Saturday, January 13, 2007

Private-Sector Spaceflight

is about to get a major boost. The Astronaut Farmer comes out next month:

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Looking Into the Future

In Great Britain, grade inflation at all levels has gotten so bad that they have now introduced a 'supergrade' - 'A*' - to set some students apart from all the others that get A's:

The scale of "grade inflation" in schools and universities since Labour came to power is laid bare in official figures today.

The number of A grades at A-level and top honours degrees has soared more than 50 per cent since 1997.

The trend at GCSE is almost as marked, with pupils now passing 36 per cent of exams at the top two grades of A and A*...

In a tacit admission of the problem last year, ministers pledged to toughen up A-levels with an A* supergrade and a return to traditional open-ended questions.

It has also backed a review of the degree classification system amid claims by the official university standards watchdog that it is little better than a "lottery".

A Daily Mail analysis illustrates starkly the extent to which grading has drifted upwards at the three most crucial stages of the education system.

At GCSE, top grade passes have risen from 14 per cent in Labour's first year of office to 19.1 per cent last summer.

The brightest pupils now find the exams so undemanding that huge hauls of passes are becoming standard...

Meanwhile sixth-formers now pass a quarter of A-levels at grade A - up from just 15.7 per cent nearly a decade ago.

And figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency have shown how first-class honours degrees have rocketed 55 per cent.

More than one in ten undergraduates now achieve the highest university accolade while more than half achieve the top two grades - either a first or upper second.

Out of 289,200 undergraduates awarded degrees last year, 172,000 were awarded one of these degrees...

Is it that bad in the US?

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North Korea Solves Food Problem

They are looking into breeding giant rabbits. Seriously:

A German pensioner who won a prize and worldwide fame for breeding his country’s largest rabbit — Robert, a 10.5kg (23lb) bruiser the size of a dog — has been offered an unusual opportunity to exploit his talents overseas.

Karl Szmolinsky has been given a contract by North Korea to supply giant rabbits to help to boost meat production in the reclusive Communist country, which is suffering severe food shortages. The only problem is that such huge rabbits consume vast quantities of food themselves as they grow.

Szmolinsky, from Eberswalde, in the east of Germany, was contacted by the North Korean Embassy in Berlin in October after Robert attracted press coverage. “They want to boost meat production. They’ve arranged for me to go to Pyongyang in April to advise them on setting up a breeding farm,” Szmolinsky, who is 68 next month, told The Times...

He has also received a request for rabbits from a Chinese buyer. He said he believed that the monster bunny program — one rabbit yields 7kg (15lb) of meat — was aimed at feeding the North Korean people rather than the “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong Il, who is said to favor lobster...

Hhhhmmm... giant rabbits, huh?

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To the Victor Go the Spoils

If you win a hotly-contested race, you can be a jerk and say things like this:

"You recognize me? My name's Dr. Multimillionaire and I kicked your ass."

And if you are a colossal boor who also insults a popular first lady, and plagiarizes transparently, it guarantees that you become the opposition's number one target the next time around.

Update: Riehl World View has much more on this, including Congressman Kagen's lawbreaking and lying.

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The Damaged GOP Brand

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire looks at the 'damaged GOP brand:'

GOP pollster Glen Bolger explains: "We’re still good on taxes and values, but have big problems on 'less spending' and 'less government,' and there are cracks in the wall of our strong national security fortress. The other tarnish is that for a long time, Democrats were the party of the professional politicians, while Republicans came to Washington to fix the mess and go home. The scandals and the way Republicans ran the House mean that we have been more interested in power than in doing what is right -- which means we are no different than that which we replaced in 1994."

One reason that it took the Democrats 12 years to reclaim the image of the party most prepared to 'fix the mess' in Washington is that Republicans were perceived after 1994 as having actually changed things in Washington. Will the public decide in a year that Democrats have really changed how Washington works? So far, I think the answer looks like 'no.'

A big question will be what they do with the ethics process. Will they finally reject the system that leaves Members in charge of protecting - rather than policing - their own, or will they create an independent body? I think that will go a long way to determining if they are seen as continuing business as usual.

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China's Problems

People often underestimate the problems that China faces in years to come. QandO catches a big one: 30 million more men than women 'of marriageable age' by 2020.

What will be the result of this - apart from a dramamtic drop in population, soon thereafter?

The other thing is, there's no 'solution' for this. You can't import 30 million women, and you can't just create them - now that they've already been killed. The only way to correct an imbalance like this is to get rid of 30 million men.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

'Hey! We're Not Irrelevant!'

As far as I can tell, that is the central message sent by the announcement that the jokers behind the Doomsday Clock are getting ready to move the hands forward. Either that or they need a reason to send out a fundraising letter.

Except whoops - they didn't say which way they're turning the hands! I'm just guessing the direction, based on the cryptic statement that the change was based on 'worsening nuclear, climate threats.' When the rationale is that elusive, who can really predict which way they're going to go?

How reliable is the clock? As far as I know, it has hovered around '7 minutes to midnight' since it was created in 1947. So far, there has not been a nuclear holocaust. According to Reuters, the hands have been shifted 17 times. So with 17 opportunities to correct the apparent error, they believe we've been on the Eve of Destruction for 60 years. Guess we've been really lucky!

Don't you think at some point in the last 6 decades they could have tinkered with 9:30pm or so? That way, we would all realize that planetary extinction was not that far off, but we probably had time to go make a sandwich.

Editor's Note: It is my considered opinion that the Barry McGuire version of 'Eve of Destruction' is far inferior to that of Joey Scarbury from the fantastic series 'Greatest American Hero.'

Stephen J. Cannell - you're a genius!

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The Shape of the Surge

The specific U.S. Army brigades expected to participate:

1st Brigade of the 34th Infantry Division (The Red Bulls)

This may help explain why Sen. Coleman (R-MN) publicly condemned the surge. The 1st Brigade is a National Guard unit stationed in Stillwater, MN.

The 4th Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One).

This may help explain why Sen. Brownback (R-KS) publicly condemned the surge. The 1st Division is stationed at Ft. Riley, KS.

The 4th Stryker (Dragoon Raider) Brigade, 2nd Infantry (Indian Head) Division, based at Fort Lewis, WA, will deploy early;

The 2nd Brigade (Spartans), 3rd Infantry (Rock of the Marne) Division, based at Fort Stewart, GA, will deploy early;

And the 3rd Brigade (Sledgehammer), 3rd Infantry (Rock of the Marne) Division, based at Fort Benning, GA, will deploy early.

The 2nd (Falcon) Brigade of the 82nd Airborne (All-American) Division, based at Ft. Bragg, NC, has already started deployment.

The BBC Weighs Dodd's Candidacy

and finds it wanting.

I'm voting for ... what's-his-name

More Minimum Wage Hypocrisy...

Why are Democrats trying to raise the minimum wage in the Northern Marianas, but not in American Samoa?

Wizbang has the story.

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Rangel Disses Nancy; Dems Break Another Promise

The New York Post reports that Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel is 'miffed' that Speaker Pelosi is suggesting tax policy without consulting him, and bypassing his committee's jurisdiction on major legislation:

January 12, 2007 -- WASHINGTON - Powerhouse New York Rep. Charles Rangel is butting heads with fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi just a week into the new Congress controlled by their party, The Post has learned.

Rangel yesterday swatted down a tax hike that Pelosi has floated, and he made an end run around her decision to bypass House committees in a rush to bring bills to a vote.

