Saturday, June 03, 2006

Al Qaeda Plot Foiled in Toronto

Breaking news on CNN, as well as here at CBS.

I don't see how this can be possible. Canada has not helped us in the War in Iraq. Thus, they should be safe from Al Qaeda activity.

On a more serious note, thank God, thank the Canadian authorities. And Americans should be thankful for Canadian vigilance generally, which will make American citizens safer.

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Pelosi in 07: Speaker or Unemployed?

Bob Novak writes an interesting piece today, suggesting that there's talk among House Democrats of replacing Nancy Pelosi as leader if Democrats don't regain the majority. I would say that objectively, Pelosi has been a weak leader. Most recently and obviously, she led with her chin when she raised the specter of hearings and impeachment proceedings if Democrats take the House. She has also failed to project an image of Democrats as ready to govern.

Novak is vague on one point though: Pelosi has not been the House Democratic leader for all 12 years in the Minority. She took over after Dick Gephardt retired in 2002. As such, 2006 will represent only the second Congressional election under her leadership:

Goodbye to Nancy?
By Robert Novak
Jun 3, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Talk is increasing among House Democrats that if they fail to regain control after 12 years of a Republican majority, Rep. Nancy Pelosi should be replaced as the party's leader in the House.

If Democrats recapture the House, Pelosi surely will be the first female speaker in the nation's history. But Republican strategists are posing that possibility as a reason for voting Republican, and she will be widely blamed as a San Francisco liberal if there is a Democratic failure in November. Pelosi's colleagues complain about her public performances, especially on NBC's "Meet the Press" May 7.

The highly regarded Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, second-ranking in the House hierarchy as Democratic whip, ordinarily would be in line to succeed Pelosi. However, tension between Pelosi and Hoyer has been so great that many Democrats would prefer somebody not identified as her antagonist. Consequently, there is speculation about Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a second-termer who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as Pelosi's logical replacement.

Read the whole Novak column, as he also identifies former House Judiciary Committee staffer Paul McNulty as the main source of friction between DoJ and the House of Representatives in the Jefferson raid matter. This has been a point of interest to me since the raid took place: the lead DoJ staffers on this matter, and McNulty in particular, have extensive House experience. You would think that this would help quell any uproar. Instead, the reverse seems to be the case.

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More on the California Special

No sign of the Busby/illegal immigrant appeal story in the MSM. I'll watch to see if it pops up.

The Hotline notes that the scheduling of the special election on the same day as the CA primary could hurt Bilbray, since the Democrats have a contested gubernatorial primary that should boost Democratic turnout.

On the other hand, the Sacramento Bee (registration required) suggests that turnout looks like it will be 'paltry.' This illustrates one of my favorite phenomena: cognitive dissonance in the MSM - the simultaneous belief in two contradictory ideas.

Election turnout looking paltry
Activist fatigue, voter disenchantment cited as possible reasons.
By Laura Mecoy -- Bee Los Angeles Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, June 3, 2006

MANHATTAN BEACH -- Trying to fire up a lackluster crowd at a "get out the vote" rally, City Councilman Jim Aldinger asked who would be working over the weekend to get Californians to the polls on Tuesday.
Only a handful of the 80 activists raised their hands at the rally Thursday for gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides.

Campaign consultants reported similarly tepid responses from volunteers around the state -- even though an expected low voter turnout and an extremely tight gubernatorial primary could make this year's "get out the vote" efforts more decisive than in past statewide campaigns.

Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said Friday he expects 38 percent of registered voters to cast ballots in Tuesday's primary election. That amounts to about one in four of all Californians eligible to vote.

That would place Tuesday's turnout among the lowest ever for a California gubernatorial primary in a year when the polls indicate this could be one of the state's closest-ever gubernatorial primaries.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Busby Boosts Bilbray

I've commented recently on the Congressional special election in San Diego on Tuesday. It's generally been felt that this would be a very hard race for Republicans to lose, but in the last week or two there's been speculation that Francine Busby could indeed pull an upset. Such a victory would be regarded as a strong indicator that Republicans are headed for trouble in November.

After the news that hit today, a Busby win on Tuesday will be even more shocking. It seems that Ms. Busby has been caught on tape encouraging illegal immigrants to help her campaign, saying 'you don't need papers to vote.'

The immigration issue has been key in this race, and Brian Bilbray was seen as a strong candidate here based on his tough record on illegal immigration during his previous tenure in the House. Busby had tried to paint him as 'soft' on illegal immigration however. Well, looks like that appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears. And Ms. Busby will spend the last few days of the campaign explaining how her comments were 'taken out of context.'

Update: Critics have pointed out that Ms. Busby's comments are not definitively addressed to illegal immigrants. This is true. Thus I want to provide more detail. In addressing a Spanish-speaking audience through a translator, Ms. Busby said:

"Well sure, everybody can help. Yeah, absolutely. You can all help. Yeah, you don’t need papers for voting, you don’t need to be a registered voter to help."

Draw your own conclusions.

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NY GOP Implodes

I think it's pretty widely accepted that George Pataki should never be allowed to 'help' the Republican party in any way. Ever. Again.

But if you ever find yourself doubting that idea; if you ever think, 'gee, maybe he wasn't that bad,' or 'maybe we should let him run for dogcatcher,' then just remember this article from the New York Times:

June 2, 2006
State G.O.P. Convention Rebuffs Weld and Backs Faso for Governor
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., June 1 — William F. Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, suffered a major rebuke from his own party on Thursday when he lost his bid to win Republicans' backing in the race for governor of New York, though he still won enough support to remain on the Sept. 12 primary ballot.

Instead, delegates in the deeply divided party chose John Faso, a former assemblyman from Columbia County, by a ratio of more than three to two in balloting at their state convention here.

Mr. Weld had the tacit support of Gov. George E. Pataki and other party leaders, who encouraged him to run and pressured delegates to embrace him as their best hope against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the likely Democratic nominee.

In a roll call of the delegates, however, Mr. Faso won 61.2 percent to Mr. Weld's 38.8 percent, with 25 percent required for a place on the primary ballot. Mr. Weld said that despite the outcome, he would stay in the race.

Being the party designee is usually a nominal honor, but Republicans say it is sure to be consequential in this race. It elevates Mr. Faso against a former star of the national party, Mr. Weld, and Faso aides believe it will improve their fund-raising, media attention and endorsements, all of which Mr. Weld has had to a greater degree.

Most worrisome to Republicans is that the convention vote exposed tensions between the party's moderate wing, represented by Mr. Weld, and the more conservative members who support Mr. Faso. That split could undermine a party that has held the governor's office for 12 years and is likely to face a formidable challenge this fall.

Back in 1990, the Republican Party in the state of New York was falling apart. The party backed a political neophyte - businessman Pierre Rinfret - for governor. The New York Conservative party, which has often provided crucial votes to Republicans through the cross-endorsement of Republican candidates, saw Rinfret as too liberal, and a likely loser. They instead backed Herb London.

