Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wikipedia: Bush to Stay in Office Through Martial Law

Honestly. I wonder how you conservatives can defend someone as bad as this:

Debate exists in regard to the legality of a Presidential decree of martial law, due to recent pronouncements from the Bush Administration and national security initiatives that were put in place in the Reagan era. When president Ronald Reagan was considering invading Nicaragua, he issued a series of executive orders that provided the Federal Emergency Management Agency with broad powers in the event of a crisis such as violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a U.S. military invasion abroad. To date, these powers have never been used but with the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests and the possibility of avian flu spreading globally, concerns have been raised that these powers could be employed or a de facto drift into their deployment could occur.

In addition, from 1982-84 Colonel Oliver North assisted FEMA in drafting its civil defence preparations. Details of these plans emerged during the 1987 Iran-Contra scandal. They included executive orders providing for suspension of the constitution, the imposition of martial law, internment camps and the turning over of government to the president and FEMA. FEMA, whose main role is disaster response, is now also responsible for handling U.S. domestic unrest. With recent proposals to criminalise illegal and undocumented immigrants, the United States saw itself immersed in a debate at the end of March and beginning of April about these laws and the role of immigration post-September 11.

A Miami Herald article on July 5, 1987, reported that the deputy of former FEMA director Louis O. Giuffrida, John Brinkerhoff, handled the martial law portion of the planning. The plan was said to be similar to one titled "Rex 84", which Mr. Giuffrida had developed earlier to combat a national uprising by black militants. It provided for the detention of at least 21 million African-Americans in assembly centers or relocation camps. Following a request by the Pentagon in January, 2002, that the U.S. military be allowed the option of deploying troops on American streets, the Anser Institute for Homeland Security in February, 2002, published a paper by current-employee Mr. Brinkerhoff that argued the legality of this. He alleged that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which has long been accepted as prohibiting such deployments, had simply been misunderstood and misapplied. The preface to the article also provided the revelation that the national plan he had worked on, under Mr. Giuffrida, was approved by Reagan, and actions were taken to implement it.

The full facts and final contents of Reagan's national plan remain uncertain, in part because President Bush took the unprecedented step of sealing the Reagan presidential papers in November of 2001 via Executive Order 13233. The papers in question, some dealing with Reagan-era officials who now have high posts in the Bush administration, were to have been disclosed under the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which said that the documents could be restricted at the most for 12 years after Reagan left office.

It almost makes a liberal like me wish he believed in gun rights, so when George Bush's naziified FEMA National Guard troops come in their black helicopters to stop me from voting for Dennis Kucinich, I could do something about it.

Jimmy Carter, where are you when we need you?!

Update: I realize now that a belief in this conspiracy theory is prima facie evidence of this malady.

Getting the Word Out

Something to take a look at when you have some time. of the Multinational Force in Iraq.

Hoyas & Tarheels Survive

And meet Sunday evening for a ticket to the Final Four.

When was the last time the Hoyas made it to the Final Four? In 1985 - when they lost the championship game to Villanova.

Odd Snowmen

Some of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, come to life.

Will Breaux Run

The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that former Senator John Breaux will run for Governor of Louisiana if the state's Democratic Attorney General issues an opinion that he is eligible:

Breaux, a Democrat, said he will be a candidate if the legal questions over his residency and citizenship in the state are settled in his favor. The door for a Breaux candidacy was opened Tuesday when Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced she would not seek a second term. Breaux had said he would not run if Blanco did.

Breaux said Rep. Eric LeFleur, D-Ville Platte, chairman of the Democratic Legislative Caucus will ask for the legal opinion from Foti, who also is a Democrat.

As a private citizen, Breaux does not have standing to make the request for an attorney general's opinion. The state Consitution says a candidate for governor must have been a "citizen" of the state for the previous five years, raising questions of whether citizenship is the same as residency. Breaux, who left office in 2005 to become a lobbyist, lives in Maryland. Breaux served 34 years in Congress, including the last 18 in the Senate.

Breaux said he will seek the legal opinion from Foti now instead of waiting until the Sept. 4-6 qualifying for the Oct. 20 primary. "I expect a quick turnaround on this," Breaux said.

An opinion of the attorney general's office does not have then effect of law but is generally regarded as a legal guidepost unless overturned in court.

Breaux said his attorneys have told him that he could also get a court order affirming his qualifications to run for office, but that may have to wait until he qualifies as candidate.

Novak notes that Louisiana Democrats are surprised that Blanco and Breaux did not coordinate his entry into the race with her departure. He also suggests that Breaux is the only Democrat given a shot against Jindal:

The decision by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco not to seek re-election this year leaves the state's Democrats high and dry, uncertain whether former Sen. John Breaux will launch a late candidacy with no campaign money yet raised.

Louisiana Democrats are stunned that Blanco did not make a deal with Breaux to try to succeed her before she bowed out. The only record of fund-raising this year by Breaux, a multimillionaire Washington lobbyist, is an event for Blanco last month.

Blanco narrowly defeated Republican Bobby Jindal in 2003. But she has trailed Jindal, now a member of Congress, badly in the polls following her much criticized handling of Hurricane Katrina. Breaux, a popular figure during 32 years' service in the House and Senate, is the only Democrat given a chance to defeat Jindal (though one poll shows him also losing).
The poll Novak mentions shows Jindal with a 30 point lead over Breaux - a margin ever greater than the one he had over Blanco in a recent poll by the same organization. It could be that Breaux would be a much stronger candidate after he moves back to the state and starts campaigning, or it could be that no Democrat can compete in Louisiana, post-Katrina. That's certainly a possibility given the departure of so many formerly Democratic voters from New Orleans. (Of course, as I have noted before, it's no guarantee that Blanco would have done very well if those voters were still in New Orleans)

I find it hard to believe that Democrats will not continue to be competitive at a statewide level in Louisiana. Among southern states, it seems to have been more friendly to Democrats at a statewide level than almost any other. Further, the state seems to produce genuinely moderate Democrats who know how to win. I would imagine that Jindal is likely to see a competitive race, whether his opponent is Breaux, Foster Campbell, Charlie Melancon, or someone else.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Quick Comment on the Iraq Supplemental

The Democrats turned their backs on US troops today, forcing them to wait for needed funds while they engaged in political theater. The media have crowned Speaker Pelosi a winner, and have complimented Democrats for holding together so well - with only threats and bribes to force them to do so.

But in the long run, the biggest losers are the Democrats. Rather than end this political theater today and pass a bill that the President will sign, they must continue this charade. Senator Reid will have to try to take up a bill with a date-certain for withdrawal. He'll make every effort to get the 60 votes he needs to pass such a measure. Eventually the Senate will probably pass a supplemental with 'no-strings,' and Congressional Democrats will have to engage in the farce that is a conference committee. Will they try to produce a vehicle that can pass the House and Senate and get vetoed, or will they throw up their hands more quickly and try for the 'clean' bill the President wants. What will the liberals want? What will the Blue Dogs say? And what will Lieberman say?

And all the while the White House will be reminding them of the consequences of failing to act promptly.

Eventually they will be forced to give in, but not before looking silly and extreme - when everyone knows their bill will not be signed into law. And people will wonder about the claims of Democrats that they 'support the troops.' If they do, why don't they stop playing games and get them needed funds?

The Democrats will look extreme and silly. Not a good image to project. And the voters will increasingly regard them as not to be trusted with national defense.

Next year their Presidential nominee will go through the same silliness that John Kerry did - wondering how it is that the voters have been fooled into thinking that the Republican nominee is tougher on terror than the Democrat. They'll bring out Wesley Clark, and Jimmy Carter, and John Murtha, and John Kerry, and all the rest of the Democrat war heroes, to vouch for the credentials of the nominee. And it won't work.

And a big part of the reason will be the charade they are engaging in here.

House Passes Iraq Supplemental; puts Democrats at Risk

I missed on the final tally; the Democrats did get to 218. Final vote was 218-212.

As I've noted, the Senate won't pass a bill with a mandatory withdrawal date. So all this is theater. The President will apparently make a statement later today regarding this action of the House.

