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May 27, 2006

PROBLEMS IN EAST TIMOR, but the United Nations doesn't seem to have done much good:

After several soldiers opened fire on unarmed police in Dili on Thursday, killing 10 as they were being escorted from their headquarters by U.N. officers, the traumatized force melted away. Frightened officers fled for the surrounding hills. On Saturday, no one patrolled the largely abandoned streets but the vigilantes. . . .

Hours after the United Nations announced it was also evacuating nonessential personnel from the country, dozens of employees trickled into the U.N. compound carrying suitcases and backpacks. Some were distraught over leaving their Timorese colleagues behind and abruptly suspending services to the country's impoverished population.

I can imagine. It certainly seems to have upset the Timorese:

Arriving at Dili's airport, Tim Costello, the head of aid agency World Vision said the departure of international aid staff and UN officials was sending a bad signal.

"The symbols are all wrong," Costello told AAP.

"The people who are camped here (at the airport), who can never get on a plane, see the UN leaving.

"I would hate to think of the message they get from that.

"I think it's important for aid workers and the UN to actually be here and say, 'You're not so strife-torn and hopeless that it's only a one-way ticket out.'"

The U.N. flies out, World Vision flies in. I know who I'd rather see getting my money. And Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has a sensible perspective:

"But it's a very, very new country. After all, the referendum was only in August 1999.

"Full independence has come relatively recently. It's going to be tough for them."

These things take a while. It hasn't fully settled down in the former Yugoslavia yet, after all.

A MAJOR QUAKE IN INDONESIA now said to have killed over 3,500 people. If past experience is any guide, those numbers will turn out to be low.

U.S. forces are standing by to help. That's both the right thing to do, and good politics.

Of course, if you believe some sources, it's all about the politics.

REPORTING FOR DUTY: A Memorial Day tribute.

THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF SCANDAL: CBS News turns Rep. William Jefferson into a Republican.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll reminds me that CBS previously made Bush President back in 1998 in a story about how the U.S. failed to stop Osama back then.

TOM MAGUIRE: "John Kerry wants to re-fight the Swift Boats wars. My goodness, that is the only thing that could get the Times to cover this - during his campaign they stayed about as far from this story as Kerry was from Cambodia at Christmas time. . . . And just to be clear - I have no interest in beating on Kerry like a rented mule (again). I am much more curious to see whether we can demonstrate that the MSM was horribly deficient in their coverage of their story."

A READER SAYS "It looks like this anti-aging stuff is working already:"

Doctors said sexually transmitted diseases among senior citizens are running rampant at a popular Central Florida retirement community, according to a Local 6 News report. . . .

A doctor blamed Viagra, a lack of sex education and no risk for pregnancy for the spike in sexually transmitted diseases at The Villages.

"All I can repeat are the things I have heard which are things like, 'Should I bring the little blue pills over tonight?'" community singles group president Richard Matwyshen said.

Senior sex should still be safe sex.

PETER DIAMANDIS WINS THE HEINLEIN PRIZE: Rand Simberg has comments.

I think it's well-deserved.

MORE ON CONGRESS AND THE SEPARATION OF POWERS: What's frustrating in these discussions is the failure to distinguish between what the law should be in somebody's opinion, and what it actually is, based on the Constitution and the caselaw. This entry on Congressional immunity from Jerry Pournelle -- a smart guy, but no lawyer -- is a good example:

Just as each House is the judge of the qualification of its members, each House is responsible for enforcement of ethics and criminal actions of members. The Houses have sufficient authority to do as they will in those cases.

When you bring the executive power into direct enforcement against sitting Members of either house of Congress, you end the separation of powers. It is easy for the executive to fake 'evidence' if it chooses. Once the executive power can intimidate sitting Members of Congress, you have an entirely different kind of government.

Now it is required that the Houses inquire into the criminal actions of Members. But that is done by their own agents, or at the request of the Speaker or President pro tem; not by the executive authority.

Now you may think that this is a good idea -- I don't, but Pournelle apparently does -- but it is not now, nor has it ever been, the law. In fact, with the sole exception of impeachment (which doesn't run against members of Congress), the Congress cannot investigate or try offenses, and impeachment is carefully distinguished from criminal prosecution in the Constitution. The Constitution's prohibition of Bills of Attainder, in fact, explicitly forbids Congress dealing with criminal matters.

A house of Congress can also refuse to seat members it judges not properly elected, and expel members for misbehavior -- but even then it's not immune from outside review, as Powell v. McCormack makes clear. (And note that when a member is expelled, it's generally after criminal conviction not the result of independent Congressional investigation). The autonomy of Congress extends only to legislative business: Congress could, if it chose, let a convicted Senator or Representative continue to vote and participate in Congressional business from a jail cell, but the Speech and Debate Clause provides no generalized immunity from law enforcement, which is an executive function. It's just not true that, as Pournelle claims, "Members of Congress and Senators enjoy many of the immunities of the old Roman Tribunes of the People." At least, not unless "many" means "a slight tinge."

I don't know why this, which is and always has been the law, seems so hard for some people to grasp. It's true, of course, that things are done differently elsewhere: The Russian Duma has immunity from prosecution, for example. But that's not how it's done here. And I thought that we weren't supposed to get our constitutional law from foreign jurisdictions?

There's a good oped on how unhappy many members of Congress are with the notion of accountability and how anxious they are for special status, by Prof. Bob Turner, in today's Wall Street Journal. It's subscription-only, but here's an excerpt:

Put simply, only Congress can inquire into the motives or content of votes, speeches or other official legislative acts.

But as the Supreme Court observed in the 1972 case of United States v. Brewster, the clause was never intended to immunize corrupt legislators who violate felony bribery statutes -- laws that have expressly applied to members of Congress for more than 150 years. In Brewster, the court noted the clause was not written "to make Members of Congress super-citizens, immune from criminal responsibility," adding: "Taking a bribe is, obviously, no part of the legislative process or function; it is not a legislative act. It is not, by any conceivable interpretation, an act performed as a part of or even incidental to the role of a legislator."

Such behavior is therefore not protected by the Constitution. The purpose of the Speech or Debate Clause was to protect the integrity of the legislative process, and the Court noted that bribery, "perhaps even more than Executive power," would "gravely undermine legislative integrity and defeat the right of the public to honest representation."

A dozen years ago, I testified before the House Committee on Administration on this same basic issue. Newt Gingrich and other reformers were trying to bring Congress under the same ethics laws it had imposed upon the rest of the country, and some indignant legislators seemed confident that the laws were not supposed to apply to them. The hearing was held in a small room in a part of the Capitol Building off-limits to the public, with exactly enough chairs for members, staff and the three witnesses.

Two members of the public who managed to make their way to the room were turned away on the grounds that there was "no room" for public observers.

Critics of the Gingrich proposal did not hear what they wanted. Some seemed genuinely shocked when I informed them that, in Federalist No. 57, James Madison noted one of the constraints in the Constitution to prevent legislators from enacting "oppressive measures" was that "they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society."

It is increasingly rare to find a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress these days. So a display of the spirit would have been a good thing to see -- especially in a time of war -- but for the fact that the issue now uniting Republican and Democratic leaders is an outrageous assertion that members of Congress are above the law, and that the Constitution immunizes legislators who betray their public trust in return for bribes from investigation by the executive branch.

In light of the attitudes held by so many of our legislators, it is no wonder three times as many Americans disapprove of Congress's job-performance as approve, according to last week's Gallup Poll. Those are Congress's lowest numbers since the Democrats were last in power a dozen years ago.

Congress probably has the power, constitutionally, to immunize its members from prosecution while in office. Such legislation would be immensely unpopular, of course, and would cause a lot of people to lose reelection: "Vote for me -- I'm in favor of immunity for corrupt members of Congress!" isn't much of a slogan.

That's why members of Congress are making a bogus Constitutional argument instead of using their undisputed legislative powers: To avoid the very kind of legislative responsibility to the voters that the Constitution, and separation of powers, places squarely in their laps. Such behavior is reminiscent of what Bill Clinton did in Clinton v. Jones, and I don't recall many of the Republicans who are taking a pro-immunity position now endorsing Clinton's approach then.

IRAN, IRAQ, AND NUKES: Iraq the Model asks:

Does the CNN have problems with translation from Arabic to English or is it a case of deliberate twisting of facts?

Read the whole thing.

AUSTIN BAY:

I am listening to President Bush’s speech at West Point and thinking “Why didn’t he give this speech three years ago?”

