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October 15, 2005

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HEH: Having finished the final chapter of the book tonight, I feel more like a robot whose batteries need changing.

I'VE NEGLECTED GODBLOGCON, but here's the conference blog aggregator, which rounds everything up.

MICHAEL BARONE says that we have an elite problem.

THE NEW YORK TIMES' STORY ON THE JUDITH MILLER AFFAIR is up. So is Miller's own account.

I don't think that too many people are going to be satisfied. Arianna Huffington says it raises more questions than it answers. Power Line calls it "low comedy." (Though to be fully low-comedy, the "Valerie Flame" notation in Miller's notebook would have to refer to a long-ago affair with Karl Rove, or maybe "Pinch" Sulzberger . . . .) And Jeff Jarvis rounds up a bunch of other blog reactions, mostly negative. Jay Rosen is perhaps more positive than most, though he does say that "it was Judy Miller's newspaper."

SGT. HOOK is back.

MORE FROM IRAQ: Via Austin Bay: "Major players are coming more and more to realize that dialog, alliances, common interests and just plain politics is the way to win– not violence, intimidation and terror. So this [lesson] is apparently slowly 'sinking in' in our confused and frightened Iraqi mentality."

On the other hand, the celebratory gunfire is "much worse" than after the last election . . . .

UPDATE: Another report from Iraq, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Omar has video of celebrating Iraqis. They're dancing, not shooting.

Meanwhile, Dymphna gives you tomorrow's media spin, today!

WRITING IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Ruth Wedgwood offers a defense of Harriet Miers:

And on Miss Harriet herself? Yes, she is a little older, so you'd only get 15 to 20 years, instead of 30. And she doesn't look like Zoe Baird (strangely, I think that has something to do with early reaction -- A little dowdy, not One of Us -- though I'm not One of Us, either). But she has to be one tough broad to have made it up through a Texas law firm and the organized bar in that time and place, and unlike a certain cauliflower-nosed ex-president, I don't think George Bush is scared of strong women. My only objection is that she uses the word "cool." But I doubt she would think that European constitutional law was any "cooler" than ours -- they don't do that in Texas. Rather, she and John Roberts would move the center of the court in tandem.

Sorry, the whole thing is subscription-only. And shouldn't Ruth have invoked Kimba Wood instead of Zoe Baird? . . . .

ANOTHER FAILURE FOR AL QAEDA in Iraq.

UPDATE: The mullahs in Iran are unhappy. But Bruce Kesler is both pleased and unsurprised.

ANOTHER UPDATE: "During the Iraq elections last January there were 347 terrorist attacks on voters and polling places. Today there were 13."

And check out the Iraqi Elections Newswire for lots of reports and links.

MORE: Reader Stephen Stewart emails from Baghdad:

I am not as eloquent as most if not all of the people you reference on your site. I am just a retired First Sergeant working here in Baghdad supporting the troops, seeing some history and making a couple bucks.

The 10th of October I was working near Gate 12 to the Green Zone. It felt like a mule kicked me in the back. I thought "*&^%$% that was close and then car parts started raining down. We hit the deck, all this in miliseconds, and after a few seconds, I got myself workers and friends into the bunker. A car bomb, Not 50 yards from me lay the body of a young Sergeant, aquaintance of mine, he paid the ultimate price.

We had the memorial service on the night of the 13th. His buddies stood their post. We all did the "Soldier" thing of pats ,hugs, salutes and honor. They picked up their guns and went back to work. Yesterday everybody pulled back away from the patrolling near voting stations. They secured neighborhoods and History was made. Last January there were over 340 attacks during the voting. Today there were 13.

All this while up the street the Trial begins. Like clockwork. All by professionals who are fulfilling their oath, to a very opinionated country, to "support and defend the constitution of the United States, to Defend against all enemies Foreign and domestic and to obey the lawful orders of those appointed over them. Professionals doing their jobs, giving their time and lives to advance the cause of freedom and fullfill their oaths.

What a success. Anyone can find fault if fault is what they are looking for. Just stop a minute though and think of the success. This is why we sacrifice, this is why SGT. Jerry Bonifacio paid the ultimate price

Dare I say GOD bless SGT Bonifacio, his family and may God Bless America.

Indeed. More here:

I am watching the results of the Iraqi Constitutional voting, amazed. Amazed that no one is talking about this vote in the proper historical context. Because today will be as important to the War on Terror as the fall of the Berlin Wall was to the Cold War.

Read the whole thing.

STEPHEN HAYES has a lengthy backgrounder on the Wilson/Plame story. "It is certainly the case that the media narrative is much more sensational than the Senate report. A story about malfeasance is perhaps more interesting than a story about incompetence."

Of course, nothing on this topic really counts until Tom Maguire has parsed it!

UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL JEAN ZIEGLER is charged with dishonesty.

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: People have been emailing to ask me about blog-journalism tools, and the Sony DSC-P93 that I like (and have used for videos like these) isn't easily available any more except via the Internet (though it's fairly cheap now). But DPReview likes its replacement, the 7.2 megapixel Cybershot DSC-P200, which seems to be rather similar and isn't that much more expensive.

Here's the link to the review. One thing I really like about my camera is the excellent sound it somehow gets from its matchhead-sized builtin microphone. The review doesn't mention that -- it's something that's more important for blog-journalism (and, soon, blogvideo podcasting) than for general use. If anyone has one of these, let me know how it's working out.

Earlier post on this kind of thing here.

PUBLIUS has an Iraq elections roundup -- and don't miss Chester's liveblogging, which is full of news and links.

UPDATE: Roger Simon writes:

Operation Iraqi Freedom - began March 19, 2003
Election to ratify constitution for a democratic Iraq - October 14, 2005

That's two years and seven months. . . .

Anybody want to take a bet about how history will regard Operation Iraqi Freedom? No wonder the New York Times is singing a different tune this morning.

Heh. Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Norm Geras looks at two sides in Iraq. Here's Norm's comment on the antiwar side: "The paragraph as a whole is a nice illustration of the anti-war system of accounting, which some of us who favoured the liberation of Iraq find hard to stomach (once stomachs is what you're talking): everything bad that has happened since the war is a result of the war; anything good that has happened is... why, something else entirely. But there are people who are capable of seeing the trick here, of seeing that the phrase 'the way its dictator was overthrown' includes the phrase 'its dictator was overthrown'."

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More historical perspective from Gateway Pundit.

DEREK LOWE LOOKS AT ANTIVIRALS AND AVIAN FLU EXCITEMENT:

The prospect of a flu pandemic has changed things, but the problem is, it's too soon to say if people are now being more realistic or just more hysterical. In the last few weeks, though, I think things have tipped toward the latter. Avian flu, if it crossed over into some highly infectious human form, could be very bad news. But we're not seeing that happen (yet) with the current bird flu. It's worth remembering that flu viruses of this type have already crossed over into humans in recent years without taking off around the world. That doesn't mean that it can't happen, but it does mean that it's not inevitable.

So, no one knows how likely a pandemic is, when it might occur, and how it might behave. It's prudent to take a look at marginal compounds like peramivir, whose possible use against avian flu was being spoken about years ago. But it's not prudent to buy, or urge others to buy Biocryst's stock after it's already tripled in price.

It's important to prepare, since some other sort of pandemic is fairly likely even if Avian Flu never materializes as a threat. But don't panic. Yet, anyway.

IRAQI BLOGGER OMAR is photoblogging the Iraqi vote. Apparently, the heat is worse than the terrorists.

SANDEEP JUNNARKAR'S grassroots AIDS journalism project in India continues, and there's a new website, Lives in Focus, with reports and video.

October 14, 2005

SHAWN WASSON will be liveblogging the Iraq vote.

SPYWARE CAN CONSTITUTE trespass to chattels. This seems quite obviously correct to me.

MORE ON AMERICAN COMPANIES FACILITATING INTERNET CENSORSHIP: "Myanmar now joins several nations, including China, Iran and Singapore, in relying on Western software and hardware to accomplish their goals, Mr. Deibert said. . . . 'It's related to the problems that Yahoo and Microsoft and others are facing in China,' Mr. Palfrey said, 'but here the issue is that these technology security companies are directly profiting from the censorship regime itself.'"

