Monday, December 31, 2007

John McCain Moves Beyond His Record

Patrick Ruffini, Webmaster for President Bush's 2004 campaign and a former e-campaign adviser for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign, writes a piece reminding primary voters of how far John McCain once veered from key Republican principles. Ruffini argues that McCain has spent months talking about 'nothing but the war and earmarks,' which he implies has helped primary voters 'forget why they distrusted McCain.' Ruffini's piece is largely a look back at a 'seminal' New Republic piece from 2002, when there were widespread rumors that McCain was considering a party switch. Here's one representative paragraph:

But perhaps most amazing has been McCain’s willingness to take stands even many Democrats are afraid of. He voted against Bush’s tax cut, the centerpiece of the new president’s agenda. Along with John Kerry, he sponsored legislation to raise automobile emissions standards, and he paired with Joe Lieberman to try to force Bush to reduce greenhouse gases in compliance with the Kyoto accord. Also with Lieberman, McCain has proposed forcing people who buy firearms at gun shows to undergo background checks–closing the “gun-show loophole”–even as most Democrats shy away from any form of gun control. He has infuriated the gambling industry by proposing to ban wagering on college sports. And along with Carl Levin, he has co-sponsored a bill to force companies that deduct executive stock options from their taxes to disclose the cost on their financial statements–another effort few Democrats have been willing to join.
In a primary season where virtually all of the leading contenders have pretty clear records of forsaking a variety of conservative principles (with one exception), is McCain on the rebound because his 'straying' is furthest from the public mind? Or is it something else--perhaps that he is viewed as the most electable? In any case, those who intend to support McCain would do well to read Ruffini's piece--if only to protect against buyer's remorse.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Census Bureau: Red States Gaining at Expense of Blue

Read it at the Standard.

Business Week: Experts Forecast 'Slow But Steady Growth' in '08

Read it at the Standard.

Pelosi, Reid, Huckabee, Obama Among Nation's Most Corrupt

Read it at the Standard.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Stopping the McCain Steamroller

The polling on the Republican race in both Iowa and New Hampshire is muddled enough that there seems to be little of which we can be certain, at least until the votes are counted. There is definitely a school of thought however, which holds that if Huckabee wins Iowa, then there will be a rapid effort on the part of economic conservatives to coalesce behind a candidate who can beat him. And if either Romney or McCain wins New Hampshire -- as right now seems quite likely -- then that person may be the one. (Plus, McCain really seems to be building up a head of steam.)

Keep that in mind as you read Patrick Ruffini's assessment of how to take down John McCain in New Hampshire. The logic seems sounds to me:

I think the answer here is to attack his strength. Muddy the waters and contaminate his message. Call into question his maverickness. Brand him with the tagline “Independent… When It’s Convenient.” Remind people that right before “rediscovering” his maverick roots, he was running as a standard Bush-issue Republican, taking cash from lobbyists, shilling for Cablevision, and running as George W. Bush’s rightful heir.

In New Hampshire, McCain brands himself as a longtime critic of our Iraq strategy. And yet for four years, he was one of the war’s staunchest defenders. He criticized Don Rumsfeld, and yet he campaigned strongly for President Bush in 2004, who could have fired the Defense Secretary at any moment and was ultimately responsible for the strategy. McCain is smart enough to know that the buck stops at the President’s desk, yet he conveniently “forgot” this just in time to run for President. Is McCain somehow implying — in a Republican primary — that the President was being manipulated by his own Secretary of Defense and Vice President? If so, he’s echoing the left’s insulting rhetoric...

I would envision a series of ads around this theme launching right after Christmas — tease them on the Web on the 26th and start running them on the 27th. Do one on some sort of questionable post-Keating quid-pro-quo that’s evocative of the Drudge hit of last week without referencing it directly. Then play back his pro-war rhetoric, in contrast to his disingenuous claim of being a war critic (it’s not that he didn’t criticize — it’s that he wants New Hampshire voters to think he was exclusively a critic before the surge).

Attacking off the beaten path is unexpected, throws him off balance, and is more likely to make him lose his cool. Save the immigration and taxes stuff for Michigan and South Carolina. It’s time to deflate McCain’s tires a bit with New Hampshire independents and buck up Obama, giving us a non-McCain nominee and dragging out the Democratic primary for as long as possible.

If Huckabee wins Iowa, Romney wins New Hampshire, and some third candidate wins South Carolina, that should muddy the waters pretty completely, right? Of course, right now Huckabee is winning South Carolina. If he wins there, then things have to coalesce pretty quickly anyway, don't they?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Edwards Refuses to Negotiate -- With Insurance Companies

The Los Angeles Times covers a medical case they portray as extremely complex and difficult -- one where doctors and an insurance company were forced to decide whether to provide a liver transplant to a leukemia-stricken 17 year old girl. The expensive procedure had a fair chance of extending the girl's life for at least 6 months, but there were no guarantees.

Cigna ultimately reversed their initial decision and elected to cover the procedure, but by the time the approval letter reached the family, they had taken their daughter off of life support:

Doctors treating Nataline told the family and Cigna in a letter that patients in similar situations have a 65% chance of living six months if they receive a liver transplant. Doctors had qualified Nataline for a transplant Dec. 6 and a liver became available four days later, the family said. But the transplant was not performed because Cigna had refused to approve and pay for the procedure, they said.

Cigna turned down the transplant, calling the procedure experimental because it was not supported by enough medical literature as safe or effective in such cases. The family's benefit plan does not cover experimental treatments. But this week, after receiving an appeal from the family and UCLA doctors, the company reconsidered.

