Friday, November 24, 2006

Hastings Previews Failed Chairmanship

So Alcee Hastings has made his appeal to colleagues to support his bid for Chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee - and he's done so almost in the dead of night. Roll Call reports (the day before Thanksgiving at 4:30 pm) that he has written a letter to his colleagues:

Hastings Appeals to Caucus for Support in Chairmanship Bid
Wednesday, Nov. 22; 4:26 pm
By Jennifer Yachnin,
Roll Call Staff

Breaking his silence on discussions over which Democrat will chair the House Intelligence Committee in the 110th Congress, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) issued a letter to fellow lawmakers this week seeking to quell concerns over his 1988 impeachment as a federal judge as he attempts to stake his claim to the gavel.
In the five-page letter dated Nov. 20, Hastings criticized recent media reports about his impeachment, writing, “a frenetic attempt to justify denying me a position I have certainly earned and am completely competent to perform requires now that I set the record straight.”

“Colleagues, some of the things I write you may be familiar with. Some you may not know. It is all meant to edify you so that you have the best information possible in case you are asked about me or read about me in the paper or online,” Hastings wrote...

According to Hastings’ letter, however, the Florida lawmaker has requested a 45-minute meeting with Pelosi to discuss his 1983 trial and subsequent events, along with University of Miami professor Terence Anderson.

“In particular, Professor Anderson could explain to anyone interested about our experiences at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court,” Hastings wrote. “And finally, the decision after my election as to whether or not I should be seated in the House of Representatives...”

In the letter, Hastings also criticized recent media reports, which he asserts ignored court transcripts or misstated information: “I hope that my fate is not determined by Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Barone, Drudge, anonymous bloggers, and other assorted misinformed fools,” Hastings wrote. “Nor should faceless and nameless people at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, the L.A. Times, the Dallas Morning News, and others take liberties without at least giving me an opportunity to respond...”

In addition, Hastings defended his seven-year tenure on the committee, asserting, “I have been entrusted with America’s secrets. And, I have never violated that trust.”

“The germane question is, if I have not been convicted of a crime, should impeachment in and of itself prevent me from being chair of a committee in Congress,” Hastings wrote.

“There are several reasons why it should not. First of all, the Senate had the option to prohibit me from holding federal office. It specifically chose not to. The ordinary meaning of that act is that impeachment is not to be a bar to my being elected to Congress and consequentially should not be a bar to my being as great a congressperson as my talents allow me to be,” the letter states...

“He’s holding out hope,” the Democratic aide added of Hastings. Citing Pelosi’s ill-fated decision to back a close ally, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), in his bid for the Majority Leader’s office against Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — who soundly defeated Murtha by more than 60 votes last week — the aide asserted: “It’s not in the cards for her to have another round of stories that she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

Why is Hastings not doing this through a press conference or a Meet the Press interview? The only reason I can think for making his case this way is that he is afraid of the questioning. Is that what House Democrats are looking for in an Intelligence Committee chair? Someone unable to get before the cameras?

Further, it bespeaks weakness to disclose that he's requested a chance to make his case before Pelosi, but hasn't been granted an audience. Has he gone public on this without realizing it makes him look weak, or has Pelosi left him twisting in the wind? Perhaps this is her way of looking strong: making it appear that she's stringing him along, so it looks like a bigger slam against Hastings (and implicitly the Congressional Black Caucus), when she reads him the handwriting on the wall.

I doubt it though. To me this just looks like a political mistake on Hastings's part - or a desparate move from someone who's already learned he won't be getting the chairmanship.

Bonus: You have to admire the chutzpah in this line of argument: 'who you gonna believe? Me, or Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Barone, Drudge, anonymous bloggers, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, L.A. Times, Dallas Morning News, and others?'

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Mandela's No Houdini

South African authorities are searching for a man they call 'the Houdini of C Max' for his dramatic escape from Pretoria Central Prison over the weekend:

Mathe, who became the first person to escape from the prison in its 36-year existence late on Saturday night, left the authorities a message on the prison's walls, which simply read "f*** you".

