Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mars Experiences Ice Ages, Warming Periods

According to researchers published in the journal Nature, climate change on Mars may illuminate our understanding of climate change here on Earth:

In recent years extensive amounts of ice have been discovered below the surface of Mars. Much of the ice mysteriously survives far from the planet's poles. (Related photo: "'Frozen Sea' Seen on Mars [February 23, 2005].)

Schörghofer suggests that this ice is newer than previously believed.

"Earlier theories have tried to explain this ice with snowfall that would have happened some five million years ago [but struggle] to explain how that ice could have stayed there," Schörghofer said.

"I'm saying it didn't stay. It went away and then came back many, many times..."

Mars, like all planets, experiences small "wobbles" in its axis as it orbits the sun.

Such variations change the amount of sunlight falling on a planet's surface, which can cause major climate shifts, Schörghofer said.

Earth's wobbles, known as Milankovitch cycles, occur in 20,000- and 100,000-year periods and are thought to impact the waxing and waning of the planet's ice ages.

According to Schörghofer, this means both planets have an ice record that tracks the activity of the sun.

Given that we clearly do not entirely understand the nature of climate change here on our planet, does it hurt to wait 10 or 15 years to see if we develop a better understanding? Given the apparent dramatic effect on Mars of the sun and of Mars's own rotation, it's reasonable to look into whether the same is true of Earth. If it is, it could conceivably go a long way to understanding climate change here on our planet.

Giuliani & Thompson Tied

Can you imagine how Fred would be doing if he hadn't had what everyone considers to have been a truly terrible month or two?

The latest ARG poll has Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson tied nationally (change since August in parentheses):

Giuliani: 24% (-3)
Thompson: 23% (+7)
McCain: 14% (+1)
Romney: 9% (-7)

While Fred Thompson cuts into Rudy Giuliani (and reduces him to co-frontrunner status), I maintain he poses the biggest immediate threat to Mitt Romney — social conservatives no longer have to sign up with a "convert" from Massachusetts; they can now go with a more traditional southern conservative. Look at that 7-point drop; it could be a funny sample, or it could be something much more serious. Let's see how Mitt holds up in Iowa.

Jim Moran: Antisemite? (Chapter 74)

Do you get the sense that Jim Moran and Pat Buchanan swap stories over beer?

From the 'Takes One to Know One' File...

Madeline Albright says that George Bush must think we're all idiots:

'I mean, I think he must think we're all idiots," she exclaimed to laughter and applause from the crowd of about 200 at a community center in West Des Moines. Albright cited Bush's optimistic predictions of safety in Al Anbar province, as well as overestimations of support among coalition nations, as signs of Bush's unrealistic perceptions of the foreign policy "mess" in Iraq.

This is Madeline Albright, under whose leadership at State Department we may have passed up the chance to take Osama bin Laden off the hands of Sudan (depending on whom you believe).

It's Madeline Albright, who negotiated the 'deal' with North Korea to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, only to find that they cheated:

Signs of cheating were abundant by 2000. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew to Pyongyang that October to put lipstick on the pig. She offered dictator Kim Jong Il a relaxation of economic sanctions if he'd limit North Korea's missile development. Kim took those carrots too, but kept building missiles.

It's Madeline Albright, who wondered why we did not invade China or Russia before they had nuclear weapons:

Albright is correct about one thing: During her tenure, the United States sent troops into Bosnia and bombed Serbia. Neither had nuclear weapons. But she’s wrong in attempting to compare our approach to North Korea with what we did to handle China or the Soviet Union.

Sure, we never invaded either nation, but we could have -- before they had nukes. Probably the biggest reason we didn’t is that they both were giant countries with huge armies. An invasion of either one would have cost tens of thousands of American lives and probably resulted in a quagmire. On the other hand, while North Korea boasts a large army, it’s a relatively tiny country, and our military could overwhelm it quickly.

Madeline Albright's resume is tarnished enough that she ought to be careful the way she tosses around the 'idiot' label.

Superb Photos of New York City

The latest Smithsonian has an article on the photography of Eugene de Salignac, who worked for New York City's Department of Bridges in the early 1900s. Salignac had a fantastic eye, and took some very memorable pictures of construction around the City in an era when it changed from horse and buggy to internal combustion engine:

Here's a good collection of several photos from Salignac. Who cares if it's at the BBC, and in Portugese.

I really like this one; it's identified as a photo of the 'W' before it went up onto the Williamsburg Bridge.

You can also see more here -- as well as get information about the book of the photo collection -- here at New York City's records site.

Netroots Pose Problem for Democrats in 08

Jeanne Shaheen is the top choice of Democratic leaders to take on John Sununu in 2008. She's seen as having a great chance to knock Sununu off next year:

If Shaheen is the nominee, it would create a rematch of the 2002 contest, which Sununu won 51-47 percent. Since then, the political landscape in New Hampshire has changed, and initial polling has showed Shaheen leading Sununu. Republicans, including the free-market Club For Growth and the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, have already rallied behind Sununu. One GOP strategist said Sununu is highly vulnerable if the contest is only about Iraq. "If the issue becomes the issue of taxes then the advantage shifts a little bit to John Sununu," the strategist said.
It ought to concern Democrats that having landed a top challenger against a targeted Republican incumbent, the first reaction from the Netroots is disappointment and disillusionment. From Open Left:
[T]o be perfectly frank, I feel like Shaheen is one of the many, many Democrats who first helped lead the party into simultaneous minority and pro-war status back in 2002-2003, but who is now capitalizing on the favorable electoral stage that was prepared mainly by the progressive movement during four years of intense guerilla warfare against conservatism from 2003-2006. While the Jean Shaheen’s and Rahm Emanual’s of the party were supporting things like the Bush tax cuts, the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, and legislation to support Terry Schaivo, it was the netroots who were doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in opposition to Republicans. I feel like they are capitalizing on what we rightfully earned, and both dissing us and preparing to destroy all of our work in the process. They are pretenders to the new Democratic majority.
Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake uses the occasion to slam Rahm Emanuel:
Rahm supported the war and didn’t want Democrats to talk about it during the last election. He thinks immigration — which desperately needs addressing as a matter of conscience and has the added benefit of splitting the Republican party into little splinters every time it comes up — should not be addressed until a new President’s second term. After the last election people said the thing they care about most is seeing corruption addressed, and as Kagro X noted, Nancy Pelosi said the most important thing about gaining majority status was getting subpoena power. Now Rahm has decided to render that limp and useless as well.

