Friday, June 29, 2007


When did he start?

O'Malley Says He's Not Done Fixing Energy Costs

“O'Malley, who discussed failed efforts to reduce a 70 percent BGE rate hike that fully went into effect this month, also said Maryland may need to revisit its 1999 deregulation law.

"It's a complicated problem. I could not fix it in four months," O'Malley said. "I would have hoped that we would have been able to at least whittle down that 70 percent, but we were not successful in doing this."

Really? Because it sounded like he had all the answers last year while out campaigning.


The Advice and Consent of E. J. Dionne

Once again my good friend E.J. Dionne is not a happy camper. Some of the recent Supreme Court decisions have left him apoplectic and he wants the Senate to Just Say No!

“The Senate's Democratic majority -- joined by all Republicans who purport to be moderate -- must tell President Bush that this will be their answer to any controversial nominee to the Supreme Court or the appellate courts.” E. J. Dionne Jr. - Not One More Roberts or Alito

Now we haven’t talked together about this but I’m going to guess Mr. Dionne is fact-specific here: he doesn’t want the Senate’s Democratic majority to adopt the no-controversial-nominee rule for ALL future nominees, just those who are controversial with the likes of an E. J. Dionne. I’m also guessing that a future President Clinton, nominating a Ruth Bader Ginsburg think-a-like, will have no such diatribe directed at her for her controversial nominees.

What got Mr. Dionne so upset? What didn’t.

“Especially troubling was the opinion offered by Roberts and Alito this week eviscerating the rather modest restrictions on sham "issue" ads in the McCain-Feingold law.”

Of course, “sham” is in the eye of the beholder. Mr. Dionne doesn’t mention – so I will – that the immediate ad in question merely would have urged Wisconsin citizens to contact their Senators about an issue of importance (judicial filibusters) to the Wisconsin Right to Life organization. Their potential sin was that the ads would have mentioned both Senators by name…and one of the Senators happened to be up for reelection….and the ads were projected to possibly run within a certain amount of days of an election. [Ed. Note - Had the ad not mentioned Russ Feingold’s name - and how cool is it that one of the namesakes of that bill is now part of its evisceration - presumably there would have been no issue.]

And calling the restrictions “modest” is also rather subjective. The law essentially imposed a blackout of nearly 80 days on the ads because the closeness of the primary and general election dates overlapped the restricted days. Now if Mr. Dionne were to state that he supported “modest restrictions” on his right to write campaign pieces – masquerading as sham “OpEds” - for liberal Democrats in the days and weeks leading up to an election, well, I might be convinced that his feelings on the issue were consistent and well-thought out. Hell. I’d be impressed if he were to openly state that he thinks issue groups like should be prohibited from encouraging the people to contact their Senators – some of whom may be up for re-election – to filibuster a federal judicial nomination that may be on the docket in October 2008.

But of course that wasn’t all. He’s also upset about:

“[the Justice’s] opinion…, explicitly overturning earlier court precedents.”

That’s right, apparently there are now few qualities more important in a person’s character than respect for (a/k/a blind adherence to) precedent…except, of course, when you don’t agree with the precedent. Here’s the whole quote:

“Kennedy's opinion is a Magna Carta of gay rights, explicitly overturning earlier court precedents.” The sexual revolution continues

That was E. J. Dionne in July 2003 upon the occasion of Lawrence v. Texas. Again, I haven’t discussed this with Mr. Dionne but I’m going to infer that when he likens an opinion to the Magna Carta, he’s agreeing with it.

That was then, this is now:

“"The court (and, I think, the country) loses when important precedent is overruled without good reason," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the dissenters. Exactly. But upsetting precedent, directly or indirectly, is a major goal of this new conservative majority.”

Worse for the court (and the country) is when UNimportant precedent is upheld for no good reason.

Finally, there’s this:

“If another conservative replaces a member of the court's moderate-to-liberal bloc, the country will be set on a conservative course for the next decade or more, locking in today's politics at the very moment when the electorate is running out of patience with the right.”

What moderate-to-liberal bloc? Which of the four Justices – Stephens, Ginsburg, Souter and/or Breyer – make up the moderate wing of that bloc? And if the electorate is truly running out of patience with the right, the good thing about the so-called conservative decisions is that generally legislative fixes are possible (except, of course, if you’re trying to restrict political speech). For example, if Roe v. Wade was overturned tomorrow, each state would be free to legislatively set – or not set – their own rules regarding abortions. In Maryland we did it by referendum in 1992 – meaning such an overturning would have no effect here. To the extent that other states haven’t or wouldn’t codify Roe could just mean the electorate’s patience hasn’t quite run its course.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


More Supreme Court

The final Supreme Court decisions for this term came out today – again marked by some more 5-4 decisions.

High Court Abandons Competition Rule -

Don't get too worked up over the headline – this decision just says that a distributor and a distributee can agree to a minimum sales price. I don’t think the AP is too happy with this.

“In recent decades, the Supreme Court has chipped away at what many economists traditionally regarded as vital consumer protections against anticompetitive conduct. For example, exclusive dealer territories and setting price ceilings are no longer automatically unlawful.”

Don’t you always love the non-attributed “many economists” reference? Left unsaid is exactly how an agreement setting “price ceilings” – in other words, a price cap – is somehow detrimental to the consumer. I’ll agree that in the long run they can be…but only when set by the ultimate price ceiling imposer: Government. The classic example, of course, is Rent Control and its dampening effect on the supply of rental property.

Another person who doesn’t seem to happy with this is dissenter Justice Breyer:

“The only safe predictions to make about today's decision are that it will likely raise the price of goods at retail,"

He was predictably joined by Justices Stephens, Ginsburg and Souter. I haven’t read their dissent yet but I hope it explains why a government-imposed price minimum like a minimum wage is okay but a minimum price on some high-priced leather goods is a social evil.


iPhone mania

As most are probably aware, the new iPhone comes out tomorrow and I guess this is a pretty big deal: Some Camp Out for the iPhone, Others Just Want to Make a Buck -

Apparently the $500 price tag is no deterrent but waiting all that time in line just to be one of the first..? What a bunch of saps; I think John Edwards would handle this in a more efficient, bridging-the-Two-Americas way.

I’m sure it’s a life changing piece of equipment but since I just recently upgraded to a Razr, I’m going to hold off...and besides, it's $500!!

And for sheer chutzpah, you can’t beat this early camper in New York: I’m first in line for iPhone! « First in Line for iPhone

That’s right, the sign he is holding graciously informs all that he is accepting donations for food and metrocards and his blog informs us he is openly looking for donations to make his wait more comfortable…the wait to buy a $500 phone.


6 Days 'Till Energy Independence Day

Remember this?

“We hope to have legislation on global warming and energy independence through the committees by July 4th, so that this year, Independence Day is also ‘Energy Independence Day.’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi News Room Press Releases

If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting impatiently ever since for our Energy Independence and from what I’m reading, the wait will be worth it:

“As committees raced to wrap up bills yesterday before Monday's recess, the Democratic strategy remained unclear.” House Democrats at Odds Over Energy Bill Provisions -

Well, as they say, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. I’ve looked at the House bill and all I can ask is – “Why didn’t we do this before?”.