He's liveblogged it.

MICKEY KAUS:

Does the just-passed Senate immigration bill really only require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes for 3 of the past 5 years? It looks that way. I'll take that deal! ... My sophisticated political antennae tell me that this provision will not go over well! At some point, the voters may conclude the Senate has simply lost its mind.

Ya think? And yes, I'd like a couple of tax-free years, please. And without even having to donate a kidney!

BECAUSE YOUR BOOK CAN'T BE ANY GOOD IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT POLITICAL ATTITUDES:

Yesterday, we blogged the Yale press release (dated 5/23/06) stating that Michael J. Graetz (Yale) & Ian Shapiro (Yale) had won the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for their book Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (Princeton University Press, 2005). According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the foundation at the last minute rescinded the award because of Shapiro's opposition to the unionization of Yale graduate students.

Jeez.

PROBLEMS with the Space Elevator concept? They don't sound insuperable to me.

FRANCE DEFEATED AGAIN: By New World wines:

At the tasting of 10 red and 10 white wines, evenly split between French and American in both classes, the panel awarded the top place in both categories to Californian wine. A Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 topped the white wines, beating famous French names such as Puligny-Montrachet.

In the red category, a Stag's Leap Cabernet-Sauvignon 1973, now unobtainable, beat names such as Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1973 (now roughly £100 a bottle).

There was only one journalist there. The French media stayed away, assuming the result would be a bore.

It wasn't.

UPDATE: More on the new result here:

French and California winemakers marked the 30th anniversary of the storied Judgment of Paris tasting with another sip-and-spit showdown.

California won -- and by more than a nose.

The domestic wines took the top five of 10 spots, with a 1971 Ridge Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Cruz mountains coming out on top Wednesday.

"Today was a snapshot in time and all the stars were aligned properly. We had a lot of fun," said Peter Marks, director of wine at Copia, the Napa Valley wine and arts centre where the New World end of the tasting was held. A European panel of tasters met at a London wine merchant to give their rating.

Cool.

BRIAN NOGGLE is unhappy with ballot technicalities in Missouri.

JEFFERSON SCANDAL UPDATE:

A former aide to U.S. Rep. William Jefferson was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for his role in a bribery scandal involving the congressman.

Brett Pfeffer, 37, of Herndon, Va., pleaded guilty in January to two bribery-related charges: conspiracy to commit bribery and aiding and abetting bribery of a public official.

Pfeffer's eight-year term was in the mid-range of the federal sentencing guidelines. Pfeffer, who is cooperating in the ongoing investigation of Jefferson, may be eligible for a reduction of his sentence once his cooperation is complete, said prosecutor Mark Lytle.

I wonder what that cooperation will involve.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, an interesting backstory at the Justice Department:

The Justice Department signaled to the White House this week that the nation's top three law enforcement officials would resign or face firing rather than return documents seized from a Democratic congressman's office in a bribery investigation, according to administration sources familiar with the discussions.

The possibility of resignations by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was communicated to the White House by several Justice officials in tense negotiations over the fate of the materials taken from Rep. William J. Jefferson's office.

Assuming this report (based on anonymous sources) is true, it seems likely that this means the Jefferson investigation goes well beyond the not-entirely-newsworthy phenomenon of a corrupt Louisiana Congressman. Even if the claims of Congressional immunity are bogus -- which they are -- I can't imagine these guys threatening resignation over a run-of-the-mill corruption case. That makes me think that there are a lot of other members of Congress implicated, which perhaps also explains the rather, um, vigorous reaction from Congress.

UPDATE: Some speculation on what might be going on.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who claims insider knowledge says not to get ahead of the news cycle on the Gonzales-resignation story. Well, stay tuned!

MORE: Some thoughts from Ed Morrissey:

Hastert and his colleagues have busied themselves with goalpost-moving and backtracking. Before, they claimed a Constitutional privilege of freedom from search warrants and subpoenas from the executive branch, even though Congress regularly issues subpoenas without judicial approval against members of the executive branch. Now Hastert has acknowledged that Congressmen are subject to the same laws as everyone else, but have modified their complaint; now they say the issue is that Jefferson and his attorney were not allowed to be present at the search. That's a far cry from the phony Constitutional crisis they declared earlier this week, perhaps a more reasonable issue and certainly one that didn't require Hastert's intercession. He could have kept his mouth shut and let Jefferson's attorney raise that question when the evidence got submitted for trial -- just like any other defendant in a criminal case.

The denouement of this kerfuffle demonstrates two very important points. George Bush still holds the power in Washington and in the GOP, and this controversy shows that he and the people at Justice remain the adults in charge of the day care center. Hastert has severely damaged himself politically in two ways. No one in the GOP will ever give Hastert the same level of trust again after this attempt to pervert the Constitution, and Republicans will remain furious with him for taking the focus off of William Jefferson and his cash-cow business in selling his vote.

That sounds about right to me.

May 26, 2006

ATLAS VLOGS.

MEMORIAL DAY THOUGHTS, FROM VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Worth reading, as always.

TUCKER MAX wins a lawsuit.

JEFFERSON ON JEFFERSON: Writing in Slate, Akhil Amar writes on the Framers' views on Congressional immunity:

None of what T.J. said helps W.J. W.J. is a target of a criminal corruption investigation, and if criminally charged, he would have no more Arrest Clause protection than any of the countless other sitting Congress members who have been criminally prosecuted over the years—Dan Rostenkowski, Duke Cunningham, and Tom DeLay, to name just three.

Since W.J. has no immunity from an ordinary criminal arrest, it is hard to see why he has some kind of blanket immunity from an ordinary criminal search to uncover evidence of his suspected crime. If other white-collar suspects are vulnerable to office searches, why is William Jefferson any different?

What about the remainder of Article I, Section 6, which specifically protects congressional "Speech or Debate"? Here, too, the language provides little shelter for W.J.

This is no surprise. The scope of Congressional immunity is, and always has been, narrow. What's disappointing is that the Speaker of the House, and so many of his colleagues, are either abysmally ignorant of an aspect of constitutional law that's directly related to their jobs, or that they're just flat-out dishonest. Either way, they deserve every bit of political damage they suffer.

UPDATE: More from Prof. Rachel Barkow of NYU, interviewed in the WSJ:

What do you make of the arguments from members of Congress?

"They're reading [the speech and debate clause] very broadly, more broadly than I think is even remotely justifiable," she says. There have been other cases where members of Congress have been subjected to criminal process for things that take place outside of their legislative duties; Ms. Barkow says she doesn't see any reason why a search warrant couldn't be executed on a congressional office.

What about the argument that this FBI raid represents an extension of the power of the executive branch?
The FBI is an arm of the executive branch. But the warrant was approved through the courts, part of the judiciary branch. "It's not unilateral executive action. It was done with approval of the judiciary in so far as they had to get a warrant," Ms. Barkow says.

This is not an especially difficult question.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Heh.


MICHAEL YON HAS A POST on the stolen photo issue:

I first became aware of the infringement when stunned and angry readers contacted me under the mistaken belief that I allowed SHOCK magazine to use it on their cover. I did not, and never would have agreed to their usage. I regularly turn down usage requests for this photo — uses that could earn money — because this photo is sacred to me and is representative of the U.S. soldiers I have come to know. It is also representative of the horrors of the enemy we all face.

My attorneys are in discussions with those at fault, and we have demanded that all copies of the magazine be removed from circulation and from the internet.

Stay tuned.

RAMESH PONNURU ASKS: "Is this really what the Republican Senate wants to take up in the aftermath of the immigration bill? A bill to pave the way for secessionism in Hawaii?"

REUTERS HAS SUSPENDED AN EMPLOYEE over threats aimed at Charles Johnson.

THE CARNIVAL OF CARS IS UP!

THE APPLE V. DOES DECISION is out, and Denise Howell is blogging it. It looks like a good result for the blogosphere.

UPDATE: Stanford's Lauren Gelman calls it a "huge win" for Internet journalism.

THIS IS COOL: "Contests energize the battle against aging."

THE LATEST BLOG WEEK IN REVIEW PODCAST is now up, with special guest Jeff Goldstein.

GOOD NEWS: "The International Ski Federation approved women's ski jumping for the 2009 World Championships Friday, an important step before gaining Olympic approval."

TIM LYNCH ON FANNIE MAE and trimming government for dummies.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH has been confirmed by the Senate.

A LETTER TO CINDY SHEEHAN from Cathy Seipp. It begins, "Dear Useful Idiot."

