Conference Call with GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman
The blogger conference call hosted by Ken Mehlman has just ended. The Chairman sounds upbeat and energetic about Alito's nomination, but clearly anticipates an ugly battle.
Some highlights from the call (lightly paraphrased, except as noted):
We can expect the left to wage an "offensive partisan campaign" against the nominee.
On pre-hearing strategy: We will focus on Alito's background and experience. He will meet directly with Senators on both sides. He has been confirmed unanimously on two occasions by the Senate and the left will be in a difficult situation if they choose to attack him. As more Americans come to know the nominee, they will develop tremendous confidence in him.
On filibuster prospects: With two prior unanimous confirmations, a filibuster is hard to imagine. If 2 or more of the Republican Gang of 14 don't find Alito "extraordinary" (in a bad way), the Constitutional option remains viable anyway. And if 2 or more of the Democrat Gang don't favor filibuster, it won't be on the table to begin with. "The only thing extraordinary about this nominee are his extraordinary credentials."
On basing one's vote on a nominee's ideology: A vote against Alito based solely on ideology would be incredibly devastating to our Constitutional system. Moving away from the Ginsburg or Roberts standard to a new standard that involves an ideological litmus test would yield a very unfortunate political byproduct. Every member of the Senate should remember that this matter is not about today and it's not about them. It's about our Constitutional order.
On whether the Miers nomination was a "set-up": The President nominated Miers because he believe she had the philosophy and character required of a Supreme Court Justice. The Miers problem was one of documentation, whereby she concluded that given her position, the only way for her to illustrate her Constitutional perspective was by providing documents that would compromise the President's executive privilege.
Many thanks to Ken Mehlman, Patrick Ruffini, Tracey Schmitt, and Brian Jones from the RNC for organizing and hosting the call.
Mehlman on Alito
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will host a blogger conference call on the Alito nomination today at 4:00 pm. Watch this space for an elucidative digest.
Samuel Alito Nominated to Supreme Court
President Bush nominated Samuel "Scalito" "Little Nino" Alito to fill Justice O'Connor's vacancy on the Supreme Court this morning.
It seems the playbook has been restored. Now we can get back to the relative normalcy of partisan bickery, ad hominem attacks, and media firestorms.
Welcome back to relevance, Gang of 14.
"Judge Alito is the best there is. The Democrat-controlled Senate recognized these qualities in Judge Alito when it unanimously confirmed him to the court of appeals." Wendy Long, counsel for the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network.
"Judge Alito is unquestionably qualified to serve on our nation's highest court. And on the bench, he has displayed a judicial philosophy marked by judicial restraint and respect for the limited role of the judiciary to interpret the law and not legislate from the bench." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Some early favorable media reactions (courtesy of the RNC Research Department):
ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "[Samuel Alito] Has Got The Background Qualifications And Temperament Of John Roberts." (ABC's "Good Morning America," 10/31/05)
Fox News' Bill Kristol: "I Think He Is Really High Quality...An Awfully Impressive Man. (Fox News, "Fox And Friends," 10/31/05)
CBS' Gloria Borger: "There Is No Doubt, Julie, That This Man Is Very Qualified. People Consider Him A Brilliant Jurist, And So You Can't Argue With Qualifications." (CBS' "The Early Show," 10/31/05)
CNN's Jeff Toobin: "[Alito Has] A Remarkable Level Of Experience. This Is Very Much Like John Roberts, Sort Of Central Casting Background For A Supreme Court Nominee." (CNN's "American Morning," 10/31/05)
Not all of the buzz is positive, however. Any guesses?
"It is sad that the president felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America instead of choosing a nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor, who would unify us. This controversial nominee, who would make the court less diverse and far more conservative, will get very careful scrutiny from the Senate and from the American people." Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
"Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not strength." Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
"The nomination of Judge Alito requires an especially long, hard look by the Senate because of what happened last week to Harriet Miers. Conservative activists forced Miers to withdraw from consideration for this same Supreme Court seat because she was not radical enough for them. Now the Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
No word yet on precisely how Senators Reid and Kennedy will reconcile their votes to confirm Alito in 1990 with their current hand-wringing.
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has begun taking more of a retroactively Chiracesque (or Schroderean if you like) view of the liberation of Iraq, presumably in an attempt to curry favor with the anti-war contingent in his country, in advance of next April's elections.
"I was never convinced that war was the best system to bring democracy to the country and to get rid of a bloody dictatorship," Mr. Berlusconi said of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "I tried several times to convince the American president to not go to war."
"I believed that military action should have been avoided," he was quoted as saying.
Mr. Berlusconi was one of Mr. Bush's strongest supporters in the run-up to the Iraq war. On the eve of the conflict in March 2003, he told Italian lawmakers that using force against Iraq was legitimate and that Italy couldn't abandon the Americans "in their fight against terrorism."
Italy didn't send combat troops for the Iraq invasion, but it deployed 3,000 soldiers there after the fall of Saddam to help maintain security and rebuild the country.
You sure you want to play that card, Silvio? Let's review the post-liberation political fates of a few notable world leaders, and their respective Coalition status.
Tony Blair (United Kingdom): Re-elected in 2005
John Howard (Australia): Re-elected in 2004
Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Denmark): Re-elected in 2005
Roh Moo-hyun (South Korea): Re-elected/unimpeached in 2004
Jean Chretien (Canada): Retired pending ouster in 2003
Gerhard Schroder (Germany): Ceded after failing to win electoral majority in 2005
Today's Morality Lesson
Crime doesn't pay.
Police: Woman Used Stolen Card in Lottery (Breitbart)
A woman bought a winning lottery ticket worth $1 million with a stolen credit card and could wind up with nothing if convicted, police said.
Christina Goodenow, 38, of White City in southern Oregon faced numerous theft-related charges, forgery and possession of methamphetamine, said authorities, who searched her home Thursday. The card belonged to a deceased relative, they said.
If convicted of any of the charges, Goodenow will not be able to collect prize money from the winning ticket, said police Lt. Tim George.
Except when it does:
I Conned You: Give Me a Job (Daily Record)
A TEENAGER locked up for conning £45,000 out of eBay shoppers wants a job with the auction site as a security expert.
And eBay bosses say they are interested in hiring Phillip Shortman, 18, even though he is now awaiting sentence for a second online scam.
Shortman got 12 months' detention in May for offering £45,000 of goods for sale on eBay, pocketing the cash and failing to supply the goods.
Then, while out on licence, he was caught selling £8000 of bogus Welsh rugby tickets on the site. He is waiting to be sentenced for the tickets con.
The head of security at eBay, Gareth Griffiths, told the programme he was keen to meet Shortman to discuss the idea of hiring him. He said: "I'd love to have a chat with Phillip Shortman. Let's talk about it, very happy to have a chat
GOP Responds to Indictment
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), vice-chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Vice President Dick Cheney have both put out press releases on today's indictment of Scooter Libby.
They both note the distinction between an indictment and a finding of guilt.
KINGSTON STATEMENT ON INDICTMENT, RESIGNATION OF I. LEWIS LIBBY
WARNER ROBINS, GA-U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), the vice-chairman of the House Republican Conference, released the following statement while aboard Air Force II with Vice President Dick Cheney in Warner Robins, GA:
"Mr. Libby's resignation is appropriate. The court can now decide the facts of the case. An indictment is not a statement of guilt, but simply outlines the case for the prosecutor. Keep in mind that we have not heard Mr. Libby's side of this story.
"Furthermore, the Vice President and the White House can now move forward. The Vice President has a capable staff of professionals that will step up to the plate.
"It's significant that the indictment does not mention the outing of Valerie Plame. It appears that after two years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald does not agree with the administration's critics that her situation is what this is all about."
Release from the Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release October 28, 2005
STATEMENT BY THE VICE PRESIDENT
Mr. Libby has informed me that he is resigning to fight the charges brought against him. I have accepted his decision with deep regret.
Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known. He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction.
In our system of government an accused person is presumed innocent until a contrary finding is made by a jury after an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts. Mr. Libby is entitled to that opportunity.
Because this is a pending legal proceeding, in fairness to all those involved, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on any facts relating to the proceeding.
Lorie Byrd over at PoliPundit makes an interesting point.