Here’s what the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is considering:

Committee Print #1, To promote greater energy efficiency;
Committee Print #2, To facilitate the transition to a smart electricity grid;
Committee Print #3, To clarify the amount of loans to be guaranteed under title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005;
Committee Print #4, To promote the development of renewable fuels infrastructure;
Committee Print #5, To promote advanced plug-in hybrid vehicles and vehicle components; and
Committee Print #6, To enhance availability of energy information.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce :: Selected Legislation and Issues - Issue Name

I’ve read through the Committee Prints and there is a lot of ground breaking stuff in there. And, as expected with a problem this immense, the solutions will require sacrifice and hard work. If the Democrats have their way, we can expect, among other things:

· A consensus agreement on incandescent reflector lamp standards,
· DOE to complete a furnace fan rulemaking by July 1, 2013,
· The Establishment of a $30 million “Center of Excellence” at NC A&T…which then has to give $5 million each to 5 other Historically Black Colleges,
· The providing for a public outreach effort to provide information on green buildings,
· Definitions for what a green building is.

That’s right, with typical Washington bravado, we can expect Energy Independence by simply passing a bill that seeks “consensus”, defines certain terms and sets strict guidelines for giving grants (no “vertically integrated oil company” need apply). Ethanol, with its lower gas mileage and contribution to higher food costs is also favorably considered. So, with that kind of effort, who needs nuclear power, new oil drilling or coal liquification? Apparently not us because they are not part of the bill.

Side Note: “At yesterday's markup at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, [Congressman Ed] Markey lamented "what's not in this bill." He said "the country has been waiting 20 years to address the issue" of fuel efficiency. He called it "our duty."

20 years is the how long we’ve gone since our last fuel efficiency legislation and I guess Congressman Markey believes that we’ve wanted even more ever since. I guess the Congressman also believes that we are reluctant to demand more fuel efficient vehicles absent a federal government mandate. Congressman Markey is a BC grad…’nuff said.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Scott Wilson reports on an Edict in Trouble

It’s been awhile since I commented on a Scott Wilson report from Israel but his most recent report deserves something: 13 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Operations

“Most of those killed, Palestinian health officials said, belonged to militias that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah party is moving to disarm following the intense factional fighting earlier this month that left Gaza in the hands of Hamas.”

And how is President Abbas moving to disarm them? He “…issued a decree disbanding all Palestinian militias, including the one affiliated with his own party…”

…about which Scott Wilson thoughtfully notes, “…it is unclear what effect the edict will have in Gaza.”

Well, unless Mr. Wilson can conjure up a realistic scenario whereby there is a chance that Hamas militants, having just kicked around armed militia loyal to President Abbas, are going to reconsider their actions now that they are faced with an ‘edict’ from President Abbas, I’m going to risk looking stupid and guess the edict will have no effect. Actually I’m not taking that big a risk because apparently no one is expected to take the edict seriously.

“"It's madness what's going on," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior adviser to Abbas. "It gives all the militias in Gaza an excuse to reject Abbas's decree to dissolve them and collect their weapons. No one will abide by it now."

And who is the one responsible for providing the militias with this easy out? Loyal Scott Wilson readers have probably already guessed:

“But Abbas advisers said Wednesday that Israel's military operation undermined the president's ability to disarm the militias in the West Bank and Gaza, where Hamas leaders are running a parallel government after refusing to recognize Abbas's order dissolving the cabinet.”

Yeah, it's all Israel's military operations in Gaza and not the whoopin put on President Abbas's Fatah's military operations in Gaza by Hamas's military operations just a few weeks earlier.


O'Malley goes to NY for his choice for President..and Vacation

Although I consider myself a loyal Marylander, there are times when I just want to get away from the incessant intrusions into my life that our liberal Democratic state and local governments seek to impose on me. Living in Baltimore under Martin O’Malley’s administration and now living in Rockville but still under a Martin O’Malley administration – the call to chuck it all and get out of here for a brief respite increasingly rings in my ears.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this: - O'Malley Is On Vacation In New York

Yep – signaling to all that New York is apparently where it’s at, the MARYLAND governor took a few days off from the strain of being a Democratic governor in an overwhelmingly Democratic state and enjoyed some relaxing fishing.

If only Maryland offered similar opportunities to relax…


Retirement planning, Baltimore style

Following up yesterday’s posting on the sweet pension deal that our new head of the Maryland Transportation Authority received from the City of Baltimore. Apparently this has been an ongoing story for a few days up in Baltimore and The Examiner has a pretty good summary of the case, complete with links to applicable documents. Pension board to review possible abuse -

Here’s the contract that then-Mayor Martin O’Malley signed which Mr. Brown somehow envisioned qualified him for an early pension.

Here’s what now-Governor Martin O’Malley has to say about Mr. Brown relying on that contract to qualify for the early pension:

“…[he]said he was not involved in the decision to award it. "I think it was something between [Brown] and the police commissioner," he said.” Pension For Police Appointee Debated -

To reiterate: Marcus Brown worked for the city for little more than 14 years; the City credits his prior time in San Jose to get him over the 15 year mark, he quits to take a better-paying job with the State, an apparently cash-flush Baltimore awards him a $55,000 a year pension.

Like I wrote earlier, Where do I sign up?


The Undertaxed Warren Buffet

This is strange: Buffett Slams Tax System Disparities

“ Warren E. Buffett was his usual folksy self Tuesday night at a fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as he slammed a system that allows the very rich to pay taxes at a lower rate than the middle class.

“Buffett cited himself, the third-richest person in the world, as an example. Last year, Buffett said, he was taxed at 17.7 percent on his taxable income of more than $46 million. His receptionist was taxed at about 30 percent.”

I'm guessing that much of what he made is Capital Gains (15%) so the 17.7% is probably a blended, effective rate (vice marginal rate which would be the tax on his next dollar of income). I’m not sure if that includes his state taxes but since he’s ripping the federal tax system I’m going to guess not. What I’m trying to figure out is how a receptionist pays at a 30% tax rate.

Here’s a link to the 2006 tax rates: 2006 Federal Tax Rate Schedules. Not sure what the receptionist’s filing status is (married, single…) but as a single person you don’t hit 28% until your taxable income (after deductions and exemptions) hits $74,200. That’s not bad for a receptionist, especially one in Omaha. For that receptionist to have paid federal income taxes of 30% of his income (PC alert – notice how I didn’t automatically assume the receptionist was a woman), he would probably have to be making north of $100,000 and only use the standard deduction.

…unless Mr. Buffet is comparing apples and oranges – perhaps he is including the FICA tax (7.65%) as part of the 30%. Agreed - that is an onerous tax on workers. (Capital Gains and Dividends are not subject to that tax.) And perhaps he is including the receptionist’s state taxes (Nebraska ranges from 2.56% to 6.84%)…and/or property tax rates (Omaha 2+%), sales tax (Nebraska 5.5%)…Yep – we all pay a lot of taxes and so I guess it is not out of the realm of possibility that Mr. Buffet could cobble together enough of them to figure that his receptionist pays 30% but if he is just talking federal rates, I’m going to question his figures…or move to Omaha to work as a receptionist!

This tired liberal gripe about the wealthy not paying enough in taxes brings to mind an interesting proposal (and I wish I could take credit for it) to alter Form 1040 with a few additional lines. If you felt that you just weren’t paying enough in federal taxes, you would have the opportunity to lead by example and list what you thought a fairer percentage would be…and then pay to it. This would also have the wonderful side-benefit of quantifying exactly how under-taxed people consider themselves and possibly silence the arguments of tax-cutting conservatives.

In the meantime, if Mr. Buffet is unhappy with his CPA over the lack of taxes he is paying, I'd be happy to make him a client. I'd guarantee him as high a tax bill as he'd like.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Where do I sign up?

