IAEA: Iran Has Nuclear Bomb Blueprint
A confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report includes excerpts from an Iranian government document that outlines a key step in making nuclear weapons, a senior State Department official said.
The document is part of mounting evidence in the report to the United Nations' member nations that Iran is working on nuclear weapons, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because diplomatic negotiations are continuing.
The document describes procedures for reducing and shaping enriched uranium into hemispheres for fitting into the core of an atomic bomb, the official said. ``There's no peaceful explanation for forming these hemispheres for weaponization,'' the official told reporters at a briefing in Washington.
Previously: Iran's Radiological Clock Is Ticking
Liveblogging the State of the Union
Watch this space for a liveblog of tonight's State of the Union Address...
9:00 Chief Justice Roberts files in with Associate Justices, including that up-and-comer Sam Alito.
9:05 Fox News reports Cindy Sheehan was detained in the gallery above the chamber when unfurling a banner. Blogs for Bush on the matter. FNC reports Sheehan was someone's guest, perhaps Rep. Lynn Woolsey's.
9:08 Unexplained delay as Bush is kept in a holding room outside the chamber. Because of the Sheehan fracas? ... Ah, here he comes. ... Clapping ... Clapping ... Intro by Hastert ... Clapping ...
9:15 The state of our union is... "strong. And together we will make it stronger."
9:20 Echoes of the second Inaugural:
Dictatorships shelter terrorists ... and seek weapons of mass destruction ... Democracies replace resentment with hope ... and join the fight against terror ... We will act boldly in freedom's cause ... The advance of freedom is the great story of our time.
9:25 A nice dig at Presidential and military detractors:
Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second guessing is not a strategy.
9:30 More on the theme of seeding worldwide democracy:
Elections are vital, but they are only the beginning ... Now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, and work for lasting peace ... Liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East. Because liberty is the hope and right of all humanity. The regime in Iran sponsors terrorists in the Palenstenian territories and that must come to an end. The nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to get nuclear weapons.
Speaking directly to the people of Iran, Bush expresses his respect and compassion for them and speaks of his desire to become the "closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."
9:35 On to brass tacks. Bush urges reauthorization of the Patriot Act. He cites precedent set by previous Presidents for the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
If there are people in our country talkin' with al Qaeda, we want to know about it. Because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.
9:37 Cut to Senator Clinton, clapping what looks like a very sarcastic clap.
9:40 Bush argues for keeping America globally competitive and refers to economic centralization (read: a business-unfriendly, taxy federal government) as "protectionism" and "isolationism" for the severalth time. This was a theme and a specific phraseology we'd been advised the President would hammer home. I like it.
Second Congressional urging: Make the tax cuts permanent.
9:43 And a third (this one on earmark reform): pass the line item veto.
9:45 Bush refers to "two of my Dad's favorite people" about to hit retirement age... "me and President Clinton." Notes that Congress did not act on his social security reform last year. Now Hillary (and her side of the room) are clapping a very genuine clap (Hooray for obstructionism!). Yet entitlement spending is a problem "That. Is. Not. Going. Away." replies Bush. The right side of the room replies with an ovation of their own.
9:48 A fourth legislative urging: pass medical liability reform this year.
9:50 And now on to energy policy... Bush announces the Advanced Energy Initiative. Lots of benchmarks and alternative energy sources, but nothing terribly innovative.
9:52 Bush also announces the American Competitiveness Initiative. More acronyms, more benchmarks.
9:53 Here are the full remarks as prepared for delivery, just arrived courtesy of the the RNC.
9:56 Bush recognizes Justices Alito and Roberts. He does it graciously, but firmly, and I'm glad he didn't omit such nods for fear of seeming gloaty.
10:03 Parting comment:
Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom’s advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land. And so we move forward – optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of victories to come.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.
There is a better way.
Rewind. Repeat ad nauseum.
Length of Address: 50 minutes
Interruptions for Applause: 61
Most Potent Quotable: "America rejects the false comfort of isolationism."
Best Instalexicon Entry: "Terrorist Surveillance Program"
Best Soundbite: "We love our freedom. And we will fight to keep it."
(in Bush's I'm dead serious tone)
- Reauthorize the Patriot Act
- Make the tax cuts permanent
- Pass the line item veto
- Pass medical liability reform this year
The general tone was often conciliatory and at times, even reminiscent of leftward rhetoric (e.g. green energy initiatives, swelling government programs). The right elements were in there (the four legislative urgings, the tough talk on Iran, unabashed pride in the success of economic policies, reiterating the grand vision of the second Inaugural address), but they were underrepresented in a 50 minute speech in which they should have been front and center. That said, the President's overall passion, toughness, and eloquence were decently in force. These addresses are largely pageants in leadership; tonight, Bush cut a sufficiently strong leadership profile as to make the speech a success. But there were missed opportunities to do the job more convincingly by staying more on his own message, something this President is typically a master at.
Blogs for Bush, The American Princess, Weapons of Mass Discussion, Publius Rendezvous, The Washington Patriot, Daily Perspective, Conservative Blogger, Right Wing News, Captains Quarters
SOTU Pregame With GOP Senators
I've just gotten off a conference call attended by Senators Jim DeMint, Chuck Grassley,
Rick Santorum, John Cornyn, and Jim Talent.
On with me were John Hawkins from Right Wing News, Brian Preston from Junkyard Blog and Justin Hart from Right Side Redux.
The Senators commented on what they were expecting from tonight's State of the Union (they seem to have caught pretty much the same preview) and discussed a variety of non-SOTU questions we peppered them with, including the war in Iraq, Justice Alito, Senate legislative priorities, and the midterm elections.
In short, the domestic side of the address will be dominated by energy policy and healthcare, with some secondary focus on enhancing America's competitiveness in the global marketplace. The international side will focus on the war on terror and national security as broad themes, dabbling into subtopics like immigration policy and the merits of NSA surveillance, as well as the Supertopic of striving for a world free of dictatorship and terror by encouraging democracy and freedom around the world (see Bush's second Inaugural Address).
We don't seem to be in store for anything we haven't heard before; rather the President appears to be gearing up to better explain how his agenda (in all its genuine grandeur) is served by certain more immediate agenda items that we're already used to bandying about.
But wait, there's more! Just give me a few minutes to boil down my notes into a coherent write-up. Meantime, check out the extended entry for excerpts from the President's address, courtesy of the RNC.
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Senator DeMint was the first to join us and the first to tell us about the structure identified above (war on terror/national security, combined with energy, healthcare, and competitiveness as the three domestic priorities).
He suggested that a key strategy would be to connect administration policies with real world impact (e.g. making the tax cuts permanent is not a subsidy for the rich, but a means to make America more competitive and create jobs).
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Senator Grassley stressed the curious gap between the current economic reality (i.e. good) in America and the general public's sentiment about the economy (i.e. bad). I ate it up because I've been blogging about this frustrating dichotomy throughout the day. When I asked him how he though the President, legislators, media sources, etc. could best address this mass misconception, he didn't miss a beat. Here's what we need that we ain't got:
- The President being more willing to boast about economic wins
- A pinch of Clintonian storytelling in policy speeches
- A fair press
Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Senator Santorum obliged me by speculating about what specific, short-term legislative issues the President might stump for. Some that he mentioned: the deficit reduction bill, entitlement reduction programs, making the tax cuts permanent, and legal reform. He did say he hoped the President wouldn't simply present a laundry list of requested legislation at the expense of a thematic Presidential vision, as was Clinton's wont.
John Hawkins asked Santorum about his re-election prospects, a matter about which he sounds genuinely confident, owing to his overtaking his opponent Bob Casey in fundraising and his superior operational team "on the ground, on the air, and virtually".
