Saturday, August 11, 2007

Will Bush Veto the Lobbying Reform Bill?

There's been no word on whether the President has signed or vetoed the lobbying reform bill sent to him by Congress. Turns out, there's good reason. Congress is concerned he'll veto it, so they haven't sent it yet:

“We’re still discussing how to proceed,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We’re still trying to get a better handle from the White House on whether the president’s actually going to veto this bill.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow criticized the conference agreement on the measure (S 1) on Aug. 2, the day the Senate cleared it for the president, because he said earmark-disclosure provisions had been “considerably weakened.”

Snow singled out for scorn a provision that would give the majority leader or the relevant committee chairman the power to determine whether an earmark list accompanying a bill was complete.

The Congressional leadership calls this an 'ethics' bill, but that's not really accurate. It has only a limited impact on how Representatives and Senators do their work. Even Speaker Pelosi's summary isn't able to show much of an impact on Members' activities. Apparently in the ethics cases of Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, Bill Jefferson and... many others, it was the lobbyists who were at fault. As such, there's no outside ethics review body, no provision for outside groups to file complaints against Members... no teeth to speak of.

It also doesn't help that leaders chickened out on meaningful reform of earmarks, as the White House has pointed out.

It must be very tempting for the White House to consider vetoing this. As it is, the bill is a political document that does little to clean up the Congress. Signing it gives the Democratic leadership a free pass. They get the credit for ethics reform without actually doing any work. A veto might at least force them to consider real changes.

Romney Wins Ames -- Or Does He?

Soren does a good job of sorting through the Ames tea leaves:

We are moving in to a weird situation with the conservative votes getting split many different ways. At the same time, Cox, Hunter, Thompson, etc. all need to get out. Ron Paul doesn’t really get a bump.

The interesting dynamic going forward will be whether Brownback and Huckabee go after each other or they go after Romney. Or Fred Thompson…

Giuliani (and to a lesser extent McCain) has got to be thrilled. With no clear opponent coming out of this, although Romney is the strongest, he can go forward, while the conservatives in the race still have to figure out how to cut up the field for themselves.

And he highlights this observation from Patrick Ruffini:

Mitt Romney wins, but by just a shade more than George W. Bush did in 1999 when facing Steve Forbes, who threw millions at the straw poll, and against a far more formidable Ames field overall.

Red on Red

Or in this case, is it blue on blue? Either way, I love to see the Left eat its own. This time it's on Alexander Cockbrun's plate:

The Democrats control the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have stopped the bill in its tracks if she’d really wanted to. But she didn’t. The Democrats’ game is to go along with the White House agenda while stirring up dust storms to blind the base..

Uh-oh -- looks like Cockburn is on to something.

But he also tosses cold water on one of the favorite ideas of the extreme Left:

The left is as easily distracted, currently by the phantasm of impeachment. Why all this clamor to launch a proceeding surely destined to fail, aimed at a duo who will be out of the White House in sixteen months anyway?

Now is the winter of the Democrats' discontent. They've got power, and now people expect something of them...

Lute's Comments Show Support for Draft on Left

It's amazing. In recent years, we've seen John Kerry allege that President Bush planned to reinstate the draft, and we've seen senior Democrats such as Charlie Rangel and John Murtha call specifically for reinstatement of the draft. And now that 'War Czar' General Douglas Lute state that the draft 'has always been an option on the table,' Democrats again have their mouths watering.

First, Lute's statement makes clear that while it's worth considering, the military is fine right now, thanks:

I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another. Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well. It would be a major policy shift - not actually a military, but a political policy shift to move to some other course...

But on the Left, there seems to be a clamoring for an end to the all-volunteer military.


Center for American Progress analysts Lawrence Korb and Max Bergmann wrote recently, “Considering the current state of the Army, if the president wants to sustain a substantial number of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the next 18 months, he should call for reinstating the draft. … Yet the president will never call for the draft. He knows the country would never support the level of sacrifice for this war that implementing a draft would demand.”

DailyKos is the most emphatic, as usual. He's positively praying for people to believe that the war against terror is impossible without a draft:

There's only so much that war supporters are willing to do in their might and heroic struggle against Islamofacism. For example, they're willing to endlessly talk macho. But they're not willing to, you know, actually wear combat boots.

This clash of civilizations is only the Most Important Struggle Of Our Time as long as they don't actually have to do anything about it. That's for the poor shlubs who signed up to deal with.

What percentage of today's military has volunteered for enlistment (or re-enlistment) since September 2001? It's probably pretty high, since the longest Army tours (I am told) include six years of active duty. The math says that most of today's Army signed up since September 11. So it's not as if all of our men and women in uniform enlisted thinking that the Army is a country club, and instead were surprised to find themselves being sent into conflict. Rather, most of them volunteered with their eyes open as to what was ahead.

Further, many of those who support the war in Iraq are among those fighting it. So when people like Kos challenge those who believe in the war to fight it... they are. Does Kos think Scott Beauchamp is the rule, or the exception?

Comments from Left Field thinks a draft will be essential for those who want to extend the surge past early next year:

So anyone serious about continuing the surge past early next year must seriously consider a draft.

Yet, for this bit of candor, I suspect it will be quite awhile before we hear from the War Czar again.

It's hard to develop war strategy based on the conusel of a war opponent of course, and this post shows why: how likely is it that the draft could be reinstated and yield significant increases in troop levels within the next 9 months?

This is all splitting hairs, of course. Those on the Left oppose the action in Iraq, and oppose the War on Terror. They want those efforts to be tremendously unpalatable to the public in general. So they advocate the draft and tax increases, figuring those will undercut public support. It angers them that the military leadership says the current effort is sustainable, just as it angers them that the budget is approaching balance -- even with the cost of fighting the war.

