Saturday, July 22, 2006

Murtha for Speaker!

As I have noted before, Bob Novak is always a well-informed and interesting read. I have to make a few comments on today's column, however.

First off, Novak talks about dissension in the House Democratic Caucus:


Hostility between the House's two top Democrats has reached the point where Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's aides whisper they would rather not regain the majority if it means Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker of the House.

Hoyer would not challenge Pelosi for speaker. But if Democrats fail to carry the House this year for the eighth straight election, there will be pressure on Hoyer to run against her for minority leader.

A footnote: Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Pelosi ally, has announced he will run for majority leader against Hoyer if Democrats win control. Critics of Pelosi in the House Democratic caucus say Murtha is unsuited for nuts-and-bolts duties as majority leader but would make a good speaker.

First off, this is obviously good news for Republicans. As I've noted before, their best friend is often the Democratic leadership. Typically when I say that, I am referring to Howard Dean's 50-state plan, but it applies within the House Democratic caucus as well. But beyond that, I have to differ with Novak on the rest. Murtha is not going to be elected Speaker, and that's good news for the Democrats. He is a disaster when called upon to speak, and that's not what you look for in a chief spokesperson. Further, Novak again leaves the impression that Pelosi has been the leader for eight straight losing elections. That's simply sloppy. Pelosi became Minority Leader only a few years ago, and this will be just her second election as Democratic leader. The Democrats probably won't dump her that quickly.

Apart from that, Novak correctly notes how optimistic the GOP is about the New Jersey Senate race:


New Jersey, dominated by Democrats in recent elections, has become the best Republican prospect for winning a Democratic-held Senate seat this year. New polls last week indicated appointive Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez falling back to an even race with his Republican challenger, State Sen. Tom Kean Jr.

Quinnipiac University's poll showed Kean gaining nine percentage points in one month to take a two-point lead. The Monmouth University/Gannett poll's first Senate survey had Kean trailing Menendez by one point, but enjoying a 15-point lead among key independent voters.

Kean's edge in the Quinnipiac survey marked the first time a New Jersey Republican candidate for the Senate had led a summer poll since Sen. Clifford Case in 1972. Big Democratic July margins in the state often are trimmed in November. Sens. Bill Bradley in 1990 and Frank Lautenberg in 1994 enjoyed summer leads of 46 and 26 points, respectively, before winning by three points each.

The GOP will have a hard time winning this seat. But besides the value of winning a seat where you expect to have no chance, there's also the added bonus that it forces Democrats to spend millions of dollars that would otherwise go to defeating Mike DeWine and Jim Talent. So it's a nice two-fer.

Read the rest of Novak's column for unsurprising news about whom Bush does and does not like.

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American to Win Tour de France

Well, Lance Armstrong retired after winning 7 consecutive Tour de France titles. But today American Floyd Landis regained the overall lead (symbolized by the Yellow Jersey) on the penultimate day of the Tour. Sunday is the last day and if I recall correctly, it is tradition not to challenge the leader in what is essentially a 'victory lap' into Paris. It is almost certain that he will be the 2006 Tour de France champion.

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The Power of the Internet

You can still actively ignore a failed TV series called - appropriately enough - Nobody's Watching.

It makes me wonder what would have happened to a 'failed series' like Star Trek if it arrived today, instead of in 1966. It might have gained new life through the internet - like Family Guy and Futurama. Of course, it's still gaining new life from the internet even though it failed almost 40 years ago. Witness Starship Exeter, which is pretty close to the original Star Trek series in overall quality.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Warren Zevon: Pick up Your Check

Democrats call for Bush to send Mideast Envoy.

He may be dead, but Warren Zevon nailed it almost perfectly 26 years ago. Do you think Bush is responsible for this, or is it just possible that the animosity predated him?

The Envoy
written by Warren Zevon

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad does whatever she please
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy

Things got hot in El Salvador
CIA got caught and couldn't do no more
He's got diplomatic immunity
He's got a lethal weapon that nobody sees
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy
Send the envoy

Whenever there's a crisis
The President sends his envoy in
Guns in Damascus
Woa, Jerusalem

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad do whatever she please
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy . . .
Send for me

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Isn't the Electric Car Dead?

I recently blogged on the upcoming guilt trip that is 'Who Killed the Electric Car.' I commented that the beauty of a market economy is that if there is demand for it, the market will produce it.

Well, crazy as it sounds, it looks like someone has revived the electric car: Tesla Motors. It's a startup founded by Google, Ebay and PayPal. At $100,000 or more, it doesn't look like the Tesla is for the average driver. But if you're willing to pay more to protect the environment, while still getting what seems like a cool ride, maybe the Tesla is for you.

There's positive response over at Kausfiles, as well.

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Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade Called Off

But if we call off gay pride parades, then haven't the terrorists already won?

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A Fantastic Story

A dad saved his 14-year old son's life by breathing air into the boy's mouth while he was trapped underwater. He had become stuck at the bottom of a hot tub, when a grate gave way and the suction pulled him to the bottom:

Dad Breathes Air Into Son Trapped Underwater For 7 Minutes
Boy's Recovery Considered Miracle
POSTED: 10:19 am EDT July 21, 2006
UPDATED: 10:29 am EDT July 21, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A 14-year-old who was sucked to the bottom of a hotel hot tub and kept under water for at least seven minutes was likely saved by air his father breathed into his mouth during the ordeal.

Aljuwon Pipkin, who was visiting Walt Disney World from New Jersey, became stuck at the bottom of the hot tub last Thursday at the Radisson Parkway Hotel.

Officials said a grate at the bottom of the tub apparently broke and created a strong suction that pulled the teen underwater.

Pipkin's father was at the pool and noticed his son stuck at the bottom of the hot tub.

"I get chills now even speaking about it," father Sharif Pipkin said. "I was truly a traumatic moment. I figured he was at the bottom and they just couldn't pull him up and then he didn't come up. And, I pulled again and he didn't come up. I began to holler for help from people."

