Saturday, December 23, 2006

Light Christmas Blogging

Blogging will be pretty light for the next few days, for obvious reasons. I'll be spending a happy Christmas with loved ones, including my sister-in-law, who is due with her first child in a few weeks.

In anticipation of Christmas, a few timely old-school reminders that the most important things in life really are things that you cannot touch.

First, O Henry's classic "Gift of the Magi."

And next, a favorite of mine - Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

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Obama Already In; Conservatives for Giuliani

Novak is a must-read today, both for the topics mentioned above and for an account of a Howard Dean misstep that may handicap Hillary's Presidential run. Conspiracists will ask: was it an accident, or was it sabotage!?


Contrary to reports that Barack Obama is still trying to make up his mind whether to seek the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, sources close to the first-term senator say he is unequivocally committed to making the race.

The word has spread through political circles that Obama's wife, Michelle, is resisting the campaign out of fear for her husband's physical safety as an African-American candidate for president. But an Obama insider dismissed that as a problem. "We took care of that last summer," he told this column.

A footnote: Obama advisers were surprised how much the prospect of his campaign has shaken front-running Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. For the first time, she has asserted that she would have voted against going to war in Iraq if she knew then what she knows now...


California conservative Republican Bill Simon has begun building a network of support in the Golden State for the prospective presidential campaign of his old boss, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Simon, son of the late Secretary of the Treasury William Simon, was Republican nominee for governor of California in 2002. He was a prosecutor working for Giuliani, then U.S. attorney in New York City, in 1986-88.

Simon has been arranging get-acquainted meetings for Giuliani with prominent California conservatives to show them he is not all that liberal and really is a Republican.

Read the whole thing.

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Dems Wrong on Trade

Check out the NAM blog.

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Left-Right Agreement: Deficit No Big Deal

Greg Mankiw covers it.

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TSA Missing 3,719 Badges & Uniforms

Allah covers a story I find deeply troubling - particularly since I plan to be flying tomorrow.

If Congressional Democrats plan more aggressive oversight of the administration, I hope that stuff like this is near the top of the list.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

An Irreverent Christmas

If you like Scrubs, then check out this butchering of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It's very funny.

(Taste and content warnings!).

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The Power of the Internet

Not many people pay attention the NHL (National Hockey League), or its All Star Game. However, it's garnering more attention this year because an internet campaign is about to land a virtual nobody in the starting lineup:

Much like Sylvester Stallone has done with Rocky, Rory Fitzpatrick campaigners have taken a charming story and launched it into the realm of the ridiculous -- and the NHL couldn't be happier.

The league is embracing the 'Vote for Rory' efforts which now seem poised to elect to the all-star game a bottom-roster Canucks defenceman who has as many points as the fans voting for him (zero).

"I hope that from a human standpoint, for once, we can all just have a moment of fun with something without sentencing ourselves to paralysis by analysis," said NHL spokesman Frank Brown. "I have a pretty strong feeling that everyone who has played this year at an all-star calibre will end up on the ice in Dallas.

Fitzpatrick is an unlikely champion, which is what makes this great. He has played for 5 teams in a 10 year career, and he's currently 12th on his team in playing time.

It started on a chat board, expanded to a website (, and now includes 'ads' for Fitzpatrick's bid on Youtube. Here are two very funny political style attack ads:

With Major League Baseball also allowing fan voting for the All Star Game (I don't know about the other major sports), look for copycat efforts.

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Picture of the Day

Someday I need to see the Northern Lights in person...

Weird Story of the Day

Murder suspect apparently survives being shot in forehead, and fights court order to have the slug removed.

Hat Tip: Volokh

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So Much for Earmark Reform...

And so the hope that the incoming Democratic majority would be 'better' than the Republican majority on earmark reform goes up in smoke. The New York Times reports that the House Democratic Leadership is helping the vulnerable incoming Freshman Democratic class with key committee assigments:

The 110th Congress has not even been sworn into office. But in a measure of the determination not to surrender the majority in two years, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive speaker, has instructed aides to begin acting immediately to help Democrats who won by small margins in districts where President Bush did well in 2004 or who coasted in because their opponents were mired by controversy. Those new members are methodically being given coveted spots on high-profile committees, in particular the Financial Services Committee, a magnet for campaign contributions, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a platform from which to send money for projects back home.

