Saturday, May 20, 2006

Culture of Corruption

The next step in the investigation of... someone. The New York Times says it's Bill Jefferson.

From the Congressional perspective, the FBI and DoJ are being agressive in their investigations of Congressional ethics. There's concern that the Executive Branch not get too heavy-handed in its dealings with the Legislative Branch. Up to now of course, the House has guarded its own internal ethics process so jealously that they have refused to create even a quasi-independent ethics review body, for fear of letting the ethics process get out of control. I guess the Executive Branch is showing it never was in their control.

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Barnes: GOP Needs an Immigration Bill

Fred Barnes posits that the House Republican Majority will be lost if an immigration bill is not enacted into law. And since Senate Democrats will filibuster an enforcement-only bill, the House GOP must concede and pass some sort of 'comprehensive' bill.

Barnes spends some time arguing that the American people will punish the Washington GOP for failing to enact some form of amnesty. I'm not sure he's right about that. While Howard Dean would probably never vote Republican again, I don't think there are too many legitimate swing voters who will be really upset. I believe the polls saying that there is a majority in favor of enforcement, but I think that a position of 'do border enforcement now, see if it works, and then address the amnesty in a few years,' would sell. Plus, this IS a base election; the voters are too sour for there to be a high turnout. Therefore, an amnesty that turned off the base would probably lose as many votes as it could possibly gain with independents.

But I think that overall Barnes is probably right for the other reason he mentions. I think it would be one more demonstration that Bush has lost it. If the Congressional wing of the party rejected him on an issue that has become so high-profile... well, let's just say we'd have to drag out the Jimmy Carter comparisons.

And on another point, I think that the GOP really needs to start focusing on pork and spending. As I've said before, it's the one area where they can make progress with the base, without losing moderate Republicans.

Bush and the Congress can together push for a line-item veto (ok, ok 'enhanced rescission'), a balanced budget amendment, earmark reform and - most importantly - actual spending reductions. I've argued before that the White House thinks immigration is a losing issue for them, and boy, are they right. If they can finish some bill and move on to spending, so much the better for them.

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We Know Where Jonah Goldberg Will Be

No word on if Spock's Beard is up for bid.

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Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Heh. Karl Rove not indicted (at least, not yet).

Lefties eat crow, while Rove cracks a smile.

Of course, if he is subsequently indicted, I'm deleting all record of this post.

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Circular Firing Squad: Ready... Aim...

Well, Joe Lieberman was renominated by the Connecticut Democratic Party, but his challenger Ned Lamont won 33% of the delegates. Lamont has now forced a primary.

I claim no special knowledge of Connecticut politics, so I won't venture a guess as to what will happen in the primary. On the one hand, the delegates will represent the core of the core - probably the most liberal Democrats. On the other hand, they also represent the 'soldiers' of the party - those predisposed to support the institution. Surely there aren't many 'DailyKos' folks in this crowd. So is 33% for LaMont a sign of strength, since it's among real liberals, or a sign of weakness, since it's the institution?

I don't know. But it shows a lot that today Republicans look at their most prominent apostate - John McCain - and are thinking of whether to nominate him for President. The Democrats look at theirs on the other hand, and are trying to decide whether tarring and feathering is too good for him.

Update: The folks at the Hotline report that the convention outcome seems to have the Lieberman folks nervous and the LaMont team elated. That means the NRSC is probably elated, too.

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McCain Starting to Make the Right Enemies?

Rich Lowry makes an excellent point about McCain. One of his problems is that he is not hated by the right people.

When Clinton had Congressional majorities, many in his party had nothing but disdain for him, because he was an impediment to the farthest-left items in their agenda. When he faced Republican majorities however, he suddenly acquired the right enemies - and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If Democrats take over Congress - as I've noted before - George Bush will suddenly look better to conservatives.

Lowry's piece is also worth reading to see how ignorant a bunch of students graduating from a 4th-rate institution can be.

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Fake Suicide at Gitmo

Who would have thought that those poor defenseless prisoners at Gitmo - who really are only there because George Bush is a jerk - would try to stage a fake suicide to attack their guards?

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More GOP Seats at Risk

Meanwhile, the Washington Post covers another topic we've been talking about: the poor political climate for the GOP this year. They note the increase in competitive races for Republican seats. Pay attention to what Stu Rothenberg says; he's a fair prognosticator, and not prone to exaggerating Republican risks.

I don't think the Democrats can do much to affect whether the House changes hands or not; I think the course taken by the GOP in the months ahead will determine that. And as for the Senate GOP, I don't see much worry (today) that they will lose the majority.

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House GOP Goes to War

This piece in the Washington Times touches upon some of what I've been blogging on the last week or so: the strife among House Republicans over spending cuts vs. business as usual. I don't think there's much question that the latter - apart from being bad policy - is also a political loser.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

House Conservatives Strip Spending

National Journal (subscription required) reports on the actions of House Conservatives - led by Jeb Hensarling of Texas - to strip some spending items from the Military Quality of Life funding bill debated in the House today.:

Budget Hawks Attack 'Gimmick' Used For Military Projects
Conservative Republicans today bucked appropriators and stripped 20 construction projects from the FY07 Military Quality of Life Appropriations bill over concerns that they were improperly funded out of an off-budget, supplemental "bridge" account for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, called the appropriators' attempt to leverage the bridge fund for $507 million in military construction projects a "budget gimmick." Points of order raised by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, to remove several projects at a time prompted immediate outcries from Republican and Democratic appropriators alike, who fired back that the construction projects are critical for military training and troop readiness. "Does he not understand that we are at war?" asked House Military Quality of Life Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman James Walsh, R-N.Y. "Does he not understand we have people in harm's way across the entire southern tier of Asia?"House Appropriations Chairman Lewis called the points of order an "affront to the work we're all about."
House Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., acknowledged that diverting military construction projects to the bridge fund was a budgetary ploy. But he and other Democrats said appropriators were forced to do so because of a budget resolution that cut the subcommittee's allocation to $824 million below the president's request for military construction, health care and veterans programs. "This day illustrates how screwed up the priorities are on that side of the aisle," Obey said. House Military Quality of Life Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Chet Edwards, D-Texas, criticized the challenge by conservative Republicans, stating that troops are "risking their lives today while we're debating technical points of order." Meanwhile, the White House opposed the appropriators' decision to use the bridge fund for construction projects it had requested. "This funding should be used only for urgent construction directly related to the Global War on Terror, instead of funding regular construction projects related to long-term defense needs," according to the statement, released by OMB today.
Still, the House easily passed the $136.1 billion spending bill this afternoon. The legislation upholds a widely criticized Pentagon proposal that would raise TRICARE healthcare co-pays and other fees for military retirees under age 65. Appropriators punted the TRICARE decision to authorizers, who last week succeeded in overturning much of the Pentagon proposal when the House overwhelmingly approved the FY07 defense authorization bill. "The committee cannot responsibly address the funding implications of these proposals until these legislative issues are resolved," according to the House Appropriations Committee report accompanying the spending bill. Edwards said he hoped the money would be added in later this year. "I hope and I trust that we will work on a bipartisan basis now through the final passage of the conference report of this bill to find those dollars," he said.
-- by Megan Scully

I bet Edwards gets his wish, and the stripped projects wind up funded, one way or another.

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Ken Calvert: Smoke, but No Fire

Looks like the LATimes story (registration required) that suggested that Representative Ken Calvert improperly used the appropriations process to enhance the value of land he owned, may have been incorrect. Calvert's hometown paper - the Press Enterprise (registration required) - says the LATimes made a mistake:

False alarm
Thursday, May 18, 2006

The public should remain vigilant in fighting political corruption. But trumping up flimsy charges against Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, poorly serves the search for real Congressional malfeasence.

Calvert, who ran a real estate business before entering Congress, sold 4.3 acres of land in January along Cajalco Road near Interstate 215 for $965,000. Considering Calvert bought the land one year earlier for nearly half that price, he enjoyed a fine profit. Something about that looked crooked to Lake Mathews community activist Art Cassel.

Cassel complained at a March Joint Powers Commission meeting in April that Calvert's sale presented a conflict of interest because the congressman secured $8 million in federal funding in July 2005 for an interchange at Cajalco Road and the 215.