Rahm then has the arrogance to run around and crow about orchestrating the Democratic victory in 06 as if my dog could not have done a better job, considering all the money he dumped into loser races and the way he ignored those that probably could have inched to success had they had just a little bit more help from the DCCC.

I think we’re all a bit tired of cleaning up Rahm’s messes (watch the YouTube above and remember, this is the guy who’s in charge of Democratic messaging for the House). And yes, it is irritating to watch them all ride in and take advantage of a favorable electoral stage that was set in the wake of their open hostility to those who were doing all the heavy lifting to set it.
A big reason the Democrats won the Congress in 2006 was that the prevailing attitude on the Left was: whoever it takes to win. It led the Netroots to back Jim Webb, Heath Shuler, and a host of more moderate-to-conservative candidates. Now things seem to have changed.

If the Netroots imposes purity tests in 08 -- and there's every sign that they intend to do so -- it will be a big crimp in the plans of people like Rahm Emanuel.

Update: Don Surber also has some good commentary on Democrats' fear of MoveOn in 08.

University of Arkansas Returns Hsu's Cash. Will the New School?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the University of Arkansas's Clinton School of Public Service is returning the $75,000 it got from Norman Hsu:

While Mrs. Clinton and other politicians have pledged to return or donate to charity donations associated with Mr. Hsu, Mr. Rutherford initially said the graduate program -- aimed at students seeking a career in international aid, politics, law, or philanthropy -- would keep its donation. After questions from The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Rutherford said "it's just not worth it" to keep the money and that he would return it to Mr. Hsu. "We believed it had been given in good faith," Mr. Rutherford said.
Rutherford suggests an inappropriate test for whether or not to return the money. Given in good faith or not, it's still stolen.

No word yet on whether the New School will return his donations -- which ran into the tens of thousands. The Associated Press reports that Hsu even served as chairman of a major New School fundraiser event last October, where Bill Clinton singled him our for praise:
Hsu sat on the board of trustees of The New School, whose president is former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb. He was co-chairman of a gala New York benefit last October in honor of the late Robert F. Kennedy. Bill Clinton, there to receive an award, thanked the evening's benefactors, "especially our friend Norman Hsu."
Bob Kerrey -- head of the New School -- is considering a run for Senate in 2008. He ought to have the good sense to have returned the money already.

Why the delay?

Globe Warming Much Faster Than Predicted

I'm stealing this observation from... I can't remember, so sorry.

But if the globe is warming so much more quickly than expected, doesn't it suggest we don't really understand climate change as well as we are being told that we do?

About 40 percent of the floating ice that normally blankets the top of the world during the summer will be gone by 2050, says James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Earlier studies had predicted it would be nearly a century before that much ice vanished.

"This is a major change," Overland said. "This is actually moving the threshold up."

The finding, to be published Saturday in Geophysical Research Letters, adds to a growing body of evidence that the ecosystem around the North Pole is rapidly transforming, says Mark Serreze, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. He goes even further than Overland, predicting the Arctic Ocean will be completely ice-free in summer by 2030.

"If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said it wouldn't happen until 2070 or 2100," said Serreze, who was not involved in Overland's project.

The article notes that shipping could become much more efficient with the opening of a northwest passage. So Henry Hudson was on the right track; he just needed to wait a few hundred years.

Update: Lest you think I treat this too cavalierly, note the less-reported story: the South Pole ice cap has reached its expanse since measures began in 1979.

Novak: Kerry's Vulnerability

Today Bob Novak has his typical interesting Saturday read - if perhaps a little skimpier than usual. The most noteworthy item covers the apparent weakness of John Kerry to a GOP challenge:

Homeland security consultant Jeff Beatty, new to Republican politics, arrived in Washington this week with a Zogby poll showing him in a virtual tie with Democratic Sen. John Kerry in Massachusetts.

Republicans had not listed the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate as even faintly vulnerable for re-election in 2008. The Zogby poll gives Kerry 48 percent to Beatty's 45 percent -- a tie with a 4.1 percent margin of error.

That signifies Beatty's strength rather than Kerry's weakness, with Zogby showing Kerry far ahead of other possible Republican candidates. Kerry leads Andrew Card, President Bush's former chief of staff, 61 percent to 29 percent. Beatty -- a veteran of the FBI, the CIA and the Army's Delta Force -- frequently appears on television commenting on security questions.
The poll is not brand new; it was reported some weeks ago:
Mr. Beatty is the president of TotalSecurity.US, a company that specializes in strategic security and with clients including the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, Olympics, MBTA and the Statue of Liberty...

In a poll released on his Web site yesterday, the public’s support of his campaign is growing, according to Mr. Beatty. The Zogby organization is showing that if the election were held today, Mr. Kerry would get 48 percent of the public’s vote and Mr. Beatty 45 percent.

“The electors have shown that they are ready to welcome a well-qualified Republican,” said Mr. Beatty.

He said he believes people will vote for him because they know Mr. Kerry was wrong on the war. He also said that the current senator is wrong on taxes, and that neglect has led to jobs leaving the commonwealth.
The full poll data is available on Beatty's website here. Note that in a simple 'horse race' question, Kerry beats him 58%-23%. It's only after being read Beatty's bio that the gap narrows so dramatically.

