’ve also corrected obvious typographical errors that the transcriber made (e.g., “principle” for “principal” and “imminent” for “eminent”). All emphases are mine.

Then there is the issue of Judge Walker being biased based on his being gay. Whelan in another post notes that Walker was not forthcoming on possible personal biases.

In an important op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, law professor John Eastman argues that Judge Vaughn Walker was obligated either “to disqualify himself or at least to disclose his potentially disqualifying relationship to the parties”—and that, under Supreme Court precedent, his failure to do so “requires that the opinion in the case be vacated and a new trial conducted before a different judge”:

In Liljeberg vs. Health Services Acquisition Corp., the Supreme Court held that the original judgment had to be set aside even when the disqualifying relationship only became known to the parties 10 months after the judgment entered in the case had been upheld on appeal.

As I’ve discussed, whether Walker’s recently reported same-sex relationship requires his recusal may well depend on facts that Walker has not seen fit to disclose. It’s the usual practice for a judge to advise parties at the outset of a case of information that might give reasonable cause to question the judge’s impartiality. Walker’s failure to do so would seem yet further evidence of Walker’s manifest inability to be impartial.

This raises fundamental questions about character. The founding fathers thought private behavior was linked to public activity. For instance, Noah Webster author of Webster’s Dictionary and an American statesman wrote in reference to moral behavior and the presidency that:

[A]ll history is a witness of the truth of the principle that good morals are essential to the faithful and upright discharge of public functions. The moral character of a man is an entire and indivisible thing—it cannot be pure in one part and defiled in another. A man may indeed be addicted, for a time, to one vice and not to another; but it is a solemn truth that any considerable breach in the moral sense facilitates the admission of every species of vice.

What Webster is saying is that one’s private moral character is indivisible from one’s public conduct. In other words, one can’t compartmentalize one’s life. It's reasonable to draw a connection between Judge Walker's public conduct as a judge and his persona identification with an immoral sexual behavior.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Koering goes down to defeat. Hurt by personal behavior and voting record.

One of the few hotly contested primaries Tuesday was the Republican primary for the state Senate in the 12th district, featuring incumbent Paul Koering and challenger Paul Gazelka.

Koering has been all over the map personally and legislatively. Voting for and against tax increases and a state marriage amendment. And of course coming out as a gay and privately threatening to jump to the DFL caucus a several years ago.

Gazelka is both an economic and social conservative and was in the state House for several years.

Until a month or so ago, there were lots of undecided voters in the districtand those who were decided, were going for Koering by 2 to 1.

Koering's date or dinner with male porn star raised questions about his character and his all over the map voting record on a number of issues came back to haunt him.

I'm told whoever won their primary would be the favorite for the general election.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dayton squeaks through primary. Now on to general election.

Mark Dayton despite a 10 plus point lead in recent polls narrowly beat Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the DFL primary for governor. I spoke with a Minneapolis DFL politico who was supporting Kelliher. Asked him who he thought would win the primary and he said Kelliher because of her ground game. It almost happened.

The feeling among Republicans is Dayton will be the easier target in the general election. Dayton has personal issues and is much more radical on wanting to raise taxes than even Kelliher and Entenza were. I ran into Entenza last weekend and Dayton's tax proposal is one of the things he said to distinguish himself from Dayton.

That said, Dayton and liberal groups will pour boatloads of money into the campaign and his name is a household name to lots of Minnesotans.

I don't think Dayton will be able to avoid the public scrutiny he did in 2000 when he ran against Rod Grams for the US Senate. I recall then he was no where to be found publicly. He just ran tons of ads and avoided public appearances. Today, he won't be able to do that as easily and he'll have his record as a US Senator to live down. I recall it was reported in Time magazine that he was rated one of the five poorest US Senators.

It should be an interesting race for governor. The contrast between Dayton and Emmer will be great.

Follow the money. Liberal "fat cats" and Dayton's campaign.

The incessant attack ads on Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer are being paid for by people with a lot of money. It's interesting learning where the money is coming from. It puts to bed the the notion that political "fat cats" are usually conservative. I think the opposite is true.

