Saturday, May 4, 2002

A thought

A thought for the anti-war activists (here, and in Israel, and everywhere else they may be found):

There is no "peace" in "appeasement".

posted at 08:12 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

All throughout history peace has only come after a decisive war and defeat. Peace comes when negotiations are not necessary because one side is so crushed that will accept any terms. Such as the Japanese and Germans did in WWII and unlike the Germans of WWI which led to WWII from these same aggressors.

posted by Michael Glazer on May 5, 2002 12:57 PM

NY Times—Cookie Monster?

On a note related to my last post, why is it that the New York Times sends four cookies every time an article is accessed on their site? I have my browser set to prompt for cookies, so I know exactly how many cookies I get each time I read something (The NYT will not display articles if you block their cookies). I can understand one cookie, or perhaps two, but I think four is a bit excessive.

posted at 04:11 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Israel on Jenin

Read this article in the New York Times(registration required) on why Israel was justified in rejecting the UN inquiry into the Jenin incident. The author, Yuval Steinitz, is chairman of the subcommittee for defense planning and policy of the Israeli Knesset. He has a lot to say about the manner, yet he manages to say it in a remarkably calm and diplomatic fashion.

Personally, I knew the probe was a farce as soon as I saw that Cornelio Sommaruga was named to it; Sommaruga is the former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and his biggest distinction is his refusal of Red Cross recognition of the red star of Magen David Adom as an equivalent symbol to the red cross and the red crescent as internationally recognized medical symbols. His reasoning ("we'd have to allow swastikas," to paraphrase) doesn't hold water, as both the cross and the crescent are religious symbols, not political symbols. He simply has a bias against Magen David Adom (I won't say it is anti-semitism, but it certainly has all the hallmarks).

For a refreshing take on the Church of the Nativity standoff in Bethlehem, read what Myria has to say at It Can't Rain All The Time. Her reading of the situation is dead-on. If the situation were reversed, and it was Israelis in the church, can you imagine the outcry from the EU-nuchs?

posted at 03:58 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

This is news?

NEWS FLASH! EU 'Deplores' U.N. Jenin Probe Cancellation

NEWS FLASH! Earth Revolves Around Sun


posted at 10:27 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 3, 2002

Slate magazine's Timothy Noah is

Slate magazine's Timothy Noah is bent out of shape about Wayne LaPierre's rather intemperate remarks about an gun-grabbing group. Here's the part that has Noah in a lather:

"In fact, Andrew McKelvey's network [Americans for Gun Safety] kind of operates and sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda. A billionaire with an extremist political agenda, subverting honest diplomacy, using personal wealth to train and deploy activists, looking for vulnerabilities to attack, fomenting fear for political gain, funding an ongoing campaign to hijack your freedom and take a box-cutter to the Constitution. That's political terrorism, and it's a far greater threat to your freedom than any foreign force." (Wayne LaPierre)

It's over the top, to be sure, but it's no more offensive than the idiotic bleating over Richard Mellon Scaife and the use of his wealth to further a political agenda. I remember the screams of "It's only about sex!" and "vast right-wing conspiracy" and "shredding the constitution" regarding the Bill and Monica show, which was an outgrowth of the investigation Scaife funded (through The American Spectator magazine). The only difference is that instead of using "sexual McCarthyism" as the overused slur, they are using Osama. Noah didn't flip over Julian Bond's repeated use of "The Taliban wing of the Republican Party" to smear Bush cabinet appointees, so why is it that comparing McKelvey to Osama is such a bad thing?

Of course, Noah is a strident critic of the NRA (see this and this). His offhand dismissals (or outright hostility, depending on one's interpretation of his posts) of anyone who opposes the gun-grabbers is probably why he is so upset, but try telling that to him.

(Edited 5 May 2002 to fix incorrect link for Bond quote)

posted at 11:04 PM | permalink | Comments (0)


I've noticed a lot of bloggers have posted thoughts about Arafat's comment about "Jeningrad", and they have made references to Stalingrad.

Was Arafat comparing Jenin to Stalingrad, or to Leningrad? Both cities were besieged for long periods of time by the Germans, and both successfully resisted capture. Besides, *Jeningrad* has that euphonious similarity to Leningrad.

Just an idle musing.

posted at 01:38 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

Almost certainly Stalingrad. The Palestinians are maintaining that this was an enormous victory, not simply for holding out (a la Leningrad), but because "repeated defeats" were inflicted on the Israelis. Moreover, the Israelis failed to hold Jenin (never mind that they hadn't tried), and the Israelis lost more troops there than they had since the 1982 war in Lebanon.