Only, Calvert didn't do that.

Calvert helped procure funding for an interchange at Cajalco Road and Interstate 15 -- 16 miles away from his property. And the LA-based watchdog group Center for Governmental Studies noted this week that Calvert's profit matched the rise in market value of the area. That sounds reasonable enough.

The nature of Calvert's private-sector business will often present the potential of a conflict of interest, so the congressman should be careful to avoid it.

Sadly, voters see enough real shady business going on in Congress. Sounding false alarms of corruption only breeds more cynicism about government.

The Press Enterprise clarification does not cover the broad charge made in the LATimes piece. The Times says rather vaguely:

A map of Calvert's recent real estate holdings and those of his partner shows many of them near the transportation projects he has supported with federal appropriations. And improvements to the transportation infrastructure have contributed to the area's explosive growth, according to development experts.

However, the Times has been known to be wrong.

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Foreign Policy Reality Checks

Glenn has good posts on what's really happening in Afghanistan (NOT a major Taliban offensive, apparently) and in Iraq (better than you'll read in the traditional media).

Michelle covers the attempted suicide of some detainees at Gitmo.

Meanwhile, The Corner covers the pro-modernity riots in Turkey (is there a better term for such protests)?

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Remember the name Joey Chestnut. He's absolutely shattered the US record for hot dogs and buns eaten in 12 minutes. The old record was 42; he just did 50. If he continues to beat records at that pace, he will eat 120 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes, in just 5 more competitions.

But I digress.

Chestnut has qualified for the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, coming up on July 4th. I'm prepared to embrace Chestnut - in spirit, anyway - as our national champion to try to take down Japan's own Takeru Kobayashi. In winning his 5th straight Nathan's Famous competition last year, Kobayashi ate ONLY 49 hot dogs and buns. So clearly Chestnut has 'got his number,' so to speak.

The contest is at the corner of Surf and Stilwell, Coney Island, Brooklyn. What better way to celebrate our nation's birthday than by coming out to cheer on one of our own, to take back a crown that should rightfully be held by the US?

I mean, we don't have the America's Cup or the Olympic basketball gold. Is nothing sacred?

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Shouldn't They all be Wearing Tinfoil Hats?

Is Fox Mulder Listening to You?

CNN's latest poll also tells us that 26% of Americans belive the governmnent has been listening in on their calls.

Wait a sec, is that Mulder or Stephen Green?

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Remember When Spock Had a Beard?

Visiting the liberal blogs is like spending time in an alternate universe.

The folks at ThinkProgress are upset because CNN is suggesting Bush may have gotten a 'bounce' in the most recent Rasmussen poll, which shows his popularity rising from 34% to 36%. They say that a 2 point increase is well within the margin of error, so it's not fair to infer a legitimate boost in popularity.

Haven't conservatives been saying for weeks (or is it months, or years?) that the media is overplaying every drop in the President's approval rating - and inferring a 'new low' without any real justification? Well! Guess now the shoe is on the other foot.

So conservatives who don't hate the President over immigration, take heart!

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Bellwether for Lieberman this Weekend

In the continuing effort of Connecticut Democrats to give away the Senate seat held by the man they nominated for the Vice Presidency in 2000, they will meet in a convention this weekend to endorse a Senate candidate. They will almost certainly renominate Joe Lieberman, but will likely set up a primary against a liberal cable exec who's basically backed by DNC Chair Howard Dean.

Oh what a tangled web we weave...

Little of the article is new, but a Lieberman opponent says that if as many as 25% of the delegates oppose Lieberman, it's a warning sign.

Lieberman has not ruled out a run as an Independent if he fails to secure the Democratic nomination.

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House Avoids Spending Cuts

The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Interior Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2007. I'm a little disappointed, because Congressman Jeff Flake was considering offering a raft of amendments to eliminate earmarks, but because he was in Arizona with the President, was not able to do so.

At the same time, Joel Hefley of Colorado offered an amendment to reduce spending in the bill by 1 percent. It would have been an across-the-board cut, reducing spending in the bill by about $250 million. Not much in federal terms, but a cut nonetheless.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 312-109.

Oooff. There's a lot of work to do.

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Liberal Media Discovers the Constitution

With a little bit of disappointment, I'm linking the Washington Post's story about the Senate adopting English as the nation's official language. I'm disappointed because there is no contribution from Post writer Fred Barbash, who I heard in an interview about this issue this morning.

In commenting disdainfully on the Senate action, Barbash observed (and I'm paraphrasing), that 'no Senator could show anywhere in the Constitution where it says the government can set an official language.'

Well, I don't know, Fred. Isn't it in that same clause with abortion, Social Security, Medicare, road-building, and the rest?

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Where's the NSA Controversy?

Doesn't look like General Hayden is going to suffer from any public 'outrage' over the NSA's activities with regard to telephone surveillance. Does this mean I can claim victory on 'rowback?'

In the longer term, this will probably wind up looking like Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. Back then, Americans believed Clarence Thomas during the confirmation hearings, but the media used a steady drumbeat of criticism and harping to create a post-facto perception that Anita Hill was wronged. Today, the American people are not especially bothered by the intelligence-gathering methods reportedly used by this Administration - but I'm sure the media will spend a few years drumming it into our heads that we judged wrong.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dem Senate Hopeful Backs Force in Iraq

Ed Case is a Democratic Congressman in Hawaii, challenging incumbent Daniel Akaka. Case says that had he had the chance, he would have voted to authorize force in Iraq:

But, few political junkies -- even true Fix fanatics -- are likely aware that a similar situation is playing out in Hawaii's Democratic primary between Sen. Daniel K. Akaka and U.S. Rep. Ed Case. In that contest, Akaka is touting his vote against the 2002 use-of-force resolution while Case has said he would likely have supported it had he been in Congress at the time.

"I believe our country cannot tolerate the combination of the leadership of another country sworn to do us harm and weapons of mass destruction," Case said in an interview this afternoon. He added that Akaka's vote against the use-of-force measure was a "mistake at that time."

It's interesting that in a Democratic primary in an extremely liberal state, a Democrat is going out of his way to state his support for going to war in Iraq.

I can't find more detail; presumably, Case will say that the President botched the job badly. However, he's already varying from the Democratic songbook; I wonder if he'll continue to do so.

One thing is sure: conventional wisdom says a Democrat who takes this stand will get pasted.

I got that photo on the right from Congressman Case's website. I believe that it is he, but I'm trying to confirm that.

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Flake Fights Earmarks in the House

I noted the other day that Representative Jeff Flake was planning to offer amendment to strip pork-barrel projects from several upcoming House Appropriations bills. Today the House is debating one of those bills: the Interior Appropriations Act.

Well, Jeff Flake is reportedly in Arizona with the President today, visiting the border. However, it seems that he has asked other reformers in the House to offer some of his anti-pork amendments for him. I've attached below a press release from the House Republican conference, outlining the process for consideration of the rest of the bill. The fact that amendments are listed here doesn't mean that they will definitely be offered, but they may be:

Text of Rep. Taylor's Unanimous Consent Agreement

Congressman Taylor of North Carolina asked unanimous consent that, during further consideration of H.R. 5386 in the Committee on the Whole pursuant to House Resolution 818, notwithstanding clause 11 of rule 18, no further amendment to the bill may be offered except:

Pro forma amendments offered at any point in the reading by the Chairman or Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on the Appropriations or their designees for the purpose of debate;
Amendments printed in the Record and numbered 1 and 7;
The amendment printed in the Record and numbered 6, which shall be debatable for 20 minutes;
An amendment by Mr. Putnam regarding a moratorium on drilling in the OCS, which shall be debatable for 60 minutes;
An amendment by Mr. Chabot regarding a limitation on funds for roads in the Tongass National Forest, which shall be debatable for 20 minutes;
An amendment by Mr. Oberstar regarding a limitation on funds for activities under the Clean Water Act, which shall be debatable for 30 minutes;
An amendment by Mr. Hinchey regarding a limitation on funds for suspension of royalty relief, which shall be debatable for 30 minutes;
An amendment by Mr. Obey or Mr. Dicks addressing global climate change by modifying the amount provided for EPA Environmental Programs and Management; which shall be debatable for 30 minutes;
An amendment by Mr. Obey regarding funding increases for various accounts with a tax offset;
An amendment by Mr. Tiarht regarding business competitiveness;
An amendment by Mr. Gary Miller of CA regarding the San Gabriel Watershed;
An amendment by Mr. Conaway regarding EPA drinking water regulations for arsenic;
An amendment by Mr. Gordon, regarding rederal building energy use;
An amendment by Ms. Jackson-Lee of texas regarding a limitation on funds for urban reforestation;
An amendment by Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas regarding a limitation on funds on Smithsonian outreach programs;
An amendment by Mr. Garrett of New Jersey regarding federal employee travel to conferences;
An amendment by Mr. Dent regarding a limitation on funds to enforce the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act;
An amendment by Mr. Andrews regarding Forest Service salaries and expenses;
An amendment by Mr. Meehan regarding EPA national emissions standards;
An amendment by Mr. Taylor of NC regarding funding for various accounts;
An amendment by Mr. Beauprez regarding funding for wildland fire management;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding any Iowa State University Project on mitigating emissions from egg farms;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding funding for ivory-billed woodpecker research;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding funding for Neosha National Fish Hatchery;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding funding for the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding Santa Ana River wash program;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding staffing for the National Zoological Park;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding NFS recreation sites in North Carolina;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding citrus studies in Florida;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding the Florida National Scenic Trail;
An amendment by Mr. Flake regarding the Continental Divide National Trail.

Each such amendment may be offered only by the Member named in this request or a designee, or by the Member who caused it to printed in the Record or a designee, shall be considered as read, shall not be subject to amendment except that the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies each may offer one pro forma amendment for the purpose of debate; and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question in the House or in the Committee of the Whole.

Except as otherwise specified, each amendment shall be debatable for 10 minutes, equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent. An amendment shall be considered to fit the description stated in this request if it addresses in whole or in part the object described.

Tune in to C-SPAN and call your Representative if you have time.

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Something to Make Dems Happy

We're Starting to Act Like Them

I noted the other day that one aspect of the White House immigration strategy is to push for a quick resolution. They will argue that the intra-party fight over immigration is the last thing the GOP needs, and that getting a bill will end much (thought not all) of the fighting. No one will be entirely happy with any compromise, but most voters will accept the resolution, and move on to new issues. The hard-core activists at either end of the debate will be angry, but 80%-90% of the electorate will regard the argument as settled - for now, anyway. This will allow officials running for election or re-election to shift attention to issues like the war on terror, and spending, and others where they think they can win.

The White House argument has some merit. Observers of the immigration debate see the split it causes among Republicans at places like NR's Corner, and Polipundit (to pick an obvious example). And it has obviously led to fighting between the White House and the House.

But immigration is not the only area where Republicas are split. Glenn and NZ Bear have chronicled the divide between the Senate and the House on emergency spending, which led Speaker Hastert to fire a salvo at the Senate.

And today Bob Novak offers details about a fight between the House and the White House over Porter Goss' dismissal.

The Speaker's wrath
By Robert Novak
May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a 64-year-old ex-high school wrestling coach, ordinarily is not a shouter. But according to Capitol Hill sources, he engaged in a high decibel rant last week when he met with Vice President Dick Cheney. The speaker was enraged by the sacking of his friend and former colleague, Porter Goss.

Hastert was so vituperative that a private session with President George W. Bush in the living quarters of the White House was scheduled immediately (although Hastert aides said the meeting had been planned previously). The speaker toned down his volume on the hallowed ground and did more listening than talking. But the president did not slake Hastert's wrath over the abrupt sacking of Goss as CIA director.

That wrath reflects the feeling in the House Republican cloakroom that Goss, who gave up a safe congressional seat from Florida for a thankless cleanup mission at the CIA, is being made a scapegoat for the government's intelligence mess. But Hastert's discontent goes beyond the CIA. The GOP mood on Capitol Hill, particularly the House, is poisonous. With pessimism rising over a contemplated loss of their majority in the 2006 elections, Republican lawmakers blame their parlous condition on Bush's performance.

...Hastert had urged Goss to postpone his retirement and seek another term in Congress, and Bush then talked Goss into taking on the arduous mission of bringing the CIA under presidential control. Two days before Goss was shown the door, Hastert met with John Negroponte. The director of national intelligence gave the speaker no hint that Hastert's friend at the CIA was being fired.

Hastert, who served with Cheney in the House for two years (1987-88), let the vice president have it in their private meeting. He said he trusted his close friend Goss, who had performed well at the nasty job of cleaning out an agency filled with critics of the president and his policies. The speaker made clear he considered the crude treatment of Goss a personal insult.

Cheney took this so seriously that he quickly scheduled a White House meeting of Bush and Hastert (that did not appear on public schedules of either the president or the speaker). With the vice president sitting in, Bush expressed his high regard for Goss. Hastert had criticized the choice of Gen. Michael Hayden as Goss' successor, and Bush urged the speaker to support the nominee.

It was not merely that Hastert and other House Republicans objected to the sacking of Goss. They resented the demeaning way it was performed. In particular, it could be inferred there was some scandalous reason for Goss' departure. It has been incorrectly tied to published reports of Dusty Foggo, Goss' handpicked No. 3 CIA official, being under investigation in the Duke Cunningham bribery and corruption scandal.

...Such interpretations suggest that there is basically non-communication between Bush and fellow Republicans in Congress. The president had to summon the speaker of the House to calm him down because he had given him no heads-up earlier. More than difficulties at the CIA need to be resolved as the GOP lurches toward the dreaded mid-term elections.

Novak is right about the last point. Republicans must figure out a way to work together and present a united front, if they are going to perform well in the mid-term elections.

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Earmarks Are Tough to Stop

I've written before about how difficult it is to rein in earmarks. The lobbying reform bill - if enacted as passed in the House - will be a useful parliamentary tool, but is not any significant barrier to earmarks, by itself. It will require the commitment of Members of Congress - to lead the charge against earmarks identified by the earmark reform, and also to FIND those that aren't.

There is a recent piece in The Hill that I initially missed. It speaks to the latter point - the difficulty of finding earmarks - even if reforms are adopted.

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Ty Pennington? Who's He?

Well, I've never seen the show, but apparently if I'm looking for someone to endorse my product, he's the guy.

And if James Earl Jones is so widely trusted, what does that say about CNN?

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Dems: GOP Will Like Minority Status

Well, on top of John Conyers op-ed saying that he really has no firm plans to impeach the President, despite his having committed impeachable offenses, now Nancy Pelosi is telling Republicans that minority status will be great (subscription required):

