Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dingell Backs Huge Gas Tax Increase

The US automakers have no greater friend in Congress than John Dingell. He's served in the House since the Eisenhower administration, and chairs the powerful Energy and Commerce committee. In that post, he has tangled prominently with Speaker Pelosi over global warming and the appropriate Democratic response. His refusal to go along with the fuel economy standards advocated by environmentalists has led them to mock him as the 'Dingell-saurus.' Dingell for his part, points out that CAFE standards don't hold much promise to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

But given the commitment of House Democrats to do something to fight global warming, Dingell is going to introduce a bill that chooses the simplest, most effective, and most efficient way to reduce petroleum consumption -- slap a huge tax on it:

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) will propose a new carbon tax that would increase the gasoline tax by 50 cents, the lawmaker said in an interview on C-SPAN's ‘Newsmakers’ airing Sunday.

In the interview, Dingell acknowledged that voters may not be willing to bear the cost of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and that he would propose the new tax “just to sort of see how people really feel about this.”

“I sincerely doubt that the American people are willing to pay what this is really going to cost them,” Dingell said in the interview...

In addition to raising the gasoline tax, Dingell’s new proposal would institute a “double digit” tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted.
This is brilliant. It addresses man's role in global warming -- such as it is -- by reducing our use of hydrocarbons, and does so in a transparent way. Many economists (probably most) argue that if you want to reduce use of gas and/or fight global warming, the best way to do it is through a carbon tax such as the one advocated by Dingell. One who has written about it extensively is Greg Mankiw. Mankiw frequently reports on noted economists who have signed on to his Pigou Club.

There are other Congressional Democrats who've endorsed the idea of carbon taxes, but it doesn't have much appeal outside of the bluest areas of the bluest states. It's also likely to get a great reception on the liberal blogs -- like this one at the Huffington Post:
If Dingell comes up with a bill that is seriously and thoughtfully designed to make steep cuts in GHG emissions, and it includes both a cap-and-trade program and a carbon fee, that will be vastly more consequential than anything happening around CAFE.

I don't think people quite appreciate what Dingell's done here. He's the first member of Congress with any power or seniority to even mention a carbon tax, much less endorse it. He's putting up a trial balloon, nudging the Overton Window. It's an opportunity for the rest of us to run with it -- to take something that's suddenly got a toehold in the realm of political possibility and pound it home...

IMO, the smarter play on MoveOn's part would have been to blast its three million members with the happy news: The fight for a carbon tax now has a key congressional ally! Tie Dingell to his words, and signal to every other member of Congress that a carbon tax is now a live issue, not a theoretical one.
Most Democrats who have to worry about re-election prefer to pretend that there easy and pain-free ways to reduce hydrocarbon use. They can't support a straightforward and honest approach, because they know that outside of San Francisco, the Huffington Post, and MoveOn, it's political suicide.

For reference, the federal gas tax is now 18.4 cents per gallon. State taxes range from 7.5 to 33 cents per gallon. So an increase of 50 cents per gallon would nearly quadruple the federal tax, and would triple the overall gas tax in some states. The proposal is probably dead in the water. And if House Democrats endorse the idea... well, how much further down can they go in the polls?

Dingell knows all this of course; he doesn't intend this idea to go anywhere. It's just his way of telling Al Gore and the global warming crowd to put up or shut up.

Chinese Weapons Appearing in Bad Places

It's worth paying attention to, but encouraging that the State Department does not believe China is intentionally shipping weapons to our enemies:

A senior US official recently told the FT that Iran appeared to be providing the Chinese-made weapons. He said Washington had no evidence that Beijing was complicit, but stressed that the US would like China to “do a better job of policing these sales”. Mr Lawless said the question of origin was less important than who was facilitating the transfer.

More importantly, it seems that while the US side understands our interest in a better understanding of the Chinese military, China has been reluctant to exchange information:

Mr Lawless said the US military relationship with China was “overall, not bad”, but there was a need for more engagement between the militaries, particularly at the senior levels. “They have been more willing to engage, but it is in millimetres and increments,” he said.

He said the Pentagon was disappointed that China had not given Admiral Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, the same kind of access that his Chinese counterpart received during a visit to the US. Adm Mullen, who has since been nominated as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ended up not visiting China...

“There is a great shortfall in our understanding of China’s intentions,” said Mr Lawless, referring to the overall Chinese military build-up. “When you don’t know why they are doing it, it is pretty damn threatening . . . they leave us no choice but to assume the worst.”

The Chinese reluctance is undoubtedly attributable at least partly to their difficulty in figuring out what we want from them. We want assistance on a range of security issues and profess friendship, while we reject their investments in the West and criticize their exports and currency policies. It's not quite love/hate, but it is complex.

New York City Cracks Down on Ice Cream Trucks

We can thank Mayor Bloomberg for assigning the NYPD to crack down on noise pollution. Can he bring his leadership to the whole nation as President?

It seems that one New Yorker seeking the presidency wants to protect us from Osama bin Laden, one wants to protect us from George Bush, and one wants to protect us from the Good Humor Man:

With his Mister Softee ice cream truck parked in a familiar spot, its presence announced by a sprightly metallic jingle, Costas Vamvakas was having a good day on Wednesday, the holiday business brisk despite the drab weather. But then two men pulled up in an unmarked car from the Department of Environmental Protection.

It was Mr. Vamvakas’s first encounter with the city’s noise police, a contingent that includes 45 environmental agents and thousands of regular police officers who are enforcing a sweeping new noise code that took effect on Sunday. Mr. Vamvakas, 24, who is part owner of a Mister Softee franchise in Queens with 11 trucks, had failed to turn off his truck’s jingle when he parked at the curb, as is now required of all ice cream trucks.

The fine is $350.

Mr. Vamvakas, who is known as Gus, recalled the encounter, which took place in a parking lot at Fort Totten Park in Queens, in an interview yesterday during a break from his Flushing rounds. He said he told the two agents that he would lose business if he turned off the jingle.

“I am aware of the law, but I need to play” the jingle, he recalled telling the agents. He said he pleaded with them: “Can’t I play it for 10 seconds while I’m stopped?”

But there was no room for compromise. “They said, ‘No, you can’t,’ ” he recalled, and told him he would be getting a citation in the mail. It was unclear yesterday whether the citation issued to Mr. Vamvakas was the first to an ice cream truck driver under the new noise code.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Kirk vs. Picard

Did you know there's a 'Kirk vs. Picard' blog? They even force you to watch Wil Wheaton channel Kirk and Picard.

And if you don't know who Wil Wheaton is... just count your blessings and skip to the next post...

Mary Katharine Ham Goes all John Edwards

Friday Fun

Big Wheel racing (loud page warning) down San Francisco's Lombard Street:

China's Newest Sub Captured... on Google Earth

One presumes that our intelligence agencies already had this info:

A shiny new ballistic-missile submarine docked at a naval base in China has been spied publicly for the first time using Google Earth.

The new class of nuclear sub, called the Jin-class, had been rumoured to exist for some time, but the image recently uploaded to Google Earth is the first public glimpse of the vessel.

For the past 20 years, China has maintained one ballistic-missile submarine, the Xia-class. However, it has suffered from technical problems and has never been deployed on a deterrent patrol, which involves arming the sub and sending it out to hide for long periods in the oceans.

Instead, the Xia-class has been used mainly for small missile tests. "Now the expectation is they will build this new class and, if it’s more successful, they will be capable of having submarines permanently deployed at sea with nuclear weapons," says Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

And indeed -- go over here for the Google Earth file for the sub base, and you can zoom in and see it for yourself.

