Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina and the Waves

Road trips always make me appreciate our vast land of wondrous treasures and I have been fortunate to take many across most of the 48 contiguous states. My two favorite drives are along the verdant coastlines of central California and the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to St. Petersburg.

I fell in love with the coastal South on my first vacation there in the summer of 1970, one year after the arrival of Camille, our nation’s second strongest hurricane of the 20th century. Souvenirs from Camille were everywhere – homes, businesses, churches and schools knocked down and boarded up. On my last journey through the Gulf Coast region in 2002, some of the same houses that were shuttered in 1969 remained in a sad state of disrepair.

During the 30+ years in between, I enjoyed wonderful visits in New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport and Pensacola at waterfront hotels and restaurants now in imminent danger from the winds and waves of Katrina, the first category 5 hurricane since Camille to make landfall in the United States.

Weather pundits are predicting catastrophic devastation. Thousands upon thousands of our fellow countrymen could be homeless and jobless for months – or worse. The oil, insurance and tourism industries will certainly sustain serious damage with implications throughout our national economy. My prayers are with everyone in this storm’s path, including some of my friends and relatives.

N. Z. Bear has a page devoted to news and blog links covering Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

More Than 22 Blessings and Counting

My husband is a little grumpy. This is a very expensive week for our household budget. My birthday was yesterday and my son’s is Saturday. One of us is turning 22 and the other . . . isn’t.

Well, I still feel 22. That was the magical age at which I finally felt comfortable in my own skin after an absurdly prolonged adolescence. Each year of my life until that point was marked by significant physical, emotional and mental changes. Each year of my life from that point forward seems like a continuation of the twenty-third year, more or less – like a plateau in my rear view mirror.

As the spoiled youngest child, my birthdays were a feast of overindulgence and guilt. Ever since my son's birth day three days after my birthday, my celebrations have always been dwarfed by and usually spent in preparation for his – and I couldn’t be happier. Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer twenty-nine months ago, my birthday feels like a triumph over cancer – and I couldn’t be happier. The Finn Brothers, Neil and Tim, collaborated on an album, Everyone Is Here, inspired by the death of their mother. The haunting, melancholy lyrics from their song Edible Flowers tell my story. “Everybody wants the same thing. Everybody wants the same thing, to see another birthday.”

Ages and dates and numbers are all relatively trivial, as I have learned. Cancer is a powerful clarifying agent that can put such statistics into immediate perspective, although I recommend less severe methods, such as faith and love. When my husband and I began dating, I was obsessed with the number 22. No, that was not his age. Actually, he was 21! Twenty-two are the years that separate our birthdays. I used to worry endlessly about the effects of the normal aging process on his feelings for me, but he pursued and persuaded little old neurotic me.

Conversely, my husband feels and acts like he is 50. Don’t blame me – he was a fully formed, mature, responsible man when I met him. That is why he always takes such good care of me, no matter what; why he is a loving stepfather who has helped our son become a remarkable man in his own right; why he became Vice President of his company at 24; and why he is now Senior Vice President at 26.

You see, I worried needlessly about age and the normal aging process. All my adult life I was assumed to be younger than my actual years and never really appreciated it. Then breast cancer came along, followed by chemotherapy, menopause and hormone blockers. Finally – presto, chango – I look my real age and it ain’t 22. There is no cure for cancer or aging, but love heals whatever ails me. I won't lie. Looking older is no fun but, trust me, it is better than the alternative. Every day my family and friends remind me in countless ways, without even trying, how blessed I am – and I couldn’t be happier.

So here I am, deeply grateful to celebrate another birthday and my son’s birthday and every precious, God-given day that feels like a victory. Next year, God willing, I will celebrate my 50th birthday with my adoring, amazing, almost 28-year-old husband, free of cancer and petty neuroses – and he will still be the old fart of the family.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Blogging the Roberts Files

Nothing to see here, Senator Schumer. Please move along.

Finally, the marine layer hovering over Orange County since April has been burned away by the famous southern California sunshine – and how do I celebrate? By spending my Saturday reading and researching legal records from the 1980s. Only for Professor Hewitt and Generalissimo Duane!

Yesterday Hugh Hewitt invited the center-right community to adopt the virtual boxes of documents reviewed or authored by Judge John Roberts during his term as Associate Counsel to the President and post the resulting analyses at their blogs. I am a blogger, not a lawyer, but I routinely translate legalese for the non-profit corporation which I have served since 1993 as a Director. Thankfully, Judge Roberts writes even the most mundane correspondence in these files in an easily accessible style.