How’s this for a sweet deal. You quit your city job for a better state job and the city, in gratitude for your normally-less-than-pension-qualifying service, gives you the pension anyway. And apparently we’re not talking chump change here either – the pension pays over $55,000 a year.

Pension For Police Appointee Debated

Of course, it will come as no surprise to many Marylanders that this is all about Baltimore. Marcus Brown had been a deputy police commissioner during the latter reign of Martin O’Malley and followed the newly-elected Governor to become his head of the Maryland Transportation Authority. The result:

“At age 42, with less than 15 years in Baltimore and credit for three in San Jose, Brown was awarded an annual pension from the city of more than $55,000. He took advantage of a relatively obscure provision in the city code -- the meaning of which has been much debated -- that allows an employee with between 15 and 20 years of service to collect a pension if he is "removed . . . without fault upon his part."

Apparently everyone is a moron on how to read that except for the police department’s legal counsel:

“Hornig said the term "removed" has a different meaning in a paramilitary organization such as a police force, and that it encompasses voluntary resignation. Simply quitting a job in a police force, without permission, could result in disciplinary action, she said.

"When you're a commander, you don't get to just quit," she said. "You have to essentially be removed by your commander."

Since I have no idea what she is trying to say here, I’ll count myself among the morons.

The Governor, of course, is blameless:

“…[he]said he was not involved in the decision to award it. "I think it was something between [Brown] and the police commissioner," he said.”

But later we learn that:

“In Brown's case, an agreement signed when he became deputy commissioner in 2005 appears to specify that he be given the option of early retirement if he left without having served 20 years.”

…and the Mayor at that time was?


Celebrating Diversity

I make no secret of my disdain for the current PC fetish for skin-deep diversity. Like the Emperor’s new clothes, this diversity is often praised but always in the abstract. John Leo’s piece in the City Journal (H/T NRO) has alerted me to some new relevant research on the matter which would seem to be of particular interest today as the Senate argues over an immigration bill:

“Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about releasing his new research, and understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. He fears that his work on the surprisingly negative effects of diversity will become part of the immigration debate, even though he finds that in the long run, people do forge new communities and new ties.” Bowling With Our Own

Mr. Leo closes with an excellent observation that sums up the problem many of us have with immigration proposals in this day:

“Putnam is hopeful that eventually America will forge a new solidarity based on a “new, broader sense of we.” The problem is how to do that in an era of multiculturalism and disdain for assimilation.”

Full confession: this isn’t new; just new for me. Last fall, Mr. Putnam was “outed” in a Financial Times article:

“Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that”.

Not the kind of publicity sought by a staunch liberal like the Harvard professor. The NY Times even got in on the act a few weeks ago with a discussion of Mr. Putnam’s work: Idea Lab - Diversity:

I found this tidbit interesting:

“In some places, they already have: soldiers have more interracial friendships than civilians, Putnam’s research finds, and evangelical churches in the South show high rates of racial integration. “If you’re asking me if, in the long run, I’m optimistic,” Putnam says, “the answer is yes.”

On anybody’s list of institutions whose membership is most likely to be under-represented with liberals & progressives, I would think the military and Southern evangelical churches would be automatic pencil-ins. Yet it’s this kind of “walking the walk” – sans all the self-congratulatory diversity celebrations – that gives even a noted angst-ridden liberal like Robert Putnam cause for optimism.

Read for yourself Mr. Putnam’s latest paper: E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century. I suspect this will be getting even more attention in the days and months ahead.

Monday, June 25, 2007


The Post explains the Supreme Court

I haven’t read the decisions announced today by the Court but I guess I have to now. I tried reading Robert Barnes “analysis” and Andrew Cohen’s Bench Conference blog (both online at, but their insights went little beyond labeling the decisions (well, some of them) as victories for conservatives (and this being the Washington Post, you know that ain’t good). Mr. Cohen is especially worked up over the results:

“Legal and political conservatives hit for the cycle Monday morning when they "won" four long-awaited rulings from the United States Supreme Court….

“Each of these decisions help establish the true conservative bona fides of this Court.”

Mr. Barnes is also with this line of reasoning as he apparently toes the party line that there are 5 conservatives judges therefore decisions with them in the majority are conservative decisions:

“The conservative opinions, with the exception of the abortion ruling, have been, for the most part, low-key in tone and shaped by what the authors said was a strict reading of congressional statutes.”

(Ed. Note: The Barnes piece was labeled “Analysis” – how about calling out the Justices if you don’t agree that they employed “a strict reading of congressional statutes”.)

Not explained by either of the gentlemen is how a decision ostensibly limiting free speech (the infamous “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case) and one ostensibly expanding free speech (or at least getting us closer back to where we used to be) (FEC v. Wisconsin Right-to-Life) are both conservative decisions.

Especially snarky is Mr. Cohen’s quick synopsis of 4 of the decisions handed down today:

“The Justices further chipped away at the wall that separates church and state, took some of the steam out of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, neutered federal regulators in environmental cases to the benefit of developers and slammed a high school kid who had the temerity to put up a silly sign near his high school.”

Well, all the Justices did to chip away at the imaginary wall was to deny standing to a group suing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. And the neutering of federal regulators case involved an outside group (Defenders of Wildlife) trying to get a federal regulator’s decision overturned. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether a federal regulator whose administrative decision is allowed to stand is somehow more neutered than if the Court allowed to stand a lower court ruling which had imposed its own ruling after disagreeing with the original administrative decision.

Left out of all this wailing and gnashing of teeth is the FIFTH decision handed down today – a 7-2 decision disallowing a suit against Federal officials for perceived retribution when the landowner did not allow federal use of his land (Wilkie v. Robbins). Mr. Barnes at least mentions that there were 5 decisions today; Mr. Cohen couldn’t be bothered for even that much. I’m guessing he already had the perfect slant for his gleeful harangue about conservatives going 4-4 today at the Supreme Court. A decision easily cast as anti-property rights wouldn’t have fit the script.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


One Job That Americans Will Do...

Congrats to the US Soccer for their big 2-1 win over Mexico to take the Gold Cup: In Gold Cup Final, Feilhaber Has The Midas Touch for United States


Quick hits

David Ignatius in today’s Post:

“When foreign policy gurus Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft all start saying the same thing, it's time to pay attention.” David Ignatius - Wise Advice: Listen, and Engage

When you hear Europhiles extol the need to “Listen and Engage”, it’s usually short for “Listen and Engage then follow their advice”. And, besides, when did these three become “gurus”?… Zbigniew Brzezinski?...Doesn’t anybody writing for the Post remember the Carter years?

Michael Bloomberg is all the rage today and a former advisor is fairly gushing over the prospect of his presidential candidacy:

“[Some people]…are eager for him to bring his brand of party-blind leadership to Washington. If you believe the polls, the American public seems to want the same thing.”

These are the telling polls:

“…80% said it was 'very important' that the next President be a person who can unite the country, and 82% said the same about the need for a competent manager. . . . Another 58% said it was 'very important' the next President be able to cross party lines to work with political opponents.”

Well obviously the groundwork for the revolution is in place.

The author, Jonathan Capehart, also thinks it compelling that

“As a Republican in a 5 to 1 majority Democratic city, Bloomberg had to work across party lines to get all of that done.”

His Republicanism was strictly an affiliation of convenience; one that barely even had lip service paid to it. So acting as a nanny state liberal in an overwhelmingly Democratic city hardly establishes ones bona-fides as the king of nonpartisanship.

Later Mr. Capehart acknowledges the problems with third party candidacies:

“Ross Perot pulled in 19 percent of the vote in 1992 against President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Ralph Nader has been called a spoiler who took enough votes away from Vice President Al Gore to allow George W. Bush to win the presidency in 2000, and Bloomberg would run the risk of doing something similar in 2008."