Pelosi: Bipartisanship Gets Major Role If Democrats Regain Control Of House
House Republicans might have their doubts, but Minority Leader Pelosi says a Democratic majority next year would place a heavy emphasis on bipartisanship -- and would offer the Republicans minority rights often denied Democrats now.
"[I would like] to come as close as you can in the political reality to a bipartisan management of the House," Pelosi said in a Wednesday interview with CongressDaily. "I'm a big believer in bipartisanship on so many issues. You can't address the entitlement issue, the healthcare issue, and do it in a partisan way. They are too big, they involve too many people, and they involve too much money, private and public money. You've got to do it in a way that has legitimacy."
Pelosi, who is widely viewed to become speaker if Democrats pull off a net 15-seat gain on Election Day, intends to stand by a proposal she offered House Speaker Hastert two years ago to enact a Minority Bill of Rights.
It includes guaranteeing the minority at least one-third of committee resources, a revamped work schedule, a commitment to moving legislation through regular order, and allowing at least 24 hours before voting on conference reports.
"I would consider the role to be speaker of the House, not speaker of the Democrats," she said. "I love this institution. I've been here 19 years now."
Pelosi said her time as minority leader has been spent "learning in the minority how you don't want to be treated, and that's how we would not want them to be treated."
In perhaps the biggest break from the current practices of GOP leaders, Pelosi said she would be willing to lose votes on the floor.
"Absolutely," she said. "It's not about a defeat, it's about a decision. I certainly would not say that we can't bring things to the floor because we'll lose ... [Republicans] are afraid of ideas. That's why we can't have amendments, substitutes, and all the rest for the most part. When was the last time you ever saw a Democratic bill come to the floor of the House except to name a post office when they name five? It just doesn't happen and that's not right."
As speaker, Pelosi would have her work cut out for her to create a working, bipartisan atmosphere in a Congress that is often described as one of the most partisan in history. Republicans have also sought to portray Pelosi as a symbol of a radical, left-wing San Francisco-style politics.
"They may try to paint me to the left but our message is about the bread-and-butter issues of America's working families," she countered. "They may want to go out and misrepresent who I am -- a mother of five children, a grandmother of five children, they are not saying any of that. We are playing our own game, and you have to take a lot of heat."
Politically, Republicans have also portrayed Pelosi as out of touch with average Americans -- pointing to her aversion to traveling in rural and Southern regions.
"It's kind of an open secret that Nancy Pelosi doesn't travel much below the Mason-Dixon Line unless it's Miami," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Thomas Reynolds of New York said at a Tuesday political briefing.
Not so, countered Pelosi.
"I am limited by the calendar," she said. "I have so many requests to travel around the country."
Pelosi, who plays a key role as a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said she goes where the money is, which tends to be mostly urban areas for Democrats.
Unlike Hastert, Pelosi is not as quick to shun the limelight although her national name recognition remains relatively low.
"I don't think the speaker is that well-known. When I'm speaker of the House I expect to be much better known," she quipped.
While Democratic leaders frequently invoke their voting unity during Pelosi's tenure, it remains to be seen if the often-divergent Democratic Caucus can reach consensus to govern in a closely divided chamber.
Democrats might not have the option to not work with their Republican counterparts, or the Bush administration, to move legislation.
"And who knows where the good ideas will come from? The right, the left, the middle," Pelosi said. "I think you have to be open to that and whatever the consequence, it is worth it because it has been the result of free and open debate."
But Pelosi thinks the Caucus can unite if they win the majority by a narrow margin.
"We certainly can hold our Democrats," she said, citing party victories in sidelining President Bush's Social Security plan and shifting the debate to the ethical standard in Congress.
"Last year our challenge was to defeat the president's privatization plan, to save Social Security. We did that. It was also important to finally get in to the public domain the culture of corruption, incompetence and cronyism. We accomplished both of those things," she said. "If we hadn't won that fight, how could we hold our heads up as a party?" she added, in reference to Social Security.
Whereas Republican leaders must often balance the moderate and conservative factions within the Conference, Pelosi will similarly have to negotiate with factions often at odds with her: the moderate-to-conservative Blue Dog Coalition, the moderate New Democrat Coalition, and the liberal Progressive Caucus, among others.
Pelosi has sought to integrate members of the Caucus into the agenda rollout that Democrats have begun on issues including national security, energy, innovation and lobbying reform.
In particular, she credited the Blue Dogs with promoting the energy agenda, and the New Democrats with aiding the innovation agenda. Democrats will also offer a more detailed domestic agenda in mid-June, she said, adding that the "differentiation" between the parties is starting to "weigh in" voters' minds.
One institutional change Pelosi does not support is challenging the seniority system.
Not only would a Democratic majority make Pelosi speaker but it would return many long-standing ranking members to chairmanships, among them Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell of Michigan, Judiciary ranking member John Conyers of Michigan, Ways and Means ranking member Charles Rangel of New York, and Appropriations ranking member David Obey of Wisconsin.
"I don't see any change in the seniority system," she said. "If the Democrats win, there will be plenty of room for new blood" because Democrats will have more committee seats.
Pelosi also appeared confident that Democrats could take on Bush in his waning days in the White House.
"I have a good rapport with the president. But I don't fancy myself a Tip O'Neill, and I don't fancy him a Ronald Reagan," she said. By Susan Davis

That's right! Candy and ponies for all the Republicans, when Nancy Pelosi is Speaker! And that time when she threatened to strip committee assignments from Democrats who voted with the GOP? That was just another demonstration of bipartisanship! She can be as mean to Democrats as she has been to Republicans, silly!

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Conyers Wants to Impeach the President Yesterday

John Conyers offers a disingenuous op-ed in today's Washington Post, in which he claims that he is in no rush to impeach the President. Remember this piece from the Post less than a year ago? John Conyers has already held his impeachment hearing. He says that the Downing Street Memo establishes "a prima facie case of going to war under false pretenses." He's also written:

The Report also concludes that these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable conduct. However, because the Administration has failed to respond to requests for information about these charges, it is not yet possible to conclude that an impeachment inquiry or articles of impeachment are warranted.

So the President has engaged in impeachable conduct, but until he answers some questions, we can't tell if he should be impeached? What does that even mean?

Regardless, Conyers has made clear that he would love to impeach the President. Does that mean it will happen? No. There are sane Democrats in the House. It could be that enough would oppose the move to prevent it from occurring. But I think that's the only thing that would stop Conyers if he were to become Chairman.

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Can a Wave Go Both Ways?

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the Ethics Committee) has launched three new investigations - two against sitting Members of the House, and one into the Cunningham scandal, which appears to be growing by the day:

Ethics Panel Starts 3 Probes
Ney, Jefferson And Cunningham Cases End Hiatus
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 18, 2006; A01

After 16 months of inactivity and partisan infighting, the House ethics committee launched investigations last night into bribery allegations against Reps. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and William Jefferson (D-La.) and a separate inquiry into the widening scandal surrounding former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

The committee said it would have ordered another investigation, into the overseas trips of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), had the once-powerful lawmaker not announced that he will resign from the House on June 9.

The inquiries by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is formally known, come after the Justice Department intensified corruption investigations of Ney and Jefferson, and after Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes and was sent to prison.

But as those and other scandals were unfolding, the ethics committee sat on the sidelines while Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for grinding the ethics process to a halt. Democrats said GOP leaders had changed the rules unfairly to thwart investigations that could have negative ramifications for the party. Republicans charged that the Democrats were dragging their feet on the panel's reorganization to bolster their accusations of a coverup.

That logjam was broken last month when Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat, was forced to leave the panel amid accusations that he used his congressional position to funnel money to his own home-state foundations, possibly enriching himself.

...Responding to last night's developments, Ney said in a statement: "For the last 15 months, all I have asked for is an opportunity to have the facts surrounding the Abramoff matter to be reviewed by the appropriate investigative bodies in order to have this matter addressed once and for all. Now that the Committee has been constituted, I am pleased that my request has been heard."

Robert P. Trout, an attorney for Jefferson, said in a statement, "This action is hardly surprising given recent media reports and editorial comment." He added that the congressman believes that "everyone should take a deep breath and allow the judicial process to work."

Trout also said that Jefferson has "never accepted payment from anyone for the performance of any act or duty for which he was elected."

The Cunningham inquiry could hold the most political significance, because it will look into activities that could snare lawmakers who so far have escaped official scrutiny. Cunningham confessed to accepting millions of dollars in bribes from two Southern California defense contractors, Mitchell J. Wade and Brent R. Wilkes.

The case took a new twist last month when Wade told prosecutors that Wilkes had an arrangement with a limousine company, which in turn had an arrangement with at least one escort service, one source said. Wade said limos would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute and bring them to suites that Wilkes maintained at the Watergate and Westin Grande hotels in Washington. Federal investigators are looking into whether other lawmakers also took part.

I've written on Jefferson and Ney, and the Cunningham scandal is a full-time-job - particularly as it expands to implicate everyone from Jerry Lewis to Porter Goss. I've also yet to talk about the recent allegations that Congressman Ken Calvert - another member of the House Appropriations Committee - benefited from the purchase of land in areas where he subsequently sponsored transportation projects - ultimately selling the land for a significant profit.

Up to now in this campaign season, analysts have wondered whether a 'throw the bums out' mentality would help Democrats and hurt Republicans. I am starting to think that voters may see enough evidence of corruption in Washington to throw out a raft of folks on both sides of the aisle. With all the names out there of people either accused or effectively 'convicted' - DeLay, Cunningham, Ney, Calvert, Doolittle, Pombo, Harris, Jefferson, McKinney, Baca, Mollohan, Schumer, Conyers, McDermott... there's plenty of fuel for a real focus on corruption that is neither Democrat nor Republican. The major networks, the MSM may soon start airing stories asking 'what's wrong in Washington,' and 'why have we elected a bunch of criminals?'