"There's a lot of tension there," one Democratic lawmaker said of the relationship between Rangel and Pelosi.

Rangel, who took over the powerful Ways and Means Committee after 36 years in Congress, smacked down the idea Pelosi raised on Sunday of repealing tax cuts for those earning more than $500,000 per year.

"We haven't gotten that far to be talking about tax increases," Rangel told The Post. "She hasn't discussed it with me . . . We haven't gotten into tax policy."

Pelosi had said nixing tax cuts for half-million-dollar earners "might be more important to the American people than ignoring the educational and health needs of America's children."

But Rangel, whose committee handles tax policy, dismissed Pelosi's idea as unlikely to happen, since the speaker didn't bother to vet it with him in advance.

"Saying it to me in private is far more important than whatever she says nationally," he huffed, referring to her weekend TV appearance.

By calling out Pelosi, Rangel, a liberal firebrand himself, has emerged as the first old-school committee "baron" with the political juice to spar with the ascendant speaker.

In another swat at Pelosi, Rangel sided with Republican lawmakers by opposing his leadership's high-profile push to jam through legislation in the first 100 hours of Democratic rule.

Pelosi decreed that none of the early legislation would go through the normal committee process, hoping to keep her party in lockstep to enact key agenda items and boost her own and the party's national image.

"I don't think the chairman [Rangel] likes the idea that there were no hearings on a lot of the bills that were coming up in the 100 hours," said the Democratic lawmaker.

And if you continue down a little further in the article, you find that the 'open process' promised by Ms. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership seems to have been a casualty, as well:

Rangel got around her by setting up closed-door committee forums that were essentially hearings anyway.

Yesterday, the Republican and Democratic committee members met with health experts on the drug bill, and an energy meeting is set for next week

Guess the 'open Congress' thing wasn't an important promise. I really wish they'd tell us which ones are important!

Last comment: I noted a while ago that Ms. Pelosi's fight for Murtha over Hoyer might be the sort of proxy vote that showed she was unable to control the Democratic conference. I warned that that that loss might presage a Congress where she was unable to rein in Committee chairmen, much as was the case in the last Democratic majority. Well, post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

And Philo has chronicled the rivalry between Rangel and Pelosi, and Pelosi's past dissing of Rangel on Murtha and policy matters. Guess payback can be a... pain in the neck.

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Open Letter to Fred Dalton Thompson

Glenn points to Stephen Bainbridge, who wants Fred Thompson to run for President. It's something I've suggested before. It's something Mary Katharine Ham has suggested before (although I can't find the post right now). I'm sure many others have suggested it independently.

So Senator Thompson, if you google your name (like the rest of us do), and you want come across this post, feel free to either announce, or dash the hopes of your nascent campaign in waiting. The E-mail address is at the left. (Plus, it would sure drive up my traffic).

And FWIW, a fellow I know who worked closely with Senator Thompson says that he is aware that there are many folks who would like to see him get in the race, and the chances are nil.

Oh well. Next thing you know someone will tell me there's no Santa Claus.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tracking the 100 Hours

Just in case you were wondering, the 110th Congress first met one week ago, at noon on Thursday January 4th. At the time of this posting, that means the Congress is about 178 hours old.

How far are we into the first 100 hours? Seventeen hours and fourty-eight minutes.

Must be the new math.

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Good News on Tim Johnson

Senator Tim Johnson has been transferred out of ICU and has started to speak again:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (AP) — Senator Tim Johnson has been transferred out of intensive care and has started to speak, nearly a month after suffering a brain hemorrhage, his doctor said Thursday.

The senator’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Vivek Deshmukh, said an M.R.I. on Tuesday showed that the speech centers in his brain were spared injury in the hemorrhage on Dec. 13.

“This is confirmed by the fact that he is following commands and has started to say words,” Dr. Deshmukh said in a statement from the office of the senator, a South Dakota Democrat.

The senator is to have “aggressive therapy” in inpatient rehabilitation at George Washington University Hospital, the statement said.

On Monday, Mr. Johnson’s condition was upgraded to fair from critical, and his doctors said he no longer needed a ventilator. He was being weaned off the tracheotomy tube in his neck, his office said Wednesday.

Mr. Johnson’s office has said that recovery is expected to take several months...

Our prayers remain with Senator Johnson and his family.
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Senate Democrats vs. House Democrats

Andrew Roth is providing great coverage of the move by Senate Democrats to defang the earmark reform proposed by House Democrats. It comes complete with Harry Reid insulting Nancy Pelosi's ideas.

And while we're at it, let's get ready for the coming showdown between House and Senate Democratic leaders over whether to do the politically shrewd thing, and allow the President to have his surge, or whether to take part ownership of Iraq by not allowing the President to do what he thinks best.

Bet on the Senate Democrats - at least in that latter dispute.

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Democrats Go Off the Deep End

A friend of mine who used to work on Capitol Hill said it was critical to ask whether what you are about to do passes the 'bull**** test.' Someone needs to explain the test to David Wu.

And as long as we're picking on David Wu, is it worth asking whether he knows what the word 'ideologue' means?

Check out Ace of Spades, who's treating Wu with the respect he deserves.

I am less deferential; I think David Wu is a faux fraggle.

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Partial Victory for Speaker Pelosi on Stem Cells

The allegedly Catholic leader of the "humans-have-inalienable-rights-when-we-say-they-do" party notched an incomplete win on increased federal funding for embryonic stem cell research today, offering a partial fulfillment of the third item on Speaker Pelosi's 100-hour agenda. The 253-174 vote passes the bill but falls 37 votes short of the 2/3 majority needed to ensure passage of the bill in the face of President Bush's promised veto.

In an associated item earlier in the week, Sen. Casey (D-PA), through a spokesman, announced that he would oppose the bill as well, which passed last year in the Senate by a less-than-2/3 majority of 63-37. I admit I entertained suspicion that Sen. Casey would in fact demonstrate pro-life sensibilities only when the votes were already in place to accomplish the will of the Democratic Party's paymasters, but it seems that there may be actual conviction left in the Casey political DNA. Credit where it's due to the freshman.

Now let's see if he can resist the tendency of Catholic Democrats "to grow in office" the way Gephardt, Dodd and the Kennedys did into a form more pleasing to Emily's List. Time will tell.

Touching Story of the Day

British veteran of World War II, and survivor of the sinking of the Gloucester, has his ashes committed to the deep near Crete, where his comrades died 65 years ago:

A survivor of one of Britain's worst wartime Naval disasters has had his dying wish carried out.

Ken MacDonald's ashes were committed to the deep over the wreck of the cruiser Gloucester, sunk by enemy action in 1941 with the loss of 723 lives.

Mr MacDonald, a marine bandsman, was one of just 82 survivors when the cruiser was dive-bombed by German Stukas off the coast of Crete as it helped defend the island from occupation.

Gloucester, which saw so much enemy action it was nicknamed "the Fighting G", was a grievous loss, having won five battle honours in less than a year's service.

On 22 May, having fought off several raids with no air protection and almost out of ammunition, it was hit four times and set ablaze.

Mr MacDonald, who was manning one of the cruiser's massive guns, managed to scramble to safety through a hatch. He was picked up by a German ship and was a prisoner-of-war for four years.

Returning to Britain, he vowed that, when his time came, he wanted his ashes to be scattered where his comrades had perished.

After his death a year ago, aged 88, Mr MacDonald's ashes were kept while the Navy made arrangements to carry out his wish.

