Saturday, March 10, 2007

Senate Democrats Unveil their Bug-Out Plan

Roll Call ($) reports:

After weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling, Senate Democrats emerged Thursday from a closed-door meeting with details of a new Iraq resolution calling for phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country beginning within three months.

The joint resolution, which is binding, would set specific goals for President Bush’s Iraq War policy including that the withdrawal of forces begin no later than 120 days after the bill is enacted and that a goal of a complete redeployment be achieved by March 31, 2008.

Democratic leaders said a binding resolution would go to the floor as early as next Tuesday, with debate spanning at least a week. Republicans would get the chance to offer three competing alternatives, while Senate Democrats may get the chance to put out a second proposal as well, sources said.

“We feel very strongly in our position,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “Whether any Republicans will join us, we don’t know.”

Democrats suggested that a good share — perhaps as many as 50 of 51 of their Caucus — will back their latest resolution. It remains unclear whether Reid will seek a minimal threshold of 50 or 60 votes for the measure, and other GOP alternatives...

So House and Senate Democrats are largely in agreement; they want to be out of Iraq as soon as practicable, and they are willing to support binding legislation to accomplish this. I really wonder what Roll Call means when they say that the Senate measure could get as many as 50 of the 51 Democratic Senators. Do they mean that Tim Johnson won't vote for it, or that they might lose Joe Lieberman's support?

I believe that the former is true, regardless. As far as I know, Tim Johnson is not returning to the Senate next week. If the latter is true - that Lieberman won't support it - then they might not even have the support of half the Senate.

In either case, this demonstrates that Dave Obey is more right than he suspects. There is no way the Democrats have the votes to end the Iraq conflict. The sooner the nutroots accept this, the better for the Democrats.

It looks like no one wants to bring them 'the bad news,' however.

Unnoticed: Kudos to Pelosi

The Speaker has decided not to file an objection against the raid by the Department of Justice on Bill Jefferson's office. While I have criticized House Democrats for not living up to promises in a range of areas, this is one area of improvement:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has decided against filing a motion with a federal appeals court objecting to last year's FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office, according to Democratic insiders.

Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had considered such a motion, had indicated she would not move forward unless joined by Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other senior Republicans, the sources said.

But the fact that she even considered such a move and had discussed the issue with her colleagues shows how concerned top lawmakers remain about the unprecedented nature of the FBI raid.

OMB to Post All Earmarks

And they're taking still more steps to force greater transparency in the future.

The Hill reports:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will step up the administration’s effort to cut earmarks by posting on its website next week all earmarks identified by federal agencies in fiscal year 2005 appropriations bills.

The effort is designed to create a baseline for reducing the total number and cost of earmarks by half, a goal set out by President Bush at the beginning of the year. OMB is using fiscal year 2005 appropriations bills because it sees that year as the most representative and recent year for earmarks.

OMB also asked federal agencies to provide data by Feb. 28 on earmarks in certain authorization bills, such as the 2002 farm bill and 2007 Department of Defense Authorization Act. In a January memo, OMB Director Rob Portman set a March 7 deadline for OMB to complete a review of submissions, and a March 12 deadline for posting information on the Internet.

OMB spokeswoman Christin Baker said the work has proved to be a massive undertaking, and the posting could slip past March 12. But she said OMB’s goal is to post the earmarks next week...

This is great news. But OMB is also setting up a new policy that may ultimately force Congress to write all earmarks directly into statutory text, instead of report language. The effect of this change should not be underestimated.

Right now, the vast majority of earmarks are written into committee reports that received little attention. Indeed, they can even be hard to find. OMB is adopting a policy that report language will no longer be treated as if it were statute - the de facto policy right now:

Separately, Portman last month issued a directive calling on agencies to de-fund earmarks that are not explicitly spelled out in statutory text. This would prevent funding for thousands of earmarks included in report language or other written or oral communications from Congress, according to the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste...

Officials at two government watchdog groups said the OMB’s posting of earmarks should put more pressure on the government to reduce the number of earmarks attached by lawmakers to appropriations bills and other legislation.

“We’re happy with any step the administration of Congress can take to put light on the earmark process,” said Erich Zimmermann, a senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense, which monitors earmarks. “Anything that increases pressure on Congress to reduce the number and cost of earmarks is helpful,” agreed Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

If this policy holds up through the Bush administration and beyond, it will be very hard for future Congresses to hide their pork-barrel spending.

Rob Portman, Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, and the other Members of the House and Senate who pushed for this policy deserve a great deal of credit.

Update: Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers and thanks, Patrick, for the traffic. While you're here check out Harry Reid's plan to hold a vote this week on pulling out of Iraq - or just look around.

Marvel's Civil War & Killing Captain America

They say write about what you know, so here goes...

The problem at the heart of Marvel's Civil War was a political false comparison.

Here's the plot:
  • A throwaway 1990s superhero team, the Young Warriors, acts rashly and as a result wipes a huge chunk of Stamford, CT off the map, killing themselves and hundreds of civilians.

  • Public opinion turns against superheroes and the government passes the SuperHero Registration Act.

  • The Act requires two things: all superhumans must register with SHIELD and, if said superhumans wish to operate as heroes, they must be trained by, certified by, and operate under the auspices of SHIELD.

  • This leads to a schism in the hero community with Captain America leading the anti-Registration Act forces and Iron Man leading the Pro-Registration Act Forces.

  • The Anti-Reg forces go underground. Many typical superhero mega-battles ensue.

  • The climactic massive battle takes place in the middle of Manhattan and as he is just about to put Iron Man out for the count, Captain America is jumped by a dozen cops, firemen, and EMTs who are putting their lives on the line to protect civilians, property, etc.

  • Cap realizes that he's no longer fighting for the people, he's just fighting, and he's not winning the argument against the Act. So he surrenders, tells his allies to stand down, and hands himself over to Federal custody. The War is over.

  • Cap is gunned down on his way into Court. Who is responsible? The Red Skull, of course.

The problem with Civil War isn't the story. This could have been a great way to reeenergize Marvel and to inject a little realism (always a dangerous word when you're talking about comics) into the Marvel Universe. CW cleaned up some of the standard comic book cliches. Is the public really going to stand for a bunch of massively-powered vigilantes hiding behind secret identities? Or supervillians that seem to break out of prison every other week? Probably not. It also straightens out some Marvel-specific nonsense. The Marvel public has hated and feared its mutant population since the 1960s and The Mutant Registration Act has been a canard of the X-Men since the 1980s. But non-mutant heroes have been warmly received. It's never been clear why genetically-enhanced superhumans are more of a threat than those who get their powers from a radioactive spider bite. And exactly how long is the public supposed to put up with the Hulk popping up, tearing apart whole city blocks, and then quietly on? CW and its related stories cleaned up all this.

The problem with CW is parts of Marvel and many of its fans keep framing the story as being a reflection on the post-9/11 world, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, etc, and a statement on trading security for liberty. There's no place for Captain America and other staunch defenders of personal freedom in this new age. The public has turned against him.

And that's where the False Comparison comes in. Nothing in the plot is anywhere near as big an issue as the Patriot Act or Gitmo. The Superhero Registration Act is basically the comic book world equivalent of gun control, close to a no-brainer. You have to register the fact you have a superpower and if you wish to use it in service of law and order you have to be an actual law enforcment officer. I know that some people are anti-gun registration, but this is a far cry from the debate around the Patriot Act. And I'm pretty sure the comics fan who think Cap should have kept up the fight against post 9/11 fascism are the kind of people who go out and consistently vote for more gun control. The politics in CW make no sense.

