I'm a Pundit Too

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Nightmare On K Street

In the movie “A Nightmare On Elm Street”, Freddy Krueger refuses to die, even though he had been shot, stabbed, and burned. The immigration reform of earlier this year is the real life equivalent of the aforementioned movie. The public rose up against the political machine in early summer to defeat the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation twice in a matter of weeks. The political elites in Washington have become confused at what the people who voted them into power really desire. The politicians believe that we really want and need this illegal immigration amnesty legislation passed. There are a group of Republican and Democratic Senators that are insistent on reviving the defeated reform.

Senators Durbin, Hagel, Lugar, Leahy, Obama, Clinton, Lieberman, Feinstein, Kerry Feingold, Bayh, Menendez, Murray, Cantwell, Boxer, Dodd, and Salazar have sponsored a piece of legislation titled the “Dream Act”. They plan to attach this legislation to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year of 2008 as an amendment. Their plan is to force this through the Senate causing opponents of the amnesty plan to be leery of voting against it for fear of opposing money for our troops.

The Dream Act was originally a product of the mind of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch in 2004. The Act basically allows illegal immigrants to attain legal status if they were brought to the United States prior to age 16 and if they have been here for greater than 5 years. It is hyped as a way for illegal immigrants that graduate form our public schools to be able to attend college as in-state resident and receive in-state tuition rates. One of the biggest problems with this latest amnesty bill is there verification process of when an illegal immigrant actually came to the United States. This legislation is just another way to legalize millions of illegal immigrants without any punishment for breaking our immigration laws.

Once again, this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is an American issue. Members from both political parties have once again betrayed the public trust. They have decided that even though we made our objections known in June, we really didn’t know what we were fighting against. They believe that they know what we really want on illegal immigration. So much so, that they have decided to slip this legislation into a defense funding bill. They have so much confidence in their position that they don’t want to bring this bill to the floor on it’s own merit. They expect us to sit blindly on the sidelines and not notice their latest attempts to appease a potential voting block of people.

One surprising aspect of this nightmare is that 2 Presidential candidates have signed on to co-sponsor the amendment. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are betting that the voters will either not notice their names on the bill, or won’t care that they blatantly disregard the will of the public. Why would these 2 Democratic frontrunners decide to back an amnesty bill that the vast majority of their supporters do not support?

Even though the politicians seem intent on passing this into law, we cannot forget that we have defeated this before. The Senate tried twice back in June to push this through and we the people stood up and made our voices heard. The reform bill went down to defeat and we can kill it again. The bureaucrats are trying to slowly implement the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. If we stand as one again, this too will go down in defeat.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Enemies Or Allies? The Democrat's Quandary

It has been a very interesting and enlightening week of events. The week started with Osama Bin Laden lecturing the United States on the Iraq War, global warming, and the failures of our democratic society. Then on Monday, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and delivered a mixed status report on the progress of the troop surge in Iraq. At the same time that the decorated 4 star general was sitting before the pompous politicians, the waning readership of the New York Times was treated to a full page ad by MoveOn.org that said “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?”.

These events are linked in more ways than the obvious Iraq War connection. I believe that the week’s events were a glaring indication of who the leadership in the Democratic Party have aligned themselves. The comments and attitudes of the “distinguished” senators, MoveOn.org, Code Pink, and the New York Times clearly show that they have allied themselves with some very unlikely company.

After reading the transcript of Bin Laden’s speech, I recognized a very familiar tone. The tone, opinion, and topics we all heard before over the past several months. Osama stated several times that this was a war that we could not win. He said that we are caught in the middle of a civil war. Before I continue, it was interesting that Osama claimed we were caught in a civil war, but then claimed that his terrorist organization was winning this war with the United States. Bin Laden echoed the Democrats when he blamed the neocons and singled out Rumsfeld and Cheney. He also rambled on about global warming and the administration’s refusal to sign onto the Kyoto accord. He even blames “Big Corporations” for controlling the country and driving us to war for profit.

Those are just a few of the “highlights” of Osama’s assessment of the Iraq War and our country. Did anyone else besides my partisan self, notice that Osama and the Democratic leadership have the same talking points? The leaders in the House and Senate have been very outspoken against the war and have said that they support the troops but not the war. How does anyone, besides the “intellectuals”, believe that they are supporting the troops when they are saying exactly the same things as our troop’s enemy? I guess the question to be asked is, Is Osama echoing the Democratic leadership, or is the leadership echoing Osama? In either case it is not a position of support of our troops. I have criticized the Democratic party for their rhetoric against the war, saying that our enemies and our men in women in uniform see the same speeches. It emboldens our enemies and hurts the morale of our soldiers in harm’s way.