I don't think we'll see independent candidates winning races all of a sudden, but if someone came along to make him or herself the face of an 'ethics crusade,' you could probably get lots of free media coverage. And if you have the money to air ads in certain Congressional districts, you could wind up with a national movement big enough to target a range of Members associated with scandal. Such a move could harm incumbents of both parties.

On a more narrow note, Alan Mollohan is again going to be hurt by the fact that suddenly the House ethics process 'works.' The Post notes that in the 16 months that Mollohan was the lead Democrat on the Committee, it never did a thing because of partisan infighting. Now suddenly, investigations are launched. Why was he unable to get Congress to begin policing itself?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

House Democratic Culture of Corruption

Wow. House Democrats are really starting to rack up quite a list of Members with ethical questions to answer. Now it's Representative Joe Baca, accused of forcing staffers to campaign for his son, while taxpayers footed the bill:

Former staff accuse Baca of 'forced volunteering'
By Josephine Hearn

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) sent six of his Washington staff members to California in February 2004 to campaign for his son, Joe Baca Jr., who at the time was locked in an intense primary battle for a seat in the California Assembly.

The staffers divided their time between the elder Baca’s San Bernardino congressional office, where they were holding a staff retreat, and the younger Baca’s campaign office, often engaging in campaign activities during official work time or under pressure from Baca or his chief of staff, according to the accounts of two former staff members and another source with knowledge of the trip. No member of the staff took leave to do campaign work, the sources said.

Although congressional staffers routinely volunteer on political campaigns, they may do so only under strict guidelines to ensure that the work is voluntary and that no taxpayer money, including that allocated for their congressional salaries, is used to fund their work.

The allegations could represent a violation of House ethics guidelines or of federal statutes barring intimidation to secure political contributions.

While in California, a number of staffers became disillusioned with the arrangement and raised concerns in written office evaluations.

“It was basically forced volunteering,” one former staffer said. “Personally, I had problems with it. I felt uncomfortable going out there. ... I felt a little taken advantage of.”

...Last year, Baca directed the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to contribute $3,300, the maximum allowable donation, to each of his two sons’ Statehouse campaigns, drawing charges of nepotism from other CHC lawmakers. Jeremy Baca, the congressman’s second son, is running for the Statehouse seat being vacated by Joe Baca Jr., who is running for the state Senate.

In the winter of 2004, Joe Baca Jr. was making his first bid for elected office. With no political experience and a lackluster career as a substitute teacher, he was counting on his family name to help him overcome stiff primary competition from another politically well-connected candidate, David Roa Pruitt, the chief of staff to the mayor of San Bernardino.

As the March 2 primary approached, political observers were expecting a dead heat. But instead of the photo finish everyone was expecting, Baca Jr. trounced Pruitt 59-27 percent.

Leading up to the primary, Baca had received more than $60,000 in campaign contributions from out of state, more than 10 times the out-of-state donations Pruitt collected.

Baca Jr. also received $835 in donations from four of his father’s congressional staff members. Some of those same staffers volunteered with the campaign.

...The congressman’s longtime chief of staff, Linda Macias, spent nearly five weeks in the district between mid-January and the March 2 primary, racking up $3,000 in hotel bills, according to disbursement reports. The congressman faced no opposition in his primary that year.

Macias’s lengthy stay in San Bernardino contrasts markedly with the rest of the year. Disbursement reports indicate that after the primary Macias spent only 10 days in the district for the rest of 2004.

A Democratic aide with knowledge of the trip said Macias was instrumental in ensuring staffers helped with campaign work.

“She was deeply involved. She enabled it,” the aide said. “They were using staff as de facto campaign employees.”

In his statement, Baca defended Macias’s long presence in the district that year.

“As chief of staff, Linda Macias is responsible for managing all of my staff in both my Washington DC and San Bernardino offices. While she was in the district, she was engaged in appropriate and necessary activities including staff orientation, training and supervision.”

Democrats have complained that under Republican rule in Washington, a "Culture of Corruption" has taken root. It's starting to look like they really know what they're talking about! I just didn't realize they were talking only about the Democratic conference! I can't even remember all the names anymore: Mollohan, McKinney, McDermott, Jefferson, Schumer, Reid, Conyers, Kennedy...

I guess we're going to start to see the MSM cover all this like they are Abramoff...

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Conservative Battle Fatigue

Mark Tapscott has penned a much commented-on piece suggesting that it might not be such a bad thing if Democrats take over one or both Houses of Congress.

First off, I don't think it's even possible really, that the Democrats could take over either House with a veto-proof majority. That would mean a gain of 87 House seats, and 12 Senate seats. I think pretty much everyone is agreed that neither of those things will happen.

And I definitely agree that Democrats would be unlikely to score any big initiatives when in marginal control of one House. But there would be scores and scores of small victories.

First off would be investigations. They would be designed to discredit the President, the administration, and the War on Terror. From their bully pulpits, Democratic Committee Chairmen would scold Republican witnesses about the foolish, clumsy, and unethical actions of the Bush administration. Conservative bloggers would come to the defense of the administration, and would fight the MSM to convince the great middle of the truth.

Also, Democrats would be able to pass initiative that 'sound nice,' but which Republican majorities have kept bottled up because we think they're bad ideas. So say hello to higher fuel economy standards, more mandates on health insurance coverage, ends to limits on jury awards, and anything else that you can think of along those lines. And of course, the agenda would shift from tax reduction to budget-balancing (through tax increases, obviously). Can Democrats in control of one House convince the other, Republican-controlled House to pass some of these? Probably. And then we'll see whether the President can veto all of them.

But the biggest danger lies in the appropriations bills. They contain tens of thousands of programs, and can contain millions of directions to the Executive Branch as to how they are to be implemented. And no President could veto more than a small proportion. So we would see Democrats shift from abstinence education to abortion funding, and we would see dozens of small spending items forcing the US to 'fight global warning.' And we would see micro-managing of foreign policy (remember when the Democratic Congress cut off Contra funding in the 1980s). There would be the fairness doctrine, and assistance to states for voter registration drives, and financial incentives for states to move election day to weekends. There would be limits on campaign speech, more mandates on health care - with the goal of making it so costly that eventually the government needs to 'bail out' the system completely. Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be back up. We would see limitations on interrogation techniques that count as 'torture.' There would be requirements that the administrtion produce a full accounting of all prisoners taken in the War on Terror - and where they are held, and for how long. Or to whom their custody was transferred, and what happened to them after. Welfare reform would be undone, states would be encouraged to shift away from prisons and toward rehabilitation of criminals. For any area of public policy, you can think of liberal instructions as to how programs are supposed to work. The President will be asked to veto all of them, and the MSM will be against him every step of the way.

Of course, in some ways the President would benefit greatly from this. He would again be loved by Conservatives, because he would no longer be the face of compromise with Democrats; he would be the person blocking them. Government would most assuredly shift left, and his administration would look like carrion to the Congressional vultures, but Conservatives would be back on his side.

Apart from these happy thoughts, the "K Street Project" would come back, in reverse. Lobbyists would have to be Democrats. Corporate donors would have to give far more money to Democrats than Republicans, and if they did not, they would suffer. But unlike with Tom DeLay's version of the project, this version would not be criticized by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others. As a result, Democratic candidates would benefit from having the support of Labor (oh by the way? forget about 'paycheck protection'), they would also have healthy support from the business community. That would go for candidates at all levels - especially gubernatorial races. Because in 2008, states will elect a raft of governors who will preside over the drawing of Congressional lines for the period of 2010-2020. So Democrats will put a priority in taking away governors' seats, so as to entrench a Democratic Congressional majority through gerrymandering.

If you are willing to risk this, by all means sit out 2006. I prefer the Geraghty solution.

I'm not saying this would mean the end of the world - obviously only some of this stuff WILL happen. Plus we survived Bill Clinton, and this would be better than that. I mean, what are the chances that Al Qaeda would use this opportunity to regroup and attack again?