Arlys Stadum, a Cigna spokeswoman, said the insurer submits all transplant requests to physicians with transplant expertise for review. Every request that is refused has been seen by at least one expert physician, she said.

In explaining the reversal, she said, "It was really just looking at how complex the decision was..."

"We are making this decision on a one-time basis, based on the unusual circumstances of this matter, although the treatment, if provided, would be outside the scope of the plan's coverage and despite lack of medical evidence regarding the effectiveness of such treatment," Garnsey wrote.

Dr. John Roberts, chief of the transplant service at UC San Francisco, said Cigna faced a difficult decision in the case, based on the facts presented by the UCLA team.

Roberts said his center generally will not accept a patient without a 50% chance of living five years. According to UCLA's letter to Cigna, patients like Nataline had a 65% chance of living six months.

"The problem that they got into is, here's a situation where she didn't have very long to live," he said. "Probably in this situation, they're probably better off to say, 'The transplant center really feels like this is the right thing to do, let them go ahead.' "

The standard of care for this particular situation is "going to be pretty hard to know," Roberts added. "I think it's a very difficult decision for both the transplant center and the insurance company."

This sounds like a terrible case. As a parent, there's no doubt that I would want for my daughter any procedure that might save or extend her life. I'd protest, blog, call my Congressman, go to the news -- do whatever it took to try to get the necessary treatment for my child.

By the same token, no medical system can afford to provide every conceivable procedure to ever needy patient. At some point, caregivers need to assess the chance of success, the risks, the cost of a given procedure, and decide when a given procedure simply doesn't have enough of a chance of success to warrant providing it. This is the way it is in the real world.

But that's not the way it is in John Edwards' world. When John Edwards is President, it seems that any patient will be entitled to any procedure he or she wants. And Edwards won't 'negotiate' with the people who try to control cost and keep the system solvent. It seems he'll rule by fiat:

Nataline Sarkysian died last night at UCLA Medical Center after complications arose from a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. Her insurance provider, CIGNA Healthcare, first denied the potentially lifesaving transplant, but relented after a loud public protest and outrage. By that time, though, Sarkysian passed away before the procedure could be performed.

"Are you telling me that we're gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people?" asked a visibly angered Edwards, challenging the health care companies. "We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again."

Edwards also told the audience of about a hundred people at the Score Pavillion in Nevada, Iowa, that it will take a fighter (i.e. him) - and not a negotiator (ii.e. Obama) - to take on large insurance companies like CIGNA.

We've all heard horror stories from Britain, Canada, Japan, or some other wealthy nation with national health care. Experience shows pretty clearly that single-payer systems have plenty of flaws -- with health care rationing high on the list. As the Cato Institute explained it:

Wherever national health insurance has been tried, rationing by waiting is pervasive, putting patients at risk and keeping them in pain. Single-payer systems tend to leave rationing choices up to local bureaucracies that, for example, fill hospital beds with chronic patients, while acute patients wait for care. Access to health care in single-payer systems is far from equitable; in fact, it often correlates with income—with rich and well-connected citizens jumping the queue for treatment. Democratic political pressures (i.e., the need for votes) dictate the redistribution of health care dollars from the few to the many. In particular, the elderly, racial minorities, and those in rural areas are discriminated against when it comes to expensive treatments. And patients in countries with national health insurance usually have less access to critical medical procedures, modern medical technology, and lifesaving drugs than patients in the United States.

Far from being accidental byproducts of government-run health care systems that could be solved with the right reforms, these are the natural and inevitable consequences of placing the market for health care under the control of politicians.

It makes intuitive sense that many decisions about care for people near death will be difficult and painful. Regardless of whether it's the insurance company or the taxpayer paying the bill, at some point a decision needs to made as to when to cease curative therapies. Leave it to an ambulance-chasing shuyster like John Edwards to claim that it will suddenly be easy.

A final comment: the LA Times article mentions that one of the reasons the case attracted so much attention is that the family turned to a DailyKos contributor to help publicize it. (I have no argument with that; as I mention, I too would do whatever it took.) Any surprise that Edwards is attentively reading DailyKos?

A Funny Idea of 'Consumer Protection'

The State of Maine -- and a number of others -- have decided that there's one class of private property that reverts to the state if it is not used within two years. If the class of property were a car, or a home, or a piece of real estate, we would never stand for it. Elected officials would get tossed out of office if they tried to confiscate those. But apparently the states feel that there's at least one sort of property that's different: gift cards.

Maine officials say the issue is consumer rights and some of the billions of dollars in unused gift-card value whose ownership cannot be determined should revert to the public instead of retailers.

“There is a windfall of sizable proportions here that Maine law wants to return to the consumers, and that the national retailers want to hold on to,” said Lemoine, who has sought — without success so far — to get large chains to pay up.

The retail industry says the Maine law is simply a money grab.

“States have no legitimate claim to that money whatsoever,” said Craig Shearman of the National Retail Federation. “This is really a situation where states are seeing revenue shortfalls, and they’re looking for ways to put their hands in somebody else’s pocket to cover their tax situations...”

Nationally, unused value is expected to drop to $7.8 billion this year from $8 billion last year. Most gift cards issued by retailers have no expiration date, and Maine is among the states that prohibits expiration dates on the cards.

