Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Governor Kaine's response is not great. He keeps citing all the things that governors are doing across the country that are better than what the federal government is doing. If the governors are so great, why did Democrats fight any effort to devolve power back to the states?

And that chant, "There's got to be a better way." is just lame. It sounds like a chant meant to get an audience all excited and pumped up. But there is no live audience for Kaine's speech. So, it comes off as lame rhetorical device.

And I'm sorry for my immature pettiness, but that eyebrow thing he has got going is quite distracting.

Brit Hume just pointed out that "There has got to be a better way" was the slogan used by the Robert Redford character in The Candidate. Not the model for a politician to be following - a fictional guy who got elected on his looks and charisma and then had no clue what to do once he was elected.
Bill Kristol said that there were lots of debates within the White House about how feisty Bush should be on various issues such as Alito's confirmation hearings, making the tax cuts permanent, etc. And, as Kristol said, "the squishes won." So, Bush came off as rather conciliatory.

That might not gratify some of the more aggressive of Bush's supporters, but I think it's just the right tone for a State of the Union. That isn't the time for partisan attacks.

That makes the contrast between the tone of the President's speech and Governor Kaine's response so much more noticeable. Kaine's whole point is to criticize everything the administration does or has done. That's the whole purpose of the opposition response.
The Democrats applaud the fact that they stopped Bush's efforts to save Social Security? The juxtaposition of their glee at not fixing the problem with Bush's reminder that the problem is not going away is telling.

But, geez, do we really need another blue-ribbon bipartisan commission?
Was the call of earmark reform a small swipe at Roy Blunt? If only the GOP in Congress would heed the call.
By the way, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, is the designated survivor.
That's taking it to 'em - defend his NSA surveillance of people in the US talking to Al Qaeda right in the State of the Union in front of a joint meeting of Congress. Did you catch Hillary's smile (them must have stressed to her not to grimace as in past years while Bush was speaking) and little shake of her head as if she just can't believe this guy?
Apparently, Cindy Sheehan was arrested before the speech began because she tried to unfurl a banner in the House chambers. She is so clueless that she didn't realize that it would serve her attention-getting purpose better to wait and do that while Bush was speaking. Bush is again lucky in his enemies.
It's so funny to see what lines the Democrats have decided that they won't applaud for. Having military decisions made by the military and not by politicians in Washington is apparently something that they oppose and won't applaud.
It's always so funny to see these Democratic representatives who despise President Bush camp out so they get an aisle seat so that they can be seen shaking his hand when he enters the House chamber. Hotline has the list.
How wonderful to see Justice Alito wearing the traditional black robes and here to watch the SOTU. He and Justice Thomas can kick back after the speech and exchange thoughts on how best to enjoy their opponents' discombobulation for the duration of a lifetime appointment.
Mrs. Bush is looking very nice in her pink suit. She should have brought the Roberts children in their pastel clothes just to drive the Washington Post fashion writer nuts.
Gee, first he loses the election against the moron that is BushchimpHitler. Then he plunged his party into a fruitless and doomed filibuster that only got support from about half of his caucus. And, to add insult to injury, the reporters want to talk to the new boy in school and are ignoring him. It's gotta hurt. You can see it all in this picture of John Kerry.
The Prowler has some intriguing scuttlebutt on Howard Dean and Harry Reid.
It appears that the Democrat Party is closer to imploding than the Republican. How else to explain the ongoing attempts by Democrat Party Chairman Howard Dean to destroy Senate Majority [sic] Leader Harry Reid?

According to knowledgeable DNC sources, Dean about ten days ago was shown opposition research documents generated by the Republican National Committee more than three years ago, which laid out facts regarding Reid and his family's lobbying and ethical conflicts.

Dean, according to the sources, was fascinated by the details, and asked that his staff research and independently confirm everything on the documents. "Basically he oppo'd a member of his own party," says a DNC source loyal to Dean.

"Basically, we were looking at three- or four-page documents that made Jack Abramoff's lobbying work look like that of a rank amateur," says the DNC source. "Between the minority leader's past in Nevada and here in Washington, and the activities of his sons and son-in-law, there probably isn't anyone in this town with more conflicts. The Reid family is the symbol of what's wrong with Washington; it's their behavior that enabled the culture that spawned people like Abramoff."

Dean then went public over the weekend, saying that Democrats with an Abramoff problem would be in trouble, not only with voters, but with the Democrat Party. But why attack a senior member of his own party?

According to Democrat Party watchers and DNC staff, Dean has grown increasingly frustrated at how he is treated by the likes of Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who leads the House Democrat candidate recruitment effort. "They treat him like a lackey, not as an equal," says another DNC employee. "Just last week, they were all badmouthing his fundraising activities, when clearly he's done a good job. What this comes down to a fight for the soul of our party, and if the chairman has to draw a long knife on a few of his colleagues, he's more than willing to do so."
Oh, come on boys and girls. Play nice.
Hugh Hewitt has posted his drinking game for the Democratic response to the State of the Union. Enjoy.
Now that the Democrats have lost on Alito, the long knives are out. The New York Times has a story looking at what the Democrats did wrong in their tactics to try to stop the Alito nomination.
As the last obstacles to confirmation faded away Monday, Democratic aides said their party had initially expected Judge Alito to live up to his reputation as "Scalito," suggesting a conservative firebrand in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia. Failing to adjust to his meekness, Democratic aides admit they searched too hard for scandal in Judge Alito's past.

The White House, meanwhile, sought to take advantage of Judge Alito's low-key, almost shy demeanor to build sympathy for him. They say they succeeded beyond all expectations when Judge Alito's wife, Martha-Ann, walked out in tears from his confirmation hearings.

"Any time they are yelling, preaching, lecturing, and you are cool and calm and breathing deep, you are winning," the administration official said the White House team told Judge Alito. "What that means on television sets where the American people are watching this is, you look good and they look bad. It was the central operating premise."

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, agreed. "It was a classic rope-a-dope," Mr. Manley said, referring to the boxing tactic of leaning against the ropes to let an opponent exhaust himself punching.
The blame seems to be centering on Senator Kennedy's aides, particularly a man with the Dickensian name of James Flug.
Among other things, several Democratic aides said, Mr. Flug drove the investigation into Judge Alito's failure to recuse himself, as he had pledged to do during his court of appeals confirmation hearing, from cases involving his mutual fund company, Vanguard. But Mr. Flug met with polite skepticism from many of his colleagues.

"You are going to ask more questions about that oversight where Alito made no money?" a staff member for another Democratic senator said he asked Mr. Flug.

"It became clear to us early on," the staff member added, "that the guy may be way too far right for our tastes, but we think the guy is a man of honor."

Mr. Flug also led the investigation into the background of Judge Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a conservative group that had opposed the university's affirmative action policies and its admission of women. For weeks, he even tried to persuade the staff of Republican senators that the matter could be a serious concern, said Republican Judiciary Committee aides, until in December the Republicans sent a researcher to review the group's records and found no mention of Judge Alito.

Still, Mr. Kennedy made Concerned Alumni a major focus of his questioning at the confirmation hearings, even threatening to interrupt the proceedings unless the committee issued a subpoena for another set of the group's records. But the move backfired when the records turned out to be readily available and also did not include any reference to Judge Alito.
And I guess Kennedy is not sharp enough to know when his friend and aide has gone over the top in his attacks. But Kennedy wouldn't recognize over-the-top attacks if they bit him on his derrière.
Scott Ott's grandmother has passed away. It sounds as if she was a lovely woman and I'm sure our thoughts and prayers go out to Scott, otherwise known as Scrappleface.
Dana Milbank covers the gathering in DC of all the wackos who are are angry the Democrats in the House are not fighting to impeach President Bush.
The new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds congressional Democrats in the best position they've held in 14 years, besting President Bush and Republican lawmakers on Iraq, the economy, health care, immigration, ethics and more.

All of which can mean only one thing: It is time for the Democrats to eat their own.

Right on cue, liberal activists including Cindy Sheehan and Ramsey Clark gathered yesterday at the Busboys & Poets restaurant and bookshop at 14th and V streets NW for what they billed as a forum on "The Impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney." But the participants, while charging the administration with "crimes against humanity," a "war of aggression" and even "the supreme international crime," inevitably turned their wrath on congressional Democrats, whom they regarded as a bunch of wimps.
Oh, can we have these guys meet every day?
"Cindy for the Senate!" called out moderator Kevin Zeese, a Ralph Nader acolyte. "It's important for us to stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and break out of this two-party straitjacket," argued Zeese, a third-party candidate for Senate in Maryland.

After the participants made their urgent calls for impeachment proceedings, John Bruhns, identifying himself as an antiwar Iraq veteran, rose for a clarification. If Democrats don't first "gain control of one of the houses" of Congress, he wondered, "how else can we impeach this monster?"