Leningrad, by contrast, is simply a case of holding out (and, perhaps, the Church of the Nativity will become the Palestinian Leningrad, in this regard).

posted by Dean on May 3, 2002 08:54 PM

The American Prospect—sexism alert

Can you imagine if an article such as this ran on a conservative website, with the names changed to those of female CLINTON administration officials?

GIRL TALK. Speaking of Gale Norton ..., Tapped is tickled by the following story. It seems Norton, EPA Secretary Christie Whitman and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman were enjoying one of their regular lunches this week when a lower level EPA administrator issued a letter attacking one of Interior's favored causes — snowmobiling in Yellowstone. When Norton found out later she felt back-stabbed and called Whitman to rant. Whitman's now ordered that such matters should come through her office. But forget about the policy details: We want to know what Norton, Whitman, and Veneman were talking about at lunch. How Karen Hughes' departure made them think about their own families? Why wasn't Condi invited? And do they have slumber parties too? [posted 9:25 am]

Where is NOW? Paging Gloria Steinem...

posted at 12:15 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Response from IPC

Two days ago, after seeing this map, I fired off a message to the Palestinian International Press Center:

Why does your map not show Israel?

Does it reflect a change in official policy?

Officially, Palestine is supposed to be composed of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip regions, while the rest
of the area indicated on the map is Israel.

Does the map indicate that Palestinian Authority now
consider all of Israel as part of the state of
Palestine? Since the IPC is an official governmental
agency, your media and press releases should coincide
with the views of the Palestinian Authority.

If this represents an official policy change, it
should be made known, as most of the world believes
that you are striving for an end of the occupation of
the West Bank and Gaza areas, not the annihilation of

Otherwise, you might wish to find a better map, one
that does not leave you open to charges of duplicity
and outright lying.

Well they responded to me, after a fashion. Here is their reply:

Dear sir, Thanks for your comments Their is no change in policy. the map shows the historical location of Palestine. the Palestinian had to give up part of Palestine in order to attain peace in the region.

Yours Truly

International Press Center

Is it just me, or is this an extremely vague reply to a specific group of questions?

posted at 06:57 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 2, 2002

Sin Taxes

This article in Reason magazine led Stephen Green, over at VodkaPundit, to start this thread about the folly of sin taxes.

Nobody, however, has touched upon the most pernicious consequence of such taxes: entrenched bureaucracies that will do anything to protect their little piece of the pie.

A case in point is the tax passed here, in the People's Republic of California, a few years ago, Proposition 99.

Proposition 99 passed in November 1988 by a 58 to 42 percent margin, increasing the state's cigarette tax from 10 to 35 cents (per pack). A new 42 percent tax was also imposed on non-cigarette tobacco items. Six accounts were created to disburse the funds:

Anti-tobacco education in schools and communities (20 percent);
Hospital treatment of indigent patients (35 percent);
Physician treatment of indigent patients (10 percent);
Research on tobacco-related diseases (5 percent);
"Environmental concerns" (5 percent);
Not allocated, to be applied to the above categories (25 percent).

The problem is the new regulatory authority that was installed to implement the decision. Their salaries and administrative budget have to be added up each year, and are probably fairly substantial (I do not have any idea where to find such numbers, or if they are available).

Assume for a moment that this tax accomplishes its task, to significantly reduce smoking. Are you under the illusion that if smoking were cut even 95%, that this new bureaucracy would fold up its tents and move on? That is not the way government functions! The income that they receive will decrease by an equivalent 95%, yet the same fixed overhead costs (which actually increase every year, since nobody in Sacramento is familiar with the term "Zero-Based Budgeting") will still be there. Therefore, this eternal bureaucracy will eventually become a burden on the budget, as expenses exceed income. I need not explain the resultant uproar.

That is why I object to sin taxes; not because of the impact on individuals (I don't smoke, and I drink very infrequently), but because of the impact on government.

posted at 04:23 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Unable to play

Well, I *was* going to deep link an article or two from the Dallas Morning News, but I can't register to get access. I get a "servlet exception" error when I attempt to go to the registration page. Interesting.

UPDATE: 11:30 PDT—Still can't register, so it appears that I will have to sit this one out. Bummer.

posted at 07:02 AM | permalink | Comments (2)

As my journalism professor always said, "Life is rough in the Adirondacks".