I was assigned a folder 47 pages full of Federal appointee clearances dated between February 1, 1985 and April 30, 1985. Among these are memoranda by others that were copied to John Roberts with no other relevant documents included, mostly to report that all necessary clearances had been accomplished.

My box o’ docs reveals a conscientious attorney executing his duties with precision and thoroughness. Many candidates named in memoranda written by Roberts are unknown to me, so I performed basic Google searches and learned that a few engaged in controversial conduct after leaving their political appointments. Only the most desperate, cynical opponent of Roberts would resort to embarrassment by such flimsy association. Then again, this isn’t your parents’ Democrat Party.

On the chance that readers might be able to provide additional information, I am presenting the available data for each subject and my analysis of Roberts’ writings in chronological order. The last entry is probably the most revealing of his judicial philosophy, but if you skip ahead you will miss what is essentially the 1985 edition of Who’s Who of Republican Insiders. Some of the subjects are still involved in GOP politics and, twenty years later, are now FOGYs – Friends of George the Younger.

Appointee Name: Paul J. Coleman, Jr.

Appointment: The National Commission on Space.

Roberts’ Record: February 19, 1985 memorandum for the file.

Summary: Roberts described a February 15, 1985 telephone conversation initiated by Coleman regarding the latter’s potential conflict of interest as a consultant to Boeing. Roberts recalled advising Coleman that his consultancy could continue, referencing his earlier clearance memorandum on appointees to the Commission (not included), in which he stated that similar advice was provided to other Commission members. Roberts advised Coleman to recuse himself if Commission discussions had a discernible effect on Boeing and to seek further advice about potential conflicts as necessary.

Background: Dr. Paul J. Coleman is Professor Emeritus of space physics at UCLA and an acclaimed leader in his field. In 1986, during his term on the National Commission on Space, the Commission published a report, “Pioneering the Space Frontier: An Exciting Vision of Our Next Fifty Years In Space.” Other contributing Commissioners included Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Neil Armstrong and General Chuck Yeager.

Appointee Names: Stephen I. Danzansky, Thomas N. Tripp, Virginia S. Weinman, and Linda J. Wachner.

Appointment: The Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations.

Roberts’ Record: February 28, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Roberts concluded that no problem was presented by any of the candidates’ Personal Data Statements. He briefly listed their existing occupations, which were related to the trade area, but noted the applicable statute directed that the committee be representative of groups affected by trade policy. He described calling Mr. Danzansky, whose registration as a foreign agent ended in 1984, to alert him to a prohibition in 18 United States Code § 219 about future registration.

Background: Of the four candidates, all but Tripp were appointed to the Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations. Weinman and her husband fund the Chair of Entrepreneurship and E-Business at the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration. Wachner, the first woman to own and operate a Fortune 500 company, was charged with SEC violations and penalized more than $1.3 million in 2004. Danzansky served in several positions under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 before becoming the first CEO of the Mary Baker Eddy Library (Eddy founded the Christian Science Church and the Christian Science Monitor). In 1992 Rep. Henry Gonzalez charged that Danzansky was instrumental in the first so-called Iraqgate, in which Democrats such as Gonzalez and Sen. Patrick Leahy claimed that funds from Italy’s Banca Nazionale del Lavoro and the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation illegally funded Saddam Hussein’s purchase of WMDs. Shocking! That is, that Leahy used to believe in those imaginary WMDs, too.

Appointee Name: Maureen Reagan.

Appointment: The U.S. Delegation to the World Conference of the United Nations Decade of Women, 1985.

Roberts’ Record: March 1, 1985 memorandum for the file.

Summary: Roberts contacted Ralph Tarr, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, about a potential violation of the Anti-Nepotism Act presented by the appointment of the President’s daughter. Tarr advised him that the statute related to the act of appointment and therefore did not apply as authority for this appointment belonged with the Secretary of State.

Background: Maureen was a witty, charming, passionate, articulate spokesperson for the moderate wing of the Reagan family.

Appointee Name: Joe L. Allbritton.

Appointment: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees.

Roberts’ Record: March 12, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: With commensurate brevity and a hint of levity, Roberts reported that Allbritton met the only statutory requirement for the appointment – U.S. citizenship – and his Personal Data Statement revealed nothing to suggest he could not fulfill his duties.