Apart from generally putting the lie to Democratic promises to change the culture in Washington, it demonstrates that Democrats are perfectly happy to accept earmarks for political gain. And if vulnerable Freshmen are going to be the beneficiaries of earmarks, you can bet they won't be the only ones. Veteran Democrats will insist on equal treatment.

And for those not familiar with Congressional rules, transportation earmarks are generally not subject to the appropriations process. That is, while almost all Congressional authorizations for spending must subsequently be approved in an appropriations bill, most transportation spending is done in the form of direct obligation, meaning that it only needs to be in the transportation bill for the money to be spent. As a result, reform of earmarks in appropriations bills has no effect on transportation earmarks.

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Why Rudy Can Win

American Spectator notes a wealth of speculation recently that just maybe, Giuliani can win the Republican nomination with at least some support from social conservatives.

Derbyshire says that everyone hates Giuliani for something; I suppose there's some truth to that. Since I am a practicing Catholic, I will state for my part that while Derbyshire says that Catholics hate Giuliani because of his divorces, it's no deal-breaker with me. And of the Catholics I know, no one regards it is a serious obstacle. In fact, I know many Catholics - primarily from New York - who accept his personal failings, but marvel at the job he did as Mayor. His leadership counts for a lot.

Plus, no one really loves any of the leading contenders. And if your choices boil down to Rudy Giuliani, the volatile John McCain, and the uncertain Mitt Romney, Giuliani seems a pretty good option.

Read in particular Michael Barone, who's probably forgotten more about right-center voters than I will ever know. He finds that Giuliani scores very wellamong conservatives, specifically because of 9/11. Giuilani may wither, as opponents air commercials about his personal history and his views on social issues, but I bet it won't be that easy.

Further and importantly, if the first rule of politics today is to get all the negative stuff out in the open first - so it's 'neutralized' as an issue - then Giuliani is well-served by the attention he's getting in the blogoshpere. His views on abortion, gun control, and gay rights are all getting aired now, and the audience in the blogosphere probably approximates the core primary voters. Come January 2007, when the commercials are aired, many may respond by saying 'yes, we know all that.' If so, Giuliani may be the front-runner.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

More Details on Sandy Burglar

What could motivate someone to risk a security clearance, a reputation, and jail time? Mr. Berger must have thought there was something extremely damaging in the documents he sought to hide (or did hide) from the 9/11 Commission.

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In Fact, They Don't Know It's Christmas

Nearly fifteen years after the fiasco of the U.S. withdrawal in the aftermath of the Battle of Bakara Market, events in Somalia give us a low-budget model of what the world could expect from a similar no-fault withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Ethiopia and Eritrea (as well as other, Islamic, states) back opposing factions which have for the last 3 days been shelling each other around the town of Baidoa in the country's interior. Ethiopia's support of the putative national unity government has escalated over the past year to officially-denied division-level military engagement in support of their proxies, and the situation may now have passed the point of no return, as the Islamists declare a state of war.

The prospects of parallel developments in Iraq, should the Blame-America-First Left succeed in a near-term withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, cannot be ignored. Iran has already made its support of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army an open secret, and the prospect of direct Iranian military backing of his forces in the event of U.S. withdrawal can be regarded as a practical certainty. The recently expressed Saudi intent to prevent further erosion of Sunni influence in the country could be expected swiftly to assume military form as well.

The one certainty is that the key distinction between Somalia and Iraq is the poverty of Somalia compared to Iraq's oil wealth: the slow-haemorrhaging, low-level, lone-technical-machine-gunning-through-a-village carnage of Somalia's last decade is certainly a pale shadow of the swift and industrial-strength destruction two proxy armies backed by Saudi Arabia and Iran could wreak in Iraq.

In the Holiday Mood

I offer one of my Christmastime guilty pleasures:

It's worth a look just to see the '80's hair, and to see how much Sting looked like Francis from Malcolm in the Middle.

And obviously, Band Aid begat USA for Africa:

Watch it just to see if you can identify everyone in it.