Two asides:

1) Mark Millar, the writer of CW, has commented that Iron Man's side was the right side. Why? "Had he not come up with this idea of them being licensed by the government, they'd all be getting crushed by Sentinels right now". If you just keep it on this level, CW is a great Marvel story.

2) All that being said, why did Marvel "really kill" Captain America? To sell more comic books of course.

Thompson's Effect on the Race

With the recent focus on the possibility that Fred Thompson will seek the Presidency, I commented that I think his entry would crowd out Romney and set up a fight between him and Giuliani. Supporting this conclusion is a poll by Kieran Mahoney that recently received a lot of attention:

New York-based political consultant Kieran Mahoney's survey of probable Republican participants in the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses showed this support for the "big three" candidates: John McCain, 20.5 percent; Rudy Giuliani, 16.3 percent; Mitt Romney, 3.5 percent. Astonishingly, they all trailed James Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, who had 31 percent.

How could that be? Because it was not a legitimate survey but a "push poll," normally a clandestine effort to rig the results by telling respondents negative things about some of the candidates. But Mahoney makes no secret that the voters he sampled were told of liberal deviations by McCain, Giuliani and Romney, as well as true-blue conservatism by Gilmore, who is Mahoney's client.

Mahoney is trying to prove a point widely accepted in Republican ranks. None of the three front-line candidates is a natural fit for the nation's right-of-center party. Without question, there is a void. The question is whether Gilmore or anyone else can fill it.

I suspect that Fred Thompson would very quickly fill that void - the missing 'real conservative.' I don't know that he would instantly leap to 31 percent, but he would certainly pass the other leading contenders.

I'm surprised at the strength shown by McCain in Mahoney's poll. I question whether that would hold with Thompson in the race.

Frank Miller

Philo's correct that 300 is the best immediate response to Marvel's misguided Civil War, but the Mad Genius that brought us 300, Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns, etc. has a project in the pipeline that's the "perfect" response.

Hagel May Retire

The Hill reports that Chuck Hagel may announce his retirement on Monday.

I would welcome such a move, although I believe the Hill places too much confidence in Nebraska's 'redness.' It seems to me that an open Senate seat might lean Republican - all things being equal - but that a strong Democratic candidate would probably do just fine there.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dear Osama...

Unless he's dead (or dies around the time you read this), Osama bin Laden 'celebrates' his 50th birthday on Saturday.

What are the chances he gets the present that he richly deserves?

Maybe not so bad.

Is John McCain's Candidacy Over?

So there may soon be two new entrants into the Republican Presidential field for 2008. One is a John McCain wanna-be, who is nowhere near as popular as McCain among the rank-and-file. (And yes, that means he's awfully unpopular). Put him down as either an also-ran, or an independent candidacy. In that latter capacity, he might well hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans, by splitting the anti-Iraq war vote.

The other is a good friend of John McCain, who apparently stayed out of the race at least in part out of deference to him. If he steps in, he will instantly become the strongest conservative - and he may wind up sucking up all the oxygen that Mitt Romney is currently using, and leaving it a two-man race with Rudy Giuliani. Thompson would be a very serious contender.

But are these signs that McCain's candidacy is no longer seen as viable, or is it a signal (from friends) that he should get out?

Democrats Step into the Trap

So the Democrats are proposing a supplemental funding bill that requires an end to US participation in Iraq.

I've laid out before that while the American people may not like our involvement in Iraq, they won't stand for having the lives of America's men and women in the field being endangered over this important policy point.

The President will win this showdown - particularly since the bill may never even come to the floor of the Senate. He will explain that he will debate any policy difference and listen to any good idea, but of paramount importance is giving our troops in harm's way the tools they need to defende themselves. He will insist that Congress send him a clean bill promptly, and every day they delay doing that will cost them in the public eye.

This is what the President will do:

He'll note that the author of the provisions first publicly discussed them in an interview he did for a liberal anti-war organization, and said that they were designed to force a withdrawal from Iraq. He'll spell out what is included in the supplemental bill, and talk about why it is essential. He'll say that the Congressional leadership is recklessly risking the lives of our men and women in harm's way, by denying them needed funds and equipment, and that it is essential Congress send him a 'clean' bill immediately. He'll say that American lives should not be risked over a disagreement between the White House and Congress.

Bush will re-iterate that he is always ready to discuss honest policy differences with anyone, including Mr. Murtha - and that the change in direction implemented after listening to the recommendations and findings of the Iraq Study Commission demonstrate his sincerity. He'll say that Prime Minister Maliki is committed to having the Iraqi government assume all security responsibilities in a matter of a few months, and it is foolish to quit on them now.

He'll ask Congress to return to work immediately on a bill that he can sign, and he'll offer to meet with Mr. Murtha, Ms. Pelosi, and Mr. Reid - and anyone else that Congress wants to send - to discuss this critical mission, but stress the importance of supporting our troops.

The Democrats are going to lose this fight - a fact they probably already know. They're charging into the guns for the benefit of the lunatic Left which, as Dave Obey knows, won't even support them on this.

Their goal will be to cave at the right time - before it becomes too politically costly.

Freeze Kim Jong Il!

The Army is working on a paralysis beam:

The U.S. Army is working on a modified 7.5-million-candlepower strobe light in hopes of creating a paralysis beam.

Although details are sketchy, it appears that U.S. government acquisition records call for contractor Peak Systems to ...

" and fabricate a light-based immobilisation system/deterrent device and integrate it with an unmanned aerial system. This will include any necessary medical research on frequency and amplitude modulation of high-intensity light that will cause immobilisation to all those within the beam."

The Peak Beam Systems device can apparently be pulsed with a strobe effect that has some effect on the human nervous system. The Maxa Beam shown above has quite a range, too. It can illuminate targets as far as 1.5 miles away.

The Maxa Beam is small enough to be hand-held, which is a vital factor in the US Army's selection of the device. The ultimate goal is to mount the device on a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for crowd-control...

This device also may remind fans of classic Star Trek of a device that appeared in the 1965 episode Dagger of the Mind - the neural neutralizer.

Take this all with a grain of salt, since the author can't even get his Star Trek right.

The neural neutralizer was more of a mind eraser than a paralysis beam (and before you ask yes, I do recall that the Klingon mind sifter was more of a mind ripper than a sifter).

Oh - and Dagger of the Mind was first broadcast in 1966.

To be honest, my mind ran more to the belt devices worn by the Kelvans in 'By Any Other Name.' Although some may differ, I would almost entirely discount the simple magic wands used by Sylvia and Korob in 'Catspaw,' since I regard obvious halloween episodes as virtually out of the canon...

Still, cool device.

Dave Obey on the Perils of Overpromising

He states the obvious: Congress can't muster the votes to end the war in Iraq.

Some people haven't figured that out yet.

Rep. Obey: "We're trying to use the supplemental to end the war. But you can't end the war if you vote against the supplemental. It's time these idiot liberals understand that."

"Liberal groups are jumping around without knowing what the hell is in the bill."

We don't have the votes to pass [Rep. Lee's Amendment]. We couldn't even get the votes to pass a nonbinding resolution one week ago. How the hell do you think we're going to get the votes to cut off the war?"

