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January 31, 2006

SOTU blogging

I don't know how long I'll be able to stick with this, but here goes.

BTW, I haven't had a chance to organize a drinking game yet, but I personally plan to drink every time the president doesn't mention Social Security reform.

I had barely heard that Cindy Sheehan would be in attendance on a guest pass, and I was preparing to make a joke about whether she'd bring her new boyfriend Hugo Chavez, but now I hear she's been arrested. I sense the dark curtain of fascism descending across our land.

UPDATE: You can see Sam Alito looking around like a hayseed tourist on his first visit to the big city. You can tell he's newly minted.

UPDATE: Condi's outfit looks terrific. Laura's doesn't.

UPDATE: This was supposed to be a less ambitious SOTU address, but he's already called for an end to tyranny worldwide.

UPDATE: All right, I'm getting bored already....

UPDATE: Bush: "Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy." Me: "That's a good line." My wife: "He didn't write it."

UPDATE: Nice line on the NSA surveillence. Nice smirk afterwards.

UPDATE: John McCain looks happy to hear about "earmark reform." I am too. Bush wants the line-item veto. Would he use it if he had it?

UPDATE: For the love of God, where is Jack Bauer?!?

UPDATE: More math and science!! Fuck yeah!!

UPDATE: Michael Graham notes a missed opportunity: "When Democrats began celebrating wildly the fact that they have done nothing to rescue Social Security, they handed Bush an opportunity to step away from the text and point out the partisan cynicism of celebrating failure. My comment would have been 'Remember that applause 13 years from now when Social Security goes broke.'"

UPDATE: May God bless you, and God bless America. Good night, you guys. I gotta go sleep this off.

A bold prediction

The most common knock against Sam Alito seems to be that he would be too deferential to government power once elevated to the high court. Maybe, but I'm not completely buying the conventional wisdom here.

Granted, he's no wild-eyed libertarian, and he'll certainly render opinions that will disappoint me from time to time, but I don't see him as a knee-jerk cheerleader for unchecked government power either. Such a fear, I think, is more justified for John Roberts than with Sam Alito.

I may be wrong, of course, as SCOTUS prognostication is not for the faint of heart. Still, based on all I've seen of the two judges' records, I think there's been a bit of an inversion in the commonly held perceptions of both men.

Ah well, we shall see. It's a done deal now, Alito having been confirmed 58 to 42.

I'll be toasting his confirmation with a drink tonight, but I won't be breaking out the good stuff I had on reserve in the event of a Janice Rogers Brown nomination. I guess I could still keep the good stuff stashed away on the off-chance that John Shadegg actually gets elected House majority leader.

Somehow I don't think that's going to happen, though. Instead I predict I'll end up like that dude in Sideways, sucking down a vintage bottle from a paper cup in some forlorn greasy spoon. Ah well.

Anyway, I wonder how many Senate Democrats are pissed at John Kerry? His quixotic filibuster attempt probably helped him curry favor with Kos, but how good was it for the party as a whole?

My guess is not very. Filibustering a SCOTUS nominee is an usual and dramatic step. No Supreme Court nominee has been filibustered since Abe Fortas*, so the very rarity of the maneuver enhances its impact.

The Democrats have, of course, now wasted a perfectly good filibuster against a nominee whose success was pre-ordained. Not only did that put many of Kerry's colleagues in a difficult position unnecessarily, but it also blunted the impact of the filibuster for future battles.

Oh well, not my problem, I suppose.

*I've heard it argued that, contrary to popular belief, Abe Fortas was not actually filibustered, but that the nomination was held up by other procedural delays. I don't really know if it's true, but the distinction seems to be a fine one in any case.

The Democrats' NSA straddle

Rich Lowry explains why the NSA eavesdropping controversy isn't likely to be a winning issue for the Democrats. As with most Democratic failures of late, John Kerry deserves no small part of the credit/blame.

Asked on ABC's This Week to respond to a Karl Rove speech saying that Democrats disagree with President Bush that al Qaeda members should be monitored when they call somebody in America, Sen. John Kerry declared, "We don't disagree with him at all." But he went on to blast the NSA program as illegal. Why not, therefore, cut off funding for it? "That's premature," Kerry insisted.

Democrats are the first party ever to talk of impeaching a president for creating a program they themselves seem to support. It's as if they had denounced Watergate, but stipulated that there was nothing wrong in principle with breaking into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychologist.

Heh. Good one.

I call "bullshit"

Moonbats are spitting mad over yesterday's failed filibuster in the Senate, prompting many of them to renounce the Democratic party in toto. Here is a sampling from the Daily Kos:

F*ck our democratic leaders.... I'm tired of our Dem's and think we need to form another (true progressive) party....

Any Democrat who votes for cloture is no longer a Democrat.

Take down their names and kick their ass in the next election theyre in.

It's over... and my loyalty to the Democratic PArty is now over as well.

I'll be a registered non-affiliated Independent before teh week is out.

It is an inexcusable betrayal. I will no longer consider myself a Democrat.

I will never give one more penny to the Democratic Party.... Yes, I will vote Green, or independent, or whatever.

And some more from DU:

That's it. I'm changing my affiliation from Democrat to Independent

I'm with you, I've HAD IT.

Why not register Green Party?

Sorry, but I'm not buying it. I've been reading these sites and others like them for years now, and these folks have sworn off the Democratic sauce more times than Ted Kennedy has hit the Senate wet bar just since the 2002 midterms alone. We heard the same big talk after the Appeals Court judges, John Bolton, the bankruptcy bill, Alberto Gonzales, John Roberts... the list goes on.

I wonder whether these people are actually fooling themselves? They're not fooling me. I have absolute confidence that when November rolls around they'll have found ways to rationalize going to the polls to vote a straight Democratic ticket, as they always do.

That's unfortunate. So long as we continue to make excuses for voting for one of these parties (e.g., "the other guys are worse!") nothing will ever change.

January 30, 2006

Waiting for cloture

I haven't exactly been "glued to the set" during the entirety of the Alito debate (thank God) but I did make it a point to watch my two senators from New Jersey this afternoon. They're an interesting pair. For one of them, this will be his first vote in the chamber. The other shouldn't even be in the Senate, but that's another story.

Their speeches were essentially identical, however. Is there some kind of law that says every freakin' Democrat in the Senate has to use the phrase "turn back the clock" at least once when talking about judicial nominations? And are the Republicans equally obliged to use the phrase "up or down vote?" Can someone who has seen more of the proceedings than I have confirm this? Can we get new writers?

Anyway, it's now 3:20 PM and we were promised a cloture vote at 4:30, but John Cornyn is currently blathering on and on about some damn thing. Any chance we'll actually be on schedule here?

UPDATE: It seems like the cloture roll call is proceeding more or less on schedule. Servers at Kos and DU are melting down. I can't access either site.

UPDATE: I'm having a bit of trouble following the count through C-SPAN, but I've heard the roll call vote of enough bellwethers to say that cloture should pass easily.

Yet more Alito drama

As if the suspense weren't nail-biting enough already!

WILL Senator Ensign get out of the hospital in time to thwart a threatened Democratic filibuster?!??! Tune in tonight and see!

(See? This is even better than 24.)

An Alito conspiracy theory

Senator Lincoln Chafee (RINO - RI) has just ended his splendid little Hamlet bit, saying he'll vote against confirming Alito, thus ending the tortuous suspense for all of us (I'd been biting my nails on the edge of my seat, Senator. Really.)

All right, so what? Perhaps there's nothing more here than meets the eye. On the other hand, this whole scenario seems to be playing out precisely along the lines of a conspiracy theory I hatched a week or two ago.

I was sitting around at work, bored as usual, so I decided to play "What Would Bill Frist Do?" which is a parlor game that never fails to amuse me. If I'm Bill Frist, I know that Alito is pretty much guaranteed a solid majority in the Senate. The only real drama is in whether the Democrats can close ranks enough to sustain a filibuster.

Harry Reid never seemed to think his party had the votes to do it, and they probably don't. It's risky pool, though, because if Alito gets confirmed with fewer than 60 votes, the Kos/MoveOn axis will go absolutely batshit ballistic (no, I mean more so than usual.) They'll turn on their own party, and the GOP will go into this year's mid-terms with a deeply divided opposition.

So let's say you're Bill Frist, and it's starting to look like Alito may get confirmed with 60 votes or more. Wouldn't it be tempting to go to Chafee, Snowe and company and say, "Look, under the circumstances, you can vote against the guy if you want to. You have the blessing of the Senate leadership." Such a move could get Alito's totals back down under the magic number of 60, thus triggering a Democratic schism, but still confirm him with a comfortable majority.

I can't help but wonder whether that's precisely what's happening. The predicted "Aye" count is currently hovering between 58 and 62 or so, depending on whom you ask. Combine that with the coalescing of support for a filibuster that we saw over the weekend, and the stage is perfectly set for my evil, cynical, Fristian ploy.

Anyway, right or wrong, it's going to be interesting nonetheless to see how today's cloture vote goes. The Democrats are in a tough situation. They clearly have no real desire for a filibuster, because (among other things) it would hand the Republicans another big campaign issue this fall, not to mention a great talking point for Bush's upcoming SOTU address. On the other hand, they're hoping that by going through the motions and failing, they will at least mollify some of the fire-breathing elements in their own base.

So happy Senate watching tonight! I'll be there, with a beer in hand, monitoring Alito developments and 24 simultaneously.

January 29, 2006

Unconvincing argument #689

"But... but... all the other presidents have coddled the obnoxious little troll, so why can't this one?"

January 27, 2006

As if this really needs to be said

I'm sure this will provide great fodder for the lefty bloggers for days to come, so I might as well get ahead of the curve here. Ann Coulter's "joke" about poisoning John Paul Stevens is unfunny, to say the least. I understand that the whole point of making such asinine comments is to gin up controversy and, by extension, publicity. I get that. But if Ann Coulter is forced to descend to Democratic Underground-level hate speech in order to get some media attention, then perhaps she should reconsider whether she's cut out for a career in punditry after all.

Corzine's bad idea

Well that didn't take long. He's been governor for what, like 5 minutes now? Looks like my fears of a Corzine tax hike have already been justified.

Let's set aside the issue of whether a state with one of the largest tax burdens in the country can justify any additional taxes for a moment, and just look at some of the specific proposals that Corzine's team is floating.

At the top of the list seems to be a sales tax on clothing.

I think this is fairly obviously a bad idea. For starters, New Jersey's retail sector and tax base benefit substantially from the flood of people who cross the bridges and tunnels every day, fleeing the high prices of the city to shop here in New Jersey. I can't see how it's a good idea to remove that incentive when you're so worried about the financial health of this state.

Second, it's hard to claim that such a tax is not regressive. Poor people have to buy clothes just as surely as rich people do. Granted, rich people buy more expensive clothing, but it still represents a much larger percentage of total income for the poor and middle class, particularly since poorer families tend to be larger families as well.

Granted, these are all just proposals so far, but given the absence of a viable opposition party in this state, I doubt these new taxes will face many obstacles. Who wants to tackle the hard work of fixing Jersey's fiscal infrastructure and rooting out graft and corruption, when it's so much easier simply to reach further down our pockets?