The campaign was an embarrassment for Republicans. London was clearly the better candidate (as I recall), and came within one percentage point of beating the Rinfret for second place, as Mario Cuomo won his third term. The Republican party Chairman in New York's Nassau County excitedly declared on election night 'we came in second,' because a fall to third place would have left the Democrats and the Conservatives as New York state's two major parties, under state law.

It was the nadir for New York Republicans.

Then, just 4 years later, Republicans and Conservatives both endorsed George Pataki, who beat Cumomo in a landslide. Pataki was re-elected with strong margins in 1998 and 2002, but the state organization failed to improve upon its standing. In 1998 Democrat Charlie Schumer defeated Al D'Amato for Senate, and Elliot Spitzer defeated Republican incumbent Dennis Vacco for Attorney General.

Now, history has come full circle. Republicans and Conservatives are again fighting over whom to nominate, and who is too liberal. Republicans have turned to a 'wild card' - former Massachusetts Governor William Weld - to attempt to hold onto the Governorship. And like Cuomo in 1994, a Democrat who appear to have significant weaknesses as a candidate seems destined for a landslide victory.

This is what the New York Republican organization has to show for 12 years of a Republican governor?

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The 2008 Presidential Campaign - a Retrospective

With all the talk lately about conservatives hoping for Republicans to lose the House, and the formation of new third parties, and independent bids for the Presidency, I thought I'd take a crack at something to unite all those themes.

I'll preface this by saying that I certainly don't think that this will happen, but I think everything in here is plausible. And some things are likely. With that, I give you a look back at the 2008 Presidential campaign:

House Elects New York Senator Clinton President

(Washington, DC) – January 6, 2009 – In a dramatic conclusion to the most unusual Presidential election in the nation’s history, the House of Representatives and Senate elected Senator Hillary Clinton of New York as the nation’s next President and Governor Jeb Bush of Florida as Vice-President. While few could have foreseen such a result a few short months ago, the outcome is not a surprise. Mrs. Clinton’s elevation to the Oval Office has been expected since it became clear that Independent Presidential candidate John McCain could not win the support of a sufficient number of House members to earn him a majority of state delegations. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was elected Vice President in a largely party-line Senate vote, despite running on the third-place ticket of Virginia Senator George Allen.

While the 2008 campaign saw a variety of stunning events, the outcome of the Presidential election was in many ways determined on election day, 2006. At that time resurgent Democrats, aided by the unpopularity of outgoing President George W. Bush, saw a chance to claim a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years. They fell short that night – gaining only 13 of the 15 seats required. Victories in key races in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Minnesota however, yielded Democratic majorities in the Congressional delegations of those 3 states. Democratic representatives in those states voted in unison for Senator Clinton yesterday, giving her the margin of victory as she claimed majorities in all 3 of those delegations, among her 26 total votes.

The twin elections in the House and Senate were a fitting punctuation to a campaign in which Senator John McCain launched the first significant independent bid for the Presidency in 16 years. Senator McCain withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination after losing the South Carolina primary. He announced the end of his affiliation with the Republican party, declaring “you won’t have McCain to kick around any more.” Three days later he announced his independent bid for the Presidency with former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Lieberman had been defeated in a Senate primary in 2006, and renounced his affiliation with the Democratic party, in failed bid for re-election to the Senate as an independent.

McCain and Lieberman seemed to be a perfect match. Both were rejected by their parties due to deviation from ‘the party line.’ Each held to positions unpopular in his own party, even at the cost of their political careers. Ultimately the McCain-Lieberman ticket came in second place in both the popular and electoral votes, winning 37% of the vote, while carrying 18 states with 161 electoral votes.

When Senator McCain announced his intent to seek the Presidency as an independent, many analysts argued that he and Senator Allen would split the conservative vote. In the end however, exit polling showed that many liberals and independents supported McCain, responding to his promises to ‘end crony capitalism,’ and to ‘knock tweedle-dum and tweedle-dumber from their perches of power.’ The Senator promised that under a McCain Presidency, Washington would ‘once again be answerable to the people.’

Analysts have credited President-elect Clinton, who ultimately won 15 states with 224 electoral votes, with running a ‘nimble’ campaign. Sources close to Clinton say that she was ‘surprised’ that McCain campaigned so aggressively for the votes of traditional Democratic constituencies. Mrs. Clinton has also privately vowed ‘payback’ for former Vice President Al Gore, who campaigned for Senator McCain after being defeated by Mrs. Clinton in his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Senator McCain and Mr. Gore have vowed to continue the ‘crusade for representative government,’ and have formed a political action committee to support candidates who agree with their 10 point reform agenda.

Senator Allen expressed disappointment in the wake of the House vote yesterday, but promised to support the incoming President “anyway I can, in bringing a torn nation back together.” He further stated that “Jeb Bush is going to be the best damn Vice President this nation has ever seen," and said that the former Florida Governor will ensure that “there’s an independent voice in the White House, to make sure that those who support traditional values, smaller government, and respect for the law get a fair shake.”

House Speaker Boehner stated “I look forward to helping the President when she’s right, and convincing her of her error when she’s wrong – always pursuing the best interests of the American people.” Since election day, Speaker Boehner had led the effort to unite House Republicans in support of Senator McCain, as the only viable candidate to prevent Mrs. Clinton from winning the White House. This effort splintered when it became clear that most House Democrats would vote for Mrs. Clinton – even those who represented states or districts where Senator McCain had won a plurality or majority of the vote.

Majority Leader Reid issued a statement congratulating his former Senate colleague on her victory…

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Energy Independence Key to War on Terror?

Dick Morris has an interesting piece in the Hill, where he argues that both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton recognize that there is a coalition forming among Reagan Democrats, environmentalists, Jewish voters, and others, who favor independece from foreign oil, and that the President ignores it at his own peril:

Gore, Hillary go where Bush fears to tread
Green isn’t what it used to be. It was once just the color of the trees and grass that the environmental movement tried to protect. But now it is also the color of the three dollar bills Americans must suddenly pay for a gallon of gas.

More broadly, our frustrations in Iraq and the stalemate in Iran give an indication that it is only by following where the green movement points — to independence from oil domination — that we can vindicate the red, white and blue and, for Jewish voters, the blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag.

After five months of inaction, after his “oil addiction” reference in his State of the Union speech, President Bush now faces a Democratic Party galvanized by this new rainbow coalition of colors around a coherent policy theme. While Bush has dithered and the Republicans in Congress have failed to look beyond Alaska drilling as the solution to our dependence on foreign oil, first Gore and now Hillary have passed them by and staked out their claims to the issue.