Since 2003, according to the police, the 27-year-old Mathe and his gang moved "from town to town", robbing and raping.

Mathe was first arrested in December last year and charged with 51 cases, including murder, attempted murder, rape, hijacking and armed robbery.

During his weekend escape, Mathe is believed to have stripped and covered his entire body with petroleum jelly to enable him to climb out of a bullet-proof window in his cell, which measured just 20cm by 60cm.

He was able to break through the wall surrounding the window, something which seems impossible in a cell where prisoners are allowed only a toothbrush, mug and spoon, and are shackled at all times.

The cell from where he escaped is about 6sq m in size and contains only a bed, toilet, basin and wooden bench.

Once he had managed to remove the window, it is believed that he broke off two steel bars from his bed, which he wedged on either side of the window to help him slide his shoulders out of the window.

Mathe apparently took another steel pipe from his bed and made a hook from it. He then tied his clothes and bed linen to it, and used it to slide out of the cell down
the firewall.

Halfway down the wall, Mathe was able to use some of the grime he had collected on his way down to write prison officials his mocking message.

Since his escape, police have shot a preacher and arrested the wrong man, in cases of mistaken identity. Police believe this was an inside job, but the only other explanation would be rather far-fetched.

Oh, the title is because Nelson Mandela was also housed at Pretoria Central Prison (as was Steven Biko).

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not much blogging today, as I've been running since the little girl woke me up at 5:15. It was a good day, though.

And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Is there another Thanksgiving-themed movie that comes close? Is anything funnier than, "Aw, he's drunk! How would he know where we're going?"

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pelosi Swats Rangel

The Democrats prove to be the Party of the Big Tent on the question of involuntary servitude.

This has to be seen as a mere chapter of the ongoing manoeuvring by Pelosi and the various chairmen quondam/chairmen futuris within the Democratic caucus. Rangel was vocal in his support for Hoyer over Murtha for the majority leader slot, and Pelosi even choosing to publicly discuss Rangel's scheme must be seen as a riposte.

Speaking of Rangel's draft bill--do we suppose the next version he puts out will count draftees as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of apportionment?

A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began.
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
Arise ye more than dead.
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And music's pow'r obey.
From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.

What passion cannot music raise and quell!
When Jubal struck the corded shell,
His list'ning brethren stood around
And wond'ring, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell!

The trumpet's loud clangor
Excites us to arms
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thund'ring drum
Cries, hark the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat.

The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion,
For the fair, disdainful dame.

But oh! what art can teach
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place;
Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder high'r;
When to her organ, vocal breath was giv'n,
An angel heard, and straight appear'd
Mistaking earth for Heav'n.

As from the pow'r of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
To all the bless'd above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

John Dryden (1631-1700)

Forty-Three Years Ago Today

John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as President.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Democrats Have a Chance Save Us Money

Andy Roth at Club for Growth reports on fiscal heroes Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, who may force the Senate to fund the federal government through a 'Continuing Resolution,' at least through January.

He notes that if the Congressional Democrats extend it for the rest of the year, it would save taxpayers $17 billion. This is a very attractive option for Democrats, for several reasons:

  • It will be hard to complete the Appropriations bills and stay within the President's requested spending levels - that's why the GOP hasn't done it so far;
  • They will be under serious pressure to curb spending - by their GOP opposition and by 'Pay-Go' rules;
  • They will have their plates full of other work in January, without spending a month or more negotiating on the outstanding 2007 bills; and,
  • They will have to say 'no' to so many requests for new spending; it may be simpler to adopt a CR that allows none at all.

So there's a real chance that DeMint and Coburn will save $17 billion.

Hat Tip: Tim Chapman, the Blogfather

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Weakening Support for Hastings?

