Saturday, June 30, 2007

Kobayashi: I'm Not Dogging It

I've chronicled the lead up to this year's hot dog eating contest on July 4 at Nathan's in Brooklyn (most recently here). Regular readers are aware that Takeru Kobayashi developed 'jaw arthritis' shortly after American Joey Chestnut shattered the record he set at Nathan's last year. Now, Kobayashi is taking to the airwaves to assure us that he's really injured:

Takeru Kobayashi dismissed speculation Friday that his recent jaw ailment could be a ploy against his main rival at the Nathan's hot dog eating championship next week in New York.

"That's not even funny," the 29-year-old Japanese eating machine said. "I don't even have time to think about that."

After his disclosure this week that he has a creaky jaw and he is getting treatment, some, including ESPN host Tony Kornheiser, suggested that Kobayashi was trying to lull American Joey Chestnut into complacency.

Chestnut gained the hot dog record five weeks ago, eating 59 1/2 dogs to Kobayashi's 53 3/4. They are expected to be among the competitors at the Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's Famous at New York's Coney Island on Wednesday. Kobayashi is looking for his seventh consecutive title.

This certainly raises the stakes for this year's contest.

Democrats Earning the Obstruction Rep

It's the understatement of the year to observe that there's not much on which President Bush and Congressional Democrats have agreed. Just about the only significant legislation so far was the immigration bill. ('Nuff said.)

The other faint area of hope was trade, where Democratic leaders got surprising concessions from the President, and actually came up with something that could be called a bipartisan victory. It was the one area they were going to be able to point to when voters ask 'where did you set aside partisan differences and work together,' and 'what do you have to show for this Congress?'

Well, it looks like they don't have that anymore:

In a joint statement with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), Pelosi indicated trade deals negotiated with Peru and Panama will not be taken up until autumn at the soonest, even though the administration and business groups have clamored for Peru to be approved this summer.

In addition, the statement said Peru and Panama would have to change their domestic laws to reflect a May deal between the administration and House Democrats before Congress would further consider the two deals. That agreement has come under intense criticism from some Democrats representing districts with manufacturing interests.

The statement also said Rangel planned to lead a congressional delegation to Peru and Panama in August. “We have every expectation that, in the coming weeks, both the Peruvian Parliament and U.S. Congress will do whatever it takes to make certain that the agreement is implemented fully,” it said.

The statement said a renewal of “fast track,” set to expire Saturday, is not in the cards. “Our legislative priorities do not include the renewal of fast-track authority,” the statement said. Fast track makes it easier to negotiate trade deals because agreements signed under it cannot be amended by Congress.

In May, the administration reached an agreement with Congressional Democrats that would increase attention to the environment and labor rights in all future trade agreements:

Democrats reached a broad agreement with the Bush administration last month that worker rights and the environment will be core parts of future free trade agreements. That improved prospects for congressional action on several of the accords, although there are still sticking points, such as violence against labor leaders in Colombia and South Korea's restrictions on U.S. auto imports.

You might have thought that such an agreement would help ensure renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track) -- or at least guarantee prompt votes on these deals. You'd be wrong.

Even more disappointing, Congress will drag its feet on other trade agreements that have already been negotiated. This is an embarrassment to our trading partners and allies, and it's an abrogation of their responsibility to at least vote on these accords. It also (once again) puts the lie to their criticisms of Bush for alienating our allies. After all, you don't get much more 'key' than South Korea.

This action shows that the Congressional leadership isn't interested in promoting good relations with our allies, or with the President. And they'd rather kowtow to labor than pass agreements that will help enhance economic growth and competitiveness.

Rolling Out the Dreamliner

It's reported that Boeing's first 787 Dreamliner has come off the assembly line:

According to Flightblogger, the official roll-out ceremony for the Dreamliner is on July 8 with the first delivered scheduled to take place in May of next year. The production run of aircraft is completely booked until 2013 at the earliest...

Business travelers will appreciate the integrated networking capabilities on the Dreamliner. Boeing had initially planned to equip its Dreamliner with wireless networking, but instead decided on a wired networking to save 150 pounds per plane.

Novak: If Fred Does Well, Newt Stays on the Sidelines

Lots of interesting stuff in Novak's column today -- including Newt's plans to stay on the sidelines if Thompson's campaign goes well:

Newt Gingrich is telling Republican insiders that his decision in September whether to run for president in 2008 depends on the progress of Fred Thompson's imminent candidacy.

If Thompson runs a vigorous and effective campaign, Gingrich says privately, he probably will not get in the race himself. If Thompson proves a dud, however, the former House speaker will seriously consider making a run. That implies that the others in the field look to Gingrich like losers in the general election.

A footnote: Gingrich has weighed in more heavily on the immigration issue than any of the major Republican presidential hopefuls. He has bombarded Republican Senate offices with material attacking the immigration bill backed by President Bush, even sending proposed talking points to senators about to meet with the president.

That just shows good sense, really. Newt and Fred will compete for the same pool of voters -- conservatives dissatisfied with the other choices. If Thompson polls in the 30 percent range, there aren't likely to be many voters left for Newt. Plus, Thompson probably has significantly more potential among Independent and Democratic voters -- something of which Newt is aware.

Novak also covers Hillary's plan to 'shift right' on health care. One fears it will be more cosmetic than legitimate. And he reports that Louisiana's Democratic State Treasurer -- John Kennedy -- will join a whole line of other party switchers in the state, and seek Mary Landrieu's Senate seat as a Republican:

John N. Kennedy, Louisiana's conservative Democratic state treasurer, is expected to change parties and run against Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu as a Republican at the urging of White House aide Karl Rove, despite harassment from the Democratic-controlled state legislature.

Kennedy long has considered changing parties, but wanted to wait until the current state legislative session ended. His switch was discussed on Mother's Day in a private lunch attended by Kennedy, Rove and David Vitter, Louisiana's Republican senator. When Vitter leaked Kennedy's intentions, the legislature began machinations to obstruct operations of the state treasurer's office.

A strong fiscal conservative, Kennedy is fighting maneuvers intended to chew up a state budget surplus, as a Republican, Rep. Bobby Jindal, is expected to be elected governor of Louisiana this year.

Surprising that in a Congressional delegation that includes several strong Republican candidates serving in the minority, none will choose to seek an eminently winnable Senate seat.

Friday, June 29, 2007

US & Russia Expanding Nuclear Cooperation -- If Bushehr Doesn't Get in the Way

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Over-Reading their Mandate

Bob Novak wrote the other day (no link because it's an E-mail) that Congressional approval ratings are low -- and likely to go lower -- because Democrats are reading too much into their 2006 mandate:

Moving Left: When President Bush took office in 2001 after a close election, pundits -- most of them coming from a center-left background -- immediately accused him of going too far to the right when he began enacting his agenda. The same cries were heard when Republicans began control of Congress in 1995. Congress was misreading its mandate, they said, and moving too far to the right.

