Trend on the Mend
American service member deaths in Iraq were lower again in October, and are the lowest in nearly two years and the second-lowest total since February 2004. Per USA Today:
While there are no reliable figures on Iraqi civilian deaths, anecdotal evidence also points towards significant progress.
At what's believed to be the world's largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good.
A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.
These recent reports are very welcome news, but the trend is even more exciting. The surge is working, but be careful telling that to Democrats. Recall the letter Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi penned in June:
As many had foreseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results
The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation
In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops.
Being shortsighted and rashly critiquing American progress are not very becoming. That's okay, Reid and Pelosi weren't alone in their attempt to justify their political objectives. Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama made this assessment in late July:
Here's what we know. The surge has not worked.
Perhaps "here's what we know" was not the right introductory sentence.
There is still a ways to go in Iraq but Gen. Petraeus has demonstrated that he is the right guy for the job. I wonder if the vote was held again, if Senators Reid and Obama would change their minds.
A Doomed Gambit
9/11 Families for a Secure America is offering $1000 to anybody who can get Hillary Clinton on record saying either:
1. I support Governor Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens; or
2. I oppose Governor Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
Google Getting Its Greasy Fingerprints All Over Its New Toy
Holiday logos. They're not just for parent companies anymore.
Fed Policy Halloween Pick'em
Shortly after 2:00 pm, the Federal Reserve will announce the results of its October policy meeting. Will they announce another interest rate reduction or stand pat? And if they cut, will it be a quarter or a half point? And will any change to the fed funds rate (the rate at which banks borrow short-term from each other) diverge from any change to the discount rate (the rate at which banks borrow from the Fed), as was the case in August for the first time in 6 years.
Last month, the FOMC finally pivoted and gave us the first reduction in the federal funds rate since 2003. 25% of this blog's brilliant readers accurately predicted that they would lower both the fed funds and the discount rate by a half point. Interest rate futures currently imply a better than 90% of a cut and the Fed may be weighing some wobbly recent economic news in the form of consumer confidence and housing reports, as well as ever-higher oil prices.
The tension mounts!
I'll update with the results and the Fed Language Watch once the statement is released.
Update: If you said quarter point cuts to both rates, kudos. The market appears peeved thus far in the whipsawing aftermath. Still up for the day, but giving up most of the session's gains in the wake of the announcement. Perhaps a combination of dashed secret hopes for a half point cut and hand-wringing about whether the decision to cut even by a quarter signals the Fed thinks the economy is in trouble. Then again, we got a surprisingly good GDP report just a few hours before the decision was released. Perhaps we'll rocket back upward in the final hour, as would be in keeping with the frenetic ambivalence that tends to follow these releases.
Interestingly, the vote was 9-1 in favor of the fed funds rate cut, but unanimous for the discount rate cut. Thomas Hoenig apparently wanted to squeeze the spread between the rates down to a quarter point (they spent the six years leading up to September of this year separated by a whole point). Squeezing the spread lessens the penalty banks pay for shoring up their reserves by borrowing directly from the Fed, versus borrowing from other banks.
Hmm, now that I type that out loud... turns out it's not all that interesting.
Anyway, here's your "track changes" copy. Judging by the language changes, the FOMC seems to be signaling hard that it has just pivoted from its two-month-old easing bias back to neutral. Doesn't mean we won't have any more cuts, just that they're not currently planning any more (the way I read it). But plenty can change in the next six weeks.
September 18,October 31, 2007
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate
5025 basis points to 4-3/44-1/2 percent.
Economic growth was
moderate during the first half of the year, but the tightening of credit conditions has the potential to intensify the housing correction and to restrain economic growth more generally. Today’s action is intended tosolid in the third quarter, and strains in financial markets have eased somewhat on balance. However, the pace of economic expansion will likely slow in the near term, partly reflecting the intensification of the housing correction. Today’s action, combined with the policy action taken in September, should help forestall some of the adverse effects on the broader economy that might otherwise arise from the disruptions in financial markets and topromote moderate growth over time.
Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this
year. However,year, but recent increases in energy and commodity prices, among other factors, may put renewed upward pressure on inflation. In this context, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully.
Developments in financial markets since the Committee’s last regular meeting have increased the uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook.The Committee judges that, after this action, the upside risks to inflation roughly balance the downside risks to growth. The Committee will continue to assess the effects of thesefinancial and other developments on economic prospects and will act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Charles L. Evans;
Thomas M. Hoenig;Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; William Poole; Eric S. Rosengren; and Kevin M. Warsh.
Voting against was Thomas M. Hoenig, who preferred no change in the federal funds rate at this meeting.
In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a
50-basis-point25-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 5 -1/4percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City,New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco.
Hillary Swings, Misses, Runs Bases Obliviously, Waving Cap To Embarrassed Fans
Criminey. Asked in tonight's debate about why she supports Governor Spitzer's illegal immigrant voter registration drive, Hillary seemed to accidentally back herself into the corner of estimating the number of illegal immigrants in New York State. After stammering a bit, she took a swing: "Several million." Yowza. Spitzer himself pegged the number as being between 500,000 and a million. Still a huge number, but Clinton's guess was off by as much as a factor of 10, depending on how you take your "several". How seriously can we assume she's analyzed this issue if she can't even quantify the problem anywhere near the right ballpark in her own state.
Does she even know the approximate population of the state she represents? Her estimate implies as much as 25% of the state is here illegally. In New York City, it's thought to be about 6%. About half of upstate and Long Island residents must be in the shadows.
It'd be one thing if she'd just made a calculation error in the throes of evading a question. But when she finally settled on her estimate, she slung it with a smirky "Can ya believe that?" grin, as if the impressive statistic had scored her a point in her unresponsive answer.
Russert went on to press her about whether she does or does not support the plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, something she's explicitly supported in recent days in New Hampshire. Ever resolute, she went on to firmly declare that she both does and does not support such a plan, and furthermore, that she both did and did not ever say such a thing in New Hampshire.
Even more amazing is the fact that she's absolutely right. She managed to do both.
Update: Elsewhere at Hot Air, Bryan has posted the video of Hillary's incredibly inept at bat. She drops the "several million" bomb about 30 seconds in. Watch for the gratified "Yeah, I just dropped some knowledge on y'all" head-bobs immediately afterward. Despite the complete whiff, you're witnessing a finely tuned, major league, hall-of-fame bull$#!tter.
Democratic Presidential Debate!
Tonight at 9:00. Clear out some space on the TiVo.
Any predictions? It's sure to be an evening filled with surprises. I'm wondering if House won't just fire all 6 remaining candidates, now that it looks like Foreman might re-join the team. That one guy from "Harold and Kumar" might make the grade though. After his strong 4-episode arc as an angsty suburban terrorist in the last season of "24", my guess is he's built up enough Fox Broadcasting capital to bargain for more than a 4-episode arc as an angsty suburban diagnostician.
Update: Last minute switcheroo! House fires no one (and profits handsomely off the hospital firing pool). Good stuff.
Update: Now that the main event is over, I flipped over to MSNBC just in time to catch Hillary coining a marvelously weasely new euphemism: "Changing the Bush tax cuts." That's even more exquisite than the boilerplate double-speak that trasmutes "hiking taxes" into "rolling back tax cuts". What might she "change" the tax cuts into, other than "former tax cuts"?
I cannot smile upon any attempt to change The Greatest of All Fight Songs for the sake of politically correct whining. I thought we got beyond this gender-neutral nonsense years ago.
But our terrible football season at Notre Dame must be contributing to the insanity. I read with only slight alarm this mother-daughter tag-team letter to the daily student newspaper of my Alma Mater, advocating the desecration of our Victory March:
The student body finished off the fight song with, "while her loyal sons are marching onward to victory." Our family, however, finished it off with, "while her loyal sons and daughters march on to victory."
You can technically force those lyrics into the song's tune, but it requires a cudgel to do so. If it was tried in the past as the writers suggest, then I can see why it did not catch on.
As one of the writers is too old, and the other far too young to know, I will fill them in on something they mention in their letter: Notre Dame men pump their fists and shout at the line, "While her loyal SONS are marching." Why is that? It began when I was at Notre Dame (mid—90's) as a small way of resisting some previous lame-brained attempt to make the fight song gender-neutral. Later on, the women — at least the ones with a sense of humor, who do not see life as a power struggle against men — began emphasizing the "HER" in "her loyal sons."