Swanson had a ready brushoff for Democrats who won't pursue impeachment because they're in the minority: "Just go home if you're going to talk that way." Offering the lessons of 1994, he said: "The way the Republicans got the majority was not by being scared. . . . It was by going out and speaking on behalf of their base and letting themselves be called radicals."

Bruhns, wearing a crew cut and business suit, disagreed. Somebody in the audience called for him to "shut up."

"They didn't answer my question," Bruhns protested after the exchange ended. "How do you get impeachment if you don't win elections? I'm being practical."
But practicality is not the point. In fact, being practical is, apparently, ust a copout.
The first questioner, getting into the spirit of the forum, declared of the administration: "These criminals and gangsters, thugs as I regard them, I believe engineered 9/11."

Many in the crowd applauded. But others were skeptical. "I've heard a lot about accountability" from the panel, said one questioner. "Seems to me the first opportunity we had for accountability was in the last election."

"Elections," moderator Zeese replied, "are not the determining factor."
With this wing of the party and Howard Dean so visible, no wonder the GOP isn't as worried as the media thinks the poll results should make them?
John Hinderaker and Captain Ed have a screen capture of how Colleen Rowley, the famed FBI "whistleblower" who is now running for Congress against Representative John Kline of Minnesota, posted a picture of Kline on her website in which they photoshopped out his Marine uniform and replaced it with a Nazi uniform. She's since removed the picture from her site, but has not apologized to Marine veteran Representative Kline.

The whole tirade on her site was about Kline's proposal to take Ulysses Grant off of the $50 bill and replace him with Ronald Reagan. Here is the text of the blog against Kline for wanting to replace Grant on the $50.

Well, I admire both Reagan and Grant a lot. Reagan was the greater president, of course, but Grant's generalship won the Civil War. Let's not engage in a spitting contest about the two men. And, if we were going to replace anyone on the money, why not Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill - talk about undeserving.) I think this mission to put Reagan's name all over the place is nice, but rather unnecessary and probably not what Reagan himself would have wanted. Let's not start making the habit to replace old heroes with new heroes. We have plenty of ways to honor Reagan without doing so at the expense of other men.

However, with that aside, having a Congressional candidate portray her opponent as a Nazi for wanting to change the picture on the $50 bill gives everyone an idea of how over the top some people are and how easily they will reach for the Nazi metaphor whenever they want to disagree with a Republican. Shame, shame.
The same group of people who deride President Bush when he speaks of the role of his faith in his life are now headlining Governor Kaine of Virginia speaking about his Catholic faith when he gives the answer to the State of the Union tonight.
Governor Timothy M. Kaine, a devout Catholic who spoke openly about his faith during his election campaign last year, will speak about his work as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras, said Delacey Skinner, a Kaine spokeswoman. Kaine said that experience during his time as a Harvard Law School student inspired him to enter public service.

''Faith is a good guidepost for how you evaluate the world, but it also should be a good guidepost for how you act," Skinner said. ''That's really what his faith teaches -- that the real focus should be doing the work of faith that helps others."

Kaine's address from the governor's mansion in Richmond, a departure from the usual practice of Democratic congressional leaders responding to the president's speech from Capitol Hill, is part of the party's strategy to bring a once-reliable constituency back to their side
The Democrats are worried that Bush got 52% of the Catholic vote in 2004 against John Kerry, a Catholic candidate. They are searching for ways to show that religion provides the foundation for their domestic policies.

Perhaps it is so. I wouldn't want to question any person's faith. However, it is going to be hard to convince Catholics about how important faith is to your decision-making when two prominent Catholic politicians, Kennedy and Kerry, just went to the mattresses to oppose a Catholic nominee to the Supreme Court mainly on the issue of abortion. They can talk about all the other issues that made them oppose Alito, but everyone knows that abortion was the basis for their opposition and some such as Senator Lautenberg and Diane Feinstein made that quite explicit in their reasoning about why they were voting "no" on Alito. I mean, we all know that if Alito was on record supporting abortion rights, they would not have been so adamant in their opposition to Alito and would not have drummed up all these other fake accusations about Alito stopping the "march to progress" that Kennedy went so over-the-top in his speech yesterday.

So, Governor Kaine can talk all he wants about his Catholic values, but as long as the party is dead-set on the crucial importance of abortion rights trumping all other issues, they will have a hard sell for many Catholic voters.
Donald Lambro has a story about how the Democrats have run through most of the money that they raised last year.
The DNC raised $51 million in 2005 but finished the year with just $5.5 million in the bank. The Republican National Committee raised twice as much during the same period, $102 million, and had $34 million on hand this month.
The sharp disparity in campaign funds between the parties' two national campaign committees has triggered private complaints among House and Senate Democratic leaders about Mr. Dean's expenditures, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports
Gee, one more reason why Republicans love Howard Dean and hope he stays on as head of the DNC for a nice, long time.

With money fading away from the national party, 527s and groups that make independent expenditures will become more and more important to candidates. Such is what McCain-Feingold has wrought. The monetary power will shift away from the national parties and towards groups like Moveon.org that don't have to follow the disclosure rules and limits on campaign donations. Remember this when next you hear about some massive reform that is supposed to get money and special interest influence out of politics.
John Fund talked to Dick Armey about the GOP in the House and where they have gone off the path that brought them to power in 1994.
Mr. Armey, a former economics professor, vividly recalls the House leadership meeting in late 2001 that prompted his decision to retire. Afterwards he returned to his office and wrote down his summary of how he saw the GOP Congress behaving: "We come to this town and we do things we ought not to be doing in order to stay in the majority so we can do things we ought to be doing that we never get around to doing." A few weeks later the man who was a chief drafter of the 1994 Contract with America announced he was leaving office.
Sadly, that seems to be true of most politicians, not just the House GOP, when they get into power. It makes one yearn for some sort of term limits, but since that would have to come through the legislators themselves writing an amendment and passing it on to the states, it just ain't going to happen.

There might be a temporary change if the House gets new leadership, but I would predict that that would change after a few years, especially if they lose seats in the Fall and feel tense about retaining a majority.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Michelle Malkin liveblogged Senator Kennedy's rant against Sam Alito. Kennedy clearly has a standard speech about civil rights and the Supreme Court. Any relationship between Kennedy's demagoguery and Alito's judicial record is purely coincidental.
We're talking now about the Supreme Court. But they are the ones who changed this country inevitably with what we call the march to progress. The march towards knocking down the walls of discrimination that permitted us to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and public accomodations so people who's skin was not white who could go into restaurants and hotels. Public accomodations. The '65 act for voting. Voting rights. The '68 act. The public accomodations. The 1973 act that said that women are going to treated equally. The Americans with Disabilities Act that said that the disabled are going to be part of the American family.

All of that is part of the march for progress.

And my friends, the one organization, the one institution that protects it is THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES!!! (Screaming at the top of his lungs.)

Too much blood has been shed in those battles. Too much sweat. Too many tears. To. Put. At. Risk. That. March. For. Progress.

(Banging podium. Voice cracking.)

And that is what we are doing (voice quavering) with this nominee. HE FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE before this Judiciary Committee that he was committed to the continued march for progress...
Gee, I thought the Supreme Court was supposed to interpret the Constitution and laws of the land. I didn't know they were supposed to be a progressive institution. If Kennedy wants a march for progress then he can work for such laws to be passed by Congress. They are the legislative body in case he's forgotten.
If Lincoln Chafee thought that he would win votes from the far left for his decision to vote against Alito, he is sadly mistaken. This is one reaction over at Kos to his vote for cloture but against Alito.
Chafee to NARAL: Screw You

Those aren't his exact words of course, but that will be the effect of Lincoln Chafee's vote for cloture. After voting for John Roberts, Chafee reassured a anxious NARAL by declaring "I'm reliably pro-choice." But Chafee appears to be reliably pro-choice only when it suits his role as a "moderate." When push comes to shove--when women's right may truly hang in the balance, Chafee has proved that the only choice he truly respects is his choice to obey the Republican leadership.
They're already trying to marshal forces to defeat Chafee in the Fall. Here is one place where conservatives and liberals can agree. None of us like Chafee's wishy-washy, public agonizing over every controversial vote. I don't understand why the man even wants to consider himself a Republican unless it is that he enjoys the publicity he gets every time he opposes the GOP on some issue. If he were just another lefty New England senator, would any one care one jot about him? Face it, how many of you out there know anything about the other senator from Rhode Island? Being the contrary Republican senator is Lincoln Chafee's one claim to fame.
Senator Lautenberg demonstrates that you don't have to be a mental giant to become a millionaire and buy yourself a Senate seat. Here's Wendy Long's summary of Lautenberg's statement on why he's voting against Alito.
Senator Lautenberg professed shock at Judge Alito's answer when asked if "the right to choose is, quote, settled law."

