Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hoyas Over BC

Next up: Vanderbilt.

Remember Northern Exposure?

If you ever wanted to live in rural Alaska, you can get a free acre in Anderson Alaska, if you act fast:

In a modern twist on the homesteading movement that populated the Plains in the 1800s, the community of 300 people is offering 26 large lots on spruce-covered land in a part of Alaska that has spectacular views of the Northern lights and Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak.

And what's an occasional day of 60-below cold in a town removed from big-city ills?

"It's Mayberry," said Anderson high-school teacher Daryl Frisbie, whose social studies class explored ways to boost the town's dwindling population. Students developed a Web site and Power Point presentation, then persuaded the City Council to give it a go.

"Are you tired of the hustle and bustle of the Lower 48, crime, poor schools, and the high cost of living?" the Web site asks. "Make your new home in the Last Frontier!"

The 1.3-acre lots will be awarded to the first people who apply for them and submit $500 refundable deposits beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. Each winning applicant must build a house measuring at least 1,000 square feet within two years. Power and phone hookups are already available.

In case you're thinking 'well, someplace in the balmy southern part of Alaska would be ok,' don't get too excited. It's here.

I'm not sure this will have the desired effect. The article suggests that local renters may have the inside track on the new lots - so it may not increase the population all that much anyway.

On a more serious note, this points up the challenge faced by small towns in many parts of the US. A great deal of attention has been paid to the growth of suburbs and exurban areas in the US - creating in some an impression that the population is spreading out across the whole of the US. But small towns are dying, and the community of Anderson, Alaska is hardly alone.

If you want free land in Kansas for example, you can get some in Marquette or Minneapolis. I don't believe they have as many days colder than 60 below as Anderson, Alaska. I bet there are plenty of other rural communities where you can get land for free - or nearly so. The question is how many people still want that lifestyle; or how many would prefer to shop at Costco, get coffee at Starbucks, go to restaurants with varied cuisines,and have a choice of a different first-run movie every night of the week.

For all the complaints about the homogenization of America, there are a lot more Americans in that latter group, nowadays.

Hagel & Thompson

Tom Bevan writes an interesting piece about Fred Thompson and Chuck Hagel - but he's more interesting in speaking about the latter. He says there's little room for a successful Presidential bid by Hagel either as a Republican or an Independent:

The final twist in the story is that Hagel gave a few hints on Monday that he may be positioning himself to run as an independent. But it's hard to see how Hagel would be able to muster much support going that route either. The lure of an independent bid is a candidate who takes moderate, mainstream and/or unorthodox positions on a variety of issues. Hagel is more or less a down-the-line conservative who happens to be an apostate on Iraq. Those who are adamantly against the war will most likely vote Democrat, and those who lean conservative but are frustrated with Iraq will most likely stick with the Republican candidate -- especially if that candidate offers a legitimate hope of prosecuting the war with more competence and better results than the current administration. That leaves a very small pool of voters for Hagel to draw from.

But even though he won't have a serious chance of winning, Hagel may still take the plunge as an independent. Therein lays an ironic subplot to the story: If the race between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees does turn out to be close, a third-party bid by Hagel might result in a most unhappy ending for Republicans in 2008.

Bevan's implication is absolutely correct: Hagel may siphon off enough conservative voters for a Democrat to win with a plurality (but not a majority) in 2008. But my sense is that he would be more likely to split the anti-war vote with the Democratic candidate, and make it easier for the eventual Republican nominee (whoever it is) to run as a strong proponent of aggressive prosecution of the War on Terror. In such a case, Hagel would make it easier for a Republican to win.

Of course, if Hagel has any sense, he won't run a Presidential campaign he's likely to lose badly.

Subway in the Bat Cave

This is cool. It's the Stockholm subway:

The Sopranos Present: AFSCME

Very funny. Imagine Paulie Walnuts creating an ad for AFSCME. Linked rather than embedded, because of language:

Hat Tip (shudder): MyDD

Novak: Emanuel Brighter than Schumer

Read the whole thing. He also is surprised that Hillary has been seen dining with Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel was vexed when Sen. Chuck Schumer appeared to take credit for investigating the Justice Department's dismissal of U.S. attorneys. "At the very beginning, I was clear that something didn't smell right," Schumer told a Tuesday press conference.

Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, actually led all Democrats in focusing on the purge of federal prosecutors who had been pursuing public corruption charges. He and Schumer respectively led the House and Senate Democratic campaign committees last year as their party took control of Congress. Emanuel is now chairman and Schumer vice chairman of the party caucuses in their respective chambers.

While Schumer called for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Emanuel took the House floor with a different position. While "many are eager to debate" Gonzales's future, said Emanuel, "we must not lose sight of the real story -- what is happening to these ongoing public corruption investigations."

Novak also offers interesting commentary on Fred Thompson's possible campaign. I've attached that to the post below on Thompson.

Was Valerie Plame Ever 'Covert?'

And more hypocrisy from the New York Times and others.

Update: More here. Was it Joe Wilson himself who outed Valerie Plame?

I Disavow My Result...

And I blame ALa.

I think it was that 'Egg McMuffin' answer...

You Are Most Like Bill Clinton

No doubt, your legacy may be a little seedier than you'd like.
But even though you've done some questionable things, you're still loved by almost all.

Gee, Think Fred Thompson's Gonna Run?

I think it sounds like a strong possibility:

But Mr. Thompson appears serene about all the speculation swirling around him. "Those running are all good guys, and would be good presidents," he says leaning back in a recliner. "But there are truly vital issues--from the looming entitlement crisis to nuclear proliferation--I'm not afraid to talk about. Lots of people have such a low regard for politicians that they're open to a campaign that would be completely different."

So how would a possible Thompson campaign be distinctive? "Politics is now one big 24-hour news cycle, but we seem to spend less time than ever on real substance," he muses. "What if someone harnessed the Internet and other technologies and insisted in talking about real issues in more depth than consultants would advise? What if they took risks with their race in hopes that the risks to our children could be reduced through building a mandate for good policy?.."

The next president, according to Mr. Thompson, needs to exercise strong leadership "and get down in the weeds and fix a civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones." He doesn't offer specifics on what to do, but notes the "insanity" of the new Congress pushing for the unionization of homeland security employees only five years after it rejected the notion in the wake of 9/11. "Should we tie ourselves up in bureaucratic knots with the challenges we may have to face?" he asks in wonderment.

The challenges, he says, are numerous. On Iraq, he admits "we are left with nothing but bad choices." However, he says the "worst choice" would be to have Osama bin Laden proven right when he predicted America wouldn't have the stomach for a tough fight. The costs of Iraq have been high, but they could be even higher "if we have another stain on America like that infamous scene from Saigon 1975 in which our helicopters took off leaving those who supported us grabbing at the landing skids."

Mr. Thompson is especially worried about nuclear proliferation. He serves as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board, along with former Clinton CIA Director Jim Woolsey and former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb. The board recently received an unclassified briefing that convinced him three or four countries in the Middle East are "on the cusp" of acquiring nuclear weapons should the Iranians carry through with their own weapons program...

Clearly there are areas where he comes across as less polished, but when he discusses McCain-Feingold and runaway spending for example, he sounds like he has the essential elements of his message thought out. And it seems like he'd seek the 'straight shooter' label that served McCain so well.

The rapidity with which he's disavowed his vote on McCain-Feingold makes me wonder whether he's decided that it's a major reason for the displeasure that primary voters feel toward McCain. Certainly it's among the first things that every conservative I know mentions when talking about McCain's problems.