Bush cannot afford to yield this ground because it is no longer the esoteric preserve of the environmental-policy wonks. Rising gas prices have generated a populist anger at the bottom of the social ladder. The former Reagan Democrats are outraged by pump prices and demand action. Just as Republicans once lured them with promises of lower taxes, so Democrats can now appeal to them with the lure of lower gas costs.

Morris is a bright guy. He can be spectularly right and spectacularly wrong. I don't think I'm with him here however, because I don't think the American people really believe gas prices are all that high. Sure, I don't want to spend $3 for a gallon of gas, and not many do. Plus, folks who spend a higher portion of their incomes on gasoline will feel it much more than others do.

That said, I don't see the revolution forming - at least not yet. People are driving as much as before, and the focus on policy in Washington has already moved way beyond gas prices. I mean, when was the last time it was the headline on the evening news?

I talk more about the excessive focus on gasoline prices here.

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Zinsmesister Welcomed with Lawsuit?

In the days since Karl Zinsmeister was named Chief White House Domestic Policy Advisor, he's been criticized for revising quotes in a newspaper profile of him, and re-posting the edited article on the AEI website, still under the byline of the original author. Zinsmeister has admitted doing this, and said he was merely trying to correct misquotes and misimpressions. The professional Left has criticized Zinsmeister pretty heavily.

Well, today it is reported that the Syracuse New Times - the original publisher of the piece in question - is thinking about bringing suit against Zinsmeister.

How long before people ask when the President is going to fire Zinsmeister for this transgression?

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House Republicans Should Run Against the President

Interesting piece by Matt Towery. Towery recognizes that House Republicans are generally helped by their commitment to border enforcement, and suggests that they should directly contrast that with the position of the President and the Senate.

It's something I suggested a little while ago.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out the next month or so, by which time I expect an immigration deal will get done.

BTW, Mickey Kaus has an interesting piece on the Pence immigration compromise, considering whether it confers an unfair benefit on illegals currently in the US.

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Eyes on Bilbray in California Special

Next Tuesday voters in California's 50th District will pick a replacement for Congressman Duke Cunningham. Former Congressman Brian Bilbray is the Republican nominee, and would normally be heavily favored. However, because of ambivalence about the President and an unusually strong Democratic nominee, Bilbray's only a alight favorite to retain the seat (and even that depends on who you talk to).

Others have written on this race, but I thought I would call attention to the big spending by the National Republican Congressional Committee in this race - reportedly $4.5 million. If Bilbray holds on to win the seat, there's no doubt it will be partly because of the ability of the NRCC to finance the race. It's all the more reason that Democrats should be concerned about the horrible mismanagement of Howard Dean at the DNC.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Moore Lies; Victimizes Little Guy?

Michael Moore is accused of using excerpts of an interview with an Iraq War vet without permission, and misrepresenting the vet's views:

May 31, 2006 -- EXCLUSIVE

A double-amputee Iraq-war vet is suing Michael Moore for $85 million, claiming the portly peacenik recycled an old interview and used it out of context to make him appear anti-war in "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Sgt. Peter Damon, 33, who strongly supports America's invasion of Iraq, said he never agreed to be in the 2004 movie, which trashes President Bush.

In the 2003 interview, which he did at Walter Reed Army Hospital for NBC News, he discussed only a new painkiller the military was using on wounded vets.

"They took the clip because it was a gut-wrenching scene," Damon said yesterday. "They sandwiched it in. [Moore] was using me as ammunition."

Damon seems to "voice complaint about the war effort" in the movie, according to the lawsuit.

But what the father of two from Middleborough, Mass., was really talking about was the "excruciating" pain he felt after he lost his arms when a Black Hawk helicopter exploded in front of him.

...Particularly outrageous to Damon is the fact that Moore never interviewed him or asked his permission to use the old clip.

"I was complaining about the pain I would've been having [if it weren't for the painkiller]," he said.

NBC is named in the suit - which was filed in Suffolk County, Mass., on Friday - along with Harvey and Robert Weinstein, Miramax Corp., Lions Gate Films and other production companies involved with the picture.

Newsman Brian Williams ends the NBC clip by adding, "These men, with catastrophic wounds are . . . completely behind the war effort," according to the lawsuit.

That part, which wasn't shown in the Moore movie, is a far more accurate depiction of Damon's feelings, he said.

Lawyer Dennis Lynch said he took the case last year and they held off filing the lawsuit in a bid to settle the matter.

"We attempted to resolve the situation amicably with Mr. Moore [for a year] but he refused," he said.

If you think $85 million sounds a little steep, you'll be relieved to know that Michael Moore seems to think that tort reform and caps on damages for pain and suffering are bad ideas.

Hat Tip Instapundit.

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Flash: Nature Affects Global Temperature!

Looks like researchers have discovered an 'inconvenient truth' about shifting in average global temperature. An area near the North Pole had an average temperature of 74 degrees fahrenheit about 55 million years ago:

Scientists say Arctic once was tropical

Scientists have found what might have been the ideal ancient vacation hotspot with a 74-degree Fahrenheit average temperature, alligator ancestors and palm trees. It's smack in the middle of the Arctic.

First-of-its-kind core samples dug up from deep beneath the Arctic Ocean floor show that 55 million years ago an area near the North Pole was practically a subtropical paradise, three new studies show.

The scientists say their findings are a glimpse backward into a much warmer-than-thought polar region heated by run-amok greenhouse gases that came about naturally.

I'm sure it was caused by human activities... perhaps out-of-control manufacture of spears produced excessive greenhouse gases.

The writer responds to 'climate skeptics' with an irrelevancy:

Skeptics of man-made causes of global warming have nothing to rejoice over, however. The researchers say their studies appearing in Thursday's issue of Nature also offer a peak at just how bad conditions can get.

"It probably was (a tropical paradise) but the mosquitoes were probably the size of your head," said Yale geology professor Mark Pagani, a study co-author.

I don't recall global warming skeptics arguing that a warmer world would be nice. I think they are skeptical of man's role in the phenomenon. They say that temperature swings are cyclical, and that nature can produce temperature swings that swamp the contribution made by human activity. Looks like this article supports that point of view quite clearly.

Millions of years ago the Earth experienced an extended period of natural global warming. But around 55 million years ago there was a sudden supercharged spike of carbon dioxide that accelerated the greenhouse effect.

Scientists already knew this "thermal event" happened but are not sure what caused it. Perhaps massive releases of methane from the ocean, the continent-sized burning of trees, lots of volcanic eruptions.

Many experts figured that while the rest of the world got really hot, the polar regions were still comfortably cooler, maybe about 52 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the new research found the polar average was closer to 74 degrees. So instead of Boston-like weather year-round, the Arctic was more like Miami North. Way north.

"It's the first time we've looked at the Arctic, and man, it was a big surprise to us," said study co-author Kathryn Moran, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island. "It's a new look to how the Earth can respond to these peaks in carbon dioxide."