Katherine Kersten notes:
Few American political stereotypes are as durable as the myth that Republicans are the party of fat cats. You know -- the corporate tycoons and investment bankers who puff cigars in dark, paneled rooms as they bankroll elections for Big Business. Democrats, in the myth's telling, are Ordinary Joes -- lunch-bucket types who fight a lopsided, uphill battle against entrenched big-money interests.

Welcome to the real world, Minnesotans.

In the 2010 governor's race, it's Republican Tom Emmer -- an Ordinary Joe with seven kids to feed -- who's pounding the pavement for every $1,000 check he brings in. He and his team spend lots of time focusing on small donors -- the source, despite the myth, of a disproportionate amount of the Republican Party's cash.

But isn't Big Business pulling the strings for Emmer behind the scenes? Hardly. We saw that recently, when Target Corp. gave $150,000 to MN Forward -- a business-friendly PAC that supports Emmer against his three Democratic rivals, who have all vowed to raise taxes. Liberals and the media went berserk. As they tarred and feathered Target, their message was clear: Companies that support Republican efforts risk paying a big public-relations price.

She also notes the mega millions spent by Dayton and Entenza on their efforts to be the DFL candidate for governor. Together they've spent $9 million.

Meanwhile, the three DFL candidates for governor have raised a cool $9 million for their campaigns -- a sum that dwarfs Emmer's $910,000. Two of those candidates, gazillionaires Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton, are financing their races from their own capacious pockets. Unlike Emmer, they don't have to eat rubber-chicken dinners at rinky-dink fundraisers. They just write gold-plated checks to themselves.

Entenza has loaned his campaign $4.7 million heading into Tuesday's DFL primary. The money comes courtesy of his wife's fortune, made in the health care industry.

But the 800-pound gorilla in the governor's race is Mark Dayton, department store heir and current front-runner. Dayton's wealth has enabled him to make running for public office a hobby for 30 years.

In 1982 he dropped $6.7 million on a failed U.S. Senate campaign. In 1998, the figure was $2.1 million for an unsuccessful governor's bid. In 2000, he spent a whopping $12 million to become a U.S. senator. In the current campaign, so far, the sum is $3.3 million. All told, that's a jaw-dropping $24 million of Dayton dough.

Now we're learning that his family is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into his campaign albeit through two DFL PACs:

Dayton's own resources are augmented by donations to DFL interests from his megarich family. In this election cycle, the family -- his son, aunt, cousin and ex-wife-- have poured $851,000 into two DFL political action committees: Win Minnesota and the 2010 Fund. That's almost as much as Emmer has raised in his entire campaign.

The biggest family donor is Alida Messinger, Dayton's ex-wife. (Must have been a friendly breakup!) She's contributed an eye-popping $550,000 to the two PACS.

The source of Messinger's money? She's the great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller -- founder of Standard Oil -- who nearly monopolized the American oil business in the late 1800s and died with a fortune valued at $670 billion in current dollars.

Wait. Isn't it Republicans who are supposed to be in the pocket of Big Oil?

The DFL's bottomless well of cash has another source: Big Labor. Since 2009, Minnesota's three largest public-employee labor unions have spent $750,000 on the DFL agenda -- five times as much as the Target gift to MN Forward that so incensed liberals.

What does this flood of money make possible? Among other things, an endless barrage of anti-Emmer TV ads. They're being underwritten -- to the tune of $685,000 so far -- by a PAC called Alliance for a Better Minnesota. Where does its money come from? Win Minnesota and the 2010 Fund -- the Dayton family piggybanks -- are major sources, having funneled it $1.6 million in this election cycle.

Will the millions carry the day for Dayton in the general election? Not necessarily.

The Democratic money machine may succeed in buying the governor's mansion for Dayton -- whom Time magazine named as one of the five worst senators in 2005.

Then again, maybe not. In 2009, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey -- a fiscal conservative and scourge of public-employee unions -- surged to victory after being outspent three to one by his multimillionaire Democratic opponent. Christie might have a word of caution for Mark Dayton.

It will depend on whether the word gets out on his personal competency, the fact that he wants to raise Minnesota's income tax rates higher than any other state in the nation and his radicalism on social issues.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Franken's behavior and need for anger management counseling.