NYT: Fighting Global Warming Will be Expensive

A useful reminder from an unexpected source:

But for all the talk about warming, leading politicians have yet to educate their constituents (and their colleagues) about an unpleasant and inescapable truth: any serious effort to fight warming will require everyone to pay more for energy. According to most scientists, the long-term costs of doing nothing — flooding, famine, drought — would be even higher than the costs of acting now. But unless Americans understand and accept the trade-off — higher prices today to avoid calamity later — the requisite public support for real change is unlikely to build.

Energy is currently underpriced in part because its cost does not reflect the damage inflicted by fossil fuels. Underpricing leads to overconsumption. Worse, it leads to underinvestment in alternatives. As long as today’s energy is relatively cheap, there is little incentive for private firms to develop new fuels and technologies.

Show of hands -- how many thing energy is 'relatively cheap?'

Can You Use Pepper Spray on Border Patrol Agents?

That seems to be a big question. Seems that a quick does of pepper spray is part of the training, but the union opposes it. I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I'm not sure I think much of the union's argument:

"Any theoretical benefits far outweigh the real risk of serious, sometimes permanent, injury to employees," Kelley said. "Moreover, a brief one-time exposure to OC spray over the course of an officer's career will not make officers less likely to use this weapon nor enable the officer to deal with its effects should they somehow be exposed."

So pepper spray is much too dangerous to expose an employee to -- even once, as part of training. Further, agents are just as likely to use it on detainees, regardless of whether they've experienced it or not.

Does this mean that Border Patrol agents are sociopaths?

Mike Bloomberg... Still a Republican?

At least if you believe that we vote with our dollars:

On June 19, shortly before Mr. Bloomberg announced that he was leaving the Republican Party, he telephoned the state’s most powerful Republican, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader.

The mayor wanted Mr. Bruno to know the announcement was coming. But Mr. Bloomberg, a major contributor to New York Republicans, also sought to reassure the majority leader that despite the change, he would still back Mr. Bruno and his Republican colleagues in the Senate...

Mr. Bloomberg’s support for Republican candidates is critical; the mayor has been the biggest individual donor to Senate Republicans, according to state campaign finance records, giving $575,000 since October. He also gave the New York State Republican Committee $175,000 in the same period. (During that time, by contrast, he did not donate to any Democrats in the Legislature.)

The Bloomberg team portrays this as nothing more than his doing what he thinks best to protect the interests of New York City. However, Republicans in the State Assembly -- which is overwhelmingly Democratic -- regard him as an ally as well. Since they can do nothing to help New York City, what is his motivation?

FEMA's Laptops Aren't Secure

Sigh. It's not like FEMA does anything important...

My Kind of Recycling

NASA 'repurposes' probes that have completed their missions. Cool:

Two NASA spacecraft now have new assignments after successfully completing their missions. The duo will make new observations of comets and characterize extrasolar planets. Stardust and Deep Impact will use their flight-proven hardware to perform new, previously unplanned, investigations.

"These mission extensions are as exciting as it gets. They will allow us to revisit a comet for the first time, add another to the list of comets explored and make a search for small planets around stars with known large planets. And by using existing spacecraft in flight, we can accomplish all of this for only about 15 percent of the cost of starting a new mission from scratch," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Headquarters, Washington. "These new mission assignments for veteran spacecraft represent not only creative thinking and planning, but are also a prime example of getting more from the budget we have."

Pelosi & Reid ARE the SCORPION

The old fable about the scorpion and the frog ends with the scorpion explaining his suicidal behavior by saying 'because I'm a scorpion.' The Wall Street Journal puts Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in the role of the scorpion:

For starters, the leaders have failed to keep the Bush-hating left under wraps. This crowd isn't nearly as interested in passing legislation as it is flooding the Beltway with subpoenas. By one count, the new Democratic Congress has held over 600 oversight hearings since assuming power. Given the Senate has only been in session 100 days (the House, 92 days), that works out to six hearings per day, or one every 1.5 hours. The bashing covers everything from wiretapping to President Bush's global warming science.

The events are primarily cathartic, designed to allow the base to work out its Bush anger. Yet many Democrats have also convinced themselves the hearings are smart politics--that the way to increase their congressional majorities next year is to further paint Republicans as corrupt and incompetent--and point to Mr. Bush's approval ratings as evidence it is working. Democrats' own (lower) approval ratings suggest voters have limited tolerance for such partisanship and would prefer to see the party implementing the "new direction" it promised in its campaign.

Yet even when the majority has found time to legislate, it has again perilously allowed its liberal wing to lead it astray. Instead of focusing on completing their "Six for '06" priorities, Democrats instead engaged in a long fight with the president over the war supplemental. This bloodletting pleased the faction, but was a defeat for the broader party, which ultimately gave Mr. Bush all the money he'd demanded, with nary a timetable or withdrawal in sight.

Strassel hits the nail dead on. The American people vote on the future. When they go to the polls in November, 2008 -- when no one affiliated with the Bush administration is on the ballot -- how many will be casting a vote to repudiate George Bush? Perhaps 15%-20% -- all of whom would vote for any Democrat over any Republican. While it's smart politics to point up the mistakes of the opposition, it's foolish to do so at the cost of real accomplishments.

And that's where the Congressional Democrats are now -- with nothing to speak of, legislatively, and little prospect for anything significant in the rest of this Congress. At this rate, voters will be in a 'pox on both houses' kind of mood -- which would represent a dramatic improvement for the GOP from November, 2006.

Update: Elsewhere, the Journal notes that Ms. Pelosi is instructing House Democrats to 'create a drumbeat of accomplishments' when they return to their districts this summer. It's telling that she has not issued such a message to them while they're in Washington:
Speaker Pelosi presses fellow Democrats to spend vacation days shaping climate for 2008 re-election campaigns, cautioning, "We must create a drumbeat of accomplishments this summer." Democrats privately fret over paltry congressional-approval rates, but divide on whether to seek bipartisan deals or draw sharper contrasts with Republicans.

More here, as well.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Giuliani Blogger Call: We Like Where We Are

Read it at the Standard.

Too Much Time on His Hands...

Words fail me:

Dated Mitt, Married Fred?

Funny and trenchant. Is the Christian Right getting ready to switch candidates?

First, Focus on the Family ran a segment entitled, "Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, an outspoken critic of pornography, is called to task for his ties to Marriott hotels; a chain that makes money by providing porn to guests." In other words and in reality, James Dobson signed off on an attack on Mitt Romney, something that had not been done earlier. This story had been previously reported by CBN’s David Brody and had been covered by a lot of mainstream press. This is, however, the first time, other than CBN, that it made it into the Christian press. And you can’t beat the Christian radio networks for targeting devoted listeners.

Second, Hugh Hewitt pointed out that the new site Blogs for Fred was founded by Joe Carter, who writes Evangelical Outpost. Joe also works at the Family Research Council where his title is director of Web Communications. Now, I am sure that this is not on behalf of FRC, but….

Third, Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary and an evangelical leader beyond the 30+ million Southern Baptists begins an online debate taking the position that "Mormonism is not Christianity."

Chavez Running Into Brazilian Roadblock

Read it at the Standard.