Ken Starr was said to be an overly zealous prosecutor, hell bent on taking down Bill Clinton, but even after proving (with DNA evidence, no less) that Bill Clinton lied under oath, Bill Clinton was not indicted. There was much evidence of other possible crimes commited by Bill and Hillary Clinton uncovered during the Whitewater investigation, yet neither were indicted.
If Starr had used the same standard as Fitzgerald, I don’t believe Hillary would be serving in the Senate today, and Bill Clinton would not be traveling the world trying to rewrite his legacy.
Scooter Libby pulled down a 5 charge indictment (one count of obstruction of justice, and two each of perjury and false statements) from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury and has resigned as Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff. No indictment as yet for Karl Rove, but the investigation continues.
If convicted, Libby could face up to 17 years without parole in federal prison. From Fitzgerald's press release:
The charges allege that Libby lied to FBI agents who interviewed him on Oct. 14 and Nov. 26, 2003; committed perjury while testifying under oath before the grand jury on March 5 and March 24, 2004; and engaged in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury’s investigation into the unauthorized disclosure – or 'leaking' – of Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA to various reporters in the spring of 2003.
Democrat leaders feigned melancholy and waxed grandiose.
"The criminal indictments of a top White House official mark a sad day for America and another chapter in the Republicans' culture of corruption. At the heart of these indictments was the effort by the Bush Administration to discredit critics of its Iraq policy with reckless disregard for national security and the public trust," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
"This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information. It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement.
Items published today by Fitzgerald's office:
Liveblog by Michelle Malkin of Fitzgerald's press conference.
Video of the event, courtesy of The Political Teen
A Shallow Voter Pool
When it comes to electing our leaders, apparently we're suckers for lookers.
That's what they're learning down in Texas, anyway.
Handsome male candidates had a 56 percent chance of winning an election while their less dashing counterparts had a 44 percent chance, according Daniel Hamermesh, the study's author and an economics professor at the University of Texas.
"It was very clear that being good-looking helped and also helped more for men than for women, and that seems to be something one finds in looking at the effect of beauty in other outcomes such as earnings and wages," Hamermesh said.
He did not have a clear answer for why that was.
It's been olfactorally decadent lately in New York.
Residents from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Upper West Side nearly 10 miles north called a city hot line to report a strong odor Thursday night that most compared to maple syrup, The New York Times reported Friday.
There were so many calls that the city's Office of Emergency Management coordinated efforts with the Police and Fire Departments, the Coast Guard and the City Department of Environmental Protection to find the source of the mysterious smell.
Although many compared the smell to maple syrup, others said it reminded them of vanilla coffee or freshly-baked cake. All seemed to agree that it was a welcome change from the usual city smells.
"It's like maple syrup. With Eggos (waffles). Or pancakes," Arturo Padilla told The Times as he walked in Lower Manhattan. "It's pleasant."
Is New York actually taking on a naturally pleasing aroma? Are we all having one big collective stroke? Is there a state fair nearby that no one's aware of?
Well, no complaints.
Update: The Man at GOP and the City considers some possible sinister explanations.
America is Oil Hungry?
Paul Volcker's Independent Inquiry Committee has published its final report on the UN Oil for Food program. The full report (all 1,500 pages of it) is published on the IIC website. A more totable 8 page summary (pdf) is also available.
A summary of the summary is offered below (emphasis and excerpting mine):
Under the [Oil for Food] Programme, the Government of Iraq sold $64.2 billion of oil to 248 companies. In turn, 3,614 companies sold $34.5 billion of humanitarian goods to Iraq.
Oil surcharges were paid in connection with the contracts of 139 companies, and humanitarian kickbacks were paid in connection with the contracts of 2,253 companies.
It was a basic assumption of the Programme that Iraq - not the United Nations - would choose its oil buyers. Yet the decision to allow Iraq to choose its buyers empowered Iraq with economic and political leverage to advance its broader interest in overturning the sanctions regime. Iraq selected oil recipients in order to influence foreign policy and international public opinion in its favor. Several years into the Programme, Iraq realized that it could generate illicit income outside of the United Nations' oversight by requiring its oil buyers to pay "surcharges" of generally between ten to thirty cents per barrel of oil.
At the outset of the Programme, Iraq preferred to sell its oil to companies and individuals that were perceived as "friendly" to Iraq, and, in particular, if they were permanent members of the Security Council in a position potentially to ease the restrictions of sanctions. Russian companies received almost one-third of oil sales under the Programme. Through its Ministry of Fuel and Energy, Russia coordinated with Iraq on the allocation of crude oil to Russian companies. French companies were the second largest purchaser of oil under the Programme.
And just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Great Hall, Claudia Rosett at OpinionJournal has more tales of corruption and conflicts of interest at the United Nations (via GOP Bloggers). The timeline of this scandal is eerily similar, in that things took a sharp turn for the shadier in December of 1996, the same month the Oil for Food program began.
For those of you keeping score at home, that was also the month Kofi Annan was named Secretary General.
Port Authority Mostly to Blame for WTC Bombing
According to a truly twisted finding of a New York jury, liability for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center is 68% attributable to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the owner of the property).
The terrorist act that killed 6 and injured more than 1,000 was previously perceived to be nearly entirely the responsibility of Ramzi Yousef (who was duly convicted in 1997 and is now serving a 240 year sentence for masterminding the attack and planting the explosives) and several of his terrorist cohorts (also convicted for their roles in the attack).
But as it turns out, in failing to better secure the site's garage facilities upon reports of the site's appeal as a terrorism target, it was the Port Authority that was mainly to blame.
"This was an extraordinary victory, and we're deeply grateful to the jurors,'' said David Dean, a lawyer for survivors and relatives of those who died "This case was never about blaming the terrorists. It was always about the failure of the Port Authority to respond to their own reports and to the advice of others. The garage should have been closed.''
The liability finding of greater than 50 percent allows the plaintiffs to seek full payment of damages from the Port Authority, Dean said.
A lawyer for the Port Authority said it will appeal.
"The February 26, 1993, attack on the World Trade Center was an act of terrorism for which terrorists alone are responsible,'' Marc Kasowitz, the lawyer, said after the verdict. "While the Port Authority believes in our American jury system, it believes the decision in this case was egregiously incorrect."
This decision clears the way for plaintiffs to seek monetary damages (nearly $2 billion worth) from the Port Authority. What message does this send to would-be future property developers in high-risk areas? Nothing says "rebuild" quite like $2 billion in damages.
Ignore for a moment the luxury of hindsight in finding fault for prior inaction. Let's assume the Port Authority was truly and grossly negligent in their failure to secure the garage, and further that it was a cold, calculated cost-benefit decision that guided their hand, even in the face of strong evidence of looming peril. Does that even approach an equal share in the liability for the outcome, much less 68%?
This is an unvarnished abhorrence.
Miers Withdraws Nomination
At 8:30 this morning, Harriet Miers informed the President she was withdrawing from consideration for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice O'Connor's resignation.
The President's reluctant acceptance (via SCOTUSblog):
Today, I have reluctantly accepted Harriet Miers' decision to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.
I nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court because of her extraordinary legal experience, her character, and her conservative judicial philosophy. Throughout her career, she has gained the respect and admiration of her fellow attorneys. She has earned a reputation for fairness and total integrity. She has been a leader and a pioneer in the American legal profession. She has worked in important positions in state and local government and in the bar. And for the last five years, she has served with distinction and honor in critical positions in the Executive Branch.
I understand and share her concern, however, about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. It is clear that Senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House - disclosures that would undermine a President's ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers - and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.
I am grateful for Harriet Miers' friendship and devotion to our country. And I am honored that she will continue to serve our Nation as White House Counsel.
My responsibility to fill this vacancy remains. I will do so in a timely manner.
Short term, this means Bush gets to wear a little more egg on his face. In the long run, a nominee whose demonstrated judicial and Constitutional aptitude more appropriately leverages the prerogative the GOP has fought so hard to win in the White House and the Senate will be worth the fleeting awkwardness (and silly claims like this).
I give Miers a lot of credit for suffering the slings and arrows she has, and for swallowing the hard nut that in this case, discretion is likely the better part of valor. Besides, who among us hasn't dropped out of a course after seeing the syllabus.
Miers' withdrawal letter, via National Review:
Dear Mr. President:
I write to withdraw as a nominee to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. I have been greatly honored and humbled by the confidence that you have shown in me, and have appreciated immensely your support and the support of many others. However, I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.
