Saturday, September 08, 2007

Things Failed To Go as Badly as We Hoped

Hagel is calling it quits

I attribute this outcome to learned helplessness--Hagel's experience at the height of Westmoreland and McNamara's political bungling of Vietnam seems to have blinded him to the success of the Abrams approach, or the possibility that counterinsurgency wars can be won.

The national media would like to think that former senator Bob Kerrey would be a competitive Democratic challenger, but this is merely wishful thinking. Kerrey was on record favouring the overthrow of Hussein, so he's not going to be able to run as as some sort of antiwar candidate.

The winner of the Republican primary--probably Bruning--will be the overwhelming favourite.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Has John Edwards Been Left Alone in the Comicbook Shop Again?

John Edwards Proposes International Antiterror Organization

G.I. Joe to Become Global Task Force in Movie

I understand that a man has to do something while waiting for Christo to be ready to give him the $400 haircut, but DC Comics storylines are no basis for public policy.

Solving Tomorrow's Problems, Today

If you want your State Legislature to solve problems before they exist, then you might want to move to California. It's there that the State Senate has passed legislation to protect state residents from the involuntary implantation of RFID tags:

At first blush, a law the California Senate passed seems a bit paranoid. Last week the California Senate passed by a 28-9 vote a bill to ban the implantation of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag in anyone who objects to the practice, according to an article posted by InformationWeek. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, calls the forced implantation of RFID tags into humans as "the ultimate invasion of privacy." Wisconsin and, oddly, North Dakota (which isn't known for leading the nation in technology-related legislation) also have passed similar laws.

The article goes on to point out that there have been RFID tags approved for implant in humans, and that some humans are carrying such tags. But that doesn't mean that anyone is considering forcing anyone to carry them. But just in case...

What I Want for Christmas

Please get me the Star Trek boxed set and a Toshiba high-def DVD player:

Those who buy both any Toshiba HD DVD player and the “Star Trek” HD DVD series will receive a limited-edition “phaser” remote that works with the player.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hsu and Kerrey

Not much attention in the media to the question of whether Bob Kerrey knew how shady Norman Hsu was when he put Hsu on the board of the Eugene Lang College at the New School. However, according to the 2005-2006 annual report, Mr. Hsu donated to the College, to the New School, and to the Parsons Design School. The specific totals are not given, but one can infer that his donations for the year totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars.

For the definitive summary of what Hsu gave to Democratic candidates and committees, check out Suitably Flip.

Can We Stop Focusing on Larry Craig a Minute?

Larry Craig is a gift for late night comedians, and he's a gift for Democrats. While press attention is focused on every excruciating detail of the Craig saga -- even though it's clear his Senate career is over -- they ignore stories like this one:

Sen. Ted Stevens has quietly steered millions of federal dollars to a sportfishing industry group founded by Bob Penney, a longtime friend who helped the Alaska Republican profit from a lucrative land deal, according to public records and officials from the state.

Critics say those earmarked federal dollars could be the first example of how Stevens rewarded Penney for a land deal in Utah that reportedly earned the senator more than $125,000. Penney’s group, for its part, rewarded Stevens with several expensive gifts at the time it was receiving the earmarked dollars.

Stevens and his aides would not comment this week, but supporters of the earmarks strongly defend the nature of the funding and dispute accusations that the money was used to reward Penney’s group. Supporters say the funding is desperately needed to help preserve and protect the salmon population along the pristine and popular Kenai River...

Penney told the Anchorage Daily News in 2004 that he invited Stevens in on the Utah land deal in “appreciation for all he’s done for Alaska and the country.” Stevens invested $15,000 initially in 1998, but sold his share of the property for $150,000 in 2004, according to press reports and his financial disclosure records.

That occurred around the same time that Stevens, as a senior member on the powerful Appropriations Committee, helped the Kenai River Sportfishing Association through the federal treasury. The group, which was founded by Penney, who now sits on the board of directors, secured more than $4.5 million between fiscal 2004 and 2006 to conduct and oversee research efforts on salmon populations in the Kenai River and a major tributary.

One can't help but notice once again how much Senator Stevens has been hurt by his power to earmark. If Congress was prevented by rule from earmarking money -- or if there was a more elaborate system to shine light on every earmark and subject them to scrutiny and debate -- Stevens would not be answering charges of an appearance of impropriety.

