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Thursday, July 31, 2003

August break 

Well, August is not only the time when Members take time off and go on "district work periods" (i.e. vacation), it is also the time when staff are able to take vacation too. (i.e. we're too valuable to let us go on vacation when Congress is in session...yeah, right!) Anyway...I will be taking the next week off and visiting friends and family. I may be sparsly posting and I may be not posting at all. We'll see, but I'll be back on the 11th!

Congressional oversight 

Max Power has some good thoughts on the DARPA terrorism futures idea and makes a just criticism of NPR’s reporting. At the end of his post he writes:

I definitely don't like the idea of Senators deciding what sorts of thing DARPA researchers should be thinking about -- I think its strength is its ability to encourage freewheeling thinking, and this is just the sort of attention that defeats its purpose. Perhaps in this climate of "the government didn't tell us everything" whinging, the idea of the Senate looking over the shoulder of researchers to make sure their products are politically palatable might be acceptable to the public, but I think it's a revolting idea.

The Members of Congress that were quick to criticize this initiative probably didn't even stop to think about whether it was a good or bad idea. However, this does not mean that, in general, Congress should not be looking over the shoulders of the researchers to whom they provide taxpayer dollars. I don’t know how much something like this would have cost but Congress certainly has a right to investigate how money is being used. There are some very good examples of poor Congressional oversight and grants going to questionable projects. Instead of calling for its outright abolition, perhaps Congress could have called in some DARPA experts and asked them about the project. Or perhaps some hearings so the public could see why a terrorism futures market may be a good idea. Of course, it is the August recess and Members would not want to stay here any longer than necessary. Much easier to slam the book on a project and get on TV (and NPR).

Late Night Jokes 

Jay Leno on Tuesday night:

"Bill Clinton plans to come to California to help Gray Davis fight his recall. Al Gore was going to come, but there was a concern that both Gray Davis and Al Gore in the same state could cause a rolling personality blackout.

"[Lance]Armstrong came in one minute and one second ahead of the rider from Germany. And anytime you can beat a German into Paris, that's an accomplishment."

Haha...

WMDs 

Are you aware of the new weapon of mass destruction? It’s Global Warming and the U.S. is the main perpetrator, at least according to some people. C.C. Kraemer explains here.

Sikh for Senate 

The Economist has an interesting article about one of the Republican Senate Candidates who hopes to replace Senator Pete Fitzgerald (R-IL) when he retires in 2004. What is interesting about this candidate? His name is Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria, and he is the first American from India to run for the Senate.

Senate races 

I always like reading political predictions despite the fact that the 2004 election is over a year away. NRO's John Miller gives his thoughts on the ’04 Senate races. He's right when he says in Washington it is never too early to start talking about political races! I agree with him that a lot of these "competitive" races will become much less so as time goes on.

Gay Marriage 

Andew Sullivan has an alternative amendment to the Federal Marriage Amendment. I don't think it's a bad idea. Unfortunately, I don’t think the supporters of the FMA would go for it. I don’t regularly converse with people in the gay marriage movement so I don’t know what they would think of this idea.

Here's Sullivan:

[Bush] wants to reserve marriage to heterosexuals but he doesn't want to hurt, wound or marginalize gay people. I'm prepared to accept that is his genuine position. But it won't be convincing if all he does is back the FMA, as currently worded. How to avoid that nightmare? He could back an alternative amendment that says merely that no state should be forced to recognize the marriages in any other state. That essentially codifies federalism and prevents a nationalization of gay marriage through the courts (a highly unlikely scenario, in my view anyway). And it doesn't tell states what they can and cannot do for their own residents. It doesn't impose a single definition of marriage on the whole country. And it preserves state autonomy. That seems to me a sensible compromise if some kind of amendment looks impossible to stop. It's conservative in the right sense. I, for one, want to see federalism work on this matter. Why? Because I think the experience in one state will reduce the fear and panic elsewhere. But those who predict disaster also have a chance to prove their case. Isn't that the way this country is supposed to work?

More on terrorism futures... 

Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, goes on the offensive against the Members of Congress who complained about the terrorism futures market proposed by DARPA at the DOD.

The uproar in Congress and elsewhere this week over a "terrorism futures market" is a fine example of how to make bureaucracies even more timid and unimaginative than they already are. Even if the aborted Pentagon plan wasn't such a great idea, senators have no business demanding that the civil servants who dared produce it should be fired or pilloried.

Read the whole thing, as he makes good points.

News Analysis 

Do these "news analysis" pieces bother anyone else? It's as if reporting on the news is not enough. Newspapers feel that the American people are too dumb to make up their own minds about what was reported so they then go on to tell us how we are supposed to interpret the news and what it means to us. For example, here are the opening three paragraphs of today's news analysis in the Washington Post of the President's press conference yesterday:

His poll ratings are down, his administration's credibility on Iraq has been challenged and the economy continues to limp along, but everywhere he looked yesterday, President Bush saw reasons for optimism.

Whatever the issue, whatever the question that came his way in his first formal news conference since the start of the war in Iraq, the president had essentially the same answer: "We're making progress." But threaded through that display of self-confidence was another, more sobering message that his advisers hope Americans will accept: "This is going to take time."

His upbeat appraisal across a wide range of problems belied the challenges that have confronted his administration in the past month and the political toll they have begun to take on his presidency. If confidence alone produced results, there might be less for him to worry about.

So instead of reading the text of the press conference and the news articles provided by The Post and making up our own minds, we are given, on the front page, Dan Balz’s opinion about what this should mean in our minds. In a nutshell Balz says that the economy, which grew 2.4% in the 2nd quarter (“the strongest showing in nearly a year" according to The Post), is "limping along", Bush's poll numbers, which, as of 7/25, are at 57%, [Newsweek] down gasp! three whole points from 60% on 7/8 [CBS poll], and Bush's credibility is in the tank because Democrats running for President are calling him a liar. He then basically paints a picture of a President who is denial of the facts--Despite his world crumbling around Bush is unaware and confident, like an ostrich who hides his head in the sand when danger approaches. While one should be able to draw this conclusion should one wish to from the news reports, do we really need a reporter telling us this on the front page of a newspaper? Why not let Balz write an op/ed on the editorial page?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Bush's Conservatism 

I realize this is a long excerpt but Jonathon Rauch hits the nail on the head on President Bush’s brand of conservatism in last week’s issue of National Journal. Rauch calls it "Demand-Side Conservatism." Here’s what it is:

Onlookers find it hard to get a bead on this man. That he is audacious is obvious, but to what end? As was true of Roosevelt, Bush acts with a unifying style -- energetic, daring, even radical in the sense of starting from scratch -- but not with an evident philosophical unity. As was also true of Roosevelt, the lack of an evident governing principle gives rise to suspicions. Perhaps the only principle is to win.

Perhaps, but it seems probable that Bush is aiming at something more, both politically and substantively. Politically, he aims, as FDR did, to realign partisan loyalties.

Substantively, he aims to redefine conservatism. "The Republican Party in 1994 tested a proposition," says a White House aide: "that people wanted government to be radically reduced. And they found out that people didn't want government to be radically reduced." Bush saw this, and he saw that the anti-government conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan had reached a dead end; and if there is a single characteristic that distinguishes Bush, it is his willingness to meet a dead end with a bulldozer. In 2002, "he really did set out to have the Republican Party stand for something different," says Michael Gerson, who signed on with Bush in 1999 and is now his chief speechwriter.

Bush's view, expressed in his book and in the 2000 campaign, is that government curtails freedom not by being large or active but by making choices that should be left to the people. Without freedom of choice, people feel no responsibility, and Bush insists again and again, as he put it in the book: "I want to usher in a responsibility era."

If one way to give people more choices is to shrink government, fine. But if another way is to reform government --also fine. And if he needs to expand government to deliver more choices -- well, he can live with that. For Bush, individual responsibility and Big Government are not necessarily opposed to each other, any more than global stability and regime change are necessarily opposites. Moreover, small-government conservatism was root-canal politics, but the new approach is a political winner. If you spend more money, people like you. If you give them more choices, they like you. But if you spend more money giving them more choices, they really like you.

And so, in the Bush paradigm, education reform buys tests and standards and public-school choice, and all of that helps parents judge and choose schools. The prescription drug benefit buys alternatives to one-size-fits-all, single-payer Medicare.

Competitive sourcing buys alternatives to government bureaucrats. Social Security reform buys individual accounts. And so forth.

Many of these initiatives will make the federal government bigger or stronger, but, for Bush, that is beside the point, which is to change government's structure, not its size. The question is not how much government spends; it's how government spends. Conservatives have been obsessed with reducing the supply of government when instead they should reduce the demand for it; and the way to do that is by repudiating the Washington-knows-best legacy of the New Deal. Republicans will empower the people, and the people will empower Republicans. "Twenty years from now," Norquist says, "who's demanding extra government if I have a 401(k) medical savings account, I've pre-saved for my old age, I have control over where I send my kids to school? Investing in smaller demand for state power down the road is a rational position."

So that is the sense in which the Bush paradigm is conservative, or at least imagines itself to be conservative. Besides, tax cuts dry up future Democratic spending initiatives; competitive sourcing weakens public employees unions; education reform weakens teachers unions; litigation reform weakens the trial lawyers; trade liberalization, another Bush priority, weakens private-sector unions. "The Democratic Party – trial lawyers, labor union leaders, the two wings of the dependency movement (people on welfare, people who manage welfare), the coercive utopians (people who tell us our cars should be teeny), government employees -- all the parts of that coalition shrink," Norquist says, "and our coalition grows, every time you make one of these reforms."

Random thoughts... 

For some reason in political journalism and punditry opponents of a particular piece of legislation or initiative often accuse their opponents of acting secretly overnight or in "the dead of night." Here's an example that got me thinking about this subject. Anne Applebaum has a column in today’s Washington Post about the role money plays in Washington. In it she makes this statement:

"The president opposed it, the House leadership opposed it, the Food and Drug Administration opposed it -- but 87 Republicans joined 156 Democrats to pass the bill, despite the fact that the vote was deliberately held sometime between midnight and dawn."

Now it is true that the vote to which she refers took place at 2:51AM on Friday morning, but there was no deliberate attempt to hide this vote. It’s not like Congress was sitting around all day until midnight came about and then decided to pass a bunch of legislation upon which they assumed nothing would ever be reported. Congress was busy during the month of July and stayed late on many occasions to finish up legislation. I realize this isn't a big deal, and that people have a right to be skeptical about the motives of politicians, but as far as full House and Senate votes go, there is really no advantage or disadvantage to passing legislation at 2PM or 2AM. Very often the House will hold debates on a number of different issues during the day, which allows Americans to watch the debates, and then "roll" the votes until the end of the day so that Members only have to come to the floor a couple of times during the day instead of after every debate. This is not an attempt to hide anything, but done merely for the sake of convenience.

Pundits, politicians, and journalists use the phrase "in the dead of night" as if it automatically confers unrespectability to any action just as the use of the word "unilateral" is now being used to describe anything that one does not like.

Normblog 

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan linked to a new weblog by Norman Geras who had some thoughts on the war in Iraq. I thought this point was interesting:

Just think for a moment about the argument that this recent war was illegal. That something is illegal does not itself carry moral weight unless legality as such carries moral weight, and legality carries moral weight only conditionally. It depends on the particular law in question, on the system of law of which it is a part, and on the kind of social and ethical order it upholds. An international law - and an international system - according to which a government is free to go on raping, murdering and torturing its own nationals to the tune of tens upon tens, upon more tens, of thousands of deaths without anything being done to stop it, so much the worse for this as law. It is law that needs to be criticized, opposed, and changed. It needs to be moved forward - which happens in this domain by precedent and custom as well as by transnational treaty and convention.

I am fully aware in saying this that the present US administration has made itself an obstacle in various ways to the development of a more robust and comprehensive framework of international law. But the thing cuts both ways. The war to depose Saddam Hussein and his criminal regime was not of a piece with that. It didn't have to be opposed by all the forces that did in fact oppose it. It could, on the contrary, have been supported - by France and Germany and Russia and the UN; and by a mass democratic movement of global civil society. Just think about that. Just think about the kind of precedent it would have set for other genocidal, or even just lavishly murderous, dictatorships - instead of all those processions of shame across the world's cities, and whose success would have meant the continued abandonment of the Iraqi people.

Inside the Beltway 

“Inside the Beltway” has two items of interest today. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) has proposed a term-limit for Members of the Appropriations Committee. This would probably never be approved because the Members of the Committee would not want to relinquish their power and they hold a lot of power over other Members, which may indicate a need for Franks’ rule change. This rule change is basically a good way for a freshman Members to get his name in the paper and the folks back home will like it. His proposal would limit service on the appropriations panel to no more than three terms, or six years.

John McCaslin also has this item:
"FEMA dollars at work," or at least that's how the Republican Study Committee is calling attention to funds granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to four Washington-area communities still obviously impacted by September 11.

Among the projects "to help the community heal during these difficult times" are Gardens and Healing Spaces, Building Trust During War Workshop, Peace Workshop, Anger Management and Multi-Cultural Dialogue.

"These cross-cultural dialogues are to encourage the community to participate in a greater discussion of who we are, where we are from, why we are here and how we are doing," says the FEMA-supported Community Resilience Project.

Another project is the "yearlong celebration of trees, gardens, and other healing spaces. An event held every month focuses on the theme of the healing power of our connection to trees and nature."

What a waste of money. Of course, Democrats will complain that FEMA is not getting enough money.

This follows on the heals of a National Review article (print version only) about Democrats complaining about the lack of homeland security funding. The article made two points. First, that no amount of funding will ever make our security fool proof. It is important to find the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness. Second, homeland security funding has basically been a way for Members of Congress to bring pork projects to their districts. Rural districts that are basically under no threat from terrorism are getting tens of thousands of dollars to buy new fire trucks and emergency equipment that they probably will never need. Big cities, on the other hand, the likely target of terrorist attacks, are receiving less money because of this.

Climate change 

It's about time someone in Congress challenges the radical environmentalists and their doomsday assertions. The Washington Times reports:

"This research begs an obvious question: If the Earth was warmer during the Middle Ages than the age of coal-fired power plants and SUVs, what role do man-made emissions play in influencing climate?" asked Chairman James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma. "I think any person with a modicum of common sense would say, 'Not much,' " Mr. Inhofe said.

His Monday speech and a committee hearing yesterday in which two scientists discussed their research questioning the human link to climate change are a precursor to a showdown on carbon emissions expected this week as the Senate debates the energy bill.

While there certainly is a need for some environmental regulation, so many of the claims made by environmentalists are just not true. Drudge links to a report today that the rate at which ozone is being destroyed in the upper stratosphere is actually slowing. The report says that, "the levels of ozone-destroying chlorine in that layer of the atmosphere have peaked and are going down -- the first clear evidence that a worldwide reduction in chlorofluorocarbon pollution is having the desired effect, according to a new study." Imagine all this happening with out the Kyoto treaty! How is this possible? Common sense regulations can make a difference, but there is no reason to sacrifice the great advances that have been made and put the countries that are developing energy saving and environmentally friendly products at a competitive disadvantage, as Kyoto would have done. This is the basic premise of Bjorn Lomborg’s book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. I would recommend it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Nethercutt vs. Murray 

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) has decided to challenge incumbent Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in 2004. Despite Washington leaning Democrat this could be a competitive race as Murray is pretty liberal and made waves last year by commenting on why Osama bin Laden was so loved in certain areas of the Middle East.

"We’ve got to ask, why is this man (bin Laden) so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries that are riddled with poverty? He’s been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven’t done that. How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

Nethercutt entered the House in 1994 after defeating the current Speaker of the House, Tom Foley(D-WA). Nethercutt and Murray are both appropriators and therefore will probably be trying to out "pork" each other. This could be a good pick-up for Republicans should Nethercutt overcome the odds against him.

American military revolution 

Charles Krauthammer has a good column in Time Magazine about the changes in American military force structure around the world. Read the whole thing. It’s pretty good.

We are living a revolution, and hardly anyone has noticed. In just the three months since the end of the Iraq war, the Pentagon has announced the essential evacuation of the U.S. military from its air bases in Saudi Arabia, from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and from the vast Incirlik air base in Turkey — in addition to a radical drawdown of U.S. military personnel in Germany, the mainstay of the Great American Wall since 1945.

For a country that is seen by so much of the world as a rogue nation, recklessly throwing its weight around, this is a lot of withdrawing. The fact is that since 9/11, when America awoke from its post — cold war end-of-history illusions, the U.S. has not, as most believe, been expanding. It has been moving — lightening its footprint, rationalizing its deployments, rearranging its forces, waking from a decade of slumber during which it sat on its Great Wall, oblivious to its immobility and utter obsolescence.

House Ethics 

The House of Representatives is criticized on the Washington Post editorial page for having virtually no ethics policing.

Melanie Sloan writes:

The House holds its members to a lower ethical standard than any other part of federal government. In the executive branch, government officials who discover misconduct are obliged by law to report it. In the judicial branch, any citizen can lodge a complaint against a federal judge and be assured an investigation. In the legislative branch, not only senators but regular citizens may file complaints with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. The House of Representatives stands alone in allowing a conspiracy of silence to cover up the unethical, and perhaps even illegal, conduct of its members, be they Democrats or Republicans.

Betting on terror 

My first reaction to the idea of Pentagon sponsored futures market for terrorism was one of disgust. Instapundit, as well as others to whom he links, thinks it is a good idea.

Optimistic Republicans 

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about Republican’s cautious optimism about the 2004 election.

Not only are they heading into a presidential cycle with a popular incumbent and a sizable fund-raising advantage over any opponent, but the GOP also looks to be in a strong position to expand its majorities in the US Senate and House.

If Republicans are able to pull off across-the-board wins, the outcome could transform the nation's politics. Coming on the heels of the 2002 elections - which gave Republicans outright control of both chambers of Congress and the White House - a wholesale victory in 2004 would solidify the GOP's status as the governing party in Washington, and allow it to leave a clearly defined mark on the policy landscape.

But even if Bush proves not to have political coattails, the 2004 congressional map may well favor the GOP. In the Senate, Demo-crats will be defending 19 seats to Republicans' 15, with 22 of the total 34 seats up in states Bush won in 2000.

Traffic in DC 

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) is concerned about traffic congestion in D.C. as reported in the Washington Times’ "Inside the Beltway" column.

A Virginia congressman who sits in the same nightmarish traffic as other Washington commuters has concluded that the transportation infrastructure of the national capital region has "reached the saturation point."
Rep. James P. Moran is warning that a "disruption on any single thoroughfare, be it rail or road, can overwhelm other roadways and shut down the entire region."
Already, the Democrat says, rush-hour conditions in and around Washington have become "a 24-hour phenomenon. For more than a decade we have suffered some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation."
The former mayor of car-choked Alexandria says that "unfortunately, as we look to the future, the traffic situation only grows worse."
Between now and 2020, he reveals, the Washington region can expect both a 43 percent increase in population and a 43 percent increase in employment.

Moderate Dems strike back 

One of the class acts in the Democrat party, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), warns against nominating a candidate from the leftist side of the party.

"It is our belief that the Democratic Party has an important choice to make: Do we want to vent or do we want to govern?" said Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, chairman of the organization. "The administration is being run by the far right. The Democratic Party is in danger of being taken over by the far left."

When a reporter asked a panel of council leaders whether Democratic woes were a result of Republican attacks or Democratic mistakes, Senator Bayh responded with a curt two-word answer that silenced the room.

"Assisted suicide," he said.

Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) also goes on the offensive against the anti-war portions of his party.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman yesterday assailed his rivals for opposing the war in Iraq, saying "they don't know a just war when they see it…Congress did the right thing in authorizing the war," Mr. Lieberman said in a Capitol Hill speech.
He expressed concern about his rivals' "disquieting zeal" in seizing on questions of shaky U.S. intelligence that President Bush used to justify the war and the inability of coalition forces to find weapons of mass destruction, particularly those lawmakers who supported the war but "seem to have forgotten why."
"There's a danger there will be a misimpression sent about the historic Democratic Party record of being strong on security," Mr. Lieberman said, "going back to Wilson and Roosevelt and Truman and Kennedy and Clinton."

Monday, July 28, 2003

Gay school? 

I don’t know where to start on this public high school for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender teens in New York City that I first noticed on Betsy’s Page.

At first I thought, this gay school sounds like Jerry Falwell's dream--Keep all the gay kids away from the "normal" kids. Except this school was started, I assume, in attempt to make life better for the students who are attending. Although the article does not exactly say why the school was started, the school's website says that "The school offers LGBTQ youth an opportunity to obtain a secondary education in a safe and supportive environment." One can only assume that regular public schools do not offer safe and supportive environments. I assume this means that they are picked on by other kids. Well, gee…who hasn't been picked on at school? Why don't we separate everyone as the State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long comically suggested. "Maybe we should have schools for chubby kids who get picked on. Maybe all kids who wear glasses should have special schools. It's ridiculous."

Everyone gets picked on at school for one thing or another. Too fat, too skinny, pimples, glasses, quiet, loud, big nose…and these are just physical features. Should we start schools for all these students? However, if there was a school for fat kids the fat kids without pimples would pick on the fat kids with pimples. It wouldn't be fair to them! We should start a public school for fat kids with pimples, without glasses, who are in the band.

Obviously I'm being silly, but this whole idea of separating kids because they get picked on is silly. What happened to building character? Obviously, students shouldn't pick on each other for their sexual orientation or any other matter, but kids will be kids.

Homosexual advocates rightfully complain about discrimination. They say they just want to be treated like everyone else. But then they develop a public school for homosexuals only. As homosexual advocates like to point out discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is no different that discrimination by race. Would it be right to create a special school for Hispanics or blacks? Instead of integration they are basically saying we should go back to "separate but equal." This is my initial reaction to this story. I might post more later.

Shelby wants info 

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the 107th Congress, wants the classified information in the September 11th terrorist attack report released to the public. The current Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) says the information will be released at some point.

Coulter and Moore 

I was reading the Sunday book section of the Washington Post yesterday and noticed Anne Applebaum’s critique on Ann Coulter’s rant, I mean, book. She, along with the rest of the world, gives it two thumbs down.

All of this, of course, might be funny if it were meant to be funny, but it doesn't seem to be. Coulter hasn't got an ironic or witty bone in her body. Her insults are crass and dull-witted, and her jokes fall flat. She has no sense of history and skips back and forth from the Truman administration to the Reagan administration, as if 40 years made no difference. She quotes liberally from newspaper cuttings, television interviews and other conservative diatribes, apparently having done no actual research at all. Worst of all, this is the kind of rhetoric that will allow everyone else to dismiss her as a crank, putting off real debate about these issues for another decade at least.

She then goes on to discuss the phenomenon on best selling rants in general.

Still, it isn't hard to imagine using the same methods to write the same book from precisely the opposite point of view, and indeed someone has already done it: Michael Moore, in Stupid White Men. Moore's book calls for U.N. observers to monitor American elections, accuses pretty much everyone on the right of corruption and venality -- and has been a major bestseller both here and in Britain. The real question, then, is not what makes so many people buy books by Ann Coulter, but what makes so many people lap up the Coulter-Bruce-Moore formula. Perhaps it's a longing for clarity, a reflection of the deep human need to find a straight path through the modern jungle of information. Perhaps it's laziness. We all have media overload nowadays -- too many sides of the story are too easily available.

Today, on Opinion Journal.com, we get a partial answer. Kay S. Hymowitz has long piece on Michael Moore. She goes into great detail on all his inaccuracies, partial truths, and outright lies. If you're ever looking for dirt on Moore, this article would be a great reference. She then attempts to understand why he is so successful.

Mr. Moore also successfully synthesizes a style that is simultaneously Heartland Joe's Diner and MTV--or " 'Leave It to Beaver' meets Metallica,' as he put it in a different context. "Roger and Me," the film that transformed the documentary from a professorial lecture into hip entertainment, is filled with kitschy Americana--beauty queens, marching bands, Anita Bryant songs. Mr. Moore himself speaks slowly in a flat Midwestern accent and looks like someone who buys his clothes at Kmart, yet he still conveys a 'Saturday Night Live' sensibility. Mr. Moore's hip humor also flatters the snobbery of many of his voguish fans, who ordinarily would have nothing but contempt for blubbery guys in saggy jeans and trucker's hats.

The other key to Mr. Moore's appeal is his simple Manichaean moral system, the kind that populists traditionally invoke to stir up easy resentments, as with today's alienated left. Mr. Moore's world comprises two groups: stupid but powerful white guys in suits, like Roger Smith; and decent but powerless ordinary folks, like Michael Moore. For Mr. Moore, this is not some kind of comic-book schema; it is as real as sin itself.

More on Bill Thomas 

On Sunday the Washington Post had a puff piece on Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA). His press people must have really been pushing the softer side of Bill Thomas to the media. While it recounts some of his nastier episodes, the article talks about his family and his love of pets.

Dick Armey also has this to say about the Chairman: "He's always gonna be acerbic. He always used to tell me and Newt [Gingrich] and others that he was going to improve, to try to laugh and kid and so forth. But it's difficult for him. He gets some sort of Happiness Fatigue."

We also learn that:

"Thomas grew up poor, first in Idaho, then Southern California. His father, a plumber and pipe fitter, struggled to find work. Neither Vincent Thomas nor his wife, Gertrude, graduated from high school. The family lived for a time in a government housing complex and was able to afford its first home -- in Orange County -- only after Vincent left for 18 months to take a job in Saudi Arabia.

"Bill was the only son in a family of four children and the first member of his family to graduate from college. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from San Francisco State. He taught political science at Bakersfield Community College, spent four years in the California legislature and was elected to Congress in 1978. His district -- largely white, agricultural, with military bases -- has been solidly his own ever since."

We also learn he gets up around 5 AM and is against the de-clawing of cats. The Post reports: " 'First of all, it's enormously painful. But you've disarmed an animal…If it ever gets outside, it has no defenses. And cats tend to want to get out…It's so integral to how cats live,' Thomas says. His lips quiver slightly, as if he might cry. 'One of the saddest things is seeing a cat with no claws, kneading,’ he says."

How sweet.

Gephardt's priorities 

While the fact that Dick Gephardt has missed hundreds of house votes due to his presidential campaign is not news, his absence last week cost the House Democrats the opportunity to beat back a Republican bill to reform Head Start.

The 217-216 Republican victory came after midnight Thursday and was so tenuous that Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., recovering from a car accident, was brought in by wheelchair. But Gephardt, the former House Minority leader, had left Thursday evening for a two-day campaign swing through South Carolina, and the Head Start vote became one of hundreds he has missed this year.

The only other lawmaker who failed to make the vote was Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor who was on a late flight returning from Arizona after attending to his ill father.

The Hill vs. Roll Call 

The Hill and Roll Call are having a newspaper war on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, this has meant an increase in the number of issues they put out each week. When each paper put out only two issues a week, everyone would read them. Now that that number has increased, I have no time and I usually just end up chucking them in the recycling bin. It’s just information overload.

Recess! 

For a full month! The House went into recess on Friday and will not be back in session until September 3rd. The Senate still has to stay in session for another week. (Nah-nah.) No ties, short sleeves, and khakis for a whole month!

Friday, July 25, 2003

Do you have my baseball? 

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), also a baseball Hall of Fameer and the second pitcher in history to record 1,000 strikeouts and 100 wins in both the National and American Leagues got his stolen baseball back. The baseball was kept in his office and was "from the 1957 All-Star Game, in which he was the American League's starting and winning pitcher." It was "signed by 1957 All Stars Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays, to name a few. U.S. Capitol Police had been investigating the heist when the baseball suddenly reappeared this week."

Bush's poll numbers 

William Schneider had some interesting thoughts in the July 19th print edition of National Journal. He writes:

When pollsters asked whether the administration "purposely misled" the public, a majority (53 percent) said no. The number who said yes -- 38 percent -- closely matches the number who say they would vote for a Democrat over Bush next year. (Bush got 53 percent in the Newsweek poll; Howard Dean 38 percent.) The belief that Bush deliberately deceived the public appears to be a partisan sentiment -- pretty much limited to Democrats – at this point.

Here's why: 69 percent of Americans in the Newsweek poll say they think that Iraq did possess banned weapons "right before the war started in March." That number has hardly changed. It was 72 percent in late May. Most Americans saw Iraq's reluctance to cooperate with the inspections process as evidence that it was hiding something.

As a result, most Americans share the conviction expressed by Bush last week: "There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S... did the right thing in removing [Saddam] from power." The basic principle operating here is, don't quarrel with success.

But what if the public no longer sees the war as a success? That's the real political danger for Bush. If Americans begin to have doubts about the war, it will not be because they think the intelligence was flawed. It will be for a different reason.

Basically Scheider is saying that Americans will continue to support the President as long as it appears we’re making progress in Iraq. But if casualties continue to mount, he will be in trouble, especially with a weak economy.

Dennis Miller on America 

In the latest issue of The Weekly Standard Dennis Miller has a great quote in an article about his move to the right.

"I don't think of myself as a classic conservative," says Miller. "I think of myself as a pragmatist. And these days, pragmatism falls into the conservative camp. We have to depend on ourselves in this country right now because we can't depend on anyone else. We are simultaneously the most loved, hated, feared, and respected nation on this planet. In short, we're Frank Sinatra. And Sinatra didn't become Sinatra playing down for punks outside the Fontainebleau [Hotel]."

Classic McCain 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had this to say about Howard Dean and his criticism of the killing of Saddam’s sons. (as quoted in The Washington Times' "Inside Politics")

"I am astonished. A lot of people have compared me with Governor Dean. I could not disagree with him more — to say that the end doesn't justify the means…The ends were the eradication of two psychotic, murdering rapists, and the means were through legitimate use of the American military helped out by some excellent information that they gained…How in the world someone could in any way think this end was not justified by anything, which was the removal of two odious characters, frankly, is beyond me. And I think, frankly, Mr. Dean does the nation a great disservice when he doesn't recognize how wonderful an event this is and how important it is to the morale of the troops that these guys are gone. I mean, our troops serving in Iraq."

Go get 'em John!

Drug reimportation 

Well, the House went and voted to allow reimportation of prescription drugs. The odds of it making its way into law are not good, thankfully. 53 senators released a letter saying they oppose the provision. The main argument from House Members seems to be about the safety of imported drugs, however, the true argument against this legislation is that by passing it, Congress is lending tacit support to Canada and other countries' price controls, which, if enacted in the U.S., would destroy the U.S., and therefore the world's, drug industry.

Andrew Sullivan links to a case study on Germany's drug industry, which, according to the study, has slipped into "second league" status because of "harsh health care policy" and "restrictions on biological and genetic engineering." The case study says that "a glance at the list of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies shows that past savings attempts of German health care policy makers have had an adverse economic side-effect: They are partly to blame for the German pharmaceutical industry's relegation to the second league." These restrictions have "caused an exodus of German researchers to the United States."

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), the lead sponsor of the legislation that passed the House, had this to say: "I think this is the Congress saying, ‘We hear you, drug prices are too high'...It's time we stopped subsidizing the world and bring fairness and fair prices to Americans." She's right that the U.S. is subsidizing the rest of the world. However, if the U.S. were to stop, then no one will produce new, life-saving drugs. Think about it in terms of military might. The U.S. military provides security for much of the world. While it would be great if other countries stepped up and took some initiative so that the U.S. could cut back on overseas operations, other countries aren't going to do so. Does that mean the U.S. should cut defense spending because it is not fair that the U.S. spends so much? No. It is a necessity in order to provide for our and our allies’ defense. It is the same with prescription drugs.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Crazy Germans 

Reuters reported today that "almost one in three Germans below the age of 30 believes the U.S. government may have sponsored the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, according to a poll published on Wednesday."

I remember a while back the anti-war crowd was incensed that polls found a majority of Americans believed that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They saw this as evidence that the Bush Administration/talk radio/Fox News was brain washing the American public. To them, this was direct evidence that American media was biased and that to get "real" news one had to go abroad.

This poll from Germany makes me think that the media in other countries aren't exactly unbiased. Either that, or Germans under 30 have no sense of logic. (First seen on Drudge)

D.C. Commuter tax 

Several D.C. residents, along with the D.C. Council and Mayor Anthony Williams have filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn a Congressional ban on the city's ability to impose a commuter tax. I’m not sure how I feel about this particular Congressional ban. Perhaps D.C. should be able to impose a commuter tax. Maybe I’d be even more sympathetic if they managed their money a little better in the first place. Regardless, I wonder what effect a ruling in favor of D.C. would have on other Congressional bans and on Congressional oversight of D.C. in general. Any law experts out there?

Bias at the NYTimes or am I nitpicking? 

The NYTimes has a front page story today with the headline "F.C.C. Media Rule Blocked in House in a 400-to-21 Vote ." The online version of the story is here. The story then goes on to characterize this vote as a slapdown of the Bush Administration and the FCC's decision to relax media rules.

For example: "The vote, which was 400 to 21, sets the stage for a rare confrontation between the Republican-controlled Congress and the White House." and "Today's House rebuke of the F.C.C. was embedded in a spending bill. The White House, which has threatened to veto the bill if the network provision remains in it, today sought to play down the lopsided size of the vote."

Frankly, I am pretty much up in the air on the FCC decision. I don't mind if the rule is blocked but I also don't see what all the uproar is about. The media market is more diverse than ever right now. What concerned me about this article was the attempt to show how out of touch with the Congress (and therefore the people) the Administration supposedly is. What the article failed to mention, until the fourth paragraph was that the lopsided 400-21 vote was on a huge appropriations bill, of which the FCC provision was a minor part. The full House never even voted on the FCC provision. It was added to the bill in the Appropriations Committee. This vote is not the slap in the face to the Administration the Times would like us to believe. Again, maybe I'm just nitpicking and getting "bogged down in a quagmire" over parliamentary details about which no one off the Hill would care.

Gay marriage controversy in Episcopal Church 

The Washington Post has an article about the conflict within the Episcopal Church over the recognition of gay priests and same sex marriage. 60 conservative Anglican leaders from around the world just met in Fairfax, VA, across the river from D.C., to discuss the coming controversy.

"The church leaders, including 15 U.S. bishops and five archbishops from foreign countries, met behind closed doors at Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax to try to devise a strategy for a looming confrontation over gay issues at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church July 30-Aug. 8 in Minneapolis.

"The convention is scheduled to vote on whether to accept the election of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who was chosen by Episcopalians in New Hampshire last month as their new bishop. Robinson, 56, is living in a 13-year committed relationship with another man, whom he met two years after an amicable divorce"

Vouchers switch 

William McGurn criticizes Senators Arlen Specter and Mary Landrieu on Opinion Journal for voting against vouchers for D.C. when, in the past, they had supported them.

Even a child can spot the contradiction. Outside the committee's meeting room last week, nine-year-old Mosiyah Hall, a D.C. public school student himself, politely asked Sen. Landrieu where she sent her own children to school. "Georgetown Day," came the response, a reference to one of Washington's most exclusive private schools. Mosiyah's mother says an obviously agitated Sen. Landrieu then came over to a group of local mothers to explain that a voucher would be no help for them here, because even with the $7,500 voucher this bill offers, they still couldn't afford Georgetown Day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Affirmative Action for hurricanes 

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) has reached new lows. She is now complaining that Hurricane names are too white. As The Hill reports, "The World Meteorological Organization began naming tropical storms after women in 1953. That made sense to scientists at the time who thought women and storms were both unpredictable. After feminist groups protested, men’s names were added in 1979.”

"Queen" Sheila, as she is affectionately known on the Hill because of her habit of bossing her staff and others around, says that, "All racial groups should be represented."

According to the article, "the current roster of hurricane names isn’t due to be updated until 2007." While I am sure this is important to Queen Sheila, are there not more important issues on which she could spend her time?

Maybe the World Meteorological Organization should consult this website which suggests names for African American babies. How about Da'quandalon or Wil'darrian or Trevonte'? They might actually make the nightly weather reports enjoyable to watch.

Is this man fit to President? 

This shows how far some candidates will go to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. Rep. Dennis Kucinich told Chris Matthews on Hardball that Rep. Chris Smith would support putting women in jail for having an abortion in an attempt to prove his pro-abortion credentials. He later apologized. First seen on TownHall.com

Chairman Thomas 

Chairman Thomas just broke down in tears on the House floor as he explained his actions on Friday in the Ways and Means Committee. The ranking Member, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) is now giving his thoughts on the issue.

"Every member has as much right to be here and to be heard as any other...I learned a very painful lesson last Friday. As members, you deserve better judgement from me and you'll get it."

More trouble at Ways and Means 

Ed Henry reports in Roll Call (subscribers only) that more "dirty tricks" are being played in the House Ways and Means Committee.

It seems Republican aides have accused a Democratic staffer, Tim Reif, of sneaking into a GOP Conference meeting to spy.

Just moments after today’s closed-door GOP Conference meeting in room 345 of the Cannon House Office Building ended, a Republican charged to HOH that Reif sat in on the strategy session for about 10 minutes before aides to Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) spotted him in the room.

"When he saw that we noticed him, he walked out quickly," said a GOP aide, who added that Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was speaking at the time — which should have been a clear tip-off to Reif that he was not attending a Democratic meeting…

"He saw DeLay and realized he was in the wrong place," said Maffei. "It's bizarre that the Republicans are so paranoid that they think we would send a spy in the caucus meeting."

"Thought he was trying out for the part of James Bond but he ended up acting more like Inspector Clouseau," said DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy. "This is one of the dumbest political acts since [Rep.] Pete Stark [D-Calif.] tried out his new vocabulary at Ways and Means.

"Clearly, the Democrats have run out of any legitimate ideas and have started wandering into Republican meetings to try to obtain some."

Liberal base off the cliff 

Here is an example of the wackiness that has become much of the left. I went onto the Washington Post online forums were readers can comment on news stories. This particular forum was about the news that Saddam’s sons had been killed. Here’s a sample of what I found. There was much more, believe me.

"all I can say is 'so what' at this point. I just wish the overall media would get the number of killed since Bush's victory lap, on that great 'photo op' that cost the taxpayer's heaven's knows what, when he declared the War over."

Yes, "so what."

"Hey wait a minute. Don't you think these two guys were the ones responsible for all those attacks on American armed forces? Do you think for a minute that murdering the two sons of Saddam Hussein won't make the Iraqi people love the American occupation force more? Tonight we are all gangsters celebrating a gangland style murder. Meyer Lansky, Al Capone, John Gotti, they got nothing on George Bush."

Yep, there's no difference.

"I don't know if Saddam's sons were the brutal butchers that the Bush propoganda (sic) machine has portrayed them to be. I have long lost confidence that Bush and his 'team' is capable of telling us the truth about Iraq - or anything else."

And, as we know, the media is owned by the corporate America so they report all these lies about Saddam’s horrors because Bush told them to…uh huh…

"I have lost my last bit of respect for the USA. assassinating people at will - not caring that innocent kids are killed as well - is disgusting. no matter what these men have done, we have laws, we have courts and we have jails. when Americans think it is their right to assassinate Iraqis without trialing them, what makes Bush believe that the Iraqis do not think that they have similar rights?"

I'll leave it at that. I think the point is made.

Intelligence smelligence... 

Betsy's Blog via Lucianne noticed this story in the Washington Times about fewer than a dozen House Members viewing intelligence materials on Iraq. I share Chairman Porter Goss's (R-FL) sentiments when he says that this is not surprising. Few Members have the time to review 10,000 pages of intelligence and, since it is classified material, their staff cannot do it for them. In general, Members trust the other Members who are experts in a particular area to inform them as to action they should take. It is impossible for every Member to be an expert on every issue. I think that the Members of the Intelligence Committee, and in particular, Chairman Goss and Ranking Member Jane Harmon (D-CA) are well respected on intelligence issues by both parties and trusted. The majority of House Members are not speaking out about the war in Iraq because they know, based on the intelligence reviewed by the Committee, that Saddam was a dangerous man.

The outrage here is that it is likely many of the Democrats who are criticizing President Bush have not read the intelligence materials. It reminds me of the small number of Members who actually looked at the impeachment material during the Clinton Administration before voting for or against impeachment. The Judiciary Committee made this information widely available to any Member who wanted to look at it, but very few actually did.

TNR vs. NAACP 

Michelle Cottle, at The New Republic lets the NAACP have it in this column.

But the comments went beyond the ridiculous and into the insulting. Virginia Beach NAACP chapter president Georgia Allen went so far as to issue a challenge: "I would say to the African-American community nationwide not to even consider voting for any of the candidates who did not attend this forum." And columnist/moderator Julianne Malveaux took it upon herself to decree, "Anybody who can't come here, quite frankly, doesn't need to be running for president of the United States!" Really? How nice for the NAACP to establish itself the arbiter of a candidate's legitimacy--and based upon such a deep, meaningful analysis of the players' policy positions and political track records. Who knew that the litmus test for a presidential aspirant seeking African-American support these days wasn't his record on civil rights or affirmative action or racial profiling or crime or poverty or the obscene disparity in the way drug-sentencing laws get applied to black and white offenders, but whether or not he shows his face at some entirely symbolic, ridiculously unenlightening candidate forum organized by a single activist group?

Obviously, the NAACP is an old and venerable group that has done immeasurable good for the cause of civil rights over the years. But when its leaders choose to pull such hysterical stunts, screeching like unhinged lunatics for the absolute delight of the media, they only serve to convince the rest of the country that black America has lost all sense of perspective. It's one thing to come unglued over police brutality or the sorry state of America's inner cities--but over Dick Gephardt's unwillingness to break a family obligation or Dennis Kucinich's stated commitment not to skip a House vote? Please. Such misbehavior also makes the Democrats look like they're kowtowing to a bunch of self-important extremists who cry racism every time someone hurts their teeny wittle feewings.

Wow! Read the whole thing. It’s great!

Barnes on price controls 

A good column by Fred Barnes on drug price controls and drug reimportation. Unfortunately, many conservatives, who oppose U.S. price controls on prescription drugs, are going to lend tacit support to Canada's price controls by supporting drug reimportation. The idea sounds great, but will, in the long run, damage the U.S. drug industry, which provides the research and development on which other countries rely in order to keep their prices artificially low.

As Barnes asks, "Do we normally allow foreign governments to export their price controls to the United States at the expense of American companies? No. 'All U.S. trade treaties, without exception, permit restrictions on foreign imports that are traded unfairly,' wrote Stuart Eizenstat, a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, in a letter to Hastert. It would be one thing if, say, Canadians exported cheaper drugs produced in Canada. That would be free trade. Reimportation is dumping."

I would bet that if this dumping involved any other industry it would be met with outrage by Americans. But when it comes to prescription drugs, American actually clamor for more dumping. Why? Because of the demonization of the American drug industry in exchange for votes. Liberals regularly call drug companies evil, greedy, etc. in order to empathize with voters who are upset with current drug prices. Far too many Americans agree with them and are willing to have their short-term needs fulfilled in exchange for long term destruction of the drug industry. Read Barnes' whole piece.

Crackpots and the left 

Andrews Sullivan, once again, has some great comments on the Iraq situation and some uplifting comments from actual servicemen serving in Iraq relating stories of what is really going on there. Sullivan also writes, "The basic and under-reported news - of slow but measurable progress in Iraq - got a fillip yesterday with the killing of Saddam's two vile sons. Of course, no one but a few crackpots can be anything but thrilled by this news."

One would think so but I was listening to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" this morning and I could not believe the number of people who called up to discuss this topic and said something along the lines of "who cares, we still have Enron executives who stole money going free in this country" or "It doesn't really matter to me, Bechtel is still making profits off Americans dying in Iraq." While "Washington Journal" does have its fair share of crackpots who call up everyday, I think these callers are representative of many on the left who actually want us to fail in Iraq because it would mean failure for Bush. To them the actions of Saddam and his sons are no worse than greedy corporate CEOs and oil connections of the Bush family.

To be fair, there was one sane man who called up and said he is a Democrat, doesn't support Bush, but truly does want us to succeed in Iraq. I have a feeling, however, that if he appeared at a International ANSWER rally he would be booed off the stage. The left is in a sorry state these days.

A long strange trip for Ann Coulter? 

According to John McCaslin in the Washington Times Ann Coulter has been to 67 Grateful Dead concerts.

Buy American 

The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter (R-CA), inserted a "buy American" provision into the FY04 DOD Authorization Bill which has caused some controversy at the Pentagon. Sec. Rumsfeld has said he would recommend a Presidential veto if this provision is maintained in the final bill.

"That view has set Mr. Hunter on a collision course with his many friends at the Pentagon and among American military contractors that buy everything from microprocessors to jet engines and airplane wings overseas. Mr. Hunter's proposal would cut back sharply on the foreign content allowed in American military goods as well as provide a laundry list of items — from fuses to machine tools to airplane tires — that only American companies could supply.

"As a practical matter, such cross-border programs as the Joint Strike Fighter, a $200 billion joint venture by the United States and Britain to build a new fighter jet and sell it globally, would be jeopardized. Other programs would be equally hard to unscramble — for instance, the Army's new light armored vehicle, the Stryker, designed in Switzerland and being assembled in Canada for an American company. The F-16 fighter jet, made by Lockheed Martin almost exclusively for export, draws parts from dozens of countries."

Highway financing... 

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) proposes to reform the system of financing highway construction in the U.S. with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA). Their legislation "repeals an outdated 1958 provision in law that prevents fee-based financing on the interstate highways, but with three critical caveats that promote fiscal responsibility and restore driver confidence: (1) All fees will be collected electronically -- no tolls, no tollbooths. (2) The revenue can be collected only on new lanes and spent only on those new lanes. (3) Once the revenue collected pays for the new lanes, the fees expire."

TVC update 

The Traditional Values Coalition controversary makes it to the Washington Post this morning. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) had this to say: “It makes me so angry I could spit."

A recent TVC letter sent to Congress was signed by the coalition's executive director, Andrea Sheldon Lafferty. It was originally drafted, however, by Tony Rudy, a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies and a former top aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), computer records show. Lafferty also circulated a memo -- linking the legislation to RU-486's availability -- that was drafted by Bruce Kuhlik, a senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade group funded by the nation's biggest pharmaceutical firms.


I wonder how the Post got access to computer records? Hmmm… Regardless, someone at TVC made some pretty bad decisions on this one. I don’t think Rev. Sheldon will be welcome on the Hill anymore, except maybe in DeLay’s office. Not that DeLay is wrong on whether the drug reimportation legislation is a good idea-he may be right-but this campaign to attack these House Members is disgusting.

Is this another example of a news story being broken by the web first and then making it into the print news? Ramesh Ponnuru first reported on it in NRO last week and has an update today.

Bill Thomas...contrite? 

Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas (R-CA) will address the House on Wednesday to discuss his calling the Capitol Hill police on Democrats last Friday. This should be interesting…

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Gov't waste 

An interesting editorial in the Opinion Journal today on attempts by Rep. Jim Nussle, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, to cut waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. He’s going to need a big shovel.

There's the sloppiness at the Agriculture Department, which its inspector general told Mr. Nussle has a 10% error rate in its food stamps program. Each year about $1 billion is lost in overpayments and $340 million doesn't make it into the hands of qualified recipients.

The Highway Trust Fund--paid for by your gasoline taxes--likely loses $1 billion a year to fraud. Cutting that in half would come close to saving 1% of the Transportation Department's $54 billion budget request.

The Pentagon's $370 billion budget comes in for close inspection later this summer, and abuse shouldn't be hard to find. The General Accounting Office has already found $6.7 billion in overpayments to contractors between 1994 and 2001.

Mr. Nussle's efforts are already paying off. The Agriculture Department found waste and trimmed its request by $1 billion. Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten has asked federal agencies to look for similar reforms. And Americans are starting to report the waste they find to the Committee's Web site: www.budget.house.gov.

Gun lawsuits 

A district judge ruled against the NAACP in a suit brought against gun manufacturers in which the NAACP tried to hold them accountable for people using their products to commit crimes against minorities. While this may seem like a victory for those who feel gun manufactures shouldn’t be held liable for misuse of their firearms by criminals, I really don’t think it is. The judge ruled against the NAACP only because of the even more ridiculous claim they tried to make; that gun manufactures were discriminating against minorities because minorities are disproportionately effected by gun violence. According to the news article, the judge did not rule that gun manufactures should not be held accountable.

In fact, a press release sent out by the NAACP today saying that a "federal judge sites evidence that gun makers contribute to a public nuisance by aiding criminals access to guns." It is only a matter of time until gun manufactures become the next "big tobacco" and the trial lawyers and gun control advocates move in for the kill.

The Senate still lacks the 60-vote majority needed to pass legislation to protect manufactures from frivolous lawsuits. I would be interested to hear expert legal opinions on this issue.

Dems off the cliff 

Here's another example of a Democrat candidate veering to the left on the issue of Iraq to placate the anti-war crowd. The fact that Dick Gephart, who stood side by side with President Bush on the White House lawn, is now trying to get as far away as possible should not be shocking to anyone, although I believe it will be bad news for the Democrats come general election time.

Here's an excerpt from a Reuters story on Gephardt’s most recent outburst:

In an attack on Bush's diplomacy since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Missouri congressman said Bush had treated allies "like so many flies on America's windshield" and should immediately seek U.N. and NATO help in stabilizing Iraq.

"Foreign policy isn't a John Wayne movie, where we catch the bad guys, hoist a few cold ones, and then everything fades to black…Diplomacy matters. Burden-sharing matters. Follow-through matters. And yes, sustaining the peace is harder, more complex, and often costlier than winning the war itself…No matter the surge of momentary machismo -- as gratifying as it may be for some -- it's short-sighted and wrong to simply go it alone."

That sounds a little different than his statement on the White House lawn . Here’s an excerpt:

In our view, Iraq's use and continuing development of weapons of mass destruction, combined with efforts of terrorists to acquire such weapons, pose a unique and dangerous threat to our national security. Many of us believe that we need to deal with this threat diplomatically if we can, militarily if we must.

Every member of Congress must make their own decision on the level of threat posed by Iraq and what to do to respond to that threat. I've said many times to my caucus that each member should be guided by his or her own conscience, free from others trying to politicize the issue or questioning others' motives.

My underlying goal in this process has been to ensure that Iraq is disarmed, and to lessen the likelihood that weapons of mass destruction can be passed to terrorists.

So what happened to each person being guided by "his or her own conscience, free from others trying to politicize the issue?" I guess Gephart's latest comments aren’t politicization…he’s just looking out for American citizens.

Anti-war groups 

Andrew Sullivan has some great thoughts today on the subject of Iraq. This one about the anti-war crowd is exactly right:

THE VITAL TASK: What matters now - the only thing that matters - is that we get the current end-game in Iraq right and find and kill or capture Saddam and his dead-enders. As for the dangerous situation in that country: who can be surprised? Did people really believe it would be one Tocquevillean orgy as soon as the Baathists were deposed? Did we really hope that the vast Baathist military that disappeared at the climax of the war would literally evaporate? The fact that the three major groups - Sunni, Shia and Kurd - are still on board for a representative government is far more significant than the resilience of a few Baathist left-overs, coordinated by Saddam. Safire was right yesterday. We are still at war over there against the Baathists and much of the current criticism of the occupation as a whole is ultimately designed to weaken domestic support for the vital task in front of us. That's what the anti-war left and right are now trying to do. They lost the battle before the war and during the war. They now desperately need the U.S. to lose the post-war. It's time for those of us who supported the liberation of Iraq to fight back against this potentially catastrophic gambit. For the U.S. to give up now, to withdraw, or to show any vacillation in the face of great progress in the Middle East, would indeed make matters far worse than if we had never intervened in the first place. We have an obligation to make it work. If some Democrats continue to argue that we should cut our losses, they are simply not ready for government.


It seems the anti-war groups are trying to use the media frenzy over the Niger statement to their advantage. I hope Bill Kristol is correct that they are being set up to fail and make liberals, in general, look bad. The problem that will emerge for Democrats with the re-vitalization of the anti-war groups is that the Democrat candidates will have to address their concerns. They will either have to tow the line of these groups, like Move-on.org, or risk looking like they are not a "true" liberal.

Speaking of…Here’s a story from the New Hampshire Union Leader about Kerry having to bow to pressure from the anti-war groups.

The Massachusetts senator has stood by his vote last fall for the Iraq resolution in the face of criticism from anti-war Democrats and rival Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor who opposed the U.S.-led war. Kerry qualified his support yesterday, saying it was the correct vote "based on the information that we were given."

Gee…he also found time to mention that he served in Vietnam.

DeLay hit piece 

The Washington Post has aless than flattering portrayal of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). It seems he is too successful a fundraiser for their liking.

"If you want to understand the power and influence of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in Washington, you have to understand the role played by DeLay Inc., his multimillion-dollar money machine," said Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21 president. "Tom DeLay is the king of congressional influence-money. In DeLay's world, the operating rule is you have to pay to play."

Many of DeLay's contributors fall into categories that mesh with his legislative positions. DeLay fought higher tobacco taxes during President Bill Clinton's second term, and three of his top 20 donors are tobacco companies: UST Inc., R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, now part of Altria Group Inc.

DeLay oversaw the drafting of the GOP's energy bill in the previous Congress, and energy companies -- which favored the measure -- gave his groups nearly $350,000 between 2000 and 2003. One company was Kansas-based Westar Energy Inc., whose donations have come under scrutiny after the publication of e-mails in which company executives wrote about obtaining "a seat at the [congressional negotiating] table" by giving money to political committees chosen by DeLay and other GOP lawmakers.

Congrats for Dianne 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) comes out in the Washington Post in support of school choice for D.C. Of course, she hedges her commitment to them by saying she will only do it if the program is found to be Constitutional, but this excellent news for supporters of D.C. school choice.

The Liberals in California must be getting annoyed with her. She votes for the 2001 tax cuts, she cares about Defense and Homeland Security issues, and now she supports school choice. Or is she trying to moderate her views so that she can run for another office...

Back on the Hill 

I am back from my long weekend in the land of two class acts...Gray Davis and Kobi Bryant. I can't say I missed D.C. 99% humidity has a way of getting me down...

Friday, July 18, 2003

Fight on Capitol Hill 

I don’t have all the facts yet, but it seems the Sergeant of the Arms and Capitol Police were called to remove certain Democrats from a House Ways and Means Committee room this morning.

During consideration of a pension reform bill in the House Ways and Means Committee, an amendment to the bill was offered by the acerbic Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA). The Democrats were not expecting this amendment and did not know how to react. They, therefore, decided to have the 50 page amendment read out loud to buy them some time. During the reading all the Democrats except one left the Committee room and went into Chairman Thomas’s “personal library.” They left Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), who rivals Bill Thomas in nastiness, to remain in the Committee room to monitor the action on the bill. While the bill was being read, Rep. Stark turned to speak to one of his staffers and while he was distracted a Republican called for a motion to dispense with the reading of the amendment, catching Stark unaware.

Simultaneously, the Chief of Staff of the Ways and Means Committee called the Sergeant of Arms and the Capitol Hill police to have the Democrats removed from the Chairman’s library. Stark, not knowing what was going on, left the room and while he was gone, the Republicans passed the bill. The Democrats are now arguing the bill was approved against the rules of the House, because they were arguing with Capitol police at the time. According the transcript of the meeting, Stark referred to Republicans as “little wimps” and Chairman Thomas as a “fruitcake.” This was done before the Capitol Police were called.

Bill Thomas is famous for rubbing Democrats and Members of his own party the wrong way and these events are very true to form. Pete Stark is also one of the meanest people on Capitol Hill. He has compared Republicans to Nazis .

According to the Hill Stark “nearly came to blows with Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.) after declaring that all of Watts’ children were illegitimate. Only Watts’ first child was born out of wedlock.

“During a hearing before the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, Stark — discussing the topic of welfare policy and marriage — referred to a ‘current Republican Conference chairman whose children were all born out of wedlock.’

“Years earlier, Stark had called Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) a ‘whore’ for the insurance industry. He also referred to her marriage to a doctor, saying, ‘The gentle lady got her medical degree through pillow talk.’”

Blair across the street yesterday... 

There are numerous sections of Tony Blair’s speech from yesterday that are worth quoting. As I mentioned, Andrew Sullivan has some good ones on his page.

I particularly enjoyed his political science commentary:

Today, German soldiers lead in Afghanistan, French soldiers lead in the Congo where they stand between peace and a return to genocide.

So we should not minimize the differences, but we should not let them confound us either.

You know, people ask me after the past months when, let's say, things were a trifle strained in Europe, 'Why do you persist in wanting Britain at the center of Europe?' And I say, 'Well, maybe if the U.K. were a group of islands 20 miles off Manhattan, I might feel differently. But actually, we're 20 miles off Calais and joined by a tunnel.'

We are part of Europe, and we want to be. But we also want to be part of changing Europe. Europe has one potential for weakness. For reasons that are obvious, we spent roughly a thousand years killing each other in large numbers.

The political culture of Europe is inevitably rightly based on compromise. Compromise is a fine thing except when based on an illusion. And I don't believe you can compromise with this new form of terrorism.


I think Blair correctly identifies one of the main reasons why Europeans do not understand why America is so adamant in fighting terrorists. European countries have essentially ended their intra-continental conflicts by compromising and forming unions with each other. This has worked in Europe and I think many Europeans think this can work in the broader world. The problem is that Europeans have shared values about basic human rights, dignity, and law. Much of the rest of the world, and in particular fanatical Islam, does not this view and any attempt to compromise will be seen as a sign of weakness.

Reason #327 to oppose Medicare Rx drugs 

The New York Times has an article about how the Medicare Rx drug plans being considered in Congress would be a windfall to states because they could then move the seniors that are in state plans into the federal plan. We can add this to the list of reasons why this prescription drug idea is a bad one.

The majority of seniors today have prescription drug coverage or have no need for it. But instead of simply finding a way to provide catastrophic coverage to those seniors who really need assistance with their bills, Congress poised to write into law a whole new federal entitlement for every senior. Nothing wil stop states and businesses that have so far done a pretty good job of providing coverage for their retirees from dumping them into the federal plan to relieve themselves of the cost. Younger Americans are going to be the ones who get hurt. Yet no one seems to care.

Sullivan on Blair 

Here’s some of what Andrew Sullivan has to say about Tony Blair’s speech yesterday in front of Congress.

BLAIR'S LIBERALISM: But what Tony Blair's speech does more than anything else is reveal the decadent state of American liberalism. Imagine if a Democratic candidate could speak as clearly and as forcefully about the war on terror - and then criticized the Bush administration on domestic matters or progress on homeland security. When was the last time you heard a 'liberal' actually speak of liberty in so enthusiastic and unambiguous a manner? Here's Blair in full throttle:

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack. And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify around an idea. And that idea is liberty. (Applause.) We must find the strength to fight for this idea and the compassion to make it universal. Abraham Lincoln said, "Those that deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." And it is this sense of justice that makes moral the love of liberty.

Blair has helpfully reminded us once again of the urgent need to deal with the threat of Islamo-fascism, to rebuild those societies plagued by it however long it takes, to pursue every possible avenue to bring a settlement between Israel and Palestinian Arabs - to place the toughness of war in the context of a rebirth of liberty. He also reminds us of the need to bring as much of Europe along as we possibly can.

I agree that Bush could be vulnerable in 2004 if a Democrat would be willing to stand with him on the war against terrorism but then go on the attack on domestic issues. Why doesn't Blair's liberalism translate well over here? A Democrat candidate wouldn’t win the primary because the base of American Liberalism today is so extreme that they wouldn't support this candidate.

Why did Bush go to war? 

A very good Charles Krauthammer column this morning in the Washington Post.

Here an excerpt, but you must read the whole thing:

"The charge is that the president was looking for excuses to go to war with Hussein and that the weapons-of-mass-destruction claims were just a pretense.

"Aside from the fact that Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction was posited not only by Bush but also by just about every intelligence service on the planet (including those of countries that opposed war as the solution), one runs up against this logical conundrum: Why then did Bush want to go to war? For fun and recreation? Because of some cowboy compulsion?…

"It is obvious he did so because he thought that, post-9/11, it was vital to the security of the United States that Hussein be disarmed and deposed.

"Under what analysis? That Iraq posed a clear and imminent danger, a claim now being discounted by the critics because of the absence thus far of weapons of mass destruction?…

"No. That was not the president's case…

"Later that year, in a speech to the United Nations, he spoke of the danger from Iraq not as 'clear and present' but 'grave and gathering,' an obvious allusion to Churchill's 'gathering storm,' the gradually accumulating threat that preceded the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. And then nearer the war, in his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush plainly denied that the threat was imminent. 'Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent.' Bush was, on the contrary, calling for action precisely when the threat was not imminent because, 'if this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions . . . would come too late.'"


D.C. corruption 

More corrupt behavior from the D.C. city government. Surpise. The president of University of the District of Columbia, William L. Pollard, gave a $10,000 signing bonus to a family friend, Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke, he hired for the school's No. 3 job despite her lack of qualifications.

D.C. vouchers update 

Democrats on the Senate D.C. Appropriations Committee, along with Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) are blocking a bill to provide $40 million in funding for D.C. schools, including money for the D.C. school choice proposal. Even the Washington Post editorial page is criticizing this move by making the good point that this is not just the White House trying to impose this plan on D.C. D.C.'s own mayor and the President of the School Board want this money. So much for Democrats demanding home rule for D.C.

I do hope Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA) makes this a primary campaign issue against Specter. Specter has been trying to move to the right on many issues to win back his base in PA. Toomey should really hit him for this one.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Hatch legislation 

Ramesh Ponnuru had this to say in "the Corner" on the Hatch legislation on D.C. gun control.
D.C. GUN LAWS [Ramesh Ponnuru]

Jonah mentioned Sen. Hatch's bill to liberalize the district's gun laws, which are the strictest in the nation. I was inclined to applaud Hatch, especially since I have had so many occasions to criticize him in the past. But then I talked to Bob Levy, who has been challenging D.C.'s gun laws in court. (I wrote about his efforts in May.) Levy sees Hatch's bill as the NRA's latest attempt to derail his lawsuit. The NRA seems to fear the prospect of a Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment. If the bill becomes law, Levy's lawsuit becomes moot--and the Supreme Court loses the opportunity to weigh in.

Hatch's bill comes after previous NRA attempts to stop Levy had failed. Levy finds the timing suspicious. "Why not wait for a court decision?" Levy asks. "The legislative option is always open."

Latest on TVC 

Here’s the latest on the Traditional Values Coalition from Ramesh Ponnuru. I have the letter to which he refers and it is short, to the point, and very critical of TVC, Rev. Sheldon, and Andrea Lafferty. I know it is wrong to revel in others downfall, but these individuals deserve it. I am sure there are others on Capitol Hill who have been on the receiving end of this group's antics and share my sentiments.

Gun thoughts for the day 

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced legislation to repeal many of Washington, D.C.'s gun laws. The Washington Post reports:

"The D.C. Personal Protection Act, introduced Tuesday by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), would repeal the District's ban on handguns, end strict registration requirements for ammunition and other firearms, and lift prohibitions on the possession or carrying of weapons at homes and workplaces. The legislation also would loosen the District's definition of a machine gun, possession of which is subject to additional sanction. The term now includes many semiautomatic weapons."

D.C.'s gun laws are some of the most restrictive in the nation and the argument that these laws serve to protect the city from high crime rates falls apart when one looks at the high rates of crime in the city. There is no reason why law-abiding D.C. residents should not be allowed to own firearms.

Instapundit has a good point on this issue:

"But here's the most revealing quote:

'Matt Nosanchuk, litigation director for the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control advocacy group, said there is no evidence that greater access to guns reduces crime.'

"Remember how anti-gun folks used to say that reducing gun controls would lead to 'blood in the streets?' Now the best they can claim is that it probably won't reduce crime.

"Take 'em at their word. If liberalizing gun laws won't make crime better, but won't make it worse either, then what's the justification for keeping the laws on the books? That some people find gun ownership offensive? Some people find gay sex offensive, too. Big deal. You don't outlaw things and deny people civil rights on the basis of offensiveness."

In a related story…

Former Montgomery County police chief Charles A. Moose and victims and families of victims of the D.C. sniper are being brought in by gun-control groups to protest legislation that has passed the House and has the support of the majority of the Senate. While sentiment is on their side, logic is not.

The legislation passed by the House by an overwhelming margin (285-140) ensures that firearms manufacturers are not held liable for the actions of individuals who misuse their products or inflict harm on others using their products.

This legislation does not protect gun distributors who do not follow the strict laws regarding firearms. Nor does it protect manufacturers that sell defective products. Gun control advocates have realized that the country, in general, does not support gun control so they are trying to put gun manufactures out of business using lawsuits and sympathetic juries.

The reasoning of the sniper victims makes no sense to me. The article states that "If the bill passes, sniper victims and their families said yesterday that one lawsuit derailed will be their own. Several victims' relatives are suing Bushmaster Firearms Inc., the Maine-based manufacturer of the XM-15 rifle used in the sniper attacks, and Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, the Tacoma, Wash., gun shop where the suspects allegedly got the rifle." Why should Bushmaster be responsible for misuse of the product they manufactured? It is one thing if the gun was faulty, but it wasn't. It worked exactly as it was intended to work. One of the family members, James Ballenger III, states, "My wife was killed for nothing. My children have to suffer without their mother. I want the people of the Senate to know that these people need to be responsible for what they sell." While I am profoundly sorry for Mr. Ballenger’s loss and I hope the sniper suspects are given the maximum punishments allowable, why should gun manufactures be punished for people misusing their product? One wouldn’t hold a knife manufacturer responsible for someone using a knife to stab someone or hold GM responsible for a drunk driver killing someone while driving drunk in a GM automobile. The reasoning behind this protest is flawed, as are most of the arguments used by gun control advocates.

Harry Reid in trouble? 

John Fund says Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is in further trouble due to proposed state tax increases. The Democrats need to keep this seat to have a chance of retaking the Senate. Reid barely won election that last time around and is expected to face a tight race this time. Maybe it just got even tighter

TVC and reimportation 

Ramesh Ponnuro has a good summary of the despicable campaign being waged by the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), one of the many "conservative" groups on the Hill. Why is it despicable? They are paying for ads that harshly criticize certain pro-life Members of Congress who support the reimportation of prescription drugs from foreign countries. TVC says that this reimportation facilitates abortion because people will have access to RU-486 for a cheaper price. (Read the column for the full story) There is one problem with this argument. Reimportation, by definition, only implies to drugs manufactured in the U.S. RU-486 is manufactured in China and therefore, cannot be reimported.

TVC is so wrong on this issue it is sad. As Ponnuro alludes there might be other reasons for their ad campaign, namely, money.

"Some social conservatives are suggesting that the TVC was paid off by the pharmaceutical lobby. Mike Schwartz, a vice president of Concerned Women for America, says that several social-conservative organizations were offered money in return for making the RU-486 arguments. Most of them turned it down, he said, citing Eric Licht of Coalitions for America and social-conservative lawyer Pat Trueman in particular. Trueman declined to be interviewed on the record. Licht confirmed that he was approached "preliminarily, hypothetically about some things we could do." He adds, "I didn't feel comfortable with it so I said no." He says that he was not contacted by the pharmaceutical industry, but declines to answer whether a lobbyist for the industry made the offer."

From personal experience, TVC has never been an organization to which I have looked for sound political advice or assistance. Many outside groups often assist Members and their staff with their agendas, and return the favor, but TVC has irked many conservative Hill staffers on political and personal levels in the past. In particular, TVC's Executive Director, Andrea Lafferty, is extremely pushy and not well like on the Hill. Conservative staff and offices on the Hill have made several calls to TVC for an explanation on this issue but TVC is not returning any calls. I have a feeling this latest episode will mean the end of influence for the self-described "largest non-denominational, grassroots church lobby in America."

(Disclaimer: my boss is not one of the Members targeted although he could have been.)

AIDS in DC 

The Washington Post reports that the rates of new AIDS cases in Washington, D.C. are the highest in the nation. D.C. has 119 new cases per 100,000 people and is closely followed by Baltimore at 117. San Fransisco and New York, three and four on the list, are far behind at 67 and 64 respectively. Officials site the high rate of intravenous drug users as the causes of new cases.

"Almost 80 percent of all new AIDS cases in the District are among African Americans, who make up 61 percent of the population, HIV/AIDS administration spokesman Floyd Nelson said, and women account for nearly half the new cases in Wards 7 and 8."


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