As people jumped in to pull the teen from the bottom of the tub, Pipkin's father jumped in and began to breathe air into his son's mouth, the report said.

"(Aljuwon Pipkin) doesn't remember the frantic help from hotel guests and doesn't remember his father breathing into his mouth underwater," Local 6 reporter Jessica Sanchez said.

Pipkin was transported to Florida Hospital South in critical condition and initial scans of his brain were abnormal. Doctors feared he suffered brain damage.

However, seven days after the near drowning, Pipkin was given the OK to leave the hospital. He was diagnosed as being healthy with no permanent damage from the incident.

"The fact that he woke up at all is being considered a miracle," Sanchez said.

"I just remember going down to the pool and then waking up in the hospital," Pipkin said. "I can appreciate life more," Aljuwon Pipkin said. "It makes you want to work harder for things."

And I'll include the 'kicker,' just so you know what sound judgment the family has:

Pipkin's family said they do not blame the Radisson Hotel and said they believe what happened was an accident, the report said.

What would you have thought the chances were that the family wouldn't sue?

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Cleaning the Airbus Clock

Boeing in talks to sell more Dreamliners. Apparently the biggest challenge is that few airlines have much money to spend.

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This Ain't No Mud Club; No CBGB's...

...This ain't no foolin' around.
IDF convoy massing near Lebanese border, from Fox News.

New GOPer (or Current Dem?) in CT Senate Race

Very interesting development. The candidacy of Republican Alan Schlesinger has been hit by more stories about his gambling habits. He's portrayed as likely to be out of the race soon, with the primary question being whether he will be replaced by a Republican, or by Joe Lieberman.

I have to think that the latter simply will not happen. But Governor Jodi Rell is reportedly working hard to pull it off.

The story is at Political Wire.

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I Hereby Revise My Estimate...

AP shows the buildup; I'm thinking the step-off time will be right around full dark Saturday night--that works out to be 16:43 GMT tomorrow. As I see it as 16:37 GMT now, that gives us just over 24 hours.

Fouad Ajami Sees Lebanon at Moment of Truth

In the Wall Street Journal, via The Corner:

"In an earlier time, three decades ago, Lebanon was made to pay for the legends of Arabism, and for the false glamour of the Palestinian "revolutionary" experiment. The country lost well over a quarter-century of its history--its best people quit it, and its modernist inheritance was brutally and steadily undermined.

Now comes this new push by Damascus and Tehran. It promises nothing save sterility and ruin. It will throw the Lebanese back onto a history whose terrible harvest is well known to them. The military performance of Hezbollah, it should be apparent by now, is not a performance of a militia; nor are unmanned drones and missiles of long range the weapons of boys of the alleyways. A formidable military structure has been put together by the Iranians in Lebanon. In a small, densely populated country that keeps and knows no secrets, Hezbollah and its Iranian handlers have been at work on this military undertaking for quite some time, under the gaze of Lebanese authorities too frightened to raise questions.

The Mediterranean vocation of Lebanon as a land of enlightenment and commerce may have had its exaggerations and pretense. But set it against the future offered Lebanon by Syria, and by Tehran's theocrats seeking a diplomatic reprieve for themselves by setting Lebanon on fire, and Lebanon's choice should be easy to see."

But can Lebanon, and especially Lebanon's Shiites, rouse themselves to reject tribal fantasies?

I Estimate We're at D-48 hours to the Main Israeli Entrance into Lebanon

Ha'aretz reports on additional IDF call-ups of reservists.

Meanwhile the Lebanese government is demonstrating delusions of cohesiveness. It's inconceivable that they would actually throw their men at the IDF unless their sole objective was to provide pretext for open Syrian/Iranian intervention.


Dems Get Closer in Fundraising; Still Trail

This according to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire.

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Attention: James Taranto

It appears that Saddam Hussein may be inching toward the Democratic Presidential primary in 2008. He will undoubtedly be hurt by the fact that he is not a citizen, but he's clearly putting himself in Russ Feingold/Dennis Kucinich/John Kerry territory, by calling for the US to pull out of Iraq because Bush misled them into war:

July 20, 2006
Hussein Writes to Americans, Urging Iraqi Pullout

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 20 — Defense lawyers for Saddam Hussein released a letter on Thursday that he recently wrote in prison that attempts to persuade the American people to demand a troop pullout because President Bush misled them into the Iraq war.

The 5,000-word letter is a rambling treatise outlining what Mr. Hussein asserts are the false reasons that the Bush administration used to justify the war in Iraq, from weapons of mass destruction to Iraqi links with Al Qaeda. Mr. Hussein blames Iran and pro-Israel interests for helping lead the Americans into war. He invokes the specter of Vietnam and the spirit of Mao Zedong, saying the Chinese revolutionary is “laughing in his grave because his prediction has been fulfilled and America is a paper tiger.”

The letter is dated July 7. It was handed by Mr. Hussein to Ramsey Clark, the former United States attorney general, who serves on Mr. Hussein’s defense team, said Rasha Oudeh, the office manager for Mr. Hussein’s eldest daughter. In the letter, Mr. Hussein said he wrote out his message to the Americans by hand at the behest of Mr. Clark...

He's missing the 'Bush lied; People died,' phrase, but that can be added. And it appears that Ramsey Clark is on his team; does that mean that Saddam is looking to snatch some of the Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton 'conservative southern governor cache?' If he is that shrewd, he may need to be taken seriously.

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I Get It: You Hate the Death Penalty

The Associated Press covers the electrocution of a convicted rapist kidnapper, thief, rapist and murderer. Yet AP manages to cover his entire criminal career in one sentence, while finding room to discuss:

1) His 'deathbed conversion;'
2) His trepidation over lethal injection;
3) His 'late night' consultation over method of execution;
4) The possibility that lethal injection causes 'excruxciating pain;'
5) The killer's 'frustration' about the whole process of execution;
6) The killer's concern that he might not remain unconscious during injection;
7) The killer's being 'spooked' by the process;
8) The question of whether corrections officials consulted properly;
9) The problems with other electrocutions, including the need for 'extra jolts;'
10) The possibility that the killer was retarded; and,
11) The rarity of death by execution in the US.

