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Monday, November 10, 2003

My posts will be slim to none for a little while.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Unbelievable...well, sort of 

JAMES TARANTO has this gem in today’s Best of the Web.

End of an Era
Let history record Nov. 6, 2003, as the day on which the civil rights movement in America drew to a close. For that is the day the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the following sentence, in an article on the judicial nomination of Janice Rogers Brown:

Prominent blacks charged President Bush deliberately chose a conservative black woman so it would be harder for senators to vote against her.

Having long ago achieved the indisputably noble goal of ensuring that America lives up to the promise of equal justice under the law for all citizens regardless of race, the civil rights movement turned to the more dubious pursuit of "affirmative action." Now, however, they are complaining that blacks receive favorable treatment. Lamenting President Bush's choice of a black woman, and senators' discomfiture in voting against her, are leaders of such venerable civil-rights organizations as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Negro Women.

leaked memo 

Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) on the leaked Intelligence Committee memo: “In those instances where intelligence failures become important public issues, the danger arises that partisan politics will become destructive of the committee's purpose. Whenever they caucus with their parties, the chairman and vice-chairman are under pressure to use the failure for political gain rather than simply trying to make certain the failure doesn't happen again… For the sake of peace and security, Americans should hope and insist that this cynical memorandum be used as a wake-up call to push the partisan politics out of the work of these committees.”

Still trying to understand... 

I’m a little confused by Michael Kinsley’s column today. He begins by explaining what a “grandfather clause” is and using California’s property tax laws as an example. He then goes on to compare that to two Bush Administration initiatives: Medicare Rx drug legislation and the 2001 tax cuts. Kinsley writes about Medicare:

A more straightforward, almost literal, example of grandfather-clause politics is President Bush's Medicare reform proposal. (And the various Democratic proposals generally do the same thing.) As Bush describes it, the process of saving Medicare from financial ruin will primarily involve adding new services and offering delightful new options for the nation's wonderful senior citizens. But just in case seniors don't find these options quite so wonderful, Bush promises that all current and imminent retirees will be allowed to opt out of nirvana and retain their present arrangements. Unsaid but implied: Future retirees will not have this choice. These folks (possibly including you) will be stuck with the new options, which are not going to solve the Medicare problem or are not going to be as pleasant as Bush portrays them.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Bush’s proposal in its current form will do nothing to solve the problems facing Medicare. There is a new, voluntary drug benefit with little to no reform. The voluntary drug benefit is, I assume, to what Kinsley refers when he says that current and imminent retirees can opt out. I have no idea, however, where he gets the idea that future retirees won’t be able to opt out. He may be alluding to concerns that private plans will drop prescription drug coverage because Medicare would offer it so, in practice, there will be only one choice for seniors. If this is his concern, he should say so explicitly. If he’s referring to some particular provision that eliminates the voluntary nature of the plan, I have yet to hear anyone on the Hill talk about it. To me, the concern about private plans dropping seniors’ coverage is a good reason why Medicare should not be expanded without serious reforms, such as public-private competition for seniors’ health care needs. The House plan would offer this in 2010. Does Kinsley support this?

He then discusses the tax cuts:

Bush's most recent round of tax cuts includes a gimmick that isn't exactly a grandfather clause but has the same political use and effect. Some of the cuts are scheduled to expire after nine years. This helps the 10-year budget outlook appear less catastrophic, although nobody believes it will really happen. Politically, that doesn't matter. People can enjoy their tax cut and worry about what happens nine years from now in eight years and 10 or 11 months.

How soon we forget. The reason that tax cuts were written to expire after 2010 is because permanent changes in the tax laws require 60 votes to pass the Senate. There were not 60 Senators who would vote for permanent changes so they had to add an expiration date. Does anyone really think that Bush, or Republicans in general, wouldn’t have wanted permanent changes? In general, I think it’s a pretty confusing column intended to score some sort of political points…I think Kinsley misses the target though and isn’t even sure what kind of weapon he’s using. It’s unusual for him.

New Senate candidate? 

Katherine Harris (R-FL) is seriously considering a Senate run.