Last month the present-day Gloucester, a destroyer, set off on an anti-terrorism patrol to the Mediterranean. With its crew gathered on deck, a cask containing his remains and draped in the Union flag, was committed to the deep.

The ship's captain, Commander Mike Paterson, said: "It was a great honour for us to be able to commit his ashes to the sea over the previous Gloucester..."

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Dodd Laces up the Gloves for a Title Shot

More interesting to me than Sen. Chris Dodd's commonplace senatorial delusion that he could be elected President, is the trajectory his family's considerable political career traces of the distintegration of the Democratic Party from the default national ruling party of the 1960's to its role today of dyspeptic national scold, pushed into a reactive posture which offers only opposition rather than positive vision or constructive engagement with its opposition.

Sen. Chris Dodd's father, as is increasingly the case for today's ruling elite in both parties, also served two terms as Senator. Sen. Thomas Dodd, though, was a former FBI agent and prosecutor at Nuremberg who worked his way up through the Democratic machinery of post-war Connecticut. A firm Catholic and staunch anti-Communist, he was a prominent member of the Senate Internal Security subcommittee during the height of the Cold War. Problems with alcohol and campaign finance improprieties ferreted out by Jack Anderson in one of the many CIA-related stories that made Mr. Anderson's career, seriously damaged Sen. Thomas Dodd's political fortunes, and he lost re-election in 1970 as an independent after losing his own party's primary.

Sen. Chris Dodd, while maintaining pious support of his father's reputation, has come to embody the hard shift that occurred within the Democratic Party in the late 1960's and early 1970's. In stark contrast to his father's support for covert activities around the globe, Sen. Chris Dodd has throughout his career been one of the foremost opponents of CIA involvement in such matters as Nicaragua and Cuba. On matters of concern to Catholics, as well, he has been more reliably Leftist than Catholic, as his support for the partial-birth abortion veto override and support of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research unfortunately demonstrate.

The transformation of the Dodd political appeal from a blue collar ethnic base oriented around patriotism and family into an engine of suspicion of American power and preference for social transformation and engineering rather than traditional norms mirrors the transformation of the Democratic Party at large, and, after the collapse of the Progressive movement in the squalour and social disintegration of the 1970's, goes far to explain why Democrats today much prefer to explain why they oppose Republican policies rather than proposing their own hidebound retreads from the Summer of Love.

Public Storage Makes Good

ALa tells the story.

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California Just Became a Little More Unbearable

Aging assoc. football star David Beckham agrees to contract to leave Real Madrid for Los Angeles Galaxy.

Romney on Abortion

A lot of attention has been given in the last few days to Mitt Romney's 'evolving' views on abortion. In particular, check out the treatment of the issue at Stop the ACLU and Instapundit.

I am a pro-life social conservative. And I am inclined to give the Governor a mulligan. For heaven sake - he was running in Massachusetts. Undoubtedly if he were running in Utah, he would have described his views differently. That's what politicians do.

In deciding who to back in 2008, an important question will be to ask who will be the best leader in the effort to reduce abortions in the US. In deciding who that is, I'm willing to listen to each of the candidates explain his views and history, rather than regard that history as the final word.

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The Democrats Ask: Why Not Defeat?

Democrats Aim to Block Funds for Plan

So let's be clear:

The Democrats want the U.S. out of Iraq, sooner rather than later, and within 12 months in any event. Their reasons for wanting this are various, but they seem all to have reached the same conclusion by whatever road. Some, like Rep. Rangel, may openly claim that they have no responsibility for imagining the consequences of that course, but most prefer simply not to acknowledge that the sun will rise on the day after the last American is helicoptered out of Iraq.

Some Democrats may say that they don't wish for an American abandonment of Iraq--although those are becoming fewer every day--but rather that the American support for Iraq should be limited to training Iraqi forces. This is merely a recapitulation of the Iraqisation programme which everyone has now agreed is currently inoperative.

Embracing this strategy with the mere addition of a timetable for ending it guarantees only that the current situation which is supposed to be intolerable to the American voters will only become steadily worse as the political and military manoeuvring of factions within Iraq escalates to higher and higher levels of violence the closer the deadline of American withdrawal approaches. If the current level of violence indicates a failed policy, it is unclear what the Democratic alternative is except a steady spiralling increase of violence coupled with the collapse of U.S. military morale as the rankers realise that one of them left in Iraq is going to get to be the last man killed for what the Democrats want branded a mistake from which they propose to simply walk away.

This is not leadership; this isn't even politics. This is infantile wishful thinking coupled with a prerational animus against Bush which blinds the Democrats to the long-term damage done to American credibility by the feckless abandonment of those Iraqis who will have been proven foolish enough to rely upon our resolve.

Democrats Pick Denver

The DNC had no 'right' choice for its 2008 convention. Go to New York and you lack financial support and damage a potential Presidential bid by Senator Clinton. Go to Denver and you face union trouble and a city infrastructure that may not be able to support the influx of delegates.

Looks like the Democrats chose the latter.

Update: The Hotline looks at the choice.

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Overstating Workplace Uncertainty

The Economist's Free Exchange is a great read, and there is an excellent post today on the degree to which people overestimate the job uncertainty faced by college-educated workers:

The extent of outsourcing service industry jobs has been exaggerated. According to Mary Amiti and Shang-Jin Wei of the IMF, outsourcing of service jobs has grown, but it still makes up less than 1% of GDP. In value terms, the US imports more service jobs than it exports. Actually, the US and UK have maintained their position as the world's largest net exporters of business services.

When it comes to job stability, it is important to distinguish between people who leave a job because they found a better one, and those who lost their job. In the 1990s the rate of job separation did increase for middle income workers, but a majority of these separations were job-to-job changes. A job-to-job change means the worker went from one job directly into the next. The rate of job-to-job movements is twice the rate of moving to unemployment. Bruce Fallick and Charles Fleischman found that college-educated and middle age workers are the most likely to experience a job-to-job transition, rather than a transition into unemployment. In the 1990s the probability of older college-educated workers losing their job did increase somewhat, but these types of workers were still almost two and half times more likely to have left their job for another one, rather than being unceremoniously sacked.

So where's my better job?

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For the Surge

The process of creating a functioning, western-style democracy in Iraq was always going to be an extremely difficult task. Although some have made their judgments based on unreasonable timetable for progress, the progress has nevertheless been slower than the American political system is able to bear. Thus we are at a point where we have a few limited options in Iraq: continue with a policy that most believe has failed, withdraw (on some timetable to be determined), or try to do more.

There is no serious argument that withdrawal would make things better - either for the Iraqis or for the security of the United States and its allies. The only question is whether a 'surge' will improve things.

With regard to that critical question, another point of apparently universal agreement is that the success of this experiment will ultimately rest with the Iraqis. The President's political opponents have stated ad nauseam that the onus must be put on the Iraqis to defend themselves, their system, and their rights. Well, if the duly-elected government of Iraq requested a temporary increase in troops as an essential part of improving the work of their own forces and ensuring security, while also providing a commitment to assume full responsibility for their own defense, can we afford to refuse?

To me that's the critical point, and the Washington Post apparently agreed - because they put it right there in paragraph 29 of the story:

U.S. and Iraqi forces began a plan last summer to rid Baghdad of illegal militias and death squads that were fomenting sectarian violence, but the U.S.-designed effort faltered when Iraq failed to produce two-thirds of the troops Maliki had pledged. The difference now, U.S. officials say, is that Maliki put forward the plan himself and wants Iraq to take the lead, with a goal of assuming military command of the entire country in November. Iraq now has control over only three of its 18 provinces.