FOR SOME REASON, I haven't been getting email this morning. It seems to be some sort of gmail problem, and it'll probably fix itself, but if you've emailed me through the site and I've missed it, I'm sorry.

IN THE MAIL: Nick Sagan's novel, Everfree.

John Scalzi interviews Sagan here.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More on pork and corruption in the House:

Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, another conservative stalwart, tried unsuccessfully to strip millions of dollars worth of farm subsidies out of the bill. “I offered eight amendments and every single one got voted down,” he says.

After the defeat, Flake told the New York Times, “"We have one of our former members in jail right now for basically selling earmarks"—referring to disgraced former member Randy “Duke” Cunningham. “He was able to get his earmarks through the legislative process without being challenged. Jack Abramoff reportedly referred to the Appropriations Committee as an ‘earmark favor factory.’”

In response to these comments, the earmarks’ defenders told the Times that Flake’s comments were out of line.

1994. Again. Right? I mean, these guys were never rocket scientists, but when I see this many people acting this stupidly -- and in the face of lousy approval ratings that should be getting their attention -- I have to wonder what I'm missing.

UPDATE: More here from Jacob Sullum:

Like most of their colleagues, Bonilla and Obey think buying votes with other people's money is perfectly honorable—indeed, something (unlike respecting the Constitution) they are obligated to do as the people's representatives. Hence it is light years away from the blatant corruption represented by such malefactors as Cunningham and Abramoff. Flake's point, which Bonilla and Obey pretended to miss, was that the earmark system, by allowing legislators to quietly slip in funding for pet projects, invites such corruption.

But pork is also a form of corruption in itself, involving the use of taxpayer money not to perform the legitimate functions of the federal government but to serve the legislator's own interest--in this case, staying in power, which brings with it all sorts of perks. Cunningham did pretty much the same thing, bringing federal money to his district at the behest of his constituents, except that he got some additional goodies in the process. If the actions are the same, does the antique armoire make all the difference?

To some people.

JOHN TABIN on the Jefferson search.

A BEGINNING FOR THE EUSTON MANIFESTO: Norm Geras has thoughts.

A FANNIE MAE SCANDAL TIMELINE: You'd think a scandal involving this much money and politics would get more attention. (Via Mickey Kaus).

HUH. JUST SAW THIS. Call it sincere flattery.

NANCY PELOSI speaks. But not clearly.

May 25, 2006

52606sm.jpg

Some related thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: Reader Edward Tabakin writes:

I do believe we've just seen the Republicans make their own "Post Office." Yep, 1994, all over again.

Why do you think the President caved so quickly? Did Hastert threaten to stop all legislation? Given the Senate's Immigration Bill is headed for conference, that might be a good thing.

Indeed. I'm increasingly convinced that there's something going on behind the scenes that we're not hearing, but I'm not sure what it is.

DEATH THREATS from Reuters?

So does this mean that one man's terrorist is another man's . . . Reuters journalist?

A FRESH WARNING ABOUT REGULATING BLOGS: "Former Federal Election Commissioner Brad Smith said the threat of campaign regulations for blogs is still very much alive, despite the FEC largely exempting blogs earlier this year."

Eternal vigilance, and all that. Plus, given the job that Congress is doing, it's easy to see why there might be pressure to shut down criticism.

JIM GERAGHTY: "So, no sooner than I spend the better part of a week making the case as to why conservatives ought to not sit out the 2006, elections, Dennis Hastert and many senior Republicans behave in a manner that suggests they’re riding to the aid of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson and declaring that the FBI has no right to search a member’s office. . . . At this moment, I completely understand the anger of the Tapscottians, those who are content to see a GOP majority fall. Although honestly, at this moment, I don’t want to wait until November to see this kind of behavior punished."

JOHN HINDERAKER: "The Bush administration and Republican Senators have badly misjudged both the attitudes of most Republicans (and, of course, most Americans) toward illegal immigration, and the intensity of those views."

A NEW CONGRESSIONAL BUMPER STICKER: Heh.

THE L.A. TIMES and Holocaust denial.

BAD IDEA: Stealing a picture from Michael Yon.

Especially when you're a deep pocket. . . .

MORE REVISIONIST HISTORY? At least this time it's not about the war. . . .

INSANITY BREAKS OUT SPREADS: "Bush orders FBI-Congress documents sealed."

President Bush stepped into the Justice Department's constitutional confrontation with Congress on Thursday and ordered that documents seized in an FBI raid on a congressman's office be sealed for 45 days.

Could Al Qaeda have slipped mind-altering drugs into the DC water supply? What's gotten into these people? Or has some sort of deal been cut? Whatever it is, I don't think I like it.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

The article quotes Bush as saying:

"'This period will provide both parties more time to resolve the issues in a way that ensures that materials relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation are made available to prosecutors in a manner
that respects the interests of a coequal branch of government,' Bush said."

Why does this sound so much like "This period will provide both parties more time to cover their asses?"

I've been struggling the past year to support the president and have faith in congress; it's been difficult and I've taken a lot of flak for it among my academic colleagues. The behavior of our "leaders" in congress, and now Bush, has finally sealed the deal. Next election, all my votes are going to non-incumbents; regardless of party affiliation. The past few days have made it abundantly clear that they've forgotten (1) why they were elected and (2) what the limitations of their power (and trust) are.

I keep wondering what I'm missing here. It's too late for a big third-party push in '06, I think, but I'm pretty sure we'll see one in '08. At this rate, it may be the only party left . . . .

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey thinks that this is just a case of Bush allowing for a face-saving climbdown on Hastert's part. Hastert may climb down, but I think it's too late for him to save face.

And there's this observation: "Instapundit wonders, 'Could Al Qaeda have slipped mind-altering drugs into the DC water supply? What's gotten into these people? Or has some sort of deal been cut?' Since I haven't seen any UFOs split the sky like a sheet today I would have to go with his latter hunch." Yeah, though to be honest I think I'd feel better if it were the drugs.

DENNIS HASTERT: Unfit for Command?

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Mark Tapscott says that Senate Appropriators went hog-wild on earmarks:

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, is the most frequent requester of earmarks on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, with 77 requests for such special interest spending measures between 2001 and 2006.

Specter lead the earmark fest that saw GOP members of the panel request an average of 27 earmarks during the five years. By contrast, the dozen Democrat members of the committee requested an average of 17 earmarks.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, was the leading earmark requester among Democrat members of the appropriations committee, with 75. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, was shown with only one earmark request.

The data for this analysis was compiled for a report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK. The report was based on information provided by the Congressional Research Service.

Trailing Specter - who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee - among the top five GOP requesters was Sen. Mike DeWine, R-OH, with 53, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, with 33, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, with 21, and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, with 19. Cochran is chairman of the committee.

Read the whole thing. And weep. Especially if you're a Republican.

UPDATE: Follow the link for Mark Tapscott's correction.

LAY AND SKILLING CONVICTED: Professor Bainbridge is blogging it.

I'll just note that I think Paul Krugman's claim that Enron would be bigger than 9/11 seems not to have come true.

HEH:

The Treasury Department announced this morning that after losing in five circuit courts of appeals, the Government is throwing in the towel and will no longer seek to enforce the 3% excise tax on long-distance telephone calls enacted during the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a "luxury" tax on wealthy Americans who owned telephones. The IRS will will issue $15 billion in refunds to consumers for long-distance telephone service taxes paid over the past three years.

It's a nice reminder of how long "temporary" taxes can last, and of how taxes targeted at "the rich" often turn out to reach others.

THEY'RE IDIOTS IN CONGRESS, but the economy continues to boom.

TAKING A CLUEBAT TO CONGRESS over at Hot Air.

NATIONAL REVIEW: "By nothing more than dumb luck, the Republican-controlled Congress—lambasted for the junkets, earmarks, and 'culture of corruption' that have aligned to produce the lowest approval ratings in memory—was handed a shot at some desperately needed redemption. All its leaders had to do was make the right choice between condemning the rankest corruption and displaying an outsized arrogance. Guess which one they chose?"

The Washington Post offers a scolding, too.

VIOLENT PROTESTS IN IRAN: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.

CONGRESS'S NEW SLOGAN:

WARRANTS: Not good enough for us, too good for you.

I'd say "heh," but it's too accurate to be really funny.