Votes on the Hill 

Yesterday the Senate voted to lift the travel ban on Cuba as well as to force the USDA to move ahead with country of origin labeling of meat products.

The House voted to force Federal Prison Industries, Inc. to compete with private firms for contracts. “Lawmakers complained that the cheap labor and guaranteed contracts of Federal Prison Industries, Inc., has been putting small businesses in their states out of business through laws that require federal agencies to buy products there.”

We received this warning by email this morning: 

A mail security advisory from the House of Representatives Chief Administrative Officer: Reports have been received of potential, but limited, anthrax contamination at the Naval Automated Processing Facility in Washington, D.C. Testing continues and final results will be forthcoming.

As a precaution, the United States Postal Service is closing its V Street government mail facility because it supplies mail to the Naval facility. The V Street USPS facility also supplies mail to the House of Representatives and other government agencies.

House personnel are reminded that USPS mail and national shipper packages (UPS, FedEx, etc.) go through additional testing and quarantine before delivery to House offices. To date, testing has been negative, showing no contamination.

The House, as a precaution, will hold all mail and package deliveries until the Naval and Postal Service V Street facility situations have been clarified. For Friday morning, November 7, a delivery of Dear Colleagues and periodicals will occur.

An update to this message will be provided when additional information is available.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

What are you? 

A liberal, isolationist, neocon, or realist? Find out after taking this quiz. I came out as a realist.

Democrat predicament 

Jack Balkin makes some smart comments, to which the Democrat presidential candidates and many of the rank and file in their party should listen. He writes in the wake of Dean’s “confederate flag controversy.” Everyone who is honest would admit that Dean didn’t mean that the Democrats should try appeal to racists, he was saying that Democrats should not look down a whole region of people just because elitists in Manhattan, Boston, our Universities, and Hollywood look down their noses at them.

Here's what George Will says:

For Dean and Deanites, the idea of courting the Confederate-flag-and-pickups cohort gives them the frisson of walking on the wild side, the tingle of keeping bad company, like a professor in a biker bar. But Dean's statement, which dripped a kind of regional disdain, was a clumsy attempt to make a sensible point: Disdain no voters.

Dean’s decision to not back down from his previous endorsements by the NRA is a wise move. He may take heat in the primaries, but in the long run it may pay off. Over a year ago Dean was on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” and said that he would not let the Democrats lose another national election on the issue of guns. It made sense to me then and it makes sense now. Al Gore lost a few vital states that he may have won because of that issue (West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas?). Any of those would have won him the election.

Here are Balkin’s comments:

The reason is that the gun control question is about much more than the specific issue of gun regulation. It is a cultural indicator or cultural signal-- one of a small number of highly resonant cultural symbols that people use to ascertain a person's larger set of values and commitments. The Republican Party has understood and manipulated this feature of human psychology particularly well since 1968, deliberately choosing appeals on a key set of issues that allow many Americans to feel that the Republican party stands for their values, even if Republican candidates by and large are not working in their economic interests.

Speaking as a liberal Democrat, I would much rather compromise on what is in practice a largely symbolic issue like gun control than on economic issues that hit ordinary people where they live…

I would rather that the Democratic party be more populist than it currently is. Let me be clear: I don't particularly like Dean's way of exemplifying the working class Americans he wants to appeal to: the Confederate Flag, after all, reemerged into popular consciousness as a symbol of massive resistance to Brown in the 1950's and 1960's. But I do think that it is important to show people who have a gun rack on their pickup trucks-- to change the metaphor-- that the Democratic Party is working in their interests. In my view, the elitists that people should be worried about are not cultural elitists but economic elitists, people who want to grab everything and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves. The Democratic Party will do much better if it compromises on a few cultural issues like gun control while promoting the economic issues that more Americans can identify with.

While I don’t agree with his characterization of what he terms “economic eletists” his general point is a good one. The one problem is that much of the Democrat constituency is made up of focused interest groups. Democrats must be willing to lose a few of them in order to win the “ordinary Americans.”