SPEAKING OF STAGED NEWS:

In one of television's inadvertently funny moments, the NBC News correspondent was paddling in a canoe during a live report about flooding in Wayne, N.J. While she talked, two men walked between her and the camera _ making it apparent that the water where she was floating was barely ankle-deep.

Heh. There's video.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, one of the soldiers at the Bush event blogs about what happened. Seems like a lot of media folks are up the creek, while bloggers wade by in hip boots . . . .

IN THE LATEST INSTALLMENT of his "Transatlantic Voices" series, Clive Davis interviews Peter Robinson.

A CALL FOR HARRIET MIERS TO WITHDRAW, from the National Review editors.

ANN ALTHOUSE invokes Bulwer-Lytton. Readers are joining in the fun. I guess they've laid off all the copy editors at the NYT. . . .

THE INSTA-WIFE is asking you to support research into heart disease.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Here's a report, with video from the Associated Nanotechnology Congress at Rice University.

LAURA LEE DONOHO writes that the press has been staging war news for years.

Then there's stuff like this.

UPDATE: Not to mention this and this.

TOM ELIA LOOKS AT A REPORT from Baghdad and observes: "Here are the two things this story tells us. One, opponents of the Iraqi constitution are losing if their only means of persuasion is through the use of violence. Two, the Associated Press needs to learn the difference between an insurgent and a terrorist."

RYAN SAGER writes on campaign finance "reform" and censorship:

The problem for Temple and bloggers like him who mix journalism and activism — popular sites such as the conservative RedState.org and the liberal DailyKos.com — is that they may well lose no matter what the FEC decides.

If such sites are not entitled to the press exemption, they will likely run afoul of limits under federal law on how much individuals and corporations can donate to candidates for federal office. Their journalism will, in effect, be labeled a campaign contribution.

But even if these sites do get the press exemption, what will they have won? Nothing more than the "privilege" of writing news and commentary without fear of prosecution. In other words, they'll get to exercise the most basic right of all Americans only so long as the government continues to approve.

This is press licensing, and it's unconstitutional and unAmerican.

STEPHEN GORDON AT THE SPECULIST, on what Bush needs to do about avian flu.

I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM: What with work and family stuff, I don't drink nearly enough these days. That's why I've started using one of these gadgets, addressing a problem -- spoilage -- that I never used to face. I used to think that these things were for wimps, but now I realize that they're not. Or that I am . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Jason Greenman says I need to be using nitrogen. Jeez, I've gone from nitrous-injectors to nitrogen-injectors. . . .

HEH.

MICHAEL FUMENTO looks at the misreporting of events in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and the significant harm it did to rescue efforts.

Meanwhile, if you haven't read it before you should read Michael Lewis's account. Best line: "These men also had another informational disadvantage: working TV sets."

CONDI RICE CHASES DOWN A DICTATOR and talks about democracy.

WHY, YES, I did see fireworks.

RECREATING THE SPANISH FLU: Charles Krauthammer is unhappy.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reader Douglas Bass emails:

I attended the weekly caucus of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers at Keegan's Irish Pub in Minneapolis tonight. Rep. Mark Kennedy was also in attendance, moving from table to table, and his spokesperson/staffer, the lovely and talented Heidi Frederickson was part of our team for the weekly trivia competition.

We had a good discussion about Tom DeLay, and what his indictment means for the Republican House. Kennedy said "I want to know where the outrage is in the blogosphere. There is only one of the four major caucuses with a rule that says the leader has to step down if indicted."

I said "I'm not nearly as offended by DeLay's indictment as I am about that remark about there being no fat in the federal budget." I then went on to describe some of the pork projects in Minnesota, the Porkbusters website. He seemed to not have been aware of the Porkbusters website at all, which I found somewhat shocking. But at least we're making some progress, as we not only mentioned it to Rep. Kennedy, but to one of his staffers as well.

This is how to do it. All politics is local. And send 'em to the PorkBusters Wikipedia entry, which sentiment seems to favor retaining.

MICKEY KAUS on proposals for a reporters' shield law:

If Congress said professional reporters had more votes than ordinary citizens, after all, it would be struck down instantly. What's different about speech? ... I know, I know. The press professionals are doing it for our benefit! But you could say the same about, say, giving more votes to the more educated. They'd be doing it for the rest of us. Did someone add a Condescension Clause to the Constitution when I wasn't looking?

Some people seem to think so.

October 13, 2005

DAN GILLMOR: "We're moving toward a system under which only the folks who are deemed to be professionals will be granted the status of journalists, and thereby more rights than the rest of us. This is pernicious in every way. . . . Plainly, what's at issue -- if protection is needed -- is the act of journalism, not whether the person doing it is a journalist. We can all do acts of journalism from time to time. Most of us are not journalists except at those times. Congress is clueless, perhaps by design, on this issue."

FROM TEXAS HOLD-EM TO California rope-a-dope?

KERRY DUPONT: Iraq will shame us again. Well, some of us.

IN BOSTON: A Walk for Democracy in Belarus.

UPDATE: Hey, it's worldwide!

COMING SOON: Charges that Meet the Press is staged?

UPDATE: A savage critique from Jason van Steenwyk. "Most editors I wrote for as a Time Inc. wretch would have caught that, and never let me get away with it. Not so at the AP I guess."

Bill Quick: "Nothing ruffles the White House press corps, or the liberal bigstream media, more than the truth."

MIERS WON'T WITHDRAW. Here's a FoxNews poll on the nomination: "A 37 percent plurality of Americans say they would vote to confirm Miers to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 32 percent say they would vote against her and 31 percent are unsure. . . . Among Republicans, 57 percent say they would vote for Miers, down 17 percentage points from the 74 percent that said they would vote for Roberts (July 26-27). Support for Miers among Democrats is 12 points less than it was for Roberts. It should be noted there is no gender gap on support for Miers as both men and women are equally likely to say they would confirm her."

HERE'S AN INTERVIEW WITH RAY KURZWEIL from CBS. You can read my earlier interview with him here.

HUGH HEWITT: "I spoke to Karl Rove an hour ago. His support for the Miers nomination is not merely enthusiastic, but adamant and even vehement."

UPDATE: On the other hand, like David Brooks,* James Taranto looks at Harriet Miers' own words and actions and comes away unimpressed.

* Brooks writes a column for a private, subscription-only website.

MICHAEL YON, who's in Baghdad to cover the referendum, has a post up about embeds.

THERE'S A NEW REPORT OUT FROM THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES warning that the U.S. position in science is eroding. Over at Slashdot most of the commenters seem to be taking the Chris Mooney position, but as I've noted before I think that's a bit simplistic. Here's some interesting perspective from fertility expert James Grifo in Discover magazine:

Given today’s political climate, what do you think will happen in the field of reproductive medicine?

G: Well, let me put it this way. If the environment today existed when IVF was started in 1978, we never would have had IVF. In the first two pregnancies with IVF, one was ectopic and one was a miscarriage. Our government would have stopped us right there. But IVF has resulted in a technology that is mainstream. Like IVF, the technologies we’re working on now are to help people with serious medical problems—not to create Frankensteins.

Would science be better off with Democrats in the White House?

G: I don’t know. I just don’t know. Democrats think you’re not smart enough to make your own decisions. They think they need to protect you from evil scientists. They will regulate everything that could possibly happen. Republicans, on the other hand, think regulation isn’t good, except when it comes to decisions people make in their bedrooms. Then it’s absolutely required.

The fact is that neither party is especially great on science. On the other hand, the "erosion" in the U.S. position is to some degree a reflection on improved capabilities elsewhere, which given that science is a positive-sum game is probably a good thing.

At any rate, while we're certainly not going to improve our scientific position by teaching Intelligent Design in high schools, I don't think that's the source of our problems. We should probably look more closely at what's happening in higher education, and in particular what's happening in science and engineering education. I love science and engineering, and my friends from high school who went into those fields think I would have been good there. I don't know if they're right, but I'm pretty sure that I've had a better career in law. And much as I love law and lawyers, I suspect that a country that makes law a more rewarding career than science and engineering is likely to wind up with more and better lawyers than it has scientists and engineeers.