It's hard to believe that one could fit so much compassion for a cold-blooded killer into such a small place.

To give credit where credit is due, the AP also produced a more balanced piece on the killer just a few days ago. It gives this account of the crime:

Electrocution looms for killer in Va.
By KRISTEN GELINEAU Associated Press Writer
Saturday, July 15, 2006 2:17 p.m. ET

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Weeping as one of her captors bound her with duct tape, the young woman made a final desperate plea for her life, telling the two men she was a mother.

Unmoved, Brandon Hedrick and Trevor Jones forced Lisa Crider to a remote bank of the James River.

"Do what you gotta do," Jones told his friend. Hedrick squeezed the trigger, firing a shotgun blast into Crider's face.

Crider's body was discovered that evening - on Mother's Day.

...Hedrick and Jones, then 18, spent the night of May 10, 1997, drinking, smoking marijuana and crack cocaine, and employing the services of several prostitutes, according to court documents. While cruising around Lynchburg, they spotted Crider walking along a road. Jones knew who Crider was and believed her boyfriend sold crack, and they decided to rob her because they thought she might have drugs. They forced her at gunpoint into Jones' truck, where prosecutors say Hedrick raped and sodomized her.

Later that night, they stopped at the James River and Crider was murdered...

So did Brandon Hedrick get what he deserved? I'm comfortable with the punishment.

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Sahara Once Lush and Populated

Just a reminder that the Earth - and portions of it - have cooled and heated dramatically, long before man started pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat...

Do you remember that scene in Jaws when they keep firing barrel after barrel into the side of the shark, and wait for it to be pulled to the surface? The shark is so strong, it pulls 3 barrels underwater, and swims off to attack again later.

Well, Barry Bonds is the shark. And it looks like he may finally be pulling too many barrels.

Bonds has been waging the proverbial assault on the record books for a long time now, and if you had run the numbers about 3 years ago, you would have liked his chances to finish his career as the all-time homerun leader. You might not have been happy because he was helped by the magic of steroids, but it looked like he would pass Hammerin' Hank Aaron if he wanted to.

But father time, steroids accusations, knee injuries, public vilification, and investigations by Major League Baseball and federal prosecutors seem to be too much for Barry. While it looks like he will dodge indictment for now, his chances of passing Aaron seem awfully slim. Bonds is on a pace for 24 homeruns this year - a far cry from the 45 he hit in 2004, and the 73 he hit in 2001. Days from turning 42, and with knees that fail him frequently, his batting average has fallen to just .250. He's already been more productive at a later age than almost any hitter before him, but that period seems to be over. If Bonds does make it to 24 homeruns this year, he will need 24 more next year - at the age of 43 - to break Aaron's record.

Commissioner Selig says that if Bonds is indicted, he can be suspended. This points up the greatest thing Bonds has going against him - the likelihood that he will miss more games. He played only 14 games last year. While he's on a pace for 142 this year, his knees are bad enough that he could miss quite a few at any time. And then there's the possiblity of a suspension...

Of course, Bonds has always seemed indifferent to passing Aaron. He caused quite a ruckus when he said that his real goal was to pass 'the white man.' He meant of course Babe Ruth, who held the career record until it was broken by Aaron. Bonds passed Ruth earlier this year. It looks like it will be the last great milestone of his career.

Probably the only remaining question is whether he will be elected to the Hall of Fame despite his unpopularity, or whether some smoking gun uncovered by investigators relegates him to Pete Rose status - barred from the Hall.

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The GOP's Fall Advantage

A whole slew of factors will affect the midterm elections. But one where the GOP holds an edge is in funds for GOTV ('getting out the vote'). Hotline notes that Howard Dean's DNC is beginning to write checks for that, but that the RNC will ultimately spend twice as much.

If the GOP holds the Congress, this will be a critical reason why.

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Germany, France, Worry About Hezbollah Attack

So reports the Counterterrorism Blog. Apparently France may be a target because even though Jacques Chirac has strongly criticized Israel for its campaign in Lebanon, he has also called for disarming Hezbollah.

If this tacit support of Hezbollah by France is not sufficient to qualify France as a friend to that terrorist group, one wonders what it would take to prevent attack. Perhaps France will need to directly subsidize Hezbollah, and then it will be left alone.

Perhaps this will be the ultimate French response to Islamic terror.

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Castro Body Double Watch

Well, the bearded one impersonates Monty Python as he (reportedly) travels to Argentina for the Mercosur summit.

Update: I've posted a Reuters picture of 'Castro,' after his arrival at the Mercosur summit. Compare to the picture of Castro I posted below, and I think it's an open question whether entropy has at last overcome the Cuban dictator.

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Lieberman Trails in Latest Poll

Well, Quinnpipiac's latest poll of the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary confirms what some have suspected: Lieberman now trails among likely Democratic primary voters.

Now first the caveat: Mystery Pollster argues correctly that it's very difficult to identify likely Connecticut primary voters. That said, Lieberman's precipitous fall among those that Quinnipiac views as likely voters is a sure sign of major trouble. Combined with the reports of defection and disarray in the Lieberman camp, you have to think that Joe is in trouble.

The question now is, will Joe quit the Democratic primary and concentrate on an Independent run, as Dick Morris advised. I think that the only reason to compete in the Democratic primary at this point is so that he can continue to describe himself as a Democrat. If he drops the bid, I think it gives the opposition more credibility to say that he had quit the party. That could count for something.

On the other hand, defeating Lieberman might give Lamont more of a boost than scaring him out of the primary race.

Either way, expect this to set off another round of speculation: including a reprise of the 'Lieberman to run as a Republican' rumor in the item I linked above.

The primary is August 8.

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I'm Good With a Hammer...