Two more thoughts on the Hamas win

First, I fail to see this as an unalloyed disaster. I think it's enormously clarifying, honestly. For perhaps the first time in the whole Global War on Terror, the West is no longer confronting a "stateless" entity. No longer, in this instance, do we have to deal with the prickly issues of whether and to what extent to hold a legitimate government responsible for the actions of terror groups that operate within its borders. Nope, for at least one front in the GWoT, the sides and the issues and the players have become crystal clear.

Second, as predictable as death and taxes, the moonbats wasted no time in spinning the Hamas win as a failure of Bush foreign policy, illustrating the bankruptcy of the neocon dream of democratizing the Middle East.

Just say what you mean, people. Those of you who don't believe that the Palestinians and other Arabs should have the right to choose their own government should just come out and say so. Stop hiding behind criticisms of Bush and the dreaded "neocons" and say what you mean.

Worth 1,000 words

Just click on the link.

Then click on the links.

Worst political instincts ever

Sorry to keep harping on this, but I just can't get the image out of my head: John Kerry interrupting his anti-Semite convention to phone in a filibuster... from Switzerland.

What an image, huh? It's nearly the most Kerryesque thing I can possibly imagine. I understand that he's trying to insert himself back into the good graces of the Democratic base, but I think it's much more likely that this will only serve to remind them why he lost.

I can't remember a major politician in my lifetime with worse political instincts, quite honestly. I'm flabbergasted that he actually believes he has a chance at the 2008 nomination.

Meanwhile, this can't be the reaction he had in mind.

Asked if the administration was taking Kerry's call for a filibuster seriously, White House press secretary Scott McClellan chuckled on Friday and said: "I think it was a historic day yesterday. It was the first ever call for a filibuster from the slopes of Davos, Switzerland."

True confession hour

I wonder how many liberals can be described as follows:

1. They sincerely oppose and dislike Bush, and they eagerly look forward to the day he will no longer be in power.

2. At the same time, they are secretly glad that he's willing to do some of the "dirty work" they'd like done (think NSA intercepts, aggressive interrogation techniques, and a preparedness to blow Iran's nuclear program out of existence.) They're glad someone is doing this sort of thing, and even happier that they can totally dissociate themselves from it by saying "He's not my president!"

I don't know how many liberals harbor such secret thoughts myself, but I do know the number isn't zero. A liberal, Bush-loathing friend of mine confessed to being among their number this morning. My guess is he is not alone.

January 26, 2006

Kerry springs into action!!!

The second he became convinced it would have zero chance of succeeding, Senator John Kerry promptly called for a filibuster against the Alito nomination.

Par for the course.

Flipping MoveOn the Byrd

The moonbats' favorite ex-Klansman just became the third Democratic senator to announce support for Sam Alito. This will be convenient to remember the next time someone tries to explain how Byrd's staunch commitment to progressive causes redeems his racist past.

For my part, I always thought too much was made of Byrd's "progressive" credentials. I think a lot of people tend to use the war in Iraq as the defining metric in political categorization these days. It doesn't work very well, however, as it frequently leads to absurd conclusions, such as "Lieberman is a conservative" (he isn't) and "Byrd is a HoDe/Kos style progressive" (he isn't.)

Anyway, it seems it's a tough reality for the DUers to face.

CN is diversifying

I think I could make a good second career by subtitling Bollywood films.

Do I speak Hindi? No, of course not. How is that relevant?

Jew-bashing at Davos

...for fun and profit. Click here and here if you have the stomach for it.

A good point

From Jonah Goldberg.

The left fairly screams bloody murder when Christian conservatives claim to speak for all Christians and yet countless female (and black) liberals don't even wince at their absolute right to speak for millions of people who don't agree with them. It's just so lame, ignorant and clichéd.

I'll believe it when I see it

One has to wonder, of course, what this president would consider overspending.

President George W. Bush, who has never vetoed legislation, said on Thursday he was ready to do so this year if the U.S. Congress approves too much government spending.

"I'm fully prepared to use the veto if they overspend," Bush told a news conference.

I blame Bush

Looks like those knuckle-dragging, red state Neanderthals are continuing to make inroads in their know-nothing war against science. A new survey indicates that less than half the population accepts the teachings of evolution. Only this time, it's in England.

More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.

Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

Damn George Bush and his right-wing Jesus-freak fascists.

Hamas wins

One of the problems with Democratic elections is that sometimes the people you'd like to see win, don't. (Or so I'm told, anyway. It actually hasn't happened to me much lately.)

Still, there's Winston Churchill's whole thing about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others, blah blah blah.... I think there's a great deal of truth to all that, and I don't think the outcome of this election is necessarily a bad thing. My big fear is whether or not there will be other elections in the future. But if Hamas is willing to abide by future election results after taking power, then so be it.

Meanwhile, it's hard to predict exactly how things are going to shake out in the near term. At least, however, we now know exactly what we're dealing with. Hamas unabashedly calls for the destruction of Israel. Doesn't seem like a good jumping-off point for more talks, but I guess we'll see how it goes. I presume that Israel, absent a sane negotiating partner, will persevere with its unilateral strategy to redefine its borders.

Oh, and one more thing. Please spare me any crap about how the majority of Palestinians are reasonable, peace-loving people. We've just seen otherwise.

"Bones" sucks

Last night after American Idol, this damn thing came on, and I was too lazy to switch the channel.

God, was it annoying. Forget about the horrific dialog and the sophomoric script; I'm used to all that. It was, however, a full hour of sanctimonious political correctness and pop-feminist posturing. The premise of the show was the investigation into the death of an L.A. hooker who had such a poor self-image that she became addicted to plastic surgery.

Most of the action took place in L.A., so we did get to enjoy the delicious irony of listening to the show's characters preen and rail against the pernicious "cult of physical beauty," all while the cameras are gleefully wallowing in it (a volleyball game here, perfect, sun-tanning blondes there, you get the picture.)

Anyway, the point was that we're all to blame for this girl's death, you see, by living in a society that places such a premium on feminine pulchritude. Plastic surgeons, moreover, are more responsible than most. They are "barbarians" who "destroyed" this girl as surely as her actual murderer, and deserve to be arrested as well. Mind you, we didn't have to listen to this soapbox once or twice. It was seemingly another tirade every 30 seconds or so. I grew impatient after the second one.

There was also this subplot about two scientists trying to do some kind of forensic archeology on some old mummy, or some damn thing. The project was a conflict-ridden collaboration between two male scientists who repeatedly butted heads. The show's supporting actress attributed this conflict to male insecurity about their penis sizes. (Of course, what else could it be. Original too, right?)

In the end, at the final confrontation, the more senior scientist decides to walk away before the conflict escalates further (on the sage advice of Supporting Actress, of course.) The younger, more belligerent colleague is left standing there like a dummy. But just in case the audience is too dense to "get it," Supporting Actress walks up to him and beats us over the head with it. "You think you've actually won something, don't you?" She asks. "Goodman was the better man."

Thanks for spelling it out for us. It's a good thing I got enough lecturing and thought reprogramming in that one hour to last me a lifetime, because I won't be tuning in again. I can think of no valid reason for ever sitting through another episode of Bones. I mean, the lead chick is kind of cute and all, but she could really use a nose job... and maybe something done with her eyes.

In short, I give Bones the finger. I'll have to watch two hours of 24 just to get the tast out of my mouth.

January 25, 2006

I'm watching the Alito hearings...

...on and off, as I'm able. Virginia's George Allen just got done speaking, and once again I'm absolutely mystified that so many Republicans continue to float his name as a GOP presidential candidate in 2008. What the hell are they thinking?

UPDATE: Looks like "Sheets" Byrd is on deck. Should be interesting.

UPDATE: It's hard to see where Byrd is going with this, but the gist of it would seem to be that WV's coal mine disasters are all Alito's fault.

UPDATE: What the hell? After listening to Byrd drone on and on for half an hour about coal miners, I assumed there would be some tie-in with, well, you know, Judge Alito. Instead, however, he abruptly yielded the floor without once mentioning the subject at hand.

I'm not the only one left perplexed. A Kos diarist predicted:

Byrd up now, on the Sago mine accident. Listen up. I have a feeling his tie in to Alito can make this a big moment.

...or... not, I guess. Apparently the speech was just leftover "morning business." What a waste of time. I think I need a break from this anyway.

New Jersey news

Who saw this coming?

New Jersey Senate: Kean Takes the Lead

January 25, 2006--In the race to be New Jersey's next U.S. Senator, Republican state Senator Tom Kean Jr. now leads appointed Democratic Senator Robert Menendez 42% to 35%. Kean is son of a popular former governor.

I'm beginning to think that Jon Corzine's being elected governor was a far, far better deal than I realized at the time.

The Hewitt-Stein smackdown

Joel Stein caused quite a stir this week with his "I don't support the troops!" Op-Ed for the L.A. Times. I didn't bother to blog about it, however, because to me he seemed like just another moonbat, albeit a refreshingly candid one.

Likewise, I'm not normally a huge fan of Hugh Hewitt, who tends to be a bit too "shit sandwich-y" for my tastes.

Still, when Stein appeared on Hewitt's radio show, the result was one of the most satisfying smackdowns in the history of talk radio, and Radio Blogger has the audio and transcripts of Hewitt expertly showcasing Stein's idiocy for the world to see. I'll excerpt some of my favorite bits below.

HH: All right. Now who is your...this is a column about the troops that begins, "I don't support our troops." We'll get to the specifics in a second. But who is your closest family member or friend who is on active duty?

JS: That's an excellent question. I wouldn't say I have a very close friend. I would say only acquaintances. No family at all.

HH: Who are your acquaintances?

JS: There was a guy who works at Time, that's where I worked last, who quit to serve in the military.

HH: What's his name?

JS: (pause) You know, I'm blanking on his name. But your point is well taken that I don't have many people that I even know who are in the military.

HH: Do you have any, though, other than this guy at Time whose name you can't remember?

JS: Who are serving currently?

HH: Yeah.

JS: Or ever served?

HH: No, serving currently.

JS: Or only in Iraq?

HH: Active duty. Anywhere in the world.

JS: (pause) I'd say I've been pretty isolated from that. I mean, that's a point I made in the column.
HH: ...I'm asking you, did you support them when they invaded Afghanistan?

JS: I've had really complicated emotions about Afghanistan. Obviously, I wanted to get Osama bin Laden and take out al Qaeda. I didn't know if that was the best method of doing it at the time.

HH: So, you didn't support them then?

JS: I did not support the invasion of Afghanistan, no.

HH: Did you support the troops when they were in the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11, when the terrorists hit it?

JS: Sure.

HH: And so, what's the difference between supporting them there and not supporting them in Afghanistan or Iraq?

JS: Well, I think I said it clear in the column, too. I don't have a...if you are for the war in Iraq, I think obviously, then you should support the troops. My problem is the people who are against the war and support the troops anyway, I think that's kind of an excuse. I think that's a way of making you feel better about your guilt, and I think that's kind of a lazy form of pacifism.
HH: We have troops in Yemen, Mongolia, Jabuti, all across the globe in the Global War On Terror. Do you support those troops?

JS: It really...uh, the straight up troops? Or do you mean like...it really depends on the activity, but no, I don't...I don't believe that our forces should be a police force.
HH: And the people who've died in Afghanistan. Have they died in vain?

JS: Well, if they haven't, what have they accomplished?