Saturday Novak

As usual, worth the read. Among other things, he offers a reminder that the national polls on both sides in the presidential race are of limited value. Rather, you must consider the standing of candidates in the early states, where Obama and Romney are stronger than suggested by simply a look at the national polls:


Democratic insiders who are not neutral in the presidential race do not take seriously the USA Today/Gallup poll of Democratic voters showing Sen. Hillary Clinton 23 percentage points ahead of Sen. Barack Obama. They contend national surveys are meaningless because outcomes of the early state contests are still critical.

State polls show a virtual three-way tie among Clinton, Obama and former Sen. John Edwards in Iowa's early caucuses. Clinton has only a narrow lead over Obama in New Hampshire's opening primary. Obama has moved slightly ahead in the latest survey for South Carolina, the next primary state.

A footnote: Mitt Romney collects only 6 percent in the USA Today/Gallup national poll of Republicans but leads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Obama Sings 'Mexico Lindo'

Go check it out over at Hot Air.

Alejandro Fernandez does a far superior job. Doesn't win him any votes, though:

Congressional Navel Gazing

I don't know Winslow Wheeler, but he has a piece worth reading in the Politico:

The outcome is painfully clear – just like it is every year. Democrats will give Bush the spending increases he wants in the parts of the already bloated defense budget, which have nothing to do with the war. In return Democrats will receive spending on their politically favored goodies: children’s health care and a litany of other domestic spending – all to be supplemented with a bout of bridge repair and infrastructure reconstruction. It all adds up to an uncoordinated spending spasm about to hit the public’s pocketbook with a vengeance...

The other problem is, of course, the war. Having failed to confront President Bush with any real obstruction to his mangled and mangling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Democrats, who it will be recalled were elected on a platform to do something about it, would like us to think there will be some sort of titanic confrontation in September when President Bush’s latest “last hope” in the form of General Petraeus gives his much ballyhooed report. The politically attuned general will clearly report to his approving boss and the nation that he and the president’s surge have made oh so much progress and now – rather, then – will be no time for Congress to pull out the funding rug. The vast majority of Congress will then be frozen in the headlights of General Petraeus’ implied promise that just a few more months of war will mean something new in Iraq.

The Democrats will cave to the requirement for more war funding without limiting conditions; they have to. They have failed and will fail (by not trying) to put together a winning anti-war coalition by embracing enough Republicans to override a Bush veto. Triumphant in their defeat, the Democrats will blame Bush and the Republicans for refusing to join then, and then they will adjourn Congress. They’ll say they wish they could have done more, but George W. Bush just wouldn’t give way.

Absent the snark and editorializing, there's a very good chance that this is just how things will go. Certainly it's not unusual for the President and Congress to settle funding fights by having each side give the other what it wants. On war funding, Wheeler simply predicts an extension of what has happened so far. On the war and on FISA -- in short, on every security/terrorism issue -- this Congress has tried to avoid blame and responsibility by talking tough and giving in to the President. (Politically, it's the safest thing to do.)

The one caveat I'd offer is that the Democratic Congress is not really likely to have the chance to pull funding for Iraq. Or put more specifically, at present it will take an affirmative act to withdraw funds, not provide them. The war is funded through the first part of next year. The normal FY08 defense funding bill -- which could be a vehicle for tying the President's hand on Iraq -- has already passed the House. The debate surrounding the bill contains the usual bluster, but it's highly unlikely that Congress will actually use it to try to change Iraq policy. And if it does, the veto always awaits.

So as Wheeler predicts, September will be full of sound and fury, signifying... next to nothing.

So Cal to Suffer Thousands of Deaths in Next Big Quake

If you live in Southern California, a USGS seismologist says that a huge quake is far overdue:

"There will be several thousand dead and billions of dollars in damage," said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey and a member of the California Seismic Safety Commission. She also said a devastating quake could topple buildings as far away as Los Angeles...

Historically, major temblors have struck the Coachella Valley every 150 years, on average, but for reasons no one can explain, it's been quiet for 300 years.

"Whatever it is that makes for a long interval is happening now, and we know that long interval can't last forever," Jones said. "This is an overdue fault."

Another reminder that you should be stocked up on water, non-perishable foods, radio, sleeping bags and all those other things that Glenn always recommends.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Funny

Adventures of Bumbo. I feel like I should know what Bumbo is...

Watch em both; there's no question the kid can act. Hang around at least until you see the dog take out the clone with his laser (in part II).

Ready Set Bumbo


Hat Tip: Bag O'Glass

Kaus On Iraq

A piece worth reading from Mickey. He wonders whether Bush's second-term legacy will amount to refusing to sieve the half-a-loaf solution when it's available to him:

One way to characterize Bush's second term in domestic policy is that he's consistently moved to Plan B too late to salvage anything from the demise of his Plan A. That was certainly the case on Social Security reform, and in all probability will be the final story on immigration. Will he replicate that misjudgment on Iraq?

He also recommends a piece from Fred Kaplan that he believes offers 'the sound position:'

Back in the spring of 2004, when Galbraith first proposed splitting Iraq into a loose federation of three ethnic enclaves, I criticized the idea. He did have a point. "Iraq" was an artifice from its outset, the product of a scheme to widen the British Empire in the wake of the First World War. When the American-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, it also imploded the artifice of a unified Iraqi nation, and there was no way to put the monster back together. It would be better, Galbraith argued, to let the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds govern themselves in autonomous regions, with a central authority doing little more than equitably distributing oil revenue...

My objections remain, but the context has changed. Amputation seems a terrible idea when one's limbs are still flexing. It's a bit more palatable when the alternative is death, and, in Iraq, the gangrene is spreading...