I'm not sure whether to laugh at this article, or be mortified at the cavalier attitude toward extra-marital affairs. I hate to use the phrase 'I'm not a prude,' but I'm not. To make my point about the article's comfort with the whole idea of affairs, I give you this excerpt:

R. Couri Hay, the society editor of Hamptons and Gotham magazines, says he has heard more and more stories of client-contractor romance stories in the last few years.

“It’s fast, sexy, hot, but it doesn’t mean a lot — it’s like sexual chocolate, like sneaking out and getting that double scoop of ice cream in the afternoon,” Mr. Hay said. He added that client-contractor affairs are relatively safe: there is no need to worry about the contractor’s car being seen in a woman’s driveway in the middle of the afternoon; it’s supposed to be in her driveway. And client-contractor love, from what he’s seen, rarely threatens marriages because when the job is over, the affair is over.

“Nobody knows,” Mr. Hay said. “The contractor isn’t going to tell because the husband is writing the check, the wife isn’t going to tell, and you get a better job because she’s providing a fringe benefit. Everybody wins.”

It's all safe, and everybody wins. Why don't more people adopt this as a business strategy when getting work done on their homes? 'And if my wife sleeps with you, what's the discount?'

The whole subject of contractors having affairs with their clients produces surreal responses. Witness this man, who split with his wife after discovering she had an affair with the contractor:

“I remember saying, ‘I’m not paying for the work,’ meanwhile I’m feeling like I want to feel his face imploding on my fist,” he said.

There was never a problem with the contractor’s work. “I seem to remember his last project was a very beautiful marble counter,” Mr. Mager said. “It was just bad form. It’s like a shrink-client, or a student-teacher relationship. It may not be jailable, but in many respects it’s similar. Contractors and women at home, it’s shooting fish in a barrel.”

Aren't there times when it's OK to resort to violence? Why 'want' to punch a guy, when you can go right ahead and punch him?

I'm glad I'm handy.

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Nasrallah Speaks

"I can confirm without exaggerating or using psychological warfare, that we have not been harmed... Hizbullah has so far stood fast, absorbed the strike and has retaken the initiative and made the surprises that it had promised, and there are more surprises."

Courtesy: Captain's Quarters.

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Does Anyone Else Think That Iran's August Answer... challenges to their nuclear ambitions will involve elevated levels of Strontium-90 detected in the atmosphere over central Asia?

House Resolution on Israel

As the Hill notes, to the extent that Republicans have made inroads among jewish voters in recent years, it has been largely because of their support for Israel. The resolution on Israel is another instance where the GOP is more aggressive than the House Democrats.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

YouTube Has Everything

Mike gives us great news about Star Trek the Animated Series on DVD. However, I'm holding out for this:

The Partridge Family, 2200 AD.

Am I the only one who ever watched even a single episode?

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The Castro Death Watch

Are you among those who suspect Fidel Castro is trading old jokes with Hitler and Stalin as we speak? Well, he has a great opportunity to prove you wrong, at the Mercosur meeting about to get underway in Cordoba, Argentina:


By the time this edition goes into circulation [in print - the Editor], the 30th Summit of the MERCOSUR Heads of State will have concluded, during which President Néstor Kirchner, as host, will have passed on the pro tempore presidency to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil in the presence of their counterparts from Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela, Tabaré Vazquez, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chávez, respectively, as well as Michelle Bachelet of Chile, which is an associate state.

The expected presence of President Evo Morales, first indigenous president in the region, has been confirmed.

The meeting was to include discussions on the creation of a regional council on social policies; employment; social exclusion and poverty; the signing of complementary agreements with Cuba, and a framework agreement with Pakistan for the future implementation of a commercial treaty based on the principles of equity that currently prevail in the bloc.

The announcement that President Kirchner has condoned part of Paraguay’s debt for the Yacicretá Reservoir and regarding a broad energy agreement between the two countries, as well as the publicly announced decision by President Bachelet that she would not allow the Chilean right wing to impose a foreign policy agenda contrary to the region’s integration efforts were received as excellent indications that the road being taken is the right one.

Normally, this is an event that Castro might well be expected to attend. After all, he won't live forever, and he wants to impart all the 'wisdom' he can to Chavez before settling in for a well-deserved dirt nap. If he does not show, he may indeed have assumed room temperature. If he 'shows,' we'll need to decide if it's Fidel or one of his renowned body doubles (pictured).

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Mexico: Getting Ugly or Winding Down?

Mexico's press reports this morning that protesters supporting AMLO seem to be ignoring his calls for 'peaceful demonstration,' and instead struck the car of President-elect Calderon yesterday. According to El Universal, 7 people - women and youths - cursed, struck windows, and kicked the car that Calderon was riding in, after he left a meeting with union leaders.

AMLO, who has said before that the IFE, the PAN and others are creating a climate where violence might occur, called the incident a 'legitimate defense,' and said that if Calderon 'is imposed' upon the people as President, instability will continue. When specifically asked to condemn the act, he refused. He said that he would instead condemn 'electoral fraud.' He said that unless there is a full recount of all the votes, that Calderon will be an 'impure' President. He said that the only reason that Calderon is resisting a nationwide recount is that he knows he lost.

It looks like AMLO wants to make this as ugly as possible.

At the same time, El Universal also reports today that Spain's El Pais and USA Today have criticized AMLO for bringing pressure on the legitimate political process. According to El Universal, both dailies (paraphrasing) called upon AMLO to stick to the legal process for challenging election results, without using public protests to influence it.

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Hezbollah Ready to Crack?

CQ covers it.

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Capitol Police May Expand Jurisdiction

In the past, whenever crime and violence have come closer to the Capitol, the Congress has acted to expand the patrol area and jurisdiction of the Capitol Police. With a marginal increase in violent crime in DC, and the relatively recent return of violent crime to the National Mall, Roll Call (subscription required) suggests a temporary expansion of the Capitol Police's jurisdiction to the Mall:

Patrol the Mall
July 19, 2006

The National Mall is Congress’ majestic front yard. But hoodlums are invading it, and it’s Congress’ responsibility to make it safe. In the short term, that will involve deploying Capitol Police officers to help the U.S. Park Police. In the longer term, it means increasing the Park Police’s budget.