  1. No one is giving this Congress similar treatment, but they should. This Congress has misread its mandate, and its leaders are moving much too far to the left. Congress' record-low 14 percent approval rating is significant, and much of the disaffection comes from the political center.
  2. After being elected in order to do something about Iraq and to stem corruption, the Democratic Congress has shown itself corrupt like its predecessor, and it has also capitulated to the President on Iraq. The recent earmark saga, in which Democrats attempted to adopt rules even more opaque than the Republicans before them, comes together with the indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) and an endless stream of new accusations against Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) for using his position as an appropriations "cardinal" to build a base of political money and power in Pennsylvania.
  3. In the meantime, Democrats pursue an agenda hostile to business, which is likely to diminish value for nearly 100 million small shareholders, and supportive of much larger government. The hearings on the Securities and Exchange Commission called by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) have as their aim the expansion of shareholder lawsuits against corporate management. This could seriously hurt the tiny portfolio of the average small stock owner saving for retirement. Likewise, plans to raise taxes on hedge fund managers will definitely affect the price of equities, slamming small investors. Democratic plans to raise taxes on private equity will keep small investors out of that market, or else it will slam them with increased costs, which will be passed along.
  4. Plans to punish oil companies and discourage new oil and natural gas drilling will result in higher gas prices that persist for a longer duration. Mandates for a variety of alternative energy sources will result in higher electricity prices. The failed union card-check rules would have been devastating for many businesses. Democrats hope to help union bosses regain influence by cutting the Labor Department funds used to enforce disclosure of how unions use membership dues by 20 percent.
  5. Also on tap are plans that would put 71 percent of all children on government medical care (see below), and a plan to regulate talk radio in order to purge or diminish the influence of conservative hosts.
  6. Republicans should have little difficulty making the argument that this is not what the American people sought to do when they threw them out in 2006. Republicans remain on their heels at the moment, but passage of some serious left-wing legislation may be just the thing to scare voters and breathe some life into GOP 2008 congressional campaigns.

I can't help but think that they're headed for trouble when they talk about impeaching a lame duck Vice President:

"When a sitting vice president claims that he is not part of the executive branch of government to which he was elected, it is time to remove him from office,” McDermott said.

Johnson also cited the refusal to submit to ISOO oversight in his decision to support impeachment.

Hhmm... making a claim that McDermott disputes and refusing to submit to ISOO oversight. I'm confused: which is the high crime, and which is the misdemeanor?

House Votes to Open Cuba Trade

Read it at the Standard.

Chavez Tired of Being Ignored; Threatens Suicide

That's the best I can make of this:

President Hugo Chávez yesterday hinted that Venezuela could try to become a nuclear power, during a visit to Russia apparently timed to antagonise the White House.

Mr Chávez defended Iran's right to pursue a nuclear programme and said it might be a good idea if Venezuela eventually did the same thing. Speaking before an audience of communists and other elements hostile to America, Mr Chávez said: "Iran has a right to have a peaceful atomic energy industry, as it is a sovereign country.

The Bush administration seems to have decided that the best thing they can do to undermine Chavez is to ignore him. While US officials at one time responded to everything Chavez said or did in an effort to convince Latin American allies to ignore him, they have since realized that the attention was like mother's milk to dear Hugo.

Now Chavez gets the silent treatment from Washington, even as Venezuela continues to fall apart. (Check out Fausta's superb coverage.) But it's harder to demagogue and portray yourself as George Bush's number one bane, if the folks in Washington, DC, don't say anything about you. And since nothing else he's done has gotten him the attention he needs, Chavez starts talking about a nuclear program like Iran's. He'll protest that he's talking about a peaceful program, but he knows that there's only one way it can be interpreted in Washington. And that's the way he wants it to be read, of course.

The timing of the comment is well-chosen to attract maximum attention on the eve of Bush & Putin's Kennebunkport meeting. Chavez knows that his arms buys from Russia are bound to be a topic of conversation; he hopes that his nuclear ambitions might warrant some discussion as well. And if one of the principals will just tell the New York Times about it...

I doubt he'll follow through on this, ultimately. If Washington seriously suspected that he was pursuing nuclear ambitions, it would move him from 'gadfly' to 'threat,' and that's the last thing he wants. He knows that the day that Washington is forced to deal with him could be his last.

Bickering Over Congress' Low Approval Ratings

The Hill offers the 'dueling banjos' argument about Congress' low approval ratings, in which Republicans argue it's due to a lack of accomplishments, and the Democrats maintain that it's because of Republican stonewalling and the President's unpopular war:

Lawmakers attribute Congress’s low rankings in the polls to a variety of factors — Iraq, the other party, even President Bush. But they’re unanimous that it’s not their fault and that it won’t translate into pain at the polls.

“People in those polls don’t like Congress, but they like their member of Congress,” said Jim Matheson (D-Utah). “People don’t like the polarized atmosphere of Congress. I think my constituents know I’m the opposite of that kind of polarized politics.”

More liberal members point toward the war in Iraq and to Democrats’ inability to overcome Republican support for keeping troops there...

And it’s encouraging to Republicans, who say that the polls indicate the public is starting to realize that Democrats aren’t delivering on issues like lobbying reform, lower gas prices, immigration, gas prices and earmarks.

“They made 100 promises on the campaign trail. They’ve kept as many as they intended to keep — none,” said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

This is a very nice academic argument, and as soon as we determine how many angels fit on the head of a pin, we should settle this. Both arguments will have about the same relevance on election day.

Every election year, Congressional leaders try to make the argument that the opposition party should be punished for the inability of Congress to tackle big issues. And every election year it is the party in power that gets the credit -- or blame.

If Congress is unpopular next year, it will be the Democrats who suffer -- and if it's popular, they will get the credit. It might not matter all that much, since the two presidential candidates will largely define the race, however.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Conservatives aim to create their own version of MoveOn:

Veteran Republicans say they have quietly raised millions of dollars for a pair of nonprofit organizations that will launch this fall with the ambitious aim of providing a conservative counterweight to the liberal, has learned.

The issues and education group, which has a plan to enlist hundreds of thousands of small donors, aims to be active in the 2008 presidential election, according to Republicans involved in the effort. Organizers, who include veterans of the last three Republican White Houses, would not give specifics on how much money the group has raised so far or who its donor base is.

It's like a political arms race.

Security vs. Trade

The immigration debate has focused a tremendous amount of attention on land borders, walls, and to a lesser degree, workplace enforcement. Few spend much time on the source of half of all illegal immigration: visa overstays. Considering that the 9/11 hijackers all entered the US legally, visa overstays warrant much more scrutiny.

In that context, Congress is looking more closely at the US Visit program, and plans for tracking which immigrants leave the US as required by the terms of their visas, and which do not:

James May, president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association, said requiring scans at airline check-in would reverse current efforts to streamline the process. He said that 30 percent of passengers currently check in online through their computers, cell phones or PDAs. Those passengers would not be able to do that if they had to undergo biometric scanning at the ticket counter.

May said his biggest concern was that the airlines had not been consulted before DHS announced its intention to make the biometric exit scan part of airline check-in. But he praised DHS for its collaboration with airlines during the implementation of the entry portion of US VISIT, and said he was surprised by the sudden change.

Airports may also feel a strain as the exit portion of the program is implemented.