Before they withdraw, U.S. troops could try to help minorities relocate into areas where their ethnic brethren are in the majority—providing the means of transportation and, to the extent possible, safe passage. Iraqi troops and police may be very keen to assist, if not lead the way, in this mission—at least if Shiite forces are called on to help Shiites, Sunni forces to help Sunnis.

In the Kaus formulation, this is 'the right approach,' if you believe that building a vigorous central government in a peaceful Iraq is impossible. If you reject that notion, then it's a 'cut-your-losses' option, that might leave open the possibility of a stronger central government over time.

Cindy Sheehan Announces Congressional Run (with videos)

Of course, she's far from the first walking, talking embarrassment to seek elective office. Here is a CNN story on her announcement, including an interview with Ms. Sheehan.

Here's a local story, including a video of her speech (a 'must-see,' if you take this even the least bit seriously). Between the two videos, here are some of the things you'll hear:

  • She's running because Ms. Pelosi 'has lost touch' with most of the people of the 8th district and America as a whole.
Of course, Speaker Pelosi's Congressional district is nothing like America as a whole. It is one of the most liberal areas in the country. It would be nearly impossible simultaneously to lose touch with both the 8th district and America.

  • Many of our young people join the military in order to receive 'college credit;' it's the reason her son joined.
I may need to review the benefits of military service. What do soldiers do that earns them college credit? Is marksmanship now a course at some universities?

On a more serious note, while Ms. Sheehan says that her son joined the military for 'college credit,' she does not address the question of why he renewed his enlistment. Perhaps the answer is in her statement that he 'always did what he believed in.' That would put her late son in the company of thousands of brave men and women doing what they believe in now, in Iraq.

  • She is dedicating her run to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have been 'tragically harmed' by the Bush 'regime.' She's also dedicating it to her unborn children and grandchildren, who would live in peace and prosperity.
It's ironic that she dedicates this effort to some whom she wishes to live in peace and prosperity, and others whom she wishes could still live under murderous, genocidal, sadistic, repressive, rapacious dictatorships. If she truly thinks the people or Iraq and Afghanistan are worse off now than they were under Saddam and the Taliban then she is more out of touch with reality than we previously suspected. I only hope that Ms. Pelosi is forced to take Ms. Sheehan's challenge seriously, and explain why Saddam and the Taliban were bad. It would be good for Democrats to remember.

  • If elected, Sheehan promises to push for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
This will be neat to watch. As CNN points out, she'll have 17 days to get it done. Perhaps if she's lucky, President Bush will declare martial law and rule as a dictator. That might give her the time she needs, as long as Bush doesn't execute all Members of Congress.

I'm surprised she doesn't mention that as a possibility; she probably believes it.

Note: The Associated Press covers the story here.

Update: Check out also Sister Toldjah, QandO, and Ed Morrissey.

Might Want to Sock Away a Little More for Retirement

Someone alive today may live to be 1,000? God! Please don't let it be Michael Moore!

According to the latest immortality research (oh, it is a field), the possibility of a person making it to their first millennium is not only possible - it’s almost guaranteed that such a person is already alive right now. Of course, philosophical debates are raging, but everyone agrees that perhaps something more reasonable - say, five additional years on the old lifespan - would be totally acceptable. But according to Aubrey de Grey, the spokesperson for the anti-aging movement, the moral debates are futile: “Whether they realise it or not, barring accidents and suicide, most people now 40 years or younger can expect to live for centuries.”

Forty years or younger? I make the cut -- as do three of my siblings. We sure will miss my older brother, though.

Also, reminds me of what my mom used to say about Methusaleh. I've lived my life by this maxim.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

All We Are Saying Is Give the Surge a Chance

That seems to be the call from an increasing number of analysts nowadays. Bruce points out that Anthony Cordesman has joined their ranks:

In his 25-page analysis -- titled "The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq" -- Cordesman wrote that the United States "does not have good options in Iraq and cannot dictate its future, only influence it," and that it is up to the Iraqi government to make strides toward stability. A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops probably would not help matters, he wrote, but if the Iraqis make progress, then Congress and the U.S. military need to work toward gradual troop reductions that reflect realities on the ground.

"The real case for strategic patience . . . is not the high probability of success in most areas, but the reasonable prospect of success in some areas," wrote Cordesman, a scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He added that key elements of the president's troop increase strategy, however, "remain discouraging."

Read Bruce's analysis; he has more knowledge of the situation on the ground than I can offer.

From the proverbial '10,000-foot level' however, the apparent success of the surge has moved us from one threshold question to another. Formerly, the proper question to ask was whether in fact, significant swaths of the country could be made secure enough to enable leaders to work on reconciliation. (Admittedly, it is a nebulous formulation.)

Now the question is, having achieved some semblance of security, does it matter? It may well be that Iraq cannot be governed in its current form. The Sunnis and the Shias may not come together to establish a model that offers each group enough to hold the national government together. There may ultimately be a return to violence -- in the form of either a partition, an ethnic cleansing, a de facto partition, or some other outcome.

Liberals have criticized a few of my posts at the Weekly Standard for suggesting that they are moving the goalposts; they say that the question always was whether reconciliation was possible. That's not true, of course. War critics denied first and foremost that the surge could deliver security. Now that it seems it can, they are shifting the focus -- to an equally important question.