Beatty has run for office before; he was soundly beaten when he challenged Congressman Bill Delahunt just last year (by 65%-30%) . In his favor in this race however, is that Kerry isn't especially popular in Massachusetts anymore anyway. In the most recent approve/disapprove poll I can find (from April), Massachusetts voters approve of the job he's doing by a margin of just 54%-41%.

One thing is for sure: Kerry's opponent won't have much trouble raising money nationally. There are plenty of Republicans who would love to see his smug condescension and knee-jerk liberalism off the national stage.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More Trouble for Ted Stevens

A running theme here at Influence Peddler has been to ensure that the 2008 race isn't a repeat of the 2006 race -- at least insofar as ethics charges against Republicans go. In 2006 candidates were constantly answering questions about Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, and others. In 2008, will they find themselves defending... Ted Stevens?

Former VECO Corp. CEO Bill Allen admitted Friday to using company funds to pay some of the construction costs associated with Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) home remodeling project as well as using a small number of company employees to do the work.

Stevens’ attorney Brendan Sullivan, could not be reached for comment at press time.

Allen, testifying in federal court as part of a state-level bribery case, also said he gave Stevens furniture for the home. Additionally, Allen admitted to paying Stevens’ son, Ben, $4,000 a month while the younger Stevens served in the state Senate.

Although Ted Stevens has acknowledged VECO’s involvement in the home remodeling in the past, he has insisted the company’s role was limited to reviewing bills from contractors. He repeatedly has stated that he personally paid outside contractors for the work done on the house...

“I gave Ted some old furniture ... I don’t think there was a lot of material. There was some labor,” Allen said, according to The Associated Press, adding that between one and four VECO employees worked on the house for up to six months during 2000. Allen also admitted to visiting the work site every month or two.
OK - 'some labor,' 'some old furniture...' sounds like some buddies helping a pal set up a new apartment, right? What's the harm? Stevens probably bought beer and pizza for some friends, and that was it. After all, the place doesn't look like a palace.

I suppose that's a possibility.

But with ethics charges hovering over Stevens, Craig, Young, Doolittle, and others, Congressional leaders cannot afford to have faith in old friends. In each case, they better make sure that there's nothing to the charges, or that primary challengers are lined up.

More at the Politico, where there's more attention to the question of whether Stevens' son was bribed:
Allen told the court that that "he recruited Stevens in 1995 for work on behalf of VECO, well before Stevens was appointed to the state Senate in 2002, and that Stevens maintained a consulting contract with the company through 2006," the AP reported. Ben Stevens is former president of the Alaska Senate.
As long as it stays in the family...

Pelosi & Reid Forget: They Agree With the President

Read it at the Standard.

NRCC: Together We Will; Together We Can

House Republicans are trying to step up their outreach effort and build stronger outreach on the web. Part of that effort will be a series of videos, the first of which is below. I'm encouraged:

I think this is a great effort. I expect that the reaction from the blogosphere will be strong. I'll look forward to the dialogue.

Impeachment: the Cure for Every Problem

Dan Riehl has the story.

The rules of the House of Representatives feature a mechanism called a discharge petition to prevent popular legislation from being bottled up in committee. If 218 Members sign a discharge petition, the Speaker of the House must schedule the legislation for a floor vote.

House Republican leaders should consider a discharge petition on the impeachment legislation sponsored by Congressman Kucinich. As the legislation approached 218 signatures, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer would be forced to decide whether to schedule a vote, or to insist that their Members not sign the petition. It would force Democrats to choose between the Netroots and America.

When Republicans held the majority, they forced Democrats to take politically difficult votes on reinstatement of the draft, and an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. In the same way, Democrats in the minority used discharge petitions to force debate on alternate proposals for Iraq.

Turnabout is fair play. Should House Republicans force Democrats to take up impeachment?

No War for Oil

Tigerhawk argues that we have pretty clear proof that the US did not topple Saddam Hussein for the oil:

I never thought the claim that we invaded Iraq "for oil" made sense for the obvious reason that the straightest path to the oil would have been to cut a deal with Saddam Hussein. We were essentially at war with Iraq all along, flying 10,000 sorties a year to police the war zones and strangling it with economic sanctions so tight that the NGOs claimed that the West was "responsible" for tens or hundreds of thousands of excess deaths a year from economic deprivation. If the point was to "get" the oil for American companies, why not trade the lifting of American sanctions for drilling concessions? Well, a wealthy Texas oilman is on trial right now for acting on precisely that idea. He had a close relationship with Saddam Hussein, and tried to influence the United States government against attacking Iraq:

Read the whole thing.

Via Instapundit

Al Qaeda Cell Busted in Vienna

Vienna waits for you.

The Genius of Capitalism

Found it!

I've been trying to find this short for months -- years, maybe:

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As a child, I thought this was brilliant. As an adult, I'm surprised at how well it holds up. This cartoon and several others were produced by the Sloan Foundation and were intended to help kids understand the underpinnings of the US system.

The second short in the Sloan Foundation series was 'Heir Conditioned," which focused on the importance of investment. The best part runs from 5:35 to 6:10 or so.

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The third and final one was "Yankee Dood It," about how business runs :

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No mention of Joseph Schumpeter or David Ricardo, but still a great view. Each runs 7-8 minutes.

I sure wish they made stuff like this nowadays. Perhaps one on international trade...

Voters Trust Giuliani over Hillary in Handling Terrorist Attack

Read it at the Standard.

Time to Ditch Organic Farming

Bad for you, bad for the environment (just like the Prius):

If chemical pesticides are hazardous to health, then farm workers should be most affected. The results of a 13-year study of nearly 90,000 farmers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina — the Agricultural Health Study – suggests we really don't have much to worry about. These people were exposed to higher doses of agricultural chemicals because of their proximity to spraying, and 65 per cent of them had personally spent more than 10 years applying pesticides. If any group of people were going to show a link between pesticide use and cancer, it would be them. They didn't.