IN THE MAIL: Steven Lubet's Lawyers' Poker : 52 Lessons that Lawyers Can Learn from Card Players. They sent me a cool deck of cards, too, but I don't think it actually comes with the book.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: You hear stories like this (well, sort of like this) pretty often. Really, ISPs need to show a bit of backbone here. (Via Frank Wilson).

ANDREW MCCARTHY: "You may have thought the Republican congressional leadership had run out of feet to shoot themselves in in their mind-boggling quest to place themselves, in the public mind, squarely on the side of coddling corruption rather than ridding themselves of a disgraced member. Nope. . . . Short of allowing congress to be in charge of investigations of congressmen, it's hard to see how the Justice Department could have been more solicitous of the privileges and immunities of the legislature. It is just stunning that the Speaker is taking this tack, in favor of a guy on videotape taking a $100K, most of which he stashed in his freezer."

QUESTIONS FOR ABC on the Hastert story.

NIGERIA UPDATE:

The army and navy forces in the Delta Region are facing better armed and equipped local gangs, and are not able to shut the gangs down. Tapping into oil pipelines and stealing oil continues, and this provides the gangs with a steady cash flow. The better armed gangs are branching out into more ambitious attacks on oil company operations in the Delta. Payrolls are a favorite target. The region is becoming more dangerous, and unruly.

Keep an eye on this.

IT'S A CLINTON-FEST AT KAUSFILES: Bill rages, Hillary scolds, and Kaus has a terrific time.

May 24, 2006

DAN RIEHL: "I submit that, not only does Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank unfairly play the race card against Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions; in his myopic view, he totally fails to see where and how it actually should be played on the issue of illegal immigration."

UPDATE: He's got more on ABC's Hastert "scoop," too.

BYRON YORK: "If House Speaker Dennis Hastert has his way, why should any member of Congress ever comply with a subpoena? And are the members who have complied with subpoenas in the past kicking themselves for being such saps?"

ORIN KERR IS TAKING SUGGESTIONS FOR CONGRESSIONAL HEARING TOPICS: He's got some pretty funny ones to start with.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reprinted my column on societal pressures against parenting. Ann Althouse linked it, which produced a bunch of interesting comments.

You should also read this piece by Robert Samuelson, who takes a somewhat different slant on the issue. And note this post on the media by Mark Daniels.

AUCTIONING A GOP SPINE INSERTION AT eBAY. (Via RedState).

MORE ON BOGUS ANTIWAR VETERAN JESSE MACBETH over at Hot Air.

Meanwhile, Jesse MacBeth presents his side of the story at IowaHawk.

I ASKED IF THEY HAD SOMETHING TO HIDE. THE ANSWER JUST MAY BE YES:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level government sources.

Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Perhaps the bizarre bipartisan reaction to the Jefferson search -- and the lack of cooperation preceding it -- stems from the fact that a lot of people in both parties have exposure here. And certainly if the Speaker is under investigation it's easy to see why the FBI might be reluctant to rely further on the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police.

UPDATE: I've got an email from Krista Cole in the House saying that the DOJ denies that Hastert is under investigation. The release, in its entirety: "Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department."

Nothing on the DOJ webpage yet, though. But here's a Reuters story.

MORE: Reader Chris Quincy emails: "One wonders if ABC would've sourced this more carefully if it were Nancy Pelosi." It's a rather surprising error. I wonder who ABC's sources were?

But hey, they weren't so much wrong as just too far ahead of the news cycle.

STILL MORE: Krista Cole emails the following statement from Dennis Hastert's office: "The ABC News report is absolutely untrue. As confirmed by the Justice Department, 'Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.' We are demanding a full retraction of the ABC News story. The Speaker's earlier statement issued today accurately reflects the facts regarding this matter."

Of course, if Hastert isn't under investigation, we're back to the question of why he's waging an asinine crusade against the enforcement of laws against Congressional corruption.

MORE STILL: On that topic, Eugene Volokh writes: "I confess I'm pretty puzzled by Speaker Hastert's theory here."

EVEN MORE: More anti-Congress backlash. These guys really don't understand how they come across.

AND FINALLY: ABC News is standing by the story.

COMING NEW YORK TIMES INDICTMENTS? I'm not going to get too far ahead of the news cycle on this one.

UPDATE: Related items from Michael Barone and Scott Johnson.

MARY KATHARINE HAM contrasts the prosecution of North Carolina's Jeep Jihadi versus that of the Duke lacrosse players: "Taheri-azar and the Duke lacrosse players were all technically innocent until proven guilty. In one case, public officials, the press, and the local community did their best to deny the accused that particular courtesy of American justice. Tellingly, it was not the case of the murderous thug who confessed to attempting to kill his classmates, in a fashion reminiscent of Mohammad Atta, just for being non-Muslims—and then detailed his plans and motivations in letters to a local paper."

CONGRESS MEMBERS AGREE: Congress is above the law!

House leaders of both parties stood in rare election-year unanimity Wednesday demanding the FBI surrender documents it took and remove agents involved in the weekend raid of a congressman's office.

"The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized," House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

I say, search 'em all. Now. They must have something to hide, right? They certainly don't mind much more intrusive paramilitary raids on the rest of us, even though the Fourth Amendment provides a lot more reason to doubt the validity of those than the Speech and Debate Clause provides where Congressional searches are concerned.

Read this post from Orin Kerr, too, on the weakness of the constitutional argument they're making. There may be a prudential argument that searches like this are a bad idea -- though, frankly, I don't think a very convincing one -- but to claim that the Constitution forbids the execution of a search warrant by law enforcement simply because the target is a Congressional office is weak and self-serving.

The leadership -- of both parties -- should be ashamed of this stunt. They should remember that the Constitution forbids titles of nobility, too, despite their effort to transform their positions into something very much like that.

MORE: Reader Peter Neva thinks my "search 'em all" reference was a serious call to ransack all Congressional offices. Uh, no. It's a reference to this post. You've got to follow the discussion here, you know.

STILL MORE: Unlike me, Jonathan Andrew is all for searching them all, and thinks there's no legitimate expectation of privacy in a taxpayer-funded Congressional office: "I hereby call for just that: What could they possibly have, in their official capacity as our representatives, to hide from us?"

We don't disagree all that much: It's in that spirit that I've supported applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.

AT BEST OF THE WEB, more criticism of Dennis Hastert's claim of special privileges for Congress:

Hastert and Boehner's objections are bound to rub many Republican constitutents the wrong way. After all, the first plank of the Contract With America was a promise to "require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress." Something like this makes it harder to argue that the GOP deserves to maintain its majority.

Indeed.

GOOGLE FUNDING MOVEON? Eli Pariser denies it.

EXPLOSION AND FIRE at the Istanbul airport.

InstaPundit's Istanbul correspondent Claire Berlinski emails:

I'm back in Istanbul (I flew in yesterday and as usual missed the excitement). I'm looking out the window, but not seeing this big black cloud of smoke everyone's talking about -- then again, I'm a ways from the airport and don't have an unobstructed view in that direction anyway. Thing is, everyone is saying that it doesn't seem to be terrorism, but first, how on earth would they know -- after all, the place is on fire so they can't exactly be sifting through the evidence -- and second, isn't that exactly the place you'd target if you're trying to injure the Turkish tourism industry right before high season? That is, after all, the PKK's explicit and stated strategy. The building on fire, by the way, is reportedly near a hangar housing military aircraft. I don't have any kind of inside information, I just think it's a little odd that everyone is so quick to say this doesn't seem to be a work of terrorism, since if I were a terrorist, that would look like one mighty tempting target to me. Then again, what I do see out my window is four Turkish workmen horsing around on rickety scaffolding that is, to put it mildly, not up to EU safety standards, so it also seems quite culturally plausible that someone at the airport just stubbed out a cigarette around a pile of inflammable chemicals or something.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Berlinski sends a photo (by her fiance David Gross) of the scaffold. Click "read more" to see it.

Read More ?


THE CLUB FOR GROWTH BLOG is praising Barney Frank. They're right to.

BANNING REFERENCES TO AMERICANS AS "AMERICANS" seems to me to be taking "international friendliness" too far.

UPDATE: Here's a press release denying that any such plan existed. (Via The Cranky Insomniac).

DETENTION FOR A BLOG ENTRY? I don't think that high schools have any business punishing students for things they do when they're out of school, whether or not they blog about them.

Plus, the weasel-phrase "illegal or inappropriate behavior" sets my teeth on edge. Do I trust a high-school principal to judge what off-campus behavior is "inappropriate?" I don't really even trust them with regard to what's happening on campus.