But it's simply not reasonable to count on Democrats being in power only a short time. It's positively silly to count on a Republican comeback in 2008. Democratic overreach could very well cause it, but then again, that's exactly what people said in 1992. They said that if we got rid of George Bush senior, and the White House went over to a philandering draft dodger, then we'd get it right back in 1996 and be stronger than ever. That didn't happen. And we elected Al Gore to handle September 11, and everything that went with it. Is the current dissatisfaction with Congressional Republicans - a dissatisfaction that I share on a range of issues - really worth it?

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Long Knives Out for Lieberman

Looks like Connecticut Democrats are doing their best to hand a Senate seat to the GOP. Not that I'm predicting that will happen; it'll be hard to defeat Joe Lieberman in the primary. However, if they do, Lieberman has said he will run as an Independent. In such a scenario, the GOP might well be favored to win a Senate seat in Connecticut for the first time since... yeck! - Lowell Weicker.

A demonstration of just how far off the deep end Connecticut Democrats are:

Melody Drnach, an officer of NOW's political action committee, said the Bush administration is trying to tilt the court so that it reconsiders Roe vs. Wade, the decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion.

"Yet, Sen. Lieberman is one of seven Democrats who have promised not to filibuster any of President Bush's judicial nominees, except under `extraordinary circumstances.' Well, if packing the Supreme Court with abortion opponents like John Roberts and Samuel Alito is not an extraordinary circumstance, then we don't know what is," Drnach said.

On another note, if the nomination of Samuel Alito IS an 'extraordinary circumstance,' I don't know what isn't.

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Capturing Mexican Opinion

I've put together a 'quick and dirty' translation of today's editorial in Mexico City's "El Universal" on Bush's immigration speech and the Mexican response. I'm not posting it because I agree with it, but because I think it's useful to know what's being said in other countries about our policies.

Americans are criticized for not knowing much about other countries. It's always interesting to me to see the same blind spot in others' perception of us. For example, a highlight of the El Universal editorial is the Kent State Massacre. Yet, El Universal would probably be shocked if the New York Times editorialized that Americans should fear the Mexican government because in 1968, Mexican soldiers massacred hundreds of student protesters in Mexico City.

Anyway, my translation:

US: Militarized Border

It would be very sad for the government of president Vicente Fox to try to disguise something that's obvious for all to see: the virtual militarization of the US-Mexico border.

If things follow the course set out by the White House, within a month, approximately, the American National Guard will begin operations at the border with our country. This is an armed force sent only because Washington cannot use the army in their own territory, except in case of defense from an outer attack.

Bush tips his hand when he says in his speech "Mexico is our neighbor and our friend. We will continue working cooperatively to improve security on both sides of our border, to confront common problems like narcotrafficking and crime, and to reduce illegal immigration." That is to say, there is an express agreement to fight illegal immigration: in the case of Bush because it is his responsibility, and at the same time an urgent requirement of the national security of that country, taking into account that he's looking toward internal politics with this measure, at a time when his popularity is scraping bottom.

In the case of Fox, because he's supposed to be a friend and because he's a "cooperative" neighbor under all circumstance and whose reliability has not diminished, in spite of criticisms for it in Mexico.

So it's unacceptable that Fox tries to hide a truth that all can see. The northern border will be blocked to Mexican immigrants by the National Guard, about which one remembers the 4th of May of 1970, when they shot to death 4 students at Kent State University, in Ohio, who protested the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Another nine students were wounded. A subsequent investigation showed that the National Guard was never in danger, although some students threw stones.

If they acted so nervously toward their young compatriots, we don't even want to imagine what they would do to defenseless Mexican and Central American immigrants who cross the Rio Bravo [Mexico does not use our name - the Rio Grande], jump fences and look for work in that country, crossing the desert or in sealed trucks. All this is sad and embarrassing on both sides, because Bush tries to diminish the relevance of intervention by the National Guard, and because Fox tries to disguise the fact. Even for some observers it could wind up more dangerous that it's the National Guard and not the army that's in charge of taking care of the border.

Still, the National Guard won't be able to contain a human wave that's become part of the United States like humidity, silent but effective. Twelve million people have been able to do it in recent years, and while the figure is nothing for us to be proud over, the certain thing is that they exist and that the Mexican government has an obligation to safeguard their lives and to ensure that over there, their civil and human rights are guaranteed, as people who contribute to the strength of that nation.

To do otherwise is to betray to those who have left and - on the part of the American government - would be a great ingratitude.

Mexico Threatens to Sue

Mexico's Foreign Minister Ernesto Derbez has said that Mexico will file suit in the US if National Guardsmen illegally detain illegal immigrants. I've talked a little about Mexico's reaction to the President's speech.

Derbez is often politically tone-deaf - particulary when it comes to gauging how Mexico's actions will be viewed in the US. However, I think that this action is properly viewed through the prism of Mexican domestic politics - ie, it probably helps Calderon's Presidential campaign if the Fox administration looks tougher than it has.

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World Trade Center

This is the first I've heard of Oliver Stone's latest movie. Since it's Oliver Stone, I'm not optimistic. The trailer however, looks all right - no obvious liberal preaching or changing of history.

It'll be interesting to see how the reaction to this movie compares to that given United 93. Will critics say it's 'too soon?' Will the Oliver Stone 'pedigree' be enough to ensure it a friendly reception? Will it turn out to be chock full of Oliver Stone leftist fiction?

Hat tip the Galley Slaves.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jefferson to Punish Democratic Colleagues

So Democrats had hoped that one of their big issues this Fall would be their vow to change the 'Culture of Corruption.' That effort is hurt of course, by a slew of examples of unethical or questionable behavior by Democrats. Jim McDermott, John Conyers, Patrick Kennedy, Cynthia McKinney, Alan Mollohan, Bill Jefferson - all have committed ethical or other transgressions that make it impossible for Democrats to argue that they are 'cleaner' than Republicans.

Now Representative Bill Jefferson - who commandeered a National Guard chopper during Hurricane Katrina to help him spirit who-knows-what out of his flooded house - has let his colleagues know that he won't resign if indicted. If it wasn't hard enough already for Democrats to make gains on the ethics issue, it will be even harder with Jefferson hanging around.

The other worrisome thing for Democrats is that while such damaged officials are frequently dispatched by the voters in the primary, Jefferson looks likely to face a number of Democratic challengers. He might therefore be able to win the primary with a sliver of the total vote. If that's the case, Jefferson could be around quite some time. Or - in the NRCC dream scenario - he might emerge so badly damaged on election day that a Republican challenger could have a shot in a normally safe Democratic seat.

OK, I'm kind of blowing smoke with that last one, but still...

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Georgia Judge Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

A Georgia judge has ruled that the state's voter-approved ban on gay marriages is illegal because it addresses two subjects - which is not allowed under the state Constitution.

The article above explains the issue poorly, it seems. Another recent article explains the argument more clearly:

The lawsuit, which does not question whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, focuses on how the issue was presented to the public. The lawsuit maintains that the state’s gay marriage ban, known as Amendment 1, is invalid because it violated the single-subject rule of the state constitution, which prohibits multiple questions being presented to voters in a single proposition.

Opponents of the amendment contend that in addition to establishing a heterosexual definition of marriage, it also prohibits civil unions and domestic partnerships, even though some voters who oppose gay marriage may support alternative legal recognitions for same-sex couples.

The merits of the case notwithstanding, this decision is likely to hurt only Democrats.

The decision is recent and I have seen little coverage of the case so far. However, there are two Georgia Democrats - John Barrow and Jim Marshall - seeking re-election to the House, whom National Journal has rated as among the 20 likeliest takeovers this year. National Journal notes that "as the statewide GOP ticket gets stronger, we're getting more optimistic about the GOP's chances of picking one or both of their Dem targets."

Governor Perdue has announced that he will appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court. If it remains a current issue on election day, then these two Democrats might well be toast. Even the socially-conservative African-American voters who are typically the hard-core base of support in Southern Democratic districts might want to 'send a message.' Given how close the battle for House control is expected to be, Nancy Pelosi might remain Minority Leader again because some Georgia Judge struck a blow for gay marriage.