Tom Maguire catches a good quote from incoming House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, suggesting that maybe the Congressional Black Caucus doesn't take the Hastings-Harman thing all that seriously after all:

Asked Thursday whether he's confident that Hastings will chair the committee, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, elected by his peers to be House majority whip, said, "I have no real hopes about it."

Or is Clyburn simply trying to ratchet down the attention to the whole matter? I bet it's closer to the former, since Pelosi just did Clyburn the favor of clearing Diana DeGette out of the race against him for Majority Whip.

Read the whole thing.

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CNN: Clinton Clubs Obama

Reality check just in for American politics' latest numinous negro.

New Rasmussen Poll Boosts Giuliani

Here's more data suggesting Rudy has a future. Via NRO.

Philo-Junius is going to have to review his assumption that touting Giuliani is in fact a contrarian position. The loss of the Congress continues to mount credits on Rudy's account, as pragmatic conservatives contemplate his poll numbers.

On the Radar Screen

Right now it's far off, but the House might soon have to deal with a nasty election squabble. There's talk that the dispute over the Buchanan-Jennings race to succeed Katherine Harris may ultimately be resolved by the House.

This gives me a chance to mention the 1984 race between the late Frank McCloskey and Rick McIntyre, which was ultimately arbitrated by the House, which ignored the results certified by the State of Indiana, and seated McCloskey.

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Barack Obama: Sexist Rorschach Test

I'm not the first to observe that Barack Obama owes much of his current popularity to the fact that he is a living, breathing Rorschach Test. People don't know much about his politics; they like the fact that he is a smart, engaging, accomplished, good-looking African-American male. Little of the support for Obama has to do with his espoused policies, because people know little about them. They like Obama, the man.

Well, as public attention focuses on him, Barack Obama begins to take definition. Today we learn that he doesn't expect any women in a roomful of reporters, and he doesn't want to 'mess up a guy's game.' For detail, we go to Nicholas Lovelady, a reporter who formerly covered Southern Illinois:

Two years ago I was a full-time newspaper reporter in Illinois covering Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

I had the looks, I had the charm and I had my eye on this pretty young thing who was doing an internship for a competing paper.

It took me nearly two months of running into each other at various news events before I worked up the nerve to begin talking to her.

And then Obama shows up.

The senator made his way to SIUE one day to introduce some legislation that would increase grants for students. Prior to that, me and the girl became really cool as I let her in on a few tricks of the trade.

The day Obama came, there was a huge press conference at the university’s student center with about 100 people inside the conference room and hundreds more viewing the conference on a big screen in the lobby.

Obama did his thing, and at the end there was segment for questions by the media.

After about five questions from different television and newspaper reporters, I stood up to ask mine.

“Wait a minute son, this is for professional media only,” Obama said to me.

“What do you mean? I work for the local paper,” I said with a crackling nervous voice.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a college student. You have such a baby face,” he said with an unremorseful grin.

At that point everyone in the room turned to look at me and laugh. The 800 people in the lobby laughed as my face was projected on the big screen.

Remembered that girl who I was trying to get with, well she was sitting next to me and guess what she was doing?

Everyone was laughing except me.

Lovelady demanded an apology from Obama - and he got one:
Obama: This is Barack Obama.

Lovelady: Hey, how’s it going?

Obama: Man, I’m calling to publicly apologize for messing up your game. I read that, I felt terrible, I didn’t know there were any ladies around. And I just want to let you know, that I'm deeply sorry.

Some have said that Jim Webb is the man who can win back the white male vote for the Democratic party. Nonsense. They need more men like Barack Obama - who assumes that there are no ladies in a roomful of reporters, and who knows how serious it is to embarrass another guy when he's trying to score. Obama took it seriously enough to call back Lovelady years later.

Obama would be right at home at the Square Table. And he would make a great wingman. That's the kind of man we need as President.

Hat Tip: Norlos

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Are They Less Likely to Get Pregnant?