Well, Ross Perot has also been called a spoiler - for the votes he arguably took away from George H. W. Bush, thus allowing Bill Clinton to win…but you don’t get the sense that that’s what Mr. Capehart thinks Mr. Bloomberg would be “risking”, do you?

“Still, what he says is needed in Washington would require a self-assured, unbeholden and fearless man or woman in the White House, one willing to walk through the meat grinder of highly organized special-interest opposition to make Still, what he says is needed in Washington would require a self-assured, unbeholden and fearless man or woman in the White House, one willing to walk through the meat grinder of highly organized special-interest opposition to make the tough decisions the American people are clamoring for.”

“…the tough decisions the American people are clamoring for.” Such language is appropriate for an easily dismissed press release of a campaign but this comes from a member of the Post’s editorial page staff (which is Mr. Capehart’s job when he is not auditioning for a role in Mr. Bloomberg’s prospective campaign).

If the American people are clamoring for something, giving it to them isn’t a politically tough decision. The tough ones arise when there is no consensus. I’ve no doubt Mr. Bloomberg is capable of making tough decisions – you don’t achieve his level of success without that skill – but any such decisions are going to look incredibly partisan to the losing side(s) and hardly cast him as a unifier.

(…and be on the lookout for more hard-hitting analyses from the Post editorial staff.)

Speaking of potential unifiers: Coal Fuels A Debate Over Obama

“More broadly, Obama's contortions on coal point to the limits of the role he likes to assume, that of a unifier who can appeal across traditional lines and employ a "new kind of politics" to solve problems. In reaching out to the coal industry, some observers say, he may have been trying to show that he is a different sort of Democrat, but the gesture had the look of old-style politicking and put him in a corner, where he wound up alienating some on both sides of the issue.”

But perhaps I’m being a bit unfair to the junior Senator from Illinois; after all, he wasn’t afraid to go in front of the Christian Left to criticize the Christian Right.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Say 'Thanks!' and Hug a Leftist

My good friend E.J. Dionne is checking out the political landscape today …and liking what he sees:

“…the dynamic in American public life, which is the move away from the right and a discrediting of the conservative era. The political "center" of today is not where the "center" was even five years ago.” E. J. Dionne Jr. - 'The Left' Moves Front and Center

Yep – we’re moving leftward according to Mr. Dionne and it’s all because “the left” does such a good job of framing the issues:

But the "good ideas" that voters are demanding mostly have to do with problems that have been framed by the left, not the right: the need to disengage from Iraq, to create health security, to ease economic inequalities. It's time to update our sense of where the political center lies and to adjust our view of "the left" accordingly.”

But conspicuously absent from his litany of problems framed by the left is immigration…probably because after all the talking, pen had to go to paper and details emerged.

Look, the Left is great at sounding populist themes that resonate in the abstract. Who doesn’t want lower gas prices, available health care and peace on earth? Where the Left comes up short though is in formulating and articulating plans that don’t scare the beejeesus out of many of us. Because invariably, those plans involve turning over more of our money to the good people (read: fellow Liberals) who will sacrifice themselves to control more of our lives.


World Peace the Jimmy Carter way

Just getting around to this but former President Jimmy Carter was recently in Ireland for (what else) one of those so-called human rights conferences. In addressing the conference, he provided some insights on the current mess among the Palistinians.

"This effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples now is a step in the wrong direction," he said. "All efforts of the international community should be to reconcile the two, but there's no effort from the outside to bring the two together."

“Carter was pessimistic this would happen soon. "I don't see at this point any possibility that public officials in the United States, or in Israel, or the European Union are going to take action to bring about reconciliation," he said. Carter: Stop favoring Fatah over Hamas Jerusalem Post

Unfortunately, this lesson in foreign affairs doesn’t extend to explaining just why Israel should be interested in forging a reconciliation between two groups that seek its destruction (and please don’t tell me about the moderate views of Abbas and Fatah on this).

Or why the US should be so hot to engage a group (Hamas) whose leadership hasn’t exactly shown it wants to be engaged by us:

“New Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi delivered a fiery speech at a memorial service Sunday for his slain predecessor…"

"Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam, an enemy of Muslims," Rantisi said… America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon…The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas."

(Ed. Note: That was March 27, 2004. On April 17, 2004 Mr. Rantisi was himself killed…without ever seeing that victory at the hand of Hamas.)

But it does extend towards indentifying the culprits:

“Far from encouraging Hamas's move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the US and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, has sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.

"That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech.”

Finally, grounds for impreachment…

But I mock in full knowledge that it could come back to mock me. After all, Mr. Carter has proven most prescient in these matters: - Jimmy Carter: Give Hamas a chance - Feb 1, 2006

“Hamas deserves to be recognized by the international community, and despite the group's militant history, there is a chance the soon-to-be Palestinian leaders could turn away from violence, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Selling out to Big Oil

A headline designed to p*** you off:

Big Oil Companies Spared Tax Hikes

Leading Democrats wanted to stick it to Big Oil but predictably:

“Republicans blocked a proposal Thursday to tax the oil industry an additional $29 billion…”

This did not please a certain someone:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., chastised Republicans for caving into pressure from oil companies in blocking the tax provisions…”

Some details:

“It would have rescinded a tax break given to oil companies in 2004 that was primarily aimed at helping domestic manufacturing; increased taxes paid under an oil spill liability law; and eliminated existing tax credits involving foreign oil production.”

That 2004 tax break won Senate approval 69-17…but it would have been only 68-18 if one Harry Reid hadn’t apparently caved “into pressure from oil companies” by voting for it. U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote

“Another measure also would have imposed a new excise tax on oil produced from the Gulf of Mexico to recoup $10.7 billion in royalties the government has been unable to retrieve because of flawed oil leasing contracts issued in 1998-99.”

A little civics lesson here – lease and royalty agreements in the Gulf of Mexico are negotiated and signed for by our very own Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior is part of the Executive branch and the Secretary is a Cabinet member. In 1998 and 1999, that Secretary was Bruce Babbit, a Democrat, appointed by then-President Bill Clinton, another Democrat.

But it’s those damn Republicans caving into Big Oil…

Side Note: “The tax package was aimed at channeling billions of dollars to subsidize windmills, hybrid cars and other alternative energy resources.”

Well, we already know where we can’t put the windmills, the hybrids seem to be primarily self-congratulatory tax breaks for the wealthy who can afford the foreign-produced, non-union made units and the catchall “alternative energy sources” presumably doesn’t include nuclear or drilling at ANWR. (sigh) Isn’t it just better the oil companies keep the money rather than we fritter it away based on another pathetic attempt by the federal government to out guess the market.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The Moral Leadership that is the UN

From the You-Can't make-This-Stuff-Up Department:

“Cuba hailed on Wednesday a decision by the new United Nations human rights watchdog to drop the communist nation from a list of countries with poor rights records, calling it a major diplomatic victory over its longtime ideological foe the United States.”
Cuba sees U.N. rights body's move as triumph over U.S.