I also attended the University in the mid-90s and remember this lamentable flap. The women in my corner of the student section must've been less well humored, as I remember hearing angry screams of "AND DAUGHTERS!" befouling the majesty whenever the band got to the last line of the fight song.
Here is my plea to the writers of this letter, on behalf of hopelessly unenlightened patriarchalists everywhere: Notre Dame's songs and traditions were not intended to make you feel good about yourself. Please leave them alone. So far, we have been forced to raise our fists on "Sons." Don't make us do something more drastic, like re-name the university after a man.
Indeed, the prospective slope of gender neutralization at Notre Dame is comically slippery. "University of Notre Personne" doesn't even quite get you there, as "personne" is a feminine noun. The fight song mentions "her" 8 times and "sons" twice. Replacing them all with "its" and "offspring" renders it somewhat less lyrical. The idea of slapping the Victory March with revisionist gender neutrality as it prepares to celebrate its centennial would be enough to make the Gipper turn in his grave (if they hadn't dug him up a couple weeks ago).
And I can only imagine the fundraising letters we'd start getting if the administration needs to reclad the two-ton gold-gilded Virgin Mary statue atop the Golden Dome in more androgynous attire.
All the major Notre Dame songs extol the virtues (oops, that's a man-centric prefix... hertues?) of "Notre Dame men answer[ing] the cry" and "the charge of fighting men". The songwriters noted that when "Notre Dame men fight for Gold and Blue" they "sweep the foemen's ranks away".
What's silliest about the campaign to besmirch this century-old tradition is the fact that the letter writers are pleading with student leaders to lobby for the switch on the basis that it would honor their own family's tradition of singing the sensitive version.
Barack Obama: Hip To Be Square
When a political candidate orchestrates maneuvers so calculatingly hip-cred bolstering as a daytime talk show dance party, giving Brad Pitt the snub in order to avoid coming off "too Hollywood" somehow rings hollow.
The effect here (foreseeable, if not calculated) is to paint Obama not as unHollywood, but as grander even than Tinsel Town's finest. Better (amazing as it sounds) than the best of our celluloid betters.
Not only is Obama the candidate for you independent-minded youngsters - the subtle message whispers - on account of his necktie-eschewing ways and his popularity among those movie stars you fancy, but on occasion, Barack is just slightly too cool for that school too. A-listers are great and all, but hipness is Mr. Obama's world and Brad's just living in it.
You do have to give Obama credit for doing his homework though. He knows the Bill Clinton playbook so cold, he just showed you a Sister Souljah moment and an Arsenio-saxophone moment in the span of 24 hours.
The G-Phone Cometh
Google is about 3 applications away from enabling us to live rich and fulfilling lives entirely from the couch.
Within the next two weeks, Google is expected to announce advanced software and services that would allow handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year, people familiar with the situation say. In recent months Google has approached several U.S. and foreign handset manufacturers about the idea of building phones tailored to Google software, with Taiwan's HTC Corp. and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. mentioned in the industry as potential contenders.
The Google-powered phones are expected to wrap together several Google applications -- among them, its search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail email -- that have already made their way onto some mobile devices. The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google's push to make the phones' software "open" right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features.
Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users' Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web. Google, meanwhile, could gather user data to show targeted ads to cellphone users.
"The most likely scenario from a Google perspective is to build some, if you will, inspirational platform [applications]; but primarily focus on getting third parties to do it because that's where the innovation will come from," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking at the All Things Digital conference in May. He said that "the new model of these phones is going to be person-to-person" with people exchanging videos and other types of data.
Can Google ivDrip and Google ReliefTube be far behind? They could remotely analyze your waste waters to show you targeted ads for whatever supplements or remedies you might need...
Ron Paul Zombies and Spam Zombies Have Shared Lineage
In honor of the little spatter of angry Ron Paul boosterism triggered by yesterday's post, here's a press release from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with the results of some anti-spam research they aimed at Paul's online mob.
One of the candidates has a new spam campaign dedicated to proclaiming him victorious in the debate and extolling his virtues as the future president.
There is no reason to believe the current spam campaign is actually endorsed by Ron Paul or his official campaign engine, according to Gary Warner, UAB Director of Research in Computer Forensics,
Ron Paul is popular with the Internet and some of the recent Web polls that were taken down because of Ron Paul Spammers include:
The UAB researchers found that pro-Paul e-mails claiming to be from American voters actually hailed from further afield, sometimes from the land of the 419 scammer.
In the messages reviewed at UAB, emails were received from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Nigeria already this morning. In each case it was clear that the computer sending the message did not belong to the person who was listed in the "From" address. Such as a Houston resident, whose email was sent from a computer in Italy, or a Silicon Valley computer worker, whose email was sent from Korea.
"Hillary Exposed" Tonight At the Met Club
Capping its weekend whirlwind tour, Peter Paul's film "Hillary Exposed: The Case of Paul vs. Clinton" (aka "Hillary! Uncensored") will be screened tonight at 7:00 at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York.
The film's been generating a tremendous amount of buzz and the 13-minute preview has been viewed nearly 2 million times on Google and YouTube. Paul says the hour-long film contains "the home videos, photos, legal documents and letters that expose the frauds that elected Hillary to the Senate and the obstructions of justice that have enabled her to be reelected and retain that seat."
The Met Club is at 122 East 83rd Street.
Reading Lefty Blogs Can Be Torture
This waterboarding experiment being trumpeted at Democratic Undergound is roughly as dispositive as the fire-can't-weaken-steel experiment (also from the rigorous thinkers at DU) that proved George Bush, the Jews, and Roger Ailes knocked down the rabbit cages on 9/11.
Wouldn't it have been more illustrative for the investigators also to subject each other to undisputed methods of torture (car battery electrocution, bamboo shoots in the fingernails, the strappado, perhaps) to facilitate some meaningful comparison? If they'd been able to report waterboarding was as torturous as bona fide torture techniques, they'd have a much more powerful argument.
The only reason I can think of to forego such a compelling comparison (and it's a fine reason) is that few rational people would knowingly subject themselves to torture, even in the name of junk science.
Seems to me they inadvertently (but persuasively) made the counter-argument by undertaking the experiment in the first place.
Programming note: Check back later when I'll be posting a video proving that I'm not ticklish by tickling myself.
Immigration Reform School
Recent developments in Congress have made it very unlikely that the nation's immigration policies will be overhauled anytime soon. First, the Senate halted the ill advised Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (the DREAM Act). Then, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the House of Representatives would soon begin to work a drastically reduced schedule. The Democratically controlled Congress has not only failed to pass the legislation it committed to a year ago, it hasn't passed the minimum bills need to operate the government.
Although an immigration policy solution is doubtful, this does necessarily prevent progress. Reducing the influx of illegal immigrants is one of the more challenging (and expensive) tasks, and curbing the demand for cheap labor is at the core of this problem. Since tough regulations on companies are on hold, I'm a big proponent of aggressively pursuing technology solutions in industries where manual labor is currently the predominate or desired mechanism. One example of such an application is machinery that can harvest crops currently dependent on handpicking.
So while it's hard to achieve political solutions, technology can help with the immigration problem. However, this tech-centric approach requires Congressional support. As a nation, we spend tens of billions trying to curb illegal immigration, spending a fraction of this amount to address the root of the problem is certainly appropriate. Since Congress still has not finalized the appropriation bill that would incorporate such a change, there is time to accommodate this approach.
Nanny State Quote Of the Day
Always looking out for us, the New York City Council today set in motion a plan to dictate how stores bag our groceries.
New York City may follow an international trend and crack down on plastic shopping bags, seeking to cut their use with a plan officials hope will be a model for other cities.
A proposal introduced on Monday requires stores larger than 5,000 square feet to set up an in-store recycling program and sell reusable bags.
Some 700 food stores plus large retailers such as Target and Home Depot would have to collect used bags and provide a system for turning them over to a manufacturer or to third-party recycling firms.
"We think this strikes the right balance between conscience and convenience," said Councilman Peter Vallone, a co-sponsor of the bill, which needs approval from the city council and environmentally minded Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
I hadn't realized it was the government's job to legislate either.
Johnny Coiffeur: Everything To Everyone
The fastidiously groomed John Edwards is making his prospective Presidential agenda disarmingly simple: he'll make everything perfectly wonderful in every way for all Americans (*cough* except taxpayers).