"I'm the sponsor of the bill that's going to be on floor. And that bill ends the war. If that's not good enough for you you're smoking something illegal...

"You've got your facts screwed up ... we can't get the votes! You see a magic wand in my pocket? How the hell we going to get the votes for it? We ain't got the votes for it. We do have the votes if you guys quit screwing it up."

Time Travel Impossible - Maybe

Impossible? That's not what 60-year old me told me when he visited me at age 14 and told me the Cubs would win the 2027 World Series.

It's the best $5 bet I ever made:

Mathematically, you can certainly say something is traveling to the past, Liu said. “But it is not possible for you and me to travel backward in time,” he said.

However, some scientists believe that traveling to the past is, in fact, theoretically possible, though impractical.

Maybe if there were a theory of everything, one could solve all of Einstein’s equations through a wormhole, and see whether time travel is really possible, Kaku said. “But that would require a technology far more advanced than anything we can muster," he said. "Don’t expect any young inventor to announce tomorrow in a press release that he or she has invented a time machine in their basement.”

For now, the only definitive part of travel in the fourth dimension is that we’re stepping further into the future with each passing moment. So for those hoping to see Earth a million years from now, scientists have good news.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

If a Tedious Bore Drones on in a Windswept Field...

He will make a sound if he fulminates in a manner the liberal media finds politically expedient.

Word in the coffeeshops (or as Nebraskans call them--"the cuhFAYs") is that Hagel wants his moment of moral posturing in the sun and is willing to terminate his local grassroots support in order to do so. A USAToday poll back in November indicated the extent to which his posturing had alienated Nebraska's perennial Republican majority.

The puff piece in Esquire, where he speculated grandiosely about Bush's impeachment, should have served sufficiently final notice that Chuck is not really in tune with the concerns or worldview of the average Nebraskan any longer. Given this fact, and Hagel's statistical insignificance in Presidential polling, it is clear that the sole reason this announcement will be given any more attention than Chris Dodd's negligible campaign is that the media has found a fresh Republican face willing to vent spleen against the current administration on national television.

Fred Thompson Rumors Laid to Rest

So to speak.

He would be our first President elected post-mortem, unless you count Al Gore:

Fred Thompson, 88, of Orchid Drive, Grove City, formerly of Clintonville, died Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007, in the Grove City Medical Center after a brief illness.

Born Aug. 22, 1918, in Cherry Run, Clarion County, he was the son of James Glenn and Mary Jane Hawk Thompson.

He attended the public schools in Cherry Run, Clarion County.

Dreier Shows up Dem Hypocrisy

So House Democrats care so much about greenhouse gas emissions and global warming that they're forming a special panel to address this crisis. Speaker Pelosi insists that the House pass legislation by July 4.

To help House Democrats demonstrate how serious this effort is, Rules Committee Ranking Member David Dreier offered an amendment to require that the new panel operate in a carbon-neutral manner.

Guess how Democrats reacted:

Dreier also proposed an amendment to make the new committee function in a carbon-neutral fashion. It was a move praised by some on the panel, who said Congress needs to look at ways to become more environmentally friendly.

But Dreier’s amendment was voted down, with Democrats arguing they did not want to force the new panel to do anything potentially cumbersome so early on.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) argued that the creation of the new committee is important, as “Mother Nature is on life support because of 12 years of the Republican majority.”

Mother Nature is in trouble if she's on life support while the Democrats are in charge. In general they've seemed pretty eager to pull the plug in cases like this.

I must confess - I don't get this. I thought global warming was the single greatest threat to the existence of mankind? I thought that the calculation of your carbon footprint and the purchase of carbon offsets was simple and straightforward? Isn't this exactly the right place to start to change the way we do business?

I mean, it's not like this work is 'too important' to be carbon neutral, right? Eventually everything that we do - including things as important as medical care and national defense - will need to try to be carbon neutral, right? So why is the Democratic House of Representatives not willing to put its money where its mouth is.

It's almost like they don't take global warming seriously.

House Dems Going After Iraq Spies

It's not what you think.

Roll Call ($) reports that House Democratic leaders are upset that some Members are leaking information about their plans for the Iraq supplemental bill. They've planted false info to smoke out the offenders:

Internal divisions within the majority have slowed progress on the measure as Democratic leaders have sought to balance the demands of more conservative members with those of the party’s progressive, anti-war faction.

But Obey said he laid blame for much of that divisiveness on “leaks” about the bill, criticizing those lawmakers who have provided information to the media before the details have been finalized.

“Our primary problem has been that Members don’t know what’s in it,” Obey said of the spending bill. Those admissions, he added, have prompted unnecessary arguments within the Caucus: “Then [Members are] reacting to something that really isn’t on the table.”

In an effort to battle those disclosures, Obey acknowledged that he recently disseminated false information during a closed-door meeting on the spending bill in an effort to identify the source of the leaks.

On Tuesday, “when I read the paper I figured out who two of those people were,” Obey added, although he declined to identify the lawmakers, including whether they are members of the Appropriations panel. He also refused to discuss the false information that he provided. Those individuals “will not be invited to further meetings,” he added.

Rumor has it they are also being put on double secret probation, and they must wear 'I Love Ann Coulter' hats.

The Out of Iraq Caucus meanwhile, is trying to make clear that they don't want to cut funds for the troops at all. They say this is a misrepresenation. They fully support giving the troops every penny they need to get out of Iraq as soon as possible:

In the meantime, the Progressive Caucus, which has sought language in the supplemental requiring the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq, is slated to unveil its proposal this morning to fund such an effort.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) described the measure Wednesday as a “fully funded withdrawal.”

“The press and a lot of people have continually misrepresented what people are doing here. This is not cutting off funds,” Nadler said. “We want to provide the funds, but we want to limit the use of the funds.”

Under the proposal, both existing and future funds could be used for troop withdrawal and economic reconstruction in Iraq, but could not be used to further the war effort, Nadler explained.

“We’re not cutting the funds by a nickel,” he added. While Nadler said the Progressive Caucus would like to see the language included in the supplemental bill itself, lawmakers likely will have to offer the measure as an amendment to the spending bill.

While the proposal will call for the withdrawal to be completed by the end of 2007, Nadler said that date could be changed. “Obviously we’d be willing to talk,” he said.

Nice to see that they're very open, and willing to discuss any plan to declare defeat and come home as quickly as possible.

And House Republicans are not afraid to vote against a bad bill. Adam Putnam lays out the strategy:

House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) refuted the idea that Republicans are taking a political risk by potentially voting down a spending bill to provide funds to troops in combat.

“We could vote for a clear wartime supplemental before supper tomorrow,” he said. “The reason why this is so complicated is because the Democrats are making it complicated to pacify the third of their Caucus who wants to immediately cut off funds to the troops, the third of their Caucus who would like to cut off funds for the troops but don’t want credit for it, and the third of their Caucus that ran as Republicans and are running away from the other two-thirds of their colleagues.”

I've noted before that the Democrats court trouble if they pass a bill that the President will veto. I strongly suspect that with his bully pulpit, and the tendency of voters to err on the side of the troops, he'll put the Democrats in a very bad spot politically if he argues that their proposal is too gummed up with red tape and misplaced priorities, and he needs a clean bill that he can sign to ensure the safety of men and women in harm's way.