Opinion Journal's Best of the Web published early today it seems, so they've missed the screwed-up headline of the day:

Imported models deemed safest vehicles

Imported models took all 13 spots on the U.S. insurance industry's list of safest vehicles this year, due mainly to a new requirement that all cars and sport utilities on the list have systems to keep them stable in an emergency.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety isn't bashful about its reasons for pushing electronic stability control, saying that its studies show up to 10,000 fatal crashes per year could be prevented if every vehicle had the safety feature.

"The research is so compelling that electronic stability control could help prevent many crashes from happening in the first place," institute spokesman Russ Rader said.

The list of 2007 model year winners being released Tuesday includes the Audi A6 in the large car category; the Audi A-4, Saab 9-3 and Subaru Legacy (with optional stability control) for midsize cars; the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona minivans; the Mercedes M-class and Volvo XC90 luxury sport utility vehicles; the Acura RDX, Honda Pilot and Subaru B9 Tribeca midsize SUVs; and the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester small SUVs...

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Looking for the Sweet Spot

Charlie Cook has an interesting column which picks up on a point I have made: the biggest threat to Pelosi's leadership (and the most promising avenue to Republican influence) is the Blue Dog Democrats. Those more conservative Members favor budget balancing first and foremost, and 'good government' measures besides. Cook says that House Republicans should ally with them whenever they can:

A conservative with nearly three decades of Washington experience, including in the innermost sanctums of Capitol Hill, this Republican also posited that by siding with the 44 Blue Dog Democrats, the about-200 House GOP members might actually end up with more conservative measures passing the House than if they did the bidding of the White House, which would likely end up compromising with Democratic congressional leaders.

Cook also reminds Democrats (and Republicans) that the United States is a center-right country, and that if Democrats charge to the Left, their majority will last just two years:

This is the same country that just two years ago gave President Bush a majority, albeit barely, and re-elected him. A big majority of those voters are mad about the war or about how the administration chose to conduct it, and they just gave up on a Republican Congress that they began to see as unresponsive. But it is still the same country and the same people.

Most Americans reside ideologically between the 30-yard lines. Indeed, 47 percent of voters in this election called themselves moderates, 32 percent conservative and just 21 percent liberal.

In both his 1992 presidential campaign and again after the 1994 midterm election debacle, former President Bill Clinton found the sweet spot in American politics, and got re-elected with room to spare and with job approval ratings that stuck with him even during a scandal that would have resulted in removal from office for just about any other politician.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Photo of the Week

The launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on September 9, as seen from a chase plane.

Hat Tip: Club for Growth

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ABC Misleads on Climate Change

Read Pat Cleary over at the Shop Floor.

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The Next Great Scare?

Blue Crab (who sports a cool new look) picks up on a great piece in the Washington Post about the threat to Japan of a falling population. Of course, Japan is in good shape compared to Russia, whose population is practically imploding. That troubled nation will see its population reduced by half by mid-century.

This is a good time to remember that media and the mob mentality seem to find a looming catastrophe in every barely-discerned trend. Popular perception today tells us that man lives on a knife edge, threatened by nuclear war, cataclysmic meteor strike, ice age, global warming, over-population, resource depletion, super-plague and who knows what else.

I'm looking forward to the day when the population explosion is no longer the great scare, but population implosion is. I'm too young to recall well the day when all those people writing articles about the coming ice age started instead to write about global warming, but I'll get to see and enjoy the shift from resource depletion to a lack of workers and lack of talented young minds.

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Carrying McCain's Water

Conservatives like me have criticized John McCain for seemingly having no interest in the GOP Presidential nomination. While a candidate unloved by conservatives should tack right during nominating season, McCain has seemed to continue to try to alienate conservatives, rather than embrace them. Comprehensive Immigration Reform (TM) is the most prominent example.