...What's troubling is that this hints that future projections for warming, several degrees over the next century, may be on the low end, said study lead author Appy Sluijs of the Institute of Environmental Biology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Also it shows that what happened 55 million years ago was proof that too much carbon dioxide — more than four times current levels — can cause global warming, said another co-author Henk Brinkhuis at Utrecht University.

Purdue University atmospheric sciences professor Gabriel Bowen, who was not part of the team, praised the work and said it showed that "there are tipping points in our (climate) system that can throw us to these conditions."

Is there anything surprising in here? Carbon dioxide at more than 4 times the current level can lead to dramatic climate changes? I'm no scientist, but I'm guessing it's not a surprise. 'There are tipping points in our system?' You don't need to be a scientist to understand that, intuitively. Current projections for global warming may be on the low end? Based on an example of a time when CO2 concentrations were quadruple what they are today? Let's just say that that might be clearer with more explanation - but I am skeptical today.

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Not Too Late for Spending Reform

I've argued before that the White House ought to focus on spending restraint in the months between now and election day. I know the President's credibility on this is not great, but I think people will accept a convert. He could start by saying that 'different times and circumstances demand different policy responses.' Now that we've been fighing the War on Terror for nearly 5 years, and now that the economy is booming, the time is right to shift to a greater focus on restraining federal spending.

To that end, the President could push for Congress to approve:

1) A Balanced Budget Amendment;
2) Enhanced Rescission Authority (also known as a line-item veto);
3) Earmark Reform; and,
4) a "Pork Database"

The Pork Database is a great idea, because as I've noted several times, it's almost impossible to eliminate earmarks. The reform advocated by Coburn, McCain, Carper, and Obama would ensure that the pork-barrel projects that survive any reform process (and there will be many), will at least be disclosed for all to review.

The great political benefit of a focus on spending reform is obvious: it is a sure appeal to the conservative base, which is proving... difficult to reach... through other approaches. Plus, given the current circumstances, there are no voters lost by it. Plus of course, it's the right thing to do.

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House Still Doesn't Get It

Dana Milbank is not my favorite, but he gives the Judiciary Committee a taste of what's to come if they call in the Attorney General and FBI Director for a hearing to castigate them over the Jefferson office raid:

FBI Raid Hits a Constitutional Nerve
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, May 31, 2006; A02

When asked to hold hearings on the rendition and torture of terrorism suspects, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) respectfully declined.

Invited repeatedly to probe the Bush administration's leaking of a CIA operative's identity, the chairman sent his regrets.

Urged to have hearings dedicated to the administration's warrantless eavesdropping, Sensenbrenner demurred once more.

But when FBI agents searched a congressional office 11 days ago, Sensenbrenner went up to the attic and found his gavel.

Yesterday, he held the first of at least four hearings into the raid -- the debut was dispassionately titled "Reckless Justice" -- and announced that he will haul the attorney general and FBI director before his committee. He also vowed that he will "promptly" write legislation to prevent a recurrence.

Even before the expert witnesses were sworn in yesterday, Sensenbrenner said his mind was made up. "Documents having nothing whatsoever to do with any crime," he lectured absent administration officials, were "seized by the executive branch without constitutional authority."

The four witnesses performed in the perfect harmony of an amen chorus.

"A wholesale constitutional violation," said former House lawyer Charles Tiefer.

"Unconstitutional," judged constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein.

"Abandonment of fundamental law," said former congressman Bob Walker (R-Pa.). "A recipe for constitutional crisis."

"A profound and almost gratuitous insult," contributed George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. "Raw arrogance."

Milbank's mockery goes on for a while.

Now here's the thing: I don't know whether the search was constitutional or not. I don't see any strong argument against and I, like many in the House Republican majority, advocate a narrow reading of the Constitution.

But in an important sense, it doesn't matter if it's Constitutional or not. To argue this case prominently and publicly - and particularly to do so at a time when there is no other news about Congress in the papers (Memorial Day recess) - is stupid. What can be gained by flaunting this in front of the national media, that can't be achieved through private communications with the White House? And while I think that Alberto Gonzalez will have the good grace not to show the Committee up if he is called to testify, why should he? After all, the President gave the House an 'out' when he decided to seal the documents for 45 days. If the Congress wants to continue to pick at this scab, why should the administration save them (politically) AGAIN? Take the olive branch (or life preserver) that has been offered, negotiate a face-saving compromise for these documents that allows you to state that no precedent has been set, and end this argument.

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Google Fights Bird Flu

That's probably what they were doing instead of recognizing Memorial Day. Too busy saving the world.

US poultry experts using Google to beat bird flu
Tue May 30, 3:50 PM ET

Poultry experts are turning to sophisticated computer imaging to help them prepare for the expected arrival of the deadly bird flu virus in the United States later this year.

Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is being used to pinpoint the location of commercial poultry flocks, feed mills and processing plants, said Sherrill Davison, professor of avian medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The information will be used to help create buffer zones around an infected flock and contain the H5N1 strain when it makes its U.S. appearance.

Since the beginning of the year, experts have also been using Google Earth (Nasdaq:GOOG - news), which combines satellite imagery, maps and the company's search engine to span the globe. It gives extra details including the location of buildings, schools and roads near large chicken and turkey farms and production facilities.

"Twenty years ago we had to drive around the countryside and find the chicken farm that reported a disease, but now everything is on a mapping system," Davison told Reuters in a recent interview.

"Now, we can very quickly, within about an hour, know exactly how many farms are in an (affected) area. Then we can know which farms to send teams to for extra sampling.

Google vs. the Bird Flu, huh? Well, not as cool as Batman vs. Superman, but not bad.

And let me beat Insty to the punch: "Army of Davids... something, something... mumble, bird flu... buy my book."

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More Republican Infighting

Well, looks like things continue not to be hunky-dory on the Hill. In fact, according to the Hill, Republicans continue to have internal fights over spending, immigration, ethics, and probably anything else you can name:

More splits in House GOP ranks
By Patrick O’Connor

As the midterm elections loom and concern about maintaining their majority hold on the House increases, rank-and-file Republicans have grown more and more combative with their leaders and themselves.

In the past two weeks, Republican House members have sparred openly on the House floor and have criticized their Speaker behind closed doors.

With immigration reform, an update of the Voting Rights Act and a series of appropriations bills among the few big-ticket items remaining on this year’s legislative calendar, it is unlikely these intraparty squabbles will die down any time soon, particularly as vulnerable Republicans seek to distance themselves from their party and their president.

While bickering is a constant on Capitol Hill, the recent rancor illustrates the election-year self-interest of individual members that could make it increasingly difficult for leaders to tackle controversial legislation. In turn, the growing discord could help paint the GOP as divided.

With all eyes on immigration, spending restraint continues to be the quiet issue that divides congressional Republicans this year. Members were forced to postpone a vote on the supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq until after the Memorial Day recess because House and Senate negotiators were unable to settle on a final bill.