But don’t worry; they’re not going totally soft up there at Turtle Bay:

Members of the U.N.'s new human rights watchdog formally agreed Tuesday to continue their scrutiny of Israel while halting investigations into Cuba and Belarus — a move that immediately drew fire from the United States.” U.N. rights council adopts reforms

See also: UN Human Rights Council agrees to details for reviewing countries. That is from the UN News Service report and it leaves out this salient point:

“TERRY CORMIER (Canada) said in establishing the Council, the General Assembly had set out its guiding principles. These included universality, impartiality and non-selectivity. Canada therefore regretted the inclusion in the agenda of one situation for selective treatment, that of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. This inclusion was due to a politicised approach. While not perfect, there were many positive elements in the proposed package, however, Canada could not agree to a package which contained an item so clearly contradictory to the principles under which the Council was founded. The text also failed to renew and subject to review only the mandates on Cuba and Belarus, both situations that clearly warranted continued scrutiny by country-specific mandates” Human Rights Council Report

Canada was the only nation member of the Council to vote against the text. As UNWatch notes

“For possibly the first time in the history of the United Nations, one of its major bodies has ruled that a consensus vote was achieved even though one of its members—one with a particular reputation for honesty—insists it never gave consent, much less even saw the text that was voted upon.”


Senator Clinton speaks out

From a report on the President’s veto today: Bush Vetoes Bill to Expand Stem Cell Research

(Ed. Note: it should more accurately read: EMBRYONIC Stem Cell Reserch)

“"This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become," Sen. Hillary R. Clinton (D-N.Y.), said during a speech to Democratic activists in Washington just hours before Bush's veto.”

Is the junior Senator from New York suggesting that she wouldn’t put ideology before science? How does she feel about euthanasia and Dr. Kevorkian? Eugenics? Drilling in ANWR?

And “politics before the needs of our families”? Well….I have to admit; one certainly can’t accuse her husband of ever putting politics before certain “needs”…if you catch my drift...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Some "Truth to Power"

Following up on my earlier comments on the shocking story that some federal agencies aren’t complying with certain aspects of certain laws, take note how it’s playing among some bloggers.

ThinkProgress, a fairly widely read (and I think it is safe to say) left-of center blog, converts the sample size of 6 of 19 out of 160 provisions that the President had objected into:

Following Bush Signing Statements, Federal Agencies Ignore 30 Percent Of Laws Passed Last Year

Whistle & Fish piggybacks ThinkProgress with this:

“the latest Government Accountability Office report that, by following executive signing statements, federal agencies have ignored a third of laws passed last year, this administration has declared it is above the law.”

Yep – now we’re up to a third of laws passed being ignored by federal agencies.

Yank in London clearly thinks the President is micromanaging the federal agencies as he notes, quite civilly:

“At least you have to give Captain Codpiece credit. First he says he is going to break the law and then he breaks the law.”

And finally, this is all apparently too much for Mike over at Ways to End the World:

“His argument — and I do mean his entire argument, the whole thing, this is all there is — is that he is the president, and clearly the president shouldn’t have to follow laws if he doesn’t want to. But we know that this is wrong, this is not what the constitution says, it isn’t even what common sense says. He has nothing. And he is a criminal. And we are reminded every day. Yet we do nothing.

“If a tree falls in the forest and everybody pretends not to hear it, is American society doomed to exist as an effective monarchy?”

Monarchy!?!...alright, at least he didn’t use ‘fascist’…


Emails, Signing Statements - the Rule of Law is Dead!!

Crablaw seems pretty upset over the revelation that many in the White House had – and used – email accounts with the RNC. He links to a website that in turn repeats large swaths of a Rep. Waxman (D-CA) release that finds this matter of the utmost seriousness and evidence of massive indifference to the law.

…and maybe it is. But anything out of Henry Waxman’s office deserves more than a little skepticism and a great deal of adjustment for partisan spin. Him criticizing the president is the ultimate political “dog bites man” story.

My reaction to this is much the same as I had upon learning that Al Gore made fundraising calls out of his White House office – I didn’t care. It struck me as ludicrous to expect the Vice President to leave his office just to make a few phone calls.

In this instance, learning that many political appointees split their emailing between official .gov and RNC accounts just doesn’t register any alarm. Am I to believe that had the alternative been true – that all their emailing had gone through their .gov account – that Henry Waxman would not now be expressing grave concerns over their misuse of a government account and possible violations of the Hatch Act? This all stems from the investigation into the legal firing of certain attorneys and, like that, will probably end up as another expensive (for the taxpayers) Democratic dead end.

Anyway, while we’re focusing on grave constitutional threats, we might as well throw some additional meat to the constitutional guard dogs out there:

'Signing Statements' Study Finds Administration Has Ignored Laws

“President Bush has asserted that he is not necessarily bound by the bills he signs into law, and yesterday a congressional study found multiple examples in which the administration has not complied with the requirements of the new statutes.” (an earlier take on what President Bush has actually asserted)

Reading a bit more we learn that “multiple” means “six” – out of the 19 laws studied.

“The instances of noncompliance were not as dramatic as some of the signing statements that have caused the most stir, such as Bush's suggestion that he was not bound by a ban on torture in U.S. military detention facilities. But congressional aides said they were significant.”

Post writer Jonathan Weisman doesn’t name those congressional aides nor does he identify their legal background nor does he identify their political affiliation,…so I’m going to assume they are Democrats whose legal education begins and ends with Linda Greenhouse. One violation involved not rotating an immigration checkpoint near Tucson enough, others involved not turning in certain reports either in a timely matter (late 17 days) or at all.

But this alarms those who are alarmed at signing statements including Bruce Fein who, since earlier criticizing the President on signing statements, has become everybody’s favorite conservative lawyer:

“But the GAO report suggests that the dispute over signing statements is not an academic one, Fein said, adding that Congress could use the report to take collective legal action against the White House.”

…which is an academic response. Look, if Congress feels that certain governmental parties aren’t complying with its laws and mandates, it can demand compliance. (I guarantee you that you could have canvassed both houses of Congress and been hard-pressed to find one member that would have even known about these violations.) After all, with control of the purse strings comes respect.


Dealing with Hamas

One of the many benefits of blogging is the constant reminder to test assumptions. For instance, in an Op-Ed in today’s Post, two supposed veteran Mid-East observers – laying the groundwork for a piece excoriating the Administration’s reaction to the Hamas takeover in Gaza state the following:

“Having embraced one illusion -- that it could help isolate and defeat Hamas -- the Bush administration is dangerously close to embracing another: Gaza is dead, long live the West Bank….

“The theory is a few years late and several steps removed from reality. If the United States wanted to help President Mahmoud Abbas, the time to do so was in 2005, when he won office in a landslide, emerged as the Palestinians' uncontested leader and was in a position to sell difficult compromises to his people.”
'West Bank First': It Won't Work

The authors are Robert Malley, director of the Middle East program at International Crisis Group and Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Mr. Malley was a special assistant to President Clinton in this arena through the end and Mr. Miller has worked with various Secretary of States dealing with Israeli-Arab negotiations. (Ed. Note: Two years ago, the latter issued a kind-of mea culpa based on his perception that we had become Israel’s lawyer - although to be fair, he has rejected the premise of Walt & Mearsheimer’s Israel lobby).

So no doubt they spend more time studying that region than I do but I just don’t remember Abbas’ election as representing such an obvious opportunity.

If you’ll recall, that landslide wasn’t quite as meaningful as they imply because Hamas – that other group – wasn’t an active participant in that January 9, 2005 election. Hamas calls on supporters to boycott Palestinian presidential elections

…but that doesn’t mean Hamas wasn’t participating in any elections: less than three weeks later: Hamas Dominates Local Vote in Gaza

Hamas, known officially as the Islamic Resistance Movement, won 76 of the 118 total seats, dealing a staggering blow to the Fatah movement, which was founded by Yasser Arafat and has been the most powerful Palestinian party for more than 30 years.”