As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intention to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me. I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy. While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.
As I stated in my acceptance remarks in the Oval Office, the strength and independence of our three branches of government are critical to the continued success of this great Nation. Repeatedly in the course of the process of confirmation for nominees for other positions, I have steadfastly maintained that the independence of the Executive Branch be preserved and its confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process. I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield.
I share your commitment to appointing judges with a conservative judicial philosophy, and I look forward to continuing to support your efforts to provide the American people judges who will interpret the law, not make it. I am most grateful for the opportunity to have served your Administration and this country.
The White House
Washington, D. C. 20502
Supreme Court Nom Harriet Miers a Speedfreak
From the "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" Department
Ready for a media train wreck?
The BBC is all set to take on Al Jazeera on its home ground by launching a new television news channel in Arabic.
The main objective is to compete with Al Jazeera, which was launched in 1996 and which has since challenged the western domination of television news agendas by providing alternative perspectives of global events.
Alternative. Inaccurate. Take your pick.
The BBC had previously entered the Arabic television market, in conjunction with the Saudi-owned company Orbit, but it foundered in 1996 following issues of editorial control.
Now there's a shock.
I can't decide how I feel about this:
Cindy Sheehan, who has crusaded nationally against the war in Iraq since her son was killed there, called on antiwar activists yesterday not to support Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking re-election next year. "I believe that any candidate who supports the war should not receive our support," Ms. Sheehan told The Associated Press in an interview. "It doesn't matter if they're Senator Clinton or whoever."
Senator Clinton voted to authorize the president to wage war in Iraq, but she has been critical of the way his administration has conducted the war. Still, she has not called for either a withdrawal of American troops or a timetable for their withdrawal.
"With her position as a senator," Ms. Sheehan said, "she's become more: 'Let's see which way the wind blows, and what's going to get me re-elected or elected, or how am I going to benefit from this' instead of truly voting from her integrity."
Fauxcentricity, it seems, comes at a cost.
8 Heartbeats from the Presidency
A new bill in the House (HR 1455), approved by the House Government Reform Committee, would make the Department of Homeland Security an official executive department. Hmm, I guess I assumed it already was.
The bill would make the department subject to the same laws governing contracting and training that apply to the rest of the federal government. This is only a technical change to current law, a committee aide explained. Since its inception, the department has been operating under the assumption that is an "executive department" and already complies with those regulations, he said.
Oh, I guess they did too.
One effect of the legislation would be to place the DHS Secretary in the line of Presidential succession. In the past, new arrivals had to cool their heels at the bottom of the line-up, which would've placed Secretary Chertoff 18th. But the House bill would install the department head at 8th in line, behind only his secretarial counterparts from State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice.
The new line of succession, should the bill pass:
1. Vice President (Richard B. Cheney)
2. Speaker of the House of Representatives (J. Dennis Hastert)
3. President pro tempore of the Senate (Ted Stevens)
4. Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice)
5. Secretary of the Treasury (John W. Snow)
6. Secretary of Defense (Donald H. Rumsfeld)
7. Attorney General (Alberto Gonzales)
8. Secretary of Homeland Security (Michael Chertoff)
9. Secretary of the Interior (Gale Norton)
10. Secretary of Agriculture (Mike Johanns)
11. Secretary of Commerce (Carlos Gutierrez, ineligible)
12. Secretary of Labor (Elaine Chao, ineligible)
13. Secretary of Health and Human Services (Michael Leavitt)
14. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Alphonso Jackson)
15. Secretary of Transportation (Norman Y. Mineta)
16. Secretary of Energy (Samuel W. Bodman)
17. Secretary of Education (Margaret Spellings)
18. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Jim Nicholson)
Iraqi Constitution Adopted
After a 10-day audit, Iraq's Constitution is found to have carried the vote for ratification, with nearly 79% popular support. 2 of Iraq's 18 provinces (both with predominantly Sunni populations) voted against it by more than a 2/3 majority, 1 colony shy of the quashing threshhold. The provice of Ninevah, also Sunni-dominated, voted against by simple majority.
From ABC News:
"It's a landmark day in the history of Iraq," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "We congratulate the Iraqi people. … The political process is continuing to move forward in Iraq, and it is an encouraging sign to see more and more people participating in the process."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iraqis "have shown again their determination to defy the terrorists and take part in the democratic process."
Previously: Taking Root.
Now that we've had a chance to digest Dr. Bernanke's nomination a bit, it's high time to begin brashly speculating about what kind of Fed Chairman he'll make. The markets are doing so, like it or not, so we may as well keep pace.
In Bernanke's first post-nomination address yesterday afternoon, he declared continuity to be his primary objective. I have no doubt he'll make good on this pledge. But at some point, his tenure will bend to his own brand of monetary policy. So an understanding of the nominee's economic philosophy (and in particular, where and how it may differ with Dr. Greenspan's) could be illuminating.
It's been a while since we had top-of-the-Temple turnover (Greenspan succeeded Paul Volcker in 1987), but two key dimensions one might use to characterize any Fed Chairman are 1) stance on inflation, and 2) involvement in fiscal issues (taxation and spending).
The first actually consists of two sub-dimensions (don't worry, no string theory coming). Monetary policy philosophy as relates to inflation involves not only one's opinion on the presence and levels of inflationary pressures, but also one's degree of hawkishness toward combating those pressures. In other words, Bernanke parting company with Greenspan on the specter of inflation and/or how hard inflation ought to be fought could both impact the future path of interest rates.
Whereas Greenspan has been unrelentingly hawkish on keeping the evils of inflation at bay (current streak is 11 consecutive fed funds rate increases, and previous monetary tightening under his watch has been causally tied to the 1987 crash and the 1990-91 recession), evidence suggests Bernanke may be more tempered. From his October 20th Economic Outlook:
Long-term-inflation expectations also remain low and stable, based on measures of inflation compensation derived from inflation-indexed Treasury securities ... [T]he stability in core inflation and inflation expectations does suggest that overall inflation is likely to return to levels consistent with price stability in coming quarters.
Add to that his comments on housing prices and real growth...
House prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years. Although speculative activity has increased in some areas, at a national level these price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals, including robust growth in jobs and incomes, low mortgage rates, steady rates of household formation, and factors that limit the expansion of housing supply in some areas.
...and you've got an economist that sounds decidedly unworried about inflation.
Why then, upon Bernanke's nomination, did futures markets suggest an increased presumption of rate increases? From the New York Times:
The odds that the benchmark short-term rate would hit 4.5 percent by April, up from 3.75 percent today, reached 94 percent yesterday, according to a futures contract tied to Fed policy. At the start of the day, the odds had been 82 percent.
Bernanke would surely see to a smooth and continuous crossover to his stewardship at the Fed, despite any minor disparity between his and Greenspan's monetary philosophy. But to foresee his installment as further cementing anticipated rate hikes seems like a misread.
The hawkishness the markets seem to be pricing into Bernanke's policy stance may suggest that, despite yesterday's impressive equity market rally, there's unrealized market upside in this nomination (assuming the rate futures and equity markets are non-arbitrageably rational, which may be a naively heroic assumption).
As to the second dimension, that of fiscal policy involvement, it too breaks down into two component parts: 1) political stance and 2) appetite for involvement. Strictly speaking, the Fed Chairman's domain doesn't extend beyond monetary policy (money supply and interest rates), mutually exclusive in its purist form from fiscal policy (taxes and government spending). But when potentates of a certain stature and credibility have opinions, people tend to listen.
Greenspan is probably aptly described as a highly-involved fiscal conservative. Where Bernanke falls in that spectrum, only time will tell. As an academic without direct Wall Street experience, one might expect a kernel of fiscal liberalism to be lurking under the surface. On the other hand, his monetary policy seems if anything to be more laissez-faire than Greenspan's, so that may well carry over into his fiscal perspective. Whatever his politics, it's hard to predict how vocal he'll choose to be from atop the Fed. If he reverts to the mean of past Chairmen, we can probably expect a somewhat lesser involvement than we've come to expect from Greenspan.
Above all else, Dr. Bernanke is undeniably erudite and a brilliant economic thinker with gleaming credentials. Let's just hope no media-hungry Senators make the mistake of unduly forestalling his nomination solely for sake of combat. I'm sure the resulting debate would be amusingly one-sided, but not quite worth the injurious effect on the process.