I suppose if you are certain that this effort will fail, and the situation is hopeless, then you can refuse. But is such an assumption reasonable, and is it one on which we can afford to make policy? I don't think so.

Captain Ed expounds on this topic at some length.

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Iraq Speech: Credit to McCain & Brownback's Perfidy

The American Spectator rightly notes that John McCain deserves credit for political courage in fighting for a surge for months. This is true whether the surge is blocked by Congress (unlikely) or whether it fails. At least he was willing to be a leader on an unpopular issue.

Sam Brownback by contrast, did his best to cut the legs out from under the Commander-in-Chief. This is something we expect of the opposition party, but not from the President's 'allies.' It will not help his Presidential campaign.

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The Demanding Life of a Senator

I don't recall Senator Byrd, when he was seeking re-election, telling the voters of West Virginia that he might not be up to the more physically-demanding tasks of a Senator, such as getting on the train for the 300 yards to the Capitol for a vote:

Just days into his tenure as majority leader, Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) received a tongue-lashing from Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) for a decision to end a vote before the senior statesman had cast his "yea" or "nay."

Byrd, who has served in the Senate since 1958 and is a noted stickler for the rules and etiquette that guide the chamber, was unable to make it to the floor in the 15 minutes allotted for a vote yesterday -- his first missed vote since March.

"The leadership arbitrarily closed the vote before I could get to the floor," Byrd told the Associated Press. "That is not the way legislation is done in a body such as ours."

Had he made it to the floor on time, Byrd would have cast the 17,780th vote of his career. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, played down the controversy, insisting that the majority leader has "nothing but the highest regard for Senator Byrd."

Since the 110th Congress was convened last week, Reid has emphasized his intention to run the body more efficiently, a plan that includes limiting votes, which often have lasted a half-hour or more, to just 15 minutes. An e-mail sent Monday to the offices of Democratic senators reiterated the point.

At 89, Byrd is slowed by a neurological condition known as benign essential tremor and uses two canes to get around the Capitol. On Friday, he tripped while on the Senate floor but was quickly pulled to safety by former senator John Glenn (D-Ohio), who is 85.

Byrd's age and physical condition were an undercurrent in his reelection race in November, though Byrd dismissed its import. The voters of West Virginia agreed and elected Byrd to a ninth term with 64 percent of the vote.

In his own 'defense,' Byrd says that the Senate 'never was intended to be an efficient body.' Perhaps each vote should last a random amount of time then, to ensure greater inefficiency.

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Dems Who Follow their Heart on Iraq

In the wake of the President's 'surge' speech, many around the blogosphere are noting that it is difficult (still) to figure out what the Democrats propose to do on Iraq. As I've chronicled before, Charlie Rangel has said that there's no reason they should be expected to propose anything. Other Democrats are trying to figure out what course is politically sellable.

But part of the problem is that many Democrats already know what they want to do in Iraq: get out as fast as possible. One of those is Lynn Woolsey (D-CA):

During her appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” yesterday, Woolsey discussed the framework of her plan for the U.S. military involvement in Iraq. At the crux of her plan is a withdrawal of all troops from Iraq in six months and non-military funding of Iraq’s reconstruction. She is seeking a Republican cosponsor.

Woolsey, who co-founded the Out of Iraq Caucus, said, “We would have six months to finish training the Iraqi soldiers and to bring all of our troops out of Iraq.”

Once the troops are out, the U.S. “would end with investment back into Iraq, in their infrastructure, and into their reconciliation and their reconstruction, only if we were invited,” Woolsey said...

Waters, the chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, said she has “discussed the legislation” with Woolsey and that she supports it. However, Waters did not say she preferred Woolsey’s legislation to other plans but rather that she supports all legislation that sets a schedule to end the war.

“I support all legislation that will (1), oppose a troop surge; (2), oppose blanket supplemental appropriations; and (3), call for a withdrawal of troops in the short term,” Waters said.

Woolsey’s legislation is far from becoming the preferred legislation of House Democratic leaders and may be a long way from a House vote. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Pelosi’s office has yet to see Woolsey’s bill.

Yet, some newly elected Democrats — especially from red states — do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and voting on such a measure would trigger criticism one way or the other.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have promised to run the House in an open way, but if they do not allow votes on Iraq withdrawal bills, the Out of Iraq Caucus will likely object.

The caucus is comprised of about 70 members, including powerful committee chairmen and certain lawmakers in leadership...

If the Democrats really plan to hold a series of 'symbolic votes' on the war in Iraq, they will almost certainly have to give a vote to the 'Out of Iraq' caucus bill. I suspect that a proposal like the one Ms. Woolsey is drafting - a timed withdrawal with support afterwards - might not be all that unpopular with the general public, either. Still, its adoption would likely add to the picture of the Democratic party as weak on defense and the War on Terror.

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Business Lobby Shifts its Targets

The popular perception is that business is a monolith that favors the GOP, and that the ascendancy of Democrats in Congress is unalloyed bad news for business interests. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Both the GOP and the Democrats offer benefits for business; it's just that they generally disagree on what they offer. And while the Republicans are clearly more pro-business than the Democrats, a good lobbyist knows what to push for when Democrats are in power:

At this time last year, boosting domestic energy supply was a top priority for both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Though they haven’t abandoned that goal, the industry groups are now trumpeting their support for expanded research into alternative fuels and clean-energy technologies, a popular cause among Democrats.

Meanwhile, they’ve shifted the modernization of the transportation system, long a concern of the business community, to center stage. Last week, the Chamber announced the launch of a new initiative to promote investment in the nation’s highways, rail network, ports and waterways...

“With the right kind of rebuilding program, not just in transportation but in energy and power as well, we could employ a massive number of Americans for a long, long time,” said Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the Chamber, at a press briefing on Thursday.

A deal on immigration that includes a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for law-abiding aliens is perhaps the most feasible business goal, thanks to the informal agreement of Democrats, several labor unions and the White House on the issue.

On the defensive side, the business lobby seems intent on picking its battles, to judge by its capitulation on minimum-wage legislation, which is expected to pass the House this week.

Meanwhile, Donohue vowed to fend off any attempt by Congress to change the law to make it easier for workers to form unions. Most Democrats and some labor-friendly Republicans back the legislation, but industry groups are vowing to defeat it...

A week after the election, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) announced a proposal to expand access to health insurance coverage to every American — an idea that is touted by most Democrats. For years, AHIP has engaged in many policy battles with Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the new Ways and Means health subcommittee chairman...

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Tax Dollars at Work?

Study confirms that men like an hourglass figure. Who'da thunk it?

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Curse You, Youtube!

Having never seen this video before, I had nothing but positive memories of this cheesy 80s song from one-hit wonder Slade. But after seeing the mugging of the pimp-looking lead singer, I don't think I will ever enjoy it again...

A video from the Alarm will make it better, right? Answer: not much.

And Wall of Voodoo preserves the trend:

While Squeeze finishes off - guess all the videos were bad back then:

Plus - not to alarm you, but is that Tucker Carlson doing the lead singing?

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Weapons of the Future

Discovery Channel treats us to Future Weapons.

Can I put the Metal Storm on my Amazon wish list?

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Public Storage Screws US Serviceman

ALa carries the story:

Army Reserve Specialist Patrick Rogalin served a year in Iraq in the town of Al-Kuk (which is close to the Iraq/Iran border). Before he shipped out he put all his worldly possessions into public storage and set up an automatic bill pay -like many soldiers do. While Rogalin was deployed someone wrote $900 worth of fraudulent checks on his account and to Bank of America's credit they noticed the action, put an immediate hold on the account and set up another one.