Background: Allbritton, one of those wealthy old Republican FOGYs, retired as CEO of the Allbritton Communications Company and the Riggs National Bank, which the Justice Department is investigating for money laundering and personal use of company assets.

Appointee Name: George Cranwell Montgomery.

Appointment: Ambassador to Oman.

Roberts’ Record: March 13, 1985 memorandum for Richard A. Hauser.

Summary: Roberts concluded that the Public Financial Disclosure Report revealed no conflict of interest. He reported that Montgomery accepted interim employment with Vinson & Elkins to last until his confirmation, prompting ethics counseling by State. The next line was blacked out. Then Roberts noted that “this” presented no legal difficulties but might cause opposition to Montgomery’s nomination.

Background: Interestingly, Roberts considered a comment on what might incite opposition important enough for inclusion in an otherwise concise memo. Montgomery has a longstanding professional relationship with former Senator Howard Baker. He was the Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Baker before serving as Ambassador to Oman from 1985 until 1989 and went back to work for him again in the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

Appointee Name: Michael P. Castine.

Appointment: The President’s Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives.

Roberts’ Record: March 20, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Roberts verified that he reviewed Castine’s Personal Data Statement and had no objection to his appointment. However, Roberts cited the committee’s scheduled expiration date of June 26, 1985, three months hence.

Background: Castine is President of Dover Management, an investment company. During the 2004 election campaign, he was reportedly one of Bush’s Pioneers, a fundraiser in the $100,000 range.

Appointee Name: Gerard K. O’Neill.

Appointment: The National Commission on Space.

Roberts’ Record: March 28, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Roberts reviewed O’Neill’s Personal Data Statement and enumerated the statutory requirements of the Commission and its members. Considering Dr. O’Neill’s continuing position as CEO of Geostar, a corporation that developed commercial satellites, Roberts speculated that O’Neill would have business overseen by the FCC. However, he determined that the National Commission on Space was advisory, not regulatory, with an agenda broad enough to offset any prospective conflicts.

Background: Every online biography and obituary I read of O’Neill was aglow with admiration. Dr. O’Neill’s middle name was Kitchen. Mine might as well be, but enough about my obsession with panini.

Appointee Name: Mollie Faison.

Appointment: Member of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Committee.

Roberts’ Record: April 1, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: In his review of the Personal Data Statement, Roberts offered no objection to her appointment but noted that Faison had not answered all of the PDS questions. In light of the position, he wrote, he assumed that she might have been sent an abbreviated form.

Background: Roberts’ dry humor might be misconstrued as contempt for the Arts and, of course, women – until the left learns that Faison is an evangelical Christian.

Appointee Name: Andrew K. Poepoe.

Appointment: Honolulu District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration.

Roberts’ Record: April 9, 1985 memorandum for Fred F. Fielding.

Summary: Fielding received a copy of a letter from Patricia Saika, Chairman of the Republican Party of Hawaii, to James C. Sanders, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration (included with supporting documents). Saika requested that the District Director should be patronage selected instead of a career civil service appointment and recommended Poepoe for the position. Fielding had asked if the letter was proper and Roberts checked with Joe Morris, General Counsel of OPM, who advised that he found nothing inappropriate. Roberts noted that no action was required by the White House Counsel’s Office at that time.

Background: Poepoe still serves as the Honolulu District Director.

Appointee Name: Robert Fryer.

Appointment: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees.

Roberts’ Record: April 10, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: In a sequel to The Joe Allbritton Story, Roberts seemed to wonder if this kind of assignment was the reason he went to Harvard Law School. Roberts again noted that the candidate was a U.S. citizen, thus satisfying the only statutory requirement for the job, and that he already advised Holland verbally that he had no objection. He warned of a potential conflict if the Kennedy Center were to stage one of Fryer’s theatrical projects and advised recusal as necessary.

Background: Fryer is now an Emeritus Trustee of the Kennedy Center, which probably means that Washington, D.C. will never see Boston Strangler: The Musical.

Appointee Name: Naomi D. Zeavin.

Appointment: Member of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Advisory Committee.

Roberts’ Record: April 23, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Based on his review of her Personal Data Statement, Roberts did not object to Zeavin’s appointment.