Richard Cohen sums up the Democrats' problem:

For some people, the Confederate flag is a loathsome symbol. But we all know what Dean meant. And we know Dean is not a racist…but you would not know it from the way he was treated by fellow Democratic presidential candidates Tuesday in Boston. Sharpton was the most indignant, demanding that Dean "apologize.”…Sharpton accused Dean of promoting "an anti-black agenda," a far worse slur than anything Dean said about the Confederate flag.

It is both instructive and ironic that on the night the Democrats were roasting Dean, GOP candidates won gubernatorial races in Kentucky and Mississippi. It was further proof that the once solidly Democratic South is now solidly Republican -- and it will go that way come 2004 if the Democratic candidates keep up this nonsense.

He's right. As long as Democrats continue to try to appeal to every aggrieved interest group, and, in the process forgot about what average Americans care about, they will continue to have to write off a large, important portion of the country.

Halliburton deals 

Steven Kelman, a Harvard University professor and President Clinton’s administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy from ’93-’97, explains why the charges of cronyism in government contracting is pure political rhetoric. Kelman begins by debunking the myth that contracts are handed out by political operatives to big campaign donors. He then moves on to challenge this bit of conventional wisdom:

Many people are also under the impression that contractors take the government to the cleaners. In fact, government keeps a watchful eye on contractor profits -- and government work has low profit margins compared with the commercial work the same companies perform. Look at the annual reports of information technology companies with extensive government and nongovernment business, such as EDS Corp. or Computer Sciences Corp. You will see that margins for their government customers are regularly below those for commercial ones. As for the much-maligned Halliburton, a few days ago the company disclosed, as part of its third-quarter earnings report, operating income from its Iraq contracts of $34 million on revenue of $900 million -- a return on sales of 3.7 percent, hardly the stuff of plunder.

While this doesn’t mean that the federal government is getting the best bang for its buck (a coworker of mine has a friend in Iraq, who works in logistics, who has said that Iraqis were offering to do laundry services of the Army for around half a million dollars, while the government contractor’s lowest offer was $7 million) the higher costs are most likely a result of higher wages, overhead, and operating costs. Perhaps the contracting procedures need to be adjusted, but this doesn’t mean that there is corruption going on.

Kelman also writes:

The whiff of scandal manufactured around contracting for Iraq obviously has been part of the political battle against the administration's policies there (by the way, I count myself as rather unsympathetic to these policies). But this political campaign has created extensive collateral damage. It undermines public trust in public institutions, for reasons that have no basis in fact. It insults the career civil servants who run our procurement system.

Perhaps most tragically, it could cause mismanagement of the procurement system. Over the past decade we have tried to make procurement more oriented toward delivering mission results for agencies and taxpayers, rather than focusing on compliance with detailed bureaucratic process requirements. The charges of Iraq cronyism encourage the system to revert to wasting time, energy and people on redundant, unnecessary rules to document the nonexistence of a nonproblem.

It’s extremely frustrating to listen to the Democrat presidential candidates make allusions to "sweat heart deals for Halliburton" to get applause lines at debates when there is no such thing going on. But I guess that’s politics. Read the whole thing. It’s informative.

Latest read 

Last night I finished reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. Despite the fact it was written over 40 years ago it was still very prescient and the vast majority of the ideas are still worthy of discussion. Some of his ideas, such as public school vouchers, have become mainstream political proposals, while others, such as the elimination of the various public welfare projects and the replacement of them with tax credits or cash handouts, are still only being discussed on the political fringes.

I would recommend this book to just about everyone. As a Conservative bordering on libertarian who majored in economics and political science, I found it a great basic text. I would recommend that young Conservatives, instead of buying the latest Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity book, pick this one up. I would also recommend it to Liberals who want to learn the true reason why conservatives and libertarians take the positions they do on so many issues (believe it or not it isn’t because we like to starve children, steal seniors’ Social Security checks, rape the environment, or enact tax laws to further enrich the wealthiest one percent).