UPDATE: Reader Sabrina Chase emails:

I can confirm your suspicion -- more US scientists would be available if they could find work. I have a PhD in experimental physics, did some of the early research on C60 (buckyballs) as a grad student and postdoc, and I could not find a *bad* permanent job, let alone a good one. I don't think my colleagues have exorbitant salary demands (unlike lawyers -- sorry, couldn't resist!) but the positions simply weren't there. My graduate education was partially financed by taxpayers, too, and it irks me that they are not getting much return on their investment. I'm working in the software industry now, which has better hours, better pay, and a much reduced risk of getting irradiated or electrocuted, but I wish I had had the opportunity to keep doing the fundamental research I loved.

If the jobs were better, and the education process less miserable, we'd have more scientists. And if we had less risk-aversion, litigation, and regulation, we'd have more research.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Scientist-reader Walker White emails that people are missing the real story, which is more about management than ideology:

I noticed that you posted on the article about our "eroding position in science" and a link to the Slashdot discussion. As a practicing scientist, I thought I would bring your attention to the one feature about that discussion that is not getting any attention right now: the grant situation (indeed, Chris Mooney specifically says he did not consider it important in his book, though it is the topic of most concern to us scientists).

There has been quite a bit of press on the cuts in the NSF after an initial increase in 2002.

However, the real issue has been the change in focus of the NSF under this administration. Not anti-science, but anti-foundational science. In its submissions, the NSF is now requiring that the results of the research have some form of application in the short term. The NSF was supposed to be different from organizational grants, like DOD or NIH, in that it could support foundational research -- the type that will not economically pay off for years or even decades.

There is a strong argument that the unique level of support the U.S. gave to foundational research is what made us such a world-wide leader. For example, engineering research at European universities has historically been funded by businesses. They worked on specific, classified projects and the results were not published or otherwise shared with other researchers. The graduate students had no way of proving their worth to the research community and had a hard time getting academic jobs. The openness of our research community attracted many overseas students here, and the best remained to become faculty; the dearth of funding opportunities with the universities in their home countries made their job prospects limited. With the rise of the EU, Europeans now have in place a central body with a lot of capital that can distribute grant money to encourage quality, publicly-available research. Asia is also now developing similar programs.

As a result, academic positions in other countries are becoming competitive with the U.S. And as other countries increase funding, we are continuing to cut back. I understand small government, but I have worked with business enough to know that -- unless they are doing it for philanthropic reasons -- they will not fund science that does not have immediate or short term applications. Only government or noncompetitive monopolies (like the original Bell labs) have ever funded foundational research (Microsoft's recent competition from Google has forced them to retool their R&D division to make it more short term). And considering your job, you should know that university fees and tuition won't cover the necessary expense. This is one area where government can make a unique contribution.

There is no reason to make the NSF focus on the short-term. We have organizations like DOD or NIH to support research in specific applied areas. In addition, this is exactly the type of research that industry will fund. The NSF served a unique position in this country and that is being lost right now.

Excellent criticism, and something worthy of more attention, though harder to fit into a political pigeonhole.

MORE: Reader Jim Hu emails:

I read your post on the crisis in science and I will probably post to my own blog about it at some point after I take a look at the report. However, I felt I should respond to part of the update right away. As someone who has been on the receiving and reviewing end of both NIH and NSF grants, I don't think reader Walker White has it quite right. First, it's simply not true that "In its submissions, the NSF is now requiring that the results of the research have some form of application in the short term. "

In addition, while there are management issues with how science is funded at NSF and elsewhere in our Federal research portfolio (for example, see http://www.wi.mit.edu/news/archives/2004/cpa_1104b.html for some controversy regarding NIH and biodefense) , I don't think that anything specific to this administration is at the root of any problems I have with now NSF distributes its funds to scientists.

Interesting. And though I've mentioned it before, be sure to read this column by Virginia Postrel on "criminalizing science."

MUCH LATER UPDATE: But see this critique of the NAS study, from Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal.

SPEAKING OF PORKBUSTERS, it's time for another PorkBusters Pork Response Update. So far, Congress isn't covering itself with glory -- or even with adequate constituent response. Reader Mary Ann Lomascolo emails about Senator Norm Coleman:

Following is Norm Coleman’s response to my query about cutting pork to pay for Katrina/Rita relief. In my message (put through on his website – I wish I had copied and saved it) I specifically noted the “ambivalent” response his office gave other constituents, and hoped that he would take this seriously. While I’m glad to hear he wants to address water toxicity issues, I’m not sure how that relates to cutting pork. Furthermore, I’m a religious person and an eternal optimist, and I think confidence and hope are more powerful than anything. Yet the little pep talk in this email rings a bit hollow…..

[Coleman's response follows]

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lomascolo :

Thank you for taking the time to contact me concerning the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

It is critical we provide short and long term relief to the people struggling with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina but we need to do so in a fiscally responsible manner. I strongly support legislation, currently pending before the Senate, which would create a Chief Financial Officer to ensure Federal funds are spent responsibly and effectively.

In addition, as the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina begins to rebuild, the Federal government should not simply spend money without a comprehensive urban re-design plan. This can be accomplished by bringing together the best practices of current environmental science to deal with water, toxicity, and flooding in a permanently sustainable manner; deal with the social problems associated with relocation and those which existed before Katrina to revitalize the sense of community and common purpose in the region; and finally, maximize the cultural and historical strengths of the devastated areas. When I was the Mayor of St. Paul, we used a simple formula: hope plus confidence equals investment. The victims of Hurricane Katrina need to feel this sense of hope and confidence in order to make the rebuilding and revitalization efforts a success.

Thank you once again for contacting me. I will keep your concerns in mind as we work together to address this tragedy.

Sincerely,
Norm Coleman
United States Senate

Meanwhile, I finally heard from my Congressman, Jimmy Duncan. He writes:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the federal costs of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Hearing from those I serve in Congress is always a pleasure.

Within days of Katrina making landfall and the New Orleans levee system's breach, Congress passed more than $62 billion in emergency spending to assist with recovery efforts and rebuilding. Because our nation is nearly $8 trillion in debt and continues to run annual budget deficits, many in Congress and across the Country have raised questions concerning the manner in which the federal government will cover the costs associated with Katrina (and now Rita). Numerous proposals have come forward and I am confident the Budget and Appropriations Committee will weigh this matter carefully before proceeding.

As you are aware, eliminating all high priority projects from the highway legislation recently passed by Congress is one suggestion being discussed. Each high priority project in the Second District was requested by local officials who have structured budgets that assume federal funding is forthcoming, and each is considered important to the local economy. Consequently, I have serious concerns related to this approach and its possible impact on local governments across East Tennessee and the entire Nation.

I have argued for years that the federal government must enact more fiscally conservative policies, and I believe there are a number of areas ripe for savings. One example is the proposed lunar mission, which carries a price tag of $104 billion. Another is imporper payments to federal contractors, which the Government Accounatability Office estimates tataled a staggering $45.4 billion in fiscal year 2004.

Please be assured that I will continue to follow this matter in the coming weeks. Your thoughts and those of every constituent who has contacted me concerning this topic will be foremost in my mind during that period.

The good new: Unlike Tom Delay, he admits that there's fat in the federal budget. The bad news: He's sure that none of it's in his district. Sigh.

Keep sending me your responses from members of Congress -- and be sure to put "Pork Response" in the subject line so I won't miss them. And don't be depressed -- there's steadily more green on the PorkBusters page. It's progress.

UPDATE: Reader John Richardson sends the response he got from Sen. Mitch McConnell:

Mitch McConnell's response:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the United States Gulf Coast and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views on this national tragedy and I welcome the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

On August 29, 2005, a massive hurricane with 155 mph winds slammed into the Gulf Coast of the southern United Sates leaving hundreds of thousands displace over a 90,000 square mile area. This devastating tragedy is one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

The Federal government has an obligation to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and make sure FEMA and other federal agencies have sufficient funding to undertake the enormous challenge facing New Orleans and the Gulf coast region. On the the evening of Thursday, September 1, the Senate reconvened to pass a 10.5 billion bill in emergency funds to help with disaster relief. The House of Representatives reconvened on September 2, and approved the same bill. This will be the first payment in a multi-year federal commitment to relief and recovery. The President will request further funding when the full scope of damages becomes clearer.