I would expect that he will begin to ratchet up the pressure on the Congress to pass a bill worth signing, before it starts to impact forces on the ground. That might start today.

Update: As noted earlier, some Democrats from swing districts have taken difficult votes in support of the bill. The list of supporters is a veritable 'who's who' of vulnerable Democratic freshmen. Going off the list of at-risk seats put together by Charlie Cook, they include:

  • Baron Hill
  • Brad Ellsworth
  • Joe Donnelly (all 3 of Indiana)
  • Heath Shuler (NC)
  • Michael Arcuri
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • John Hall (all 3 of NY)
  • Jerry McNerney (CA)
  • Zack Space (OH)
  • Gabrielle Giffords
  • Harry Mitchell (both of AZ)
  • Steve Kagen (WI)
  • Patrick Murphy
  • Joe Sestak
  • Jason Altmire (all 3 of PA)
  • Ron Klein
  • Tim Mahoney (both of FL)
  • Tim Walz (MN)
  • Paul Hodes
  • Carol Shea Porter (both NH)
  • Nancy Boyda (KS)
  • Ed Perlmutter (CO)
  • John Yarmouth (KY)
That's 23 freshmen Democrats from swing districts who've had to take votes that they could suffer for in 2008. I won't for a minute say that they were voting because their arms were twisted, but I hope they were voting for conviction - because odds are that a few of them will lose their seats because of this vote. On the flip side, I can name 6 or 7 House Democrats (Lee, Kucinich, Woolsey, Waters, Stark, Watson, Lewis...) in safe seats who voted against; they could have weathered the criticism of this vote better than some of these newcomers.

By the way, only two Republicans voted in favor: Wayne Gilchrest and Walter Jones.

Update II: CNN covers it here.

Update III: Allah has the video of the President's response - very forceful, as expected. And the President again hit on the deadline - the date by which Congress has to appropriate the funds before it endangers our troops - April 15.

Update IV: Club for Growth had called upon 5 Freshman Democrats to vote against the bill, because they had campaigned so vociferously against pork-barrel spending. All 5 voted in favor.

On Earmarks, Democrats Break Their Own Rules

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey defends the notion that a spending item which would otherwise be called an earmark, is not an earmark, if he as the sponsor of the legislation and the Chairman of the Committee, decides to include it in the bill. In this formulation, he is not an 'individual Member,' but some form of institution:

Hat Tip: Club for Growth

On Global Warming, Rauch Nails It

Jonathan Rauch hits the nail on the head on global warming: the rhetoric is overheated (oh sure - like I'm the first one to make that pun), and the proposed 'solutions' are unrealistic and excessively costly:

The IPCC says that the world would continue to warm for decades even if all human greenhouse-gas emissions were to magically stop tomorrow, which of course they won't. In testimony last month before a House of Representatives panel, Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said, "The 2007 IPCC report makes clear that even aggressive mitigation would yield benefits many decades in the future, and that no amount of mitigation can avoid significant climate change."

Carbon dioxide both accumulates and dissipates in the atmosphere very slowly. Because the stock of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere dwarfs any one year's emissions, and because any one year's emissions can be changed only slightly, stabilizing greenhouse gases is like turning an aircraft carrier, only much slower. Annual emissions might be stabilized toward midcentury, and atmospheric concentrations at some point after that; but sharp turns are impossible and short-term effects minuscule...

"What we do now makes a difference for the future," says Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "The longer we wait, the worse the problem gets." On the other hand, the more precipitously we act, the more we disrupt the economy. A coal-fired electric plant lasts 40 to 60 years; gradually replacing dirty old plants with clean new ones is much more efficient than abruptly decommissioning old plants and replacing them with -- well, with nothing, because electric plants take years to build. Besides, the best carbon-cutting technologies are still in development. "We know from experience the length of time it takes to develop and implement new technologies in the electricity sector," says Revis James of the Electric Power Research Institute. "That's about 20 to 25 years."

This argues not for passivity, and not for delay, but for _gradualism_: setting up policies that will tighten the screws on greenhouse-gas emissions over the next few decades. The convenient truth about global warming, then, is that radicalism is as pointless as it is impractical. Slow-but-steady is not only the easiest approach; it is also the most effective.

Read the whole thing.

Hat Tip: Hit & Run

Do We Want to Set a Timetable Now?

Publius Pundit's Robert Mayer says that the departure of British troops from Basra has not gone so well.

Opponents of the Iraq war would say that if this is what we expect to follow the withdrawal of US troops, then what is the point of having them there at all?

Cantor Gives Us Iraq Video of the Day

YouTube has truly arrived. This is a must-watch:

It was YouTube's political video of the day.

Re-Interpreting the Quran

Reuters reports that an Iranian-American professor has rendered a new English-language translation of the Quran, which reinterprets traditional translations that have been used justify abuse of women.

A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women.

The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women.

In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word "idrib," traditionally translated as "beat," which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women.

"Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away'," she writes in the introduction to the new book.

The passage is generally translated: "And as for those women whose illwill you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!"

Instead, Bakhtiar suggests "Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it -- go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God..."

The New York imam also said the passage she is challenging speaks of when a woman wants a divorce, and only allows a man to "hit his wife, according to the Prophet, with a 'miswak,'" or a twig of a pencil's length, on her hand.

Arabic Language Professor at the American University in Cairo Siham Serry said her interpretation of the word "idrib," was "to push away," similar but slightly different from Bakhtiar's "to go away."

She said she agrees with the imam that 'miswak' means twig and that the Koran does not encourage the harm of women. But she also said that men can interpret that passage to justify their own behavior.

"How can you hurt someone by hitting her with a very small, short and weak thing?" she asked by telephone from Cairo. "But sometimes the interpretation of the Koran is according to men, and sometimes they try to humiliate the woman."

Bakhtiar writes in the book that she found a lack of internal consistency in previous English translations, and found little attention given to the woman's point of view.

In other changes to the text, she cites the most accurate translation of the word traditionally translated to mean "infidel" as "ungrateful."

And she uses "God" instead of "Allah," saying that God is the universal English term.

This is fascinating, and will no doubt lead to some serious criticisms of Dr. Bakhtiar. It must be remembered though, that her duty as a translator is not to alter the text to reflect modern values - even if there is wide agreement that they are superior to those which prevailed in the era that a book was written. Rather, the translator must faithfully render the words and concepts written down by the author(s). If that is what Dr. Bakhtiar has done, so much the better.


Is the media biased against conservative blogs? I know that I haven't gotten my Wall Street Journal profile yet.

Great item
over at Club for Growth about an idea who's time is long overdue: legislation to end the practice of naming things after living legislators. Mike Huckabee won't like it, however (and of course, Senator McCain has nothing in common with the Club for Growth).

Japan's Foreign Minister says that only a yellow man can go to Iraq. Oh dear.

Is a McJob better than a low-skill manufacturing job? The former seems to have better long-term prospects.

Michelle tells us about the must-see movie Americanizing Shelley.

HamNation offers a guide to Lefty enviro activism:

Although Miss Ham is clearly a plagiarist.

Great 80s flashback over at Sister Toldjah.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

WH Sets End Date for Iraq Supplemental Kabuki

The Washington Post covers the conversion of a number of liberal Democrats to support the Iraq supplemental. They say little that's not covered in the post below this one. They do add one piece of information that will become very important:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned yesterday that if Congress does not pass the supplemental war funding bill by April 15, the Army may have to slow the training of units slated to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, or halt the repair of equipment. If the funding is delayed until May, he said, the tours of Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan might have to be extended "because other units are not ready to take their place."

I've said before that in a fight over 'strings' on the supplemental, the White House has the advantage. The President will state a willingness to consider any good ideas, but say that provisions that limit flexibility on the ground in Iraq threaten American lives. (That's not going out on a limb of course, he's already said it). He'll insist that Congress send up the funding needed to protect our men and women in the field.

Now Bob Gates has given the deadline. Congress has about a month to send up a supplemental before the administration begins to talk daily about the increased risk American troops are facing because of Congress' failure to act. Assuming that the Iraq supplemental passes the House tomorrow, Harry Reid will need to move promptly to get a stalemate in the Senate that will allow the House Appropriations Committee to go back to work on the real supplemental bill - the one that the President will sign.