Note the attempt at misdirection by the way: if you fail to use a gift card for 2 years, the state considers it a card 'whose ownership cannot be determined.' That's silly of course. The ownership of the balance is no less certain than a card that's been outstanding for a week. In either case, all that anyone can determine with certainty is that it hasn't been used. There's no way to tell who has the card, of course.

It's also ironic that the state of Maine makes it illegal for retailers to put expiration dates on the cards -- since the state is effectively doing exactly that. After two years, the card expires (for the consumer) and the balance is transferred to the state.

Why stop here? Why not seize bank accounts with no activity for two years? Or real estate? Why not set up a program for consumers to give unwanted Christmas gifts to the state? What exactly is the difference?

At what point does the state magically assume some right to step in between gift giver and recipient, and decide that the recipient no longer wants the gift?

I prefer honest taxes.

One more question: how is it that this does not constitute interference with interstate commerce -- a power reserved in the Constitution to the federal government?

For Your Last Minute Christmas Shopping

A friend gave Mars Needs Moms to my daughter, and I was stunned at how cool a gift it is. Berkeley Breathed is the cartoonist who brought us the seminal cartoon Bloom County, as well as the subsequent spinoff Opus -- which is not nearly as good. This book however, is touching. And the artwork is extraordinary. Breathed clearly devoted a great deal of time to getting exactly the look he wanted. Here's a sample:

Breathed is a bit odd, but this book is well worth getting. And that's good, because several of our friends will be getting it.

Chavez's Arms Buildup Threatens South America

Time Magazine reports:

First it was Venezuela, spending $4 billion on Russian fighter planes, Kalashnikovs and perhaps even submarines. Then it was Brazil, in August announcing a 53% increase in its military budget for 2008, the biggest such increase in more than a decade. The competition is still in the early stages but when two of Latin America's nouveau riche oil powers start splashing out on weapons, alarm bells ring over an arms race.

The regional expert at Jane's defense analysis however, seems to be unconcerned -- for now at least -- about the potential for Chavez's buildup to spark cross-border hostilities:

"Venezuela," says Joyce, "comes fairly low down the list." But Chavez does give a face to the race and an impetus for nationalistic Brazilian politicians to vote for an increase in the military budget. Indeed, part of the proposed new funds will go toward resuscitating the country's dormant arms industry. "We had 1% [share] of the world's arms market in the 1970s and 1980s," says Reserve Colonel Geraldo Lesbat Cavagnari, coordinator of the Strategic Studies Group at Unicamp university. "We need to recuperate that industry and invest in it. That means producing for the Brazilian armed forces."

Brazil and Venezuela are not the only South American nations looking to beef up their militaries however. Chile, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador are increasing their spending as well:

Chile leads with annual expenditure to the tune of 3 billion US dollars funded mainly by the Copper bill, the country’s main export, which earmarks 10% of the red metal earnings for the Armed Forces equipment. Chile so far has purchased F-16 fighter bombers, German Leopard 2 tanks (considered the best in the world) plus refurbished frigates for its surface fleet and two brand new submarines...

Peru and Ecuador recently purchased jets and tanks and increased their defense budgets. Argentina has defense experts visiting Europe searching for the “best buy”, which indicates that the country is in the process “of increasing military expenditure in the short term”.

The experts seem to agree that this is nothing to worry about -- at least in the short term. But with Hugo Chavez at the center of this, you have to be concerned about the down-the-road potential for conflict among competing nations. This is especially true given the serious problems Chavez has encountered with regard to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and other nations:

But for all his spending, his influence over regional affairs appears stuck. Many of his projects, such as a regional oil pipeline, are gathering dust on the drawing board. Others, such as a plan to create a regional lending institution called Bank of the South, are unlikely to live up to his grandiose vision. Venezuela's relations with neighboring Colombia, meanwhile, are deteriorating fast.

Bolivia, by far Mr. Chávez's most successful foreign project, has started to unravel. A Chávez-inspired constitutional rewrite has split the country and prompted several key states to threaten to secede.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of Bolivians in eastern, energy-rich provinces celebrated a declaration of autonomy from the central government. A rival rally was held in the capital, La Paz, heightening tensions in the Andean nation.

Read the whole thing. It's clear that Chavez has hit a wall -- at least for now. What will he do next? It's hard not to be concerned about the potential for real international trouble, given the instability of the man at the center of the storm.

Fred Thompson: Campaigning Like Crazy

Check out Patrick Ruffini:

Lazy Fred is no more. The dude’s had 5 events in Iowa each day the last week. Some of those events were canceled because of a blizzard today, others received less than rave reviews, but you can’t argue that Fred is confounding the pundits with a bruising schedule when it matters most. That kind of thing counts in Iowa, and as a result of that and the inevitable Huckaslide, I’m predicting he places a surprisingly strong third and stays in the race.

Given the manifest problems with the other leading Republican candidates, all Republicans ought to at least agree that the party's interest would be best served by seeing Fred advance in the primaries. Once the field is winnowed somewhat, the voters may make a better judgment about which of the leaders is best suited to carry the Republican banner.

WH: Congress Has Earmark 'Problem;' OMB Looking at Options

I missed this on Friday, but White House spokesman Tony Fratto addressed the glut of earmarks in the end-of-year omnibus bill. He indicated that OMB Director Jim Nussle is reviewing whether the executive branch can disregard earmarks included in report language, rather than statute. He also did a great job of laying out why earmarks re so bad:

...part of what he asked [Nussle] to do was to review all the options. We may not have tools to deal with earmarks. It may be largely an issue for, again, for Congress to deal with. We don't have a line-item veto, of course. But that's something that the OMB Director will take a look at.