A preliminary report published in 2004 showed that, compared to the normal population, their rates of cancer were actually lower. And they did not show any increased rate of brain-damaging diseases like Parkinson's. There was one exception: prostate cancer. This seemed to be linked to farmers using a particular fungicide called methyl bromide, which is now in the process of being phased out. According to James Felton, of the Biosciences Directorate of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, who also chairs the study, "The bottom line is the results are coming out surprisingly negative. It's telling us that most of the chemicals we use today are not causing cancer or other disease."

I'm not going to excerpt the whole thing; go over and read Ron Bailey's post. In short, if you think that organic food will make you healthier or the world greener, you're mistaken.

Gingrich vs. Hillary?

Read it at the Standard.

Why Lobby? Because Lobbying Pays

Business Week has done some research on the return received by companies on their lobbying expenditures. The results are frightening -- BW concludes that dollars spent on lobbying are returned many times over:

The results suggest a startling conclusion: On average, companies generated roughly $28 in earmark revenue for every dollar they spent lobbying. And those at the very top did far better than the average: More than 20 companies pulled in $100 or more for every dollar spent. By any standard, that's a hefty ratio: The companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index brought in just $17.52 in revenues for every dollar of capital expenditure in 2006. Or look at the results in direct marketing, where an extremely successful campaign might bring in $5 in revenue for every dollar spent. "If mainstream American businesses got a 28-to-1 ratio in sales, they'd be ecstatic," says Steve Zammarchi, president and CEO of Wunderman New York, a sales and marketing firm.
According to Citizens Against Government Waste, Congress spent about $30 billion on earmarks in 2006. Significant as that is, it's just a drop in the bucket -- the US government spent about $2.7 trillion in 2006, so earmarks were only about 1 percent of federal expenditures.

The bulk of federal spending is on entitlement programs -- primarily Social Security, Medicare -- consume about 40 percent of federal spending. The federal government also maintains farm programs, commodity price supports, welfare programs, subsidies for product research and development and a myriad of other programs -- all of which are heavily lobbied. The AARP, AFL-CIO, NEA, Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and a host of other organizations also lobby for spending in this area of the budget. They spend millions of dollars, but in contrast to earmarks, the cost to the taxpayer is far harder to quantify.

Further, while a business such as Raytheon or Boeing represents only itself, its employees, and stockholders, those mass organizations listed above collectively represent tens of millions of Americans. As such, they have far more clout than any single company. Plus, they're far harder to demonize than any one of those companies -- because just about every American is represented by several of the groups listed above -- either directly or indirectly. So while the lobbying of specific companies for earmarks rightly attracts attention, the lobbying for more costly benefits will forever be downplayed.

Hat Tip: Rob Bluey

Yearning for a Simpler Time

I always wonder about people who yearn for a simpler timer -- a time before easy and convenient air travel, medical advances, retirement, a wealth of entertainment options, global communications, cheap long distance, expanded culinary and dietary options, larger homes, safer cars... ah yes, if only we could go back to those days.

This clip captures nicely the mistake that allows people to talk this way -- the unwillingness to recall the negatives associated with 'simpler times.'

Mild language warning:

Should Americans Return To A Simpler, Stone Age Lifestyle?

The proverbial 'exit question:' can you think of any human being at any point in human history who -- all things being equal -- would not choose to live in the United States today, if given the chance to trade?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is Kerrey's New School Returning Hsu's Money?

In all the attention to Democratic politicians returning donations from Norman Hsu, one major beneficiary of Hsu's largess has been overlooked: New York City's New School. New School President Bob Kerrey convinced Hsu to serve on the board, and the School benefited from his donations. The New York Times reported that Mr. Kerrey sought Board members who could write checks for 'at least $25,000 a year:'

Mr. Kerrey said that while the board certainly includes a number of political contributors — by his count, about 10 of the board’s 56 trustees are significant political donors — political activity is not a litmus test. Nor is being a Democrat. He said he seeks people who are interested in its activities and will donate at least $25,000 a year to the school.

As I noted here, the 2005-2006 annual report of the New School makes clear that Mr. Hsu donated significantly more than that. (Donations are listed in a range however, so it's not possible to infer exactly how much Hsu contributed.)

It seems that essentially every Democrat to whom Hsu donated has returned the money. Is an institution of higher learning bound by different rules? The Times report indicates that New School donations soared to $47 million last year -- triple what they were a few years ago. The school seems to be able to afford to return the donations -- or at least to attempt to ensure that they get back to the people from whom Hsu apparently stole the money.

Hopefully the actions of the New School to address this obvious impropriety have escaped press attention.

Ash on the Front Lines

Jonah is talking about something else, but am I the only one whose first thought at hearing that phrase was this (or this)?

Oh that's just what we call pillow talk, baby, that's all.

MoveOn Boosts the Mission in Iraq

Not by design, of course:

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans favor the recommendation made by General David Petraeus to withdraw 30,000 soldiers from Iraq but leave 130,000 troops in place at least through the summer. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 38% are opposed and 19% are not sure.

The survey also found that Americans may have resigned themselves to the fact that U.S. troops are likely to remain in Iraq for a long time. Seventy-one percent (71%) say that it is somewhat or very likely that “a large number of U.S. soldiers will remain in Iraq five years from today.” That would mean a large troop presence in Iraq when the next President’s first term is drawing to a close.

Update: His campaign may be over, but Thompson is weighing in on MoveOn anyway:

He looks forceful and energetic to me. And his daughter looks a lot more endearing than Andrew Giuliani did in a comparable role.

