Saturday, May 05, 2007

Democrats Accomplishing Little

The Washington Post reports that Congressional Democrats have had none of their priorities signed into law, and only one significant piece of legislation of any consequence at all:

In the heady opening weeks of the 110th Congress, the Democrats' domestic agenda appeared to be flying through the Capitol: Homeland security upgrades, a higher minimum wage and student loan interest rate cuts all passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

But now that initial progress has foundered as Washington policymakers have been consumed with the debate over the Iraq war. Not a single priority on the Democrats' agenda has been enacted, and some in the party are growing nervous that the "do nothing" tag they slapped on Republicans last year could come back to haunt them.

The Post is pulling punches, too. The minimum wage legislation that will ultimately be enacted is the same deal that the GOP offered for years - but Democrats refused to go along. The measure to 'finally implement all the recommendations of the 9/11 commission' does NOT in fact, implement all those recommendations. It skips the reorganization of congressional oversight, of which the Commission said:

Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important.

Roll Call ($) noted earlier this week the failure of Democrats to make progress on key issues, and pointed up gas prices as one area where Democrats talked the talk last year, but cannot walk the walk now that they're in charge:

After all, it was barely a year ago that Republicans were regularly defending their energy policies and vowing to do more to help car-owning consumers, while then-minority Democrats were holding near daily press conferences to complain that the GOP was doing nothing to bring down fuel prices.

Yet there’s been precious little attention paid lately to the gas price issue, and it may be one of the most pronounced indicators of how much the weeks-long partisan fight over the Iraq War is sucking the political oxygen out of the rest of the agenda, particularly on domestic issues.

In addressing their failure to achieve... anything... a Democratic aid admits that his party intentionally blocked legislation last year:

But Democrats said it is the Republicans who need to look in the mirror, saying they, like Democrats before them, have proved the minority party is capable of exerting its will over the chamber. Public focus on Iraq “has taken the attention off of the other issues Republicans have objected to,” a Democratic Senate leadership aide charged, adding that “they continue to slow-walk bills” or block measures outright, most notably including the intelligence authorization bill.

I hope they're not going to complain about it. If it was fine and appropriate last year, I can't imagine why there's anything wrong with it now that the tables are turned.

Cool Technology of the Day

NASA tests a methane-powered engine:

Why is this promising? Glad you asked:

Methane (CH4), the principal component of natural gas, is abundant in the outer solar system. It can be harvested from Mars, Titan, Jupiter, and many other planets and moons. With fuel waiting at the destination, a rocket leaving Earth wouldn't have to carry so much propellant, reducing the cost of a mission.

Perhaps surprisingly, this flammable gas has never powered a spacecraft before. But now scientists and engineers at Marshall, the Glenn Research Center and the Johnson Space Center are developing LOX/methane engines as an option for the future. "Several efforts are underway, including a rival LOX/methane main engine design by KT Engineering," notes Tramel...

Consider the following: Liquid hydrogen fuel used by the space shuttle must be stored at a temperature of -252.9°C—only about 20 degrees above absolute zero! Liquid methane, on the other hand, can be stored at the much warmer and more convenient temperature of -161.6°C. That means methane fuel tanks wouldn't need as much insulation, making them lighter and thus cheaper to launch. The tanks could also be smaller, because liquid methane is denser than liquid hydrogen, again saving money and weight.

Very cool.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ritual de lo Habitual

Now that both parties have completed their initial ritualized encounters between their various candidates for the Presidency it may be useful to reflect upon the bases of such rituals. The candidates’ debate is generally perceived and covered by the media as a ritualized combat, an agony, in the Greek sense of a contest designed to reveal excellence (and truth) by pushing antagonists to their extremes of ability.

In point of fact, the format of political debate in the U.S. has steadily evolved from an agonistic, life-as-struggle, basis in which the antagonists address and confront each other directly into a group interview in which each participant assumes the role he and his advisors believe will resonate most favourably with their target audiences. Last night we saw McCain assume the persona of the wily, grizzled and indomitable warrior, for instance, while Romney took a turn as a Mormon Martin Sheen playing Josiah Bartlett. What we have here is the triumph of mimesis over agon—a situation in which a man's assumption of a persona and performance in that character is his apotheosis, rather than triumphing over an ordeal which strips away pretence and exposes the reality of the contenders.

At a simpler level, we could see this evolution of political debate, even among Republicans, as another step in the Oprahfication of American society, and the general retreat from agon into a comfortable world of non-competitiveness and Little Leagues which don’t keep score. The candidate sine collegia of this ethos is of course Oprah’s own anointed Barack Obama. Obama’s disingenuous “let us reason together” posture of non-confrontation serves as the mask behind which he runs a campaign for the institutionalization of the cultural revolutions of the last half century.