So this kabuki has only a few more weeks to run.

Iraq Supplemental Likely to Pass; Deepen Division

I've followed the saga of House Democrats first promising to make the vote on the Iraq supplemental 'a vote of conscience,' followed by their threats not to let the Republicans win, and leading into real arm-twisting. Both the Politico and the Hill suggest that they're where they need to be to pass the bill on Friday. First the Hill:

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a former Black Panther who now represents one of the most liberal districts in the nation, decided yesterday to support the Iraq war supplemental spending bill because he was promised help with an issue “unrelated” to the bill.

“Let bygones be bygones,” Rush said. He kept mum about what assurances he received from House leaders but reaffirmed he would vote for the bill when it comes to the House floor today...

The lobbying was intense. Two House Democrats said the leaders dangled the possibility of reversing decisions made by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and AFL-CIO Chairman John Sweeney called individual lawmakers, while Democratic leaders lobbied members in phone calls and on the House floor.

Democratic aides and lawmakers said those who were once dead-set against voting for the bill are now in the undecided column: Reps. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) and Lloyd Doggett (Texas.)...

Democratic aides have speculated that Pelosi might penalize wayward lawmakers by yanking them off of committees. She apparently did not invite Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who voted against the bill in the Appropriations Committee, to return last weekend to California with her.

So Barbara Lee switched her vote because she would have to fly commercial air, and not the Speaker's plane? I doubt she was bought off that easily. And Bobby Rush - who's pushed for affirmative action in NCAA sports hires (among other things) - got something. Some unnamed Members got help keeping open bases that DoD says are superfluous. Nothing wrong with throwing around some taxpayer money, right?

The Politico makes it sound as if the Out of Iraqers folded completely. Or at least, their leaders did:

Four prominent liberal Democrats said Thursday they have given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the support she needs to pass the $124 billion wartime spending bill, even though they remain steadfastly opposed to any additional funding for the war.

California Democrats Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and Diane E. Watson said they did not want to stand in the way of the bill and have urged other liberal lawmakers to vote for it...

Pelosi approached the progressives and asked them to help her change lawmakers’ minds, two Democratic aides said. And they have finalized a deal to deliver the needed support.

“After two grueling weeks of meetings, progressive members of Congress brought forth an agreement that provided the momentum to pass a supplemental spending bill that, for the first time, establishes a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq,” the four California congresswomen said in a statement.

One well-placed Democratic aide said Pelosi had approached the progressives asking them to supply four votes, but that they ultimately pledged to deliver about ten. It was unclear whether the progressives received any concessions in return...

So they finally saw the merits of Pelosi's arguments? I admit: that is at least a possibility. Or more accurately, the support of MoveOn and other liberal grassroots groups may have convinced them that support for the bill is the politically safe vote. Still, it's unlikely that so many Members would have caved so quickly for nothing.

As I've noted, House Democrats have to scrounge for votes among Blue Dogs in marginal seats because they've been stiffed by some liberals in safe seats. The Hill gives a list of those Democrats in the 'leaning yes' column, and they include some in swing seats who will be attacked by their Republican challengers for this vote. They include Tim Walz, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Tim Mahoney, Stephanie Herseth, Kirsten Gilliband, and Nancy Boyda. I suspect that in Pelosi's perfect world, some of those Members would be voting no, while more liberal would be voting yes.

Update: MSNBC asks if Pelosi has 218. As noted, she won't. Assuming it passes, it'll be with 216 or 217 - something like that.

Congress Daily: Iraq Supplemental Vote Tomorrow

Congress Daily ($) reports that House Democrats are pushing off the vote on the Iraq supplemental until tomorrow. It has nothing to do with the fact that Speaker Pelosi and DCCC Chair Van Hollen are supposed to be at a fundraiser in NY tonight. Rather, it's all about the fighting that's erupted within their conference and their inability to get the votes they need to pass the bill:

House Democrats are heading into debate on the $124.3 billion Iraq emergency war supplemental spending bill this afternoon still unsure if they have enough votes to pass it. But leadership aides continued to predict a tight victory on the final vote, which is expected Friday. "We're very close; 217 are all we need and we've got a little breathing room, 215 will probably get us there," said one senior leadership aide. House Democratic and Republican leaders are working under the assumption that at least two or three Republicans will vote for the supplemental, including Reps. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Walter Jones of North Carolina. With diehard anti-war members like Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., guaranteed to oppose the bill, leadership sources said the focus continues to be getting the votes of the dwindling universe of still undecided members, mostly liberals like freshman Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. But senior aides familiar with the "Out of Iraq" caucus strategy said that group has been working its membership on the assumption that Ellison will vote for the bill.

Leading anti-war members Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, both D-Calif., along with Woolsey, failed in their effort Wednesday night to get the Rules Committee to allow a floor vote on their amendment limiting the use of funds to only protecting soldiers on the ground and the "safe and complete withdrawal" of all troops in Iraq by the end of the year. Aides said the three had a sharp exchange with Rules Chairwoman Slaughter over the proposal. With tempers clearly frayed after weeks of intra-caucus fighting over the bill, Democratic leaders are using various avenues to press the undecided, including one-on-one conversations with top leaders as well as from other members and Democrats off Capitol Hill. Democratic leaders had hoped to hold the supplemental vote today, but aides said the additional time was needed to ensure they have the votes. Complicating matters is that House Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland are scheduled to appear at a DCCC regional fundraising event in New York City tonight. Van Hollen confirmed that he and Pelosi are scheduled to attend the event, but said the floor situation will determine if they make it or not. "It will not get in the way of the vote," Van Hollen said. "If we're able to go, we will go."

As I have noted before, a key to the intra-party tension is that for every liberal member of the Out of Iraq caucus who votes against the bill, the Democrats need to find one more moderate Blue Dog to vote in favor. And moderate Democrats like Heath Shuler, Brad Ellsworth, Dan Boren and the rest of the Blue Dogs tend to have tougher races than people like Lynn Woolsey. They're not at all happy to have to take a hard vote while liberals get an easy one.

Note too, that Democrats don't need to get 218 votes; they only need to get a majority of those voting yes or no. So if they can convince a Member who would have voted 'no' not to show up for the vote, that makes the job easier. And they will also 'benefit' from the fact that Charlie Norwood's passing means that there is one fewer 'no' vote on the Republican side. Thus they might be able to prevail with only 215 votes, as the article notes.

Class Discussion Project

In view of the steady undermining of pedagogical authority as evinced by this little Orwellian/Huxleyan piece(Orwellian in terms of the linguistic dishonesty of the "retirement" trope, and Huxleyan in the sense of the university's unstated notion that the most effective authority is to lead by manipulation of subordinates' baser tendencies):

Classroom Incident Leads to UCA Professor's Removal

I'd like to invite our readers to share the largest object they personally witnessed thrown by a teacher at a disruptive student in class (athletic equipment hurled in the course of sporting practices doesn't count).

Dems Not Playing Well in Peoria

National Congressional approval rating now back to mid-20's range in which it (ma)lingered during the run-up to the 2006 elections.

So much for the honeymoon; wait until the Democrats actually try to pass a budget.

Associated Press Confused on Iraq

The AP reports:

Believing they have been given a clear mandate from voters, Democrats are trying to challenge President Bush on the Iraq war while struggling to find enough votes to do it.

Party leaders are facing a caucus deeply divided on the issue and hold only a narrow majority in Congress. With their hands tied if just a few members stray, Democratic leaders are finding it tough to pass legislation that would require Bush to start bringing troops home.

I'm only asking for consistency from one sentence to the next! Is it too much to ask? Surely, if you believe you've been given a clear mandate, you cannot also be deeply divided?

By the way, while it's too early to predict that the supplemental will pass, it's starting to sound like the House Democrats are lining up the Members they need to get a majority. Combined with the clear indication from Hoyer (below) that the Democrats are ready to twist arms until they break, I wouldn't be too optimistic that this bill will be defeated - and followed by the clean bill that would have to be the next step.

If the House Rules Committee meets today on the bill, it's a clear sign that a majority is in reach.

