Monday, April 30, 2007

Catholic Justices Attacked

The Macaca Post prints a rather idiotic attack on Catholic justices, accusing them of basing a recent decision on their faith rathe than the law:

Is it significant that the five Supreme Court justices who voted to uphold the federal ban on a controversial abortion procedure also happen to be the court's Roman Catholics?

It is to Tony Auth, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He drew Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. wearing bishop's miters, and labeled his cartoon "Church and State."

Rosie O'Donnell and Barbara Walters hashed out the issue on "The View," with O'Donnell noting that a majority of the court is Catholic and wondering about "separation of church and state." Walters counseled that "we cannot assume that they did it because they're Catholic."

Such an assumption makes no sense for one simple reason - if the Justices were secretly basing their decisions on Church teachings they wouldn't have needed anything more than half of Justice Thomas' concurrence (which only Justice Scalia joined):
I join the Court's opinion because it accurately applies current jurisprudence, including Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992). I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court's abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), has no basis in the Constitution...
Of course, this would still overlap with basing their decisions on the Constitution.

The reality is that the Court's 4 "conservative" justices happen to be Catholic. The occasional pairing with Justice Kennedy makes a 4 or 5 justice voting bloc on some issues where the anti-Catholic bigotry would be useless:
And last week, four of the five Catholics were in the court's minority in voting to uphold death sentences in three cases from Texas...
Court observers should be above religious attacks and note two additional facts: (1) the federal ban was written to comply with the earlier decision and (2) Justice O'Connor, the "swing-vote" in that case, was replaced by Justice Alito. With the passing of the O'Connor Court, the law is no longer whatever Justice O'Connor says it is.

Corzine Must Resign

The New York Times reports:

[New Jersey] Gov. Jon S. Corzine apologized to New Jersey residents Monday as he left the hospital 18 days after a devastating car crash in which he was not wearing a seat belt and was riding in a car traveling at more than 91 miles an hour on the Garden State Parkway.

"I set a very bad example," said a contrite Mr. Corzine, who broke his left femur and 11 ribs in the accident, speaking from a wheelchair just outside Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J.

His voice breaking with emotion, he added: "I hope the state will forgive me. I will work very hard to set the right kind of example."


Mr. Corzine was injured April 12 when his state vehicle crashed on the Garden State Parkway near Atlantic City. At the time of the accident, he was not wearing a seat belt, as state law requires, and the vehicle was exceeding the posted 65 m.p.h. speed limit by more than 25 miles an hour.


Today, after his brief comments, Mr. Corzine got into a dark GMC Savana van that he purchased in the last few days and had specially modified for his wheelchair. He left the hospital in a six-car caravan that included a black state police Crown Victoria, a Chevrolet Suburban like the one he had been riding in on April 12, a Mercedes station wagon and two other cars.

No one in the motorcade used emergency lights, as his driver had been doing at the time of the accident. They kept to a pace of about 70 miles per hour, even though the posted limit is 55 on the stretch of Interstate 295 that leads to Drumthwacket, the governor's official mansion in Princeton, where Mr. Corzine will spend the next stage of his recovery.

If Corzine thinks the speed limit is too slow for him, he should at least have taken a helicopter instead of continuing to endanger his fellow citizens.

For his shameful behavior and abuse of office, Corzine must resign.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

But Can They Not Vote But Not Choose Not to Vote?

Tallahassee, Florida - 900 miles outside the Beltway

Florida may take an unusual approach to tackling undervotes:

[State Sen. Mike Bennett] persuaded the Senate Ethics and Elections committee to approve a bill, SB-494, on Monday that would require ballots to have the additional option of "I choose not to vote."

That option could not win a race, and the actual candidate with the highest number of votes would win the election.

Bennett, R-Bradenton, said the no-choice option would enable uninformed or disgusted voters to opt out in a way that clearly displays their intention to abstain for elections officials.

But what will happen if a voter wants to abstain from "I choose not to vote"?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Federal Employees Steal Over $17 Million Each Year

The Macaca Post reports:

It's a perk of federal employment: a free monthly subsidy that pays for commutes on public transportation. But scores of workers have been taking the government for a ride, selling their benefits on the Internet and pocketing millions in cash each year.

The program, which covers 300,000 federal employees nationwide, has been abused by workers across a variety of agencies, the Government Accountability Office will report to Congress today. Workers in the Washington region alone have defrauded the government of at least $17 million a year, with the actual figure probably several million dollars higher, according to the GAO.

The criminals vary in their methods:

Workers have been accepting the transit subsidies but driving to work, or claiming a subsidy far greater than their commuting costs and selling the excess, GAO investigators found. For example, one employee at the Department of Transportation claimed the maximum benefit of $105 per month, but his commute cost $54.


A Northern Virginia man who works for the Transportation Department and has been receiving the maximum transit subsidy since 2004, even though he often "slugs" to work -- jumping into the impromptu carpools on I-95/395 lanes -- gets a ride with a neighbor or rides his motorcycle. He sold his unused Metrocheks, worth $1,080, on eBay. He told investigators he did not know it was illegal, despite a warning on the cards.

