Saturday, November 10, 2007

What Happened to the Mary Celeste?

On Saturday mornings, I frequently take my daughter to dance class. While there, I thumb through Smithsonian or National Geographic (thanks Beth). Frequently, I hit upon something worth blogging on. You reap the reward -- except on days where my wife takes her -- then you lose out.

Anyway, the latest (?) Smithsonian has a story on what happened to the Mary Celeste. This might be one of those tales you remember from a grade school library book, or from In Search Of, or from the Arthur Conan Doyle story. It seems investigators have looked at the available evidence, interviews descendants, and arrived at what they regard as a likely conclusion:

The ship's log is believed to have been lost in 1885, so those transcriptions provided the only means for MacGregor and Richardson to plot the course and positions logged for the ship. The two then reconsidered those positions in light of ICOADS data and other information on sea conditions at the time. Their conclusion: Briggs was actually 120 miles west of where he thought he was, probably because of an inaccurate chronometer. By the captain's calculations, he should have sighted land three days earlier than he did.

Solly-Flood's notes yielded one other piece of information that MacGregor and Richardson consider significant: the day before he reached the Azores, Briggs changed course and headed north of Santa Maria Island, perhaps seeking haven.

The night before the last entry in the ship's log, the Mary Celeste again faced rough seas and winds of more than 35 knots. Still, MacGregor reasons, rough seas and a faulty chronometer wouldn't, by themselves, prompt an experienced captain to abandon ship. Was there something else?

MacGregor learned that on its previous voyage, the Mary Celeste had carried coal and that the ship had recently been extensively refitted. Coal dust and construction debris could have fouled the ship's pumps, which would explain the disassembled pump found on the Mary Celeste. With the pump inoperative, Briggs would not have known how much seawater was in his ship's hull, which was too fully packed for him to measure visually.

At that point, says MacGregor, Briggs—having come through rough weather, having finally and belatedly sighted land and having no way of determining whether his ship would sink—might well have issued an order to abandon ship.

You can view a 'sneak peek' of the Smithsonian special on the Mary Celste here.

10 Things You Need to Know About the Presidential Race (so Far)

An interesting summary from Patrick Ruffini of the lessons that can be drawn from the primary campaigns. By and large, I think he's nailed it -- with one minor quibble:

Second Timers Don't Win. This one hasn't always held true, but the new environment of permanent campaigns is writing a new rule for Presidential candidacies: one strike and you're out (unless you get elected VP). The fact that the Johns (Edwards and McCain) have had so much trouble catching on is directly related to the lack of mystique surrounding their candidacies. They're yesterday's news, and were best known for losing.

Edwards and McCain constitute a relatively small sample size for drawing such a conclusion. If Howard Dean had not wound up as DNC Chair, I wonder if the Democratic electorate this year might have chosen him. He'd still represent a past loser, but would argue that the party made a mistake in 'marrying Kerry' adter dating Dean in 2004. As a bona fide anti-war traditional Democrat, I suspect he'd have a strong following.

There's also this piece of wisdom, which is one of the surest bets in politics despite media claims to the contrary:

Nice Guys Finish Last. The polls say that the public despises negative politics. The polls are wrong.

In an 8-second soundbite universe, new information is king and attacks always make the news. So while it's true that the public may not like hearing slashing attacks, new attacks always have more legs than recycled positives.

Barack Obama has tried to stay above the fray, embracing a "politics of hope" and until recently limiting his attacks on Hillary Clinton to the notion that she was too polarizing. The result: he stayed flat while she surged ahead. Politics is about conveying the reasons why voters should vote for you and no one else. (The media loves covering the last part.) Being Miss Congeniality gets you nowhere.

In the abstract, voters don't like 'negative politics.' Sure. I don't like it either. Why do I want to see candidates tear each other down?

What I DO want to see and what WILL affect my vote is a presentation of why one candidate's experience, views, and record are superior to another's. Does Mike Huckabee seem like a good candidate? Sure. Do I want to know that he backed tax increases as Governor? Definitely. That's not the type of candidate I want to support.

So-called 'negative' ads are therefore not only effective, they are essential. A candidate will never broadcast his or her own weaknesses; that's the job of the opponent.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hispanic Caucus Blocks Border Security Bill

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats 130% Tax Increase in Doubt

Read it at the Standard.