Was Patrick Fitzgerald Settling a Grudge With Libby

The Wall Street Journal opines:

As it happens, Messrs. Fitzgerald and Libby had crossed legal paths before. Before he joined the Bush Administration, Mr. Libby had, for a number of years in the 1980s and 1990s, been a lawyer for Marc Rich. Mr. Rich is the oil trader and financier who fled to Switzerland in 1983, just ahead of his indictment for tax-evasion by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bill Clinton pardoned Mr. Rich in 2001, and so the feds never did get their man. The pardon so infuriated Justice lawyers who had worked on the case that the Southern District promptly launched an investigation into whether the pardon had been "proper." One former prosecutor we spoke to described the Rich case as "the single most rancorous case in the history of the Southern District."

Two of the prosecutors who worked on the Rich case over the years were none other than Mr. Fitzgerald and James Comey, who while Deputy Attorney General appointed Mr. Fitzgerald to investigate the Plame leak. Mr. Fitzgerald worked in the Southern District for five years starting in 1988, at the same time that Mr. Libby was developing a legal theory of Mr. Rich's innocence in a bid to get the charges dropped. The prosecutors never did accept the argument, but Leonard Garment, who brought Mr. Libby onto the case in 1985, says that he believes Mr. Libby's legal work helped set the stage for Mr. Rich's eventual pardon.

Via Next Hurrah, via QandO, where Bruce asks:

The question? Was Libby "Nifonged" by Fitzgerald because of the past?

Europe 'Liquidating' Surplus Wine

If this article sounds silly to you, remember that the lunacy stems from the EU's appointed role as the backer of the private market for wine. That's not all that different from US policies on sugar, peanuts, and dairy products:

Europe’s wine lake will be drained and millions of its vines uprooted in an effort to tackle the onslaught from producers in the New World, under plans unveiled on Wednesday by Brussels.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the farm commissioner, said sweeping reforms would put European wine “back ... on top of the world” by driving out the worst quality table wines.

The European Union still produces and consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s wine. But imports from Australia, the US, Chile and others have displaced traditional winemakers, especially in the budget range.

While Britain has become the top importer, its drinkers opt for the well-marketed and dependable New World brands. Consumption in traditional producers such as Italy and France is slumping, unwanted wine being turned into industrial alcohol...

The commissioner has proposed 5 per cent of Europe’s vineyards – 200,000 [hectares] – be pulled up in a voluntary scheme. Some €120m a year will be used to promote wine, and there will be a ban on adding sugar, used to strengthen wine in northern countries.

I've drunk wine that tasted like industrial alcohol -- but I don't think it was from France...

In a private, unregulated market, farmers could grow -- and vintners produce -- whatever consumers wanted. Would it be so terrible if Europe imported more wine, or the US more sugar?

"Don't Tell the British"

Glenn notes that a pro-consolidation European official has warned that while 'one can always explain that what is in the interest of Europe is in the interests of our countries,' 'Britain is different. Does that mean it's only Britain that has a conflicting interest, or only the British who cannot be convinced? If he means the former -- Britain should stay out; if he means the latter, then why did the French and Dutch reject it last time?

It looks like the British are about to get a taste of the same sort of furor that surrounded our immigration debate -- complete with voters wondering how the government got so out of touch. For their sake, I hope they take a lesson:

The Open Europe campaign and other pro-referendum groups aim to put maximum pressure on MPs before a likely Commons vote next year on ratifying the treaty.

As with Mr Blair before him, Mr Brown has insisted that Britain's negotiating "red lines" were not broken at last month's summit - and therefore no referendum is needed...

Last night, Open Europe served notice that anti-referendum MPs from all the main parties would face sustained pressure in their own constituencies in the coming months.

Lord Leach of Fairford, the Tory peer who is chairman of Open Europe, told The Daily Telegraph: "Gordon Brown should think twice before going back on his party's manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on a treaty that is the EU constitution in all but name.

Mr. Brown ought to avoid arguments that 'the people just don't understand the deal,' or 'we can't let talk radio run Britain.'

Update: I've been pretty harsh on Nicolas Sarkozy for not understanding trade and economic growth -- and showing that ignorance in his support for the 'Reform Treaty.' I just noticed that Peter Mandelson -- an early backer of Tony Blair and several times a Minister in his government -- also recently slammed Sarkozy and the Treaty:

Europe's economies depend on open markets, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said a week after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said a revamp of EU rules will let governments protect national companies. Sarkozy said on June 23 that his push to drop a clause making "free and undistorted competition'' a specific goal of an EU treaty, rather than a means to prosperity, may allow for the "emergence of European champions'' among the bloc's 27 nations. "Competition should indeed not be some sort of dogma or religion, but nor is it a dirty word,'' Mandelson said on Saturday in Paris. "Competition has helped make Europe rich and France one of the most productive economies in Europe'' and "is how we keep our markets efficient and dynamic.''

If Peter Mandelson is attacking the underpinning for the Treaty, that's a significant knock against it.

A Warning for Chavez and Ahmadinejad

Oil power comes and goes:

Aside from his hint that Venezuela might be seeking nuclear power, the highlight of Chavez’s recent visit to Moscow was to finalize a contract to purchase five Russian diesel submarines for $1 billion to safeguard his country's oil-rich underwater shelf and thwart a possible embargo by the US in response to his anti-Washington crusade in Latin America for the past several years. Under his presidency, Venezuela has become the second largest purchaser of Russian weapons after Algeria.

"We are strengthening Venezuela's military power precisely to avoid imperial aggression and assure peace, not to attack anybody," said Chavez in a recent speech at a military base in Caracas.

The arms procurement is funded by a treasury overflowing with foreign exchange due to high petroleum prices. This gives Chavez the clout to challenge the US, sorely dependent on imports of Venezuelan oil, and insult President George Bush with impunity.

Dilip Hiro argues that even a look at the United States shows that hydrocarbon power eventually wanes. Venezuela, Iran, Russia and others better make hay while the sun shines. Regrettably for his people, Chavez's attitude (in particular) seems to be 'apres moi, le deluge.'

John Edwards $400 (Discount) Hair Cuts

Rob has the story, and video:

Beverly Hills hairstylist Joseph Torrenueva is the man behind the scissors, and $400 isn’t the most he’s charged Edwards for a cut. During the 2004 campaign, Edwards once paid $1,250 for a haircut and on two other occasions spent $500. He also paid for Torrenueva’s travel expenses because he needed to fly to Atlanta, Washington and Cincinnati to service his client.

I can't believe Edwards can get his hair in order in just 2 minutes. I usually block out at least a half hour.

Undermining Thompson

Congratulations Fred, on being such a strong candidate. It means that your opponents -- both in the primary and the general election -- are doing their best to take you down a notch before you announce. First it was your lobbying, now it's your role in Watergate:

Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.

"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

Since this criticism invokes the most sacred holiday on the NY Times/Washington Post calendar -- Watergate -- we can expect that Thompson will be raked over the coals on this one, in much the same way that the anti-war Left is vicariously reliving the 'glory' of Vietnam through Iraq. This piece even links Thompson's alleged 'leaker' role in the Watergate investigation to his support for clemency for Scooter Libby:
But the story of his role in the Nixon case helps put in perspective Thompson's recent stance as one of the most outspoken proponents of pardoning I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Just as Thompson once staunchly defended Nixon, Thompson urged a pardon for Libby, who was convicted in March of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked a CIA operative's name.

The Globe goes on to explain that Thompson earned his place in history partly over what is portrayed as a more or less random event -- that a Republican aide asked the question that led to the revelation of an Oval Office taping system:

On July 13, 1973, Armstrong, the Democratic staffer, asked Butterfield a series of questions during a private session that led up to the revelation. He then turned the questioning over to a Republican staffer, Don Sanders, who asked Butterfield the question that led to the mention of the taping system.