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The President's Next Step

Reaction is all over the place on the President's immigration speech. Yes, it was a disaster with the Right - but it looks like it was received well, in general. The White House intends to press forward on the issue, and will push for a compromise that combines strong border enforcement with some version of a guestworker program. In part, they will make the argument that there is no benefit to Republican candidates to have this issue 'out there' on or near election day. They'll say that politically, the best thing is to have a bill - even if it's flawed - that eliminates immigration as a 'current' issue. Activists will be happy or sad, but most voters will have moved on to other issues - to the benefit of most Republicans, who recognize that there is no way to untie the Gordian Knot, and that the debate itself is killing them.

Apart from that, the President would be wise if he moves on to SPENDING! Whether it's vetoing bills that spend too much, or insisting on an end to earmarks, or some other principle. Spending, at least, unites Republicans. It is probably the only way he can actually deliver to the base on one of its priorities.

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Earmarks Under Attack in House

Chinese Gardens Hardest Hit

National Journal (subscription required) reports that House conservatives are taking aim at a number of earmarks in the Agriculture and Interior Appropriations bills coming to the House floor starting tomorrow. In an ordinary year, this would make for fantastic theater, as steps like this are just not cricket! An outraged Representative would be livid that his or her project was being attacked like this, and suggest that if this project was targeted, whose would be next? That could still happen tomorrow, but I would bet against it.

Notable is that any successful amendment would not actually save any money, it would just leave it to the discretion of the agency as to how to spend it. Therefore, it's likely that a number of these projects would still be funded, it's just that the Emperor would make the call through the regional governors.... sorry - obscure Star Wars quote. Rather, the President would make the call, acting through the secretaries:

House Conservatives This Week Begin Attack On Earmarks

House GOP conservatives led by Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona are preparing to target dozens of earmarks in the first FY07 appropriations bills reaching the floor this week, a Flake spokesman said today. Appropriations season in the House begins Wednesday with the $18.4 billion Agriculture appropriations bill that also funds the FDA and related agencies, followed Thursday by the $25.9 billion Interior-EPA spending bill. Flake's spokesman declined to provide details so as not to alert earmark sponsors of his floor strategy. But he said Flake has prepared roughly a dozen amendments each to the Agriculture and Interior spending bills that would block the agencies from spending money on particular projects.
Preliminary lists of earmarks conservatives might target include $668,570 for diet nutrition and obesity research in New Orleans, and $1.5 million for an entrance to the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., both in the Agriculture bill. Interior-EPA earmarks that could face Flake's scalpel include $300,000 for ivory-billed woodpecker research and $200 million for clean water infrastructure projects the White House did not request. Despite a push for more disclosure required by the recently passed House lobbying bill, there is no listing of earmark sponsors in the committee reports accompanying the bills. Asked why the Appropriations Committee was not providing the list, as the lobbying bill would require, Majority Leader Boehner offered only a "no comment" today. Boehner said Congress is awaiting a conference agreement before acting, and conferees have not yet been named on the lobbying bill.
Flake and his allies would be unable to cut actual spending in the bill, meaning the agencies would still get the money and be able to spend it in ways they see fit rather than as earmarked by Congress. But if examples of earmarks being circulated are any guide to conservatives' floor strategy, they are not stopping at lawmakers' pet projects. Conservatives also are looking at earmarks requested as part of the Bush administration's FY07 budget request, including $20 million for restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem at Washington's Olympic National Park, and $2.96 million to replace the cave lighting system at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. Flake's spokesman said his boss judges each earmark on its merits, regardless of whether they originated from Congress or the administration.
The Appropriations Committee has been quick to point out that total earmarks are down in the first few FY07 appropriations bills compared with last year's bills. For example, the FY07 Agriculture bill would spend $336 million less for earmarks than the FY06 bill, a 52 percent drop. The Interior-EPA bill is $89 million lighter in earmarks than the FY06 version, a panel spokesman said, for a 32 percent reduction. The panel also has eliminated nine projects in the first two bills, including some White House priorities such as $8.4 million to lay plans for a "classical Chinese garden" at the National Arboretum. The project is a gift from the Chinese government, which plans to contribute more than $50 million toward its construction. The Agriculture Department testified March 30 that "once completed, the garden will be the finest example of a classical Chinese garden outside of China" that eventually will be used "to develop new and improved ornamental and floral plants in the U.S."
-- by Peter Cohn

First they came for the Chinese Gardens, and I said nothing - for I am not a Chinese garden. Then they came for Chuck Norris, and I said nothing for really, who watches "Walker, Texas Ranger," anyway?

This could make good theater, so if you can watch C-SPAN tomorrow you may wish to do so. And as always, CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE and tell him or her that you're paying attention.

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The Immigration Post

It appears that all bloggers are required to comment on the President's immigration proposal last night. Very well.

Illegal immigration is not the greatest problem in the world.

Most illegal immigrants come to the United States because they can earn more here than at home. That's the reason that remittances from workers in the US are (perhaps) the largest segment of Mexico's economy. Do illegal laborers drive down wages for American workers? Undoubtedly. It only makes sense that they compete with workers whose skills and abilities most resemble their own. But all labor drives down wages for all other labor. Labor is a commodity like anything else; if there is more of it, it is cheaper. At the same time, it's an input into everything we buy. So all consumers benefit from lower prices on commodities that depend on labor. This is not a zero-sum game, and every factor affects every other. If we get rid of illegal immigrant labor, will wages for low-skilled Americans go up? Sure. And if gas goes to $7.00 per gallon, we'll find alternatives. In neither case is it necessarily desirable. So I don't see a rational economic argument to get worried about illegal immigrant labor.

And as for the latest strawman in this argument - that the departure of strong young workers from Mexico harms that country, please don't cry crocodile tears. If you had the choice of staying in Morelia or Jalisco or Tabasco, or coming to the US to work - you would choose the latter. Yes of course, Mexico would be better off if its best workers chose to remain there. And so would the former Soviet Union have, and so would Ireland have in the late 1900s. The point is that life in those countries was (and is) terrible, for a variety of reasons. People chose to leave. It's not compassionate to force them to live in a place that offers little economic opportunity. Preventing them from (yes) breaking our laws to seek better lives might force change more quickly at home, but the change might not be pretty, and the process might not be to our liking (think Hugo Chavez).

To me, the greatest concern with illegal immigration is the degree to which it contributes to multiculturalism and to a rejection of the traditional goal of assimilation. I would love to see the President and other elected officials turn more to that goal. In particular, it's an area where partisan Democratic demagoguery will make it harder to make progress. And maybe assimilation has become so dicey, so questionable, that we must consider drastic measures to reduce illegal immigration. Certainly the May 1 protests make me more worried than ever.

As to measures for dealing with illegal immigration, I'm skeptical of any approach that does not rely on changing the economic incentives. I see no reason to spend billions of taxpayer dollars squeezing a balloon. When we spent more on border protection in the cities, we forced illegal crossings into the deserts. If we build a wall, we may just see people enter by boat, or fly to Canada and cross the northern border. So I remain unconvinced about THE WALL. Rather, we need to make employer sanctions work. That doesn't just mean more money for enforcement; it may mean a national ID card. I know that when I last worked closely on this issue, a big problem was that documents were faulty, but employers were liable to lawsuits if they questioned them. So a national ID card, or identity verification hotline is probably in order.

The other issue that concerns me is security. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups can cross our borders too easily. But that requires work on the Canadian border as well. However, I fear that an undocumented population of 11 or 12 million is much too large a haystack to find the few Al Qaeda needles. I have not seen a good assessment of the question, but I have to imagine it would be easier for law enforcement to track down legitimate threats if there were not so many 'ordinary illegals' trying to avoid the authorities. Therefore, if in a few years we have not curbed the economic incentives such that illegal immigrants have begun to return home, I think we need to look more seriously at an amnesty.

All-in-all, I think I agree with this approach from Andrew McCarthy.

Have I made as many enemies as President Bush yet?

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How Mexico Sees It

I've tried to give a little bit of the US immigration debate from the Mexican side. For those new here, this is because I lived in Mexico City for a while. In the past for example, I've noted the importance of this debate to Mexico's July Presidential election, and talked about why we should care. With that in mind, I wanted to take a quick look at the headlines this morning three major Mexican dailies.

El Universal gives us "Six Thousand US soldiers will guard the border," "Minutemen call Bush's speech a farce," "Mexico worries about military guard on the border," and "CNN announcer wants an electric fence."

