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October 08, 2005
A UNITER, not a divider.
ANOTHER LOOMING MIERS DISASTER: This is meant as a defense, but I think it also serves to illustrate that this was a poor choice.
UPDATE: Reader Ben Borwick emails:
i am a regular reader and a fan, but i think you are very wrong on this one....the president has a right to appoint someone he feels shares his judicial philosophy....if that person is qualified, as miers undoubtedly is, all the conservatives who are miffed their own personal favorite wasn't nominated should accept his decision....all you are doing is helping the democrats score points by portraying republicans as being in disarray...your analysis of miers so far has been petty and unconvincing....if you think she is a liberal why don't you at least wait for the hearings...the president has a pretty darn good record on appointing judges and people at all levels...i would give him the benefit of the doubt on this one...he needs our support.
Hmm. Well, my worry isn't that Miers will be too liberal. On the issues that have, say, Robert Bork's panties in a wad, I'm more liberal than Bush, or Bork, anyway. My question is whether she's got what it takes to be a Supreme Court Justice. So far, nobody's shown me much in that department.
BIRD FLU IS IN TURKEY, and the media spin is taking wing.
UPDATE: Romania, too.
ART CRITICISM downunder. It's not critical enough, if you ask me.
THE BLOGGER BOOBIETHON is in its final stage. Don't miss it!
CHECK OUT THE LATEST on the DARPA Grand Challenge. Here's more at the Popular Mechanics blog.
The Singularity is getting nearer!
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE VOLOKHS, on a very special anniversary.
THE NEW CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!
MAJOR EARTHQUAKE IN PAKISTAN: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.
PLAME-O-RAMA: Tom Maguire is all over it. Just keep scrolling.
WEEKEND COOKING UPDATE: My earlier slow-cooker post produced a request from reader Stephen Lalley that I identify the cookbook with the Lamb and Guinness Stew recipe, and from reader Fred Spruytenberg that I share my recipe. Those really are two different requests, as I changed the recipe a bit, as I always do.
The original recipe is from this book, The Gourmet Slow Cooker, which is full of great recipes. Here's my version, which is a bit lower in fat:
2 1/2 pounds lamb stew meat
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10-12 new potatoes
2 large onions, chopped (I prefer vidalia)
One to two cans "Pub Draught" Guinness
One can French Onion Soup
Salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, garlic, rosemary, red pepper, to taste.
Brown the lamb in a saute pan with the oil. Set on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika on the lamb.
Saute the onions, unless you're in a rush -- then just put them in the bottom of the crockpot first, which gets you halfway there with no work.
Add the lamb, potatoes, onions, and spices to the crock-pot. Pour soup and beer on top. Add spices and turn it on (I cook on low). About 20 minutes before serving, stir in the flour a bit at a time to thicken. Serve (a bread-bowl from Panera makes a nice touch.)
If the Insta-Wife weren't allergic to carrots, I'd add 2 or 3 cut up carrots to this recipe. Sometimes I've added stewed tomatoes, too, and that works out well. So does some grated parmesan cheese added right after the flour.
Other reader requests: John Marcoux wants to know what makes my All-Clad slow cooker better than this much cheaper one. Beats me. My sister-in-law, who gave it to me, is a big All-Clad fan. So am I, especially when I'm not paying.
And several readers requested other quick-meal cookbook suggestions. I like this one: A Flash in the Pan: Fast, Fabulous Recipes in a Single Skillet. The Insta-Daughter likes a lot of the recipes from it, and they're all fast and easy. That's the key around our house. I love to take a whole afternoon to cook something that demands that much work, but I don't have a lot of afternoons when I can do that, alas.
UPDATE: By the way, here's a link to the Carnival of Recipes, which I think I forgot to mention earlier.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Foster recommends this cookbook, too.
MORE: Reader Arthur Mitchell recommends French Cooking in Ten Minutes : Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life, by Edouard de Pomiane. I haven't read it, but judging from the reviews it looks very cool.
OUCH: "Former federal judge Robert Bork - whose nomination to the Supreme Court the Senate rejected in 1987 - described the choice of Miers as 'a disaster on every level.'"
Hugh Hewitt thinks this is a case of the right-blogosphere having too much influence, and acting too hastily. I think, though, that it's a case of the Bush Administration pushing an underwhelming nominee without thinking about how it would play. My own problem isn't that of people like Bork -- the fear that Miers would be too liberal on social issues. To me, that would be a plus. My problem is that there's no particular reason to think she'd be a good Supreme Court Justice. The Bush Administration should have had a lot of those reasons handy before nominating someone who was sure to raise those kinds of questions.
MICHAEL TOTTEN: "I met with Hezbollah in person today." Larry King, at least, will not be happy with what he learned.
Also, Syria is smuggling Palestinians and weapons into Lebanon.
SHEESH: "[Y]ou get more punishment for being cruel to a chicken in Arizona than you do for falsely accusing someone of being a child molester."
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A nice letter in Bozeman, Montana on the infamous Bozeman parking garage makes a valuable point: If Bozeman were going to spend $4 million in federal money, would a parking garage be the place they'd want to spend it? Nope. They're spending it there because that's what they can get, and that's what groups with influence over the Congressional delegation (like contractors?) want.
Plus, this observation, which a lot of our elected representatives need to hear, apparently: "Of course we have every right to tell you how we think you should spend our money. It seems arrogant to argue otherwise."
October 07, 2005
ACCORDING TO THE WHITE HOUSE, we're not ready for an avian flu pandemic. Well, we'd better be working on that, hadn't we?
JAMES CARVILLE SAYS THAT DEMOCRATS need to learn from Winnie the Pooh.
So far, I'm not convinced.
UPDATE: Somebody ask Carville where Piglet fits in.
DOUG WEINSTEIN CALLS ANN COULTER an elitist.
Related thoughts here, from Juliette Ochieng.
MICHAEL BARONE posts an analysis of Bush's National Endowment for Democracy speech. Plus, progress on the Iraqi Oil Trust idea: "And once Iraqis begin receiving payments for their share of oil profits, how long will it be for Saudis and Iranians to demand the same?"
UPDATE: Gateway Pundit notest that Bush and Al Qaeda seem to agree about what's at stake in Iraq.
UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett has more on oil-for-food. (Via Newsbeat 1.)
When President Bush nominated Harriet Miers on Monday, we saw it as a missed opportunity. It left us underwhelmed, not appalled. But having spent last evening communing here with some 1,000 conservatives at National Review's 50th anniversary dinner, we see a political disaster in the making.
We talked to quite a few people, and we heard not a single kind word about the nomination from anyone who wasn't on the White House staff. . . . Conventional wisdom still has it that Miers is a shoo-in for confirmation. We're not so sure. From what we saw last night, the right is furious at President Bush for appointing someone they see as manifestly underqualified and for ducking a fight with the Democratic left.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reader Jim Uren heard back from Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA):
A response to my inquiry arrived today, about 2 weeks after my email was sent.
It is not responsive to my question about cutting pork, but instead talks about class and race, former FEMA head Mr Brown, and spending bills that theCongresswoman has voted for.
Lame. Meanwhile, blogger Eric Cowperthwaite isn't any happier with the response he got from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): "I plan to vote against Senator Boxer when she comes up for re-election and I plan to vocally and publicly let people know that she is absolutely unwilling to cut waste and pork from the budget in order to be fiscally responsible."
UPDATE: Meanwhile, here's a detailed look at the Louisiana pols' demands for hurricane relief, which seems to come liberally wrapped in bacon. Layers and layers of bacon.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Eshoo from reader Chris Saari:
I must have received the same form response as Jim Uren, and on the same time line from Rep. Eshoo. I wrote to Rep. Eshoo about two weeks ago suggesting she give up a particularly unneeded bit of pork (a $3.2 million package for a very well maintained and smoothly flowing highway, Oregon Expressway) in our wealthy (median income ~$100,000) town of Palo Alto.