So I just don’t buy that Hamas' big electoral victory a year later was because of our failure to timely help President Abbas – the Palestinians embrace of a terrorist-based government is too much a recurring story.

This not the first time these two gentlemen have opined on this subject. A little more than a year ago, they thought:

“Second, U.S. efforts to starve the Palestinian government of funds may be a principled position, but they are certainly not a workable policy. The result would be humanitarian catastrophe, political chaos and domestic mayhem among Palestinians -- as well as resumption of full-scale violence.” For Israel and Hamas, a Case for Accommodation

At first glance, you might think they were dead-on…except, of course, that political chaos, domestic mayhem and full-scale violence pretty much describe day-to-day life with Hamas. No outside influence required. Mr. Miler had even sort of acknowledged this a month earlier:

“Hamas, for its part, is not likely to change its charter or recognize Israel. Both sides will begin to prepare for the possibility of a third intifada.” The morning after the elections

Like all good wonks, Messrs. Malley and Miller have the answer:

“As the United States and others seek to empower [Abbas], they should push for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in Gaza and the West Bank, which will require dealing -- indirectly at least -- with elements of Hamas. They should resist the temptation to isolate Gaza and should tend to its population's needs. And should a national unity government be established, this time they should welcome the outcome and take steps to shore it up. Only then will efforts to broker credible political negotiations between Abbas and his Israeli counterpart on a two-state solution have a chance to succeed.”

Now only in the Mid-East can someone with a resume like Abbas’ come across as a moderate. But he is a veritable Gandhi when compared to the Hamas leadership. The waning months of the Clinton administration were notably marked by Israel and our’s sincere engagement with a Palestinian national unity government then in the guise of Yasser Arafat. As a participant, Mr. Miller knows better than most how that turned out.

The authors incessant belief in ongoing engagement strikes me as clichéd and so reflective of the Washington mindset. President Bush was correctly steadfast in his refusal to continue to deal with Arafat and, if anything, Hamas today is even more intransigent than Arafat. There will be no long-term shared “national unity government” as long as Fatah and Hamas are the ones to do the sharing.

And from my vantage point, there is simply no working with Hamas as currently constructed, meaning the principled stand of no engagement and no support should be our policy. And I think it’s a workable one – even if it doesn’t mean work for the likes of Robert Malley and Aaron Miller.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Perlozzo out

I’ve been critical of Sam Perlozzo but, by all accounts, he was a decent guy who probably deserved better so I take no glee in this: Orioles Fire Manger Sam Perlozzo

Strangely, in the aftermath:

“Perlozzo, 56, will be replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Dave Trembley…”

Actually, Mr. Trembley was the BULLPEN Coach and right now you would be hard-pressed to come up with a more under-performing group of guys than the Baltimore bullpen. I earlier have ranted about Danys Baez but nowadays there is not a single pitcher coming out of the bullpen that allows a fan to be confident that things are going to be alright – not one!! In fact, I doubt Cy Young himself would be immune to whatever weird karma has infected the Oriole relief staff.

But obviously the brain trust running this team feels a promotion is order for Mr. Trembley.

(Side Note: I know Dave Trembley has a fine record of managing at the lower levels and you can only play with the cards you’re dealt but still….)


We're Number 18!!

“Iraq now ranks as the second most unstable country in the world, ahead of war-ravaged or poverty-stricken countries such as Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Congo, Afghanistan, Haiti and North Korea, according to the 2007 Failed State index issued today by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace.” Magazine Ranks Iraq Second Most Unstable Country

Well, that settles it. After all, a nation's stability is exactly the kind of thing that a group of wannabe-wonks, sitting in Washington, should be able to quantify with enough precision so as to provide adequate support for policy change. If you aren't familiar with the organizations, the Post describes “…the Fund for Peace, [as a] a research and advocacy group...". I guess it displays no political tilt of any kind or else I'm sure Post writer Robin Wright would have described it thusly.

And “Foreign Policy” magazine has a kind of sober tone to it, doesn’t this ranking an aura of respectability that one published by the Fund for Peace alone just wouldn’t convey. Ms. Wright apparently felt that the magazine’s publisher, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was an irrelevant tidbit as she leaves it out of the article.

Anyway, here are the rankings: The Fund for Peace - Failed States Index Scores 2007

17 countries are ranked ahead of the United States, including Canada, as more stable. In fact, the US is only rated as “Moderate” one tier below the prized “Sustainable”. In years past, that ranking would have us (and did have us) on the “Monitoring” list. But I predict that if a Democrat wins the Presidency, we’ll be able to join the likes of Denmark (#8) - which I guess is super stable as long as no one publishes cartoons purporting to include Mohammed - in the coveted “Sustainable” category.

Side Note: If you’re like me, “Fund for Peace” sounded like another “Human Fund”. But, in fact, it has been around for 50 years now. Here’s from their web site:

“What is the Fund for Peace?A: Founded in 1957 by investment banker Randolph Compton, FfP is an independent educational, research, and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to prevent war and alleviate the conditions that cause war. Since 1996, it has specialized primarily on reducing conflict stemming from weak and failing states.”

…obviously they have become a major player in this field.


Abu Ghraib redux

Sy Hersh is apparently breaking another story…and since it involves Abu Ghraib and not the Kennedy’s, it’s all good:

“In interviews with New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh, Taguba said that he was ordered to limit his investigation to low-ranking soldiers who were photographed with the detainees and the soldiers' unit, but that it was always his sense that the abuse was ordered at higher levels.Abu Ghraib Investigator Points to Pentagon

A little more than three years ago, though, General Taguba was telling the US Senate this:

“We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition and I believe that they collaborated with several MI [military intelligence] interrogators at the lower level," Taguba said.” - Taguba: No direct order given for abuse - May 13, 2004

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all the Fathers out there. Despite current sensibilities among a self-selected intelligentsia that the role of fathers is a social construct, I believe that what you do and what you bring to the role is unique. To all of you who take being a father seriously, I applaud and appreciate your efforts.

Now I am off to go play golf with my father…who throughout much of my childhood I thought took the role way too seriously.

(and let me just second Crablaw’s takedown of the Post’s meaningless “expose” of Father’s at the Smithsonian. Washington Post: Slow News Day, So Throw Meaningless Crap At Fathers….yeah, fathers who take the time to bring their children to museums – that’s a group that needs investigating.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007


What do the Clintons think is their "Fair Share"?

“The [Clintons] chose…to dissolve the trust on April 27 and to convert all their stocks to cash to avoid any questions about possible conflicts of interests, the Clintons' legal and financial advisers said…

“In doing so, the Clintons will incur a large capital gains tax bill for 2007…” Clintons Dissolve Blind Financial Trust -

Hmmm, wonder if the Capital Gain rate they’ll use is the current 15% or the higher 20% that Senator Clinton wants to return to by 2010 with her preferred non-renewal of the Bush tax cuts…or perhaps the even higher 28% that was in place in the mid-nineties before Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton wisely had it cut down.

Friday, June 15, 2007


The Post spells "mandate" D-E-M-A-N-D

The Washington Post – May 26, 2005
Senate Panel Votes to Boost Ethanol Mandate

“A Senate panel, responding to high gasoline prices and pressure from farm states, voted unanimously yesterday to require refiners and importers to more than double the use of ethanol and other agriculture-derived fuels by 2012.”

The Washington Post – June 15, 2007
The Rising Tide of Corn

“President Bush's call for the nation to cure its addiction to oil stoked a growing demand for ethanol, which is mostly made from corn. Greater demand for corn has inflated prices from a historically stable $2 per bushel to about $4.”