"Airports are not designed to handle passenger departure controls," said Ana Sotorrio, associate director of governmental affairs for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. "Passengers are already experiencing record delays and inconveniences."

Until very recently, the technology hasn't existed to even consider tracking departures. But now that it does exist, we need to make sure that it's implemented in the most efficient and minimally intrusive way possible.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Byrd: You'll Have to Carry Me Out in a Pine Box

That appears to be the message in this piece about West Virginia's senior Senator:

The state of Byrd's health has become a topic of intense but whispered speculation among senators and staff this year, not merely because of his advanced age and noticeably frail condition, but because of the enormous power he continues to wield. Byrd, who first came to the Senate during the Eisenhower Administration, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees nearly $1 trillion in federal expenditures. And as the longest-serving senator of the majority party, Byrd is president pro tempore of the Senate -- which puts him in the line of presidential succession behind Vice President Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But Byrd, who won re-election easily last November to his ninth term, declined to publicly address his failing health until an Associated Press report about his slowing condition landed on the front page of the Charleston Daily Mail, the most influential paper in his home state. That story was filed June 14 - almost a year to the day that Byrd surpassed the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) to become the longest serving senator in the history of the republic...

"The news stories in recent weeks [have] pointed out the shocking discovery, yes, shocking discovery that I am growing older. Did you get that? Shocking discovery that I am growing older," Byrd said in a mocking tone to a largely empty Senate floor, prompting laughter from the galleries.

As he spoke, his hand holding a microphone trembled wildly, and he needed help from an aide in getting through the pages of his floor speech. He appeared to cut short his speech after a coughing spasm.

It's interesting that Senator Byrd has reached this age and this condition with none of the mockery from the mainstream media that the late Strom Thurmond had to endure.

Apart from that, it's clear that his mind is still there. He's the same old coot that he's been for years. And once he is no longer physically able to execute the duties of the office -- a point that seems to be approaching -- he ought to step aside.

Bush Talks Operation Phantom Thunder

Read it at the Standard.

The Next Step on Immigration

It's obvious, right: an enforcement-only bill.

But if you're the President -- or another advocate of an amnesty (or earned legalization, or a guest worker program, or what have you). Then push for a 'Fast Track' vote on your favored solution. That is, pick a time after passage of the legislation -- perhaps 2 or 3 years -- and provide that the President has the right to send legislation to Capitol Hill to deal with the illegal immigrant population. And require that if the President so chooses, the House (and then the Senate) are required to vote on the legislation -- with no amendments or alterations -- within 90 days.

Many will recognize this as the format used under 'Fast Track' for consideration of trade legislation. It can be dressed up however you want -- with studies on the effectiveness of enforcement, consultations with Congressional leaders... whatever. But give the President (whoever he or she may be) the right to get a vote on a plan.

This is the best half-a-loaf I see out there for the President's side in this debate. You'll get credit for enforcement, and you'll have salvaged something on legalization. Plus, if the enforcement measures actually make a difference, people will be much more inclined favorably toward 'adjusting the status' of illegal immigrants. If enforcement was as successful as promised, then 'voluntary deportation' will have begun, and the problem will not be as great.

Perhaps most importantly, this shifts the debate to where (I believe) the American people are: in favor of enforcement first, but not necessarily opposed to 'earned legalization' after enforcement has been given a chance to work.

A Better Way to Pick a President

This doesn't have a chance in hell -- but wouldn't it be great?

Perhaps what the voters need instead of more debates is a series of war games — hypothetical exercises like those that are regularly employed by military commanders and other government leaders to gauge decision-making skills and processes.

Imagine sending each presidential aspirant into a mock situation room with a half-dozen advisers of her or his choosing. Inside, this virtual Cabinet could be confronted with a complex scenario, and the deliberations and decisions could be captured on camera for the voters to analyze. Talk about reality TV. It would be better than “24” or “The West Wing” — though the stakes would be much more real.

Fred Thompson seems to be running 'a different kind of campaign.' What are the chances of getting him to give it a try?

China Hones Lobbying Prowess

Read it over at the Standard.

Sarkozy Really Doesn't Get It

The Financial Times today provides some depth and detail to President Sarkozy's attempt to steer Europe down the drain, economically. In the new European Reform Treaty for which he served as midwife, large European firms will no longer try to compete with each other. Now it turns out, he doesn't want them to have to compete with foreign companies, either:

Mr Sarkozy expanded on his economic world-view later that day, calling for a “genuine European industrial policy” and urging European governments to get tough on economic rivals such as China and the US. “Naivety is over,” he declared. “Reciprocity has started...”

But with Brussels bracing itself for fraught debates over further liberalisation of the energy and postal services markets, trade policy and an overhaul of the Union’s budgetary priorities, Mr Sarkozy’s words pose important questions. Is the French president articulating a wider unease about the free-market policies espoused by the EU – and is the Union about to roll back its commitment to liberalisation and enter a new era of protectionism?...

Yet it is hard to ignore the cracks that are emerging in what was an almost unanimous coalition behing pro-competition policies. An end to Europe’s economic revival could intensify protectionist rhetoric.

The latest breakdown in the Doha round of global trade talks has put more pressure on Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, and has made reforming the common agricultural policy harder. Meanwhile, the rise of China’s manufacturing exports has increased protectionist voices in countries from France to Romania.

Mr Mandelson’s anti-China rhetoric has recently been turned up a notch with a claim that the growing trade deficit is “artificial”, sustained by Beijing’s protectionism and an undervalued currency. All the same, Mr Sarkozy has already called for Mr Mandelson’s head for offering big cuts in farm tariffs as part of the Doha round.

In other areas, the Commission is finding it increasingly difficult to complete the great liberalisation projects that underpin the internal market. Brussels’ plan to encourage competition in the energy sector by breaking up large groups such as RWE, Eon and EdF is meeting fierce resistance in Berlin and Paris. A plan to abolish the last monopolies in postal services in 2009 looks likely to be postponed.

If Europe really is about to try protectionism for a while, they will fall far further behind economically than they are to date.

Protectionism sounds good, but it ultimately means prospering the company ahead of the consumers, by forcing them to pay artificially high prices for inferior products. Let's assume for a minute that the EU could shut off competition from the rest of the world -- how long would European consumers put up with this raw deal?

But more importantly, Europe can't shut out the world. No nation can. The EU currently imports about $1.5 trillion annually -- from the US, China, India and a host of other nations. Those countries won't allow Europe to shut its markets; nor will the WTO. And in the face of competition from the world's best companies -- honed by competition in open markets -- the 'European Champions' are doomed to fail.

You can't fight the invisible hand of Joseph Schumpeter.

Bloomberg Teases Some More

He says that neither party stands for anything:

Bloomberg attributed interest in him as a presidential candidate to "people's dissatisfaction with gridlock and the way this country is going."

He's got that right, anyway.

Bruce Likes Fred

But more importantly, he wants you to see Live Free or Die Hard.

Lieberman's Endorsement: More Trouble than It's Worth?

From CQ:

But this alliance has been met not with chagrin, but with something approximating glee, by liberal activists who have vilified Lieberman for his pro-war stance — and whose support boosted upstart challenger Ned Lamont, whose victory in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate primary forced the incumbent to achieve re-election as a third-party candidate.