Last Tuesday, six tourists were robbed at gunpoint by two masked assailants near the Washington Monument, and one victim was roughly groped. In May, six people were held up in three different attacks, and a teenage girl was raped near the Smithsonian Metro stop.

No one has been arrested for any of these attacks, so it’s fair to assume that the perpetrators and other local thugs continue to think of the Mall as an opportunity zone. They’ll be back unless they’re caught and/or deterred by vigorous patrolling, better lighting and more surveillance cameras.

Despite this need, the instant reaction of the Capitol Police was: No can do. After attending a meeting at which Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey asked for help in coping with the District’s apparent crime wave, acting Assistant Capitol Police Chief Larry Thompson said, “I’m not feeling that the deployment of additional personnel into areas outside the Capitol grounds is something we will be able to do.”

But Thompson’s old boss, former Capitol Police Chief (and former MPD Deputy Chief) Terrance Gainer, had it right when he told Roll Call that the Capitol Police Department “needs to step up to the plate” and “temporarily help the Park Police” by patrolling parts of the Mall, perhaps down to Seventh Street Northwest. He also suggested that the Capitol Police help out the MPD on Capitol Hill, part of the high-crime 1st district.

...Congressional leaders need to give the Capitol Police a go-ahead to assist during the current crime emergency. But Congress also needs to boost the budget of the Park Police, which was $90 million in fiscal 2002, but just $80.2 million in fiscal 2006. Former Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers, it’s worth remembering, got fired for protesting the cuts. In the meantime, Congress has substantially hiked the budget for the Capitol Police.

...Congress surely will act if someone (perhaps a major campaign donor?) is killed on the Mall, or if a Member gets mugged. But it would be better to do the right thing now.

If the crime problem grows worse, this expansion of jurisdiction will probably happen, because it is the quickest and simples answer.

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GOP Leader Sees 36 Close Races

Tom Reynolds has a tough job. Apart from the obvious stuff the NRCC Chair does - raising money, finding candidates, etc., etc. - he has to walk a fine line as a spokesperson. He has to project confidence that Republicans will retain control. He has to convince people that the election will be close enough that people need to donate. And he has to sound in touch with reality. That's a fine line to walk.

"This shapes up to be a really close election year, and you better donate all you can spare - and then some - to make sure that Nancy Pelosi isn't Speaker this time next year, working with lunatic Left committee chairmen to ram a liberal agenda down our throats. But that said, I know that we have the support we need for me to be able to say that that definitely is not going to happen."

Reynolds - who's commonly regarded as a Speaker-of-the-House-to-be - is very good at his job. Witness this:

Reynolds predicts 36 tight races
By Aaron Blake

Beyond President Bush’s low approval ratings and the GOP’s double-digit deficit in generic polling, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) estimates there will be about the same number of competitive seats this year as there were in each of the past two elections and that Republicans will retain their majority.

In 2002 and 2004, Republicans broke with history by increasing their majority in back-to-back elections. Reynolds does not say the GOP will gain seats in this November, conceding that he will “have a few sleepless nights,” but he says he expects the party to add to its six consecutive terms in power.

“Will it be pretty? No,” Reynolds said in an interview with The Hill last week. “Will we finish it up with another record, holding the House when so many said it couldn’t be done? I believe so...”

...Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesman Bill Burton said Democrats have the number of competitive House races at “more than 40.”

Of course, both sides are operating under the theory that more competitive races favors the Democrats. But that need not be the case. If things turn bad (worse) for the GOP, Reynolds will be arguing in November that there are more opportunities for the GOP. I wouldn't expect to see that, though. It would only happen in a case where people are pretty certain Democrats will win the House, and Reynolds would be forced to make a case why Republicans could hold it. Things are not likely to get that bad.

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Star Trek: Now in Vibrant Technicolor

Whether you like Star Trek or not, I think there are two things almost everybody will agree on. First, Star Trek is classic science fiction that has influenced the culture and permeated almost every medium, for better or worse. Second, Star Trek has been bled to death. Five TV series and ten movies, the last two of which stank, have left the franchise on life support. Overexposure kills. That's why I was pleased to see that Paramount's latest attempt to squeeze cash out of trekkies focuses on the most underexposed bit of Trek-dom; the early 70's animated series, or "cartoon" if you'll pardon the vernacular, is coming to DVD. I have little opinion on the quality of the series for the simple reason that I believe, in my entire life, I have seen a grand total of one episode. And that was twenty years ago. But that's why I actually like this move by Paramount. At least they're putting some Trek episodes on the market that most people haven't seen a zillion times already. Be forewarned, however, if you're a Chekov fan, you're out of luck. For some reason, he didn't make the cut for the animated series.

Somalia: Time for Peace Talks

Looks like our boys in Somalia have decided to throw in the towel. Not a surprise, but it doesn't bode well.

Sudan to UN: Drop Dead

Once again, the UN demonstrates how it might not be up to the task of handling Islamic militants and genocide.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

India: The Latest

You have to sympathize with India. Muslim terrorists kill 200 (so far), wound 800 more, and still Israel-Lebanon-Gaza gets all the press. I thought it was worth checking up on the latest developments on yet another front in the war against Islamofascism. Here's the rundown:

- India delayed scheduled peace talks with Pakistan.
- Mumbai halted for two minutes of silence this morning, exactly one week after the first bomb went off.
- Lashkar-e-Qahhar, the relatively unknown terrorist group that claims it's responsible for the bombings, claimed it would provide audio and video proof of their role in the attacks. And threatened follow-on attacks, of course. Many think that LeQ is just a front for Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
- India hasn't offically fixed-blame on anybody, but the explosive used points to Islamic terrorists out of Kashmir.
- Finally, at least one Congressman, Rep. Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, is laying the blame squarely on Pakistan, claiming that historically Pakistan's ISI has supported LeT.