Among other trivia, how odd would it be to have a President older than 65 with two children under 10? I have to think it's probably never happened before.

Update: Novak offers this on Thompson today:

Actor-politician Fred Thompson's unexpected expression of interest in seeking the Republican presidential nomination has attracted an equally unexpected favorable reaction, especially among social conservatives.

In Tennessee Republican politics, former Sen. Thompson was allied with Howard Baker and Lamar Alexander in the state party's more liberal wing. However, his voting record in the Senate was solidly conservative. He is viewed by the Christian right as more acceptable than any of the three Republican candidates leading in the polls -- Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Nobody is sure that Thompson really will run. He has been reported in line as successor to radio commentator Paul Harvey to fill one of the most prestigious and profitable broadcasting niches.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Well Rowed, MSM; Well Rowed...

Wow. In an article about the leaking of the name of Valerie Plame, and her testimony on the subject, it takes AP writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis 25 paragraphs to mention the person who leaked it.

A cynic would suggest that the writer is more interested in politics than the facts.

Guess that makes me cynical.

How to Make a Guy Cry

Entertainment Weekly suggests about a dozen films that will work. Big Fish, Field of Dreams and Brian's Song work for me.

But anyone who cries at Armageddon... well, is definitely not a man's man.

Come on Eire; Eire Come on

Canonically, feast days begin after 4:00 p.m. the day before.

So get out and tip a pint to modern Irish miracles.

Unbelieveable Valerie Plame

Uumm... she didn't suggest her husband for the Niger trip; some guy walking past her office did.

And of course she was undercover! Unless, you mean like 'undercover' in the legal sense - like, was it actually against the law to leak her name. Then um, she doesn't know. Because she's not like, a lawyer - just a deeply private intel analyst, who loathes the spotlight. And really, it would surprise her that anyone would care about the answer to such a silly question.

Is Helen Thomas a Moron?

If not, then some other 'Helen' in the White House press corps is.

We know that someone named Helen is saved from tremendous embarrassment by the fact that the White House briefing transcript does not identify the reporters who pose the questions:

Q Was the Mohammed on the front pages subjected to any torture in the secret prisons?

MR. SNOW: We don't -- again, the policy of this government is we do not engage in torture.

Q And so you can guarantee that he was not tortured in all the years of secret --

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you the policy is that we don't do torture, and furthermore, that there are -- very specific guidelines have been laid down in terms of the questioning of people who, in fact, have been in U.S. custody.

Q But after it was all revealed. How do we know -- I mean, this is -- why would you send them to secret prisons in the first place?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to -- Helen, we have been through long conversations about that. There was a big debate on Capitol Hill about this. We're not going to relitigate it.

Q So you're saying he was not --

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Yes. What possible reason could there be for keeping the location of some high-level captured terrorists secret, other than in order to torture them?

Is there a better demonstration of the ignorance of the press covering the war on terror than a question such as this one? Does it take a genius to figure out that a given location immediately becomes a target if information like this becomes known?


The stunning inability of the New York Times to find enough bad news from Iraq leads them to manufacture some: the increased US military presence in Baghdad means that even though US deaths in Iraq have fallen significantly since the surge started, the percentage of deaths in Baghdad is up.

Today's Iraq report from Bill Roggio, including a focus on Diyala and attacks within Baghdad, and negotiations with Sadr's forces to lay down their arms.

James Dobson creeps out Dean Barnett.

Massive protests over Airbus job cuts.

Is global warming nothing more than politics? Also, Michael Crichton debates the topic.

HamNation on the fairest and fluffiest news coverage around.

Is Pete Rose still lying, to try to get a shot at reinstatement in baseball?

House to Address Milk Price Terror Emergency

By now you've read about the pork that has been stuffed into the House's emergency Iraq supplemental legislation to try to buy more votes. It includes:

  • $4.3 billion for agricultural-disaster assistance;
  • $2.9 billion in additional Gulf Coast recovery costs;
  • $400 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program;
  • $1 billion for pandemic flu preparation; and,
  • $735 million for a children's health-insurance program.

Included in the agriculture spending is $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers and $100 million for citrus growers.

This morning however, it's reported that the legislation also includes a $283 million extension of dairy subsidies, to make it easier for them to be extended in the anticipated next farm bill. (For more detail, visit the website of Citizens Against Government Waste).

The Milk Income Loss Contract shouldn't even exist - let alone get extended. It subsidizes dairy farmers to produce more milk than is demanded, leading to oversupply. The federal government then buys the excess milk, ensuring that the price that consumers pay for milk stays at a needlessly high level.

Even more ludicrous is that this provision - and all other expenditures in the Iraq supplemental - are designated as national security emergency expenditures under HConRes 376, which states:

As used in this title:
(1) The term `emergency' means a situation that--

(A) requires new budget authority and outlays (or new budget authority and the outlays flowing therefrom) for the prevention or mitigation of, or response to, loss of life or property, or a threat to national security; and

(B) is unanticipated.

(2) The term `unanticipated' means that the underlying situation is--

(A) Sudden, which means quickly coming into being or not building up over time;

(B) Urgent, which means a pressing and compelling need requiring immediate action;

(C) Unforeseen, which means not predicted or anticipated as an emerging need; and

(D) Temporary, which means not of a permanent duration.

Does the price of milk as determined by supply and demand represent a sudden, urgent, and unanticipated national security threat?

Failure of Message Discipline

I presume it's safe to say that the Obama campaign would have preferred to have these two stories run on the Politics pages on different days:

Clinton, Obama: Gays not immoral

Redirect: Senator Obama Says John Edwards Is 'Kind of Cute'

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mexican Workers in US Send $23B Home

According to the Financial Times:

Migrant workers sent back more than $62.3bn to their families in Latin America and the Caribbean last year, a rise of 14 per cent on 2005.

The figures, to be released this weekend at the annual conference of the Inter-American Development Bank, confirm that remittances have become one of the region’s most important sources of foreign exchange. For the fourth successive year they will exceed the combined flows of foreign direct investment and overseas aid into the region.

Mexico (with a total of $23bn), Brazil ($7bn) and Colombia ($4bn) receive most remittances, but the flows are especially beneficial for the poorer and more marginal countries of Central America and the Caribbean, where they account for more than 10 per cent of GDP in many cases.

Don Terry, head of the Multilateral Investment Fund, the IDB agency that monitors the flows, argues that as 8m-10m families “would be below the poverty line” without the remittances.

However, a clampdown by US migration officials on illegal immigrants could be contributing to a sharp slowdown in growth, Mr Terry claimed.

In Mexico, for example, remittances grew 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2006 but by only 5 per cent in the last three months of the year and by only 1 per cent in December. During that month immigration authorities conducted highly publicised raids on factories, such as meat-packing plants operated by Swift & Co, suspected of employing illegal immigrants.

Remittances from the US to Mexico are greater than all foreign direct investment into the country. Only oil revenues surpass them in export earnings. There are more residents of the state of Michoacan in the United States than there are in Mexico.

The two countries are about as tightly linked as two countries can be.

Senate Slams Door on Iraq Pullout

The Senate voted today by a 50-48 margin against Majority Leader Reid's proposed timetable for a pullout from Iraq. Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, and Joe Lieberman joined all but one Republican in voting against the measure.

The Senate then adopted Judd Gregg's proposed amendment - which states that the Senate will not eliminate or reduce funds for troops in the field - by a margin of 82-16.