Background: Zeavin served on the Committee until 1992. In 1991, she directed a film that documented her return to her family's hometown of Augustow, Poland to build a memorial to its Jews.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the Speaker of the House: Lynne Cheney, Thomas Henry O’Connor, William Joseph Green, and Congressman Philip Crane.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the President pro tempore: Harry M. Lightway, Edward P. Morgan, Senator Ted Stevens, and Senator Wendell Ford.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the Chief Justice: Charles Wiggins, Cornelia Kennedy, Herbert Brownell, and O.C. Tanner.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the President: Bernard Siegan, Fred Biebel, Betty S. Murphy, Phyllis Schlafly, Ron Walker, Charles Alan Wright, and Russell Kirk.

Appointment: The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution.

Roberts’ Record: April 25, 1985 memorandum for Fred F. Fielding.

Summary: Roberts noted difficulty with the appointment of sitting members of Congress – Crane, Stevens and Ford – due to the Incompatibility Clause of the Constitution, which limited their service to the ceremonial or advisory. He identified separation of powers concerns over the service of sitting judges but acknowledged that pursuing them became pointless when the Chief Justice was made Chairman of the Committee. He presumed Schlafly would be "obviously" controversial and that Siegan’s theory of economic liberty would be controversial to many constitutional law scholars. He cited Wright’s involvement in the “controversial” case of Tavoulareas v. Washington Post. He described his telephone call to Walker, who in 1975 was a consultant for Saudi Arabia, regarding the foreign agent prohibitions under 18 United States Code § 219 and future registration requirements.

Background: This final memo from my Box 3 folder affirms that, for two decades at least, Roberts has been concerned about the constitutional separation of powers and hyper-aware of political controversy as a potential obstacle to professional advancement. I look forward to reading analyses by other center-right bloggers to see if the pattern I have detected is consistent throughout his writings from the White House Counsel's Office.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Forgive the Mother, But Don't Forget the Son

Twenty-two years ago, my friend J lost her only son shortly before his third birthday and her grief is so unbearable that she still cannot visit his gravesite.

Last year Cindy Sheehan lost her son, who was 24, and her grief is front-page news.

Both deaths were premature and likely avoidable.

How did J’s son die? The doctor who months earlier performed the most delicate surgery on her son’s brain later accidentally caused a stroke, which led to the pneumonia that took his life.

How did Cindy’s son die? Army Specialist Casey Sheehan chose to enlist in 2000 and was serving in Iraq as a mechanic. According to Time Magazine, he "had gone out on a voluntary mission to rescue injured soldiers when his unit was ambushed. Six other soldiers died with him.”

My friend J moved more than halfway across the United States in part to distance herself from the circumstances of her great loss. I know she felt anger and despair to a degree I have never experienced. Yet she somehow forgave her son’s doctor and never sought punishment. Recently J's mother passed away from a progressively debilitating illness, leaving J's maternal grandmother as a survivor. We discussed how painful it is to lose a child at any age.

I have lost grandparents, beloved parents, a sister, aunts, uncles and other loved ones. I have been close to dear friends stricken by their own grief. I have concluded that grieving is the most deeply personal act, and each of us mourns in a manner true to and revealing of our own character.

Cindy Sheehan has personalized her grief in the most politically punitive way. She is using her grief in a calculated effort to take down the Commander-in-Chief, without any apparent regard for the effects of her increasingly inflammatory rhetoric on the sons and daughters of America still serving in Iraq. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Mrs. Sheehan made a tearful anti-war commercial against President Bush. Recently she changed her version of the meeting she had with the President last year.

I have seen a mother's grief at close range, but I cannot testify to it. I cannot and will not second-guess Cindy Sheehan’s grief, which is compounded by the sudden loss of her son at a great distance away and in a cause with which she passionately disagreed even before his tragic death. But I do not accept that every political action she consciously decides to take springs naturally and purely from her grief.

At his press conference last week in Crawford, Texas, where Mrs. Sheehan has set up a moveable shrine to the anti-Bush movement as much as to her son, the President reaffirmed her right to speak her mind, which I have not heard anyone contest. I think those of us who disagree with Cindy Sheehan can respect her grief and still question her right to be the sole public spokesperson for her son. We have no evidence that she is a symbol representative of anyone but herself and those who subscribe to her anti-American and, if the Drudge Report is accurate today, anti-Israeli politics.

As Mohammed, one of the two Baghdad brothers who blog at Iraq the Model, wrote so eloquently in his open letter to her, Mrs. Sheehan is one of thousands of mothers who lost innocent children in Iraq. I encourage you to read his letter as a reminder why we must honor and thank Army Specialist Casey Sheehan.