- Noam Scheiber at The New Republic weighs in on (among other things) Greenspan vs. Bernanke on fiscal politics.
- Business Week has a cheat sheet of Bernanke's policy comments while a Fed Governor.
- Bloomberg considers whether Bernanke will implement an inflation target.
If It Pleads, It Leads
Which story will get more media play?
"President's Approval Ratings Rebound"
"Nutty Woman Threatens to Rehash PR Stunt"
(Hat Tip: Blogs for Bush)
Think you can distinguish between raving wingnuts and born-again centrists?
Does the following endorsement for New York's Democratic Mayoral Nominee Fernando Ferrer strike you as more Deaniacal or Hillarious?
"I'm really into talking about what [Ferrer] will do based on what he has done ... And I happen to think that Republicans, whoever they are, are not good for New York. They're not good for America."
Greenspan Successor Imminent
President Bush is expected to nominate a successor to retiring Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan at 1:00 pm Eastern today. Greenspan's term expires at the end of January.
My money's still on Reagan advisor and Harvard professor Martin Feldstein .
For additional contemplations on the short list, see previous post: Bush's Other Legacy
Update: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the pick is Ben Bernanke, Chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Let's learn:
The market seems to approve, as the news is extending an already convincing rally in US equities.
The Usury Suspects
Democrat leaders were no great fans of the recently enacted The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (which has just gone into effect), the law that makes it more difficult for individuals to shoo away their debts under Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Nancy Pelosi foresaw "modern-day indentured servants". A DNC press release declared the measure a poor use of time.
That is, at least, until they found a way to leverage the new legislation by fleecing their own membership. Today's AM New York is reporting the DNC has unveiled a new branded Visa card with an APR as high as 29.99% (the default rate for missed payments) and as high as 23.99% for normal balances.
This comes directly on the heels of the Bankruptcy Reform Act (decried by Democrats as a gift to credit card issuers) going into effect. The cards' stratospheric maximum rates bump up against the highest usury caps in the country. What's more, per AM New York, the Dean-signed solicitation letters (sent out to millions of members the DNC provided in list for to the card issuer) invite you, the hapless borrower, to take advantage of this special offer:
"Every time you make a purchase, you will earn a 1% rebate, which you can donate in your name to the Democratic National Committee - automatically - with no need to open your checkbook."
- Farenheit 9/11 DVD: $15 on DNC Visa
- Living History hardcover: $28 on DNC Visa
- Coldplay's X&Y album: $19 on DNC Visa
- Surrendering your rebate to Hungry Howie without even having to open your checkbook: priceless.
New York Times Endorses Bloomberg
Our highly capable Mayor just went from heavily favored to unbeatable (emphasis and excerpting mine):
Mr. Bloomberg, who is running for re-election on the Republican line against Fernando Ferrer, the Democratic candidate, has accomplished a great deal in four years. His greatest achievement has been to teach New Yorkers that good government is not a zero sum game; that even in a city where every neighborhood, block and building jealously guards some ancient prerogative, change can make things better for everybody.
Mr. Bloomberg has not been nearly as exciting, or entertaining, as Edward I. Koch or Rudolph W. Giuliani. But he has been better at running the city. If he continues his record of accomplishment over the next four years, he may be remembered as one of the greatest mayors in New York history.
High praise indeed.
The Times endorsed Bloomberg's opponent Mark Green in 2001. Newsday, which also favored Green in 2001, followed suit this Sunday, by endorsing the Mayor's re-election "with enthusiasm".
The reason is as stark as it is simple: In nearly every area you want to pick, Bloomberg has made life better for New Yorkers. Not only did he fight to win control of city schools, not only did he take aim at social promotions, but he has actually seen test scores go up.
Meanwhile, the police department has actually seen crime fall far below all expectations. These things didn't just happen. They were the result of tough policies. If Newsday opposes as elitist the mayor's plan for the No. 7, it's a tiny price for a record of major progress.
Even in collective bargaining - where former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was known to capitulate from time to time - Bloomberg has hung tough in an election season and extracted a deal from the teachers that pays them more as it also advances the city's interests.
In the end, Bloomberg has turned in a surprisingly successful performance as mayor. He has stripped Ferrer and the Democrats of their strongest issues.
Home Sweet Home
Well, it's been a long, weary, and intermodal trip from Washington back to New York, so with my apologies, I'm going to have to defer further distillation and elaboration from my notes on today's Blog Row at the Capitol (see following several posts if you don't know what I'm on about).
Pictured are Reps. Eric Cantor (VA), "Judge" John Carter (TX), and Mike Conaway (TX).
Funny, I hadn't noticed them arriving alphabetically...
Suffice it to say the whole rowdydow was a runaway success and I am wholly impressed with the way the Republican Party (as embodied by the RNC, the House Republican Conference, individual Members' offices, and other organizations) is making such effective use of the medium. They're tapping into power of the b'sphere in ways a thousand screaming Vermonters could only dream.
For the record, attendees (with Blog Row posts linked when available) included:
William Beutler, Hotline
Matt Margolis, GOP Bloggers/Blogs For Bush
Eric Pfeiffer, National Review’s The Buzz
Tim Chapman, Town Hall
Mary Katherine Ham, Town Hall
Justin Hart, Right Side Redux
Ian Schwartz, Political Teen
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang
Pat Cleary, RedState/NAM
Flip Pidot, Suitably Flip
Sorry to anyone I missed!
Topically speaking, we hit tax policy, fiscal discipline, pork, Iraq, Harriet Miers, social security, pork, political blogging, hurricane relief, homeland security, pork, government fraud, waste, and abuse, the possibility of a 3rd Bush Supreme Court nominee, and the midterm elections.
It was, in a word, engrossing.
The cadre of Representatives that stopped in was nothing short of astounding (especially as there was a vote going on). I have to admit in the hubbub of it all, I missed a couple of the introductions. Thankfully, the exceptional event organizers followed up with official rosters, pictures, statements, and more. For posterity, I give you the 23 blogophilic Representatives in attendance:
OH-15 IN-6 CA-26 TX-8 GA-1 L-25 GA-11 NJ-05 TN-7 NM-2 IN-2 UT-3 CA-3 MN-6 FL-13 SC-4 AZ-2 TX-11 TX-5 SC-2 TX-31 VA-7
Self, you've just attended the first ever exclusive GOP Blog Row live at the United States Capitol. What are you going to do now?
I'm going to Disney World.
No, seriously. Next post will be from the Grand Floridian.
Meantime, click on the post extension link below for Conference Chairwoman Pryce's statement published after the conclusion of the event.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Sean Spicer or Andrea Tantaros
October 20, 2005 PHONE: 202-226-9000WASHINGTON,
House Republican Conference Hosts First Ever ‘Blog Row’
DC—Today, House Republican Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (R-OH) issued the following statement after the first ever Blog Row:
“Today House Republicans welcomed eleven bloggers into the Capitol in what was the first of many communication events directed at the blogosphere.” said Pryce. “I am always excited about opportunities to reach out directly to constituents, be it through a podcast or a conference video posted to our website. Today’s event is just another example of how House Republicans are taking our policies and plans for this Congress directly to the American people.”
“Bloggers serve a wonderful purpose in today’s twenty-four hour, blitz and glitz media world. They have the ability to report the stories behind the stories and empower the American people to really think about the news they take in from mainstream media. Today, I thank the Blogging community for helping House Republicans get our message of strong fiscal policies directly to the internet and the American people.”
During the first ever Blog Row, Members were able to take questions and provide in depth answers while bloggers posted comments and summaries throughout the entire two and a half hour forum. The House Republican Conference reached out to bloggers nationwide, with eleven able to attend the event and post live from the Capitol. Today twenty-three Members spoke at “Blog Row’ on everything from belt tightening in the budget to the recent elections in Iraq.
Blog Row Wrapped
Winding down now. Gotta go catch a train back to NYC, but look for an in-depth recap tonight. All in all, a great day, with an amazing turnout of Representatives (multiple vocal Notre Dame fans among them).
More Cap City Liveblogging
Mike Conaway, CPA (TX) on tax reform: Taxes are used to manipulate behavior and most legacy tax provisions are holdovers from such manipulation. We need all good minds to look closely at the idea of a national sales tax.