In reply, I she sent me a letter with a couple of cheap shots at Bush Administration failures, the class and race trope, and then the boast, “I’ve already voted for $62.3 million…[which] represents only a down payment… .” Not a word about how to pay for it, or for my suggestion concerning pork she could give up on behalf of us well-off, but “outraged” Palo Altans.
I guess she, like the rest of the Congressional blob in both parties who hold safe seats, figure a late, non-responsive canned reply to a letter from a constituent is good enough for government work.
I think this sort of response is likely to give a boost to the movment for term limits and a Balanced Budget Amendment, which I predict will make a resurgence in the next couple of years.
MORE: CoolBlueBlog contacted Pat Leahy (D-VT) and reports that Pat Leahy thinks that snowmobile trails are more important than hurricane relief. Meanwhile, Reader Fred Stankowski reports from Hawaii:
Just wanted to send you the response I got back from my Rep Ed Case (D)(Hawaii, 2nd District):
Thank you for your letter urging the deletion of "pork-barrel" spending from our nation's budget, especially to finance the reconstruction costs of Katrina and Rita.
We certainly have a mutual and very expensive obligation to assist in the reconstruction of the Gulf States. At the same time, it is important to note that, in our overall federal budget perspective, the far larger and ongoing costs are the combination over the last four years of the fastest increases in overall federal spending and the broadest decreases in growth in federal revenues in decades. On the spending side of the equation, congressionally-designated project spending (aka "pork"), while growing, is a very small fraction of overall spending.
There is no question that our federal finances continue to deteriorate rapidly because of the growing imbalance between revenues and expenses. To stabilize this deterioration and then dig ourselves out of the hole, while adequately meeting our priority needs such as Katrina/Rita reconstruction, all options must be on the table, including pork and other spending and further revenue reductions.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please don't hesitate to do so again in the future.
Over all it wasn't too bad (for Hawaii anyway; see Gas Cap), but to say there is little "pork" is laughable. The highlighted line I think is a mistype, I think it is supposed to read "revenue increases". Nice transition into a tax hike, no?
Heh. Lots of readers are unimpressed with the letters members of Congress are sending out, as they should be. Reader Eric Eck emails:
The many responses you have detailed from Congress to constituents are a graphic exposition of the distance between voters and their representatives. Our representatives have no interest in actually responding to voters' specific concerns. They have even less interest in controlling federal spending or cutting back on that oh so delicious pork.
What can be done to restore fiscal responsibility in this country? I wish I had that answer.
I don't know, but I think we'll see a significant move to do something.
ROGER SIMON has an Unscam update, as Kofi Annan continues to get criticism for the oil-for-food scandal.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: An Alaskan blogger listens to Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and doesn't like what he hears.
BILL ROGGIO looks at Iraqi army capabilities.
TOM MAGUIRE has more on Plame, and notes Mark Kleiman's perspicacity.
SUPPORTING MILITARY RECRUITERS in San Antonio. And reporting about it in The New York Times!
IN THE MAIL: Steven F. Hayward's Greatness : Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders. Looks very interesting, though it looks as if a flamewar may be developing in the reader reviews . . . .
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) responds to a constituent on pork, and leaves the constituent unsatisfied: "A vague form letter that doesn’t directly address the question."
THE COUNTERTERRORISM BLOG has a roundup on the New York City terror alert. Happily, Megan McArdle appears to have survived.
JAY CURRIE has thoughts on preparation for avian flu. Once again, it's worth noting that those preparations are also likely to be useful in the event of other outbreaks.
I have related thoughts on technology and preparedness over at GlennReynolds.com.
A LOOK AT LAWBLOGGERS in The New York Times.
IS THE MIERS NOMINATION IN TROUBLE? She's polling like Robert Bork, and she's flubbing easy questions.
UPDATE: Miers' defenders will have to do better than "shut up."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Virginia Postrel has lots of interesting things to say about Miers -- just keep scrolling.
MAJOR JOHN TAMMES, fresh back from New Orleans, has thoughts on the proper use of the National Guard.
October 06, 2005
IS IT A BLOG BOOM, or a blog bubble?
I THOUGHT EVERYONE KNEW that law librarians rock.
BETWEEN BOOK-WRITING AND OTHER PROJECTS, I've been exceptionally busy this fall. And though I've always viewed slow-cookers with some suspicion, I have to say that this All-Clad Slow Cooker, which my sister-in-law gave me for my birthday, rocks. I've used it several times a week, to make lamb stew (with Guinness), gumbo, spaghetti sauce, cornish game hens, etc. It's a little weird to be preparing dinner at 8 a.m., but it's pretty nice to get home at 5:30 or 6 and find it cooked, and the house smelling nice. At my brother's recommendation (yes, we Reynolds men tend to be the cooks in our households) I got this cookbook, which rocks, too. (My sister-in-law gave me this cookbook, which has great recipes but most of them are kind of heavy on prep work; I prefer the "fix it and forget it" approach, most of the time.) I should have gotten one of these things years ago. (And my apologies for stepping on Bill Quick's turf. . . .)
FROM PHOTO ANALYSIS TO VIDEO ANALYSIS.
I have the distinct impression that the Democratic Party sees the liberal blogosphere as being inside the tent, while the Republican Party views the conservative blogosphere as being somewhere between an irrelevance and a minor nuisance. Maybe this is true, at least in part, because many prominent "conservative" bloggers (Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Stephen Green, and Eugene Volokh spring to mind) are not exactly stalwart Republican party loyalists but rather libertarians (or whatever) who put routinely put their principles ahead of party interests. Alternatively, maybe the Democrats have just decided to follow Lyndon Johnson's advice about keeping your critics inside the tent peeing out rather than outside the tent peeing in.
I think he's right. There's no doubt that the GOP party apparat is less engaged with the blogosphere, overall, than the Democrats'.
THE DSCC SCANDAL reaches the New York Times.
RADLEY BALKO CELEBRATES M.A.D.D.'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY by calling them a bunch of prohibitionist twits:
Even MADD's founder, Candy Lightner, has lamented that the organization has grown neo-prohibitionist in nature.
"[MADD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned ...," Lightner is quoted as saying in an Aug. 6 story in the Washington Times. "I didn't start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving," she said.
Unfortunately, the tax-exempt organization has become so enmeshed with government it has nearly become a formal government agency. MADD gets millions of dollars in federal and state funding, and has a quasi-official relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In some jurisdictions, DWI defendants are sentenced to attend and pay for alcoholic-recovery groups sponsored by MADD. In many cities, MADD officials are even allowed to man sobriety checkpoints alongside police.
On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, perhaps its time Congress revisit the spigot of federal funding flowing to MADD, and consider revoking the organization's tax-exempt status. Clearly, MADD isn't the same organization it was 25 years ago. It has morphed into an anti-alcohol lobbying organization. There's nothing wrong with that — it's certainly within MADD's and its supporters' First Amendment rights.
But taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize them.
MORE THOUGHTS ON BUSH'S SPEECH here and, from Donald Sensing, here.
LARRY LESSIG ADVERTISES a Creative Commons fundraiser.
JONATHAN GEWIRTZ does a media compare and contrast.
LOTS MORE on the Oklahoma suicide bombing.
UPDATE: More here, too. Also here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, here's a lengthy post casting doubt on the Islamic-terror angle.
MICHAEL YON HAS A NEW REPORT FROM MOSUL, with particular emphasis on how the Iraqi forces are doing. Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Westhawk compares Mosul with Ramadi and draws lessons.
MORE ON AVIAN FLU: No wonder Bush seemed so up-to-date at the press conference the other day.