To the astonishment of everyone in the room, Butterfield admitted the taping system existed.

When Thompson learned of Butterfield's admission, he leaked the revelation to Nixon's counsel, J. Fred Buzhardt.

"Even though I had no authority to act for the committee, I decided to call Fred Buzhardt at home" to tell him that the committee had learned about the taping system, Thompson wrote. "I wanted to be sure that the White House was fully aware of what was to be disclosed so that it could take appropriate action."

Armstrong said he and other Democratic staffers had long been convinced that Thompson was leaking information about the investigation to the White House. The committee, for example, had obtained a memo written by Buzhardt that Democratic staffers believed was based on information leaked by Thompson...

Baker, meanwhile, insisted that Thompson be allowed to ask Butterfield the question about the taping system in a public session on July 16, 1973, three days after the committee had learned about the system.

The choice of Thompson irked Samuel Dash, the Democratic chief counsel on the committee, who preferred that a Democrat be allowed to ask the question. "I personally resented it and felt cheated," Dash wrote in his memoirs. But he said he felt he had "no choice but to let Fred Thompson develop the Butterfield material" because the question initially had been posed by Sanders, a Republican staffer.

When Dash told Thompson on the day of the hearing that he had agreed to let Thompson ask the question that would change US history, Thompson replied: "That's right generous of you, Sam."

There's not an atmosphere much more partisan and adversarial than impeachment, and Thompson obviously gave the benefit of the doubt to the President when he ought not have. That charged climate led Dash to feel 'cheated' that it was a Republican who revealed the existence of the taping system, rather than a Democrat. History suggests it was the right decision however, since it ultimately helped lead Republicans to abandon narrow partisan advantage in favor of a bipartisan stance that led to Nixon's resignation.

Regardless of what they thought about Nixon at the start of the proceeding, Thompson and Baker were ultimately instrumental in forcing Nixon's resignation rather than have the nation endure an impeachment trial. Warts and all, this is a good example of how we should ask leaders to conduct themselves during a time of crisis like impeachment.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

China to be Largest IPO Issuer in 2007

More signs of the continued growth of China, and its rise to prominence on the world stage:

Capital raised by new listings in China is set to exceed $52bn this year, twice the figure forecast in January, putting the mainland on track to become the world’s leading centre for share offerings this year.

The potential sums raised in primary and secondary listings this year underscore the huge liquidity in China’s domestic stock market and will heighten fears in Hong Kong, London and New York that they will no longer continue to benefit from hosting mainland IPOs.

Forget Iran and Iraq; our next President better know how to handle China. Whoever he (or she) is, let's hope for policies that allow American companies to weave their way deep into the Chinese economy and culture.

Congratulations, John Edwards

Courtesy of Red State.

Takeru Kobayashi is In


Six-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi, still unable to open his mouth wide enough for a typical teeth cleaning, joined favorite Joey Chestnut at a Tuesday weigh-in before their Fourth of July hot dog eating showdown in Brooklyn's Coney Island neighborhood.

The Japanese title holder declared himself ready to gorge, dismissing suggestions by skeptics that his stiff jaw was nothing more than hot dog head games aimed at rattling world record holder Chestnut.

"I don't care what they think," the 29-year-old said through an interpreter. "I just want to battle tomorrow."

This ought to be a tremendous clash. The Nathan's site is here.

Watch it on ESPN at noon.

Update: In a true yecch-fest, Joey Chestnut set a new world's record with 66 hot dogs consumed -- bettering Kobayashi who ate 'just' 63.

I've also included a picture of personal lifestyle cop Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who wants laws to force you to eat healthy -- and who was also at the contest. Guess that's how puritans have fun.

Happy Independence Day!

Rick Moran liveblogs the Continental Congress, while CA Yankee chronicles gives us the Declaration. Check out Matthew Spalding, too.

John Edwards & the Rise in C-Sections

Was talking to a friend the other day who was curious about the rise in C-sections in Northern Virginia. I told him he just ought to thank John Edwards. This issue got a fair amount of attention a few years ago, and this isn't a bad time to bring it up:

Medical malpractice was his specialty, and he reportedly tried more than 60 such cases, winning more than $1 million in over half of those. Most involved Ob/gyns. Indeed, he was so feared, according to the Center for Public Integrity, "that doctors would settle cases for millions of dollars rather than face him at trial."

Edwards' specialty was cerebral palsy, a set of permanent conditions affecting control of movement and posture that usually appear at toddler stage. There is no cure, although stem cell studies in both humans (umbilical cord cells) and rats (neural cells) have produced promising results. More than 10,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with it yearly. Edwards claimed the disease developed because negligent doctors ignored fetal heart monitors indicating the child might not be getting enough air during birth and thus failed to deliver it immediately through cesarean surgery.

The rise in C-sections isn't limited to my region (around Washington D.C.) ABC news recently reported that it's up 40 percent nationwide:

The World Health Organization has said the ideal rate for c-sections would be about 15 percent of all births. But in this country, final figures for 2004 — the last year for which data is available — show the national rate is nearly 30 percent of all births.

American women have more c-sections than women in the United Kingdom, Canada and many European countries.

So what gives? Why are so many women having c-sections instead of delivering their babies the old fashioned way? It turns out the answer is very complicated. There is no one single reason behind the rising numbers.

No one single reason, but litigation is right up there:

And, for doctors, the threat of lawsuits also comes into play. Obstetricians are among the most vulnerable to litigation if something goes wrong in the delivery room. Choosing to perform a c-section, in some cases, can help reduce the possibility of being sued.

"They're never faulted for doing a c-section," said Faith Frieden, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey. "It's never the wrong decision to do a c-section. No one's ever going to say to them, 'why were you so quick to do the cesarean section?'

"Usually what happens is, if anything goes wrong, then they're questioned later on, 'wouldn't it have been better if you did the cesarean section a little sooner?' 'Why didn't you do the c-section?' 'Wouldn't that have been the easiest way to deliver this baby — the less traumatic way to deliver this baby?'" Frieden explained.

Well, so long as the procedure is elected to reduce the risks to mother and child, right? Wrong:

...And while the number of women and infants who die during childbirth is very small, studies have found that mothers and babies are more likely to die during or after a cesarean delivery. That may be, in part, due to the condition in which the mother enters the operating room, but it is a sobering statistic, nonetheless.

"I think we're engaged in a great big uncontrolled experiment as to what happens when cesarean section rates rise," said Plante.

As a public health issue, many doctors worry that it is costing the health care system — and, therefore, all of us — more money to have so many women delivering by c-section and staying in the hospital for longer recoveries. Some say it is an unnecessary drain on resources.

The article excerpted above -- by Michael Fumento -- goes further than ABC is willing to:

Now here's the horrible kicker: A Swedish report released in December found that emergency cesarean delivery increased the odds of cerebral palsy by a statistically significant 80 percent. It's bad for the mother, too. Another 2006 study, in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that moms with cesareans had more than three-and-a-half times the chance of dying shortly after childbirth than those who had vaginal delivery.

"Some of the increased risks for the mother include possible infection of the uterus and nearby pelvic organs; increased bleeding; blood clots in the legs, pelvic organs and sometimes the lungs, says the March of Dimes. Further, cesarean birth "is more painful, is more expensive, and takes longer to recover from than a vaginal birth," says the group.