And because I know the audience here includes masochists, a link to Allah's take on the Star Wars Christmas special.

But you know what, if it's Christmas, I always think about Groundhog Day:

Umm... I have no reason why.

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Defending Bush on Trade

I have commented in the past that the Bush administration doesn't seem all that dedicated to free trade. The Economist offers a strong and surprising defense of the President, and a gloomy look at the incoming Democrats.

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Ethnic Relations in UK - Redux

Drudge features an eye-catching headline:


This reminds us of how the western world is changing. But if you look at the data, it appears that it does not represent a dramatic change from the last few years.

While 'Mohammed' is more popular than 'George' or 'Joseph,' it is less popular than 21 other names, including 'Alfie' and 'Callum.' Further, it comes in at 22nd place - a fall of 2 spots from 2004 (although 'Muhammad' climbed from 54 to 44 in that time). So while the UK has clearly changed, it may not have changed so much in the last few years.

What's shocking is the paucity of the numbers - at least for us Americans. The most popular boy's name in the UK is 'Jack,' which is the given name for just 6,928 British children in 2006 (so far). Mohammed and Muhammad by contrast, combined for a total of 4,255 children.

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Goode Needs to Revise and Extend

Republican Congressman Virgil Goode (R-VA) needs to clear up his views on Muslims in America. It's reported that he sent the following letter to a constituent:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.”

Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Predictably, CAIR has picked up on this faster than anyone. They can probably be counted on to go overboard.

Nevertheless, I don't think it ought to be the explicit policy of this country to prevent an increase in the Muslim population. I hope that Goode doesn't either, and states it.

Hat Tip: TPMMuckraker.

Update: In the comment section, Philo questions whether Mr. Goode might merely be a victim of sloppy staff work. I thought that might be the case, but this would seem to answer that question: Lawmaker won't apologize for 'Islamophobic' letter.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Neophytes Handed Congress to Democrats

Charlie Cook posts a note from an interesting political conference - one where representatives of the House Democratic and Republican Campaign Committees talked about why the election turned out the way it did. Apparently there was agreement that for this year at least, conventional wisdom was wrong; first-time candidates were an asset to the Democrats:

History tells us that the best congressional challengers have already won elective office. Experienced candidates are more likely than the uninitiated to understand the fundamentals of a strong campaign, especially organization, strategy, and fundraising. Experienced candidates tend to have a better grasp of the issues, and to know how to effectively articulate their message and stay on it. This doesn't mean that first-time candidates can't do these things and can't win, just that experienced candidates usually do them better.

In 2006, Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and his team moved heaven and earth to get experienced candidates to run. But many of the blue-chippers, the experienced would-be candidates, were not convinced that it would be a good Democratic year. As a result, Democrats ended up with many more first-time congressional candidates -- or people who had run before but had never won, or people who had never won a tough race -- than they would have liked. To be sure, some first-timers, such as Heath Shuler in North Carolina and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, turned out to be surprisingly good candidates.

At the conference, Jonathan Poe, the National Republican Congressional Committee's deputy political director, argued that the Democrats' large number of novices was precisely the problem for the GOP in many races. Unlike experienced candidates, the first-timers had scant voting records or other experiences that their opponents could use as fodder for negative ads. Republican incumbents and the NRCC thus had to resort to far less effective and convincing attacks. In many cases, the attacks simply didn't work. Either by design or by luck, the Democrats' presumed liability of lacking experienced candidates turned into an asset this year. Poe's counterpart on the panel, DCCC Executive Director Karin Johanson, wore a smile that couldn't be missed.

A good point, but I'm not sure how useful it is. The preference for an experienced candidate is likely to hold in all but big anti-incumbent elections. In rare cases like 2008, when voters are so heavily predisposed to support a challenger, it might be better to have no record to attack. But it's hard to predict during which elections those will be one year out - when much of the 'recruiting' is done.

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Labor Disrupts Democratic Convention Plan

The DNC had hoped to announce before January 1, the location for the 2008 Democratic Convention. The RNC has already announced Minneapolis-St. Paul for the location of the Republican Convention, and a convention in Denver would have the DNC also holding its get-together in a swing region that leans to the other party.