This makes clear that the Senate simply does not support a forced pullout from Iraq - at least not right now. While the House Appropriations Committee voted for an Iraq supplemental that includes a timetable, the Senate's resounding vote against a similar measure will make it harder to pass the supplemental in the House. And even if it does pass the House, it's dead as soon as the gavel comes down.

It also may be better for the Democrats in the near term. It allows them to tell the anti-war left that they have made a good effort to force a pullout, but simply do not have the votes. Now they can turn to other matters - at least for a few months.

Update: The Washington Post covers the story here.

Democrats Want Mo' Money for 2008 Convention

Why do cities get any federal money for hosting the parties' conventions?

Colorado Democrats seek $50 million for Dencer convention - twice what New York and Boston received in 2004.

Hoyas Advance to Face Boston College

Georgetown over Belmont, 80-55.

Bringing Order to Chaos

Grand offers to provide you one telephone number, that will suffice for the rest of your life. If someone dials you at that number, all your phones ring simultaneously (if you so choose) - and you can choose where to answer the call. Numbers are available in many area codes nationwide - but not all.

The New York Times reports:

A new service called GrandCentral, now in its final weeks of public beta testing, solves all of these problems. It’s a rather brilliant melding of cellphone and the Internet.

Its motto, “One number for life,” pretty much says it all. At, you choose a new, single, unified phone number (more on this in a moment). You hand it out to everyone you know, instructing them to delete all your old numbers from their Rolodexes.

From now on, whenever somebody dials your new uninumber, all of your phones ring simultaneously, like something out of “The Lawnmower Man.”

No longer will anyone have to track you down by dialing each of your numbers in turn. No longer does it matter if you’re home, at work or on the road. Your new GrandCentral phone number will find you.

As a bonus, all messages now land in a single voice mail box. You can listen to them in any of three ways. First, you can dial in from any phone (a text message arrives on your cellphone to let you know when you have voice mail). If you call in from your cellphone, you don’t even have to enter your password first.

You can also play your messages on the Web, at, and download them as audio files to preserve for posterity. You can even ask to be notified by e-mail; a link in the e-mail message takes you online to play the voice mail.

This has got to be the wave of the future, and it's kind of neat to see it arrive.

The CEO explains GrandCentral here:

Based on this description, it looks like you'll be able to do a lot more to customize your phones. You can label some numbers as spam, choose which callers can reach you at which numbers, listen in on voicemail, record parts of a call, and more.

It seems pretty cool to me, but my daughter will take it for granted...

Hat Tip: Tom Maguire

Democrats to Smalley: You're Not Good Enough...

You're not smart enough, and people don't like you.

Hee, hee. Couldn't happen to a nastier guy:

Minnesota's 2008 Senate race is already attracting plenty of attention from national Democratic leaders.

Minnesota Monitor has received a credible tip that Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) officials are meeting with Congressman Tim Walz from Minnesota's 1st District to persuade him to enter the race against incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. However, Walz's staff unequivocally denied that he would run for the Senate in 2008.

Radio personality and entertainer Al Franken has already declared his candidacy to face Coleman next November. A recent Rasmussen poll showed Franken trailing Coleman 46 percent to 36 percent approximately 20 months from the 2008 elections.

Walz, a first-term congressman, unseated six-term incumbent Gil Gutknecht in 2006 and has quickly made a name for himself in Congress, serving on the Agriculture Committee and speaking out on veterans' issues.

Walz's communications director, Meredith Salsbery, said, "Tim Walz is not and will not be a candidate for the United State Senate in 2008. He will be meeting with the DSCC in the near future to discuss how he can best help raise the profile of Minnesota's Senate race and he plans to do what he can to ensure the DFL Senate candidate wins Minnesota's 1st Congressional District in 2008."

Franken's campaign had no comment when asked about this development. The DSCC could not be reached for comment.

Snark aside, Al Franken is not a great candidate, and recent polling shows that he would have an uphill climb against Norm Coleman. He's a first time candidate, he does have a tendency to fly off the handle, and he has to overcome the fact that he has always been seen as a comedian.

This is disappointing news for Coleman and the GOP, who would probably prefer to run against Franken.

Hat Tip: Political Insider

Hannity Hoisted on own Petard

This video appears to be making the rounds:

Hannity can dish it out, but can't take it.

He has called upon pro-choice Catholic politicians to listen to the views of their church on abortion; he has decried those who suggest that there is a choice between legalizing abortion and seeing unwanted babies born. Yet when he is confronted by a Catholic Priest who reminds him of the Church's teaching on contraception, and resists a false choice between contraception and abortion, he can't take the criticism.

He really comes across as a wimp here.

The Catholic Church does not offer some cafeteria plan where you pick what you agree and disagree with. If you are going to disagree on doctrine, you can't expect the Church to say 'well, all right then.' These are not the Unitarians.


Update: Allah notes that reactions are being compiled here at the Washington Times. It does not seem that Hannity is doing all that well.

I'll also post Philo's comment:

He's not a wimp, he, like most people, is merely stubbornly and willfully ignorant on issues where his intuition tells him that if he actually understood the moral principles involved he would have to change his mind and, subsequently, his way of life.

That whole "judge not lest ye be judged" dodge is most commonly engaged by those who just want to avoid discussing the lack of moral principle behind their actions.

Trying to change the subject to recent scandals in the Church further highlights Hannity's bad conscience on this issue. He knows he'll lose the debate, so he pounds the table on another topic, hoping to rile the mob and slip out the side door in the confusion.

True enough. I would also add that this is not so much a matter of 'judging,' as it is making a simple observation. The proper view of a Roman Catholic regarding contraception is no more a matter to be 'judged' than the 'question' of whether the earth is round. It is what it is. If you do not 'accept it,' you are not being 'judged;' you are simply not in adherence with church teaching.

The Ides of March

In the final analysis, the means ARE the ends.

The 'Gulliver' Approach to Iraq

I'm not going to 'cut and paste' pages and pages of text, but if you want to read the limitations on Presidential authority included by House Democrats in their Iraq bill, go to the Victory Caucus site here.

There are also conflicting reports as to whether the Appropriations Committee may also consider language intended to bar the President from taking action against Iran without prior Congressional authorization.

Hillary Stumbles Onto Truth; Hurts Own Campaign

Hillary Clinton - who formerly wanted to make sure that the President had all troops out of Iraq by the time she was sworn in as his successor - now wants to make sure that some US troops remain in Iraq after the war to protect 'vital security interests:'

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.

In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.

In outlining how she would handle Iraq as commander in chief, Mrs. Clinton articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her campaign events, where she has backed the goal of “bringing the troops home.”

She said in the interview that there were “remaining vital national security interests in Iraq” that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.

The United States’ security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into a failed state “that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,” she said. “It is right in the heart of the oil region,” she said. “It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.”

It is for these very reasons that supporters of continued military action in Iraq want to stay until the job is done. So Hillary - who wants an end to the effort to establish a stable Iraqi government with popular support, that is capable of policing itself and its borders - wants to make sure that if Iraq ends up without such a government, we still have troops there to protest US interests.

Here's a crazy idea: since you want US troops there anyway, why don't we continue the implementation of the new strategy, and try to make sure it works?

Of course, this will lead to a new round of attacks on Hillary from the Democratic base, which has not failed to notice that she seems unable to mount a coherent campaign that addresses the central foreign policy issue of our time.

Read also: Riehl

House Dems Whipping Iraq Vote

Yesterday I predicted that if House Democrats did not change their Iraq supplemental legislation, and did in fact treat the measure as a 'vote of confidence,' with Members free to do whatever they thought best, the bill would not pass.