John Kerry: Permanent Adolescent

There's an amusing vignette in Bob Shrum's recent book, which demonstrates how challenging it was to try to win the White House with a self-important stiff for a candidate. Read it over here (subscription required):

THE SCRAPBOOK has taken a few swipes over the years at Robert "0-for-8" Shrum, the singularly unsuccessful Democratic campaign strategist, who worked for such legendary losers as McGovern '72, Kennedy '80, and Kerry '04. To be fair, it's hard to see anyone winning with some of the candidates he's been saddled with. Consider this anecdote from Shrum's dishy new book, No Excuses:
At an evening house party [in Iowa, January 2004], [Peter Yarrow] was performing "Puff the Magic Dragon" when Kerry, standing in the back of the room, mimed puffing on a joint. Most of the people there didn't see it--and neither did I; I'd retreated back to the bus to make some calls. When [press aide David] Wade stepped onto the bus and sat down next to me, he was beside himself as he recounted what had just happened. As we drove away, Kerry denied it. Wade said it was on tape. Kerry responded that, well, it was just a joke. Wade went to the back of the bus. We were lucky, he reported when he returned. It was late Saturday night, the camera crews didn't all have it, and most of the network imbeds didn't think it was a big deal. We were told later that a CBS crew got the tape to Washington in time for Face the Nation, but that Bob Schieffer's reaction was, Not on my program.
Of special note here is Kerry's adolescent denial until the aide says his pantomime was caught on tape. Plus we like CBS's news judgment; probably helps explain why Face the Nation blows away its rivals in the ratings each Sunday.
It's stunning that some saw Kerry as the more mature and cerebral candidate. While George Bush was lampooned as only one step removed from the frat, it seems that Kerry never left.

And with regard to Shrum, you get a sense as to just how badly he must want to win a campaign. In 2004 the ticket was headed up by a candidate with... significant shortcomings, and the veep candidate (by his characterization) was a lightweight who callously exploited the tragic death of his child.

You've got to be pretty hard up to stick with that team.

Update: Welcome HotAir readers. While you're here, check out the video of Cindy Sheehan's announcement that she's running for Congress.

Thursday Inanity

If you liked dramatic prairie dog, there's no way you can resist chickens breaking up a rabbit fight:

Democratic Donor Aims Racist Smear at Thompson (Fred)

Ed Morrissey has the story:

Who would post something like this as a smear on Fred Thompson? Someone a little too stupid to cover his tracks, possibly? A DNS search gives us an answer. The domain name, registered through GoDaddy (no great shock there), belongs to:

Henry Reynolds
500 California Ave. #5
Santa Monica, California 90403
United States

The phone number listed on the domain record, which I won't post here, goes to an answering machine for the "law offices of Henry Reynolds". I left a message asking for comment on this website, and then decided to take a look through OpenSecrets and the FEC to see if Mr. Reynolds has a history of supporting Fred Thompson, or even the KKK. Actually, it turns out that a Mr. Henry Reynolds in the same zip code working as an attorney has a small record of political donations -- but in another direction:

  • 4/6/2005 - $500,
  • 9/22/2004 - $500, DNC Services
  • 4/5/2004 - $250, John Kerry

How strange that a MoveOn donor would -- in just 2 years -- convert into a racist fan of Fred Thompson! Perhaps there's more to the dominance of white males at YearlyKos than meets the eye.

Softening Up David Petraeus

Read it at the Standard.

Will Hillary Pay for Bill's Sins

If one or more of her primary opponents is smart, Hillary Clinton will soon be forced to answer questions about some of the failings of her husband's administration. The Hill points out today that several recipients of Clinton pardons have not exactly been paragons of rectitude since finding favor with Bubba:

Financier Marc Rich, businessman Almon Glenn Braswell and Roger Clinton Jr., the president’s half-brother, were among the 140 individuals President Clinton pardoned during his last day in office. The GOP-led Congress investigated these pardons in 2001, probing the familial and financial connections between the White House and those pardoned.

The legal issues that the trio faced over the past six years range from drug charges to fraud to tax evasion.

Clemency experts said it was not surprising that legal trouble continued to follow pardon recipients. Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said to believe otherwise would be “wishful thinking” given the “inevitable realities” about many individuals seeking presidential pardons.

John Edwards has demonstrated a willingness to criticize Hillary by going after Bill -- at least on trade policy. Which of them will try to get at 'the sleaze factor?'

After all, if you're going to lose the primary, why not try to go down swinging?

Caring too Much About the Environment

Can we agree that there are certain steps we should never take to save the Earth -- such as ceasing to wash your hair?

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett has stopped washing her hair in an effort to do her bit to save the environment and become a green example to her kids.

The actress admits she has installed timers all around her home to restrict energy levels - and one is even on her shower head.

Now she is no longer washing her hair, Blanchett has realised: "I only need to have a two minute shower."

I await the follow-up article, which will track down exactly what Ms. Blanchett will do instead -- shave her head bald, go to a salon every day. We know this is not the end of the story.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

News Flash: Thompson May Withdraw from 2008 Race

The Thompson campaign has sent this note out to supporters:

Dear Friend,

If you’re a SOTT (Supporter of Tommy Thompson), then this is probably the most important email you have ever received from his campaign.

Without your help and support this week, Tommy Thompson’s campaign cannot go on.

Tommy Thompson has made it clear that if he doesn’t finish first or second this week in Ames, Iowa at the straw poll, he will not go on in this race.

To date he has outworked every other candidate running for president in Iowa. His ideas on ending the war in Iraq, fixing America’s ailing health care system and finding a cure for cancer are being heard, but not by enough people.

What’s worse, is that the news media will shut him out of the national news coverage unless he finishes first or second this Saturday in Ames. We need your help in two ways:

1) If you live in Iowa and have an Iowa driver’s license, please come to Ames and take 30 minutes to vote. That’s it. It’s an historic opportunity to make a real difference for our country. Email to reserve your complimentary ticket or call our campaign office at 515-422-5100.

2) Please purchase a commemorative “In the Arena” print on canvas and 80% of the revenue will go to Tommy Thompson’s Presidential campaign.

This is an amazing offer and for only $50 + shipping, you can have an art print of the United States Capitol with Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote on it. Even better, the print comes on museum quality canvas with archival giclee inks that are warranted to last for more than one hundred years. As you can see, this is a beautiful print that’s worth having in any home. But more important, 80% of your contribution goes to the Tommy Thompson Presidential Campaign.