I share your strong support for streamlining and downsizing government and have worked diligently with my colleagues in Congress to pass a responsible budget that limits the growth of government spending. During this budget cycle, I have worked with colleagues in the Senate to defeat dozens of irresponsible proposals to bust the budget and increase spending. We must evaluate every program and make sure the taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollar. You can be certain that I will continue to fight government waste, and will keep your views in mind when federal spending issues are considered in the Senate.

I look forward to working with President Bush and my colleagues in the Senate to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed it and provide the relief to the thousands of people still in need.

Again, thank you for contacting me, I hope that you will keep me informed of other issues that are important to you.

Sincerely,

Mitch McConnell



Richardson adds: "I took it as positive in principle, yet suitably vague to be political."

Meanwhile, reader Chris Bahr emails:

I went to look up how to contact my representative, John Culberson, and I found on his webpage that he has a written statement up that specifically addresses paying for katrina by cutting spending and postponing the prescription drug plan. Additionally he advocates reorganizing FEMA. I'll copy the relavent part of his statement which can be found at his website:

"As your congressman and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will do everything I can to ensure that state and local taxpayers are reimbursed in full for the costs we have incurred in helping our neighbors while at the same time looking for spending cuts in other federal programs to pay for the hurricane recovery effort. FEMA should be completely redesigned into a federal ATM machine whose sole responsibility is to operate phone banks and computer servers and reimburse local and state governments and individuals who have legitimate and reasonable out-of-pocket expenses due to a national emergency.

"In particular, I think the Medicare prescription drug benefit must be postponed until we are able to balance the budget, and I will also be filing legislation to make all federal grant programs voluntary so that state legislatures must decide on record vote whether to accept money with all the strings attached. This will help restore the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and save vast sums of money. Over $400 billion a year is sent out by Congress to the states in various federal grant programs, and we need to put our locally elected officials squarely in charge on the record before these grant programs are accepted in a State."

Could use some specific projects to cut, but sounds like a start to me.

This is progress -- at least they're no longer shouldering each other aside to be the first to throw money at the problem. But I think we should start pressing people for more specifics, and in particular asking them how they feel about the Republican Study Group's proposed cuts.

Meanwhile, reader Russ Mitchell reports on his contact with Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas:

Spoke in the local office with "Sandy," and attempted to find out whether there were specific offsets he'd be willing to cut. (Am under the weather, and thus was sufficiently tonguetied that I didn't attempt to get her full name.) Was told that ~"Congressman Sessions is very dedicated to cutting the budget, but we'll have to get in touch with the D.C. office for specifics."

She promised a timely reply after taking down my home address and daytime phone number. (Of course, if this goes on your ongoing list, it might make that list rather timelier...)

Or not.

PORKBUSTERS MAKES WIKIPEDIA: But some people want to delete the entry.

FUEL AND BRAINS: The latest Carnival of Tomorrow is up!

NEAL BOORTZ reports unhappiness with the President's tax reform panel.

I wonder if anyone will be able to come up with an alternative approach?

MAJOR CHECHEN TERROR ATTACKS, with ongoing gun battles: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.

A NEW MIERS POLL (free link) in the Wall Street Journal:

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Americans are reserving judgment on Ms. Miers, the White House counsel, who last week became Mr. Bush's choice to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring. Some 27% support her confirmation and 21% oppose it, while 51% say they don't know enough to say.

Such reluctance extends to Mr. Bush's political base, as 46% of Republicans say they don't know enough to have an opinion. The results explain why administration officials yesterday continued their campaign to regain the initiative on the nomination from conservative critics who have complained that she lacks a clear judicial philosophy and credentials. . . .

The effort marks a dramatic contrast from the tenor of the campaign for Chief Justice Roberts, who was elevated from the federal appeals court amid widespread praise for his experience and acumen in constitutional law. In July, President Bush nominated Mr. Roberts for Justice O'Connor's seat on the court; in September, he named him to succeed the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. On the eve of the Roberts confirmation hearings last month, supporters outnumbered opponents by 38%-20%.

Part of the difference appears to stem from concerns about how and why Mr. Bush selected Ms. Miers. While the poll shows respondents applauding her background as the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association, they question the fact that she hasn't served as a judge or made her positions on legal issues known.

By 40%-24%, Americans say her long service to the president makes them feel less positive about her potential court service. First Lady Laura Bush suggested this week it's "possible" that sexism has played a role in the Miers controversy, but the survey shows men and women hold similar attitudes toward her nomination.

I can't link to it because of TimesSelect, but David Brooks' column on Miers today is quite negative.

VIDEOBLOG PODCASTING: Yes, I think it's about time.

WHEN YOU SHILL FOR DAVIS-BACON, you're shilling for Halliburton!

UPDATE: And for the Klan!

UNSCAM UPDATE: An editorial:

Slowly but surely, the investigative circle grows closer to Kofi Annan.

Monday, the former French ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Bernard Merimee, was arrested in Paris on suspicion of having taken kickbacks from Saddam Hussein in the form of vouchers from the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program.

From 1999 to 2002, Merimee was Secretary-General Annan's special assistant for European affairs. And there's a possible Oil-for-Food connection to Annan's son, Kojo, and brother, Kobina — themselves under investigation for their alleged involvement in the program.

(Via Newsbeat 1).

JOHN FUND offers a rather unflattering account of the Miers vetting process.

October 12, 2005

JAY ROSEN has more on the New York Times and Judy Miller. I said on "Reliable Sources" Sunday that the Times (or Miller, and as Rosen notes it's sometimes hard to tell who is calling the shots) is acting more like a defendant than a journalistic organ, and I certainly find their behavior mystifying. Jay, however, offers some armchair speculation.

UPDATE: Here's an article from tomorrow's Wall Street Journal (free link) on Miller.

DANIEL DREZNER HAS THOUGHTS ON GAME THEORY, and a correction for Fred Kaplan.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON says that things seem to have gone badly for Judith Miller.

A POLL ON THE MIERS NOMINATION:

Should the Harriet Miers nomination be withdrawn?
Yes
No

Will the Miers nomination help the Republicans or hurt them?
Help
Hurt
Neither


I'll be interested to see how this turns out. (View results without voting, here. Discuss the poll here.)

UPDATE: Bainbridge has a poll, too.

KEN MEHLMAN DID A CONFERENCE CALL WITH BLOGGERS on the Miers nomination. Prof. Bainbridge blogged it. So did Patrick Hynes, and so did Mark Coffey.

I wasn't on the call -- I got an email, but I'm crunching on the book -- but here are two thoughts: (1) They should have done this the day of the announcement, not the following week; and (2) It doesn't seem to have been enough to win people over.

UPDATE: RedState has a post on the call, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Ice Age cometh?

HARRIET MIERS: "conservative on social questions and liberal on economic issues."

Yeah, that's gonna win me over. Sheesh.

A SAVAGE, NATIONALIST TIRADE AGAINST FOREIGNERS FROM THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR: Luckily, it's the outgoing Chancellor . . . .

THE REPUBLICANS ARE HAVING A BAD WEEK, but as Michael Barone notes, the Democrats have problems of their own.

ONE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE TITLED NOBILITY was its immunity from some legal rules laid on the commoners; that's why such titles were an important boon that the King could bestow on favorites. Reading this statement by Richard Lugar on the proposed journalists' shield law, which probably won't cover bloggers, I wonder if we're getting into the same territory:

In other remarks about the legislation at IAPA's 61st General Assembly, Lugar acknowledged that the legislation could amount to a "privilege" for reporters over other Americans.

"I think, very frankly, you can make a case that this is a special boon for reporters, and certainly for their role in freedom of the press," he said. "At the end of the day what we will come out with says there is something privileged about being a reporter, and being able to report on something without being thrown into jail."

I think that such special privileges are a bad idea, as I've said here before. But to the extent that they apply only to Registered Official Journalists (as the story suggests is the intent) rather than to the activity of reporting, I think that they're also deeply troubling. The government is bestowing a special privilege on the press. Will it, like the King, expect loyalty in return?

BILL QUICK REPORTS on how he's done by publishing his latest novel on the Internet instead of going the dead-tree route. Short answer: Very well!