ROB ANDERSON IN THE NEW REPUBLIC:
When it comes to the oppression of gays and lesbians in Muslim countries, gay activism hasn't died; it never really existed. Gay activists have used two types of excuses to justify their failure to aggressively mobilize for the rights of gay Muslims--moral and strategic. The moral argument is that Americans are in no position to criticize Iranians on human rights--that it would be wrong to campaign too loudly against Iranian abuses when the United States has so many problems of its own. Then, there are two strategic rationales: that it is better to work behind the scenes to bring about change in Iran; and that gay rights groups should conserve their resources for domestic battles.
The strategic rationales are not especially compelling, but it is the moral argument that is particularly troubling, because it suggests that some gay and lesbian leaders feel more allegiance to the relativism of the contemporary left than they do to the universality of their own cause. Activists are more than willing to condemn the homophobic leaders of the Christian right for campaigning against gay marriage; but they are weary of condemning Islamist regimes that execute citizens for being gay. Something has gone terribly awry.
BOB CASEY IS NOW LEADING RICK SANTORUM by eighteen percent.
A MILBLOG BOOK: Cool.
A VERY NICE PIECE ON ACADEMIC BLOGGING by Henry Farrell.
HERE'S MORE on efforts by the UN and EU to take over the Internet. You can bet that they'll do their best to quash criticism of corrupt international bureaucracies if that happens.
UPDATE: Reader Julian Morrison emails:
It's like I posted to Slashdot: why would the EU and the UN want to grab control, when that control right now is only being used for laissez faire? Because they want to /stop/ the laissez faire!
China wants to take down Tibetan and Falun Gong sites. Germany wants to ban neonazis from the internet. The arab nations would want to kick off Israel until it "fulfils its international obligations". Etc etc. This is nothing less than an attempt to stuff the information genie back into its bottle.
At all costs, they must be prevented from claiming the spurious moral high ground! Confront them with the question: what would you change? And, why not go through process at ICANN? What would you want to do,
that they would refuse? And why?
Indeed. The U.N. and E.U.'s moral high ground is usually spurious, in my experience.
IN THE MAIL: Peter Schuck's new book, Meditations of a Militant Moderate : Cool Views on Hot Topics. Not a great title in my opinion, but a very interesting-looking book, with chapters on immigration, racial reparations, military recruiting on campus, etc. Here's a bit of what he says about the military recruitment issue:
The Supreme Court will decide, but let us assume that the schools are right on the law -- that their interviewing rules as applied to the military do not violate Solomon (now amended to require "equal access" by recruiters) or that the First Amendment prevents Defense from sanctioning them. A key question remains: Should law schools have such policies in the first place?
Virtually all the schools (and the AALS) long ago answered affirmatively, but I have my doubts. I strongly favor barring discrimination against gays and protecting academic autonomy in the face of political pressures. But law schools shold be dedicated to a third norm, too, one that would discredit their position on this question. As a matter of principle, law schools should treat their students as mature individuals who have absorbed enough education, legal and otherwise, to assess the evidence and make their own choices among employwers without needing to be "protected" by the schools. Why should the schools screen employers' practices for some of the most critical and well-informed young adults in the country? Can't students make up their own minds on this?
They can, of course, but letting them do so deprives law schools of the opportunity to display moral superiority at low cost, which is what the recruitment policy is all about.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reader/reporter Evan Dawson emails:
Today I had the chance to speak with Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-Clarence, NY) regarding his views on the pork-for-relief proposal. Reynolds was in town to talk about new federal plans to deal with gas gouging and energy conservation. During his response, he referenced several projects for which he earmarked money in the transportation bill. One is a road safety improvement. The other project is known in Rochester as Renaissance Square; it will be a combination of an underground bus terminal and an upscale performing arts center. Reynolds helped secure three separate earmarks that total roughly $8 million for the project. Elected leaders have tied the arts center to the bus terminal in order to make it eligible for these kinds of transportation earmarks.
Rep. Reynolds had this to say: "When you look at the road and bridge projects, I don't think people of the 26th District, on the type of money that I was able to bring back, are gonna want to say, 'Let's stand aside.'"
Regarding Renaissance Square and road safety improvements: "I don't think those are luxury items that were brought in on the federal transportation bill."
On why giving up the earmarks is a poor idea: "If we moved that money and voluntarily gave it back, it comes out of the state's allocation, and the state would be penalized on the formula that we put together in order to participate in these types of dollars. Are there questionable projects that are in that bill? Sure there are... But I think the projects that I brought in, and others I've seen by neighboring districts, are vitally needed road improvements that are part of our transportation planning, and also come out of our transportation formula for New York. I think there are good ways to find cost savings to pay for Katrina. I think taking it away from local projects isn't the answer."
I'd like to reiterate that as a reporter, I take no position on the pork-for-relief proposal. I just want to make sure the public has ample information on this issue. I'll continue to provide responses as we get them from elected leaders.
13 WHAM Reporter
Tom Reynolds is, I stress, no relation. And I'm glad to see local media asking questions like this, even if I don't like the answers much. Just remember this if Reynolds runs on an anti-spending platform.
Meanwhile, reader Steve Cooper emails:
I contacted my congressman Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) asking about cutting "pork" from the Transportation Bill to help offset the costs of Hurricane Katrina. I received a letter back from him touting his support for the Katrina spending bills and that there was "no pork" in those measures to cut?!? Not one mention of the Transportation Bill or any real concern about the excessive spending spree that Congress has been on. I plan to call back and hold their feet to the fire on this and will pass on any further responses.
Good. There sure seem to be a lot of Republicans who aren't interested in cutting pork.
NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: IF YOU BUY IT IN HARDCOVER, it'll cost you $150, but Robert Freitas & Ralph Merkle's book on Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines is available online for free.
SO DRIVING HOME FROM THE GYM I turned on the radio and got Bush giving a really first-rate speech on foreign policy and the war to the National Endowment for Democracy. Notable features -- besides its overall clarity -- are the naming of Iran and Syria, and his willingness to talk about a war against Islamic terror, not just generic "terror." Maybe he's been reading Bill Quick's critiques!
UPDATE: So on the drive into work, I heard Neal Boortz blasting Bush for "sugarcoating" Islam. I guess you just can't win.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Bush's speech here.
MICKEY KAUS takes on John Carroll.
JIM PINKERTON WRITES on politics and art.
THE SENATE HAS PASSED a bill setting standards for treatment of detainees regardless of whether they're covered by the Geneva Convention or not. The White House is resisting.
This resistance seems to me to be a mistake. First -- as Lamar Alexander noted on the Senate floor, in a passage I heard on NPR earlier this morning -- it is very much the Congress's responsibility to make decisions like this; the President might do so in the first instance, but we've been at war for more than four years and Congress is actually doing its job late, not jumping in to interfere. If the White House thinks that the Senate's approach is substantively wrong, it should say so, but presenting it as simply an interference with the President's Commander-in-Chief powers is wrong. Congress is entitled, and in fact obligated, to set standards of this sort. It's probably also better politically for the White House, since once the legislation is in place complaints about what happened before look a bit ex post facto.
Perhaps current practices are producing a treasure trove of intelligence that this bill would stop, but I doubt that -- and if I'm wrong, the Administration should make that case to Congress, not stand on executive prerogatives. And this bill seems to be just what I was calling for way back when -- a sensible look at the subject by responsible people, freed of the screeching partisanship that has marked much of the discussion in the punditsphere. That should be rewarded, not blown off.
UPDATE: The Mudville Gazette has a link-rich post full of factual background that's a must-read on this topic.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Belgravia Dispatch has much more.
MORE: Juan Non-Volokh writes:
I do not know whether the standard adopted by the Senate is the best approach, but I nonetheless view the vote as a positive development.
If anything, this newfound Congressional willingness to address the rules of detention is long over due. While I certainly believe that the Executive Branch is due a fair degree of deference from the courts in its execution of war-related activities, the Constitution confers the ultimate responsibility for such matters to the legislature. Article I, section 8 explicitly delegates the power "to make Rules concerning captures on Land and Water." Congress also has the power "to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces." Viewed in this light, Congress is not interfering with executive power. It is exercising a responsibility the Constitution explicitly places in the legislature's hands.