Eric Cantor (VA) on fiscal discipline: We need to restore fiscal sanity. Majority has proposed a 4-point plan for hurricane spending offsets. 1) Reduce entitlement spending (farm, food stamps, medicare, medicaid) by $50 billion. 2) Tighten our belts, review every corner of spending for waste (Cantor specifically endorses a 5% cut and would go higher). 3) De-authorize programs that did not get funded in the last budget. Pull back in unspent money left in accounts of federal agencies. 4) Create reserve fund to pay for hurricane damage.
More from Cantor: Democrats won't work at finding waste, fraud, and abuse. They haven't joined efforts to trim the fat in the federal budget, and see raising taxes as the only way to return fiscal sanity.
Cantor on economic growth and the role of government: We have to work very hard to grow the conservative majority in Congress, which is necessary to have proper focus on limited government. It's unfortunate that there is no federal balanced budget requirement. Government is here to create an environment that encourages growth in business, provide vital services, and provide security.
A Bustle in Your Blog Row
A couple real-time morsels, from the ongoing conversation with Congressmen Hensarling and Wilson:
Jeb Hensarling (TX) on the delayed vote on reduction in discretionary spending: Given a narrow margin in the House and an only feigned commitment to fiscal discipline from the Democrats, the majority is still working on the ingredients for a 1:1 offset to absorb Katrina spending.
Joe Wilson (SC) on DeLay: in SC legislature, you are presumed innocent (and keep your leadership position) until proven otherwise. In Washington, that rule only appears to apply to one party.
Hensarling is troubled by the media grandstanding of the DA ("Something's pretty smelly back home in Texas.") and finds DeLay's plight to be a "liberal crusade" that required shopping 8 different grand juries to reach an indictment.
Hensarling on energy: Had Clinton not vetoed Anwar drilling in 1995, that oil production would now be coming online (Rep. Marsha Blackburn also made this point earlier today).
Live from the Capitol
Great turnout so far. About a dozen Representatives have been through so far, and have included Deborah Pryce, Katherine Harris, and David Dreier. Rumors abound that Speaker Hastert will drop in soon.
Between trying to think of insightful questions, taking notes, and grappling with two laptops and a mess of cabling, it's not looking like I'm going to be able to liveblog with any coherence during the conference. But there's plenty of good stuff pouring out in here.
Chris Cannon (UT) just walked in...
Blogging from the Capitol
Today, I'll be blogging from the seat of both democracy and my pants (assuming I pass the technology security audit).
It's a special "Blog Row" at the Capitol, sponsored by the House Republican Conference, and featuring discussions with several GOP Representatives. Topics will include fiscal responsibility and economic policy.
Mmm, mmm, good.
Trial of the Century of the Year
Let the justice begin!
Having pleaded not atrocious, Saddam has begun his date with Iraqi jurisprudence in earnest this week. This'll be like Martha, Winona, and Jacko all rolled into one.
Well, except in terms of historic significance. And of degree of media attention.
Honestly, one would think any trial that kicks off with charges of 150 slayings would nab a good slug of headlines and flashy legal punditry (maybe even a customized graphics/dramatic theme music template). Heap on the tribunal's centrality to the current focus of global affairs and you'd seem to have all the makings of a real media foison.
Maybe if someone offers him a reality show contingent on his release (The Despot?), interest will pick up.
With this weekend's voter turnout percentage well into the 60's, Iraqis have put up electoral numbers rarely seen at any level of government in the United States. And unofficially, it appears that they voted to ratify the new constitution.
Kudos, budding small-d democrats.
Bush wants to shore up support for the Iraq war as more Americans question the wisdom of using military force to help bring democracy to the Middle East. Bush's job-approval ratings are at the lowest of his presidency.
``There's no question that having the constitution approved is an important step,'' said Bruce Jentleson, a professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. ``You'll see a little bit of an uptick for the administration, naturally, but I don't think this is going to turn the tide for them with the public on Iraq.''
Perish the thought. We've endured enough news cycles by now to know that public/media opinion of the administration ratchets down with bad news out of Iraq, but we no longer hold any illusions of its being a 2-way street.
Still, assuming ratification is achieved, it might be interesting to compare the timeline of this protracted quagmire (2 years 7 months from liberation to (presumed) Constitutional ratification) with similarly tumultuous points of inflection borne by other fledgling democracies.
Year of Catalyzing Event: 1776
Year of Constitutional Ratification: 1788
Lag: 12 years
Year of Catalyzing Event: 1910
Year of Constitutional Ratification: 1917
Lag: 7 years
Year of Catalyzing Event: 1922
Year of Constitutional Ratification: 1937
Lag: 15 years
Several thousand Constitutions along the way; mathematically untenable
Year of Catalyzing Event: 2003
Year of Constitutional Ratification: 2005
Lag: 2.5 years
Considering the Iraqi electorate is not made up of a homogeneous bunch of new world colonists, but rather an ethnically and religiously diverse populace judged by many to be destined for 3-way civil war, this milestone can be viewed as all the more cogent.
Update: The Armchair Analyst offers an interesting counterpoint:
... Indeed the speed at which the Iraq government has accomplished the task of writing a Constitution is encouraging. But we shouldn't read too much into the quickness. One might question whether or not long protracted consitutional debates might have stabilizing results. The US experience might prove evidential. Similarly, the innumerable constitutions of France might be in part due to the radical nature of their political shift.
A Mass Murderer By Any Other Name
Marc Steyn at the Chicago Sun-Times is growing increasingly irritated by the media's steadfast reluctance to call a terrorist a terrorist - or Heaven forbid - an Islamic terrorist.
Can't say I blame him (excerpting and emphasis mine):
In the geopolitical Hogwart's, Islamic "militants" are the new Voldemort, the enemy whose name it's best never to utter.
Anyone can be tolerant of the tolerant, but tolerance of intolerance gives an even more intense frisson of pleasure to the multiculti-masochists. And so Islamists who murder non-Muslims in pursuit of explicitly Islamic goals are airbrushed into vague, generic "rebel forces." You can't tell the players without a scorecard, and that's just the way the Western media intend to keep it. If you wake up one morning and switch on the TV to see the Empire State Building crumbling to dust, don't be surprised if the announcer goes, "Insurging rebel militant forces today attacked key targets in New York. In other news, the president's annual Ramadan banquet saw celebrities dancing into the small hours to Mullah Omar And His All-Girl Orchestra ..."
I'm aware the very concept of "the enemy" is alien to the non-judgment multicultural mind: There are no enemies, just friends whose grievances we haven't yet accommodated.
The Man at GOP and the City has been all over the NYC subway hoax, even well before the story broke. I was privileged and high-fallutin' enough to be on his distribution list to receive a copy of the fake heads up 3 days pre-hysteria. Sorry to all the less fortunate who had to wait to be hoodwinked...
From The Man himself (snips and boldings mine):
The NY Post identified the authors of two terror warning emails as a couple of dance instructors from New York City, Nicholas Seligson-Ross and Tony Micocci. The email that was forwarded to me and which I posted about here, included Ross's name, which I left out of the post (just in case).
The terror warning email story can now go one of two directions:
1) The email was legit, there's someone in Homeland Security who knows these New York area dance teachers and tipped them to a potential threat.
2) A couple of dudes in the dance industry made it up and happen to be victims of coincidence that an actual terror warning came in.
I'm starting to lean towards option #2, these guys wanted to create a Snopes-worthy email that would spread like a wildfire in these times of terror alerts and color-coded threat levels. The only thing that doesn't add up is the use of the author's real name.
The biggest loser in this is the NY Daily Snooze, which tried to turn the whole email story into a "rich-vs-poor" issue and will end up looking foolish if this does turn out to be a hoax.
We Almost Forgot
A more fitting - if more disturbing - memorial plan is taking shape at Ground Zero, now that the spectre of the International Freedom Center's unabashed Blame America First and Foremost abomination is fading into a dreadful memory (Governor Pataki and Michelle Malkin (among others) be praised).
From today's NY Post (excerpting and emphasis mine):
Crushed rescue vehicles, taxis and police scooters along with twisted steel beams will punctuate the massive nature of the attack.
A 6-ton chunk of melted steel, pulverized concrete and smashed furniture that has been dubbed "the Meteorite" will be trucked from storage at Hangar 17 at JFK Airport, where many of the artifacts are now stored.