I would also be interested in hearing suggestions from my readers who are of the more Liberal persuasion a basic Liberal text that lays out the basic principles of Liberalism (preferably written by someone who is not running for office or wasn’t at the time the book was written). In college I read Robert Reich’s The Work of Nations, which I thought was worth reading. Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Leaked memo 

When I originally saw a headline about a leaked Senate Intelligence Committee memo, I didn’t even read the article. Memos meant for someone else are always being made public on Capitol Hill. However, someone put the text of this memo in front of me and I was aghast. Now, I realize that memos such as this are commonplace on the Hill. Attempts to politicize hearings and official reports happen all the time. The major difference here is that this is the Senate Intelligence Committee. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are the most non-partisan of any Committees on the Hill. When these Committees issue statements or reports or hold hearings, people on both sides of the isle listen. Partisan politics never enters the picture. That is what is so shocking to people about this memo.

Here is the complete text:

We have carefully reviewed our options under the rules and believe we have identified the best approach. Our plan is as follows:

1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by Administration officials. We are having some success in that regard. For example, in addition to the President's State of the Union speech, the Chairman has agreed to look at the activities of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (e.g. Rumsfeld, Feith and Wolfowitz) as well as Secretary Bolton's office at the State Department. The fact that the Chairman supports our investigations into these offices, and cosigns our requests for information, is helpful and potentially crucial. We don't know what we will find, but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the Majority. (Note: We can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing).

2) Assiduously prepare Democratic "additional views" to attach to any interim of final reports the committee may release. Committee rules provide this opportunity and we intend to take full advantage of it. In that regard, we have already compiled all the public statements on Iraq made by senior Administration officials. We will identify the most exaggerated claims and contrast them with the intelligence estimates that have since been declassified. Our additional views will also, among other things, castigate the majority for seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry. The Democrats will then be in a strong position to reopen the question of establishing an independent commission (i.e. the Corzine amendment).

3) Prepare to launch an Independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the Majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the Administration's use of intelligence at any time -- but we can only do so once. The best time to do so will probably be next year either:

A) After we have already released our additional views on an interim report -- thereby providing as many as three opportunities to make our case to the public: (1) additional view on the interim report; (2) announcement of our independent investigation; and (3) additional views on the final investigation; or

B) Once we identify solid leads the Majority does not want to pursue. We would attract more coverage and have greater credibility in that context that on e in which we simply launch an independent investigation based on principled but vague notions regarding the "use" of intelligence.

In the meantime, even without a specifically authorized independent investigation, we continue to act independently when we encounter foot-dragging on the part of the Majority. For example, the FBI Niger investigation was done solely at the request of the Vice Chairman; we have independently submitted written questions to DoD; and we are preparing further independent requests for information.

Summary

Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet, we have an important role to play in revealing the misleading -- if not flagrantly dishonest methods and motives - of the senior Administration officials who made the case for a unilateral, preemptive war. The approach outline above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the Administration's dubious motives and motives.


I found a response by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) on NRO’s The Corner.

"This strategy memo lays bare what we've started to see for some time: an orchestrated effort by Democrats at a time of war to improperly use an intelligence investigation as a weapon against President Bush. The memo completely shreds Democrats' claims of bipartisanship in this investigation and falsely attributes ugly motives to the President, members of his administration, and fellow members of Congress. It has reached conclusions about this investigation before it's even been concluded. The Senate should examine whether its rules have been violated by this memo. It is, for example, improper under Senate rules to impugn the motives of fellow Senators. Additionally, committee staff should never be involved in partisan political scheming, most especially Intelligence Committee staff members, who in the past have always acted in a nonpolitical, bipartisan fashion. If Senators continue to attribute this memo to staff, then those staff members should be fired. Additionally, I call on Senator Rockefeller and Senate Democratic leaders to immediately disassociate themselves from this partisan attack plan. A failure to denounce this memo publicly would clearly seem to be an acknowledgement of its authenticity."

Panning the Matrix 

Jonathon Last and Stephen Hunter don't like "The Matrix: Revolutions."

Senate non-vote 

Harold Meyerson rightly criticizes the Senate for not taking a recorded vote on the Iraq reconstruction funding.

In the fall of 2002, the administration was positively gleeful about forcing Congress to go on record to authorize the coming war, and Democrats from swing states or districts knew they voted no at their own peril.