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Senator Cornyn discussed energy policy at some length. Justin Hart asked about windfall profit taxes, in response to which Cornyn noted, "It's not a crime to make a profit in America." Brian Preston asked whether we'd hear about concrete, achievable goals (like drilling in ANWR) tonight (most of the Senators made clear we'd be hearing plenty about the more aisle-crossingly palatable items like renewables, hybrids, and so forth). Cornyn said it had become an "article of faith" on the left that drilling in ANWR will have some kind of unacceptable consequences (a pity, given that argument's abject inaccuracy). I predict we don't hear the word uttered tonight.
Jim Talent (R-MO)
Senator Talent addressed a question from Justin Hart on ethics reform. While he was confident we wouldn't hear the President take up the topic in tonight's forum, he said he expected lobbying rules, particularly those surrounding lobbyist-funded private trips, would be shortly brought up by Congressional leadership and that some would probably pass. To me this sounded more targeted and less sweeping-for-sake-of-being-sweeping than a lot of the rhetoric being slung about on the topic. It was refreshing.
For Immediate Release January 31, 2006
STATE OF THE UNION EXCERPTS
As Prepared for Delivery
America is always at its best when we are shaping events, instead of being shaped by events. Tonight, the President will chart a clear path forward for our Nation:
“In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom – or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy – or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting – yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people … the only way to secure the peace … the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership – so the United States of America will continue to lead.”
The President will talk about America’s
leadership role in the world, and the importance of working together to better
protect our country, support our troops, and advance freedom:
The President will talk about America’s leadership role in the world, and the importance of working together to better protect our country, support our troops, and advance freedom:
“Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal – we seek the end of tyranny in our world… the future security of America depends on it.”
“In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores.”
“…Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change.”
“To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands.”
To keep America competitive in a dynamic economy, the President will set out an agenda focused on the priorities that families are most concerned about. He will talk about the importance of having an educated, skilled workforce, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and making health care more affordable, accessible, and portable:
“Here at home, America also has a great opportunity: We will build the prosperity of our country by strengthening our economic leadership in the world.”
“The American economy is pre-eminent – but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India.”
“We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people – and we are going to keep that edge.”
“America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world… The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”
On Health Care:
“Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care … strengthen the doctor-patient relationship … and help people afford the insurance coverage they need.”
Finally, the President will speak
to the character and compassion of America:
“…our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society.”
Google Whiffs Huge
Now that's a big earnings miss. Google's fourth quarter earnings per share was $1.27. That's impressive, given that it's a year-over-year increase in net income of 82%. But seeing as analysts were looking for $1.71 per share, the shares have sold off mightily in after hours trading.
Have you been kicking yourself for not buying Google under $375 per share? Well, now's your chance.
A closer look reveals it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Zeroing out the effects of charitable contributions and compensation expenses brings the number up $1.54. Plus, Google's effective tax rate this quarter was as much as 12 percentage points higher than in the comparable quarter (and they expect it to revert to the lower rate this year).
Still disappointing for Google shareholders, but not quite the mess implied by the headline number.
Fed Hikes, Changes Up the Language
The market is predictably whipsawing a bit in the immediate aftermath, but this looks like good news to me ("good news" meaning the Fed seems to be telegraphing that - subject to all that such things are subject to - they don't necessarily plan on continuing to tighten, at a "measured" or any other pace, and therefore that we have either zero or one more hike to go before they pause).
The statement indicates that "further policy firming may be needed" where it previously stated "further policy firming is likely to be needed". Seemingly minor distinction, but they know that every word change is momentously scrutinized.
The [now absent] word "measured" describing the likely path of future hikes had served as a way to communicate a tempered intended escalation. So if "measured" translated to "More hikes coming, but not faster than 25 basis points at a time", then its removal tells me the message is now "Next time, it's up a quarter point or flat, depending on inflation pressures." That's about as dovish as Greenspan's fed could have been expected to be.
The market had priced in today's hike, plus a possible follow-up hike at Bernanke's first meeting. This statement seems to confirm exactly that. Whipsaw be danged, I like this language (the full text of which is in the extended post).
Let's go ahead and call this 3 for 3 on today's prosperity parade.
Update: Now that Greenspan's illustrious tenure has run its course, the Senate has confirmed Ben Bernanke as the new Federal Reserve Chairman (busy today, eh Senators?). It was a voice vote, but only one Senator asked to be recorded as opposing the confirmation - Jim Bunning (R-KY), who thinks Bernanke will be too much like Greenspan. What's up with that, Jim?
Bunning has taken flak in the past for being too on board with the President's policies, which makes me wonder whether this was a disingenuous way to lower his Presidential support rating, given Bush's recently anemic approval numbers. For one thing, being "too much like Greenspan" seems like an unlikely handicap for a Fed Chairman. And for another, Bernanke's presumptive monetary philosophy, to use an inflation peg rather than ad hoc rate jiggles, is fundamentally different than the Maestro's.
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to raise its target for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 4-1/2 percent.
Although recent economic data have been uneven, the expansion in economic activity appears solid. Core inflation has stayed relatively low in recent months and longer-term inflation expectations remain contained. Nevertheless, possible increases in resource utilization as well as elevated energy prices have the potential to add to inflation pressures.
The Committee judges that some further policy firming may be needed to keep the risks to the attainment of both sustainable economic growth and price stability roughly in balance. In any event, the Committee will respond to changes in economic prospects as needed to foster these objectives.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Alan Greenspan, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Susan S. Bies; Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.; Jack Guynn; Donald L. Kohn; Jeffrey M. Lacker; Mark W. Olson; Sandra Pianalto; and Janet L. Yellen.
In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 25-basis-point increase in the discount rate to 5-1/2 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.
Justice Alito Confirmed
Sam Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58-42. The vote went down party lines with the exceptions of Lincoln Chafee (surprise, surprise) on the Republican side, and Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Robert Byrd and Tim Johnson among the Democrats.
The delay tactics employed by Senate Democrats, fully aware of Alito's inevitability, aiming at least to kick the confirmation past the State of the Union Address to embarrass the President have certainly backfired. The President can rightfully stride into the chamber with added grandiloquence tonight.
We're 2 for 2 so far on today's happy developments.
A Baker's January
As goes January, so goes the year (so goes the adage). And so far, despite some rocking and rolling, January looks to have held its own as it trudges through its final trading session.
Even if you net out the roughly 1.5% pop the market enjoyed on the first trading day of the year, the major market indices are still all higher (pictured are the daily price charts for January for the S&P 500, the Dow, and the NASDAQ Composite).
Granted, today is off to a
rocky fugly start, but all day (and all night) long we've got market buoying economic and political events to look forward to. More than anything else, the next 12 hours are going to see a lot of uncertainty taken out of financial markets and the American economy, likely supplanted by renewed optimism for growth. Even if one or two of today's focal points falter, there's a lot about to unfold that should give January (especially if we help ourselves to one day of February (a baker's January if you will)) the shot in the arm it needs to put up a very convincing number.
Some highlights to watch for:
- 10:00 am: Consumer confidence numbers released
Update: The index rose to 106.3, the highest level since June 2002 and above economists' expectations. Off to a good start.
- 2:15 am: Federal Reserve FOMC statement due out
Alan's last hurrah is basically a lock to raise the fed funds rate a 14th consecutive time to 4.5%, but this is the meeting many economists have been waiting for to get clarity on whether the Fed will quit after one more. If the language changes to confirm the end is nigh (key words: accommodative and measured), expect a healthy boost in market sentiment.
Update: The FOMC went to 4.5% as expected, and rolled out some new language, which seems to me to clearly telegraph an intended pause on the near horizon, as they do not refer to policy as "accommodative", and note that it "may" (versus "is likely to") need additional firming depending on inflation pressures, which is markedly dovish for Greenspan's Fed.
- 2:30 pm: Judge Alito will be confirmed to the Supreme Court
Another event that removes uncertainty and allows the Senate to return quickly to other pressing business like tax reform and renewing the Patriot Act.
Update: Well, it came a few hours early, but it came just the same. 58-42.