Update: The Hill meanwhile, suggests that the Democratic leadership bill will require a withdrawal if the Iraqi government fails to meet certain benchmarks - but it's apparently non-binding:

House Democratic leaders have settled on a tentative proposal to require the Iraqi government to meet a series of benchmarks and, if they miss meeting those conditions, U.S. troops would begin a phased redeployed by a certain date, said a Democratic aide.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said he would present the plan to freshman Democrats and the centrist Blue Dog Democrats.

“I’m looking for the center of gravity in the House,” Obey said. “People need to understand, we’re not a bunch of Thomas Jeffersons writing the Declaration of Independence. This language is not going to be language for the ages.”

“We’ve made many, many changes,” Obey said. “We hope we will be able to lay out a fairly complete package.”

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with members of the Progressive Caucus late yesterday afternoon.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, did not seem keen to endorse the proposal.

“There’s no enforcement mechanism,” she said. “We have had the same thing in place for two years and we’re expecting [Bush] to do something, who has no intention of working with us?”

Mr. Obey is to put it generously, misspeaking. He is not looking for the 'center of gravity' in the House. He's trying to earn the backing of a significant majority of the Democratic caucus. And if he does not give the Out of Iraq caucus a vote on their idea, I don't see how this can work.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How Does this Help Hillary?

Can she benefit at all by having more attention called to a candidacy in disarray?

A Word or Two about Scooter

I confess I don't understand any single part of this affair.

First of all, the media have scrupulously avoided covering the actual basis of the story--the reliability of reports that Iraq was seeking uranium ore from Niger. European intelligence agencies stand behind these claims, while factions within the CIA have disputed it. The media have been determinedly disinterested in the internal conflict within the CIA over this and other pre-war intelligence issues, focusing only on the post-facto situation which presumes absence of current evidence somehow answers questions about the situation before the war. The only thing clear from the resulting imbroglio is that there was a considerable clique within the CIA prepared to operate independently of political control in order to pressure the Bush administration to its desired policy positions, but this is the one story out of all of this to receive essentially no coverage from any media outlet.

Second of all, the operative status of Valerie Plame within the CIA at the time of Mr. Wilson's mint-tea-drinking lost weekend in Niger has been of startling little interest to anyone covering the story. Since the howls of outrage from the leftist fringes and certain offices at Langley (strange bedfellows indeed, superficially) which shook the mountains and laboured mightily to spark the investigation which has now birthed the mouse of Scooter Libby's conviction presumed Plame's covert status as a necessary precursor to any investigation of a potential crime, it is passing strange that no one has been able to unearth Ms. Plame's actual status at the time in question.

Finally, it seems quite clear that Libby did in fact lie under oath, but I have yet to read an account of this case which gives a credible accounting for his motive given the inability of any of the existing accounts to explore the uncertain facts above. Some argue that his perjury was designed to shield Cheney from sort of political embarrassment, but I don't see how such a clumsy lie as that of which Libby has been convicted could be expected to shield anyone from anything for any length of time. Given the astonishingly lame defence offered by Libby's lawyers, it is difficult to see why Libby bothered to waste the money on a defence, when a nolo contedere defence would have certainly delivered no worse outcome than his actual "the dog ate my memory" defence.

Almost nothing anyone involved in this whole affair has done had made objective sense to an external observer, which tells me that the actual operation of the government and its alleged overseers in the media no longer is fully accountable to the anonymous citizen they both allegedly serve. The clear disjuncture between the stated aims and objectives and the actual behaviour of every single party within this controversy has made a mockery of their claims to be public servants.

No doubt they each content themselves with the consoling thought that each serves as a guardian or trustee of the public good, revealing to the public itself only those details he believes will conduce to the greatest good overall, but the notion that the American public actually deliberates on matters of policy, rather than being led to consensus by collaborative manipulation by self-interested minorities has been dealt a serious blow.

ABC News Covers Progress in Sadr City

Nice to see some good news:

Update: Bill Roggio notes a mixed bag in today's report.

Captain America: RIP

The Daily News reports that Captain America has been killed by a sniper:

Captain America is dead. The Marvel Entertainment superhero, created in 1941 as a patriotic adversary for the Nazis, is killed off in Captain America #25, which hits the stands today.

As Captain America emerges from a courthouse building, he is struck by a sniper's bullet in the shoulder and then hit again in the stomach, blood seeping out of his star-spangled costume...

Simon and artist Jack Kirby came up with the character in 1941 as an adversary for Adolf Hitler, who was more evil than any villain the pair could dream up. Since then, the patriotic hero has appeared in an estimated 210 million copies sold in 75 countries.

Not bad for an imaginary sickly kid from the lower East Side named Steve Rogers, who volunteered to be injected with Super Soldier serum during World War II.

Part of Captain America's allure was that he had no true superpowers; the serum made him an example of a human being at his utmost potential.

He could bench-press 1,100 pounds, run a mile in about a minute and outsmart any spy.

Series writer Ed Brubaker - who grew up reading Captain America comics while his father, a naval intelligence officer, was stationed on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - said it wasn't easy to kill off the character. The 40-year-old, however, wanted to explore what the hero meant to the country in these polarized times.

"What I found is that all the really hard-core left-wing fans want Cap to be standing out on and giving speeches on the streetcorner against the Bush administration, and all the really right-wing [fans] all want him to be over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam," Brubaker said.

This is not something to which I pay close attention, so comments are welcome. Marvel's 'Daily Bugle' reports that Captain America was leaving the courthouse in Manhattan after being arraigned for crimes related to his conduct during the Civil War.

(Summarizing Wikipedia's account) - in a storyline that built on previous stories in the Marvel universe, but perhaps also intended to comment on the Patriot Act and other real-life events, Marvel's US government recently adopted a 'Superhuman Registration Act, which required superheroes to register with the government and reveal their secret identities. Captain America led a group of superheroes that opposed the act. He eventually gave himself up, and was at the courthouse being arraigned for the crime.

Don't worry; I doubt his death is permanent.

It sounds as if Captain America spent his last few years taking a stand against George Bush's unwarranted surveillance of freedom-loving Americans. No doubt his killer will turn out to be some right wing lunatic - maybe even Dick Cheney himself.

I'm just upset because I can't find any video of the Kinks 'Catch Me Now,' which is one of the great conservative rock songs.

Read also Ace, Riehl, and Allah.

Update: Philo has the comment of the day:

One thing of which you can be sure:

The limp-wrists at Marvel certainly won't make the assassin a Muslim terrorist

More on Asgari

Jules Crittenden does the round-up.

The quick and dirty: no one knows for sure where he is, but the Iranians sure have to hope he's not at some safe house near Langley.

I'll admit it. Every time I think of this story, I can't help but think of this scene.

Update: He defected. Unless you question the reliability of a 'well-connected Arabic newspaper.'

Who Gets Married

I had the good fortune to attend a lunch yesterday at the Heritage Foundation with the Editor of - and several contributors to - this cool new book. After reading parts of it, I can say that it is both amusing and interesting. And as a father of a 2-year old, I can relate to the experience of PJ O'Rourke, who says he became a conservative the moment his daughter was born.

Back to the point of the post: one of the speakers - I believe it was Danielle Crittenden - mentioned an interesting story in the Washington Post - suggesting that marriage is increasingly a province of the well-educated and those with higher incomes, while living together is more common in the rest of America:

As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent. The working class and the poor, meanwhile, increasingly steer away from marriage, while living together and bearing children out of wedlock.