Friday Funny

In New York, the Jedi School is training the next round of heroes:

As my dad frequently points out, the success of ventures like this proves that people have plenty of disposable income.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An Idea to Use With Your Credit Card Company

How many times can you spend $6 billion you don't have? Congressional Democrats have done it four times (and counting):

In four separate pieces of legislation -- two energy bills, the farm bill and a bill that would fund rural schools and libraries -- lawmakers in the House of Representatives make use of $6 billion in payments from oil companies.

Unfortunately, the same $6 billion gets spent in each bill.

What's more, because of a recent federal court ruling, it's unclear whether that money will ever be collected.

It's an extreme example of the contortions Congress has been going through to comply with pay-as-you-go rules put in place by the Democratic majority, requiring that any spending increases or tax reductions be offset with spending cuts or tax increases.

Don't worry. If the money fails to materialize, it simply gets tacked onto the federal deficit. Then... oh yeah. YOU pay for it.

The Crackdown in Venezuela

Fausta provides a roundup on Hugo Chavez's crushing of dissent, and includes this video from Al Jazeera:

It's appropriate to pay a great deal of attention to what's happening in Pakistan right now, but the loss of democracy here in the Americas is disheartening. How can jokers like Harry Belafonte and Sean Penn continue to associate themselves with a criminal and thug?

Update: Never mind. I see John Hinderaker beat me to the punch.

Democrats Give Up on Ethics Reform

At the start of the 110th Congress, House Democrats instituted a number of rules changes intended to address ethics concerns. At that time, Speaker Pelosi bragged about the achievement:

"House Democrats got straight to work this week by passing the toughest Congressional ethics reform in history. We have broken the link between lobbyists and legislation: banning gifts and travel from lobbyists and organizations that retain or employ them, banning travel on corporate jets, shutting down the K Street project, subjecting all earmarks to the full light of day, and reinstating the strict rules of pay-as-you-go budgeting.

"But these reforms are just our first steps. In the coming months, we will propose legislation to close the revolving door between government officials and lobbying firms and shine a light on lobbyists’ efforts to influence legislation. We will also require a bipartisan task force to report out recommendations on the creation of an outside entity to uphold the highest ethical standards here in the House.

Since then Democrats have bent or broken the rules on pay-go, seen a tremendous increase in the amount of travel paid for by lobbyists, and have more closely linked fundraising and political payoffs. And there's also the matter of the bipartisan task force -- which has yet to report any recommendations.

Roll Call reports today
that you shouldn't get your hopes up:

More than six months past their deadline, leaders of a special task force established to overhaul the House ethics process remain coy about the group’s work, even as reform advocates consider attacking a forthcoming proposal as too weak.

Both Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), the task force’s chairman, and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member, have remained tight-lipped about the panel’s efforts after Members rejected a preliminary proposal — which included the idea of creating a new, outside ethics body to vet complaints — in early summer, prompting the panel to return to negotiations while refusing to discuss the details, other than to acknowledge the panel is actively meeting...

Despite that silence, however, some key conclusions from the task force already are clear, according to outside reform advocates tracking the process: The recommended new ethics body will not have subpoena power, and it will not accept complaints from outside groups — a proposition that raised the ire of Members earlier this year. Filing complaints has been a privilege limited to Members since 1997...

Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have insisted that the task force has not been dismissed in the wake of ethics and lobbying reforms signed into law earlier this year.

“The task force has continued to meet and work on its proposal. The Speaker looks forward to receiving and reviewing their recommendations,” said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.

Reform backers said while there is still time for the task force to turn its recommendations around, the likelihood of that happening is quickly diminishing.

“What is clear is that Capuano wants this off his desk, so I think he’s anxious to dump a package out there,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen. “It’s not going to be controversial, except for the fact that it won’t do anything.”

When Democrats fail to act, it creates an opportunity for Republicans. This is the sort of reform issue that House Republicans ought to seize on.

Voters will be skeptical of any ethics reform enacted by Members of Congress, for Members of Congress. But an independent review panel -- with subpoena authority, and which can accept ethics complaints from outsiders -- might actually get public respect.