- 4:00 pm: Google's fourth quarter earnings will be released after the closing bell
Expectations for Google have gotten pretty stratospheric, so this is a bit of a wild card, but they've shown a knack for surprising to the upside, no matter how lofty the estimates. If Google delivers, tech stocks should enjoy a swell tide.
- 9:00 pm: State of the Union Address
A Wall Street Journal poll recently showed only 22% of the country believes the economy has gotten better over the last year. When sentiment is so low, compared to the actual economic picture, it's got nowhere to go but up when new data illustrate the more favorable reality and when the spotlight is shining on the strengths and successes supporting a more optimistic outlook. The SOTU will be a fine opportunity for the President to remind us of these strengths and to lay out and reaffirm a conservative economic agenda, filled with market-pleasing morsels like tasty tax cuts, strong security policies, and entitlement and tort reform.
Whenever confidence in the economy rises (and uncertainty dwindles) we can expect to see the markets improve. And with so many blithe bits of news befalling us all at once, I expect we're in for a hearty 2-day rally to close out the month of January+1.
(Hat tip: Stop the ACLU)
Congratulations, Judge Alito, President Bush, 75 Constitutionally honest Senators, and American democracy. This will put just a little more bloom on the SOTU rose tomorrow night. I want to see a little swagger en route to the pulpit.
For posterity, here are the 25 Senators who remained confused about their roll in the confirmation process (including 7 of the 8 Judiciary Committee Democrats):
NAYs - 25
Is This Thing On?
Well, I'm back. So here finally ends the radio silence that's plagued this page lo these few days. My apologies. Next time I'll try to scare up a blogsitter.
To anyone that may have been looking forward to this forum's on-the-scene coverage of tomorrow's Congressional reconvening and the State of the Union Address, I have a second apology for you. A lot of time away lately has led to my falling a lick behind with various things, and sadly I'm going to have to sit this one out (7 hours on the train and 10 hours in Washington pretty much commandeers a day which is fast becoming uncommandeerable).
A number of the very fine bloggers I've gotten to know on prior Capitol Hill boondoggles will be making the trip though. Check in with one or all of them starting at 2pm Tuesday for what promises to be superb access to a big slug of GOP Representatives and other right muckity mucks.
- National Journal's Hotline
- Michelle Malkin
- National Association of Manufacturers
- No End But Victory
- Soldier's Perspective
- National Review
- Right Side Redux
- Expose the Left (fka The Political Teen)
- Human Events Online
You Never Call, You Never Write...
Please forgive the temporary dearth of posts. I'm in Belize for a wedding and will be online only intermittently through Sunday.
But stay tuned for this week's Capitol Hill blogfeast, which kicks off Tuesday with the State of the Union and the reconvening of the 109th Congress.
'Scuse Me While I Slip Into Something a Little More... Old
Here's hoping the decade is better than the show...
Ever notice how certain euphamisms and mealy-mouthed double speak have a knack for sneaking into the political lexicon when no one's looking?
I've long scratched my head about the sanitized misnomer "undocumented immigrants" to capture (no pun intended) everyone from murderous sleeper cells to run-of-the-mill illegal aliens. But lately it's "extended debate" that's stuck in my etymological craw.
Say what you mean. "Filibuster". "Obstruction". Or very least "stalling".
Supreme Idol: Sam, You're Through To the Next Round
The Judiciary Committee has voted (one week late) to send Judge Alito to the Senate floor. The vote went straight down party lines, meaning Senators Feingold, Leahy, and Kohl found Justice Roberts to be qualified but Judge Alito not to be.
Matt Margolis liveblogged the vote, as well as the excuses.
THE FINAL VOTE:
The results are not surprising, but they don't bode well for the tally in the full Senate. With presumed support of all 55 Republicans and at least 1 Democrat (and especially in light of the fact that more than 1 GOP G14er is ready to invoke the Constitutional option upon a filibuster, giving it majority support), Alito will almost certainly be confirmed. But his vote total will be far lower than it should be, assuming the new test (i.e. "Would this nominee have been my pick?") applied by the Judiciary Committee Democrats is adopted by their colleagues in the full Senate.
Rolling the Big Apple Down the Slippery Slope of Socialized Healthcare
New York State is about to become involved in the effort to force Wal-Mart and other big box stores to contribute to their employees' health care tab.
Less than two weeks after Maryland made history by passing a law with the same mission - and on the heels of a similar bill approved by the New York City Council - Democrats in the state Senate plan to introduce a version of such legislation. Democrats passed the Maryland and council measures over Republican vetoes.
New York is in an even worse position to pull this stunt than Maryland. Maryland does already have a less business friendly climate than neighboring Delaware and Virginia, and so can't afford to be alienating economic engines like Wal-Mart. But compared to New York's punitive corporate tax structure (49th out of 50 by many measures), Maryland is a pro-business paradise.
Add to that the fact that New York City's relationship with its large corporate residents has been tenuous at best ever since 9/11 - when employers suddenly realized that geographic diversification away from terrorist bullseyes might outweigh the cachet and convenience of a New York address - and you've got all the makings for another corporate exodus. Even if any copycat legislation enacted in New York State is as targeted as the Maryland law that managed only to impact Wal-Mart, adopting new and unfriendly policies toward the state's most valued engines of creation simply defies any semblance of logic.
Not only would this frankly unAmerican, pseudosocialist move serve as a stark disincentive for employers to move to, incorporate in, or remain in New York State, but it would also have strongly negative implications for the workforce it would presume to protect, and indeed the welfare (small w) of the state on the whole. Without question, the woeful impact would involve higher unemployment, less real income growth, and a smaller, more stagnant tax base.
Thankfully, Democrats don't have a supermajority (nor any kind of majority for that matter) in the New York State Senate like they do in Maryland, so this asinine twaddle would hopefully be quashed by Governor Pataki if enough Senators were to find themselves sufficiently relieved of their faculties and good sense as to actually pass this legislation.
Maryland is a great and lovely state, no doubt. But this is one area where we don't want to emulate the Old Liners. We're already plagued by enough of the specter of socialized healthcare, thanks to the sensibilities of our junior U.S. Senator.
Save [Us From] Farris [?]
Remember this wiener?
Taking a page from the "Look at me, I'm needlessly in harm's way; aren't I intrepid?" journalism playbook, Florida teenager and aspiring humanitarian Farris Hassan traveled (without his parents' permission or knowledge) to Baghdad, to "love and help [his] neighbor in distress." Armed with a fistful of cash, a pocket full of grandeur, and a leaky heart full of American guilt, Hassan made his way to Baghdad determined to "broaden [his] mind."
Anyway, it seems there may be more to the story than a self-important, short-on-brains adolescent after all. Some belated digging into his story and his background has turned up few troubling inconsistencies and family skeletons. (Hat tip: Michelle Malkin)
Even the most basic research found that Farris Hassan was NOT enrolled in any journalism class at Pine Crest, which should automatically cast doubt on the true nature of his journey. ... [T]here is, in fact, no journalism class at the school. Also, the school confirmed that the boy’s father, Dr. Redha Hassan not only knew of his son’s intended travels, but authorized his absence, which is inconsistent with his initial public statements.
Although it was initially reported that neither parent knew of the young boy’s intended travels, it was ultimately revealed that Dr. Hassan actually assisted his son. He admitted that he arranged for his son's flight into Baghdad through his political connections, even though he knew the grave risks to “foreigners” wandering the streets of Baghdad.