Just click here to go to a secure, encrypted Web page to use your credit card to purchase this beautiful collector print.

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

President Theodore Roosevelt
Paris, France

Thank you,

Steve Grubbs
National Campaign Director
Tommy Thompson for President

Oh wait -- you thought I meant someone else? Is there another 'Thompson' in the field?

The shame of this is, if Tommy Thompson withdraws, we may never cure breast cancer.

George Bush -- the Movie?

Is this the character on whom George Bush is based? The resemblance is uncanny:

George Bush IS Sam Garland.

The back story -- if you're interested -- is that Matt and his faithful collie have moved to the 'Old Collins Place,' a sheep farm that has been unoccupied for years. When they prepare to reclaim the pastures that Garland's sheep have been illegally grazing, it sets up a conflict...

Petraeus Talks to a Liberal

Glenn Greenwald charged General Petraeus with partisanship and -- by implication -- cowardice. Now that Petraeus met the challenge, Greenwald has nothing to say about it.

Go read it over at Rob's place.

Beware the Yankees

The Bronx Bombers have been on quite a tear lately, and it's significantly improved their chances of making the postseason. According to, they now have a 70 percent chance of appearing in the watered-down baseball playoffs.

Each of the last 5 World Series has featured a Wild Card team. In 3 of those years, the Wild Card won the Series.

I'm just saying...

Fred on Federalism

A good piece that will earn Thompson many friends on the Right -- although it ends somewhat abruptly:

Where's Nancy?

The guys at RedState are looking for volunteers to head to a fundraiser in New Hampshire.

How Shameless is Congress About Wasting Your Money?

Congressman Paul Kanjorski speaks about HR 3311, the bill that authorizes $250 million for the reconstruction of the I-35 bridge that collapsed in Minnesota:

The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis is the most recent example of the need to invest in the country’s infrastructure. Legislators passed a bill last week providing $250 million for the reconstruction of the bridge over the Mississippi River, but the funding initially started at $100 million and ballooned higher with the state’s request for emergency aid.

“They discovered they were going to get all the money from the federal government and they were taking all they could get,” he said. In essence they took the opportunity “to screw us,” he said of the funding grab.
How did Congressman Kanjorski vote on HR 3311? Glad you asked; he voted in favor. And what did he say about the legislation during House debate? He did not speak on it. (Link is for the first page of the debate.)

What do you call someone who knowingly votes in favor of getting 'screwed?'

Hat Tip: Fedblog

Democratic Leaders Move the Goalposts on Iraq

Read it at the Standard.

Not Everyone's a Fan of FISA Modernization

Read it at the Standard.

Barry Bonds Gets the Record*

Bonds hit number 756 last night, replacing Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king.

Meanwhile, in another act designed to send a clear message about how he views this record, Commissioner Selig passed up the game in favor of meeting with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is heading up the investigation into steroids in baseball. He also specifically referenced the steroid issue in his message of congratulations to Bonds:

The baseball commissioner and some of his top aides are scheduled to meet with the chief steroids investigator later this week, a person with knowledge of the session said Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to discuss the meeting.

Mitchell said in May that his probe was in its "final phases," but he has not publicly stated a timetable for issuing his report...

"I congratulate Barry Bonds for establishing a new, career home run record. Barry's achievement is noteworthy and remarkable," Selig said in a statement, released after he spoke to Bonds by telephone. "While the issues which have swirled around this record will continue to work themselves toward resolution, today is a day for congratulations on a truly remarkable achievement."

Hank Aaron also relented and recorded a message of congratulations to Bonds. You can watch it here:

I did not watch the game, but heard a sports commentator this morning suggesting that Mike Bascik of the Nationals was 'grooving fastballs' to increase Bonds' chance of hitting the record-breaking home run off him. Indeed, Bacsik doesn't seem too upset with how his name made it into the record book:

Mike Bacsik had been cool with the notion all week. He is a bit of a historian, a bit of a sports nut, so being part of one of the most momentous occasions in baseball history would be, in a way, just fine. He is, too, the son of a pitcher, and sons of pitchers know that home runs happen, and they must be shrugged off.

"You either have to be a really special player to be remembered in this game," Bacsik said late Tuesday night, "or be part of a special moment."

With that, two more pieces from ESPN. First, Jayson Stark's piece of unconventional wisdom, reminding people that Alex Rodriguez is far from a 'lock' to take the record from Bonds, and a repeat of the ESPN piece on how many home runs Bonds probably owes to his use of steroids.

Update: Check out Rob's and Dan Riehl's thoughts as well.

Bionic Woman

This looks pretty good.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Anti-War Democrats Divided -- But it Probably Doesn't Matter

Bonus! A crazy idea for bipartisan cooperation on Iraq... read down.

Yesterday I mused on the course of the war for the next 9 months or so. One of the reasons behind that was to try to figure how many Democrats might be willing to work with war supporters on a plan that recognized the likely political reality: that President Bush is likely to have the support he needs to continue the mission.

Today, the Politico reports that anti-war Democrats differ on whether to work with Republicans on a bipartisan approach to ending the war, or refuse to compromise, and insist on prompt withdrawal from Iraq:

Abercrombie believes in making common cause with wavering Republicans to create a powerful coalition that will force President Bush to change policy.

Woolsey has little interest in a political strategy that requires any compromises with the GOP in the name of consensus. She believes the anti-war movement can only succeed in Congress by mandating a quick and clear end to the war.
Here's the thing: for the foreseeable future, Democrats cannot end the war without Republican support. They have funded the war through the end of the year, and funding will be available through the first part of next year. The President will veto any measure they can pass to force a withdrawal -- and he has the votes to sustain the veto. That will continue to be the case in the near future.