It's reprehensible that John Edwards made a fortune encouraging a procedure that seems to be overused, and likely to increase risks. He could at least show some shame.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

AMLO's Stubbornness Has Hurt Future Prospects

There was a ton of attention a year ago to Mexico's incredibly narrow Presidential election, in which the conservative candidate defeated socialist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than a percentage point. A year later, a Bloomberg poll shows that President Felipe Calderon has gained a lot of ground:

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who was elected a year ago by a margin of less than 0.6 percentage point, is gaining support, a poll taken by El Universal newspaper says.

When asked which candidate they would vote today for in a replay of last year's election, 45 percent picked Calderon, compared with 31 percent for former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The poll underscores how Calderon's military war on drug traffickers has boosted his popularity and Lopez Obrador's street protests alienated moderate supporters. During a rally yesterday in downtown Mexico City Lopez Obrador urged legislators to block bills backed by Calderon.

Mexican presidents are limited to one 6-year term under the nation's constitution, so Calderon cannot run again in 2012. AMLO however, hoped to delegitimize Calderon's victory and make himself a heavy favorite in 2012. Looks like that plan isn't working all that well.

Fundraising Shows Romney's Campaign Sputtering

Soren is dead on. The thing is, the 'McCain campaign is failing' headline got written yesterday, and it's hard for the media to fit in two such headline simultaneously:

Ok. Mitt Romney was supposed to be the money king. But he only raised $2.8m more than John McCain, according to AP. Between Q1 and Q2 Romney raised, including the $9m from himself, about $44m. And now he has $12m COH.

That means that Romney spent $32m, with about $20m in Q2.

And CBS still puts him at 6% nationwide.

That is shocking. This is a failure to meet expectations on par or greater than John McCain’s. And there is no question at all that Rudy Giuliani will raise more and have more CoH than Romney.

Update: I found another way to think about this. If Mitt Romney hadn’t cut himself about $9m in checks, he would have $3m CoH. And having $2m CoH has been viewed as a meltdown for McCain, who was never supposed to be any good at fundraising anyways. The only reason Romney is in this race is that he can cut himself big checks. Combine that with the 6%, the campaign looks to be sputtering.

Question: if McCain had held his numbers until today (as Romney did) would we be talking about Romney and McCain both underperforming? That would have been a much better outcome for McCain than what he has now.

Romney's numbers are covered here and here.

Update: Rudy's team sends the following E-mail:

The Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee reported today it has outraised every other Republican campaign and has over $18 million cash on hand. The campaign raised over $17 million in the second quarter, for both the primary and general election, and ended the quarter with zero debt.

The second quarter fundraising totals highlighted the Giuliani campaign’s growing momentum and commitment to discipline and efficiency with campaign dollars.

The campaign both outraised first quarter totals by more than $2 million and doubled the number of individual donors. Contributions have been received from all fifty states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

“We are thrilled by our fundraising this quarter and are running a strong and efficient campaign. We are well positioned to win both the primary and the general elections,” said Giuliani Campaign Manager Michael DuHaime, “and we are serious about being good stewards with the money that has been entrusted to us.”

Deputy Campaign Manager Anne Dunsmore added, “Since joining Team Rudy, I have been increasingly encouraged by the response to Rudy’s message across the country. That strong support translates into an increase in the number of events, donors and dollars which will allow us not only to compete and win the primary, but to win the general election.”

$18 million cash on hand looks pretty good in this field. Does it point to a Rudy-Thompson showdown?

Update II: Hugh Hewitt thinks Romney had the best quarter of any GOP candidate (no surprise there), but I think Soren's point is inescapable.

Update III: Mr. Romney's campaign is paying close attention. They send the following comment:

"I saw your post on our fundraising numbers and wanted to point out the
crucial distinction between primary and general funds. See Jonathan
Martin's post below
for details."

Here's an update: Of the $17 million Rudy raised this quarter, about $2
million was in general funds - money he can't use in the primarycampaign, an aide said.

Included in his $18 million cash on hand is around $3 million in general dollars.

So Rudy raised significantly more than Romney, and has more on hand to spend in the primary -- but he has to wait until a general to spend $2 million of what he has. Still sounds like a Giuliani advantage to me. Of course, nothing changes the fact that Romney has deeper pockets, and can probably write a check to his campaign that would erase the Giuliani edge in this area.

Salute to a Dad Who Knows What's Important

Derek Fisher of the Utah Jazz got a lot of attention during the NBA playoffs, when he remained at a New York hospital during his 10-month old daughter's surgery for eye cancer, only to fly to Utah for a playoff game the same night against the Golden State Warriors.

Now Fisher has asked for -- and received -- a release from his contract commitment to the Jazz, so that he can relocate full time to a city where his daughter can get the care she needs:

The Utah Jazz agreed to release guard Derek Fisher from his contract Monday so he can concentrate on finding the best care for his 11-month-old daughter, who has cancer in her left eye.

Fisher said he wants to live in one of the six or seven cities being considered for Tatum's care.

He didn't rule out playing for another NBA team but emphasized that his daughter's health is his No. 1 priority.

"Life for me outweighs the game of basketball," Fisher told reporters after flying from New York to meet with Jazz owner Larry H. Miller and other team executives.

"When it comes to decisions related to them," he said of his family, "I do what's best."

This had to be as difficult a decision for the Jazz as it was for Fisher. They've lost a significant basketball asset for nothing -- not a move that typically helps teams and coaches. Fisher on the other hand, will be free to sign with another NBA team; he will undoubtedly be compensated just fine for his work -- if that's what he chooses.

Still, it couldn't be easy to give up a sure thing in favor of more time with a family that needs him. It's heartening to see him make the right choice.

Hillary: Electoral Poison

Well, perhaps not quite that bad. But Mason-Dixon's latest poll suggests she'll have a hard time getting to 50% in a general:

More than half of Americans say they wouldn't consider voting for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president if she becomes the Democratic nominee, according to a new national poll made available to McClatchy Newspapers and NBC News.

The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that 52 percent of Americans wouldn't consider voting for Clinton, D-N.Y. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, was second in the can't-stand-'em category, with 46 percent saying they wouldn't consider voting for him.

Clinton has long been considered a politically polarizing figure who would be a tough sell to some voters, especially many men, but also Clinton-haters of both genders.

Thursday's survey provides a snapshot of the challenges she faces, according to Larry Harris, a Mason-Dixon principal.

"Hillary's carrying a lot of baggage," he said. "She's the only one that has a majority who say they can't vote for her."

Clinton rang up high negatives across the board, with 60 percent of independents, 56 percent of men, 47 percent of women and 88 percent of Republicans saying they wouldn't consider voting for her.

Wow. That's not very cheery for Democratic voters. Still, Democrats take heart that Hillary beats every likely Republican opponent in the latest Newsweek poll. In fact, she pulls anywhere between 50% and 55% of the vote -- in a sample that's 52% Democrat:

The overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on 1,001 adults and 831 registered voters. Results based on smaller subgroups are subject to larger margins of sampling error. The margin of error is plus/minus 7 percentage points for results based on 422 registered Democrats and Dem. leaners and plus/minus 8 percentage points for results based on 324 registered Republicans and Rep. leaners.

My favorite recent defense of Hillary as a strong candidate in the general election came from Representative Earl Pomeroy:

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who has won re-election since 1992 in a state that overwhelmingly favors the GOP in presidential elections, spoke very favorably of Clinton and noted that Republicans were attacking her awfully hard for someone they say they would prefer to run against.

It’s way too early to conclude that Hillary would be a disaster downballot for the party,” said Pomeroy, who is still mulling a 2008 endorsement.