Both members of a married couple working at the Defense Department received transit subsidies but drove to work together. The husband told investigators he sold 61 lots of Metrocheks, worth $6,000, on eBay. The wife denied selling hers and said she used her subsidy for personal travel -- a violation of the program -- but both spouses' names appeared on the eBay accounts.


A worker at the Commerce Department left her job in 2001 but received benefits until 2006, when she changed addresses and the agency caught the mistake. By that time, she had sold Metrocheks worth $4,000, according to the GAO.

The Coast Guard gave transit subsidies to one man who apparently did not work for the agency; no employment records could be located for him, the GAO found. The Treasury Department gave Metrocheks to 25 people who never worked at that agency, according to the GAO.


Sales have been brisk despite a warning on the back of the Metrocheks that says they are not transferable, and a pledge signed by workers that says they will use the cards only to cover their commuting costs...

Senator Coleman highlights the failure of the bureaucracy to recognize criminal activity:

"The internal controls on this particular program are grossly inadequate, and no one agency is responsible for overseeing or managing the program -- that is a recipe for disaster," said Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), the panel's ranking Republican, who initiated the investigation. "It's not a case of someone being asleep at the switch; it's a case of no one being at the switch at all."


Coleman said the idea behind the program -- to reduce traffic congestion and pollution by getting federal workers to use public transportation -- remains worthwhile.

But he said basic controls should be enacted: Employment should be confirmed before someone is enrolled in the program; workers should not get parking spaces and transit benefits at the same time; agencies should verify employees' commuting expenses; and when an employee leaves an agency, the administrator of transit benefits should be notified.

"Most importantly, there should be greater clarity on precisely which agency or agencies are responsible for running this operation," Coleman said. And, he said, workers caught selling their Metrocheks should be punished.

With the transit program costing some $250 million annually, identified fraud consumes almost 7% of the budget.

Senator Coleman is right, these workers should be punished. They should be fired from their jobs, barred from future employment, and prosecuted to the full extent possible.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Metro to Display Train Information Outside of Fare Gates


Metrorail customers will now be able to get train arrival information at the mezzanine level and elevator outage information at the platform level of rail stations. Beginning Monday, April 23, the information will be displayed on the electronic signs or Passenger Information Displays (PIDs).


"Now, our customers will be able to make decisions about their trips before the enter they stations and get to know about train arrival and delay information," [Metro General Manager John Catoe] said.

That should be most helpful outside of rush hour so passengers don't spend as much time stuck on the platforms, but it will probably also encourage people to run through the entire station to catch trains.

It will also be interesting to see how accurate this information is. This morning, Blue and Yellow trains were being displayed with the wrong line color and the wrong number of cars. In the evening, the information displayed outside had no resemblance to the trains actually arriving.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Partial Birth Abortion Divides Presidential Candidates

From the AP:

The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure today...

The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 [is constitutional]...

The administration had defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide.

Reacting to the ruling, [President] Bush said that it affirms the progress his administration has made to uphold the "sanctity of life."

"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion," he said. "Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America."

Among the reactions:

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R)... Wednesday joined in the chorus of Republican presidential candidates hailing the Supreme Court decision upholding the ban of the procedure.

"The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion," Giuliani said in a statement on the 5–4 decision. "I agree with it."

The "chorus" included both Romney and McCain, and will surely grow.

On the other side, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all attacked the ruling, opposing the law that was passed in 2003 with the support of over one third of Senate Democrats.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Celebrity Endorsements for 2008

The Hill takes a look at which 2008 presidential candidates are getting financial support from Hollywood celebrities. In the sample, 37 out of 41 gave to Democrats, with only this exception:
Actors Kelsey Grammer, Adam Sandler and John O’Hurley (J. Peterman on “Seinfeld”) cut checks for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Most Americans Dependent on Taxpayers

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Slightly over half of all Americans – 52.6 percent – now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That's up from 49.4 percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass 55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President's Reagan's move to scale back the size of government.
With the "boomers" seeking to bankrupt their children through increasing entitlements and Democrats throwing money at anything they can see, this number will only grow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Democrat Inaction Hurts Local Prosecutions

The Macaca Post reports:

A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records.

Acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer, for example, has been effectively absent from his job as U.S. attorney in Montana for nearly two years -- prompting the chief federal judge in Billings to demand his removal and call Mercer's office "a mess."


At the moment, at least six sitting U.S. attorneys, including Mercer..., also hold senior spots at Justice. Each prosecutor continues to draw a regular U.S. attorney's salary and is not paid extra for the executive position...

Mercer currently wears two hats as the U.S. attorney in Montana and as third-in-command at Justice, behind Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty. Mercer has been pulling double duty since June 2005, when he was first appointed to a different executive position at Justice headquarters.

His regular absence from the U.S. attorney's office in Billings has caused severe friction between Mercer and U.S. District Chief Judge Donald W. Molloy, a Clinton appointee. Molloy wrote a letter to Gonzales in October 2005 demanding that Mercer be replaced.


