Saturday, September 01, 2007

Mitt Romney: Hypocrite

Soren notices a piece from the Associated Press:

The motorcade of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney exceeded speed limits and went through stop lights Friday as local law officers escorted him, blue lights flashing, to campaign events in two South Carolina counties.

Sheriff Jason Booth, a Romney supporter, led the candidate’s motor home and staff cars with his blue lights running from the Aiken County line through Saluda County to the Newberry city limits, according to an Associated Press reporter following the candidate.

The caravan traveled between 10 mph and 15 mph over posted speed limits. The posted speed limits were 45 mph and 55 mph.
Romney claims to be unaffected by the ways of Washington -- and he was awfully quick to distance himself from Larry Craig. But if he thinks himself above the law, how is he any better than most of the current crowd? The only difference between this and what Jon Corzine did is that Corzine actually holds a high elected office.

I'm sure a response/apology/explanation will be forthcoming. I'll look forward to hearing the explanation. I imagine it will be some combination of:
  1. I wasn't aware of what the motorcade was doing;
  2. I don't endorse this;
  3. I'll reimburse law enforcement for the costs associated with it.
Update: Soren also has info on how you can register your opposition to Romney's lawbreaking.

Did Hsu's Donations to Hillary Buy Federal Assistance

I had missed this earlier from the New York Times:

He became a trustee at the New School and was elected to the Board of Governors of Eugene Lang College there. He endowed a scholarship in his name at the college and was co-chairman of a benefit awards dinner in 2006 that featured Mrs. Clinton, who had secured a $950,000 earmark for a mentoring program at the college for disadvantaged city youths.

Asked yesterday about Mr. Hsu, Brian Krapf, a spokesman for the New School, said in a statement that “it is inappropriate to talk about a matter involving one of our trustees, particularly while we are still gathering all the facts.”

Hsu was a large donor both to Hillary and to the New School. It will be interesting to see what role Hsu may have played in the earmark she secured.

If you want a good laugh, check out this thread at the DailyKos, where the first post from a new diarist is a lengthy summary of Hillary and Bill's fundraising scandals -- including Hsu. The Kossacks seem unsure whether the poster is a right winger, or just some sensible Democrat warning against nominating Hillary.

A rose by any other name...

Why Craig Had To Go

While the media attention and questioning of his fitness to continue in office in Craig's case are demonstrably different from the coverage of, say Gerry Studds or Barney Frank's similarly shameful episodes, and while those glaring double standards should be trumpeted as loudly as the media itself trumpets Craig's disgrace, the hard fact is that Senator Craig's violations of public decency made it impossible for him to continue in office as a Republican.

Public restrooms are in fact public places, and solicitation of sex in public places is of course conduct unbecoming of a responsible person. Even granting Craig's implausible defence that his actions were only misconstrued is made inadequate by his guilty plea, acknowledging his lewd public behaviour.

Now, we could argue tactically that it was not in Craig's best interest to plead guilty to a morals charge, but that argument is counterfactual. Craig pleaded to lewd behaviour, hoping somehow that the whole thing would be kept quiet. Even assuming that his plea was an unprincipled attempt to avoid public embarassment (opening the question as to whether someone so foolish has any claim to public authority), the lack of principle in the plea would also indicate that his attitude to the question of public morality was sufficiently blase to undermine his support for the moral component of the Republican Party's platform.

The fact that the Democratic Party is completely unprincipled on issues of sexual morality, and is given complete cover on any incidents exposing its lack of principle does not constitute a license for Republican party leaders to abdicate the beliefs of their supporters, just because they can, for a time, get away with it. In the end, the media will expose them, damaging the Party, and feeding the cynical notion that the American ruling class is completely rotten on these issues.

The Republican Party is better off with Craig gone. Even if it took media piling-on to get the party leadership to realise it.

Craig to Quit

I largely agree with the sentiments expressed at Rhymes with Right:

Craig should not have entered a guilty plea to any charge -- at most, he should have entered a nolo contendere or Alford plea. In addition, as Captain Ed points out, there is a serious question as to whether any conduct Craig engaged in constitutes criminal activity and whether the plea was coerced with political threats. Indeed, does the mere act of seeking gay sex constitute criminal activity in the post Lawrence v. Texas world, where consensual sodomy has been held to be a constitutional right? This is especially true if, as in this case, there was no exchange of money, no indecent exposure, and no actual sexual contact in a public place. Are shoe-bumping and hand gestures actually barred under disorderly conduct statutes?

This is not to say that I approve of Larry Craig's actions in that lavatory, if he was, in fact, seeking sex. I just wonder where the crime is -- and how homosexual activist groups can stand by and not argue that arrests such as this one are legally wrong. Is the greater hypocrisy being a homosexual or bisexual opposed to homosexual marriage, homosexuals in the military, and the inclusion of homosexuals in hate-crime laws, or in objecting to the criminalization of homosexual activity but remaining silent while a political opponent faces criminal charges that in other circumstances you would argue are legally and constitutionally dubious? I'd argue it is the latter.

Drowning out the Klan

Read all about it at the Moderate Voice.

Hsu Suspected of Reimbursing Donations from Others

The Wall Street Journal reports:

While California state prosecutors were dealing with the business-fraud case, the Justice Department was ramping up a look at Mr. Hsu's more recent political activities. People familiar with the new probe said Justice officials are investigating a pattern of donations by acquaintances of Mr. Hsu's in California. The investigation began following a Wall Street Journal story this past week about donations by these people -- mail carrier William Paw and the five other members of his family who list their Daly City address as 41 Shelbourne Ave., a small house near San Francisco airport.

Mr. Hsu has denied reimbursing any associates for their donations, which would be a felony, or other wrongdoing in his fund-raising activities. "I've asked friends and colleagues of mine to give money out of their own pockets, and sometimes they have agreed," he said in an email to the Journal this past week. A member of the Paw family also has said the family's donations were their own...

Mr. Smetana said he figured Mr. Hsu had returned to Hong Kong. Indeed, in magazine articles in 1993 and 1994, Mr. Hsu was identified as managing director of Newton Enterprises Inc., a Hong Kong-based exporter.

In recent years, he moved to New York, and told acquaintances he was working in the fashion industry. While he did run apparel companies at various times, some of the firms listed as his employer on campaign-contribution records are hard to track.

Mr. Hsu has maintained a very low profile within New York's apparel industry. Representatives of one of the country's main import groups, the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said they had never heard of Mr. Hsu. Firms that track shipments to significant U.S. importers also found no record that companies listed by Mr. Hsu had imported goods into the U.S. over the past year.

With Democrats racing to give back Hsu's donations, the political damage to them could be limited. The question is whether some elected officials had a close association with Hsu, and/or were aware of his shady dealings, and still associated with him.

After all, if some donor you've never heard of breaks the law, a candidate can hardly be accused of doing anything shady. But if the donor arranges millions in donations, regularly meets with you, or has a role in your campaign -- well, you'll need to answer some questions.

To wit:

Mr. Hsu's reputation in New York was far different from the one he left behind in California. In 2004, he began circulating among Democratic donors at fundraisers, and became a huge "bundler" -- somebody who collects myriad checks from networks of friends, family and business acquaintances for political campaigns.