Falling Support for Pulling out of Iraq

Just 25 percent of Americans want the US to pull out of Iraq immediately:

Yet only one in four Americans say troops should leave now regardless of conditions on the ground. The public’s “heads and hearts are going in two different directions,” Mr. Newhouse said. “They want the troops to come home but think we can’t just leave.”

The Worst Superhero Adaptation Ever?

Jonathan Last wants to know. Here's the first of three clips to whet your appetite:

The others are worse -- go check them out.

Meet the Newest Klingon

Russell Crowe in the next Star Trek movie?

Russell Crowe is being tipped to play a bad guy in the new Star Trek movie.

Film bosses were lining up the 43-year-old Australian-based Oscar winning actor for a role in the movie to be directed by JJ Abrams, producer of hit television series Lost, an unnamed source told a British newspaper today.

"They think Russell is ideal to play the bad guy," the source told the Daily Mirror.

Only a fool fights in a burning house!

The Virginia Senate Race

With John Warner's announcement that he will not seek re-election and Mark Warner's entry into the race (today), Chris Cillizza asks whether Warner can be defeated:

The problem for Republicans is this: It does not matter WHY Warner hasn't had to withstand a sustained negative attack on his record, the fact is he has not. And that means his approval ratings are not a flash in the pan; people genuinely like him and believe they know him. Republicans will undoubtedly be able to peel off some of that goodwill from Warner but, judging from his poll numbers, he has plenty to lose before he is in any real political jeopardy...

Davis is no fundraising slouch himself, having built a national network of donors during his two terms as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. In 2006, Davis raised and spent roughly $2.75 million on his race despite facing only minimal Democratic competition. Gilmore faces serious questions about his fundraising ability as he was never able to raise serious sums for his quixotic presidential bid; the money he did raise came from a loyal group of core supporters, many of whom donated the federal limit to his campaign and therefore will be unable to contribute to any Senate effort. Either way, Warner will almost certainly outspend his Republican opponent with a combination of fundraising and personal donations.

The conclusion? Mark Warner sits in a unique position. He is well-known and well liked by Virginia voters and is certain to be well financed. But campaigns aren't decided on blogs, but on the ground with actual voters. At this time in the 2006 cycle, no one would have predicted Virginia Sen. George Allen would be bounced from the Senate. Strange things happened. Circumstances intrude on predictions. But, make no mistake: Mark Warner starts the race as a strong favorite.
This is all true. Mark Warner is pretty much the strongest candidate the Democrats can field in Virginia in any race. But he is also the only Democrat who would be favored over the generic Republican in any statewide race. That is, Virginia is still a Republican state -- even if that is less true than in the past. And that partisan bent remains a challenge.

Recall that of the state's 3 Democrats recently elected statewide, Warner and Kaine were elected in non-presidential years, when it was easier for them to distinguish themselves from the national Democratic candidate. Webb meanwhile was elected due to a perfect storm of partisan coverage, opponent's missteps, and worst GOP year in a generation. And still he won by a hair.

While the Virginia electorate has changed somewhat -- notably because of the dramatic growth in Northern Virginia -- these candidates won largely because they were seen as different from the national party. That distinction will be much harder to draw in a presidential year -- particularly if Democrats select a polarizing figure as their nominee. (Either Hillary or Edwards would qualify.)

There are plenty of instances in which statewide candidates of the 'wrong' party prevail in off-year elections, but lose when they run in a year when the presidential race drives the election in the state. Warner will face that challenging environment next year. Further, will the Netroots give him the leeway they gave Jim Webb in 2006, after their sour experience with moderate Democrats in the House and Senate? How will Warner reconcile Virginia's military culture with his party's dovish stands on Iraq and terror more generally?

I can't see this being as easy for Warner as people believe it to be now.

One surprise though -- while Tom Davis and Jim Gilmore are clearly flawed candidates, and some Virginia Republicans are pressing for another candidate, some state conservatives are not waiting to see whether there will be any more entrants:

In advance of today’s announcement by former Gov. Mark Warner (D) that he’ll run for the state’s open Senate seat in 2008, former state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) and a slew of state Republican officials released a letter Wednesday announcing that they are supporting Rep. Tom Davis (R) in the contest to replace Sen. John Warner (R).

So far, Congressman Eric Cantor is the only name that I have heard as a potential conservative entrant into the race. If he does choose to run, he would be a tougher candidate than either Gilmore or Davis.

Update: Dave Weigel has a very creepy picture of 'Mr. Warner,' and wonders what the race says about tax cut politics.

Fred Thompson's Campaign is Over

Forget any and every other criticism you have heard about Senator Thompson. Any man who would hit on Rosanne Barr lacks the judgment to serve as President:

Ethics Rules Bite -- So Senators Look to Change Them

In criticizing the new raft of new ethics rules proposed and adopted by the Democratic Congressional leadership this year, I've commented that those rules will have little impact on the behavior of our elected officials. One report today makes clear that there have at least been one clear effect -- the travel schedules of Senators have become more complex and difficult:

Because of new ethics rules forbidding gifts to senators, the Air Transport Association ruled that it would be a violation of the Senate's gift ban to allow senators to continue their usual practice of double- and, sometimes, triple-booking flights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which has oversight of the issue, explained the practice this way: This week, it was unclear whether the Senate would finish Tuesday night or yesterday morning, so senators would have booked multiple flights, hedging their bets on when they could get away and paying only for the flight they took.

"The airlines have allowed us to hold these flights," Feinstein told On the Hill, explaining that it is a service that is also offered to the most frequent travelers on particular airlines -- and is, therefore, not a specific gift.

Now that Senators are required to book one flight, they may find themselves guessing wrong as to when the Senate will complete its business. When the rubber meets the road, they must miss either a vote or a flight. So how do they response? With an attempt to reverse the rule change:

Feinstein said she will soon ask the Select Committee on Ethics to issue a ruling on the matter, noting that senators weren't looking for a handout from the airlines but, rather, the best way to get home to their constituents. "It's really hard because if you can only book one flight, and you can't make that flight, then you're stuck," she said.