John Edwards says if he's elected president, he'll institute a New Deal-like suite of programs to fight poverty and stem growing wealth disparity. To do it, he said, he'll ask many Americans to make sacrifices, like paying higher taxes.
Cue the magical prosperity and peace-on-demand... now!
Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina, says the federal government should underwrite universal pre-kindergarten, create matching savings accounts for low-income people, mandate a minimum wage of $9.50 and provide a million new Section 8 housing vouchers for the poor. He also pledged to start a government-funded public higher education program called "College for Everyone."
Like other Democrats, Edwards named his top three priorities as ending the war in Iraq, enacting universal health care and overhauling the American energy system. "Those are three things instantly I would do," he said.
NRO: "Spoken like a man who has never run anything."
Ron Paul: Closet Porker?
Viewed through the Club for Growth lens, GOP crazy man Ron Paul can actually be mistaken for a stable individual. One with a generally admirable fiscal policy record.
- Voted for a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to raise taxes
- Voted for a capital gains tax cut
- Voted for a bill to require Congress to replace the tax code with a simple and fair tax system
- Voted to cut taxes by $80 billion over five years
- Voted to override Clinton's veto and repeal the Death Tax
- Voted to override Clinton's veto and alleviate the marriage penalty
- Voted to repeal the tax on Social Security benefits
- Voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003
- Voted to permanently repeal the Death Tax
- Voted to extend the Bush tax cuts
Paul's also got a long history of voting against expansionary government spending, in keeping with his opinion that we ought to disband everything from the IRS to the military. But the Club's new study of the radically pennywise Congressman's recent record reveals some curiously spendthrift moments.
Ron Paul's history contains some curious indiscretions, including a vote for $232 million for federally mandated election reform (only 1 of 21 Republicans to vote for it) and a vote against the line-item veto -even after it was modified to pass constitutional muster. Paul's record on pork was outstanding in 2006, voting for all 19 of Jeff Flake's anti-pork amendments in 2006, but his record took a stark turn for the worse in 2007, in which Paul received an embarrassing 29% on the Club for Growth's RePORK Card, voting for only 12 of the 50 anti-pork amendments.
Some of the outrageous pork projects Paul voted to keep include $231,000 for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association's Urban Center; $129,000 for the "perfect Christmas tree project;" $300,000 for the On Location Entertainment Industry Craft Technician Training Project in California; $150,000 for the South Carolina Aquarium; and $500,000 for the National Mule and Packers Museum in California. This year, Ron Paul requested more than sixty earmarks "worth tens of millions of dollars for causes as diverse as rebuilding a Texas theater, funding a local trolley, and helping his state's shrimp industry."
In defense of his support for earmarks, Rep. Paul took the if you can't beat 'em, join 'em position, arguing that "I don't think they should take our money in the first place. But if they take it, I think we should ask for it back." This is a contradiction of Paul's self-proclaimed "opposition to appropriations not authorized within the enumerated powers of the Constitution."
Undead Mistaken For Dead
Zombie costume + drunken stupor = Hamburg Halloween hilarity.
Passengers on a German train mistook a Halloween reveller dressed up as a gore-covered zombie for a murder victim and called the police.
The 24-year-old man fell into a drunken slumber on his way home from a Halloween party in Hamburg, police in the northern town of Bad Segeberg said on Monday.
Believing his hands and face were smeared with blood, passengers alerted police after getting no response from him.
A first aid team called to the scene soon cleared up the confusion.
(HT: HA Headlines)
Blogging will be light today, as I'm unexpectedly still in transit, from Hawaii to New York. 22 hours in and I've made it as far as San Francisco.
About 30 minutes after boarding the plane at SFO last night, they announced the captain hadn't shown up and they had no idea where he was. They were "calling his hotel" to try and raise him. Interesting.
Another 30 minutes and they announced they were going to start the movie "to distract us". Still no sign of the captain. This didn't bode particularly well. And only partly because the movie was "License To Wed", another plight meriting distraction.
30 minutes or so into the movie, it was cancelled. The flight, that is. Crew "exhaustion" wouldn'cha know. (Does the "exhaustion" euphemism translate the same way in aviation as it does in the entertainment industry?) Anyway, that was our cue to flee madly from the plane and elbow-joust with a couple hundred tired and angry flyers on our way to the rebooking/airing-of-grievances desk.
In addition to rebooking me on a flight this morning, they put me up at the euroly posh Redwood City Sofitel. Part of euro-posh, however, apparently means having no access to personal hygiene items, either through the hotel itself or any open drug store in the greater Sofitel area. It also does not include clean sheets. Or any sheets, for that matter. But the curtains and the trim on the loveseat were frilly and lovely.
This also appears to have been the weekend when we used to, but no longer, celebrate the end of daylight savings time. This (combined with long-haul travel and flitting through time zones) caused my watch, my Blackberry, the hotel clock, and the wake-up service to diverge greatly on the time of day this morning.
Happily, the wake-up service got it right and got me (showered, if not shaven, deodorized, tooth- or hair-brushed) to the curbside in plenty of time to learn the hotel shuttle only runs once an hour. So $50 in cab fare later, here we are.
I board in about 10 minutes, so we'll be on blog silence for the next 5 hours. If you hear from me sooner, it means another pilot's on a bender.
Update: Delayed. "We're waiting on flight attendants." If they're with the pilot from last night, they must've had a heckuvan evening.
Update: On board! Not counting any chickens though. This is where I was 12 hours ago.
Colin Quinn's a couple rows up, making him the second celebrity I've ever come across randomly twice (Hank Azaria shares the honor). Sam Donaldson was also lurking in the gate area and may be aboard. Quinn's in first class, Donaldson's not. Does being an SNL news has-been pay that much better than being a real news has-been?
Gov. Spitzer's Latest Awkward Pirouette In His Spastic "Dance Of a Million Mostly Democratic Illegal Votes"
Homeland Security has offered Spitzer a compromise plan that allows him to save a bit of face in his impressively brainless campaign to equip up to one million illegal aliens with valid New York licenses.
Basically, the plan calls for a two, or really a three-track drivers license program in New York: one for illegal immigrants or others who simply don’t want the other licenses which will cost a bit more; and another that will let citizens cross the Canadian border without a passport (that will soon be a requirement).
Thirdly drivers can choose to get a federally-approved Real ID license that will let them board airplanes and enter federal buildings without presenting a passport or other proof of citizenship.
Bryan addresses why, in spite of the superficial defanging the compromise seems to offer, the brainlessness remains impressive.
That’s a strange compromise. The first evidently means that NY drivers licenses will no longer be accepted as ID for boarding planes and the like. Spitzer has in effect destroyed NY drivers licenses as valid ID. That “extra cost” line means that US citizens will pay more for their Real ID drivers licences than illegal aliens will in the state of New York if they want to be able to use those licenses for ID purposes other than driving, as they routinely have up to now.
Having to pay more than illegal aliens so that you can maintain the same services you already had is going to make citizens happy? I don’t think so.
This is just like the DREAM Act, which would grant in-state tuition benefits to illegals, in effect giving them a cost break that citizens who live outside a given state can’t get. So once again, the government is making the up front costs of citizenship outweigh the up front costs of breaking the law.
Ace flips ahead in the playbill for a preview of the next act.
Yes, the fact that NY licensees were being devalued as ID for things like getting on an airplane was part of the outcry but at the heart was the very idea of providing legal instruments to illegal immigrants. This plan doesn't address that except it will cost more for citizens to get a service they already get while illegals pay the current lower price. How exactly is that going to make people less angry?
How long until some 'immigrants rights' group complains that illegals are being treated as 'second class citizens'?
We already know that asking to see any kind of ID at polling places is racist. So it doesn't so much matter if "undocumented" (an increasingly laughable misnomer) immigrants are carrying New York license version 1, 2, or 3, and/or a Real ID.
The extension of additional citizen privileges (at sub-citizen prices) to illegal aliens is more significant as a spoony sashay toward de facto full citizenship under the false guise of pragmatism than strictly as a documentation matter. Once the distinctions in citizenship become as blurred (and as shockingly racist, classist, and generally undignified) as "version 1-documented" vs. "version 2-documented", we should finally be ready to take that bold leap of looking the other way as we beckon non-citizens to begin voting en masse.