"I like him a lot," Mr. Kerrey said. "He's one of these guys in politics who gives and doesn't ask for anything."

Mr. Hsu raised more than $1 million for Mrs. Clinton's campaign and has been a major rainmaker for various Democratic candidates and causes.

Asked if he knew how Mr. Hsu raised so many campaign checks, Mr. Kerrey said, "I'm concerned about it. My hope is he didn't break the law."

Since Hsu served as a trustee at the New School, Kerrey's probably unable to avoid questions about him. But how did he wind up with such a position?

Star Trek Becoming Reality

Scientist are working on faster-than-light travel and even transporters, while Star-Trek-style 'communicators' are virtually passe. But how about a device to heal wounds using sound waves:

In this case, Engineers at the University of Washington are testing a device that uses multiple lenses to focus high-intensity ultrasound beams at a particular spot inside the body on the patient's lungs. Focusing the ultrasound beams, in a process similar to focusing sunlight with a magnifying glass, creates a tiny but extremely hot spot about the size and shape of a grain of rice. The rays heat the blood cells until they form a seal. Meanwhile the tissue between the device and the spot being treated does not get hot, as it would with a laser beam, researchers said in a statement.

High-intensity focused ultrasound promises "bloodless surgery" with no scalpels or sutures. Doctors would pass a sensor over the patient and use invisible rays to heal the wound. The findings from tests with the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle suggest that ultrasound might replace what is now a painful, invasive procedure. Lung injuries are relatively common because the chest is a big surface that's often exposed to crushing or puncture wounds.Recent tests on pigs' lungs showed that high-intensity ultrasound sealed the leaks in one or two minutes. More than 95% of the 70 incisions were stable after two minutes of treatment, according to results published this summer in the Journal of Trauma.

The article likens it to a tricorder, but the tricorder was merely a sensing device (as far as I can recall). Devices that fixed broken bones and otherwise healed wounds barely warranted more than a mention in Star Trek -- in fact, it might just have been in one or more of the movies.

Coburn's Challenge: Fix Infrastructure, End Pork

Tom Coburn has a good idea for challenging his Congressional colleagues to put their money where their mouths are on infrastructure problems. If you really think that we are underinvesting in the repair of our failing infrastructure; if you really think we should put a greater priority on the upkeep of bridges, then spend less on pork and more on critical repairs:

Tom Coburn, who in three years as a U.S. senator often has tried to force colleagues into politically difficult decisions, plans to offer this choice when the Senate reconvenes following the August break: Do you want Pork or Infrastructure?

Sen. Coburn is drafting amendments to kill earmarks to the Transportation appropriations bill, with the funds transferred to repairing rotting structures. That asks senators whether, in the wake of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, they insist on keeping pork for their districts.

Writing in Human Events Aug. 10, Coburn noted: "The Federal Highway Administration declared the [Minnesota] bridge 'structurally deficient' in 1990 and directly warned Minnesota officials. Yet, since 1990, Congress has shown more devotion to pork-barrel spending than repair work."

While Republicans and Democrats have talked about reforming earmarks, they have consistently rejected amendments by people like Coburn and Jeff Flake (in the House of Representatives) to cut the pork. Coburn's amendments will probably still lose, since the media almost never report the results of such votes. By framing it in this way however, Coburn raises the chance of success.

And of course, Coburn is right to point out that when Congress earmarks billions to non-priority projects, they take away the ability of state and local governments to dedicate that money to genuine needs. If Members really think that we need to dedicate more resources to our weakened infrastructure, they will have the opportunity to prove it.

Vice President Huckabee?

Bob Novak reports this morning that the Romney and Giuliani teams are impressed enough with Mike Huckabee to regard him as a strong possibility for the vice president, in the case of either winning the nomination:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's impressive performance in Republican presidential debates has advanced him as an ideal vice-presidential nominee, as judged by supporters of front-running GOP hopefuls Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

The nomination of Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, or Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, would mark the first Republican nominated for president who was not from California or the South in 56 years (except for appointed President Gerald Ford). As a conservative Southerner, Huckabee is seen by Giuliani and Romney backers as an ideal ticket balancer.

Huckabee has been distrusted in the conservative movement because of his record of raising taxes in Arkansas. However, he has signed the anti-tax pledge circulated by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. He also has been vigorously supported by backers of the Fair Tax, which would repeal the federal income tax and replace it with a national sales tax.

Huckabee has called the Club for Growth the 'Club for Greed,' and framed his campaign as a battle against Wall Street. He's called for fair trade over free trade, and his record on taxes is not what I would like. If either Romney or Giuliani were to select Huckabee, there won't be any cheering here. A critical question may be whether he could actually bring Arkansas in a race against Hillary. If she is the Democratic nominee, and she carries the state, what's the point?

Novak also says that many Democrats in marginal seats are worrying about running with Hillary at the top of the ticket:

Many of the Democratic congressmen who ousted Republicans in marginal House districts last year privately express concern about the impact on their re-election prospects if Hillary Clinton is nominated for president.

Because of the strong possibility that Sen. Clinton indeed will be the party's candidate, these congressmen will not openly express their fears. But they dread her impact from the top of the ticket.

Clinton's opponents don't raise the question in public. But there is such underground talk in Iowa, the state opening the battle for convention delegates, questioning her "electability."

Novak however, has missed the best quote from a Congressional 'defender' of Hillary's. It was Congressman Earl Pomeroy who said:

“It’s way too early to conclude that Hillary would be a disaster downballot for the party”

With friends like this...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Gun Control Doesn't Reduce Crime

Check out Say Anything.

Ramadi Transformed

WakeUp America has the story:

He helped to convert Ramadi from one of Iraq’s deadliest cities into arguably the safest outside the semi-autonomous Kurdish north. This graveyard for hundreds of American soldiers, which a Marine Corps intelligence report wrote off as a lost cause just a year ago, is where the US military now takes visiting senators, and journalists such as myself, to show the progress it is making. Ramadi will be Exhibit A when General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, appears before Congress in two weeks’ time to argue that the country as a whole should not be written off.

In Ramadi last weekend I did things unthinkable almost anywhere else in this violent country. I walked through the main souk without body armour, talking to ordinary Iraqis. Late one evening I strolled into the brightly lit Jamiah district of the city with Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Turner, the tobacco-chewing US marine in charge of central Ramadi, to buy kebabs from an outdoor restaurant – “It’s safer than London or New York,” Colonel Turner assured me.

Go read the whole thing.

Reid Has No Good Option on Iraq

Harry Reid is willing to negotiate an end to the Iraq war, if he can get the Republican support he needs to do so:

Saying the coming weeks will be "one of the last opportunities" to alter the course of the war, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he is now willing to compromise with Republicans to find ways to limit troop deployments in Iraq.

Reid acknowledged that his previous firm demand for a spring withdrawal deadline had become an obstacle for a small but growing number of Republicans who have said they want to end the war but have been unwilling to set a timeline.