Anti-war groups contend that Lieberman’s close identification with President George W. Bush’s Iraq policies is not an asset in Maine, a Democratic-leaning state where both Bush and the war are mostly unpopular. And they contend that his endorsement could be more a burden than a boon for Collins, who has been portrayed by these groups as inconsistent about the war.

While Collins has publicly stated she opposes Bush’s decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq this year, she has stuck with the administration so far on the most pivotal Senate votes, including her opposition to Democratic-crafted measures that would create a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq., a major liberal group, has responded to Lieberman’s intervention in Maine by aligning closely with Allen.

In retrospect, this was a no-brainer. If the Left couldn't claim Lieberman's scalp, they'll probably try to kill anyone close to him -- metaphorically speaking, of course. Kinda reminds me of...

Nah, that's over the top. Great scene though.

You Say You Want a Revolution

The Hill reports on earmarks requested by the President. It rarely attracts much attention, but the White House does seek earmarks on many initiatives. Just think of any State of the Union speech, and the laundry list of proposals typically suggested. Many of those translate into earmarks in appropriations bills.

What surprises me is the level of rhetoric used by Republicans against the White House. It might be another indication of the level of 'independence' that Congressional Republicans feel toward the White House:

It would appear the administration likes earmarks from their perspective,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (Ala.), a Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee.

“Inconsistent would be a fair way to say it,” Aderholt said when asked if Bush was being hypocritical for simultaneously requesting and criticizing earmarks.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations interior subcommittee, shares Aderholt’s view.

“Hypocrisy? No, but one might call that duplicity,” said Craig.

Legislators say that while Bush has warned them about earmarks, behind the scenes he seeks them just as eagerly as the members of Congress he criticizes.

“The White House has earmarks in everything,” said Rep. David Hobson (Ohio), ranking Republican on the Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee...

Read the whole thing for more details. And in the interest of fairness, I'll include the White House response:

Sean Kevelighan, press secretary for the White House budget office, explained that Bush doesn’t oppose earmarks. Instead, the president wants to create greater transparency in the appropriations process and ensure that only meritorious projects receive funding.

“We’re not talking about the issue of whether earmarks are all good or all bad,” Kevelighan said. “We’re talking about a process in which taxpayer dollars are being spent in such a way as to be accountable, responsible, and transparent. By doing so, this should clear the way to reducing wasteful spending.”

This is a fair point; the President never called for eliminating earmarks entirely -- and no one in Congress is, either. They're arguing that there are good earmarks -- but that good or bad, they should all be exposed to scrutiny -- a completely defensible position.

Bush Facing Mutiny Over Immigration

The Politico expands on a point I made the other day:

This immigration fight marks yet another low ebb for the White House, and the path forward looks rocky, as GOP support for the war in Iraq teeters.

The president needs Republican support to maintain troop levels in Iraq, and the calls this week by a pair of GOP senators -- Dick Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio -- to reduce U.S. troop levels in Iraq have spurred concerns that moderate Republicans will publicize their opposition to the war before Army Gen. David Petraeus reports to Congress in September on the progress of the president's troop surge.

The administration is also struggling to renew No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of Bush's first term that passed despite concerns from numerous conservative Republicans.

I don't see how Bush recovers among Republicans -- and let's not even talk about Democrats.

Paging Al Gore

You're wanted in New Hampshire:

I almost missed it with all the excitement about Ann Coulter vs. Elizabeth Edwards, but did you see the latest polls in New Hampshire regarding the upcoming Democratic presidential primary?

According to a just-released 7NEWS-Suffolk University poll of likely voters, should Mr. Gore jump into the presidential sweepstakes, he would top Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) 32 to 26 percent. Moreover, he would edge the remainder of the Democratic field.

Despite the coy tut-tuts to the contrary, I can’t help but shake the notion that Mr. Gore has not yet shut the door to running for the Democratic nomination. No question Gore would be the immediate darling of the left and could quite possibly leave the remaining Democrats in his dust as he sailed to his second nomination for president in a decade. Does he still have the fire in the belly? Calling Donna Brazile, anyone?

With Hillary's continuing lead over Obama and Edwards, liberals might soon really clamor for an alternative to Hillary and her high negatives. If Gore got in late and picked Obama for his Vice President...

Update: It's also covered over here at the Politico.

'Virtual Fence' Seeming More Virtual, Less 'Fencey'

Government Executive reports:

Dubbed Project 28, the first phase consists of deploying nine mobile surveillance towers with radars, cameras and communications equipment along a 28-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border. Border Patrol agents are expected to use the towers, along with upgraded laptop computers and new command-and-control centers, to detect and respond to illegal activity.

But Project 28 missed its first deadline for becoming operational about two weeks ago, and concerns are growing in Congress that the program could have problems similar to the Coast Guard's Deepwater fleet modernization...

Homeland Security spokesman Michael Friel could not say when Project 28 will become operational. "We are working hard to resolve these challenges as quickly as possible so that we can deploy or make this system operational and give the agents the tools they need to better secure the border," he said...

Project 28 is heavily dependent on technology. Homeland Security estimates that the cost of securing each mile of the border with fencing is about $3 million, compared to about $1 million using technology. But if the technology doesn't work, it will give ammunition to lawmakers who want more traditional fencing built.

At least from the point of view of the Bush administration, this news could have come at a better time.

Reid Hoisted on His Own Petard

It looks like the Senate will fail to invoke cloture on the immigration bill today, and Roll Call explains that it's because of the curious rules that govern a 'clay pigeon:'

Until late in the day Wednesday, supporters of the bill had, as expected, blocked a series of amendments. But during the chamber’s vote on a real ID proposal backed by Montana’s Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, conservatives realized it had strong enough support among Democrats that if they voted for the measure, it could hang the bill.

Because of the restrictive rules of the clay pigeon tactic, if an amendment within the pigeon is not defeated, Reid must get unanimous consent to move to a new amendment — a request to which conservatives objected.

Additionally, the delicate nature of the agreement to move the bill, including the Baucus-Tester amendment, throws the likelihood that Reid can invoke cloture on the bill today into serious doubt, since it appears enough Republicans oppose the amendment to block cloture.

However, while under the clay pigeon Reid could in theory simply remove the language, that could severely shake lawmakers’ faith in the process and likely doom the cloture vote as well...

The article notes that Republican leader McConnell was absent for most of the day.

How interesting that it might turn out that Reid's use of the 'clay pigeon' to revive the bill might turn out to be the reason for its undoing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Attacking Fred Thompson

I've not decided whom to support for the GOP presidential nomination, but the candidates' views on abortion is an important consideration for me.

That said, as attack ads go, this is pretty thin gruel:

By combining a few snippets from Thompson -- which seem to show his consistent opposition to penalizing a woman who seeks an abortion -- they seek to show... what? That he's consistently held a view consistent with the majority of pro-life Republicans?

Or am I supposed to be swayed by the use of !!!exclamation points!!! and ???question marks??? Perhaps I'm supposed to be frightened by the low rating by the 'National Rights to Life' for the period of 2001-2002?