Congressional Dems Brandishing Twin Guns of Ineffectiveness and Laziness
One of the most silvery linings to Congress being overtaken by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid has turned out to be the remarkable inefficacy of the new majority. With half of the toxic "Six in 06" platform remaining unenacted a couple hundred days after the end of the first 100 hours, the country's faring a lot better than she might be, had the Most Honest, Most Open, Most Ethical CongressTM turned out to be a little more productive.
And there's more good news for fans of Congressional inaction.
10 months into his stint in the captain's chair, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer propounds the happy news that 2008 will feature 50% more Congress-free days.
Explaining that decision to reporters, Mr. Hoyer said, “I do intend to have more time for members to work in their districts and to be close to their families.”
His comments drew snickers from Republicans, who are quite happy to share their view that the American people did not get much value for all the extra time lawmakers spent in Washington.
“Is this a reward for our accomplishments in 2007?” asked Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip.
To Blunt's point, it turns out there are occasional actual duties that Congress needs to discharge. And even with 5 days to work with, they can't always be bothered to raise their hands and be counted.
[O]n Friday, President Bush once again hammered Congressional Democrats, accusing them of failing to meet basic responsibilities like approving annual budget bills and confirming his nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey.
“This is not what Congressional leaders promised when they took control of Congress earlier this year,” Mr. Bush said. “Congress needs to keep their promise, to stop wasting time, and get essential work done on behalf of the American people.”
It's not really fair, of course, to suggest Congress "wastes time" rather than doing meaningful work. Let's not discount the fact that just last month, nearly 42 Senators took the time to symbolically chide a private citizen for expressing an opinion they knew he didn't hold and had never voiced. In so doing, they raised more than $4 million for a wonderful charity, money that never would have gone to such a worthy cause had those Senators not squandered the people's time in such remarkable fashion.
While Congress did also advance a measure condemning a newspaper ad taken out by an advocacy group, it's worth noting that that resolution not only passed both houses, but it concerned a group that provides significant financial support toward members of Congress, and the sentiment being condemned was one that group in question actually held. The frivolity factor was therefore much lower and didn't inspire the kind of unintended blowback that made the Limbaugh condemnation such a legislative highlight of the 110th Congress.
Congress members also continue to toil tirelessly to castigate a hey War on Terror ally via a symbolic condemnation of a 90-year-old genocide, sure to pay some of those restoring-America's-standing-in-the-world dividends.
So social security may still be headed over a cliff and the tax cuts helping to fuel our economy may still be ticking down to auto-expiration, but the 110th can hardly be labeled a "do-nothing" Congress. I for one eagerly support giving them Fridays off and I'd strongly urge Hoyer to consider phoning it in on Thursdays too.
Update: Scott Ott notes that, Constitutionally speaking, Congress is only required to meet once a year. Even better.
The president noted that Article I, Section 4 of the “little-known historical document” calls for Congress to meet “at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December.”
“Making laws can be exhausting. You must be bushed,” the president said in a memo to Congress. “You deserve a rest from the stressful toil of loading burdens on the backs of the American people..."
Chief Wiggum Surrenders His Title
It's hot. Scorching hot. Guinness World Records hot.
Researchers at New Mexico State University have discovered the world’s hottest chili pepper. It's called the Bhut Jolokia, a variety originating in Assam, India.
In tests that yield Scoville heat units (SHUs), the Bhut Jolokia reached 1 million SHUs, almost double the SHUs of former hotshot Red Savina (a type of habanero pepper), which measured a mere 577,000. The result was announced today by the American Society for Horticultural Science.
(HT: HA Headlines)
DKos: Global Warming Killed the Dinosaurs and Now It's Going To Kill You
Behold the latest missive from the reality-based community.
Sixty-five million years ago, a large rock came screaming in from space. ... The common conception is that it was this falling stone that signaled the end of the dinosaurs and cleared the slate for the mammals to take center stage. The truth was messier. ...
The largest mass extinction event of all, the end-Permian, occurred during one of the warmest ever climatic phases and saw the estimated extinction of 95 per cent of animal and plant species.
If global warming and the associated changes are what really does in ecosystems, what does that say about our immediate future? ... The next time someone tries to shrug off global warming with some remark that "the planet has been warmer before," you might want to let them know that when it was, massive and widespread death was the result.
Repent and get your affairs in order, while there's still time. Or, at very least, vote Democrat in 2008.
Say What You Will About Norman Hsu...
But the man is nothing if not bold.
Disgraced political donor Norman Hsu wasn't hiding from anyone over the past few years, his lawyers say. If California authorities really wanted to find him, they could have asked Hillary Rodham Clinton or one of the other prominent Democrats he showered with cash donation.
Hsu is asking a judge to toss his 15-year-old felony fraud conviction, arguing that his right to a speedy trial was violated because authorities weren't actively pursuing him.
Yes, Hsu is arguing that his due process rights were trampled because he'd undertaken the life of a fugitive and the state wasn't holding up its end of the bargain by chasing him diligently enough.
I have to agree that the authorities did an inexplicably dismal job in his pursuit, but I'm not sure I buy that this failure somehow disadvantaged Mr. Hsu. Even if he can convince a judge to swallow this Sixth Amendment-wrapped turd of a premise, it seems moot, given that Hsu was duly (and speedily) charged, pleaded out, and convicted of this crime back in 1992. When Hsu cheesed it, he wasn't awaiting trial, but simply the formal sentencing of his agreed upon punishment of three years in prison.
If [Hsu's attorney James] Brosnahan fails get the case dismissed outright, he says he will then ask that Hsu be allowed to withdraw his 1992 plea because the judge who accepted it and was scheduled to sentence Hsu before he fled has since retired. If Hsu succeeds in taking back his plea, his case goes back to square one and could then go to trial.
"Mr. Hsu has the right to have the same judge who accepted his plea impose sentence," Brosnahan wrote in court papers.
Again, didn't Mr. Hsu himself cede that right by fleeing justice for the remainder of that judge's career?
However that plays out, Hsu has plenty of fresh troubles, in the form of multiple federal felony charges alleging his orchestration of Ponzi schemes and violation of federal election laws, and a pair of lawsuits brought by investor groups in California and New York, accusing Hsu of swindling them out of more than $60 million.
Still, I would imagine the prior felony fraud conviction could have an impact on sentencing for any additional convictions, which may be why Hsu is eager to wriggle out of it.
Any prosecutors or criminal defense attorneys feel free to weigh in.
Creepy Is Just 5 Degrees Off Folksy
In case you missed it, Hillary Clinton turns 60 tomorrow. Her campaign has been celebrating for the last few days and today broadcasts this message from campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle.
Here's one of my favorite stories about celebrating Hillary's birthday.
It was her first birthday as First Lady. After all the talk of her changing hairstyles during the campaign, the staff thought it would be funny to surprise her by dressing up as different "Hillarys" -- there was Headband Hillary, Campaign Hillary, Lawyer Hillary, Short-Hair Hillary. I was the 1992 Democratic Convention Hillary -- with the sassy haircut.
I prefer the 1984 Hillary myself.
Is this meant to further "humanize" the candidate? I'm not sure how many Americans identify with birthday bashes in which their staff all dress up as their various manufactured public personae...
This year, rumor has it the campaign staffers are dressing up as Hillary's different positions on the Iraq war -- hawkish Hillary, peacenik Hillary, duped-by-the-President Hillary, date certain Hillary, equivocal Hillary, fence-riding Hillary, hawkish again Hillary, etc.
It's a good thing she's got a bigger staff now than she did as First Lady.
If I had to put a percentage on it, I’d say 85 percent of it is answering questions and 15 percent is blowing up stuff.
If Discovery ups their budget, look for a Mythubsters moon landing in an upcoming season...
Congratulations, Bobby Caina Calvan!
You've just inspired the most unanimous comment flood in blog history.
Kudos, sir. You really, really deserve it.
And now, the next time you play the "Do you know who I am?" game, the answer will surely be yes.
Update: Bah, he's yanked the post. Happily, Ace has preserved it for posterity, but I fear the comment flood may have slipped down the memory hole.
Update: From the comments, Docweasel has the whole shebang preserved.
Kid Nation: Hiatus
I'm in Hawaii this week, so I'm unable to perform tonight's Kid Nation liveblog, stuck here 6 hours in the past.
I'll post a recap as soon as I'm able to catch up and will resume the real-time criticism of innocent children next Wednesday.