"I don't think we have to think that our way is the only way," Reid said of specific dates during an interview in his office here. "I'm not saying, 'Republicans, do what we want to do.' Just give me something that you think you would like to do, that accomplishes some or all of what I want to do."
The problem is simple math, really. The President will veto any bill with which he disagrees, and so far Congress has not resorted to the option presented them under the Constitution: cut off funding. Whether because Reid and Pelosi refuse to take the political risk of denying needed resources to troops in the field, or whether because they have counted votes and know that a bipartisan majority would override and embarrass them, they have not done so.

And since they can't or won't cut off funds, they are forced to pursue a strategy of imposing conditions on the White House. But the challenge there is that since the President will veto onerous legislation, they need 67 votes in the Senate and 290 votes in the House. That's virtually impossible.

But 'fortunately' for Reid, he may again have the chance to stop the war by denying funding. That's because the administration will request $50 billion more to fund the surge for the remainder of the year. That's likely to represent another no-win situation for Reid and Pelosi, since there's no reason to think that Congress will deny the funds.

The Left is not happy with Reid's announcement. At the Huffington Post, the advice for Senator Reid is not to negotiate -- just to deny the funds. DailyKos is livid -- and seems prepared to declare war on Reid. OpenLeft says Democrats have already lost. TPM gets it exactly right, and wonders if Reid has the guts to end the war by denying funds:

A charitable way to look at this is that it's a "Devil in the details" kind of situation. Come September, Reid -- aside from peripheral measures such as the troop rest measure -- would appear to have basically only two choices before him on the larger question of war funding: Refuse to fund the war unless the funding is attached to a withdrawal timeline, or agree to fund it without a date-certain. If Reid is only saying he's willing to compromise right now and has no intention of doing the latter, no biggie.

But if he does end up doing the latter, of course, Reid will catch Hell. It really is hard to imagine that the Dem leadership would do that, but after the FISA fiasco, it's anyone's guess what's next.

Once it becomes clear to the base that they can't get 70-80 Congressional Republicans to force a timeline on the President, they will ratchet up the pressure to cut off funds.

Will Reid have the chutzpah -- and the votes -- to do now what he did not dare do before?

Earmarks: The More Things Change...

The AP reports that Congress is still spending plenty on earmarks -- for both Republicans and Democrats -- regardless of who's in charge:

The 435 members of the House together requested more than 32,000 pet projects this year — several thousand more than in 2006, when scandal-embarrassed Republican leaders limited how many each lawmaker could seek.

Only about 6,000 projects totaling $5 billion made it into the dozen spending bills passed by the House this summer, but members were promised they would get a chance to add military construction projects this fall...

The Senate has a costlier set of earmarks. There, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., puts the total so far for senators’ earmarks also at about $5 billion — with billions more to come in a $459 billion Pentagon spending bill, always the most earmark-laden measure of all.

Byrd never bought into the Bush-House pledge, promising only to cut pet projects by an unspecified amount. As always, he hasn’t been shy about shoveling federal money into West Virginia, such as $2 million in renovations to a riverfront park in Charleston and $4 million to construct a multiple sclerosis center at West Virginia University.

Since 2008 is a presidential election year, it will be difficult for Congressional leaders to project an agenda distinguished from that of the party's nominee. This is true for both Republicans and Democrats. If Democrats field a popular presidential nominee, it will cover some of the sins of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. If the GOP is so fortunate, fewer voters will ask John Boehner and Mitch McConnell what their agenda is if they should gain power.

Nevertheless, both Republican leaders will need to find issues to move voters to elect Republicans over Democrats. Earmark reform is a good candidate. The only problem is that most Republicans like earmarks as much as Democrats. Will the GOP risk offending institutionalists to grasp an issue that might help restore them to power?

Tommy Franks for Vice President?

Color me skeptical.

California Yankee has the story:

General Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command from June 2000 until he retired in 2003, led American and Coalition troops in two strategically unprecedented campaigns in two years – Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.

Franks would boost Republican prospects in the South and provide an articulate spokesman for winning the global war against Islamist extremism and a counter to the Democrats' current defeatism.
General Franks hails from Oklahoma, but considers Texas his home state.

Among the leading contenders, both Rudy Giuliani (to a large degree) and Mitt Romney (to a smaller degree) may need to shore up support in the 'southern conservative' demographic. For someone like Fred Thompson -- himself a southern conservative -- Franks might offer little appeal.

And as far as selecting a general, as opposed to a traditional politician... what effect might that have? It might make the election more of a referendum on Iraq than it would otherwise be.

One thing that might work in favor: the list of possible Republican vice presidential contenders seems like it might be a short one in 2008. First off, since it will be an outsider year, Senators may not make it onto the list -- and even if the nominee might consider a Senator, there are relatively few southern conservatives who seem like likely contenders -- perhaps Hutchison, DeMint, and Sessions. And if the nominee is seeking a southern conservative Governor, that list seems relatively short as well: Sanford, Barbour, and... who?

Of course, if Fred Thompson is the nominee, you might look in an entirely different direction -- toward northern, midwestern, or midwestern Republicans, preferably not from Washington. That list might include Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, Jodi Rell, Tim Pawlenty, and others.

Through the Miracle of Global Warming!

The United States and many other nations are dramatically stepping up efforts to chart the sea floor beneath the ice surrounding the North Pole. Why? As the earth warms, the thinning of the ice may allow the extraction of tremendous energy sources:

North of Alaska, the 23 scientists of the Healy are gathering the data legally required to extend national territories across vast reaches of the mineral-rich seafloor usually blocked by Arctic ice. Fathom by fathom, multibeam sonar sensors mounted on the Healy's hull chart a submerged plateau called the Chukchi Cap, in a region that may contain 25% of the world's reserves of oil and natural gas.

North of Alaska, researchers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy are gathering the data legally required to extend national territories across vast reaches of the mineral-rich seafloor usually blocked by Arctic ice.

In an era of climate change, these frozen assets are up for grabs, as melting ice allows detailed mapping and, one day perhaps, drilling.

Rising temperatures thinned the ice pack to a record low this month. If current trends continue, the Arctic could become ice-free in summer months by 2040, polar researchers say.

Those who believe that human activity plays a significant role in global warming will no doubt see a painful irony. They will argue that the emission of greenhouse gases is allowing us to access new sources, exacerbating our problems.

But energy is life. Without access to fuel in sufficient quantities, our lifestyle will change dramatically -- for the worse. And that's not just true of the United States, of course. We depend on hydrocarbon fuels for transport, electricity, and heat. But the rest of the world does as well. And while Americans are wealthy enough to weather the hit from higher energy prices relatively well, that's far less true of the vast majority of the world. And if electricity is not generated, or cars do not move, people die.

That's why the discovery of new energy sources that can be extracted is good news. Whether and how we use it is a separate question. And to the extent that the burning of fossil fuels creates negative externalities -- such as a changing climate -- that policy question must be addressed as well.

Craig Close to Resigning

When Larry Craig's arrest was revealed, I commented that Senate leaders might be expected to move aggressively to ensure that GOP scandals did not become a big issue in the 2008 election. I suggested that might be evinced in talks with Senators dealing with ethical questions. I did not anticipate that Senators would close ranks so quickly to make clear to Craig that he was unwelcome.