HH: I'm asking you, Joel. You wrote the column. You tell me. Have they accomplished nothing?

JS: Well, um, do I think that I, as an American, are safer because of what they did?

HH: That wasn't what I asked. I askd did they accomplish anything in going to Afghanistan.

JS: If I were an Afghani, I would probably...if I lived in Kabul, I probably would think that they accomplished something, sure.
HH: Now, and in your piece, you wrote that, "when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes, you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times, it's Vietnam." Did you support the war in Kosovo?

JS: I had very mixed feelings about the war in Kosovo. Again, I don't know if the U.S. should be used as a police force.

HH: Well, mixed feelings is...you know, someone...either you've got to go or you don't. Should Clinton have sent them?

JS: At the time, I thought he shouldn't.

HH: And so, should they come home now?

JS: The troops in Kosovo?

HH: Yeah.

JS: The U.N. peacekeeping force in Kosovo? Or the U.S. part of the peacekeeping force in Kosovo?

HH: All of them. Just, you know, just U.S. Let's stay focused. Should they come home?

JS: To be honest...I'd like to know more about Kosovo before I said.

Sorry, but that's all I can take of this pant-load. You can read the rest if you want to. I actually had a lot more respect for Stein before this pathetic attempt to "explain" his column. He should have kept his mouth shut and left well enough alone, but Hewitt gave him a shovel and he just kept digging....

The left has no credibility on judges

There is a small but growing group of conservatives and libertarians who are voicing concerns over Sam Alito from the right. They fear he will be too deferential to government power if he makes it to the high court.

I don't know that I count myself among their number, but I have enough respect for some of these people that I take their concerns seriously, and would like to give them a thorough airing.

Here's the way it would work in an ideal world: The Democrats would head up the opposition, of course, and by highlighting key areas of concern, the issue would work its way into the public consciousness as well, and the Democrats could hope to peel off enough moderate Republicans to potentially block the nomination should it be deemed necessary.

That won't work, however, and here's why. The left has become as predictable as death and taxes on the issue of judicial nominees, and they never even deviate from the same, tired script (turn back the clock, lack of commitment to civil rights, women's issues, ideologue, extremist, blah blah blah....)

And they'll go through exactly the same song and dance no matter who the nominee is, as long as he's nominated by a Republican. The following picture illustrates this perfectly.

If you can't make out the poster Senator Specter is holding, it says "STOP SOUTER OR WOMEN WILL DIE." That's right, not even David Souter was immune from being targeted by the same ridiculous hysteria.

Even John Paul Stevens, arguably the court's most liberal justice, wasn't spared. The Women's Legal Defense Fund accused him of "blatant insensitivity to discrimination against women," simply for the crime of having been nominated by a Republican.

As a result, everyone has been trained to simply tune out the left-wing noise machine when it comes to Republican judicial nominees. I can't blame them for doing so, but it's unfortunate that the left, through wanton overuse of its playbook, has rendered its opposition entirely meaningless. Bitching about everything is the same as bitching about nothing.

Sooner or later, whether it's Alito or someone else, a nominee will come along whom they'll have valid reason to oppose. And they'll oppose them, of course, but no one will be listening, and they'll have no one to blame for that but themselves.

Another stupid test

This one purports to measure your homophobia. The lower your score, the less homophobic you are.

I scored 22, which makes me "high-grade non-homophobic." I thought I had scored pretty well until my wife walked away with a 5(!) The question I really lost points on regarded joking about homosexuality. Sorry guys, I can't resist a good joke.

(Hat tip: Fletch)

Final word on Cindy Sheehan

Allow me to clarify something, just in case I left any doubt: Yes, I am officially questioning Cindy Sheehan's patriotism.

January 24, 2006

Cindy Sheehan has jumped the shark


I can overlook a lot in the name of grief. It can make us do and say some bizarre things, and for that reason, I've been much more measured in my criticisms of Cindy Sheehan than have many of my fellow right-wing bloggers. I have heretofore focused most of my ire on the left-wing activists who have shamelessly exploited Ms. Sheehan's personal grief for the sake of their own narrow political agenda. While I hate to admit it, there have been times when I've wanted nothing more than to give her a big hug and share her pain.


What the hell is this?

Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan, mother of a US soldier killed in
Iraq, joined more than 10,000 anti-globalization activists in Caracas, where she hailed Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez.

"I admire him for his resolve against my government and its meddling," said Sheehan....

Sorry. You're just another idiot moonbat, anti-American moron, Ms. Sheehan. You're not only a disgrace to your country, you're a disgrace to the memory of your son, who died a hero in a battle he voluntarily joined in a war for which he voluntarily reenlisted.

Now you want to throw in with an anti-democratic, anti-civil rights, anti-American turd like Chavez, just because Chavez opposes Bush? You're a shame, Cindy. A disgrace. I'm through making excuses for you.


Kanye West's latest attempt at being controversial elicited a big yawn from me as well, but Glenn had an interesting point I hadn't considered.

IF KANYE WEST HAD BALLS, he's pose as Mohammed, instead of Jesus. But he doesn't. Efforts to be controversial have become so predictable. Yawn.



Bizarre committee vote confirms Alito

In a surprising turn of events, the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to send the Alito nomination to the Senate floor... on a strictly party-line vote!!!

I mean, what are the odds that such a principled and deeply philosophical balloting process would just happen to coincide exactly with partisan affiliation? Astonishing.

So much for Times Select

I guess charging the gullible to read its Op-Ed page online was insufficient to lift the New York Times from its financial doldrums, as fourth-quarter earnings came in 41% lower than the previous year.

I guess I could be polite and feign surprise, but really, any business plan that relies on people paying to read Maureen Dowd should be sent straight back to the drawing board.

Separation of powers in action

According to The Jawa Report, Congress may soon act to authorize precisely the kind of NSA eavesdropping the president has been criticized for of late.

I saw this coming, of course. It was pretty clear to me that Congress and/or the courts would have to step in and clarify the limits of executive authority on this issue. That's called "checks and balances," and it's the way our country is designed to work. It's also why I thought it premature to start shrieking "IMPEACHMENT!" at the top of my lungs the instant the story broke, before the other branches of government had had their say.

Anyway, here's the relevant bit from the Washington Post.

U.S. surveillance laws should be reviewed and possibly rewritten to allow the type of eavesdropping that U.S. President George W. Bush has been criticized for authorizing, lawmakers from both parties said on Sunday.
"What he's (Rove) trying to pretend is somehow Democrats don't want to eavesdrop appropriately to protect the country. That's a lie," Kerry said. "We're prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer."


But Kerry said the spying has to be legal and constitutional and if Bush needs the law to be changed, "then come to us and tell us... There is a way to protect the Constitution and not go off on your own and violate it."

Other prominent Democratic senators including Dick Durbin of Illinois, Charles Schumer of New York and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut made similar comments about reexamining the breadth and modernity of FISA in television interviews a few days after Rove urged Republicans to campaign on national security and the war on terror.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who has also questioned the legality of the eavesdropping, also urged the administration to work with Congress on modernizing the 1978 FISA law to take into account technological changes in communications.

"I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said here's why we need this capability, that they wouldn't get it. And so let's have the hearings," McCain said on Fox News Sunday.

It's hard to disagree. I think Congress should address this matter as soon as possible. And then? Constitutional crisis averted. But don't be surprised if the end result isn't exactly helpful for the pro-impeachment lobby.

Statistically improbable phrases

Hey, has anyone else noticed this cool new feature at Amazon? I'm not sure what it's useful for, except perhaps as a remedy for chronic boredom at work. It can, however, be particularly amusing for books like Trainspotting:

Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIPs):
heided cunt, tae git, shakes his heid, gaunnae dae, doss cunt, sais tae, cunt sais, wis gaunnae, dae wis, cunt thit, tae fuckin, thir wis, nae cunt, cunt jist, perr cunt, tempted tae, fir fuckin, huv tae, git ootay, look eftir, fuckin heid, shitein cunt, ower tae, whin yir, tae huv

Try it, you'll like it.

January 23, 2006

Please, tell me when it's over

As a news junkie, I normally glance at the headlines on the Drudge Report about 50 times a day or so. I'm intentionally avoiding it now, however, because I can no longer take seeing George Galloway in a red leotard.

Please, someone tell me when the picture comes down and it's safe to go back. Also, please tip me off if there are any important headlines I might miss in the meantime.

Franco-American relations

No, this has nothing to do with Chef Boyardee. But as a casual student of modern history, I've noticed that Franco-American relations seem to be smoother when the left governs France, and rockier when the right is in charge. I had observed this pattern to exist, but had never formulated a satisfactory explanation for it. Bernard-Henri Lévy, however, gives it a shot.

"In France, with the nation based on roots, on the idea of soil, on a common memory . . . the very existence of America is a mystery and a scandal." This is a particular source of pain, Mr. Lévy says, for "the right." Contrary to what is thought generally, he insists, anti-Americanism "migrated to the left, to the Communist Party, but its origins are on the extreme right." America gives the French right "nightmares," as the country is based on "a social contract. America proves that people can gather at a given moment and decide to form a nation, even if they come from different places." The "ghost that has haunted Europe for two centuries" -- and which gives fuel, to this day, to anti-Americanism there -- "is America's coming together as an act of will, of creed. It shows that there is an alternative to organic nations."

I'm sure there's probably more to it than that, but it's nonetheless interesting to read the thoughts of a prominent French political philosopher regarding a topic that has puzzled me for years.

With opponents like these...

No matter how dire things get for the Republicans, there is one secret weapon they can always count on to save their bacon -- the the Democrats.

Despite a lackluster showing in 2005 elections for the GOP, the Republican National Committee raked in better than $100 million last year and enjoys its largest cash-on-hand lead over its Democratic counterpart in more than a decade.

For the year just passed, the RNC brought in nearly $102 million -- give or take a few hundred thousand -- and had $34 million in the bank. The Democratic National Committee raised $51 million in 2005 but showed $5.5 million on hand at the end of the year.

Not only are the Democrats woefully underfunded, but they seem hell-bent on squandering what meager coin they do have in an attempt to unseat one of their own -- Joe Lieberman. Broke and stupid. What more could you ask for in an opposition party?

Roosting "eminent domain" chickens

I've got to say, this stunt has gotten farther than I ever expected it to.

Angered by a Supreme Court ruling that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, a group of activists is trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home.

The group, led by a California man, wants Justice David Souter's home seized to build an inn called the "Lost Liberty Hotel."

I should add that I find this stunt to be childish, petulant and small-minded... and I hope it succeeds.

Since the Canadians are too polite...

...I'll say it for them: Mind your own business, you fat, fatuous, pompous, self-aggrandizing meddlesome douchebag!

Controversial American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore bemoaned an apparent right turn by liberal northern neighbor Canada in its upcoming general election.

"Oh, Canada -- you're not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That's a joke, right? I know you have a great sense of humor, ... but this is no longer funny," Moore complained in a commentary on his website.

A significant but underreported news story

You've got to wonder why this story wasn't more widely reported.

Last month Italian authorities arrested three Algerians who were members of the al Qaida -linked terror group GSPC.

The three were plotting attacks on ships, railway stations and stadiums in the United States in a bid to outdo the casualties caused on 9/11, said Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu.