Unfortunately, That Train Has Sailed
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports on an apparent attempt by Hillary Clinton to reach out to the siderodromophile voting bloc.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign will close down Washington’s Union Station for all but the trains to hold a major fund-raiser there Dec. 6 — a month before the first and most-anticipated presidential-nominating vote in Iowa. The location is no accident, says a lobbyist who’s among the planners (though publicly still aligned with a rival Democrat): The metaphorical message is, It’s time to get on board.
Objectively, I'm not sure the "train" metaphor is inherently positive or inspirational. Yes, you've got the Little Engine That Could (and to a lesser, creepier extent, Thomas the Tank Engine) as good train role models, but as the embarrassingly monied presumptive winner, Team Clinton lends itself more naturally to the image of the unstoppable freight train (which may or may not be what she's going for). With all their momentum and pre-determined routing, the only interesting things trains do is derail.
The last time a train was in the the headlines, after all, it was only because authorities were dragging off a half-naked, delirious man in some kind of high-profile fugitive bust. And that might not be the first thing Hillary wants voters to think of.
Oh, Chimpanzee That... Monkey News
Two Monkey Newses in one month - this must be some kind of record.
This one comes to us courtesy of the Freakonomists (who, incidentally, offered the fodder for this blog's first-ever monkey-centric post more than two years ago, via their first-ever blog post). At issue back then was the descent of a once peaceful group of capuchins into a toxic spiral of greed, gambling and prostitution, precipitated by the introduction of money into the simian society.
Two years later, the situation has only bleakened, as our lesser primate brethren appear to have graduated to political assassinations.
Wild monkeys assaulted the deputy mayor of New Delhi on Saturday as he sat on his terrace, reading the morning paper. In the scuffle, S.S. Bajwa lost his balance, tumbled from his building, and died the next day from injuries sustained in the fall.
The attackers were rhesus macaques, which have overrun parts of Delhi in the past, harassing its citizens with bites and pinches during endless raids for food. The mischievous monkeys have even been known to break into government ministries, tearing up documents and filching snacks from bureaucrats in the Indian capital.
Shattered Glass II Officially Greenlit
Drudge has gotten his hands on a handful of transcripts (including conversations between The New Republic editorial staff and their Baghdad fabulist Scott Beauchamp) which tend to confirm and further ugly up the thrice-disgraced publication's handling of its most recent rogue contributor.
Previously: The New Republic Box Set
The (Missile) Defense Rests
Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered an olive branch to Russia over the proposed European-based missile defense sites by proposing their delayed activation.
We would consider tying together activation of the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic with definitive proof of the threat - in other words, Iranian missile testing and so on.
This is a departure from the Bush Administration’s previous position. Russia has strenuously objected to this course of action from the outset but President Bush has not compromised over the radar and missile sites in Poland and Czech Republic, even when Russia offered the use of one of its existing radar sites.
I’m glad to see the U.S. attempt to defuse the mounting tensions, although today’s offer was probably driven by the deteriorating political support in the host countries. With its recent oil wealth, Russia has been increasingly active on the international stage, and accordingly, has interjected itself into nearly every significant foreign policy issue of the past five years. It routinely exercises its Security Council veto much to the disappointment of Washington and many NATO members. The end result is a very relevant Russian Federation, which can hinder or obstruct American plans.
The smart play by the U.S. at this point is to abandon these controversial missile defense sites in exchange for Russian support and intervention in Iran’s nuclear pursuits. The declared purpose of the radar and missile sites is to defeat a missile threat from rogue Middle Eastern countries, that is, Iran. If the U.S. can secure Russia’s support for tougher sanctions with harsh penalties for non-compliance then the U.S. should table its European missile defense plans (until Russia fails to live up to its end of the bargain).
This tactic allows Russia to avoid the perceived affront to its power, and the U.S. finally gets meaningful action on Iran, one of the White House’s top international goals. This diplomatic standoff clearly has the potential to turn into a win-win situation.
Manbearpig Fingered For Setting California Fires
Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore said on Tuesday he was optimistic future generations would look back at 2007 as the pivotal year when the world finally found the courage to fight together against climate change.
"I believe our children and grandchildren will look back at the year 2007 and ask one of two questions," said Gore, who shared the prize with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for raising awareness of global warming.
"Either they will ask about us -- What were they doing? What were they thinking about and how could they let that catastrophe happen? Didn't they listen to the scientists? Didn't they see the glaciers and polar caps melting? Didn't they see the fires? ... Our children and grand children are depending on us to meet this emergency."
Blame it on the Raid
Details have begun to emerge about Israel's strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear site, but one aspect of this story will remain in the background. What is now well known is that on September 6, Israeli F-16s crossed the width of Syria and severely damaged a suspected North Korean designed nuclear facility. Recent reporting has shown America's advanced knowledge of the raid and internal White House deliberations.
When the Israelis came to the CIA with the pictures, the U.S. then got the site's coordinates and backed it up with very detailed satellite imagery of its own
The Israelis urged the U.S. government to destroy the complex, and the U.S. started looking at options about how to destroy the facility: Targeteers were assembled, and officials contemplated a special forces raid using helicopters, which would mean inserting forces to collect data and then blow the site up.
What hasn't made the headlines is that the Bush Administration declined to participate in the strike and attempted to dissuade Israel from carrying out the attack. While some articles have attributed this to the difficult nature of the target, my experience is that this attack was well within the capabilities of the US military. Additionally, a one-time air raid is one of the more straightforward options in the military toolbox because it doesn't involve follow-on air strikes or ground forces.
But the US decided to pass:
The Israelis made the decision to take the facility out themselves, though the U.S. urged them not to. The Bush administration, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates leading the way, said the Israelis and the U.S. should "confront not attack."
Many Democrats believe, as Rep. Pete Stark tastelessly expressed last week, that President Bush is a warmonger. This recent Israeli-Syrian incident is a clear indication that the Bush Administration is not out to initiate conflict, even when there may be sufficient cause.
Furthermore, the US appears not to be using this evidence of North Korean involvement to scrap recent diplomatic progress. Not only does this demonstrate restraint, it shows commitment to a strategic foreign policy.
In the end, major media outlets will continue to deny the Bush Administration the praise it deserves for its handling of this situation. Nevertheless, a job well done.
Nobel Class of '07 Continues To Distinguish Itself
Doris Lessing, the octogenarian British novelist who essentially told a congratulatory journalist to piss off when he informed her of her Nobel win earlier this month, has now spit up some belittling condescension for us Yankees to chew on.
"September 11 was terrible, but if one goes back over the history of the IRA, what happened to the Americans wasn't that terrible," the Nobel Literature Prize winner told the leading Spanish daily El Pais.
"Some Americans will think I'm crazy. Many people died, two prominent buildings fell, but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think. They're a very naive people, or they pretend to be," she said in an interview published Sunday.
"Do you know what people forget? That the IRA attacked with bombs against our government; it killed several people while a Conservative congress was being held and in which the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was (attending). People forget," she said.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. About 3,700 died and tens of thousands of people were maimed in more than 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
If There's Somethin' Wagin' Jihad... In Your Neighborhood
Yes, comically, tragically, truly, you're gonna call the Terrorist Busters, the CIA's retro-kitchily rebranded Counterterrorist Center.
James Lipton - Il Nourrit le Main de Pimp Solide
James Lipton, the fussily proper Dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, host of "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo, and the subject of one of Will Farrell's best impressions, has revealed a former life as a Parisian pimp. (HT: Ace)
The revered TV presenter, who has sat down with Hollywood's biggest names for in-depth chats about their life and work over the last 13 years, has revealed he once procured clients for French hookers.
He says, "This was when I was very very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit... I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world and she suggested to me one night, `Look, you'll be my meck... We would translate it perhaps... as pimp.
"We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say."
How does this square with Lipton's 2003 appearance on Da Ali G Show? (Skip to 1:40)
Ali G: Why is it that hos is better actors than men?
Lipton: Uh... I should tell you, as Dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, that I don't use words like "hos" and I hate them. And that's honestly. It's the vernacular. No, no, and "bitches" - I hate words like...
Ali G: But why is that woman is so good at, like, pretending to be upset? Like, oh Ali, you is forgotten me burfday...