I hope that a reform-minded Member of the House Republican conference takes up this cause. We can use every good issue we can get for 2008.

Iraq Rowback Watch -- Congressional Edition

Read it at the Standard.

Iran Tries Filmmaker Who Discovered Mass Grave

Read it at the Standard.

Who Needs Earmark Reform?

Democrats claim that they've enacted earmark reform to curtail abuses. I don't want to say that claim is a joke, but we've gone through the problems with their approach before. My personal favorite: if David Obey inserts the earmark, it doesn't count -- apparently because he's not a Member of the House; he's an institution.

Today we get a pretty clear demonstration that the the Democratic 'reforms' have changed nothing:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a passionate golf player, sponsored a $3 million earmark in the 2008 military spending bill for a program that attracts disadvantaged and minority children to the game of golf.

Even though Clyburn’s earmark appears minor in the face of a $471 billion defense bill that contains about $5 billion in disclosed member projects, it stands out because it has little to do with the military and was only introduced as part of the conference negotiations between the House and the Senate.

The project is attracting criticism from watchdog organizations such as Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), which included the earmark as part of its pork alert to the 2008 defense appropriations bill.

In August the City of Columbia Golf Center was renamed the James E. Clyburn Golf Center, complete with a statue of the lawmaker. The golf center was built in 2002 with money that Clyburn helped obtain. The center is also a participant in The First Tee program, initiated by the PGA Tour and the World Golf Foundation in 1997 on the heels of Tiger Woods’ growing success in golf.

Why is it such a big deal that the earmark was 'airdropped' into the conference report, after both the House and Senate completed action on the bill? Because a conference report is non-amendable. The only way to cancel the funds now is to defeat the entire $471 billion bill -- which is not going to happen. This is probably the reason that Clyburn waited until the conference committee to insert this tribute to himself.

Check out this recent column by Jim DeMint over at Captain's Quarters, which chronicles the problems with the Democrats' non-reform.

And note: this neat little Clyburn earmark was inserted in contradiction to the reform called for last year by Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel. Go take a look at the Emanuel plan to see how ambitious Democrats were until they took power.

Democrats' 130% Tax Increase Hits Ethics, Political Problems

Read it at the Standard.

Is Impeachment Dead or Alive? Yes.

Read it at the Standard.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hoyer's Pro-Surge Comments to Become Democratic Talking Points?

Read it at the Standard.

New Immigration Bill Exposes Huge Divisions Among Democrats

Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel are the two House Democrats the Netroots hates the most. They are seen as politicians rather than true believers, committed to doing what it takes to get Democrats elected -- even if the liberal base hates them for it. That makes them two of the savvier operators on that side of the aisle.

So it's no surprise that Steny Hoyer is sounding very amenable to tackling border security:

Freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) proposed a tough new enforcement-only immigration bill Tuesday with 84 co-sponsors, split nearly evenly between the parties...

The bill would set up a new verification system for employees to show that they are here legally, which all businesses would have to use within four years...

The bill also would increase the border patrol by 8,000 agents, boost enforcement of immigration laws by state and local authorities and expedite the removal of illegal immigrants...

Shuler said he spoke to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about the bill. “With the support it has, 84 co-sponsors from 26 states, I hope that it gets the opportunity to be voted on on the House floor,” Shuler said.

“We’re looking closely at that,” Hoyer said of the bill Tuesday. “Obviously it has to go through committee, but Congressman Shuler has made a very good effort here trying to put a package together that he hopes will be an effective solution. We’ll have to see what the committee has to say about that...”

But Shuler’s plan raised the ire of Hispanic Democrats, who have been frustrated at the House’s inability to pass immigration legislation.

“I’m always concerned about Democrats imitating Republicans,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). “Democrats have been running away from some of the most vulnerable workers in this country — the undocumented.”

Gutierrez blamed House Democrats for failing to move immigration bills, which he said left an opening for an “enforcement only” approach...

There's plenty of evidence that the voters are four-square in favor of immigration enforcement first. Mickey and Jim Geraghty are among those who've talked about the votes that can be won -- probably by Republicans, but maybe by Democrats -- on the issue. The second-greatest hope for the GOP is that the Democratic Congress does nothing on the issue. The greatest hope is that conservative Democrats push for Congress to do something, and Democratic liberals prevent them.