According to Lautenberg, the answer is "a no brainer. Of course it's settled law. It's been on the books for 33 years!" According to Lautenberg, "you don't have to go to law school to figure that one out!"
Gee, even my 10th graders can name Supreme Court precedents such as Plessy v. Ferguson that were overturned and weren't regarded as "settled law."
Barack Obama and Joe Biden both agree that the filibuster is hopeless. Obama basically criticizes the Democrats in the Senate for not making a sufficient case against Alito. They couldn't prove that Alito was dangerous for the country if he gets on the Court. All they had was their impotent sense that a conservative shouldn't be confirmed, no real proof, just accusations. But, hey, that should be enough to stop a nominee proposed by a Republican president, shouldn't it?

Even the Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi is telling the Democrats to give it up.
IN MASSACHUSETTS, old liberals never die. They just keep tilting at windmills.

The initial reaction from fellow Democrats was tepid. Tepid it should remain.

Alito is conservative. But radical? The Democrats failed to make the case during hearings which proved only one thing beyond a reasonable doubt: their own boorishness.

Calling for a filibuster is a late, blatant bow to the left. It seemed more theatrical than realistic. Still, any such bowing from Massachusetts helps the Bush administration. ''Bring it on," chortled the Wall Street Journal after Kerry announced his effort to rally fellow Democrats from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, the Journal snidely observed, he was ''communing with his political base."

Calling for a filibuster makes political sense for Kennedy, who is adored by every left-wing constituency in America. He isn't running for national office; he can afford to stick to strict liberal principle. He wants to go down fighting. For Kennedy, a filibuster call mollifies the left at no political cost. It is also an attempt to make up for the obvious: He used the wrong tone and tactics during the hearings. Going after Alito as a bigot backfired. Forget about Mrs. Alito's tears. The moment Kennedy was exposed for belonging to a discriminatory college fraternal organization, it was over. He lost the moral high ground.

Kerry's enthusiasm for a filibuster is harder to fathom, except as more of the same from a perpetually tone-deaf politician.
Deep down, Obama might agree, but he'll still be out there voting for the filibuster because appeasing the left and making the gesture is most important.
My husband links to this fascinating story about The Great Zucchini, the premier entertainer for preschool birthday parties in the Washington, DC area. You really have to read the whole thing. It's a story about what parents will spend for their children's preschool parties. I'm sure glad my kids grew up in a different age when a few homemade games was enough. But it's also a story about a guy with some real psychological problems but with an amazing talent to relate to preschoolers. You wouldn't believe how interesting the story of a birthday party entertainer could be. I sense a movie screenplay out of this with Jim Carrey playing the title role.
Peter Schweizer has a very revealing expose of a pension fund that Bill Clinton is senior advisor to.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee — has bashed corporations for their failure to live up to their pension obligations.

Yet, as the senior adviser to two investment funds managing public pension funds, Bill Clinton has himself promoted an investment fund that promises to put money into "lower-income urban and rural communities" — but instead devotes its cash to Al Gore's upstart cable channel and his wife's financial supporters.
It sounds like a noble venture - invest in minority businesses and ones that will help needy communities. But, in reality, they've been putting their money elsewhere. Read the details.
Meanwhile, the workers whose pensions have been invested in Yucaipa are getting a terrible deal. According to CALSTARS, California teachers have already committed $61.9 million of the $150 million that they promised Yucaipa. As of last March 31, three years after the venture started, they'd seen a grand total of $837 come back to them. Overall, the rate of return since the funds launched have been a loss of 12.1 percent.

CALPERS has not done much better. After pouring more than $116 million into various Yucaipa ventures since 2002, it's seen a return of $55,963.

At the same time, Yucaipa is also collecting hefty fees for managing the pension funds' investments — more than $3 million a year from CALPERS, and $3.5 million a year from the New York Common Retirement Fund. How much of this ends up in Bill Clinton's pocket is anybody's guess. He's not disclosing his fees. And why is Sen. Hillary Clinton, who appears to be so concerned about the state of our pension systems, silent about this?

Hypocrisy is not confined to one party or the other. But the coverage of it is partisan. The national media seem very interested in what Sen. Bill Frist might have done with money from his private trust. Why are they ignoring what Bill Clinton and Yucaipa are doing with hundreds of millions in pension money?
Michael Barone fears that some people are stuck in the 70s, one of less inspiring decades.
Stuck in the '70s, and to no good political purpose. For the press and partisan attacks on NSA surveillance of suspected terrorists' calls to the United States has not convinced most Americans that their rights are in peril. To the contrary, they have raised a political issue that helps George W. Bush and the Republicans. And the fiery attacks on Alito have a tired, going-through-the-motions sound and have failed to convince something like three-quarters of voters that he should be rejected.

We can learn from history, and each decade has something to teach us. But we can't repeat history, because so many things change. Not many Americans, if they could vote for a decade to go back to, would vote for the 1970s. But for many in the mainstream press and for many Democratic politicians, it's always sometime between 1970 and 1980, and they're forever young.

The public isn't buying it. Enough with the bellbottom pants and the disco music, most Americans seem to be saying.


UPDATE: Check out the links on Ed Driscoll's page for more on the 1970s.
Suzanne Fields has some thoughts on the culture of "truthiness."
How long is this guy going to feel stupid? Poor guy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

This is just too, too funny. Paul Geary at The New Editor links to this report in the Boston papers that staffers for Congressman Martin Meehan of Lowell Massachusetts (D) went into Meehan's Wikipedia entry and edited out references to Meehan's breaking a term limits pledge.
Meehan's chief of staff Matt Vogel told the newspaper that he oversaw the removal last July of information, which was replaced with a staff-written biography.

Meehan, a Lowell Democrat, pledged to serve just four terms -- eight years -- but he later broke that campaign promise. He's currently serving his seventh term.

"Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform," the pre-edited entry said, according to the Sun. "As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional district of Massachusetts."

The new entry read in part: "Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups."
Here is the story from the Lowell, Massachusetts paper. But the Wikipedia guys caught the editing, traced it back to Meehan's staff and then blocked anonymous editing for that page. Since then, they have found that there have been dozens and dozens of edits from the House of Representatives IP address to all sorts of pages on Wikipedia. If they keep tracing back the edits, all sorts of people from both parties will have omelettes on their faces. So be it.

Once again, if you're getting your information from Wikipedia, caveat lector. And I'm glad to have one more example to give my students struggling with their research papers of why they shouldn't depend on Wikipedia as a source.
Futile and symbolic gestures seem to be all the rage. Kos is encouraging his followers to flood the offices of Democratic senators begging them to vote no on cloture on Samuel Alito. The list of those senators committed to the fake filibuster is nowhere near 40, but Senator Kennedy has made a last minute call to the lefty bloggers begging them to flood their Senators with calls for them to stand tall against the evil Alito. I'm sure that all those wavering Democratic Senators appreciate Kennedy encouraging the bloggers to jam up their phone lines. It won't work, as they all know, but at least they'll have the satisfaction of having "stood up to the man."

And the next generation of futile gesture-makers is in training on campuses near you. At the school of my daughters, Duke Univeristy, they staged a very powerful empty gesture. Yup, they held their own filibuster right there on the quad. They read from books, speeches, leftist blog sites, etc. to all the people who weren't listening. So, the message was: if our weak-kneed Senators can't do the real thing, we'll do it right here in Durham, North Carolina where it won't make a bit of difference, but we'll feel more self-righteous afterwards.
Ben Stein has a powerful answer to the other Stein, Joel Stein, and his essay about why he doesn't support the troops. Read the right Stein.
The most heroic, ethically courageous, morally resolute men and women in the world today are the Americans, British, and other forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are fighting the most evil men and women currently on the world scene. The American Army soldier, Marine, Navy sailor, Air Force warrior, and Coast Guardsman fighting in Ramadi or Mosul is fighting men and women who kill children and old people for sport. The men and women of the United States military are fighting the remnants of a regime so evil that it pioneered the use of torture against children -- just for the amusement of Saddam and his family. The men and women whom Joel despises rid the world of a dictator so twisted and murderous that he openly admired Stalin and Hitler and sought to match their level of atrocities. The men and women who wear the uniform fought, bled, and died to rid the world of the most dangerous man on the planet in the most flammable place on the planet. They died to save a slave people from the genocidal control of a mad killer who thought nothing of gassing his own people, of wiping out entire regions, of setting up special rape rooms to allow his henchmen and his sons to rape women at will, who amused himself by pouring gasoline down the throats of totally innocent people and setting them on fire.
I missed this the first time around, but if you haven't seen this Comedy Central look at Hillary, Ray Nagin, and Nancy Pelosi, it is indeed fun. Thank you to the Political Teen for posting these things for those of us who don't regularly watch Jon Stewart.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

(Updated and bumped to the top.)

Meanwhile, Jim Vanderhei writes in the Washington Post about the influence that leftist blogs and activist groups are having on the Democratic Party.
Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.