Last week it was reported that Minnesota's Senator Al Franken mocked and made faces from the dias when Republican Senator Mitch McConnell was making a speech on the Senate. According to "The Hill":
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) scolded Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on the Senate floor Thursday for allegedly mocking him while he delivered a solemn speech on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The dust-up came seconds after McConnell delivered a speech on Kagan’s nomination shortly before the Senate voted to confirm her to the high court.Franken, who was presiding over the chamber from the dais, gesticulated and made faces while McConnell explained his opposition to Kagan, according to witnesses.

The television cameras broadcasting the speech on C-SPAN remained fixed on McConnell, missing Franken’s antics from the Senate president’s chair.

McConnell grew increasingly angry as Franken made fun of him before a crowded public gallery and Senate aides lining the chamber walls. Senate aides said they were shocked that Franken would flout the decorum of the chamber during such a solemn occasion.

After McConnell finished his remarks, he walked up to the dais and rebuked him.

“This is not 'Saturday Night Live,' Al,” McConnell said, making reference to Franken’s career as a writer and actor on NBC’s long-running comedy show, according to a witness who overheard the exchange.

After the vote, Franken walked to McConnell's office to apologize but couldn't find him. He has sent a personal note, instead.

"The Leader thought I was disrespectful while he was giving his speech on General Kagan," Franken said in a statement to The Hill. "He is entitled to give his speech with the presiding officer just listening respectfully. I went directly to his office after I was done presiding to apologize in person. He wasn’t there, so I’ve sent him a handwritten note.”

It was pointed out by the folks at Powerline previous episodes of Franken crossing over the line and the need for anger management help.

I was told that Franken has become notorious on Capitol Hill for incidents of this kind. He is described as someone who frequently becomes rageful and lacking in control over the behavior related to his emotions. He is susceptible to outbursts, involving Republican Senators as well as staffers, immediately following which he is consumed with regret. He fits the profile of a guy with serious anger management issues.

Several of the incidents involving Franken have been reported in the Capitol Hill press, if not in the local Minnesota media, and not all such incidents involving Franken have been reported. One Capitol Hill source pointed out published stories including this one (citing several such incidents), this one (involving Senator Corker), and this one and this one (involving Senator Thune). Franken now avoids the Capitol Hill press.

Checking out the incident involving Senator McConnell, I immediately thought of our own reportage on Franken during the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. John Hinderaker provided readers an account of the "Row on Radio Row" (photograph above). The incident goes back to Franken's days with Air America.

In short, Al Franken is a guy with a problem. It hasn't gotten better since he was elected United States Senator. It may well have gotten worse. Someone who reports on the news for a living really should look into it.

Behavior before Franken ran for the Senate suggested Franken had problems but he generally kept a lid on it. But as one can see, the problem still persists.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Parenting isn't a priority in today's society.

Robert Samuelson has a great commentary, "The Parent Trap" on the priority or rather lack thereof given parents and parenting in American society.

He notes the cost of raising a child:
Among the government's most interesting reports is one -- published by the Agriculture Department -- that estimates what parents spend on their children. The latest version finds, not surprisingly, the costs are steep. For a middle-class husband-wife family (average pre-tax income in 2009: $76,250), spending per child is about $12,000 a year. Assuming modest annual inflation (2.8 percent), the report estimates that the family's spending on a child born in 2009 would total $286,050 by age 17. A two-child family would cost about $600,000. All these estimates may be understated, because they do not include college costs.
Society doesn't put much value on raising children as reflected in our tax code which is biased against raising children.

These dry statistics ought to inform the deficit debate, because a budget is not just a catalogue of programs and taxes. It reflects a society's priorities and values. Our society does not -- despite rhetoric to the contrary -- put much value on raising children. Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. Meanwhile, tax breaks for children are modest. If deficit reduction aggravates these biases, more Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children. Down that path lies economic decline.

Fertility rates are dismal in Europe and OK in US but will we move in the direction of Europe given other trends in American society?

Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation. They have stagnant or shrinking markets for goods and services. With older populations, they resist change. For a country to stabilize its population -- discounting immigration -- women must have an average of about two children. That's a "fertility rate" of two. Many countries with struggling economies are well below that. Japan's fertility rate is 1.2. Italy's is 1.3, as is Spain's. These countries are having about one child for every two adults.