Every other day, it seems, the Post is reminding us just how unpopular the President is. Yet, we’re now supposed to believe that on his exhortation, millions are now clamoring for ethanol-based fuel. The Post is sensibly on record as opposed to the mandates. And this story isn’t really new since the Post reported on it in a different slant back on January 27th: A Culinary and Cultural Staple in Crisis - Is this just a reflexive “see problem, blame Bush”?

There is a lot of blame to go around beginning with Congress all the way up to the President for foisting such economic and environmental nonsense on us. But please do not blame the innocent here; namely an unfettered Law of Supply & Demand.


That failed vision thing

Reading the Washington Post is getting to be quite tiring as after reading an article you are then forced to fact check it. Glenn Kessler has an article today – not labeled “Analysis” – that matter-of-factly proclaims: Takeover by Hamas Illustrates Failure of Bush's Mideast Vision

“Five years ago this month, President Bush stood in the Rose Garden and laid out a vision for the Middle East that included Israel and a state called Palestine living together in peace. "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror," the president declared.

“The takeover this week of the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group dedicated to the elimination of Israel demonstrates how much that vision has failed to materialize, in part because of actions taken by the administration.”

Well, that vision was somewhat predicated on the Palestinians exhibiting a semblance of political maturity. When Mr. Kessler quotes the President as saying:

“"I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror," he leaves out the rest of that paragraph:

“…If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.” President Bush Calls for New Palestinian Leadership

The election of Hamas hardly qualifies the Palestinian people as having actively pursued these goals.

His selective use of Presidential quotes doesn’t end there:

“After his reelection in 2004, Bush said he would use his "political capital" to help create a Palestinian state by the end of his second term.”

I remember that press conference but I didn’t remember that. Here’s what the President said about spending capitol:

“…and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.” President Holds Press Conference (November, 2004)

His reference to the Palestinian situation was actually an answer to the first question of that press conference – several questions and well before any mention of spending capital:

“I've laid down some -- a very hopeful strategy on -- in June of 2002, and my hope is that we will make good progress. I think it's very important for our friends, the Israelis, to have a peaceful Palestinian state living on their border. And it's very important for the Palestinian people to have a peaceful, hopeful future. That's why I articulated a two-state vision in that Rose Garden speech. I meant it when I said it and I mean it now.”

It is convenient to think of the Palestinians as a group of poor, powerless and good-hearted people just caught in the crossfire of international intrigue. But they have to assume at least of modicum of collective will to make their presumed desire of a Palestinian state a reality. The President laid out a rather modest roadmap for Palestinians to do that with our help. Any failure here is not of the United States (or of Israel), rather the blame for Palestinians killing Palestinians rests with….Palestinians.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Not all millions contribute to income inequality

If you’re like me, you were surprised – and more than a little bit impressed – when you read just how much money Bill Clinton was making by giving speeches: Bill Clinton Made $10 Million From Speeches

Of course, after listening to his wife decry “rising income inequality”; you might think that former President’s impressive contribution to this rise would be a problem. But I did some investigating, turns out she mainly has a problem with CEOs and the like – you know, people working at full-time jobs, running big corporations, trying to create wealth:

“The fruits of our modern global economy are showing up in the corporate bottom line, not in workers’ paychecks. CEOs have seen their pay go from 24 times the typical worker’s in 1965 to 262 times the typical worker’s in 2005. Last year, the share of national income going to corporate profits was the highest since 1929 – while the share going to the salaries of American workers was the lowest.” - Fact Sheet

See – nothing about speech giving or making movies or anchoring the lowest-rated Network newscast…

Anyway, I was particularly impressed with Mr. Clinton’s haul of $$ in this instance:

“For example, Clinton earned… $450,000 for a single speech in London on Sept. 26 at a gala dinner of the Fortune Forum, a nonprofit group that aids international charities.”

Now I had never heard of Fortune Forum so I went looking online. The forum was founded by one Renu Mehta, doesn’t have much of a history yet (the September 2006 event was kind of like its coming-out party) and much of the web site is focused on the glamorous types Ms. Mehta hangs out with. I couldn’t find any estimate of the actual money raised from this gala but they seemed pretty proud of this factoid:

The Fortune Forum combined advertising equivalent cost and profile generated for each charity equalling that from the event was a staggering £20 million pounds, a massive boost for the life giving projects that the Fortune Forum supports.”

You have to read that a couple times before you realize that they didn’t actually raise “ a staggering £20 million pounds” but instead provided the equivalent in advertising and profile generation. Anyway, I wish them luck in their endeavors although I doubt that I will ever make a significant enough contribution to "rising income inequality" to merit their interest in my donations.

Side Note 1: After looking at the myriad of pictures of Ms. Rehta on the site…well, let’s just say I think she could have gotten Bill Clinton to show up for a hell of a lot less.

Side Note 2:

As well as keynote speeches from Clinton and [Michael] Douglas, the invited guests listened to talks from spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and aristo-environmentalist Zac Goldsmith. Music was provided by Yusaf Islam. The singer, formerly known as Cat Stevens, took to the public stage for the first time in 27 years.” WaterAid attends Fortune Forum

I guess Bill Clinton had to go to Britain if he wanted to see the Cat:

“[September 2004] U.S. authorities diverted a United Airlines London-Washington flight to Bangor, Maine, where the ex-pop singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, now as Yusuf Islam, was questioned by federal security agents, and then ordered deported back to Britain. Yusuf Islam, it turns out, is on the official "no-fly list.

“Yusuf Islam is already well known for his public endorsement of the death sentence issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie in February 1989.”
Is Cat Stevens a Terrorist?


It's different when the Dems do just is

Just did a search of the Baltimore Sun for their take on this: O'Malley firing ruled illegal over GOP ties

This is what I found:

Yep, and here’s what I just found on the Washington Post:

Well nothing in the main sections but if you got to one of their on-line blogs and read down awhile in the comments: Dimmer Light on Democrats' Firings? - Maryland Moment - News and notes from the Maryland political scene.

Maybe the argument is that such practices in Maryland by Democrats hardly constitutes news....

(For the record, I have not read ALJ Susan Sinrod's decision - mainly because it is unavailable - and so will not comment on whether her decision was appropriate but I am sympathetic to the idea that political appointees are fair game whenever and for whatever. I just know that if a similar decision had been handed down during Governor Ehrlich's tenure, the Baltimore Sun in particular would have laid waste to the Amazon forests to make sure everyone read about it.)


Reporting on Iraq

Front page of today’s Washington Post: No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup

“Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.”

Damn, I thought…but then I remembered that this is the Post and, well, you know, ...unfortunately, amidst the numerous links provided in the Post article, there is not a link to the actual report. So here it is: Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq: June 2007

The report reminds us that the three months covered are the first three months of the inartfully-named “surge”:

“In support of the New Way Forward, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon2 (FAQ) was launched on February 14, 2007, with an increased emphasis on population security in Baghdad as its primary focus. Iraqi and Coalition forces have increased force levels and instituted new security measures to protect the population and improve the legitimacy of the Iraqi forces. Four of five planned additional U.S. Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) are currently in place; the fifth will be fully deployed and operational by late June 2007.”

Compare and Contrast:

The Post: “Iraqi leaders have made "little progress" on the overarching political goals that the stepped-up security operations are intended to help advance, the report said, calling reconciliation between Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni factions "a serious unfulfilled objective."

The Report: “Iraqi politicians continue to make little progress toward enacting laws that could advance reconciliation. In light of the urgent need to work on these laws, it is expected the CoR [Council of Representatives] will remain in session through the end of July.”