His other pronouncements carried about as much gravitas.

posted by susanna on May 2, 2002 03:41 PM

Dude, just go to one of the other blogs that have deep links (cut on the bias has a list) and borrow one of theirs. I've even got an old one.

posted by William T. Quick on May 2, 2002 05:40 PM

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Philosophy Test

This is an interesting little test I found through a link at The Agitator. It is a very short philosophical quiz. According to my results, I lived, but I was one of only a small number of people who chose the path I did (119 out of 10,400+, or a little more than 1%). The test also pointed out a potential ethical conflict in my choices, although I believe my choices are consistent (apparently my definition of self is a bit different than what the developers of the test believe).

If you wish to know how I answered, take the test and then e-mail me with a request. I don't mind sharing my answers, but I'd like to have everyone take the test first.

posted at 06:36 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

LOL. Great minds fall into the same gutters... Or, something like that. 120 of 10,447 and a conflict. Oh, well. I never have managed to follow the crowd very well.

posted by Target Dude on May 2, 2002 04:07 AM

Hmmm. 120, you say? Sounds like you came up with the exact same answers I did, since I was number 119.

Has anyone else out there taken this test?

posted by scutum on May 2, 2002 03:34 PM

Jenin 'massacre' reduced

Jenin 'massacre' reduced to death toll of 56

The Palestinians are furiously backpedaling; will the British press follow suit?

This link courtesy of the lovely and talented Dawn Olson, by way of Vodka Pundit.

posted at 05:56 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Myths about the conflict

In keeping with this blog’s theme of offering nothing that is original, here is a compilation of facts about the Israel/Palestine situation that bear repeating, as often as possible, until the lunkheads who shape public opinion (especially in Europe) wake up.


Assertion 1: Israel is illegally occupying Palestine.

No, Israel is occupying lands captured during a war initiated by its neighbors. The lands outside Israel’s borders were captured in 1967 from Egypt and from Jordan. The fact that these two countries have since renounced their claims to them does not mean that there is an independent state there, one that is occupied by Israel. For examples of illegal occupation, take a look at Tibet (occupied by China), Libya’s attempt to annex the Aozou Strip region of Chad, Syria’s de facto occupation of Lebanon, or Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. These were all attempts by one country to conquer all or part of another country.

The Israel situation is more analogous to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor upon Portugal’s departure, or Morocco and Mauritania’s partition of the Western Sahara upon Spain’s withdrawal. In these cases, the former administrator of the region renounced ownership. The situation could also be applied to wartime transfers of territory such as the dispersion of Austro-Hungarian territory to Italy, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia after World War I, or the Russian annexation of large portions of Poland (and the Polish annexation of large portions of Germany) following World War II. The latter examples are a bit different, as the formally annexed areas resulted in citizenship being extended to the residents, but imagine the howling if Israel were to formally annex the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Assertion 2: Ariel Sharon is a war criminal.

This is another old argument trotted out whenever Arafat’s current sins are addressed. The allegation is that he was responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Lebanese civilians during Israel’s campaign to eradicate the PLO in the 1980s. Sharon was only tangentially responsible, as Maronite Christian Lebanese militiamen carried out the massacre, without any input from Sharon. The Israeli government carried out an investigation, and while they did not ascribe the attack to him, they felt that his lack of attention to the situation was at least partially to blame, and relieved him of his post. He was not relieved due to mass murder, as the Palestinian apologists would have us believe.

Assertion 3: The Israelis treat Arab citizens as second-class citizens.

There is probably some truth to this claim, but considering the constant attacks upon Israel by Arabs, there is a trade-off between civil rights and the preservation of life (the ultimate civil right).

Arabic citizens of Israel are taught (in Arabic) in Israeli schools, they hold seats in Israel’s Knesset, they enjoy the freedom to criticize the government (military information is censored, but Hebrew and English papers operate under the same restrictions), they are allowed to practice their religious beliefs (and have access to their holy sites and houses of worship), and even with the “second-class” status within Israel, they enjoy greater civil rights than the citizens of any other Arabic nation. In fact, before the current intifada, the “oppressed peoples” of the West Bank enjoyed more freedom than virtually any other nation in the region.

Assertion 4: It is Israeli oppression that is the cause of the homicide bombers.

