True or False (I asked back in June): A lone 54-year-old man in a crowd of people waiting for the President to arrive can be arrested and prosecuted for holding up a protest sign. Click here for the answer. (My favorite line: ‘The prosecutors say that Mr Bursey was not in a special ‘free-speech zone’ . . . Mr Bursey told the cops, defiantly, that he was under the impression that the whole of America was a free-speech zone.’)

The State of South Carolina decided to drop the charge, but the Ashcroft Justice Department, in the person of of US Attorney Strom Thurmond, Jr., instituted A criminal proceeding.

The trial is next week, your tax dollars at work. Here’s were it stands.


Dr. Ken Ahonen’s note on Partial Birth Abortion last week elicited several e-mails. (Now there’s a surprise.) For one thing, several of you pointed out that the procedure Dr. Ahonen described performing was a C-section, not partial birth abortion. ‘True,’ he responds, ‘but if the woman had not been a surgical candidate, due to too high a surgical or anesthetic risk, then a vaginal procedure, Intact Cervical Dilatation and Evacuation (Partial Birth Abortion), would have been indicated.’

That was the sticking point over which a court almost immediately stayed the law President Bush signed last week: It did not contain an exception for the health of the mother.

Dr. Ahonen argues that doctors and patients should be allowed to weigh the risks. ‘If the risk of complications from surgery and/or anesthesia were greater than the risk of performing the vaginal procedure (partial birth abortion), then the vaginal procedure would be preferred. Since that is no longer an option under the new law, the woman who is at high risk of complications from surgery would have no choice, if the law were upheld, but to take that high risk.’

Dr. Ahonen and others have noted that it should not be up to the all-white-male cast pictured at the President’s signing ceremony to make these terribly difficult decisions on behalf of women and their doctors. It’s a terrible procedure, rarely performed; but one that it should be legal to perform when necessary.


Ultimately, questions like this – and so many others – will come before the Courts. In which regard this New York Times editorial yesterday may be instructive. In part:

November 10, 2003
A Manufactured Crisis on Judges

Conservative activists have been demanding that Senate Republicans do more to push through the Bush administration’s most extreme judicial nominees. . . . Lost amid the grandstanding about a “crisis” in judicial nominations are the facts: 168 Bush nominees have been confirmed and only four rejected, a far better percentage than for President Bill Clinton.

Bush administration nominees have been moving through the Senate at a rapid clip: in his first three years in office, President Bush has gotten more judges confirmed than President Ronald Reagan did in his first four. When Republicans controlled the Senate, more than 60 Clinton administration judicial candidates were blocked.


Zbigniew Brzezinski in Sunday’s Washington Post:

Forty years ago, an important emissary was sent to France by a beleaguered president of the United States. It was during the Cuban missile crisis and the emissary was a tough-minded former secretary of state, Dean Acheson. His mission was to brief French President Charles de Gaulle and solicit his support in what could become a nuclear war involving not just the United States and the Soviet Union but the entire NATO alliance and the Warsaw Pact.

At the end of the briefing, Acheson said to de Gaulle, “I would now like to show you the evidence, the photographs that we have of Soviet missiles armed with nuclear weapons.” The French president responded, “I do not wish to see the photographs. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me. Please tell him that France stands with America.”

Would any foreign leader today react the same way to an American emissary sent abroad to say that country X is armed with weapons of mass destruction that threaten the United States? It is unlikely. The recent conduct of U.S. foreign policy, by distorting the threats facing America, has isolated the United States and undermined its credibility. It has damaged our ability to deal with issues in North Korea, Iran, Russia and the West Bank. If a case ever needs to be made for action against a truly imminent threat, will any nation take us seriously?

☞ Yes – but maybe not under this president.

Ray Merrihew: ‘I do not dispute your view that political matters should influence one’s investment choices since decisions made in Washington clearly affect the long-term macroeconomic picture. However, you have made no secret of your passionate beliefs as a Democrat. Is there ANY single Republican stance that you favor? While I tend to agree with your investment advice, I can’t help but be skeptical of a macroeconomic outlook based on a biased viewpoint. That being said, do you think that the future prospects of the U.S. economy would improve with a Democrat as president, or is the damage under Bush too great to fix?’

☞ Fair questions. The easy part first: historically, the economy – and the stock market – do better under Democrats than Republicans. Past results are no guarantee of future performance, as they say, but the correlation is high. Now the harder part: Is there ANY Republican stance I favor? Well, in those areas the two parties disagree I really do tend to believe the Democrats have it right.

That wasn’t always the case when the leadership of the Party was considerably to the left, and the Republican leadership was only a click or two right of center. But in the last couple of decades the political landscape has shifted dramatically to the right. The Democratic leadership is now more or less in the center (maybe one click to the left), while the Republican leadership has shifted dramatically to the right. A moderate Republican like former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld could not even get confirmed by his fellow Republicans ambassador to Mexico, let alone considered a serious presidential contender, as he had hoped to be. So as something of a moderate, progressive, centrist myself, I’m happy with most of the Democratic positions.

The most obvious area of disagreement that jumps to mind is tort reform. We need some. Not draconian tort reform of the type some Republicans advocate, but a lot more than Democrats are comfortable with (read: none). I wrote a whole book about how perverse and inefficient our tort-based auto insurance system is. And there are other places where improvements could be made.

But for the most part? The current administration has (to my mind) been just appalling in its conduct of domestic and foreign affairs. We cannot fix this a minute too soon.


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