Perhaps most importantly, research and investigation into Dr. Redha Hassan found that he was arrested by the FBI in 1985 for forging 2000 Iraqi passports and military I.D. cards and seeking to forge 2,000 more. Dr. Hassan asked his next-door-neighbor and print store owner Joel Feinstein to make the passports and IDs. According to Feinstein, Dr. Hassan claimed the documents were for his family in Iraq. Feinstein reported the request to the FBI, and became an operational asset for the federal government, leading to Hassan’s arrest. Also arrested were two of Farris's uncles and a "pro-Khomeini" activist identified as Salah Jawad Shubber. Interestingly, Dr. Hassan, who also went by the name Redha K. Alsawaf, was also the President of the now defunct Florida non-profit organization World Orphanage & Refugee Relief Foundation at the time of his arrest. Authorities dropped the charges against Hassan, and Shubber ultimately pled guilty to conspiracy charges.
Given the family history, the inconsistencies and the public contradictions, could it be that Hassan was going to Iraq to join Hezbollah to fight against the "American occupation?" Perhaps those are the questions that need to be asked.
2008 POTUS Pick'em
John Hawkins at Right Wing News has unveiled his list of Most & Least Desired 2008 Presidential Nominees, as ranked by 58 right-of-center bloggers. I'll let you guess at the specifics, but 2 of the top 5 scorers and 3 of the bottom 5 were also in my respective top and bottom 5 lists.
Most Desired Nominee For 2008
5) Dick Cheney (26.0)
4) Newt Gingrich (32.0)
3) George Allen (42.0)
2) Rudy Giuliani (58.0)
1) Condoleeza Rice (65.5)
Least Desired Nominee For 2008
5) Jeb Bush (22.0)
4) George Pataki (33.0)
3) Bill Frist (43.5)
2) Chuck Hagel (55.5)
1) John McCain (74.5)
Check out the full rankings and methodology.
Much as a photogenically challenged individual might be said to have a "face for radio", I fear I've just made a compelling argument that I have a "voice for blogging".
Even so, check out the 2nd weekly podcast over at Blogs for Bush. Matt Margolis and Mark Noonan were kind enough to invite me to cut my teeth on the format in a riveting and expansive discussion this afternoon.
The primary topic was the lurking prospect that Senate Democrats will succumb to the building pressure from left wing groups to filibuster Sam Alito (background).
Eliot Spitzer Is Growns Up
Now that New York Attorney General and goobernatorial hopeful Eliot Spitzer has had a few months to settle into the roles of campaigner, frontrunner, glad-hander, etc., he seems to be really hitting his stride as a page one politician.
From Newsday, last Wednesday:
A proposal by Gov. George Pataki to provide $500 tax credits to parents in underperforming school districts - potentially for private school tuition - was criticized Wednesday as a thinly disguised voucher program while state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer questioned whether it might face a constitutional battle.
"I think there will be serious constitutional issues if they are used for parochial schools," said Spitzer, the only announced Democratic candidate for governor.
And from Friday's NY Sun:
Mr. Spitzer yesterday said that he was receptive to the governor's plan and that he did not intend to give the impression that it would have legal problems.
In a statement, Mr. Spitzer said his response Wednesday to a query from The New York Sun "should not be construed to imply that I believe that there are such problems in Governor Pataki's proposal, or that I am opposed to education tax credits." He added: "In fact, I support the idea of education tax credits."
Only a fully developed politico could appreciate the nuance of this distinction. And only a Democrat could see past the confines of consistency or coherence to find a way to protect a tax.
Unrelatedly, on Friday Spitzer also released a press release on the AG office website that did little other than rail against the Pataki administration on the topic of prescription drug pricing. That strikes me as a mildly inappropriate use of public resources.
You really are filling out nicely, Mr. Spitzer.
Imagine Me and You, Part 2
Yes, this is the second time in a single day that I'm linking to a lefty site, but this fictional photo album featuring another odd couple is just too funny.
Just think - if Chris Matthews hadn't friendly fired upon Michael Moore by comparing him to Osama bin Laden, we wouldn't be able to enjoy either of these posts.
Keep it up, Chris. You're giving us gold here.
Elsewhere: The Political Teen
Imagine Me and You, and You and Me
"No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be-e-e..."
Elsewhere: Blogs for Bush
Decision Time for Illegal NYC Transit Strikers
* Updated and bumped * (Updates at the bottom...)
Well, it's finally here. The last day of voting by the Transport Workers Union membership to ratify or reject the contract their leader Roger Toussaint negotiated for them. Toussaint, his fellow union thugs, and more than 30,000 MTA employees staged an illegal 3-day strike in December as leverage for the above-market terms of this contract (at a cost of hundreds of millions, if not more than a billion dollars to New York City), yet opposition has been bubbling within the rank and file.
The bone of contention: that workers will be required to contribute 1.5% of their gross wages toward health care costs.
That opposition bubbles away, despite the fact that Toussaint and his scofflaw cronies still face the very real threat of jail time for mounting the illegal strike (New York's Taylor Law makes it unlawful for public employees or employee organizations to participate in or condone a strike). A contempt hearing this morning before State Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones was adjourned until some time after the voting has concluded.
Not without a sense of irony, union lawyers have indicated their defense will invoke... you guessed it: New York's Taylor Law.
Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer for the local, said the union will argue that it was provoked into a strike by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's insistence on a final contract offer that included pension changes. That would be a defense under the Taylor law, he said.
Under the Taylor Law, one side cannot make pensions a condition of a settlement. Still, in 1994 and 1999, the union and management agreed on pension changes.
Incidentally, the Taylor Law doesn't say anything about making an exception for unions who are "provoked". Toussaint and his cohorts who so brazenly, severely, and illegally injured New York for monetary gain still need jailing.
Fat Lady Iced
What a Deal
Roger Toussaint's Billion Dollar Christmas Present
Back on Track
The [Unofficial] Not For Tourists Guide to NYC - Strike Edition
Strike 3 (Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $62,000)
Transit Strike Update
TWU Walks Out On New york
New Yorkers Behaving Like New Yorkers
T-Minus 1 Hour: Transit Union Walks Out
No Progress on Transit Negotiations
Bracing for Bedlam
Bloomberg Steps Up
New York's Looming Illegal Transit Strike
Let's play Jeopardy. The category is "Economic Travesties Wrought Upon New York City".
Answer: A million to one.
Question: What is the ratio of the number of New Yorkers stranded during the illegal transit strike to the number of votes by which ratification of the union's ill-gotten gains failed to pass?
To put it in local parlance: unbefreakinlievable.
Everyone please take your seats. The second act of New York's transit labor crisis will begin momentarily...
We're In Your Debt, Gipper
25 years ago today, morning broke in America. Today's OpinionJournal offers a nice examination of the quarter century of Reaganomically-driven prosperity that followed.
Perhaps the greatest tribute to the success of Reaganomics is that, over the course of the past 276 months, the U.S. economy has been in recession for only 15. That is to say, 94% of the time the U.S. economy has been creating jobs (43 million in all) and wealth ($30 trillion). More wealth has been created in the U.S. in the last quarter-century than in the previous 200 years. The policy lessons of this supply-side prosperity need to be constantly relearned, lest we return to the errors that produced the 1970s.
The Gipper's critics have written an economic history of the 1990s that they portray as a repudiation of Reaganomics. In this telling--known as Rubinomics--the Clinton tax hikes of 1993 ended the budget deficit, which caused interest rates to fall, which produced the boom of the mid- to late-1990s. In fact, the budget deficit hardly fell at all in the immediate aftermath of the tax hike, and while long-term interest rates fell in 1993, they shot back up again in 1994 almost precisely through Election Day (rising by some 230 basis points from October 1993 to November 1994).
The latest chapter of this story is the 2003 income and investment tax cuts enacted by the current President Bush. As in 1981, opponents insisted those tax cuts would harm the economy by increasing the deficit and driving up interest rates. But in the two and a half years since those tax cuts passed, the economy and tax revenues have both surged.
With dividend and capital gains taxes, the AMT, "windfall profit" taxes, deficit reduction legislation, energy policy, earmarks and porkbusting all on the Congressional plate, every legislator would do well to brush up on his/her Reaganomics and review the last quarter century of empirical evidence before returning to Washington at the end of the month.