This debate is sure to get traction, and it has the potential to cause much greater division in the caucus. Here's hoping.

Update: A writer at the Politico sees the immigration issue as a huge headache for the Democrats as well.

Pelosi On Impeachment: Screw You, Liberals

I believe the quote of the day on yesterday's impeachment kerfuffle goes to Nancy Pelosi's spokesman:

Democratic leaders decried Republican efforts as political gamesmanship.

“For them it’s about politics and scoring cheap political points. In the end, this issue was disposed of,” said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami, referring to a subsequent vote by the House to refer the bill to the Judiciary Committee, where it is expected to languish.

That's right. Impeachment isn't a question of offenses against the Constitution allegedly committed by the Vice President, it's an issue to be 'disposed of.'

Also noted by Samantha Sault at the Weekly Standard.

House Democrats Push Higher Taxes on Housing Sector

Read it at the Standard.

Deep Fried Heaven

I like bad foods, but I don't typically go for deep-fried (although I still want to try deep-fried pizza). Nevertheless, even I have to imagine the ingenuity that leads to such a variety of deep-fried treats! This list reads like a death-row prisoner's last meal. It includes:

  • Deep-Fried Coca-Cola
  • Deep-Fried Cheesecake
  • Deep-Fried Cheeseburger
  • Deep-Fried Cupcake
  • Deep-Fried Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Deep-Fried Chicken Sandwich on a Doughnut
  • Deep Fried Mac n' Cheese
  • The Hamdog

And what you ask, is a Hamdog?
a hot dog wrapped in a deep fried beef patty, smothered with chili, cheese and onions, served on a hoagie bun and topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries. What else can you say other than 'I'll have a hamdog, please'?

The good news is, being fat isn't so bad anymore.

Curt Schilling Creates Ethical Dilemma

Curt Schilling has agreed to return to the Boston Red Sox for what's likely to be his final season. His one-year contract contains an incentive clause that earns him $1 million if he gets one vote for the Cy Young award -- any vote, even third place. Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees blog points out the ethical dilemma this creates:

Every AL city gets two votes for each award. In big markets, the votes are divided up. You might get MVP one year, Manager of the Year the next. But two people who cover the Red Sox will get votes on Cy Young in 2008.

We usually learn sometime in the summer what we’re voting for. In the case of Cy Young, you vote for first, second and third. Let’s say Schilling goes 15-9 with a 3.95 ERA next season. He’s not the Cy Young, but you can make a case he deserves a third-place vote.

Your one vote gets him $1 million. What is keeping some writer from saying, “Hey, Curt, I’ll vote for you. I want $500,000.”

It’s wholly unethical. But every business has unethical people. $500,000 is serious coin for a reporter. People have gambling problems, drug problems, etc. What’s keeping Schilling from agreeing to the deal? He’s gets $500,000 he wasn’t counting on.

On the other hand, let’s say the two people with votes in Boston don’t vote for Schilling and he finds out why they are. What if he resents them and tells his teammates, “Hey, these SOBs cost me $1 million.” How are those people supposed to cover the Red Sox now?

Abraham is right as far as he goes, but he doesn't go far enough. Let's take his example. What if Schilling finishes 15-9 with a 3.95 ERA, and another starter somewhere finishes 16-7 with a 3.85 ERA. Wouldn't a writer who likes Schilling be inclined to toss a vote his way, to ensure he makes an extra million, rather than to a more deserving pitcher?

This type of incentive clause is simply wrong. I think the only appropriate remedy is to take away the Red Sox last two World Series trophies.

And Josh Beckett.

Are Taxes Still a Cutting Political Issue

Some have noted that voters don't seem to be as concerned about taxes as they have been in recent years. A look at a recent district-wide mailer from Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) suggest that she at least, thinks they remain an important voter concern.