Absent Congressional enactments specifying how military detainees are to be treated, the precise limits of the executive's authority are necessarily ambiguous. This ambiguity may give the executive some measure of leeway -- a leeway the White House and military apparently want to preserve -- but it also has unfortunate consequences. Among other things this ambiguity encourages legal challenges to military operations and invites the courts to second-guess decisions that should be made by the political branches. Insofar as the legislature sets clear rules, there will be less room for the judiciary to interfere. If one fears excessive judicial meddling in the conduct of the war on terror, as I do, one should applaud this development.
Yes, and members of Congress will be responsible for how things work out, not just after-the-fact critics, which is also a good thing.
October 05, 2005
THOUGH HE'S BETTER KNOWN AS A BLOGGER and musician, Doktor Frank has also got a novel coming out. He's a 21st century Renaissance man!
THE DARPA GRAND CHALLENGE seems pretty cool.
AL GORE IS GOING ON ABOUT "DIGITAL BROWNSHIRTS" AGAIN, and Brendan Nyhan wonders why.
SUDDENLY EVERYBODY'S PILING ON IRAN: Hmm.
JONATHAN GEWIRTZ has more thoughts on the Florida gun law that I mentioned earlier.
A SPY in the White House:
Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.
In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore. When interviewed by Philippine television, he remarked how valued Philippine employees were at the White House.
"I think what they like most is our integrity and loyalty," Aragoncillo said.
Officials say the classified material, which Aragoncillo stole from the vice president's office, included damaging dossiers on the president of the Philippines. He then passed those on to opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation.
"Even though it's not for the Russians or some other government, the fact that it occurred at the White House is a matter of great concern," said John Martin, who was the government's lead espionage prosecutor for 26 years.
He worked for Cheney, too.
OVER AT LEGAL AFFAIRS' DEBATE CLUB, Richard Posner and Geoffrey Stone are debating the Patriot Act and related matters.
RESPONSES TO GEORGE WILL'S COLUMN ON MIERS, here and here.
THIS SOUNDS LIKE GOOD NEWS:
BAGHDAD -- Recent polling shows widespread support for a new Iraqi constitution to be voted on Oct. 15, even in strongholds of Sunni Arab groups that are fighting to derail the charter.
Mehdi Hafedh, director of the Iraqi Center for Development and International Dialogue, said his latest survey showed that Iraqis are exhausted by the continuing violence and that most are hoping the new constitution will be a first step toward the restoration of order.
(Via ATC). In other news, the Iraqi parliament, fearing Ann Althouse's wrath (as all must), has removed a controversial provision on ratification.
IN RESPONSE TO MY COLUMN, reader Don Bosch sends this on telecommuting and energy savings. He also sends this story on Rep. Frank Wolf's efforts to increase telecommuting within the Federal government.
UPDATE: Another response here.
SAY, I WONDER IF THIS GUY is making any hay off the Tom Delay indictments? I know I keep thinking of him every time the subject comes up.
HOLMAN JENKINS looks at NASA's latest plans with a skeptical eye -- and notes the impact of spacebloggers and space advocates:
There's now a popular constituency for space policy that does more than just tune in for the blast-off extravaganzas. Blame the Web: We told you last year how seething space fans had kept Congress's feet to the fire and ended up saving a bill designed to speed development of private space tourism.
The same folks are also a source of critique of NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study, issued last month, mostly in consultation with the usual suspects -- the giant aerospace contractors, who've been NASA's primary iron triangle sounding board since Gemini. Now there's an effective peanut gallery, their voices magnified by the Web, which has sprouted numerous sites devoted to criticizing and kibitzing about NASA.
The critics won't be flyswatted away for one big reason. NASA's "return to the moon" efforts over the coming decade, as budgets bloat and deadlines are missed, will take place against a background of much faster progress in private spaceflight endeavors. . . .
NASA's moon plans are a budget bluff -- at best, a cipher for a space policy to be named later, once the political landscape has shifted and it will be possible finally to pull the plug on the shuttle, the space station and NASA's whole failing model of human spaceflight.
What will cause this shift in the landscape? Successful private space endeavors -- which, despite setbacks, through trial and error and animal spirits, will begin to show that men and material can be moved off the earth and into orbit affordably by spreading the cost over many flights, routinely undertaken. Only then can the next stage of manned space exploration really start.
Hence a powerful line of criticism aimed at NASA from the non-usual suspects. NASA's program has a "fundamental unseriousness about it," complains Rand Simberg, a former aerospace engineer, at his Web site Transterrestrial Musings. "A serious program would be based on a foundation of an infrastructure that would dramatically reduce the marginal costs of getting to orbit, operating in orbit, and getting to the points beyond low earth orbit."
Adds the Space Access Society's Henry Vanderbilt: NASA should "let go of controlling their own space transportation from start to finish" and "put the entire ground-to-orbit leg of their new deep space missions out to bid."
Says consultant Charles Lurio: "Instead of 'pork from space' we see the prospect now of practical industries from space, developing on their own."
We put these views in the paper as a public service. NASA can be expected to dismiss them. Most of the media, bound up in its notion of legitimate "sources," reports only the views of NASA, the lobbying sector and the congressional delegations whose main interest is keeping the pork flowing.
My thoughts on the subject can be found here.
POLITICS AND THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Some interesting thoughts at Impearls.
IS BUSH LIKE TRUMAN? Michael Barone has comments in response to Bill Stuntz.
THIS WEEK'S TANGLED BANK science blog carnival is up.
TIM BLAIR has more on the latest Bali bombing reactions.
IN THE MAIL: Lee Epstein and Jeffrey Segal's Advice And Consent: The Politics of Appointing Federal Judges. You couldn't ask for better timing on a book like this . . . .
GEORGE WILL makes an important point on why the Bush Administration's "trust me" argument is falling flat:
In addition, the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture occurred March 27, 2002, when, in a private act betokening an uneasy conscience, he signed the McCain-Feingold law expanding government regulation of the timing, quantity and content of political speech. The day before the 2000 Iowa caucuses he was asked -- to ensure a considered response from him, he had been told in advance that he would be asked -- whether McCain-Feingold's core purposes are unconstitutional. He unhesitatingly said, "I agree." Asked if he thought presidents have a duty, pursuant to their oath to defend the Constitution, to make an independent judgment about the constitutionality of bills and to veto those he thinks unconstitutional, he briskly said, "I do."
My emailers are invoking this very thing, and it's illustrative of the way that the Miers nomination is upsetting the base in ways that go well beyond Miers herself, or the usual hot-button issues like abortion.
UPDATE: Mystery Pollster has the numbers from Gallup and the base seems displeased.
I'M WATCHING MY GRANDMOTHER (my sister has her during the week, but she had to go out of town today) and on the drive out to her place I heard Mike Gallagher talking about this Florida legislation:
Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, and Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, have filed bills that would permit workers to have the guns on the employer's property as long as the weapons remain locked in their vehicles. Both proposals included provisions that shield companies from lawsuits in case an employee committed a crime with the gun they had been storing in their car.
The proposals resemble an Oklahoma law that drew attention when a number of major companies, including ConocoPhillips and Halliburton, sued to have it overturned.
Supporters of such laws say they prevent companies from forcing workers to give up their constitutional right to carry firearms.
I think the bill is probably a good idea, and it's unlikely to do any harm. But the discussion was the sort of thing that makes law professors tear out their hair.
Gallagher kept saying that employers were violating Second Amendment rights by banning firearms. But the Second Amendment -- like the rest of the Constitution, except for the 13th Amendment -- doesn't apply to private actors. Banning firearms on private property is no more a Second Amendment violation than banning videocameras on private property is a First Amendment violation.