When Rogalin returned home from Iraq and contacted Public Storage to inquire about the status of his account (that he resumed paying as soon as all this was worked out) he was told that all his possessions had been sold back in June.

Wouldn't you think that once the huge company learned they had sold the only possessions of a reserve soldier after he had already been a victim they would have scrambled to make things right? You'd be wrong...

"...Rogalin said he never received any warning from Public Storage that his account was in trouble. Nor did he get any notice everything he owned was going to be sold.

He's now fighting the company, based in Glendale, Calif., to get appropriate compensation for his clothes, books, electronic gear, furniture, historic magazines and other property it disposed of without his knowledge.

Ron Ramler, regional vice president of Public Storage, said his company policy prevented him from talking about Rogalin's case. "I can say that I am in communication with Patrick again to resolve it," Ramler said Friday.

Rogalin still has his car and the military clothing he brought back from Iraq. And his girlfriend, Jaimie Alonzo, 21, and her parents bought him some clothes for Christmas. "At least now I'm not wearing the same three things every week," Rogalin said.

Rogalin estimated his belongings were worth $8,000. But he said Ramler offered him only $2,000 — and an apology — for his loss. "I called them back and told them this isn't anywhere near right," Rogalin said. "They upped their offer to $2,500 and gave me seven days to accept it or get nothing."

Contact Public Storage and tell them what you think.

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Defining 100 Hours

How important is the Democratic '100 hour' pledge? The New York Times profiles the timekeeper today. Best line:

In the event of a dispute? “We decide what constitutes the 100 hours,” said Stacey Bernards, a Hoyer spokeswoman. Chiefly, Mr. Cogorno decides. It is a monumental charge.

You'd think that the definition of a 100 hours might be something that could escape dispute. You'd be wrong.

The rest of the piece pokes some fun:

The Clock, which is also on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Web site, was set to start running at noon. (You could imagine parents waking their newborns to catch the epic moment on C-Span.) Alas, noon arrived with a failure to launch or tick. Mr. Hoyer’s office issued a news release at 12:02 p.m. titled “Update on House Democrats’ 100 Hours Clock.” The Clock, it said, “will begin ticking” at approximately 1:30 p.m.

At 1 p.m. many members were contemplating lunch and wondering whether The Clock had started.

“I think it has, yes,” said Representative Ellen O. Tauscher, Democrat of California.

“Jeez, I don’t know,” said Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska. “I don’t have one of those hourglasses.”

Mr. Young said he expected that Republicans would be given stopwatches “with those little Mickey Mouse thingies on them” to keep track. Either way, he says, he doesn’t give a squeak.

“Hmm, let’s find out,” said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, when asked at 2:20 p.m. if the 100 hours had started. He picked up a phone at a security station, called the Democratic cloakroom and asked for someone named Bob.

Yes, Mr. Kucinich reported, the heady hours commenced at exactly 12:57 p.m. when the House began debate on carrying out the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

Or did they?

“The Clock started at 1 p.m.,” Mr. Cogorno corrected, with the certitude of someone who has the final say.

Maybe they could use a primer.

Update: Don Surber is counting as well, and his view of the first 144 hours is probably not as rosy as that of Mr. Cogorno.

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Morris: Dems Flout Promises at Own Risk

Dick Morris points out that while the Democrats promised a '5-day work week,' as part of their effort to change Washington, they are working a 2.5 day week this week, and won't work a full week this month.

He further says that Democrats ought to move more aggressively on a proposal to create an outside ethics process - something I have been advocating for months.

...Responding to well-deserved criticisms, the new House majority leader, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), with great fanfare, promised a five-day work week. But that was just talk. When it was the Republicans who were scheduling the eight-day month, Hoyer was outraged. But now that the Democrats control the calendar, he considers a football game to be a legitimate excuse for a vacation day. As he said in reference to the new House minority leader, John Boehner (R-Ohio), “There is a very important event happening Monday night, particularly for those who live in Ohio and Florida. In the spirit of comity, and I know if Maryland were playing, I would want to be accommodated, and I want to accommodate my friend, Mr. Boehner...”

And there won’t be a five-day work week at all in January. The Martin Luther King holiday falls next week and the Democrats and Republicans are holding respective retreats during the following two weeks. The Democrats are planning a day of speeches in two weeks, including one by Bill Clinton. Hey folks, ever think about doing this on a weekend?

So the promised “five-day” work week starts on Tuesday at 6:30 and ends at about 2 on Friday — more like a two-and-a-half-day work week...

Meanwhile in the Senate, while Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) fight for an independent watchdog to enforce lobbying laws, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insists that hearings must first be held on the issue. This is hardly a new idea. It’s been proposed for years and makes sense. We’ve seen how little policing of lobbyists has been done — witness Jack Abramoff and his cohorts. Requiring hearings is just another stalling tactic. And, in any event, Reid is the last person who should be in charge of designing the self-policing of lobbyists. For years, his three sons and son-in-law made millions by lobbying for Nevada interests — often working out of his Senate office. Only when the press called attention to the practice did Reid bar the boys. Talk about the goats guarding the garbage! Sen. Obama spoke of “institutional resistance” to the watchdog provisions. That institutional resistance has led to serious lobbying transgressions that must be stopped.

If the Democrats want to stay in power, and if Congress wants to win the support and trust of the American people, they’d better start thinking about how their actions resonate with the average voter...

Morris is absolutely right about this. They better be able to go to the voters next year and tell them that they delivered on their promise to change the culture in Washington. If they can't, it makes it much easier for the GOP to retake one or both houses of Congress.

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Amnesty, Primaries, and the Senate

I've commented before on the effect of the immigration amnesty debate on McCain's primary campaign. Do you think there could be a Republican Senator (or two, or more) who might use filibusters and other parliamentary tactics to prolong the debate on immigration reform into late this year - or even next year? What would the effect be on McCain's campaign if he's doing press conferences with Ted Kennedy in November, in support of an amnesty?

Suppose there were a Senator who supported Mitt Romney's campaign and opposed an amnesty, for example...

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Schwarzenegger Poisons the Well

If coverage like this is any indication, Mickey may be right: Giuliani and McCain could find Romney gaining faster than expected.

By the way, Opinion Journal offers a look at the problems and unintended consequences of the Schwarzenegger plan - as well as a better approach.

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Olympics Change China - For Now

Daniel Drezner calls attention to a good piece on how Beijing is preparing for the 2008 Olympics.

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Online Acces to British Emigrant Records

Britain's National Archives are making available - online - the passenger manifests of ships carrying 30 million emigrants between 1890 and 1960.

Check it out at AncestorsonBoard.

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Minimum Wage: the Height of Dem Hypocrisy

For years, Democrats scored political points by blaming the Republican Congress for failing to pass a minimum wage increase. Although it received almost no coverage in the press, the GOP Congress did pass such increases - packaged along with tax breaks for business to reduce job losses from the increase. Democrats refused to go along with these proposals, insisting that only a stand-alone minimum wage increase was acceptable. Air America went so far as to call this a 'poison pill.'

Now Harry Reid says he supports this approach!

Republicans, however, are seeking tax and regulatory sweeteners for businesses to ease the impact of a phased wage hike to $7.25 per hour. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he will back the business breaks, remarking last week that a filibuster-proof margin for a stand-alone minimum wage increase may be achievable, but, “I’m not sure I want to do that.”