The arrests made front page news in newspapers in Italy, Britain and France. But apparently the only U.S. newspaper to mention them was the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a short AP dispatch on page A-6. The AP did not mention that the principal targets of the plotters were in the U.S.

The incuriosity of our news media about the plotters and their plots is curious, especially in light of the mysterious death of Joel Hinrichs, 21, a Muslim convert who, wearing a suicide vest, blew himself up Oct. 1 on a park bench outside the stadium in Norman where the university of Oklahoma football team was playing Kansas State. When Hinrichs' apartment was searched after his death, the FBI found a plane ticket to Algeria.

Perhaps the Algerian plotters went unmentioned because describing how they were caught -- the Italian authorities were listening in on their telephone conversations -- would interfere with a current journalistic meme.

Read the whole thing, but expect to get pissed off.

More "tax cuts for the rich," please

Looks like this benefited a lot more than just the infamous "top two percent."

The 2003 cuts in both dividend and capital-gains tax rates was a substantial boost for the stock market and corporate boardrooms. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 32% since Dec. 31, 2002, one week before President Bush announced the 2003 tax cuts. The S&P 500 large-cap index is up 47%. Mid-caps are up 79%, and small-caps up 81%.

Overall, the value of U.S. equities increased $6 trillion (up 50% from $11.9 trillion to $17.9 trillion on Sept. 30, 2005) since the dividend tax cut first appeared in the headlines. Household net worth increased $12.1 trillion to $51.1 trillion over the same period, an increase of $40,631 for every person in America. These gains accrue to the 91 million Americans who own shares of stock directly or through mutual funds, and to more than 80 million private and government workers through their pension funds. Growth, profits, and investment spending also grew, and we have created 4.4 million jobs. Tax cuts were a major factor in producing these gains.

January 22, 2006

Our stupidest senator

Washington's Patty Murray, who once lauded Osama bin Laden's commitment to day care (sort of goes hand-in-hand with OBL's unbridled enthusiasm for career moms, I guess) has outdone herself once again. She has declined to return campaign contributions from Abramoff-represented Indian tribes, on the grounds that (I can't even type it with a straight face) doing so would "taint" the tribes.

Poor Patty. It can't be easy to rank dead last in intelligence in a body not particularly known for its sagacity to begin with. Her best hope may well be that Sheila Jackson Lee might eventually join her in the "upper chamber," thus allowing Ms. Murray to rise to 99th place.

(Hat tip: Glenn)

24, Season 5

Jack Bauer's back and kicking ass and, as usual, I've got some questions.

First, do any liberals watch this show? Ever? I have to believe the answer is "no," because apart from a handful of grumpy Muslim-Americans, no one has bothered to bitch about the show. If lefties were paying attention in significant numbers, I think we'd see quite a bit more rending of garments and snide commentary at the very least, and probably a formal complaint or two.

After all, 24 is an extremely popular prime-time show in which a maverick counter-terror agent saves the world from terrorism in an extremely politically incorrect fashion. The show is refreshingly free of American angst and self-flagellation, and zero time is wasted on why-do-they-hate-us ruminations. Those are precious seconds in which we could be killing terrorists, after all.

The great debates of the day (e.g., torture and warrantless searches) are not presented as debates at all, but rather as a mundane matter of daily routine ("Morning, Jack! Traffic was a bitch today. You catch the Lakers game last night? Say, pass those electrodes, would ya?") Few people ever object, and when they do, they are presented as cartoonish moonbat stereotypes, whose naive do-goodism merely presents another annoying obstacle to saving the country. So remember, the next time you're debating some hippie about counter-terror detention and surveillance, simpyl tell them to watch 24 and get a clue as to how the "real world" works. I can guarantee you'll get an entertaining reaction.

And I won't even begin to delve into the race and gender politics of the show. Suffice it to say there's a rich vein to mine there for the perpetually aggrieved, were they inclined to do so.

Secondly, I wonder whether the show's writers regret centering the show on the Los Angeles branch of CTU. It's becoming increasingly difficult to contrive the events of the show to be centered in this locale. In the season five opener, for example, President Logan is signing an anti-terrorism treaty with the Russian president at his ranch outside of... L.A. Meanwhile, former President Palmer is writing his memoirs in a hotel suite... in L.A. This one seems easy enough to fix, however, by simply transferring Bauer to New York or D.C.

All right, so that's all the 24 blogging for now, but I'm sure there'll be more to come later. Meanwhile, despite the ridiculous, contrived storylines, the preposterous timelines, and the plot holes you could drive a Ryder van full of ammonium nitrate through, I'll be on the edge of my seat for the next 20 weeks.

January 21, 2006

They cum in peace

All right, these folks have obviously been around for a while. How did I miss that? And if they're still at it, how many gone blind?

Read the bill?

When Congress passes a 50-pound, two-jillion page omnibus spending bill, what are the chances that any of the signatories have actually read the damn thing? Approximately zero-point-zero, that's what the chances are.

Anyway, I think getting congresscritters to actually glance at a law before they pass it is the point behind this effort that I learned about from John Cole. It would mandate that any bill be posted on the Internet at least 72 hours before it goes up for a vote.

I support this idea, but for somewhat different reasons than others. Look, let's face it, there's no realistic way to force our congresscritters to read the legislation they vote on, 72-hour rules or no. But what such a measure would do is provide concerned citizens, bloggers and legislative watchdogs an opportunity to peruse any pending legislation for egregious earmarks and provision, Bridges to Nowhere and the like, and expose them to public scrutiny before the bill comes to a vote.

I think that's a good idea. It would be great if our lawmakers would read the bills they vote on. If they don't, however, someone should.

I'm still here

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. You wouldn't think the arrival of two South African dogs would throw me so completely off-schedule for the past day and a half, but it has.

I'll fill you in on more details in due course, but for now, suffice it to say that the number of dogs in our house has tripled, but all are getting along just fine, and the recent arrivals are settling in and getting over their jetlag and culture shock.

And as for me, I'm trying to catch up on everything else, including this blog.

January 19, 2006

An interesting "what if"

My erstwhile neighbor and congressman is now my junior senator, as of yesterday. He was appointed by Jon Corzine to backfill the seat Corzine himself vacated after being sworn in as governor.

The timing is interesting, because one of the first significant votes Menendez faces will likely be the confirmation of Alito to the Supreme Court. Menendez has hinted that he is open-minded on the issue, and does not find anyone "too conservative or too liberal."

I somehow doubt that Corzine, who opposed John Roberts, would be similarly open-minded on the issue. Anyway, wouldn't it be funny if the Democrats failed to sustain a filibuster on Alito by one vote -- Menendez's? That would mean that all my liberal New Jersey friends, by electing Jon Corzine governor, had simultaneously guaranteed Sam Alito a seat on the High Court.

Now I don't know how likely a scenario that is, but I do know what my reaction would be: a sustained bout of quiet giggling.

Terror updates

Yeah, so OBL has released some new tape or something. Who cares.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is accusing the Bush administration of downplaying the threat from Iran. That damn Bush! When he's not overstating a threat, he's understating one. Why can't he ever state a threat "just right," like Goldilocks and the Dems?

The irony of it aside, Hillary has a point (although to the extent that Bush has downplayed the Iranian crisis, it's fairly easy to understand why.) Once again, she's shown herself to be a shrewd practitioner of the political arts, her st00pid "plantation" remark notwithstanding. This is smart territory for the Dems to stake out, I think. It's not enough merely to undermine Bush's support on the war and national security. They need to reinforce their own hawkish bona fides as well. Hillary sees an opportunity to get ahead of the curve on this one. Let's see if other prominent Dems follow suit.

Too damn far

I got a lot of criticism when the whole NSA excrement-storm hit the fan because I wanted to wait and see how the legalities of the program shook out before I started shrieking hysterically about impeachment and "shredding the Constitution." I'm funny that way. Of course that reaction made me an blind, unthinking Bush ass-kisser to many. (I get a tough crowd these days.)

Well, ass-kisser or not, the administration has gone way, way too far this time.

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors.

That's right. They need the results of all our Googling to fight... pornography. Not even terrorism, but pornography.

Please tell me, how can the Justice Department be so damned stupid? The White House is already getting a shellacking on allegations of Big Brother-ism and privacy concerns. Do you guys really think the battle over NSA eavesdropping is important to win? Well this does not help your case. You've just handed your enemies a big-ass club and begged them to brain you into insensibility with it. Nice job, Mr. Gonzales. And to think there were many Democrats who thought you were the best SCOTUS pick they could reasonably hope for from this administration. Well I, for one, thank God you were not nominated. You're a damned annoyance as AG, but we only have to suffer you for (at most) another three years this way, as opposed to the rest of your life. Hell, I'm ready to bring back Ashcroft already.


So completely effing pointless and stupid!!

Oh, and explain this part to me while you're at it, please.

The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

Hello? Is there something I'm missing here? Is there some particular reason the Justice Department can't simply type words into Google's search engine and find their porno like the rest of us? Do they really need access to Google's private database to determine how often pornography shows up?

I'm glad Google's fighting this, but I hope the federal courts slap Justice down hard and fast. It's not enough simply to win this one battle. We have to make sure a firm precedent is established here.

And you know what else pisses me off about this?

The government indicated that other, unspecified search engines have agreed to release the information, but not Google.

In other words, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have already bent over. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. If Gates and Ballmer are willing to do the dirty work of the Communist Chinese thugocracy, why should we expect them not to grab their ankles for our own government? Sadly, we don't even need government censorship/invasion of privacy anymore. We have too many corporations eager enough to do it for them.

Argh! So... angry!!!

This is an outrage!

Forget that NSA crap, people. Genuine civil liberties are at stake in Alabama!

Keg parties at fraternities and many other places would be outlawed under a bill passed 30-0 Tuesday by the state Senate.

If the bill becomes law, people could drink draft beer only at a bar, restaurant, private club or other retail establishment licensed for beer sales by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, the bill's sponsor. People could not buy a keg and take it elsewhere to drink.

Archie Bunker liberals

I'm not usually much for armchair psychoanalysis, but I do think that Jake Gagnon may have a point.

It seems to me that the left is presently going through a period in history analogous to what the right went through from 1932 though 1979: a period of dissent, a period of being the minority not merely in electoral politics but in prevailing political viewpoint. It might be viewed as an "Archie Bunker" phase, a phase in which one feels so overwhelmed by the prevailing political dogma, that one's visceral reactions take over. There were always grains of truth in what Archie said, typically wedged in at the beginning of his dialogues with "Meathead," but invariably Archie found himself pushed to the brink, screaming irrationalities (albeit in a humorous manner that caused us to reflect upon ourselves).

As someone who was very young but already of a conservative bent, I always felt an uncomfortable sympathy with Archie. His trite bigotry seemed forgivable, at least in part, because he was fighting to preserve certain elements of character that had been abandoned by the prevailing dogma, such as self-reliance. That there was some deep, bona fide belief behind those irrationalities made Archie a very human and ultimately endearing personality, notwithstanding his irascible and impolitic nature.

Although Gore and his political compatriots do not have anyone as funny as Norman Lear writing for them, I do have some sympathy for all their flailing, because I sense that they must feel as I did in the prior era.

Chirac: "Nuke the terrists!"

I can't really fault Chirac for saying this

France said on Thursday it would be ready to launch a targeted nuclear strike against any state that carried out a terrorist attack on French soil.