She's using taxpayer dollars to make sure constituents see lots of fake headlines about tax cuts, in an attempt to convince voters that Democrats aren't really planning dramatic tax hikes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

A wholly non-partisan, unaffiliated, disinterested organization called Women's Voices, Women Vote wants to register and bring to the polls millions of single females who've not voted before. They don't care who you back, really. Come out and show your support for Ron Paul, or Chris Dodd, or Bill Richardson, or Mike Huckabee, or whoever! The important thing is that you vote!

Oh -- I just remembered -- if you want, sure -- you can vote for Hillary. I mean, it's sexist and all -- to suggest that just because you're a woman, you automatically must back the woman in the race -- but if you want to be old and cliched, you can definitely vote for Hillary.

I mean, it's whoever you want, really. Single women can vote for anyone they want -- even Hillary.

This message is brought to you by Women's Voices, Women Vote. And yes, our Board of Directors does include former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, and our 'leadership team' does include former Hillary Clinton chief of staff Maggie Williams and former Clinton chief of legislative affairs Pat Griffin. But that doesn't mean we're backing Hillary -- not at all.

You know what? Vote Kucinich.

Hat Tip: NYT

Mondale for President, 2008

Chris Bowers argues that the Democratic agenda today is largely the same as it was in 1984 and is winning because the message 'has simply been repackaged to better conform to the standards of contemporary mass media.' He offers this Mondale/Ferraro campaign video:

It's an interesting question. There's no doubt that the issues remain similar: Social Security, a different approach to international threats, concerns about exporting jobs, etc. Bowers asserts:

Apart from Bill [Clinton], Democrats have not really changed that much in terms of rhetoric, policy, or candidate quality over the past twenty-five years. And yet, despite this, they have moved from regularly being blown out to, in the worst-case scenario, facing very close elections. What has changed has not been the Democratic Party, but rather the country itself. With the contemporary electorate, Dukakis would have probably defeated Bush Sr., Carter would have probably defeated Reagan, and even Mondale would have probably been within single-digits of Reagan.

First, Bowers is getting a little ahead of himself. Democrats haven't won anything on this message -- at least, not yet. It wasn't the message Bill Clinton won on in 1992 (welfare reform, low taxes, economic growth, etc.), and it wasn't the message Democrats won on in 2006 (aren't you angry at George Bush?). We'll see how it flies in 2008 -- if indeed it winds up being the message that Democrats campaign on.

But how much have the messages of either party changed since 1984? Compare the Mondale commercial to this Reagan/Bush commercial from the same campaign:

The messages have changed somewhat, but not much. Reagan harps on the need to keep taxes and regulation low, speaks in favor of a strong defense, and talks about reductions in estate taxes and taxes overall. He also speaks for an 'opportunity society.'

How much has the Republican message changed? Clearly, if Reagan were speaking today, he would have to address immigration, and perhaps speak as well about social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. But -- leaving aside the boosting of his first-term record -- would anything else be different?

Bowers is very smart, but I think he's overthought this. I believe that all that he's demonstrated is that parties change slowly. Is it a surprise that the big themes of the two major parties haven't changed in 20 years? And as for his suggestion that the Democrats will win/are winning with the same message they had in 1984, that has a lot to do with the toxicity of the GOP brand at the end of the Bush administration. How long will it take the GOP to 'fix' that problem? Will it take 12 years -- like it took the Democrats to rebound after Carter? Or will it take two years -- like it took the Republicans after Clinton's 1992 win?

That's just one of many questions that the voters will answer in a year.

Go read the rest of Bowers' post -- I've abbreviated it somewhat to focus solely on what interests me. But I think that all Bowers has proved is that this message can win if you're running against a very unpopular incumbent.

Dems Outmaneuvered on Impeachment (But Not for Long)

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Pork Up Spending Bill

The House is preparing to vote on a masssive spending bill for the Departments of Labor, HHS, and other agencies. According to CQ, Congressional Democrats assert that they've reduced pork-barrel earmark spending by 40%-50%, but have not provided a tally that supports the claim. CQ meanwhile, finds more than 2,200 earmarks in the legislation:

A Congressional Quarterly analysis of the conference report on the measure, released Monday night, counts more than 2,200 earmarks and special projects totaling more than $1 billion. That is about seven-tenths of one percent of the bill’s total discretionary spending of $150.7 billion. The bill would fund the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education in fiscal 2008, plus several independent agencies, including the Social Security Administration.