Update: The Rules Committee has met, and reported a rule that allows no amendments to be debated.

Florida Crowds the Plate

The National Association of Secretaries of State is going to need to establish a webform format to keep track of all the changes as the states increasingly crowd January and February with primaries.

The most recent action, by the Florida House, to move Florida's primary to Jan. 29, 2008, is not yet reflected in the current report, but the NASS does do its best to keep track of the increasingly crowded first six weeks of 2008.

Bottom line: anyone not in by Independence Day 2007 probably can't get into the race at all.

The Roundup

Jules Crittenden assembles some good stuff regarding Al Gore's testimony on global warming yesterday.

Al Gore refuses to take the energy ethics pledge:

The EU approves an open-skies deal with the US. Competition will mean lower rates.

Vic Matus culls Fred Thompson's acting career for clues as to what type of President he might make. The surprising answer: plain talking with no nonsense.

Why are the second-time candidates not doing better?

Dan Drezner has Socrates' student reviews. Yes, that Socrates. The only disappointment is that they're not on YouTube yet. Still, funny.

How to make marshmallow peeps at home. Yech.

Happy Birthday bubble wrap. You look good at 50.

Gonzales trying to put out fires.

Patraeus: we're attriting them at a fearsome rate.

Prayers Today...

For John and Elizabeth Edwards and their family, and for the family and loved ones of Cathy Seipp.

Update: Sad news from the Edwards campaign: his wife's cancer has returned. Given the significance of this fact, it is purely secondary that Mr. Edwards has also indicated that he will continue his campaign. Our prayers are with Mrs. Edwards for a full and speedy recovery.

I do not know if this comment might be perceived as inappropriate, but I have always been impressed that in contrast to other politicians, Mr. Edwards has been unwilling to use the tragedy and pain in his personal life for political gain. I am speaking most specifically of the loss of his first son Wade, at age 16. While other national figures have invoked the memories of deceased family members in an opportunistic way, Mr. Edwards has not. It seems to me that he has handled his wife's cancer with 'class' as well.

Democrats Will Break House Rules to Win Iraq Vote

When Democrats listed their grievances over Republican abuses of power, a top item was the fact that the former Republican majority had been willing to hold votes open beyond the normal 17 minutes, while they twisted arms to secure a majority. Their famous example was the Medicare vote, which was held open 3 hours. Well, now Steny Hoyer says that the Democrats only promise not to hold a vote open 3 hours - but they are willing to extend them beyond the limits:

Asked Wednesday night whether Democrats would keep to the time limit, Hoyer paused, then pointed out that many votes can run a few minutes longer for various reasons. Pressed further by a reporter who pointed out that Democrats themselves had often criticized Republicans on this very point, Hoyer said, "It won't be open three hours. How about that?"

"How about 30 minutes?" the reporter asked.

"I won't guarantee it," Hoyer replied.

In saying this, Hoyer is acknowledging that he is prepared to break the new House rule the Democrats installed a little over 3 months ago:

A record vote by electronic device shall not be held open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of such vote.

What did Hoyer have to say about the Republican majority when it held votes open?

"House Republican leaders proved once again today that they will stop at virtually nothing to win a vote, even if that means running roughshod over the most basic principles of democracy such as letting members vote their conscience and calling the vote after the allotted time has elapsed," Hoyer said.

"They ought to be ashamed of themselves, but when it comes to holding votes open and twisting the arms of their own members they clearly have no shame,’’ he went on. “These back-alley tactics have no place in the greatest deliberative body in the world. They might be the lifeblood of the tin-horn dictator, but not a world leader. It's an embarrassment.”

And that was over a 38 minute vote - not a 3 hour one.

In 2005 - 10 years after the Republicans took over the House of Representatives - Pelosi complained that Republicans:

ram bills through committees without full discussion, permit few if any floor amendments, and if need be, hold open floor votes until enough arms have been twisted to ensure passage.

Pelosi's Democratic majority has already done the first two, and Hoyer says now that they are willing to complete the trifecta.

So much for changing Washington.

Update: To pour salt in the wound, Roll Call ($) reports that Democrats have decided not to allow any amendments to be considered on the bill. I can understand that. After all, who would expect an open, honest, deliberative debate where the House could work its will, on a trivial issue like the Iraq war?

At press time Wednesday, the House Rules Committee was set to meet to establish the parameters of the debate, but Democratic sources said it is unlikely that amendments would be allowed to the spending bill, allowing Republicans only a standard motion to recommit.

Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said earlier Wednesday that no decision had been made, however, she added: “This is one of the most important votes we’ve ever cast and I’d like it to be as clean as possible.”

In a letter addressed to the Speaker, House Republicans called for an open rule on the bill, which would allow amendments, as well as an extended debate.

“We believe that an open rule for consideration of the supplemental is the only way the House should debate this binding bill,” stated the letter, signed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and others. “The war spending bill presents an appropriate opportunity for the Democratic leadership to fulfill its commitment by affording all Members the opportunity to amend the bill, and we hereby request that you do so. Furthermore, given that four days were devoted last month to the non-binding resolution on Iraq, we believe similar time should be made available for debate on this binding bill, which would set a mandatory timetable for surrender and withdrawal from Iraq.”

Dems Lift Limits on Earmark Requests

Roll Call ($) buries the lede when it waits until the penultimate paragraph to report that Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey has decided to lift the limit on the number of earmaks that Members of Congress may request. The bulk of the story is devoted to the extending of the deadline for submission of requests, due to the Ethics Committee's inability to provide guidance on a key question. That question is how to determine whether a Member of Congress would derive a 'benefit' from the funding of the request:

The bad news is Members will have to wait a bit longer before they get clear guidance on the issue. The good news is that to make up for the confusion, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) has agreed to extend the annual deadline to make changes in Member project requests to April 27. The original deadline was last Friday...

In a separate “Dear Colleague” letter to all House Members, Obey acknowledged concerns that House rules have not provided enough guidance on the new requirement for Members to file a disclosure form with each request certifying that neither they nor their spouse stand to benefit directly from the earmark.

The problem, Members said, is that there is no explicit definition of “benefit” or “financial interest” in the rules. For instance, a widely cited example is when Members make highway requests in their districts. Since Members live in their districts and could see the real estate value of their home rise as new roads are built, the line is blurred over whether such moves constitute a personal financial interest...

As for Appropriations, Obey also lifted the limitation on the number of earmark requests Members are allowed to ask for from each of the panel’s 12 subcommittees. He also reminded Members that all individual and group requests must be entered into the new database and be accompanied by a disclosure form. The only requests that do not need to comply with the new requirements are “programmatic” requests, meaning they are already included in the federal budget.

As far as I am aware, there is no clear summary of what the limit was on earmark requests. Roll Call previously noted that some of the subcommittees had limits; others did not. But if the Committee was seeking clarity and uniformity, it might have been nicer to set a limit that was binding on all subcommittees - or the full committee - as opposed to having no limits.

As a guideline, it would have been nice if Members had to trim their request lists to somewhere south of 70 items overall.

Was Valerie Plame Covert

If you've read much on the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson case, you know that a central question was whether Valerie Plame was a covert operative under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act at the time of the leaking of her identity. If she was, then it was a crime to disclose her name; if not, then no crime was committed. (Check out this discussion by Tom Maguire on the point).

Anyway, today Novak touches on the question. Or more accurately, he touches on the ire of Congressional Republicans that CIA Director Hayden would tell Waxman's committee that she was, without ever having answered their frequent queries on the topic:

The former CIA employee's status is critical to the attempted political rehabilitation of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. The Democratic target always has been Karl Rove, President Bush's principal adviser. The purpose of last week's hearing was to blame Rove for "outing" Plame, in preparation for revoking his security clearance...

Waxman and Democratic colleagues did not ask these pertinent questions: Had not Plame been outed years ago by a Soviet agent? Was she not on an administrative, not operational, track at Langley? How could she be covert if, in public view, she drove to work each day at Langley? What about comments to me by then CIA spokesman Bill Harlow that Plame never would be given another foreign assignment? What about testimony to the FBI that her CIA employment was common knowledge in Washington?