However, the DNC can't get a commitment from the local stagehands union to not call a strike that affects the convo:

Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention hit a serious snag Monday after a union leader refused to sign a no-strike pledge, with a decision due anytime.

City and union officials confirmed Monday that Jim Taylor, head of the local stagehands union, is refusing to sign a mandatory agreement with national Democrats pledging not to strike if the convention comes to Denver.

Debbie Willhite, executive director of the host committee, said not having full union support is "probably a deal breaker" for the DNC.

But Denver's director of theaters and arenas, Jack Finlaw, said he was "optimistic" that Taylor and the stagehands would sign on.

"There is still time," Finlaw said.

The alternative site is New York. And while I am a New Yorker and love the City, it's not likely to offer the Democrats any political gain. After all, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are all 'safe' Democratic states - so the (arguable) political benefit of holding the event in that region is small. I suppose the only way that region is winnable is if Rudy Giuliani is on the GOP ticket - in which case holding a convention in New York is unlikely to help much.

On the other hand, the Democrats are two-for-three in recent Presidential elections where they met in New York City. Bill Clinton was nominated at the 1992 convention in New York, and the Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter there in 1976 and 1980 - with mixed results.

Hat Tip: CQ Political Wire

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Ari Fleischer for Congress

Human Events reports that New York politicos are talking about the possibility of Ari Fleischer running for Congress in 2008:

Will Ari Run?

The Westchester-county-based 24th District could be a focus of national attention if one Republican in particular makes the race: Ari Fleischer, one-time press secretary to George W. Bush, left the White House in 2003 and returned to his home county to do communications consulting (at one point, he advised major league baseball teams on public relations matters), write his memoir of the Bush White House and take on speaking engagements and TV commentary.

Friends of Fleischer note that the Westchester native has done just about everything congressional—managed campaigns, worked as a press secretary in both houses of Congress and served as a field operative for the National Republican Congressional Committee—except run for Congress himself. Kelly’s defeat at the hands of Hall now opens up that opportunity for him.

Fleischer isn’t saying anything about any political plans, but fellow New Yorkers who know him well bet that he will make the House race in ’08. As Larry Casey, onetime top aide to former New York Republican Rep. George Wortley and a canny political operative, told me: “Ari is the natural and best candidate for Congress from Westchester and, if he chooses to run, the obvious Republican candidate.”

Would this be unprecendented? I can't think of any former White House Press Secretaries who went on to run for Congress.

Fleischer is comfortable in front of the cameras and his name and connections guarantee that he would have all the money he needed to run. At the same time, the district only has the slightest Republican edge ('+1 Republican,' according to Charlie Cook). If Bush is as unpopular in November 2008 as he is today, Fleischer could have a hard time shaking the association of him with an unpopular President.

Further, if Hillary or Giuliani lead the ticket (or both do), it could have a significant effect on coattails in New York State.

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Rights for Robots? Never!

Amusing piece over at Garfield Ridge about Brits looking into the future.

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Steel Rises at Freedom Tower

Too late for my tastes, but it's good to see progress at the site of the World Trade Center.

The uncertainty, delays and revisions that have plagued the rebuilding process means we are no longer sending the message I would have wanted: that there is nothing the terrorists can do that we will not undo quickly; that attacks will only strengthen our resolve and move us to work faster and with greater determination than before.

Now it's left to see if the project can be completed without more revisions, and if the offices of the new World Trade Center can be filled promptly by the businesses of New York and the world.

If you want to get a better look at what the Freedom Tower and the updated WTC site will look like, check out the site of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill - the firm that did the design. There are some cool videos at the first link to give you a better idea of what Manhattan will look like once the tower is complete.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Unintended Consequences of Organic Farming

A very interesting piece from the Economist. The main point is, if you think that organic farming is good for the earth or the environment, you better think again:

Yet even an apparently obvious claim—that organic food is better for the environment than the conventionally farmed kind—turns out to be controversial. There are many different definitions of the term “organic”, but it generally involves severe restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and a ban on genetically modified organisms. Peter Melchett of the Soil Association, Britain’s leading organic lobby group, says that environmental concerns, rather than health benefits, are now cited by British consumers as their main justification for buying organic food. (There is no clear evidence that conventional food is harmful or that organic food is nutritionally superior.)