It's like Superman being unwilling to go around as Clark Kent anymore. Although come to think of it, he doesn't have problems with airline seating.

Update: Linked to Joyner.

Democrat Ethics Bill Protects Extortion by Congressional Leaders

Read it at the Standard.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is Ahmadinejad Writing for the Onion?

CNN reports:

Iran wants "peace and friendship for all," the country's president said Wednesday while again denying Western assertions his nation is pursuing nuclear weapons and trying to destabilize Iraq.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a hard line against Israel, calling it "an invader" and saying it "cannot continue its life..."

"We want friendship -- friendship to all. We love all nations and all human beings. Anyone who is killed, we are against it."

Perhaps Ahmadinejad wants to invite all Israelis to a special peace summit.

Iran has been waging a terror war on the US and US interests since 1979. How we deal with Iran is likely to be one of the leading foreign policy issues of the next campaign. Appropriately so.

Newt's Trial Balloon Bad News for Thompson

Newt Gingrich has been an interesting side-show to the 2008 presidential race, but if there's anything you can say about him, it's that he's not stupid. Today he's floated a trial balloon -- suggesting that he is again thinking about getting into the presidential race:

Newt Gingrich is moving closer to a presidential nomination bid in a severely divided Republican Party.

"I will decide based on whether I have about $30 million in committed campaign contributions and whether I think it is possible to run a campaign based on ideas rather than 30-second sound bites," the former House speaker told The Washington Times yesterday.
In June, Gingrich was telling friends and supporters that he would only consider getting in if Fred Thompson's candidacy flopped:
Newt Gingrich is telling Republican insiders that his decision in September on whether to run for president in 2008 depends on the progress of Fred Thompson's imminent candidacy.

If Thompson runs a vigorous and effective campaign, Gingrich says privately, he probably will not get in the race. If Thompson proves a dud, however, the former House speaker will seriously consider making a run. That implies that the others in the field look to Gingrich like losers in the general election.

It's no great insight to say that Thompson's campaign hasn't gone as he would have liked it the last 2 months or so. Plenty of folks think he took too long to get in, and some of the bloom has gone off the rose. He has a narrow window here to get traction and recapture some of the mystique and aura he had in the Spring. If he can consolidate a good chunk of the conservative vote -- attracting those dissatisfied with Giuliani or Romney -- then he can shut Gingrich out.

If not, Gingrich might do the same thing to Thompson that Thompson did to the others: Freeze the field (somewhat) while primary voters wait to see what he will do. If Thompson has another few bad weeks, and Gingrich floats a few more trial balloons, some primary voters may decide to keep their powder dry, while they wait to see if Gingrich is their man.

Southwest's Positive Press

So a second Southwest passenger has come forward to complain about not being allowed to fly.

Does anyone think that this is hurting Southwest among its clientele? It may be a cause of condescension and shock among the bicoastal elites, but I suspect that most of Southwest's customers are finding their choice and values confirmed.

Senate Democrats Auctioning off Iraq Policy

According to Congressional Quarterly, the Senate Democratic alternative on Iraq will be whatever gets a few Republican votes:

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Wednesday the legislation he is drafting would include three elements: a drawdown of troops, a transition to new missions — force protection, training, counterterrorism — and a deadline for completion of the transition and withdrawal. Whether the latter is a goal or a hard date will be determined by how many Republicans he can attract, Levin said.

Do you want a date-certain for withdrawal? Tax credits to encourage troops to leave? Talk to Levin; he may have a plan you'll back.

Novak: Doolittle Seat 'Leaning' to Democrats

The 2006 Democratic sweep saw most vulnerable House incumbents defeated. Right now there are just 8 seats held by Republicans that were won by Senator Kerry in 2004. That's the good news.

The bad news is, there remain several Republican incumbents in both the House and Senate who might be ripe for the picking in 2008 because of ethics questions. One such Member whom we've looked at before is John Doolittle.

Today in his political report, Bob Novak opines that because of Doolittle's intention to run notwithstanding an FBI investigation apparently related to ties to Jack Abramoff, the seat is rated as 'Leaning Democratic Takeover:'

The power vacuum in the House GOP showed itself last week in the announcement by Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) that he will seek re-election while under federal investigation in connection with the Jack Abramoff probe.

Republican leaders had wanted Doolittle, whose home was raided by the FBI and whose staff has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury (apparently connected to his wife's work with Abramoff), to step down even though he has not been indicted. When asked recently on the record about Doolittle, Republican House leaders Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Adam Putnam (Fla.) pointedly refused to endorse him.

This spells trouble for GOP hopes to hold onto this seat in a very Republican district. Doolittle's insistence on running again leaves only two possible outcomes: Doolittle as the nominee or an ugly GOP primary. Both of these situations could tilt the race towards the Democratic candidate.

Retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown (D) held Doolittle under 50% last year and came within three points of unseating the congressman. Brown, who was boosted by and bankrolled by Democrats nationwide, has recently announced he will run next year. Once again, he will be well funded, and his name recognition will be high.

A squadron of Republicans has lined up to challenge Doolittle or run if he drops out. State Assemblyman Ted Gaines (R), Iraq war veteran Eric Egland (R) and 2006 primary candidate Mike Holmes (R) are all running, and radio host Tom Sullivan (R) might jump in. With that many candidates attracting the anti-Doolittle vote, Doolittle would have a strong chance of winning the nomination. As his legal woes seem to have worsened since 2006 -- and because 2008 may be a worse year for Republicans in California than 2006 was -- this one looks like another Democratic pickup. Leaning Democratic Takeover.
It's clear that Mr. Doolittle will have a very difficult time holding onto a seat with a partisan edge of +11 GOP (that is, the average Republican does 11 points better than the average Democrat here). The Republicans would be better served by another candidate here. But so far House GOP leaders have been unable to dissuade Mr. Doolittle from seeking re-election, although it's clear that they have tried.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nuestro Pais en Transicion

Bienvenidos! Segun Business Wire, la mayor parte de la publica que mira la television (entre las edades de 18 y 34) evidamente habla espanol!