So the only way to end the war soon is to get Republicans on board, to create a veto-proof majority. But what sort of plan will Republicans support at a time when the news on the surge is good? Presumably the 'best' that could be hoped for is a phase down over a period of months -- presumably something built around the drawdown which is apparently inevitable come April of next year.

My counter-intuitive suggestion: both parties might see their political interests served by this approach. It would save Democrats from blame if the surge went well, and save Republicans from blame if it went south. Not all Democrats would need to sign on to this to make it work; perhaps 50 or 60 would be needed in the House -- to make clear that this was more than just Blue Dogs. And the first 30 or so would be the Blue Dogs -- who constitute the 'canary in the coal mine' of Democrats most presumably endangered if voters are inclined to punish Democrats for their opposition to the war.

This is all just brainstorming and speculation of course -- at least for now.

TSA Answers Tough Questions on Keeping Air Travel Safe

'Security guru' Bruce Schneier is the author of several books, including 'Applied Cryptography,' 'Secrets and Lies,' and 'Beyond Fear.' He also publishes a monthly newsletter called 'Crypto-Gram.'

Schneier is a strident critic of airport and aircraft security, and the TSA. He recently conducted an E-mail interview with Kip Hawley, head of that agency. Hawley deserves credit for submitting to a difficult -- even confrontational interview. In many cases, his answer seems to break down to 'you're right in principle, but for reasons I can't discuss we've seen that our methods are well-founded.' It's tough to accept 'trust me' as the answer to many seemingly illogical rules, but that's the nature of security systems based on secret intelligence.

Read the whole thing, if only to get the unsatisfying answers to questions like 'why can I carry saline solution in large bottles, but everything else in small one,' and 'how do you defense against the beerbelly.'

I'll just pull this highlight, on a topic that you don't hear much about:

BS: Let's talk about behavioral profiling. I've long thought that most of airline security could be ditched in favor of well-trained guards, both in and out of uniform, wandering the crowds looking for suspicious behavior. Can you talk about some of the things you're doing along those lines, and especially ways to prevent this from turning into just another form of racial profiling?

KH: Moving security out from behind the checkpoint is a big priority for us. First, it gives us the opportunity to pick up a threat a lot earlier. Taking away weapons or explosives at the checkpoint is stopping the plot at nearly the last possible moment. Obviously, a good security system aims at stopping attacks well before that. That's why we have many layers of security (intel, law enforcement, behavior detection, etc.) to get to that person well before the security checkpoint. When a threat gets to the checkpoint, we're operating on his/her terms—they pick when, where, and how they present themselves to us. We want to pick up the cues on our terms, before they're ready, even if they're just at the surveillance stage.

We use a system of behavior observation that is based on the science that demonstrates that there are certain involuntary, subconscious actions that can betray a person's hostile intent. For instance, there are tiny—but noticeable to the trained person—movements in a person's facial muscles when they have certain emotions. It is very different from the stress we all show when we're anxious about missing the flight due to, say, a long security line. This is true across race, gender, age, ethnicity, etc. It is our way of not falling into the trap where we predict what a terrorist is going to look like. We know they use people who "look like" terrorists, but they also use people who do not, perhaps thinking that we cue only off of what the 9/11 hijackers looked like.

Our Behavior Detection teams routinely—and quietly—identify problem people just through observable behavior cues. More than 150 people have been identified by our teams, turned over to law enforcement, and subsequently arrested. This layer is invisible to the public, but don't discount it, because it may be the most effective. We publicize non-terrorist-related successes like a murder suspect caught in Minneapolis and a bank robber caught in Philadelphia.

Again: compliments to Hawley for answering a tough critic.

Hat Tip: Danger Room and Government Executive

More Developments from the McCain Campaign

Mickey envisions a possible 'Senorita Souldjah' moment (scroll down a little), while McCain talks property rights:

The senator, who is trying to revive his struggling White House campaign, told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that he plans to appoint constructionist judges to the Supreme Court who “respect the Constitution and understand the security of private property it provides.”

"If need be, I would seek to amend the Constitution to protect private property rights in America," he added.

McCain was referring to the 2005 Supreme Court “eminent domain” decision, which he blasted as “disastrous.” The ruling gave local governments the right to take the house of a homeowner and use it for economic development.
The campaign is long enough that McCain probably doesn't need to 'swing for the fences' to win back conservative support. If that's right, this probably counts as... a bunt single. Pretty small, but it can't hurt.

In reality, his campaign will probably depend on other things for its revival.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Rambling About the Surge

So for today at least, the surge is working. When the Associated Press reports it, and USA Today's poll shows that Americans notice, it has to be considered official. AP says:

Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up—with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists—rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.

Commanders are encouraged by signs that more Iraqis are growing fed up with violence. They are also counting on improvements in the Iraqi army and police, which are burdened by religious rivalries and are not ready to take over national defense duties from U.S. troops this year.
So let's leave aside the substantive questions about how this affects US security and the War on Terror, what are the political ramifications? Let's consider the period between now and next April, when Joint Chiefs Chair nominee Admiral Mullen testified that the surge cannot really be sustained.

Rosy Scenario: The surge continues to go well, bloodshed in Iraq continues to decline, and there are signs of political reconciliation (oil revenue sharing or the like). The Iraqi government takes greater responsibility for security, so that it might be hoped that US troops are free to do little more than pursue Al Qaeda by the end of 2008.

I have to think that in this scenario, the Republicans come off looking good on Iraq. George Bush is no longer radioactive (although he's probably still not popular). The GOP Presidential nominee can talk of further ramping down our commitment in Iraq, and freeing up US troops for... R&R, an attack on Iran, or something else?

