Daily Archives: Jan. 18, 2007

Backflip on wiretapping is welcome, regardless of reason

As Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., noted, it’s "good news" that the Bush administration apparently will no longer conduct warrantless wiretaps. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced in a letter to Congress Wednesday that the administration got approval for its domestic spying program from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The nature of this approval is unclear: Was it a blanket approval? Or must the administration get a warrant in each individual case? It needs to be the latter.
Americans want our government to spy on and hunt down terrorists. But there needs to be a judicial check to make sure there was probable cause for the spying. That’s why a federal judge struck down the program as illegal and unconstitutional.
The administration’s flip is likely more a result of the Democratic takeover of Congress than a change of heart. Still, as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., noted: "If they are doing a backflip toward following the law, that’s a lot better than their original position."
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Inquiring Kansans don’t want campaign spam

The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission concludedWednesday that it wasn’t illegal for then-Attorney General Phill Kline to harvest e-mail addresses from the office computer and then use them to solicit campaign support. That matches what the commission’s executive director said last fall — and it’s not surprising, given how dated Kansas’ campaign-finance law is. But that doesn’t make the practice right. As state Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said: "It’s just wrong, if it technically violates the law or not. If it doesn’t technically violate the law, we need to change the law."
Kansans who seek information from state agencies should not have to worry that they are inviting campaign spam. Legislators should fix this.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Open thread

English-only bill not about language

Kansas House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, says that a bill to make English the state’s official language would send a statement about the need for all residents to be fluent in English. But immigrants already know the importance and value of learning English, and there is no threat of Spanish replacing English as the state’s dominant language. So be honest — this bill is really about making a political statement to Kansans who are upset about illegal immigration. But as House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, noted, “these are symbolic things that don’t address the underlying problem.” That’s why an English-only bill has never passed the Legislature, despite 10 other tries during the past 20 years — and why it’s still not needed.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

It’s the intelligence, stupid

“Hardly anyone will admit it, but education’s role in causing or solving any problem cannot be evaluated without considering the underlying intellectual ability of the people being educated,” Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in the first of a three-part series in the Wall Street Journal. Murray argues that, despite the high expectations of the No Child Left Behind Act, “our ability to improve the academic accomplishment of students in the lower half of the distribution of intelligence is severely limited.” He said that schools could see dramatic improvements in students who have high IQs but have been underperforming academically. But likely not much improvement for students who have below-average or low IQs. The problem may not be that such students have not been taught enough, Murray says, but that they are not smart enough.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

A surge in the opposite direction?

It should surprise no one that Iraqis are fleeing their shattered country in droves, but another statistic reported by the Washington Post is remarkable: Of the estimated 100,000 Iraqis who have fled the country since 2003, only 466 have been allowed to immigrate to the United States under refugee status.
In Washington, D.C., that’s prompted calls for increased funding and other initiatives to help the fleeing Iraqis.
“We should not repeat the tragic and immoral mistake from the Vietnam era and leave friends without a refuge and subject to violent reprisals,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Does the United States have an obligation to accept more of those displaced by the Iraq war?
Posted by Dave Knadler

Apocalypse standard time

Remember the Doomsday Clock? It was a fact of baby-boomer life, always stuck a few minutes before midnight, at which time the world would end in nuclear holocaust.
It’s ticking again, but this time the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, who founded the clock in 1945, have added global warming to its assessment of apocalyptic peril. The group also warns that the atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea amount to “a second nuclear age.”
So the minute hand has been moved forward two minutes, to 11:55 p.m. The closest it ever came to the witching hour was in 1953, when it stood at 11:58.
Posted by Dave Knadler