So there: she won't necessarily be a down-ballot disaster. What more could the Democrats ask for?

Feel better now?

Update: CA Yankee has an excellent post on Hillary's problems over here.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Have pity on me, the poor Islander fan:

If you're old enough to recall the Islanders' dynasty, this perpetual swamp of questionable ownership, front-office bungling, and misfortune is utterly mindboggling. It's like former GM Bill Torrey and former owner John Pickett made a deal with the Devil for those four Cups and the bill has been coming due ever since. With each new development like the Smith hire-and-fire and the Smyth defection, the team's reputation as a backwater of ineptitude in a crumbling arena with a fair-weather fanbase continues to hinder the ability to sign the kind of marquee character players like Smyth and Drury who can help restore the franchise to some semblance of glory. Meanwhile, we're about to get a good indication if Snow has what it takes to be a top-shelf or even passable GM. Based on what he has to work with this summer, Nolan better have a first-class recipe for chicken salad in his breast pocket.

So take heart, ye Sabres and Devils partisans. Look at the losses of your stars this way: You could be an Islanders fan. Yes, there's nothing like other people's misery when you need a pick-me-up.

At least there's still more baseball.

Outsourcing Child Care

This is terrible:

Report: Many U.S. Parents Outsourcing Child Care Overseas

Reformed Jihadists

There's a fair amount of attention in the last few days to Hassan Butt -- the apparent 'reformed Jihadist.' (Check out for example, McQ or Allah.)

And though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim across the world, what drove me and many others to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice.

If we were interested in justice, you may ask, how did this continuing violence come to be the means of promoting such a (flawed) Utopian goal?

How do Islamic radicals justify such terror in the name of their religion?

There isn't enough room to outline everything here, but the foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a model of the world in which you are either a believer or an infidel.

But while Butt is attracting a good deal of attention, there is less notice of America's own converted Islamic warrior: Kamal Saleem. Saleem says that he changed his life when he was cared for by several Christians after a car accident.

One would think that there would be more stories like these.

No One Under 17 Admitted Without Parent

Free Online Dating

This blog gets an R rating?! I have to question the rating system.

The Ethanol Folly

Good piece from the Glenn Beck show, with Chris Horner of CEI:

Try not to look at the screen while watching; the audio isn't properly synched, so it's a little jarring.

Candidates Falling Behind on Web

The digital marketing agency icrossing has issued a report on voters' use of the internet to get information on issues and candidates. They report the following findings:

  • New media more essential than ever to politics. Forty-two percent of voters look to the Internet for information about issues and candidates in the upcoming presidential election, with the Internet a considerably more popular information source than newspapers among respondents between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • Almost half of online voters use search engines for political information. Forty-seven percent of those who go online for information about candidates and issues use search engines to conduct their research, equal to the 46 percent who do not; usage is roughly equal among Democratic, Republican and independent voters.
  • Traditional news organization and social media sites top candidate sites. Eighty-eight percent of those who use the Internet for information about candidates and issues in the 2008 presidential election visit sites of news organizations such as CNN and The New York Times and 42 percent go to a range of social media sites; only 30 percent go to candidate Web sites.
  • More than half of younger online voters are turning to social media for election information. Of potential voters who are looking for election information online, 61 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 55 percent of 25 to 34 year olds seek answers on user-driven content sites such as blogs, YouTube and Wikipedia.
  • Issues matter to voters, but candidates are not responding. Issue-oriented searches dominate over explorations of candidates’ voting and personal histories by a margin of nearly two to one; yet nearly all candidates rank poorly for issue-based search visibility.
  • Barack Obama and war in Iraq are tops in current candidate and issue searches. Obama attracts the largest share of searches among candidates in the survey of voter interest as of May 2008, topping Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. The war in Iraq is the most searched for issue.
  • eBay trumps McCain in paid search. John McCain currently dominates the overall paid search candidate landscape, but online auction house eBay still ranks first in paid search visibility for the tested issue-based keyword set.

I think that much of this is intuitive -- or at least, not too surprising -- with the exception of the nugget I highlighted about voters looking for information on issues. In retrospect, that makes sense as well -- but would not have occurred to me.

That is, while voters do search for information about the candidates, they search far more for information on the issues. If your campaign website is among the top results when people google 'war in Iraq,' your position will get more attention than that of your rivals. If voters instead wind up on the CNN page, or the New York Times, or Wikipedia, you've lost an opportunity to reach out to them.

According to the report, the top issue searches are: War in Iraq, Gas prices, Health care, Global warming, War on terror, Social Security, Immigration, Jobs, Economy, and Education.

How Bloggers Killed the Immigration Bill

The Wall Street Journal heralds the arrival of the conservative blogosphere:

But the immigration bill marked the first time conservative Web logs could claim to have targeted and derailed a major piece of legislation. The triumph underscored their increasing influence and signaled that the balance of online power may be evening out in the political arena.

The confluence of blogs and conservatives' dominance on radio is an especially potent mix. Talk-radio and conservative bloggers don't always work hand in hand, but they have been effective when they do.

The Bush administration was forced to withdraw former White House Counsel Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court after conservatives on talk radio and on blogs complained about the choice. Currently, the two are railing against talk by some Democrats about bringing back the "Fairness Doctrine," which required broadcasters to balance coverage on controversial topics.

Fred Thompson talks about the same topic here, at his blog.

Rolling Out the Dreamliner

Nothing exciting to do on a Sunday afternoon? Watch the rollout of the next big thing in commercial aviation.

And somebody with too much time on his hands created a video of the 787 final assembly. Watch it and tell me you don't want some steak:

And if that's not enough for you, check out the parts delivery:

More on the 'Terror Spectacular'

Courtesy of In From the Cold, where the 'former spook' makes a pretty good case for why the war in Iraq has made us safer. Even if creating democracy in the Middle East ultimately does not work, this war has eaten up tremendous resources of Al Qaeda, and has tied up men and materiel in Iraq -- rather than the US and Western Europe:

In short, Al Qaida is in something of a squeeze, and needs to prove that it's still capable of large-scale, "spectacular" attacks on the enemy's home soil. Conducting that sort of strike would not only bring in more money, it would also relieve pressure on the battlefield. In the U.S., another attack on the scale of 9-11 would intensify the debate over the Iraq War, spurring new calls for a troop withdrawal, to provide more security here at home...

And that's where ABC's reporting gets a little murky. Their "source" is drawing a parallel with the run-up to 9-11, but there's one problem with that scenario. During the summer of 2001, The National Security Agency (NSA) and other signals intelligence organizations picked up numerous references to an upcoming "match" or "wedding," code words for the pending attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. In the aftermath of of the failed London bombings last week, media reports suggested that their had been no prior "chatter" by terrorists or their sympathizers--just a brief, cryptic warning posted on the internet hours before the first bomb was discovered in the West End.

Have the terrorists changed their tactics? Possibly, but no organization--even Al Qaida--has perfect operational security. In the information age, even terrorists still like to talk, so there's the likelihood that we are hearing rumblings about the next "spectacular," but our spooks aren't giving away the details.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

House GOP Turns Tables on Immigration

The House Republicans are preparing to do the politically sensible thing, and push an 'enforcement only' immigration bill. If the reaction to the Senate comprehensive debate is any indication, this ought to help pull Republican voters together, while attracting support from at least some independents:

A draft of the Smith-King legislation includes an increase in the size of the Border Patrol and would boost the number of Customs and Border Protection Officers at U.S. ports by 1,000 people over four years. It would also expedite the removal of individuals in the country illegally, make English the national language and refine the system that verifies the identities of those applying for employment in the United States.