In the House, Republicans have been arguing internally about this issue all year.

Last week, during a closed-door meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), Reps. John Carter (Texas) and Zach Wamp (Tenn.), who both serve on the Appropriations Committee, criticized some of their colleagues for raising points of order to strip $507 million in construction projects from a military spending bill two weeks ago.

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) openly rebuked Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who chairs the RSC, for stripping the money in a rare public showdown among congressional Republicans on the House floor.

Carter and Wamp told RSC members during the group’s regular Wednesday meeting that it would be more effective if they worked with conservatives on the Appropriations Committee behind the scenes before taking something directly to the House floor.

“They should talk to [RSC members on the committee] and maybe we can resolve the situation,” Carter said Thursday, adding that the military spending bill was bad legislation on which to highlight spending cuts. “I didn’t think it was a good place to pick a fight.”

...In an issue that dominated headlines last week, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) endured modest criticism from some members during a closed-door meeting Thursday convened to discuss a recent FBI raid on the congressional office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.).

During the meeting, members echoed the concerns of their constituents in criticizing Hastert for appearing to protect a Democratic member of Congress who, according to court documents, has been videotaped receiving $100,000 in cash, $90,000 of which was later discovered in his freezer.

In an indirect rebuke of the Speaker, Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (Fla.) announced Friday that she would introduce a resolution condemning Hastert’s efforts to protect congressional offices from a raid by federal law enforcement officers.

“I am extremely disappointed that some in this body — including the Speaker and the Minority Leader [Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)] — feel that somehow our actions are sacrosanct and above public scrutiny,” Brown-Waite said in a release sent out by her office. “We are sending the wrong message to our constituents when we say that Congress is off limits to federal inspection.”

Brown-Waite said she does not intend her resolution to be a direct affront to the Speaker. She said it was meant to reflect the frustration she has heard from her constituents. “I understand their ire,” she said.

Well, so there's infighting. There was TONS of infighting on the Yankees teams of Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Goose Gossage, and Billy Martin? Perhaps House Republicans are simply waiting for the pressure, when they'll truly shine?

Oh, and let's make it official: Ginny Brown-Waite DOES win my play of the week. Presumably she'll find a Democratic cosponsor to claim the award with her.

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Headed for a Holding Pattern?

The air traffic system may be about to move more slowly, as a European court has thrown out the US-EU agreement to disclose passenger data before planes arrive in the US. Spokespeople say it will be negotiated before there's any adverse impact on travelers. Let's hope so.

If not, more will die (scroll down to 'Math Murder').

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NYTimes: Finger on the Pulse...

Congressional offices have been receiving bricks from immigration control advocates for weeks. Michelle Malkin covered this as early as mid-April. And the New York Times only things it's newsworthy now?

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Roger Clemens Back?

I don't know why Long Island Newsday would have the story before ESPN or Sports Illustrated, but I assume we'll get confirmation one way or the other.

Update: Newsday sticks by its story, but ESPN says they're wrong! They say the deal is all BUT done, and won't be done until today - or even tomorrow. Whatever.

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Helen Thomas Blasted Again

Great moment at the daily White House press briefing today, and Drudge has the transcript. It was priceless when Snow noted that Zinsmeister might have been talking about the press.

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Not Everyone Reads Tea Leaves

Well, it looks like the same tenacity that has made Representative Jim Sensenbrenner a hero to supporters of border enforcement is also alienating him from those who believe the FBI was right to conduct a raid on Congressman Bill Jefferson's office. Clever readers will recognize that those two groups are often the very same people.

Rather than temper his criticism of the DoJ, as Dennis Hastert and others have done, Sensenbrenner wants to call Alberto Gonzalez on the carpet:

House Panel Probes FBI Search of Rep. Jefferson's Office
Tuesday , May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said Tuesday he will summon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller before his panel to explain their decision to raid a lawmaker's office for the first time in history.

"I want to have Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller up here to tell us how they reached the conclusion they did," said Sensenbrenner, one of President Bush's most loyal House allies. Sensenbrenner's hearings, which began Tuesday, are examining whether the May 20 raid violated the Constitution.

Calling the decision to authorize the raid "profoundly disturbing," Sensenbrenner signaled that he would not be among the lawmakers backing off their criticism of the Bush administration. Any progress in talks between House and Justice Department lawyers in crafting guidelines for future criminal investigations of Congress would not deter Sensenbrenner from calling the administration to account for weekend search of Rep. William Jefferson's offices.

"They didn't get it right this time," Sensenbrenner said.

...Calling it the first of three hearings into the matter, Sensenbrenner was not mollified by President Bush's order last week to seal the case, nor behind-the-scenes negotiations since then toward establishing a procedure for future searches.

At the session, Democrats said a member of the Bush administration, and not just legal experts, should have been called before the panel to answer for the raid.

"We've never been told why the search had to be done in the middle of the night," noted ranking Democrat John Conyers of Michigan. "We've never learned why the member in question was not permitted to have his attorneys present while his offices were searched for some 18 hours."

Of course, a hearing featuring the Attorney General and FBI Director would be just the thing to help the President's approval rating and hurt those of Congress. It might even give Gonzalez an 'Ollie North moment' - something like this:

"When I took the oath of office, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and to enforce the laws of this great nation. And with all due respect Mr. Chairman, getting elected to Congress doesn't entitle a man to take bribes, corrupt the democratic process, and bring dishonor to the Congress itself, all while pretending that his title puts him above the law and allows him to hide evidence on property entrusted to him by the taxpayers. Consistent with the checks and balances that are part of our system, the Department of Justice obtained court permission to go and get the evidence that Mr. Jefferson was withholding, and we would do the same thing in an instant if that was what it took to ensure that a criminal is brought to justice."

Is that really what Chairman Sensenbrenner wants?

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Liberal Bloggers Not Interested in Kerry?

The Hotline's Blogometer provides an overview of the blogospheric reaction to John Kerry's decision to reopen the battle against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

5/30: Deja Vu All Over Again
The Blogometer did not exist for Round One of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) vs. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, but the blogger spill over on the issue is definitely part of the reason it was created. Righty bloggers are again driving the issue while lefty bloggers, normally not ones to shy away from a debate, seem contempt [sic] to label all Kerry detractors as liars and leave actual refutation of righty blogger attacks up to the MSM ... which lefty bloggers then criticize for not debunking righty blogger attacks quickly enough. For both sides, however, it's clear that any Kerry candidacy must address this past before looking to the future.