IS THIS A CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD, OR WHAT? While out running errands at lunchtime, I heard Rush Limbaugh calling Harriet Miers an underqualified affirmative-action candidate, and reacting angrily to being called an "elitist, sexist conservative" for being critical of her choice. Similar acrimony is evident in many quarters of the blogosphere.

Whatever Miers brings to the table, there's no doubt that this nomination was a mistake politically, and that it's been badly handled. What possible benefit could Bush get from the Miers nomination that makes it worth sowing this much dissension within the ranks of his supporters?

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: So I'm reading the manuscript for Joel Miller's forthcoming book, Size Matters : How Big Government Puts the Squeeze on America's Families, Finances, and Freedom, and it's pretty depressing. Like my book-in-progress, it starts out with beer, which is not depressing, but Miller's story is how absurd regulation nearly killed Pete's Wicked Ale before it got to market. Following is a litany of bad regulation and wasteful spending (mostly the former) and how it damages both the economy and the ability of the government to do things that actually matter.

Miller's conclusion is a bit grim -- he just doesn't think the problems are bad enough to produce the needed drastic action, yet. But my own feeling is that it's a matter of degree. I'd like to see structural reforms that would make pork and overregulation less likely, but I agree that the electorate isn't mad enough for that. Yet. On the other hand, even the modest pressure we've been able to generate over the past month has done some good, as Dennis Hastert's reversal last week demonstrates. At the moment, it's a game of inches, but inches matter.

UPDATE: Joel Miller emails:

I guess the book is a bit depressing. It certainly ends somberly.

You’re right about degrees, though. A person cannot sit by and do nothing. In doing something—even if it appears meager—people might actually have significant effect. Gladwell was right about this: All it takes is the right set of people and circumstances, and big things can happen. So the question is: What’s the tipping point on Big Government? The Porkbusters effort seems to be doing a lot of good. I can’t remember a time when this much on-the-ground discussion has occurred on federal spending. The results are impressive.

Well, you gotta start somewhere.

ROB SMITH, whose blog I've liked for a long time, is dying. Please send him your thoughts and prayers.

AUSTIN BAY LOOKS AT ZARQAWI'S LOSING STRATEGY in Iraq, and he's got more background on his blog.

BIG MEDIA copying blog entries without permission.

UPDATE: Then there's this example of blog-theft, by some columnist at a restricted website that nobody can read.

MORE: "I always enjoy being lectured on my ethics by a pack of thieves."

TODAY'S THE TRADITIONAL COLUMBUS DAY: Jim Bennett has some thoughts, over at Albion's Seedling.

I, FOR ONE, WELCOME OUR NEW ROBOT DRIVERS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

"SAUDI ARABIA -- FRIEND OR FOE IN THE WAR ON TERROR?" That's the question the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking. The answer, I think, is "yes."

October 11, 2005

I HAVEN'T READ LOUIS FREEH'S NEW BOOK, My FBI : Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror, but it certainly seems to be creating a stir.

DAFYDD AB HUGH: "Laura Bush did not call Miers opponents "sexist.'" He says Reuters blew the transcription.

UPDATE: Video here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Patterico weighs in.

JAMAAT UL FUQRA IN VIRGINIA: Interesting report. (Via The Belmont Club). Related developments in Britain here.

THE FIRST OPINION OF THE ROBERTS COURT has been released.

AN AMUSING Oprah-Fisking. (Via guess who).

EXPLAINING THE DAVIS-BACON ACT to defenders who admit they don't understand it: "Preserving Davis-Bacon may endear Democrats to the AFL-CIO's construction unions, but it's a slightly trickier case to make to voters--'Hey, this will really slow rebuilding and make it way more expensive for taxpayers!'"

IRAQIS REACH DEAL ON CONSTITUTION:

Iraqi leaders reached a breakthrough deal on last minute changes in the constitution Tuesday, and at least one Sunni Arab party said it would reverse its rejection of the document and urge its supporters to approve it in next weekend's referendum.

I can't say I'm entirely surprised at this development, but I'm pleased.

UPDATE: Publius has much more. Bottom line: "The Iraqis have worked out a very good deal amongst themselves."

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: Reader Jim Herd notes that DPreview has reviewed the new Canon super-studio-model 16.7 megapixel 35mm SLR. The review's quite strong, though the camera's just a bit pricey for an impecunious law professor such as myself, especially one who's too busy slaving over a hot word processor to get out and take pictures anyway -- which certainly describes me at the moment.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

PARIS (AP) - France's former U.N. ambassador has been taken into custody as part of an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in the Iraq oil-for-food program, judicial officials said Tuesday.

Jean-Bernard Merimee, 68, who also was ambassador to Italy from 1995-98 and to Australia in the 1980s, is suspected of having received kickbacks in the form of oil allocations from the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He was also a special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2002.

The noose tightens. And reader Bryon Scott, who sent the link, observes:

The interesting thing to me is the Guardian is now stating "Saddam manipulated the program" as a forgone conclusion. No longer is the press treating this as if it "alledgedly" happened. One wonders how long it will take the MSM to make the connection between the lucrative income generated by this scam and the "international resistance" to the war in Iraq.

I'm guessing a while, but I'd love to be wrong.

CBS NEWS IS TAKING QUESTIONS ABOUT ITS IRAQ COVERAGE, in case you have any.

Maybe someone should ask them about this.

A WHILE BACK I mentioned Chris Mooney's new book, but the story's not quite as one-sided as that may make it seem. Sebastian Mallaby observes that despite all the criticism of the Bush Administration:

Consider the case of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, on which the Bush administration is marginally better than the European Union.

DDT, to give that chemical its more familiar name, works miracles against diseases that are spread by insects. During the Second World War, vast quantities of the stuff were dusted over troops and concentration-camp survivors to kill the body lice that spread typhus. Later, DDT was used widely in Latin America to beat back dengue and yellow fever. But the chemical's noblest calling is to combat malarial mosquitoes. In the early 20th century, Dunklin County, Missouri, had a higher rate of malarial mortality than Freetown, Sierra Leone. Between 1947 and 1949, DDT was sprayed on the internal walls of nearly 5 million American houses, and at the end of that process malaria had ceased to pose a significant threat in the United States.

DDT also helped to eliminate malaria in Europe and parts of Asia, and in 1970 the National Academy of Sciences estimated that the chemical had prevented 500 million deaths. And yet, despite that astounding number, DDT has all but disappeared from the malaria arsenal.

The reasons don't have much to do with science, he says. (Via Ron Bailey).

PICKING UP NASA'S SLACK: Some thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.

B RELEVANT REPORTS:

I'm officially freaked out.

According to reports from Atlanta's NBC affiliate WXIA-TV, a plane stolen from St. Augustine, Florida has mysteriously appeared right hear in my hometown of Lawrenceville, GA. (To watch video of the report, click here.)

What is particularly troubling is that police have "narrowed down" the plane's arrival time at Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County to between 9:00 PM Saturday and 6:30 AM Sunday. That is a mighty big window of time. How is it possible that we can't say more precisely when this plane landed?

Briscoe Field may sound familiar to you. It should. Two of the hijackers who crashed airliners into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, trained at Briscoe Field. Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi did flight training at the Lawrenceville airport about eight months before the attacks.

Hmm. This is odd, and when you put it together with the bomb incidents at Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, and UCLA plus the New York subway scares and this odd story from San Diego, it sounds like something odd is going on. But is it -- or are we just noticing more odd events in the wake of the New York subway scare? It's hard to say. If this is the much-ballyhooed "Ramadan offensive" by Al Qaeda, then by all appearances it's awfully lame. Of course, it could be a series of distractions, but that seems unlikely, too. I'm going with "chain of coincidences" for the moment, pending some reason to think there's a connection, as a lot of readers seem to.

UPDATE: The NY subway threat appears to have been a hoax.

ANN ALTHOUSE: "I've mellowed on Miers."

Professor Bainbridge, however, remains unmoved.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Rich Lowry reports that Miers hasn't been fully vetted, which seems rather seriously risky.

I WAS AN EARLY FIGURE IN RAZORBLOGGING, but it has now been taken to the next level, with an entire blog devoted to the subject!