Well, I'm not familiar with the group mentioned in the commercial, but if I consult the National Right to Life Scorecard for the 107th Congress, I note that he twice voted for campaign finance reform, and once voted to ban abortion at military medical facilities. That's a 33% score, on just 3 votes that session. I don't care for his vote on McCain-Feingold, but I can forgive. Plus, his vote on abortions at military facilities outweighs the other two.

In the 106th Congress he scored 78 percent -- missing only 2 votes on campaign finance reform, and in the 105th Congress he scored 87 percent -- missing 2 votes on campaign finance reform. So he gets marks for consistency.

And if you don't see through the silliness in this ad, you're supposed to vote for the genuine pro-life candidate in the race -- who is... who exactly?

Hat Tip: RedState

Fight Brewing over Iran Sanctions

Read it at the Standard.

Our Favorite Blogs

I'm disappointed not to have made this list. But on the upside, I didn't make this one, either.

Defense Bills Have Lots of Pork & Will Get Much More

Read it at the Standard.

Fairness Doctrine vs. Broadcast Freedom

Tired of losing the fight for listeners on talk radio, Democrats want to squelch the debate. I participated in a conference call with Congressman Mike Pence, who's among the leaders in the House to block the return of the Doctrine. Rob offers a good recap of the issue.

This is Cool

Hat Tip: Hot Air.

Reopening Lady Liberty's Crown

As a kid growing up in New York, it was neat to go up into the crown of the Statue of Liberty -- although I was always disappointed that I could not climb up to the torch.

How sad it must be for kids growing up today, not to be able to climb even to the crown. It seems to me that if the concerns are related to public safety and terrorism, it ought to be possible to open the crown to (at least) a limited number of peopel a day. That's the same policy that governs access to the Capitol.

Rep. Anthony Weiner is trying to prod the Park Service into studying the issue further:

The House on Tuesday prodded parks officials to reopen the crown of the Statue of Liberty to the public -- a step the government says is too dangerous.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., for the second year in a row added an amendment to a spending bill giving the National Park Service $1 million to study how to safely reopen the staircase to the statue's crown -- something prohibited since the 2001 terror attacks.

"I'm not going to stop pushing on it and I think it's reasonable to expect that sooner or later they're going to have to answer," he said.

Tuesday's amendment, passed Tuesday by voice vote, does not force the park service to reopen the statue, and the agency has claimed the tightly packed, 168-step spiral metal staircase is a fire hazard and a terror risk.

Tourists are now allowed only as far as the pedestal, at Lady Liberty's toes.

Liberal Talk Show Host: No One Listens to US!

He's someone named 'Ed Schultz' and he says he's popular.

Yeah, I've never heard of him either:

I'm extremely disappointed that conservatives like me don't dominate the Internet. I want Infinity Broadcasting to sponsor my website. There ought to be a law...

Hat Tip: Say Anything

Also check out McQ, who dissects the ratings and has bad news for Schultz:

Hardly a sterling record nor one which seems would be fixed if Schultz had his choice of 100 stations. While Schultz isn't represented in NY, the largest radio market, Air America is, and they get buried. The Limbaugh/Hannity station, WABC pulls a 3.7 while WWRL, the AA crew, pulls a .6.

But Schultz does show up in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th markets and gets buried in them. Number 2 is LA and even progressive LA isn't interested in progressive talk. KFI, which carries Limbaugh and mostly local hosts pulls a 4.2. KABC, which is all conservative talk and includes Hannity has a 1.8. KTLK which has the AA gang (Bill Press, Stephanie Miller, Tom Hartman, Randi Rhodes, Mark Germain, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow and Alan Colmes) pulls a dismal 0.7.

In number 3 Chicago, it's about the same. The top rated talk show is WGN with all local talent (5.3). WLS which carries Limbaugh and Hannity comes in second at 3.4. Coming in at #6 in a six station race is progressive talk radio with the AA gang and Schultz. Rating? 0.5.

Detroit, another market in which you'd think progressive talk radio might do well. It's the #10 market in the US. Limbaugh/Hannity? A 5.9 on WJR. Schultz and the AA crowd? 0.6 on WDTW. 4th in a 5 talk radio market.

Probably most enlightening is the #4 market, San Francisco. If progressive talk can't make it there, it can't make it anywhere. And, as it turns out, progressive talk is tops in SF. It's just not the progressive talk with Schultz. Instead it is local progressive hosts along with a mix of medical and legal shows which leads the ratings. KGO pulls a 5.5 in the market. And how do Limbaugh/Hannity do? Well not bad considering. KFSO, where they are carried, comes in at 3.2. And Schultz and the AA gang? 1.1 on KQKE. That's number 4 in a 5 talk station market.

Math That's Far Above My Head

I don't get this at all, but who doesn't love a nice barbershop quartet?

Hat Tip: RedState

US Falling Far Behind in Energy Production

This falls in the good news/bad news department. Ob the bright side, the less-developed world has made some extraordinary strides in energy production in the last 15 years. That's great news, because a robust energy supply is essential for health and wealth. And it's in the US interest for the rest of the world to become wealthy like us.

The bad news is, the US is falling far behind. And that's bad because... well, because a robust energy supply is essential for health and wealth:

At the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, 55 percent of the 20 largest companies in the energy industry by market capitalization were American, and 45 percent were European, according to the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. study.

But in 2007, 35 percent of the 20 largest energy companies are from BRIC countries, about 35 percent are European, and about 30 percent are American, the study said.

"The U.S. is now lagging with the smallest percentage number of energy companies worldwide," Ling said.

"If you think about the global resource industry typically being a leader in terms of global trends, we're starting to see this replicated in the mining industry, where 20 percent of the top 20 companies are now from BRIC countries," he said. "We believe this sort of pattern will be repeated industry by industry."

It's increasingly clear that we as a nation are not devoting sufficient attention to the prism of national security as regards our future energy needs. As long as they key players in the energy sector were the US, Canada, UK, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and other nations that have generally been friendly to US interests, we could afford to ignore that dimension.

Now however, with nations such as Russia, Venezuela, China, India, Iran, and others playing a more important role -- both as producers and large consumers -- we must consider how their interests and actions affect ours. To date Congress has devoted scant attention to this issue.

House Republicans Oppose Senate Immigration Bill

By a vote of 114-23. It's not unusual for lots of Members to miss a conference meeting -- even one that's rather important. Still, only 137 Republicans voting (out of 201 total) is a little curious. Notwithstanding that, Patrick McHenry says "this shows that 85 to 90 percent of Republicans" are against the Senate bill.

Regarding support for the Senate bill, CQ reports:

But Boehner said no one in the meeting spoke out in favor of the Senate measure. Instead, Boehner said, “most of the 23 were those concerned with the process we were going through.”

I have a hard time seeing how this passes the House if fewer than 30 or so Republicans support it. It would go too far in allowing moderate Democrats to be targeted for their party's leadership on the initiative.