In a speech defending France's costly nuclear deterrent and toughening policy against terrorism, President Jacques Chirac said Paris must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state's centres of power and its "capacity to act".

but at the same time, I have to wonder what the world's reaction (and France's in particular) would be had President Bush said the same thing?

For all my talk about the French being wussies on the world stage, I've never doubted they would zealously defend their own absolute right to respond ferociously to a terror attack on their own soil. I've often speculated that if (God forbid) France were to experience a 9/11-scale attack, things could get really ugly over there very, very quickly. I just hope we never find out whether I'm right or not.

In case I had any doubt

As if I needed any further encouragement to oppose Roy Blunt for House Majority Leader, Blut gave it to me today himself. To summarize, his pitch is essentially, "Vote for me! House Republicans have done a terrific job!"

Fair enough, I guess. Anyone who thinks the House leadership has done a good job over the past few years probably would be happy with Blunt. Look, it would be tough for Blunt to sell himself as an outsider, but the fact that he would base his campaign on the "record" of one of the most unpopular congresses in recent memory is just astonishing.

BTW, I love the headlines under which Blunt penned his campaign screed:

Party of Limited Government
Our record of accomplishment speaks for itself.

Yes. It certainly does.

January 18, 2006


It looks like diplomacy has officially run its course. When the French give up on talking, that's pretty much the end of the line.

France, with the support of the United States, rejected Iran's request for more negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying Wednesday "there's not much to talk about" after Iran resumed atomic activities.

On the bright side

If Medicare Part D is really that big a cock-up (and I suspect it is) then perhaps there is finally some hope for reversing it after all.

This is cool

We will become the forbidden fruit, and hence infinitely more desirable.

Breaking news

This is a joke, right?

More on Shadegg

This is why I want John Shadegg as House Majority Leader.

Republicans promised the American people two things in 1994. First, we promised to rein in the size and scope of the federal government. Second, we promised to clean up Washington. In recent years, we have fallen short on both counts. Total federal spending has grown by 33% since 1995, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Worse, we have permitted some of the same backroom practices that flourished in the old Democrat-controlled House. Powerful members of Congress are able to insert provisions giving away millions -- even tens of millions -- of dollars in the dead of night. The recent scandals involving Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff have highlighted the problem, but this is not just a case of a few bad apples. The system itself needs structural reforms.
Every year Congress adopts a budget, and every year we exceed it. Cheats and dodges -- supplemental spending without offsets, "off budget" spending -- hide this expenditure, but it is added to our national debt, a legacy of irresponsibility to burden future generations. We are still using a budget process that dates from 1974, when Democrats ruled the House and the government was a fraction of its current size. We need reforms in our budget rules to force Congress to stay within the budget it adopts.

No elected official who takes a bribe, including a member of Congress, should get a taxpayer-funded pension. This is a reform I proposed months ago, as soon as we learned about Duke Cunningham's crimes, and it is one that others have urged for years. Who is afraid of this reform?

I grew up watching the example of Barry Goldwater, who worked closely with my father. He taught me that "a government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away." That philosophy guided me when I ran for Congress in 1994. I was thrilled to be part of the Revolutionary Class of '94, and the sense of hope and mission of the early days after the American people elected a Republican majority in the House is still with me. We believed then that we could take back our government, and I believe it today.

Good luck, John.

Speaking of New Jersey

Once again, my timing is impeccable. Now that I've finally fled New York City, Governor Pataki, with his eye on the White House, suddenly remembers he's a Republican and proposes sweeping tax cuts. Meanwhile, is our own newly-minted governor setting the stage for an eventual tax hike? Time will tell, I suppose.

New Jersey hurricane?

My house almost blew down this morning. What's up with that?

January 17, 2006

Howard Dean is right

Not always, of course, but he's right when he says

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said today that his party relished the thought that Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt might soon become majority leader.

"If you like Tom DeLay, you're going to love Roy Blunt," Dean said at a Democratic rally at the Uptown Theater.

I hope the Republican Caucus is listening.

SCOTUS upholds assisted suicide

This is just fascinating. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court has upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law. I think that's good news, as far as it goes, but it does pose some interesting questions.

First, why does state law win out here, after losing out in the Gonzales v. Raich medicinal marijuana ruling? Well, that's outcome-based jurisprudence for you, folks. I wouldn't waste too much time looking for consistency.

Second, Justice Clarence Thomas would seem to have flip-flopped as well, at least at first glance. He dissented in both Raich and Gonzales v. Oregon.

Thomas is currently my favorite justice on the bench -- not because he's always right (he's not) but because he's usually the justice most likely to recall from civics class that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments place limits on federal power.

So why did Thomas reject the notion that the Commerce Clause was insufficient basis for overturning California's medicinal marijuana law, but here found in favor of the feds? I decided to give Thomas the benefit of a doubt, at least until I could find a clue as to his reasoning. The results were fascinating. Check out this quote from Thomas's (separate) dissent.

Today this court concludes that the (Controlled Substances Act) is merely concerned with fighting 'drug abuse' and only insofar as that abuse leads to 'addiction or abnormal effects on the nervous system' ...

"While the scope of the (act) and the attorney general's power thereunder are sweeping, and perhaps troubling, such expansive federal legislation and broad grants of authority to administrative agencies are merely the inevitable and inexorable consequence of this court's Commerce Clause and separation-of-powers jurisprudence.

Wow! That makes it clear to me that Thomas has not changed his opinion one whit since his Raich dissent, in which he wrote

If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything -- and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

In other words, Thomas seems to have used Raich as a precedent here, despite the fact that he still passionately objects to the decision. That's stare decisis, folks. Liberals are supposed to love it.

And I love the fact that Thomas found a way to bitch-slap the Court on Raich not once, but twice.

Forget Alito, Mr. President. Just give Clarence Thomas two votes.

Ah, what better way...

...to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King?

"I need you to tell us what distinguishes Democrats from Republicans right now," she was asked.

Clinton's answer was provocative.

Said Clinton, "When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation and you know what I'm talking about..."

Yes, Senator. We do.

Tim Graham may have a point.

Is it time to consider renaming the federal holiday--perhaps instead of Martin Luther King Day, it should just be described as Free-Flowing Democratic Invective Day? ... After all, it hasn't exactly been a boon for American racial unity and brotherhood, with Hillary and Al Sharpton exchanging plantation metaphors.

It's about damn time

Well what do ya know? The Europeans have their limits after all.

EU suspends 35 million euros in aid to the Palestinian Authority

The European Union has suspended 35 million euros ($42 million) in aid to the Palestinians, citing their lack of budgetary discipline, the EU's commissioner for external relations said on Tuesday.

The rare sanction underscored intensified foreign donor scrutiny on the Palestinian Authority since Israel quit the Gaza Strip last year after 38 years of occupation. The impoverished territory is widely seen as a testing ground for statehood.

Visiting the region ahead of Palestinian legislative elections on Jan. 25, the EU commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said half of 70 million euros ($84 million) donated through the World Bank in November has not been released, and that the issue was under discussion.

"The biggest donor is the European Commission, and we have
not paid because the benchmarks have not been fulfilled," she told reporters.

I'm a communist

It's true, at least according to this post over at Samizdata.

To put it simply, either Linux dies - or the whole of human creativity will become a stagnant swamp. Anyone who disagrees with this is a communist.

Samizdata is one of my favorite sites, and I was 99% sure that the post excerpted above was parody, but it was so craftily done that I had to read it through twice to convince myself with absolute certainty. Read the whole thing.

It wasn't Samizdata, of course, but rather Steve Ballmer who called me a communist. Steve Ballmer can go fsck himself.

Pick your poison

We keep hearing about how the Republican Party has been "hijacked" by religious fundamentalists. Not only is it no longer the "Rockefeller" party, we're told, but it's no longer even the "Goldwater" party. Hyperbolic, of course, but there is more than a bit of truth to it. My liberal friends (whom are legion) toss that in my face all the time as they marvel that I can still possibly self-identify as a Republican.

The problem is that they typically see only half the equation. Yes, religious conservatives exert an undue influence over the GOP. I get that. Yes, that scares away some moderates and swing voters. I get that too. I've said as much myself.

The big leap, however, which they never quite justify, is their presumption that I should simply vote Democratic as a result. The problem is that a careful examination of the Democrats' base proves at least as unsettling as the Republicans'. Take a look at today's WSJ editorial by Dan Gerstein, former communications director for Joe Lieberman.

It's hard not to listen to the reviews of the Democrats' performance in the Alito hearings and come away thinking that much of our party is living in a parallel universe.

Most of the political establishment has concluded that the Democrats were: (a) ineffectual; (b) egomaniacal; (c) desperately grasping at straws; (d) downright offensive; or (e) some combination of the above. The American people, outside of those living in deep-blue enclaves, either were not paying attention or concluded that Sam Alito seemed like a pretty decent guy who was more than qualified. And if they saw anything about it on TV, they couldn't figure out why those pompous Democratic senators were trying to slam Judge Alito for being racist (and making his wife cry).

Yet the liberal blogosphere is agog at the way the Democrats let Judge Alito off the hook. And they're stupefied as to why the Senate Democrats are signaling that they won't risk triggering a nuclear confrontation with a filibuster. Postings on Daily Kos were typical. First, this comment from Georgia10: "Don't tell me a filibuster isn't warranted when 56% of this nation says Alito SHOULD be blocked if he'll overturn Roe. . . . I keep hearing . . . [t]hat we need 'angry' Dems, we need Dems with courage. We need Dems with courage. Well guess what -- we HAVE angry Dems, we HAVE courageous Dems. Look in the damn mirror, people. WE are the party. WE are the Democrats. We're angry, we spit fire, and our time has come."

Then there was this response from one DHinMI: "Alito is a judicial radical and far from the national mainstream on numerous issues. . . And with his anemic numbers, [Bush] wouldn't be able to count on much support from the country in ramming through the nomination."

There are many problems with this analysis. The most immediate is that even if you accept that the activist base's concerns are valid -- that Judge Alito may in fact be a "judicial radical" -- the Democrats simply didn't prove it. They certainly could not justify their absurd insinuations that he was a closet bigot. Their only sliver of evidence was his peripheral membership in a conservative Princeton alum group that opposed affirmative action and that he never was active in. That was it: no pattern of behavior, no Trent Lott-like public statements, no red flags. Beyond being reprehensible, this line of attack was degrading. It reinforced the leftover perception from pre-Clinton days that our party cries wolf on race when it can't win on the merits, and thereby lowered our credibility one rung more in challenging legitimate incidences of discrimination. Those who suggested to Ted Kennedy et al. that this was a winning play should have their strategists' licenses revoked.

He has a point. As a small-l libertarian, I have some concerns that Sam Alito might prove too deferential to government power. I think those concerns are worth airing and investigating. Still, when I look at the arrogant, offensive preening and buffoonery during the hearings by the likes of Biden and Kennedy, I realize this is a party that has some serious problems of its own, and that there's no home for me there. Good luck attracting swing voters with that kinda crap, guys.

To that point, Gerstein ends his editorial thusly.

Judging from the dreadful tack our party took in the Alito process, it's clear that we haven't yet internalized these political realities -- most likely because our anger at George Bush continues to blind us to them. Many Democrats just don't want to acknowledge that he's president and is going to pick conservative justices -- let alone that the two we got, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are about as good as we could hope for.