But if there were no Larry Craig story, people might be paying more attention to reports like this one about Ted Stevens, and insisting that he explain his actions or step aside. As I've written before, the GOP will get beaten badly in 2008 if Members like Ted Stevens are seeking re-election while under ethical clouds.

Larry Craig's political career is over; the only question is whether he is a dead man, or a dead man walking. Can we move on to others whose questionable activities might actually affect the party's electoral prospects in 2008?

Inquisitors Probe Purity of Thompson's Faith

Reports Conflict About Fred Thompson's Church Membership, Attendance

Is he a Presbyterian or Church of Christ? This is just silly.

Could more than 2% of the members of either denomination successfully describe a salient doctrinal point of difference between the two?

Obama Sees Obama in Trouble

The latest message emailed from the Obama campaign to supporters begins:

"In mid-September 2003, national polls showed Joe Lieberman to be the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then John Kerry won the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and the shift in momentum carried him to a decisive victory.

The lesson: early polls don't mean a thing and success in crucial early-state contests will win the Democratic nomination."

The problem here is that Obama is trailing in both national polls AND in Iowa (where he's running 3rd) and New Hampshire (where he's second, but 13 points back in a crowded field).

Obama's problem in Iowa is that he's trailing right now inhabiting the same insurrectionist role Dean did in 2004. I wonder if Obama's camp has any notion of how many of Dean's early supporters who ultimately went with Kerry also consider themselves Obama supporters right now before questions of general election viability have really sunk in for Obama the way they sank in for Dean. If the Iowa Democrats follow the 2004 pattern of coming down to earth and back to conventional candidates in January, we would expect Obama's support to shrink--bad news for a man now in 3rd place.

Do we really think that Iowans just need to get to know Obama, and that once he gets his message out everything will get better? Obama seems to be openly counseling his supporters to count on him filling an inside straight.

Services Surpasses Ag as World's Largest Employer

The International Labor Organization notes an extraordinary milestone in the history of mankind, met and surpassed with no fanfare:

So, firstly, modernization of large ecnomies [sic] is largely bypassing industrialization and going straight for service industries - in our western economies the service sector was about two-thirds of the economy, and has grown further (to 71.2%). But the so large parts of the world economy are moving straight to service industries that their roles have changed. Worldwide, in 1996 agriculture employed 42%, industry 21%, and services 37%. In 2006, the numbers are 36%, 22%, and 42%. So in the period, services has overtaken farming on a global scale.

To me this stuck out as the news of the day. This is a tremendous milestone. In the west we’re accustomed to the farming sector being 4-6% or so, but that certaintly not true in most of the word. You might think the industrial revolution was a long time ago, but the reality is that more people have continued to work in farming. Until sometime in these past few years that is.

And thus passes a tremendous milestone in the history of our species. Farming, invented around 8000 BC, quickly dominated human activity and has so continued to for the following 10,000 years (give or take a few). And we even find that the tradition agriculture->industry->services transition doesn’t hold up globally. The industry segment simply isn’t big enough, so many workers skip to services.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, world agricultural production has climbed steadily even as a smaller and smaller percentage of the world's workforce has been devoted to it. This is the definition of improved productivity of course -- a smaller workforce producing equal or superior results.

The United States and the advanced western world have devoted a larger share of their labor force to services than agriculture for many years. It's the sign of an advanced and wealthy economy that so many workers can focus on services to improve the lives of others. The fact that the world as a whole now enjoys this state is an indication that the globe is becoming a more comfortable place to live -- and will continue to improve.

That's not to say that there are not places of extreme poverty and starvation in the world of course; there are. Sub-Saharan Africa is one such place, as are parts of asia. The goal of us in the west should be to continue to promote the spread of western-style capitalism -- which allows the development of capital and the communication of tools for more productive agriculture. We should also continue to eliminate the barriers to trade, which allows all products to flow to where they are most needed.

Rolling out the Smokescreen

The idea that liberals would rally to disgraced Sen. Craig's defence out of some sympathy for him personally is a ridiculous non-starter. Liberals will pay out just enough line to prolong Craig's agony and, if possible, the GOP leadership's current tongue-tied handwringing. The GOP leadership needs to turn this about and, if Craig will not go willingly, bring the issue to the floor to force the Democrats to get serious and either vote for the continuation in office of a man everyone understands to have been cruising for sodomy in a public restroom, or acknowledge the existence of public decency and the unfitness for office of a man who cannot acknowledge it himself.