This week no such pressure was forthcoming. Those Republicans who live by the wedge issue understand when they could die by it, too. There was simply no percentage in compelling members to vote yes on a floundering occupation that could easily grow far worse.

It's instructive, though, that opponents of the occupation weren't exactly clamoring to be recorded against it either. Only old Robert Byrd stood on the Senate floor and shouted no when the vote was taken, but Byrd has been casting recorded votes since the waning days of the Roman Republic, and it's a hard habit to break.

He then goes on a rant about how the strategy used during the war and reconstruction is a failure. Isn’t it a little too early to tell? He also suggests a new reason why the Administration wishes to maintain control of the reconstruction:

It turns out that Paul Bremer, our man in Baghdad, has decreed that come next year Iraq shall have a flat tax on individuals and businesses of 15 percent.

It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Is Iraq to become a laboratory for all those right-wing brainstorms that have gone nowhere in this country but that we are free to impose there during our short-order mandate? While we're at it, we could also outlaw stem cell research and elevate Charles Pickering to the Baghdad bench.

Yes, that must be it… Thanks Harold.

But The Hill reports:

Some Republican Senators also think that the voice vote on Iraq funding was a bad idea. Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Kyl (R-AZ), Trent Lott (R-MS) and Larry Craig (R-ID) all express regret. Top Democrats disagree. “I personally was glad to get it done this way,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). “Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters that a number of senators felt that a second vote on the issue was unnecessary.”

Republicans also gained something by accepting the deal. Several Republicans, including Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), and others, had successfully amended the package to convert $10 billion of the money into loans, rather than grants.

The administration overrode the Senate-passed position and threw out the loan provisions in a conference committee with the House. This left some Republicans in the uncomfortable position of either voting for the package without the loans for which they had fought, or voting against it altogether. A Senate GOP leadership aide said a recorded vote would have put those members “in a box.”

Congrats! 

A good man, physician, and three-term House Member was elected governor of Kentucky. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) is the first Republican to hold the governorship in that state in 31 years. He won by over 100,000 votes, 55-45 percent. Congrats!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Interesting discussion for election day 

On NRO's "corner" Andrew Stuttaford posted a report from Wired magazine highlighting some of the problems with e-voting. His problem with online voting is essentially this: "if someone discovered software problems serious enough to raise real questions about a result, how exactly would the votes be recounted?"

Jonah Goldberg responded with these comments:

The core problems with e-voting are that those technical problems might actually be solved (and, come on, eventually they will be solved). Once that happens, the argument against online voting, i.e. "cyber democracy" will be even harder to make. Going to a polling place at a specific time and place cultivates certain civic virtues. The peril of e-voting is that voting will be something we can do in the bathroom, on the couch, during a commercial break, whenever. In other words, voting will become even less deliberative and the less deliberating will have fewer impediments to voting. By focusing on the technical aspects we concede the more important argument because implicitly we agree that if it did work we would be for it. Well, I wouldn't. I'm okay with moving elections to weekends, if we must as a political sop who say voting is too hard. But in reality, I think voting should be more difficult, not less.

Jonah then links to this column he wrote back in 1999 criticizing internet voting. Besides the basic argument made above, in this column he expands his argument to include the future ramification of internet voting: the erosion of our republican form of government and a gradual movement to direct democracy based upon the whims of the majority. It’s worth a read. While I don’t think voting should be made more difficult, I don’t know how anyone could think that voting in this day and age is too onerous. I got up 30 minutes early this morning and went to the church down the street and voted before work. It wasn’t hard.

More House security problems 

In another bizarre incident involving House office building security, a random woman spent a portion of the weekend in an office used by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) in the Longworth House Office Building. The woman, Suzanne Michele Jensen, has been charged with unlawful entry, a misdemeanor.

Nunes spokesman Justin Stoner said a female aide who works in the annex, Room 1020, discovered Jensen when she attempted to enter the office Sunday afternoon only to find an interior deadbolt had been locked.

The aide contacted the building superintendent to gain access to an adjacent office, from which she stepped onto a terrace and entered her office through a window.

“[Jensen] was eating out of our refrigerator,” Stoner said. “When she was discovered she was sitting on our conference table ... looking over some books.”