GOOD NEWS for the Miers nomination:

The Gang of 14’s centrist Democratic and Republican senators met and gave preliminary approval yesterday to Harriet Miers as President Bush’s nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.

Emerging from a meeting at the offices of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, “This nomination didn’t set off any alarm bells with any of us.”

The significance of this provisional endorsement, though presented in a low-key fashion, could be huge, for it means that unless damning evidence emerges during the Judiciary Committee’s as-yet unscheduled confirmation hearings the nominee is unlikely to be filibustered, and a party-line vote would mean confirmation. A party-line vote is far from assured because conservatives have not welcomed the nomination.

If there's trouble, it will come from the right, I guess.

IBM VS. THE INDIAN BLOGOSPHERE: Global Voices has more.

UPDATE: Sorry -- that was a bit too telegraphic. For the IBM connection it helps to have read this post by Amit Varma that I linked yesterday.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who works for IBM thinks I'm unfair, and makes a pretty good argument:

As an IBM employee I was very interested to read about IBM vs The Indian Blogosphere, however if you read Gaurav Sabnis's post you'll see that isn't actually the case, or at least it shouldn't be. Rather it's a case of IIPM - The Indian Institute of Planning and Management - and their reprehensible tactics in attempting to silence a critic. As far as I can tell much of the brouhaha on this issue re:IBM has arisen from the article you linked to on Global Voices posted by Neha Viswanathan. That article excerpts Gaurav Sabnis's blog post where he announces that he's resigning from IBM, however it does so without mentioning why he left, loyalty.

It seems that the Dean of IIPM contacted Lenovo (IBM) and threatened them with a student protest where IBM Thinkpads would be burnt in front of the IBM offices in Delhi. In the face of what could only have been a public relations disaster Lenovo demanded that Gaurav do...nothing. No pressure was brought to bear, no demands were made, there was no "counseling session" where it was darkly hinted that any failure to mollify the demands of IIPM would go on his permanent record, nothing.

In fact Gaurav decided to resign because out of appreciation and a sense of loyalty to IBM. He wrote, "The second thing dear to me is IBM's well-being. IBM has been a good employer to me. I have no complaints about them. Even in light of these events, they did not pressurise me to go against my principles and hush the matter up. Yet, IBM was being dragged into this unnecessarily. It was being made a target of bizarre pressure tactics. If even one Thinkpad laptop was actually burnt, it would cause a lot of bad press and nuisance for IBM. So I did not want IBM's well-being to be compromised in any way."

To me that is the big story, that any corporation can still inspire such loyalty in it's employees that they'd rather leave the company than see it get hurt is, these days, nothing short of wondrous. That there are still people like Gaurav Sabnis who stick to their principles, even when it means making the tough decisions, is marvelous. I'm sorry I never got a chance to meet the man, or work with him, as he's exactly the kind of person we need to keep.

I guess I felt that IBM shouldn't have accepted his resignation, and should have shown more backbone, but maybe that was too harsh. At any rate, it's certainly true that IBM isn't the prime bad actor here, and fortunately the prime bad actor, IIPM, has probably learned that it's a bad idea to tangle with the blogosphere.

AN EXPLOSIVE DEVICE found near UCLA.

PATTERICO ON MIERS: "I just don’t think we can afford to take chances any more."

Radley Balko: "Judicial nominations, especially to the Supreme Court, were supposed to be the fruit, the reward to President Bush's supporters for biting down and bearing the spending, the entitlements, and the growth of government. This should have been the bold pick, the Janice Rogers Brown, the pick that makes Democrats cringe, and that sets the court off on a new course."

PoliPundit has questions. I don't know that the Gore-donation thing is a big deal -- after all, I worked for Gore in 1988. Then again, I'd probably be unacceptable to the Bush base as a Supreme Court nominee, too . . . .

MORE ON PROSPECTS FOR SPENDING REFORM:

The more than 100 conservatives in the Republican Study Committee in the House have documented $500 billion that could be saved over the coming decade.

And Sen. John McCain and other Republican senators want $85 billion saved by delaying for two years the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Bring it on.

GRAND ROUNDS is up!

MICKEY KAUS: "It is odd that Maureen Dowd hasn't written a word about Judith Miller's jailing and release, isn't it?"

Jay Rosen has related thoughts.

UPDATE: "Welcome aboard, Captain Hazelwood!"

October 10, 2005

RALPH KINNEY BENNETT looks at razor wars and the evolution of technology.

That's a topic that I've addressed before, more than once, to a considerable degree of interest.

CALIFORNIA YANKEE is rounding up ways to help Pakistani earthquake victims.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner offers perspective.

WHY SO LITTLE COVERAGE of the Oklahoma suicide bombing?

MORE PROBLEMS ON THE WAY for the Miers nomination.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR: Lots of reporters, and the editorial board of the New York Times, called for an investigation of the Plame leaks. Now Jack Shafer says they may not like the result:

National-security reporters—none of whom have clearances—receive classified information for a living. If the government used espionage law to investigate government leaks to the press, the effect would be an unofficial secrets act criminalizing thousands, if not tens of thousands, of annual conversations between sources and reporters.

If Fitzgerald takes this approach, it's likely to generate quite a fuss, on a number of fronts.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus:

Lots of people in DC knew Valerie Plame worked at the CIA, after all. And it was a relevant detail if you were trying to come to a position on whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, which was in turn relevant to the non-trivial public policy question of whether the country should go to war. Criminalizing public discussion of the CIA connection--unless the harm to U.S. security from Plame's outing was immense, and the government was trying harder to keep her secret than it apparently was--is troublesome, no? ... Before you say "Nah, lock Rove up," imagine it was an anti-war State Department dissident who faced charges for pointing out that a Republican ex-ambassador who claimed to have evidence justifying a war was married to a not-so-covert CIA officer.

Indeed.

Also read Arianna Huffington and Tom Maguire.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian Leone writes:

I will be watching for what sort of proportionality we might see between the wrist slap that Sandy Berger received after stuffing highly classified documents in his pants and destroying some of them, as compared to what happens to various White House officials who discussed the identity of Ms. Plame who after all, as Kaus points out, was an open secret at least in Washington DC.

Of course, one must confess that the Plame affair has already vastly surpassed the Berger story in terms of numbers of articles written and demands for "protection" of our national security apparatus.
I wonder why that is?

I don't.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire emails to point out that Dale Franks made Shafer's point back in July over at the QandO blog:

The truly amusing thing about jumping for the Espionage Act of 1917 is that, ironically, allowing the use of the Espionage Act to punish leaks is literally the last thing the press wants. Indeed, it should be the last thing that the Left wants, too, since its use would be a tool for repression of government whistleblowers every bit as powerful as the Official Secrets Act is in Britain. It would literally mean the end of any notion of open government. . . .

The thing is, that using the Espionage Act in this way means that the Administration can simply classify anything they don't want the public to know about, and if it gets out, then all the parties involved get to spend a decade behind bars.

So much for the First Amendment and a free press.

Advantage: Dale Franks!

EARLIER, I MENTIONED JOHN YOO'S NEW BOOK, The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11. Now the University of Chicago has posted an interview with Yoo where he talks about the book and its subject matter at some length.

A MIERS MELTDOWN? More and more, I have to wonder what the White House was thinking with this. First of all, when you're already under fire for cronyism, and you nominate someone who's, well, a crony, you ought to be locked-and-loaded in terms of response. They weren't.

Second of all, they seem to have managed to convince a lot of people on the social right that she's too liberal, while people on the libertarian-right worry that she's too much a fan of government power. Third, their response to critics and complaints has been slow and weak.