The Senate Finance Committee today will examine options for tax breaks that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee can successfully pair with the wage hike. But HELP Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and ranking Republican Mike Enzi (Wyo.) are already dissenting from party leaders’ positions on the minimum wage.

Kennedy will push for a Senate wage hike without business tax breaks at an event today with House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and freshman Reps. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.)...

Enzi, meanwhile, spent yesterday’s GOP policy lunch tamping down enthusiasm among Republicans for adding small-business health plan provisions to the minimum-wage hike. Enzi’s small-business health plan bill fell short on the floor last year, and he continues to work carefully on a compromise with Democrats that he hopes to pursue as a stand-alone issue, spokesman Craig Orfield said.

Senate Republicans also endorse other business benefits as add-ons to the wage bill, but support for including small-business health plans is being stoked in the House. There, senior Republicans gathered yesterday to tout Reid’s support for a business-friendly wage bill and promote their alternative – which includes small-business health plans.

“Small business health plans would be my choice,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said in an interview late last week, adding that a wage increase coupled with health insurance incentives would ensure businesses are “able to give their employees a better life.”

So it becomes clear: if Harry Reid has his way, then Democrats will have blocked a GOP-led minimum wage increase for years for political gain, only to pass the same proposal after they assume control of Congress. Unbelieveable.

Update: David Kralik at NAM points me to Pat Cleary's post on the topic. It's worth a read.

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Yes, Minister

This headline at The Hill made me optimistic that they were referring to this series. Regrettably, no.

If you believe that government works terribly and you want to know why, this is a great view (or read). Or, if you just want a good laugh at dry British humor put together by people who understand government well, check it out.

Read more here, here, here, and here.

If you're interested, there's quite a bit of material on Youtube.

As Argentina threatens the Falklands, this might be timely:

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Question

So if Democrats will not threaten funding to support troops currently in Iraq, but will prevent any new troops from going to Iraq, doesn't that mean they're in favor of 'staying the course' in Iraq?

I'm just asking.

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GOP Senators Push for Line-Item Veto

A good way to kick off a new Congress - with a measure that will help reduce spending, which passes constitutional muster. Thanks to Senators DeMint and Gregg.

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Rothenberg Overstates Dem Edge in 2008

I agree with Stu Rothenberg to an extent. Historically, it is unusual for a party to win three consecutive Presidential elections - for the reasons that he states:

As we begin the 2008 election cycle, we all ought to be on the same page when it comes to expectations. Whether you are hoping that Republicans maintain their hold on the White House or believe that it's important for a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office in 2009, it's pretty clear that the 2008 presidential election is the Democrats' to lose.

Put another way, while we don't yet know the nominees or the specific circumstances that will shape the next election -- all of which, of course, are important considerations in handicapping the 2008 race -- the burden is on the GOP to overcome history if it is to retain the White House.

Only once in the past 50 years, in 1988, has a political party won a third consecutive four-year presidential term. That's not an accident. It's the result of inevitable voter fatigue and impatience, as well as the public's (and media's) desire for periodic change.

Obviously, Republican George H.W. Bush's 1988 victory after eight years of Ronald Reagan shows that it's not impossible for one party to win a third straight term in the White House. But it is inherently difficult to do so, and one would expect it to be even more difficult when the man exiting the White House is widely unpopular. (Before the Reagan-to-Bush handoff, the last time a sitting president was succeeded by a member of his own party was in 1929, when Calvin Coolidge passed the keys to the White House to Herbert Hoover.)

Certainly if the President is very unpopular in 2008, and the GOP nominates someone seen as his heir, that person will have a very tough time winning the election. But we don't know if Bush will be unpopular in 2008. In fact, if he is seen as a check on an overreaching liberal Congress, he might even be (gasp!) popular. Further, the Republicans will not be nominating Bush's heir - or even someone closely associated with him. They will be nominating Mitt Romney - or John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani, or Sam Brownback - or God-knows-who. But whoever it is, it won't be a 'Bushie.'

Further, Rothenberg works from the premise that voters in 2008 will want change, per se. That may not be the case. If voters believe that the economy is doing well, Iraq has improved, and the War on Terror is going well, they may even want to 'stay the course.' If the Democrats are seen as likely to keep control of the Congress, voters may want to preserve divided government.

The point is, history is not much of a guide in a single election. Yes, it would be unusual for a Republican to win in 2008, but that's not saying all that much.

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Population Shift Benefits GOP

The Washington Times covers this story, which I wrote about a little while ago. Here's a quote that makes it a little more concrete:

Because each state's electoral votes are based on its representation in Congress, the shift in House seats to the Sun Belt regions, where Republicans are strongest in presidential elections, would mean increased clout in the Electoral College, too.

"Overall, given a 2004 electoral vote of 286 [for President] Bush to 252 [for Sen. John] Kerry, the vote count based upon these 2010 projections would have been 292 Bush, 246 Kerry, a gain of six for the Republican ticket," Polidata's report said.

Bush could have lost 22 more electoral votes and still won the White House. A similarly-situated Republican candidate in 2012 could lose Ohio, or New Mexico, Arizona, and Arkansas, and still win the Presidency.

This could end up representing an important shift in favor of the Republicans in Presidential races. (It may not of course, because states that lean toward one party or the other today, may not lean the same way in 2012).

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Federal Taxes Highly Progressive

Greg Mankiw demonstrates that federal taxes remain as progressive as ever. Remember that when the Democrats start talking about raising taxes to ensure that the 'rich' pay 'their fair share:'

Lowest quintile, 4.5
Second quintile, 10.0
Middle quintile, 13.9
Fourth quintile, 17.2
Highest quintle, 25.1

Top 10 percent, 26.9
Top 5 percent, 28.5
Top 1 percent, 31.1

Those numbers include all federal taxes, expressed as a percentage of household income.

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If it Weren't for You Meddling Kids!

Iwao Takamoto has passed away. He had quite a resume.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

The AC-130

While we wait on the BDA reports from Somalia, here's a few pics of AC-130s doing their job and a primer on how they do it.

Thinking Ahead

Ralph Peters explains why ADM Fallon's getting shifted over from PACOM to CENTCOM.

Pushing for Amnesty

Congressional Democratic leaders are being pressed by latino groups to pass an immigration reform bill within the first 100 days of the new Congress. The House Democratic leadership sounds open to the idea; they don't really have any plans after the first 100 days, apparently:

Pelosi and other House Democrats have said little about what legislation they will take up after completing their 100-hour agenda, a collection of relatively uncontroversial bills over which Democrats have reached consensus.

Beyond the first 100 hours it’s hard to speculate” about what Democrats will focus on, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. Hammill said Pelosi has discussed immigration reform with President Bush and that both have agreed it should be a “priority...”

Hispanic leaders are making two clear statements: Reform should include a path to legal residency for the 12 million illegal immigrants now working in the U.S., and a guest-worker program supported by President Bush, which would require foreign workers to return home after several years, is inadequate. They also oppose the building of a fence along the Mexican border intended to stem the flow of immigration.

“Immigrants have dedicated themselves to this country through hard work and determination and America has benefited accordingly,” Rosales and Rodriguez-Lopez wrote. “[T]hey deserve an orderly pathway to legalize their status in the U.S. so they can emerge from society’s shadows into the light of day...”

But in recent months House Democrats have shied away from the issue for fear of angering conservative-leaning white voters, whom Republican strategists hoped to court in 2006 by pushing strict and punitive immigration proposals.