Instead of posing such questions, Waxman said flatly that Plame was covert, and cited Hayden as proof. The DCI's endorsement of Waxman's statement astounded Republicans whose queries about her had been rebuffed by the Agency. That confirmed Republican suspicions that Hayden is too close to Democrats.

Combined with the 'scandal' over US Attorneys, one can't help but wonder how the White House selects senior officials. Enough question has been raised about Plame's status that I seriously question whether Hayden is correct - at least until it is better explained. But to hand Henry Waxman such ammunition without at least telling Hoekstra and other interested Members of Congress that you have done so is unforgivable. Hayden should join the line of officials being called to the White House to have their knuckles rapped for compromising Karl Rove and the President, without having told anyone (apparently) that they were about to do so.

And as to the matter of whether it is critical to demonstrate that Plame was covert under the IIPA in order to get at Rove, I am no longer sure that it is. Like the question of WMD in Iraq and the US Attorneys, the administration has allowed this scandal to metastasize to the point where it may be incurable. Rather than learning the facts, getting them out, and responding to arguments, the White House has apparently paid little attention to the question of Plame's status. And given Hayden's statement to Waxman, it may be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle - if she was in fact, not covert.

Update: Tom Maguire provides valuable analysis, as always. He notes that Novak's column, Plame's testimony, and Waxman's rhetoric all are consistent with the CIA's not having taken a position on whether Plame was 'covert' within the meaning of the IIPA. Until we know that she was - and we've been waiting for confirmation for a suspiciously long time, now - we cannot conclude that a crime was committed when her identity was divulged.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On Attorneys, Tony Snow Sounds... Exasperated

The White House press briefing transcript from today is brutal. The lowlight:

MR. SNOW: The answer is if they issue -- yes, if they issue subpoenas, the offer is withdrawn, because it means that they will not have responded to the offer, they will have rejected the offer.

Q Okay. So, basically, if they issue subpoenas there will be no interviews, they can't --

MR. SNOW: I'm just telling you that the moment subpoenas are issued it means that they have rejected the offer...

Q Did the President specifically authorize you to say that the offer would be withdrawn if subpoenas --

MR. SNOW: No, what I just said is, if subpoenas are issued it means that they will have rejected the offer.

Q That's not the same as the President withdrawing his offer.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the offer then becomes moot. They've knocked it off the table.

Q Is there still room for some good-faith negotiation? The President's tone was this was reasonable, this is unprecedented, and that he wants to work with Congress --

MR. SNOW: We have -- in other words, are we going to change our conditions? No. But we also think that it probably is worth giving members in Congress a little bit of time to think this through, because, look, we have offered everything that gets them the access to all the facts and the truth. If they don't accept the offer, it lifts the veil on some of the motivations, which means that people are less interested in the truth than creating a political spectacle. And we think the American people looking at this are going to say, well, wait a minute, the White House is making everything available to them; they're going to have all the facts; why isn't that good enough?

And so this is one of those calculations, as members of Congress look at it, they ought to think carefully, because we do have an opportunity to enable them to exercise their oversight thoroughly and with the level of access that is highly unusual in any White House. We're reaching out. What we're trying to do is we have made not only a good-faith offer, but one that is going to give Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, a full opportunity to do their jobs and do it thoroughly...

Q Tony, Congress has held hearings from time immemorial. Presidents have even gone to testify there. What would make this a political circus?

MR. SNOW: Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?

Q These are your terms.

MR. SNOW: You do not believe that there would be a political circus?

Q -- more so, or less, than any other time in its history?

It's amazing how quickly this 'scandal' hit rock bottom. After a relatively few days, the press corps wants to know why the White House is resisting a 'political circus' that probably wouldn't be any worse than any other we've seen.

If they would just provide the bread to go with our circuses, we could all be fat, dumb and happy.

Hat Tip: Joe

The Iraq Supplemental

The Victory Caucus posted the text of the Iraq supplemental a little while ago. It's now also available on the Rules Committee website, along with the Appropriations Committee report. Have at it.

If you find pork - or new and more offensive provisions on Iraq or other matters - post it in the comments, or send it to me.

Note 1: A curious item on page 84 of the report. The Committee requires the Defense Department Inspector General to release a report on the circumstances surrounding the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman:

How the Army and the Department of Defense handled this investigation is inexcusable. It has been nearly three years since the beginning of the Army's investigation and the Tillman family still has no resolution on the death of their son. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department of Defense's Inspector General to release a full incident report detailing the circumstance surrounding the death of Specialist Pat Tillman to the Tillman family and the Committee not later than 30 days after enactment of this Act.

Note 2: Page 184 of the bill prohibits the military from establishing permanent bases in Iraq:

The Committee does not support the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq, and does not include in this recommendation any funds to establish any such base, convert any base in Iraq from a temporary to a permanent status.

Note 3: The bill withholds almost $400 million for Provincial Reconstruction Teams until the administration submits a report. The PRTs are critical to the 'political solution' that the Democrats are calling for in Iraq, so it's surprising that they could not come up with a better way of addressing their concerns than blocking any expenditures on them for months. It's also surprising that the funds would be held up now, when they have been operating for months (years?):

Therefore, the Committee recommendation includes a proviso withholding from obligation $395,000,000 of the amount provided within Diplomatic and Consular Programs for Iraq operations until the Committee on Appropriations receives and approves a detailed plan for expenditure of the funds available for Iraq operations, including the U.S. Mission's operation requirements, the ongoing operations of the existing Provincial Reconstruction Teams, an the costs of establishing, supporting, and securing the new Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The plan is to be prepared by the Secretary of State and submitted within 60 days after the date of enactment of the Act.

Note 4: On page 198 of the report, the Democrats explain that they have cut $100 million outright from the President's request for Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Given the priority that they have placed on 'a political solution' for the trouble in Iraq, why would they slash funds for a critical component of that same solution:

Within the amount provided for Iraq, $620,000,000 is made available for PRTs, a reduction of $100,000,000 from the request. The Committee notes that the PRT program has been ongoing for more than one year. Many obstacles remain, such as the unstable security situation; the difficulty of integrating civilian and military personnel; and problems in recruiting and retraining qualified civilian personnel. The tactical shifts detailed in the President's surge announcement of January 10, 2007 include the doubling of PRTs and PRT civilian personnel in Iraq and the integration of PRTs and brigade combat teams (BCTs) in most areas.

Note 5: The Democrats have cut $40 million from 'Democracy and Civil Society' activities:

The Committee recommendation provides $388,000,000, a reduction of $40,000,000 from the request for Democracy and Civil Society activities. The Committee directs that the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development, in consultation with the Committee, submit a spending plan and strategy no later than
45 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

One Democrat Who'll Vote Against the Iraq Bill

Looks like Patrick Murphy hasn't read the Iraq supplemental yet. He says there's no pork in it, after having campaigned against pork-barrel spending:

On Tuesday, Murphy, a Democrat who represents Bucks County and small parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia, said critics of the supplemental bill were “playing politics with our troops.”

During his congressional campaign last year Murphy frequently criticized then-Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick for voting for “pork barrel spending” such as $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina and $1 million for an aquarium in Connecticut that was tacked on to mammoth spending bills.

I'm sure once he reads this, he'll change his mind.

Dems on Iraq: Don't Let Bush Win

Pelosi is threatening to withdraw plum committee assignments of Democrats who vote against the Iraq bill.

Meanwhile, the Politico reports that the pressure has nothing to do with the merits of the Iraq mission. Rather, Democratic leaders want to make sure their Members don't let Bush win:

Waters said that she and other opponents of the spending measure had entered the weekend with 20 to 25 members on their side but that they had suffered "a lot of damage" as Democratic leaders aggressively urged members to support the bill.

Vowing to step up her efforts to hold the opposition, Waters said it was clear that Democratic leaders were mounting an all-out whip effort beyond the earlier informal surveying by Democratic Whip James Clyburn (S.C.).

"This is a vote of conscience," Waters said. "Jim Clyburn said he was doing an assessment, so that's what I was doing. Now that he's whipping, I'm going to start whipping..."

One congressman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from leaders, bristled at how aggressively he was being pressured to vote for the bill, singling out Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) as especially forceful.