Foot tapping alone is not obscene, but context matters.

Even if one isn't privy--so to speak--to all the ins and outs of cruising signals, one wouldn't have to be an expert to know that someone engaging in the various actions of which Craig is accused was acting similarly to men who seek to engage in sodomy in public restrooms. This would constitute sufficient cause for alarm to constitute disorderly conduct.

This also is where the comparison to Vitter falls down. The behaviour in which Craig was engaged was a precursor to sodomy in a public restroom--let's be clear that this sort of thing isn't a solicitation to "dinner, drinks and maybe going back to my place to look at my etchings." Gay men who are seeking longer-term male companionship could engage in their cryptic courtship rituals in public in that case, they wouldn't need to confine them to public restrooms. The solicitation occurs in the restroom because that is where the consummation is expected to occur, and that behaviour simply is unacceptable to a society which clings to the fiction that sexuality is a purely private concern.

Private Schools: Good Enough for Congress, Too Good For You

Rob Bluey points to some Heritage research on the large number of Members of the House and Senate who send their children to private schools:

  • More than 37% of Representatives and 45% of Senators responded that they had sent their children to private school;
  • More than 23% of House Education and Labor Committee members and 33% of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Com­mittee members exercised private school choice; and
  • Exactly 52% of Congressional Black Cau­cus members and 38% of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members sent at least one child to private school.
When it comes to health care, Democrats frequently assert that the public should have access to a system at least as generous as that available to Members of Congress. Is education so much less important than health care, that Members of Congress are entitled to far better choices than the people they represent?

Craig's Intent: Serve Out His Term, Leave 'Quietly'

Roll Call ($) reports that Larry Craig's 'intent' to resign is conditional on his being unable to rescind his guilty plea in Minnesota:

Embattled Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) said Wednesday that his stated intent to resign later this month is conditional and that he will only proceed if he fails to have his guilty plea in a Minnesota court rescinded.

Although it is a long shot, Craig has hired a high-powered legal team to try to reverse his plea before the end of the month. Craig tried unsuccessfully on Wednesday to forestall a GOP leadership request to have the Ethics Committee investigate his arrest in a Minnesota airport and subsequent guilty plea, the first of what likely will be many moves in a pricey legal chess match involving all three branches of government.

“It’s an admittedly uphill battle,” Craig spokesman Dan Whiting said of his boss’s chances of serving out the remainder of his Senate term. “But a small door has been left ajar that this could be cleared up in the next three and a half weeks.”

But even if he is successful in vacating his guilty plea, he will not seek re-election:

In the unlikely event that Craig does finish his third term, Whiting said Craig would not run for re-election in 2008, leaving an open Senate seat in a solid Republican state that the GOP should have no trouble retaining.

Roll Call then engages in a lengthy discussion about the Senate Ethics Committee's decision to continue to investigate the matter, and a debate over whether Craig may legally use his campaign cash to pay for the litigation.

And the litigation could go on for some time. If Craig succeeds in rescinding his plea, he would presumably face prosecution for the incident in the bathroom. Democratic partisans would relish the show; other liberals might even set aside partisan gains to support Craig's effort:

Had Craig shown the good sense to get a lawyer after his arrest, he could have marshaled some lofty First Amendment defense arguments that might have helped not just him but an untold number of men whose lives have been devastated by these kinds of undercover sting operations. As in most states, the Minnesota statute on which Craig's arrest was based defines disorderly conduct as engaging in indecent or obscene conduct that someone knows or has reason to believe will cause alarm in another person. Foot tapping alone isn't likely to alarm anyone, especially not someone who's already indicated that he's open to the invitation, as the cop did in Craig's case. The last thing most gay men want, in fact, is to hit on a straight guy who's not interested. The foot tapping and other hand signals are designed specifically to avoid a scene.

Civil libertarians have been making these arguments in entrapment cases for more than 40 years, though without much success. (For a stellar legal history on this subject, check out Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court, by Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price.) Back in the 1960s, a New York Civil Liberties Union attorney asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case involving an undercover cop who'd let a man in a gay bar rub his thigh without objection and then later arrested him for disorderly conduct. Morton P. Cohen argued that his client's conduct, and that of others like him, hardly met the legal definition of "disorderly." "The majority of homosexual solicitations are made only if the other individual appears responsive and are ordinarily accomplished by quiet conversations and the use of gestures and signals having significance only to other homosexuals," he said.