"The culture is shifting, and marriage has almost become a luxury item, one that only the well educated and well paid are interested in," said Isabel V. Sawhill, an expert on marriage and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Marriage has declined across all income groups, but it has declined far less among couples who make the most money and have the best education. These couples are also less likely to divorce. Many demographers peg the rise of a class-based marriage gap to the erosion since 1970 of the broad-based economic prosperity that followed World War II.

"We seem to be reverting to a much older pattern, when elites marry and a great many others live together and have kids," said Peter Francese, demographic trends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising firm.

In recent years, the marrying kind have been empowered by college degrees and bankrolled by dual incomes. They are also older and choosier. College-educated men and women are increasingly less likely to "marry down" -- that is, to choose mates who have less education and professional standing than they do.

Married couples living with their own children younger than 18 are also helping to drive a well-documented increase in income inequality. Compared with all households, they are twice as likely to be in the top 20 percent of income. Their income has increased 59 percent in the past three decades, compared with 44 percent for all households, according to the census.

This doesn't sound like the sort of thing that can have happy consequences. I wonder where it will lead.

My wife suggests that maybe Mike Judge is on to something.

And thanks to Rob Bluey.

Chavez-Apalooza Comes to Argentina

Hugo Chavez is hosting an anti-Bush rally in Argentina on the same day Bush arrives in Uruguay. Combined with the sulfur thing, it makes me wonder if Don King has become Chavez's consigliere.

Fred Thompson Won't Say No to a Presidential Bid

Dan Riehl was listening to the radio...

Gutierrez Retires

CQ confirms that Chicago's Congressman Luis Gutierrez will not seek re-election in 2008.

This is no big deal; Gutierrez's seat is safely Democratic, and you can already count it as a retention. It's a useful reminder however, that even though Democrats are in the majority for the first time in 12 years, some among them will retire. They will find they didn't get the position they wanted, or that they can now make more money lobbying, or that their chances for higher office have improved.

As I've pointed out before, more Democrats stayed in the House during the 12 years of their minority status than did Republicans during the same period.

Dems Turning Iraq Supplemental into Veto Bait

Roll Call ($) reports that House Democratic leaders haven't finished rounding up their cats:

House Democratic leaders were still tinkering with a $100 billion-plus Iraq War spending bill Tuesday, but largely have settled on a measure that puts several conditions on the president’s use of the money while seeking to draw support from wavering Democrats and Republicans by allowing votes on multiple amendments and including money for veterans’ care.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of letting them have a vote on an amendment to fund only the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but not further combat missions.

Hoyer did not propose a quid pro quo that would have progressives voting for the final bill once their amendment fails, as is likely, said Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), who attended the meeting.

Instead, Woolsey said Hoyer simply asked, “‘How many Members do you think could vote [for] the amendment and then for the supplemental?’ and we said there would be some. ... There are many that are going to vote ‘yes’ and ‘no...’”

Capuano said some Democrats have complained that a vote on the amendment would send mixed messages and expose the fractures between those who support continuing to fund the war with conditions and those who want to pull out now... [Duh - the Editor]

“It’s a legitimate concern that you don’t want to chop up the Caucus too much,” Capuano said...

[Rep. Jim Moran] said the principles laid out in Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) plan to require the president to certify that troops have the equipment and training they need before deployment would be included, along with the ability for the president to waive such requirements and language intended to make sure that the Iraqi government meets the benchmarks for taking over that Bush laid out in January...

Hoyer also acknowledged that Democrats are inclined to include language regarding the possible expansion of military actions into Iran.

“I expect language on Iran in the bill,” Hoyer said, noting that the president must seek Congressional approval to declare war. “I think it’s the only constitutional position that Congress ought to take...”

While continuing to court fence-sitting liberal and conservative Democrats, Democratic leaders also were beginning to put pressure on Republicans, saying the bill had been slightly refocused on providing troops with equipment and training as well as on veterans’ medical care — including money to shore up Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, whose alleged substandard outpatient care has caused an uproar on Capitol Hill.

“Republicans are starting to feel the pressure on the supplemental and after all the posturing, they’ll have a decision to make — support the troops or support the president,” said one well-placed House Democratic aide. “There are some things in there that are going to be very, very tough for Republicans to vote against...”

Even House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) made some noises Tuesday that suggested Republicans are reluctant to vote against the supplemental, while also taking some partisan shots.

“We want to work with Democrats to find a way to support troops on the ground,” Boehner said at a Tuesday morning press conference. But even as the Minority Leader called for bipartisanship, he asserted that the Democrats’ “goal is to defund the war in Iraq. ... We are not going to put handcuffs on our soldiers and our generals in the field...”

HotAir picks up on the Politico article on this, which suggests that Hoyer and Pelosi are looking for more of a quid pro quo:

House Democratic leaders, seeking a compromise with several dozen anti-war lawmakers in their own caucus, are considering a vote on a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq before considering $98 billion in new military spending.

In return for the vote, the leaders want the 50 to 75 anti-war Democrats to support the wartime funding, if their proposal fails.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leaders face an uprising from liberal Democrats opposed to the wartime supplemental. If they allow a House floor vote to set a withdrawal date, it would be the first such vote in either the House or the Senate since the Democrats took control of Congress in January. And it would mark a new phase in the political struggle over the conflict…

These [anti-war] Democrats opposed the war since its start and, despite the new Democratic majority in the House, are not at all eager to vote for the new war funds. Supporting the money, they argue, would give them “ownership” of the war along with Bush and the Republicans in Congress.

Roll Call notes that Boehner appears 'reluctant to vote against the supplemental,' which is true as far as it goes. It certainly sounds to me as if he is ready to however, and they also quote at least one Republican who supported the Democratic non-binding resolution, but who sounds reluctant to vote for a supplemental with strings attached.

Roll Call also reports that the Democrats are going to include language on Iran - perhaps the Jim Webb/Walter Jones/Harry Reid language that would preclude the President from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization. If so, they will have a hard tome getting more than a dozen or two Republican votes. That would require them to get 50 or more votes from the Out of Iraq caucus. That will be hard to do - and the margin for error will be very low because they will lose some votes from the Blue Dogs.

There's no question that Boehner can make Nancy Pelosi's job very hard here. The Democrats are fooling themselves if they think they can get many Republican votes for a bill that undercuts the President on both Iraq and Iran, just by increasing funding for veterans' health care.

And as I have noted, Joe Lieberman has been awfully silent about the goings-on in the House. But his opposition would make these provisions a dead letter in the Senate - and I bet he would oppose a bill loaded up like this one appears it will be.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Star Trek: As It was Always Meant to Be

In Turkish.

It's not much worse than it was in English. Very funny:

Edwards Second Life Vandals Identified

Surprise, they're not Republicans. They're liberals. (Content warning at that site, relevant text below):

The attackers have been identified — and they’re alive and gloating.

“Guess what: we’re not Republicans. In fact, I’m one of the most hard-core liberals I know.”

A post on the John Edwards blog claimed credit for an attack on his campaign HQ in Second Life — saying that “We simply did it for the lulz… The fact you were so bent out of shape to make a blog post on the OFFICIAL JOHN EDWARDS BLOG about how some people placed a bunch of ******************* on your lawn is mighty telling.”

The post was deleted from Edwards blog. (Its last line was “Enjoy your AIDS!”) But the poster used the name Mudkips Acronym, which also turns up in a January entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, identifying him as a member of a longstanding Second Life “invasion group.” Its name is given as “Patriotic Ni****: e-terrorists at large,” and Saturday the entry was updated to claim credit for the Edwards attack.