After all, it's rare that Senators and Congressmen coordinate efforts during recess. Usually they must be together in Washington to develop a group approach to a problem. But whether the united front was coordinated or organic, it's reported that Senator Craig will soon step down:

Scandal-stained Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) is pondering his resignation in the face of political pressure in Washington and Idaho following revelations that he was arrested last June in an airport restroom, the Associated Press and CNN have reported.

The Republican National Committee took the unusual step Thursday of drafting statements calling on Craig to resign, GOP aides said, a rare move to force the third-term senator out. But the committee never released its statement to allow Craig more time to announce his own departure.

There's probably not much choice for Craig. He's lost his committee assignments and his GOP colleagues have requested an ethics investigation into his actions. It's hard to conceive that he can do anything to restore his electability.

And if he wants to restore his name and reputation, that's probably simpler as a private citizen than as a Senator shunned by colleagues and targeted by them for defeat.

Tragedy Narrowly Averted

There was a failed attack against a military transport plane departing Baghdad, carrying several Members of Congress:

Sens. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Rep. Robert E. “Bud” Cramer, D-Ala., were uninjured after their C-130 transport plane took evasive measures and dispatched flares to avoid the incoming fire.

Shelby recounted the incident in a conference call with reporters. “I saw the red glare of a shell or a missile coming up toward our plane,” he said, “Then I saw a flare pop out and our plane just started moving and changing directions and trying to move.”

Laura Henderson, a spokeswoman for Shelby, confirmed the details of the attack and said the aircraft landed safely in Amman, Jordan. Henderson did not know whether the attack was being considered as random or if a specific security breach might have compromised the members’ safety.

A successful attack would have, in an instant, changed the Senate and change the perception of the war in Iraq.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Michael Gerson Dissects Dems' Jindal Jihad

This actually appeared in the Washington Post. I'm astonished to see something like it there.

Be Careful What You Wish For

From Spiked:

Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?

But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.

There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past. And few of us, it seems, recognise the enormous benefits to humanity of escaping from it. On the contrary, there is a pervasive culture of complaint about the perils of affluence and a common tendency to romanticise the simple life.
This tendency most clearly evinces itself in the patronizing attitude of many residents of the advanced western world to extreme poverty around the globe. A lack of potable water, of a good educational system, of easy access to capital, of strong physical infrastructure, of a transparent legal system and sound government -- in some people's minds these conflate to a paradise -- unless it is they who are living in such misery.

This is why the best thing we can do for the rest of the world -- for peace, prosperity, and justice -- is to do our best to help other nations adopt our free-market, capitalist system of government. For all its myriad flaws, it is the best system there is for delivering from physical wants and needs, and allowing people to pursue happiness as they see fit.

Go read the whole thing.

Hat Tip: Reason blog

Marine to Sue Murtha Over Haditha Slander

From Let Freedom Ring:

If charges are dropped against Lt. Col. Chessani and Sgt. Wuterich, Rep. Murtha could be looking at spending alot of time in a courtroom in the near future. John Murtha should be held to account for leveling these serious accusations against the Haditha Marines. Based on this timeline, it’s obvious that Rep. Murtha has a difficult time keeping his story straight. It isn’t a stretch to think that he’s having those troubles because he’s basing his opinions on ideology instead of verifiable facts.

Democrats Confront Iraq Divisions

Rob makes a salient point about why Democrats can't beat the President on Iraq:

I find it rather telling that the media constantly casts this divide among Democrats as nothing more than simple frustration at being unable to defeat the Bush administration policy-wise in any sort of meaningful way. And while that probably has something to do with it, it’s worth noting that a big reason why the Democrats can’t defeat the Bush administration is that there is a strong contingent of centrist Democrats (or, at least, Democrats representing centrist constituents) who don’t want to defeat the Bush administration on certain issues.

They don’t want a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. They don’t want an end to some of the anti-terror measures the President has initiated. Among these Democrats are Joe Lieberman, and many other lesser-known figures in the Senate and (to a greater extent) in the House.

Fisking Ellen Tauscher

Read my piece over at the Standard.

And while you're at it, read Don Surber's latest piece on the surge:

America has been torn over this war. It had enormous popularity early on, which has evaporated into a seething cynicism.

This is not the first time. More than 140 years ago, America faced a similar crisis. The Copperhead Democrats wanted to make peace with the South and leave slavery alone. Too many people had died, the Democrats argued.

At Gettysburg, President Lincoln told them no, he would not allow our troops to die in vain.

Elections have meaning. This past one put Bush on notice: Win the war or be done with it.

He seems to have heard America.

This is Not Your Father's Star Trek

It's practically Labor Day and there's not much going on, so I bring you... the shocking truth about the next Star Trek movie:

Okay, first thing that surprised me: I think Leonard Nimoy is sort of the star of the movie. I think a lot of this movie is about Spock. Nimoy-aged Spock, mind you.


Okay... you know the scene in BACK TO THE FUTURE 2? Where Doc Brown explains alternate timelines? Well, this is sort of... ummm... TREK TO THE FUTURE, I guess you would call it...

Picture an incident that throws a group of Romulans back in time. Picture that group of Romulans figuring out where they are in the timeline, then deciding to take advantage of the accident to kill someone’s father, to erase them from the timeline before they exist, thereby changing all of the TREK universe as a result. Who would you erase? Whose erasure would leave the biggest hole in the TREK universe is the question you should be asking.

Who else, of course, but James T. Kirk?

If Spock were in a position to change that incident back, and then in a position to guard that timeline and make sure things happen the way they’re supposed to, it creates...

... well, what does it create? Because evidently the plan is to use this second timeline as a way of rebooting without erasing or ignoring canon. These new voyages of the ENTERPRISE, they’re taking place in whatever timeline starts with this story. Maybe this timeline features dramatic differences. Like... say... if Vulcan were to be blown up. If the Vulcans in the series were suddenly the last of their kind, alone in the universe, it would change who they are and maybe even redefine their strict rejection of emotion in favor of logic.

I've been accused of being too partisan, but I think it's fair to say this wouldn't have happened if Dennis Hastert were still Speaker.

The poster at AICN -- Moriarty -- offers no details on how he came across this information. Does anyone know if he's dependable?

Does anyone care?

Mitchell Can't Explain Stolen House Vote

The Majority Accountability Project calls attention to an interview done by Congressman Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), in which he tries to explain why he switched his vote on an amendment that would have denied food stamps and other benefits to illegal immigrants. Mitchell's answer is that such benefits are already illegal, and to make it 'doubly illegal' was just an attempt to derail the bill.

But that's just untrue. The agriculture appropriations bill is just about the least controversial funding bill Congress considers. Further, the House had adopted a similar amendment (Congressman Garrett's) to the agriculture bill in 2006, and the measure passed by a vote of 378-46. The bill passed by a vote of 408-18 in 2005, 389-31 in 2004... you get the picture. There was no way the adoption of this amendment would have hurt the chance for passage. It was headed toward a comfortable victory until the disputed vote. Furthermore, a provision that changes nothing -- Mitchell's claim -- would not have hurt chances for passage.