These activists -- spearheaded by battle-ready bloggers and making their influence felt through relentless e-mail campaigns -- have denounced what they regard as a flaccid Democratic response to the Supreme Court fight, President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address and the Iraq war. In every case, they have portrayed party leaders as gutless sellouts.
Some liberal bloggers are ticked off that the Democrats chose Governor Kaine of Virginia to deliver their response to Bush's State of the Union. They wanted Representative Murtha. The choice of Kaine demonstrates how the Democrats are going to try to downplay foreign policy as an issue this year and focus on domestic issues. A chocie of Murtha would have represented a focus on Iraq and Murtha's call to pull out. Such a choice would have been suicidal for the Democrats, but what do these bloggers care?
"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."

The blogs-vs.-establishment fight represents the latest version of a familiar Democratic dispute. It boils down to how much national candidates should compromise on what are considered core Democratic values -- such as abortion rights, gun control and opposition to conservative judges -- to win national elections.

Many Democrats say the only way to win nationally is for the party to become stronger on the economy and promote a centrist image on cultural values, as Kaine did in Virginia and as Bill Clinton did in two successful presidential campaigns.

The new twist in this debate is the Web, which in recent election cycles emerged as a powerful political force, one expected to figure even more prominently as more people get high-speed connections and turn to the Internet for news and commentary. Unlike the past, the "pressure is conveyed through a faster, better organized, more insistent medium," said Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist.
I'm sure comments like those from Mr. Elmendorf, indicating that Democrats want the bloggers' money, influence, and energy to help Democratic candidates without giving in to what these leftists are really upset about will not endear him to those bloggers. The only way to make good use of that energy is to channel it into a negative campaign against Republicans in the way that these liberal activists were able to unite in their hatred of Bush and help John Kerry, a man for whom they had no real affection. So, expect to see more and more demonization because that will be the only common ground between the more pragmatic Democratic politicians and their extreme supporters.

As someone who has long tired of such internal battles among conservatives, I will be happy to enjoy watching this intra-party squabble among liberals.

UPDATE: Well, I was right that Mr. Elmendorf's comments would not endear him to the leftwing bloggers. Kos has put everyone on notice about any candidates that engage Elmendorf's services.
Mr. Elmendorf almost got it right. The trick, in reality, is to stop appearing like our Democrats are held captive to sleazebag amoral lobbyists.

Here's notice, any Democrat associated with Elmendorf will be outed. The netroots can then decide for itself whether it wants to provide some of that energy and money to that candidate.

There's nothing "extreme left" with demanding Democrats act like Democrats, no matter how much these out-of-touch and self-important beltway insiders think it is.
Feeling rather frisky with the sense of his own power, isn't he? Do the Democratic politicians like taking their marching orders from these bloggers?

I guess that Diane Feinstein is fine with that. She quite quickly flip-flopped on filibustering Alito. Two weeks ago she was against a filibuster. Then Cindy Sheehan issued her orders from Venezuela that Diane Feinstein just better vote against cloture or Sheehan would run against Feinstein. Shortly after Sheehan issued that press release (and announced the days she'd be available for media interviews), Feinstein folded and came out in favor of the filibuster. The left is always accusing GOP politicians of taking their marching orders from the religious right, but it is quite clear that many Democratic politicians are just as available to be ordered around by their more extreme supporters.
James Joyner explores similarities between applicants for jobs as professors and Wal-Mart employees. It's an interesting comparison, one that would probably not appeal to anyone other than a university professor (or the spouse of one.)
Dick Cheney explains why the administration didn't expand their briefings on the NSA surveillance of Al Qaeda intercepts to all the members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
Mr. Cheney says key members of Congress--the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, and sometimes both parties' top leaders from each chamber--were fully informed. "These sessions with Congress, most of which I presided over . . . answered every question that they wanted to ask. We've always said, look, if there's anything else you need to know, just let us know."

The lawmakers, Mr. Cheney says, shared the administration's view that secrecy was essential. "Public debate and discussion about the program would have done--in our view and in the view of members of Congress who were consulted--damage to our capabilities in this respect. We'd rather not have this conversation about this program, except for the fact that the New York Times went public with it."

Yet after the Times broke the story, Democratic members of Congress changed their tune from the one Mr. Cheney says they had sung in private. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Intelligence Committee Democrat, released a handwritten July 2003 letter to Mr. Cheney in which he said he was "writing to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed." We asked Mr. Cheney if he remembered Mr. Rockefeller iterating his concern in the first place. "No, I recall the letter just sort of arriving, and it was never followed up on."

Meanwhile Rep. Jane Harman, Mr. Rockefeller's House counterpart, has opined that the administration broke the law by failing to brief every member of the intelligence committees. Says Mr. Cheney, "If we had done that since the beginning of the program back in '01--I ran the numbers yesterday--if we did the full House and Senate committees, as well as the elected leadership, we'd have had to read 70 people into this program" instead of eight or nine. Expecting that many congressmen to keep a secret is a faith-based initiative.
Terry Eastland reflects on what conservatives should learn from the Alito nomination.
In the end, a big lesson from the search for O'Connor's successor--a lesson of both the Roberts and Alito nominations--is that quality matters. Democrats were unable to convince anyone but themselves that the nation must maintain the Court's "balance" by having someone like O'Connor succeed O'Connor (assuming, that is, such a person could ever be found, her method of judging being entirely unpredictable). In Roberts and then in Alito, the country saw smart, experienced lawyers who could handle anything thrown at them--without losing their cool.

Another lesson is that quality nominees can make a winning case for judicial conservatism. In making clear the fundamental distinction between law and politics that lies at the heart of their judicial philosophy, both Roberts and Alito articulated a theme that Senate Democrats proved unable to counter effectively. And meanwhile, their cries of wolf, subjected to the immediate, withering scrutiny of informed commentators, didn't resonate. Polls taken after the hearings found that public support for Alito had actually increased.
The other lesson is how important it is for the Republicans to maintain control of the Senate. They need to continue making judicial nominations an election issue. You can imagine what would have happened if the Democrats had controlled the Senate for the Roberts and Alito nominations. I shudder to think about it. A RINO who will ultimately vote in favor of a Roberts or an Alito is worth having in the Senate just for those votes. (The jury is still out on Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chafee.) It is indeed sad that the judiciary has become so politicized, but wishing it weren't so won't make it so. This is the battle that we face and we shouldn't disarm by trying to play nice even as Democrats throw sand in our faces.
I think it's a nice break for conservatives to kick back for a few moments and enjoy the internecine fights among liberals. The Senate Democrats are squabbling among themselves about whether it's worth it to stage a futile and symbolic attempt to filibuster Alito's confirmation. They don't have the votes, but, hey it's most important to stake out that demagogic position that appeals to the far-left of the party.
Among the rank and file, there was opposition to a filibuster from several lawmakers, including liberal Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and North Dakota's Kent Conrad, a moderate who is on the ballot this fall in a Republican state.

Democratic officials said Mikulski had said during this week's closed-door caucus that the 2006 and 2008 elections were more important than a symbolic last stand that would fail to prevent Alito's confirmation. Her spokesman declined comment.

The officials who described the comments did so on condition of anonymity, citing the private nature of the discussions.

In an interview, Conrad said that in remarks to fellow Democrats at the caucus, he outlined several factors. These included Alito's strong backing from the American Bar Association, his uncontested confirmation 15 years ago to the appeals court, public opinion polls and the fact that Republicans had voted overwhelmingly to confirm Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer when President Clinton nominated them.

"So I put that all together and I find it makes it hard to justify a filibuster," Conrad said.
Kerry and Kennedy's insistence on a filibuster has flushed out Hillary to say she'll hold hands with them.
Analysts said Clinton had little choice but to back the filibuster, given Kerry's Thursday announcement that he was reviving the stop-Alito movement. For all the talk of Clinton's shift to the center on abortion, she can ill-afford to let a possible adversary outflank her on the left among liberals who favor abortion rights, according to Jennifer Duffy, who monitors the Senate for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

"It's an empty gesture," Duffy said of Clinton's announcement. "What Democratic primary voter is going to vote for her if she didn't do everything to oppose Alito? ... She had to join John Kerry."
That whole triangulation thing is getting more and more difficult for Hillary every day. Sometimes, it is just easier to believe in something and stick to it. But that won't get her elected, so she has to demonstrate her allegiance to the demands of the more extreme wing of the party.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Wendy Long has a tragic tale that explains why Alito was so right to uphold the search of the young girl in that drug case that the Democrats have been demagoguing as Alito supporting police searching children.
Oh, this is a shocking surprise. Not.
More than 2 million new jobs were created in 2005, but the broadcast networks instead emphasized such negatives as corporate layoffs and outsourcing, according to a study released Wednesday by a group dedicated to challenging misconceptions in the media about free enterprise.