That doesn't make the bill wrong, of course. Legislation to stop employers from doing things seen as socially harmful is commonplace. The Constitution doesn't prohibit racial discrimination by private employers, but state and federal legislation does, because we think it's a bad thing.
There's nothing in the proposed Florida law that's either required or forbidden by the Constitution (and if Florida, or other states, wanted to make employers and businesses that have no-firearms policies strictly liable for injuries caused by criminals on their premises, that wouldn't violate the Constitution either). But Gallagher's discussion illustrates how quick people are, even on the right, to constitutionalize all sorts of arguments that aren't really about the Constitution at all.
MORE PHOTO ANALYSIS.
ENERGY CONSERVATION AND THE 21ST CENTURY: My TechCentralStation column is up.
AUSTIN BAY ON BALI:
Based on the public outrage in Indonesia, however, in Southeast Asia and internationally, JI's latest murder binge is anything but a victory for jihadist terror. These reactions suggest that, since 2002, "something has changed" -- and the change has not been in Al-Qaida's strategic favor. . . .
But something larger seems to be at work. One indication is the overall tone of news coverage and public reaction -- call it anger with a shrug. While terrorist apologist and British MP George Galloway may yet sally forth with "root causes" rhetoric and anti-American agitprop, at the moment, the latest Bali blast has not produced demands that the world "understand what the terrorists want." Everyone knows the jihadists want to sow fear.
Fear, however, doesn't seem to sell as easily as it did.
HERE'S MORE on the Oklahoma suicide bomber, who appears to have attended the same mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui. This is particularly bad news for the American muslim community, but it's probably good news for Mitt Romney.
UPDATE: Big roundup here. Lots of interesting connections.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Much more, from Gateway Pundit. Excerpt: "Joel attended the Islamic mosque near his apartment, possibly the same mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui attended. His Pakistani roommate has not been seen by neighbors since the incident. The very volatile explosive Joel used is the same chemical that Shoe Bomber Richard Reid tried to use before his arrest. It is very rarely seen in the US."
MILBLOGGING.COM rounds up milblogs from around the world.
THE WASHINGTON POST looks at Katrina myths and the damage they did:
Five weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, some local, state and federal officials have come to believe that exaggerations of mayhem by officials and rumors repeated uncritically in the news media helped slow the response to the disaster and tarnish the image of many of its victims.
All the journalistic self-congratulation over the Katrina coverage appears to have been misplaced.
UPDATE: Reader Alan Gray points to this passage from the WP article:
"The television stations were reporting that people were literally stepping over bodies and violence was out of control," said Blanco press secretary Denise Bottcher, who was at the governor's side. "But the National Guardsmen were saying that what we were seeing on CNN was contradictory to what they were seeing. It didn't match up."
Sound familiar? As Gray observes: "New Orleans today, Iraq tomorrow?"
Yeah. With all the resources they threw at this story, they blew it, big time. It does make you doubt their coverage from Iraq, and, well, everywhere else.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Welch has much more on this:
We are now into Week Two of elite news organizations' re-evaluation of the New Orleans horror stories they helped transmit to the world in the first seven days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. It was known already by September 6 that tales of evacuee ultra-violence in refugee centers like Baton Rouge and Houston were both false and strikingly similar to one another, but it took much longer to begin clearing the muck from the Big Easy.
Welch follows with a long interview with Major Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard. Read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:
Well, I worked hand-in-hand with, and got to know very well, Major David Baldwin, who was the commander of our special reaction team, [and]...certainly a principal player in keeping the security of the Dome. I mean his guys patrolled every inch of it, 24 hours a day. We constantly had moving patrols—outside, inside, through, on the field, in the bathrooms. And I said, "You know I'm hearing all this crap about bodies in the bathroom, and this and that. Are you finding any bodies?" And he said "No."
He said, "You've got to help us; people are scared to death."
They were scared to death because of what they were hearing on radio broadcasts and cable-news-fed rumors. If journalists were held to the same standards regarding product defects that automobile manufacturers are, well . . ..
October 04, 2005
TERRY HEATON looks at TV news in a postmodern world:
The extent to which the public - in the form of citizens media - can undercut the revenue bases of professional journalism will determine how well institutional media will withstand the onslaught. Since media revenue is audience-driven, however, this is one institution that's headed for the tar pits, because - at core - the advertising industry doesn't really care about things like tradition and history. Where that wealth gets redistributed in the economy is anybody's guess, and that's why the entry of Venture Capitalists into the citizens media game is so significant.
(Via Joe Trippi).
JAY ROSEN GIVES THE WASHINGTON POST a higher grade than the New York Times.
MORE UNUSED BUSES in New Orleans. Dr. Shackleford has questions.
RED-LIGHT CAMERAS may be causing accidents in D.C.:
The District's red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer.
But a Washington Post analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices.
Three outside traffic specialists independently reviewed the data and said they were surprised by the results. Their conclusion: The cameras do not appear to be making any difference in preventing injuries or collisions.
They're certainly not helping, except at the revenue desk:
AAA and other critics have accused the city of installing cameras in high-volume locations where they could generate thousands of tickets, regardless of how many accidents happened there.
UPDATE: Prof. Bainbridge writes: "This finding is consistent with other studies about which I've blogged in the past. In my book, these instruments of the devil are just a tax on drivers."
CATBLOGGING TO THE MAX: At The Carnival of the Cats.
BETTER ALL THE TIME: The Speculist rounds up good news of all sorts. Well, it's mostly the techy-sort, but it's important and mostly under-covered.
MICROSOFT opens up.
BUSH ON AVIAN FLU: I didn't see the press conference today, but a reader noted a question, and here it is in the transcript:
Q Mr. President, you've been thinking a lot about pandemic flu and the risks in the United States if that should occur. I was wondering, Secretary Leavitt has said that first responders in the states and local governments are not prepared for something like that. To what extent are you concerned about that after Katrina and Rita? And is that one of the reasons you're interested in the idea of using defense assets to respond to something as broad and long-lasting as a flu might be?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Thank you for the question. I am concerned about avian flu. I am concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world. I am -- I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. I tried to get a better handle on what the decision-making process would be by reading Mr. Barry's book on the influenza outbreak in 1918. I would recommend it.
The policy decisions for a President in dealing with an avian flu outbreak are difficult. One example: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country, and how do you then enforce a quarantine? When -- it's one thing to shut down airplanes; it's another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu. And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move.
And so that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have. I noticed the other day, evidently, some governors didn't like it. I understand that. I was the commander-in-chief of the National Guard, and proudly so, and, frankly, I didn't want the President telling me how to be the commander-in-chief of the Texas Guard. But Congress needs to take a look at circumstances that may need to vest the capacity of the President to move beyond that debate. And one such catastrophe, or one such challenge could be an avian flu outbreak.
Secondly -- wait a minute, this is an important subject. Secondly, during my meetings at the United Nations, not only did I speak about it publicly, I spoke about it privately to as many leaders as I could find, about the need for there to be awareness, one, of the issue; and, two, reporting, rapid reporting to WHO, so that we can deal with a potential pandemic. The reporting needs to be not only on the birds that have fallen ill, but also on tracing the capacity of the virus to go from bird to person, to person. That's when it gets dangerous, when it goes bird-person-person. And we need to know on a real-time basis as quickly as possible, the facts, so that the scientific community, the world scientific community can analyze the facts and begin to deal with it.
Obviously, the best way to deal with a pandemic is to isolate it and keep it isolated in the region in which it begins. As you know, there's been a lot of reporting of different flocks that have fallen ill with the H5N1 virus. And we've also got some cases of the virus being transmitted to person, and we're watching very carefully.