And if this was just an effort to derail the bill, or if it was superfluous (Mitchell makes both of these contradictory claims), then why did he wait until pressed by Democratic leaders to change the vote? And even if all of the above is true, it still doesn't excuse his waiting until after the gavel came down and the amendment had passed to make the change.

No, this explanation just doesn't pass the smell test.

Listen to the interview with Mitchell here, and judge for yourself whether he's answering the question, or just trying to distract listeners.

Republican leader Boenher has done a lot of traveling during the August recess, and he's been asked about the stolen vote on a number of radio shows. Listen here, here, here and here. When Congress returns after Labor Day, Boehner is expected to name the three Republicans who will sit on the select committee created by Congress to investigate this embarrassment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Boosting Your Self-Esteem

Even if you haven't got all that much going for you, you're probably brighter than John Edwards.

Still not convinced?

Only 45% of Climate Scientists Accept 'Global Warming Consensus'

We are constantly informed that there is a broad consensus among climate scientists that human activity is a leading cause of global warming. The details are sketchy around the edges, but we are warned that humans might be the primary cause and the results might be catastrophic. The Goracle and others tell us that there's not much question among climate scientists, and we must act now to save the planet.

But according to a study about to be published in the journal Energy and Environment, only 45 percent of climate change papers submitted to 'every leading scientific journal in the world' accept the consensus:

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the "primary" cause of warming, but it doesn't require any belief or support for "catastrophic" global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

These changing viewpoints represent the advances in climate science over the past decade. While today we are even more certain the earth is warming, we are less certain about the root causes. More importantly, research has shown us that -- whatever the cause may be -- the amount of warming is unlikely to cause any great calamity for mankind or the planet itself.
I'm not a climate scientist; I don't claim to know 'the truth.' I'll see if I can find the full study when it's published -- it's possible that those 'neutral' papers did not seek to render any verdict on the theory -- positive or negative. But if the study is being accurately portrayed, then 45 percent is an awfully small threshold for 'consensus.' And especially considering the extraordinary lifestyle changes that global warming adherents are asking, it would be irresponsible not to insist on a hight degree of certainty that their theories are accurate.

Larry Craig: I Question the Timing

Ace is angry at the timing of Roll Call's expose on Larry Craig:

In this case, the arrest report wasn't leaked earlier when it would have given an Idaho GOP challenger time to suddenly whip up the makings of an insurgent campaign. Instead, it comes far too late for that, making it almost certain Craig will prevail in the primary for lack of a real challenger and then be defeated by a Democratic candidate.

How do these lucky breaks keep accruing to the Democrats?

I have to disagree on this one; it seems to me this was nearly the best time for the GOP.

Think about it this way: rumors about Larry Craig being gay have been pushed to the mainstream media for -- literally -- years. I won't send you to the sites, but there are activists who have been looking for 'proof' so that they could get mainstream outlets to out Craig. The incident in question took place in June, so the earliest it could have been printed was two months ago.

Did this story come too late in the cycle for a challenger to defeat Craig in a primary? The filing deadline is March 8 of next year; the primary itself is in May. If someone wanted to pick off a Senate seat, they would have held off on this story until after the primary filing deadline -- so that Republicans would have been stuck with Craig as a candidate.

And what was the situation before this story broke? Craig had not yet announced whether he would seek re-election, and candidates like Lt. Gov. Jim Risch were eagerly awaiting his decision while laying groundwork for a bid. Now those candidates have effectively received a go ahead to make the race. If anything, they get an earlier start than they otherwise would have.

As it is now, Larry LaRocco is the strongest Democratic candidate. But as Stu Rothenberg points out, neither he nor any other Democrat is likely to be a serious challenge:

Republican Sen. Larry Craig’s status for 2008 has been a question mark, even before Roll Call broke the recent news of his June arrest. Craig had yet to give the NRSC an official, or even unofficial, heads up about whether he would seek a fourth term. And he showed a less than intimidating $549,000 in campaign cash through the end of June. Now, for a senator previously undecided about running again, the recent developments increase the possibility of an open seat in Idaho...

In a potential preview of next November, Risch and LaRocco squared off statewide less than a year ago in the 2006 race for lieutenant governor, with Risch winning convincingly 58%-30%.

The rumors that liberals and Democrats were spreading about Craig before this arrest were disgusting and over the line. But in this case, the timing of this story is helpful to the GOP, not a handicap.

As to the lack of attention to the Peter Paul story, I am in full agreement.

House Energy Bill Creates Global Warming Lawsuits

I knew that the energy bills under consideration in Congress were bad -- that they created no new energy and restricted production -- but I was not aware that the House bill specifically authorizes Americans 'harmed' by global warming to sue the US government for it.

Better still -- it specifically allows them to recover attorneys' fees -- win or lose.

This plays into the worst impression of old-style liberal Democrat wackos from the 1970s -- environmental extremists in the pocket of the trial lobby.

Read my piece at the Standard.

The Case Against Rendell

Mickey auditions reasons that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell should not be the Democratic nominee for Vice President. The best I can come up with is not a case against Rendell per se, but rather an argument for others. Specifically, it's not clear to me that Rendell adds much to the ticket. The only tangible thing is that he would virtually assure that the Democrats win Pennsylvania.

But it's not as if Pennsylvania is truly a swing state. The last Republican to win Pennsylvania was George H.W. Bush -- 20 years ago. Democrats swept the state in 2006, and Arlen Specter remains the only prominent Republican elected statewide. Rendell broke 60 percent of the vote against Lynn Swann. Is there a Republican other than Rudy Giuliani who could force Democrats to defend Pennsylvania?

Who might be a better selection than Rendell? Ted Strickland (OH), Mark Warner (VA), Bill Richardson (NM), Tom Vilsack (IA), Brad Henry (OK), and Phil Bredesen (TN) all are governors (or former governors) who represent real swing states. Any one would but Richardson could well flip a state that the Republican candidate needs to win the Presidency. All but Richardson would be regarded as non-Washington types; most would be seen as somewhat younger and more moderate. Richardson would have the virtue of being the first Hispanic on a national ticket.

While Rendell sounds like a good 'do no harm' candidate, he doesn't have the upside of the other candidates the Democrats have to offer.

Musharaff Taking Advice from John Kerry?

This could be a sign of real trouble:

President Pervez Musharraf may doff his uniform well before the presidential election to win the PPP's support and remove legal hitches that may invite the intervention of the Supreme Court.

A change of heart in this regard has taken place following meetings held by a Pakistani-American Shahid Ahmad Khan with top presidential aides. Khan, who has been in the capital for the last seven days, is an adviser to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on South Asia and had arrived in Pakistan as the pointman of John Kerry, who is heading this Senate Committee.

Both Shahid Khan and a legal adviser of Musharraf confirmed the strong possibility of the President shedding off the uniform before the polls. The legal adviser declared that the final decision would be made in the next three to four days. The president's spokesman, however, denied having any knowledge in this regard.