"I really resent this," the lawmaker said. "Rahm Emanuel told us a vote against this bill is a vote to give the Republicans victory."

The congressman also noted that Democratic leaders had "made clear" to him that they might yank funding requests he had made for projects in his district if he did not support the measure.

The Democrats have argued that this debate is about supporting the troops, and pushing for a 'political solution' in Iraq. But the truth lies in what Rahm Emanuel is willing to tell his colleagues, but refuses to state in public: they can't let Republicans win.

In the next national election, it will become plain to Democrats that they are not trusted on the issues of national security and terrorism, and it will be because the voters see that they still don't take these questions seriously. Plainly, they are willing to put politics before national security. If that wasn't clear from their willingness to buy votes by adding billions in pork (which is working on Members like Pete DeFazio, at least), then it's clear when Emanuel is quoted saying things like this.

Note: the Politico also reports that they are down 14 votes. At this stage of the game however, it's clear that they are applying maximum pressure. I'd regard it as pretty likely they'll get to 218.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How Well is the Surge Going?

Mickey notes several observers saying that 'The Surge's is going 'implausibly' well:

P.S.: Regarding the surge, Omar of ITM's latest report from Baghdad seems almost implausibly hopeful:

You look around in Baghdad now and see hundreds of men working in the streets to pick up garbage; to plant flowers and paint the blast walls in joyful colors. Many of Baghdad's squares are becoming green and clean. The picture isn't perfect, but it's a clear attempt to beat violence and ease pain through giving the spring a chance to shine.

Nights in Baghdad now are far from quiet, but the sounds cause less anxiety for me than they did before. I recognize the rumble of armor and thump of guns and they assure me that the gangs and militias do not dominate the night as they once did.

More surprisingly, Simon Jenkins, a persistent war critic writing on HuffPo, also says of the surge:

The "surge" programme initiated last month by General Petraeus in Baghdad is the first intelligent thing the Americans have done in four years. By swamping neighbourhoods, monitoring entry, patrolling streets and giving personal protection to residents and tradesmen troops are able to restore some order to portions of the city. Petraeus is replacing vigilantes, militias and corrupt police with his own soldiers. He cannot reverse the ethnic cleansing that is fast partitioning Baghdad into Sunni and Shia quarters, but he can stabilise what has occurred. He can fortify the ghettos.

Jenkins thinks the "surge" comes "too late." But then he sketches a scenario as implausibly rosy as Omar's:

Economies recover, the more quickly the sooner they are left in peace. The hoodlums and gangsters now rich on American aid will harness the oil exports and eventually find a vested interest in protecting infrastructure and utilities. Religious segregation will enable the ghettos to feel more secure. Business will emerge from the bottom up and doctors, teachers and merchants start to move back from Amman and Damascus, once they hear that their old homes are safe and the Mahdists and Badrists are confined to barracks. Economic activity will return to the streets, as it has done to Beirut.

Jenkins thinks all these good things will happen when U.S. troops leave--like many on the anti-surge left he has an almost Rumsfeldian faith in the ability of order to spontaneously generate in a power vacuum. But it's hard to reconcile his declaration that U.S. troops "brutalise all they touch" and can't possibly "ensure that 'things get better'" with his earlier recognition that the "surge" is ... making things better? Why can't the surge bring temporary stability that allows "parlays between local commanders, sheikhs and religious leaders, neighbourhood alliances, deals and treaties"? Don't we want to strengthen the hand of relatively tolerant leaders and weaken the bargaining position of the killers? How is Petraeus hurting the situation?

One can imagine possible reasons: By naively moving Sunni families back into vulnerable mixed neighborhoods we may be setting the stage for more bloody sectarian cleansing in the future. More implausibly, maybe any deals can only be struck in conditions of radical insecurity, when the deal is the only thing that will stop ongoing slaughter (though you'd think if that were the case they would have been struck by now, no?).

Cooper Brannan

There's a great baseball story for supporters of our troops to pay attention to this year: the story of Cooper Brannan.

Brannan was an outstanding high school pitcher, who joined the Marine Corps on graduation from High School. He served two tours in Iraq. The second ended when a flash-bang grenade went off while still in his left hand (his non-pitching hand). It took off a pinky.

After returning from Iraq, he met San Diego Padres GM Sandy Alderson at a sports radio station, and Alderson offered him a tryout. Who can say what his chances are, but you have to root for a guy like Brannan:

Only 16 months ago, Brannan called Iraq home for the second time. His team was the Marines. His job was to lead a dozen men, keep them safe, alive and focused.

There is a part of him that remains uncomfortable with all the attention. The part that knows his friends are there, in war, where Brannan lost the pinky finger on his left hand.

"I've got friends that are fighting right now," Brannan says. "That's when you have to step back in reality and be humble for what we're doing here."

This story isn't about Mariners. It's about Marines.

Brannan knew he needed to enlist after graduating from high school in 2003. He was recruited by a handful of junior colleges, nothing serious, and as much as he loved baseball, he realized he wasn't ready. He needed discipline, responsibility, respect.

After two tours of duty, Brannan met another Marine at a sports radio station in San Diego. Only this Marine happened to be the CEO of the San Diego Padres. A friend of Brannan's sidled next to Sandy Alderson, told him Brannan could really pitch.

Alderson used to be a first lieutenant in the Marines. He knew Marines were disciplined, coachable, tenacious -- Semper Fi. He offered Brannan a tryout on the spot.

Blanco Out; Breaux... Out too?

Several sources report that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has decided not to lose the Governor's office for the Democrats this year. Numerous reports have indicated that John Breaux is likely to get into the race, but this might well lead to a court fight as to whether he is eligible.

Louisiana law requires that gubernatorial candidates be 'citizens of' the state for at least 5 years. It seems very unlikely that Breaux qualifies:

Following Katrina, John Breaux registered to vote in Maryland. He thereby ceased being a "citizen" of Louisiana. Accordingly, he was dropped from the voting rolls in Acadia Parish. Unless the state judiciary completely disregards the Louisiana Constitution, relevant statutes and case-law, he has disqualified himself from running for governor because he has not "been a citizen of" this state for at least the preceding five years.

Despite an apparent insurmountable constitutional barrier, Breaux is reportedly considering running for governor. His lawyers may think the law simply requires a "residency" in Louisiana. "Being a resident" is necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for being a "citizen." A person can have more than one residence and those can be in different states. But a person cannot be a "citizen" of more than one state, at any given time. Otherwise, those with residences in various states (namely those with more wealth) could vote in each of those states.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

John Edwards: My Uber-Mansion is Carbon Neutral

What is it with these guys?

Edwards also avoided how he holds himself to one standard but wants to hold businesses to another. As anchor Miles O’Brien put it: “One of the keys to your plan is the so-called cap plan which would institute, as it suggests, caps on the amount of carbon dioxide industry can put into the environment.”

But when it comes to Edwards’ own life, he doesn’t cap his carbon efforts, preferring instead carbon offsets. “We have committed to operate this house in a carbon-neutral way, which means in addition to using energy saving devices in the house itself, to the extent that doesn’t cover it, we’re going to purchase carbon credits on the market,” said Edwards.

Does buying carbon offset indulgences work for all sins, or just the sin of living in America?

House Dems Still Lack Iraq Votes

The Hill reports they're still working it. Word has it the vote could slip to next week, but Democratic leaders hope to avoid that.

Suppression of Views on Climate Change

A lot of attention was given to yesterday's hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, regarding the purported attempt of the Bush administration to silence those who believe in global warming. A lot of attention has been given to James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who claims the administration tried to shut him up.

Check for example, the NYT:

The hearing also produced the first sworn statements from George C. Deutsch III, who moved in 2005 from the Bush re-election campaign to public affairs jobs at NASA. There he warned career press officers to exert more control over James E. Hansen, the top climate expert at the space agency.

Testifying at the hearing, Dr. Hansen said editing like that of Mr. Cooney and efforts to limit scientists’ access to the news media and the public amounted to censorship and muddied the public debate over a pressing environmental issue. “If public affairs offices are left under the control of political appointees,” he said, “it seems to me that inherently they become offices of propaganda.”