[T]he Gipper's words in his inauguration speech 25 years ago: "It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government."
Tracked at: Stop the ACLU's Reagan Revolution Weekend
Wonka Wars: Port Authority, Ray Nagin Square Off
After all, we don't want to be typecast as strictly a syrup town.
Chris Matthews: Osama bin Laden is 8 feet tall!
Yes, Chris, we've heard.
And he consumes the infidels with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse...
Background video at The Political Teen.
Rep. Roy Blunt Conference Call
The conference call with Rep. Roy Blunt has just finished up.
Going into this call, I thought the best argument for Blunt (despite it being his primary vulnerability) was his incumbency. As Majority Whip and acting Majority Leader, he is a more practiced hand at implementing the legislative agenda and is presumably more focused on such things than an "outsider" running on a platform of change. All 3 candidates seem committed to fundamental ethics reform and similar reform ideas will in time bubble forth from the GOP with any of them at the helm. As such, I would give a lot of points for a solid plan to implement ethics reform without losing focus on critical agenda items like making the capital gains and dividend tax cuts permanent, reauthorizing the Patriot Act, offing the AMT, passing the deficit reduction bill, and others.
In his opening remarks, one of Congressman Blunt's primary themes was keeping our Congressional eye on the ball legislatively, even as we embark on these ethical reforms.
Blunt also cataloged his own CV a bit, centered mainly on recent legislative track record, his confirmed conservative credentials, and his strong relationships among the members of the GOP conference. Had only positive things to say about Shadegg and Boehner, noting that no one wants to do anything to diminish our ability to work together after the election.
Matt Margolis asked how Blunt would counter Democrats who attack Republicans over alleged corruption, despite their own extensive connections to Jack Abramoff.
Blunt agreed the Democrats do have their own ethics problems and that they've stalled Republican-led ethics reform processes in the past. He stated he wouldn't allow them to do that, but conceded the Republicans, as the majority party, may be more hurt by this episode than Democrats.
Tim Chapman asked Blunt if he had an opinion as to why many bloggers had endorsed either Rep. Boehner or Shadegg for Majority Leader.
Blunt said he didn't have any better understanding than his/ours. He did take the opportunity to run down his conservative credentials again, then repeated that both Shadegg and Boehner are fine candidates.
I asked the question I outlined above. Given the immediate and critical nature of several legislative agenda items (making the capital gains and dividend tax cuts permanent, reauthorizing the Patriot Act before it expires in the first week of February, suspending the Alternative Minimum Tax, and passing the deficit reduction bill), in concert with the attention that will be paid to ethics reform, I wanted to know how Congressman Blunt intended to move the agenda forward and what his highest legislative priorities were, given the crowding effect of ethics reform.
Having heard Blunt's opening remarks, I expected him to take this ball and run with it. And I was eager about hearing him do so. I think Blunt's ability to move the agenda at the same time we take up sweeping ethics reform would be his key distinction, as his transition to leadership duties would be the least frictional.
Sadly, I was a little let down. Blunt's initial reaction was to defend the legislative track record in the 109th first session. To his credit, and as he pointed out, last year was a highly productive year, which saw critical legislation passed on lawsuit reform, tax policy, energy, and more. And he did ultimately identify a few legislative priorities (namely deficit reduction, making the tax cuts permanent by March-ish, and border security).
I'm not saying Blunt didn't answer my question - he clearly did. But I didn't get the impression that he recognized this possibly key benefit of his own incumbency - that he may be able to run faster than a newcomer, implementing procedural change without slowing down legislatively.
In my opinion, that 1-2 punch has to be landed convincingly between now and November if the Republican conference is to maintain its majority.
John Hawkins asked if (as John Shadegg has speculated) Blunt might use his post as Majority Whip to retaliate against Shadegg or Boehner, if either beats him in the election. He also asked whether Blunt would relinquish his seat as Whip if, as he suggests, his ascension is more or less locked up.
Blunt disagreed with the assertion that the leadership and the conference couldn't come together and work productively, given any outcome of the election. He didn't give any indication he was considering abdicating as Whip, but noted that the race to fill that seat has been heating up, suggesting others may think it a foregone conclusion that Blunt will be elected leader.
Ed Morrissey, on the topic of 527s, asked whether Blunt had any plans to address the underlying mischief of BCRAs.
Blunt cited his efforts to fight what he called "ill-conceived" campaign finance legislation and identified reclassifying 527s to be treated like PACs as the quickest route to substantive finance reform with real impact on the 2006 election cycle.
I like Congressman Blunt and I think he's been an effective member of the House leadership to date, but I didn't hear much on this call to move me out of the Shadegg column. (That said, I didn't get to participate in the earlier conference calls with Reps. Shadegg and Boehner, so I don't have a precisely level playing field from which to judge.)
One talking point from the call that was encouraging (though difficult to distinguish as candor or lip service) in that light, whatever the outcome of the leadership election, was Blunt's intention to work to the best of his abilities to make either Shadegg or Boehner as effective and successful as possible, should he not win the post. If I get my [somewhat conflicted] way and Shadegg is elected, hopefully Blunt will indeed be able to bring his experience to bear and help the 109th move its vital and highly time-sensitive legislative agenda forward.
Ethics reform is a crucial and timely concern, and certain to be used as a wedge issue in the midterm elections. For many Democratic challengers, I suspect it will be their overwhelmingly central campaign issue. But this Congress will ultimately be judged by the legacy of its policies moreso than of its rules. To let an overly narrow focus on process thwart legislative progress (especially with so many truly critical measures in the pipeline) would be an irony outweighed by tragedy.
Others on the call:
Radioblogger offers transcript and audio.
Osama: Can't We All Just Get Along?
A new [unconfirmed] bin Laden tape has been aired (in part) on Al-Jazeera.
The voice on the tape said heightened security measures in the United States are not the reason there have been no attacks there since the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackings.
Instead, the reason is "because there are operations that need preparations, and you will see them," he said.
"Based on what I have said, it is better not to fight the Muslims on their land," he said. "We do not mind offering you a truce that is fair and long-term. ... So we can build Iraq and Afghanistan ... there is no shame in this solution because it prevents wasting of billions of dollars ... to merchants of war."
Osama also appears to be a poll-watcher (though not a very astute one):
"In response to the substance of the polls in the US, which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to."
Uh-huh. Tranlsation: "Hey, check it out. I'm still alive."
What frustrates me about this (other than his continuing to draw breath) is Al-Jazeera's coy refusal to share what it knows.
Al-Jazeera's editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sheik would not comment on when or where the tape was received. He said the full tape was 10 minutes long. The station aired four excerpts with what it "considered newsworthy," he said, but would not say what was on the remainder.
Al-Sheik said the tape seemed to have been made "recently" but would not saw what led him to that conclusion.
Quite a scoop, Al-Sheik. Kudos. Now what's on the rest of the tape? Where'd you get it and when? And what do you know about when it was made?
Conference Call With House Majority Whip Roy Blunt
This afternoon, House Majority Whip and acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (MO) will host a blogger conference call to discuss his candidacy for Majority Leader and his vision for the House of Representatives.
Other candidates bidding for the role include John Boehner (OH) and and John Shadegg (AZ), who made a splash in the blogosphere when his late entry in the race sparked a strong show of support entitled An Appeal From Center-Right Bloggers (which I supported). The statement stopped just shy of formally endorsing Shadegg, who is running (well, as they all are) as a candidate for reform. Shadegg's more plainly squeaky record with regard to lobbyists prompted this language in the appeal:
As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate.
The leadership election is scheduled for Thursday, February 2.
Watch this space for a recap of today's call with Congressman Blunt.
My reaction to the call is here.
- Rep. Blunt gives us the broad strokes of his intended administrative and legislative reform in today's OpinionJournal.
- Rep. Shadegg parties like it's 1994 in yesterday's OpinionJournal.