If Pakistan democratically elected a president who supported the US, it would be a welcome development -- and one Washington has encouraged. It seems that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will return to that country to seek a return to the office she once held. Bob Novak recently wrote about the attempt of the Bush administration to foster a rapprochement between the two rivals:

The Bush administration is the silent matchmaker for an unlikely political marriage of bitter opponents: President Musharraf and former Prime Minister Bhutto. The unstated U.S. goal is a democratic Pakistan, with the unpopular Musharraf retaining his presidency and the popular Bhutto returned to the prime minister's office, from which she twice was ousted by the military. Washington now views this as the means of making Pakistan a reliable, invaluable ally against worldwide terror.

Can Pakistan make the transition? And will there be additional comments from presidential candidates that may make it more difficult?

Hsu Creates a Scandal for Hillary, Many Other Dems

Yesterday Lefty bloggers accused me and others of hyperventilating about the report that a wealthy Democratic fundraiser was coordinating donations with other donors of modest means. Apparently if you see smoke, you're not allowed to suggest there might be fire.

According to the LATimes, investigators are trying to get their hands on Norman Hsu:

For the last 15 years, California authorities have been trying to figure out what happened to a businessman named Norman Hsu, who pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish.

"He is a fugitive," Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview. "Do you know where he is?"

Hsu, it seems, has been hiding in plain sight, at least for the last three years.

Since 2004, one Norman Hsu has been carving out a prominent place of honor among Democratic fundraisers. He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

In addition to making his own contributions, Hsu has honed the practice of assembling packets of checks from contributors who bear little resemblance to the usual Democratic deep pockets: A self-described apparel executive with a variety of business interests, Hsu has focused on delivering hefty contributions from citizens who live modest lives and are neophytes in the world of campaign giving.

On Tuesday, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. -- a Washington lawyer who represents the Democratic fundraiser -- confirmed that Hsu was the same man who was involved in the California case. Barcella said his client did not remember pleading to a criminal charge and facing the prospect of jail time. Hsu remembers the episode as part of a settlement with creditors when he also went through bankruptcy, Barcella said.

The bulk of the campaign dollars raised by major parties comes from the same sources: business groups, labor unions and other well-heeled interests with a long-term need to win friends in the political arena.

Howard Wolfson's and the rest of Hillary's team are likely to distance themselves from Hsu quickly. They'll point out that he's given to dozens of Democrats, and try to minimize the fact that he favors Hillary for President.

In the meantime, Hsu's name will also find its way into the campaigns of Republicans opposing Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mary Landrieu, Patrick Murphy, and many others. Those Democrats will be asked to return their donations from Hsu and his associates.

With Larry Craig likely to remain in the news for at least a little while, it's a curious reminder that Republicans have sex scandals and Democrats have money scandals.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tim Johnson Makes His Comeback -- with Video

Senator Tim Johnson has returned to South Dakota, and reportedly has already decided to seek re-election. A local news outlet has video of his appearance.

He has made an extraordinary recovery, but his speech has not returned to 'normal.' In this statement, he pointedly says that doctors have told him to expect that it will.

If that's the case, his affliction should not adversely impact his re-election bid. Assuming that he's in full possession of his mental faculties -- as he appears to be -- then noticeable improvements in his speech over the course of his re-election campaign will likely make a positive impression on voters.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out -- whether Johnson is treated like any other candidate, or whether his December seizure will have a lasting impact -- of any kind.

See also Philo's post on this from the other day, since he has more insight into what's going on in South Dakota. California Yankee is worth a read as well, for a look at Johnson's potential GOP opposition.

America's Upwardly Mobile Poor

Reason's blog has a strong literary way to think about the better standard of living enjoyed by America's poor.

It was still a great scene, though:

Regardless of the views of Mr. Joad, this blog is officially in favor of cops beating up guys when they gots it comin' to 'em.

Britain, Australia Reject Timelines in Iraq

Wake Up America has the story.

Murtha to Use Pork to Buy Votes on Iraq

John Feehery, a former high-level staffer to Speaker Hastert, offers his preview of what we will see in the House next month. He's probably quite right:

The omnibus appropriations legislation, which hasn’t taken shape yet, will be a cesspool of pork barrel projects, misguided policy and new language on the war. Because of positive reports from the field in Iraq, it is not clear how hard a stance the Democratic leaders can take on a pullout date. Sen. John Warner has given the Democrats some cover, but other Democrats have blown that cover by intimating that the surge has actually worked.

If the Democrats don’t offer a hard pullout date, their left wing will go crazy. But in order to get the votes to authorize such a pullout date, the Democratic leadership will have to do some horse-trading, which means even more pork.

Look for John Murtha to drive this train. He is a master at horse trading, and of course, he is exceptionally good at keeping some of the pork for himself.

We've seen Democrats use 'Member projects' to ensure loyalty on key votes earlier this year. There's no reason to expect that things will change now -- particularly since shrewd Democratic Members have every reason to expect that leadership is willing to pay. With the weak 'reforms' enacted this year, conservatives will need to be aggressive to identify pork in moving legislation.

General David Petraeus, Jedi Master

Read it at the Standard.

PRTs Illustrate 'Bottom-Up' Progress in Iraq

Read it at the Standard.

Sunnis Not Eager to Join Maliki's Government

There was a great deal of attention to the compromise struck the other day among leaders of Iraq's disparate factions, on legislation to promote reconciliation. It would be nice if the nation was swept up in a chorus of kumbayas and agreed lock, stock and barrel on a raft of consensus legislation. Regrettably, life doesn't work that way. Sunni leaders in Parliament are saying that there's been a first step, but there remains a long way to go:

Sunni leaders said on Monday that they would continue their boycott of Iraq’s national unity government, in spite of a deal reached late on Sunday by senior members of the country’s main ethnic and sectarian blocs...

Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s Shia Prime Minister, and Tareq al-Hashemi, its Sunni Arab vice-president, were both present at Sunday’s press conference in Baghdad at which the leaders announced plans to solve several problems that have long bedevilled sectarian relations.

Also present were Adel Abd al-Mahdi, Shia vice-president, Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s Kurdish President, and Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region,

Together, Mr Maliki, Mr Abd al-Mahdi, Mr Talabani, and Mr Barzani represent the four main parties whose alliance has dominated Iraqi politics since 2003, while Mr Hashemi has often been one of their fiercest critics...

Several Sunni politicians said on Monday that they were not convinced Sunday’s deal would bring any concrete progress, suggesting that Mr Hashemi might be hard pressed to persuade the rest of his coalition of the merits of his deal.

Khalaf al-Alayan, and MP with the Front, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Mr Hashemi had dealt with the four other leaders in his capacity as ”vice-president and not as leader of the Front”.

He said the government lacked ”credibility” and that the Front would not return to the government until all its demands had been met...
Right now the Front probably has little incentive to return to the government. Maliki seems likely to have the opportunity to at least attempt to push these reforms through Parliament, and the Front can assist. If they continue to withhold full support, they maintain leverage on Maliki and his fragile coalition. If it appears that Maliki may fall, and the Front collectively decides it would be in their interest to see him survive, they can always lend support at a more critical time.

If this package of reforms makes headway in Parliament, the Front might see more reason to back Maliki's government. That outcome would be the best for all Iraqis.