The U.S. fertility rate isn't yet close to these dismal levels. In 2007, it was at the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. Hispanics were at 3.0, and other groups clustered near replacement: 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites; 2.1 for non-Hispanic blacks; and 2.0 for Asian-Americans. (Not all the news is good. About 40 percent of births are to unmarried mothers; many children are entering poor or unstable homes.)

Though having a child is a deeply personal decision, it's shaped by culture, religion, economics and government policy. "No one has a good answer" as to why fertility varies among countries, says sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University. Eroding religious belief in Europe may partly explain lowered birth rates. In Japan, young women may be rebelling against their mothers' isolated lives of child-rearing. General optimism and pessimism count. Hopefulness fueled America's Baby Boom. After the Soviet Union's collapse, says Cherlin, "anxiety for the future" depressed birth rates in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Bias against families in tax policies will reduce fertility rates in US as well.

In poor societies, people have children to improve their economic well-being by increasing the number of family workers and providing support for parents in their old age. In wealthy societies, the logic often reverses. Government now supports the elderly, diminishing the need for children. By some studies, the safety nets for retirees have reduced fertility rates by 0.5 children in the United States and almost 1.0 in Western Europe, reports economist Robert Stein in the journal National Affairs. Similarly, some couples don't have children because they don't want to sacrifice their own lifestyles to the time and expense of a family.

Families need to be considered when establishing tax policy.

We need to avoid Western Europe's mix of high taxes, low birth rates and feeble economic growth. Young Americans already face a bleak labor market that cannot instill confidence about having children. Piling on higher taxes won't help. "If higher taxes make it more expensive to raise children," says demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, "people will think more about having another child." That seems common sense, despite the multiple influences on becoming parents.

How to reconcile this with deficit reduction is unclear. From 2011 to 2020, the Obama administration projects budget deficits of $8.5 trillion. Other estimates are higher. Even if spending and benefits for the elderly are cut -- as they should be -- higher taxes will still almost certainly be needed. Parents ought to be shielded from the steepest increases.

Any tax system rewards some activities and punishes others. A case in point is the mortgage interest rate deduction that rewards people for buying larger homes with more debt. We might reduce this dubious subsidy and shift some savings toward children. Stein advocates combining existing pro-child tax breaks (the personal exemption, the child tax credit, the child-care credit and the adoption credit) into one generous credit. Whatever the details, policies should have a pro-family bias because parenting is, as he writes, "one of the most important services any American can perform."

I would argue the overall level of government and taxation needs to drop rather than merely shielding families from assumed tax increases. Families will invariably be hit with higher taxes because they're where the money is. High income folks are few and sustaining big government will invariably fall back on families to fund.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Overreach on by federal judge in Prop 8, even for gay activists?

There's a lot of discussion about the gay Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's decision in California striking down California' s pro-marriage, Prop 8 initiative. The case will be appealed to the 9th Circuit and almost certainly come before the US Supreme Court.

What some observers are noting is the breathtaking reach of the judge's ruling.

University of Minnesota law prof Dale Carpenter, a gay activist who supports homosexual marriage, had some interesting thoughts on the courts decision at "The Volokh Conspiracy." He writes:
"But my concerns about this decision outweigh what I see as its merits. In reading so far, I think a notable feature of Judge Walker’s decision is its judicial maximalism — a willingness to reach out and decide fundamental constitutional questions not strictly necessary to reach the result. It is also, in maximalist style, filled with broad pronouncements about the essential characteristics of marriage and confident conclusions about social science. This maximalism will make the decision an even bigger target for either the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court. If that’s right, it magnifies the potential for unintended and harmful consequences for gay-rights claims even beyond the issue of marriage. Think of a possible (but milder) anti-SSMBowers v. Hardwick, which had consequences far beyond the constitutional affirmation of sodomy laws. version of

Walker is the first federal judge to hold that states must recognize same-sex marriages. By doing so, he eschewed a potentially narrower ruling striking down only Proposition 8, which had been suggested by some commentators. Such an alternative ruling would have focused on what critics regarded as the “animus” behind the passage of Prop 8. In theory, it would have left states free to retain traditional definitions of marriage not reinforced by passion-driven plebiscites. I think a narrow, strictly anti-Prop 8, decision would have tried to thread too thin a needle, but it was an option. Walker mentions anti-gay sentiment in the Prop 8 campaign, especially highlighting the shameful and misleading ads supporting it, but that is not the basis for his decision.