KERRY: Well At Least They Can Agree On One Thing ...
The re-emergence of Kerry's Vietnam record finally generated some consensus in the blogosphere ... if he's going to run in '08 he is going to have to put this issue to bed. Righty Captain's Quarters: "It would be inaccurate, to put it mildly, to say that the Swift boat veterans cost Kerry the presidency. What defeated Kerry was his insistence on focusing his campaign on his valor in Viet Nam and the repetition of stories like Christmas in Cambodia that failed the smell test. ... The only possible reason for raising this issue would be to clear the decks for another presidential run in 2008, but like 2004, it shows that Kerry's only strategy for elections is to live in a refashioned past." Lefty The Democratic Daily: "If John Kerry is going to have a chance to win in 2008 it will be necessary for him eliminate the controversy created by the Swift Boat Liars. Even though the facts were clear that O'Neil and other were both lying and working with GOP operatives, the media concentrated on the horse race aspect with questions as to how the charges affected the campaign, and gave far too little attention to the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting Kerry."

Moving to the actual story, consensus falls apart. Vietnam Vet Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project calls the New York Times a "willing mouthpiece for Kerry" and refutes the Times reporting on Kerry's 1971 "The Dick Cavett Show" appearance. Brainster's Blog looks at the "Christmas in Cambodia" angle while The Unalienable Right parses the Times words to poke fun at their conclusion: "We have very little interest in rehashing Hanoi John Kerry's failed presidential bid, but one paragraph in this fawning NY Times story stuck out in particular: "The Swift boat group insisted that no boats had gone to Cambodia. But Mr. Kerry's researcher, using Vietnam-era military maps and spot reports from the naval archives showing coordinates for his boat, traced his path from Ha Tien toward Cambodia on a mission that records say was to insert Navy Seals." ...You see, some records indicating that his boat went toward Cambodia at some point prove he was in Cambodia at Christmas-time in 1968. One time, we drove from Los Angeles north towards Sacramento. This proves we were in Oregon in 1968." Confederate Yankee pitches in with a map to try and show Kerry's story is impossible.

Not all righty bloggers wanted to relive the debate, but that didn't mean they had sympathy for Kerry. Robert Hahn at RedState: "Apparently neither John Kerry nor the New York Times can get over the idea that they were beaten in their race for the White House. ...Perhaps it is balm for his wounded ego. But he'll have to pardon the rest of us if we don't care anymore. Real presidents do not get second chances to deal with unanticipated events." Blue Crab Boulevard: "I wasn't blogging when that little tempest broke, so I might as well throw in my two cents now since Kerry wants to reopen things. ...Four months or so in Swift Boats do not a "war hero" make."

Outside of labeling righty blogger liars, lefty bloggers left actual refutation of their claims up to the Times. The most common lefty reaction was to attack the media for not debunking the Swift Boat/righty blogger claims fast enough. Greg Sargent at TAPPED: "Look, here's the thing. To the extent that the Swift Boat Liars were effective -- and that's in dispute -- it wasn't just because of their spending on ads. It was because the media amplified those charges for days and days, if not weeks, without examining them critically. When the press did get around to debunking the charges whatever damage there was had already been done. The media tried to shift blame for this to Kerry by arguing that he'd failed to respond aggressively. But here's the point: The press shouldn't have had to wait for Kerry to start hitting back before it started to report critically on what the Swift Boat Liars were saying."

This has to be worrying to Kerry's nascent '08 Presidential campaign. Howard Dean, MoveOn, and DailyKos have demonstrated the importance of strong netroots to a Presidential campaign - especially to Democratic campaigns. There aren't many people that give John Kerry a serious shot in 2008. Seeing the lack of interest on the left in re-engaging in this fight, it seems to me that they're not really all that interested in John Kerry.

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Federal Reserve Geeks

Some people had hurt feelings when Ben Bernanke was selected to replace Alan Greenspan. And if you're Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard (right), how do you express such frustration? You make a music video, or course.

The funniest thing I've seen in a while - plus it's safe for work. Who knew economists could be so entertaining?

Thanks to Joe for sending it.

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What Will the Immigration Compromise Look Like?

Well, seems that lots of folks are now convinced that an immigration bill featuring an amnesty will not be enacted this year, because opposition is too strong among House Republicans. My mom told me to avoid self praise, but I will indulge myself this time, and note that I predicted that on April 7. I suspect that others predicted it earlier, but who has time to do that kind of research?

Now the question becomes what happens next. Will Congressional Republicans come together to pass a bill, will Senate Democrats block it, and will the President sign it?

First off, I think a House-Senate compromise is likely. Even Senate Republicans are starting to see the handwriting on the wall, and recognize that an amnesty is politically dangerous, and probably not attainable with the House, anyway. So will a compromise have anything more than border enforcement? I would say it's likely that it will. House leaders and others have keyed upon the 'path to citizenship' as the problem. That leaves open a guestworker program, which would allow participation by those currently here illegally - perhaps something along the lines of the Pence proposal.

Pence's proposal deals with the problem of the illegal immigrant population, will have significant backing among House conservatives, and does not provide the path to citizenship. Further, the majority of illegal immigrants don't want to become US citizens per se, they simply want to work here - so outside of their liberal spokespeople, most would probably be content with this system. Also, it would allow the President to claim a victory on the issue. And it has the virtue of being opposed by Tom Tancredo. This is not meant to cast aspersions on Tancredo, but the President wants to be seen as one who rises above the extremes of the debate, and whatever you think of Tancredo, he represents one extreme. If Tom Tancredo opposes the final product, it will enhance the ability of the President to say he's forged a compromise that doesn't make anyone entirely happy.

Will Senate Democrats block the bill? Well, I hope so, because I think the Pence idea will probably be as politically popular as an amnesty was often cited as being. Further, a Senate filibuster would put the Democrats on the side of blocking a popular, achievable, reform on a priority issue - immigration. Still, if some of the extreme liberal leaders oppose this strongly, and can get Ted Kennedy and others on their side, a filibuster is possible. This might be the most politically advantageous outcome for Republicans - something that at last motivates their base.

Will the President sign the bill? It's probably as close as he will come to what he wants. It will have significant enforcement measures as well as a worker program that ought to be effective at reducing the illegal population.

So my next prediction is that the President will sign a compromise along these lines in July - after the Mexican Presidential election.

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The 'Reckless' FBI Raid

The House Judiciary Committee is today holding a hearing on the FBI raid of Congressman Bill Jefferson's office. The title seems to give away the aim; it's called "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution." (For those not familiar with Congress, hearings are not designed to expose facts, but to make a point. This one appears to stick to the tradition).

What might the witnesses say? Well, let's take a look. Jonathan Turley told the Times-Picayune, "it seems to have been orchestrated for prime-time news reports and designed to put pressure on the congressman."

Charles Tiefer told the Chicago Tribune, "it's historic, striking, extraordinary and represents a classic effort by the chief executive to balance several of his responsibilities--on the one hand, to respect a coordinate branch of government, and at the same time to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Robert Walker served many years in the House, and appears to be an opponent of the raid, as well.

Lastly, I can not find any indication from Bruce Fein of where he stands on this question, going in. Do you think he was drated in to provide an alternate point of view, or will he sing from the same songbook?