The Hill meanwhile, adds a lengthy discussion about whether Craig's treatment would have been the same if he had been soliciting a woman, with comments from Craig supporters emphasizing that Craig has always been a 'team player,' and merited better:

Craig supported Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) during his 2002 struggle after controversial comments on segregation and backed Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in his battle with conservative activists over the Judiciary Committee chairmanship. In 2004, Craig relinquished his seat on the committee so GOP leaders could add conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Lott has refrained from calling for Craig’s resignation and Specter has become the Idahoan’s most ardent backer, urging Craig to fight for his seat and speaking about the scandal during Wednesday’s policy luncheon.

Craig allies also are stung by what they see as the hypocrisy of the GOP leadership. For example, a former Craig staffer noted that Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was met with applause when he attended the weekly GOP Senate lunch after he admitted to seeing a prostitute...

Several senators refused to comment on their missing colleague, including Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who is grappling with a federal investigation, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who directed questions on Craig to the Republicans.

“There’s a court of law and a court of public opinion,” Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said. “I fully understand his plans to clear his name in the court of law, but I fear for him in … the court of public opinion.”

Added Smith, who faces a tough campaign in 2008: “If this story doesn’t get smaller, it will get bigger.”

Smith speaks for a lot of his colleagues. The last thing that any DC Republican wants is for this spectacle to continue. Their preference would be for Craig to quietly disappear, and not resurface until after the next election. It will be enough of an embarrassment for him to still be in office in November 2008, while his potential GOP successor is seeking election. If he succeeds in vacating the verdict, he could go on trial. And who knows how long that would take?

While Larry Craig has been much admired by his colleagues and by conservatives during his tenure in DC, all politicians know that at some level, getting elected is like joining the Cosa Nostra. You are a loved and honored member of the family as long as you follow the rules and contribute to the family's success. But when that changes, and you become a burden -- you're out.

And it's nothing personal; it's strictly business.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oprah Sees Obama in Trouble?

It's safe to say that Oprah understands that her marketing authority, like political authority, is strongest when it does not even need to be actively exercised. Her decision therefore to permit (and make no mistake, no story touching Oprah/Harpo Productions gets Harpo cooperation without her tight control) stories like the one in today's Post ("The Magic Touch?
Winfrey Lends Her Brand and Her Empire in Support of Obama's Presidential Bid
") indicates that she senses that her nascent lifestyle-engineering political franchise, now under Obama's banner, is in trouble, and that she needs to up her investment or cut her losses, and has decided, for now, to double down her bets.

Oprah can mobilise a significant number of women to buy novels, and some of those novels are actually read, but there is a significant marketing difference between selling ten dollar paperbacks--visible affiliation markers, really--and turning out the vote in the primaries. It is likely that the harder Oprah pushes an agenda, rather than providing the tepid bath of "we-right-minded-women-all-feel-the-same-way-about-mean-people" self-validation in which she typically trafficks on her talkshow, the more she will fragment her following, creating a vicious cycle of polarisation and alienation which could very well reduce her to merely another product-hawker, rather than the role of numinous validator of suburban mores she currently portrays.

Bill Richardson: God Wants Iowa to Vote First

Does there come a point when you cease to realize that you're licking somone's shoes?

...Bill Richardson says there's divine support for Iowa's status in the nominating process:

"Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary," Richardson, New Mexico's governor, said at the Northwest Iowa Labor Council Picnic. "And I want you to know who was the first candidate to sign a pledge not to campaign anywhere if they got ahead of Iowa. It was Bill Richardson."
What exactly does he mean by 'for reasons related to the Lord?'

And a broader point: can the Florida state Democratic party promise to assist the campaign of whoever 'loses' Iowa? It's about time someone establish a counter-incentive to a victory in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Today's Anti-War Movement

If a Congressman refuses to meet with your anti-war group, you mock him for being a coward or a chickenhawk.

If he does meet with you, show up suddenly and vandalize his office:

Shortly before the problems began, three constituents were in the office talking to Smith employees about various issues, but it was also around the time that a group of uninvited anti-war protesters barged into the office and disrupted the work of employees in the office.