If this claim were true, than we would see Christian residents of the West Bank acting in the same fashion, and there would be suicide bombings in Spain, in England, in Chechnya, in the Philippines, and in any other nation where there was civil disorder or separatist movements. The fact that only Palestinians of Islamic extraction are committing these atrocities belies this claim. The fact that Iraq and Saudi Arabia are encouraging the activity (by paying rewards to the families of the bombers) is indicative of a serious disconnect with civility and basic decency.

Assertion 5: Israel is interfering with emergency services, such as ambulances.

When the Palestinians stop employing ambulances as rapid transit for bombs, the Israelis will eventually end their policy of stopping and searching them. The Palestinians crossed another one of those “basic civility” lines by using ambulances to transport bombs, and rebuilding trust will take time.

Further, it is not only the Israelis that are interfering with ambulances, as the incident last week, in which a group of Palestinians prevented EMT’s from access to an injured man (allegedly an Israeli “collaborator”), demonstrates.

Assertion 6: Israel has an obligation to accept the Palestinian refugees from past wars.

Approximately 700,000 people were displaced by the war in 1948, and smaller numbers in the three ensuing conflicts in 1956, 1967, and 1973. (This number is open to dispute, as the UN special mediator in 1948 arrived at a figure of 472,000). There are now approximately 3.7 Million “refugees”, the vast majority of whom have never set foot in Israel, and two thirds of who are not living in refugee camps. Obviously, many “refugees” should be citizens of the country in which they were born. The fact that these Arabic countries refuse to confer citizenship upon their brethren is not Israel’s responsibility.

The primary responsibility for the creation of refugees is the Arab world, which called for Arabs living in the area to evacuate “for a few weeks” to facilitate the destruction of Israel after the Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Only one Arabic country—Jordan—allows Palestinians to becomes citizens as a group. In fact, Saudi Arabia resorted to recruiting in South Asia to alleviate their labor shortages during the 1970’s, and Kuwait (which allowed Palestinians to work in the country, without extending an offer of citizenship) expelled 300,000 Palestinian workers in 1991, after the Gulf War.

Consider, for a moment, the consequences of Israel admitting 3.7 million people who appear to be committed to the destruction of the country. Israel’s current population is 5.8 million. Adding a group as large as that, a group that does not wish to peacefully coexist with the admitting country, is totally unrealistic and would not be countenanced by any other country, but the Arab countries attempt to force Israel to accept the terms as a condition for discussing peace.

One last point—what about the property of the Jewish refugees from Arabic lands? Morocco alone had 260,000 Jews who fled to Israel, yet their property and possessions were forfeited. Altogether, Israel absorbed almost 650,000 Jews from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen (both North and South, now one country), Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq between 1948 and 1972, yet nobody demands compensation or repatriation demands for them.


This only scratches the surface, but these issues keep popping up, and the press distort the truth often enough to make me scream. I am sure that I will have a follow-up or two to this posting, as more occurs to me, and in response to any feedback I receive on this post.

posted at 05:27 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

Hi Scutum, quite an exhausting task dealing with all that, isn't it? Some comments (I hope you don't mind. I'll separate them into two parts):

As for the legality of Isreal's occupation(#1), I think one should recall at least part of those territories - the West Bank, not only was accupied from Jordan, but wasn't legally Jordanian... it was captured by Jordan when Arab countries invaded in 1948... (I'm not sure about the legal status of Gaza Strip, i.e. was it legally part of egypt).
As for the Palestinians suicide/homicide bombers phenomena (#4), I thought one should note as well that contrary that argumentation, it sarted after, again - after, the peace process began (6 months after the first of the Oslo accords was signed), and these attacks accompanied all of that period. Far observers tend to forget that, Israelis won't (and at that period, Israel did it best to "restrain" itself, didn't use military action and didn't re-enter the territories which were given to the PA. That didn't help either). In case you are interested with detailed information, you can find it in a list of the major attacks executed in Israel since that period untill the last flame (which requires and has a list of its own...). These are "just" suicide bombers and booby-trapped cars. i.e. that list doesn't include terror attacks by infiltrators (like the one of last week), ambush snipers etc.
As for Sharon (#2), the inquiry of the Sabra&Shatila events was not carried out by the Israeli government, but by a national judiciary committee (the highest institution for such inquiries in Israel, regulated by a specific law. The kind of which was appointed to inquire and give recommendations with regard the events leading the Yom Kipur war of 1973, Rabin's assassination, etc.). Judge Kahan, who headed that committee, was at that time the chief justice of the Israel's Supreme Court; Judge Barak, the current chief justice and at that time one the justices in the Supreme Court (formerly Israel's attorney general, and a worldwide reputable jurist) was a member at that committee. That I think gives some additional perspective as to the results of that inquiry. ..../2