Along comes Carpetbagger with a criticism of McCain's sharp turn to the right. It's a good post. And while Carpetbagger intends it as a criticism, it's something McCain's people ought to be mailing to primary voters:

  • McCain criticized TV preacher Jerry Falwell as “an agent of intolerance” in 2002, but has since decided to cozy up to the man who said Americans “deserved” the 9/11 attacks. (Indeed, McCain has now hired Falwell’s debate coach.)
  • McCain used to oppose Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy, but he reversed course in February.
  • In 2000, McCain accused Texas businessmen Sam and Charles Wyly of being corrupt, spending “dirty money” to help finance Bush’s presidential campaign. McCain not only filed a complaint against the Wylys for allegedly violating campaign finance law, he also lashed out at them publicly. In April, McCain reached out to the Wylys for support.
  • McCain supported a major campaign-finance reform measure that bore his name. In June, he abandoned his own legislation.
  • McCain used to think that Grover Norquist was a crook and a corrupt shill for dictators. Then McCain got serious about running for president and began to reconcile with Norquist.
  • McCain took a firm line in opposition to torture, and then caved to White House demands.
  • McCain gave up on his signature policy issue, campaign-finance reform, and won’t back the same provision he sponsored just a couple of years ago.
  • McCain was against presidential candidates campaigning at Bob Jones University before he was for it.
  • McCain was anti-ethanol. Now he’s pro-ethanol.
  • McCain was both for and against state promotion of the Confederate flag.
  • And now he’s both for and against overturning Roe v. Wade.

Carpetbagger also makes an important political point: Democrats who want to defeat McCain ought to start painting the narrative today, of a moderate who's sold his soul to capture the nomination. That's an exaggeration, but defining the opponent has been a formula for success in American politics for a while. (Just ask Pompous John Kerry, Earth Tone Al Gore, 'Bridge to the 19th Century' Bob Dole, Out-of-Touch George Bush 41, and soulless technocrat Mike Dukakis).

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Rove Gets the Dreaded 'Vote of Confidence'

Ask Don Rumsfeld how long the tenure is likely to be if the President 'has every intention of keeping you on through the rest of the term.'

Rove is taking lots of abuse for crafting a burlap purse out of a sow's ear. The President clearly had higher priorities than boosting his popularity ratings to ensure a good midterm result. Whatever happens in Iraq, the President didn't allow concerns about upcoming elections to affect war planning. And while Rove projected confidence in advance of the elections, I haven't seen any indication that that was anything more than trying to cheer up the foot soldiers.

So if anyone in the White House is to blame for the election result, it's the President. And he doesn't seem the type to fire Rove for the outcome. Does that mean that Rove will last the full 8-year term? Absolutely not. He'll have other clients, and he might want to take part in a 2008 campaign.

But if Rove leaves, I doubt it will be because the President fired him.

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Barone: SD Abortion Defeat a Win for Pro-Lifers

Must-read by Michael Barone that makes a point so obvious I'm wondering why I missed it myself. He notes that the sound defeat of an initiative to ban abortion in a conservative state makes it impossible to argue that the overturning of Roe vs. Wade would lead many states to ban abortion:

It seems to me that this vote will tend to reduce the saliency of the abortion issue in national politics–on both the prolife and prochoice sides (I will use those terms, which are preferred by advocates on either side).

Some prolife groups criticized the South Dakota legislators and governor for passing a law that, under current Supreme Court rulings, would surely be declared unconstitutional whenever it got into court. Yet the voters killed it faster than the courts could. The fact that an abortion ban could not pass muster with the voters of a state like South Dakota should convince clearsighted prolifers that, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, abortion is simply not going to be banned in the United States anytime soon. True, opposition to abortion is very high in a few jurisdictions (Louisiana, Utah, Guam). But it was almost as high in South Dakota, and the ban was overturned. American voters are ready to support many limitations on abortion. But it seems that very large majorities nationally are not willing to approve an outright ban.

It's only to the good that people have a clear understanding of the lay of the land when issues like this are debated. Expect this to be a key part of the debate should Bush nominate a strict-constructionist for any upcoming Supreme Court opening.

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