Now they have apparently decided that's not really an acceptable outcome ($):

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has executed an aggressive push to keep Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee in line as the panel takes up the $124 billion Iraq War spending bill this morning, while Democratic leaders prepare to whip the full Caucus next week.

“This is an unprecedented effort,” one Democratic member of the Appropriations Committee said of recent meetings convened by Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.

“She’s doing her job to get that bill passed.” the lawmaker added. The measure is scheduled to be marked up in the full Appropriations Committee this morning. “We’re not going to get every vote, but we’ll get it out of committee...”

In addition, Progressive Caucus members — who have called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops before the end of this year, rather than the 2008 date set in the bill — are continuing their own whip count on the spending bill.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said at least 15 lawmakers — including Democrats who are not Progressive lawmakers — will oppose the spending bill...

One senior GOP lawmaker said that at this point 15 of the 17 Republicans who voted in favor of the Democrats’ Iraq resolution in mid-February appeared committed to opposing the spending bill in its current form.

Leadership sources have said they are prepared for GOP Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), vocal opponents of the war, to vote with Democrats. However, those sources have indicated that at this point defections could be contained to single digits.

Despite the efforts of Ms. Pelosi and her team, it sounds as if the math is still against them. If they lose 'at least 15' Democrats, while getting only 2-5 GOP votes, it's nearly impossible to pass the bill.

Remember: the Democratic margin in the House is only 15.

The Hill reports that some Out of Iraq caucus members will support the bill, and others will oppose. Jim Moran - who was against the bill yesterday - is now in favor. And amusingly, Rep. Jim McDermott is inclined to oppose, but is thinking twice since the White House hates the bill:

Out of Iraq Caucus members say they have 20 to 30 votes against the bill, Moran said, such as that of caucus co-founder Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). She has nothing but praise for Pelosi’s handling of the bill but says she can’t support something that, in her mind, continues to fund the war.

“This is not a game,” Woolsey shouted in the Speaker’s Lobby yesterday as reporters pressed her for details. “This is who we are.”

Others are less certain. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) figures there are “40 progressives in flux right now,” and he’s one of them.

“The bill as it stands right now is pretty weak. It allows the war to go on,” he said. “But on the other hand, the president is pretty exercised about it. This is a complex set of moving parts.”

Update: The Victory Caucus posts the text of the House Iraq supplemental here.

Update II: How do you know the Democrats are in trouble in their effort to pass the bill? Their list of potential Blue Dog 'no' votes has grown from 15 to 20 in the last day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Regarding Our New Name

The Influence Peddler is temporarily adopting a new name: The Hoya Zone. It will carry this name until Tuesday, April 3, by which time the Georgetown University men's basketball team will have won its second national title - behind the skilled play of Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, and under the leadership of John Thompson III.

All contributors to the site formerly known as the Influence Peddler are Georgetown graduates. We're confident of a victory over North Carolina in the East regional, and whoever happens to make it to the Final Four.

We invite you to sit back and enjoy a great tournament, even if you already know the outcome.

And for your viewing pleasure, we offer two (wildly different) musical tributes to The Big Dance:

** We reserve the right to return to our former name at a date earlier than April 3, without prior notice.

Pajamas Media Straw Poll

I've added a link at the top of the column at left for the Pajamas Media Presidential straw poll. Please go ahead and click on it, and vote for the Republican or Democrat of your choice.

You may vote once a week.

Boeing's Cool New 'Blended Wing'

The X-48B prepares for flight testing this month:

It would be a dream come true for the airline industry: A plane that uses up to 30 percent less gas to reach its destination, compared with today's jets.

That's the promise of the blended-wing, a radically new kind of aircraft set to take to the skies for the first time this month. Originally conceived by McDonnell Douglas and developed by NASA, the blended-wing merges fuselage and wings and eliminates the tail, reducing drag. That makes it vastly more fuel-efficient than regular "tube-and-wing" jets, according to Boeing (Charts) engineer Norm Princen.

His X-48B blended-wing prototype, now on the runway at Edwards Air Force Base, is only about a 10th the size of the 240-foot-wingspan craft he hopes to build. But the Pentagon is watching keenly. "Blended-wing technology can cost-effectively fill many roles required by the Air Force," says Capt. Scott Van-Hoogen of the Air Vehicles Directorate. As a tanker, for example, it could refuel two planes in midair at the same time.

Unfortunately, the article notes that you won't be able to fly in one for 15 years or more.

Hillary Needs to think About Messaging

This doesn't seem like the right message to me:

Via Riehl

The Roundup

Crittenden covers US and Iranian negotiating positions.

More photos of the surge.

Taliban forces Musharaff's hand.

Violence in Baghdad down 80 percent.

Roggio's daily Iraq report.

Another byproduct of global warming: cockroach migration.

Climate change is being blamed for a changing of the guard among Sydney's cockroach population.

Researchers say the most common sub-species in city households was the german cockroach, until it disappeared about seven years ago.

Martyn Robinson from the Australian Museum says the Australian house cockroach, methana marginalus, which likes warmer climates, has begun moving in.

"It's most likely to be the...warmer climate," he said.

Ethics & Openness in the House of Representatives

The Moderate Voice covers "Sunshine Week" in the House of Representatives.

A suggestion to Mr. Boehner and Ms. Pelosi: one way to increase openness and improve the ethics process would be to make ethics disclosures available to the public on the internet.

Go to the website of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the official name for the Ethics Committee). Available on the site are forms for:

  • advance authorization of employee travel;
  • Member travel disclosure;
  • employee travel disclosure;
  • forms and instructions for disclosing gifts from foreign governments; and,
  • financial disclosure forms for gifts, earned and unearned gifts, and other items

There may be other forms as well, but that's all I can find.

Now which of these are available for public review and scrutiny on the site once they are filed?


Why not? All this data should be prominently disclosed - so the media and the voters don't need to go to the Ethics Committee offices, or the Clerk of the House, or whoever is responsible for publishing them. These forms should be published on the web within a week of their receipt.

If you're really trying to enhance confidence in ethical behavior, then make it easy for us to form our own judgments.

Meehan Retires

A minor note: Marty Meehan is retiring from the House to accept the position of Chancellor of his alma mater.

Meehan's district has a Democratic tilt; they'll be favored in the special election to fill the seat. But like the announced retirement of Luis Gutierrez a few weeks ago, this is merely a reminder that Democrats as well as Republicans in the House will retire because of the change in partisan control. In the case of Democrats, retirements will be due to the fact that a shift to the majority did not bring them everything they wanted.

Dismissing US Attorneys

Captain Ed makes the case that something was amiss in the much-discussed dismissal of US Attorneys by the Bush administration, and that 'Clinton did it too' is not a defense.

Democrats' Iraq Supplemental Won't Pass the House

Jim Moran will vote against the Democrats' Iraq supplemental bill in committee because it won't bar the President from attacking Iran. That's not a huge surprise; we know Jim Moran prickles at anything that is seen as supportive of Israel.

Nine other liberal Democrats have said that they will vote against it because it does not do enough to end the war.

Dan Boren has said he will vote against any legislation that sets a firm deadline for the troops to leave - as this measure does. His vote against will give cover to other Blue Dogs who may be inclined to vote against - a list which supposedly includes about 15 more Democrats.

Democrats have only 15 votes to spare, if they receive no Republican votes. And the Hill article linked above notes that very few of the 17 Republicans who supported the Democrats' non-binding Iraq resolution will be with them on this measure. If a number of Blue Dogs vote against the bill, it will be easier to hold Republican ranks, also.