The preliminary plan for the 110,000-square-foot museum that will descend to bedrock around the footprints of the Twin Towers is based on recommendations of a panel of 9/11 families, rescue workers, survivors, neighbors and historians.
One message from family members was not to pull any punches in telling the story of Sept. 11 and the 1993 attack on the Twin Towers in order to convey the full impact of the loss and suffering.
Following that advice, Howard said, means that some of the exhibit will be too difficult for kids and family members to view. They will be able to ride an elevator past the mangled artifacts directly to memorial areas on bedrock, he said.
Plans laid out this week do not include possible uses of an above-ground museum building that was going to house the controversial International Freedom Center, which was yanked from Ground Zero last month by Gov. Pataki.
The visceral nature of the proposed exhibits will undoubtedly draw fire from certain quarters. The proposal is, after all, less politically palatable than the comparatively sanitized message of America being an at-best historically ambivalent participant in the global march toward freedom.
Still, the idea of displaying the actual horrific artifacts of destruction, while less comfortable, does seem somewhat more relevant.
George Soros and friends will have to make do villainizing America elsewhere.
New Yorkers, Disregard This Post
The Wonkster (Gotham Gazette's NYCentric political blog) has picked up on a Newsday piece noting the curious inattention among New Yorkers toward political blogs.
“New Yorkers are passionate about real estate, gossip and fashion” – but not politics. That’s the conclusion that Ben Smith makes in a piece in Newsday about why the local political Internet and “blog revolution” promised by candidates like Andrew Rasiej (who ran for public advocate) never happened. Americans are reading national political blogs, and New Yorkers are reading blogs, but New Yorkers are reading blogs about NYC real estate (Curbed), gossip (Gawker) and fashion (Gawker again?); New Yorkers are not reading blogs about local politics.
From the quoted Newsday piece:
"We'll help the [Fernando] Ferrer campaign build a micro-version of what we did for [presidential hopeful Howard] Dean," Vinay Bhagat, a technology consultant for the Democratic mayoral challenger, told New York Magazine as the campaign began.
The Ferrer blog's only audience, unfortunately for him, appeared to be Mayor Michael Bloomberg's opposition research team. They picked up the false, first-person claim that Ferrer had attended public schools and smeared it all over the front page of the two city tabloids. The Post featured Freddy in a dunce cap, but the cap probably belonged on the head of whoever thought it was a good idea to have anonymous staffers blogging in the candidate's voice.
I'm not sure that an outspent, outgunned, outmatched Mayoral challenger failing to cause an online stir (an intentional one, anyway) simply by invoking the name Howard Dean is necessarily indicative of a general poliblog apathy among New Yorkers.
Smith theorizes that the lack of a more explosive blog revolution in New York owes to the general homogeneity of the city's electorate. But any town with a 4:1 democrat:republican registration that's polling nearly 2:1 in favor of a Republican incumbent must have some tinderbox potential. If it's thus far failed to spark in 2005, give it a year.
Four Steps to Terrorist Victory
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence yesterday declassified a translated letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zaqarwi. The note details al Qaeda's worldwide terrorist aims and deals specifically with how to advance their cause in Iraq.
DNI notes the following highlights:
- The centrality of the war in Iraq for the global jihad.
- From al Qa'ida's point of view, the war does not end with an American departure.
- An acknowledgment of the appeal of democracy to the Iraqis.
- The strategic vision of inevitable conflict, with a tacit recognition of current political dynamics in Iraq; with a call by al-Zawahiri for political action equal to military action.
- The need to maintain popular support at least until jihadist rule has been established.
- Admission that more than half the struggle is taking place "in the battlefield of the media."
al-Zawahiri also lays out a 4-point plan for success on the Iraq front (excerpting and emphasis mine):
- The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.
- The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate ...
- The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.
- The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.
That seems to offer some validation that we're doing the right thing by finishing the job in Iraq, given that our expulsion is number one on terror leaders' to-do list.
So it appears the recent NYC subway threat was likely a hoax.
"It all appears to be falling apart," said one federal law enforcement official, in reference to the informant, whom U.S. authorities have not identified publicly. "The guy … made something up that he thought we wanted to hear."
The FBI and other U.S. officials are trying to determine whether the informant intentionally misled them or if he was acting in good faith but on bad information, perhaps for payment or favored treatment.
Clearly, this is good news on balance, but perhaps our polygraph machines could stand a tune-up.
The tipster in Iraq failed some sections of the polygraph test, but passed the section pertaining to the information about the New York threat, the official said.
Jedes gibt gemäß seinen Fähigkeiten
Oh, those incorrigible Germans, always off on some misguided national discursion.
From the Ludwig von Mises Institute (excerpting and emphasis mine):
[T]he successors of the Communist SED from Eastern Germany won almost 9% in the last election about three weeks ago, in a country that is so proud of its alleged freedom-orientated and pro-market constitution. This 9% was decisive because it prevented the formation of an electoral coalition for reform of any sort.
In the decades since World War II, Germany has turned into a welfare state of incredible dimensions: six weeks of paid vacation per year for every employee (guaranteed by law), myriad possibilities to shorten the working life (only a handful of German citizens over 60 still work), a working week of only 35 hours in many industries, and extensive social security and health insurance.
And so the tragedy is clear: the continuation of socialist-style policy is the means that the German political establishment will choose in order to avoid granting more power to the former Communists of East Germany. Communists controlled less of Germany 20 years ago than they do today.
From the Faber College contingent:
Ok, so it's impossible to deny that the earthquake this morning in South Asia was anything other than another horrific example of natural disaster.
However...given that it rattled the Earth between Pakistan and Afghanistan...might it have wiped out Bin Laden along with the thousands of others? I'm not implying it's a fair price to pay...I'm just saying that that would be something over which I would NOT shed a tear. Quite possible when you think about it, no? If so, then I'm sure the quake was part of Karl Rove's master plan to divert attention from his testimony.
Countdown to Breakdown
One of these days, Countdown host Keith Olbermann will undoubtedly start wearing his tinfoil hat on air.
Another terror alert, another chance for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann to question whether it's politically motivated. Talking about the terror threat to the New York City subway system, a supposed threat revealed by local officials, Olbermann nonetheless suggested it was announced in order to distract from news that Karl Rove would make another grand jury appearance: "Stop what you're thinking. It's just an amazing coincidence. The terrorists just happened to wait to make these threats until there's bad news about the administration that it needs to preempt. Just a coincidence." Olbermann claimed that "we've cobbled together in the last couple of hours a list of at least 13 occasions that, on which, whenever there has been news that significantly impacted the White House negatively, there has been some sudden credible terror threat somewhere in this country. How could the coincidence be so consistent?" Craig Crawford agreed that "it is a pattern" and complained that "those of us who bring it up get accused of treason."
Well, I won't accuse them of treason. Just of tripe.
I don't know what the Olbermann List of 13 entails, but in an era when terrorist threats are frequent, and the MSM machine - in which Olbermann plays such a vital part - indulges its an unending appetite for White House-bashing stories, yes, there around bound to be occasions when such incidents are chronologically tightly coupled.
Post hoc is a tempting fallacy.
I can't shake the image of Olbermann in his garage, cutting up and highlighting passages in newspapers, pasting them onto a big A Beautiful Mind collage spanning all four walls, just desperate to unravel the GOP conspiracy.
Olbermann said: "Back to the New York City subway threat. There is a threat, isn't there? Yes, says New York. Uhhhh, not so much, says Washington...."
In the midst of an ad break, Olbermann delivered a plug: "Security heightened on New York's subways, but the threat level was not raised. Authorities have known for days. They only said something today as rush hour began. New York acted on it. Washington seems to be downplaying it. Is there a threat or does somebody just want us to think there is? Countdown continues."
So... is the implication that the Bush administration holds more conspiratorial sway with the NYPD and Mike Bloomberg than with its own Cabinet? I'm not sure Keith fully thought through this conspiracy theory.
NYC Subway Threat
Some slippery details are emerging as to the threat being investigated against New York's subway system.
The NYPD and the FBI are investigating a tip that 19 operatives have been deployed to the city to place a series of underground bombs. The threat is said to have originated when three Iraqi pharmacists, arrested in a U.S.-led raid, let it slip that additional pharmacists were to be dispatched to New York to unleash a chemical attack.