Thirdly, the development of a vaccine -- I've spent time with Tony Fauci on the subject. Obviously, it would be helpful if we had a breakthrough in the capacity to develop a vaccine that would enable us to feel comfortable here at home that not only would first responders be able to be vaccinated, but as many Americans as possible, and people around the world. But, unfortunately, there is a -- we're just not that far down the manufacturing process. And there's a spray, as you know, that can maybe help arrest the spread of the disease, which is in relatively limited supply.
So one of the issues is how do we encourage the manufacturing capacity of the country, and maybe the world, to be prepared to deal with the outbreak of a pandemic. In other words, can we surge enough production to be able to help deal with the issue?
I take this issue very seriously, and I appreciate you bringing it to our attention. The people of the country ought to rest assured that we're doing everything we can: We're watching it, we're careful, we're in communications with the world. I'm not predicting an outbreak; I'm just suggesting to you that we better be thinking about it. And we are. And we're more than thinking about it; we're trying to put plans in place, and one of the plans -- back to where your original question came -- was, if we need to take some significant action, how best to do so. And I think the President ought to have all options on the table to understand what the consequences are, but -- all assets on the table -- not options -- assets on the table to be able to deal with something this significant.
Nice that someone's paying attention. It does suggest, though, that the Bush Administration is thinking of increasing the military role in disaster response.
UPDATE: The Hotline Blog notes: "The government's response to the threat of the flu is arguably more important than the hullaballoo over a Supreme Court nominee. Let's see how -- and where -- the press plays these comments."
And a commenter there adds: "Exercise for the press: What plans do the federal, state, and major municipal governments have in place to deal with an H5N1 pandemic? If a H-to-H transmissible pneumo- and neurotropic virus with 50% mortality arrives in Los Angeles tomorrow, precisely what will be done? This isn't a warplan, it's a public health crisis whose disposition we need to understand *before* it takes place."
Yes. And if we don't use it for avian flu, odds are we'll use it for something else.
GRAND ROUNDS is up!
RICHARD POSNER'S must-read blogs.
BLOG DOGS GOVERNOR: I've been saying for a while that local-blogging has a big future, and here's an example.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE -- IS THERE A REPUBLICAN DEATH WISH? Andy Roth reports:
Clearly the folks at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) are paying no attention to blogger demands that the party structure help bring about fiscal restraint in Congress.
They are running a TV ad AGAINST an anti-pork, fiscally conservative Republican challenger to an incumbent who voted against the Bush tax cuts and had the second lowest score among Republican senators in the most recent National Taxpayers Union rating of Congress (PDF). The NRSC is in full attack mode against a candidate who has made pork a key issue.
What is the message here?
I guess Ed Morrissey's "Not One Dime" to the NRSC campaign hasn't taken hold, yet. And it's certainly support for Neal Boortz's position:
I'm sorry, but the Republicans richly deserve to lose control over the House and the Senate in 2006. There is no excuse whatsoever for their profligate spending, and no excuse for Tom Delay's absurd claim that there is no fat in the federal budget. Every American should be disgusted at this spending spectacle.
Quite a few Republicans seem to be disappointed.
ANOTHER EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE UNITED NATIONS:
As Tunisia prepares to host the controversial World Summit for the Information Society in November, Tunisian opposition activist Neila Charchour Hachicha informs Global Voices that the online freedom of speech protest site launched by Tunisians on Monday, www.yezzi.org has already been blocked by the Tunisian authorities.
RAY KURZWEIL'S NEW BOOK got a quite positive review in the New York Times.
Interestingly, Janet Maslin's review is, if anything, less techno-skeptical than mine.
UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster has thoughts on Maslin's techno-optimism. I think her review significantly underplays the cautionary tone of Kurzweil's book, but perhaps I'm just sensitized to those concerns.
ALPHECCA'S weekly roundup of media gun coverage is up, and it's been an especially bountiful week.
THE NEW EDITOR, referencing my first reaction on Miers, says that it is "underwhelmed" with the blogosphere's response to the nomination. It's hard to see why. Things were quite different when Roberts was nominated, and the blogosphere hasn't changed significantly in those few weeks. The difference in the reaction has to do with the nominee.
Bush raised the bar with Roberts, and then, having set the stage brilliantly for a McConnell, gave us a non-McConnell. Miers might turn out to be a great Justice, of course, but at the moment there's absolutely no reason to expect that. Hope, maybe, but not expect. This isn't the blogosphere's fault, but the Administration's.
UPDATE: Bill Stuntz thinks that Bush is channeling Truman.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Robert Musil is comparing Miers to Byron White and Robert Jackson. I find these comparisons less than fully convincing.
MORE: A somewhat more persuasive defense from Thomas Lifson. But the Bush Administration should have seen this reception coming. Perhaps it did, and for whatever reason didn't care.
STILL MORE: A response to Lifson, from Paul Mirengoff.
I DIDN'T SEE BUSH'S PRESS CONFERENCE, but Jeff Goldstein did.
THE INSTA-WIFE is really into Amazon's short film competition, to the point that she's now wishing that she'd entered something. She's thinking of doing a film on men and higher education next.
REMEMBER IRAQ? Bill Roggio is paying attention to what's going on even if others aren't, and his latest is a must-read. And note the media criticism from Capt. Jeffrey Pool.
UPDATE: More background here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More media criticism from the troops. We're hearing a lot of that, and with good reason.
THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED is up! Don't confuse that with the Carnival of Liberty, though, even though it's up, too.
RANDY BARNETT ON HARRIET MIERS:
Harriet Miers is not just the close confidante of the president in her capacity as his staff secretary and then as White House counsel. She also was George W. Bush's personal lawyer. Apart from nominating his brother or former business partner, it is hard to see how the president could have selected someone who fit Hamilton's description any more closely. Imagine the reaction of Republicans if President Clinton had nominated Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills, who had ably represented him during his impeachment proceedings, to the Supreme Court. How about Bernie Nussbaum? . . .
While the Senate once successfully resisted President Lyndon Johnson's attempt to nominate his own highly able crony, Abe Fortas, to be chief justice, perhaps the performance of senators during the Roberts nomination reduced the deterrent effect of "advise and consent." Judiciary Committee Democrats spent half their time making speeches rather than questioning. What questions they did ask were not carefully designed to ferret out the nominee's judicial philosophy, favoring instead to inquire about his feelings, or whether he would stand up for the "little guy," or bemoaning his refusal to telegraph how he would rule on particular cases likely to come before the court.
For their part, Senate Republicans were content to parrot the empty line that a judge "should follow the law and not legislate from the bench." Sit tight and vote seemed to be their approach. By refusing to demand a nominee with a judicial philosophy of adherence to the text of the Constitution--the whole text, including the parts that limit federal and state powers--Republicans did nothing to induce the White House to send up a nominee who was at least as committed to limits on federal power as Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had been.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus is bragging about his prescience. Advantage: Kaus!
Beldar, meanwhile, is unpersuaded by Barnett. And Patrick Ruffini is making the case for Miers.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian says he's flabbergasted: "One of the (very) few things that has impressed me of Bush of late was his willingness to not buy into all the 'diversity' hoopla and pick a hugely qualified judge to lead the Supreme Court. He did that, in spades, with John Roberts. But, in one shot, he's now squandered all that good will. . . . It's ultimately that she's just not Supreme Court timber. Harry Reid can cheer-lead her if he wishes, showing major Democrats don't care a whit about serious constitutional credentials on the bench either, but those of us who are proud of this court must demand better."
MORE: A bad sign -- the first Sen. Hruska reference.
THIS is depressing:
Just when we thought we couldn’t get any fatter, a new study that followed Americans for three decades suggests that over the long haul, 9 out of 10 men and 7 out of 10 women will become overweight.
Even if you are one of the lucky few who made it to middle age without getting fat, don’t congratulate yourself — keep watching that waistline.
Half of the men and women in the study who had made it well into adulthood without a weight problem ultimately became overweight. A third of those women and a quarter of the men became obese.