Hillary Defends Possible Straw Donor Cash With Disingenuous Straw Man Argument
Judging by Hillary's refusal to return the hundreds of thousands in Hsu-tainted funds that she raked in through her Senate campaign and HillPAC, and now her insistence that she'll keep (and keep on keeping) the questionably princely sums that are pouring out of low income, possibly non-existent Chinatown residents, one has to presume that she's decided the scandal has finally hit that magical Clintonian critical complexity, beyond which neither the public's attention span nor the media's already mild appetite for Democrat-damaging stories will hold her to any kind of reasonable standard of conduct.
She took advantage of the controversy's complexity this weekend in a defiant speech that addressed not the impropriety of keeping questionable funds, without so much of a second look even after serious questions were raised about the legality of those contributions, but the non-issue of the propriety of accepting donations from first-generation Americans.
A defiant Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she has no intention of curtailing her fundraising in the Chinese community despite reports that she accepted cash from dozens of questionable donors in Chinatown earlier this year.
“I represent New York and New York is a symbol of the success of immigrants coming to America,” the senator told reporters Saturday after addressing supporters at the Oak Park Elementary School in Des Moines.
“I am pleased to have a lot of first-generation American support as well as people who have been longtime involved in the political process … I’m going to keep reaching out to everybody in our country. I want to be a president to everybody.”
Earlier this year, Clinton returned about $7,000 of about $380,000 raised during a fundraiser that targeted donors from China’s east coast after campaign officials raised red flags about the donors. It’s not clear whether other refunds will be issued.
It's a good try. And possibly shrewd, in a wholly deceitful way. Hillary's disingneuous straw man argument may work if people are losing enough of the plot to swallow the idea that what she's being assailed for is accepting donations from hard-working immigrants. That, she can spin into an "I'll champion the underdogs, no matter how much they the establishment tries to stop me!" cry. But of course that's not what's at issue.
As with the Norman Hsu scandal (which I suspect can be tied to the Chinatown situation at some level), the problem here is one of significant irregularities among Clinton's donors, specifically an apparent financial inability of many of the tightly clustered contributors to afford such largesse. In the Hsu case, the tainted funds came from two sources - alleged straw donors who were reimbursed by Hsu and investors in the New York and Orange County investment funds who were pressured by Hsu to contribute to Clinton in order to participate in what they thought were legitimate business deals.
The specifics of the peculiar Chinatown donations have yet to come into focus, but based on the L.A. Times' investigation and follow-up by the New York Post, the contributors in question either cannot be found (sometimes because their addresses don't exist), hold minimum wage jobs that typically wouldn't support 4-figure political contributions, are not registered to vote, and/or specifically admitted they had been reimbursed for their donations.
The Chinatown cluster involves some 150 donors, suggesting it represents a sophisticated, large-scale, coordinated effort to circumvent federal election laws. As in the Hsu case, the implications here are severe enough to warrant a more mature response from the Clinton campaign than a dishonest dismissal of the problem as one of ethnic intolerance.
"We do not ethnically profile donors," growled [campaign spokesman] Howard Wolfson. "Asian-Americans in Chinatown and Flushing have the same right to contribute as every other American."
Agreed. Just as they're subject to the same prohibitions from violating election laws as every other American.
If, as appears to be the case, Hillary has made the decision to bank on the scandal's complexity to save her not only from having to answer for these ubiquitous irregularities, but even from having to return the tainted funds, she may be in for a surprise. The public's Clinton scandal stamina may not have improved, but as the sordid details and immense scope of Hillary's fundraising problems continue to unfold, more and more mainstream media outlets are taking an interest.
Surely, she could wriggle out of almost any underlying impropriety, but overt denials, dismissals, and failures to address the irregularities as they splash across the front pages (i.e. precisely what we're seeing now in the Chinatown brush-off and the sloppy and incomplete Hsu refunds) may make for a stickier mess.
Hillary says she wants to be "President to everybody." She can start by showing everybody that she's dependable and conscientious enough to deal responsibly with serious issues when they present themselves, not sweep them under the rug or shrug them off as the product of the prejudices of others.
The Waffle Prophecy
Last December, in the video Liberal Yearbook 2006 (skip ahead to 6:05/-1:10), I made the following prediction for 2007:
Out of work and despondent, Cynthia McKinney was arrested for assault in a Marietta Waffle House after slapping a waiter, a hostess, and several patrons while trying to run out on a check. She blamed the incident on new hairdo unfamiliar to WaHo staff, further noting the patrons may have been Jewish.
Ten months later, an Atlanta-area Waffle House indeed finds itself in the news thanks to a celebrity scuffle, but the brawler in question turned out to be a more respectable figure than the disgraced former Congresswoman.
Musician Kid Rock was arrested on Sunday after a fight in a Waffle House restaurant in Atlanta just days after he scored his first No. 1 album on U.S. pop charts, police said.
DeKalb County police said they arrested Rock, 36, and five members of his entourage at 5:15 a.m. after an argument with a man who entered the Waffle House escalated into a fight.
I was just celebrating Rock's very unHollywood common sense a couple weeks back (so far as I can recall, the first time he's appeared on this blog). It's too bad this appearance is under less auspicious circumstances, but his uncanny by-proxy fulfillment of the McKinney Conjecture earns him a second nod nonetheless.
I suspect blogworthy Kid Rock doings may clump like celebrity deaths, so let's be on the lookout for the third bit of the trifecta.
John Stossel: Heretic, Hellion, Corporate Toady
Some people just refuse to accept the programming. "The debate is over," John. How difficult a line is that to toe?
World Stunned To Learn Hillary, Bill No Longer Have Socks
Today, pet loving voters are once again reeling at the news that Socks, the first feline during the Clinton administration, was little more than a political prop, one not included among the many household items the couple spirited away as they scampered out of the White House in 2001.
AS THE “first pet” of the Clinton era, Socks, the White House cat, allowed “chilly” Hillary Clinton to show a caring, maternal side as well as bringing joy to her daughter Chelsea. So where is Socks today?
Once the presidency was over, there was no room for Socks any more. After years of loyal service at the White House, the black and white cat was dumped on Betty Currie, Bill Clinton’s personal secretary, who also had an embarrassing clean-up role in the saga of his relationship with the intern Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton’s treatment of Socks cuts to the heart of the questions about her candidacy. Is she too cold and calculating to win the presidency? Or does it signify political invincibility by showing she is willing to deploy every weapon to get what she wants?
“In the annals of human evil, off-loading a pet is nowhere near the top of the list,” writes Caitlin Flanagan in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine. “But neither is it dead last, and it is especially galling when said pet has been deployed for years as an all-purpose character reference.”
Perhaps the cautionary tale of Socks the cat will make a difference. “Hillary’s insistence that we follow her example in pet ownership, when she really should be on Cat Fancy’s Most Wanted List, makes her a tiresome bore,” Flanagan writes.
Wall Street Throws Mini Anniversary Party For Its October Demons
On Monday, in "If the Market Tanks This Month, Here's Why", I noted that this month marks the 10th anniversary of the mini-crash of '97, the 20th anniversary of the crash of '87, and some incalculably high-numbered anniversary of the crash of '29. Today, in fact, is the actual anniversary of Black Monday when the Dow shed more than 20%.
I also noted that, despite the tradition, we weren't poised for a similarly panicky October this year, based on the relative modesty of the broad market's current valuations and the fact that echoes of panic aren't a good enough reason to trigger an otherwise unjustified plunge.
Well, the week turned out to be an ugly one, with the Dow falling almost 500 points. Today alone, the average sank 369 points, enough to trigger the "trading curbs" which limit programmatic trading. On Black Monday, the dow plunged just over 500 points, but it's worth remembering that the corresponding percentage decline was more than 22%. This week's 500 point decline, inflicted over the course of 5 consecutive down days, amounted to just over 4%, leaving the Dow still up 8.5% year-to-date and within 4.5% of its all-time high.
What's more, this week's declines were neither panic-driven nor panic-exacerbated, unlike the crashes celebrating anniversaries this month. Oil has pushed to all-time nominal highs, the third quarter earnings season kicked off with a handful of disappointments, and housing and credit market worries continue to worry - none of which are sufficiently dreadful to fundamentally alter the economic outlook, but all of which are well-equipped to batter stock prices around for a few days.
Plus, there's probably just a smidge of panic.
But we'd need to cram 5 weeks like this one into a single trading session before we have to start keeping an eye on traders fiddling with window latches.
Only Minutes Left To Bid On Limbaugh Letter - A Bargain At $2.1 Million [Update: Sold!]