Look, I mean, this is -- we talked a lot about earmarks. The Democratic Congress, when they came in, talked about earmarks and I guess -- maybe we need a 12-step group to deal with earmarks. They took the first step of admitting that they have a problem. I think one of the other steps is you have to make amends. So we'd like to see more amendment making...

Look, earmarks present a huge problem for government. Congress sets out lots of standards for programmatic funding. They appropriate the money, and then they tell agencies certain requirements. The agencies go through elaborate regulation and policy regulation processing, grant processing on how they're supposed to distribute money, how it's supposed to be merit-based, what priorities ought to be. States go through an equally rigorous effort to set priorities for funding that they get from the federal government.

And so to then have Congress come in and identify the projects that individual members think ought to be the number one priority, after agencies and state agencies go through all this time and effort and public rule-making to try to get it right, causes real problems for how you spend money. And in some cases -- I think we talked about this when we were talking about earmarks during -- when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed, that earmarks were noted as a particular problem because states go through this process -- in fact, they're required to do it, to list their top spending priorities for transportation projects. And sometimes earmarked funds don't get spent because they're not in the correct order of the list that a state puts together. So it causes lots of problems for agencies that are out there trying to spend money and really trying to do the right thing, based on merit and based on standards of regulation, that have been promulgated publicly, and commented on, and published in Federal Registers.

The White House is certainly talking right about this. It would be very disappointing if, after appropriate review, they were to conclude that they do not in fact, have the authority to disregard earmarks that are not written into the statute.

Of course, as the Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl points out, it's not clear that the White House has the authority -- at least in this case:

The appropriations bills' texts contain several sections stating that a certain amount of a program's budget "shall be available for projects and in the amounts specified in the explanatory statement described in section...." This may effectively make many of the earmarks in the conference reports legally binding. The White House, as well as Members of Congress, should investigate whether that is the case. If they determine the conference reports' earmarks remain non-binding, then President Bush should issue an Executive Order cancelling all 11,331 earmarks and requiring thatall government grants be distributed by merit or statutory formula.

More from me on this here. And also check out Mark Tapscott, Glenn and Club for Growth.

On the other hand, Don Young and Ted Stevens defend earmarks to a local paper... Young has this to say:

“You show me a congressman who says, ‘I’m not going to have any earmarks, and I’m not going to listen, and I’m not going to provide,’ and I’ll show you a short-timer.”

Right. Just look at the failed careers of earmark opponents like John McCain, John Boehner, Tom Coburn, Jeff Flake, and others. It's also worth noting another earmarks defense offered by Young:

“People think their taxes go up and that spending gets bloated. It’s not true,” Young said. “If the money wasn’t earmarked for the state, it would be spent somewhere else.”

This is pure speculation on Young's part. Earmarking has become so central to the process that it's impossible to say whether earmarks come out of a set pot of money that Congress would spend regardless, or whether federal spending is padded to account for the waste. If earmarking were ended, it would be up to Congress -- not just Don Young -- to determine whether spending fell overall, or whether the federal government spent the same amount of money, but merely allocated it according to merit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That...

Alaska Airlines is about to catch some abuse: WorldNetDaily is reporting that the airline is offering a 10 percent discount on some fares for those who book through the airline's 'gay' page. WND recorded this image when they visited the site:

While the page has now been changed, it still carries the title 'Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Gay Travel.'

The truth is 'worse' than that. Although it's not reported by WND, the airline has a homepage for 'Gay Travel' here, and offers discounts for flights to many LGBT events. They even include a shortcut to the 'Avis Pride' site (motto: 'we try harder.').

I'd be surprised if there's anything unusual about this. Many companies offer discounts and niche marketing to certain groups. As a commenter at Fark points out, Alaska Airlines also offers discounts for Catholics traveling to certain events. I see no indication that the offers on the Alaska Airlines site are in any way limited to gay customers; it's simply the way they're marketed. I suspect you'll find the same thing if you search the websites of many large companies.

Hopefully the approach isn't quite so ham-handed, though. Isn't 'gay travel' just a little over the top?

Dicks: We Expect More of Maliki Government than US Congress

Read it at the Standard.

Murtha Caves: Floats Possible Deal for Iraq Funding

Read it at the Standard.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pew Poll Shows Huge Shift in Views on Iraq

Read it at the Standard.

Anti-War Leader: War Opponents Are Democratic Partisans

Read it at the Standard.

I'm Not Saying the Left is Self-Absorbed...

Read it at the Standard.

Meet the Joker

Gotta see the Dark Knight. I'm not a fan of Heath Ledger, but he looks like he'll make a good Joker:

And if you want to see what Indiana Jones looks like 20 years later, check over here.

Wednesday Funny

The greatest link I've seen in a while: a compendium of 150 Monty Python sketches. You know you want to click. Here's one sample:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Political Correctness Reaches Its Logical Conclusion

Employees of the City of Denver are offended by a diversity training video -- which portrays a white male as the only offender against societal norms:

A diversity training video has drawn a complaint from a Denver city employee who claims its unfavorable portrayal of whites amounts to "institutional racism."

The video titled, "Laughing Matters -- Think About It," features a white, blue-collar worker named Billy who's portrayed as racist, sexist, and clueless while illustrating inappropriate humor.

"Diversity, to me, doesn't mean hammer the white guy," said Dennis Supple, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning mechanic who said he's considering filing a lawsuit. "Diversity means you have respect for everyone, regardless of their race, their gender, their religion, their sexual orientation."