I realize that the White House is busy -- perhaps busier than we realize from news coverage -- with a lot of war and foreign-policy questions. But if so, isn't that more reason to go with a safe pick of the Michael McConnell variety? Whatever else she is (and she could, of course, turn out to be fine as a Justice) Miers wasn't a safe pick. Republican Senators are underwhelmed, as are Republican bloggers, and John Fund -- after doing some interviewing -- has changed his mind and now thinks she shouldn't be confirmed. Talk Radio host Michael Graham has started up a Stop Miers Now! website. And the White House, even if it's spoiling for a fight with its base, isn't up to the job, as Fund notes:

It is traditional for nominees to remain silent until their confirmation hearings. But previous nominees, while unable to speak for themselves, have been able to deploy an array of people to speak persuasively on their behalf. In this case, the White House spin team has been pathetic, dismissing much of the criticism of Ms. Miers as "elitism" or even echoing Democratic senators who view it as "sexist." But it was Richard Land , president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who went so far as to paint Ms. Miers as virtually a tool of the man who has been her client for the past decade. "In Texas, we have two important values, courage and loyalty," he told a conference call of conservative leaders last Thursday. "If Harriet Miers didn't rule the way George W. Bush thought she would, he would see that as an act of betrayal and so would she." That is an argument in her favor. It sounds more like a blood oath than a dignified nomination process aimed at finding the most qualified individual possible.

Read the whole Fund piece, which is just devastating. And then note that Miers is being opposed over at PoliPundit.

The fact is that Miers would probably agree with me on more issues than a candidate who would be supported by a lot of those who are opposing her. (I don't shiver with horror when Sandra Day O'Connor is mentioned, though I prefer the O'Connor of South Dakota v. Dole to some of her later incarnations -- but, then, I prefer the O'Connor of South Dakota v. Dole to a lot of alleged conservatives in Raich, too.) But her nomination looks like a major political blunder for the Administration, which has yet to provide any very convincing reasons why she belongs on the court more than any of several thousand other lawyers with similar credentials. What's more, there are good reasons why the path from White House Counsel to Supreme Court Justice isn't a well-trodden one, and there are more good reasons why it probably shouldn't become well-trodden.

On the other hand, SkyMuse says that Miers nomination critics are missing the big picture.

What do you think? I'm opening comments on this post, so weigh in.

UPDATE: Comments don't seem to be working. I'm not sure what's wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Fixed now. Comment away -- be nice!

MORE: Some people are still having problems with the comments. Sorry -- I'll try to get it fixed.

LATER: Comments are open, but I'm having, for some reason, to approve them individually. So don't re-enter yours when you don't see it appear; I'll get to it.

LATER STILL: Okay, it's been over 24 hours, and I'm turning them off before the spammers move in.

TERRORIST BOMBS AT GEORGIA TECH? (Via Generation Why?).

CRUSHING OF DISSENT? Bloggers and IBM in India, via Amit Varma.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: "House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is an old wrestler, and last Thursday night he used a classic move of his sport by quickly reversing positions. On behalf of the Republican leadership, Hastert went before his colleagues to embrace essentially the same package of spending that two weeks earlier he had scourged conservative House members for proposing. The change was a matter of necessity rather than choice." Progress!

IS CONSTITUTIONAL LAW HARD? Orin Kerr responds to Hugh Hewitt.

I think it's hard if you do it right. As I noted a while back in the Columbia Law Review, if even simple systems with clear rules can produce unpredictable results, we shouldn't be surprised that constitutional law is complex and sometimes unpredictable. Certainly Justice Scalia seems to agree!

Some related thoughts on this can be found here and here.

IS DO-IT-YOURSELF PHOTO PRINTING ON THE WAY OUT? That's what this report suggests.

I find that I print a lot of family snapshots at Walgreen's now, because it's easier to stick my memory chip into their machine, press "go" and come back to pick up the massive stack of prints later. On the other hand, I tend to print pictures I really care about at home, because I can tweak them in Photoshop, etc. (I tend to do my fancy enlarged photos -- 11x14 or 20x30 -- via ExposureManager, whose results are good, and whose prices are low).

Given that home printers are dirt cheap -- I have this one, and it was $199, though I'd kind of like this one -- I suspect that home printing will never be replaced, but that lots of people will follow a similar pattern.

And yes, I know I've been neglecting digital photography in my blogging lately, not least because I've been too busy to do much photography on my own. I'll try to do better in the future.

BILL HOBBS is tired of politics.

HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY: Many in the West will demonstrate their fierce originality and intellectual independence today by condemning Christopher Columbus using the same shopworn cliches they used last year. For those of a different bent, I recommend Samuel Eliot Morison's Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life of Christopher Columbus, which takes a somewhat different position. Here's an excerpt:

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostil units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger's press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: "A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future."

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

Morison's book is superb, and I recommend it highly as an antidote to the simplistic anti-occidental prejudice of today -- which, as Jim Bennett has noted, has roots that might surprise its proponents:

This is primarily an effect of the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism. Just as Calvinists believed in the centrality of the depravity of man, with the exception of a miniscule contingent of the Elect of God, their secularized descendants believe in the depravity and cursedness of Western civilization, with their own enlightened selves in the role of the Elect.

Indeed. Nonetheless, Bennett thinks that a different Italian deserves the real credit.

STRATEGYPAGE ON KOREA:

Negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program are, once more, stalled. The north refuses to allow inspections and disarm before it gets a nuclear power reactor (which would take several years to build). Meanwhile, signs of rot in the North Korean police state continue to appear. These include more crime, especially burglary and robbery. There's more corruption, with even some secret police (the core force in keeping the communists in power) taking bribes. Discipline continues to decline in the army, as does readiness (because of little training with heavy equipment, and lack of spare parts for maintenance.) It's looking more and more like Eastern Europe two decades ago. It's not a question of if the north will collapse, but when.

That's good -- though the transition may not be.

JONATHAN LAST looks at the influence of elites on British and American history.

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ON AVIAN FLU, from Britain:

So, let’s see, we’ve had a Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine telling us that an outbreak of flu, a pandemic, is inevitable. We have a candidate in the current avian flu. And our public health authorities (one of the few justifications for Government that even the most rigid libertarian would support) do nothing for 8 months. Wonderful, what a stunning justification of the current system.

Ouch. Even if avian flu turns out not to materialize as a threat this time around, this is exposing problems that need to be fixed, as some sort of major disease outbreak is pretty much inevitable sooner or later.

BILL KELLER RESPONDS TO TIMES CRITICS: But gets an unimpressed response from Mickey Kaus.

RALF GOERGENS looks at honor killings, sexual abuse, and cultural alienation in Germany.

October 09, 2005

A CHINESE ACTIVIST MURDERED?

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has more on the surprising progress of the Chinese democracy movement. I guess that's what's got the authorities scared enough to commit murder.

AN ODD SORT-OF CORRECTION at the Washington Post, relating to a Petula Dvorak article on protesters I mentioned earlier.

More journalistic questions at Winds of Change.

WILLIAM SHAWCROSS: Peace is not the answer:

IT SEEMS UNLIKELY that many of the so-called peace marchers who trooped through Washington and London two weekends back listened on Thursday — at least not with an open mind or sympathy — to George Bush's cogent explanation of why coalition troops are fighting and dying in Iraq.

You did not see in those demonstrations, after all, many banners reading, "Support Iraq's New Constitution," "No to Jihad" or "Stop Suicide Bombers." The crimes committed daily against the Iraqi people by other Arabs who wish to re-enslave them seem to be of little interest to Michael Moore, Jane Fonda and their followers. Rage against the daily assaults on children, women, anyone, by Islamo-fascists and ordinary national fascists is not fashionable. Only alleged American crimes are cool to decry. . . .

The sacrifice of U.S. soldiers, of their coalition allies and of Iraqis is horrifically painful. But if we can stay long enough to enable the Iraqis to lay the firm foundation of civil society, their deaths will not be in vain. We should leave when the elected Iraqi government asks us to do so.

It is the promise of freedom that the fascists who murdered the Iraqi teachers last month want to destroy. It is astonishing and discouraging that those who think they were taking the high ground in marching though Washington do not understand this.

Indeed. Michael Barone observes:

I am struck by the sublime indifference of most critics of Bush's Iraq policy to the fate of the Iraqi people. They are totally unexultant about the overthrow of a vicious dictatorship and seem to have no interest at all in what would happen to Iraqis if we leave suddenly. Hitchens has argued persuasively that no one deserves the label of liberal who is so indifferent to whether others live in freedom or under tyranny.

Will Collier observes:

I don't understand why anybody as knowledgeable as Barone would be at all surprised. The western Left didn't give a tinker's damn for the fates of the Iranians, Lebanese, Nicaraguans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Koreans, Cubans, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, or even Russians, so long as the eeeevil American right-wingers were dealt a political defeat (and let's not even start on Israelis).