This would make the Edwards attack just the latest installment in a longer history of random assaults. The page describes the group’s first attacks as griefing pranks on Second Life’s “Gay Yiffy” virtual nightclub — blocking the exit doors on a disco’s private rooms, and filling its dance floor with an annoyingly large box. They returned to build a wall with a swastika of American flags, and eventually acquired a “Doomsday” weapon that creates endlessly replicating cubes.

This blog post does link to YouTube videos of some of the previous 'attacks' by this groups. If they post a video of the attack on Edwards' campaign HQ, I'll try to link it.

Iranians Misplace Someone Important

Did you look in the last place you saw him?

Human Pole Position

This is very funny. The 'sound effects' are the best part:

Hat Tip: Galley Slaves

Pelosi Herding Cats on Iraq

The House of Representatives will soon consider the President's supplemental request for Iraq war funding. Passing the bill is turning out to be quite a challenge however, as they try to balance the need to fund the troops, the desire to end the war, their hopes to prevent an attack on Iraq, their effort to address Hurricane Katrina, and a few other odds and ends.

Roll Call ($) sums up the challenge:

However, one House Democratic leadership aide indicated that the bill most likely would include a provision requiring the president to report to Congress on whether the benchmarks he set out for the Iraqi government are being met. And there were other indications Monday that House Democratic leaders were considering language requiring the president to seek Congressional approval for any military action against Iran...

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said he believes “that on the core pieces, we have a Caucus consensus.”

He said Democrats broadly agree that any “conditionality” on the president’s use of funds should be focused on getting the Iraqi government to take over many of the operations currently being performed by U.S. soldiers.

Emanuel said a majority of Democrats believe that more money should go to the war in Afghanistan because “that’s where al Qaida is.” In fact, several Democratic sources indicated that appropriators had decided to shift some funds from the Iraq conflict to the re-emergent terrorist elements in Afghanistan...

Additionally, the White House threw a wrench into the works Monday by indicating that it would send up a modified request for war funds as early as today, according to The Associated Press [See the next post for more on that - the Editor]. The AP noted that the new request likely would be about $2 billion more than the nearly $94 billion for the Iraq War requested earlier this year and would specifically fund the president’s controversial plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

Still, Democratic leaders appeared to be getting a little breathing room within the Caucus on Monday, as liberal Members began indicating that the House leadership could mitigate defections from the left by allowing a vote on an amendment to require the Pentagon to use the $100 billion to withdraw troops from Iraq and not for further combat missions.

One knowledgeable House Democratic aide said members of the Progressive Caucus might be more inclined to vote for the war-funding bill if they first were allowed to vote against such funding, considering that the amendment to fund a withdrawal is almost certain to fail...

Meanwhile, conservative Democrats, particularly those in the Blue Dog Coalition, may be willing to swallow some limits on the president — with a waiver — if the leadership also adopted the language of their manifesto for providing accountability for the ballooning costs of the war.

Blue Dogs have introduced a resolution that would demand periodic reports from the Defense Department inspector general and the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction on how the nearly $400 billion already appropriated for the war has been spent.

The resolution also calls for the creation of a commission to conduct ongoing studies of government contractors in Iraq, insists that war funding should be conducted through the regular appropriations process, and asks the Bush administration to condition any further U.S. “financial, military and political resources” on the Iraqi government taking over police duties in country...

With Republican leaders threatening to whip against the supplemental if it includes any sort of funding restrictions — even those with a presidential waiver — Democrats can afford to lose only 15 of their own on the vote or risk seeing the bill fail in a highly public House floor vote.

In the meantime, Democratic leaders cautioned that language limiting the president on Iraq was not the only issue unresolved on the bill, given that Democratic leaders decided to include additional funding for hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast, for agriculture disasters and for a shortfall in poor children’s health care programs...

Giving the Out of Iraq caucus a vote on withdrawal is a smart move by the leadership; it will help keep the peace within the caucus, and pass the bill. However, it will lead to a new round of recriminations on the Left, as anti-war activists get a fresh new list of Democratic Members of Congress that they hate. We'll see if DailyKos is as excited about Heath Shuler and the rest of the Blue Dog Freshmen when they vote very specifically and directly to fund the war in Iraq.

Further, the unaddressed question in all this is what the Senate will do with the bill. It is entirely possible (especially given the silence from this guy) that any contentious language on waivers, reports and Iran will be stripped out. Then House Democrats will have taken a difficult vote for no reason - which won't make them any happier with the House leadership, or with the Democrats on the other side of the Iraq debate.

Well, if you like sausage you don't want to see how it's made...

Update: The Politico also covers this story, and paints a different picture:

Liberals Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, want to end the war now, so they want a date certain for a withdrawal or pullout or "strategic redeployment," and they want it in the Iraq supplemental or they won't vote for it. "They figure that we won the election on a promise to end the war, and they want to live up to that promise," said a senior House Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's a tough place the speaker is in right now, but we'll work all this out."

Pelosi has a bit of a problem here. If the Democratic leadership puts a date certain for withdrawal in the bill, there's a chance that enough Blue Dogs Democrats would defect and vote with Republicans, meaning the bill could down for defeat outright. While that might suit anti-war lawmakers and groups. the political consequences could be disastrous for the party. It would end the Iraq war by default since there would be no more money for combat operations, and Republicans would punish the Democrats for years over it.

Don't bet on this outcome. The Iraq supplemental will pass, with some votes (at least) from the Out of Iraq caucus.

Much as they hate the war, the Democrats will fund it.

White House Ups the Iraq Ante

As the House Democratic leadership desparately tries to herd enough cats to pass the Iraq supplemental, the White House has just made their job harder:

The White House is ready to ask Congress for more money for President Bush's plan - already hotly debated - to send 21,500 new combat troops into Iraq.
The move would pay for support personnel and otherwise update last month's request for the Iraq war. It probably will draw criticism from Democrats who say the Pentagon had low-balled estimates of the costs of Bush's plan for improving security in Baghdad and Anbar province.

The latest request could come as early as today, modifying last month's $93.4 billion request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30.

Though the changes may be relatively modest, they nonetheless are embarrassing to the White House and the Pentagon, which earlier dismissed criticism from lawmakers that the original $5.6 billion estimate for the troop buildup was too low.

I suppose this is 'embarrassing' to the White House. It sounds challenging for Congressional Democrats as well. The White House has effectively waited until right before the vote before telling Congress, 'you know what? We need $2 billion more for the surge. Thanks.'

It sounds to me as if someone in the Bush Administration has decided that the Democrats must cave and pass a bill they hate, so this is a good time to throw a little salt in the wound. And given the trouble that the Democratic leadership is having in passing a bill, this must be extremely unwelcome.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Democrats Fail to Tighten Ethics Rules

Public Citizen and others had pushed to require the spouses and family members of Congressional staff to pay taxes when private organizations pay for them to travel, but Democrats maintained the old rules.

Oh wait - you didn't know that private organizations paid for travel for lawmakers and their spouses? Read on:

The House ethics panel’s new travel regulations fail to tell members and staff they might have to pay taxes when they take family members on trips paid for by outside groups.

But that is what will happen if the IRS sides with Public Citizen, the watchdog group, in a complaint filed in October saying lawmakers and families should live by the same tax rules as everyone else.