I would argue that Obama's congruence of non-confrontational style and strategy, rather than simple racial solidarity, represents the key to understanding why Oprah Winfrey was among Obama’s earliest backers, and it is this that makes Obama the most telegenic--mimetic--candidate on the Democratic side, so long as he is not called to actually defend his political positions.

The two great public religious rituals of Classical Greece were the athlon--the athletic games of competition, and the theatron, the drama of the theatre. A primary distinction between the two is that in theatron, the outcome is known in advance, determined by the dramaturge, and is a catharsis or purgation of antisocial disunity, while the athlon is spontaneous and dedicated to the extraction of excellence. In shifting from an athletic to theatrical model of politics, America runs the risk of finding its political outcomes predetermined by those able to assign roles and enforce scripts, as the media is increasingly able to do in the McCain-Feingold era. Senator McCain, for instance, may now find that his pugnacious desire to assume the role of protagonistic maverick will not endure the rescripting his opponents with more powerful media allies, either in the primary or general election, visit upon him.

Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence is therefore not an act but a habit." Removing the antagonistic element from these debates therefore invites an imposture which the realities of human existence must ultimately strip away. The persona assumed by the candidate in reality will be subjected to the ordeal of agon, if not in the election campaign, then in the ongoing contest of political life.

Democrats Moving to Defund Iraq?

Read it over at the Standard.

The Debate: Optimism and Anger

I did not watch the debate last night (sacrilege)! The reality is that family concerns took precedence, but my official story is that I can't pay that much attention this early.

That said, there's an interesting back-and-forth over at the Corner regarding the candidates and what we might call 'optimism vs. anger.' It's worth reading, and it features an excerpt from Peggy Noonan's column today:

All the candidates save one, the obscure but intellectually serious Ron Paul, seemed to be trying to show they will not break with the Bush administration on the war, but that, at the same time, they each know a heck of a lot more than President Bush. There were criticisms of the administration's handling of Iraq, with the first and strongest coming from Mr. McCain. Mike Huckabee had the most spirited explanation. The administration listened to "civilians in silk ties" rather than generals "with mud and blood on their boots." On Iran, the candidates seemed in general to be indignant to the point of bellicosity.

That's a good point. Will it work in 2008?

I'm still not sold on the fact that Iraq will be THE ISSUE of the 2008 election - at least not in the way it is today. Chances are still better than even that US troops will be largely out of harm's way by then, so Iraq would be an important part of the debate - but only to the extent that 'lessons learned' governed policy going forward.

Apart from that, one of the rules of thumb in presidential elections is that the 'optimistic candidate' wins; it fits right there next to the rules about the taller candidate and the one you'd like to have a beer with. One thing that the GOP field is lacking right now is optimistic candidates. Can Fred Thompson bring that, too?

We Win, They Lose

Read it at the Standard.

Obama Obtains Secret Service Protection

Read it at the Standard.


Rob Bluey on blogtalkradio with Captain Ed. I've not yet listened to it, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Are Democrats disciplining themselves to preserve their swing seats next year? Cook makes valid points, but to some degree he wrote the headline and made the piece fit it. He found no space to write about votes for tax increases, and the votes by some Blue Dogs for the Iraq surrender bill -- votes that would have been better for liberals to take.

One reason the GOP is optimistic about 2008: some good targets in the House of Representatives.

New Orleans' population has climbed back to pre-Katrina levels.

Great post from Mickey.

The Las Vegas Review Journal has a message for Harry Reid - one he probably doesn't want to hear.

Iraq's Foreign Minister says Don't Abandon Us.

The Democrat who doesn't think there's a huge terrorist presence in Iraq.

Highlights from last night's GOP debate:

Robot Chicken says what we all think about Star Wars:

NJ State Troopers: Only Corzine Can Speed Recklessly

One presumes that the troopers engaging in this messaging were not being serious. I don't believe there are many in law enforcement who would support the idea that the Governor is above the law, while the rest of us are not:

Some state troopers, feeling they have been publicly ridiculed for the accident that almost killed Gov. Jon S. Corzine, appear to be plotting a ticket blitz against the public this month, followed by a slowdown in June, according to a chilling series of anonymous online postings.

And the state's top trooper says he won't tolerate it.

"Great idea," wrote a person posting under the name "soundsgood." "Absolutely hammer everyone (obviously except cops and family) who does 1 m.p.h. over the limit. . . . Let's really give them something to complain about."