The Trentonian found two videos of that meeting posted on YouTube that show the group inside the office...

The videos are entertaining, if you want to see a babbling bunch of modern-day merry pranksters ranting incoherently at a foreign woman wearing a Smith mask.

But what is going on in the background of the video footage may interest investigators because it shows the movements of the anti-war protestors inside the office.

“It’s very suspicious that the computer systems were working without a glitch before the 23 or so people showed up, only to be totally inoperable after they left,” Noonan said.

Smith had previously met with the anti-war protesters in 90 minutes to discuss their differences on the war in Iraq.

“It was a frank and open discussion with Chris and the group,” Noonan said.

There are undoubtedly some honorable opponents to the Iraq war, but they are not much on display. Leaders in Washington say that the war is lost, or isn't worth another drop of American blood, but then refuse to follow through on their convictions. Soldiers and sailors are slandered and mocked in journals like the New Republic. Congressmen who leave Iraq convinced that things are better are seen as traitorous weaklings, and are told to ignore new facts in favor of preconceived conclusions. And now 'anti-war protesters' childishly vandalize the office of a Congressman who was good enough to meet with them.

The next time you hear a complaint about the coarsening of political discourse in this country, remember this story.

Bad Day in DC

Send not to know for whom the bell tolls:

Gillmor no more

Jennifer Dunn, undone

Not to be outdone, though, the Democrats have their own problems:

Hsu Fails to Hsow

Worthy of Trust & Confidence?

A badge isn't always an indicator that someone should be trusted:

State Attorney General Jerry Brown has announced the recall of 1,200 - 1,200! - honorary badges to staff attorneys in Los Angeles and around the state to avoid continued misuse of them. It's a wise move; no one who isn't a sworn law enforcement officer or agent should be allowed to carry a badge.

Just how often these badges are abused isn't known, but an aide of Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, provided a good example by flashing a badge when he was being arrested on suspicion of DUI. Apparently, Dymally had purchased a number of legislative badges and passed them out to his staff, his family and even some political donors.

Since then, the badge pipeline has been turned off for legislators. But plenty more nonsworn workers in California still have access to them, including city council members, county supervisors, dispatchers, dogcatchers and even courtroom clerks.

Sounds like Brown ought to be a candidate for recall.

On Whose Team is Specter, Anyway?

GOP Senator: Craig should withdraw resignation

Sign of the Times

Everyone's aware of the reports that things are going better in Iraq than they were a few months ago. Polls show improving opinions of the war effort.

And now there's this -- seen in a number of places around Fairfax, Virginia. The signs say 'Support the War,' and seem appropriately timed to take advantage of the apparent shift on the ground to get Americans to assess the war anew.

Here's the thing, though. These signs give the URL for a liberal anti-war site. I suppose that their intention is that the strong message (particularly the inclusion of the word 'war') is intended to repulse people who see it.

Here's a clue, though. If your ironic appeal can reasonably be seen as a straightforward and serious endorsement of the opposite position, you're probably being too 'clever.'

Apologies for the Light Blogging

Things have been quiet on the blog over the last few days because things have been busy at home. Our second child was born over the weekend -- so blogging has fallen behind.

I expect to be posting more over the next few days.

Oh -- everyone's doing great, thanks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Flake Challenges House: Pork or Infrastructure

I wrote several days ago that Senator Coburn intends to make his fellow Senators choose between pork-barrel projects and infrastructure repair.

Thanks to a commenter for pointing out that Congressman Jeff Flake is doing the same in the House:

It is difficult to take seriously the argument that Congress is not spending enough money. According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending on infrastructure will approach $80 billion this year. The problem is not that we are spending too little, but rather that Congress puts strings on state transportation funds. Simply look at the 6,300 earmarks, worth more than $24 billion dollars, stuffed into the 2005 transportation bill. These particular earmarks are more troublesome than the usual raft of wasteful pork spending - and not just because of their sheer number.

The funds for these earmarks actually come out of the federal dollars that are available to states for transportation projects, limiting their flexibility to address priorities that they have identified. The goal of many Members of Congress in seeking earmarks is to be able to send out a press release or cut a ribbon, showing the folks back home how much they are doing for their district. Of course, these transportation earmarks end up short changing the state’s transportation funds.