- Rep. Boehner shoulders pork in Tuesday's OpinionJournal.
Ignorance Was Bliss
File this one under "Sorry We Asked":
More than 200,000 New York residents have already received potentially bad news under a new state law about the security of their personal information.
The law that took effect Dec. 7 requires companies and government agencies to notify consumers whenever a report containing their telephone numbers, bank account information, income, medical records and other information is accidentally disseminated.
In just five weeks, 200,541 state residents have gotten such notices from 10 companies and government offices, said Marc Violette, spokesman for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
The Plot, Irony Thicken
Rulebook for Staging Self-Aggrandizing, More-Ethical-Than-Thou Publicity Stunts:
Hoka Hey, Hey, Hey. Goodbye.
Clarence Ray Allen tried to tell us he was too old and feeble to be executed. Allen's lawyers described their client - at 76, the oldest ever to be executed in California - as not only aged, but blind, mostly deaf, diabetic, and unable to walk.
Yet early this morning, as the state finally disposed of Allen, the multiple child murderer proved a tougher bit of evil to put down than he would've had us believe.
Having walked to his execution gurney in San Quentin under his own power, then staring out at and nodding to witnesses, Allen required a second dose of potassium chloride when the first one failed to kill him.
"Basically, this guy's heart has been beating for 76 years, and it took awhile for it to stop," [Warden Steven Ornoski] explained. Two other executions have required the same treatment.
"Hoka Hey, it's a good day to die," Allen, who turned 76 on Monday, wrote in his last statement, handed to the warden after his last meal of buffalo steak, pecan pie and black walnut ice cream. "Hoka Hey" is a traditional Indian saying meaning, "It's a good day to die."
Those whose lives he savaged by ordering up the shotgun deaths of their loved ones in Fresno in 1980 looked as if they couldn't have agreed more.
Just in time for Harry Reid's emergency Obstruction Summit that he called last week, urging Senate Democrats to attend before making up their minds about Judge Alito (and helping to kibosh the agreed-upon confirmation timetable), GOP.com has unveiled an interactive web tool that allows you to check in on your favorite member of the Senate minority to see where he or she stands.
(For your convenience, they've also included phone numbers where you can reach the Senators, should you be so inclined.)
There's a lot of baseless opposition out there pre-summit, but don't despair. To salve your indignation over the double standard Democrats are applying to Bush's nominees, just focus on how much of that map comprises states without any Democratic Senators.
John Hawkins at Right Wing News has posted a list of his Favorite Websites To Hit For News &/Or Columns. This gave me a brilliant idea: to do that.
These are my favorite troughs of knowledge to belly up to:
- Google News
- Google Reader
- Wall Street Journal Online
- Yahoo! Finance
- Drudge Report
- Dept. of Homeland Security Daily Infrastructure Report
- The Motley Fool
- Tax Foundation
- Manhattan Institute
- Gotham Gazette
Oh, what a couple of days it's been. We've laughed, we've cried, we've been stupefied, as one after another of the Democratic party's most esteemed figures choked on their feet in truly spectacular fashion. I'm not certain exactly what the strategic purpose of the Inaugural Democrat Gaffapalooza was, but it certainly was entertaining.
The impromptu faux pas festival featured an impressive bill, to say the least. To recap:
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi kicked things off with a
train wrecktown hall style meeting in San Francisco, where she was repeatedly heckled and booed by the leftiest wing of her own constituency.
- Private citizen Al Gore removed any doubt that he slept through 9/11.
- Ranking Democratic Judiciary Committee member Senator Patrick Leahy broke his promise.
- Senator Hillary Clinton celebrated MLK's legacy in courageous fashion by engaging in brazen race bating.
- Senator Ted Kennedy acknowledged ongoing affiliation with a discriminatory college organization, whose elitist ways violated federal legislation authored by Kennedy.
- And New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin shared a delicious recipe for racial harmony.
Thanks to all the participants for being such good sports and raising their buffoonery to such dizzying heights. I'm already looking forward to next year.
And There It Is
Conference Call With Congressmen Chris Chocola (R-IN) and Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
At 3:00 this afternoon, I'll be participating in a blogger conference call with Representatives Chris Chocola and J. Gresham Barrett, both freshly back from Iraq, discussing post-election conditions in the country.
Congressman Chris Chocola was elected to serve Indiana’s 2nd District in 2002 and was re-elected in 2004. Congressman Chocola sits on the House Ways & Means Committee and the House Budget Committee, and is also an Assistant Majority Whip.
Congressman J. Gresham Barrett currently serves South Carolina’s 3rd District. He is also a veteran of our military, having achieved the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Field Artillery. He serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Budget Committee, the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on International Relations.
Watch this space for a recap...
The call just wrapped up.
Both Congressmen Chocola and Barrett sounded encouraged by what they saw in Iraq. They had each been there in 2003 and reported significant progress and high morale, both among Coalition troops and among Iraqi civilians and security forces. That said, they cautioned that there was a lot of work left to be done (Barrett referred to the engagement still being a "major scrap").
Matt Margolis asked what the troops thought about the mainstream media's coverage of the war.
Chocola said the troops he spoke with by and large don't watch American news coverage. They know what they're doing. They know they're being successful. And they don't need the media to tell them any different. He noted that their perspective was shy of a sense of disgust, but definitely a "sense of dismissal". Barrett agreed.
I asked what the Congressmen felt were the most dramatic manifest changes since their last visit.
Chocola found their movement to be far more restricted during this visit, owing both to security and weather. Interestingly, when he asked Iraqi security forces what motivated them, he was often told it was the drive to provide for the security of their country, not for "flowing language" about democracy and freedom. He made the point that until they can come to rely on day-to-day security, something they haven't known for a generation, they won't likely be focused on loftier pursuits.
Barrett said during his prior visit, we were all wearing rose colored glasses to some degree and that over time, we've come to realize the terrorist forces we're fighting are highly motivated, with a single mission to inflict as many Coalition and civilian deaths as possible. He was encouraged to see Iraqi forces and politicians willing to get up in front of television cameras and microphones, where even just months ago, many were still fearful of community reprisals or even the threat of Saddam's return. He referred to this shift as "Iraqiization".
Mary Katherine Ham asked about the pending report on allegations of fraud and irregularities in the Iraqi election.
Chocola and Barrett both marveled at the stratospheric voter turnout among Iraqis contending "with people firing at them". They laughed at the nature of some of the complaints, namely those regarding theft of campaign signs and posters (something Chocola noted was pretty common in Indiana).
Joe Katzman asked about military appropriations, citing a report that neither Congressman was immediately aware of. They did state that when they asked troops about supplies and support, they unanimously replied that they had everything they needed.
Chocola and Barrett repeated the President's refrain of "When Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," adding that we're now actually seeing that take place in many tangible ways. Barrett added that as this process continues, the next stage will be Iraqi police forces standing up, while the Iraqi army stands down.
Big Apple Blog Festival
This guy got a nod, putting me in esteemed company, and among some highly amusing posts from around town.
Check it out - it's a valid way to fritter away part of your day off.
Al Gore: Twirling, Twirling Toward Flapdoodle
I'm beginning to suspect that Al Gore is putting us on.
There's not a lot of evidence that the man has a sense of humor, but it seems more likely that his increasingly detached tirades are the stuff of a long-term farce than the actual ravings of a respected (or listened-to, anyway) statesman.
The current vituperative rant against Bush, America, and security is still in progress, so I'll withhold final belittlement until it's over, but if this is for real, someone needs to get this man some help.
A representative gem:
Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.
Encouraging national security leaks... what could go wrong?
Can You Back That Up, Chuck?
Sen. Chuck Schumer just appeared on Fox News Sunday opposite Sen. Lindsey Graham (Judiciary Committee members, both), discussing the tone of Judge Alito's confirmation hearings and the prospect of a filibuster.