"I am all for the May 1st blitz. . . . Better start pre-signing my summonses," wrote another poster going by the handle of "reckrids."

"Everyone has to take part in this," wrote "20alphabravo." "We are taking an absolute beating from the public and media, and the so-called "officers' are doing nothing about it to protect or support us in any way. . . . May 1st. Spread the word. It's go time."

Headline of the Day

How long do you suppose AP waited to write this one:

Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo

Thursday, May 03, 2007

IBD: Investigate Reid and Feinstein

Read it at the Standard.


Great observations from Captain Ed about where the debate over Iraq funding stands today.

Ted Koppel stands up for victory in Iraq.

Unindicted co-conspirator calls Petraeus a political hack. Pathetic. McQ tells you all you need to know.

Drudge blares that Time Magazine left the President off of its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Do you need a greater demonstration of how silly and trivial the list must be?

Ask yourself: if President Bush is not one of the two or three most influential people on the planet, then why do his opponents here and abroad make his defeat the central organizing principle of their lives? Is Iraq suddenly not important?

Soren piles on Romney. He's right though - better not to have tried to back away from Battlefield Earth.

Fausta notes Thompson's suggestion for Michael Moore.

Tom Brady: Yankees fan.

The 25 wonders of the world. I've seen 5 of them.

A historian says that Jack the Ripper died in Poland, after living in the US and South Africa.

CNN Asks the Important Question

What happens after we leave Iraq? Read it at the Standard.

Separated at Birth

Imus plans to sue CBS. But doesn't he look a lot like the late Anne Ramsey?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Next Iraq Supplemental

Read it at the Standard.

Will Edwards Answer the Tough Questions?

The Politico notes that some of his supporters really need him to address... his hair:

Crawford: Dems Need to Toughen Up

Read it at the Standard.

On the Veto

The President has vetoed the Iraq supplemental. His statement from last night is here. To me, this is the key portion:

Our troops are carrying out a new strategy with a new commander -- General David Petraeus. The goal of this new strategy is to help the Iraqis secure their capital, so they can make progress toward reconciliation, and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and fights extremists and radicals and killers alongside the United States in this war on terror.

President George W. Bush issues a statement Tuesday, May 1, 2007, regarding his veto of the Iraq War Supplemental. Speaking from Cross Hall in the White House, the President said, "We need to give our troops all the equipment and the training and protection they need to prevail. The need to act is urgent." White House photo by Eric Draper In January, General Petraeus was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate. In February, we began sending the first of the reinforcements he requested. Not all of these reinforcements have arrived. And as General Petraeus has said, it will be at least the end of summer before we can assess the impact of this operation. Congress ought to give General Petraeus' plan a chance to work.

Right now the debate in Congress over war funding is a distraction; it draws attention away from the real question of whether Iraq succeeds or fails. To a large degree, everything else is a sideshow.

The House will defeat the veto override today, and Congressional leaders will meet with the President to determine the next step. Since Republican votes will be needed - at least in the House - to pass a bill, Minority Leader Boehner will have an important say in what happens next. His legislation on Iraq (here) contains language that seems likely to be the starting point for conversations on GOP support.

Read too, the summary of the conference call with Tony Snow, over at the Standard.


Iraq progress watch: oil law clears cabinet.

Fred Thompson on Hannity & Colmes.

Tony Blair to step down in the next few weeks.

Are Republicans doomed for a generation?

More evidence of AQ in Iraq prior to the war.

Why are Democrats illiterate on Iraq?

Tom Davis preparing for a Senate run in Virginia.

NASA is considering how to address risks on long space missions -- such as when to cut off medical care, what to do with dead bodies, and how to address 'amorous' crewmates.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Biden's Big Fat Mouth

Read it over at the Standard.


Senator DeMint begins blogging.

Chavez cooperating with China for investment in petroleum production. It strikes me that this is one natural outcome of the hostility of the US and other nations to Chinese direct investment. Remember the outcry when China's CNOOC tried to buy Unocal? Well, if China needs energy and can't invest in the west to assure it, they're going to invest that money somewhere.

McCain for defense spending increases and reforms.

Charlie Cook officially shifts position on whether Giuliani can win the GOP nomination. It's no longer impossible, just unlikely.

New York politicos are refraining from endorsing Giuliani. It seems to me that timing is the question.

Romney says his favorite novel is Battlefield Earth.

Again: politics doesn't have to be all that hard. It's fine for Battlefield Earth to be your favorite book. But it's not fine to admit it! If you are a member of a religion that is not well understood, and which some regard as a similar to a cult, don't associate yourself with scientologists? Is that so hard a rule to remember?