Some House Democrats, meanwhile, want to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.

Following the Senate vote last week, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, said in a release that Democratic leaders need to “improve the current unsatisfactory system.”

One of the reasons that the Senate went first on comprehensive immigration reform is that the House has too many Democrats in swing districts with tough races. None of them wanted to take a vote for amnesty, and some expressed clear preference for an enforcement only approach. And with 202 Republicans in the House, they only need 16 Democrats to make things very difficult on House Democrats. The move would force them to choose between labor and Hispanic interests, and moderates.

Update: It's been pointed out that 'labor' is by no means a slam-dunk constituency in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. True enough. Mickey has done a good job of explaining why. But while there definitely are some on the Left (and Right) whose primary concern is depressed wages, there are plenty who view CIR as an opportunity to expand union membership.

McCain's Predicament

While folks are in a dither about the paltry $2 million that John McCain has on hand for his presidential run, Tommy Thompson seems to be doing significantly better today.

I saw him this afternoon at Reagan National airport. He strode confident and alone -- with no media chasing him about his first quarter numbers. In fact, no one even spoke to him.

Although I'm not sure he had enough to cover his macchiato at Starbucks...

On a more serious note, I was one of those concerned about a potential McCain independent bid for the Presidency. How much things have changed. Anyone get the sense McCain would be a viable independent candidate in 2008?

Reclaiming Your (Virtual) Reputation

Rob has found an interesting article that puts a new spin on an old standard.

Tax-Hike Mike (Bloomberg)

Andrew Roth excerpts Pat Toomey's op-ed over at Club for Growth:

Mr. Bloomberg began his first term with a firm pledge not to raise taxes, declaring in his 2002 inaugural address: "We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot drive people and business out of New York. We cannot raise taxes. We will find another way." Seven months later, Mr. Bloomberg raised taxes on cigarettes [1875%] from eight cents to $1.50, followed by another 50-cent increase in 2006.

Mr. Bloomberg followed the initial cigarette tax hike by proposing a whopping 25% property-tax increase, eventually reduced to 18.5% by his Democratic City Council. In 2003, the "fiscally conservative" mayor added insult to injury by piling on a raise in the city's income and sales taxes. Although Mr. Bloomberg offered tax rebates and is now implementing property- and sales-tax cuts, this relief is small compared to the additional burden imposed on homeowners and businesses in his first term. A study by New York City's Independent Budget Office published this year concluded that the tax burden is 90% higher than the average of other major cities. Amazingly, Mr. Bloomberg appears indifferent to the effect his fiscal policies have on beleaguered taxpayers, justifying them, in part, by arguing that New York City is "a high-end product, maybe even a luxury product."

Naturally, these tax hikes went hand-in-hand with a dramatic increase in city-funded spending. Over his first term, spending increased by an average of 10% per year according to New York City's Independent Budget Office -- wildly outpacing inflation and population growth, easily surpassing the 2.84% average during Rudy Giuliani's two terms and even beating out David Dinkins's four-year spending spree.

Roll Call Considers Hillary's Reverse Coattails

Roll Call ($) considers the impact that the leading Democratic presidential contenders might have on down-ballot races. This is an important question, because the Democrats are now very heavily exposed in GOP-leaning Congressional districts. Democrats currently represent 61 House seats that Bush won in 2004; 47 are in seats that Bush won twice. By contrast, Republicans represent only 8 seats won by Kerry.

So it's important that Democrats nominate a candidate who won't drive up the turnout in GOP-leaning seats. That's a problem when your choices are Hillary, Edwards and Obama:

“Having her at the top of the ticket is just as polarizing as [President] Bush at the top of the ticket, even though the electorate right now is looking for a less polarizing figure,” Florida-based Democratic consultant Dave Beattie said.

Beattie said he believes Clinton can be elected president but if she competes in and wins largely the same states that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) did in 2004, she could have an adverse impact downballot on Democratic Members and candidates in states that aren’t competitive on the presidential level.

“I think that the problem with Hillary is there is a caricature of Hillary Clinton among conservative voters. Her campaign is about countering that caricature,” Beattie said. “But where the caricature is strongest, where it’s going to hurt the most, they’re going to be doing the least to counter it...”

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who has won re-election since 1992 in a state that overwhelmingly favors the GOP in presidential elections, spoke very favorably of Clinton and noted that Republicans were attacking her awfully hard for someone they say they would prefer to run against.

“It’s way too early to conclude that Hillary would be a disaster downballot for the party,” said Pomeroy, who is still mulling a 2008 endorsement...

“It’s a huge motivator for our base,” said one GOP operative. “Keep in mind where we need to win. We need to regain Republican territory and in those particular districts our base is larger than theirs is.”

Not surprisingly, backers of Obama and Edwards seem to agree.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), an early supporter of Obama and also the recruitment chairman at the DCCC, said vulnerable Members in Southern states have expressed private concerns about the top of the ticket.

“They think Barack Obama would be stronger in their district than Hillary Clinton would be,” Davis said, asserting that the Illinois Senator has the broadest appeal, while Clinton’s strength is with rank-and-file Democrats.

Edwards, meanwhile, is campaigning on electability and vowing to expand the 2008 battleground into Southern territory...

Still, while the one-term Senator from North Carolina might appear on paper to have the best-selling assets in conservative states, his campaign has focused on liberal and populist themes that put him to the left of his two major rivals. He has renounced his vote in favor of authorizing the Iraq War and said he doesn’t believe there is a global war on terror — not a message that resonates well with the conservative Southern electorate.

“Edwards has the best demographic profile in the general election, but he will end up having the least sellable ideological profile in the general election,” noted one GOP consultant...

Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who has not endorsed any of the candidates, put it this way: “I’d a whole lot rather have to defend Hillary Clinton than George Bush in my district.”

Still, he’s holding out hope that former Vice President Al Gore, a Tennessee native, eventually will enter the race.

Congressman Davis is laboring under a misimpression. Republican candidates won't be defending him. They will be drawing distinctions.

There are no apt analogies in recent memory to this election year -- no year when the incumbent president's party nominated someone with no link to the sitting president. But think about 1992 and 2000, when the two parties nominated vice presidents. Even in those years, the election was primarily about the nominee -- not the incumbent. In 1976, Gerald Ford almost won -- even though he was Nixon's Vice President, and was tarred with Watergate and Vietnam. No -- the GOP won't be 'defending Bush' -- at least not in the way Davis means.

Apart from that, Hillary and Edwards -- who is the furthest left of the top tier Democratic candidates -- will be a GOP dream for driving up turnout. In the charged atmosphere of a presidential election year, either will drive up GOP turnout.

And while Obama is extremely liberal himself, his manner -- and the fact that he is African American -- make it harder for me to guess whether he'll be different in that respect.

Lieberman, the Republican

The AP has a story about Chris Dodd's attempt to get traction in the Democratic presidential race. Their basic message is that he doesn't bring anything to the table that sets him apart from the other candidates. Tucked away is this goody:

If some of Dodd's material is dated, aides say his views, particularly on the unpopular war, are attuned with liberal Democrats young and old in early nominating states. Dodd has enlisted anti-war darling Ned Lamont, whom bloggers helped defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman in last year's Democratic primary in Connecticut.

Lamont lost the general election to the newly independent Lieberman, but remains popular among activists and drew as many people as Dodd during his early trips to New Hampshire. The bloggers haven't yet adopted Dodd as their man, however.