House Democrats did not mention immigration in “A New Direction for America,” the broad agenda document they made public shortly before the election. The omission drew angry responses from congressional leaders such as Reps. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force.

“I’m very sad and disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform is not a key and pivotal point for the Democrats,” Gutierrez told The Hill in September.

Political strategists who have concentrated on Hispanic outreach say that Democrats have a golden opportunity to capitalize on the increased political attention of Hispanics because of last year’s immigration debate, but that chance could soon pass.

It will be interesting to see if Congressional Republicans are any softer on immigration than they were prior to the elections. While much has been made of the pro-enforcement incumbents who were defeated, I don't get the sense that GOP Representatives and Senators are any more likely to back an amnesty.

It seems to me we're headed for a situation where Congressional Democrats join with the President, John McCain, and a rump group of Republicans to pass an amnesty. That ought to make things very interesting - particularly if the debate drags out late in the year.

Another question will be how many Senators are willing to filibuster this effort. I expect there will be at least a few, but the support of the President might keep the number down. At the same time however, relations between the White House and the Congressional GOP are not great; might that not cause a significant number of Senate Republicans to decide to block a major Presidential initiative?

Update: Fred Barnes reports that the White House is ready to work with Congressional Democrats on immigration reform:

And Bush is prepared to use them. His strategy is to join with Democrats on issues on which they agree--extension of No Child Left Behind, comprehensive immigration reform, and stepped-up funding for alternative energy--and strongly oppose everything else that Democrats are proposing. This amounts to limited bipartisanship--very limited.

That's not a surprise.

Hat Tip: David Frum

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The Consequences of Failure in Iraq

Reuel Marc Gerecht sums up the Democrats' attitude towards Iraq:

"In other words, if one can't envision victory--a political solution where Sunni and Shiite Arabs in Iraq live peacefully with each other--then trying to forestall the ghastly consequences of an American flight from Iraq isn't necessary. If we don't have a workable definition of "success," then we don't have a moral obligation to prevent a catastrophe, even one that is largely our fault. "

Another Letter Sent to President Bush

...which, by virtue of its hard truths, will get less than one-half of the coverage of Sen. Reid & Speaker Pelosi's Shell Game Manifesto:

January 8, 2007

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

For the sake of our own national security we must have a successful outcome to our
commitments in Iraq. The choices facing the United States in devising a new strategy for victory are difficult but necessary. We hope that of all the options available, the option of losing will be taken off the table by all concerned. That is why we will continue to push for and support policies to achieve a stable and free Iraq at peace with its neighbors and the international community.

One proposal that we are convinced will not achieve a successful outcome in Iraq is withdrawing American troops. We will vigorously oppose any plans to do this.
If the United States were to withdraw or redeploy from the battle, we would leave Iraq in shambles. A misguided and short-sighted withdrawal or redeployment plan would in all probability trigger a full-blown civil war encompassing the large parts of Iraq that are currently stable. In contrast, seeing our mission through to success would strengthen moderate forces in both Iraq and the region.

A withdrawal or redeployment could lead to a wider regional conflict involving neighboring nations including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey. It could create a new safe haven for terrorist groups capable of striking the United States and our allies. It could embolden extremists in the region who view the United States as a paper tiger unwilling to make the necessary and worthwhile efforts to help the Iraqis secure a peaceful, free and productive nation.

Our strategy in Iraq is not working. We recognize that fact.

However, withdrawing from the fight is not a sound, long-term policy for the national security of the United States. Withdrawing from the fight is a recipe for defeat. It should not be adopted.

Now is the time for bold and decisive leadership to chart a new course forward in Iraq. It should be a course that leads toward a stable, secure Iraq which is at peace with its neighbors, an ally in the war against extremists, respectful of the lives and rights of all of its citizens, and with security forces for defending the independence of Iraq.

Some of the necessary changes, including new leadership in both the civilian and military leadership, have already been made. We applaud your efforts to strengthen our leadership team in Iraq. We also strongly encourage you to send additional American troops to Iraq to improve the security situation on the ground. For far too long we have not had enough troops in Iraq to provide security. It is time to correct this mistake.

A comprehensive new policy must also include clearly defining the mission of our troops and increasing the political and economic aid to and pressure on the Iraqi government to make the necessary political and economic changes.We firmly believe we and the Iraqi people cansucceed if we adopt the right policy.

Over the coming weeks, Democrats and Republicans should be united around the fact that what happens in Iraq is directly tied to the future security of our nation. We should all strive to achieve a successful outcome which protects our national security for years to come.

Joe Lieberman
United States Senator

Lindsey O. Graham
United States Senator

No Plan of Action Survives First Contact with the Enemy

The 100 Hours script is officially inoperative:

Democrats Revise Agenda To Deal With War in Iraq

Realist vs. Idealist Single Question Personality Inventory:

Coincidence? You make the call:

The Shell Game Manifesto

Let's take a closer look at the Dems' Letter to the President on Iraq (my comments in bold):

January 5, 2007

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark.
Right off the bat, we have to ask, is ending the war in Iraq important only because December was a bad month? How bad was it, exactly? One might think that if the trauma of December were the back-breaker, we might usefully review that butcher's bill, rather than the summary of casualties since the beginning of the enterprise. In fact 118 coalition troops were killed and 260 were wounded. By comparison 44,000 Americans were killed in automobile accidents in 2006, yet we see few calls to elevate the issue of driver safety to the forefront of political debate. The U.S. would need to remain in Iraq for another 47 years, at the current casualty rate, to equal the lives lost in a single year on U.S. highways. So we have to doubt that waving the bloody shirt of casualty-counts is the best way to formulate our policy priorities.
The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people. We understand that you are completing your post-election consultations on Iraq and are preparing to make a major address on your Iraq strategy to the American people next week.
We understand this paragraph to indicate that the Democrats, in principle, acknowledge that "success" is in fact the goal of American policy in Iraq, but we see no definition offered of what the success would look like.
Clearly this address presents you with another opportunity to make a long overdue course correction. Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.
In most societies, publicly declaring that one's armed forces in combat in time of war are "at the breaking point" would be construed as giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution.
This is a strawman argument. It constructs the fiction that the current administration policy has been purely military, but in fact it is the political component of the current policy of attempting to enroll the various factions into the government which has created the instability (by such things as not liquidating the Mahdi Army nor arresting al-Sadr because of the insistence of al-Maliki) which the adminstration now is attempting to address by considering additional forces. What the political solution ought to be is never examined, nor whether there might be a military component to the general political solution.
Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.
Now we see the hidden reversal--which is the key element of every successful swindle. The concession that there has been a political strategy unfolding which has trumped the military options at every juncture is unspoken but logically necessary to square the circle of arguing that the military has failed, but more military cannot redress its prior failure.
In a recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Abizaid, our top commander for Iraq and the region, said the following when asked about whether he thought more troops would contribute to our chances for success in Iraq:
Again, note the use of the artfully undefined adjective "success."
“I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”
Now we see the double-reverse as the shell game continues. Taking a quote from a man who, at least at the time he was asked, believed in the existing political AND military strategy if he believes that additional forces will achieve the old political goals results in an answer to a completely different question than the one the Democrats keep carefully unasked throughout the letter.
Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.

And now we see the steps the Democrats want laid out, as a road map to their carefully undefined vision of success, but we see no reason offered to believe this will be success, other than it being what the Democrats want at this point in time. And "phased redeployment" sounds so much better than "scoop desperate refugees off the roofs of the Embassy by helicopter while grim Marines rake the courtyard below with .50 caliber fire."