I understand why Israel-Lebanon-Gaza is getting all the press: it's a hot war, it's a story with which more people are familar, almost everybody can conceive of how it could spread, and it has been tied to the Iran's campaign for nukes. That being said, we're wise to remember that India and Pakistan already have nukes.

Iran Threatens the US

Hizbollah's Chief Spokesperson tells Reuters that once Ayatollah Khamenei gives the word, they will attack US and Israeli interests worldwide:

Iran's Hizbollah says ready to attack US, Israel
Tue Jul 18, 2006 2:09 PM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Hizbollah, which claims links to the Lebanese group of the same name, said on Tuesday it stood ready to attack Israeli and U.S. interests worldwide.

"We have 2,000 volunteers who have registered since last year," said Iranian Hizbollah's spokesman Mojtaba Bigdeli, speaking by telephone from the central seminary city of Qom.

"They have been trained and they can become fully armed. We are ready to dispatch them to every corner of the world to jeopardise Israel and America's interests. We are only waiting for the Supreme Leader's green light to take action. If America wants to ignite World War Three ... we welcome it," he said.

Iranian religious organisations have made great public show of recruiting volunteers for "martyrdom-seeking operations" in recent years, usually threatening U.S. interests in case of any attack against the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

It's unlikely that Ahmadinejad and Khamanei would be out of step on so basic a question as to whether to give the US an easy reason to attack Iran. Since I can't imagine that they actually want the US to attack, I assume that this must be an empty threat - or at least one they hope they don't have to carry through on.

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GOP's Immigration War Room

The Hill reports that House Republicans have organized a 'virtual war room' to coordinate efforts on immigration and influence the immigration message:

Republicans establish immigration war room
By Patrick O’Connor

House Republicans have organized a communications “war room” to push their enforcement-first strategy on immigration reform during the remaining months of the 109th Congress.

The communications plan will help GOP leadership staff coordinate the party’s message in local media markets during the next round of field hearings, in August.

After the hard-fought victory of GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s special election, House Republicans have increasingly hung their hopes of retaining the majority on their unwillingness to compromise on enforcement-first immigration reform.

But their emphasis on immigration this election season only serves to create more expectation among voters that Congress should approve a reform bill before the November elections.

It's quite true that Republicans are raising expectations on immigration. One might even say that they are betting the House on it.

House negotiators continue to insist that Congress address border and workplace enforcement before moving legislation to expand the country’s guest-worker programs or deal with the laborers already here illegally, as the Senate bill aims to do.

House Republicans are expected to keep pressuring their Senate colleagues on this issue during the monthlong summer break. Aides to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) are even planning for the Speaker to make a trip to the border during the recess to push increased enforcement, a Republican aide said.

...As part of the new media strategy, House Republicans will continue their efforts to label the Senate’s comprehensive overhaul as a Democratic plan — specifically the “Reid-Kennedy” bill, a reference to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who co-wrote a reform bill with Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

In addition, GOP lawmakers and staff have stepped up their criticism of Democratic leaders in the House for what they portray as a failure of those leaders to articulate a unified position on the immigration issue.

“This debate was taking place in the Washington, D.C., vacuum,” said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “We think it was being inaccurately reported as a House approach versus a Senate approach. [The Senate legislation] was essentially a bill passed by a coalition of Senate Democrats.”

Dumb puns aside, this is a further indication of just how important the immigration issue is to House leadership. The House GOP has put itself in a situation where they MUST enact a bill. That will weaken their negotiating position with the Senate, but probably not enough to matter. The House has the advantage of having the 'Least Common Denominator' bill. That is, pretty much everything that's in their bill is also in the Senate measure. If all else fails, both sides are likely to agree on that.

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Why 3rd Parties Fail

Stu Rothenberg - who apparently left Israel at the right time - reminds us that Proportional Representation is important in the growth of 3rd parties. Let's pray the US never goes to such a system.

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I've Come to Bury Harris, Not to Praise Her

So Ed Rollins might say. He's confirmed that the Justice Department and FBI have questioned him regarding Katherine Harris' dealings with defense contractor Mitchell Wade. Ever since he and the Harris Senate campaign parted ways, he's seemed only too happy to speak negatively about her.

Of course, she is virtually assuring the re-election of a Democrat who might otherwise have faced a tough race. And with the primary still ahead and some talk that Harris might just maybe be beatable, perhaps Rollins is trying to make sure someone else gets a chance against Bill Nelson.

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Lieberman Headed for a Fall

The Hartford Courant's Kevin Rennie makes it sound like Lieberman is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Local precinct leaders are against him, leaking word of his campaign's hamhanded efforts to identify and turn-out supporters.

So Joe Lieberman intends to remain a Democrat after he is re-elected as an Independent, even though the Democratic precinct captains are against him? Is he really looking forward to rebuilding bridges with them?

Well, I wouldn't. And I can think of a few reasons that Lieberman shouldn't.

Remember the Influence Peddler predicted months ago he would lose the primary!

Note: I will continue to aggressively tout this 'prediction' until it turns out to be wrong, at which time I will quietly delete all record of that post!

Update: Political Wire now reports that efforts continue to dump presumed Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger. And if he is jettisoned, some are suggesting offering the nomination to Joe Lieberman:

In Connecticut, Can Republicans Push Schlesinger?
Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie sends us this exclusive dispatch on the Republican jockeying to come up with a better U.S. Senate candidate in Connecticut.

Having failed last week to escort Republican U.S. Senate nominee Alan Schlesinger from her ticket, Governor Jodi Rell is suing for peace over the brouhaha caused by revelations of Schlesinger’s gambling at a state Indian casino under an assumed name. Representatives from the Rell and Schlesinger campaigns, along with state party chairman George Gallo will discuss the way forward at a meeting on Wednesday.