The Free Market Project (FMP) report, Hit Job, is the result of a detailed analysis of job and employment coverage by all three broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC. The study examined 151 stories on the 2005 evening news shows to assess how they had reported on both job losses and gains during a year of strong employment growth.
And guess what they found?
"More than 4.6 million jobs have been added since May 2003 -- 31 straight months of positive job growth," Gainor added. "Unemployment dropped down to 4.9 percent, lower than the average of all three recent decades."

Nevertheless, based on its study, the FMP arrived at the following conclusions:

-- Job losses, not gains: The networks focused on job losses in slightly more than half the reports (76 out of 151). Just 35 percent of the stories addressed job gains (53 out of 151). In one typical report, Jim Acosta of the "CBS Evening News" left his viewers with a memorable image of the 8,700 job cuts at General Motors in his Nov. 21 story: "Just three days before Thanksgiving, GM is carving up its work force like a Butterball turkey."

-- Government spending promoted: Two of the big Washington stories -- the transportation bill and cutbacks at military bases -- showed how hypocritical the media were. The $284 billion transportation bill was filled with pork but created thousands of new jobs that news reports barely mentioned. However, when military bases were cut to save $48 billion over 20 years, the news shows did more than three times as many stories bemoaning the job losses.

-- 283,000 jobs ignored: Initial unemployment reports were later revised, but the networks ignored those revisions. In 2005, most of those changes involved the addition of jobs, so network news ignored nearly 300,000 jobs in all of the stories, except those few that included cumulative totals.
No wonder polls show people pessimistic and ignorant about the economy.

This is in accord with what Kevin Hassett and John Lott found in the differences in how the media covers the economy when Democrats are president compared to when a Republican is president.
AEI scholars John R. Lott Jr. and Kevin A. Hassett have developed a simple test for political bias by comparing, in 389 newspapers, how economic reports on unemployment, GDP, durable goods, and retail sales have been covered under different presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan to the present.
Full disclosure, my older daughter works for Kevin Hassett.
Daniel Henninger revisits how the reforms that Congress instituted post-Watergate are responsible for the budget mess and the primacy of lobbyists that we endure today.
Congress itself had tried various gimmicks to stanch the Great Society's costs, such as "spending ceilings." None worked, as indeed no gaggle of legislators will discipline themselves. Nixon resorted to the blunt club of impoundments. Congress went bananas. This battle, fought inside the partisan cauldron of the Vietnam War, led to the oddly named 1974 Budget Control Act, which purposely eviscerated presidential control over individual spending items, such as an earmark. To kill a "bridge to nowhere," a president has to veto the entire highway bill. Ditto defense pork and so on.

The 1974 act did give the president "rescission" authority--a request not to spend money on a project. But the law also said that if Congress never took a vote to affirm the rescission, the money went out the door. Absurd, but that's current law. Congressional Quarterly, in a 1982 study of the struggle over spending control, quoted a budget official then predicting the future: "What we're talking about here is congressional government--and chaos."

But they weren't done. In 1974--the start the Long Era of Chaos in our politics--Congress claimed it was curing the abuses of Watergate by mandating that no individual could contribute more than $1,000 to a candidate per election. So of course candidates were going to need a lot of "individual" contributions to finance a modern campaign. Thus was born the current co-dependency between members of Congress who hold the power to confer federal spending and Washington lobbyists who have the power to bundle campaign contributions in PACs and such for incumbent earmarkers.

A friend who was part of this world back then described it for me recently: "If you lived in Washington in those years, the change was dramatic. We moved to California in 1973. Returning to visit in 1976, the evening landscape had changed completely. There were fund-raisers everywhere. Friends who were congressmen were stopping at two or three cocktail parties an evening, touching base with single-subject organizations who had established PACs in reply to the 1974 reforms. We knew a caterer; her life had changed." Her business today is probably a publicly traded company, so vast has the industry of Beltway spending and campaign-contribution collecting become. Washington today is enervated by it.
Henniger proposes a simple fix: reverse the "reforms" of 1974. Alas, this will never happen.
Charles Krauthammer has a beautiful tribute to his older brother who passed away this week.
Pause a moment today to celebrate the 250th anniversay of Mozart's birth.
Could there be anything more typical of John Kerry than that he would be calling for a filibuster of Samuel Alito's nomination from Switzerland? Even the New York Times, who yesterday called for a filibuster, was not impressed.
But late Thursday afternoon, Mr. Kerry began calling fellow Democratic senators in a quixotic, last-minute effort for a filibuster to stop the nomination.

Democrats cringed and Republicans jeered at the awkwardness of his gesture, which almost no one in the Senate expects to succeed
It seems that Kerry is traveling down the same path that Al Gore has been traveling. Maybe the realization that you have lost to George W. Bush just sends these guys into a tailspin where they end up clutched in the embrace of the Moveon.org and Kos crowd and they lose all touch with political reality. Thus, you don't notice that it's rather iffy to conduct a Senate talkathon from Davos, Switzerland. Apparently, Kerry's aides have now pointed this out to him and he's jetting back to Washington to personally rally his flagging troops who have already thrown in the towel and admitted that they didn't have the 41 votes to conduct a filibuster. Poor John Kerry, who voted for Alito (for the appellate court) before he voted against him, will now lead the charge for troops that have already surrendered. The Democrats have decided that a fruitless gesture like filibustering a perfectly qualified candidate for the Supreme Court would distract from their single-minded focus on fighting GOP corruption. As always, Kerry has the leaden touch and the political instincts of.....Al Gore.

The one who must be really ticked at Kerry's grandstanding is Hillary Clinton. She has enough problems with the extreme left of her party and now she has Kerry attacking her left flank. A filibuster might be "the really futile and stupid gesture" that the Kossites require right now, but it doesn't help Hillary in her endless quest to triangulate her way to the Oval Offive.
I'm sure the Canadians are deeply grateful to have Al Gore offer them advice on how they should beware their new Prime Minister.
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore has accused the oil industry of financially backing the Tories and their "ultra-conservative leader" to protect its stake in Alberta's lucrative oilsands.

Canadians, Gore said, should vigilantly keep watch over prime minister-designate Stephen Harper because he has a pro-oil agenda and wants to pull out of the Kyoto accord -- an international agreement to combat climate change.

"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

"And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election . . . and to protect their interests."

Darcie Park, spokeswoman for oilsands giant Suncor Energy, said she's taken aback by Gore's remarks and hopes they don't resonate with Canadians.

"Our company just doesn't do business that way. We're really puzzled about where these comments came from," she said.

"Canadians understand how elections work in Canada and understand there are these very tight restrictions around what individuals and companies can contribute to individual parties or campaigns."
Isn't that nice that he could take time out from the Sundance Film Festival to criticize Canada for its electoral choice?

Tom Elia wonders if Al Gore will next be running for Student Council president.
The Economist has a story that has lessons for colleges around the country as it looks at the City University of New York (CUNY). This once famous school has such illustrious alumni as Jonas Salk, Andrew Grove, Irving Kristol, and Colin Powell. It used to be the best deal in college education, offering a free and quality education to students who could meet its rigorous standards. Then the quality of the program plummeted as they gave into pressures in the 1960s to have a more egalitarian program.
What went wrong? Put simply, City dropped its standards. It was partly to do with demography, partly to do with earnest muddleheadedness. In the 1960s, universities across the country faced intense pressure to admit more minority students. Although City was open to all races, only a small number of black and Hispanic students passed the strict tests (including a future secretary of state, Colin Powell). That, critics decided, could not be squared with City's mission to “serve all the citizens of New York”. At first the standards were tweaked, but this was not enough, and in 1969 massive student protests shut down City's campus for two weeks. Faced with upheaval, City scrapped its admissions standards altogether. By 1970, almost any student who graduated from New York's high schools could attend.

The quality of education collapsed. At first, with no barrier to entry, enrolment climbed, but in 1976 the city of New York, which was then in effect bankrupt, forced CUNY to impose tuition fees. An era of free education was over, and a university which had once served such a distinct purpose joined the muddle of America's lower-end education.

By 1997, seven out of ten first-year students in the CUNY system were failing at least one remedial test in reading, writing or maths (meaning that they had not learnt it to high-school standard). A report commissioned by the city in 1999 concluded that “Central to CUNY's historic mission is a commitment to provide broad access, but its students' high drop-out rates and low graduation rates raise the question: ‘Access to what?’ ”
But, under the leadership of Rudy Giuliani and Congressman Herman Badillo, the school toughened up admission standards and dropped remedial education for four-year colleges. There were the predictable apocalyptic predictions of what this would mean. But, remarkably, tougher standards and scholarships of a free education for honors students have not led to a segregated school, but have instead offered an opportunity for poor minorities with high aspirations.
In fact, the racial composition of the senior schools, monitored obsessively by critics, has remained largely unchanged: one in four students at the senior colleges is black, one in five is Latino. A third have ties to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, China and the Dominican Republic.