Middling Scenario: Petraeus' report on September 15 is positive; Republicans stick with the President, but most Democrats continue sniping. Political progress is less than robust, or insurgents figure out how to beat the press -- and either import more fighters from Iran, or in some other way figure out how to kill more Iraqis and Americans.
In this scenario, I think Republicans likely go to the President before April and tell him that it's time to stand down in Iraq. If they do, what happens in Iraq and how is it perceived by the public? Do Republicans argue that the surge would have succeeded if not for those meddling Democrats, who forced us to leave before the mission was complete? Does the public buy that explanation, or do they blame Bush and the Republicans for starting the war, not having a strategy to win it, and then prolonging the occupation to try a surge that didn't work. Is there any way Republicans recover next year? Is it possible that the public still doesn't really trust dovish Democrats, rendering the issue a wash?

To me, this scenario has too many variable to try to figure.

Abject Failure: The surge goes south tomorrow, Petraeus's report doesn't matter, and Republicans push for a withdrawal before the end of the year. Our war in Iraq is a memory by November, 2008.
This still has some of the same variables as the last scenario, but the GOP can't even try to argue that 'things were looking good.' Still, this scenario might not be a crushing one for the Republicans, since they would at least be done talking about Iraq -- and there's still the possibility that the public would distrust Democrats on the war on terror.

The thing is, it's that muddled middle scenario that seems the likeliest, at least for now. And that might be the best for the Democrats: no blame for opposing a successful war, but no real credit to the GOP for backing it. Democrats would be able to criticize without effective refutation by the Republicans, until relatively late in the election year.

Exit Question: What incentive do the Democrats have to pull back from their position of total rhetorical opposition to the war, but ineffectiveness at ending it? Assuming the surge continues past September -- and I welcome any bets that it won't -- what can the GOP do to enhance its political position in the months ahead?

Senator John McCain

Picture at right.

Confused? Read more.

Democratic Flip Flop Watch

July 27: The House of Representatives passes legislation to implement many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. One provision requires the disclosure of the nation's intelligence budget.

Speaker Pelosi hailed passage of the bill, saying:

We will have done in six months what previous Congresses failed to do in nearly six years.

August 3: The House of Representatives passes legislation that includes a provision to bar the disclosure of the national intelligence budget. Democrats supported the measure by a vote of 208-12:
The law signed Aug. 3 by Bush (PL 110-53) implemented several recommendations of the independent, bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. One of its provisions required a single budget figure encompassing all 15 U.S. intelligence agencies, now classified, to be disclosed. It was the first time Congress had ordered the executive branch to declassify the figure, widely believed to be at least $45 billion.

The White House opposed the disclosure requirement but Bush ultimately decided to sign the Sept. 11 bill into law. It would declassify the intelligence budget total for fiscal 2007 and 2008 but give the administration authority to waive the disclosure requirement starting in fiscal 2009 if it explained to Congress why disclosure would jeopardize national security.

Long before the first disclosure, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, won adoption of an amendment to the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill (HR 3222) effectively blocking it. The amendment to the defense spending bill was adopted by voice vote. It ultimately will be up to House and Senate conferees to decide whether to restore the disclosure requirement or keep the intelligence spending total secret.

Six months to pass the recommendations, seven days to begin to reverse them. It will be interesting to see how this gets handled.

But purely from the point of view of optics, shouldn't a skilled leadership team make sure it's not open to embarrassments like this one?

Free Advice for Speaker Pelosi

The House Democratic leadership has taken a fair amount of criticism in the last few days for the disputed vote on Thursday evening. As I covered here the other day, Congressional Quarterly reports that the motion to recommit passed the House by a margin of 215-213 -- even thought it's recorded as having been defeated 216-212.

So here's the advice: accept that result.

The provision itself makes little difference to you. If you really want to ensure that illegal immigrants be eligible for food stamps, then you can talk to Harry Reid to ensure that it will be removed in the Senate. But take whatever parliamentary action you feel appropriate to insert -- for now -- the provision that the GOP believes it won.

Why? Because the long vote on Medicare bedeviled the GOP for years. While it wasn't responsible for Republicans losing control of the House, it contributed to the sense that they had become arrogant, and no longer respected the rules. It's clear that for many, the vote last Thursday will do the same. It has already angered conservatives who were unimpressed with Congressional Republicans, and it's likely to anger some moderates as well.

So don't give Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh something to talk about for the rest of your Speakership. Don't give cause to question your fairness. Don't risk that the Select Committee will conclude that the vote was wrongly decided. Instead, act now. You don't even have to admit a mistake. Instead say:

It doesn't really matter who's wrong or right; it's more important that we respect the integrity of the institution of the House of Representatives. If the Minority believes the vote was decided wrongly -- and we can't be 100% sure -- we'll err on the side of fairness.

Among other things, it will give you some credibility every time your fairness is challenged from here on out.

By November 2008, it's possible that this will be the only memorable thing that the Democratic majority does. You don't want that, and neither do your freshmen 'Majority Makers.' So defang this quickly, before it can do much damage. It's the politically shrewd thing. Why put a round in the Republican chamber -- particularly when you see that this is how it will be used?

Isn't it the obvious move?

More thoughts over at Instapundit.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Kid Culture

As the father of a 2-year old girl, I can relate. We're just starting to head into the stages that this father is fully confronting. As such, violence and death are the concepts that we are working to frame for our daughter. When is too soon to learn that everything dies? How much can a 2-year old understand of death? Fortunately, I recall clearly that as as child, death didn't phase me in the least. I was only too happy to help the lesser lights of God's creation to fulfill the life cycle.

Still I can relate to this piece. And I think we're headed for the princess phase:

The Disney Princess product line dominates and feeds this impulse, earning $2.5 billion in sales in 2003. Without even wanting to encourage my daughter's interest in this weird ideal of royalty, our household somehow includes a Disney Princess hopscotch mat, flashlight, a talking hand mirror, countless pairs of underpants and pajamas, stickers, and at least three books in the Disney Princess line. The existence of kid-oriented merchandising didn't surprise me. But the sheer diversity of products boggles my mind.