Rell, who served with Schlesinger in the legislature for 8 years, tried to bump him out of the race in the spring before the state GOP convention. The frenetic former Derby mayor, however, hustled his way to the nomination by gathering enough delegates to win before Rell acted. Rell’s unsuccessful assault on Schlesinger confirms Democratic suspicions that the lady can neither land nor take a punch. They are encouraged that they may be able to narrow the race against her with some attacks of their own.

Last week’s controversy, ignited by government and gaming critic, retired state police commander Bradley Beecher, got Schlesinger more attention than he will see in the rest of the campaign. He reacted with squealing delight at the coverage but outrage over the topic. His story of being asked to leave the casino for card counting changed during the hubbub.

Schlesinger may have done himself considerable harm when he became belligerent with impertinent reporters in post-press conference questioning on Thursday. Now that he has their attention they want to learn more about his escapades.

At least two prominent Republicans think that if Schlesinger can be nixed from his spot on the ballot, it should be given to Senator Joseph Lieberman if he loses the August 8th primary to challenger Ned Lamont. Schmata mogul and former Michael Kors fashion company partner Jack Orchulli, who ran against Chris Dodd in 2004, has also had his name floated as a replacement.

-- Guest contributor Kevin Rennie is a columnist for the Hartford Courant.

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So How's Times Select Working Out for You?

The NYT is reducing page size and payroll. The result is a 5% reduction in 'news.'

Which is a shame, because I think only about 5% of the New York Times currently consists of news. I mean, couldn't they find anything else to cut?

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Israel is a Mistake

So argues Richard Cohen. I was planning to comment on this, but the Blue Crab beat me to it. And Captain's Quarters provides a great takedown.

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Appropos of Nothing...

Except pop culture's ability to commoditise anything:

"in strange aeons, even death may die."

159 shopping days till Christmas!


Forget $$, Redistricting is the Real Scandal

It's often said that voters no longer choose their representatives, instead representatives choose their voters. Both parties have conspired to use redistricting to protect as many incumbents as possible and reduce the number of competitive seats. This is the biggest reason that Democrats are considered no better than 50-50 to retake the House this year: there are no more than 30 competitive House seats. The

Congressman John Tanner (D-TN) has introduced legislation to reform the process, and Roll Call covers it here (subscription required):

Redistricting Reformers Renew Push
July 18, 2006
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

When Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) introduced legislation aimed at depoliticizing the redistricting process, it was, not surprisingly, met with indifference from leaders of both parties.

But that was before the Supreme Court stepped in last month and largely upheld the mid-decade gerrymandering that Texas Republicans used to radically reshape the partisan makeup of their state’s Congressional delegation. The political dust storm kicked up by that ruling has brought some new attention to the wonkish and typically publicity-starved issue of redistricting.

“Hopefully, this latest Supreme Court ruling opens the door for the Congress to take action,” said Tanner, whose bill has so far attracted 47 co-sponsors, two of them Republicans. He also recently picked up a Senate supporter, Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who introduced companion legislation in his chamber.

...Tanner will be joined by an unusual collection of allies at a news conference today, an effort to gin up public support for a plan that would set national standards for how Congressional lines are drawn and ban tinkering between censuses. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), former Rep. John Anderson (R-Ill.), the national chairman of FairVote and a one-time presidential candidate, and Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union will call for Congress to take up Tanner’s Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act.

Under the Tanner plan, each state’s Congressional boundaries would be redrawn once every 10 years — after the federal census — by an independent commission, which would be equally represented by appointees of Democratic and Republican state legislators. As a safeguard, panel members would be compelled to foreswear running for Congress for the entire time their map is in effect; additionally, anyone who has sought office or been employed by a political party in the four years before the census would be prohibited from serving on the redistricting committee.

Tanner’s bill would make Iowa’s current redistricting procedure — enacted in 1980 and generally lauded by good government-types for producing balanced, competitive districts — the national norm. The state commissions specifically would be instructed to not consider the partisan makeup of a district or its voting patterns. Lines also would be drawn without regard to where incumbents reside.

The legislature would have veto power, but if no plan were adopted by Nov. 1 of a redistricting year, the state’s highest court would then choose one...

The Hill wrote about this bill a few months ago, and the story is reproduced here.

I'm not positive that Tanner's proposal is precisely the way to go, but it'd probably be a lot better than the current system. Among other things, I'm not comfortable with a federal system governing what has traditionally been a state responsibility. And I'm not sure whether it's better or worse that it does not apply to state legislative redistricting, which is usually as bad as redistricting at the federal level.

In a larger sense though, I'm not sure it matters. Voters have rejected redistricting reform initiatives like this one by wide margins each time they've come up (in California and Ohio as ballot initiatives). And it's not as if 'redistricting reform' pops up among the most important issues in polls. Until the issue gains greater salience, I don't think bills like this one will be going anywhere.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Fulcrum of the 2006 Election

US News talks about it here. Howard Dean has decided on a 50-state strategy, starting in 2006. Where Democrats formerly conceded most races in a wide swath of red states, they will now try to grow roots and win. US News looks at Mississippi, which is as good a test as any of the strategy. Can the Democrats win back moderate voters in conservative states, and turn out a large percentage of their voters? If so, then maybe in a few years states like Mississippi will be competitive again.

And when I say this is the fulcrum for 2006, I don't mean that success or failure will be determined by whethter Democrats gain House seats in Mississippi, Utah, Alabama, and Texas. In all likelihood, they won't. The question is whether they win more county commissioner and state legislative races, and improve their numbers in Congressional races. And of course, do they win the House of Representives despite having spent so much money in states where they're not currently competitive.

Because the 50-state effort will definitely cost them some seats this year. After every election cycle, there are a few surprise races where one party says 'gee, if we had only known how close this was going to be,' or 'if we only had $100,000 more to spend, we would have won that one.' The Democrats will see one or two of those this year, as they do every year. And if they are still in the minority when they say it, it will gall them that Dean 'invested' money in states where they would see no tangible gains for a few years. And Dean will be fighting for his job.