“This is a complaint the IRS isn’t going to be able to sidestep,” said Craig Holman, the Public Citizen lobbyist who lodged the complaint. “The IRS isn’t going to let me not pay taxes on income like that.”

For years, family members have joined lawmakers on junkets without paying taxes on the value of the travel, meals and lodging. Most people outside of Congress would have to report such a trip as income.

Public Citizen sought to end that discrepancy last year, filing a complaint noting that there is no written exemption to the tax law for members of Congress.

Despite this, the “regulations, forms, and instructions” issued last month by the ethics committee make no changes in response to the complaint and do not warn lawmakers and staff about the potential tax consequences...

Staffers for the House ethics and Ways and Means committees did not respond to repeated requests for comment, though Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told The Hill he’d never looked at the matter.

Public Citizen’s complaint cited an opinion from the Ways and Means Committee issued last year to The Detroit News, which first raised the question of taxing spousal travel.

“Congressional spouses have an official and public role quite different from the spouses of normal business executives,” the committee wrote. “The travel is permitted under the ethics rules on the grounds that it is related to the official duties of the office...”

Meet the new boss...

Who Won CPAC

The votes were tallied a few days ago. CPAC participants favored Romney for the nomination, with Giuliani rather close behind, and Brownback, Gingrich and McCain behind them.

So knowing who won, who really - you know - won?

Well, Captain Ed argues compellingly that it was Rudy Giuliani. Kathryn Lopez had kind words for many, but also said that Giuliani did well.

But I wanted to find the closest thing to an objective analysis that I could. So I thought I'd take a look at where people are putting their money right now - at TradeSports - where you can buy a share in the nomination chances of each Republican contender.

What did I learn? Regrettably, that you are probably stuck with subjective analysis, because the numbers aren't conclusive. But there are definitely some notable items. In particular, Giuliani seems to continue on a steady upward trend over the last month, and Romney seems to have experienced a dramatic rebound - perhaps owing to that win in the CPAC straw poll.

And if these numbers are right, John McCain might want to think about doing something else the next year or two.

First Giuliani - a clear upward trend, with only a few blips. And leading the pack with a share price around $35:

Next we'll look at Romney - who was falling before and during CPAC, but seemed to rebound dramatically at the end:

Lastly, McCain - who has little to be happy about according to Trade Sports, but at least remains ahead of the resurgent Romney (in share price, at least):

At least Senator McCain can commiserate with Senator Clinton, who's had an up-and-down month:

That Great Big Sucking Sound...

Daniel Drezner notes that the tech sector seems to have 'pulled through' the bout with outsourcing:

Five years after the dot-com bust ravaged the technology industry, erasing tens of thousands of jobs in Massachusetts, the "Help Wanted" signs have been pulled out of storage. State figures released Thursday show several high-tech job categories growing at more than triple the rate of overall employment over the past 13 months.

The job market hasn't returned to the feverish state of the 1990s, and fields such as telecommunications have been slower to recover. But multiple job offers are no longer rare for managers and consultants, software developers, researchers, website designers, marketing and sales professionals -- even newly minted college graduates -- knocking on the doors of resurgent high-tech companies. Especially hot are Internet businesses riding the new wave of digital commerce.

And, on the flip side, employers are struggling for the first time in years to hire technology talent. Many are paying signing bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $40,000, often structured as tuition forgiveness, to lure masters in business administration graduates from top schools.

The open international marketplace is far too nimble for countries and workers with competitive advantages to suffer more than cyclical downturns. Without speaking to the tech sector specifically (which in this case is doing just fine), the US economy continues to do well because the US is an attractive location for foreign direct investment, possesses highly educated and skilled workers, and enjoys advantages of low taxation, good infrastructure, transparent legal system, etc.

Critics will always be able to point to sectors and companies that suffer in an international market, but the economy as a whole will do well as long as these advantages are maintained.

Iraq Supplemental: House Dem Infighting; Republicans Resolute

Roll Call ($) reports that House Democrats are having a hard time passing the Iraq war supplemental funding bill. Members of the Out of Iraq caucus currently say that they will not vote for legislation that does not force the withdrawal of troops, and House Republicans say that they will not vote for a bill that hamstrings conduct of the operation:

While Democratic leaders have emphasized their party’s unity on the mid-February resolution condemning the proposed troop increase, the supplemental measure is already straining that accord.

The divisions have presented a serious test for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) leadership, as well as for Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), who must shepherd the legislation...

While Murtha appears to have relented on some of his stronger positions — such as putting in conditions that would make it difficult to fund the additional troops Bush wants to send to Iraq — after strong backlash from both sides of the aisle, there continues to be significant discontent among the rank-and-file Members who supported Murtha’s plan.

A potentially large segment of the Out of Iraq Caucus, which numbers 71 and overlaps heavily with the Progressive Caucus, is not expected to support the supplemental spending bill if it contains funds that do support the president’s plan to deploy more troops.

“The only conditions I’ll vote for are full-funding to bring our troops home from Iraq,” Woolsey said Thursday...

But while emergency funding requests for the Iraq War have previously received strong bipartisan support, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced last week that Republicans were ready to take the rare step of formally whipping against the bill if it contained any measures that they believe would put roadblocks up for the White House on Iraq.

“I think placing arbitrary or punitive political hurdles before the commander in chief in a time of war, especially under the guise of supporting our troops, is wrong and it is reckless,” Boehner said late last week.

Boehner said the GOP would adhere to two principles in the supplemental: to oppose any effort to “put handcuffs” on Bush, or to add “unnecessary” additional spending in the bill that does not pertain to the war effort.

Democrats have floated the proposal to give the president waiver authority to make the terms outlined in the supplemental for troop readiness less binding, but Boehner said it was unclear if that would be enough.

“It may. But at the end of the day, these are unnecessary obstacles that will not support our troops ... and will not support the president,” he said. “And if they want to cut the funding, they ought to have the courage to stand up and do it forthright.”

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the ranking member on the Defense subcommittee, said late last week that he did not believe waiver authority would be enough to appease most Republicans.

“I think it’s accurate to say that our leadership and our defense folks would be opposed to those restrictions with or without a waiver,” he said.

Democrats are also expected to include billions of dollars in additional funds in the supplemental for issues ranging from agriculture relief to the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan, among others. And knowledgeable Democratic aides have said they are considering including funds to improve conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

A spokesman for Pelosi said Democrats were hopeful Republicans would ultimately vote for the funding bill.

“Democrats want to make sure that our troops have the equipment and training they deserve and that the Iraqi government meets the benchmarks President Bush endorsed,” said spokesman Nadeam Elshami. “Republican leaders should be supporting our efforts and not threatening to vote against the troops and accountability in Iraq.”

If GOP leaders seek to make this vote a test of party loyalty, it will take a significant whip effort to get the rank-and-file Members to vote against a war supplemental. As one Democratic aide observed, it is difficult to explain the nuance of such votes to the public who see “a vote to shut down the supplemental as a vote to shut down the DOD.” The aide said leaders and appropriators are so far not fearful of being able to pass the bill on the House floor. “If [Boehner] wants to whip against it he does so at his party’s peril,” the aide said.

“If the Democrats insert language that really does hamstring our ability to fight and win this war, then I think it will be an easy whip,” countered a GOP leadership aide, adding that Democrats will face great difficulties uniting their own Caucus. “If it does nothing to hasten troop withdrawal, they lose their Members in the left wing, and if they do put conditions on funding, they lose a whole different segment of the Caucus...”