The Democrats here come perilously close to tipping their hand about the "political solution" to which they alluded above: "we cannot resolve their sectarian problems." The political solution envisioned by the Democrats ultimately seems to be to declare the problem insoluble and go home.

Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.
The fact that we have spent so much blood and treasure to achieve our objectives in Iraq would argue rather that we attempt to redeem the sunk costs, or be patently clear about our reasons for writing the investment off, but the Democrats do neither, instead arguing that the mere fact that the investment has been large is self-evident reason to end military engagement. If withdrawal offers superiour benefits to continued military engagement, those benefits need to be explicitly argued, not merely taken for granted by what is the Democrat's initial policy pronunicamento on the issue.

We appreciate you taking these views into consideration.


Harry Reid Majority Leader
Nancy Pelosi Speaker

Their view, such as it is, seems to be that they'll know success when they see it, and they'll let us know when we get there. I have to suspect that they remain tight-lipped about their vision of success because it hinges on national humiliation as a prerequisite to regaining the good graces of the multilateral international community by whose reckoning the Democrats typically calculate both America's interests and moral standing.

Picture of the Day

A frozen waterfall in Turufan, China.

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My God--He's Going to Run as Biden!

Bold change of strategy for Delaware Senator offers hope for different outcome from 1988, although Neil Kinnock will still have a derivative-works copyright claim on all future Biden campaign materials.

The Obvious Answer

There is apparently a nasty, gaseous smell in New York City. No one knows what it is.

Isn't the answer obvious?

I'm here all week. Try the veal.

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Democrats' False Promise on Term Limits

The House Democrats have gotten credit for retaining the Republican rules on term limits for Committee chairs. Interestingly however, they have not applied them retroactively - so Energy and Commerce Chair John Dingell - who has already led the committee for 14 years - has six more in that powerful position.

Or does he have even more? Apparently, the Democrats plan to eliminate the rule before it impacts any of its committee chairs, anyway.

Well, I guess this is one area where the Democrats really will bring change to Washington.

Hat Tip: Glenn

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Morris: GOP Primary Needs a Conservative

Dick Morris believes that none of the leading Republican candidates for President can satisfy the demands of social conservatives:

Rudy Guiliani? Pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-gay rights, pro-immigration, pro-gun control Rudy? Righties will vote for him only if they have lobotomies first. Remember how the New York City Council prohibited the Boy Scouts from meeting on city property because they wouldn't let in gay scoutmasters? Rudy let it happen...

Sen. John McCain? The McCain of the Kennedy-McCain bill to let illegal immigrants become citizens? Of the "anti-torture" bill to handcuff our agents when they question terrorists? Of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill that the right wing hates? Of the Lieberman-McCain anti-global-warming bill that addresses a problem the right doesn't believe in? That John McCain for president? The right wing can't tolerate his apostasy even if he is the pro-life candidate that Rudy isn't.

Mitt Romney, who was pro-life and then switched to pro-choice when he ran to become Massachusetts governor and now is switching back again as he runs for president? The Mitt Romney who said "I will protect and defend the right of Massachusetts women to choose?" The Romney who has flip-flopped on gay issues? Will the right wing back him? No way.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? A man who has never valued the right-wing social agenda?

And then there are the personal lives - the only one of these guys who hasn't had multiple wives is the Mormon - a church that's viewed dimly by lots of conservative Christians.

Conservatives may think they are going to vote for Rudy, McCain, Newt or Romney - but wait until the negative ads start running.

I still think reformist, swing-state, socially-conservative governor Tommy Thompson may play a bigger role in this race than is imagined today.

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Earmark Reform, Chapter 2177

Tom Maguire notes that House Appropriations chair Dave Obey was the leader in developing the new House rules on earmarks.

Put me on the list of those who believe that this marks a real change (though not an absolute revolution). Dave Obey is an old-school 'good-government' type. And while he may be in support of a bigger government than I like, he is honest. I suspect this will lead to fewer earmarks.

By the way, read the new House rules here, at the Rules Committee website.

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Dems Shorten the Work Week

Another Democratic campaign promise collapses.

Again, this is only one small thing. But it shows that even in the first days of the new Congress, the Democratic leadership is allowing expedience to overcome campaign promises.

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Google & the Virtue of Banks vs. Mattresses

An interesting piece from the Economist about Google's better moustrap, and how consumers and businesses run to it - even if their IT pros tell them not to:

IN OCTOBER, shortly after taking over as head of information technology (IT) at Arizona State University, Adrian Sannier gave the nod to his contact at Google, the internet giant known for its search engine, and with one flick of the proverbial switch 65,000 students had new e-mail accounts. Unlike the university's old system, which stores e-mails on its own server computers, the new accounts reside on Gmail, Google's free web-based service. Mr Sannier is not forcing anybody to change but has found that the students, many of whom were already using Gmail for their private e-mail, have been voluntarily migrating to the new service at a rate of 300 an hour. Crucially, they can take their “” e-mail addresses with them.

The service, part of a bundle called “Google Apps for Your Domain” that also includes instant messaging (IM) and a web-based calendar, has not even been officially launched yet. It began running in a test (or “beta”) form in August. But Dave Girouard, the boss of Google's small but growing enterprise division, says that “tens of thousands” of organisations have already signed up to use Google's web-based tools in place of traditional in-house e-mail systems and other software.

Using Google's services has several advantages for companies. Most employees already know how to use web-based software, and thus do not need training. They can access the services through any web browser, regardless of what kind of computer (or telephone) they use. Like the consumer service, the corporate product is free. (Mr Sannier pays for support—“less than $10,000”—but most organisations do not.) And in-house IT staff need do absolutely nothing, since the data and software reside on Google's server computers.

For Mr Sannier, however, a bigger reason than money for switching from traditional software to web-based alternatives has to do with the pace and trajectory of technological change. Using the new Google service, for instance, students can share calendars, which they could not easily do before. Soon Google will integrate its online word processor and spreadsheet software into the service, so that students and teachers can share coursework. Eventually, Google may add blogs and wikis—it has bought firms with these technologies. Mr Sannier says it is “absolutely inconceivable” that he and his staff could roll out improvements at this speed in the traditional way—by buying software and installing it on the university's own computers...

With Google Apps for Your Domain and other software services that are accessed through a web browser, the security issues are more subtle. Since the software and the data reside on the service provider's machines, the danger is of losing control of sensitive data, which is now in somebody else's hands. Most IT bosses find this scary. Not so Mr Sannier. He remembers a picture that Google showed him of one of its data centres burning to the ground; it looked awful. The point, however, was that no users of Google services anywhere even noticed, because Google's systems are built to be so robust that even the loss of an entire data centre does not compromise anybody's data.

“I have a staff of about 30 people dedicated to security,” says Mr Sannier. “Google has an army; all of their business fails if they are unable to preserve security and privacy.” Google's Mr Girouard says a similar evolution in trust occurred when people reluctantly accepted that their money was safer in a bank than under a mattress.

This trend could cause problems for traditional software firms such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Already, start-ups such as and NetSuite provide “software as a service”, supplying sales-force automation, accounting, payroll and other features via the web. (Marc Benioff, the founder of, had the idea for his firm while browsing on Amazon's online store one day. Why, he wondered, could business software not be delivered the same way?) Other firms, including Google, provide web-based e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets and databases...

All this means more choices at lower prices - and probably greater security - for millions of online consumers. And even if Google makes enough mistakes to yield this business space, there are certainly other companies that will learn the lessons and fill any void.

Hat Tip: MEF

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