I ask again: does Joe Lieberman intend to run for re-election in 2012 in this Democratic party? If so, he'll be in trouble -- since the Democrats will probably run a real candidate against him -- someone who'll win the Democratic vote and fight for Republicans and Independents.

Our Friends, the Italians

Thanks, buddy:

The Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Italian Senate Lamberto Dini met with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Saeed Jalili.

Dini expressed concerns over ongoing developments in Lebanon and Palestine and stressed the importance of finding appropriate solutions to the conflicts as well as bolstering Iran-Italy cooperation in this regard...

The Italian senator highlighted Iran's right to access peaceful nuclear energy based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and described as 'positive' the talks recently held between Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and the EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana.

He added there is no justification for installation of the US defense shield in Europe, saying it is merely aimed to impose restrictions on Russia.

Would You Buy Foreign Policy From This Woman?

CodePink is upset because Senator Lieberman apparently canceled a meeting with them a few weeks ago. Well, watch the video and tell me - can you blame him?

The highlight occurs at about 6:04 if you're counting down to the end, or 3:50 or so if you're counting up from the start. It's a segment with the activist pictured at right, where she tearfully talks about Iran's history as a peace-loving nation, and how beautifully she was treated by the Iranians wherever she went, and how they could never pose any threat to the US.

It's pathetic.

By the way -- the woman pictured is the one who reportedly collapsed in Lieberman's office.

Update: HotAir covers the hunger striker who passed out.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

DHS Fears Terror Spectactular

US intelligence agencies and law enforcement has to be right 100 percent of the time; Al Qaeda only needs to be right once. There's the best reason to expect that there will again be a successful terror attack in the US:

A secret U.S. law enforcement report, prepared for the Department of Homeland Security, warns that al Qaeda is planning a terror "spectacular" this summer, according to a senior official with access to the document.

"This is reminiscent of the warnings and intelligence we were getting in the summer of 2001," the official told

There's not much here to affect the way you live your life -- no specifics about number of attacks, timing, possible nature of the attacks -- or anything. And it's important to remember that chatter has been described as approaching pre-9/11 levels several times since those attacks -- to no effect, so far.

Let's hope and pray this turns out the same.

Indian Engineering Centers Moving to California

No joke:

The rising cost of paying engineers in Bangalore has prompted at least one Silicon Valley start-up to save money by closing its Indian engineering centre and moving the jobs back to California.

While this “reverse offshoring” remains unusual, it points to a broader belief in the US technology industry that the savings that drove software engineering jobs to India’s technology capital are quickly eroding., a search engine company that uses image recognition software to find pictures on the web, took the step of closing in India after seeing the wages of top-level engineers in some cases rise close to US levels.

“Bangalore wages have just been growing like crazy,” Munjal Shah, chief executive, complained in a blog post. In the next few months, would have had to lift the salary of one of its Bangalore engineers to 75 per cent of the US level, even though the same engineer earned only 20 per cent as much as an equivalent US-based worker two years ago, Mr Shah said.

It's almost as if there's this crazy... international labor market -- and higher value skills and greater value added lead to higher wages. And then when companies no longer save money by locating jobs abroad, the potential actually exists for them to return to the US.

The notion that offshoring or outsourcing ever constituted a major threat to the US labor market -- let alone US prosperity -- was always overblown. People always fear that companies will go wherever they can to cheaper labor. But the US has huge advantages over other nations in lots of areas -- transparency, low taxes, English proficiency (more or less), great infrastructure, skilled workforce, and proximity to the world's largest consumer market. Companies have a hard time rejecting those advantages; the wage difference needs to be awfully great to overcome them.

You might well ask (as the rest of the world does) how they can hope to compete with the US.

Google Maps Gets Better

Bye, bye Mapquest:

"Benchmarks Without Consequences are Meaningless"

The phrase above is the justification that Democrats have repeated endlessly for withdrawing from Iraq. They told us that what we are doing did not work, and so we ought to stop wasting lives and money (although they get techy about the word 'waste'.

But if you're not talking about Iraq -- if you're talking about any domestic program, then the answer to a failed policy is to increase spending:

Now Congress is about to wave its wand over nearly $1 trillion of additional "discretionary" spending that will, among other things, perpetuate or increase funding for nearly 500 expenditure programs that are not even "moderately effective," according to the Office of Management and Budget. This includes more than 200 expenditure programs that have failing grades of D or F.

By our calculations, the OMB study, called Program Assessment Ratings Tool (PART), further reveals that on average more than half of all federal expenditure programs are falling about 50% short of their stated goals. This means that out of every dollar spent, 50 cents may possibly be accomplishing something worthwhile, but the remaining 50 cents might as well have been poured down a rat hole. In these cases alone, the cost of government incompetence is over $250 billion per year...

Furthermore, federal budgeting is not about spending as little as possible and trying to make certain that each $1 spent produces at least $1 of public benefit. Instead, it is about spending the maximum amount in the most politically efficacious way.

The best new idea in Washington is a question: Is an ever bigger federal government making the American people better off or worse off?

I commented earlier this year (although I can't find it now) that Congressional Republicans ought to remember that benchmarks phrase and be prepared to use it over and over again, for every one of the many instances where Democrats increased funding for failing programs.

How about it?

Terror Makes For Good Business

Most people aren't aware that one of the bigger financial impacts of the 9/11 attacks was on the insurance industry. The federal government enacted the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act to protect insurance companies from catastrophic loss in the event of massive claims related to a future terror attack. The act was extended for two years in 2005, and is up for reauthorization this year. Behind the scenes, it is one of the more high-stake lobbying priorities of the year:

Big insurers won the first round in the battle over extending the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, when two Democrats introduced a provision within the bill that would add coverage for nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological (NBCR) attacks.

Massachusetts Reps. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Michael E. Capuano introduced the legislation on June 18. House sources expect it will pass there but have no idea how it will fare in the Senate; if the bill passes there, it could still fail, because the Bush administration opposes TRIA's extension.

Steve Adamske, Frank's press secretary, said the congressman included the NBCR provision because it is not available anywhere in the private market "and will probably will never be available in the private market."

It's my impression that TRIA doesn't cost taxpayers much, unless a successful terror attack requires the outlay of significant federal dollars to back up claims.

Of course, if there were a successful terror attack and there was no such thing as TRIA, the federal government would step in anyway, to ensure the money was there for reconstruction. So it could be that TRIA actually saves us money -- by ensuring the availability of private reconstruction dollars through insurers, that would otherwise be borne by the federal government.

I just find it interesting to see examples of how deeply and completely the federal government touches our lives every day.

Is China Changing?

That's certainly what this appointment is intended to communicate -- particularly in advance of the upcoming Beijing Olympics:

China’s government has appointed a second non-Communist cabinet minister as the party seeks to burnish its reformist credentials before this year’s five-yearly congress and next year’s Beijing Olympic Games.

French-trained scientist Chen Zhu, 54, was named health minister, handing him a difficult and sensitive portfolio at a time when the sector is debating extensive reform.

But the manner of Mr Chen’s appointment underlined the limits of his real powers, even as a minister – in theory, the top job in the health bureaucracy.

In a puzzling move, Gao Qiang, the present minister, was retained both as a vice-minister and as the secretary of the ministry’s Communist party committee, meaning he will continue to outrank the minister...

Mr Chen’s appointment follows that of Wan Gang, a German-trained engineer who worked at Audi for many years who was made science minister this year.