Schumer plaintively told Chris Wallace that he pined for the time when Presidents pursued consultation ("real consultation") of Senators from both sides of the aisle, before submitting a Supreme Court nominee.
I'm reminded of the words of Steve Schmidt, Special Advisor to the President in charge of the White House confirmation team. In a conference call in November (in response to similarly flawed complaints being voiced at the time by G14ers), Schmidt noted that more than 80 Senators were consulted in connection with the Alito nomination (above and beyond the 75+ consultations that were held leading up to Harriet Miers' nomination).
However the distribution worked out, the majority of Democratic Senators were consulted, many twice. How is that less than "real consultation"?
Schumer then went on to dodge the filibuster question, when posed by Wallace. After some inapt equivocation, Chuck said it was "premature" to comment before they finish evaluating Alito's record.
Grandeur Gone Wild
What's your favorite Why-Kerry-Lost-the-Election excuse? Ohio? Voting irregularities? Karl Rove's diabolical maneuvering? Disappointing post mortem turnout?
Fresh from Hollywood, we finally have the definitive answer. The Kerry campaign, it turns out, could've weathered all of these headwinds and still won out, if it weren't for the seemingly trivial decision of one self-important actor.
Spoiler, thy name is Clooney.
(Hat tip: Fark)
Update: Mea culpa. Individual celebrities can affect national elections.
(Hat tip: Also Fark)
Media For All Wardrobes
By now, you're likely aware of the blog juggernaut known as Pajamas Media, the new media consortium that takes its moniker from Jonathan Klein's (overseer of "60 Minutes" during Rathergate) embittered derision of the credibility of a "bunch of guys in their pajamas writing".
Not surprisingly, bloggers embraced the slight, particularly when their PJ-clad skills were vindicated and Rather and Mapes slowly and awkwardly owned up to their catchpenny journalism. Much the way "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was appropriated from an 18th century British slur.
Pajamas Media represents the best bloggers on the block, each identifiable by the spiffy PJM logo that hangs on their sidebars.
I'm a big fan, not only of the effort, but of a great number of the contributing bloggers themselves. If you're looking for a stimulating reading list, this is a fine start. Still, while pajama-blogging is a highly agreeable way to go, there are those of us who - from time to time - simply can't be bothered even to pull on traditional sleepwear. Or whose irregular builds may make pajamas untenable. Or who simply feel a little more comfortable in alternative duds.
To serve that end, I'm happy to offer the following several alternative affiliations to fellow bloggers. Feel free to pluck one for use on your own sidebar, whichever best reflects your own preferred blogging getup.
I'm Too Old To Die
Clarence Ray Allen's options are running out, despite his novel appeal to the Supreme Court.
California's oldest death row inmate, a 75-year-old man who is legally blind and nearly deaf, is asking the US Supreme Court to do something it has never done before: block an execution because of the condemned man's advanced age and infirmity.
Clarence Ray Allen's lawyers contend that executing a feeble old man amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is banned by the US Constitution.
What did meek little Grandpa Clarence do to wind up in such inhuman straits?
After being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 17-year-old girl, he orchestrated three additional murders from behind bars. His target was a witness that helped put him in prison; two bystanding teenagers were also gunned down in the attack. In addition to the triple murder, Allen was also convicted of conspiracy to murder 8 witnesses.
This is a perfect example of the importance of capital punishment. It's not just about deterrence or justice; it's also a practical necessity. Monsters like Allen can be locked up and the keys thrown away, only to quadruple their body count while in the state's custody. If he had been sentenced to death for his first murder, three innocent people would still be alive.
The brother of Jospehine Rocha, one of the murdered bystanders (age 17 at the time), put it well:
"If we want to talk about age, let's look at the victims and their age. As he feels he's too old to die, we put it right back and say Josephine was too young to die."
Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, we'll be rid of this damnable sewage on Tuesday.
Alito - Les Jeux Sont Fait
At the end of today's session of Judge Alito's confirmation hearings, the rest of the pieces fell into place, effectively plotting how the rest of the process will unfold.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in the waning minutes of Alito's confirmation hearing that unnamed Democrats will "exercise their rights" to put off next week's scheduled Alito vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
... Democrats say they won't be ready Tuesday to vote on his nomination, since Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has called on party members to hold off making a decision until after a Wednesday meeting.
There can be no mistaking this effort for anything but a baseless, partisan, and utterly aimless stall tactic.
Since Alito assuredly has majority support in the Senate, only a filibuster can block his confirmation. 5 of the 7 Republican G14ers (Graham, DeWine, Snowe, Collins, and Chafee) have publicly stated they don't see the kind of "extraordinary circumstances" they require in order to oblige a Democratic filibuster. And since Senator Frist has made it clear (even recently reiterated) that he's got the Constitutional option at the ready, any filibuster attempt should meet with a filibuster-busting vote of at least 53-47.
This regrettable move is just what I was lamenting on Wednesday - the biggest "win" that Senate Democrats could hope to achieve, given a lack of any actual grounds to oppose the nominee. I'm confident that this delay will be parlayed into a subsequent delay (once they've had a week to concoct some new facet of Alito's background they find "troubling"), which will punt the eventual floor vote past the State of the Union address.
That way, while Alito is still ultimately confirmed, the Democrats don't have to mount a filibuster (and risk losing that tactic for a possible 3rd Bush nominee), yet they're still able to slather a little egg on the President's face as he ascends the annual uberbully pulpit (otherwise reliably a big boost to the approval ratings), suffering the mild embarrassment of a nominee successfully jammed up by the minority.
At this point, the only card left to play is Senator Frist putting strong, highly publicized pressure on the Judiciary Committee to stay in session tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, as long as it takes for them to do whatever they need to get ready to vote. Further, I would hope a little pressure would be brought on Senator Reid to move his Wednesday meeting up a few days. If whatever's on the agenda is so important that it needs to disrupt the agreed-upon and long-awaited confirmation schedule (and has unfolded so suddenly that it couldn't have been foreseen until now), then maybe any concerned Senators ought to forgo some of their long weekend plans for the sake of keeping the business of the U.S. Senate on track.
All in all, this isn't worth getting too worked up over (well, maybe that horse is already out of the barn...) since the end result is that a 2nd superb Justice makes his way onto the Supreme Court. But this groundless delay is still highly irksome and bodes poorly for the tenor of future proceedings.
Not to mention what it does for the American public's view of civility and integrity in politics.
Friday the 13th - Secrets Revealed!
If all you know about Friday the 13th (of which today is the first of two instances in 2006) is that it's Jason Voorhees' mom who turns out to be the slasher, this post is for you.
- Christian theology engendered a fear of both Fridays and the number 13 (making their temporal confluence the source of some seriously bad mojo).
- There are 13 months in the lunar (pagan) calendar.
- On a Friday the 13th in 1306, King Philip of France arrested the revered Knights Templar and began torturing them, marking the occasion as a day of evil.
- The Apostle Judas (who turned out to be a total Judas) was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. Mythic Norse hero Balder was killed at a banquet by Loki the god of mischief, who'd crashed the party of 12, bringing the total to 13.
- Lesson: Never dine in a group of 13.
- Both Friday and the number 13 were once closely associated with capital punishment. In British tradition, Friday was the conventional day for public hangings, and there were supposedly 13 steps leading up to the noose.
- Lesson: Never be executed on a Friday.
- Ill-fated Apollo 13 launched at 14:13 EST from Complex 39 (3*13) and would have hit Lunar Orbit Injection on April 13th.
- Lesson: Two Oscars in a row is the limit.
- Paraskavedekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, said to be suffered by 8% of the population. Paraskavedekatriaphobiaphobia is the fear of being told this bit of trivia every Friday the 13th.
- Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13 in general (which must be exhausting).
Ya Don't Say:
- Over any given 4 century span, the 13th of the month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day.