October 03, 2005
CHUCK SIMMINS says that Bush is suffering from the second-term yips.
HERE'S A STORY ON RAY KURZWEIL and others at the MIT Emerging Technologies Conference. Meanwhile, Kurzweil's book seems to be doing rather well. (My review is here).
Meanwhile, here's an interesting observation on Slashdot.
DAVE KOPEL looks at Harriet Miers on the right to keep and bear arms.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: From the San Antonio Express-News:
When deficit hawks recently called on Congress to trim some pork out of the federal budget to compensate for the extraordinary costs of storm recovery, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had a simple retort: If lawmakers want to cut discretionary spending, they have to put their own projects on the chopping block.
Predictably, DeLay's charge hasn't led to a profusion of spending sacrifice. Some members of Congress would rather eat their young than eliminate funding for home-district, pork-barrel projects.
Enter some innovative bloggers and an initiative they call Porkbusters. The effort encourages citizens to volunteer projects in their home districts for elimination to help offset storm reconstruction costs. Its Web site includes a database to track politicians' responses to requests for spending cuts.
Unfortunately, the list of positive responses is depressingly small. Among the Texas delegation, no member has committed to even a single cut.
It would be hard to believe nowhere in Texas is there funding for hiking and biking trails that might not be better allocated, at least temporarily, for rebuilding the infrastructure of the storm-ravaged region.
Charity, after all, begins at home.
I hope that more local media will start asking local delegations about this.
A NEW TOM DELAY INDICTMENT: Conspiracy and money laundering are vague crimes, easy to allege, hard to prove, and often used by overreaching prosecutors who want to put heat on someone. One would hope that Delay's legal problems would encourage other legislators to tighten up statutes and reduce prosecutorial discretion on such matters, but I suspect that such hopes would be in vain.
UPDATE: Mike Krempasky offers a positive take.
TOM BELL SAYS that the Miers nomination is a Bush head-fake. Reader Mike O'Neal emails with a somewhat similar spin:
The real story here is that they called off the war. The bases on both sides wanted war (they probably wanted a war more than they wanted a victory), but the White House and the Senate did not. The Democrats didn’t want one because they would lose and look bad doing it. Bush didn’t want one because he has a big agenda and not too much time. This way he gets a Justice who is conservative enough for legacy purposes (and will have time to reassure the base before 2006), gets some points from centrists who worry about too much social conservatism (and don’t like political food fights), and gets to move on to tax reform, social security, etc. By year-end things will look better in Iraq, Katrina will have receded, Plame/DeLay/etc. will have blown over, and it may be possible to get some work done. Blogging lawyers and law profs may care intensely about the pure quality of every nominee, but it is not clear that people in general do, or necessarily should. Bush plays a long game; don’t misunderestimate him.
We'll see, but I'm unpersuaded.
UPDATE: So is Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog: "Even if Democrats aren't truly gravely concerned, they will see this as an opportunity to damage the President. . . . I have no view on whether she should be confirmed (it's simply too early to say), but will go out on a limb and predict that she will be rejected by the Senate. In my view, Justice O'Connor will still be sitting on the Court on January 1, 2006."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Larry Solum looks at history. But hey, some people are happy.
Cass Sunstein: "A reasonable conclusion is that this nomination should be viewed with uncertainty and puzzlement. A silver lining: The uncertainty and puzzlement should not divide people along political lines." Bush: A uniter, not a divider!
SHOCK AND AWE at The Mudville Gazette, via the Associated Press.
THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF PERSONAL FINANCE is up! And so is the Haveil Havalim!
Plus, here's the Carnival of Cordite!
FROM THE "YES, IT REALLY IS THE 21ST CENTURY" DEPARTMENT:
The man behind the $10 million X Prize for private spaceflight is joining forces with a venture capitalist who's also an Indy car backer to establish a NASCAR-like racing league for rocket-powered aircraft.
Is that cool, or what? More here. I was on the National Space Society board with Peter Diamandis back in the 1990s, and we're both on the Foresight Institute board today, and, well, he's just the kind of guy to pull this off.
IS THE MIERS NOMINATION ALREADY IN TROUBLE? I discuss, over at GlennReynolds.com.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal (free link) has a roundup of reaction. And, of course, scroll down for more here. And there's this observation: "Bush's back-to-back appointments of Roberts and Miers is a clear indication that his goal is at best to merely change the voting pattern of the Court rather than to change the legal culture."
If you're looking for the pro-Miers stuff, Hugh Hewitt is undertaking the somewhat lonely task of rounding that up. My concerns are akin to Todd Zywicki's above: Miers may or may not vote as I'd wish -- actually, she's probably more likely to than Roberts, Thomas, or Scalia if the social-conservatives' fears bear out -- but the appointment seems to me to be a poor one for reasons that go beyond the votes.
IN THE MAIL: Chris Edwards' Downsizing the Federal Goverment.
It's certainly timely.
THE HOTLINE has a new blog. There's lots more Supreme Court stuff, as you might expect.
THE NEW UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW FACULTY BLOG is up and running.
TIM LYNCH warns that the most recent Padilla decision deserves a lot more attention:
The federal government has been given a green light to deprive Americans of their rights to due process. No arrest warrants. No trial. No access to the civilian court system. You may not be able to see it on television, but this court decision is the equivalent of a legal hurricane-and it is no exaggeration to say that this is a level 5 storm with respect to its potential havoc for civil liberties.
Federal agents arrested Padilla at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago just after he arrived on a flight from Pakistan. The feds claim that Padilla fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan, escaped to Pakistan and returned to the United States to perpetrate acts of terrorism for al-Queda. Instead of prosecuting Padilla for treason and other crimes, President Bush declared Padilla an "enemy combatant" and ordered that he be held incommunicado and interrogated by military and intelligence personnel. . . . Does this mean that black helicopters will be coming to the suburbs to take our friends away for questioning? Of course not. Still, even a subtle and selective use of the military to imprison American citizens on American soil ought to concern people regardless of political affiliation.
I agree with Lynch that this deserves a lot more scrutiny. American citizens arrested on American soil are a whole different kettle of fish from unlawful foreign enemy combatants. Most significantly, the risk of political abuses, as I've noted before, is much, much higher when it's American citizens being imprisoned.
BOB KRUMM has thoughts on the NYT's editorial corrections policy.
THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up!
TOM MAGUIRE HAS THOUGHTS on intellectual honesty. Or, heck, just plain honesty.
JOHN FUND on the G.O.P.'s crisis:
With Rep. Tom DeLay's forced departure as majority leader, Newt Gingrich says, the Republican Party stands at a crossroads as important as any it has faced since nominating Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. "It must decide if it is going to be a party that fundamentally reforms government or one that merely presides over existing institutions and spends more money," he says. Which path the GOP now takes may determine not only how much damage it suffers in next year's elections but also whether it can hold the White House in 2008. . . .
Mr. Hastert and his fellow GOP leaders have skillfully used their narrow majority to win an amazing number of close votes without having to negotiate much with Democrats. But gradually the fear of losing their majority has also begun leading them to behave more and more like the big-spending Democrats they unseated. "Holding the majority used to be viewed as a means to an end--the end being promoting freedom and limited government," laments Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona. "Now, holding the majority seems to be an end in itself--holding onto power for the sake of holding onto power." . . .
Michael Continetti, a writer at the Weekly Standard who is writing a book on the modern Republican Party, worries that a decade in political power might have "exhausted conservatism's fighting spirit, lowered the movement's intellectual standards and replaced a healthy independence with partisan water-carrying." That sounds an awful lot like a description of what the last period of one-party rule did to liberals in 1993 and 1994. Back then they ignored the "unseen" political consequences of their actions and thereby convinced the electorate they no longer deserved that power.