The legislation was cleared for public review last night. Republican leader Boehner lists some of the projects funded in the bill:

  • Hybrid loaner cars for staffers wishing to run errands or catch a movie during work hours.
  • $520,000 (or $10,000 per week) in extra electricity funds to “absolve sins” by purchasing renewable, not traditional, electricity.
  • The installation of a private E-85 gas station for Members on the Capitol grounds, lest Members have to drive elsewhere to full up.
  • Segway personal transporters.
  • $2.7 million to switch fuels for the Capitol power plant from coal to natural gas (even while 63 million American households use natural gas to heat their homes, but get nothing in the Democrats’ “energy” bill to increase supplies and lower prices).
  • “Climate neutral” adhesive, sealants, paints, coating, and carpets.

Read also the Club for Growth, which points out that the Democratic leadership won't promise that there have been no new earmarks added into this bill after it passed both the House and Senate.

If this is such a good bill, why can't the American people have more than 24 hours to review it?

As long as we're on the topic of pork, check out the latest Google maps app -- on where pork goes.

Update: Check out Ed Morrissey, who has more of the wonderful ways that Democrats have come up with to spend your money.

David Obey's Petulance

Read it at the Standard.

Bloomberg for President?

Tech Republican points to a creepy, avant-garde online commercial for Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign. Since Bloomberg has said he won't run, it appears to be a supporter trying to encourage a draft. Or, it could be a Bloomberg sock puppet.

Who knows.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Will Charlie Wilson's War Hurt Jack Murtha?

Here's the trailer for the upcoming Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts vehicle based on the book by the late George Crile. The movie is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day:

It will be interesting to see how the movie treats John Murtha (D-PA) -- particularly since the presence of Hanks and Roberts means that the movie will be seen by half of America.

According to John Fund, the book depicts a House Ethics Committee investigation closing in on Murtha, over his failure to report a bribery attempt (rather than his apparent interest in accepting the bribe).

But in 1981, the House Ethics Committee became concerned that Mr. Murtha had, at a minimum, violated House rules that required he report any attempt at bribery, which he had not. A special prosecutor, Barrett Prettyman, was appointed to oversee the committee's investigation. He soon expanded his probe beyond the six House members who were directly involved and began moving against Rep. Murtha. He was also rumored to be offering deals in exchange for testimony that would take the scandal inside the office of Speaker O'Neill.

That was the final straw from the irascible O'Neill. He determined to shut the investigation down, and the story of how he did it makes up a fascinating part of Mr. Crile's book, "Charlie Wilson's War" (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003)...

Crile reported that in early 1981 Speaker O'Neill called Rep. Wilson into his office and told him he wanted him to join the Ethics Committee right away. The Texas congressman had been pestering him for years to get a lifetime seat on the board the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. "It's the best perk in town," Mr. Wilson told Crile. "It means that I get the box right next to the president's box for the ballet when I want it. I get to go to all the cast parties, meet all the movie stars, and I get an extra invitation to the White House every season."

O'Neill made it clear he would appoint Mr. Wilson to the board he coveted, but that he would have to join the Ethics Committee to take care of the Murtha matter. "It's a package deal, Chally," O'Neill is said to have told Mr. Wilson.

"The word on Charlie was that he didn't talk," ex-Rep. Tony Coelho, who became majority whip after O'Neill's retirement, told Crile. "From time to time the speaker needed to mount irregular operations, and Wilson was one of those irregulars Tip could count on." Mr. Wilson didn't need any prodding for his task: "He was a happy warrior as he raced to the rescue of his imperiled friend John Murtha," Crile wrote.

Crile reported that prior to Mr. Wilson's arrival on the Ethics Committee, it had largely given Mr. Prettyman, the special counsel, a free hand in his probe. That quickly changed: "Before Prettyman could fully deploy his investigators to move on the Murtha case, he was informed that the committee had concluded there was no justification for an investigation." The Ethics Committee chairman, Rep. Louis Stokes of Ohio, suddenly declared "This matter is closed."