While the “Bridge to Nowhere” was certainly the most famous of these earmarks, it at least resembled a transportation project. The most recent transportation authorization was replete with earmarks for bike paths, hiking trails, visitor centers, museums, beautification work, and other suspect projects that seem even more suspect given the events of the past months.

For example, Minnesota received more than 140 earmarks in the highway bill worth nearly half a billion dollars. According to a recent review, these included nearly $1.6 million for bike trails, more than $1.5 million for streetscaping, and more than $1 million for new visitor centers. With the state’s priorities undoubtedly shifting in light of recent events, Minnesota should have the flexibility to use its transportation funds as it needs to rather than on projects such as these.

Obviously, this problem is not limited to Minnesota. Congressional Quarterly recently highlighted that nearly all of the fifty most heavily traveled and structurally deficient bridges are concentrated in Los Angeles and San Francisco. My guess is that California has better uses for transportation dollars than the $5 million dollar earmark for bikeways and trails in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area or the $2.3 million dollar earmark for landscaping enhancements for “aesthetic purposes” along the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Simi Valley. These earmarks are even more egregious when you realize that California, like Arizona, is a “donor state,” meaning it receives less than a dollar worth of federal transportation funding for every dollar it pays in federal gas tax.

We can all agree that the Minnesota bridge collapse should serve as a wake-up call. Congress cannot continue to turn a blind eye to pork barrel politics that all too often reward the districts of powerful Members of Congress and tie the hands of state transportation officials. With this in mind, I plan to introduce legislation that will allow states the flexibility to use their transportation dollars as they see fit.

Both President Bush and Secretary Peters have both wisely dismissed calls for raising the gas tax and have called Congress out for squandering much-needed transportation funding on earmarks. The last thing we need is to raise the gas tax, which will simply give Washington politicians even more money to spend on earmarked projects.

We’ve been down that road before.

Hear, hear.

Doolittle Faces GOP Opponents

The Sacramento Bee reports that Congressman John Doolittle will likely face primary opposition if he seeks re-election to the House next year:

Conservative Air Force reservist Eric Egland, who appeared in an ad for Doolittle last year, says he will run against the congressman in the June primary, and he's already raised $100,000.

Moderate Mike Holmes, the Auburn city councilman who received 33 percent of the primary vote against Doolittle last year, says he will try again.

Last week, Roseville Assemblyman Ted Gaines, another Republican politically aligned with Doolittle, all but announced his candidacy, saying the congressman has lost his "moral ability to lead."

Their collective message is that a federal investigation of Doolittle and his wife has become an insurmountable political obstacle.

If Doolittle doesn't make plans to retire, they say he will have to be defeated in a primary to prevent Democrat Charlie Brown from capturing the 4th Congressional District.

Doolittle will likely face pressure from House GOP colleagues to step aside if he is unable to resolve the apparent FBI investigation into his connections with Jack Abramoff:

Last November he defeated Brown -- who is expected to announce on Friday that he is running again -- by little more than 3 percentage points. Although news accounts citing anonymous sources had said the Justice Department was looking into Doolittle's connections with Abramoff, there was no public evidence at that time of an investigation.

Since then, the FBI searched his home and Doolittle disclosed that they acted after he rejected an offer by prosecutors to get him to plead guilty to a crime "I didn't commit."

Right now Doolittle may be encouraged by the lineup he faces in a primary. If he were facing one Republican opponent, it could be hard to prevail. But if the opposition divides, Doolittle would only need to win 30 or 40 percent to be renominated.

The report that Doolittle filed with the FEC shows that he raised over $100,000 in the second quarter of this year, and has just $75,000 in cash on hand. That's obviously far short of what he would need to run for re-election.

The Bee wrote about Doolittle's money woes in July:

Rep. John Doolittle's cachet with big Washington, D.C., campaign financiers seems to have plummeted in the aftermath of the FBI's April 13 raid on his Oakton, Va., house, and the eight-term Roseville Republican heads toward the 2008 election season with his campaign still in debt and receipts on the decline.

Meanwhile, the campaign of Democrat Charlie Brown, who came within 3 points of defeating Doolittle in November, is gaining steam. Brown's campaign raised almost twice as much as Doolittle's in the last three months and ended the six-month mark with a net cash balance of $251,000. Doolittle posted $32,250 in debts.