It doesn't help that being a princess seems inextricably wrapped up in the notions of getting married, having pretty clothes and maintaining a staff of friendly servants. Worse, many Disney princesses tend to be passive ninnies and credulous dupes. Helium-voiced Snow White bites a poison apple despite warnings from her forest-creature friends. Like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty literally snoozes through the finale of her own story while awaiting a man to rescue her. Most contemporary Disney Princess characters, thankfully, show more independence.

Fortunately, my daughter is adopting her dad's interest in fighter planes and baseball, so at least there's a counterweight.

I'm Sorry Michael; I'm Afraid I Can't Do That

Nissan is preparing to market a car that will automatically ease off the gas if it detects a collision coming, and then brake rapidly if you respond:

Some Nissan cars will soon come with a gas pedal that lifts to warn of possible collisions, while the cars will automatically stop if drivers take their foot off the accelerator in response to the warning.

The technology combines radar sensors and a computer system to assess a car's speed and the distance to a vehicle in front, Nissan Motor Co. said Monday. Cars with the new safety features will be available this year in Japan, and next year in the U.S...

Nissan also showed an experimental system that measures alcohol levels in a driver's sweat from sensors in the gearshift. The system stops short of locking the ignition but issues a warning in an electronic voice.
This may seem a silly observation, but I wonder how the legal issues will resolve themselves. If your car fails to detect a collision, then is the manufacturer liable? Or if your car fails to detect that you're driving drunk, to what degree is Nissan at fault?

If only they could come up with a way to determine if you were about to commit a murder...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

AQ Threatens US Embassies

This appears to be yet another episode in the run up to what AQ has promised will be a 'terror spectacular.' American Islamist Adam Yahiye Gadahn warns that US embassies and consulates will be the target of AQ attacks in the days and weeks ahead:

U.S. Embassies and American interests "at home and abroad" are prime targets for terrorist attacks, American al Qaeda member Adam Yahiye Gadahn said in a newly released al Qaeda-produced video.

"We shall continue to target you at home and abroad just as you target us at home and abroad ... ," Gadahn -- also known as Azzam the American -- says in the video provided to CNN by, a Web site that analyzes terrorism.

Later in the video, which is about an hour long and takes the form of a documentary, the self-proclaimed American jihadist makes explicit threats against the United States and U.S. interests, singling out embassies and consulates.

Embassies and consulates are always assumed to be a primary target, for obvious reasons. They are typically on a very high level of alert and those in Muslim nations have probably been on high alert since September 11.

I can't help but be struck by the fact that Gadahn is just one more poor young Muslim with no economic opportunity, radicalized by the hopelessness of poverty into a life of terror. Growing up in Orange County, what other alternatives did he have?

Bonds Ties Aaron

Barry Bonds hit his 755th career home run against the Padres last night:

Barry Bonds swung, took a half-dozen steps and clapped his hands. With no trace of a smile but a strong shot for all the doubters, he caught Hank Aaron and tied the career home run record Saturday night.

No. 755 was an opposite-field drive to left-center field, moving Bonds within one swing of having baseball's pinnacle of power all to himself.

Commissioner Bud Selig stood up and put his hands in his pockets while Bonds' family hugged and high-fived. When Bonds crossed the plate, he lifted his batboy son, Nikolai, and carried him several steps in an embrace.
You can watch the highlight from ESPN here:

Frankly, I don't understand why commissioner Selig would attend the game if he intended to conspicuously keep his hands in his pockets. If you regard the record as legitimate, you clap. If you don't, then you penalize him. But you don't go and then not acknowledge it.

I've posted this before, but I will again. I continue to salute Bonds for approaching 3rd place on the all-time list. And I hope that he receives an appropriate punishment for cheating.

Also check out Rob Port

How Did CNN Get a Liberal Reputation

Bob Franken (formerly of CNN):

Help me understand why someone, anyone, should be allowed to get paid several hundred million dollars in any year and keep it.

What would be wrong with a confiscatory tax rate, maybe 90 percent on personal income that exceeds, say, 10 million dollars annually?

Is this class warfare? You bet it is. But isn’t hoarding such massive fortunes and keeping the money away from the millions of people struggling to subsist also class warfare?

And yes, I know: It’s the chance of great reward that provides the spark for great ideas, and incentive to take risk, but how much reward does one need?

Franken illustrates pretty well the difference between liberals (and socialists) and conservatives (and libertarians).

It's not that I think a few hundred million annually isn't enough, or that I think some people ought to have a dozen villas (as opposed to one). I don't know how much is 'enough.'

But I know that on person's wealth causes another person to be poor. When people are poor, it can be for any one (or more) of a range of reasons: they lack skills, they lack valuable ideas, they lack training, they lack economic opportunity, or they lack discipline, for example. No one's poor because some nefarious corporate executive or Hollywood actor is 'hoarding' wealth.

Further, I don't think it's any of my business how much a person earns, as long as the money is earned legally. And if it's none of my opinion, then by extension, it's none of the government's. Further, I recognize that our Constitution doesn't empower the government to consider how much someone should be 'allowed' to get paid. The founders never contemplated a role for government in that debate.

Those decisions are properly made in the private market. And if millions of ticket-buying fans judge that some athlete or entertainer is worth the money, why should I second guess them? Or if thousands of shareholders believe that their CEO is worth the money, how does it hurt me? Indeed, if I'm a shareholder I have my say in the debate. And if the CEO is in fact, worth the compensation, then all shareholders benefit. And if he or she is not, then the company provides a negative lesson.

So what's the problem?