This episode shows we don't have any leader in power who will tell our base that we're not going to become a majority party again by telling the majority they're out of the mainstream. We do badly need leaders with courage -- the courage, that is, to push our party (to borrow a phrase) to move on, to accept that we can't win with the same lame ideological arguments in post-9/11 America, and that we must develop an alternative affirmative agenda that shows we can keep the country safer, make the economy stronger, and govern straighter than the ethically challenged Republicans. Then we can worry about picking the nominees instead of fighting them.

Well said. I just wonder whether anyone in his party is listening.


Did Pat Robertson and Ray Nagin go to the same school or something?

Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

More on the House leadership race

Several readers had some questions about my half-assed "endorsement" of John Shadegg (God bless Arizona Republicans.) In truth, I've been so busy lately that I barely mentioned it, but I'd like to say about more about why I like Shadegg here.

Simply put, I think it's time for a second conservative revolution in Congress. The first, in '94, was against the Democratic leadership. The new one needs to be against the Republican leaders. I want to reclaim the Republican Party as a "conservative" party, not the corrupt vehicle of crass populism which it has become.

Among the three contenders for majority leader, Blunt, Boehner and Shadegg, only Shadegg represents a clean break from current House leadership. I believe he recognizes the malaise of corruption and addiction to power that currently grips the GOP. There's no guarantee he'll actually do anything about it, but I'm convinced Roy Blunt won't even try.

To be fair, I could live with Boehner as majority leader if I had to. He hit all the right notes in an anti-pork editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. He has some drawbacks that concern me, however. For one thing, he's way too cozy with the K Street establishment in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. For another, he doesn't play well on TV. For a third, he's just one of those faces and names that we've become sick of seeing and hearing. He cannot claim to have stood innocently by while House Republicans gleefully trashed the party's reputation for fiscal prudence. He was, after all, largely responsible for whipping the Republican caucus in line to pass Bush's disastrous Medicare bill.

I won't be thrilled if Boehner comes out on top, but I'd be willing to give him a chance before passing judgment. A Blunt win, however, might as well be a victory for Tom DeLay. Should that come to pass, I think conservatives and their remaining libertarian allies will need to recognize that the Republican House has become effectively useless in forwarding our common goals.

Are back yards the new SUV?

There are few things so quintessentially American as a back yard, yet there are some signs that the back yard is now competing with the SUV as a despised symbol of everything that's "wrong" with the typical American lifestyle (emphasis mine.)

[Los Angeles] Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has outlined this vision, and it does not conform to the way that most Angelenos prefer to live: "This old concept that all of us are going to live in a three-bedroom home, you know this 2,500 square feet, with a big frontyard and a big backyard -- well, that's an old concept."
Planners in Albuquerque have suggested banning backyards -- despised as wasteful and "anti-social" by new urbanists and environmentalists, although it is near-impossible to find a family that doesn't want one.

Yeah, that's a real smart move, guys. You might want to consider banning apple pie while you're at it.

January 15, 2006

Another victory for the neo-Puritans

The smoking ban comes to New Jersey.


Yes, of course I was amused to see George Galloway pretending to be a kitten and drinking "milk" from the cupped hands of Rula Lenska. (Speaking of whom, isn't about time for a DVD release of this classic in the wake of Peter Jackson's latest offering?) But what really amuses me are all the news items claiming that Galloway has "lost credibility." I mean, come on. It's hardly like this was his most degrading performance. Far from it, in fact.

January 13, 2006

The Final Countdown

Worst band ever?

Too good to be true

John Shaddeg (R - AZ) has officially entered the race for House leadership, challenging Blunt and Boehner for the position of majority leader.

Must. Not. Get. Hopes. Up....

This seems like good news

Well, after a fashion, anyway. Examining the DNA of an already-executed murderer confirmed his guilt. It would suck had it turned out otherwise. I give Virginia credit for going ahead with the DNA analysis.

Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the 13th! Anyone know why it's supposed to be unlucky?

Eh... probably not, because it's one of those things that can be difficult to impossible to track down with any certainty. A common version, however, is that back in the early 14th century, a mean French kind issued an edict to round up Jaques de Molay and the Knights Templar to have them tortured and killed.

I've always been fascinated by Templar lore until Dan Brown very nearly ruined the whole thing for me with his crappy book. These warrior monks left a larger imprint on our modern life than most people realize. They arguably invented certain concepts of modern banking, for example. And who knew that the DeMolays (think Kiddie Freemasons) were named after the Templar leader who was burned at the stake? Who cares?

Anyway, Happy Friday 13th.

January 12, 2006

I misread "Hi kulture" as "haiku" at first

who are these people
coming to Frogsdong's blog
looking for strippers...

The Kennedy/gym controversy

Like everyone else, I found this exchange between Senators Specter and Kennedy immensely entertaining. What seems to have amused my friends the most seems to be the revelation that Specter and Kennedy go to the same gym (snigger). The suggestion, of course, is that Mr. Kennedy hasn't seen the inside of a gym since approximately the Pleistocene Epoch.

But honestly, I don't think we're being altogether fair to the senator. I'm inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt here. Remember, lots of fat men go to the gym just to sit in the steam room. The idea is not necessarily ludicrous.

Of course I could be wrong. This could well be the only "gym" Kennedy has seen in the past decade. (That joke works better verbally than written. Get it? "Gym" and "Jim?" HA HA HA HA!!! I'm just a great person.)

Never fear!

MultilateralMan is here!

Kerry said Iran could be referred to the U.N. Security Council if the crisis continued.

"If all diplomatic channels fail, we have no choice but to take the issue before the international body...."

...and they will be very angry with you, and they'll write you a letter, telling you how angry they are!

Credit where credit is due

I can't say I was exactly thrilled when Jon Corzine bought was elected to the governorship of New Jersey last year, but I'm very impressed with how he's getting started: by taking a meat ax to the governor's staff.

Governor-elect Corzine began cutting state government a week early Tuesday by asking the current administration to slash the governor's office staff by 62 jobs.

Corzine's cutbacks covered all operations in the governor's office and included administrative staff. The cuts mean 41 people will lose their jobs; 21 of the positions had not been filled by Governor Codey.

In October, 97 people were on the payroll in the governor's office, down from 152 when former Gov. James E. McGreevey took office in January 2002.

"We're going to try to do as much and more with less people," Corzine spokeswoman Ivette Mendez said.

Nicely done, governor! Now how 'bout doing the same thing with taxes?

Libs on Alito

Moonbat consensus is coming in pretty universally against Sam Alito. Most of these people, however, would oppose any Bush nominee even if it were Gloria Allred. These folks can safely be ignored; such mindless, reflexive opposition is merely noise.

When one begins to seek out principled liberal objections, the task becomes more difficult. At least with Robert Bork, the opposition groups had a veritable litany of concrete bullet points to recite. Much of the anti-Alito commentary I've seen on lefty blogs has to do with "feelings" and "impressions" and "just not believing" what Alito has to say.

Well, those feelings are all valid, and their owners are entitled to them. Selling such a subjective business is going to be a tough road, however. Still, they don't seem to have a heckuva lot else in the anti-Alito arsenal besides these rhetorical spitballs.

I mean, think about it. After months in which to perform opposition research, the Senate Democrats seem to be focusing on Alito's connection to "Billy's Secret Tree-House Club" back at Princeton, or some damn thing. Puh-thetic.

I had some doubts at first, but now, if things continue more or less in this vein, I think Alito is a shoo-in. There's no way the Democrats can mount (heh) an effective filibuster with this kind of paucity of substance. I predict a couple dozen blue state senators will vote pro forma nay's to placate their base, and Alito will replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the bench.

How good or bad that is remains to be seen. I predict he'll ultimately do some stuff I'll like and some stuff I won't. He wasn't my first choice, but he's a solid judge with solid credentials, and there are no compelling reasons for disqualification. Swear him in already.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, even Joe Biden seems to recognize what a farce these hearings have become.

Is there an almond shortage or something?

I'm a big almond butter fan. I like it better than peanut butter, and it has less saturated fat. I'm used to paying more for it than I would for peanut butter, but when I went to buy some yesterday I noticed that pretty much every brand had nearly doubled in price. What's going on? Is there some crisis on the almonds market that I missed?

January 11, 2006

There goes the neighborhood

New Jersey's "we want to be like New York!" attitude has some real downsides sometimes. Mike Bloomberg's ridiculous smoking ban was one thing I didn't miss when I left Manhattan. Now it seems likely to follow me across the Hudson.

I just can't believe this is necessary. Here in Hoboken, you can't swing a cat without hitting half a dozen bars. Do all of them have to be smoking bars or non-smoking bars? Do we have to impose a one-size-fits-all solution?

I think I will now quote one of my favorite political thinkers -- me. This is an excerpt of what I wrote when I lived in Manhattan and the smoking ban was imposed there.

For the record, I don't smoke (except for the occasional cigar). I accept that smokers and non-smokers are incapable of co-existing in the public sphere without one side's wishes being totally and forcibly imposed on the other.

Of course, non-smokers have rights as well, and these obviously need to be considered. Balancing the rights of both groups would not be easy, I'll grant you, but the problem is we're not even trying. As a transplanted Southerner, New York's incredible diversity, tolerance, and non-judgmental attitude had always appealed to me. This mad lurch toward prohibition is troubling.

I'm convinced we can do better. Here's a modest proposal. In a city as large and diverse as New York, there are plenty of bars to go around. Why not have the city sell "smoking licenses", similar to liquor licenses, to bars who wish to cater to smoking clientele? The licenses could be priced in such a way as to guarantee a large selection of both smoking and non-smoking establishments.

If necessary, the number of licenses granted could even be limited. Given the city's current fiscal doldrums, this would yield the added benefit of pumping badly-needed dollars into the municipal treasury. And the end result is that both smokers and non-smokers will have bars to go to where they can be happy and feel at home.

I have bounced this idea off several friends of mine whom I know to be rather fervent anti-smoking zealots. Their response was unanimous: "That sounds fine to me." The problem is no one is proposing this. For Bloomberg, the ban was all-or-nothing.

Look, if I can come up with a reasonable plan off the top of my head after no more than ten minutes' thought, surely professional politicians and city planners could do at least as well. The problem is they're not even trying. And for the most pluralistic city in the world, that's disappointing.

This is just outrageous

You don't have to belong to NORML to be appalled by this. A 22-year-old man with no prior criminal history was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling a few ounces of marijuana. Yes, it's true that he had some guns, but I think any reasonable person should realize the War on Drugs is out of control, and that a sense of perspective is badly needed.

The Iran problem becomes dire

Remember how strenuously conservative columnist Arnaud de Borchgrave objected to the Iraq war? He certainly is sounding hawkish on Iran, however. Read the whole thing.

January 10, 2006

In case you missed it

Jeff Goldstein has a fairly accurate synopsis of today's Biden/Alito interview.

Now what?

Blogging's light today because

  1. I think I'm coming down with some kind of bug. What do you want to bet I got it in the hospital?
  2. I'm trying to pay attention to the Alito hearings. They're actually letting him speak today, if you can believe that.

UPDATE: 30 minutes per senator is way, way too long.

