The Senate began confirmation hearings yesterday for Elena Kagan, who was nominated by President Obama to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court. One Republican Senator noted that she may be the least-qualified candidate for the Supreme Court in half a century. That might be a bit harsh, but there are reasons to wonder how well-qualified for the job she is, because she has no judicial experience. That's not a pre-requisite for becoming a Justice, but it is valuable experience. Making someone a Justice who has never been a judge is similar to calling a rookie ballplayer up to the big leagues without any minor league experience. The difference is that if the rookie flops, he can be sent back to the minors for more seasoning. A Supreme Court Justice, however, is appointed for life. If she flops, we're stuck with her until she either retires or dies.

Ms. Kagan has spent most of her career either in academia or working as a Democrat party political operative during the Clinton administration. She has a little experience as a lawyer in private practice, but that's a very different role than being a judge. A lawyer advocates for her client; she has a definite point of view. A judge, however, is supposed to be impartial, seeking only to make sure that the law is applied fairly to all. Ms. Kagan has not shown that ability. A Supreme Court Justice not only is part of the most important appellate court in the land, but also must rule on the constitutionality of laws written at the federal, state and local levels. It's a task which should be given to the ablest legal minds in the nation, not just those who happen to meet certain group quotas for identity politics.

From the News: Richard and Cynthia Are Actually Boris and Natasha

Scenario: You're an ordinary American kid. You live with your parents and your sister in a New Jersey suburb, and attend the local elementary school. Your family is curiously nuclear: No grandparents, no aunts or uncles, no cousins. Just your parents, your sister and you, seemingly a typical suburban family. And then, one day, it all falls apart: The FBI raids your house, arrests your parents and drags them out in handcuffs. You and your sister are driven away by a family friend. And you learn that your parents actually aren't Americans at all; they are "illegals," deep cover Russian intelligence agents living in the country under false identities and spying on America. Your entire life has been a shining lie. And who knows what is going to happen to you?

That is pretty much non-fiction, by the way. It describes what happened to the daughters of a couple in Montclair, New Jersey, who claimed to be "Richard and Cynthia Murphy." According to the article I read in the USA Today, the kids probably had no idea about their parents' true identities. And ironically enough, if they were born here, then they're just as much American citizens as any Mexican anchor baby.

I don't feel any sympathy for the spies, but I do feel sorry for the kids. How horrible would it be to discover that everything you thought you knew about your family and yourself was a lie? It's like something out of Alfred Hitchcock or The Twilight Zone.


This Byrd Has Flown

In the news, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has died at age 92. He had been in Congress since 1952, and was the longest-serving Senator in American history. He was perhaps best known for bringing home the pork to West Virginia, no doubt a major reason for his continuing to be re-elected.

It will be interesting to see who replaces him in the Senate. I'm sure that President Obama and his cronies are worried that the "Byrd seat" might go the same way as the "Kennedy seat" in Massachusetts, also held by a superannuated Democrat politician who died in office; shockingly, a Republican was elected in a statewide race in the deep-blue Bay State. That scenario is not beyond the realm of possibility, given the current unpopularity of Obama and congressional Democrats.

And let me say, right here and now, that this is a good example of the need for term limits in both the Senate and the House, as well as the Supreme Court. We have term limits for presidents, after all. We figure that eight years is enough, and after that amount of time, we're usually tired of them anyway.

Unfortunately, the ones who would need to write the legislation to limit the number of terms that members of Congress can serve are also the ones who would be affected by it. Power and the perks that come along with it are sweet. Senators and Congressmen tell themselves that they are doing important things, and should be allowed to stay on as long as they can persuade their constituents to keep re-electing them. They feel that they are irreplaceable. Well, there are no irreplaceable people in this country. Not them, not me, not you, and certainly not members of our government. When the time comes for you to retire, your company will continue on just fine without you. When Presidents, members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices retire or die in office, the country also goes on just fine without them as well.

And if we can't term limit people like Sen. Byrd, Sen. Kennedy or Chief Justice Rehnquist, well, the Grim Reaper can -- and will.


The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Most infuriating thing I've read today: Avertible Catastrophe

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct
to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American
reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks
but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch
equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch
government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S.
refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would
come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had
also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with
superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of
Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy
companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically,
the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The
voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of
oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of
nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S.
regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at
least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they
are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in
charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We
have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be
decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on
that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf,
requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where
they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP
spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly.
Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted
the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And
rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming
equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to
allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns. According to Floris Van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch embassy in Washington, Dutch dredging ships could complete the berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the U.S. companies awarded the work. "Given the fact that there is so much oil on a daily basis coming in, you do not have that much time to protect the marshlands," he says,
perplexed that the U.S. government could be so focussed on side issues with the
entire Gulf Coast hanging in the balance.

Unbelievable. And that's why the Obama administration is being faced with their very own Katrina, or perhaps more accurately, their very own Iranian hostage crisis.


Return to Blogging

Okay, I've been slacking long enough. It's time to return to blogging more regularly than I have this year. I know that are still some people who check in here every so often and want to know, "When is he going to write something new?" And, hopefully, interesting?

Well, dear readers, your request has been answered. Today, let me tell you the most laugh-out-loud funny thing I read last week. I'm sure you all heard about Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born terrorist who attempted to blow up an SUV in Times Square, being in court in New York last week. He defiantly pleaded guilty, claiming that he was a "Muslim soldier." The part that made me laugh out loud, though, was when I read the name of the judge: Miriam Cedarbaum. A Jewish woman! How do you like them apples, Faisal? I'm sure that it was just random chance that assigned the case to her.

A close second for the funniest thing of the week was Peggy West, the dimbulb Democrat county supervisor in Milwaukee who was opining on the Arizona immigration laws. She said that she could understand the need for something like that if Arizona was a border state, like Texas. Remedial geography classes for you, sweetheart.

We won't even go into the allegations against "crazed sex poodle" Al Gore by the masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Although I found the part where he was singing along, karaoke-style, to Pink's anti-Bush song to be a creepy bit of verisimilitude. If she's not telling the truth, she has a vivid imagination!