But if they have a majority, then those missed opportunities won't look so bad. And maybe they'll think it was a good idea that Dean invested some money in long-term opportunities, instead of on today's needs. And maybe Ken Mehlman will have to prepare a plan for investing money in Massachusetts, and Hawaii, and New York.

But Democrats can't be encouraged that the 'role model' race that Mississippi Democrats are looking to was one where a Democratic incumbent pulled in just 43% of the vote in losing reelection. Further, Dean's strategy holds that local Democrats do better than national Democrats because voters know those people better. But that's probably only a small factor. There's also the fact that local candidates aren't as liberal as national Democrats. If John Kerry had spent months campaigning in Mississippi, it wouldn't have helped. It's the policies that were off.

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The Electric Car is Dead...

Long Live the Electric Car!

Soon you'll be hearing a lot about the new 'documentary,' 'Who Killed the Electric Car.' I have not seen it, but it looks like a documentary along the lines of 'Fahrenheit 911,' and 'An Inconvenient Truth.' That is, the filmmakers know the conclusions before they start the project, and then match the facts that suit their views.

Well, since you'll be hearing a lot of guilt-tripping about how you're not doing enough to liberate the US from imported oil, do a little reading on the problems with electric cars.

Of course, one of the great things about the market economy is that it responds to the demands of consumers. As gas prices rise, if electric cars are all that great, someone will build them. As LAWeekly notes, they retain afficianados. And if you want to know more about some of the alternative vehicles available now and in the near future, check out Evfinder.

And according to IMDB, this movie may be your last chance to see Peter Horton and Phyllis Diller in the theaters.

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Murder Most Foul

Ace thinks that this scene of Monk is about the best in the series. He may be overselling it a little, but it's pretty good:

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Castro Continuing to Die?

It caught a lot of attention last week, but Babalublog continues to monitor indications that Castro is on his deathbed, or already dead. It includes news of a supposed emergency trip by Hugo Chavez to Cuba.

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Meanwhile, in the South Atlantic...

Argentina has formed a commission to investigate how to win back control of the Falklands from the British. The British reportedly dismiss this, seeing it as nothing more than a political play to help Kirchner win re-election next year.

Is Argentina hoping to relive the 1980s? And is Lady Thatcher still available for duty?

And should I be worried that Hugo Chavez has a nose in this?

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Who Watches the Watchers?

The folks on the Left are always concerned about shadowy networks of financiers sowing money on conservatives and conservative causes. So where are they on this?

A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding
But Some in Party Bristle At Secrecy and Liberal Tilt
By Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 17, 2006; A01

An alliance of nearly a hundred of the nation's wealthiest donors is roiling Democratic political circles, directing more than $50 million in the past nine months to liberal think tanks and advocacy groups in what organizers say is the first installment of a long-term campaign to compete more aggressively against conservatives.

A year after its founding, Democracy Alliance has followed up on its pledge to become a major power in the liberal movement. It has lavished millions on groups that have been willing to submit to its extensive screening process and its demands for secrecy.

These include the Center for American Progress, a think tank with an unabashed partisan edge, as well as Media Matters for America, which tracks what it sees as conservative bias in the news media. Several alliance donors are negotiating a major investment in Air America, a liberal talk-radio network.

But the large checks and demanding style wielded by Democracy Alliance organizers in recent months have caused unease among Washington's community of Democratic-linked organizations. The alliance has required organizations that receive its endorsement to sign agreements shielding the identity of donors. Public interest groups said the alliance represents a large source of undisclosed and unaccountable political influence.

Oh, I see. They're the ones getting the money. That makes all the difference, I guess.

At least this should help stop that 'rightward drift' the Democratic party has been experiencing lately, right?

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Prisoner Dilemma Produces Wise Decision

Roll Call reports that House leaders cannot agree on whether to appeal Judge Hogan's ruling regarding the search of Bill Jefferson's office. And without such an agreement, Republicans and Democrats fear that the other side will use it as a political issue:

House Unlikely to Join Jefferson in Appeal of Ruling
July 17, 2006
By John Bresnahan,
Roll Call Staff

House leaders appear unlikely to intervene in the appeal by Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) of a federal judge’s ruling that upheld the May 20 FBI raid on his Congressional office — a dramatic departure from the chamber’s earlier stance in the case.
Leadership sources caution that no final decision has been made on the issue yet. But high-level discussions during the past week between Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have failed to yield an agreement on whether to file a motion supporting Jefferson’s appeal.

Neither side is prepared to weigh in on the Jefferson appeal without support from the other, fearing political attacks accusing them of being soft on corruption. Jefferson is at the center of a federal bribery and corruption probe.

Well, thank heaven for small favors.

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Ceasefire Thoughts

A quick Yahoo news search of 'Israel Lebanon ceasefire' produces 1,482 stories. And yet all I can think is that as painful as cancer treatment is, few people seek a 'ceasefire.' They tend to want to stick with it until the cancer is destroyed.

At least the President is sending clear messages.

And Israel has set three very reasonable conditions for a ceasefire:

Israel PM sets three onditions for ceasefire with Lebanon:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has imposed three conditions for a ceasefire in Lebanon, where Israel has been waging a deadly three-day assault, a Government spokeswoman says.

"The Prime Minister is prepared to finish our operations in Lebanon if Hezbollah releases our two soldiers, stops its rocket fire and if the Lebanese Government decides to implement UN Security Council resolution 1559," spokeswoman Miri Eisin told AFP.

The resolution calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the Shiite movement based in Lebanon that abducted two Israeli soldiers on Wednesday.

"If these conditions are met, we are ready to cooperate with a delegation from the United Nations," the spokeswoman said.

I note that those are the conditions for a ceasefire with Lebanon. I wonder what the next Israeli step with regard to Syria and Iran would be?

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ha'aretz Opines

It's going to get worse before it gets better.

PRI's Tough Road

Following up on the news of the PRI expelling Elba Esther Gordillo - the head of the teachers' union - El Universal makes it pretty clear that she's probably better off on her own than the PRI is without her. The PRI figure in the cartoon is telling her 'Get Lost' (more or less).