[Department of Justice spokesman Brian] Roehrkasse said Mercer has "effectively served" in his simultaneous postings but that "Congress should move forward quickly to confirm his nomination, which has been pending for eight months." Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have indicated they will not proceed on the appointment until after the panel's probe of the U.S. attorney firings is completed.

If Senate Democrats are unwilling to consider their consitutional duty of advice and consent, there's no reason to submit yet another appointment for them to ignore.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

President Bypasses Senators' Coward's Veto

The LA Times reports:

In a flurry of nominations and appointments, [President] Bush also named a researcher at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, as deputy director of the Social Security Administration. Andrew G. Biggs has been an outspoken proponent of converting Social Security benefits into self-directed retirement accounts, which Bush favors but Democrats have stopped cold. Bush nominated Biggs to that post in November, but the process stalled in February when the Senate Finance Committee refused to hold confirmation hearings because of his views on privatization.


[Susan Dudley's] nomination [as director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB] stalled because the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which held the hearing, didn't vote on it.

Dudley was unavailable for comment Wednesday, as were leading senators on the committee. But Leslie Phillips, the committee's communications director, criticized Bush for making an end run.

The recess appointment, she said, "shows disrespect for the advise-and-consent responsibilities of the U.S. Senate and for the American people, on whose behalf the president acts. The power to recess appoint should not be used to avoid any scrutiny of presidential nominees."

The Democrat Senate shows disrespect for the advise-and-consent responsibilities of the U.S. Senate and for the American people by failing to follow through with those responsibilities and give nominees an up or down vote. Refusing to hold hearings and refusing to vote is shameful and childish behavior.

No wonder Congress has the lowest approval rating of any branch of government.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Democrats Fail to Control Gas Prices

The Washington Times reports:

A gallon of gas costs an average of $2.68 nationally and is rising -- about the same price as last spring when Democrats on the campaign trail vowed to swiftly ease the pain at the pump if elected.

...analysts predict gas prices could hit $3 per gallon by summer.

ABC News adds:
'Strong Possibility' Gas Will Rise to $4
Democrats are too busy creating pork and nonbinding resolutions to do either of the two things that would reduce gas prices - increase production or enact price controls (and rationing).

Democrat Congress Wastes Record Amount of Paper

The Macaca Post reports:

One of the unintended consequences of the new five-day workweek under the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill is a whopping bill from the Government Printing Office. A longer workweek means more paper.

The Congressional Record, for instance, is printed daily and captures every debate, vote, parliamentary maneuver, tribute to a fife-and-drum corps, post office naming, and utterance by members on the floor of the House and the Senate. It averages 250 pages.


That's two additional days of the Congressional Record, 500 more pages and an additional $3 million annually in printing costs, according to Robert C. Tapella, chief of staff for the printing office, which is responsible for publishing all government documents. The current press run for the Congressional Record is 5,604 copies, a figure set by Congress.


The agency is producing 3 million or 4 million pages a week for Congress from its 1.5 million-square-foot North Capitol Street headquarters, the largest information-processing, printing and distribution facility in the world. Tapella could not say how that compares with the workload under the last Congress.

All the talk of paper led some members of the panel to question why the printing office, which was created in 1813 when printing was a central tool in communication, hasn't gone all-electronic.

That's a good question since few, if any, of the 5,604 copies of the Congressional Record are probably ever read.

The printing office is in the middle of a $29 million technological shift that will allow it to store and maintain all federal documents electronically, Tapella said. About 92 percent of everything it publishes now is available in an electronic format, said Michael L. Wash, the agency's chief technical officer. The agency produced its first online edition of the Congressional Record two weeks ago.

But [William H. Turri, the acting public printer,] said the printing office will stick with paper until Congress directs it to do otherwise.

"It's kind of like the newspaper business," said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn). "They know things are going electronic, but they know people are going to want to read their newspaper with their coffee."

Who reads the Congressional Record with their morning coffee? If any do, it should come out of their office budgets.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Metro Adding Cars?


Metrorail Adding 24 Rail Cars

To accommodate higher ridership during Cherry Blossom activities, Metro is adding 24 rail cars to its weekday morning and afternoon peak service starting Monday, April 2. These 24 rail cars will allow Metro to initiate eight-car trains on the Red and Green lines and to expand eight-car train service on the Orange Line during the afternoon peak period. Metro will convert one four-car train to a six-car train on the Yellow Line, and convert two four-car Blue Line trains to six-car trains. These added cars will remain in service after the festival.

Don't get excited. They said we'd be rid of those four-car trains by last December.

There is, however, one important and fundamental piece of advice for anyone visiting the DC area:
Visitors should avoid traveling during the peak commuter periods from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., and are strongly encouraged to avoid traveling Metrorail between 4 and 6 p.m. at the height of the afternoon peak period.
Metrorail doesn't have the capacity to handle commuters on a normal day, there certainly isn't room for tourists.