According to the Capitol Police, the Nunes aide spoke briefly with the woman, who could not produce identification, before pulling a duress alarm in the office….

It is possible Jensen, a Virginia resident who is approximately 41 years old, has a mental disorder, according to Capitol Police reports.

Well, it is the people's house!

Broken window 

There’s not much information in this news story about he guy who threw the brick through the glass door of the Cannon building yesterday.

Capitol Police arrested a man Monday after he threw a brick that broke a window at a House office building, less than a week after a gun scare at the same building briefly closed the House of Representatives, police said.

The man was shouting and appeared to be protesting something, "but we're not sure what it was," said Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel.

Identified as Jasper Crown, 46, he will be charged with destruction of government property, police said.

The man, wearing a business suit, threw the brick twice, breaking the window of an entrance door to the Cannon Office Building on the second attempt, Gissubel said. Four officers immediately detained him, she said.

Political races 

The Hill has some interesting information on races going on around the country that will be decided today and in 2004. The article also reminds us that Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the Democrat “king-maker” in South Carolina politics has yet to make an endorsement for president. He doesn’t seem to care for Wes Clark though. There is also a run down of the ramifications for Florida politics of Sen. Graham’s announcement not to run for another term.

My home state... 

Greg Pierce has a short summary of the battle for the state Senate in New Jersey:

"The quiet but crucial race for control of New Jersey's evenly divided (20-20) Senate appears too close to call — much closer than the GOP blowout on tap in Virginia's legislative races," CNN political editor John Mercurio writes in the network's daily e-mail newsletter, the Morning Grind.

According to www.politicsnj.com, the best Web site (actually, the best publication of any sort) devoted exclusively to New Jersey politics, Republicans hold 17 safe or likely GOP seats, while Democrats hold 18. The real battle is over five seats (three Republican, two Democratic) that are either tossups or lean narrowly toward one party. Democrats enjoy a narrow edge in the state Assembly, which they currently control by a three-seat margin. Only eight seats are being heavily contested in the lower chamber — five Republicans, two Democrats and a Green.


And my new home:

The Washington Post has an article about the population growth in the D.C. metro area,

The region gained more than 25,000 people in this group from other parts of the country in the late 1990s, census numbers show. That increase ranked fourth among the nation's 20 largest metropolitan areas, after San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The figures reinforce the region's reputation as one of the most educated in the country, but they add a new dimension: The youth and single status detailed in the study are especially desirable. Educated people in their twenties and thirties not only have the brainpower to fill high-skilled jobs, they also make good money that they spend freely while not costing much in government services.

Well…except for the “brainpower,” “good money,” and “spending freely” I fit right in!

Monday, November 03, 2003

Senate "passage" 

The Senate agreed to the Iraq reconstruction funding. They passed a unanimous consent agreement that stated that the appropriations bill had been passed. There was no recorded vote. This saved the Democrat presidential contenders from a controversial vote and, at the same time, saved some Republicans from having to vote for the grant proposal, which they opposed. It also saved the Senate a lot of time, which is at a premium over there considering the number of bills left to complete.

In an anticlimactic moment for which only a handful of senators appeared, the Senate approved the bill by voice and handed a legislative victory to President Bush who had requested a similar package two months ago. The voice vote — in which Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., was the only one to shout "Nay" — let lawmakers sidestep the roll call that usually accompanies major legislation.

Cannon again... 

Someone just threw a brick at a glass door to the Cannon House Office building. He or she is in custody. We heard this through the enunciators…at least they’re working this time.

Rauch on Bush 

Jonathan Rauch has a very good column on Reason.com on Bush’s “unilateralism.” Here’s an excerpt:

The larger problem, Daalder and Lindsay write, is Bush's determination to throw America's weight around. "Bush preferred to build his empire on American power alone rather than on the greater power that comes with working with friends and allies."

Really? Obviously much of the world opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but to speak of America as isolated or Bush as unilateralist seems an exaggeration, to be charitable. The administration tried hard to get the Security Council to put teeth in its own resolutions against Saddam Hussein. It went to the council not once but twice, when unilateralists said the right number of times was zero. It received support from dozens of countries, including some European biggies (Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland). It sought and obtained the Security Council's blessing for the occupation. It received $13 billion in reconstruction pledges from many countries. It is getting help from 24,000 foreign troops in Iraq, most of them British and Polish, but with support from more than 30 countries. (More than 50 foreign soldiers have died in Iraq.)