Via ABC News:
The New York Police Department and FBI are investigating a "credible" tip that 19 operatives have been deployed to the city to place bombs in the subway, and security in the subways has been increased.
[T]he intelligence community developed information that the threat may have involved pharmacists from Iraq coming to New York for some kind of chemical attack targeting the subways.
Three insurgents, one or more of whom are pharmacists, were arrested during a raid by a U.S. military and intelligence community team, sources said, and one of those caught disclosed the threat. Because it slipped out during the arrest, the plot was deemed credible.
The 19 operatives were to place improvised explosive devices in the subways using briefcases, according to two sources.
Mark Marshon, assistant director in charge of the New York office of the FBI, said the investigation has helped stop the plans. "The encouraging news is that classified operations have, in fact, partially disrupted this threat," he said.
If they're confident of partial disruption, that would tend to suggest a high level of credibility to the original threat.
The police are deploying additional officers, dogs and heavy weapons teams in subways and commuter rail terminals, sources said.
Maybe so, but the only thing visibly out of the ordinary on the 4/5/6 platform at Grand Central at 6 pm was a news crew pestering commuters. No hercules teams, no dogs, and no baggage checks. The extent of the supplemental security so far as I saw was a police cruiser parked on Lexington Avenue just outside the terminal entrance with its lights on and a cop leaning up against it.
True, it may have taken a while to mobilize the forces, but according to official announcements, this has been on the radar screen for at least a few days.
Relatedly, today's excitement retroactively creeps me out about an e-mail forwarded to me three days ago by fellow NYC blogger The Man at GOP and the City. Suffice it to say it was of this ilk, the post-9/11-style fearmongering messages forwarded and reforwarded by some co-worker's friend of a friend, to give you the secret heads up on a looming threat.
It certainly seemed to have all the fraudulent hallmarks of that familiar format. And yet now it seems eerily prescient (emphasis - and a reminder to take this sketchy, unconfirmed e-mail with a grain of salt - are mine):
I do not send out mass emails as games or jokes so PLEASE take this seriously. As some of you know my father works for HomelandSecurity, at a very high position and receives security briefings on a daily basis. I received a call from him Monday Oct 3, 2005 and it was a brief call and did not contain a lot of details. The only information that I can pass on is that everyone should at all costs not ride the subway for the next 2 weeks in the major areas of NYC, that means Grand Central, Times Square, Herald Square, Union Square areas. I know that seems crazy but do take his advice if at all possible. I am not at will or able to discuss anything more than that. I was not allowed to ask him any questions but he called with grave concern for the safety of myself and Heather. He said I could tell friends exactly what I have said above and that is it.
I am sorry that I cannot give any more details. He also said that he would inform me as soon as the threat at hand has passed and when we can go back to normal life.
Obviously, that's not to say the sender truly had gotten early wind of the situation; the possibility of a coincidence is a strong one, given how similar this note is to the rash of such e-mails that appeared after 9/11. But I do have to say it'd been a while since I'd seen one of these messages. And the timing and details were spot on.
If the e-mailer did have a bead on things, you can pick whichever theory causes you less nail-biting: 1) either the homeland security function currently allows for withholding actionable intelligence from the public as to how to defend against a credible threat, or 2) (assuming a strategic advantage was being maintained by holding off on the disclosure) that there are some woefully loose lips at DHS.
If indeed the e-mail was legit and the feds were keeping temporarily mum for strategic purposes which were deemed vital enough to delay cluing the public in as to how to protect themselves, then e-mailing your kid with the secret details and telling him to go ahead and tip off his buddies strikes me as besotted beyond belief.
More worrisome (holding all the above ifs) is the prospect that the prolific forwarder isn't trumping up his father's "very high position" at Homeland Security.
Little Green Footballs got hold of an e-mail from Not In Our Name (that briefly visible, but apparently still existent group you may vaguely recall, whose original raison d'etre was clamoring against the liberation of Iraq), which has now decided to step up to true grassroots political activism, in what they describe as an effort to "drive out the Bush regime".
It's just a good thing that in the 35 years since Woodstock, the best idea anti-war world-changers have come up with is still to throw a protracted outdoor concert, and thus change the world through the power of swaying and hygiene neglect.
Saturday October 8th - OCCUPY THE OCCUPIERS 2: Concert to Drive Out the BUSH REGIME! - Westwood Federal Building - 1PM Until AFTER Dark
OCCUPY THE OCCUPIERS 2: Concert to Drive Out the BUSH REGIME!
THIS Saturday October 8th
Westwood Federal Building
1PM Until AFTER Dark
From New Orleans to Bagdad to AiDs Ravaged Africa to the Border of Mexico: It is Time for Them to GO! Saturday October 8th at the Westwood Federal Building.
Join us for an all day music and cultural event to Drive the Bush Regime from Office. Bring your tents decorated with slogans, your artwork, your information tables and most important just yourself!
Get juiced up! Get organized! Now is the time. We can change the world!
War- Hatred - Greed : NOT IN OUR NAME!
Anyway, if you're free for 9 hours this Saturday, consider stopping by the Westwood Federal Building for the righteous rowdydow. I hear "Holly Burton and the Patriot Acts" do a great live show.
Just make sure to order your official moonbat gear in time to tie dye.
Bush's Other Legacy
Amid the Supreme Court hubbub, comparatively minimal conversational bandwidth is being spent on Bush's looming nomination to succeed Alan Greenspan, who will finish his final term as Fed chairman at the end of January.
Given that Greenspan has spanned 6 Presidential administrations and moves markets with every shift in intonation, his replacement has the capacity to shape the American and global economy for decades.
The short list:
- Ben Bernanke - Bush economic advisor, former Fed governor
- Martin Feldstein - Reagan advisor, Harvard professor, rumored model for Mr. Burns
- Glenn Hubbard - Bush advisor, Columbia B-School dean, designer of delicious 2003 tax cuts
- Roger Ferguson - Fed governor/vice chairman
- Donald Kohn - Fed governor/lifer
My money's on Monty. Er... Marty.
Veep Fires Back on Elder Statesman
After receiving a string of barbs and taunts about his health and fitness to hold office from Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Dick Cheney fired back today in interviews with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
"I would like to believe he's sick rather than just mean and evil," Rangel said last Friday on NY1, the New York City-based all-news channel.
You'd like to believe he's sick. Why, that seems a little... mean.
11 years Rangel's junior, Cheney was making the rounds today discussing the President's nomination of Harriet Miers, but found plenty of time to fire back on the increasingly curmudgeony Congressman.
"I don't know what I did to offend him, but he's gotten pretty nasty lately.... I think Charlie is a lot older than I am, and it shows," said the vice president.
In August, Rangel had this to say:
"[The President being on vacation] makes the country a lot more safe," Rangel said. "The further Bush is away from Washington, the better it is. And sometimes I don't think even Cheney is awake enough to know what's going on."
The Vice President's assessment:
"Charlie is losing it, I guess."
Tsk, tsk. Mr. Cheney, you should show respect for your elders.
White House Counsel Nominated to SCOTUS
President Bush has nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
Harriet Miers (courtesy of the RNC Associate Director for eCommunications):
- Harriet Miers was born in Dallas, Texas on August 10, 1945.
- Ms. Miers received her bachelor's degree in Mathematics in 1967 and J.D. in 1970 from Southern Methodist University.
- Upon graduation, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Joe E. Estes from 1970 to 1972.
- In 1972, Ms. Miers became the first woman hired at Dallas’s Locke Purnell Rain Harrell.
- In March 1996, her colleagues elected her the first female President of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell, at that time a firm of about 200 lawyers. She became the first female to lead a Texas firm of that size.
- Locke, Purnell eventually merged with a Houston firm and became Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP, where Ms. Miers became Co-Managing Partner and helped manage an over-400-lawyer firm.
- Ms. Miers had a very distinguished career as a trial litigator, representing such clients as Microsoft, Walt Disney Co. and SunGard Data Systems Inc.
- Throughout her career, she has been very active in the legal community and has blazed a trail for other women to follow.
• In 1985, Ms. Miers was selected as the first woman to become President of the Dallas Bar Association.
• In 1992, she became the first woman elected President of the State Bar of Texas. Ms. Miers served as the President of the State Bar of Texas from 1992 to 1993.