Before the General ever opened his mouth to start with his report, he was subjected to insult after insult by the anti-war members of the committee. Senator Lantos was the first to question the war hero’s integrity. Senator Clinton also questioned Petraeus honor and integrity while she took her 833rd position on the war. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed that the General’s plan was unacceptable because he disagreed that the surge had seen military success. The Democrats have claimed that the report was untrue because the White House staff had written the report. The problem is that these same Democrats wrote the legislation that required the White House to report on the outcome of the surge. The Democrats also complained that Petraeus himself was not going to come before the committee to testify. When Petraeus and the White House agreed to send the General and the Ambassador to testify, they whined that he wasn’t going to be honest and it would be a waste of time. When did we arrive at a time when one of our country’s most decorated soldiers is insulted and accused of being a political hack? Isn’t a bit hypocritical of any politician accusing anyone else of dishonesty?

The New York Times has had declining subscriptions over the past few years. When reports of the “paper of record” discounting advertising rates for an organization that open accuses our top military commander of treason, is it any wonder why their sales have slipped? The New York Post reported that MoveOn.org paid $65,000 for the full page ad. They also reported that the normal rate for a full page ad was over $180,000. Why did MoveOn receive a discount? Was it politically motivated? Since Rudy Giuliani has announced his plans to take out a full page ad in the New York Times to rebut the MoveOn ad, we only have to wait to see if the Times will charge the same discounted rate to Giuliani’s campaign.

I firmly believe that everyone has the right to say whatever they want about the General, the war, or the President. I have just as much right to question their patriotism and their desire for the United States to be victorious in the stabilization of Iraq. I believe that the Democrats have taken the positions that they have on the war and the surge solely for political purposes. They realize that if they do not take a hard line on the surge and the war, their financial backing from fringe groups like MoveOn will dry up faster than Hillary Clinton changing her political positions.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Is It Time To Make Congress Go Vegan?

Last summer and fall the subject of earmarks and “pork barrel” spending was in the headlines almost every day due to the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals. Those scandals and the prospect of regaining control of the House of Representatives prompted the Democratic House leaders to promise earmark reform. Earmarks are the funds that Congress attaches to legislation, generally appropriations bills, to send targeted money back to their home district. After Congress spent approximately $32 billion in earmarks last year and the Republican loss of both houses of Congress, President Bush pressed the legislative branch of the government to cut earmark spending in half. Progress has been made in some respects but there is a long way to go.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to make the practice of earmark spending more transparent and the leadership has made the paperwork accessible to the public, but only in the Appropriations Committee’s offices. The goal is to make it accessible online, but the Democratic leadership set no timetable to accomplish the goal. In other words, they can claim that they laid the groundwork, but make no real moves to actually post the reports online. The Democrats have done more than the Republicans did to make earmark spending more easily accessible to the public, but they have left an awful lot to be desired. They could have easily set the timetable to post the reports online and no politician in Washington would have wanted to be seen as opposing the bill. Unfortunately, the political minds went to work and realized that rhetoric speaks louder than action in Washington.

The new reporting system has allowed watchdog groups to see that although the Democratic leadership has started to release the reports on earmark spending, it has not really slowed them down. Speaker Pelosi has sent nearly $100 million back to her San Francisco district. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has sent close to $86 million back to his district here in Maryland. The House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey has directed $96 million to his Wisconsin constituents. The leading Democrat overseeing defense spending is Jack Murtha, who sent $186 million back to his home district in Pennsylvania.

The Speaker has received more than 1 percent of all of the earmarks in the House. She has said that she is against earmark spending and would do away with it all together if she could. I guess she has decided that since she cannot end the practice that she might as well exploit it for all that it is worth; hardly a noble effort on Ms. Pelosi’s part.

Before my liberal friends start screaming about the Republicans, I want to point out that if the Republican had lived up to their fiscally conservative talking points, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now. The leading Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis, sent $124 million back to California. Bill Young is the leading Republican on the Defense Appropriations panel; he and Murtha follow the unwritten rule that the majority gets 60% of the pork, while the minority is left with 40%. Young received $142 million to pass along to his Florida district.

While these numbers seem to be staggering, the Senate has made no moves to make the earmark spending transparent or to rein in their pork fetish. As a comparison Senator Dianne Feinstein has sent close to $400 million back to the state of California. Senator Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, added $112 million to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. That is for one appropriations bill. The Agriculture Appropriations Bill had $26 million added by the Mississippi Republican. A total of $393 million was added to the Homeland Security bill for earmarks. $587 million was added to the Senate’s Commerce Appropriations Bill.

With new rules in the House regarding earmarks, it has made it harder for those not sitting on one of the powerful appropriation panels to attach their pet spending projects. Unfortunately, even with the new rules we have seen that power and money corrupts the politicians no matter what they espouse on the campaign trail. The numbers I have listed came from 2 sources. You can go to Taxpayers for Common Sense for lists of appropriations bills for both houses of Congress and who requested which earmark and how much each state received. I also recommend reading this article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Citizens Against Government Waste also provides an excellent review of Congress’ spending habits. I realize that with an annual Federal budget of over $3 trillion these earmarks are a drop in the bucket, but remember that the government does not produce any product to make money. Each and every dime of the budget, and every one of the earmarks, comes from your tax dollars. You wouldn’t spend your own money in such a manner, so why do we allow the elected prima donnas in Washington get away with what amounts to legal embezzlement?