During their years in the minority, the Democrats forced the GOP to pass most controversial legislation almost entirely with Republican votes. Boehner and the GOP seem to have developed a strong backbone on this issue - as the paucity of votes in favor of the non-binding Democratic resolution on Iraq showed. I'd be very surprised if they bend and vote for a bill that has much support in the Out of Iraq caucus. And I also think it very unlikely that Pelosi and Murtha toss the Out of Iraq caucus overboard in favor of getting Republican votes. I simply don't think that they will desert their base on this.

My prediction is passage of a bill with the funding restrictions and required waivers, with a small number of Republican votes, and with the loss of some 'Blue Dog' votes.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Joke of the Day

The Nation sent someone to infiltrate CPAC. (Michelle Malkin mentions it here).

Among other things, he claims that Malkin went 'unhinged' when asked about her book, 'In Defense of Internment. He stalked her across the floor, taped the episode, and then edited it to filter out the mild stuff, leaving this nasty exchange:

MB: Hi, Michelle. I'm Max Blumenthal with the Nation.
MM: Oh, hello.
MB: Hi. I loved your book, In Defense of Internment. I was wondering...
MM: Uh, I don't think you did.
MB: (Proferring a photo of an internment camp.) Can you make this out to 'Max?'
MM: I'm not going to sign that.
MB: Why? What's the problem.
MM: I'm not going to sign it.
MB: Well, why not?
MM: I'm not going to sign it.


MM: (Points at the camera) Let me tell you something since you are filming this. I am all for honest intellectual debate.


MM: I had extensive exchanges with critics of my book. I put up an errata page. I invited the...
MB: You had to issue errata?
MM: Excuse me. Exactly. I did.
MB: So you made a lot of errors in your book?
MM: I made a lot of errors and I acknowledged several errors in my book.


MM: I absolutely detest your initiative in trying to smear my work without even reading it.


MM: Thank you very much. That's all the time I have...
MB: (Following her) That was a good speech, Malkin. Now I was wondering if you'd learned any lessons... um... journalistically...

MB: There she goes...I think that went really well...

Pretty vicious on Malkin's part, huh?

All it took was four edits to produce such unhinged comments as 'I made a lot of errors in my book, and 'I detest your initiative in trying to smear my work without even reading it.'

It's cute. Blumenthal even prefaces the video with the tease 'see seven minutes of raw, unexpurgated right wing action' and then posts a clip that's heavily edited. I bet they don't have the guts to show the full exchange. Malkin was polite at all times, if direct - not a surprise considering the confrontation Blumenthal sought.

I wonder what he said to her that he edited out?

Further, if the Nation is looking for truly unhinged material, have they tried looking at any of the leading Leftie blogs?

Why Don't People Trust the MSM?

Last week the Associated Press reported that a disappointingly small number of Americans knows how many Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion.

Today, the Times reports that the Lancet study has sprung more leaks. It appears that the inflated, agenda-driven count was partially due to a political agenda on the part of the 'researchers.'

Who'da thunk it?

Star Trek Prequel Greenlighted

Yes, I'm still enough of a Star Trek geek to notice this story:

It's official. JJ Abrams is beaming up for duty.

After months of speculation, the Lost mastermind has confirmed he will helm Paramount Pictures' first new Star Trek voyage in more than five years.

The tentatively titled Star Trek XI will follow the formula of franchise reinvention pioneered by Batman Begins and Casino Royale—i.e., do an origin tale of the main characters.

In this case, the new Trek will travel back to the Starfleet Academy salad days of James T. Kirk and his best half-Vulcan buddy Spock as they boldly go on their first adventures together in the final frontier.

Paramount is targeting a stardate of Christmas Day 2008 to launch the new-old crew.

If you're interested, there's a summary of one version of the script here.

Red Light Cameras & Unintended Consequences

Houston has installed red light cameras at 30 intersections, and government vehicles (including school buses) have incurred 'more than 100' of the 34,000 violations registered since the fall:

Houston's new red-light cameras nabbed more than 100 government and school vehicles since the enforcement program began last fall, resulting in about $8,000 in fines, police records show.

Metro and school buses, police cruisers and public works trucks were among the vehicles caught running red lights, according to data released under the Texas Public Information Act.

The citations represent a tiny fraction of the 34,000 violators cited since September, but they are unwelcome to the agencies involved and have resulted in disciplinary action against some drivers.

I don't see an exact number in the article, but if we say there were merely 100 violations, that would constitute just about .3 percent. While that's a very low number, I'd be curious what percentage of vehicle miles traveled in Houston are by government vehicle.

These Changing Times

Germany is returning to spaceflight, overcoming the stigma associated with its pioneering use of rocketry in World War II:

Germany is planning to land an unmanned craft on the Moon in an ambitious revival of a dream that has haunted the nation since the 1930s.

“Why shouldn’t we do it alone?” asks Walter Doellinger, director of the German Air and Space Centre. “We have the technology, we have the know-how and we have the experience with robots...”

It is a sign of the new self-confidence of Germany, and one that will attract controversy: it was under the Nazis that German scientists made the decisive breakthrough towards space travel in October 1942 by launching an A4 rocket 100km into space.

The rocket design, renamed the V2, was later used to bombard the South East of England and Antwerp in Belgium, killing thousands. The German scientist Wernher von Braun later helped America in the space race.

Second Life as Terror Tool

There's been a fair amount of news lately about events in the game Second Life that have real world effects. At the CounterTerrorism Blog, they look at how the game can be used as a tool for real-life terrorists:

Streaming video can be uploaded into Second Life and a scenario can easily be constructed whereby an experienced terrorist bomb-maker could demonstrate how to assemble bombs using his avatar to answer questions as he plays the video. Using the decentralized organization effect, already successfully used by SL companies, the bomb-maker and his pupils can be spread around the globe and using instant language translation tools (available in the world) could be speaking a variety of languages. Just as Real Life companies such as Toyota test their products in Second Life so could terrorists construct virtual representations of targets they wish to attack in order to examine the potential targets vulnerabilities and reaction to attack. But possibly by far the most useful tool currently available to radical groups is the ability to transfer in-world money between avatars that can be translated into real currency. The Second Life currency of Lindens (approximately $270L to $1US) can be bought using a credit card in one country and credited to one avatar (account) and can be given to a co-conspirator avatar in another country. The person controlling this second avatar can then convert these lindens to the real-world currency wherever they are based using a local credit card or paypal equivalent. Clearly the ability to transfer money in this fashion is a very useful function. While Linden Labs sets a limit on the amount of currency an avatar can buy or sell (typically $5000US) this is likely to change and $5000 gets you a long way in many parts of the world.

Money transfers would seem to be the most useful and simple terror tool. Recruitment might pose as many challenges as it does opportunities for terrorists, inasmuch as the CIA or any other anti-terror agency could pass for a potential Al Qaeda recruit far more easily in a virtual world than in real life. Similarly, a 'dry run' terror attack in Second Life is extremely limited in the potential it holds for real life lessons, because reactions in the real world will be quite different.

Added to all this is the fact that everything that happens in Second Life is presumably monitored and tracked by 'Linden Labs,' and so the information is only as secure as Linden Labs wants it to be. If they co-operate with federal authorities in providing information about suspicious activities and money transfers, then terrorists are vulnerable.