Strange that Jim Sensenbrenner - hero of the base on immigration - seems to be opposed on this one.

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Pressure on Hastert Leads to Change in Tone

Well, apparently Speaker Hastert is being pressured by some in the House Republican Conference to change his tone on the FBI raid and the Jefferson investigation. Michelle also provides a nice roundup of the response from the conservative blogosphere. As on immigration, it's clear that some in Congress are out of touch with the base on this.

Anyway, Roll Call (subscription required) reports on the pressure on Hastert:

Hastert Hears Grumbling
May 30, 2006
By Ben Pershing,
Roll Call Staff

A week that began with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) harshly criticizing the Justice Department for its raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) office ended Friday with Hastert hearing dissent from members of his own Conference, some of whom worry that the controversy will hurt the GOP politically.
The substantive fight between Hastert, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Justice Department over the constitutionality of the May 20 raid by the FBI appeared to have subsided by Friday, after President Bush ordered the records seized from Jefferson’s office to be sealed, and both sides pledged to negotiate a settlement.

But to some critics of Hastert’s strong stance, the damage was already done, with a substantial number of Republican Members and aides worried that the public would take the fight as evidence that Congress was trying to protect its own Members from scrutiny.

Florida Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R) was the most forceful public critic, issuing a statement Friday morning saying, “I am extremely disappointed that some in this body — including the Speaker and the Minority Leader — feel that somehow our actions are sacrosanct and above public scrutiny.”

In a subsequent telephone interview Friday, Brown-Waite explained that she put out her statement because Hastert’s stance “just really, really bothered me and I thought I had to express very very strongly my concerns about it.”

“I tried to step back from the wonderful play-world of Washington, D.C., and think about how it looks to the average person,” Brown-Waite said. “It absolutely looks as if we are worthy — which I don’t believe — of special treatment. That really is what I believe is what the argument is all about. ... I don’t think that our offices should be a haven for illegal activities.”

In addition to her press statement, Brown-Waite also spoke up at a closed-door Republican Conference meeting Thursday afternoon. A handful of other lawmakers echoed her concerns, while some Members defended Hastert’s actions.

...In making his stance against the FBI raid, Hastert has been stuck between his two roles — that of the constitutional officer in charge of the House, and that of the leader of House Republicans.

While his actions make sense to many Members in the context of that first role, some lawmakers and aides outside of his office have questioned whether he has served the Conference well in the second role by taking a stand that likely will not resonate well with the public.

Even within the Republican leadership, the issue has become a point of debate at Member- and staff-level strategy meetings, according to several sources, with some staffers arguing that Hastert and his aides should not have made their fight so high-profile and public.

By the end of last week, Hastert was tempering his rhetoric, especially after Bush announced his decision to seal the records. In a USA Today editorial published Friday, Hastert praised Bush’s decision and said, “The issue that has concerned me, as Speaker, since Saturday night is not if the FBI should be able to search a member of Congress’ office, but rather how to do it within the boundaries of the Constitution.”

Hastert also emphasized that, “If the information we have read about the behavior of [Jefferson] seems as obvious to a jury as it does to me, he deserves to be vigorously prosecuted. I do not want to do anything that will interfere with that prosecution.”

Hastert and other leaders have made clear that they should and will preface any further comments about the FBI raid with that type of statement, so it does not appear that they are actually trying to shield anyone from prosecution.

“Everyone agrees that we should not look like we are on the side of Congressman Jefferson, and we need to do a better job of communicating that we think the Justice Department needs to get to the bottom of the matter,” said a Republican leadership aide.

As for the substantive fight with the Justice Department, both sides intend to use the 45 days during which the Jefferson records will be sealed to try to reach a deal on how to proceed.

Congressmen and their staffs ought to pay more attention to the blogosphere. Bloggers and readers of blogs are precisely the sort of intensely politically-interested people who turn out in droves in primaries. Undoubtedly there are lunatics and yahoos among us, but that defines the turnout in primaries. Being aware of what's being blogged, and being prepared to react to it, is the most efficient shortcut to communicating with the base that has ever existed.

Anyway, I get the sense that Representative Ginny Brown Waite has qualified for my political play of the week award.

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Paulson to Treasury

Wow! I called this over a month ago!

That said, Paulson faces a difficult test. The White House clearly feels that Bush is not getting enough credit for the booming economy. Tony Snow and "Hank" Paulson will be charged with communicating the message that things are going well.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

AP: Reid Took Free Boxing Tickets

And the story gives them occasion to revisit the 4 letters that Reid wrote on behalf of Abramoff clients, which coincided with donations given him by those clients:

Senate Leader Took Free Boxing Tickets
Associated Press Writer

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.

Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority.

He defended the gifts, saying they would never influence his position on the bill and was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. "Anyone from Nevada would say I'm glad he is there taking care of the state's No. 1 businesses," he told The Associated Press.

"I love the fights anyways, so it wasn't like being punished," added the senator, a former boxer and boxing judge.

Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts _ particularly on multiple occasions _ when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions.

...Several ethics experts said Reid should have paid for the tickets, which were close to the ring and worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, to avoid the appearance he was being influenced by gifts.

Two senators who joined Reid for fights with the complimentary tickets took markedly differently steps.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., accepted free tickets to another fight with Reid but already had recused himself from Reid's federal boxing legislation because his father was an executive for a Las Vegas hotel that hosts fights.

Well, at least Reid solved this for us. I don't understand why people always get so worried about gifts being tied to policy positions. They can just ask the people involved. Senator Reid says his views would not be affected by the gift. Well, did anyone ask if Bob Ney's, Duke Cunningham's, Alan Mollohan's, or anyone else's positon would be affected by gifts they received? I mean, if they say the gifts did not influence their thinking, well... it would save a lot on ethics investigations, wouldn't it? If on the other hand, you don't think that's a sufficient explanation, then you'd need to investigate Harry Reid's actions wouldn't you?

Oh, and as I noted above, the article brings attention back to the Abramoff donations that Reid refuses to return, and which were linked to letters he wrote on behalf of Abramoff's clients:

In an interview Thursday in his Capitol office, Reid broadly defended his decisions to accept the tickets and to take several actions benefiting disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients and partners as they donated to him.

"I'm not Goodie two shoes. I just feel these events are nothing I did wrong," Reid said.

Reid had separate meetings in June 2003 in his Senate offices with two Abramoff tribal clients and Edward Ayoob, a former staffer who went to work lobbying with Abramoff.

The meetings occurred over a five-day span in which Ayoob also threw a fundraiser for Reid at the firm where Ayoob and Abramoff worked that netted numerous donations from Abramoff's partners, firm and clients.

Reid said he viewed the two official meetings and the fundraiser as a single event. "I think it all was one, the way I look at it," he said.

One of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, donated $9,000 to Reid at the fundraiser and the next morning met briefly with Reid and Ayoob at Reid's office to discuss federal programs. Reid and the tribal chairman posed for a picture.