Republicans criticized Dr. Hansen for what they described as taking political stances, for spending increasing amounts of time on public speaking and for accepting a $250,000 Heinz Award for environmental achievement from the Heinz Family Philanthropies, run by Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, proposed that Dr. Hansen, by complaining about efforts to present two sides on global warming research, had become an advocate for limiting the debate.

Dr. Hansen replied, “What I’m an advocate for is the scientific method.”

It's interesting that the Times did not find space for the must-read statement of Roy Spencer, the former Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Mr. Spencer had this to say (although you can't find it at Chairman Waxman's site):

During my fifteen years as a NASA employee, I was well aware that any interaction between scientists and the press was to be coordinated through NASA management and public affairs. Understandably, NASA managers do not appreciate first reading of their scientists opinions in the morning newspaper. I understood that my position as a NASA employee was a privilege, not a right, and that there were rules I was expected to abide by. Partly because of those limits on what I could and couldn’t say to the press on the subject of global warming, I voluntarily resigned from the government in the fall of 2001.

Some level of political influence on government-funded climate science has always existed, and likely always will exist. The influence began many years ago when the government climate research programs were first established. For instance, I once heard a high-level government official say that his success at helping to formulate the Montreal Protocol restricting the manufacture of ozone-depleting chemicals was an example of the kind of success that global warming research could achieve to help restrict fossil fuel use. This is clearly a case of political and policy biases driving a scientific research agenda...

Government agencies and their managers have a long history of requiring employees to coordinate research results with management and public affairs officials before talking to the press. As a NASA employee of fifteen years I accepted this as part of my responsibility to support NASA’s mission as a “team player” in support of overarching agency goals, and I believe there are good reasons for maintaining such a practice.

A much bigger political influence problem is the governmental bias towards a specific type of climate research that supports specific political or policy outcomes. This research is almost always biased toward the finding of climate destabilizing mechanisms, rather than climate stabilizing mechanisms. Because it takes a higher level of complexity in any physical system to produce self-regulation and stabilization, such findings do not naturally flow out of the existing research. An active effort, analogous to the Department of Defense “Red Team” approach, could be utilized to alleviate this inequity. Given the immense cost (especially to the poor) of proposed carbon control policies that most economists foresee, it is not helpful for tax dollars to be funneled in a research direction that unfairly favors certain political or policy outcomes.
Mr. Spencer is exactly right. It's a shame that Waxman's Committee is giving his point of view such short shrift. That's not a surprise though; real science always suffers when it's sacrificed to a political agenda.

Mankiw's Interesting Idea

Greg Mankiw notes that higher rates of homeownership are linked to higher unemployment rates, and suggests that removing incentives for homeownership might lead to lower unemployment rates.

It's an interesting academic subject; I don't know of a politician likely to take up the cause, however.

The Hill: Iraq Vote Hangs by Thread

Couldn't have said it better myself. I've devoted some space in the last week to the difficulty that House Democrats would encounter in trying to pass this Iraq supplemental legislation. I don't think it's Nancy Pelosi's 'fault' that this is so difficult; this is a relatively narrow majority with significant disagreements over how to proceed.

If 80 out of 230 are willing to do whatever it takes to bring the troops home now, and 30 out of that same 230 are unwilling to tie the President's hands in any meaningful way, it's hard to craft an approach that will garner 218 votes.

The big mistake of the House Democrats was in putting forth such bad bill, with so much pork and extraneous provisions. It deserves to go down.

The Hill covers the action:

Facing their first tight vote of the 110th Congress, House Democratic leaders yesterday were scrambling to convince rank-and-file members to back their carefully crafted war-funding legislation.

At least eight Democrats are planning to vote “no” on the Iraq supplemental, scheduled for a Thursday vote. Two more are “leaning no.” Meanwhile, there are over three dozen Democrats who are undecided, according to a survey conducted by The Hill.

The leadership can lose only 15 votes if Republicans stick together, giving leaders little room as they seek to balance the demands of liberals who want a fast withdrawal with those of conservative Democrats, who are wary of setting any kind of timetable for commanders in the field to follow...

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who is a Ways and Means subcommittee chairman, said during a speech in his district over the weekend that he plans to vote no along with a group of 20 other Democrats, according to The Argus newspaper of Fremont, Calif.

“The best way to keep [the troops] safe is to bring them home,” Stark said. “It’s difficult to oppose [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). She’s a great leader and working wonders to get this passed, but some things I can’t vote for.”

He added that if the resolution fails, “It won’t look good, like the Democrats can’t get their act together, but that’s OK. We can write a better bill...”

Other lawmakers from Pelosi’s state of California are planning to buck leadership on the funding measure, including Reps. Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and perhaps Maxine Waters...

Pete Stark makes clear that he belongs among those that Dave Obey would characterize as 'smoking something illegal,' when he states that the next bill would be a better one. If it comes down to a choice between the Out of Iraq view, and the continued operation of US forces in Iraq on some basis, the latter option is backed by three-quarters of the House. Plus, the Out of Iraq option will get vetoed.

Stark is clearly throwing Pelosi under the bus, when he promises that the next bill will be even more drastic. This is the best that they will get. I wonder if Pelosi will be able to reach around and pull the knife out of her back.

No. Whether this bill passes or not - and I predicted it would not unless Democratic leaders started to whip the vote - it's dead when the gavel comes down. It won't pass the Senate, and it probably won't even be voted on. So Democratic leaders will be forced to go back to work on a cleaner bill - one which I am sure is already being drafted.

And by the way, apart from placing impossible expectations on Pelosi, the no votes of people like Stark have to be made up from the other end of the spectrum. So for every safe-seat liberal dinosaur who votes against this bill, Pelosi has to get a 'yes' from a Heath Shuler or a Brad Ellsworth - a moderate Freshman Democrat in a marginal seat. They'll be spitting nails when the leadership tells them that they have to vote yes because Stark is voting no.

Those are the kinds of votes that cost majorities.

Update: The Politico reports that Nancy Pelosi is planning to do what I suggest:

Pelosi is privately telling leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus, including California Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, that if the leadership-crafted spending bill, which includes a 2008 withdrawal date, goes down, she'll quickly bring up a "clean" spending bill just for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of the year and seek Republican support to pass it.

Pelosi is not threatening the rebellious Democrats with the "clean bill" alternative, caution Democratic insiders. Instead, she's making sure that these lawmakers know she'll do whatever it takes to pass an emergency funding bill, with or without their support.

Read the whole thing, for an appreciation of the sports knowledge of Jim Clyburn.

Will Thompson Take a Dive?

I hope that this theory is wrong. Lots of conservatives would welcome the entry of Fred Thompson into the race. If he really intends to be nothing but a stalking horse for McCain, then a lot of conservatives will... stop watching Law and Order.

That's not really the sort of threat that's likely to get much attention.

There is, however, another theory circulating about Thompson, one being floated by critics of the Tennessean. Some Republican insiders suspect that Thompson, who makes no effort to hide his close friendship with McCain, instead might be working a behind-the-scenes, McCain-orchestrated strategy to build support among conservatives for the Arizonan.

According to this theory, Thompson – who backed McCain in the 2000 presidential primary race – would build support and anticipation among conservatives for his own campaign, and then abruptly direct them instead to McCain's camp.

Sources note that Thompson and McCain had an extensive telephone conversation on March 9, just two days before Thompson discussed his presidential ambitions on "Fox News Sunday." And both camps have worked hard to keep the substance of that conversation private.

I don't think that this would really work. McCain has earned distrust on the Right on his own; conservatives will not flock back to him at Thompson's say-so. If Thompson runs for a while and then drops out, those supporters who came from Giuliani, Romney, or someone else, are more likely to return to someone other than McCain - for the same reasons they are not backing McCain now.

Color me skeptical.

Hat Tip: ALa

Russia Gets Tougher on Iran

I've written about this a few times; Captain Ed interprets it today.

WH Makes it Official: Would Veto Iraq Supplemental

Hat Tip: Club for Growth

The Canary in the Coal Mine

When conservative attitudes to Gonzales get to this point, he's done:

Once in a while, the Democrats are going to get a scalp; it might as well be someone who's no big loss.