SOME THOUGHTS ON CONGRESS, MUBARAK, AND CHUTZPAH, over at GlennReynolds.com.

IN THE MAIL: Peter Beinart's new book, The Good Fight : Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again. I don't think that there are enough liberal hawks left in the Democratic Party -- which is currently trying to purge Joe Lieberman -- to matter, but I'd love to be wrong.

There's an interesting debate going on in the book's discussion forum, anyway.

UPDATE: An interesting Q&A with Jeffrey Goldberg, who's got a new piece in the New Yorker on the Democrats' prospects. It's hard to argue with this: "The Democrats can probably win on the negatives for the 2006 elections, but those who think they can go negative and win the White House in 2008 are kidding themselves."

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what this means: "'Hillary for president' rally draws 20 instead of hoped-for 200." But it's got to be making Al Gore and Mark Warner happy.

MORE ON THE MEDIA'S KATRINA DEBACLE:

Where to begin? As I’ve written before, virtually all of the gripping stories from Katrina were untrue. All of those stories about, in Paula Zahn’s words, “bands of rapists, going block to block”? Not true. The tales of snipers firing on medevac helicopters? Bogus. The yarns, peddled on Oprah by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, that “little babies” were getting raped in the Superdome and that the bodies of the murdered were piling up? Completely false. The stories about poor blacks dying in comparatively huge numbers because American society “left them behind”? Nah-ah. While most outlets limited themselves to taking Nagin’s estimate of 10,000 dead at face value, Editor and Publisher—the watchdog of the media—ran the headline, “Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane.”

In all of Louisiana, not just New Orleans, the total dead from Katrina was roughly 1,500. Blacks did not die disproportionately, nor did the poor. The only group truly singled out in terms of mortality was the elderly. According to a Knight-Ridder study, while only 15 percent of the population of New Orleans was over the age of 60, some 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older, and almost half were older than 75. Blacks were, if anything, slightly underrepresented among the dead given their share of the population.

This barely captures how badly the press bungled Katrina coverage. . . . And yet, an ubiquitous media chorus claims simultaneously that Katrina was Bush’s worst hour and the press’s best.

Read the whole thing. But what they learned was that if they all shouted lies in unison they could drive Bush down in the polls.

ED MORRISSEY ON THE JEFFERSON INVESTIGATION and the lame response from the Congressional leadership:

This can't be the same Congress that issues subpoenas for all sorts of probes into the executive branch and the agencies it runs. Does Congress really want to establish a precedent that neither branch has to answer subpoenas if issued by the other, even if approved by a judge -- which this particular subpoena was? . . .

Congress already has enough problems with corruption and scandal without adding even more arrogance to top it. If the leadership wants to argue that their status as elected officials somehow gives them the ability to disregard subpoenas and court orders, then the American people may want to trade that leadership to ensure that Congress understands that it operates under the same laws as the rest of us. Hastert and Boehner do not argue against an imperial presidency, but rather they are arguing for an untouchable political elite, where our elected officials risk nothing by taking bribes and selling their votes to the highest bidder. After all, the evidence of those transactions will almost always reside in their offices -- and if they can ignore duly executed subpoenas and search warrants, then they can sell themselves at will.

This whole "cut their pay and send them home" thing is sounding better and better . . . .

Of course, if Hastert thinks the Democrats may take the House in November, this may be exactly the kind of precedent he wants to establish!

UPDATE: Jim Hoft doesn't think that Hastert is that smart. Neither do I.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Podhoretz:

There is every reason to believe that a member of the House of Representatives was using his physical office on Capitol Hill to hide evidence of massive bribe-taking — bribe-taking that has been caught on tape, by the way. That Congressman is a figure in the Democratic party. The Republican party has been reeling from bribery and corruption scandals of its own. So the Speaker of the House, the leader of Republicans in the House, actually complains to the president that the raid on the Democratic congressman's office is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. In so doing, he reinforces the image that Congress, which almost never polices itself, cares less abou corruption than it does about its prerogatives. It also steps on the very important political story that might help diffuse the image of specifically Republican corruption. I don't know how to put this any other way, and I'm sorry if it sounds insulting, but: Whether you consider him the leader of an institution whose standing among the public is at historically low levels and in need of drastic moral renovation or a leading partisan official whose team is in pretty bad shape and could use a bit of a boost, Denny Hastert is a blithering idiot.

It sure looks that way.

MORE: More unhappiness here. Really, are the Congressional Republicans trying to throw the 2006 race?

STRATEGYPAGE:

The last two weeks have seen an ambitious Taliban offensive shot to pieces. As many as a thousand Taliban gunmen, in half a dozen different groups, have passed over the Pakistani border, or been gathered within Afghanistan, and sent off to try and take control of remote villages and districts. The offensive was a major failure, with nearly half the Taliban getting killed, wounded or captured. Afghan and Coalition casualties were much less, although you wouldn't know that from the mass media reports (which made it all look like a Taliban victory). The Taliban faced more mobile opponents, who had better intelligence. UAVs, aircraft and helicopters were used to track down the Taliban, and catch them. Thousands of Afghan troops and police were in action, exposing some of them to ambush, as they drove to new positions through remote areas.

Yes, as Bill Roggio noted, and Michael Yon confirmed, the news reports, rather exaggerated to begin with, are of the form "Dozens killed in renewed fighting," without mentioning that most of those killed are people who should be killed.

DAN RIEHL thinks that Google is heading for a fall.

THIS SEEMS RATHER IRONIC:

The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization's policies and internal administration.

"Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.

"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising," the proposals state.

Given the organization's longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former board members were shocked by the proposals.

I don't agree with those who demonize the ACLU, but I'm disappointed in how it has declined over the past decade or two. The ACLU has been corrupted by its dependence on a comparatively small fundraising base, something that's common with nonprofits. The organization also seems to have been captured by the paid staff, which feels entitled to run things without the Board's actual input That's another common problem in the nonprofit world. But this is making clear just how far things have gone at the ACLU, at the expense of its ostensible mission.

CRAIG NEWMARK DEBATES NET NEUTRALITY with Mike McCurry in the Wall Street Journal. (Free link).

And here's an interesting interview with Craig. I can attest that he does customer-service at all hours; I was up and posting at 3:30 AM one morning (we had moved to the basement during a tornado watch) and immediately got an email from him wondering what was wrong. Nothing, I replied, just a tornado.

PROTESTS reported in Tabriz.

MICKEY KAUS on the latest Senate immigration move to make "guest workers" subject to Davis-Bacon and exempt from employment-at-will laws:

Overpaid, unfireable ... guest workers, the new civil servants! Finally, farm laborers Washington can love.

Jeez.

UPDATE: Read this roundup on Republican dissatisfaction from Danny Glover, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests, quite cogently, that Kaus is missing the poison-pill aspect of this provision: "It would seem that the easiest way to stop illegal immigration quickly would be to mandate that all illegals are subject to Davis-Bacon and exempt from employment-at-will laws, thereby, removing immediately their sole employment advantage, namely, their low labor cost."

ANOTHER CIVIL RIGHTS SUCCESS: "A lawsuit in the District against gunmakers was dismissed yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court judge who ruled that the suit was precisely the sort of claim that a new federal law was intended to block."

THE AP, GUANTANAMO, AND OSAMA: Ed Morrissey notes an odd omission.

May 23, 2006

WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CLAIMING that they're exempt from searches in bribery cases, it's probably worth noting this new Zogby poll, which shows that the American public holds all its leaders -- but especially Congress -- in low esteem.

No doubt Congress will want to respond by putting criticism off limits, too.

UPDATE: Hastert is creating more anger from the base: "I no longer wish to be counted as a Republican. The Speaker has been a weak voice for cutting spending and for immigration reform but a loud voice when his own privilege is at stake."

MARK GLASER HAS MORE on imprisoned Egyptian blogger Alaa:

For some time, Alaa and his wife, Manal Hassan — the pair are pictured above — have had a popular web hub called Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket . While it does include a blog in Arabic and English, the site has much more to it. Alaa told me last summer that the site was built to showcase their skills as open-source software and web developers. He ticked off all the features of the site beyond the blog: an aggregator of Egyptian blogs; free hosting for non-profit sites; events calendar; photo galleries; encrypted private spaces for secret online discussions; videos of violence against protesters; reviews of WiFi hotspots around Cairo.