City Councilman Charlie Brown said he's also offended by the video and has written a letter to Mayor John Hickenlooper questioning the use of the video.

How bad is it? Judge for yourself. It's certainly insulting to white males, but not any more (it seems to me) than other portrayals of insensitive white males in modern culture.

Kirchik: Democrats Embrace Isolationism

Read it at the Standard.

Sean Taylor

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor has passed away. As Victor points out, it feels like this is something other than a simple 'smash and grab.'

Until recently, Taylor was one of those who always seemed to find trouble -- most notably in an instance where Taylor's car was apparently shot up by someone Taylor had accused of stealing his ATVs. More recently, Taylor had reportedly cleaned up his act. A week ago however, someone broke into Taylor's Miami home when no one was there, and left a knife on the bed. When Taylor was shot the other night, the burglar(s) cut the phone line to his house and then headed straight to the master bedroom after breaking in. It feels like another shoe is yet to drop in this story.

In searching for news about Taylor, I came across this fan video. In light of Taylor's passing, the choice of sound effect is kind of chilling:

Harry's Dingy Polls Get Worse

Read it at the Standard.

A Great Christmas Idea -- and It's NASA Endorsed!

I wonder how much the inventor of the Pet Rock made. Probably not as much as the lady who pioneered the sale of tumbleweeds online:

Order your own tumbleweed here. I hear they make great gifts.

I wonder how they grow these world-class tumbleweeds? The land doesn't look all that fertile:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dance Class Reading -- Part II

This was the other interesting item from November's National Geographic -- an article about how the best way to ensure a healthy environment is to promote capitalism.

Well again, that's not what the article is about nominally, but when you look at a list of the ten most polluted sites on the planet, and the thirty most polluted sites on the planet, it serves as an object lesson about the linkage between environmental protection and wealth:

Note that not one of the thirty sites is within the free-market western world. In fact, there's a staggering correlation between pollution and state-run economies -- down to and including India, whose economy was so largely state-directed for many years.

Lesson: if you want a clean and healthy environment, capitalism is your friend.

More on this story at National Geographic here.

Dance Class Reading

Regular readers of this blog are aware that on Saturday, I tend to post something eclectic. That's because most Saturdays I take my daughter to dance class, and I bring along National Geographic or Smithsonian to read (thanks, Beth). If I see something interesting, I tend to blog it. If my wife happens to take my daughter to class... well, you lose out.

Anyway, I went to class today and found a few things in the November National Geographic. The first is the item below on global warming.

OK -- it's not about global warming per se, but I couldn't help but thinking about the debate as I read the article.

I couldn't find really detailed data about where the photo was taken (although you can read more about this cave system here). But according to the caption, this cave was above water as recently as 18,000 years ago.

Take a look at that photo. It seems to me that sea level is at least a few dozen feet higher today than it was 18,000 years ago. Was that due to man-made global warming?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eliot Spitzer's Death Wish

Read it at the Standard.

Murtha Shows Dem Duplicity on Iraq; Dems Play with Fire

Read it at the Standard.

Lou Dobbs + President = Big Traffic

On Monday I beat the rush and wrote about Lou Dobbs' flirtation with a White House bid. I got a nice link from Instapundit which boosted my traffic. Then John Fund wrote about it, and the story went mainstream.

Today this blog is experiencing something unusual. I am getting more hits from a particular search than I have ever had. People visiting my site after searching for some variation of 'Lou Dobbs president' account for more than half my traffic right now. It's even more surprising because my post on Dobbs does not come up in the first few hits on a google search.

It seems there might be a great deal of interest in Dobbs candidacy.

I wonder if others are experiencing the same spike in traffic?

Update: As I write this Google Trends says that 'Lou Dobbs Running for President' is the 68-th highest rated search. That puts it well behind 'Ali Larter Nip Slip,' but none of the current presidential field rates in the top 100 right now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Can Huckabee Win Iowa?

Soren offers an excellent analysis of what's happening in Iowa, and what might happen between now and the caucus. As we enter deeper into the holiday season, caucus-goers might typically be expected to pay less attention to this race. But with the vote so hotly contested, and so many candidates desirous of seeing Romney beaten -- and not really trying to win themselves -- it seems entirely feasible that Huckabee could pull ahead.

That probably isn't the best outcome for Fred Thompson, who is my favored candidate. If Huckabee pulls off an upset, that becomes the major story from Iowa. I believe that Thompson is likely to need Romney to score an unimpressive win (implying a strong finish by Huckabee), then manage to score an impressive third -- or even second -- himself. That seems likely to make him the lead story coming out of Iowa, and give him the boost he needs to get past New Hampshire to South Carolina.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from Soren's commentary -- which you should read in its entirety:

The numbers suggest something more. Huckabee is way out ahead of Mitt Romney on "is a conservative", abortion, and "shares my values." But on "agree on issues", immigration, and "right experience", Huckabee is struggling places.

I suspect that the "issues" thing is really about taxes. There has been a lot of mail going out, phone calls, and people have run ads against Huckabee. Huckabee’s experience number can be moved with some good bio ads.

I am however, struck by Romney’s abortion number. This confirms the word on the street from Iowa. Romney’s voter base is the country-clubbers...

So Huckabee has room to go positive and drive his numbers more. Of course, not just the guys that write happy are reading these polls. I would expect some interest groups or 527s whacking away at Romney in Iowa. NRLC’s endorsement suggests to me that they would do that. But something seems clear. Abortion talk may not drive Romney’s numbers down. Attacking him on immigration and his trustworthiness (flip-flopper?) might work.