posted by Michal, Israel on May 2, 2002 09:41 PM

Part 2/2...
As for the Ambulances smuggling explosives (#5), I wondered have you seen this video?
As for the "1948 refugees"(#6), I don't know if you are aware of the fact that part of that problem was a direct result of the war which actually started here after the UN 1947 resolution, which included local Arabs (now known as Palestinians) sieging and in some cases occupying and destroying Jewish villages; blocking roads to villages ans towns (even Jerusalem's entrance) etc. All that happened under British rule, and prior their leaving and the Arab countries invading Israel as you described. Those Palestinans refugees, to my mind, do not have a "right of return" to begin with. They traded their opportunity to live in Israel with a trial to eliminate Israel by force. They took a historical chance and lost. These kind of gambles, have historical charge on their side. And indeed they should have, for if nations would be considered as having rights they have rejected by force (believing it would benefit them more then accepting - or negotiating, what they were offered), there would never be no incentive for resolving political disputes by peacefull means, nowhere.
As for Israeli Arabs (#4), there certainly is a problem here, but it focuses mainly with regard the allocation of governmental budget, not with personal or political freedoms. It should only be fair to mention that the Arab citizens of Israel have their share in culturing that problem, for instance by not sharing the civil duties (and I don't mean necessarily military service, but some equivalent service for the benefit of society), and by marking the Isreli Independence Day as their Nakba (day of calamity).

Thanks and keep on scratching...

posted by Michal, Israel on May 2, 2002 09:51 PM

Palestinian Maps

The Palestinian Authority is evil, and must be totally destroyed.

This is the map of Palestine, on the Palestinian National Authority governmental website. Do you notice anything missing from this map?

This is the link as of TODAY, not from several months or years ago. This is what the creeps that run the EU governments and media expect Israel to deal with.

If you click on that map, you will get another map, which shows the West Bank and Gaza areas in a different color, but still doesn't mention Israel. The second map leads to information pages on major cities in Palestine. You will be interested to know that

Jerusalem is a holy city for the world's major religions: Islam, and Christianity

(quoting the PA website directly). Further, the site states

In 1948 Jerusalem was under Israel occupation (West Jerusalem) , and Jordan controlled the other part of Jerusalem (East Jerusalem) including the Old City. In 1967 Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, Since then , both west and east Jerusalem has been under Israeli occupation.

I will add to this as I continue working on my big piece.

posted at 03:40 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Count me in.

In honor of, every link on tomorrow's page will be to the Dallas Morning News, and none of the links will be to the front page.

For more information on this, see Alice In TV Land, or, or InstaPundit, or Cut on the Bias.

I doubt that the minuscule amount of traffic that my site generates will catch the eye of Belo, but I will contribute to the effort.

(Edited to fix HTML cranial flatulence)

posted at 10:52 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 29, 2002

Yes, it's yet another survey.

Yes, it's yet another survey. What blogger archetype am I? (drumroll please...)

You are an Andrew Sullivan.

You are not afraid to share your political views with everyone in candid and clear ways.

You may also be making some money... one day.

Take the What Blogging Archetype Are You test at

(I found a link to this survey at Pundit Ex Machina)

posted at 10:35 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

Haza! linkage is mine!

posted by Sean Kirby on May 2, 2002 05:55 PM

Search Engine Results

While checking my site logs, I take a look at the search engine requests that returned my site as a result. I usually enjoy seeing what brings people to this site (for the record, my BK Veggie post from two weeks ago has been by far the most popular search item). However, today I came across one that made my blood run cold.

will the world watch in silence as these murderous Jews go on a rampage

This was from someone in Singapore. It is obvious what he was looking for. I know he didn't get satisfaction here.

What frightens me is that there were 108 results returned by the search. Even more frightening is what the summaries (returned by Google) show. Looking at the first page, I immediately discounted links to myself, Daily Pundit, and Bjorn Staerk. Perhaps 6 of the other results were links that did not relate to the searcher's intent. That left 11 other results, most of which were terrifyingly vicious towards Israel in particular, and Judaism in general.

Color me disgusted.

posted at 09:27 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Another political quiz.