So after Alaa’s detention on May 7, the reaction from the blogosphere and other activists around the globe was swift. They created a multi-faceted campaign to free him and bring attention to his plight in a way that fit with his tech-savvy personality. The Global Voices blog set up a special wiki , which lists all the ways people are promoting his release online and offline. Anyone can edit the wiki to add their own activity or ideas.

So far, there’s been a Flash animation , an online petition (signed by 1,100+ people so far), badges to post on websites and blogs, and a special Wikipedia entry . People have even tried a Google bomb strategy, where they link the Free Alaa blog with the word “Egypt” so that Google searches for Egypt will pull up the blog. It hasn’t worked well so far, but the idea is innovative.

As DemoBlogger points out on the Free Alaa blog: “The total cost of launching a global human rights campaign using digital tools: $0. The total time needed to launch a global human rights campaign using digital tools: 24 hours.”

Read the whole thing.

AVIAN FLU UPDATE: Possible human-to-human transmission in Indonesia. When we talked to Bill Frist about this, his advice ("make sure your will is up to date") wasn't very comforting.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP on bogus antiwar veteran Jesse MacBeth.

CUT THEIR PAY AND SEND THEM HOME: GOP Congress members are objecting to the FBI raid on bribery suspect Rep. William Jefferson. I'd approve of this bipartisan spirit if it weren't just an example of the only kind of bipartisanship you can really count on from Congress -- standing shoulder to shoulder in defense of insiders' perks and against the interests of the voters.

UPDATE: Heh: "Sort of like a man who catches his cheating spouse in the act and all she can say is 'I can't believe you didn't knock!'"

CATHY YOUNG isn't scared of fellatio.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from TigerHawk.

THE DIXIE CHICKS: Learning the difference between capitalism and censorship.

DAVID GERGEN is hard to please.

MORE NEWS ON SYRIA AND THE HARIRI ASSASSINATION, from Michael Young.

LORIE BYRD is now blogging at Wizbang.

PETER WEHNER TAKES ON REVISIONIST HISTORY ON IRAQ: Glad to see it, though it's not exactly news.

UPDATE: A related post from Neo-neocon. And this post by Evan Coyne Maloney is worth reading, too.

A LOOK AT NASA'S NEW SPACE PLANS from Tom Jones.

"CLINTONS DOGGED BY SEX FREQUENCY QUESTIONS:" I shudder to think of the google traffic that phrase will attract. But I do think that the Times might want to focus on more important subjects.

I guess that sort of thing is a downside of being a politician. The upside, of course, is that you can be called "surprisingly tech-savvy" just for owning an iPod!

SKYPE: Passing the buck over Chinese censorship.

A CALL FOR REP. JEFFERSON'S RESIGNATION over at The Daily Kos.

MORE COMPLAINTS ABOUT POLITICAL BIAS AT GOOGLE: Google would be wise to address this before they join Dell in the category of once-loved tech companies that forfeited customer trust. (Via James Joyner, who has more thoughts.)

SAUDI SCHOOL BUS UPDATE: "Two Saudi men jailed last week after being accused of boarding a school bus and riding to a New Tampa high school could be released as early as today after federal and local authorities determined the pair are in this country legally and are not a security risk." Well, that's a relief.

THE CARNIVAL OF LIBERTY IS UP! So is the Carnival of Homeschooling. And, of course, Grand Rounds.

UPDATE: And don't miss the Blawg Review!

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ARE COMPLAINING about the FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson's office. The separation of powers argument seems to be pretty weak to me: The actual scope of Congressional immunity under the speech and debate clause is quite narrow (narrower, oddly, than the judically-created immunities enjoyed by judges and prosecutors) and certainly doesn't include immunity from search in a bribery case.

At any rate, members of Congress who are offended by an unannounced late-night raid on an office might profitably be asked what they think about late-night unannounced raids on private homes, which happen all the time as part of the Congressionally-mandated War on Drugs.

If anything, it ought to work the other way. I think if you searched 435 randomly selected American homes, and 435 Congressional offices, you just might find more evidence of crime in the latter. . . .

UPDATE: Roger Simon wonders what got into Newt Gingrich.

Meanwhile, here's more on that whole culture of corruption thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Via Radley Balko, a whole series of blog posts about no-knock SWAT-type raids that make the search of Rep. Jefferson's office look rather mild.

Any member of Congress objecting to the Jefferson search without having a problem with raids like these is a hypocrite.

MORE: Heh:

One can almost hear Speaker Hastert trying to defend himself: ”Look, I said something about executive branch overreaching just this morning. Ya know, I’ve signed off on some extraordinary police powers over the years, but there’s gotta be a limit to those powers. The Constitution is clear: The right of members of Congress to be secure in their offices and homes shall not be violated!”

Yeah, screw the rest of us.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK:

As many as 26.5 million veterans were placed at risk of identity theft after an intruder stole an electronic data file this month containing their names, birth dates and Social Security numbers from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, Secretary Jim Nicholson said yesterday. . . .

The theft represents the biggest unauthorized disclosure ever of Social Security data, and it could make affected veterans vulnerable to credit card fraud if the burglars realize the value of the data, one expert said.

"In terms of Social Security numbers, it's the biggest breach," said Evan Hendricks, publisher of the Privacy Times newsletter and author of the book "Credit Scores and Credit Reports." "As long as you've got that exact Social, most of the time the credit bureaus will disclose your credit report, and that enables the thief to get credit."

This kind of thing is why I'm not impressed with calls for a National ID. Of course, it's also why I'm not impressed with credit bureaus.

POSITIVE NEWS FROM IRAQ, in the New York Times: Well, kind of.

JIM GERAGHTY has a roundup on the ongoing secularist vs. islamist struggle in Turkey.

LOU DOLINAR HAS BEEN LOOKING INTO THE MEDIA FAILURES DURING KATRINA:

Remember the dozens, maybe hundreds, of rapes, murders, stabbings and deaths resulting from official neglect at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina? The ones that never happened, as even the national media later admitted?

Sure, we all remember the original reporting, if not the back-pedaling.

Here's another one: Do you remember the dramatic TV footage of National Guard helicopters landing at the Superdome as soon as Katrina passed, dropping off tens of thousands saved from certain death? The corpsmen running with stretchers, in an echo of M*A*S*H, carrying the survivors to ambulances and the medical center? About how the operation, which also included the Coast Guard, regular military units, and local first responders, continued for more than a week?

Me neither. Except that it did happen, and got at best an occasional, parenthetical mention in the national media. The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina, not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was. The situation was always under control, not surprisingly because the people in control were always there. . . .

I initially heard about the Dome headquarters from Maj. John T. Dressler, who serves with the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C, an organization that coordinates efforts of State Guard units which serve under their respective governors. Dressler was present in the command tent there and pulled together after-action reports for the Guard as a whole from its fifty-plus individual state commands. His account was so far at variance with the picture the media portrayed that I suspected a hoax, as did my RCP editor. As it turns out, various Guard documents, personal memories, and sworn testimony support his story, which in Louisiana is no great secret. It's just the rest of the country that's been kept in the dark.

Read the whole thing. The Katrina reporting represented a massive media failure, one that they've never really admitted.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Parker emails:

It's only a failure if their goal was to report the news.

It was a raging success if you believe their goal was to diminish Bush.

Given how proud of their Katrina coverage the press remains to this day, it seems like the latter is the most likely.

It's certainly true that they have nothing to be proud of. Indeed, their mis-reporting hampered rescue efforts and may well have cost lives.

May 22, 2006

MARK TAPSCOTT: Cut their pay and send them home?

IT'S ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE'S BIRTHDAY: Everybody talks about Sherlock Holmes, but it's worth remembering that Doyle thought other works of his superior. You might check out The White Company -- worth it for the N.C. Wyeth illustrations alone, and predecessor to much modern military/fantasy fiction. You might also try the Professor Challenger stories.

UPDATE: Reader John Chalupa notes that Doyle is in the public domain, and links to a bunch of stuff available free online.

Public domain? We still have that?

MICHAEL YON INTERVIEWS Bill Roggio, who's on his way to Afghanistan.

Ed Morrissey interviews Bernard Goldberg, who's spent some time in enemy territory, too.

DOES HEZBOLLAH KNOW SOMETHING that we don't?

THE ANIMATED MARK WARNER that appears on this site is kind of cool, but I imagine it would get pretty annoying after a while -- though it's smart enough to tell when you've been there more than once.

HOW TO HIDE YOUR MONEY IN WASHINGTON: A roundtable discussion by various members of Congress.

A GEORGE W. BUSH letter in response to Ahmadinejad. Heh.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Tim Chapman reports that Trent Lott's "Railroad to Nowhere" seems to be going nowhere for the moment, as it won't be in the conference report for the emergency Afghanistan / Iraq / Katrina bill.

That's good news, but it could, of course, reappear in some other piece of legislation down the line. And probably will.

MICAH WRIGHT AGAIN? The Milbloggers say they've spotted another fake antiwar veteran.

The Glenn and Helen Show: Interviewing Mary Cheney

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This week we interview Mary Cheney about her new book, Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life. And, unlike some people, we actually spend most of our time talking about the non-gay parts! And, shockingly, that's actually most of the book. Who knew?

Among other things, Mary Cheney talks about her dad's heart attack (he had his first at the same age that Helen had her heart attack), about the role of blogs and alternative media in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 campaigns, whether folks in the White House have lost touch with the base and what they should do about it, how to get started in a political campaign, and more.

You can listen directly (no iPod needed!) by clicking right here, or you can subscribe via iTunes here (we like that, as it pushes us up the iTunes charts). There's a lo-fi version for dialup here, and you can see a complete archive of podcasts here.

Music is by The Opposable Thumbs. I think you'll find the audio on this podcast significantly improved, thanks to a new studio setup and a new digital phone box.

As always, my lovely and talented cohost is taking comments and suggestions.

MANAGING TO LOOK BUSY: My TCS Daily column today is about companies that are cracking down on employee websurfing, and why you should short their stock.

THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF RUSSIA:

If present trends continue, the population of Russia will decline from 143 million to 100 million by 2050. Not only that, but by 2050, most of the population may be Moslem. Currently, about 15 percent of Russians are Moslem, and the average Moslem family has three or more children, while the average non-Moslem family has one or two. While Christian (largely Slavic) Russians have seen their numbers tumble, the Moslem population of Russia has grown over 40 percent since 1989 (from births, migration and conversions). There has also been a religious revival, with the number of mosques growing from under a thousand when the Soviet Union collapsed, to over 8,000 today. That means Moslem men drink a lot less, and live healthier, and longer, lives. . . .

The 70 years of communist rule was very damaging and demoralizing to most Russians, as it was to other nations that endured less of it in Eastern Europe. Prosperity and democracy have arrived in a fitful and threadbare state. Things are getting better, but that usually means that women have fewer children. It's been that way for thousands of years. The aristocrats were notorious for having small families, and the main reason was that the wealthy wives had better, and less arduous, things to do than pregnancy and child rearing. Because of that, Russia will probably have a larger Moslem minority by 2050, but not a majority, because even Moslem women have fewer children as they become educated and more affluent.

Stay tuned.

A PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH EDWARDS, from the Personal Democracy Forum.

THE DNC IS CONSULTING ITS LAWYERS after a story on Howard Dean.

UPDATE: Drudge retracts, more or less.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Freeman Hunt: "I wonder how fast most MSM outlets would go bankrupt if the GOP sued them every time they presented false information about Republicans."

THE MILBERG, WEISS CASE: Jonathan Adler has a roundup of reactions regarding the prosecution of class-action lawyers for illegal payments.

"PINCH" SULZBERGER apologizes for ruining the world.

Meanwhile, a standing ovation for Condi Rice at Boston College.

UPDATE: Background on Condi here: Obviously, we need to keep theology out of politics!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Condi video here.

JOHN THUNE, porkmeister?

SO I'M READING CHARLES STROSS'S NEW BOOK, The Clan Corporate, and it's pretty good, though I'm finding the pace a bit slower than the two previous books in this sequence. Lots of internal politics on both sides, which slows the story. It's still good -- it's Stross -- but I think the pacing could have used some work. I'll let you know if I still feel the same way at the finish.

VIRGINIA POSTREL WRITES ABOUT HER KIDNEY DONATION in the Texas Monthly. You can hear her talk about it here.

IT'S ERIC UMANSKY VS. JASON LEOPOLD: Leopold, according to an email from Umansky, threatened to sue, which strikes me as very unwise given his circumstances. The real question, in light of Umansky's post, is how Leopold ever got a job, even at a place like Truthout. Would anyone listen to a blogger with that kind of track record?

UPDATE: More unwise threats.

REBECCA MACKINNON: "Skype ignores users concerned about China censorship."

HOWARD KURTZ:

Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's lawyer, says he spent most of the day on May 12 taking his cat to the veterinarian and having a technician fix his computer at home.

He was stunned, therefore, when journalists started calling to ask about an online report that he had spent half the day at his law office, negotiating with Patrick Fitzgerald -- and that the special prosecutor had secretly obtained an indictment of Rove.

The cat's medical tests, Luskin says, found that "the stools were free of harmful parasites, which is more than I can say for this case."

Heh.

THE RUSSIAN MOB goes after SovTek: Preston Taylor Holmes objects: "What’s at stake? Warm, yet crunchy, distortion."

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT HERE: "Two Saudi men were held without bond Sunday after they were arrested for boarding a school bus full of children, authorities said."

UPDATE: Yeah, CAIR's defending them. That's reason enough for suspicion. . . .

THE BLOGGER FORMERLY KNOWN AS SKBUBBA defends a higher minimum wage in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

A "HATEFUL ANTI-WAR SPEECH" by Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) at a University of Missouri graduation provokes a near-riot, according to Gateway Pundit, who has a report and audio. Seems to illustrate the point made in this WSJ editorial about the Democrats' penchant for self-marginalization and self-destruction: "We doubt all of this will help Democrats with the larger electorate, which whatever its doubts about Iraq does not want a precipitous surrender. Americans haven't trusted a liberal Democrat with the White House during wartime since Vietnam, which is when the seeds of the current antiwar rage were planted. The great mistake that leading Democrats and anti-Communist liberals made during Vietnam was not speaking up against a left that was demanding retreat and sneering at our war heroes. Will any Democrat speak up now?"

IOWA VOICE HAS HAD IT with the culture of corruption in Washington.

YUGOSLAVIA IS OVER, and Publius looks at the shape of things to come.

SETH ROBERTS' SHANGRI-LA DIET gets a rather negative review from Dr. John Ford. You can hear our podcast interview with Roberts, in which he responds to some of my skepticism, here.

ARMY OF DAVIDS UPDATE: This is cool:

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) reports the discovery of an extra-solar planet called XO-1b, which orbits a dim star in Corona Borealis every 4 days. To find it, the brightness of several thousand stars were regularly scanned using two mini-telescopes in Hawaii. This equipment was built using commercial hardware: two digital cameras, attached to telephoto camera lenses on a robotic equatorial mount. A team of amateur astronomers helped with their own equipment to discard or confirm dozens of suspected transits.

Somebody should write a book about stuff like this.

ERIC S. RAYMOND receives a Jihadist death threat. There are certain sections of the blogosphere that I would not advise them to invade. Eric's is one of them . . . .

May 21, 2006

WHAT HATH KELLER WROUGHT:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales raised the possibility yesterday that New York Times journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information based on the outcome of the criminal investigation underway into leaks to the Times of data about the National Security Agency's surveillance of terrorist-related calls between the United States and abroad.

Those editorial demands for leak investigations in the Plame affair were ill-advised, as many pointed out at the time.

I DON'T THINK I'VE LINKED RANTBURG LATELY, but you should still be reading it, as it collects all sorts of war news in one convenient location.

REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAM JEFFERSON captured on video taking a $100,000 bribe: Gateway Pundit has a roundup. This whole "culture of corruption" is getting way out of hand.

Plus there's this: "$90,000 found in congressman's freezer . . . The money was divided among various frozen food containers, according to the heavily redacted affidavit."

Some readers may recall that Jefferson also used the National Guard to secure his home in New Orleans during the Katrina aftermath. Another triumph for Louisiana politics! However, the bribery story puts a new spin on this bit from the story about Jefferson's urgent visit to his home amid the flood: "Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck." Hmm.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up!

A LEBANESE BLOGGER visits Israel. Excerpt:

The inevitable question came. The question that I hesitate to answer honestly when I’m unsure of my own personal security. “So then, where are you from my friend?”.

I gauged the situation. He didn’t seem like a fanatical person. He seemed friendly. His eyes spoke softly. He cared to know. I told him.

“I’m Lebanese.”

I felt that he wanted to lurch to the back of the car and grab me. But not in an aggressive manner.

“Inta Libnanae? Ana Libnanae” (You’re Lebanese. I’m Lebanese.)

I was stunned. Speechless.

A Lebanese Jew. A Lebanese citizen who practiced Judaism. I’ve never met one before. I should have known he was Lebanese from the beginning. It was after all the nicest Mercedes taxi I’ve been in since coming to Tel Aviv. We have a weakness for brands.

Read the whole thing.

MICHAEL BARONE:

Things are better than you think. Yes, I know, most Americans are in a sour mood these days, convinced that the struggle in Iraq is an endless cycle of bloodshed, certain that our economy is in dismal shape, lamenting that the nation and the world are off on the wrong track. That's what polls tell us. But if we look at some other numbers, we'll find that we are living not in the worst of times but in something much closer to the best.

Yes, and if we elect a Democrat to the White House we'll hear a lot more about those good numbers . . . .

UPDATE: Some related thoughts here on good times and bad.

THE ANCHORESS: "Inexpressible groanings seem to be the stuff of my life these days." Drop by and offer her your warm thoughts and prayers.

DYMPHNA:

Remember the 1930’s when so many of Europe’s intelligentsia came to America to escape Fascism? Albert Einstein was one; Karen Horney was another. Our intellectual ranks and our universities were enriched as Europe’s totalitarian rumblings caused the educated ranks to flee to safer shores.

It seems to be happening again. In addition to Hirsi Ali’s imminent departure from the Netherlands, there is a growing feeling that Europe is not safe for those who dissent even a little from the received wisdom of the bureaucratic state, or dare to confront the Muslim taqiyya so prevalent there.

Poor Europe needs all the smarts it can get; it would be much better off if it could keep those people.

AN INDIRECT APPROACH ON IRAN: I think that's pretty much the strategy.

UNILATERAL? NOT US! I caught John Howard's interview on Wolf Blitzer's show as I was in the car, and the CNN folks were kind enough to send a transcript. This bit was quite amusing:

BLITZER: So the UN – excuse me for interrupting. The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, said this on May 12th. He said, “I have insisted very clearly both in private and my contacts with the America administration and publicly that I think it’s important that the United States come to the table and that they should join the European countries and Iran to find a solution.”

He’s the secretary general. Do you agree with him?

HOWARD: Yes. Well, when I talk about the United Nations processes I mean the processes through the Security Council. I mean, I respect the views of the secretary general but when I talk of the process I mean the process which is now underway which involves the potential for further resolutions by the United Nations Security Council and I think that is the path at this time that ought to be followed.

Three years ago there was criticism of the United States and her allies, including Australia, for not further using the processes of the United Nations.

The view was taken then that that was not going to work. We now, in relation to Iran, have the opportunity to see how full those processes can be made to work. It’s quite a test for the United Nations and we’re very keen that that test take place.

Yes, it is quite a test for the U.N. And I can see why Bush, Blair and Howard would be "very keen" to see that test take place. And yes, Howard certainly can rub it in.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A look at the explosion of spending since Republicans took over Congress:

Even excluding spending related to Katrina, defense and homeland security, discretionary expenditures jumped 22 percent.

Perhaps more startling, this spending energy has been fueled by nearly unprecedented consumption of pork -- the government variety, that is. Pork-barrel projects in the federal budget grew from 1,439 in fiscal 1995 to 13,997 in fiscal 2005, leading one to believe Republicans had been so deprived of this kind of nourishment over the 40 years they were out of the majority that they couldn't resist gorging.

Just a whisper of an appropriations measure causes frenzy in both houses as members queue up weeks ahead to insert their favorite vote-garnering projects. Conscious about the bad publicity in the past for "bridges to nowhere," the good lawmakers cut back on the number of earmarks, from 9,963 in 11 appropriations bills, a 29 percent decrease over last year's 13,997. That is highly commendable, right? But wait. The $29 billion spent on the reduced number of pork projects actually was a 6.2 percent increase over the $27.3 billion spent the previous year.

Among the "crucial" items listed in the Waste folks' annual Pig Book was $13.5 million for the International Fund for Ireland which helped finance the World Toilet Summit; $6.4 million for wood utilization research; $1 million for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative, and $500,000 for the Sparta, N.C., Teapot Museum. These political necessities were provided at taxpayer expense while wind and water inundated Louisiana and Mississippi and bombs blew away soldiers in Iraq.

Sigh. House Majority Leader John Boehner told us in his PorkBusters interview that constituents are mad about this, and that he hears that wherever he goes. I think that if people want to see progress here, they need to communicate those sentiments loudly and often.

UPDATE: Stan Brown says that spending isn't nearly as bad as this makes it sound.

THIS IS A SAUDI TEXTBOOK: The Saudis are not our friends. They are, in fact, at the root of global Islamist intolerance and violence to a degree at least as great as that of Iran. They must change peacefully, or be changed.

BRENDAN LOY: "I see on my cell phone that the mayor who fiddled while New Orleans drowned has been re-elected. Sheesh."

I predict substantially less support for New Orleans reconstruction. Betweeen the Louisiana delegation's absurd overreaching in demanding a huge amount of pork-laden funding, and this, they've managed to squander a lot of the sympathy that was present in in September. Louisiana's political class isn't just greedy -- it's greedy and stupid. Louisiana will pay the price. And probably complain of unfairness when it does.

UPDATE: Will Collier weighs in.

IN MY EARLIER POST on immigration and Iraq, I speculated that many of those leaving are Sunnis. Sure enough, StrategyPage reports -- as part of a comprehensive Iraq report that's worth reading in full -- the following:

Sunni Arabs are only 15-20 percent of the population. They used to be closer to 20 percent, but increasing numbers of Sunni Arabs have been fleeing the violence, and Iraq. Most missed are the middle and upper class Sunni Arabs who form the backbone of the Sunni Arab community, and the Iraqi economy and business community. Harassed by gangsters and terrorists, these Iraqis are giving up on the new Iraq, at least for now, and heading to nearby Arab nations or, for the most disenchanted, the West. To many Kurds and [Shiite] Arabs, all Sunni Arabs should be expelled from Iraq. For these bitter victims of Saddam's decades of abuse, Sunni Arabs have been the cause of most of Iraqis' problems, and don't seem to have changed their attitudes much since 2003. But many Sunni Arabs have changed their attitudes, and are trying to work out deals that will give them a place in a democratic Iraq. But first, the Sunni Arab community has to purge itself of its thugs and gangsters. This isn't easy.

Read the whole thing. And read this piece on tribal militias, too.

UPDATE: Brian Dunn thinks that the Sunni departures are a good sign: "The fact that backers of the Baathists are now leaving Iraq is not a sign that we are losing. It is a sign that the enemy is losing. They see little hope of running things any time soon and are getting out of town before the new cops come around with war crimes and human rights violation charges in hand."

That's no doubt true for some. Others, though, are probably feeling pinched between pressure from the remaining holdouts (who, like guerrillas in general, put the most pressure on their own people) and fear of Shia retribution on a fairly undiscriminating basis. True, that hasn't happened yet, and probably won't, but I can understand why people wouldn't want to take their chances.

IT'S AS IF THEY'RE ALL CROOKS OR SOMETHING:

Democratic leaders began this year thinking that Republican corruption in Congress would be one of their most lethal campaign weapons, but GOP officials say that firepower has been defused by new accusations of bribery and other abuses against Democrats.

"The Democrats' attempt to paint this as a one-sided issue has come back to bite them. They have a lot of ethics problems in their own closet," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

The latest scandal emerged from the investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and lawmakers of both parties who purportedly did legislative favors for him and received lavish trips, gifts and campaign contributions in return, as well as the conviction on bribery charges of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican.

It since has widened in the House, where the ethics committee announced last week that it had begun investigating two lawmakers: Reps. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, and Bob Ney, Ohio Republican.

The committee is investigating whether Mr. Ney received benefits and gifts from Abramoff as a result of official actions he took. It also will examine accusations that Mr. Jefferson was given money, stocks and other benefits from a technology company in exchange for helping the firm obtain business in Africa. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

Last night, FBI agents raided the Rayburn House Office Building, where Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Ney have offices, Reuters news agency reported. . . .

Another Democrat, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia, is the focus of an FBI investigation for his purported role in obtaining millions of dollars in pork-barrel appropriations for his state, a network of groups he set up that benefited from the money and a personal fortune that grew from $565,000 to more than $6.3 million in just four years.

Mr. Mollohan, the ranking Democrat on the ethics committee, was forced to resign that post under pressure from party leaders.

Stay tuned.