Five days earlier, Reid met with Ayoob and the Sac & Fox tribe of Iowa for about 15 minutes to discuss at least two legislative requests. Reid's office said the senator never acted on those requests.

A few months after the fundraiser, Reid did sponsor a spending bill that targeted $100,000 to another Abramoff tribe, the Chitimacha of Louisiana, to pay for a soil erosion study Ayoob was lobbying for. Reid said he sponsored the provision because Louisiana lawmakers sent him a letter requesting it.

Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist, has pleaded guilty in a widespread corruption probe of Capitol Hill. Reid used that conviction earlier this year to accuse Republicans of fostering a culture of corruption inside Congress.

AP recently reported that Reid also wrote at least four letters favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients around the time Reid collected donations from those clients and Abramoff's partners. Reid has declined to return the donations, unlike other lawmakers, saying his letters were consistent with his beliefs.

How good a salesman does Harry Reid think he is? The letters were consistent with his views, so he doesn't have to return the donations? Raise your hand, every Members of Congress whose letters are not consistent with his views. Oh, no one? Thought not.

If you took money from a crook, you return it. You don't try to dance around it, and act too cute by half. Reid had better return those donations.

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Google is Pathetic

Jonah is absolutely right. If Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday is important enough to commemorate, how can Memorial Day not be?

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Bush Trending Upward?

Just took a look at the polling report compilation of poll results for the President. It looks like his numbers are gently rising. His net negative rating had been consistently in the 28-32 range a month or so ago, and now it appears to be in the 20-24 range.


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Rothenberg Predicts Greater Democratic Gains

The prediction of House gains for the Democrats has increased from 7-10 seats to 8-12 seats. Fifteen are needed to retake the House.

Obviously this is bad news for the Republicans, but even now, the smart money is still against a Democratic takeover.

Yet another tribute to how effective gerrymandering is at eliminating competitive races. Here we have the most volatile election in years, with voters' views of the incumbents as bad as they have ever been, and they're still predicting a partisan shift of about 3%.

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Republican Culture of Corruption?

Well sure, it appears that way, if you magically turn Democrats into Republicans.

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But Then No One Will Understand "Wargames"

Somewhat dated, but apparently NORAD's famed facility at Cheyenne Mountain may be closed.

Today, the very existence of the NORAD mountain command post is up in the air.

U.S. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of Northcom and NORAD, says he recently launched "an internal study" of whether to keep it.

Built in the 1960s for $142 million, the command post inside a 4 1/2-acre excavated grid of chambers and tunnels consists of 15 multistory buildings mounted on springs. Personnel at workstations inside, wired into data networks, were to survive and win a nuclear war.

U.S. and Canadian forces here number 200 to 300 on a shift, about 800 overall.

But today, with the emergence of Northern Command, a separate, newer command post carries out much of the same surveillance, with access to all the same data. That post lies northeast of Cheyenne Mountain at Peterson Air Force Base, where the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and others have offices.

"It would be logical for you to think: Could there be some economies and efficiencies by combining functions? And we are looking at that," Keating said in an interview.

U.S. officials estimated that NORAD operations cost $350 million a year.

Turn your key, sir.

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Memorial Day

A very important day on the calendar - the day we remember those who have fallen in our defense, and who even now risk their lives so we may continue to breathe free.

Thanks, bro.

Theodore O'Hara

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe,
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was "Victory or death!"

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their father's gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

For many a mother's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain --
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o'er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil --
The ashes of her brave.

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep shall here tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her records keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor Time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Conservatives and Republicans

Captain Ed wonders whether conservatives can get true representation in the Republican party. I'll put my answer this way: as a conservative, I have a hard time thinking of anyplace else I can get it. Does that mean I can get 'true representation' in the Republican party? No, not entirely. But I think it's the best I'm going to get.

I hate cliches, but it seems to me that 'what it means to be a conservative' is as up for debate today as it has been in decades. It's clear that the Buckley vision of conservatism died with the Cold War. For what defined conservatism during that period? A strong military to stand up to communism, an end to the expansion of the welfare state, restraint in federal spending, support for federalism, and adherence to strict construction of the Constitution. One handy guide to determining whether a policy was 'conservative,' was to identify the corresponding and opposite liberal policy: accommodation with communism, expanded welfare state, increased spending, a national approach to problems, and belief in an evolving constitution.

Well, what are the core tenets of conservatism today? I believe that small government remains one - although it's now hard to discern that goal given the government expansion in the Bush years. On foreign policy, there are those that still believe a core goal is to confront communism - notably be a muscular China policy, but obviously the War on Terror takes precedence today. And what should the approach be? A Wilsonian vision of expanded democracy, or some form of 'containment?' Conservatives probably still oppose expansion of the welfare state, although many conservatives in Congress supported the prescription drug benefit (largely becuase they wanted to pre-empt a more generous liberal plan, but still). Conservatives have pushed for national approaches on some traditionally state issues - notably gun rights and abortion, and are likely to continue to pursue national approaches on questions where they think they can 'win.'

Well, if conservatism is 'muddled' in looking at the modern versions of the traditional tenets, what are the conservative views on some policy questions that arrived after the Cold War? On campaign funding, George Will nicely espoused the traditional conservative view that anyone should essentially be allowed to donate anything, and that campaign spending is not that high in the scheme of things. Well, now Republicans have helped pass BCRA, which further regulates spending. They pushed for legisaltion to reduce the role of 527 organizations. On the role of the internet, is there a conservative or liberal position?

And if it's hard to see what views are distinctly conservative, can we gain insight by contrasting them with core liberal tenets? How do liberal propose to fight the war on terror? Is it accomodation? And where do they stand on China? Probably right with the conservatives who regard China as a priority. Where are they on spending? Well, very close to the Republicans, but probably rather far from conservatives. What do they believe on campaign spending and the role of the internet? Well, many think that and DailyKos are the best things since sliced bread.

I guess my sense is that the association of conservatives with Republicans, and the replacement of Communism with the War on Terror, has made it harder to define what constitutes conservatism. If Bush and Clinton were not such polarizing figures, I wonder if we would see disaffected constituencies crossing lines? Feel free to add comments, I'd be curious to hear whether people agree that the old definition of conservatism no longer fits.

All that said, and back to the Captain's question, for me the key defining questions are spending levels and foreign policy. And while I am unhappy with where the Republican party is today on spending, I do not think it's possible that the Democratic party can do anything to win my support in the foreseeable future. And for me, conservatives must not stand alone - outside of a larger party - because they cannot win a majority. And for the movement to have significance, it must have a way to implement its policies - and for me the only way to do that is through larger party - the Republicans.

Feel free to check out what I have written on two figures who are breaking down traditional partisan lines for both Republicans and Democrats - Joe Lieberman and John McCain.

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