Estoy listo, tontos! Yo vivi en el DF casi dos anos!

Univision captured the #1 network ranking among all Adults 18-34, not just Hispanics, and outdelivered ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW for the entire first week of Nielsen's single national panel (NPM).

In the first entire week (8/27/07-9/2/07) since all networks were reported from one single ratings sample, Univision ranked as the #1 network with an +11% advantage over its nearest competitor, FOX, and beating ABC by +43%, CBS by +42%, NBC by +57%, and fully +125% ahead of CW for all Adults 18-34, not just Hispanics. Univision was also the #1 ranked network all night every night Monday through Friday last week among the same coveted young adult demographic.

In addition, Univision aired 9 out of the top 20 programs of the entire week, regardless of language, among all Adults 18-34.

I for one welcome our new hispanic overlords -- as long as they're all like Thalia.

Senate Votes Against $2.6 Billion for Bridge Repair

The US Senate has patted itself on the back for approving an additional $1 billion for the repair of structurally deficient bridges:

The Senate approved $1 billion on Monday to speed repair and replacement of America's crumbling network of bridges, six weeks after the Interstate 35W span collapsed in Minneapolis.

The Senate approved the funds on a 60-33 vote as the Senate began debate on a $104.6 billion measure funding transportation and housing programs for the budget year beginning Oct. 1...

If approved, the Democratic plan would boost federal funding next year for bridge repair and replacement by 20 percent, but would barely make a dent in the $65 billion nationwide backlog of bridge repairs identified by the Department of Transportation.
The Senate hasn't yet decided how to pay for the additional billion in spending; right now it's merely a decision to spend additional money. Eventually Congress might vote to increase the gas tax, as many Democrats advocate.

But while there's lots of attention to the additional billion for bridge repair, the very next vote in the Senate was to deny about $2.6 billion more for that effort. That vote will get a lot less attention, since the proposal by Senator Coburn would have canceled all funds for earmarks in the bill (which total an estimated $2.6 billion), and dedicated it to repair of structurally deficient bridges. The Senate voted to table that amendment, rather than debate it, by a bipartisan vote of 82-14.

Senator Coburn intends to offer several other amendments along these lines. None of them is likely to pass.

The next time you hear a Senator complain about insufficient funding for repair of bridges, ask how he or she voted on Coburn's amendment. While Republicans voted to kill it by a margin of 35-12, Democrats voted to keep the pork-barrel spending by an even more dramatic 47-2.

Neither party covered itself in glory on this one.

Is Larry Brown's Senate Campaign Over Before it Started

Soren Dayton notes that while Bob Kerrey may once have been a very popular and respected governor and Senator from Nebraska, he's been more of a Larry Brown clone lately:

It strikes me that there’s an important opportunity to define Kerrey early. On one level he is an outsider. An another level he is mercurial. He didn’t like the Governor’s office. So he went to Washington. He didn’t like the Senate, so he ran for President. He didn’t like Washington, so he went to New York. Now he doesn’t like New York, so he wants to go back to Washington. Only catch is that he’s going to have to domicile back in Nebraska for it little bit.

Do the people of Nebraska really want to support this guy’s wanderlust?

Plus there's the matter of his association with Norman Hsu. How closely is Kerrey tied to him? If Bruning and the GOP re-introduce Kerrey to the people of Nebraska as the itinerant friend of the guy at the center of the most far-reaching money scandal in recent memory, Kerrey will have lost before the race begins.

Am I a Thompson Guy?

I wouldn't have been surprised to come up with Giuliani...

Monday, September 10, 2007

DailyKos: Osama's No More Evil than Reagan

Read it over at the Standard.

Hillary's Felonious Fundraiser

Right Wing News points to a story about a prominent Hillary fundraiser convicted of extortion and racketeering, and tossed from office because of voter fraud. No, it's not Norman Hsu -- it's Raul Martinez. His convictions occurred in 1991, while he was Mayor:

"Mayor Raul Martinez, was convicted of extortion and racketeering...after a jury found he had accepted $1 million in cash and property from land developers..."
In 1993 he was seemingly re-elected while serving time, until a judge threw out the election due to voter fraud. And Martinez's sister-in-law may have abetted the effort to produce those fraudulent absentee ballots -- while she was an official at the Department of Justice:
Martinez was counted in by 273 votes, which was all the more remarkable because, at the time of the election, he was a convicted felon sentenced to 10 years in prison for extortion and racketeering. (The conviction was reversed on appeal three years later) Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles refused to intervene, saying that the people had spoken, and allowed Martinez to be seated despite the mayor's conviction.

Juri refused to give up. He had held a slight edge in the polls going into the election, and he was the absolute winner among the machine-tallied ballots. But the Martinez organization had produced a 2-1 advantage in absentee ballots, and the same tactics currently at issue in the Carollo-Suarez Miami election were obvious in the Hialeah election. Juri pursued his case in court, and in 1994 Dade Circuit Court Judge Sidney Shapiro held that the election was affected by substantial fraud, threw out the absentee ballots, and ordered a new election.
As I've said multiple times, the greatest threat to Hillary's campaign is the fact that all things being equal, voters don't want to go back to the Clinton years. Sure there was economic growth, but there was inattention to the growing terrorist threat, there was shady financial dealing, there were personal failings. If given a credible alternative, and reminded of what they didn't like about the Clinton years, Hillary is going to lose.