Roll Call meanwhile, quotes House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, who suggests that House Democrats intend to approach the issue de novo:

If the Senate is successful, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the goal is for the House to move on immigration when the House returns from the recess.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a key player on immigration, said the Conference resolution was not surprising but is unlikely to affect the game plan in the House.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find very many people in America who support the Senate bill, including House Republicans and House Democrats,” she said, adding that if the Senate can complete the bill this week the House will move quickly.

“Our mission is to have a bill that will be better” than the Senate version, she said.

Can we infer from Ms. Lofgren's comments that the House Democratic alternative will be significantly different?

Blue on Blue

Liberals attack John Dingell. Wait. I thought that was our job?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Congress Undercutting Missile Defense

Read it at the Standard.

Cohen: Perceived Weakness on National Security Could Hurt Dems

Read it at the Standard.

Dems: Can't Anyone Here Play this Game?

The Democrats may have won at the polls in 2006, but they still can't beat the Republicans on the diamond:

The GOP soundly defeated the Democrats 5-2, at RFK Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals.

Nine Democratic errors didn't help.

"That was a marked improvement over last year," said Mr. Doyle, referring to the 12-1 thrashing of 2006, his first year as coach. He wore a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform bearing No. 14, his Pennsylvania congressional district.

The Republicans have now won 32 of the last 46 games, according to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication.

November's electoral victory brought in 41 freshman Democrats, giving them control of both houses of Congress for the first time in more than a decade.

Mr. Doyle recruited nine of them for yesterday's game, including three Pennsylvanians: Chris Carney of the northeastern part of the state, Patrick Murphy of the Philadelphia suburbs and Jason Altmire of McCandless. But Mr. Altmire and Mr. Carney didn't play because of injuries.

And Jim Bunning didn't even pitch.

Republicans to Get Rid of Cheney

Sally Quinn makes the silly argument:

The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Even before this week's blockbuster series in The Post, discontent in Republican ranks was rising.

As the reputed architect of the war in Iraq, Cheney is viewed as toxic, and as the administration's leading proponent of an attack on Iran, he is seen as dangerous. As long as he remains vice president, according to this thinking, he has the potential to drag down every member of the party -- including the presidential nominee -- in next year's elections...

The idea is to install a vice president who could beat the Democratic nominee in 2008. It's unlikely that any of the top three Republican candidates -- former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- would want the job, for fear that association with Bush's war would be the kiss of death...

That leaves Fred Thompson. Everybody loves Fred. He has the healing qualities of Gerald Ford and the movie-star appeal of Ronald Reagan. He is relatively moderate on social issues. He has a reputation as a peacemaker and a compromiser. And he has a good sense of humor.

Captain Ed spends more ink debunking this argument than it's worth. But I'll add to the arguments he makes -- why would Thompson want the job? Democrats would clearly use the confirmation process to attempt to 'rough him up,' and would argue forcefully that by accepting Cheney's job -- a job that became open because of 'Cheney's unpopular war' -- that he was accepting responsibility for the war, as well.

Polls show that Thompson has a good chance at the nomination and the presidency without having the job of Vice President. And let's remember -- the Vice Presidency is the kiss of death for presidential aspirations. George HW Bush was one of the very few who have successfully made that jump. So why would Thompson choose to make it?

If anyone wants to take bets on the Quinn scenario, send an E-mail to I'll give good odds.

Nearly 4,000 Security Badges Missing at O'Hare

Remind me not to connect in Chicago:

Officials at O'Hare International Airport are refusing to interview with CBS 2 about our latest findings. The 2 Investigators have found more security breaches and a failure by authorities to investigate.

O'Hare is one of the busiest airports in the nation, and may be one of the most vulnerable.

The 2 Investigators have learned that 47 more employee access badges are missing, bringing the total we've discovered to 3,807 – the biggest security failure involving access badges ever to be exposed.

"Doesn't surprise me,” said Marcia Pinkston [a former flight attendant]. “I am surprised you didn't find more."

So we should be reassured that it's 'just' 4,000 missing? I'm not sure that makes me feel any better.

Jack Murtha: Venture Capitalist

The Washington Times picks up on Roll Call's story about John Murth's earmarks:

With Murtha Inc. calling the shots on defense appropriations, some are chortling that he fancies himself a kind of taxpayer-backed venture capitalist operating in service to his job-hungry district. To judge by the fruits, though, the unindicted "Abscam" coconspirator could not be considered a very successful "venture capitalist." We'd stick with a more traditional label like pork-barreller.

The self-styled "most ethical and honest Congress in history" must get a grip on Mr. Murtha and friends if it is to make any headway whatsoever on ethics reforms. At this rate, Mr. Murtha just about torpedoes whatever chance House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to deliver on her campaign promises.

After much waiting, Congress is expected soon to consider legislation to reform lobbying and ethics laws. It is unlikely to make any difference in how the public perceives Washington, if it's enactment does not put an end to abuses like these.

Dole Continues to Dodge Stiff Challenges

Roll Call reports that Congressman Brad Miller has decided to stay in the House, rather than seek the Senate seat of Elizabeth Dole:

Rep. Brad Miller (D) said Monday that he will not challenge Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) in 2008, as Democrats go back to the drawing board to see if they can recruit a top-tier challenger in the Tar Heel State.

“Obviously, a big part of me wanted to run for the Senate ... but I like what I’m doing in the House right now,” Miller told The Associated Press.

Miller had been mentioned as a potential candidate and had confirmed earlier this year that he was contemplating a Senate bid. He met with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) earlier this month.

Democrats believe Dole is potentially vulnerable, however, they have not been able to find a top-flight candidate for the race. Several well-known statewide elected officials are passing on the race.

Miller was elected in 2002 to a Raleigh-based seat that he helped to draw as a member of the state Senate during the post-2000 reapportionment and redistricting.

While 2008 shapes up as a very challenging year for Senate Republicans because of the great number of seats they must defend, Democrats have a mixed record so far on recruiting strong challengers. In Oregon, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Texas, Democrats have either lost out on top-tier challengers, or failed (so far) to get their desired candidate into the race.

A Plan for Dealing with Cyber Attacks

The MSM might devote lots of space to Iraq and the threat of Islamic terrorism, but apart from Bruce Willis, who's guarding against cyber attacks? If you're as worried as I am, you'll be glad to know that President Bush has a plan. And it's the only plan that makes any sense -- a NATO center of excellence in Estonia:

We also talked about an interesting subject, and one that I can learn a lot about, and that is the cyber attack that makes us all vulnerable. Estonia recently went through a wave of cyber attacks. And this President, one, understands the issue well; two, has got some ideas, including a NATO center of excellence in Estonia to deal with this issue. And I really want to thank you for your leadership, and thank you for your clear understanding of the dangers that that imposes not only on your country, but mine and others, as well.

Obviously my first preference is for a UN Committee, but if I can't get that then an Estonian Center of Excellence is obviously the way to go.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Has Bush Squandered the Last of His Political Capital on Immigration

For some years, it's been difficult for conservatives to figure out when to stand with President Bush and when to draw distinctions. On judicial appointments, executive privilege, the War on Terror, and most social and 'values' issues, conservatives have seen Bush as an ally. On Iraq, entitlement programs, spending (until recently, at least) and immigration, they've at least sought to put some 'daylight' between themselves and the President.