• She played an active role in the American Bar Association. She was one of two candidates for the Number 2 position at the ABA, chair of the House of Delegates, before withdrawing her candidacy to move to Washington to serve in the White House. Ms. Miers also served as the chair of the ABA’s Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice.
- On numerous occasions, the National Law Journal named her one of the Nation’s 100 most powerful attorneys, and as one of the Nation’s top 50 women lawyers.
- Ms. Miers also has been involved in local and statewide politics in Texas.
• In 1989, she was elected to a two-year term as an at-large candidate on the Dallas City Council. She chose not to run for re-election when her term expired.
• Ms. Miers also served as general counsel for the transition team of Governor-elect George W. Bush in 1994.
• From 1995 until 2000, Ms. Miers served as Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission, a voluntary public service position she undertook while maintaining her legal practice and other responsibilities. When then-Governor Bush appointed Ms. Miers to a six-year term on the Texas Lottery Commission, it was mired in scandal, and she served as a driving force behind its cleanup.
- Ms. Miers came to Washington D.C. in 2001 and began a period of distinguished and dedicated service that continues today.
• She was appointed to be Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary on January 20, 2001.
• In 2003, Ms. Miers was promoted to be Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff.
• Ms. Miers has served as Counsel to the President since February, 2005.
- She is single and very close to her family: two brothers and her mother live in Dallas and a third brother lives in Houston.
Harriet Miers is Well Qualified to Serve on the United States Supreme Court
Ms. Miers’s long and distinguished career as one of the foremost lawyers in the country makes her exceptionally well qualified to serve on the United States Supreme Court. As a Justice on the Supreme Court, she will strictly interpret the Constitution and laws of the United States, not legislate from the bench.
• With her distinguished career and extensive community involvement, Ms. Miers would bring a wealth of personal experience and diversity to the Supreme Court.
• Members from both sides of the aisle have recognized her professional achievements and qualifications and recommended her to the President as a nominee.
• Ms. Miers would join a long and distinguished list of jurists named to the Supreme Court without prior judicial experience.
- 10 out of the 34 Justices appointed since 1933, including the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the late Justice Byron White, were appointed from positions within the President’s Administration. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist was appointed in 1971 from his position as Assistant Attorney General. The late Justice Byron White was appointed in 1962 from his position as Deputy Attorney General. Neither had prior judicial experience.
• Ms. Miers has a long and distinguished professional career.
- Ms. Miers received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics in 1967 and J.D. in 1970 from Southern Methodist University. Upon graduation, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Joe E. Estes from 1970 to 1972.
- Ms. Miers had a distinguished career as a trial litigator, representing such clients as Microsoft, Walt Disney Co. and SunGard Data Systems Inc. Moreover, when she left her law firm of Locke, Liddell & Sapp, Ms. Miers was serving as Co-Managing Partner of the over-400-lawyer firm.
- Throughout her career, Ms. Miers has been committed to public service. In addition to her extensive involvement in the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association, Ms. Miers has been an elected official, a statewide officeholder, and a strong advocate of pro bono work.
- In her time in the Administration, Ms. Miers has addressed numerous legal and policy questions at the highest levels of decision making, most recently serving as the Counsel to the President of the United States.
• Like Justice O’Connor, throughout her career, Ms. Miers has been a female trailblazer.
- In 1972, Ms. Miers became the first woman hired at Dallas’s Locke Purnell Rain Harrell. In March 1996, her colleagues elected her the first female President of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell, at that time a firm of about 200 lawyers. She was the first woman to lead a Texas firm of that size.
- In 1985, Ms. Miers was selected as the first woman to become President of the Dallas Bar Association.
- In 1992, she became the first woman elected President of the State Bar of Texas. Ms. Miers served as the President of the State Bar of Texas from 1992 to 1993.
• Ms. Miers recent career has been marked by her participation at the highest levels of government.
• She was appointed Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary on January 20, 2001. As Staff Secretary, Ms. Miers acted as “the ultimate gatekeeper for what crosses the desk of the nation’s commander in chief.” In addition to this important role, Ms. Miers supervised more than 60 employees in four departments.
• In 2003, Ms. Miers was named Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff. As part of the Office of the Chief of Staff, she was a top domestic policy advisor to the President.
• Ms. Miers has served as Counsel to the President since February 2005. In this role, she has served as the top lawyer to the President and the White House, and in particular has been the principal advisor judicial nominations.
• Ms. Miers’s professional accomplishments have been recognized time and time again.
- Ms. Miers made partner at her law firm in 1978; the next year, she was honored as the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Dallas by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers.
- On numerous occasions, the National Law Journal named her one of the Nation’s 100 most powerful attorneys, and as one of the Nation’s top 50 women lawyers.
- She has received countless awards recognizing her distinguished career, including 1997 Woman of the Year, the 1996 Louise Raggio Award, the 1993 Sarah T. Hughes Award, and the 1992 Dallas Bar Association’s Justinian Award for Community Service. In 2005 she received the Sandra Day O’Connor award.
- In 1996 alone, she was honored with the Anti-Defamation League’s Jurisprudence Award and the Legal Services of North Texas 1996 Merrill Hartman Award.
- She also has been the recipient of a Women of Excellence Award, sponsored by Dallas’s Women’s Enterprise, for her work with the Dallas Bar Association and Dallas’s Girls Inc.
• Also like Justice O’Connor, Ms. Miers has been an active participant in our nation’s political process.
• In 1989, she was elected to a two-year term as an at-large candidate on the Dallas City Council. She chose not to run for re-election when her term expired.
• Ms. Miers served as general counsel for the transition team of Governor-elect George W. Bush in 1994.
• From 1995 until 2000, Ms. Miers served as Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission, a voluntary public service position she undertook while maintaining her legal practice and other responsibilities. After then-Governor Bush appointed Ms. Miers to a six-year term on the Texas Lottery Commission, she served as a driving force behind its cleanup. In an editorial, The Dallas Morning News complimented her distinguished service and her success in ensuring the lottery’s integrity.
• In addition to her trailblazing role in the Dallas Bar and Texas State Bar, Ms. Miers has been a strong voice in the American Bar Association, the leading professional organization for lawyers across the country, and the Texas State Bar.
- She was one of two candidates for the No. 2 position at the ABA, chair of the House of Delegates, before withdrawing her candidacy to move to Washington to serve in the Bush Administration.
- Ms. Miers also served as the chair of the ABA’s Commission on Multi-jurisdictional Practice and was a member of the ABA Governance Committee.
- She has also served as the Chair of the Board of Editors of the ABA Bar Journal.
- Similarly, she has served as the chairwoman of the Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee of the State Bar of Texas.
• Throughout her career, Ms. Miers has successfully balanced her professional obligations and community involvement.
- For example, while she served as President of the State Bar of Texas, Ms. Miers also logged 125 pro bono hours handling an immigration and naturalization case for Catholic Charities of Dallas.
- In addition to her service to the Bar and her pro bono commitments, Ms. Miers has served on the Executive Board for the Southern Methodist University School of Law and as a Trustee of the Southwestern Legal Foundation.
• Ms. Miers is single and very close to her family: two brothers and her mother live in Dallas, and a third brother lives in Houston.
Terror Returns to Bali
At least 19 are dead (including 2 Americans) and 51 wounded in twin blasts at Jimbaran Beach and a Kuta shopping center in Bali, Indonesia.
Early speculation has eyed Al Qaeda offshoot Jemaah Islamiyah, the group responsible for the Bali bombings in October of 2002.
A New York State of Ambivalence
It seems New Yorkers can't quite decide what they want the future to hold for their adopted Senator. According to a Marist Institute poll, 52% would definitely vote to re-elect Mrs. Clinton to a second Senate term. Yet a similar (which is to say slim) majority would prefer she not run for President.
"Prefer that she wouldn't run" is obviously different from "wouldn't vote for", but it's somewhat striking, given her high "definitely would re-elect to Senate" numbers.
Perhaps the most striking figure from the poll is the finding that only 54% of New Yorkers think Hillary will actually run for President in 2008.
Of the three, that's the one slim majority I count myself a member of.
You know what, Europe? We've got it covered.
Frankly, you're starting to come off like that lame friend that wants to play with some new toy we just got and we just know you're going to break it.
Related mid-summer sheesh.