That last one is interesting, and something I missed. According to El Universal, Jack Cafferty asked whether the US should construct its own version of the Iron Curtain, with electric fences and minefields, along the Mexican border. They have Cafferty saying something like "The President's proposal is a political cure. Instead of that, how about a pair of paralell 20 foot walls with land mines on both sides and between. If memory serves, the Iron Curtain was a pretty effective way of preventing people from crossing borders that, I suppose, they weren't supposed to cross."

Well, at least the rhetoric isn't getting too heated.

The focus of the central article is of course, on the 6,000 National Guardsmen. The official Mexican response was apparently an expression of concern that 'these actions may not be accompanied by sufficient advances in the ongoing US legislative process."

Another Mexico City daily, Reforma, offers little about the speech on the front page, apparently. The lead article is 'Derbez denies border militarization.' Derbez is the foreign minister. I can't translate the article because it's subscription only.

Mexico's farthest-left daily, La Jornada ("The Workday"), leads with 'Bush Will Send 6,000 Soliders to the Border." The subheads are 'Mild Reaction from Fox Government,' 'President gives in to hard-liners and asks for more resources to guard the line,' 'Insists on his immigration reform proposal with a plan for temporary employment,' 'Consulates 'redouble efforts' to guarantee rights of expatriates,' and 'US measure is 'indignant and offensive' say Senators and the parties.'

That last article in La Jornada contains a barrage of criticism from Mexican legislators for the Fox government for failing to generate enough new jobs in Mexico. They say that it shows the failure of Fox's foreign policy, which has featured unilateral concessions to the US, in violation of campaign promises. They say the President's steps will cost human lives.

The head of AMLO's party says that the US efforts are akin to what the Nazis did to the Jews and what whites did in South Africa (don't look at me - I'm only translating). He's angry that the only thing to protect the rights of Mexicans in the US is 'Bush's word.' And he adds that if they continue with the Fox foreign policy, the only that will happen is more failure and more confrontation with the US.

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Come Out and Touch Some History, DC

For those of you on the east coast, this summer offers a neat chance to visit and tour the Godspeed, a replica of one of the 17th-century vessels that carried English settlers to Jamestown. This is part of the "America's 400th Anniversary" celebration of the settlement of the United States.

The party gets started May 27, in Alexandria, Virginia. The Godspeed is also coming to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Newport, Rhode Island. Take your kids to learn a little history, or tell your wife that it's better than staying in and watching the History Channel.

I for one, welcome our Anglo overlords.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Pelosi for Speaker!

The New York Times looks at the question of whether the Democrats would be better off being out of power for the next two years. The question itself is not nonsensical; being out of power means not getting the blame, and that can be advantageous. Nagourney suggests that falling just short of taking the majority might be best of all - no accountability, and a better position to take over in 2008:

Hey Democrats, Why Win?

DEMOCRATS are all but breaking out the Champagne. Republicans are divided and disheartened; President Bush's poll numbers seem to be in free fall. Many Democrats are talking not only about victory in November but about what they will do once Congress is in their hands.

Such talk may well be premature. Election Day is six months away, and the party has lost many a winning hand. But here is a slightly heretical question, being asked only partly in jest right now: Is it really in the best interest of the Democratic Party to win control of the House and Senate in November? Might the party's long-term fortunes actually be helped by falling short?

As strange as it might seem, there are moments when losing is winning in politics. Even as Democrats are doing everything they can to win, and believe that victory is critical for future battles over real issues, some of the party's leading figures are also speculating that November could represent one of those moments.

From this perspective, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world politically to watch the Republicans struggle through the last two years of the Bush presidency. There's the prospect of continued conflict in Iraq, high gas prices, corruption investigations, Republican infighting and a gridlocked Congress. Democrats would have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2008, by this reasoning, and for the future they enhance their stature at a time when Republicans are faltering.

Indeed, some Democrats worry that the worst-case scenario may be winning control of Congress by a slim margin, giving them responsibility without real authority. They might serve as a foil to Republicans and President Bush, who would be looking for someone to share the blame. Democrats need a net gain of 6 seats in the Senate, and 15 seats in the House. "The most politically advantageous thing for the Democrats is to pick up 11, 12 seats in the House and 3 or 4 seats in the Senate but let the Republicans continue to be responsible for government," said Tony Coelho, a former House Democratic whip. "We are heading into this period of tremendous deficit, plus all the scandals, plus all the programs that have been cut. This way, they get blamed for everything."

That's all fine and dandy. And maybe the Republicans' correct goal ought to be the same. But you know, the House Democrats in 1994 didn't want to lose the House. And the House GOP doesn't now. And to extend the analogy, Tom Daschle never asked Jim Jeffords to remain a Republican, thus keeping the Senate in GOP hands. So at the very least, it seems that the people with the levers of power seem to prefer them to 'political advantage.'

But following the idea to its logical conclusion, why doesn't the House GOP actually deputize 15 Republican representatives to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker? That's an even better situation than even Nagourney theorizes! They would have the power to obstruct - hell, theyd be a majority! But Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats would be 'in charge,' and thus responsible for anything that went wrong!

This is the sort of idea that earns Dick Morris the big bucks!

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Sick, Sick, Sick

RedState today covers the story of a delightful 2-year old girl whose parents love her, but apparently wish they could have aborted her, because she has spina bifida. Her mother's complaint is that 'we were never given a choice.'

You decided to have a child and then you wanted a choice? This isn't a shirt or a pair of gloves! It wasn't even an adoption agency. There are lots of choices in life that get made for us, and the child born to you is one of them. Even to the extent that you can choose - not to have a child with spina bifida, or a cleft palate, or down syndrome - it's an illusion. The important things that make a person unique are things that you'll never be able to screen, and they are far more important.

I don't know what it is like to raise a child with a disability, but at the risk of sounding (even more) preachy, every life is a gift, and no person is perfect. I hope that this little girl realizes how wonderful she is, regardless of any message that others may be sending her.

Leon at RedStates marvels that the parents could discuss this openly in a national magazine. I will only add that they have apparently discussed it in newspapers before. Peachsummer blogged it here (last post on the page; I can't find a permalink), and a local California paper has the story here.

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The Mexico Effect

I've spoken about why the US should care about Mexico's Presidential election, and its relation to the US immigration debate. According to El Universal, one of Mexico's major dailies, Felipe Calderon has surged into the overall lead (article in Spanish) - for the first time since January. Frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has hit his lowest ebb since that time. According to the El Universal poll, more voters are self identifying as independents, and more independents are supporting Calderon. He's also gaining among younger voters - those 18-40 years of age.

With the President's speech tonight expected to go over poorly in Mexico, it'll be interesting to see the turn that the campaign takes from here.

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Kavanaugh Vote Next Week

According to National Journal (no link), the Kavanaugh nomination will come to the Senate floor next week:

Outlook. The Senate is expected to vote late next week on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Senators are likely to spend late nights this week voting on contentious legislation to change immigration laws and bolster border security. A senior GOP leadership aide said today the chamber would need to work through Friday and early next week to finish a measure. "That leaves plenty of room for Kavanaugh," said the aide, adding Republican leaders could also schedule floor time for a FY06 emergency supplemental conference report or a deal on pension legislation if available. The aide added other judicial nominations could also get a vote. Republicans and Democrats are preparing for another battle over President Bush's judicial picks this year. While Democrats have expressed opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination, it is unlikely they would launch a filibuster against the nominee. Conservative groups are pleading with GOP leaders to schedule votes on other pending nominees. "We are eager to get Kavanaugh confirmed so that Dr. Frist can get to work on the other five circuit judges ready for an up-or-down vote," Manuel Miranda, executive director of the Third Branch Conference, said today. "The emphasis on Kavanaugh has been a huge distraction, that leadership staff thought would appease the conservative base. It did not."

Once again, the thing that irks me about this is that Frist did not force a decision on this nomination or that of Terrence Boyle before the Rhode Island primary. By pushing these votes until after that primary, he allows Lincoln Chafee to cast a vote without having to worry about the base Republican vote in Rhode Island. I guarantee that Chafee will be part of an effort to secure another deal in the style of the Gang of 14, which will earn him praise from the liberal media, and frustrate the effort to guarantee a vote for nominees supported by a majority of the Senate.

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