But it's starting to look as if the immigration fight has become the straw that broke the camel's back. Conservatives oppose the White House on the substance and deeply resent the charges of nativism and ignorance coming from Bush's team. Now Mitt Romney has apparently decided that it's time to begin the process of disowning the President:

"We're going to change the course of America," Romney told about 800 donors gathered for a pep rally at the Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park.

"It's on a course right now that's just not quite right. We've got a lot of problems around the world that need our leadership as a nation.

"We're going to have to get ourselves back on track again so that we can remain the powerful nation we've always been -- powerful not just by our strength and our economic vitality, but powerful because of our goodness and the greatness of the American spirit. And that's what the campaign is about."

Romney, like the other top GOP contenders, has so far avoided direct criticism of the increasingly unpopular President Bush, choosing instead to focus specifically on issues like immigration or the conduct of the war.

But his language in Boston -- at a time when polls indicate the overwhelming majority of Americans feel as he does about the nation being on the wrong course -- signaled that he will take steps to move away from the president if necessary.

Up until now, prominent conservatives have mostly defended the President -- pointing out his strengths and downplaying his faults. But if Romney feels comfortable in affirmatively laying some blame at Bush's doorstep -- then it's only because he thinks primary voters are receptive to the message, and won't develop 'buyer's remorse' between now and the primaries. Will other GOP leaders and candidates follow suit?

There's not about to be a big press conference where a slew of GOP Senators wash their hands of President Bush, but it seems that this may be the tipping point. Republicans seem to have decided that Bush is unpopular and politically weak; he's not 'looking out' for their best political interests; and opposing him won't be punished by the base. There are probably more than a few who would call his fixation on immigration 'Ahabesque,' and wonder why they should take even one more political hit for the guy. Better to look to next year.

Can Bush reverse this? I'm not sure. He'll get conservative backing in vetoing a few spending bills, but can Congressional Republicans even be sure that he'll stick to fiscal discipline if Democrats offer a deal on defense spending? And if 'comprehensive immigration reform' somehow passes the Senate, then a vicious fight in the House is likely. It'll leave lots more time to build resentment on both sides, instead of turning to other issues.

The question could be moot of course. If Bush plans to 'play out the string' as a lame duck President, he doesn't need much help from Congressional Republicans. If he still hopes to accomplish anything, however -- most notably on Iraq -- he may find that he's lost all his formerly loyal troops in Congress. Come September, they could be busy echoing the statements of Romney, Giuliani, or Thompson.

The New Layout

Blogger has introduced a tool for updating your blog's layout and modifying it more easily. Let me know what you think of the new look.

Terrible Joke Watch

Fausta offers these. I'll add two more:

Aging relief pitcher Mel Famey hadn't been used in months and started drinking heavily in the bullpen. When he was finally called upon -- with the bases loaded in a tied game -- he walked in the winning run. Walking off the field victorious, the opposing team saw the empties littering the bullpen and commented 'that's the beer that made Mel Famey walk us.'

A robot went to live among a race of tiny people called the Trids. The Trids dreaded the day -- once a year -- when the giant in the castle on the hill would come down and kick them and their homes all over the place. When the day came, the robot hid in fear. When the giant discovered him cowering, he reassured the robot saying, 'silly robot; kicks are for Trids!'


Bluey: GOP Working to Reclaim the Brand

Check it out at Townhall:

House Republicans have coalesced around the issue of federal spending, handing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a stinging defeat on earmark reform and sending their liberal colleagues a unified message not to exceed the president’s budget requests.

For conservatives who stayed home last Election Day, it’s refreshing to see someone in Washington paying attention again.

Conservatives have Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, to thank for much of what’s happening. Hensarling’s unabashed devotion to fiscal restraint has helped GOP leaders John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) unify Republicans.

There's no question that some Republicans are only 'getting religion' because the voters gave them 'a thumpin.' Others were persona non grata under the old, majority leadership, and are suddenly back in vogue. Would it be better if they were all fiscal conservatives simply because they believed it was the right way to make public policy? Certainly. But either way, we again have at least one party motivated toward spending restraint and openness in how government does business.

Murtha's Earmarks Benefit Associates; Move Companies to PA

Roll Call ($) has an extensive report today on some of the earmarks obtained by John Murtha, and their beneficiaries:

INDIANA, Pa. — In April 2004, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) celebrated the groundbreaking for a gleaming new office building here, designed around its anchor tenant, a Rockville, Md.-based technology company called Aeptec Microsystems.

Murtha pursued millions of dollars worth of legislative earmarks for the company, and Aeptec’s federal contracts blossomed after it opened a branch in his district in 2001, rising from about $13 million in 2000 to $45.6 million in 2003 and $33 million in 2004, according to, a database of federal contracts. The company had been represented by two lobbying firms with close ties to Murtha: KSA Consulting and the PMA Group.

But Aeptec never moved into the Indiana building, which was built mostly with state and local development funds and remains mostly empty after opening last month. The company, also known as 3eTI, instead moved its staff of about 15 people into a nondescript office park across town, where its name is not even posted on the outside door. It has since been bought by Texas-based EFJ Inc...

A good guide to the patterns of Murtha’s largesse is the client list of KSA Consulting, a lobbying firm that employs a former Murtha staffer and used to employ Murtha’s brother, Kit Murtha.

News stories have highlighted KSA’s success in getting earmarks for its clients, but there is more to the story than that. KSA’s client list consists largely of small businesses that are either based in Johnstown, Pa., or have opened offices in Johnstown, plus a significant smattering of companies that no longer exist and may never have existed at all.

The pattern that appears dominant is that the companies’ federal contract dollars expand shortly after they open an office in the 12th Congressional district — though it is not entirely clear how much of their work is actually conducted in the district...

Roll Call provides examples of three other firms that opened offices in Mr. Murtha's district and reaped significant federal contracts immediately afterwards. At least two of them retained KSA as their DC lobbyists. According to the article:

  • Applied Ordnance Technologies signed with KSA in 2001, opened an office in Johnstown, and doubled its government contracts in just two years;
  • ChemImage signed KSA in 2001, opened an office in Johnstown (which now employs just 3 people), and secured its first ever federal contracts in 2003; and,
  • KDH was created in 2003 to sew bulletproof vests and secured a Navy contract to do so in 2004 -- even though it had no facility in which to do so. KDH later opened two such locations in Murtha's district, and has seen significant increases in their federal sales.

It's also reported that KSA has filed disclosures of its clients past the legal deadline, and identified clients that seem not to exist, or that deny any association with KSA. The company's CEO acknowledges problems with the paperwork, saying 'that’s probably because we don’t know how to file them.'

It's unclear whether there's anything illegal in all this -- which is pretty depressing in itself. It's worth noting however, that the practice of giving special treatment to firms that locate in Johnstown, or Mr. Murtha's Congressional District more broadly, is reminiscent of something he told an undercover agent during Abscam:

I'll tell you exactly what I'd like. I'd like to be able to tell you that there's some places I'd like you to invest some money, in banks, on my district, uh and I'd say some, you know, some substantial deposits...