The page for the movie at IMDB does not list anyone playing John Murtha. Is this indicative of the fact that Murtha's Abscam troubles are not referenced in the movie, or that they show the scandal, but attribute it to an unnamed Member of Congress? The only hint I can find -- a review at AICN based on an early screening -- shows no mention either of Murtha, or of any Congressman who sounds similar.

Who would have thought an Aaron Sorkin movie would skate past something like that?

This Is Sparta!

This is for Joe. Ace links to a whole bunch of '300' photoshops, including this wonderful mix of Picard and Chunk:

And since we're on the subject of 300, I give you 'This is Cake Town!'

Edwards' Sleazy and Offensive Ad

Just disgusting:

Hat Tip: Dave Weigel, who says:

"And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room." Subtle. "After 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news." Even subtler. His wife has cancer. "We're not going to quietly go away. Instead we're going to go out there and fight for what it is we believe."

You know, Mitt Romney's wife has multiple sclerosis. Obviously that's not going to shorten her life the way Elizabeth Edwards' cancer will shorten hers. But it's the kind of thing that could stir up sympathy and handkerchief-clutching out there in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the Romneys only ever talk about it when asked. There's no TV ad pimping her illness. If Romney has no emotions, than Edwards has only the basest ones. There's not enough Lysol on the eastern seaboard to scrub his slime away.

When I think of those I love, and how their lives have been touched by illness and tragedy, I wonder how I would feel if I were a candidate for office and tried to use the pain of others to win sympathy and votes. I don't think I'd sleep well at night.

Democrats Consider New Job Set-Asides: Convicted Felons

Read it at the Standard.

Unions Will Spend More in 08 than Ever Before

Democrats frequently complain that there is too much money in politics, and that 'special interests' in Washington have undue influence. It seems that Senators Edwards and Obama in particular, have complained that Ms. Clinton is bought and paid for.

But if big money in political campaigns is bad, Democrats should be training their fire on America's labor unions, who have promised to spend more on the 2008 election than they ever have before:

The AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the country, last month predicted that its 55-member unions will spend over $200 million in the 2008 campaign, a sum that includes both funds for grass-roots mobilization efforts and contributions directly to candidates through PACs, according to spokesman Steve Smith. The AFL-CIO itself has pledged a budget of $53 million for spending on mobilization for the election, up from $50 million in 2004. It is the federation’s largest election budget ever...

Electoral success doesn’t come cheap, however, and the labor movement appears set to spend more than it ever has before to boost its chosen candidates. That spending is directed to three separate outlets. Under federal election law, unions are prohibited from donating directly to candidates, but can spend unlimited funds from the union treasury to communicate with their own members. These funds are generally derived from member dues. Unions thus spend heavily to mobilize their own members to support labor-friendly candidates.

That is what the AFL-CIO has in mind when it comes to the $53 million it will be spending in 2008. According to Smith, the funds will go toward “a prolonged campaign that moves from issues education to engagement to mobilization to finally get-out-the-vote efforts in late stages of the campaign.”

With more than 10 million workers in unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO, including high concentrations in battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, effective mobilization efforts could have a pivotal effect in both the Congressional and presidential races.

Unions also can form political action committees and raise funds from their members via voluntary donations. Those PACs can then donate to candidates of their choice...

In the House races, 40 candidates have already received more than $100,000 in union contributions, the vast majority of whom are members facing challenges in what CQ has deemed “races to watch.” Members of the Democratic leadership, notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer also received sizable contributions.

On the Senate side, two candidates have received more than $100,000 in labor donations — Democrats Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mark Udall , who is running for the open seat in Colorado.

Among presidential contenders, Clinton leads the way with more than $48,000 in labor PAC contributions, followed by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, D, with $38,000. Two other Democrats who are union favorites — Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — do not accept money from PACs.

The sum of contributions made from union PACs has grown steadily in the last ten years, despite the fact that the number of PACs themselves has declined. In the 1996 election cycle, such PACs made $57.6 million in donations to federal candidates. In 2004, that number reached $68 million. PACs affiliated with organized labor donated more than any other single industry sector in the last presidential election cycle.

John Edwards has spoken at length about the corrupting influence of money in politics, and how there are Two Americas because some can buy access and some cannot. He seems to be rather close to labor unions -- who obviously fall into that first category. Since Senators Obama and Edwards have renounced contributions from labor PACs, perhaps they'd be willing to go the whole nine yards and refuse all contributions from labor unions and leaders. Who knows -- maybe they'd start a trend.