And on other fronts? The administration is insisting on a multilateral approach to North Korea—not grudgingly, as NPR's Shuster would have it, but in the teeth of allies' reluctance to get involved. It is trying to mobilize the United Nations on Iran. It has set up a multilateral Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict weapons, with France and Germany among the eight European participants. It recently won a multilateral agreement with 20 Asian and Pacific countries to curb the trade in shoulder-fired missiles.

Bush is not going it alone. He is setting his agenda and then looking for support, rather than the other way around. That is what presidents and countries typically do.

Check out "The Buck Stops Here" 

Stuart Buck links to some good thoughts on Iraq reconstruction contracts and has some of his own.

A few bloggers have been taking the "Political Compass" test. I decided to take it and post my results. I am exactly in the middle of the libertarian-authoritarian line and to the right of center on the right-left line. I agree with Stuart Buck that some of these questions/statements are a little strange. Like this one: "In a civilised society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded." What does that mean? I don't think this is a prerequisit for a civilized society, but, in general, this is how it works out because of the free market.

Buck also has some thoughts on the estate tax.
This Pfc. should have been the real hero of the 507th ambush.

Tighter security 

The Capitol Hill police promise that the incident last week will mean closer scrutiny of people and bags coming through the doors of the office buildings.

Lines to enter the Capitol complex will likely move more slowly as police try to avoid repetition of a scare over a toy gun that made it through security and into a House office building.

In an interview published Saturday in The Washington Post Chief Terrance Gainer acknowledged the incident exposed serious security gaps and communication failures in his police force and he vowed protection would be improved.

He said more than 200 of his supervisors would attend a weekend work session to analyze what went wrong when a Halloween prop, a fast X-ray machine belt and a distracted officer combined Thursday to shut down the House of Representatives.

This morning there were three guards at my door instead of the usual two and they weren't engaging in the usual chitchat with people coming in and out.

D.C. news 

Last Friday Greg Pierce reported on more clashes in the Ways and Means Committee.

A group of House Democrats crashed a private meeting of lawmakers discussing the Medicare prescription-drug bill yesterday, in protest that they have been excluded from the bill negotiations.

"I came to say, 'Look we don't know what you're doing,'" said Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. Mr. Rangel and Rep. Marion Berry, Arkansas Democrat, were appointed to the conference committee charged with producing a final Medicare prescription-drug bill, but have not been invited to daily, closed-door meetings held by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican…Mr. Rangel and Mr. Berry, along with about 12 others from the Ways and Means Committee, walked into yesterday's private meeting, sat down and asked Mr. Thomas why they've been excluded.

Mr. Rangel said he was told the private meetings are for "willing participants" interested in producing a final bill. "Subjectively, he decided I'm not one of those members," Mr. Rangel complained after he left the room.


Today he reports on the fact that 132 Members of the House represent districts in which a majority of households are headed by unmarried adults.

Single head-of-household voters apparently prefer Democrats. Only 19 of the majority-single districts have Republican representatives in the House.

Among the 113 House Democrats representing majority-single districts (with the percentage of households headed by unmarried adults):

Illinois Reps. Bobby L. Rush (63.9), Rahm Emanuel (58.2) and Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (56.9); California Reps. Nancy Pelosi (69.9), Barbara Lee (62.8), Henry A. Waxman (60.0) and Maxine Waters (57.7); Michigan Reps. John Conyers Jr. (63.1); Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (52.6); Texas Reps. Martin Frost (52.1) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (60.8); and New York Democrats Charles B. Rangel (75.0), Carolyn B. Maloney (70.0) and Jerrold Nadler (66.1).

Furthermore, the Census Bureau reports that a majority of households in 13 states are headed by unmarried adults, and Democrats hold a 16-10 majority of Senate seats from those states, which include California (50.5 percent unmarried households) and New York (54.1 percent).

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