Hillary Clinton: Candidate of Change -- Part 274

Do voters want more of the same in 2008? If so, perhaps a repeat of some of the great moments of Bill Clinton's administration is in order. You know, maybe something like a fundraising scandal:

Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee. In all, the six Paws have donated a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, election records show...

It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker. The couple's grown children have jobs ranging from account manager at a software company to "attendance liaison" at a local public high school. One is listed on campaign records as an executive at a mutual fund.

The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. He has hosted or co-hosted some of her most prominent money-raising events...

The Paw family is just one set of donors whose political donations are similar to Mr. Hsu's. Several business associates of Mr. Hsu in New York have made donations to the same candidates, on the same dates for similar amounts as Mr. Hsu.

On four separate dates this year, the Paw family, Mr. Hsu and five of his associates gave Mrs. Clinton a total of $47,500. In all, the family, Mr. Hsu and his associates have given Mrs. Clinton $133,000 since 2005 and a total of nearly $720,000 to all Democratic candidates.

The Paw's Daly City home is a one-story house in a working-class suburb of San Francisco. On a recent day, a coiled garden hose rested next to a dilapidated garden with a half-dozen dried out plants. The din of traffic from a nearby freeway was occasionally drowned out by jumbo jets departing San Francisco International Airport...

No one in the Paw family had ever given a campaign contribution before the 2004 presidential election, according to campaign-finance reports. Then, in July 2004, five members of the family contributed a total of $3,600 to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat. Five of the checks were dated July 27, 2004. About the same time, Mr. Hsu made his first donations to a political candidate, contributing the maximum amount allowed by law to Mr. Kerry in two separate checks, on July 21, 2004, and on Aug. 6.

From then on, the correlation of campaign donations between Mr. Hsu and the Paw family has continued. The first donations to Mrs. Clinton came Dec. 23, 2004, when Mr. Hsu and one Paw family member donated the then-maximum $4,000 to her Senate campaign in two $2,000 checks, campaign-finance records show. In March 2005, the individuals gave a total of $17,500 to Mrs. Clinton.

It strains credulity to think that all the members of an immigrant family of modest means suddenly became politically active in 2004, and have proceeded to give the majority of their disposal income to Democratic candidates -- coordinating their giving with a wealthy Clinton donor with whom they have some association.

The American people have elected Clintons or Bushes to the White House for 20 years. Hillary wants them to extend the lease by another 4 or 8. When voters begin to focus on the choice between more of the same, or a fresh start, her campaign will suffer.

John Edwards has decided to try to take Hillary on directly to break her stride. Look for his supporters to latch onto this story like a dog with a bone.

Note: Check out Don Surber or Fausta.

Also note the mistake from the Left -- the response at TPM Cafe is to try to refight the Swift Boat battle:

The name that does not appear anywhere in this story is that of the Texas Millionaire Richard Collins. You know the guy who funded the "swifties" and is backing the "stop her now campaign".

But it's legal for Collins to donate to a Republican campaign. If Hsu and the Paws are doing what it seems they are, that's illegal. The voters will note the difference.

Dr. Seuss: Property Rights Advocate

Yesterday Philo serenaded us with some Theodore Geisel on the occasion of the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. Today Ilya Somin reminds us of Jonathan Adler's reinterpretation of the story of the Lorax -- formerly the Dr. Seuss tale I liked the least:

Viewing the tale of the Lorax through an institutional lens, ruin is not the result of corporate greed, but a lack of institutions. The truffula trees grow in an unowned commons. (The Lorax may speak for the trees, but he does not own them.) The Once-ler has no incentive to conserve the truffula trees for, as he notes to himself, if he doesn't cut them down someone else will. He's responding to the incentives created by a lack of property rights in the trees, and the inevitable tragedy results. Had the Once-ler owned the trees, his incentives would have been quite different — and he would likely have acted accordingly — even if he remained dismissive of the Lorax's environmental concerns.

he story ends with the Once-ler giving a young boy the last truffula seed. He tells him to plant it and treat it with care, and then maybe the Lorax will come back from there. The traditional interpretation is simply that we must all care more for the environment. If we only control corporate greed we can prevent environmental ruin. But perhaps it means something else. Perhaps the lesson is that this boy should plant his truffula trees, and act as their steward. Perhaps giving the boy the last seed is an act of transferring the truffula from the open-access commons to private stewardship. Indeed, the final image — the ring of stones labeled with the word "unless" — could well suggest that enclosure, and the creation of property rights to protect natural resources, is necessary for the Lorax to ever return.

Hat Tip: Glenn

Update: Corrected because I errantly attributed the cite to Eugene Volokh, when it ought to have gone to Professor Ilya Somin, who called my attention to the mistake. My apologies.

Monday, August 27, 2007

With Craig on His Way Out, Who Will Follow?

For years liberals and Democrats have whispered that Larry Craig is gay, and tried to get someone in the MSM to run with the story. Now there's a hook. I won't reproduce unpleasant details that you can read at any of several other sites. Check out HotAir, Sister Toldjah, the Politico, and Captains Quarters.

It seems just a matter of time before Craig steps down -- particularly since Idaho has a Republican Governor, and he would appoint a Republican successor. That person would likely be favored to retain the seat in Fall, 2008.

But the Craig scandal is a reminder of the numerous Republican incumbents still operating under ethical clouds -- Ted Stevens, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, Don Young, and others. Republican leaders in Congress have been pleased to see a few step aside whose re-election runs would have been made much tougher by ethical questions. Will this lead to a full-court press to get some other Members to spend more time with their families?

It'll be interesting to see if any of the other Members under investigation soon announce that they are leaving public service. Certainly if you are John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, this is a wake-up call that the ethics issue may still cut against Republicans in 2008 -- and may cost you more seats -- if embarrassing incumbents are running for re-election while making headlines for corruption.

Tonight's Lunar Eclipse

NASA has a guide to watching tonight's lunar eclipse.

August's lunar eclipse lasts about three hours and thirty-three minutes (not including the penumbral phases which are very difficult to see). The partial eclipse begins as the Moon's eastern edge slowly moves into the Earth's umbral shadow. During the partial phases, it takes just over an hour for the Moon's orbital motion to carry it entirely within the Earth's dark umbra. The color and brightness of the totally eclipsed Moon can vary considerably from one eclipse to another. Dark eclipses are caused by volcanic gas and dust which filters and blocks much of the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. But since no major volcanic eruptions have taken place recently, the Moon will probably take on a vivid red or orange color during the total phase. After the total phase ends, it is once again followed by a partial eclipse as the Moon gradually leaves the umbral shadow.

Good news for those on the East Coast (like me). If you're an early riser, you can still see part of the show:

France Moves to the Right of Edwards on Iranian Nukes

Wake Up America has the story:

Addressing the French ambassadorial corps, Sarkozy stressed that such an outcome would be a disaster. He did not say that France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach.

But the mere fact that he raised the specter of the use of force is quite likely to be perceived by Iran as a warning of the consequences of its actions.

Sarkozy praised the current diplomatic initiative by the major world powers, which threatens tougher United Nations-mandated sanctions if Iran does not stop enriching uranium for possible use in a nuclear weapon but holds out the possibility of incentives if Iran complies.