But not everyone agrees that organic farming is better for the environment. Perhaps the most eminent critic of organic farming is Norman Borlaug, the father of the “green revolution”, winner of the Nobel peace prize and an outspoken advocate of the use of synthetic fertilisers to increase crop yields. He claims the idea that organic farming is better for the environment is “ridiculous” because organic farming produces lower yields and therefore requires more land under cultivation to produce the same amount of food. Thanks to synthetic fertilisers, Mr Borlaug points out, global cereal production tripled between 1950 and 2000, but the amount of land used increased by only 10%. Using traditional techniques such as crop rotation, compost and manure to supply the soil with nitrogen and other minerals would have required a tripling of the area under cultivation. The more intensively you farm, Mr Borlaug contends, the more room you have left for rainforest.

What of the claim that organic farming is more energy-efficient? Lord Melchett points out for example that the artificial fertiliser used in conventional farming is made using natural gas, which is “completely unsustainable”. But Anthony Trewavas, a biochemist at the University of Edinburgh, counters that organic farming actually requires more energy per tonne of food produced, because yields are lower and weeds are kept at bay by ploughing. And Mr Pollan notes that only one-fifth of the energy associated with food production across the whole food chain is consumed on the farm: the rest goes on transport and processing.

The most environmentally benign form of agriculture appears to be “no till” farming, which involves little or no ploughing and relies on cover crops and carefully applied herbicides to control weeds. This makes it hard to combine with organic methods (though some researchers are trying). Too rigid an insistence on organic farming’s somewhat arbitrary rules, then-copper, a heavy metal, can be used as an organic fungicide because it is traditional-can actually hinder the adoption of greener agricultural techniques. Alas, shoppers look in vain for “no till” labels on their food-at least so far.

Take that, you crunchy cons!

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Favorite Christmas Thoughts

A few bloggers seem to have offered up amusing observations about Christmas. I'm speaking specifically about Captain Ed and Mary Katharine Ham. I'll offer two unrelated ones of my own:

  1. Favorite Christmas gift exchange? The Christmas pants traded by two brothers in law; and,
  2. My unique family tradition: we knew Santa didn't care for milk and cookies on Christmas night. We left him a cold beer. I imagine my house must have been near the end of his route.
Merry Christmas.

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Hillary Supports More Troops in Iraq

So points out Mickey.

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On Organizing the Senate

With respect to Senator Tim Johnson, Tim Chapman explains why the debate over organizing the Senate is not about him - but about Joe Lieberman. This is a great catch, and it could become really important very soon.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Sen. Harkin (D-IA) Proud To Be CAGW's Porker of the Month

"I happen to be a supporter of earmarks, unabashedly. But I don’t call them earmarks. It is ‘Congressional directed spending.'"

Maybe it's because he's such a big advocate of bringing home the bacon that he is a particularly strong advocate for the illegal aliens working for Iowa's meat packers.

Democrats Still Like Earmarks & Favors

It looks like Harry Reid isn't totally on board with the new Democratic plan of opposing earmarks and dead-of-night favors for political supporters:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who has pledged to stop ``dead-of-night legislating,'' did a little of his own in the final hours of this year's congressional session.

Reid slipped two home state projects into the last major bill Congress passed last week: a transfer of federal land in Nevada to state and private control that's almost two-thirds the size of Rhode Island; and a $4 million grant for a hospice. Neither had been approved by any congressional committee.

Reid said the land measure will help Las Vegas and other cities in his state grow and the hospice money rights a flawed Medicare ruling. One senator and some government watchdog groups criticized the actions, pointing to promises by Reid and the new Democratic majority in Congress to change a lawmaking process known for targeted funding and secretive deals.

``Doing anything last minute shoved into an irrelevant measure -- that's exactly what Harry Reid said he was going to stop,'' said Steve Ellis, vice president of programs at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based nonprofit that monitors government spending. ``It goes against the grain of transparency and openness.''

Not all of Reid's Nevada constituents are happy with the results. Approval of the land measure surprised a major purported beneficiary, the government of White Pine County.