Friday Funny

It's almost Friday, right?

I direct your attention to the 1977 JC Penney catalog, which offers some examples of why we should burn clothes when they go out of style, and why the '70s should not be mourned.

Sit down, gather your strength, and click on over to Team Sugar (mild language warning).

I seem to recall my mom dressing me in that...

CAGW: Democrats Cut Earmark Spending by a Third

Never let it be said that I don't give credit where it's due. For all the criticisms I have (deservedly) heaped on Congressional Democrats regarding pork-barrel spending. Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that earmark spending will be down by about a third under the Democratic Congress. This report is from the Politico, because I can't find the information on CAGW's website:

Citizens Against Government Waste, which closely monitors federal spending, is putting the finishing touches on its tally of pork projects in the pending spending bills — and the picture isn’t pretty. The group estimates that there will be at least 8,000 earmarks this year, costing U.S. taxpayers, $18 billion to $20 billion.

Democrats and Republicans alike had promised to curtail the practice of directing money to specific projects.

They have, but not nearly as dramatically as their campaign rhetoric had suggested. In the last fiscal year, when Republicans controlled Congress, there were $29 billion in total earmarks.

So Democrats can rightly claim they are reducing the practice, perhaps by as much as 33 percent, as Congress Daily’s Keith Koffler reported this afternoon.

Now let's take that progress, and do even better.

House Tries to Ram Through FISA Rewrite

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Look to Close Government

Read it at the Standard.

Gallup Poll: Congressional Democrats Get Failing Grades

Read it at the Standard.

Congress Prompts Yahoo to Settle China Suit

Read it at the Standard.

Some Suggestions for the House GOP

I'm not a huge fan of Norm Ornstein. He's trashed Republicans so often in the last few years, it's become hard at times to read him. Nevertheless, his column today -- offering suggestions to House Democrats on how to reform the institution -- offers some value to House Republicans.

First, let's assume that House Democrats ignore most or all of what Ornstein suggests. It's hard for the team in power to make concessions to the minority. That should not be true however, of the team that's out-of-power. Republicans have a limited set of issues to use against Democrats, and they need to look at everything in the toolbox.

A critical tool in a time of voter anger is the reform agenda. Unencumbered with chairmanships and power, Republicans can and should embrace reform wherever possible -- immigration, spending, health care, national defense, etc. Ornstein offers some ideas on how to sell a reform agenda for the institution:

Democrats are taking comfort from the fact that much of the anger and disappointment people feel is aimed at Republicans. It should be scant comfort. To be sure, a recent ABC-Washington Post poll showed Republicans at 32 percent approval and 63 percent disapproval. But Democrats are not exactly exempt from public disgust; the same survey showed only 36 percent approval for them, with 58 percent disapproval. If Democrats think they can count on the unhappiness with President Bush and the residue of repugnance with the performance in Washington when the Republicans controlled all the levers of power, they are delusional. There is clearly a broader public anger about the performance of most institutions, but especially those in Washington, and it could very, very easily turn into a broader and deeper reaction against the status quo and all incumbents.

Dig a bit deeper, and it is obvious that voters are tired of the partisan bickering and ideologically driven rancor — they want problems solved in Washington, not yelling or posturing or revenge killing that only results in gridlock. The latter is what they see coming out of Congress...

The second thing Democrats should do is to accept the possibility of defeat on the floor as something short of a disaster. The biggest failing of the GOP in the 109th was an unwillingness to lose no matter what. Of course, you don’t want to lose, and can’t afford to lose on some basic important issues and priorities. But in other cases, amendments can be constructive or no great disaster (and in some cases, amendments the majority doesn’t like can be allowed to pass and jettisoned in conference).

The third thing Democrats should do is to move aggressively to more debate, and not only between Democrats and Republicans. Now is a perfect time to revive the idea of regular prime-time debates on important issues. Take one evening a week, in special orders, and structure a lively debate on something of concern to the country. Have two or four Members lead the way in debate, and follow with a free-for-all discussion. In some cases, say global warming or trade, have both majority and minority Members on each side. Add to that a regular process of having real debate on bills that reach the floor whenever possible.

Things like Oxford-style debates make good government types happy, without changing the substance of policy. So go for it. Include this promise in the 'Contract with America II' you release next Summer. They will of course, be ignored a few weeks after they start. But that's not a loss.

Also promise to let the majority in the House have its way on legislation. Offer more open debate and more amendments -- at least on other-than-critical legislation. Promise to refrain from arm-twisting to achieve a pre-determined outcome -- understanding that it will have to be used on must-pass legislation. And when the Republican leadership 'loses' a vote, crow about it and brag how it shows that you've restored fairness in the people's House.

I have other ideas as well, which I'll write about at a later time. But in a presidential election, most attention is focused on the presidential race and the policies laid out by the two candidates. It will be hard to establish a House Republican agenda that can give a boost to your candidates nationwide. While you can attack incumbent Democrats for their votes, it will be hard to win back control of the House going race-by-race. If you can find some issues that can offer traction -- to create some 'wind at the back' for Republican candidates -- your job is that much easier.

House reform -- which goes directly to the critical issue of restoring trust in the responsiveness and effective working of government -- will be important. It also offers a chance to showcase the failings of the Democratic House. EG:
  1. We won't steal votes after the gavel -- like the Democrats did.
  2. We won't bottle up popular legislation as the Democrats have done on border security and other bills.
  3. We will bring up for a vote real earmark reform -- to ensure that Congressmen can't buy re-election with taxpayer-funded pork.
I expect to write more about this as election day draws closer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dems Fool Netroots: Quietly Fund Iraq While Talking Tough

Read it at the Standard.