Yes, the Congressional Republicans are looking like the 1993 Democrats, which isn't a good thing for them, or the country. Of course, as Howard Fineman notes, the Democrats have their own problems. Which makes Stephen Green's plaintive observation all the more piquant: "Just what we need in a time of war: Two abso-frickin'-lutely useless parties to choose from."
IT'S HARRIET MIERS for Sandra Day O'Connor's position. (Via a GOP press release).
UPDATE: More here. Perhaps they'll change my mind, but so far I'm underwhelmed.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Daniels: "Another stealth nominee?"
GayPatriot has predictions.
Paul Deignan: "Harriet Miers is many things, but she is not a Constitutional scholar . . . She is an unknown and unproven functionary whose chief virtue is the one virtue that we must reject--a strong tie to a particular chief executive."
Baseball Crank: "Color me less than thrilled."
PoliPundit: "Miers is a cipher."
The ACLJ, however,loves her.
Rich Lowry: "After the Roberts pick conservatives swooned and said Bush doesn't care about 'diversity'; it's only high qualifications that matter to this bold, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may leader, etc., etc. Don't we have to take all that back now?"
David Frum: "An unforced error. . . . nobody would describe her as one of the outstanding lawyers in the United States."
MORE: GayPatriot's predictions are already coming true!
Meanwhile, Thomas Lifson thinks that this is a brilliant sucker-punch thrown at the Democrats. But even if that's true, that doesn't make Miers a good pick. In fact, if I really thought that this pick was motivated by such tactical concerns, I'd be appalled, but I think that Lifson is being a bit too clever here. [LATER: Further googling has convinced Lifson that he's wrong. Good!]
John Hawkins: "George Bush's decision to appoint Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is bitterly disappointing." Not that there's anything wrong with having supported Al Gore in 1988 . . . .
What troubles the social conservatives is the fear that Miers may not be a social conservative. That doesn't bother me, of course. But I don't see what she brings to the table. Granted, you could have said that about other Supreme Court picks who turned out to be great justices. But you could have said that about a lot of other Supreme Court picks who didn't turn out to be great justices, too.
Meanwhile, this won't comfort social conservatives, but it doesn't comfort me, either:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had urged the president to consider Miers, according to several officials familiar with Bush's consultations with Congress.
Hmm. (Via Jon Henke, who rounds up lots of other interesting stuff). More on Reid and Miers here.
AnkleBitingPundits (formerly CrushKerry.com): "Ugh. This is what we fought for?"
Bush may have managed a Perfect Storm here. Democrats will still want to beat him on Miers, because they always want to beat him. Republicans may be happy to see her go down, too. So who, exactly, is going to get her confirmed? Harry Reid?
STILL MORE: Hugh Hewitt: "It is a solid, B+ pick.. . . The president is a poker player in a long game. He's decided to take a sure win with a good sized pot. I trust him. So should his supporters."
The Anchoress thinks it's rope-a-dope.
Social conservative Professor Bainbridge is deeply unhappy with Miers. Does that mean I should be happy?
Ed Morrissey: "I find this pick mystifying."
Meanwhile, the GOP just sent out this collection of endorsements -- and number 3 is Harry Reid. I smell some sort of a deal.
EVEN MORE: Jeff Goldstein wonders why Miers is friendly to the International Criminal Court. " I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up withdrawing, so intense is the conservative pressure likely to become."
Joe Gandelman has much more.
Michelle Malkin thinks Bush is "stuck on stupid."
October 02, 2005
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: I was talking about PorkBusters on CNN earlier today. Ian Schwartz has the video. Jeff Jarvis -- who was on the show too -- has thoughts on PorkBusters and paramedia.
ALBION'S SEEDLING is a weblog devoted to Anglosphere matters.
Neither the Times nor the WaPo seem able to keep certain details of the Wilson/Plame/"16 Words" saga in proper order. . . .
The WaPo continues to amuse as they explain Wilson's motivation:
"The Niger claim was central to the White House's rationale for war."
So central that it was not part of either the 2003 State of the Union or Colin Powell's presentation to the UN on the case for war.
Read the whole thing.
SERENITY was number two in the box-office rankings this weekend.
BIPARTISAN IDIOCY: Here's a list of congresspeople who are pushing the broadcast flag.
IT'S BOOBIES -- and in a good cause! It's the annual blogger boobiethon.
I HAVEN'T READ CHRIS MOONEY'S BOOK, The Republican War on Science, but I suspect that he makes a lot of points that -- given my longstanding problems with the Bush Administration's positions on cloning, etc., and the Kass Council -- I probably agree with.
On the other hand, Virginia Postrel takes a different position:
U.S. scientists and their supporters tend to assume biomedical research is threatened by know-nothings on religious crusades. But as the Canadian law illustrates, the long-term threat to genetic research comes less from the religious right than from the secular left. Canada's law forbids all sorts of genetic manipulations, many of them currently theoretical. It's a crime, for instance, to alter inheritable genes.
And the law has provisions the fabled religious right never even talks about. It's a crime to pay a surrogate mother or to make or accept payment for arranging a surrogate. It's a crime to pay egg or sperm donors anything more than "receipted expenses," like taxi fares. Since eggs are used not just in fertility treatments but in research, this prohibition stifles both.
Meanwhile, in backward, intolerant America objections to embryonic stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning are less politically persuasive than they were a few years ago. With the support of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Congress is close to a veto-proof majority to expand federal subsidies for embryonic stem-cell research. Many conservative leaders are uncomfortable opposing potentially lifesaving research.
Read the whole thing. The problem, alas, is that there are lots of anti-science types on both ends of the political spectrum.
SUICIDE BOMBING at the University of Oklahoma: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.
EVAN COYNE MALONEY HAS AN UPDATE on the Bucknell "hunting terrorists" fiasco. A secondary scandal is that the President of Bucknell University cannot use the word "inferred" correctly in a sentence.
GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ, via the The New York Times:
Along the way, the American 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and the Iraqi 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the 5th Division have become a rare pairing of the two armies in Iraq. While some Iraqi soldiers have been criticized by their American counterparts for a lack of discipline and commitment, the Iraqis at Normandy have become so efficient that they took the lead in military operations in their 1,200-square-mile area.
"When people say it's horrible that you are training those Iraqi soldiers because they will never be as good as we are, they are missing the point," said Capt. Mike Whitney, commander of the 1-30th's Alpha Company. "No, the Iraqis will never be as good as we are, but they don't have to be. They just have to be better than anybody they face here."
Read the whole thing, which interestingly appears in the Sports section.
UPDATE: And don't miss this post on military recruiting from The Mudville Gazette.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dwight Green emails:
"No, the Iraqis will never be as good as we are, but they don't have to be. They just have to be better than anybody they face here."
It is funny that newspapers have been so critical of the U.S. Government (including the Knight Ridder papers), whether under Clinton or Bush. And I'm not just talking about getting somewhere between everything and most everything wrong on many unfolding stories.
I can't get the San Jose Mercury News to change my subscription from every day to weekends only. If this were Iraq, I'm sure I could file this under U.S. military incompetence. As it is, they can only blame the contracted deliverer. As someone else has said, I'm tempted to say screw him and screw the company. However I won't stoop to that level, even if the contractor is simply a mercenary.
Thank goodness the boots on the ground in Iraq are consistently better than many service employees here in the U.S. OK, a little harsh, but then they are too without ever looking in the mirror.
Thank goodness the military isn't as bad as my newspaper.
I'M SUPPOSED TO BE ON CNN about 1:30 ET, talking about PorkBusters, Tom Delay, Judith Miller, etc. If you're new to this, here's the background, and here's the PorkBusters webpage.
UPDATE: Here's a transcript.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS spoke at Princeton on the Iraq situation and TigerHawk has a report.
TOM MAGUIRE has more thoughts on the Judith Miller story. More here.
"THE MOST PAINFUL CORRECTION" at the New York Times.
UPDATE: More here and here.