Instead, finding a federal right to same-sex marriage itself, Walker leans on not one but two prominent constitutional arguments. First, he says that the fundamental right to marriage protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right to choose the sex of one’s mate. That’s because, he writes, sex-based classifications in marriage have long since been stripped away. The ban on same-sex marriage is the vestige of discredited and long-abandoned sex discrimination in marriage.

Few courts upholding a right to SSM have used a fundamental-rights rationale (not even the original SSM decision, Goodridge, did so). It’s an aggressive claim, especially given the composition of the federal courts and the Supreme Court. I see little enthusiasm in this Court for expanding fundamental rights. If the Ninth Circuit and/or Supreme Court decide to reverse Walker’s ruling, they will be more likely to deal with this issue in a way that will set broader precedent. A minimalist decision for SSM by Walker could have left this matter undecided and thus would not have forced a higher court’s hand.

Second, Walker held that the ban on gay marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause. The interesting question is why. In part of Walker’s opinion, he accepts the case for heightened scrutiny of classifications based on sexual orientation and asserts that denying marriage to same-sex couples is a form of sexual-orientation discrimination (and sex discrimination, which is related).

But he then concludes that because laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples are not rational, “the court need not address the question whether laws classifying on the basis of sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of review.” If that’s true, why address the issue at all? He may be hoping, in maximalist fashion, to lay some foundation for future courts to apply strict scrutiny to sexual-orientation discrimination. But at the same time, leaving the intellectual structure unfinished, he invites a higher court to undermine it.

Walker then rejects as irrational each of the reasons offered for Prop 8, including tradition, procreation, and the need to proceed cautiously and incrementally on matters involving important social change. The biggest difficulty with his argument on these matters, as I see it, is that he thinks of gay marriage as a technical change in the law about which there is no need to proceed cautiously. California has enough printers and paper to issue the additional marriage licenses, so what’s the big deal?

The decision, as I read it, relies directly or indirectly upon every prominent constitutional argument for SSM. One could say this is a strength of the decision. If a higher court doesn’t like one reason, it might accept another. But it is also a weakness of the decision, from a gay-rights litigation perspective, since it invites a higher court to address them all if it decides to reverse the result. A sweeping victory becomes a sweeping defeat.

Judge Walker, I am sure, would deny that his decision is maximalist. SSM, he assures us, is not a “sweeping” change. Furthermore, his decision is couched in the lop-sided evidence presented at trial about marriage and the potential consequences of recognizing SSM. By my count, he uses the word “evidence” 54 times in the “Conclusions of Law” section alone. This evidentiary reliance will be used to try to insulate the decision from meaningful appellate review. The evidence just leads us, inescapably, to the conclusion that SSM is a neutral or even good thing. What’s more, the evidence is so one-sided that judges are entitled to say so as a matter of constitutional law. But I have never been convinced that the issue of gay marriage would be decided, in courts at least, by a battle of expert witnesses in the way we might decide whether a Pinto is unreasonably dangerous.

Gay-rights groups, you may recall, initially opposed the Prop 8 litigation on the grounds that it was too much, too soon. Though they are publicly celebrating this ruling, I imagine in the background there is considerable unease about what happens next. The Supreme Court, they reasoned in early 2009, was not ready to declare a right to SSM. Premature litigation, they feared, would do more harm than good (even if there were a temporary win at a lower level). Well, nothing has changed except that the stakes have been considerably raised today in a maximalist decision, bringing us one step closer to Perry v. Schwarzenegger, ___ U.S. ___ (201_) (reversing lower court ruling for same-sex marriage on due process and equal protection grounds).

Of course, the question will be which direction Justice Kennedy will go on this case. Maybe Carpenter is right and the overreach by Judge Walker will be too much for Kennedy to swallow in addition to the realization that overturning 30 plus state marriage amendments is a bit too much.

Whatever happens the cultural divide is only widening and deepening in our nation.