- John Mayer's "Room for Squares" album has 14 tracks, but the 13th is just a split second of dead air.
- I live on the one of those fake 14th floors, which is actually the 13th floor. This phenomenon (like every phenomenon) is apparently the subject of conspiracy theories.
Shadegg Enters Leadership Race As Candidate For Reform and Renewal
Via The Hotline:
House Policy Chairman John Shadegg today announced that he will seek the post of House Majority Leader in the elections on February 2.
"For the past several days, I have spoken with members all across our Conference," Shadegg said. "Based on those conversations, I believe that a majority of Republicans in the House understand the need for real, thorough reform. We must renew our commitment to the principles that won us a majority in the first place: fiscal discipline, smaller government, lower taxes, a strong national defense, returning power to the states, and greater personal freedom."
Shadegg (AZ) has an uphill battle, as Majority Whip and acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (MO) and John Boehner (OH) have been steadily gathering support among the Republican conference, each claiming to have around 100 members on board (116 constitutes a majority).
Still, at the blogger conference in Washington earlier this week, both Rep. Trent Franks (AZ) and Senator Jon Kyl (AZ), who used to hold Shadegg's House seat, told us they would support Shadegg's bid should he enter the race.
Excerpted from a letter sent by Shadegg to House Republicans:
I am running for Majority Leader, and I ask for your support. In addition, in order to make clear my commitment to this race and my goal of leading a reinvigorated Republican majority, I am resigning my position as Policy Chairman. I personally believe it is not appropriate to try to retain one position in our elected leadership while running for another. My campaign is based on reform, and reform should begin with an open process.
We need to reform the earmark process and end secret backroom deals. We must also reform our antiquated budget process, and take a clear stand for open and honest government. No elected official, including a Member of Congress, who takes a bribe should get a taxpayer-funded pension.
Reagan once said, “If you're afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.” I think this Conference is ready to move again, and move toward the reforms the American people deserve.
An appeal by center-right bloggers has been floated at The Truth Laid Bear, which calls for the next majority leader to be "thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street."
I agree that the leadership election is an excellent opportunity for Republicans in Congress to take real leadership in the drive for reform, accountability, and transparency. As such, I'm happy to throw my support behind this appeal. The full text of the statement and its signatories of record are in the extended post.
An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers
We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.
We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.
But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.
As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber’s Corner
Beth, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Lorie Byrd, Polipundit
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain’s Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!
With Legislatures Like These, Who Needs Unions?
What a singularly dreadful piece of legislation this is.
Maryland legislators voted to become the first state to enact a law forcing large employers -- namely Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- to pay a penalty if they fail to spend a certain amount of their payrolls in the state on health insurance for their workers.
The bill proposed requiring employers with more than 10,000 workers in Maryland to pay a penalty to the state's health-insurance program if they fall short of paying an amount equal to 8% of their payroll in the state for health insurance for those employees.
Maryland, with due respect, what in the [expletive deleted] are you thinking?
Your business tax climate is already more hostile than neighboring Virginia and Delaware and now you're biting the hand that feeds nearly 17,000 members of your state workforce. Maybe you figure Wal-Mart can't afford not to do business in Maryland, so you're able to strong-arm them, but how likely will your other 10,000+ employee employers (Northrop Grumman and Giant Food) be to stick around if they should fall below the 8% threshold? The move is certainly a disincentive for future high-growth companies to locate in your state. Ultimately, you can expect to reap higher unemployment, slower income growth, and lower tax revenues from this move. At least you stuck a needle in the eye of big, bad Wal-Mart though, which ought to be bear fruit come election time.
Maryland isn't the first state to consider such a bill. Legislators in 12 others have proposed similar bills in the past year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only six remain under consideration.
Also bear in mind, there are two ways to make health insurance expenditures exceed 8% of wages. Only one of them involves adjusting the numerator. The average Wal-Mart pay rate is nearly double minimum wage, so there's plenty of room to tinker with the denominator.
Like most anti-business legislation, this ought to have all kinds of unintended consequences, which tend to impact most gravely those they ostensibly aim to benefit.
Iran's Radiological Clock Is Ticking
Now that Iran has shown it has no interest in good faith negotiation and is clearly setting about uranium conversion and enrichment in facilities formerly sealed by U.N. inspectors, it's only a matter of time before they are able to weaponize the material.
Tehran is throwing up its hands, claiming it just needs to get into the facility for sake of "research and access to technology" for its nuclear energy program and that it doesn't plan to produce nuclear fuel (well that's a relief). Yet the centrifuge cascades in the facility need only refurbishment and time to enrich uranium to weapons grade.
This doesn't seem like the time to be taking Iran's word, given Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be wiped out. Condoleeza Rice put it succinctly, saying Iran "demonstrates that it has chosen confrontation with the international community over cooperation and negotiation."
The next step is for the IAEA to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for [toothless and symbolic] sanctions. While this would only be the first in an inevitably long line of empty diplomatic maneuvers (given Iran's brash defiance and clear intent to become a nuclear power, not to mention the U.N.'s almost laughably diminished threat cred), it's not even clear if or when this first step will take place.
Still, however impotent the process may be, we need to get the ball rolling. There are two parallel timelines in play here:
- Iran's path toward developing fissile material (and concurrently, toward acquiring or building missiles capable of reaching Europe or beyond), which is simply a matter of the time it takes to refurbish and re-orient their centrifuge cascades and set them spinning; and
- The slowly grinding gears of U.N. diplomacy, likely followed by swift preventive (or reactive, depending on timing) action taken by willing nations upon the eventual failure of U.N. diplomacy (caused either by deadlock or a called bluff).
If Iran reaches the end of path 1 before we reach the end of path 2, we're in big trouble. And Iran is already off and running.
Sounding the bugle elsewhere:
$11 Billion Gratuity Added For Parties of 100 Million Or More
Sing with me:
How big is government? Soooooo big.
The Treasury Department released what might at first be taken for good news today - namely that the federal government swung to a surplus (an $11 billion dollar surplus) in December for the first time in three years. (Actually, I don't want to gloss over that too much. It is good news and a big deal that - despite presistently pricey oil, hurricane-induced employment shocks, and multiple ongoing military engagements - we're no longer deficit spending. Not in December anyway. Note that I don't include "tax cuts" in the list of fiscal headwinds; one does well to recognize that the pro-growth fiscal policy enacted in recent years has in fact directly and considerably contributed to our increased economic flexibility and our expanding tax revenue base.)
But back to the caveat.
The Treasury report also showed that both government taxation and government spending are at all time highs. Tax revenues grew by more than 12% year-over-year, which is great, in that the economy is strong enough to throw off more revenue, even as tax rates have declined (thanks, Art Laffer). But monthly spending increased 5.6% over the year-ago period, to $231 billion, which is less great. To put it in perspective, the cost to operate the federal government is $16 million per hour higher than it was just a year ago.
"Today it is not big business that we have to fear. It is big government."
- Wendell Phillips
Liberal Bullies Punch Each Other In the Arm, Giggle
Which one's the party of tolerance and compassion again?
RNC/SRC Bloggers Forum: Debrief
After 3 straight days of sitting on my duff in the halls of the Senate, now I know how it feels to be a U.S. Senator.
(ba dum dum... ksshh)
The extravaganza of hospitality granted over the last few days by the RNC and the Senate Republican Conference (not to mention the various Senators and their staffs, senior White House staff, former Alito law clerks and colleagues, and others who took time out during a crazy week to meet with us) resulted in an epic bloggeruption that I couldn't begin to digest into a single post.
Instead, feel free to wander through the accumulated archives via the following categorized links.
Chats With Senate Judiciary Committee Members
Chats With Other Legislators
Chats With Alito Law Clerks
Chats With Bigwigs and Luminaries
Cogitation and Commentary
Blogs for Bush
Human Events Online
National Association of Manufacturers
Power Line Blog
Right Side Redux
The Political Teen