As things stand now, this bill won't pass the House. And if it becomes clear that it won't, leadership might decide to cancel the markup tomorrow in the House Appropriations Committee, rather than force members to take painful votes that will earn enemies. If the Democratic leadership changes course - and decides to whip the vote, or tweak the bill, they might find a formula for passage - but not as things stand now.

Alternately, they might decide that it is important to demonstrate to liberal anti-war groups that they don't have the votes to end the war. They may 'fight the good fight' and fail, and come back with something the President can sign.

The latter is where I'll bet my money.

House GOP Pushes Divestment from Iran

The Hill reports.

Good to see Republicans and Democrats working together on something.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Team Rudy!

Don't know how they found me, but I got my 'Team Rudy' card in the mail today. It has my name and everything (obscured for this post). It's really nifty, thanks.

I must say, I'm flattered to be part of the team, but the mailer came asking me for money. That's not why I started blogging.

Or is it the squeaky wheel that gets the grease? Because I can go all Philo on you, too.

If Messrs. Romney, McCain, Thompson, Gingrich, et al. are paying attention, take note. The envelope should have money in it - not a solicitation. It won't guarantee positive blog coverage, but how could I help but have warm feelings for your candidacy?

Mexico Haunted by Witches


I've got nothing to say about this one:

Bushehr Dispute Not About Money

Stratfor (via Jules Crittenden) suggests I was on the right track - but wrong about some particulars - about the Russia-Iran dispute over the Bushehr reactor:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 12 personally ordered the suspension of any transfers of nuclear materials and technologies to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant project, ostensibly because of Iran’s unwillingness to meet its payment schedule for the project. The idea that Iran, currently flush with petrodollars and facing down the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, would choose this moment to stop paying its primary political backer, Russia, is an odd one.

The reality is that Putin has no intention of ever completing the Bushehr project.

… The nuclear card has been among Iran’s most reliable means of drawing Washington’s attention and pushing the Americans to take Tehran’s concerns over the future of Iraq seriously, so Putin’s announcement has delivered the Iranians a strong blow.

… This does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear card. Tehran still has its uranium conversion program at Isfahan, its uranium enrichment program at Natanz, and a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak, but these facilities are not under regular international inspections, and moreover have direct uses in a nuclear weapons program. (Though uranium power reactors such as Bushehr can be used in a weapons program, they require extensive additional support infrastructure first.) It is far more difficult to convince the West — and especially the Europeans, who are less inclined to view Iranian plans as nefarious — that these facilities are all for the peaceful development of nuclear energy when one’s power plant is not getting off the ground.

… Russia uses Bushehr as a means of injecting its influence into the Middle East, positioning itself as an impossible-to-ignore go-between for the West and Iran. So long as the facility is under construction, Moscow has maximized its leverage with all parties.

Should the facility ever come on line, however, Moscow will lose hugely. First, the West would be furious with Russia for giving Iran functional nuclear technology, severely damaging Russian relations with the West … neither the West nor Iran would need to keep talking to Russia about the Iranian nuclear power program … Iran is not a natural Russian ally … A nuclear-armed Iran is actually more of a long-term threat to Russia than it is to the United States, which a strategist like Putin knows well.

(Fred) Thompson's First Big Get

He's endorsed by Bill Frist:

I believe Fred Thompson should run for President. I've not talked with Fred personally about a potential run, so I am basing my thoughts simply on knowing him well, having worked with him in policy and politics everyday for 8 years, and knowing the people across America want a genuine leader who represents them. Fred understands real people and they understand him. He understands the legislative process and has a strong bipartisan appeal, though he is a real conservative. He has the experience of government service with a real appreciation for all three branches of government. He is a commonsense leader.

OK - not as big a 'get' as it would have been a year ago, but could still be significant.

Hat Tip: Hotline

A Roundup

Some interesting stuff today:

The New York Times suggests that just maybe Al Gore is going a little overboard on global warming. In fact, there just might not be a consensus on the issue.

Chely Wright may have a great song in support of our troops, but don't imagine that she's conservative.

By the way, I've commented that Democrats may not be able to pass a measure to force a withdrawal of the troops from Iraq, given that they need every vote they have in the Senate - and Joe Lieberman is not likely to be with them. Here, Lieberman says he opposes the Democratic proposal, and he predicts that the Congress will not pass a measure to pull funding for the troops on the ground. His statement begins at about the 2:20 mark.

Hundreds of Mahdis and thousands of insurgents detained (and best wishes to Captain Ed and the First Mate, as well).

I'm coming to this late, but this video - which has been posted at several other blogs - is a must-see. The reporter - Pamela Hess - does not address the reasons we went to Iraq, or even (really) what we should do in Iraq. But she talks convincingly about the importance of the American military being in Iraq right now, and of 'getting it right.'

Michael Moore: a guerilla movie maker who doesn't much care for other guerilla movie makers.

And good news for Penguins fans (like Rob Bluey).

WPost, Koppel Oppose Dems' Iraq Withdrawal Plan

When I predicted that the Democrats had blundered badly with their proposal to try to force a withdrawal through the Iraq supplemental, I had not counted on some institutions in the MSM opposing it. The Washington Post excoriates them:

The Democratic proposal doesn't attempt to answer the question of why August 2008 is the right moment for the Iraqi government to lose all support from U.S. combat units. It doesn't hint at what might happen if American forces were to leave at the end of this year -- a development that would be triggered by the Iraqi government's weakness. It doesn't explain how continued U.S. interests in Iraq, which holds the world's second-largest oil reserves and a substantial cadre of al-Qaeda militants, would be protected after 2008; in fact, it may prohibit U.S. forces from returning once they leave.

In short, the Democratic proposal to be taken up this week is an attempt to impose detailed management on a war without regard for the war itself. Will Iraq collapse into unrestrained civil conflict with "massive civilian casualties," as the U.S. intelligence community predicts in the event of a rapid withdrawal? Will al-Qaeda establish a powerful new base for launching attacks on the United States and its allies? Will there be a regional war that sucks in Iraqi neighbors such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey? The House legislation is indifferent: Whether or not any of those events happened, U.S. forces would be gone.

The House bill lists benchmarks for Iraqi political progress and requires that President Bush certify by July 1 that progress is being made toward them. By October, Bush would have to certify that the benchmarks all had been reached. This is something of a trick, akin to the inflexible troop readiness requirements that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) wanted to impose to "stop the surge." Everyone knows that the long list of requirements -- including constitutional changes, local elections and the completion of complex legislation -- couldn't be finished in six months. In that case a troop withdrawal would have to begin immediately. If there was no "progress" by July, it would have to begin then and be completed by the end of the year.

and Ted Koppel doesn't think much of it either:

Hat Tip: Riehl

It appears the vast majority of House Republicans will oppose the measure, and if the Washington Post is editorializing in opposition, it's unlikely to be politically costly. With influential Blue Dogs like Dan Boren stating opposition to a date certain for withdrawal, Pelosi and Murtha will not have many votes to spare. It appears the Democrats may once again have bitten off more than they can chew.

Read also: Captain Ed

Roll Call: Dems Try to Win GOP Votes on Iraq

Roll Call ($) notes that the debate in the House on Iraq as it relates to the supplemental appropriations bill has not really taken shape yet - partly because the Democrats only debuted the language of the bill yesterday. But Democrats are having a hard time winning Republican votes because of the partisan nature of their process:

Still, the aide said most moderates and other war skeptics are likely to stand united with Boehner in opposing the supplemental, primarily because House Democrats have alienated them even as they have tried to include provisions and funding for programs that moderates support.