The Next Big Thing

In the era of cross-training and extreme sports, it was only a matter of time before some visionary combined two of the world's great spectator sports: chess and boxing.

Chessboxing: in a world where 'competitive eating' is a sport, is it any surprise someone came up with this?

Monday, November 12, 2007

GOP Has Multiple Strong Candidates Against Harry Mitchell

Congressional Quarterly has the story:

As the latest entrant to the GOP field to challenge first-term Democratic Rep. Harry E. Mitchell , former Arizona legislator and Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert argues that 2008 will be an obvious chance for his party to regain the Republican-leaning 5th District, and that he’s the strong candidate to do so.

Schweikert said longstanding political presence in the area — beginning with his first run for the state Legislature at the age of 26 in 1988 — have helped cement his ties in the district. “I’ve been really lucky but I’ve also been in literally this same area for 20 years in politics. .... I have gained a certain benefit by being a known commodity and that’s helped,” he said.

Sean McCaffrey, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, said there were now “three very positive, very forward-thinking candidates who have big dreams about what could happen” in Schweikert, lobbyist and former congressional aide Jim Ogsbury, and former state legislator Laura Knaperek.
Mitchell is another of the Democratic 'majority makers' -- one that analyst Stu Rothenberg puts in the 'opportunity that will not fall easily' catergory. Charlie Cook calls it a district that 'leans Democratic,' which is pretty much the worst rating an incumbent can get from Cook, until the challenger is leading in money and polls just a few months from election day.

Mitchell's district has a Republican tilt. If in a presidential year, the state returns to its GOP roots, Mitchell is likely to find himself in a real race.

Just another demonstration that the seats are there for the GOP to retake the House in 2008.

I think it's going to be a great shock when the media at large discovers this in August or September.

Lou Dobbs for President?

Political Insider finds Dobbs using the traditional language of future candidates testing the waters. In this case, it's the 'the American people are looking for [someone like me]' angle:

Is populist CNN broadcast Lou Dobbs mulling a political future? Writing at last week, Dobbs said, "One year from now, we will have elected a new president. As eager as I am for that reality, I can't imagine any one of the current candidates for their party's nomination being chosen by the American people to lead this nation for the next four years. I believe the person elected a year from now will be an Independent populist, a man or woman who understands the genius of this country lies in the hearts and minds of its people and not in the prerogatives and power of its elites."

Dobbs continued, "As I travel around the country, my feeling about the lack of true candidates is validated by those I talk with: They are not excited about the candidates seeking their party's nomination." He concluded by saying, "I believe next November's surprise will be the election of a man or woman of great character, vision and accomplishment, a candidate who has not yet entered the race."

Obviously, Dobbs' experience and appeal are too narrow to imagine that he would do be a legitimate candidate for the White House. However, he probably has more potential to affect the race as a third-party candidate than Ron Paul or Ralph Nader -- two other people mentioned as possible third-party candidates.

Would he hurt the Republican or the Democrat more? That's tough to say.

The Democrats are traditionally more protectionist than the Republicans; if the Democratic nominee sees an opening to win support from Wall Street, that could leave room for Dobbs to appeal to labor. His populist rants against the high and mighty might sound more Republican than Democrat right now.

But in the last few years at least, it seems that immigration has been a bigger issue for him than trade. He's had harsh words for Democrats and President Bush, over their support for 'comprehensive reform.' It certainly appears that whoever the nominees are, the 2008 race is likely to see a return to type -- with the GOP standing for tough anti-illegal immigration laws, and the Democrats more supportive of legalization. This might lead Dobbs to focus his criticisms on the Democratic nominee.

But in the end, it would probably be up to Dobbs. His populist repertoire is broad enough to allow him to train his fire on either the Republican or the Democrat. He could wind up being a kingmaker.

What a scary thought.

GOP Recruits Strong Challenger Against Hodes

From CQ:

Steiner said he isn’t “running against anybody” but is focused on running “for” the seat.

He labels himself a “Colin Powell Republican,” in the mold of the retired Army General who served as secretary of State under President Bush and as national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan. Steiner was co-chairman of the 1996 movement to draft Powell to run for the presidency.

Steiner, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, admires Powell for his military leadership but added that he also regards Powell as the type of “bipartisan consensus builder” he hopes to be in Congress.

“I do not believe in partisan bickering and partisanship merely to separate Republicans and Democrats,” Steiner said. “When you hear complaints by people across this entire country, the American people are sick and tired of it also and I will simply not be playing that game...”

CQ Politics currently rates Hodes as “favored” to hold his seat, but will be closely monitoring the Republican field as it solidifies.

Democrats Tout Poll Data on Gordon Smith; Won't Release It

From Roll Call:

A poll conducted recently for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R) electability numbers to be down from earlier this year.

But the DSCC declined to release any head-to-head numbers pitting Smith against his potential Democratic opponents, suggesting that the Republican might still be in good shape heading into his quest for a third term — at least at this point.

A poll conducted late last month for Roll Call showed Smith with a 9-point lead over Oregon Speaker Jeff Merkley, the favorite of national Democratic leaders for the Senate nomination. Merkley is battling attorney and Democratic activist Steve Novick in the primary. Neither has come remotely close to matching Smith’s fundraising numbers, which include a healthy $4 million on hand as of Sept. 30.