The letter signed by 41 Democratic Senators condemning an influential private citizen for a sentiment they knew he never conveyed nor held continues to skyrocket on eBay. It's for a good cause too: the Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation. What's more, Rush has promised to match the winning bid with a donation of his own, a pledge he must've made without any clue that the bidding would get so high.
Sometimes eleventh hour tactical bids will push the sale price significantly higher, so it'll be interesting to see what happens in the final stretch.
eBay is using bidder pre-qualification process for this auction (whatever that entails), so one would hope these bids are legit, but given how astronomical they've gotten, one's forgiven for envisioning the possibility that a neredowell (well, I suppose it would take at least two, or at least two accounts, anyway) has pumped up the price without intending to pay up, simply to serve Rush with a bigger matching gift invoice. Hopefully, we'll know shortly after 1:00 pm.
If the $2.1 million bid is legit and Rush matches it, the windfall would amount to nearly 15% of the aid distributed by the foundation since its inception 12 years ago.
Update: Sold! For $2.1 million to bettyc588. Betty has a long purchase history and a 100% positive feedback score.
Update: Mmm. I just threw up in my mouth a little. As will you shortly, as you witness Harry Reid attempt to take credit for this noble, magnificent, arguably heroic joke on him and 40 of his colleagues, slinging more condescension and naked hypocrisy than I would've guessed he - yes even he - could muster. (HT: LGF)
Rush Limbaugh should know that this letter that they’re auctioning is going to be something that raises money for a worthwhile cause. I don’t know what we could do more important than helping to ensure that children of our fallen soldiers and police officers who have fallen in the line of duty have the opportunity for their children to have a good education. Think of this, more than $2 million — that will really help. that’s, again, an understatement. There’s only a little bit of time left so i would ask those that are wanting to do more, that they can go to Harry Reid letter and it will come up on e-bay. I encourage anyone interested with the means to consider contributing to this worthwhile cause. I strongly believe when we can put our differences aside, even Harry Reid and Rush Limbaugh, we should do that and try to accomplish good things for the American people. This does that, madam president. More than $2 million for a letter signed by this senator and my friends.
Update: On his radio show, Rush commented on the philanthropic winning bidder Betty Casey (and affirmed he will match the $2.1 million donation). He also notes that the auction apparently "broke eBay" in the final moments of the auction. (HT: Allah)
Franken-Stein An Unholy Pairing
Continuing his long, dark sashay from astute, economically conservative Renaissance man to taxophilic left wing eccentric, Ben Stein has just kicked in to Al Franken's Minnesota Senate run.
Stein, an actor, writer, economist and former Nixon speechwriter, has contributed $2,000 to Franken's U.S. Senate campaign. The two men have known each other for about 30 years.
As a former "Saturday Night Live" star, Franken has received scores of contributions from people in the entertainment industry, but Stein's donation doesn't fit into the GOP's talking points about liberal Hollywood elites bankrolling Franken's campaign.
Stein has contributed thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and to GOP committees, such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Mmyeah... the AP gets it a bit wrong here, though. Have I mentioned Stein's long, dark sashay? Far removed from his Nixon days and having taken since leave of the faculties that once enabled him to see the wisdom of something-D-O-O economics, Stein's leftward drift, while regrettable, is not news. His contribution to Franken's campaign does nothing to refute the "GOP's talking points about liberal Hollywood elites bankrolling Franken's campaign." Stein "elite" status is debatable, but he has indeed mutated into something approaching an authentic liberal. The Hollywood gene, it would appear, is dominant in the long run.
I get the sense from the countless weekend Fox Business Block appearances I've seen him in (did that survive the Fox Business Network launch, incidentally, or are those shows migrating up to channel 194?) that he's a genuinely nice man and certainly a bright, multi-talented one - actor, lawyer, teacher, economist, author, game show host, etc. Not to mention Clear Eyes spokesman. It's just so disheartening that he's insisting on adding "irrational Hollywood liberal who supports the political designs of unstable Hollywood liberals" to that CV.
Mama's Gotta a Brand New Hsu
Michelle and Allah both weigh in this morning on a shiny new story from the LA Times (which, incidentally, has sunk its teeth surprisingly deep into the Norman Hsu scandal, making it easily the outlet with the second best coverage of the affair, behind The Wall Street Journal) about a shiny new Chinese fundraising scandal for Hillary Clinton.
As yet, there's no readily identifiable kingpin at the center of this flap, but the gist is that parts of New York's Chinatown have become an improbably gilded neighborhood when Clinton comes calling.
Something remarkable happened at 44 Henry St., a grimy Chinatown tenement with peeling walls. It also happened nearby at a dimly lighted apartment building with trash bins clustered by the front door.
And again not too far away, at 88 E. Broadway beneath the Manhattan bridge, where vendors chatter in Mandarin and Fujianese as they hawk rubber sandals and bargain-basement clothes.
All three locations, along with scores of others scattered throughout some of the poorest Chinese neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been swept by an extraordinary impulse to shower money on one particular presidential candidate -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton's campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown.
This is a suboptimal development for Hillary, whose lowball estimates of Hsu's tainted fundraising (that eye-popping $850,000 wound up topping a million) and whose reluctant and only partial refunds of Hsu-connected donorations have stretched the candidate's credibility when it comes to her insistence that the perpetual irregularities that have plagued her (and her spouse's) political finances are issues all sanitized by the magical cleanser of public financing.
The unlikely vein of campaign gold Hillary seems to have tapped in Chinatown certainly appears to be of the familiar Clinton scandal genus, but the species isn't quite identifiable yet - are these straw donors being quietly reimbursed behind closed doors, are they hard-working immigrants being pressured by local heavies to dig deep for their Senator, or are might they simply be figmental?
The Times examined the cases of more than 150 donors who provided checks to Clinton after fundraising events geared to the Chinese community. One-third of those donors could not be found using property, telephone or business records. Most have not registered to vote, according to public records.
And several dozen were described in financial reports as holding jobs -- including dishwasher, server or chef -- that would normally make it difficult to donate amounts ranging from $500 to the legal maximum of $2,300 per election.
Of 74 residents of New York's Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx or Brooklyn that The Times called or visited, only 24 could be reached for comment.
Previous Norman Hsu coverage.
Bicycle Commuting 12x Deadlier Than Driving
Heeding the Goracle can be a deadly gambit.
Bicycle commuting is on the rise, as evidenced by the following articles in Treehugger.com, the Boston Herald, and USA Today. But if the idea of hitting the road on two wheels — with little to protect you from cars and trucks but good manners — strikes you as pretty risky, you aren’t so far from the mark.
Per kilometer, cyclists are 12 times more likely than car drivers to suffer a fatal accident, according to Rutgers University urban planner John Pucher and Lewis Dijkstra of the European Commission (the same study found traveling by foot to be 23 times more dangerous than driving, per kilometer).
The unicycling stats are too morbid even to repeat.
On the other hand, if you're among the few to survive a cycling journey, you're more likely to outlive your doughy, sedentary colleagues.
[A] Danish study found that people who do not bike to work suffer a 39 percent higher mortality rate than those who do.
Increased longevity is nice and all (for people obsessed with their own subsistence, anyway), but even for those who escape the perils of walking and biking, do the health benefits they reap really justify the extra carbon they're spewing into the environment by relying on Earth-rapingly inefficient human power?
Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes.
“The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better."
Rise Of the Bundler
The Wall Street Journal has a great cover story today on the blossoming impact of campaign "bundlers" on the political landscape. It notes that the practice (susceptible as it is to abuse by bad actors) has exploded in the wake of McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions, much the way the PAC system exploded following Watergate-era reforms.
The strange case of Norman Hsu, the textile-importer-turned-fugitive who cobbled together $800,000 in contributions for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, is the tip of the iceberg.
The number of bundlers working for presidential campaigns has nearly doubled since the last election, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from campaigns and watchdog groups.
Bundling is legal and has been around for years, but new forces have turned it into an election-season cornerstone. Campaign costs have surged, with each candidate's viability increasingly measured by their ability to raise cash. Recent finance reforms have closed old avenues for individuals to make big donations, making stars out of connected fund-raisers who can coax small donations from a broad network of names. Campaigns encourage ambitious bundling by rewarding top fund-raisers with perks, including access to candidates.
Bundlers raised at least $109 million for the presidential candidates during the first nine months of the 2008 campaign. ... The actual share contributed by bundlers is likely higher, because top practitioners raise far more than the minimum -- nearly $1 million in Mr. Hsu's instance.