“They’ve made it so much about the war that all these other things that are sweeteners are being lost in the mix,” said the aide. “They’re also not reaching across party lines to the [war critics] to say, ‘Hey, what will work for you and what might pick up some more [votes]?’”

However, GOP commitments to support the leadership are not completely firm. Republicans acknowledge that if the Democrats’ public relations offensive works, GOP Members may be tempted to jump ship and vote for the bill.

“In order to keep our numbers strong ... Republicans have to do a good job of defining this bill as a bill that weakens our resolve, demoralizes our troops and sends the wrong message to terrorists,” said a senior House GOP aide. “But if we don’t then we could see those [defections] increase.”

Democrats, who could well lose the vote on the supplemental if no Republicans cross party lines, are armed with talking points in an effort both to score political points and, they hope, to put pressure on some wavering Republicans to break ranks with their leadership and support the supplemental.

“You can’t just give lip service to supporting the troops and then give the president everything he wants,” said one House Democratic leadership aide. “For the past four years the president has gotten everything he wants and look where we are.”

Plus, Democrats say their provisions setting “benchmarks” for a full Iraqi government takeover of operations not only mirror what the president laid out in January but also closely track the House GOP’s plan for overseeing the president’s new strategy.

“We’re going to hammer away at the point that the president set these benchmarks,” said the House Democratic leadership aide. “But benchmarks without enforcement are simply suggestions...”

Senate Republicans find themselves in a similar pickle, considering that Senate Democrats have been coalescing around a proposed resolution intended to force the president to redefine the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq from combat to support of the Iraqis.

When asked what Senate Republicans’ plan for Iraq would be, one top aide explained that the Conference’s position is to support Bush’s plan. “I don’t think we have a ‘new’ plan. We’re in the middle of it,” the aide said.

Of course, not everyone is completely sold on that plan. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) said last week that he was working to craft an alternative that could possibly unite Republicans...

The House bill at least, will be considered in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

I wonder if that was a strategic decision to reduce attention by putting it up against the first round of NCAA games?

To say that benchmarks without enforcement are suggestions may be true, but it does not follow that writing them into statute is the only way to address the issue. Among other things, the Democrats seem eager to find out what 'Plan B' is in Iraq. But if they really want flexibility, then it's silly to make the benchmarks binding.

This isn't Cortez burning the ships to ensure success. It isn't even about giving incentive to meet targets; it's about forcing a withdrawal.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Funniest Local Commercials

This site claims to have put together a list of the 50 best (or 'unintentionally funny') local commercials. I'm not sure about that - the trunk monkey is missing - but some of them are very funny.

I'm partial to this one myself. It's aimed at those who think that we all could communicate more effectively about the school board if we just talked more about Star Wars:

Hasn't this Ethanol Thing Gone Far Enough?

Does Coke really have to change its formula again?

OMB Earmark Database Falls Short

The OMB site for tracking earmark data is here.

I am disappointed, but not for the same reason as Ace and Mark Tapscott. Tapscott says that he always understood that the data released would include all available information regarding the Member(s) of Congress who requested an earmark. It was never my understanding that data would be forthcoming.

OMB has a lot of data on the topic; many Members of Congress, in the course of communicating with the Executive Branch regarding an earmark, identify themselves as the sponsor. I'm unaware of any requirement that they do so, however. A Member of Congress must identify him or herself to the Appropriations Committee when requesting an earmark obviously, but there is no reason the same Member would be forced to do so with the administration. So while OMB certainly has data on many earmark sponsors, it's a virtual certainty that there are many cases where they don't.

It was in recognition of this that I expected OMB to post the specific earmarks, rather than aggregate agency totals. Because if you know that there is an earmark of $40 million for a highway expansion in Lawrence, Kansas, it's generally easy to track down the sponsor. You ask the House Member in the area, as well as the state's two Senators. And if you can't get an answer, you go to the agency that received the funding. You'll almost always know who the sponsor is quite quickly.

So if you have the project specifics, you can find the sponsor - even in the many cases where OMB doesn't have that answer.

But there's a more important reason for OMB to post the specifics of the earmarks: it will shame Members of Congress into not requesting silly things.

If you know that someone earmarked $40 million for a highway expansion in Lawrence - well, you might object to the practice. But if you knew someone had appropriated $40 million for a museum about the whaling heritage in the same community, you'd want to make damn sure the sponsor was defeated for re-election for wasting public money. By making it far harder to obtain that data, OMB has done the public a disservice.

There's nothing preventing OMB from coming back and revising their approach. If they were in fact cowed by members of the Appropriations Committee - as Tapscott says - then that's a great disappointment. It also makes me want to take back everything I said about how brave the administration is.

Update: Read Tapscott's second column explaining at greater length why it's important to have all available data on the Members requesting earmarks.

Democrats' Iraq Timetable Might Die in Committee

The Hill covers the story.

I would label this potential outcome extremely unlikely. Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey is pretty bright. I don't think there's a chance that he would bring forth a bill that couldn't pass the Committee.

Still, it would be great if the party's left wing brought down the leadership's bill:

House Democrats enjoy a 37-29 advantage over Republicans on the influential Appropriations Committee that will be voting Thursday to withdraw all troops from Iraq by August of next year, or earlier.

But the problem confronting leadership officials is that 12 of the panel Democrats are members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, meaning that if most Republicans reject the spending bill, the caucus has the ability to kill the measure.

Democratic leaders are confident that they have the votes to move the bill to the floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week that “many members of the Out of Iraq Caucus have committed to [the legislation.]”

Yet, when asked for comment on the bill yesterday, only Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) gave a solid indication of support, with a spokesman saying Moran “would back what leadership is pushing for...”

“I think most people in the Out of Iraq Caucus and the Progressive Caucus realize this is a major step forward,” said Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), an Out of Iraq appropriator. “To achieve an end date, you need 218 votes.”

Still, the vote will be a difficult one for Out of Iraq Caucus members. If they back the funding bill, they’ll be open to criticism from anti-war groups they have worked with over the last couple of years. A no vote will be remembered by Democratic leaders.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he does not believe the Democratic funding bill has the votes to pass the lower chamber. A potential large factor in that outcome is how many GOP lawmakers back the supplemental. Seventeen Republican House legislators recently voted to oppose President Bush’s surge plan in Iraq...

It's interesting to see Boehner question whether the appropriations bill can pass the House. The Democrats are acting as if that's an outcome that they don't fear - implying that they believe the public will blame Republicans for refusing to support the funding.

But as I have noted before, the Democrats will be the losers if this is what eventually happens. The President and Congressional Republicans will prevail by arguing that all they are asking for is a clean bill to give the troops necessary material, and all other policy differences can be debated separately.

Update: While you're at it, see how much attention Nancy Pelosi and the 'pretty bright' David Obey pay to their own proposals on Iraq. They can't even remember what it is.

With Friends Like This...

There was lots of wondering whether Congressional Democrats could rein in their liberal ways enough to hold on to the political center in 2008. Well, John Conyers has backed off of his impeachment talk - at least until circumstances change. And he's backed off his push for reparations for the descendants of slaves. But he's let it be known that once Barack Obama is President, that great idea is back on the front burner:

After waiting nearly two decades, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) is well positioned to move legislation that could lead the federal government to apologize for slavery and pay reparations.