GOP Recruits Strong Candidate in Ohio 15 (Pryce Seat)

The team at Red State links to a piece in the Columbus Dispatch. The Dispatch reports that the GOP has at last gotten the candidate it always wanted to attempt to hold the seat of retiring Representative Deborah Pryce:

Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, said late yesterday that he is delighted Stivers has changed his mind about running in the 15th District, which includes most of Columbus, western Franklin County and all of Union and Madison counties.

"The complexion of the campaign has just changed overnight," Preisse said.

Stivers, 42, a member of the state Senate for five years, was the first potential candidate whom U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester called after GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce of Upper Arlington unexpectedly announced in August that she would not seek a ninth two-year term...

But Stivers offers a new challenge, because as a lieutenant colonel in the Ohio Army National Guard, he has led troops in the Iraq war. Stivers and other members of the Columbus-based 237th Personnel Services Battalion returned from a 12-month tour of duty in the Middle East and Africa in December 2005.

It looks like there will be plenty of Republican House candidates next year who are Iraq war veterans.

Dennis Kucinich Wants to Talk to You About Impeachment

Read it at the Standard.

Frustration Builds for Democrats

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Left's bittersweet legislative victories:

On questions such as Mr. Mukasey's stance on waterboarding, warrantless wiretapping and the war in Iraq, Democrats have been stymied by Republicans in Congress and the White House. That has sparked frustration among supporters, especially those on the left, who anticipated that last year's congressional takeover would force some policy changes.

These dashed expectations are one reason polls give Congress an approval rating lower than Mr. Bush's. The difficulties faced by Democrats on these issues look certain to complicate the party's bid to expand House and Senate majorities and regain the White House in 2008, a wartime election in which national security will be a major issue.

Polls show that an important reason for the low Congressional approval rating is that Democrats are even more dissatisfied with Congress than are Republicans. That apparently reflects dissatisfaction among core liberals that the Congress has not stopped the war, has given in on FISA, etc. A significant question that will help decide what happens on election day, 2008 is what does that liberal base do if it determines that it has been abandoned by the Democratic nominee?

In 2006, liberals seemed to hold their noses and vote for any Democrat. Is that what they will do in 2008 -- put victory ahead of principle? Or will they decide that Hillary (or whoever) is as bad as the GOP nominee, and cast their votes for Cynthia McKinney, or Ralph Nader, or whomever? Seeing just how those 5-10 percent of Democrats go may decide the presidency.

I say 'may' because it's not clear to me that the Democratic nominee will be close enough to the Republican to make it matter. I have argued before that the Democrats' retain a fundamental weakness on national security, which is not reflected in current polls. I believe that the GOP candidate is likely to have a significant edge on the issue that may be the most important one on election day 2008 -- an edge not reflected in current polls, where Americans respond based on the Bush presidency and the war in Iraq. At this time next year, the picture may be very different.

Can a Novice Cure Cancer?

A wonderful story from the LA Times about radio engineer John Kanzius, who may have discovered a way to target and kill cancer cells with radio waves. It's too early to say, but it could turn out to be a cure for all types of cancer:

Kanzius did not have a medical background, not even a bachelor's degree, but he knew radios. He had built and fixed them since he was a child, collecting transmitters, transceivers, antennas and amplifiers, earning an amateur radio operator license. Kanzius knew how to send radio wave signals around the world. If he could transmit them into cancer cells, he wondered, could he then direct the radio waves to destroy tumors, while leaving healthy cells intact?

It seems the answer might be 'yes.' Read the whole thing.

By the way, I've written about Kanzius before.

Pelosi Promises 'Repetition of the Same' on Iraq; Quietly Prepares to Fund War

Read it at the Standard.

Update: Also read Wake Up Americans, and Sister Toldjah -- who reports on Democrats unaware that Speaker Pelosi has already sold them out:

In related Nutroots news, Daily Kos diarist “Media Blades” has started his own personal campaign to stop defunding the war: by pledging to refuse to pay the portion of taxes we pay for our military.