My comment: It has to be a uniquely Washington mindset that equates “enacting laws” with achieving “overarching political goals”.

The Post: “Indeed, "some analysts see a growing fragmentation of Iraq," it said, noting that 36 percent of Iraqis believe "the Iraqi people would be better off if the country were divided into three or more separate countries."

The Report:While some analysts see a growing fragmentation of Iraq, most Iraqis continue to believe that Iraq should remain a unified state.”

My comment: The Pentagon's report has a good visual on the breakdown across Iraq on the question of Iraq being divided into three countries. In other words, the Pentagon presented the story, the Post presented their slant on it.

The Post: “It cited "significant evidence" of attacks on Sunni Arabs by the predominantly Shiite government security forces, which have contributed to the displacement of an estimated 2 million Iraqis from their homes.”

The Report:There is also significant evidence of violence against Sunni Arabs, sometimes involving government security forces, that undermines reconciliation efforts and has contributed to the displacement of an estimated two million Iraqis from their homes.”

My comment: I think the word “sometimes” gives a whole different feel to the significance of the role of the government security forces in this.

The report makes clear, even if the Post doesn’t, that there is progress where our troops have been deployed despite the fact that our troops are not fully deployed. And this latest effort wasn’t sold as a quick-fix, which apparently a couple of people have forgotten:

“The report came as top congressional Democrats sent a letter to President Bush yesterday urging him to start a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"The escalation has failed to produce the intended results," wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.).”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


News Flash: Illegals can face deportation

“Hugo Vinicio Hernandez knew that immigration agents could detain him at any time for having disregarded a deportation order in 2001. But the Guatemalan man didn't think he would wind up in the custody of immigration agents as a result of a routine traffic stop.” Database Is Tool in Deporting Fugitives

But alas for Mr. Hernandez, he did….and in Takoma Park no less (kudos to Officer Collins for proper enforcement – no doubt he will be the subject of much hand-wringing and lamenting about what-this-says-about-us-as-a-people in Maryland’s answer to Berkeley).

Here are some facts about this case:

“Hernandez entered the United States illegally in September 2000 through the Mexican border. He joined relatives in Hyattsville, found work as a welder and began dating a Guatemalan woman. Their two sons, a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old, were born in Maryland.”

…which means he became a father (twice) all the while knowing that he was under deportation orders.

Understandably this arrest didn’t sit well with certain parties:

“When Brenda Cruz, his common-law wife, arrived at the station, she wasn't allowed to see him, she said.
“Fuming, she says, she told Collins: "I hope this never happens to you. Today, my kids lost their father."

[Ed. Note: I’m not a family law practitioner but in states that recognize common-law marriages, it usually takes at least 7 years for it to become effective and since he didn’t get here until September 2000 (do the math)…and besides, Maryland is not a common-law marriage state. ]

I would love to tell you this story has a somewhat happy ending as Ms. Cruz wasn’t about to let a silly old deportation separate her from Mr. Hernandez nor her children from their father. After all, he’s in Guatemala, Ms. Cruz is from Guatemala….

But nowadays, she resides at her mother's Hyattsville apartment, so scarred by this recent event that she won’t even report a recent break-in of her van – after all, there might be questions and:

“Cruz also came to the country illegally and is gathering documents to apply for a visa for victims of crime.”


E.J. Dionne's selective "Politics of No"

E.J Dionne had a column yesterday more or less correctly calling out all the cliché-spouters lamenting the “system” in the wake of the (celebrated by me) failure of the proposed immigration bill: The System at Work

Appropriately respectful of the competing sides on various issues, he does however reiterate this tired canard:

“The simple truth is that a majority of Americans (I'm one of them) came to oppose Bush's privatization ideas. That reflected both a principled stand and a practical judgment. From our perspective, a proposal to cut benefits and create private accounts was radical, not centrist.”

[(let me digress) I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that that majority of Americans hadn’t actually read the plan (not unlike Congress and the recent immigration proposal or Hillary Clinton and the pre-Iraq NIE) and opposed this plan because they were led to believe that (a) benefits really were going to be cut and (b) the privatization component of the plan was the reason.

Just to refresh our memories.

1. Privatization was VOLUNTARY!
2. Privatization was limited (initially a $1,000 a year to a private retirement account),
3. The only people who would see a reduction in their receipts from Social Security payments would be those who had VOLUNTARILY opted for this account (compared to those who had not opted for the associated private retirement account),
4. The plan did not otherwise call for a reduction in benefits. Instead, it tied FUTURE INCREASES to inflation vice wage growth. Only in Washington (and especially among the Left) are reduced increases considered cuts.
White House on Social Security Plan: February 2005 (end digression)]

This most recent column by Mr. Dionne is partly a reflection on (what else) the recent failure of the Senate immigration proposal (disguised as a cloture vote)…on which he writes:

“As it happens, I wish the immigration bill's supporters had gotten it through -- not because I think this is great legislation but because some bill has to get out of the Senate so real discussions on a final proposal can begin.”

Yeah – vote the bill out so we can have some “real discussions” because this issue is just too important. Of course, faithful readers of Mr. Dionne may recall that during his jihad against the President’s Social Security proposal, he felt a little different about such discussions.

“To everything there is a season. There is a time for the Politics of No. When the time for Yes comes around, it ought to be about affirming bigger ideas and larger purposes.” Getting Democrats From No to Yes

Apparently the time for affirming bigger ideas still hasn’t arrived (or did I miss the debate on the Democrats’ Social Security proposal). And as for the immigration proposals, let’s hope it’s a long Politics of No season.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Election Problems in Egypt; Bush to Blame

In an otherwise important story on Egyptian electioneering shenanigans, I loved this closing quote:

"America has let us down," said Salah Noman Mubarak, a 54-year-old plant technician in Alexandria, who along with all other Brotherhood candidates was kept from the ballot in that city. "I have always respected the United States, but the United States since the time of Roosevelt has let us down," the candidate said. "Especially these days.'' Egyptian Voters Impeded In Opposition Strongholds

At 54, Salah Mubarak was born approximately 8 years after the death of Roosevelt so the US has been pretty much letting him down his entire life. So why would he EVER have respected the United States. And as a Brotherhood candidate, his intentions for the Egyptian government are being scuttled because:

“Egypt's government and others in the Middle East fear that movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood will win power through the ballot box by appealing to voters who want more religiously observant governments and who resent the reigns of entrenched leaders.

“…Brotherhood leaders have insisted on retaining the slogan "Islam is the solution."

Post writer Ellen Knickmeyer then goes on to list the other Middle East countries with governments that are dominated by Muslim Brotherhood-like parties which are made up of individuals who also openly respect the United States…except when it doesn’t do enough to defend democratic reforms.


Of course I’m kidding. In fact, much of the reporting takes that same at-face-value approach to telling the story. For instance, we learn that:

“Rights organizations and many ordinary Egyptians have accused President Bush of backing away from calls made by past U.S. administrations for democratic reforms here.”

Right before we are reminded that:

“Bush spoke out on behalf of Egyptian dissidents at a speech in Prague last week, saying he regretted that one former Egyptian government official now in jail in Egypt could not attend the function. He listed Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as countries that "have a great distance still to travel" in making democratic reforms.”

This story had enough to it that just reporting the facts would merit serious attention and garner condemnation of Egypt’s actions. Empty quotes and vague references to past administrations and those ubiquitous so-called human rights groups don’t add to understanding the story; they just add to understanding the bias behind the reporting of the story.

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