This two-pronged approach, Sarkozy said, "is the only one that can enable us to avoid being faced with a disastrous alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

Calling the Iranian nuclear crisis "the most serious weighing on the international order today," Sarkozy also reiterated his position that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "unacceptable" to France.

As I pointed out at the Standard last week, John Edwards also says that it's unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons -- but it is not permissible for the US to threaten military action:

With a threat so serious, no U.S. president should take any option off the table -- diplomacy, sanctions, engagement, or even military force. When we say something is unacceptable, however, we must mean it, and that requires developing a strategy that delivers results, not just rhetoric. Instead of saber rattling about military action, we should employ an effective combination of carrots and sticks... We should continue to work with other great powers to offer Tehran economic incentives for good behavior. At the same time, we must use much more serious economic sanctions to deter Ahmadinejad's government when it refuses to cooperate.

The government of France is therefore officially to the right of a leading Democratic presidential contender on national security issues.

Does this say more about France, or John Edwards?

Note: The original Reuters piece is here.

Democrats Reject Earlier Arguments on Iraq

Read it at the Standard.

Morris: Is Hillary's Lead Self-Fulfilling?

Dick Morris has an interesting column at Townhall, suggesting that Democrats increasingly perceive Hillary Clinton as their nominee, so they are closing ranks around her:

Have the Democrats, in their hearts, anointed Clinton as their candidate already? Do they regard the criticisms of her fellow candidates as just fissures in a party they are determined to keep united and focused on the objective of defeating President Bush? Are they rallying around their standard-bearer a year before she is awarded their standard?

The Democratic desire to bring the Bush administration to an end and their desperation to terminate the war in Iraq is so polarizing the electoral process that there seems to be little room for primaries anymore. The notion that Democrats compete against one another to find out, at best, who would be a good president and, at worst, which would be most likely to win, seems to becoming increasingly passé. In a sense, the entire primary process, which has dominated presidential selection since 1972, appears to be losing its grip in the face of a determination to rally around the candidate, even if she be anointed, in the first instance, by the established leaders of the party, meeting, these days, in a smoke-free environment to make their choice.

Hillary was reviled by the activist, netroot base as wrong on Iraq -- the paramount issue of the day. Just a few months ago, they were livid at her refusal to apologize. Now it seems, they have made peace with her, and she even finds defenders among her former Netroots critics.

In 2004, Democrats nominated John Kerry because he was the most 'electable,' and they 'wanted to win.' Now it seems that Hillary might become the nominee simply because she happened to be winning at the time primary voters became engaged enough to begin calling for an end to the infighting. Her lead now becomes the reason that she cannot be criticized -- because Democrats don't want to weaken her for the general election.

What will it take to break Hillary's hold? And to what extent is her advantage simply a reflection that her opposition is not really ready-for-prime-time.

Boehner on Earmarks

The other day I commented on a column by Congressman Rahm Emanuel in defense of the 'reforms' Democrats had passed for earmarking. Now Republican Leader John Boehner takes up his pen:

The rules pushed through the House by the majority leadership in January on the opening day of the current Congress do include some commendable provisions that were not part of last year’s Republican reforms, and I commended the Democratic leadership for including these provisions when they were passed. Unfortunately, since that time, the leadership has constructed a system that conveniently ensures earmarks in such bills cannot be debated or stripped out on the House floor. This is a giant step back from the reforms Republicans implemented last year on behalf of taxpayers — and until it is fixed, this loophole will continue to undermine public trust and confidence in our institution.

Rep. Emanuel is wrong to suggest the current system in Congress is as open and transparent as it needs to be or could be. Republicans should have acted far sooner to reform the earmark process when we had the majority, and our failure to do so contributed to the loss last November. But while Republicans have gotten the message the hard way, the Democratic majority now appears resigned to repeating our mistakes. Americans are rightly outraged that Congress has passed an “ethics reform” bill that fails to ensure all earmarks are subject to appropriate debate and scrutiny. Legislative action needs to be taken in Congress as soon as possible to remedy this problem.

Earlier this summer I introduced a resolution that would require all taxpayer-funded earmarks to be publicly disclosed and subject to challenge on the House floor. I have requested that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) schedule this resolution for a vote to give all Members, Republican and Democrat alike, the opportunity to assure the American people that appropriate scrutiny is applied to all taxpayer-funded earmarks. I regret to report that to date, my requests have been met only with silence.

This sounds good. Bob Novak recently pointed out however, that despite all the talk on both sides of the aisle about earmark reform, both Republicans and Democrats are going about the business of earmarking in much the normal manner. As long as this is the case, it will be impossible for either side to use earmarks as a political issue. If the Congressional GOP wants to take this issue to the voters in 2008, they can't just sound holier than thou; they need to be holier than thou.

Is the New York Sun Taking a Check from Hillary?

Look at the picture of Barack Obama they have up today.

Do you really want to elect a President who looks like he might eat you?

Alberto Gonzales

"Alberto Gonzales will you please go now!
The time has come.
The time has come.
The time is now.
Just go.
I don't care how.
You can go by foot.
You can go by cow.
Alberto Gonzales will you please go now!

You can go on skates.
You can go on skis.
You can go in a hat.
Please go.
I don't care.
You can go
By bike.
You can go
On a Zike-Bike
If you like.
If you like
You can go
In an old blue shoe.
Just go, go, GO!
Please do, do, do, DO!
Alberto Gonzales
I don't care how.
Alberto Gonzales
Will you please

You can go on stilts.
You can go by fish.
You can go in a Crunk-Car
If you wish.
If you wish
You may go
By lion's tale.
Or stamp yourself
And go by mail.
Alberto Gonzales
Don't you know
The time has come
To go, go, GO!
Get on your way!
Please Alberto!

You might like going in a Zumble-Zay.
You can go by balloon . . .
Or broomstick.
You can go by camel
In a bureau drawer.
You can go by bumble-boat
. . . or jet.
I don't care how you go.
Just get!
Alberto Gonzales!

I don't care how.
Alberto Gonzales
Will you please
I said
I meant . . .

The time had come
So . . .
Alberto WENT."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Iraqi Progress: Maliki Does What Levin Requires

Reuters reports that the 5 leaders of Iraq's major factions have agreed on principle on key political benchmarks that the US has put forward:

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands...

Iraqi officials said the five leaders had agreed on draft legislation that would ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.

Consensus was also reached on a law governing provincial powers as well as setting up a mechanism to release some detainees held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority being held are Sunnis.

The laws need to be passed by Iraq's fractious parliament, which has yet to receive any of the drafts.

Democratic Congressional leaders have been moving the ball on Iraq -- insisting first that it would be impossible to improve security, then arguing that while security had improved, political progress was impossible. Many reported that Senator Carl Levin had called for the ouster of Prime Minister Maliki due to the lack of agreement. But those accounts missed a small caveat: as I pointed out at the Standard, he said that Maliki had 'a few days' to show significant progress.

Levin has consistently been one of the fairer Democratic Congressional leaders on Iraq. If he sticks by his word and supports more time for the people of Iraq, he will be an important voice.