So Gordon Smith is ripe to be defeated, it's just that the Democrats' favored nominee trails him so badly, that Democrats refuse to release the polling result.

Sounds like Gordon Smith has solidified his re-election prospects.

Silky Maybe, But Definitely Not Fluffy

Heh, heh:

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen is surprisingly on-message. The activist businessman, who launched a group dedicated to redirecting federal government spending away from the Pentagon and toward health care, education and other domestic priorities, is backing John Edwards' presidential campaign.

After a news conference today in which a part of that organization, Caucus for Priorities, announced its backing of Edwards, Cohen pontificated on the possibilities his association with the candidate brought up. He denied there were plans for an Edwards-inspired ice cream flavor, even though, as one reporter pointed out, erstwhile presidential hopeful Stephen Colbert enjoys a concoction bearing his name.

Pressed on what an Edwards flavor might be, Cohen stuck to message. "It's not going to be a very fluffy flavor," he predicted. "It's going to be a very solid flavor..."

That's right. When I think 'Edwards;' I think 'tough guy -- hard as nails.' After all, it takes a tough man to look this pretty:

Will George Bush Sink the GOP in 2008

Stu Rothenberg has a column on one of the key questions of the 2008 election. Projections of Democratic victories in 2008 rest on the assumption -- implicit or explicit -- that the GOP nominee will be badly damaged by the Bush legacy. Much of the Republican party's unpopularity and its weakness on key issues -- such as controlling spending -- lay with the perception that George Bush has not been effective on those issues.

When the GOP decides its nominee, that person will have no close association with the current president. He won't be the Vice President, or even a former cabinet official. Whoever the nominee is, he will differ from Bush on key policy matters. Thompson and Giuliani disagree with Bush on abortion and other social issues. Romney will contrast dramatically on management. McCain has differed with Bush on the war, taxes, campaign finance, and pork-barrel spending.

How much of Bush's unpopularity will transfer to the party's nominee? Rothenberg says:

Unfortunately, history isn’t much of a guide, since there is just a single case in the post-war era when the party of a retiring president did not nominate his vice president to succeed him. That happened in 1952, when Democrats chose Adlai Stevenson for president over Vice President Alben Barkley (Stevenson actually was outgoing President Harry Truman’s choice)...

But is it reasonable to believe that voters completely disregard past performance — a party’s past performance — when an unpopular president leaves office? Probably not.

After all, Democrats have plenty of tape of Bush making promises that were not kept and asserting truths that turned out not to be true. And they’ll be running against a party that has been defined for the past few years by its leader, the president of the United States. That means the Republican nominee for president will inevitably be the candidate of continuity rather than dramatic change, no matter how passionately he delivers a message of change.

It’s also true, however, that once the GOP has a presidential nominee, he will start to redefine the public’s image of the Republican Party. George W. Bush will seem less relevant, less important. But he will never disappear. That doesn’t doom the Republican nominee, but it puts him in a hole even before the race has begun.

Rothenberg is a very accomplished analyst, but I think he's flat out wrong here. While the Republican candidate for president will need to defend the party -- and thereby try to burnish parts of Bush's legacy -- he is going to have strong distinctions as well.

Plus, voters will consider the Republican nominee in comparison with the Democrat. And if that person is Hillary Clinton (as I have repeated at length), the Republican will be the candidate of change. Hillary has been in Washington for 14 years. She is taking credit for the achievements of her husband's presidency -- which makes her a de facto 8-year incumbent. Furthermore, the Republican will depict Hillary as the last link of a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton legacy of polarization. This will link Hillary not just to the failings of her husband's administration, but also those of his predecessor and follower. Republicans will ask whether the American people want more of the same, or a clean break.

There's also the fact that Hillary is increasingly becoming the not-so-proud owner of a terrible Senate legacy. She is arguably the most influential Democrat in the 110th Congress -- one that is establishing a record for lack of meaningful achievement. If she is the nominee, she will have to answer for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, as well.

Rothenberg: The GOP's Not Dead Yet (08 Edition)

Read it at the Standard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What Happened to the Mary Celeste?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hispanic Caucus Blocks Border Security Bill

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats 130% Tax Increase in Doubt

Read it at the Standard.

Friday Funny

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

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

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An Idea to Use With Your Credit Card Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crackdown in Venezuela

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

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

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

Democrats Give Up on Ethics Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraq Rowback Watch -- Congressional Edition

Read it at the Standard.

Iran Tries Filmmaker Who Discovered Mass Grave

Read it at the Standard.

Who Needs Earmark Reform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democrats' 130% Tax Increase Hits Ethics, Political Problems

Read it at the Standard.

Is Impeachment Dead or Alive? Yes.

Read it at the Standard.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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

Read it at the Standard.

New Immigration Bill Exposes Huge Divisions Among Democrats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pelosi On Impeachment: Screw You, Liberals

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

Democratic leaders decried Republican efforts as political gamesmanship.

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

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

Also noted by Samantha Sault at the Weekly Standard.

House Democrats Push Higher Taxes on Housing Sector

Read it at the Standard.

Deep Fried Heaven

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

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

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

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

Curt Schilling Creates Ethical Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Josh Beckett.

Are Taxes Still a Cutting Political Issue

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

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

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

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

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

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

You know what? Vote Kucinich.

Hat Tip: NYT

Mondale for President, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dems Outmaneuvered on Impeachment (But Not for Long)

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Pork Up Spending Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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