Why should anybody be surprised thay they could now care less about Iraqis?

Good point. Judging from the size of this protest, which I saw at the University this morning on the way home from the studio, most people aren't fooled.

protests.jpg

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HEH. Or, as The Left Coaster puts it:

Kurtz reports this morning that “60 Minutes” will allow a rebuttal of sorts tonight in the piece through the addition of a statement from somewhat discredited Clinton national security advisor Sandy “I stuffed the papers in my pants” Berger that will contradict Freeh’s claims. Berger is the less-than-perfect choice for this assignment.

"Less-than-perfect." Yes. Am I wrong, or is politics just getting . . . dumber lately?

HOLY CRAP, the Pakistan earthquake is looking a lot worse:

The quake wiped out entire villages, buried roads in rubble and knocked out electricity and water supplies. Pakistan said more than 40,000 people were injured and between 20,000 and 30,000 likely killed, and the death toll was expected to rise.

The United States is sending aid.

HURRICANE VINCE THREATENS EUROPE: Jeez.

UPDATE: Reader Fernando Colina emails that the devastation caused by Hurricane Stan isn't getting enough attention. He's right. With the tsunami, Katrina, Rita, the Pakistani earthquake, and now this, I think people are getting a bit numb.

MORE WELL-DESERVED SLAPS AT M.A.D.D. over at The Corner.

ME, MIKE ISIKOFF, AND JAY ROSEN discuss the Judy Miller case. Ian Schwartz has the video.

CHAD DOTSON WILL BE LIVEBLOGGING tonight's Virginia gubernatorial debate.

MORE ON AVIAN FLU PREPARATION.

NORM GERAS wonders why The Guardian's shock and mock approach to open religiosity doesn't apply to Islamists.

Presumably they're afraid that the Islamists will kill them if they do that. One hopes that religious Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc., won't take the obvious lesson regarding incentives . . . .

UPDATE: A post from Ed Driscoll from a while back sounded a similar theme.

J.D. JOHANNES is back from Iraq, as are the Marines he's been covering. Via email he adds:

One of the Marines asked this morning if, knowing what I do now, I would still have done it?

Yes.

I am coming home sore, bruised, tired, financially destitute, unemployed and probably soon to be homeless, but I have witnessed more acts of courage in one Summer than most people will see in their entire life.

He'll start editing his documentary in a couple of days.

I BLAME MICHAEL BROWN AND FEMA:

Acting New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Thursday that as many as 40 officers from the department's 3rd District, including the commanding captain, are "under scrutiny" for possibly bolting the city in the clutch and heading to Baton Rouge in Cadillacs from a New Orleans dealership. . . .

Last week, after reports surfaced that the Louisiana attorney general's office was investigating the alleged theft of about 200 cars from Sewell Cadillac Chevrolet, possibly by NOPD officers, Riley revealed his own internal investigations. All told, Riley said 12 officers were under investigation for looting or failing to combat looting in their presence, four officers had been suspended and one had been reassigned.

So do Jeff Goldstein and Shepard Smith.

IT'S BAY VS. BAY on Miers:

Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers utterly underwhelmed me. Understand I still support Robert Bork. I’d like to see Janice Rogers Brown on the Supreme Court. Kelo? With Justice Brown on the Court? No way.

But my wife disagrees.

A spirited dialogue ensues. But that dialogue isn't just within a marriage -- it's within Bush's coalition: Ed Morrissey writes in the Washington Post:

By nominating White House lawyer Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, George Bush has managed to accomplish what Al Gore, John Kerry, Tom Daschle and any number of Democratic heavyweights have been unable to do: He has cracked the Republican monolith. Split his own party activists. And how.

Read the whole thing. And note Ed's wish that the debate stays as courteous as that within the Bay household.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn: "For what it's worth, my sense is that Harriet Miers will be, case by case, a more reliable vote against leftist judicial activism than her mercurial predecessor, Sandra Day O'Connor."

Jeff Goldstein, however, wonders why Bush nominated someone with a track record of supporting affirmative action. The answer to that, I think, comes from the Steyn column: "Bush, it seems ever more obvious, is the Third Wayer Clinton only pretended to be."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a table summarizing pro and con arguments on Miers, and here's a summary of what was said on the Sunday morning talk shows. (Via Confirm Them).

MORE: Hugh Hewitt has a lengthy post in defense of Miers. Pejman Yousefzadeh observes:

While it may be unfair to have the roberts standard out there with which to judge future nominees, the fact is that the standard is out there and the Bush Administration's new nominee will look relatively bad in comparison to the new Chief Justice. . . .

I agree with Hewitt that the rules of Constitutional law can be easily learned. But note his comment that "rules changes are troublesome and greatly contested." He makes this point about golf, but it applies as well to Constitutional law which is "subject to much more frequent changes" than are the rules of golf. Quite so, which means that those who fight over whether or not there will be changes and what kind of changes might be implemented will have to possess the savvy and background to wage those battles successfully. And there is a vast difference between Harriet Miers's ability to do that and the ability of John Roberts, Janice Rogers Brown, Michael Luttig and Michael McConnell (just to name a few) to be able to do that. Harriet Miers is simply not in their class.

The White House really should have thought this through.

STILL MORE: "Stealth" -- but who's being stealthed? "What he wants is a centrist on economic and liberty issues, supportive of federal power, coupled with an overriding commitment to the Christian Right's social agenda. But to nominate someone who clearly has these qualifications would create a revolt in the Party, so we have Harriet Miers. The stealth is against us. I hope we realize it in time."

Hmm. Maybe. Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin has a big roundup and observes:

I think that Hugh, like many of the Bush White House aides and supporters who are wielding the elitism card, seriously misreads and underestimates the opposition to this nomination coming from grass-roots conservatives. And that includes evangelicals. These are not elites.

I find the "elitism" argument rather unconvincing.

MORE STILL: Unhelpful reassurance: "Yes, this is a fundamental problem. Those most vocally opposed to the Miers nomination are strong social conservatives. But the attempt to win them back repels people who care about the proper functioning of the courts."

Meanwhile, Bush is also losing support for other reasons.

I'LL BE ON "RELIABLE SOURCES" ON CNN in a few minutes, talking about Miers, Plame, and more.

UPDATE: Here's a post on press shield laws -- with some proposed revisions -- that's worth reading.

"KEEP YOUR U.N. off my Internet!" Given Kofi Annan's efforts to suppress books critical of his operations, as well as such past crimes as the "New International Information Order," I don't trust the U.N. with the Internet at all.

UPDATE: As befits someone who's been paying close attention to the "UNScam" oil-for-food scandal, Roger Simon doesn't want the U.N. anywhere near the Internet.

THROUGH THE MIRACLE OF WESTLAW, Beldar looks at Harriet Miers' case record and pronounces it good.

In the comments, meanwhile, Patterico asks an important question: "Why are we hearing this stuff from Beldar and not the Administration?"

HMM: The Top Secret Avian Flu Plan that everyone was talking about yesterday was reportedly available on the HHS website for a year.

JOE GANDELMAN has a massive roundup on the South Asian earthquake, including links to accounts from a number of area bloggers. Things look to be considerably worse than they appeared yesterday.

A DREADFUL LAPSE IN JUDGMENT at the University of Chicago, where Daniel Drezner has been denied tenure. Tenure denials, while dreaded, aren't career-enders and I expect that Dan will flourish elsewhere, perhaps in a warmer and more hospitable climate. Nonetheless, this sucks.

Advice to people elsewhere: Grab Drezner while you can!

UPDATE: Juan Non-Volokh: "An obvious question is what, if any, impact Drezner's blogging had on his tenure vote. . . . I've often heard academics disparage non-academic writing in terms that suggest it could be a negative in the tenure process, irrespective of the quality of academic work under review. This is one of the reasons I've blogged under a pseudonym -- and will at least until my own tenure vote -- as I want my file, and the work therein, judged on the merits. In my view, that I spend some of my free time blogging is no more relevant to the process than a colleagues' decision to spend his or her time attending theater, performing in dance recitals, or raising children, but there is no guarantee that one's colleagues will agree." No, though it's a bad reflection on one's colleagues if they don't.

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