Another political quiz. This one, however, is better than most. Instead of the rather biased quiz from the people over at Advocates for Self-Government, this short quiz suggests five different answers for each question, which together will provide a pretty wide representation of views on each subject. They also plot the views of a number of well-known political/philosophical figures (from Ayn Rand to Josef Stalin, from Jesse Jackson to Rush Limbaugh) on the chart. It's not perfect, but it is nonetheless interesting. Check it out.

FWIW, I live a block west of Jesse Ventura in Politopia. Where do you live?

posted at 07:39 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

I think you live in the other half of my duplex. My star was practically on the J in Jesse's name.

posted by The Dodd on April 30, 2002 05:37 PM

U.S. Regains seat on Human Rights Commission

U.S. Regains seat on Human Rights Commission

We're back amongst the august company of nations such as Zimbabwe, China, Cuba, Congo, Libya, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

I'm not a rabid UN-hater, but I wonder what purpose the body serves, as it seems to spend most of its time drafting socialistic treaties and heaping abuse upon the US and Israel. They spend an inordinate amount of money on ephemeral results.

posted at 02:27 PM | permalink | Comments (3)

The UN was a much happier bunch of malcontents when the exigencies of the Cold War let them delude themselves they were important to the balance of power. Now they're not much more than a debating society nobody pays any attention to, and that only goads them into hatred of countries the world *does* pay attention to.

posted by William T. Quick on April 30, 2002 01:39 AM

Um, howcum you picked "scutum" instead of, oh, "gladius?" Just that nice onomatopoeic ring?

posted by William T. Quick on April 30, 2002 01:45 AM

The name is the fault of my former roommates. We had a network set up in the house, and each computer had a name. They were all named after astronomical objects (stars or constellations), and they all started with a sibilant "c" or an "s". As time went on, and we went through several computers, there were fewer constellations left. When I bought this computer, there were only two "s" constellations left--Scutum and Serpens. I liked the military connotation of "scutum" and chose it. When I started the blog, I decided that "scutum" would be a great pseudonym.

posted by scutum on April 30, 2002 08:57 AM

Congressional Holds

From today's Washington Post comes this little blurb, on one of the more distasteful practices in congress:

Some lawmakers flit from issue to issue, depending on the headlines, polls and squeaky wheels at home. Others grab onto issues, sometimes rather esoteric ones, and hang on like bulldogs.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) clearly fall in the latter category. Undaunted by earlier failures, they have launched a new drive to end the largely below-the-radar practice by which senators can block action on legislation or nominations by putting anonymous "holds" on them.
They are not seeking to do away with holds themselves; they want only to force them to be made public, arguing that secrecy is inimical to democracy, accountability and the proper functioning of the Senate.
When Wyden and Grassley began their campaign five years ago, they won too easily. But their victories did not last long.
First the Senate voted without audible dissent – in 1997 and 1998 – to include their proposal to end secrecy on holds in an appropriations bill. No one wanted to be caught publicly defending the practice. But, to no one's surprise, the provisions were stripped out in negotiations with the House.
Then, in 1999, Senate leaders Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) told their colleagues to notify bill sponsors, their party leaders and committees of jurisdiction when they impose holds. For a time, senators seemed to be complying, but, by late last year, the rule was being honored in the breach by enough senators to cause problems.
For example, Sen. Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.) put retaliatory – and publicly disclosed – holds on Republican proposals after undisclosed GOP senators held up a Wellstone veterans bill.
But Wellstone wasn't the only one. "We began hearing complaints that someone was putting on a secret hold or thinking about it," Wyden said. "We may have gotten to the point where a majority won't do it, but it only takes a few" to cause trouble.
So Wyden and Grassley swung into action again, proposing a rule change to end the secrecy, perhaps for good this time. The proposal has been sent to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
"Every time we do this, it's my sense that things get better . . . at least for a while," Wyden said.

Practices such as secret holds, often for personal vendettas or for pure spite, are one of the reasons why congress is often held in low regard by the public. If a hold is placed upon any action or nomination, the person who places the hold needs to be publicly identified; the public (and the media) have a right to know why any piece of legislation has not been acted upon. If all holds currently in place were to be made public, I suspect that there would be several embarrassed senators scrambling to explain to the public why they don't want legislation or nominations to come up for a vote.

Public disclosures will eliminate much of the petty holds. For those holds that are placed for ideological opposition, there should be no fear of being portrayed as a partisan when one is being partisan. This is why the Wyden/Grassley initiative should be supported.

posted at 01:48 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

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