Via Soren

Continued Problems with the Virtual Fence

Government Executive reports that the virtual fence along the border is still not on pace. And apparently the Department of Homeland Security is considering giving up and trying again:

Homeland Security hired defense contracting giant Boeing Integrated Defense Systems to develop the so-called SBInet program, which is supposed to use technology, personnel and infrastructure to control the borders. Under the first phase of the contract, Boeing was supposed to develop an integrated system for 28 miles of border in Arizona by June.

But the department has refused to accept Boeing's solution because of ongoing technical glitches.

"I am not going to buy something with U.S. government money unless I'm satisfied it works in the real world," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told lawmakers during a hearing Wednesday. "And if it can't be made to work, I'm prepared to go and find something that will be made to work, although I'll obviously be disappointed."
The immigration debate in Congress seems essentially to be over -- at least for a few years. Therefore the glitches in this system may not be very significant, politically, and may have a few years to work themselves out. Nevertheless, if DHS is forced to start from scratch, that's a major black eye for an administration that staked so much on the benefits of a virtual fence over a 'real fence.' It's also another argument to support the criticisms of those who insist on proof that border enforcement is working before considering measures to deal with the illegal population.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Glimpse Into an Anti-War Strategy Session

For months it appeared that September would produce a great confrontation between the President and leaders in Congress, over the nation's future policy in Iraq. But as The Surge has seemingly produced results, it has become plain that the President retains enough supporters to continue the policy, with the modifications he believes appropriate.

For that reason it's interesting to read the transcript of a late August conference call among anti-war leaders. These activists are developing a game plan with the help of House anti-war leaders Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Jim Moran (D-VA). It's fascinating to read, to get a sense of how they view this fight.

Neither Woolsey nor Moran gives an accurate and honest assessment of the effort to end the war -- though Moran probably comes much closer. There are only a few ways to force a withdrawal from Iraq if the President refuses to do so. The first is to assemble a veto-proof majority in both Houses to force a withdrawal. Neither Woolsey nor Moran is eager to acknowledge that when the House passed legislation to fund the war without restriction, they lost their last best chance to end it.

But neither is really that simple. If Speaker Pelosi refused to bring up funding legislation, it's conceivable that a bipartisan House majority could come together to force her to. And in the Senate, a funding measure could be attached as an amendment to other legislation. So it's not clear that Congressional Democrats have the tools to block a bipartisan majority from continuing the war.

In any case, the particulars of the parliamentary questions are moot; Pelosi and Reid have so far been unwilling to risk the political damage of being seen to deny funds for the troops. And all rhetoric aside, it seems they're unwilling to change that strategy now.

So when Moran tells the participants on the call that the future in Iraq will be decided in the 2008 Presidential election, he's probably right. But it looks like the war may end with a whimper rather than a bang, since the White House will clearly be recommending a drawdown of troops. If the American people become convinced that the Surge is working and that our presence in Iraq is not permanent, is the war in Iraq really likely to be a decisive question in the race for the Presidency?

Hat Tip: The Politico

A Great Food Blog

Cheap, healthy, good offers really good clues for how to help you find and prepare meals that are - well, cheap, healthy and good. The blog is well written, too.

Check it out. Here's a link for Two Lemon Chicken.

Japan Applies to Host Next Bond Supervillain

By developing the first solar-powered, space-based death-ray laser:

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Osaka University have been working together to develop a device which converts sunlight into laser-light with four times the efficiency of previous attempts. According to a report out of Tokyo, the team is working on Space-based solar power systems which can collect sunlight in space and convert it into laser light, which is then transmitted to Earth and used for electricity... or to power a massive Death-Ray. The project works by storing sunlight-based energy in plate made from a sintered powder of metals like chromium and neodymium. When weak laser light is shined onto the plate, the stored energy is transferred to the laser where its strength is amplified by a factor of four. In one test, a 0.5-watt laser was amplified to 180-watts by the plates. Scientists have thus far been able to garner 40-percent of the solar energy produced, and they hope to have a system ready for satellite mounting by the not-too-distant year 2030.

I'm relieved that the device would be powered by the sun, as opposed to some hydrocarbon-based energy source that would only exacerbate global warming.

This device would come in extremely hand for frying Halkan cities if they refuse to turn over the dilithium crystals.

Oh wow. Two kids=less sleep=lost coherence. And you pay the price.

Go read an intelligent blog.

Jim Moran: Iraq Will be Another Iran -- Let's Get Out

Congressman Jim Moran speaks to the Hill regarding the future of Iraq. He argues that the country is a mess, that Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed, that the Baghdad police is a major source of sectarian strife and ought to be disbanded, that the country will likely wind up a Shia theocracy aligned with Iran, and... we ought to withdraw as soon as possible.

Moran's prediction is incredibly depressing. A Shia theocracy aligned with Iran... would be incredibly destabilizing to the region and a threat to Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kurdistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other regional allies. For better or for worse, Saddam Hussein served for years as a check on Iranian attempts to project power. Do we really want to withdraw from Iraq and create a second Iran?

Imagine how quickly Iran and Iraq might develop nuclear arsenals that threaten a far greater number of countries. Imagine how they might use their resources in alliance to step up the terror war against the West. Imagine how they would bring the region under their influence, and end our efforts to promote western values and interests in southern Asia.

If Moran really believe Iraq will become a Shia theocracy aligned with Iran, the only responsible course of action is to maintain our presence there. If he thinks it's useless to try to promote a pluralistic democratic regime, then he ought to be advocating the use of our influence to ensure that Iraq have a leader that we can 'work with.'

To be clear, this is not what I believe or advocate. But if Moran thinks that Iraq will become another Iran and that we should stand aside and let it happen, then he doesn't understand the threat posed by Iran.

What Do Democrats Believe In

Usually I complain about the politicization of the comics pages, but it's easier to take when there's balance. Plus, this is at least as funny as your typical Doonesbury:

You could also add going back on campaign promises.