Admissions standards have been raised. Students applying to CUNY's senior colleges now need respectable scores on either a national, state or CUNY test, and the admissions criteria for the honours programme are the toughest in the university's history. Contrary to what Mr Goldstein's critics predicted, higher standards have attracted more students, not fewer: this year, enrolment at CUNY is at a record high. There are also anecdotal signs that CUNY is once again picking up bright locals, especially in science. One advanced biology class at City now has twice as many students as it did in the late 1990s. Last year, two students, both born in the Soviet Union, won Rhodes scholarships, and a Bronx native who won the much sought-after Intel Science Prize is now in the honours programme.
The Economist ponders the lessons that other colleges can draw from the CUNY experience.
For all its imperfections, CUNY's model of low tuition fees and high standards offers a different approach. And its recent history may help to dispel the myth that high academic standards deter students and donors. “Elitism”, Mr Goldstein contends, “is not a dirty word.”
Imagine that. High standards don't deter students. Low standards ruined the school and high standards are rescuing it. There is a lesson there.

UPDATE: Fausta has some personal experience with a professor reinforcing low standards at CUNY.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ahhhh, this explains it.

Mickey Kaus uncovers perhaps the true reason why Tim Russert had the tedious Carville/Matalin/Begala group on Meet the Press.
Lukegate: ... Step 1) Tim Russert books the tired Carville-Matalin act more than 35 times on his Meet the Press talk show, boosting their bankability on the lucrative lecture circuit. Step 2) Carville--with Russert's eager prodding--also uses their most recent, conveniently-timed MTP appearance to plug his new XM Satellite radio sports show. ... That's smarmily venal enough, you say? Wrong! Step 3) Carville's co-host on the XM show is Russert's son, Luke, who is "currently a sophomore at Boston College." Russert and Carville joke about this on the air but don't quite have the balls to actually inform viewers of the key conflict:
How nice for Tim Russert's college sophomore to get a gig hosting a sports show on XM radio. I'm sure he's the most talented college-age sports radio personality in the whole nation. If this were a politician's son getting a job like this, reporters would be howling over conflicts of interest.

Instead, we can just cackle about Russert's ethics.

And, who wants to listen to Carville talk about sports with Russert's young son? Is there some marketing genius here that I'm missing? Does anyone other than partisans enjoy listening to Carville?

Oops. Sorry, I had the wrong link up, but now I've fixed it.
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is about to take on every earmark slipped into the budget by exposing them on the Senate floor.
According to Senate aides, Dr. Coburn has notified his colleagues that he intends to challenge every earmark—or pork project—on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Coburn, who has been a champion in the fight against wasteful federal spending, believes that the congressional earmarking process is the genesis of the current Abramoff-related lobbying scandals.

Coburn’s threat will dramatically slow the appropriations process because he will demand many more votes and more debate than normal on all spending bills. The added debate will allow senators to learn the merits (or lack thereof) of each earmark and affirm or reject.

According to one GOP Senate aide, many of the old-bull appropriators are not taking the threat seriously and are confident in their ability to apply pressure tactics and parliamentary maneuvers in order to ensure business as usual on spending bills. But that aide points out Coburn’s commitment, “It will take a lot of votes on one or two appropriations bills before the appropriators figure out that [Coburn] means business.”

Once they do figure out that Dr. Coburn isn’t bluffing, they will understand why some outside observers have affectionately dubbed the Oklahoman “Senator Train Wreck.”
If his efforts gain traction, it could be a fun sight to watch the pretzels that Senators will twist themselves into when they have to explain why their appropriations for some special museum or project for their district needs to be funded by the federal government.
Ray Nagin is just so pained that people take some of his less-than-thoughtful comments at face value. It's just so hard for the guy under all the pressure he's facing.
"Everything I say gets zoomed in on," sighs Nagin, in town to attend the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the Capital Hilton. "I don't get what all the fuss was about when I talked about New Orleans being a chocolate city. I mean, I understand the frustration with my 'God' comments. Maybe I went a little overboard. But Chocolate City? Come on."

In the aftermath of the horrific Hurricane Katrina, the mayor has been richly and routinely quotable.

He said, "How do I make sure New Orleans is not overrun with Mexican workers?"

He said to federal officials, whom he criticized for a feeble response to Katrina, "Get off your asses."

He said, "Surely, God is mad at New Orleans. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on the country."

And he said, of God, "But surely he is upset at black America also."

And he said that New Orleans will be a "Chocolate City" again.
Sure, he's under pressure. But so are a whole lot of other leaders around the country. Can you imagine if Bush or Rumsfeld said half these things and then tried to say, please don't pay attention to what I say because I'm under so much pressure?
Jonah Goldberg ponders Hillary's candidacy and the purported trouble she's having endearing herself to her liberal supporters as well as the new poll that shows that 51% of those asked would never vote for her. He reflects on the fact that we seem never to have seen the real Hillary - she's always either a construct of whatever others want her to seem to be or what she thinks will sell to others.
Hillary Clinton's latest reinvention paints her as a moderate, even an Iraq war hawk. Few people buy it. Reporters regularly assume her motives are opportunistic rather than sincere, focusing on how every pronouncement will position her for the 2008 presidential race. National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, for example, recently observed, "She certainly sees it in her interest to get to the right of the president on many issues, especially in the area of national security."

Whatever the reason, some liberals have had enough. "I will not support Hillary Clinton for president," wrote Molly Ivins, the voice of conventional thinking on the left. "Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone." The segment of Democrats who sanctified Cindy Sheehan can hardly countenance a presidential candidate who unapologetically voted for the war and positioned herself to the right of President Bush on foreign policy.

The New Republic offers perhaps an even more devastating critique of Clinton for Democratic pragmatists: She can't win. Marisa Katz dismantled the myth that Clinton can appeal to "red state" voters because she won in upstate New York. Turns out former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry each did better in upstate New York than she did. And Gore, a Southerner, couldn't even win his home state of Tennessee. Meanwhile, a recent Gallup poll showed that 51% of Americans won't even consider voting for Clinton.

All of this could change. But there's a great irony here. Hillary Clinton's success over the last decade and a half has been in pretending to be her own woman while really playing one part or another for the benefit of the media, her husband or various feminist constituencies desperate for a role model to confirm all of their comfortable stereotypes.

That's why there's something oddly satisfying in the possibility that Clinton being herself is politically disastrous. And, if she's really just playing one more role according to some classically Clintonian political triangulation, there's something equally satisfying to the prospect that even her fans aren't falling for it anymore.
Craig Depken, at Division of Labour, posts a chart to show the increase in partisan voting in Congress with all of one party opposing the other party. He posits that increased gerrymandering of safe districts has allowed the House members to safely vote the party line. Add in the partisan wars that have been growing ever since the 1980s and we've gotten to where we are now. If people think that a President Hillary Clinton could sooth the partisan waters, they're sadly mistaken. Perhaps a President John McCain could since he often sides with the Democrats now. Although, the Republicans in Congress may vote unanimously against a President McCain.
Will their opposition to Judge Alito hurt red state Democrats up for reelection? It will probably only matter if the contest in the Fall looks like it will be close. So, for example, Kent Conrad, can probably vote against Alito with impunity even though that will be an unpopular vote in North Dakota because the Republicans haven't managed to get a decent opponent for him. However, in New Jersey, Alito's home state, newly-minted senator, Bob Menendez, who is running behind his GOP opponent, Tom Kean, will perhaps suffer in the polls in November for his expected No vote against a judicial nominee who is very popular among New Jersey Italian-Americans.
It's a shame that people in Evergreen Park, Illinois just haven't received the message about how overwhelmingly evil Wal-Mart is and how working there is really a form of slave labor.
The new Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location opening Friday in suburban Evergreen Park received a record 25,000 applications for 325 positions, the highest for any one location in the retailer’s history, a company official says.

Despite the fact the company says these numbers underscore demand for Wal—Mart jobs in the community, critics wonder how many of these positions are lower—paying part—time work.
So what if many of these positions are part-time work? Maybe people would like those jobs. Maybe they're mothers or senior citizens who don't want to work full time. Maybe they're students who want to work after school. Why don't we grant these people the respect to expect that they know if they want these jobs and if the jobs fit their working needs?

It's clear that Wal-Mart haters have their standard criticisms to make whenever they're approached by a reporter and that facts don't really matter to them. So, they'll just cast aspersions without any basis.
“We just think them coming out and telling the press that they have 25,000 applications is disingenuous,” says Tim Drea, legislative director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881. “I think it’s a PR stunt.”

Mr. Drea says he’d like to see the applications himself before putting faith in that number.

Plus, he says overall he worries that the store will hire more part-time workers rather than full-time employees with benefits.