Doolittle's biggest expense during the three-month period was $50,000 in fundraising payments to Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a company owned by his wife and operated out of the couple's house. It was the company's records that the FBI was after in the April raid, conducted as part of the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into the Doolittles' relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Even with the hefty campaign payments to Julie Doolittle's company, Sierra Dominion still was owed more than $76,000 in commissions from the 2006 race

This doesn't sound like a candidate with a strong chance of re-election. But it is still relatively early.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Why Baseball is a Great Game

I had never heard this story, but it sounds like something straight out of Bull Durham:

On Aug. 31, 1987, Dave Bresnahan was the Michelangelo of potato sculpting. He sacrificed five fine tubers to the spud gods – death via peel – before settling on the correct shape. He drew red lines on the winner to simulate seams, only to see them erased by the potato's weeping. He wielded that peeler like a true artiste.

Because in order to pull off the greatest prank in baseball history, Bresnahan needed to shape a potato like a baseball.

Now if only someone would try the gag out on a major league stage...

GOP More Vigilant on Ethics Charges

The ethical questions surrounding Members like Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, and others were a significant reason the GOP got routed in the 2006 midterms. As Members such as Ted Stevens, Don Young, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, and others are forced to answer questions about earmarks and donations, 2008 shapes up as another year where a 'perfect storm' over ethics could form, and again hurt GOP candidates.

For that reason, it only made sense that GOP Senators would deal aggressively with Larry Craig when his arrest and plea came to light. The Politico reports that Mitch McConnell was not shy about letting Craig know that staying in the Senate would be a painful choice:

But the Republican leader had asserted himself this week to force his Craig out.

He spoke to Craig three times over the course of the week, according to a GOP aide: first, to tell him about the ethics investigation; second, to tell him about the leadership decision regarding his committee assignments; and finally, Friday afternoon when Craig called McConnell to tell him he would be stepping down.

The possibilty of Craig's resignation did not come up during the first two phone calls, the aide said.

But why has David Vitter not been treated the same way?

Leaders refrained from forcing Vitter out because a Democrat resides in Louisiana's governor's mansion and would appoint his replacement, but Republicans control Idaho, so there is no fear of the party losing Craig's seat, political scientist Sabato argued.

This is a logical conclusion. If Bobby Jindal wins the Governor's race (as expected), expect Republican colleagues to start to ask Vitter questions. He'll need to be able to demonstrate that he's gotten past the DC Madame scandal.

And more importantly, Republican leaders will need to deal with the other Representatives and Senators whose ethical situations might embarrass fellow candidates in 2008. One wonders if Mitch McConnell has called any other Senators and had conversations like the ones he had with Craig.

Cantor for Senate

With the retirement of John Warner, Virginia Republicans are disappointed at their apparent choices for his successor: Tom Davis or Jim Gilmore. Davis is seen by many as too liberal -- particularly for a state that's still pretty conservative -- while Gilmore is seen as... a disappointment.

Patrick Ruffini offers a great suggestion -- Eric Cantor:

Tom Davis could best serve the Republican Party by staying where he is, something he can well appreciate as a former NRCC Chairman. He’s the right fit for where Fairfax County is right now. If he goes, so does his district.

As for Jim Gilmore, we need look no further than his recent 11th place publicity stunt to evaluate his skill as a candidate. Yes, he was always a longshot, but the fact that he ranked well below three sitting U.S. Congressmen who both started with near-zero name ID should tell us something. The guy had less of a chance than Ron Paul for crying out loud. He ended as Governor on a low note and was a terrible RNC chairman. Gilmore is not the conservative Virginia needs.

Bob Kerrey's Buddy Norman Hsu

Just another item I noticed on Bob Kerrey and Norman Hsu. If the Hsu scandal has legs, it could be a significant crimp in the potential Senate plans of former Senator Kerrey:

But he has powerful defenders. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) said in an interview that Hsu was being pilloried unfairly.

"This isn't Osama bin Laden or some drug kingpin," Kerrey said. "What he's done is he's volunteered to help people raise money for their campaigns. That doesn't make him either unique or bad."

Kerrey said he recruited Hsu to serve on a board of directors at New York City's New School university, of which Kerrey is president. Kerrey said Hsu had called him earlier this week to warn him about coming media coverage. Kerrey added that Hsu had been "a terrific member" of the New School board and had not been asked to step down.