January 09, 2006

Bush vs. Reagan

Given that

  1. I adored Ronald Reagan, and
  2. my enthusiasm for our current president has been "tempered," to say the least,

I am as prone to nostalgia for our 40th president as anyone else.

That being said, I want to take issue with an increasingly popular sentiment that I'm hearing with some regularity from Democrats and anti-Bush Republicans alike. There are several variants to it, but the gist of it goes something like this:

"I supported Ronald Reagan (or not, depending on the affiliation of the speaker), but the Republican Party has come so dangerously far since the days of Reagan that no sane voter could now support it." If pressed for specific examples, the person will usually cite some combination or permutation of

  1. The domination of the party by the religious right
  2. Reckless tax cuts for the rich
  3. America's haughty, go-it-alone unilateralism on the world stage

All right, let's take these one by one, okay?

First, I think the religious right's influence on the GOP is pernicious and destructive, and regular readers of this blog know that I view it as the GOP's biggest current problem, bar none. It is also often exaggerated.

And let's not pretend that it's altogether new, either. I'm not given to political activism these days, but back when I was actively involved in politics, in the mid-to-late 80s, we were having exactly the same argument; only the names were different: "Reagan's party is no longer the party of Goldwater. It has been hijacked by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed, blah blah blah..."

I opposed the fundies' influence on the party even then, but other than the names, not much has really changed. Some will no doubt argue with me on this. Reagan, they will say, would pay lip service to religious conservatives in order to get their votes, but with a wink and a nod to the rest of us, he never actually followed through on much of it.

Well, yeah, that's no doubt true, but again, there's very little new under the sun. Tell me, how much have you heard about the gay marriage amendment after the November 2004 elections?

The second point is even more ludicrous. If "tax cuts for the rich" punches your buttons, Bush is a piker (a piker, I say!) compared to Saint Ronnie. During Reagan's tenure, the top personal income tax rate was slashed from 70% down to 28%. That's 42% by my calculations. By contrast, Bush trimmed the top rate from 39.6% all the way down to... 35%, a difference of 4.6%.

That makes Bush's "tax cut for the rich" an entire order of magnitude smaller than Reagan's, not to mention the fact that the top tax rate is still 7% higher than it was after Reagan left office.

Finally, there is the matter of foreign policy. The stereotype of the clueless American "cowboy" president, galloping across the world stage like a bull in a china shop, was invented for Ronald Reagan, and only transferred to Bush decades later. From the deployment of nuclear missiles to Western Europe, to the bombing of Libya, to the SDI initiative, to his constant red-baiting ("I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."), I'd say there are many Bush critics who have a very short memory when they lapse into misty-eyed nostalgia for Reagan's foreign policy.

The bottom line is this: If you dislike Bush, then dislike him. But don't try to glorify Reagan in the process, in a feeble attempt to lend a veneer of legitimacy to your Bush-bashing. That just makes you look silly.

More on Abramoff

I wrote a bit about the Abramoff scandal last week, but I think it's time for an update.

I have to admit that the more I read, the worse this scandal seems. Before I go further, however, I'd like to take a moment to recap the facts of the case as we know them for those who haven't been following them closely.

Jack Abramoff is something that's known in political circles as a "lobbyist." These "lobbyists," as the name suggests, are sent to Washington to "lobby" on behalf of a certain group or cause.

Jack Abramoff has been accused of.... Look, this is difficult to say. Perhaps you should ask any young children or sensitive adults to leave the room before I go on. You might wish to reconsider reading further yourself, unless you're prepared to face having some cherished beliefs and illusions about our country cruelly shattered.

Still with me? Okay, well... you might want to sit down for this. Here goes:

Abramoff has been accused of... well, I might as well go ahead and say it... offering support and favors to certain congressmen to elicit their support for a particular bill.

Yes, it's very shocking even to contemplate, I know. And in Washington D.C., of all places?! Who could have conceived of such a thing? In fact, you're probably experiencing a bit of denial at the suggestion that such practices could ever occur in our nation's capital.

It's okay to be shocked. It's okay to be outraged. How dare Abramoff single-handedly besmirch Wahsington's good name, and the sterling reputation of the lobbying profession? I know, it's almost impossible to believe that such a thing as influence peddling can really exist, isn't it? But as incredible as it sounds, that seems to be what we're looking at here. I'm just so sorry you had to hear this horrifying news from me.

I'll give you a chance to process this bombshell before I continue. (pause)

All right? Okay.

Now that Abramoff has reached a plea deal, lots of people in Congress are worried that they might be implicated in the scandal. Abramoff is a Republican, as are many of the legislators who have been mentioned in context of the Abramoff investigation.

Consequently, my guess is that the Abramoff fallout will affect Republicans disproportionately. But is it an exclusively Republican scandal?

Howard Dean would have you believe so. Lefty bloggers certainly seemed to enjoy this video of the DNC chairman's interview with Wolf Blitzer, in which he insisted that "There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat."

Granted, Blitzer comes off looking pretty lame during this exchange, but he lets Dean off the hook much too easily, allowing him to blur the issue between Abramoff's personal campaign contributions with the actions of his various lobbying concerns. Blitzer should have asked why Democratic Senators Dorgan and Baucus were so all-fired anxious to return those perfectly innocent, non-Abramoff related contributions.

Ah well, a missed opportunity. Dean won this round on points, but I can't help but believe his abolutist pronouncements will come back to haunt him, as does much of what he says these days.

Again, just to be clear, I'm not defending the Republicans involved, nor even implying that Abramoff was scrupulously evenhanded in his crookery. Still, for Dean and others to boldly assert that the entire Democratic Party is as clean as the wind-driven snow regarding Abramoff is laughable.

(Hat tip: Ace)


I've got some catching up to do on my blog, so let me take this opportunity to say that Ariel Sharon's stroke came as very depressing news to me. I realize that Sharon is a divisive figure, but for the first time in my memory I had begun to sense that there was actually some hope for resolving the crisis in the region. Sharon and his new party seemed headed toward some type of actual resolution, and it's hard for me to imagine that the momentum behind this initiative can survive Sharon's death or incapacitation. Damn shame.

January 06, 2006

Well that sucked

I just spent the past two days in the hospital. I'm not normally the type of person who is given to hypochondria, but given my family history (my father died of heart disease at a relatively young age) I didn't want to take chances with what happened to me Wednesday afternoon.

I was walking through Hoboken, heading towards my car, when I was suddenly struck by chest pains that made it difficult to walk. I slowed my pace, although I had not been walking particularly fast. I made it home okay, but after more than an hour the pain still didn't go away, so I went to the ER.

Over the next 24 hours, I suffered every indignity imaginable, as the sizeable medical staff conjured up novel and innovative things to stick up, down, through and into me. After a while the pain got better, and my initial EKG looked pretty good, but then a CAT scan turned up what may (or may not) have been a blood clot in my left lung. They decided to keep me overnight until they could run some more tests, and in the meantime to begin treating the blood clot prophylactically (heh.)

By the way, has anyone else ever noticed the fascination doctors seem to have with sticking their fingers up your butt, no matter what's wrong with you? They started me on an IV to thin my blood. You'd think that's pretty innocuous, right? But no, before they can even do that, BANG!, on goes the rubber glove.

Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night, hooked to an IV and one of those boop-boop machines and an automated pressure cuff that nearly squeezed my forearm off every 15 minutes. Any rest I did get was typically interrupted by someone taking more blood from me or hooking me up to another EKG.

In my fitful dreams, I revisited other unpleasant medical experiences from my past. I remembered inadvertently pissing off the school nurse when I was five years old. She'd handed me a specimen bottle and pointed me to the men's room, instructing me to "fill it up with water." Well what do you think I did? I filled it up with water from the tap. She didn't like that. I didn't understand why. If she'd wanted me to piss in it, maybe she should have said, "Here, piss in this." Just a thought. Perhaps it was this overly literal sensibility of mine that led me into a study of science.

I began the next day by undergoing a battery of new and more specific tests. I got to inhale radioactive xenon gas and get injected with some substance that made me feel for all the world like I'd just peed in my pants (I hadn't) and then topped it off by having a masochistic cardiologist run me on a treadmill that started going as fast as that one on "The Jetsons" closing credits and got my heart rate up until about a jillion whaddaycallits per thingie.

Anyway, I can't complain, because at the end of the day they decided I had not had a heart attack, and that indeed, my heart appeared in pretty good shape. The blood clot also seems to have been a false alarm.

In short, I'm much relieved, and even thankful to have a bit of a "brush-back pitch" to remind me I need to watch my dietary and exercise habits. I still have no idea what causes the chest pain, but I'm not so worried about it, having ruled out the biggies.

In the meantime, however, I'm exhausted, weak, and feel just generally... weird. I'm glad to be home, but it might be a day or two before I'm truly hitting on all cylinders.

See y'all soon.

January 04, 2006

Interesting find of the day

Yep, I'm still bored.

Occasional bouts of boredom are okay, though. Otherwise, how would I ever have time to find cool-ass stuff like the Albino Bowler action figure?

You can tell I'm bored...

...cuz I'm reading my server logs again. Still, sometimes it's amazing the stuff you find. For example, did you know that if you do an MSN search on the term "jerkoff lady", this blog comes up in third place?

I'm not really sure what this person was searching for when he found this site, but I can't help but think he left disappointed (like everyone else.)

Sorry, fella.

The "Bitch Slap" Waltz

Heh, maybe if I tried some of these dance moves, my wife would finally stop trying to coax me out on the dance floor.

Speaking of the AP...

There's a couple of "what did they know and when did they know it" stories about NSA spying out today. The first, from the New York Times, seems to indicate that the NSA began the program on its own authority, operating under an executive order signed by President Reagan in 1981. President Bush would later authorize the program explicitly.

That seems to be the main point of the Times article, but, as is often the case with the Times, I find the really interesting stuff is buried deeper in the story. To see what I mean, check out the headline on another news story, this one from AP:

Intelligence Panel Had Clue About Spying

The article states that congressional intelligence committee members (and Nancy Pelosi in particular) might have had a "hint" as to what the NSA was up to as early as 2001.

"Clue?" "Hint?" Well, yeah, I'd say they had quite a lot of "hints," and not very subtle ones at that. Back to the Times piece (emphasis mine):

The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed.

Ms. Pelosi's letter, which was declassified at her request, showed much earlier concerns among lawmakers about the agency's domestic surveillance operations than had been previously known. Similar objections were expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, in a secret letter to Vice President Dick Cheney nearly two years later.

The letter from Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, also suggested that the security agency, whose mission is to eavesdrop on foreign communications, moved immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks to identify terror suspects at home by loosening restrictions on domestic eavesdropping.

The congresswoman wrote to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then head of the N.S.A., to express her concerns after she and other members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees received a classified briefing from General Hayden on Oct. 1, 2001, about the agency's operations.

Ms. Pelosi, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said, "I am concerned whether, and to what extent, the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting."

In other words, Pelosi and other congressional Democrats knew about the program almost from the very beginning. Moreover, it seems that Pelosi's only reservation about the program was whether or not the president was aware of it.

Honestly, the Democratic outrage on this is ringing more and more hollow every day.

Happy Abramukkah!

Thanks to Jill for coining that term. I was wondering why the Kos folks hadn't coined a new holiday to commemorate Jack Abramoff's plea deal. I guess it's not as easy as "Fitzmas." "Abramoff...itz...mas..." or whatever doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, so "Abramukkah" it is.