Does Hillary want Gore in the race?

McQ notes the inattention to the DiFi milcon scandal - about which I have not yet written. Shame on me. If you're not aware of it, go over and read it.

Bill Roggio covers events in Iraq here and here.

Sir Ian McKellen explains how he acts:

Ethics Deadline Passes With No Action

Read it at the Standard.

Monday, April 30, 2007

On Earmarks: the More things Change...

This sounds a lot like the last Congress:

On March 15, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a Water Resources Development Act reauthorization bill carrying nearly 600 projects for individual Members of Congress at a total cost of about $13 billion.

But by the time Congress overwhelmingly approved the bill on April 19, it had grown by about 115 projects that added almost $2 billion to the total cost of the bill, including $40 million each for unspecified water projects in the districts of Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Richard Baker (R-La.), Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.). Mica is the ranking member of the full committee; Johnson and Baker are the chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the bill; and Costello and Duncan headed the subcommittee in the 109th Congress, when the House passed a WRDA bill that died before it got to the president’s desk.

The Democrats promised dramatic reform of Congress, including openness and a reduction in earmarks. Is there any question that the promise was made because it was expedient, rather than because they actually intended to improve?

Update: Also check out the NTU site here.

Fisking Georget Tenet

Mike Goldfarb has a good post at the Worldwide Standard, questioning the reliability of at least some of what George Tenet is claiming in his book:

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has now learned of a . . . stunning error in Tenet's book (which is due to appear in bookstores tomorrow). According to Michiko Kakutani's review in Saturday's Times,

On the day after 9/11, he [Tenet] adds, he ran into Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative and the head of the Defense Policy Board, coming out of the White House. He says Mr. Perle turned to him and said: "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility."

Here's the problem: Richard Perle was in France on that day, unable to fly back after September 11. In fact Perle did not return to the United State until September 15. Did Tenet perhaps merely get the date of this encounter wrong? Well, the quote Tenet ascribes to Perle hinges on the encounter taking place September 12: "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday." And Perle in any case categorically denies to THE WEEKLY STANDARD ever having said any such thing to Tenet, while coming out of the White House or anywhere else.

Read the whole thing.

(Fred) Thompson Winning Converts

Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg has been a skeptic about Fred Thompson's prospects. Today's piece ($) qualifies as a bit of a mea culpa. But Rothenberg is not entirely sold on the man some are calling the 'unannounced frontrunner:'

But whatever the former Senator’s strengths, he isn’t an ideal candidate for Republicans.

Regardless of whether it is deserved, Thompson earned a reputation around the nation’s capital as someone who didn’t like to raise money and who didn’t have a high energy level in the Senate. When he had the chance to be handed a second full term, he turned it down, choosing instead to return to his acting career.

Obviously, there is a world of difference between an executive position such as president and a legislative one, and if he does enter the GOP contest, Thompson could say that he’s a “doer,” not a “talker,” who would feel more comfortable in an executive post...

Thompson’s personal life also could come under scrutiny. The Senator’s second wife, Jeri, whom he married in 2002, is significantly younger than he is. The couple has two children, one age 3 and one less than a year old.

But it is undeniable that whatever the question marks around Thompson, he looks like a serious competitor for the Republican nomination even before he has announced whether he will run.

This is a strange election. Instead of the calendar narrowing the field and making the eventual nominee more apparent, the GOP race is looking more up for grabs, with none of the three hopefuls in the top tier seemingly able to overcome their liabilities. That gives Thompson an opening, and it is likely to remain that way for at least a few more months...

A Thompson run would be a serious, possibly fatal, blow to the prospects of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who hopes to emerge (against either McCain or Giuliani) as the “conservative alternative.” Thompson would be a rival for that role, and the announcement of his candidacy would create at least a temporary boomlet that would eclipse Romney if the former governor had not already increased his standing in key polls.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bush's Best Friends

...are the Democrat leaders in Congress.

Do you think it will help the Democrats get their way on Iraq that they are threatening to impeach the President because he disagrees with them? Who seems more extreme and more politically-driven: the President who refuses to leave Iraq until the war is won, or the Democrats who say the war will win them more seats in Congress, and who threaten to impeach the President because he won't compromise.

Bush's political dream would be that the Democrats impeach him over Iraq. The sad thing is that Hoyer and Pelosi aren't as stupid as Murtha.

Making Hillary Uncomfortable

A tasteless Australian comedian heads to America to try to volunteer as an intern for Hillary. No content warning, but he doesn't look good in a thong: