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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Congress is back next week! 

Congress is expected to be back from its August break next Wednesday, which means the end of dressing down for me (boooo!). Back to suits and ties.

Among other things, the House is expected to take up the D.C. Appropriations Bill at the end of the week, which means school choice issues will be voted on. The Democrats are sure to offer amendments to strip the provisions from the bill and there will probably be a GOP amendment to enhance what is already in the bill. We'll see what happens.

Leaving town... 

I will not be posting tomorrow, or until next Tuesday. I’ll be out of town. Here are some latest news items I’ll leave with...until then…

CNN is reporting that former college basketball coach Dale Brown will not challege Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), making another potentially competitive seat less so. One of the main advantages that the GOP had in 2002 was its ability to recruit good candidates for the Senate…Chambliss, Graham, Dole, Alexander, Coleman, etc. This year they aren’t having as much luck with this latest rejection, combined with Nevada and Arkansas.

Also…the federal marriage amendment is going to see some action when Congress returns. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has announced that he will hold hearings on gay marriage "as soon as Congress returns." Rep. Rob Portman (R-OH) has said the House has no plans to act unless the Defense of Marriage Act is struck down. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee--the Committee which would be responsible for conducting hearings on the House side, has said that he thinks the amendment in not necessary because of DOMA. He might change his mind when it is struck down, which will happen eventually.

More on Sen. Milquetoast 

Sen. Orrin Hatch has sent the latest novel by Dr. Robin Cook, Seizure, to Members of Congress as a gift. His “gift” might not seem so innocent to some, however. The plot of the novel revolves around a Senator who contacts a form of Parkinson’s disease. It just so happens that this Senator, described on the jacket as a “quintessential Southern demagogue,” is also the sponsor of legislation to ban a research procedure that could cure him of the disease. What a coincidence!

An even greater coincidence is that Robin Cook is very outspoken in his opposition to legislation banning human cloning and human embryo research. He has actually been on television to debate Members of Congress on this subject. In addition, Hatch is one of the lead sponsors of legislation that would ban human cloning for reproductive purposes but would allow it for research purposes. Is Hatch trying to send a message to his colleagues (maybe Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) who has sponsored legislation to ban all human cloning) about could await them should they oppose his legislation? One, at times, also wonders if Hatch is getting his talking point on this issue from fiction.

Huckabee out 

Governor Mike Huckabee (R) has decided he will not challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) for her Senate seat. This is another seat, like Nevada, that could have been competitive had the GOP gotten the right candidate to run.

Warner to marry for 3rd time 

Greg Pierce reports that Sen. John Warner (R-VA) is getting married for the third time this December (one former wife was Elizabeth Taylor). His bride, an Alexandria real estate agent Jeanne Vander Myde, will also be marrying for the third time. The wedding is planned for Dec. 15 at National Cathedral in Washington.

How do Conservatives think? 

The much maligned Arie Kruglanski and John Jost defend their research in the Washington Post that says that conservative thinking is related to, "among other psychological dimensions, with a sense of societal instability, fear of death, intolerance of ambiguity, need for closure, lower cognitive complexity and a sense of threat."

It's wrong to conclude that our results provide only bad news for conservatives. True, we find some support for the traditional "rigidity-of-the-right" hypothesis, but it is also true that liberals could be characterized on the basis of our overall profile as relatively disorganized, indecisive and perhaps overly drawn to ambiguity -- all of which may be liabilities in mass politics and other public and professional domains. Because we assume that all beliefs (ideological, scientific and otherwise) are partially (but never completely) determined by one's needs, fears and desires, we see nothing pathological about this process. It is simply part of what it means to be human. Our "trade-off" model of human psychology assumes that any trait or motivation has potential advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation. A heightened sensitivity to threat and uncertainty is by no means maladaptive in all contexts. Even closed-mindedness may be useful, provided one tends to have a closed mind about appropriate values and accurate opinions; a reluctance to abandon one's prior convictions in favor of new fads can be a good thing. The important task for social scientists is to identify the conditions under which each of these cognitive and motivational styles is beneficial, rather than touting one or the other as inherently and invariably superior.

Civil Servant rant 

President Bush has proposed a 2 percent increase in civil servant pay for next year rather than using the formula that would have increased pay by a whopping 15 percent. While part of me believes that the government needs to attract very competent people to certain positions and needs to make salaries competitive with the private sector, another part of me feels that the majority of civil servants with whom I and my friends have come in contact don’t deserve the money they are paid.

I have friends who work as political appointees and outside contractors in government agencies and they say the civil servants with whom they work are lazy, unmotivated, and completely wedded to the bureaucratic system. They watch soap operas during the day, take several hour lunch breaks, and whenever changes are made they complain to their union that they are being unfairly treated and the agency is threatened with lawsuits. I wish the salaries were based on performance and output instead of just length of service. The unions would never want that though…God forbid one’s salary be based on amount of work accomplished!

New Blog 

Check out this relatively new blog: Politcs and Law by Jim Kissel. He alerts us to the fact that Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) is going to be making decisions soon about whether or not to run for re-election in Louisiana. If Breaux were to run he would be a lock for re-election, however, if he chooses to step down the seat could be competitive.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Wake up UN! 

Right Wing News has some interesting comments about the recent proclamations made by Mohamed El Baradei that the major nuclear power, especially the U.S., should reduce or eliminate their nuclear programs. This, in turn, will discourage rogue regimes from trying to acquire nuclear weapons. John Hawkins addresses the idiocy of El Baradei’s underlying philosophy pretty adequately. However, I believe, that one of El Baradei's statements is true.

El Baradei says, "In truth there are no good or bad nuclear weapons." He is exactly right. Just like there are no good or bad knives, cars, guns, etc. Violence itself is niether morally good or bad, it is neutral. No object is morally good or bad, however the people (or countries) that possess an object are. The fact that France, the U.S. or Britain, possesses nuclear weapons does not bother me, just as my mother driving a car does not bother me. However, a nuclear Iran or Iraq does bother me, just as someone who has a history of DUIs behind the wheel of a car disturbs me.

New Source Review 

The GAO says that the EPA “relied on anecdotes from industries it regulates, not comprehensive data, when it claimed that relaxing air pollution rules for industrial plants would cut emissions and reduce health risks.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t, just that the EPA didn’t have any data to support their claims.

A column at TechCentralStation defends Bush’s reform of New Source Review (NSR).

NSR is easy to criticize.[i] The program has actually slowed progress on air pollution by creating perverse incentives to keep older plants running well beyond their ostensible useful lives, rather than build more-efficient new ones. Thousands of pages of often-conflicting EPA guidance make it difficult to tell how and when the rules apply, creating endless conflict and litigation. And the case-by-case nature of NSR permitting creates long delays, and sets up regulators to micromanage companies' business decisions.

Eliminating these enormous costs is reason enough to reform NSR. That's why the Clinton administration had already proposed many of the changes now being implemented by the Bush administration -- including some over which activists are now crying foul.[ii]

Other analysts have already made a strong case for NSR reform. This essay will show that NSR reform can't have much of an effect on air pollution. On the contrary, actions we've already taken will eliminate most remaining air pollution during the next 20 years or so, regardless of the status of NSR.

Gee, another example of the environmentalists hyperventilating about nothing…

Democrat infighting 

PoliPundit links to a story about Rep. Peter Deutsch accusing his potential Democrat primary opponent, Alex Penelas, of “single-handedly doing as much as anyone to help George W. Bush become president.”

As a stone-faced Penelas sat beside him, staring straight ahead, Deutsch, of Pembroke Pines, looked at the mayor and called him a ''pathological liar'' for suggesting that he had labored to elect Al Gore during the 2000 presidential race.
Then Deutsch repeated his accusations that Penelas has engaged in ''illegal and criminal'' fundraising in his bid for Senate.


NOW & Braun... 

This falls into the catagory of "Can we marginalize ourselves any more?" The National Organization of Women has endorsed Carol Mosely Braun for President. For an organization that says it speaks for all women, NOW seems to be pretty out of touch. Women, not to mention the general electorate, don't seem to be too enthralled with the former Senator. Does NOW actually think that she is the best candidate to represent the women of this country?

Nelson (he's not an astronaut!!) on NASA 

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has an op/ed in the Orlando Sentinal on NASA and human space flight. I’d much rather read Nelson’s op/eds than listen to him talk--he sounds like he’s passing a gallstone when speaking. He makes some good, but obvious, points though.

GOP infighting 

It seems Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) (does anyone else think this guy looks like Gerry Orbach of Law and Order fame?) and Rep. Bill Thomas’ (R-CA) staffers can’t agree on some provisions of the Medicare Rx drugs bills being considered in the House-Senate conference. What a shame…maybe the bill will die in Committee. This might be bad for Bush, but good for the country.

Nation if Islam news (always wacky!) 

It appears the editor of the Nation of Islam’s weekly newspaper has resigned after publishing a story saying that Jesse Jackson was complicit in the assassination of Martin Luther King. Speaking of such a respected group as the Nation of Islam, did anyone catch the representative speaking on behalf of Louis Farrakhan at the 40th anniversary celebration of the civil rights march on Washington? She made some hokey speech about how the number 4 is significant and then cherry picked these incidents that had the number 4 involved with them so prove her point…it was weird, but that’s not my point. She said that the U.S. Constitution says that one must be 40 to be President…ummm…isn’t it 35? I guess there goes her theory…

Personal debt and the 90s "boom" 

Robert Samuelson has a good op/ed in the Washington Post today about how debt fueled much of the 90’s boom. This is important for a number of reasons. The most important, in my opinion are the lessons to be learned: 1) The materialism of the baby boomer generation is not beneficial in the long term for U.S. society, and 2) government loosening restrictions on lending requirements so that more risky lendees could be granted easy credit worked to the detriment of those lendees, instead of to their benefit because of lack of self control on their part.

In addition, (something Samuelson does not get into) this rise in personal debt contributed to the faux boom of the 1990s and is another reason why the prosperity of the late 90s cannot be repeated. While everyone would love to return to the economy of 1998, we cannot afford to do so. The tech bubble, shaky corporate accounting combined with personal debt and an inflated stock market fueled much of the 90s economy. It would be great to return to the days of 4 percent unemployment and racing economic growth but I don’t think anyone would want it to fueled by these faulty indicators. This is just another example of why it is fantasy to hold 1998 as the bench mark for all future economic growth. If unemployment were to drop from the current 6.4 percent to 5.5 percent people would still be crying to President Bush that he hasn’t returned us to the glory days of Clinton. It’s simply unreasonable.

Beam me up! 

Bernard Bucheit, a businessman "convicted of doing free work for former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH) in exchange for political favors was sentenced Monday to two years in prison." Bucheit was "convicted in April of bribing Traficant by having a deck and an addition built on the congressman's farmhouse. In return, prosecutors said, Traficant lobbied U.S. officials on behalf of Bucheit's company, which sought help in getting payments it was due for construction projects in the Middle East."

Just the other day some of my fellow staffers and I were reminiscing on the days of Traficant and how one-minute speeches just don’t hold our attention anymore now that he is gone. *sniff sniff*

D.C Comics 

One of the other bodies on Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress, has acquired 36,000 cartoons, "three centuries' worth of drawings that ranged in theme from comic to political, and social to cinematic." Included in this collection are "a color transparency from Walt Disney's first full-length animated feature from 1937, 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' and a rare 1921 drawing by Elzie Segar of 'Olive Oyl' — a decade before he created her friend 'Popeye'" and a "fantastic voting machine rendered by Rube Goldberg."

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Hill news 

The old Senate chamber in the Capitol has opened for the first time since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The article is pretty interesting as it retells many of the old stories about the chamber. I recommend it. (Thanks to Betsy’s Page for the pointer.)

House fundraising 

The Washington Post has an article about House Members and fundraising.

The 228 incumbent Republicans, whose party controls the House, raised $52.1 million. The 205 incumbent Democrats collected $40.7 million. In all, incumbents raised $92.8 million in the first half of 2003, compared with $11.3 million for challengers.

House candidates with the most cash on hand at the beginning of July, the most recent figures available, included:

Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), $2.8 million.
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), $2.6 million.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), $2.2 million.
Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), $1.8 million.
Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.), $1.7 million.

While the amount of money that incumbents are able to raise is good for people like me whose job depends on my boss getting re-elected it makes for less exciting elections.

smoke-filled back rooms... 

Posting will be slim to none today because greedy corporate lobbyists are taking our office out for some fun. Ack! Someone call John McCain!

Monday, August 25, 2003

Is Edwards running Senate? 

According to PoliPundit, “On ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos said that every John Edwards staffer he'd talked to was sure that the senator would not run for re-election. They also told him that Edwards would announce his decision not to run for re-election on or before his official presidential run announcement on September 16.”

The GOP has basically cleared the way for Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC) to run for this seat and he is doing so regardless of whether or not Edwards runs for Senate. Edwards support at home has been slipping since he decided to run for President and he hasn’t been gaining on the front runners in the Presidential match-up. Bad career move??

Bork on civil liberties 

Robert Bork has written a long, but very well written, op/ed entitled “civil liberties after 9/11” and looks at the many, overblown accusation being made about the Bush Administration and the Justice Department.

Here's one critic, Jacob Sullum, on Reason.

Is Wesley Clark in? 

Greg Pierce is reporting that Democrat officials in New Mexico are so sure that Wesley Clark will announce his candidacy that they are planning on a 10th podium on the stage during a debate scheduled to take place there before their primary.

Gary Hart for Senate? 

Gary Hart is being considered for a Senate run against Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). The article also says that "Reps. Diana DeGette and Mark Udall, Attorney General Ken Salazar and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb" are also being considered. I'm not making any predictions on this one.

USNA prayer 

The U.S. Naval Academy will continue to have a chaplain lead the midshipmen in prayer during lunch. The ACLU is upset of course, but anything that upsets the ACLU is fine by me. People who spend their lives searching for ways to bring lawsuits against others who are neither causing physical harm nor violating anyone’s civil or human rights need to get a real job. I know…I'm being mean.

I was wrong! 

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) will not be challenging Sen. Harry Reid for the Senate. I was very surprised. Nevada will probably be out of contention for the GOP then.

1 in 37 adults in prison or have served time... 

Except for homocide, all crime rates are down in the U.S. This article gives the details and an interesting fact: “The Justice Department reported last week that at the end of 2001, more than 5.6 million adults -- one in every 37 U.S. adults -- were either in state or federal prison or had done prison time during their lives.” It is encouraging though, that despite the slow economy and people being laid off, crime is not rising. The conventional wisdom is that crime goes up when the economy is bad. Hmmmm…

Tourism down in D.C. 

Hey! It’s time for tourists to come to D.C.! Because of the slow tourist season, hotels are offering lower rates. We’ve had some of the mildest weather in a long time this summer. This weekend was gorgeous.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Gibbons vs. Reid 

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) is expected to annouce next week that he will challenge Senator Harrry Reid (D-NV). While this isn't explicitly stated in the article, why else would someone hold two press conferences on the same day to announce a non-candidacy? This won't be an guaranteed pick-up for the GOP, Nevada trends Republican and Reid only won his last election by around 500 votes.


More on U.S. jobs 

Walter Williams writes a column about U.S. jobs moving overseas. I wish the column went longer, but his main point was that despite the rhetoric to the contrary, U.S. companies actually employ far more people in foreign countries with high wage rates that low wage rates.

The statistics for 1996 are: Out of total direct U.S. overseas investment of $796 billion, nearly $400 billion was made in Europe (England received 18 percent of it), next was Canada ($91 billion), then Asia ($140 billion), Middle East ($9 billion) and Africa ($7.6 billion). Foreign employment by U.S. corporations exhibited a similar pattern, with most workers hired in high-wage countries such as England, Germany and the Netherlands. Far fewer workers were hired in low-wage countries such as Thailand, Colombia and Philippines, the exception being Mexico.

The facts give a different story from the one we hear from the left-wing and right-wing anti-free trade movement. These demagogues would have us believe that U.S. corporations are rushing to exploit the cheap labor in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Surely with average wages in these countries as low as $10 per month, it would be a darn sight cheaper than locating in England, Germany and Canada, where average wages respectively are: $12, $17 and $16 an hour.

If you listened to people like Pat Buchanan and [fill in the blank with your favorite protectionist Democrat] one would think that every U.S. firm would move to India if it could. It's just not true. Obviously, 1996 was seven years ago, but things couldn’t have changed that much since then.

Ha... 

I have tried to remain Cali-recall free because the story is suffering from over exposure and I could really care less who is elected as governor. However, I do find the whole spectacle amusing to watch. Here’s the Onion’s take.

Dean op/ed 

James, at Outside the Beltway, has a ”fisking” of Howard Dean’s op/ed I linked to earlier.

Dean's tax policy 

Howard Dean says, in today’s Wall Street Journal, that his first action as President would be torepeal the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Basic economics says that the worst thing one can do in a slow economy is to reduce the money supply. By raising taxes to the pre-2000 levels, Dean would be withdrawing money from the economy, decreasing the likelihood of a full recovery.

I do like his idea of tax reform, which he mentions briefly. I wish he would go into more detail about it. I think tax reform is something that liberals, moderates, and conservatives all agree we need.

Solution to drug prices? 

John Evans, a professor of economics at Northwestern University, suggests, in an op/ed in the Washington Post, a solution to high drug prices. He suggests that the government pay awards of billions of dollars to drug companies that develop a new, safe drug. Once the award it paid, the patent to that drug would then be the property of the federal government. The government could then allow other companies to produce the drug so that there are many, inexpensive, generic versions of the drug. I would be interested to hear what drug companies think of this. Would they feel that federal awards would be incentive enough to give up patent rights?

Thursday, August 21, 2003

False report in the Wash Times 

Jed Babbin says that story to which I linked last week from the Washington Times about the Senate Intelligence Committee attempting to limit special operations use was false. He says he has talked to sources who work the Committee who deny the Times report. I guess my guess was wrong that this provision would make it to the final bill. It was never in it, at least not publicly.

Greeeeat... 

Kathryn Jean Lopez, in The Corner, notes that former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) is going to teach at Cornel. The article doesn’t say what she is going to teach, just that she’ll be a guest lecturer.

Mrs. Davis' blog 

Taegan Goddard reports that Sharon Davis, Gray Davis’ wife, has started a weblog. Sheeesh. This is going a little too far. How long until the Presidential candidates’ wives start theirs?

More on the Barr op/ed 

Here are "Outside the Beltway's" thoughts on the op/ed:

While I agree with Barr that amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage would be a bad idea, I disagree that DoMA obviates such an amendment. To the best of my knowledge, DoMA has never been tested since, at the moment, no state recognizes gay marriage. However, once that inevitably happens, gay couples will flock to that state to get hitched. They will then demand that their union be given full faith and credit in their home state, which will lead to a constitutional challenge to DoMA, which will be summarily nullified. As Barr says, marriage is a state issue and the federal Congress has zero authority to legislate on the issue and, in any case, can't overrule the Constitution with simple legislation.

I agree that DoMA will not stand up in court and that gay marriages, once legalized in one state will be forced on the other states. The only solution is to amendment Constitution or give up, unless, of course, homosexual couples agree not to push this case in court. If they were to let each state decided on its own what to recognize, then a marriage amendment would not be needed.

Hehe 

Max Power advises us to “Mark your calendars for October 7, the planned release date for Tupac Shakur's seventh posthumous album. This time around it's a remix project, suggesting that perhaps he's starting to see his skillz wane after nearly seven years in the grave.” Haha…too funny.

More police=less looting 

Heather Mac Donald says in The City Journal that the main reason why there was so little looting during the New York City blackout was because of good policing.

Two key strengths allowed the NYPD to protect the city during the darkness: training and manpower. Since 9/11, the department has rigorously prepared for a catastrophic attack. When the electricity went off last week, top brass responded as if it were a terror strike. They gave full authority to the commanders of all eight patrol boroughs: an anti-terror precaution in case One Police Plaza became incapacitated. The NYPD has been drilling this so-called stand-alone plan obsessively, so when a disaster finally struck, commanders knew how to get their officers in the right places quickly. The borough commanders promptly called in all off-duty officers and extended shifts to 12 and 16 hours.

The Ashcroft summer tour 

DAVID YEPSEN has a column in the Des Moines Register about John Ashcroft's Patriot Act tour. He writes:.

Civil libertarians are well-meaning folks and we must always have them around to tweak our conscience. But they tend to see bogeymen, or black helicopters, where there are none. Yes, civil-liberties violations are possible under the act. They're just not probable. This nation isn't locking up whole groups of people, as we did in World War II with the Japanese. We haven't approached the violations of civil liberties Abraham Lincoln committed during the Civil War. Any abuses of police power that have occurred under the act are anecdotal and are not part of a pattern. We are arresting and prosecuting terrorists, however. They are a greater threat to our society right now than the inadvertent violation of some terror suspect's legal rights.

He then goes on to talk about the politics of Ashcroft coming to Iowa to discuss the Patriot Act.

Barr on the Federal Marriage Amendment 

Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) criticizes the Federal Marriage Amendment in the Washington Post today. He says that marriage should be left up to the states and that the Defense of Marriage Act codifies this in law. He asks the question:

Why, then, a constitutional amendment?

I worry, as do supporters of the constitutional amendment on marriage, that a nihilistic amorality is holding ever greater sway in the United States, especially among the young. Similarly, I agree that the kernel of basic morality in America -- the two-parent nuclear family -- has eroded under the influence of the "me" generation, which has left us with an astronomical divorce rate and a tragic number of hurting families across the country.

Restoring stability to these families is a tough problem, and requires careful, thoughtful and, yes, tough solutions. But homosexual couples seeking to marry did not cause this problem, and the Federal Marriage Amendment cannot be the solution

I agree with Rep. Barr that homosexual couples did not cause this problem, heterosexuals did by treating the institution of marriage with disrespect. However, I don't think that means that those who support maintaining traditional marriage should not work to protect it on every front. I think Rep. Barr also mischaracterizes the motives of some who support the federal marriage amendment. Undoubtedly, there are those on the right who would support this amendment regardless of whether or not the courts were going to grant marriage rights to homosexual couples, but many supporters of the amendment only want to bring it up for a vote should the Mass. court decide in favor of homosexual marriages and then these marriages are imposed on other states, without the consent of their citizens (I know, because I have sat in on these meetings where this subject was discussed). Many intelligent people believe that this is what will take place. Only then would the marriage amendment be brought up--precisely to defend the principles, which Rep. Barr supports: each state being able to decide for itself what it chooses to recognize. Obviously, the amendment would violate those principles, but it would only be doing so because the courts had violated them first.

Janklow 

The latest on the Rep. Janklow case seems to be that Janklow was going about 70-75 mph in a 55 mph zone and could face years in jail. The victim, Randolph Scott, was 55 years old, a veteran and firefighter. He was buried with full military honors yesterday.

Victory Act 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and four other Republicans have introduced new anti-terrorism legislation and have called it "The Victory Act." There is the usual hand-ringing from the ACLU, which is saying it’s a "major expansion of federal surveillance, asset forfeiture and other powers." Howard Dean says it's "dangerous."

According to ambiguous "experts" cited in the Washington Post story the Victory Act would expand "prosecutorial power in traditional drug cases and in those deemed related to terrorism" and "would give the government more latitude to freeze assets of alleged drug traffickers or terrorists; make it easier to charge drug defendants with aiding terrorists; and loosen the standards used to convict defendants of laundering money through informal money exchange networks known as hawalas and other money-transmitting businesses."

While this doesn't sound that bad on its face, I wonder how much good this will do in combating terrorism. I don’t really mind greater prosecutorial power as long as the government addresses the State Department visa policies that allow terrorists into the country.

The article says copies of the legislation are making their way around the Hill. They've yet to make their way to our office.

Server problems 

The House is having all sorts of server problems because of this blaster/worm virus... I don't know much about it but it must be bad. Luckily we're on Macs here in my office so we don't have the virus, but it is effecting our Internet access. Posting will be sporatic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Congress notes 

Here are two interesting news items I heard this morning on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal (yes, I’m somewhat addicted to it). Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., (D-IL) or as he’s affectionately known in our office, Triple-J, has some bit parts in the upcoming season of the CBS show, “The District.”

I also heard that Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) injured his retina during a hiking trip and will be sporting a pirate-esque black eye patch upon his return to Congress. Aargh, matey! Shiver me timbers!

Movie reviews 

Since it is a slow news day I’ll recommend a couple movies I saw recently and try to steer you away from another. This past weekend I saw the Kevin Costner directed western, "Open Range" (76% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes). I only went to see it because I knew Robert Duval, one of my favorite actors, would add some redeeming values to the picture. Obviously I had pretty low expectations due to other recent Costner efforts such as "Waterworld" and "The Postman" but I thought "Open Range" deserves three out of four stars. It is definitely worth seeing, at least on video. Duvall, as expected, is excellent in his role, combining humor with his "grumpy old man" demeanor. Costner is actually pretty good because he doesn't try to steal the show. It's a classic western in that the rough around the edges good guys come to the town and have to clean out the bad guys.

Last night I saw "Bend it Like Beckham" (87% fresh rating from RT). I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very funny story about the soft collision of British and Indian cultures in England. It has some great supporting characters (I liked both the Indian and English fathers in the movie) and a soundtrack that plays well with many of the scenes. While the culture theme has been used before in such movies as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" it is still enjoyable to watch.

Stay away from "The Truth About Charlie," (32% fresh rating from RT) which I rented last week. It’s the Marky Mark, I mean Mark Wahlberg, remake of the classic thriller, "Charade." Wahlberg is no Cary Grant and the female actress (forget her name) is no Audrey Hepburn. When I see movies like this I remember what makes old movies (and some new ones) great--the dialogue. The camera work is annoying and distracting and the two leads seem like they are in a school play of Charade. Avoid it!

Yesterday's attacks 

David Adesnick has some good points about yesterday’s events in the Middle East. Here’s an excerpt:

The one positive message sent by the NYT staff is that the only acceptable response to the attack in Baghdad is to increase the US commitment to rebuilding Iraq in both military and economic terms. Surprisingly, Dowd writes that "We can't leave, and we can't stay forever. We just have to slug it out."
What happened to "Bring Our Boys Home" or "Give Peace a Chance"? While leftist groups in NYC and San Francisco have been busy posting handbills and stickers which advocate a similar point of view, mainstream liberals will never be able to sympathize with such a point for as long as the US remains committed to promoting democracy in Iraq.
In short, the President has his critics in a rhetorical vise. There is no way they can advocate the abandonment of the Iraqi people without coming across as retrograde isolationists. On the downside, this situation also diminishes criticism of the Administration's lackluster effort to rebuild and democratize Iraq. But with enemies as incompetent as those who attacked the United Nations, the United States and the people of Iraq may succeed despite their unpreparedness to nation-build in the Middle East.

Extremely interesting thoughts from Brad DeLong 

Instapundit links to Brad DeLong's long, but very informative, post on outsourcing U.S. manufacturing jobs. His point at the end of this excerpt about protecting our own, inefficient and uncompetitive industries is bad policy. It only delays the inevitable and doesn't expose the U.S. economy to foreign competition. Of course, politicians preach protectionism all the time to buy votes.

But in the post-World War II world, it seems clear that the U.S. has gained much more than it has lost from the economic development of its trading partners. The U.S. as a whole benefits enormously from the fact that Japan is a rich industrial economy rather than something like Indonesia. The producer and consumer surplus the U.S. gains from trade with rich western Europe far exceeds what it gains from trade with poor eastern Europe. The way to bet seems to be that examples like the growth of other producers to compete with the cotton south are the exception, and win-win benefits are the rule.

If this is not to be the case in the future, there needs to be an argument made as to why the normal post-World War II pattern will be broken. And I haven't heard anybody make such an argument yet.

Moreover, it is important to distinguish between situations in which foreign countries do not acquire the capabilities to produce goods traditionally made in the U.S., and situations in which the U.S. imposes tariffs and quotas to protect domestic industries. The first may leave America better off: we sell them good stuff at expensive near-monopoly prices. The second does not: we can't make them buy our (now overpriced) exports, and trade barriers simply cut off the benefits from mutual specialization in areas of comparative advantage that David Ricardo identified long ago.

He then goes on to offer solutions (something severly lacking in many debates these days)!

This leaves the question of what is the appropriate public policy response to successful high-tech "outsourcing": Imposing tariffs and quotas to protect domestic demand is surely a bad idea, for standard Ricardian reasons. Attempting to slow the rate at which modern technologies are transferred to other countries is surely a bad idea too: there is no surer way to store up huge amounts of economic and political trouble for the future than for the United States to embark on a policy of trying to slow economic growth in India, China, and elsewhere.

I think that the correct policy response is the one outlined by Robert Reich in his Work of Nations of a decade and a half ago: First, get our people out of industry segments where we are about to lose comparative advantage and where wages are about to take a big dive--this is the reason we Democrats like various forms of Trade Adjustment Assistance, for those who work in such industries are about to get shafted and have done nothing to deserve it (and have the ability to impose enormous costs on the rest of us through trade barriers if the political dice roll their way). Second, make sure the public investments in basic research are there to spark applied research and development to create new industries and new forms of high-tech in which our labor and our capital can be very productive (NIH, NSF, DARPA anyone?). Third, remember that the principal determinants of our prosperity and our productivity come from within: get public investment in infrastructure right, private savings and investment high, and investment in education high as well.

Carnival... 

This week’s “Carnival of the Vanities” is up at Outside the Beltway. You can also check out the ”Bonfire of the Vanities” (no not the book I plugged last week, it’s a list of the worst of the blogworld). (Thanks to Outside the Beltway for this pointer!)

Latest on Janklow 

CNN is reporting that Rep. Bill Janklow ran the stop sign at the intersection before he hit the victim on his motorcycle. If this is true, this will be the end of his political career.

Judicial nominees and AIDS 

John McCaslin has some more interesting tidbits in his “Inside the Beltway” column today.

A just-released study, commissioned by the Center for Individual Freedom Foundation, finds that more than 88 percent of the votes for judicial-nomination filibusters come from Democrats; Democrats pursue nearly five times as many filibusters, with three times the support, as Republicans; and more than 98 percent of the votes to filibuster Republican nominations come from Democrats.
Comparably, 55 percent of the votes to filibuster Democrat nominations come from Republicans.
Also of interest, 95 percent of the 40 senators who have never voted for a judicial- nomination filibuster are Republicans, while only 5 percent are Democrats. And the 10 current senators who backed filibuster reform in 1995 now support judicial-nomination filibusters almost 66 percent of the time.
Finally, Democrats vote for judicial-nomination filibusters an average of 65 percent of the time, compared to Republicans nearly 3 percent of the time.

Then there’s this one:

One week after federally funded "flirting classes" were held in San Francisco comes word of Uncle Sam's "hot sex" workshop.
According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the city's AIDS Health Project received $985,572 from the federal government this year to provide AIDS programs, including this Friday's federally funded "Hot & Healthy Summer Sex Workshop," with the goal of "getting what we want."
We called on our San Francisco stringer — AIDS/gay activist Michael Petrelis — and asked for his perspective on the competing federal workshops.
"As if the federally funded flirting class put on last week by the Stop AIDS Project weren't enough to help the male homosexual find sexual partners, this week there's a federally funded workshop on how to have hot sex in the summer," says Mr. Petrelis, who once went to jail after shouting down President Clinton.
"Just how many such workshops and classes does the male homosexual in San Francisco need?"
For those tracking their taxpayer dollars, the flirting classes were funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the hot summer sex workshop is being funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA.

Petrelis is one of the few AIDS activists who are willing stand up to the AIDS establishment who seem to care more about justifying their federal grants than actually helping people with AIDS. There are AIDS victims, mostly black women, who are forced to forgo AIDS drugs and treatment while AIDS organizations in large cities extravagantly spend money on sex workshops. This is nothing new, of course. The STOP AIDS project in San Francisco received CDC funding to sponsor a workshop where people could come and learn about "sex techniques" and "share stories about their sexual experiences and turn-ons." Additionally, last year, there was a program entitled "Guy Watch" in San Francisco. The purpose of this program was to provide a place where homosexuals under the age of 25 can come and "meet other young guys." This was funded using federal dollars as well. And we wonder why people continue to get AIDS....hmmmm

'04 Senate 

Another reporter discusses the '04Senate races. Terry Neal says the GOP has a slight advantage. Yawn…

Back in Business 

The Capitol Hill servers are back up and running (thank you HIR) and I'm back in the bloggin' business...

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

N.D. politics 

According to the North Dakota Grand Forks Herald, the AP is reporting that Dale Brown, the former LSU basketball coach, has said he is reconsidering whether or not to run against Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) in 2004. He had previously said he would not run, but might change his mind.

Bill Janklow 

Here’s the latest on Rep. Bill Janklow’s car accident:

State court records show that Janklow got 12 speeding tickets in 11 South Dakota counties from 1990 to 1994 and paid more than $1,000 in fines. He often drove 15 mph to 20 mph faster than legal speed limits and once got caught going 90 mph in a 65 mph zone.

Janklow has not been ticketed for speeding since October 1994, just before he was elected to his third term as governor. He served as governor from 1979 to 1987 and 1995 to 2003 before being elected last year to the state's lone seatin the House of Representatives.

News from the Hill 

WashingtonTimes' "Inside the Beltway" column has two somewhat interesting items (ok, they're not really interesting but it is a slow news day!).

The General Accounting Office (GAO) will now longer possess that name should legislation, which is expected to take up this fall, be approved. It will be called the "Government Accountability Office." At least we'll still be able to call it the GAO. If I had to learn another government abbreviation I think my brain would explode.

Ok, wake up! Here's another news item:
The first six months of the busy 108th Congress saw a total of 66 bills and resolutions signed into law. Better yet, of the 66 pieces of legislation, 35 contained no or no significant costs to taxpayers, according to the Republican Study Committee. The new law with the largest amount of spending: the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, at a cost of $397 billion. The greatest savings to taxpayers: the Jobs and Growth Tax Reconciliation Act, reducing federal revenue by $306 billion over five years.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Bush's conservatism 

Many conservative bloggers have been commenting on Bush’s bud government conservatism and Fred Barnes’ article on the subject. Oxblog has some comments as does Right Wing News.

RWN writes:

I'm going to have respectfully disagree with Mr. Barnes here because I think Bush's love of "big government" has everything to do with politics and very little to do with ideology.

If there is such a thing as ‘big government conservatism’, who are its adherents who aren't running for office? Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single conservative commentator who favors significantly expanding domestic programs and social spending. I'm not saying they don't exist, but the fact that I can't think of one off the top of my head tells you that they're a pretty small group if they're out there.

I still the best characterization of Bush’s brand of conservatism comes from Jonathon Rauch. I linked to this article a couple weeks ago. Rauch believes that Bush’s motivation is political while at the same time it is based on ideology. Bush believes in personal responsibility and giving choices to the American people. Sometimes he uses the federal government to achieve this goal (education reform) and sometimes he employs free market principles (outsourcing gov’t work). At the same time he is restricting the power of the groups on which Democrats count for support.

Why does the left detest Rupert Murdoch? 

Last night I read James Fallows' article in the most recent Atlantic Monthly on Rupert Murdoch and the new FCC media ownership rules. It was an incredibly insightful article, despite the fact that the author was not even able to talk to Murdoch. I recommend it and am surprised it is available online.

In addition, Fallows accurately describes the process a non-hill staffer has to go through in order to get into many hearings and mark-ups.

No civics text has the stomach to describe Washington's "wait in line" industry. When a famous witness is to appear before a committee of Congress, or a famous case is to be argued at the Supreme Court, tourists imagine they can drop in to watch; but they discover that the line for admission formed well before dawn. Professionals in town—lawyers, lobbyists—can't afford to be left out, especially if clients' money is at stake. So they hire services to do the waiting for them. On the days of big events, lines resembling those outside soup kitchens or for-pay blood banks snake through marble corridors in House and Senate office buildings and spill out onto the sidewalk long before most staffers show up for work. At 9:45 or so, for the typical 10:00 A.M. committee hearing, taxis and town cars begin depositing passengers who have come from breakfast or early meetings at their firms. The paid placeholders hold up little signs with names on them, like limo drivers greeting arrivals at an airport, and the switch occurs. Someone with wild hair or wearing several sweatshirts leaves his place in line or his seat in the hearing room, and someone in a nice suit steps in. Economically the arrangement makes sense, but it's a little too crass a reminder of the different standing of citizens before their democratic government.

Last week, Fallows was on C-SPAN’s "Washington Journal" discussing this article and I was amazed to hear the number of people calling in who really hate Murdoch and, in particular, Fox News. While I don’t watch Fox News, or television news in general, because I think it is over-sensationalized and doesn’t ever get into a detailed description of an event or issue, I don't understand these outbursts of disgust and hate expressed by these C-SPAN listeners. It’s as if Murdoch was infecting children with cancer or something. While Fox certainly has a right-of-center and pro-America bias, if I didn’t approve of it I would just change the channel. There are many different choices and many news networks out there and no one is forced to watch any particular channel. Maybe liberals are just upset that other viewpoints are actually even being presented under the slogan of "fair and balanced" (however, I think by now everyone knows that the fair and balanced tag line is delivered with a wink and a nod).

D.C Metro Blog Map 

I was added to the“D.C. Metro blog map” ! All right! I’ll give a short promotion to the other four blogs who share my Metro Map Blog Stop-Capitol South.

For example, Griffix Blog has created a George W. Bush credibility Twister game which was actually posted on the DNC’s webpage. As much as I hate to link to the DNC webpage, I’ll do it for Griffix Blog…here’s the site.

For more conservative readers…“Marm” at Hide and Seek takes on Andrew Sullivan and his views on religion and voting patterns.

Off Topic discusses drivers who don’t turn their headlights on in the rain and the mislabeling of certain actions like “double parking,” which is actually “leaving your car in the middle of the goddamn street.”

What Makes me Tick(ed) links to a site which tells you which psych ward one should belong to.

Blackout 

Stephen Laniel gives his thoughts on the blackout. He's concerned that the immediate problem will be fixed but no long term solution will be addressed. Unfortunately, this probably has something to do with the short attention span of most people in our society. Two weeks from now another "crisis" will appear and demand to be "fixed."

GA Senate seat 

Taegan Goddard has the latest on Democrats eyeing Sen. Zell Miller's (D-GA) seat.

Panning DeLay 

Outisde the Beltway didn't like Majority Leader Tom DeLay's performance on Fox News Sunday. I didn't get a chance to watch.

Medicare reform...I know...boooring, but important!! 

Robert Bartley, has a good column in The Wall Street Journal asking why Congress does not enact an FEHBP style health care plan for Medicare. Many others in Washington are asking the same question. Namely, Bob Moffitt of the Heritage Foundation.

Bartley writes:

For themselves and their retainers, by contrast, our Congressfolk designed a plan based on consumer choice and competition. Each spring, the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the federal employee plan, sends a "call letter" to health insurance providers outlining goals and asking each company to propose a benefits package. All plans that meet minimum standards are offered as a choice to federal employees.

Thus federal employees and retirees can choose among a dozen or more options. They can strike their own trade-off between coverage and cost, with the government paying part of the premium according to a formula which typically works out at 72% to 75%. Enrollees can change plans once a year, and competition produces innovations in coverage. Prescription drug benefits are already routine, for example.

Competition, not so incidentally, also controls costs. As in other businesses, participating plans have to set premiums that cover their costs, but will lose customers if their price is too high. The GAO found that the costs of FEHBP essentially mirror those of other large purchasers of health care. This means its premiums have increased rapidly in the last three years, but over 28 years its costs have been about the same as Medicare, but its benefits have been richer. The system records high patient satisfaction, and it's accepted by physicians almost universally. Unlike Medicare, the FEHBP is not in crisis.


Of course, the plan passed by the House includes a provision that would institute an FEHBP style reform in 2019, which Senate Democrats say is unacceptable. As Bartley writes, "The idea of waiting until 2010 is ludicrous enough; we now see reports of a 'compromise' of a 'pilot program' to test competition. Yet the FEHBP has operated successfully for more than 40 years, and as of July 2002 covered 2.2 million federal workers plus 1.9 million retirees and 4.2 million dependents. Some pilot program." Exactly! I can vouch for the FEHBP, it’s very affordable.

Stumping at the state fair 

Yesterday, the Washington Post printed an article about the Democrat candidates eating corn dogs and deep fried Twinkies and viewing cows made of butter at the Iowa State Fair.

Here’s an amusing anecdote:

"Hey, who are you?" the big man says to John Edwards on Friday morning. "You running for president or something?"

Edwards walks over to the man, who is under the KGGO ("Iowa's Classic Rock") tent. They're coming to you live from the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The big man goes by the name the Round Guy, part of the KGGO morning team. "My anorexia's in remission," the Round Guy tells Edwards, who comes over to introduce himself, tempting the fates with an unscripted moment.

"Hi, I'm John Edwards."

"John Edwards!" the Round Guy says. "I have a room named after you in my house."

"What?" the senator says. "An Edwards?" (No, that would be a john.)

The phrase "Is this any way to elect a president?" comes to mind.

Read the entire article…it’s pretty interesting. The State Fair actually sounds like a pretty fun place!

Draft Carl Weathers 

Eric Pfeiffer, at the Weekly Standard, reports that Arnold is actually the third actor from the movie “Predator” to run for governor of a state. We are all familiar with Jesse Ventura and Arnold, but

The second phase of the Predator Effect emerged last summer when veteran character actor Sonny Landham filed his paperwork to run for the governorship of Kentucky on the GOP ticket. In the film, Landham portrayed "Billy," a Native American who picks up the track of the missing civilians and leads his team to the guerilla camp. Near the film's climax, Billy makes a sacrificial stand against the Predator, allowing his confederates to put some distance between themselves and the beast. However, as a former adult film star and recently released convict, Landham didn't stand much of a chance in rallying the Kentucky conservative base to his campaign.

After meeting with advisers, Landham was informed that the best he could hope for was to "make some noise" in the primary. This June, much like the good soldier Billy, he resigned from the race and threw his support behind Ernie Fletcher.

I think Carl Weathers should run next!

Trouble in Paradise! 

The New York Times reports that two Republicans in South Carolina are upset with President Bush because the economy is bad and that there have been jobs lost in the state during his Administration. Even the author of the article admits that there is no evidence of a trend, but I guess even the smallest amount of disunity is cause for glee.

If I had a dollar for every constituent who wrote to our office saying that he or she was a life-long Republican but could not longer vote for Republicans because of [fill in the issue] I would be rich. And, believe it or not, my boss continues to be elected by wider and wider margins.

Saudi terror 

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John Kyle (R-AZ) have an op/ed in the Washington Post discussing Saudi Arabia and its links to terrorism. It is good see an issue on which conservatives and liberals can agree. The Bush Administration needs to focus on this. Even Dick Gephardt is outflanking him on this and I am sure other Democrat candidates will follow.

Bill Janklow 

Aaahhh…another lazy Monday on Capitol Hill during recess. Traffic was light and there’s nothing going on here in the office or on the Hill. Unfortunately, Rep. Bill Janklow (R-SD) and a staffer of his were in a fatal car accident with a motorcycle. The driver, who was not wearing a helmet, of the motorcycle was killed. The Congressman and the aide were not hurt.

Friday, August 15, 2003

D.C. Life 

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to get a tour of the West Wing of the White House (thanks to a friend of my girlfriend who works there). First of all, it looked nothing like the T.V show. It was very quiet and subdued. While I am sure it is a little busier when the President is in town, it certainly doesn’t have the "stock exchange" atmosphere of Martin Sheen's West Wing. It isn't that dark either.

I got to see the Oval Office, Cabinet conference room, and many other less notable areas. I also got to have my picture taken behind the podium in the pressroom. The pressroom looks a lot larger on television, in fact, everything does. The Rose Garden was also very nice, although there was a lot of scaffolding obscuring one side of it. I really have no right to complain though. The aura the building exudes is amazing. One can't help but feel overwhelmed.

A little less exclusive...
For those readers who live in D.C. I visited a Capitol Hill establishments on Wednesday night that might be of interest. The Banana Café and Piano Bar, one block of Pennsylvania Ave. and 8th Street SE, on the Hill, was nice. They had cheap drinks and the piano player who was there that night was good. It wasn’t crowded with Hill staffers, which is rare for a Hill bar, so if you’re looking for something a little more classy than Cap Lounge or the Tune Inn with fewer people, check it out.

Senator Milquetoast 

The Wall Street Journal (subscribers only) is reporting that a contractor for HealthSouth Corp. bought more than 1,000 copies of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) music albums featuring of "patriotic and religious ditties." Hatch last year "lobbied Medicare for HealthSouth after discussing the company's financial woes with the contractor". While the article says the two men are longtime friends, he must really like Hatch's music!

Bush II 

Outside the Beltway has some interesting comments on the prospects of a second Bush term. (I just got the latest Atlantic Monthly in my in-box this morning. I can't wait until lunch so that I can read it!)

U.S. manufacturing 

Yesterday I linked to a column by Bruce Bartlett who said that U.S. manufacturing is not in trouble. However, Pat Buchanan says it is in trouble .

Bad move or just bad PR? 

When I read yesterday about possible cuts being made by the Bush Administration in "imminent danger pay" and "family separation allowances" for the armed forces I was greatly disturbed. These cuts would significantly affect those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and were due to go into effect on September 30th when increases, authorized by Congress, are set to expire.

According to news reports in the Washington Times and on Reuters the criticisms are somewhat misguided because the Pentagon says that these reductions will be made up in other ways.

Imminent-danger pay, given to Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force members in combat zones, was raised to $225 from $150 a month in April. The family separation allowance, which goes to help military families pay rent, child care or other expenses while troops are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250.

While I want to believe that service members serving overseas will not lose benefits, I find it hard to believe that these increases would not be reauthorized. Why would the Pentagon, even if it was going to grant other benefits, not want these increases reauthorized? The Pentagon is either hiding something or really did a bad PR job on this one. Little Green Footballs says not to worry. I do though.

Democrat unilateralism 

As reported in the Weekly Standard's August, 18 print addition, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) speaking at the AFL-CIO's Democrat debate/forum said that he would "cancel" NAFTA and the WTO trade agreements on his first day in office. This certainly sounds a might unilateral to me...hmmmm. Wasn't U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty one of the first examples liberals always bring up when criticizing U.S. unilateralism? Or is it only unilateralism when Bush does things with which liberals disagree.

Speaking of unilateralism, Instapundit notes the unilateralism of the French in threatening to scuttle the Lockerbie deal with Libya.

Flynt on immigration 

Larry Flynt, as quoted in “Inside Politics” sounds a lot like Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) or Pat Buchanan mellowed out. Here he is talking about illegal immigration:

"The huge strain on California's budget is illegal immigration, because we have to pay benefits and Medicare for these people," Mr. Flynt says in an interview with the left-leaning online journal Salon (www.salon.com).
"We need to close down these borders once and for all. I think the federal government would work with the California government to do that, even if they had to call the National Guard down."
The publisher of such magazines as Hustler and Barely Legal suggests that the tax contributions made by immigrant workers are more than offset by the cost of providing them government services.
"[H]ow about the billions of dollars that the state is spending on education and benefits? I'm not sure if they balance out, but I know that we need orderly immigration."

More on Pipes 

Charles Krauthammer speaks out in support of Daniel Pipes, but says that Bush, instead of making a recess appointment, should actually make Democrats go on record as opposing his common sense beliefs.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Army reform 

Jed Babbin has an column on NRO about reform taking place in the Army with the incoming Chief of Staff. Babbin is very critical of recently retired Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki (who first came to my attention by mandating that all Army personnel would wear black berets because it would improve moral). He makes the point that Shinseki, and those generals and colonels loyal to him, are stuck in a Cold War mentality and that the new Chief of Staff, Peter Shoomaker, should begin his job by giving them pink slips. Six have already been let go. Babbin writes:

With those men going, the question quickly becomes, why only them? The last time a new leader had to force a cultural change on the Army was in 1939, and the parallels to this time are very direct. Like Rumsfeld bringing Schoomaker out of retirement, FDR catapulted Gen. George C. Marshall from one star to four overnight. Between June 1939 and June 1940, Marshall fired 54 generals and 445 colonels in an Army numbering only about 225,000. Today's Army numbers about 480,000. Schoomaker's success as chief of staff will not be measured by how many of Shinseki's political princelings he fired. To force the cultural change the Army needs, many more heads will have to roll. But whose?

Babbin also predicts that Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Shinseki's mentor, will retire in ’04 and that Shinseki will run for that seat. This is the first I have heard of this (which might show how "out of the loop" I actually am!), but he could be right. If this is news to you too, you heard it first from Jed Babbin! Read the entire column…it is pretty interesting.

Senate watch 

Robert Novak reported last night on CNN's "Inside Politics" that polls show that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) is about even with former governor and challenger Tony Knowles (D). Novak thinks that with Bush at the top of the ticket in '04 will obviously help Murkowski.

Funny stuff 

The Lemon gives us a run-down on the Democrat presidential candidates.

More on trade 

Bruce Bartlett says that American manufacturing is not in trouble.

Dr. Norwood 

Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) has an op/ed in the Houston Chronicle discussing his legislation to give local law enforcement officers the tools and jurisdiction to arrest and deport individuals guilty of immigration violations.

Demerits of free trade 

Jeff Faux, of the Economic Policy Institute, has a rebuttal to the column I posted yesterday on the merits of free trade.

During the past quarter-century of globalizing markets, we have been assured that freer trade would vastly accelerate the rise in living standards. Yet world economic growth since the mid-1970s has been below that of the previous 25 years. The gap between rich and poor countries has widened, and the legal disputes that accompany new trade agreements have actually raised, rather than lowered, tensions among nations. Free market "reforms" imposed by trade agreements on poor nations often produce a thin layer of globally connected elites, while further impoverishing and angering the poor.

The Post cites the job expansion of the 1990s as evidence of the benefits of free trade agreements to American workers, a point reiterated by the deputy U.S. trade representative ["Free Trade Rewards Workers," op-ed, Aug 13.] But the facts are otherwise.

Economic growth is measured by a change in the real gross domestic product. One of the major components of GDP is net exports. Everything else being equal, when exports grow faster than imports, GDP rises. When imports rise faster, GDP falls. Between 1990 and 2000, imports rose 50 percent faster than exports. The net impact of trade on growth during the decade was undeniably negative.

Recall overload 

I have tried to remain California recall free just because so many other bloggers, and the media in general, are all over it but I thought this paragraph from this new article this morning was amusing. It reads like a freak show at a circus. All they need is the bearded lady!

Among some full-time politicians, a handful of celebrities and plenty of people from the business world, there is an American Indian tribal chairman, a discount cigarette retailer, a used car salesman, a golf pro, a retired police officer, a bounty hunter, a porn star and a sumo wrestler.

Jay Leno was exactly right with this quip:
"Here's some information about California: the highest point is Mt. Whitney and the lowest point is coming up in early October."

Thank you John McCain!?!? 

Look what campaign finance reform has wrought! Now, instead of soft money following to accountable politicians it will be flowing to unaccountable interest groups. This is exactly what it’s opponents said would happen. Greeeeat.

Latest on Harvey Milk HS 

The City of New York is being sued because of public dollars going to Harvey Milk High School, the all-gay high school. "Democratic New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and a mother representing her four children, all of whom attend New York City schools, are the plaintiffs in the case…The suit also points out New York City schools are subject to New York Chancellor Regulation A-830, which prohibits discrimination based on 'sexual orientation.' Since heterosexual students are not allowed at Harvey Milk High School, the plaintiffs charge, the city is violating its own non-discrimination rule."

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Craig on the Patriot Act 

The AP is reporting that Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) is looking into repealing portions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID), also from Idaho, was able to get an amendment added to an appropriations bill this summer that would eliminate the "sneak and peek" provisions of the Patriot Act. Craig does admit that the Patriot Act was used "400 times in the last year, and it has resulted in 200 arrests and 100 prosecutions of people who were deliberately planning acts" of terrorism. While it is not news that some Members of Congress want to repeal portions of the Patriot Act, it is significant that some Republicans (other than Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) want to repeal portions of it. It is easy for the Bush Administration to dismiss Democrat critism but it will be much harder should a bi-partisan coalition develop.

Blog wars? 

IMAO has proposed the idea of moderated blog wars so that lesser blogs are weeded out. Hmmmm… (first seen on Outside the Beltway) I would think this would be a good way for a little known blog to receive attention. Sort of like Dennis Kucinich trying to nip at the heels of John Kerry.

Dean who? 

Taegan Goddard links to The Crum’s finding of a Dave Letterman Top Ten List of just seven weeks ago that basically wrote Howard Dean off as a no-name Presidential contender. How times change…isn’t he the guy on the cover of Newsweek and Time?

Weird Science 

Iain Murray has a rebuttle on TechCentralStation to Rep. Henry Waxman’s report that the Bush Administration falsifies scientific data to make it fit a particular political view.

Dowd on Blogs 

Maureen Dowd has a column on candidates and their blogs.

Bob Wise 

"Inside Politics" reports that West Virginia governor Bob Wise will not run for re-election after "acknowledging he cheated on his wife of 19 years. The 55-year-old was linked to Angela Mascia, who oversees European projects for the West Virginia Development Office. Miss Mascia, 35, was married at the time, but has since divorced."

Depending on who decides to run this seat could go either way. While a traditional Democrat stronghold, West Virginia has been trending Republican recently. It went for Bush in 2000, without which the Florida recount would have been moot. In addition a Republican, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, was elected to one of its three Congressional districts in 2000 and re-elected in a landslide in 2002 in what was the most expensive Congressional race in the county. She is the daughter of a former governor and would be a strong contender for governor should she decide to run. Should a Republican win the state house it would give Capito a green light to run for Senate should either Democrat Senator (Byrd or Rockefeller) retire.

Gotta read The Times 

If you read today's "Inside the Beltway" column you would learn that only 27 percent of Americans know who Ari Fleischer is, Jim Berard, a Capitol Hill press secretary, has written a book called "The Capitol Inside & Out," and Howard Dean is using spam to attract supporters.

Free Trade 

One often hears people complaining about NAFTA, and free trade in general, at least in my line of work. It’s nice to hear someone note its merits once in a while. Here’s Josette Sheeran Shiner, a deputy U.S. trade representative, in today’s Washington Post.

the lesson NAFTA teaches is that open trade is good for American workers, farmers, businesses and families. After NAFTA was signed in 1993, domestic employment, farm exports, manufacturing output and real wages all increased. From 1993 to 2000, civilian employment in the U.S. economy rose by a net 16 million jobs. During that same period, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada grew 57 percent, and U.S. manufacturing output rose by 41 percent -- even as the volume of imported manufactured goods more than doubled. U.S. manufacturing has endured a slump recently, but this has been part of a cyclical downturn, not the result of a structural problem stemming from trade. Economic indicators already show that the sector is recovering.

Free trade generates economic growth through exports, but it also improves the real wages and purchasing power of American families through imports. The two major U.S. trade agreements during the 1990s, NAFTA and the Uruguay Round, increased incomes and provided consumers with a greater choice of goods at better prices, raising living standards for a typical American family of four by up to $2,000 a year.

Imports also boost the productivity of America's businesses. From auto parts to computer parts, they help hold down production costs and make U.S. products more competitive at home and abroad.

More power to Congress 

The Washington Times reports that Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee included in the classified report, which accompanies the 2004 Intelligence Authorization Bill, a provision which would require the President to send a "finding" to Congress before deploying special operations forces. The new restrictions are being called the "Campone understanding" after Stephen Cambone, the defense undersecretary for intelligence. This provision must still be approved by the House. My guess is it will remain in the final legislation.

For those of you not familiar with Capitol Hill lingo, a report accompanies most legislation brought to the floor for a vote. The report generally contains a more detailed description of the legislation and makes clear what the will of Congress is. It also many contain the opinions of the legislation by the majority and minority Members of the committee of jurisdiction. In general, reports are available to the public, but in the case of classified material they are not.

National Day of Service 

A coalition of service organizations, One Day's Pay, wants to make September 11, a national day of service.

Is '04 like '92? 

While some Democrats might like to think of the 2004 election as similar to the 1992 election, James Taranto says it is very different:

But 2004 isn't 1992, despite the superficial similarities. Here are some crucial differences:

The recession of 1990-91 ended later in the election cycle than the recession of 2001, which means the economy is likely to look better by Election Day than it did in 1992.

In 1992, with the Cold War over and the Gulf War having ended in a seemingly satisfactory stalemate, national security was not a major issue. In 2004 it will be, and Democrats (except Joe Lieberman) are falling over each other competing over who is least responsible about protecting the nation from terrorism.

More generally, in 1992 the Democrats were hungry enough for victory that they nominated a man who campaigned as a centrist (pro-welfare reform, pro-death penalty). This time around, the Democratic nomination race looks to be all about satisfying the Angry Left.

In 1992 George Bush faced a semiserious primary challenge from Pat Buchahan. So far there has been no sign of Republican disunity vis-à-vis the younger Bush.

Ross Perot, running in 1992 as an independent, capitalized on a generalized public discontent with the status quo, an anger that was not ideologically based, and attracted nearly 19% of the popular vote (though he carried no states). This year, the anger is on the left, not the center; and it's more likely to marginalize the Democratic nominee than to take votes away from the incumbent.

Pipes for Peace 

President Bush is going to use a recess appointment to appoint Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Cool D.C. blog sites 

Bureaucrat by Day also alerted me to these two interesting sites. The first is a list of bloggers in D.C., appropriately called D.C. Bloggers. The second is a D.C. Metro map with geographical links of bloggers around the city and suburbs. What a great idea! Check it out!

Amusing... 

A blog I just discovered, Bureaucrat by Day, has some amusing comments about the high school for gays in New York City:

So, New York City is opening the world's first high school for gays, lesbians, and transgendered teens. Buying into stereotypes, the curriculum will feature "computer technology, arts and cookery." Is there an affirmative action program for straights who can't dress or cook? And, how do you prove you're gay so you can get in? Is there a test? "I'm sorry, Johnny, but you should have known the thread count on that duvet cover....

Vacation reading 

During my vacation I picked up two books that were lying around my parents' home. The first, Dereliction of Duty, took all of three hours to read. I wasn’t particularly impressed. It is written by one of President Clinton's military aides who was responsible for carrying the "football." The book is billed as the story of how Clinton compromised U.S. national security. While the book was filled with interesting anecdotes about the Clintons and their staff the book really doesn’t make the case that U.S. national security was "compromised" by the Clinton Administration. If you're looking for insider stories from the Clinton White House and evidence of how vindictive and nasty Hillary Clinton can be (and she is!), this is a good read. If you're looking for a "smoking gun" to prove that Clinton is responsible for the spread of world-wide terrorism or complete deterioration of the U.S. military you might want to read something else.

I then read Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. It was excellent! I could not put it down. It has great characters and great characterizations of life in New York City. I particularly liked the characters of Rev. Bacon (read: Al Sharpton) and Judge Kovitsky…classic New York!

Obesity  

I can't figure out whether this obesity "crisis" in the U.S. is real or manufactured by people who want research dollars and the media, who want a story. The Washington Post has a disturbing story this morning about obese children and how they are manifesting the symptoms that lead to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

The number of overweight children tripled between 1970 and 2000, reaching 15 percent of those ages 6 to 19. Being overweight increases the risk for a host of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The number of children developing Type 2 or "adult onset" diabetes has already begun to rise.

While this sounds bad, the article then goes on to say this only affects 4.2 percent of adolescents, so I’m not sure what to think. What I wonder is…can those of us who are fit and take care of our health sue fat people who don’t eat responsibly for driving up all of our health care costs? I would think that if people can sue fast food restaurants for serving fatty foods, we could sue those who don’t eat responsibly. All these kids who are going to develop cancer and diabetes are going to make health care costs for all of us increase.

Goldberg vs. Saletan 

When I first read Jonah Goldberg’s column on the controversy over judicial nominees, I thought he made a good point. Basically, that even if a law or action is not, in itself, discriminatory, it is an unjust action or law if it results in discrimination. The example Goldberg used were the literacy requirements for voting used in the 1800s to keep black people from voting. His point was that Democrats voting against every pro-life nominee would result in discrimination against devout Catholics.

Will Saletan makes the point in the Washington Post that, if Goldberg's argument is true, Republican are guilty of discrimination against Jews because of many Jewish religious organizations support abortion rights. He seems to make a good point. Maybe Jonah needs to rethink his argument.

I personally think the ads being run in New England against the Democrats are misleading and not in the best taste, but that is politics. I think it would be better for Republicans to take the case to the American people that nominees were meant to be given a vote on the Senate floor, not blocked with procedural maneuvers.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Cameras in the classroom 

If you were a teacher would you like this? Webcams in the classroom that can be used for any number of purposes. The purpose is to discourage students from misbehaving, but how long until they're used by parents and administrators to observe teachers.

I remember back in high school that every now and then an administrator would come and sit in a class for a day to observe the teacher and the students...but everyday? If I were a teacher I do not think I would like this development.

U.S. jobs 

Rep. Donald A. Manzullo (R-IL), the Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, notes one way the federal government can assist with keeping American manufacturing alive.


More on drug reimportation 

Dr. Roger Bate, a Director of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria, on TechCentralStation, that drug reimportation is a bad idea for two reasons. The U.S. would be bringing into this country price controlled prescription drugs which would will help to ruin the U.S. industry (which is responsible for 60% of the drug research worldwide). In addition, the proliferation of unsafe drugs would be dangerous to American consumers. Dr. Bate also gives some examples of foreign drug companies moving to the U.S. because of our unrestrictive economy. While reimportation itself won’t ruin the U.S. drug industry it will set a bad precedent of U.S. acceptance of price controls, which, if they were adopted in the U.S., would ruin the drug industry. By itself I think this is a reason to oppose drug reimportation. However, the safety issue is a concern.

Libertarians and Liberals unite! 

Well, sort of. Ronald Bailey at Reason likes the proposal by the New America Foundation, "a liberal policy shop in Washington, D.C." which would "require all Americans to buy health care coverage."

Here’s what Bailey thinks:

Under the NAF plan, the federal government would provide subsidies to those people who could not afford an insurance policy—health insurance vouchers, if you will. This idea is comparable to the health care tax credit proposal by the free market health care think tank, the Galen Institute. Specifically, the Galen Institute suggests that the federal government offer tax credits of $1,000 per individual and $3,000 per family, to help currently uninsured Americans buy health insurance.

Maintaining our private health care system is vital, because American health care and medical science are the most advanced and innovative in the world. If a national single-payer health care system is adopted, most medical progress will be stopped in its tracks, and we'd all have the same equally bad health care forever. The NAF proposal offers a way to maintain our private health care system, expand consumer choice, lower costs, and allow medical progress to advance. It isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than the more politically likely alternatives.

Here's a Newsday op/ed by the developers of this plan. All agree that something must be done about escalating health costs and I don’t like the ideas proposed by the Democrat candidate, who support different versions of government-run healthcare. I would be interested to hear what other free market proponents think about this proposal.

haha... 

"The difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors are spending their own money."
-Rep. Tom Feeney, (R-FL)

L-1 visas 

The Washington Times has an informative article on American workers being replaced by foreign workers in the U.S., a subject on which I touched last week. According to the article, L-1 visa holders are allowed to be paid the prevailing wage rate of their home country, which I did not realize. To me, it would make sense that, should a company want to hire foreign workers through the L-1 visa program and replace American workers, they should have to comply with the same rules as the H-1B visa program.

Free trade 

The Washington Post has an editorial on the merits of free trade, in particular the recently approved agreements with Chile and Singapore.

Here's an excerpt:

The agreement also has the potential to make an enormous difference to the Central American countries. To prepare for these negotiations, for example, Guatemala has revamped its labor laws, and El Salvador has directed more resources to its labor ministry. After nearly a half century of unrest, these countries are all now democracies: A prestigious trade agreement would reinforce the influence of democratic elites and broaden contacts with the United States.

"Soup Nazis" and such... 

Stephen Laniel has some very good comments on the overuse of words like “fascist” to describe something with which one disagrees. I see this all the time in Washington. John Ashcroft and his policies are always being referred to as Nazi-like or Gestapo-like. While words such as “heavy handed” or “unnecessary” might be appropriate at times, do his opponents really want to equate him with people who rounded up “undesirables” and had them killed? When this is done often enough the term Nazi no longer means someone who perpetrated the horrible crimes in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, but just “bad,” or, as Laniel says, “something with which I disagree.”

The same goes for those on the right (mostly on talk radio) who refer to liberal politicians as communists. While certainly some of the policy positions taken by, for example, Ted Kennedy, could be described as socialistic, until he starts advocating the abolition of private property and the outlawing of religion, he shouldn’t be called a communist. It does nothing to advance an argument and only turns off those who might be receptive to an argument that Ted Kennedy is out of the main stream and his public policy might be detrimental to the country.

Laniel says that the use of these terms is to grab a reader's or listener's attention. I agree, but it is also pure laziness, particularly when used in politics where debate takes place. Instead of going into detail about why a particular Ashcroft or Kennedy proposal is poor policy it is much easier to decry it as Nazi-like or Communist. God-forbid that if a policy was described in detail someone might actually come to decide that it is not such a bad idea after all.

The Orwell essay to which I referred last week discusses a similar topic.

Congressional PACs 

Here's a list of the top ten Congressional fund raising PACs.

Many pages in the Post 

With any more multi-page articles like the one in yesterday's Washington Post on the pre-war Iraq intelligence, Bush is going to have to start talking about the improving economy to distract people. Seriously, I have not gotten a chance to read it yet, so I shouldn't poke fun.

Back on the Hill 

Well, I'm back from my week in Jersey. Traffic was non-existent this morning and the office is empty so far. Recess is wonderful.

Among the highlights of my week off was when, this past Saturday, my girlfriend and I took a tour of downtown Manhattan. We went by the World Trade Center site-my first time since the terrorist attacks-and had lunch in Little Italy (Benito II-I would recommend it!). We walked through Chinatown and painted on a community art canvas in Washington Square Park and watched the freaks who reside there for a little bit. What a great city!

Friday, August 08, 2003

U.S. jobs overseas 

I was reading my local northern New Jersey paper, the Newark Star-Ledger, this morning and there was a letter to the editor as well as an opinion column by John Farmer on U.S. jobs moving overseas and American workers being replaced by foreign visa holders in the U.S. This is an issue into which Congress is looking but there is not a lot of political will to do anything about it because there are very few real solutions to this problem. Obviously, Congress can reduce the number of visas that are issued each year, but that would not solve the problem of businesses moving overseas. It's easy to identify the problems, which columnists, pundits, and our constituents do all the time and then place the blame on "greedy corporations." It is much harder to come up with solutions. Seriously, who can blame a company for moving overseas when, if it had stayed in the U.S., it would have had a harder and harder time competing with foreign companies (and other U.S. companies that have moved overseas) and eventually would have gone out of business.

The government cannot pass laws saying companies can only hire Americans or that businesses cannot move their operations overseas to take advantage of more favorable tax structures or environmental and labor regulations. While we can work to make our tax structure more favorable (the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world), there certainly would not be much political will to relax our labor and environmental regulations. Democrats would cry "tax cuts for the rich" should corporate tax cuts be suggested. In addition, the government shouldn't subsidize American businesses that stay in the U.S. so that they can be competitive. Americans want stringent labor and environmental regulations as well as manufacturing and IT jobs in the U.S. Unfortunately, we can't have it all.

I'd be interested reading any solutions that anyone might have to this problem.

Monday, August 04, 2003

A reader writes 

A reader from Lorena, TX (just down the road from Crawford) writes to suggest some more summer reading for the politically inclined.

Here's an interesting site with quotes from the notable individuals on the Presidency. Here are some examples:

"When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it" -Clarence Darrow

"It is impossible to consider the ordinary course of affairs in the United States without perceiving that the desire of being re-elected is the chief aim of the President" -Alexis de Tocqeville

So true.

He also suggests a site with some interesting trivia and notable facts about each of our Presidents.

I welcome any other reader contributions!

Can u spel poor skools? 

Betsy's Page beat me to this story I wanted to blog, but I'll post it anyway. Here's a report from U.S. News and World Report's "Washington Whispers:"

The office of District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton retyped and forwarded a letter cowritten by two D.C. parents' organizations to congressional colleagues last week. The problem: The new version was riddled with grammatical errors and typos. The original was fine, says her spokeswoman: "It was an issue of haste and proofreading." The letter urged Congress to vote against school voucher programs in the District.

I actually saw a copy of the letter and it was bad. "Whispers" is not exaggerating when they say it was "riddled." It must have been a really alert Congressional office that picked this up and forward it to "Whispers!"

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