In case you haven't been following the case, I'll summarize it for you, AP style: Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist (who is a Republican) copped a Republican guilty plea in a Republican corruption probe involving Republican lawmakers, many of whom are Republicans, and received money from Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist. (Did I mention Abramoff is a Republican?)

Snarkiness aside, I hope any congresscritter who's tainted by Abramoff's corruption gets his comeuppance. Regardless of party affiliation, we're all better off when crooked politicians are made to answer for their sins. I'm not optimistic that a scandal surrounding a single lobbyist, no matter how many "tentacles" he has, is enough to purify all of Congress, but perhaps it will at least serve as a cautionary tale if we bag a few of them.

Hang 'em high.

January 03, 2006

The NEA exposed

Every election cycle, I'm amazed and appalled to see ads for various candidates (uniformly Democratic, of course) equate an NEA endorsement with being "pro-education."

That's misleading, to say the least, since being "pro-education" isn't the NEA's goal, even ostensibly. Personally, I'd always assumed the NEA's goal was trifold: to fight for its membership to get

  1. as much money as possible
  2. for doing the least work possible
  3. with little or no accountability.

Damn. It looks like I was being a bit generous in my assessment of the nation's largest teachers union. It seems their agenda may be a bit more pernicious than naked self-interest alone.

If we told you that an organization gave away more than $65 million last year to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Amnesty International, AIDS Walk Washington and dozens of other such advocacy groups, you'd probably assume we were describing a liberal philanthropy. In fact, those expenditures have all turned up on the financial disclosure report of the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union.

Uh huh. And what does this have to do with teaching kids to read and write, exactly?

Fortunately, a new set of rules is going to allow all of us to keep much better tabs on precisely how big unions are spending their members' dues. The results are interesting, to say the least.

Reg Weaver, the union's president, makes $439,000 a year. The NEA has a $58 million payroll for just over 600 employees, more than half of whom draw six-figure salaries. Last year the average teacher made only $48,000, so it seems you're better off working as a union rep than in the classroom.

Many of the organization's disbursements -- $30,000 to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, $122,000 to the Center for Teaching Quality -- at least target groups that ostensibly have a direct educational mission. But many others are a stretch, to say the least. The NEA gave $15,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights." The National Women's Law Center, whose Web site currently features a "pocket guide" to opposing Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito, received $5,000. And something called the Fund to Protect Social Security got $400,000, presumably to defeat personal investment accounts.

Amazing, no? Remember, this is supposed to be a teachers union, not MoveOn.org. The latter, of course, has the relative advantage of at least being honest about its agenda.

When George Soros does this sort of thing, at least he's spending his own money. The NEA is spending the mandatory dues paid by members who are told their money will be used to gain better wages, benefits and working conditions. According to the latest filing, member dues accounted for $295 million of the NEA's $341 million in total receipts last year. But the union spent $25 million of that on "political activities and lobbying" and another $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" that seemed designed to further those hyper-liberal political goals.

Other unions play the same game, of course, although perhaps not to such a ridiculous extent. Want to see how your union spends your dues? You can do so here.

New Year's Resolutions

No, not for me, silly! I don't do that. I make them for other people.

This year I'm making them for our two major political parties. In the interest of fairness, they get three resolutions each. Although I'm not optimistic, I would love to see either (if not both) implement some or all of these resolutions. The first party to implement all three would immediately win not only my undying loyalty, but, in my opinion, instantly achieve permanent majority party status as well.

First, the Republicans

  1. Get your damn hands out of the cookie jar. Remember, it was corruption, not ideology, that brought down the Democrats in 1994. You are very near to sharing their fate.
  2. Reclaim your rightful heritage as the party of frugality.
  3. Repudiate the religious right. Trust me, you will gain more than you will lose.

Now, the Democrats

  1. Quit being pussies on national defense.
  2. End your hostility towards the creation and pursuit of wealth.
  3. Repudiate the Kos/MoveOn axis. Trust me, you will gain more than you will lose.

Yeah, I know. I'm not holding my breath on any of these. It's frustrating, though, because I think that following any of these recommendations would yield political benefits in addition to being the right thing to do. Ah well....

Goodbye to another quirky bit of local color

In case you hadn't heard, 2006 brought an end to the "minibottle" era in South Carolina. Until recently, my former home state had been the last in the union to require all drinks sold in bars to be made from those tiny plastic bottles like they have on airplanes.

The AP article above says the minibottle law was originally a temperance measure. That may well be true, but the law had quite a few fans from the pro-drinking side as well -- people who didn't trust bartenders to give you a full shot, or not to water down their liquor bottles. Indeed, the minibottle's 1.7 ounces represent a fairly healthy shot of liquor. The law stipulated that a bartender had to break the seal on a new mini-bottle with each drink made, and use its entire content in making the drink.

All right, so it was a silly law. It still represents a quirky bit of local color that part of me will miss, however. The mixed drinks in South Carolina bars always tasted different than they did other places, since the recipes often had to be adjusted to accomodate 1.7 ounce increments, the only measure allowed by law.

I'll particularly miss the South Carolina version of Long Island Iced Tea, which was available only by the pictcher down there. I mean, think about it. By the time you empty whole minibottles of all those liquors, you have way too much for a single glass. That's why if you ordered Long Island Iced Tea you always had to have someone to share it with you -- or else be prepared to be schnockered.

Ah well, such is the price of progress, I suppose.


Memo to all you multilateralists and internationalists out there: Your time is rapidly running out on the issue of Iran. Clearly you would have us believe that the vaunted "international community" is the preferred instrument for the resolution of international crises. Well, now's your chance to convince us. Put up or shut up, in other words.

Multinational solutions are all well and good, but thus far the E.U. and the U.N. together have done precisely pea shit toward preventing Iran's mad sprint to become a nuclear power. If that doesn't change, your side is not going to have a lot of credibility the next time it tries to beat the drums of multilateralism.

Should things continue in this vein (as it appears likely they will) and it becomes necessary for the U.S. or Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike, I do not want to hear any bitchin' from your side of the fence.

If such a strike should come to pass, it will mean one thing and one thing only: You guys had yet another chance to demonstrate the efficacy of the global community in resolve security crises... and you blew it.

I read Atrios so you don't have to

I've been meaning to mention this for a while now, but I got caught up in the non-blogging surrounding New Years.

Anyway, Atrios has an interesting link (no, the "Barry" he cites is not me) to data that shows the record industry's most profitable recent years coincided precisely with the glory days of Napster.

As much as the music industry wants to hide behind the bogeyman of P2P networks, it's no more than a very disingenuous excuse to avoid facing the real reason behind their revenue decline: their music sucks.

On a related topic, also from Atrios, Coldplay sucks. Yes, I know you already knew that, but it may not be for the reasons you think.

January 01, 2006

More thoughts on NSA surveillance

All right, I've got a couple more things to say about the whole deal. Not surprisingly, both are related to the way lefty blogs have covered the NSA eavesdropping story.

The first point involves the "But Clinton did it too!" meme. That sentence was a favorite signature of a "conservative" friend of mine, mocking the annoying habit some conservatives have of using the 42nd president as a "catch-all" excuse to justify any and all loutish behavior on the part of Republicans.

No doubt, said mantra constitutes an extremely weak defense. It is perhaps useful in illustrating the hypocrisies inherent in contemporary partisan politics, but how much do we really need to be reminded of that? I pretty much accept it as a given.

So when certain pundits, bloggers and news analysts responded to the NSA spying brouhaha by reviewing the history of warrantless wiretaps during past administrations (including Clinton) the left cried foul. Just because Clinton did something doesn't make it right, you see.

Well, that's no doubt true, and normally I would agree with them, but this NSA matter is a bit different. The actions of Bush's predecessors are relevant here for a very simple reason.

Think about it. You're Attorney General or White House Counsel, and your job is to assess the legality of the eavesdropping program in question, balancing the president's sweeping Constitutional authority to gather foreign intelligence versus certain federal statutes which appear to proscribe such behavior.

The courts have yet to rule on this precise issue, so your opinion is necessarily going to rely heavily upon the precedents established by previous administrations. The fact that Clinton and others used warrantless wiretaps on occasion and argued stridently for the power to implement them does matter, whether the lefties like it or not. Moreover, in the four federal court cases that have come closest to addressing the subject at hand, the courts have consistently sided with the executive branch.

The key, of course, rests in the president's power to obtain foreign intelligence, and that brings me to my next point. The mainstream media and the lefty bloggers have done their best to foster the impression that the NSA is listening in on all of our private, domestic phone calls, particularly if we happen to belong to an anti-war group.

People who are playing into this misconception are doing so out of either sheer ignorance or through a deliberate attempt to blur the issue. The FBI's "monitoring" of certain groups, including PETA, the Quakers and others, has absolutely nothing to do with warrantless wiretapping or the NSA. They are completely separate issues, and the fact that they are often reported in the same news grafs indicates to me a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

The issue at stake is a serious one, and a national debate on the subject is appropriate. But please, let's at least have an honest debate, not intentionally misleading partisan rhetoric about Bush being a "dictator." Sorry people, but that's just bullshit, and it's not at all helpful -- to our side or yours.

Questions on Iraq troop withdrawal

Iraq seems to be the most divisive issue facing our country these days, inflaming passions on both sides. But am I the only one who wonders whether there is less substantial difference between the two sides than meets the eye?

Given that the war has already been engaged and our troops are already deployed in large numbers, I would classify the two opposing sides into the following broad categories: The "pro-war" side, for lack of a better term, is characterized by "Leave the troops there until the job is finished," and is in direct opposition to the anti-war "Bring the troops home" crowd.

Sounds pretty clear-cut, right? I would, however, divide this latter group into two sub-categories. The first one, which I'll call Category A, believes we should bring the troops home ASAP, the sooner the better (yesterday would be ideal.) Category B wants the troops home as well, but recognizes that the drawdown must be done in a controlled, deliberate way, after certain preconditions are met, so as not to create a power vacuum in the region that will invite chaos and civil war. Hillary Clinton, a Category B person if there ever was one, sums it up this way: "I disagree with those who believe we should pull out, and I disagree with those who believe we should stay without end." (Damn, don't go too far out on a limb there, Hillary.)

I suspect that Category A people are in a distinct minority. Most anti-war people I know tend to belong to Category B. When I begin discussing Iraq with them, it seems we are in strong disagreement at first, but after some discussion of goals, prerequisites and preconditions for withdrawal, I usually find there is little difference between Category B people and the "pro-war" folks, at least in strictly practical terms.

That leaves Category A, and to these people I'd like to ask a question. This isn't rhetorical, I'd actually be very curious to hear your answer. Set aside, for a moment, the fact that you opposed the war from the very beginning. We invaded Iraq, right or wrong, with the full support of Congress and the American public. Granted, many of us know more now than we did then regarding Saddam's WMD stockpiles (or lack thereof), but there can be no doubt that our invasion was a direct expression of our national will at the time.

Given that, isn't there an argument to be made that we cannot leave undone what we've started? Do we not have some obligation to the vulnerable, fledgling new government in Iraq, which is threatened by the forces of Islamist terrorists and Ba'athist remnants? Again, this is not a rhetorical question, I really want to know what you think.