But the Judiciary Committee chairman is willing to wait two more years, when he hopes Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will be in the White House...

Conyers noted that his bill calls for the president to appoint three members to a seven-member commission to analyze the effects of slavery. The House Speaker would make three appointments, while the president pro tempore of the Senate would tap one member.

Even if he had the votes to make his bill law — a big if — Conyers does not want President Bush’s appointees to have a role on such a panel.

The Michigan lawmaker, who has strongly backed Obama for president, said he has not called on the senator to endorse his measure. “I don’t want to put him on the spot,” Conyers told The Hill.

Obama’s campaign did not respond to requests for information about the senator’s position on the bill, H.R. 40. Yet Obama’s stance could be extremely important as he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) vigorously court the black vote and wrap themselves in the mantle of the civil rights movement...

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), another 2008 White House hopeful, supports the Conyers measure and a formal apology for slavery. In a statement, Richardson said, “Slavery is one of the most tragic periods of our great nation, and we continue to struggle with the legacy of slavery...”

Conyers must not really want Obama to be President, because this foolishness sends the signal that if you elect Barack Obama, you're giving a green light to ideas like this one.

More significantly for Obama, it creates an implicit linkage between him and the non-mainstream, nasty-looking, inarticulate black leaders that he's tried to distance himself from. Obama has recognized that guys like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the criminal Conyers can only hurt his candidacy. This move by Conyers is like a Republican getting an endorsement from David Duke - it's 'help' you just don't need.

Update: Looks like Al Sharpton either:

  1. Really wants Obama to be President; or,
  2. Doesn't understand how this works.
I know what I'm guessing.

Iran, Russia, and the Bushehr Reactor

Russia says that Iran is failing to 'pay up' on funds due for completion of the Bushehr reactor. Iran says that Russia's Atomstroiexport has financial problems of its own, and has offered to pay additional money to get the deal moving again.

Other have wondered what has gone wrong in Teheran that has allowed payments to fall behind, but I've seen no reason to conclude that Russia is telling the truth and Iran is lying. So which is more likely - that a Russian company has financial trouble and demands more - knowing that Iran has no one else to go to - or that Iran has defaulted on commitments related to its nuclear program?

Maybe Atomstroiexport is the Russian firm whose business methods are completely above reproach. You know - the exception that proves the rule. But if so, the reporting has not mentioned it.

I'm just saying...

Update: Bonus link - are we trying to lull the Iranians into a false sense of security?

Hagelian Dialectics

His complete Prufrockian noncommitment is online at the Omaha World-Herald

Thesis: "America stands at an historic crossroads in its history...We are experiencing a political re-orientation, a redefining and moving toward a new political center of gravity. This movement is bigger than both parties. The need to solve problems and meet challenges is overtaking the ideological debates of the last three decades - as it should. America is demanding honest, competent and accountable governance."

Antithesis: "I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year."

Synthesis: The house is on fire, and I intend maybe to do something new about that later this year.

Hegel held that all being is in fact rather a species of becoming; Hagel seems to hold that non-becoming is just as newsworthy as becoming, so ultimately whether he runs or not turns out to be equally inconsequential.

He did betray a part of his thinking in his rather shaggy and slapped together statement ("America stands at an historic crossroads in its history"--as opposed to an historic moment in its algebra or social studies?) when he digressed:

"We are experiencing a political re-orientation, a redefining and moving toward a new political center of gravity. This movement is bigger than both parties. The need to solve problems and meet challenges is overtaking the ideological debates of the last three decades - as it should. America is demanding honest, competent and accountable governance."

In addition to implying that the current Republican administration is dishonest, incompetent and unaccountable, Hagel also feeds speculation (including my own) that his ultimate trajectory, if ever he succeeds in pushing the moment to its crisis and actually making a decision, is out of the Republican party into a fringe party or independent campaign of debatable political impact.

I also wait with interest to see whether the hullaballoo within the media last week occasioned by this non-announcement costs him any of the media sympathy usually accorded to Republicans who attack the party platform in the subsequent coverage by reporters who enjoy a quick weekend in Omaha for a non-story perhaps less than I do.

Hillary's Inevitability

Jim Geraghty wonders whether it's smart for Hillary to continue to play up the fact that her nomination is 'inevitable.' One clear answer is: don't worry; she won't be able to much longer.

What supports the notion? A pronounced slide in where people are putting their money, with little reason to think it will change:

She's lost more than 20 percent from her high, shortly before Christmas, and she's as low as she's been since October. This is not what an 'inevitable' candidate looks like.

More Loopholes in the 'Gift Ban'

John Fund details a major exception to the Congressional gift ban:

Take something as simple as bans of gifts from lobbyists. In their favor-seeking, all of the lobbyists visiting Capitol Hill are bound by House and Senate ethics rules that cap most individual gifts at $50 per elected official or staffer, with an annual limit of $100 per recipient from any single source. But local governments, public universities and Indian tribes are exempt from the limit, so they are able to shower members and their staffs with such goodies as luxury skybox tickets to basketball games and front-row concert tickets.

Having members or their key aides attend such free events in the company of glad-handing university presidents and local government officials winds up costing taxpayers a pretty penny. Much of the explosive growth in earmarks has been directed to local governments and universities. While they are entertaining members of Congress, you can bet the hosts at such events are making the case for pork-barrel projects that range from a new building on campus to a new bridge. Some of the projects are ludicrous--the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska comes to mind--but most others have some benefit but simply can't be justified as a federal priority.

There's no doubt that spending to lobby for these projects has exploded. Universities and colleges spent at least $75 million in 2005 on lobbying according to a study by USA Today. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that $2 billion in grants flowed into higher education in 2003. "The return on investment is simply too good to pass up, which is why so many lobbyists now can convince local governments they will recoup their steep lobbying fees by getting far more in earmark dollars back," says Ronald Utt, a former federal budget official now at the Heritage Foundation. The number of lobbyists specializing in earmarks has doubled in the last six years.

Read the whole thing. It's just another demonstration of how difficult it is to change how Washington works.

The Environment Strikes Back

Well, if the environment is capable of defending itself, then what does it need me for?

Tired of abuse by mankind, the earth is angry. Worse, the planet is out to even the score.

Audiences can expect a story along those lines when M. Night Shyamalan’s film “The Happening” reaches screens in the next year. The project, to which 20th Century Fox signed on last week, imagines a planet that is starting to act like the vigilante Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver.”

“The Happening” will not be the only big-budget studio film to test a new kind of villainy, in which the real victim is the environment, and, whatever the plot variations, the enemy is all of us. Beginning this summer and for months after, movies as diverse as the “The Simpsons Movie,” “Transformers,” a remake of “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” and James Cameron’s “Avatar” will take on environmental themes.

Dumping Hollywood villains of the past — drug lords, aliens, North Korean dictators, even the news media — for an environmental bĂȘte noire carries risks for studios that don’t mind frightening viewers, as long as it’s all in fun. But it also hints at the possibility of more sophisticated entertainment, and perhaps even the kind of impact that “The China Syndrome,” with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, exerted on the nuclear power industry when it came out in 1979.

Where to begin...

'The environment fighting back' is hardly a new theme. There is a genre of film called 'monster movies' that is almost entirely dependent on the idea. Godzilla and the ants from 'Them' were both created by stray radiation - and so were Spider Man, the Hulk, and a host of other movie characters.