“Wal-Mart is lowering the bar in retail from what wages once were,” he said.
Does he really think that Wal-Mart, knowing that the jackals are circling around everything they do would risk putting out a fraudulent announcement of how many people applied for a job? And, of course, the allegations that they're hiring more part-time workers just happens not to be true.

He [the Wal-Mart manager in the Chicago area] said the 325 jobs include cashier, stocking, sales and back office positions. The average pay for non-management full-time positions is $10.99 an hour.

Wal-Mart said more than 70% of the new positions will be full-time.
So, what the union spokesman is reduced to claiming is that Wal-Mart is planning some time in the future to change these full-time jobs over to part-time jobs and the unions are on to this nefarious plan.

But, go back to that original statistic: "25,000 applications for 325 positions." That means that only 1.3% of the applicants will get jobs. Applicants have a better chance of getting into Harvard (10.3% admission rate in 2004) or Yale (9.9% admission rate in 2004) than you do of getting a job at this Wal-Mart store. Ponder that.

UPDATE: The New Editor has some more thoughts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mike Adams has some thoughts on feminism that ought to drive some feminists crazy. Not being a feminist, I am not angered, but amused at the perspicacity of this comment.
6. Feminists are less concerned with women’s rights than they are with their own right to have an abortion.

George Bush has done more for women’s rights than any president in modern history. But feminists hate him because he is opposed to abortion rights.

Bill Clinton sexually harassed more women than any president in American history. But that’s okay. He supports abortion rights so feminists love him. If he were ever convicted of rape, feminists would still love him because he supports abortion rights.
Heh, heh.

I guess all those Afghanistani women now exercising the right to vote and those Iraqi women who no longer fear rape as a retaliation for a male relative's political beliefs don't matter as long as there might be a pro-life judge nominated here in the United States. Abortion politics trumps everything.
I always feel badly for teachers who do something truly idiotic in class and have their behavior broadcast across the country. It's one of my little golden rules for teachers: don't do anything that you wouldn't want to see talked about on a cable talk show. Otherwise, people will be wondering about what was possibly going through your mind if you do something like this teacher.
A 17-year-old high school student said he was humiliated when a teacher made him sit on the floor during a midterm exam in his ethnicity class _ for wearing a Denver Broncos jersey.

The teacher, John Kelly, forced Joshua Vannoy to sit on the floor and take the test Friday _ two days before the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Broncos 34-17 in the AFC championship game. Kelly also made other students throw crumpled up paper at Vannoy, whom he called a "stinking Denver fan," Vannoy told The Associated Press on Monday.

Kelly said Vannoy, a junior at Beaver Area Senior High School, just didn't get the joke.

"If he felt uncomfortable, then that's a lesson; that's what (the class) is designed to do," Kelly told The Denver Post. "It was silly fun. I can't believe he was upset."

Vannoy was wearing a No. 7 Broncos jersey on Friday, because he is a fan of John Elway, the Broncos' retired Hall of Fame quarterback.

Vannoy said he was so unnerved he left at least 20 questions blank on the 60-question test, and just wants out of Kelly's class because he's afraid the teacher won't treat him fairly now that the story reached the media.
A joke's a joke, but putting the guy on the floor for the midterm exam is over the top.

However, my real question is what the blankety-blank is an "ethnicity class?" Huh? What do you study in that class - how everyone was put upon by white men?
Diane Feinstein really needs to review her history. This is what she said about why Alito's nomination differed from Breyer and Ginsburg.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said things are different from when the Senate considered Breyer and Ginsburg, who were confirmed 87-9 and 96-3 respectively. "There was not the polarization within America that is there today, and not the defined move to take this court in a singular direction," she said.
Gimme a break! As if Clinton wasn't trying to move the court in "a singular direction." Of course he was, but Feinstein just liked that direction so she didn't mind. And tell me that America wasn't polarized during the Clinton presidency. Does she have a total blank about the those years? And is her argument that, if the country is polarized politicially, the president can't nominate someone of his or her own ideology? Would she make those same arguments if Hillary were president? She better watch out. It's quite possible that a Democrat could be elected president and face a Senate that still has a majority of Republicans. Does she expect the GOP to suddenly become saints and roll over for the Democrats after their display on the Alito nomination? More disappointing things have happened with the GOP, but she shouldn't count on it.

If the Democrats were smart, they'd acknowledge that Alito's confirmation is inevitable and have fifteen to twenty Democrats vote for him, just so they can have that talking point if a Democrat wins in 2008. But casting strict party-line votes (with a handfull of exceptions) will create a precedent that could very well come back to bite them.
Thomas Sowell is back arguing that we should pay legislators in Congress millions of dollars so that they wouldn't be tempted to take bribes.
If we paid every member of Congress $10 million a year, that would not increase the federal budget by one percent.

Chances are that it would reduce the federal budget considerably, when members of the Senate or the House of Representatives no longer needed campaign contributions or the personal favors of special interest groups and their lobbyists.

One term in the Senate would bring in $60 million, which most people could live on for life, without being beholden to anybody and without having to seek a job afterwards for special interests, much less having to sell their soul to continue a political career.

Money is not the only thing that corrupts. Power also corrupts and some people go into politics for power.

Nothing can be done about such people -- except force them to compete with other people, drawn from a far larger pool, including top people in highly paid professions who today can seldom afford to serve in Congress at the expense of their family's standard of living and financial security.
Gosh, unless such an idea was paired with a term limits amendment, think of how cutthroat the fights would be to maintain a seat would be. If our legislators were getting paid that kind of money they'd do anything to get the job and stay in. It wouldn't be pretty.
John Stossel looks at how government monopolistic practices on schools can turn people who just want the best education for their kids into criminals.
Inspector John Lozano goes door to door to check if kids really live where they say they do.

.... But then he went to an address listed by Esterlita Tapang, whose grandson attends a Fremont Union high school. He told the man who answered the door, "She said she lives here and her grandson is going to live here so he can go to the high school." The man shook his head and said she didn't live there. "Caught," Lozano told us. "She's definitely caught!"

Granted, Tapang broke the rules. The rules said her grandson, because of where he lived, wasn't entitled to the quality education Fremont Union schools provide. But which is worse: a system that traps students in bad schools, or a grandmother who lies to save her grandson from being denied a decent education? I asked her, "Isn't it creepy that they force you to go to the black market to get your kid a better education?"

She thought it was. "I was crying in front of this 14-year-old," said the grandmother. "Why can't they just let parents get in the school of their choice?"
We can't let them have the school of their choice because, if we did, they wouldn't choose the bad schools which often just happen to be the ones run by the public education blob.

Last night was open house at my charter school. For fewer than a hundred openings for rising 9th graders, we had hundreds of families lined up a half hour before it started in order to come check out our small school. They're all hoping to get lucky in the lottery that is our only admissions hurdle. We could probably take four or five times our current enrollment. But, we can't even try to duplicate the model of our very successful charter school, because North Carolina has a cap of 100 on charter schools and right now we're at 97 schools. So, ambitious parents and teachers can't even strive to create other schools based on what we have learned about education because North Carolina is afraid to increase the numbers of schools that can waive some of the rules that the government imposes on public schools.
Josh Gerstein reports that Democrats are starting to get worried that Hillary Clinton can't be stopped from getting the nomination, but that she also can't get elected because too many people would rather sleep on burning coals than vote for her.
Recent polling underscores some of those worries. In a CNN/USA Today/ Gallup poll made public yesterday, 51% of voters said they would definitely not vote for Mrs. Clinton if she chooses to run for president in 2008. In a separate nationwide poll conducted this month for a spirits company, Diageo, and a political newsletter, the Hotline, 44% of all voters and 19% of self-described Democrats said they viewed the New York senator unfavorably.
Those are hard numbers to overcome, but she may have the momentum and money to steamroll through the Democratic primaries and win the nomination. If 19% of Democrats view her unfavorably, that's a lot of Democrats who don't have negative opinions of her.

The irony is that Republicans may annoint John McCain as their champion because they think he's the only one who can slay the Wicked Witch, but it will turn out that some other conservative candidate might have done just as well. And then we'll be stuck with McCain.
Richard Brookiser warns the Republicans not to be too complacent that they'll maintain control over the House simply because they're dependent on the powers of incumbency and the gerrymandering to keep them in the majority. If people are fed up, they'll vote them out.
This is the heart of the matter. The worst of Congressional irresponsibility is not that people profit in illegal ways; it is that Congressmen, quite legally, funnel nickels and dimes—millions of them—to their constituents. In the short run, each transaction is rational—for the Congressman and his constituents, obviously, but even for the public as a whole, since benefits are large and concentrated while costs are small and diffused. We notice the damage only when we add up the costs generated by everyone and find that Congress has put us in the position that the Republican Party, 12 years ago, thought was alarming.