Well, OK - maybe not a 'canary in a coal mine,' as that's a reference to an early warning. This scandal is admittedly, rather far along.

Lieberman will be a Republican

I've argued from time to time that Joe Lieberman will not be able to run successfully as a Democrat when his current term is up in 2012. He has made too many enemies among the anti-war Left, and given the likelihood that we will be fighting the war on terror for many years more, the issue won't be in the past the next time he seeks the nomination.

The Hartford Courant provides another reason it will be difficult for him to re-establish ties with the base - he raised too much of his money from the GOP:

Prior to the Aug. 8 Democratic primary, Lieberman received nearly $8 million from all major individual donors, according to data from the Washington-based center. Democrats gave him three times as much as Republicans.

In the general election, in which Lieberman ran as an "independent Democrat," his take from Republicans soared 80 percent. He collected more money from Republicans than from Democrats. And of major donors - giving $200 and more - Republicans exceeded Democrats.

Officially, the White House stayed out of Lieberman's 2006 race, and Lieberman, who today caucuses with Senate Democrats, did not actively seek its support. But the signs from the White House were unmistakable.

"A lot of people would call and ask, `What's our position?"' Charles R. Black Jr. said last week. The former Bush adviser, who remains close to the president, said, "And I'd say, `There's no official position, but if I were you, I'd help Joe Lieberman.'"

This piece has attracted some attention on the Left, and it isn't making them all warm and fuzzy over him:

However, it is clear that for Lieberman, Republicans were always his main base of support. Had he not always been so willing to criticize the left, he would never have been so loved in a Republican town like the political industry in Washington, D.C., and by establishment media that was slowly being dominated by the Republican Noise Machine. At the very least, now that he was forced to win an election via overt Republican support, his ability to speak on behalf of Democrats has been annihilated. Everyone knows in the last election that Joe Lieberman was basically the Republican nominee. This is just the latest evidence supporting that claim.

Lieberman will never be able to rebuild these bridges, and he can probably count on a primary challenge in 2012 if he decides to run again. All the more reason he will ultimately be better off as a Republican.

Update: Lieberman recently conducted this interview, and is getting attention for not ruling out a party switch. The relevant portion starts around 1:30 in.

MS. O'DONNELL: Senator, you have broken with your former party, the Democratic Party specifically, on the Iraq war. There have been questions. Can you rule out that you may switch to the Republican Party?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I wouldn't rule it out, but it's certainly not my intention, it's not my desire --

MS. O'DONNELL: What would cause you to switch to the Republican Party?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm not going to set any conditions. But, you know, my real hope here is to stay and fight for the kind of Democratic Party I joined when John F. Kennedy was president, which was progressive on domestic policy and very strong and muscular on foreign and defense policy. I --

MS. O'DONNELL: But, Senator, arguably, there's not one Democratic presidential candidate that is espousing that particular position, right?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: So far, right. I mean, obviously, it'll be more than Iraq. It'll be how do they feel about Iran and the rest of the threats that we face.

But, look, the central challenge to our security in our time is from radical Islam, the people who attacked us on 9/11. And to be as direct as I can be, Norah, in this question of who I will support for president, I'm going to wait until both parties have their nominees, and I'm going to support the candidate that I think is best for our country, regardless of party. And obviously the positions that they take on the war on terrorism will be very important to me.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Said It Last Week...

And now NR joins the fungo drill. It's not clear to me that Casey Stengel could fix what's wrong inside the Bush White House, and neither Tom Seaver nor Nolan Ryan are anywhere in view:

"That 'competence' would become a buzzword, not of Bush supporters but of his critics, is an unexpected turnabout from when the president entered office six years ago. Then, it was common to note the experience and gravitas of the Bush team. Now, the incompetence charge has gained such traction that even many Republicans buy it."

Rich Lowry also tees off in his syndicated column:

"Gonzales’s defense of his misleading statements that the Justice Department didn’t coordinate on the firings with the White House is that he didn’t know his chief of staff had done exactly that for more than a year. Ordinarily, it would be laughable for an attorney general to claim he was out of the loop on such a sensitive question, but with Gonzales, it has a certain disturbing plausibility."

Is McCain Too Old?

Does he really want to get elected President? He sure doesn't seem to know what to say when reporters are there. An attack on the Club for Growth can't help his campaign in any way. So why say it?.

Prior experience in a national campaign is supposed to help a candidate, but McCain is sure not behaving like someone who has been through this before.

The 70-plus set can do more than ever before, but when you see enough of these missteps, you can't help but think he's simply too old for this office.

A Great Day for the Polish (and Italians)

Read all about why today is a day for wearing red or eating Italian cream puffs.

Just the thing after a weekend of corned beef and cabbage.

Jefferson Still Waiting for Committee Assignment

Roll Call ($) notes that there's still no indication of when the House will vote on the anticipated assignment of Congressman Bill Jefferson to the House Homeland Security Committee:

As for Jefferson, his contested assignment to the Homeland Security remains unresolved and Democratic leaders have offered no timeline for a decision. “It’s still pending,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), last week. “We’re still talking to try and find some agreement.”

Jefferson had asked Pelosi for a seat on Homeland Security because it has broad jurisdiction over issues facing his district, which was battered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Pelosi agreed and the Democratic Caucus unanimously approved Jefferson’s assignment earlier this year, but Republican leaders said they would object to the unanimous consent agreement and force a potentially embarrassing and politically uncomfortable roll call vote on the matter.

Jefferson is under federal investigation, and a related FBI raid of his home reportedly found $90,000 in cash in his freezer — a fact that has dogged Jefferson despite soundly winning reelection in November. Republicans argue the ongoing investigation, and the cash, are reason enough to prevent the Louisiana lawmaker from sitting on a panel privy to national security information.

Democrats counter that Republicans are hypocritical because they have seated Members who are under federal investigation as well. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) is under investigation by the Justice Department but remains the ranking member on Appropriations. Furthermore, Lewis is being investigated for matters that fall directly under his committee’s jurisdiction.

If Democrats are that angry about Republican hypocrisy, they could not ask for a better chance to call attention to it than a floor debate on Jefferson's committee assignment.

I think it's more likely they bring it up on the Friday evening before Easter recess, or some similar time.

Dems Still Rounding Up Supplemental Votes

Roll Call ($) reports that House Democrats are scrambling to find votes for the Iraq supplemental. In their favor is the fact that they've gotten the votes of some conservative Democrats (like Bud Cramer and Alan Boyd), and some of the Democratic whips who oppose the measure will nevertheless whip in favor. Going against them, Maxine Waters is opposed and refuses to whip, and Lynn Woolsey predicts they will lose more than 15 Democrats. It will be close:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Friday that Democrats’ operation this week must focus largely on a group of approximately two-dozen Democrats who remain undecided or appear likely to vote against the measure.

“The remaining 200 or so are either ‘yes’ or leaning ‘yes,’” Clyburn asserted of the 233-member majority. As Republican lawmakers are vowing to largely oppose the measure — with only a few exceptions — Democrats cannot afford to lose more than 15 of their own to guarantee the bill will pass.

“I’d say this one is a full-court press,” said one Democratic aide, who asked not to be named. “It’s all hands on deck.”

Despite those efforts, however, at least one member of the Democratic team, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), a Chief Deputy Majority Whip, has vowed not to assist in the vote count, citing her own objections to the proposal.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Gathering of Eagles

Michelle covers the story.

Iraqis Believe They're Better Off Now than Under Saddam

This finding is heartening for supporters of the surge. Iraqis do not believe there is a civil war and they do believe that 'the surge' will lead to a disarming of the militias. The trick is how to interpret the finding that they think security will improve after US and other foreign troops depart.

Does it mean they believe we won't leave until the job is done, or that our presence is in some way an impediment?

The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.

One in four Iraqis has had a family member murdered, says the poll by Opinion Research Business. In Baghdad, the capital, one in four has had a relative kidnapped and one in three said members of their family had fled abroad. But when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam, the dictator who was executed last December, or under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, most replied that things were better for them today.

Only 27% think there is a civil war in Iraq, compared with 61% who do not, according to the survey carried out last month.

By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.