Actually, I suppose this came under the old, Republican Senate leadership - so it probably doesn't count. Next year, when Harry Reid is Majority Leader, Harry Reid won't get away with shenanigans like this.

Hat Tip: TPMMuckraker

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Democrats Already Fixing Iraq

Back when the Republicans ran Congress, you never read that the economy in Iraq was booming. What a difference a few weeks can make!

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Taxes Still Progressive

Jon Henke covers it. It's something to remember as you prepare for the inevitable tax increases (or the discontinuation of tax cuts) that Democrats must propose to fulfill their spending and deficit promises.

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Blogging the Bible

David Plotz over at Slate.Com is engaged in an interesting project that at times is a good read - particularly for those like me, who do not know the Bible particularly well. He is blogging the Bible.

Today he offers a question that does not appear to be ironic, prompted by his reading of Kings 2:

Now is as good a time as any to ask the obvious question about all these idol-worshipping Israelites: If God is so powerful and good, why does king after king abandon him? Why are the Israelites so incredibly faithless? According to the Bible, the Lord is constantly proving Himself, intervening in human affairs, demonstrating his potency and the impotence of rival gods. So why do the Chosen People so readily abandon Him?

That's a good question, isn't it? Why do people so readily ignore the good things that God does in their lives? One might even regard it as a timeless question.

Lots of religious posts lately; it must be the Christmas season.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Episcopalians Reach Free Agency

Some Episcopalians have not cared for the direction their franchise was taking, and have opted to take free agency. Apparently they're now negotiating with teams that they think offer better chances for long-term success - and they're even considering getting together to start a new team to compete with the old one:

For about 30 years, the Episcopal Church has been one big unhappy family. Under one roof there were female bishops and male bishops who would not ordain women. There were parishes that celebrated gay weddings and parishes that denounced them; theologians sure that Jesus was the only route to salvation, and theologians who disagreed.

Now, after years of threats, the family is breaking up.

As many as eight conservative Episcopal churches in Virginia are expected to announce today that their parishioners have voted to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church. Two are large, historic congregations that minister to the Washington elite and occupy real estate worth a combined $27 million, which could result in a legal battle over who keeps the property.

In a twist, these wealthy American congregations are essentially putting themselves up for adoption by Anglican archbishops in poorer dioceses in Africa, Asia and Latin America who share conservative theological views about homosexuality and the interpretation of Scripture with the breakaway Americans.

“The Episcopalian ship is in trouble,” said the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, one of the two large Virginia congregations, where George Washington served on the vestry. “So we’re climbing over the rails down to various little lifeboats. There’s a lifeboat from Bolivia, one from Rwanda, another from Nigeria. Their desire is to help us build a new ship in North America, and design it and get it sailing.”

I will need MikeD and Philo to tell me what it means. And I'll be looking to the Anchoress as well. Plus, MKH promises more news.

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TV Getting Better?

Umm... that's the optimistic assessment of the finding that as leisure time has increased over the last 40 years, people are watching lots more TV.

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Many Good Targets for House GOP in '08

Congressional Quarterly notes that there are now 68 Congressional Districts that 'split their votes' in the 2004 Presidential race and the 2006 House races. (That is, who backed Kerry for President but elected a Republican to the House, or who backed Bush and a Democrat). Of those 68 seats, 60 are districts that backed Bush but are now represented by a Democrat in the House. This includes 21 seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat this year, meaning the House Member is a Freshman.

This represents a huge opportunity for the House GOP in 2006. The GOP will only need to gain 16 seats or so to retake the House, and that list of 21 new Members in 'GOP seats' could wind up representing all the targets they need to regain the majority. Remember too, that several of those are basically accidental Representatives, with poor re-election prospects in 2008 - Members like Nick Lampson (DeLay seat), Nancy Boyda (Jim Ryun), Zack Space (Bob Ney), and Tim Mahoney (Mark Foley).

On the flip side, if Democrats run a strong Presidential race, the 8 seats that backed Kerry but are now represented by Republicans will be heavily targeted.

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Third World Getting Richer

Check out Barone.

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Two Christmas Movies

The Anchoress has a great post on Will Smith's Pursuit of Happyness, and how it relates to It's a Wonderful Life. Sounds like a good one to see.

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