Will the Republican Party recover some of that sense of alarm? What will happen if it doesn’t? More than the budget rides on their actions. If the Democrats should win back the House in November, they will certainly schedule a vote to impeach President Bush. Some will vote yes because they are Iraq defeatists, like Representative John Murtha; others will vote yes out of sheer partisan tit-for-tat, and as a pre-election gift to Senator Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the full House will vote to impeach, in which case—though it is inconceivable that the Senate would vote to convict—terror dervishes around the world will be heartened.
So, the House GOP has to prove its seriousness about cleaning up their mistakes with pork and earmarks or they'll re-learn how miserable it is to be in the minority in the House.
What a surprise. Brain imaging shows that people react to politics with the emotional rather than the rational part of their brains.
For his study, Mr. Westen recruited 30 committed Republican and Democratic men just before the 2004 presidential election. While their brains were monitored by scanning equipment, each man was asked to evaluate a series of statements made by President Bush or his challenger, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, followed by "threatening" counterclaims about the candidates implying they were dishonest or pandering.
The political beliefs, Mr. Westen found, seemed already hard-wired in each man.
"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," he said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want."
The brain images revealed that the party loyalists engaged in emotionally biased reasoning. Negative emotions such as sadness and disgust were turned off, and the men ultimately got "a blast" of reward feelings. Mr. Westen compared the process to what drug addicts receive when "they get their fix."
The emotional reasoning that drove each test subject to support his chosen candidate was entrenched, leaving little room for new facts, he found.
"Partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data," Mr. Westen said, adding that these biased judgments occur outside of awareness and are distinct from normal reasoning processes.
That is perhaps why it is so hard to convince someone of the opposing ideology of the illogic of their political positions. It's the equivalent of talking to people with their fingers in their ears while they squeal "nyah, nyah, nyah, I can't hear you."
John in Carolina commemorates the anniversary of Churchill's death.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Enlighten NJ is soliciting nominations for the Walter Perry Johnson award.
Byron York on The Corner quotes from John Kyl's statement on the decision of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose a clearly qualified candidate such as Sam Alito on a purely partyline vote.
I fear a very bad precedent is being set today, a precedent that a unanimous minority will oppose a nominee on political grounds, not because the nominee is in any way unqualified. Republicans did not apply that test to Justices Breyer or Ginsburg.
And I say precedent because it is simply unrealistic to think that one party will put itself at a disadvantage by eschewing political considerations while the other party almost unanimously applies such considerations.

So I say to my Democratic friends, think carefully about what is being done today. Its impact will be felt well beyond this particular nominee.
What goes around comes around. And, if there is another opening on the Court during Bush's presidency, what incentive will he have to even talk to the Democrats since they've clearly shown that they will oppose a candidate nominated by a conservative no matter what.
The President goes out to talk about a program that has his opponents murmuring about impeachment and abuse of power. How come almost every story I saw about his speech yesterday included someone asking him about a movie he hasn't seen?
Bruce Bartlett notes several stories of Democratic corruption that the media seems to consistently bury in the back pages.
That same day, however, there was real news about a former aide to Rep. William Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana, who pleaded guilty the day before to bribing the congressman. The aide, Brett Pfeffer, said that his former boss had demanded a stake in Pfeffer’s business in return for his support. He also alleged that Jefferson had insisted that two of his relatives be put on Pfeffer’s payroll.

Apparently, the FBI has been investigating Jefferson for some time. It has raided his home and wired conversations with him in a sting operation.

So how did the Times handle this hot news? It appeared on page 28. Moreover, the Times couldn’t even be bothered to have one of its own reporters look into the case and instead ran Associated Press wire copy.

Also on Jan. 12, on page five of the second section, the Times reported that a state assemblyman who had formerly headed the Brooklyn Democratic Party was sentenced to jail a day earlier for receiving illegal contributions. The assemblyman, Clarence Norman Jr., faces other charges as well.

On Jan. 23, the Times reported that former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell is on trial for receiving payoffs of $150,000 from companies doing business with the city, as well as $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions and other gratuities. This article appeared on page 12.

Nowhere in the article was Mr. Campbell’s political affiliation mentioned. I had to do an Internet search to discover that he is a Democrat. Yet the article had plenty of space to discuss at some length what a great mayor Campbell had been.
Of course, the Abramoff scandal deserves first page treatment. And allegations against a former Majority Leader are also first page news. Yet, the story of William Jefferson deserves at least the amount of coverage that Randy "Duke" Cunningham got. Is the media wary of doing anything that would interrupt the Democrats' message that solely the Republicans are responsible for a "culture of corruption"?
So are Canadians going to now leave their country and go....where?
And yet another UN scandal of waste and corruption.
The focus of the current scandal is U.N. peacekeeping, a function that consumes 85 percent of the U.N.'s procurement budget — a cost that could reach $2 billion in 2005. Like many of the U.N.'s financial dealings, it is shrouded in secrecy. And like the multi-billion-dollar Oil-for-Food scandal, it is wrapped in what the U.N.'s own investigators now call "systematic abuse," "a pattern of corrupt practices," and "a culture of impunity."

In all, U.N. investigators have charged that nearly one-third of the $1 billion in major U.N. procurement contracts that they examined involved waste, corruption or other irregularities — $298 million in all. And that total covered slightly less than one-third of the $3.2 billion in major supply contracts that the U.N. has signed in the past five years.
This scandal is looking to match and perhaps exceed the levels of corruption from the oil for food scandal.
Based on the auditors' sampling, this scandal now appears clearly to be heading for the multi-billion dollar ozone layer of kickbacks collected by Saddam Hussein via U.N.-monitored contracts during the seven years of Oil-for-Food.

The big difference is that the Saddam Hussein is now out of business. The U.N. auditors, on the other hand, predict that unless radical changes are made in almost every aspect of U.N. business and internal management, recurrence of the kind of questionable activities discovered so far in UN procurement is "almost certain."
It's clear that this sort of thing is endemic at the United Nations and they have no real ability, or perhaps desire, to clean things up. At what point, will the general public around the world recognize what a feckless mess the United Nations has been and continues to be and stop citing them as the moral exemplar for the rest of us?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lileks has an interesting question.
Let’s say that George Galloway, Ramsey Clark, and other luminaries of the international progressive movement got their wish. Let’s say Saddam was still in power. The war never happened. How would he have reacted to the Iranian nuclear program?
Would we now be facing a potential nuclear standoff between the Iraqis and Iranians? Would you like to rest your hopes on the rationality of that Saddam and the mullahs?
Hugh Hewitt highlights the wacky comments that Harry Belafonte said on CNN today.
HB: Mr. Blitzer, let me say this to you. Perhaps, just perhaps, if the Jews of Germany and people spoken out much earlier and had resisted the tyranny that was on the horizon, perhaps we would never have had Adolph Hitler and the Gestapo.
Gee, if the Jews had just spoken out against Hitler, none of the Holocaust would have happened? Hasn't this guy ever read anything about World War II and the Holocaust? The first groups of people taken to concentration camps in the 1930s were political opponents of Hitler and those who criticized him. Public criticism of Hitler wouldn't have done anything to stop Hitler. And the implication of Belafonte's remarks is that it is, somehow, the Holcaust happened because the Jews and others simply neglected to speak out.

Belafonte thinks the Homeland Security Department is like the Gestapo.
WB: And you think that what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to some US citizens suspected of terrorism is similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews?

HB: Well, if you are taking people out of the country, and spiriting them someplace else, and they are being tortured, and they are being charged or not being charged so they will know what it is that they have done, it may not have been directly inside the, inside the Deaprtment of Homeland Security, but the pattern, the system, it is what the system does, it is what all thses different divisions have begun to reveal in their collective. I mean, my phones are tapped, my mail can be opened. They don't even need a court warrant to come and do that as we once were required to do.
The guy is delusional. Who are the people who have been spirited out of this country? How does he know that his phone is tapped? How can his mail be opened without a court order? Is he talking to Al Qaeda? Then he doesn't need to worry.

The mere fact that this guy can go on TV and spout this nonsense is proof that he's wrong. Do you think that someone could have gone public with such criticism of Hitler and not have been arrested by the Gestapo? Not only isn't he not arrested, but he wins an award from AARP and gets to be all over the TV. (Though, AARP has issued a press notice that they want to disassociate themselves with some of Belafonte's more asinine statements. The funny thing is that before they gave him that award Belafonte had already made his offensive comments to call Colin Powell a house slave, but that, apparently, wasn't enough to stop them from recognizing him with an award.)

The question is why a respectable journalist like Wolf Blitzer would take the time to interview this guy. I mean, what has he done to rate public attention? The only reason he's getting attention is because he says nutty things. If he were halfway rational, no one would care what he said. Wolf Blitzer should reassess his bookings. And colleges that bring in Belafonte in to make speeches and arouse the Bush-haters should ponder the insult to Holocaust victims of inviting someone who so disparages them by pulling out these comparisons at the drop of a banana.