I think that in order to introduce legislation, you have to have a real tie to the district.

I'll give you maybe a list of businesses that I think would be the appropriate businesses that would be very helpful to me if you could see your way clear any one of those... you know, that you might -- this then would make a tie, which we'd have to make a little bit of a fuss about, maybe the guy doesn't wanna do this, but you have to remember this, you have to look down the road -- public relations.

More here. (Some obscenities)

Europe's New 'Reform Treaty'

Good editorial at the Wall Street Journal. They note that Gordon Brown has previously said that he will not submit the treaty for ratification by voters, but instead have it considered in Parliament only. It would be a great mistake to snub the voters on so important an issue, on what is essentially his first act as PM:

Europe is back, all right -- back to its old tricks and undemocratic sleights of hand. It's quite clear that the "reflection" the EU imposed on itself after French and Dutch voters rejected its Constitution two years ago amounted to nothing more than a long look in the mirror.

This resuscitated Constitution, albeit by a different name, negates the results of those free votes. Just as worrying -- and a dangerous portent for the Continent's future prosperity -- the price of the compromise in Brussels will erode the free-market principles on which the European Community was founded 50 years ago...

There will be enormous pressure on all EU leaders not to allow mere citizens to muck up the plan devised in Brussels. Mr. Sarkozy himself shows no inclination to hold a repeat referendum in France. He and others on the Continent will lobby Gordon Brown, who takes over as British Prime Minister this week, to follow suit and avoid putting the treaty to voters. Bowing to Brussels, Mr. Brown has indicated that he'll ask Parliament to ratify, not British voters.

It is hard to imagine a worse start to Mr. Brown's tenure at 10 Downing Street than to see him wave through the EU's "Reform Treaty" without popular support. The real lesson of the 2005 votes in France and the Netherlands is that citizens wouldn't sign off on an ambitious expansion of EU political prerogatives. They took full advantage of a rare opportunity to say so. Applying a few cosmetic changes and moving forward as if nothing happened makes a mockery of democracy.

The piece expands on some of the points I made the other day. Read the whole thing.


Can He Compete at Nathan's on July 4

Update At Bottom: Confirmed on Kobayashi's blog; he has gnathal arthropathy.

The Influence Peddler has faithfully chronicled the developments affecting the Nathan's Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest. We were among the first to tell you about Joey Chestnut -- the American sensation who threatened Takeru Kobayashi's domination of the event. We previewed last year's competition, at which Kobayashi needed a world record to beat Chestnut. And more recently, we told you that Chestnut had shattered Kobayashi's record -- setting up a great rematch this year.

Now we can be the first to tell you that Kobayashi is reportedly suffering from 'jaw arthritis,' which may prevent him from competing this year. Worse still, it may stop him from winning one 'for his mom' who passed away earlier this year:

A JAPANESE man who set a world record by wolfing down 53 hot dogs in 12 minutes has suffered a severe jaw injury due to his rigorous training, making his next title uncertain.

Takeru 'Tsunami' said he can only open his mouth to make a gap the size of a fingertip after being diagnosed with jaw arthritis.

In an entry on his blog entitled Occupational Hazard, Kobayashi said: "My jaw refused to fight any more."

The injury occurred only a week after the slender 29-year-old started training to win his sixth straight title at the annual July 4 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating contest on New York's Coney Island.

"I feel ashamed that I couldn't notice the alarm bells set off by my own body," he said. "But with the goal to win another title with a new record, I couldn't stop my training so close to the competition.

What to make of this? First off, is it accurate? (I can't find his blog.)

And if true, is it an attempt to lower expectations? Or is he so intimidated by Chestnut's recent performance that he's chickening out?

We can only hope that Kobayashi somehow recovers by July 4, so that we can see a fair rematch between two great competitors.

Here's a moving fan tribute to the champ. Have a tissue handy for the tears:

Update: Here's the blog (in Japanese, of course). Google gives me this translation for the most recent post:

Some days ago, my jaw seceded the front.

In the scream of the body, the ear you have been ashamed by your being able to tilt.

When training starting from there was a pain...

The jaw opens just a little only anymore.

Opening the mouth, as for there is no pain, to finger one amount.

Being painful, you do not open above that.

As for diagnosis gnathal arthropathy.

Gnathal arthopathy, huh? That's a tough row to hoe.

George Bush: Worse than Hitler

So argues a former Seinfeld writer and contributor to the Huffington Post:

You could argue that even the world's worst fascist dictators at least meant well. They honestly thought were doing good things for their countries by suppressing blacks/eliminating Jews/eradicating free enterprise/repressing individual thought/killing off rivals/invading neighbors, etc. Only the Saudi royal family is driven by the same motives as Bush, but they were already entrenched. Bush set a new precedent. He came into office with the attitude of "I'm so tired of the public good. What about my good? What about my rich friends' good?"

How can anyone not see it? It's not that their policies have been misguided or haven't played out right. They. Don't. Even. Mean. Well.

If a Democrat is elected President in 2008, don't be surprised to hear lamentations from the same Leftists about the poisonous atmosphere and the attempts on the right to demonize Democrats.

Jaws: With Lyrics

This is pretty funny. I believe it's from 'Jaws: The Musical:'

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Middle Earth Located

About time:

Hhmm... my people are from the Grey Havens. That makes me like, royalty, right?

Obama Forgets What He Knew About Evangelicals

I have not yet seen a speech from Obama on violent Islamic extremism, but he is -- oh so bravely -- taking on violent Christians. And a bonus -- he says that their faith has been 'hijacked:"

Sen. Barack Obama told a church convention Saturday that some right- wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division.

"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," the Democratic presidential candidate said in remarks prepared for delivery before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.

"Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.

"At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.

I'm not sure what expertise Obama is relying on in suggesting that the priorities of evangelical Christians are not those relayed by their leaders. And if he doubts that Democrats have been hostile to people of faith, he ought to read his speech of a year ago to Call to Renewal:

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama chastised fellow Democrats on Wednesday for failing to "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people," and said the party must compete for the support of evangelicals and other churchgoing Americans.

"Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation. Context matters," the Illinois Democrat said in remarks to a conference of Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome poverty.

"It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase `under God,'" he said. "Having voluntary student prayer groups using school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats..."

Obama said millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews have traveled similar religious paths, and that is why "we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. ... In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons will continue to hold sway."

Obama coupled his advice with a warning. "Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps _ off rhythm _ to the gospel choir."

At the same time, he said, "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square."

As a result, "I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy..."

Obama had a much better grasp of the issue before he started running for President.

You can see Obama's Call to Renewal speech on YouTube.

Update: Check out Erick as well.

Israel Preparing Strike on Iran

Things like this get reported all the time -- but for what it's worth:

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been training on long-range flights, including refueling in mid-flight, in preparation for potential strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.

The training program has been taking place for some time but has only been released for publication Friday, the Ma'ariv daily reported.

Intelligence assessments received by the defense establishment concur that once Iran passes the point of no return in its nuclear efforts, the entire Middle East will enter a frantic nuclear armament race. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are expected to take the lead should such a scenario become reality.