Second, I have to chuckle at the notion that this is likely to prove a great mechanism for movie success. It didn't do much for The Day After Tomorrow, which earned $186 million at the domestic box office - nothing to sneeze at, but hardly a powerhouse. I suspect that whoever or whatever the bad guy is in a movie, it tends to be the movie overall that succeeds or fails.

Third, associating this idea with M. Night Shyamalan may be setting it up for failure. I think Unbreakable was excellent and underappreciated, and Signs was underrated. But clearly he's not the genius people thought he was after Sixth Sense, and Lady in the Water damaged his reputation. I hope that the Happening turns out to be much better.

Fourth, why doesn't Hollywood try a villain that is underused and has potential - Islamic extremists. Film makers are always saying they want to be topical and challenging. Well guess what. Islamic terrorism is both of those things, while environmental threats are trite, boring, and easy.

Read Ace as well.

Taking a Break from E-mail

ABC News reports on the effort of some companies to get employees to talk to each other again. It's an interesting statement about the ubiquity of E-mail:

The volume of e-mails has exploded in recent years with over 170 billion now being sent daily around the globe, according to technology market researcher Radacati Group. That's two million every second.

But many in business now worry this tool for easy communication is actually making it harder to communicate.

"Some [e-mails] are very valuable, and some of them are just an excuse not to communicate or to protect myself from something that's going on," said Jay Ellison, executive vice president at Chicago-based U.S. Cellular.

Two and a half years ago, Ellison was receiving an average of 200 e-mails a day, many of which went unopened. After getting cyber-indigestion, he sent out a memo to his 5,500 subordinates.

"I'm announcing a ban on e-mail every Friday," Ellison's memo read. "Get out to meet your teams face-to-face. Pick up the phone and give someone a call. … I look forward to not hearing from any of you, but stop by as often as you like."

It's an interesting read.

Given the utility of e-communication, there's no way around it. But I have a friend at a large company where instant-messaging is very widely used. It offers the utility of E-mail, but without some of the downside. That is, you can't just send someone an instant message and consider yourself as having shifted responsibility onto the recipient. It seems to me that's the reason for half the E-mails sent in corporate settings.

I wonder why instant messaging is not more widely used?

Previewing a Hagel Candidacy

So I checked the morning headlines to see the early word on Chuck Hagel's big talk today. And indeed, he has made news. He wants the federal government to stop classifying manure as toxic waste:

Hagel, Nelson want manure off list of hazardous substances
Sunday, March 11, 2007 5:43 PM CDT
The Associated Press

The two U.S. senators from Nebraska are cosponsoring legislation to remove manure from a federal list of hazardous substance.

Manure is classified as a hazardous substance under a federal law commonly referred to as the Superfund law.

As the father of a two-year old, I have to take issue with Mr. Hagel's view on this.

But if he does run for President, do you think this will be part of his platform? I bet it's all about Iowa.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fred Thompson's Thinking About It...

The Presidency, that is:

"Law and Order" star and former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson is weighing a bid for the White House in 2008, he told Chris Wallace on "FOX News Sunday."

"I'm going to wait and see what happens," Thompson said. "I want to see my colleagues on the campaign trial, what they say, what they emphasize, whether they can carry the ball next November."

Thompson, 64, who plays district attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's drama, said he was pondering a run after former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and other Tennessee Republicans began drumming up support for his possible Republican candidacy, citing his conservative credentials.

"I think people are somewhat disillusioned. A lot of people are cynical out there. They're looking for something different," he said.

On the issues, Thompson said he:

  • Is "pro-life," and believes federal judges should reexamine the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 which established a woman's right to an abortion.
  • Opposes gay marriage, but would let states decide whether to allow civil unions. "Marriage is between a man and a woman, and judges shouldn't be allowed to change that."
  • Supports President George W. Bush's decision to increase troops in Iraq. "Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify them. I think we are doing that now," he said. "We've got to give it a chance to work."
  • Would pardon former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice now, rather than waiting until all his appeals are exhausted. Libby was found guilty of perjury and obstruction in the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Libby is "bearing the political brunt of something that should've never come about," Thompson said, noting that "practically every witness at trial had inconsistent statements."

Thompson said he was not setting a deadline to make a decision and believes he will not be at a disadvantage if he waited until summer. "The lay of the land will be different in a couple of months than it is today, one way or another," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

Thompson, the minority counsel in the Watergate investigation, was elected to the Senate in 1994 to fill the unexpired term of Vice President Al Gore. He was chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and left the Senate in 2003 to resume his acting career.

Thompson has acted in films such as "The Hunt for Red October," "Cape Fear," and "In the Line of Fire."

If he decided to run, Thompson would join a crowded Republican field led by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The number could grow on Monday when Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel makes an announcement on his future plans.

Thompson is staking out some conservative ground. On the timetable, I think he might be a little optimistic. I suspect that he would be better off entering the race at a time when the other leading conservatives - Romney and McCain - are stumbling. If he waits 3 or 4 months, they might have righted their respective ships, and he would face a more uphill climb.

As I've noted though, he would be a formidable presence in the race.

Full transcript here.

Update: The Politico talks about Thompson's strategy here:

Friends who are already mapping out his pitch say Thompson, 64, is likely to assess his chances around the beginning of May. Thompson will have access to a sizable conservative audience in coming weeks as the substitute host on Paul Harvey’s radio program, a heartland touchstone. Last year, ABC News Radio named Thompson special program host and senior analyst, leading to speculation he might be the heir apparent for Harvey, who’s 88.

Thompson sees a potential opening in the unsettled field of Republican hopefuls as a no-nonsense, charismatic conservative who would offer reassurance at a time when voters are craving security, according to the friends.

“Americans are uncertain about the future, and he’s the biggest daddy bear around,” said a Republican strategist. “A lot of people have asked him to come to their debates, and a lot of people want someone to dance with. Is he going to do it? I wouldn’t rule it out. He’s dating, but not ready for an engagement.”

If Thompson is planning to wait before making a decision, I wonder how much has to do with the fact that so much 'talent' has already been hired by other candidates. I am not sure whom Thompson would select to run his campaign, head up fundraising, etc., but I would be surprised if those people are not already committed to another candidate. Maybe he's better off waiting until the field thins out a little, and he can pick from a broader pool for his team.

Support for Democrats' Position on Iraq

Well, if Iran wants us to schedule a withdrawal from Iraq, it couldn't be a bad idea, right?

Iranian officials last night demanded a timetable for US troop withdrawal from Iraq as they attended a rare meeting with American diplomats in Baghdad.

The conference was aimed at stopping Iraq being used as a sectarian battleground by Sunni and Shia neighbours. Iran has been accused of funding Shia death squads in the Iraqi capital and smuggling in roadside bomb technology that allows insurgents to kill coalition troops.

Yesterday's conference, attended by all of Iraq's neighbours, backed plans for further meetings next month to set up working groups to discuss problems over border security and refugees...

But Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, Abbas Araghchi, used the occasion to accuse the international forces in Iraq of playing a double game.

"It will help resolve the problem of violence if they set a timetable for withdrawal of their troops from Iraq," he said. He condemned attacks on religious places and gatherings five days after a double suicide attack on a crowd of Shia pilgrims killed at least 117 Iraqis in the central city of Hilla.

Expect Democratic leaders to roundly condemn Bush, Cheney, Ann Coulter, or anyone else who suggests that because Iran's government agrees with the Democrats, it's probably a bad idea. Expect the phrase 'how dare you question our patriotism!' to be used.

I wonder why Ahmadinejad wants us out?

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World

Scientists say it's Naomi Campbell?

I really hope not...