The funds bundled so far this election cycle represent at least 28% of the record $379 million raised overall for this campaign. By comparison, figures compiled by Public Citizen show bundlers accounted for 18% of funds raised in the 2004 contest, and 8% in 2000.
The people who brought you the Monster Thickburger and the 1,100-calorie salad are at it again — this time for breakfast.
Hardee’s on Monday rolled out its new Country Breakfast Burrito — two egg omelets filled with bacon, sausage, diced ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns and sausage gravy, all wrapped inside a flour tortilla. The burrito contains 920 calories and 60 grams of fat.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocate for nutrition and health, has called the Hardee’s line of Thickburgers “food porn.”
Please click through with caution. Even gazing upon such a gastronomically magnificent meal within the New York City limits can get you locked up.
Kid Nation: Election Day
I was starting to think it might never happen, but finally, tonight really is is the night. The episode of Kid Nation I've been pining for since the very opening minutes of the series premiere.
Based on last week's preview, tonight's episode is all about politicking and electioneering as Bonanza City fixes to oust their do-nothing town council. It'll be a nice change of pace from last week's pointlessly pot-stirring religious kerfuffle.
I'm definitely waving a "Michael for Council" penant, but I'm warming to Zach as well, who's been stepping it up in the leadership department lately (especially impressive, given that he's only 10). I think Morgan stands a good shot at winning a seat, based on the afterglow of her diffusal of last week's holy war and her standing as the reigning gold star winner. My favorite dark horse candidate has to be Alex, who's also beginning to fill some of the Golden Boy void left by Jimmy's Week 1 departure. Depending on how many hoodlums he can round up to stuff ballot boxes and intimidate voters, I'd say Greg also has a decent shot at getting on the council tonight, depending on how many incumbents are actually up for recall.
Taylor's definitely on her way out (her admirable support of the President notwithstanding, bless her bossy heart). Unclear, though, whether a recall of one councilmember (assuming that's how it goes down) in turn triggers elections for the three other seats.
Given how inexorably we've been careening toward this pivotal and overdue event, there's been precious little discussion of Bonanza City election laws. Maybe there's an appendix in that olden timey calligraphied time capsule/episode guide they consult once in a while.
Update: They're touting Greg's highlights in the recap. Looks like the producers may be trying to warm our opinion of him, which bodes poorly for the election outcome.
If only Taylor gets ousted, I think Zach is most likely to win her seat, as he's been her most rabble-rousing critic. I'd really prefer to see a clean sweep though, with the possible exception of Laurel.
Update: Ah - it's district-by-district. So Michael can only run for Laurel's seat. Laurel seems to have popular support among the green district.
In the blue district,
Sophia Olivia just delivered a great line to district councilman Anjay, meditating in the corner: "I'm running against you, just so you know." His somewhat unstatesmanlike response: "Shut up!"
In the red district, Guylan just announced he's running against Mike and gave a serviceable, if uninspiring, speech to the crowd.
Sophia Olivia was fairly well received in her anti-Anjay speech.
And now to Taylor... "I'm not that lazy... please give me another chance." And here's Zach, slinging a spitfiery tirade against the unpopular incumbent, using her "Deal with it" catch phrase against her and needling her laziness. Zach seems to have won over the yellow district.
Updated predictions: Zach will oust Taylor,
Sophia Olivia will oust Anjay, and Mike will hold onto his seat, as will Laurel (the only unopposed incumbent).
Update: The weekly challenge (collect pictures of Presidents from inside pinatas and turn them over to the district leaders to put them in chronological order) will be the last chance for the incumbents to curry favor with their constituents. Taylor couldn't answer who the President was before George W. (I get it, Taylor, we're all trying to repress those years), so this doesn't bode well for her prospects. In a confessional cut-in, Zach just announced he's had to lend Taylor his encyclopedic Presidential knowledge during the challenge to keep the team's cards in order. I think we're getting ready for a landslide in the yellow district.
Update: Well, yellow just won the challenge, but it's unclear how that will play for Taylor and Zach.
This week's town-wide prize options: a huge barbecue feast (a "political party") or four buckets of toiletries. Every week, this council makes the wrong decision and goes for the seemingly more responsible option. If they can't get it together in favor of Election Day magnanimity, they've earned their own ousters.
Update: *sigh* Enjoy the dental floss, kids. And Taylor was the one to announce the decision. Forget the election - I think they may exile her to the desert.
Update: Zach and Taylor have the rest of the day to elecioneer. Taylor's taking the opportunity to brood in the mess hall, announcing her confidence in her unanimous support among the girls. Zach is out pressing the flesh. Atta boy, Zach.
Update: Just realized I'd been referring to Olivia as Sophia. My bad. Olivia is the one challenging Anjay in the blue district.
Update: Wow. The Anti-Taylor Noise Machine has begun tearing down Taylor's posters. Maybe she really does have fanatical support among the girls, as this caused one of them to break down and cry.
Update: The gold star ceremony is taking place before the elections in this week's town meeting. The council had contemplated giving it to Zach, but wounding up giving it to Greg (who gave a surprisingly mature and sincere acceptance speech). I have to suspect Taylor convinced the others not to give Zach the star, lest it boost his popularity even further, just minutes before the polls open.
Update: The results are in...
Green: Laurel wins, unopposed.
Blue: Anjay survives Olivia's challenge by a vote of 7-3.
Red: Guylan topples Mike by an 8-1 landslide. Mike: "That sucks!" Indeed it does. Mike hasn't been terribly impressive as a councilmember, but he's a far sight better than Anjay.
Yellow: Zach narrowly ousts Taylor by a too close 5-4. One of the ladies must've flipped.
We close with Greg calling the folks to report in on his probably-more-calculated-than-he-realizes star win.
All in all, that's a pretty satisfactory outcome. I'm sorry to see Anjay hang on, but with Zach in and Taylor out, the town ought to start operating a little better.
Next week: The obligatory environmental episode! Well, won't that be a treat. Something tells me our resident vegan might feature prominently...
Hillary's 3Q Refunds Part III: Pry It From My Senate Campaign's Cold, Dead Hands
Not only are the 249 refunds sent by the Clinton campaign to Hsu-connected donors riddled with inaccurate mailing addresses, but now the campaign is vowing to keep any money these donors gave to her Senate campaign or to HillPAC (more than a quarter million dollars, according to the LA Times).
I noted Monday night that even among just the 26 Hsu contributors we knew about prior to the Q3 filing, there was a refund discrepancy of $125,000 related to the Senate and PAC money. Turns out at least 50 other Hsu donors also sent part of their contributions through these doors (doors which, of course, ultimately led to the Presidential campaign via the candidate's $10 million inter-committee transfer in the first quarter). And Hillary's happy to keep it.
"Because we did not keep track of contributions in the same way during the Senate campaign we have no basis for knowing that these individuals were solicited by Norman Hsu," said Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson. He said the Clinton campaign had gone beyond what it was legally or ethically bound to do when it gave back the presidential contributions.
That's tough to sync up with what Clinton said on Meet the Press on September 23rd.
[O]ut of an abundance of caution, we did return any contribution that we could in any way, no matter how indirect, link to [Hsu].
I'd say donors whose Presidential contributions were explicitly bundled by Hsu remain at least indirectly linked to Hsu when they contribute via her other committees. Here's an easy rule of thumb to fulfill that "abundance of caution": anyone bundled by Hsu gets all their money back.
Among the donations whose connection to Hsu the campaign has "no basis for knowing" are more than $30,000 from the California Paws, the poster family of the Norman Hsu scandal. So far, Clinton has refunded just $23,000 to the Paws (less than half of what they gave her).
And how about Danny Lee (another of the original Hsu-linked donors, whose home address was once listed by Norman Hsu as his own). Out of an "abundance of caution", Hillary saw fit to refund $4,600 to Lee, but not the other $20,000 he "contributed" ($9,000 of which came in after the 2006 election). Lee's co-habitants Soe Win Lee and Yu Fen Huang also each gave Clinton $9,000 after the 2006 election which is not being returned (despite the campaign returning their most recent donations, in an abundance of caution).
Between the Paws and the Lees alone (Hsu's easily identifiable heaviest hitters), Clinton is under-refunding by $70,000. The mind boggles at the campaign not being able to find any link "no matter how indirect" between these donations and Norman Hsu.
In choosing to keep the $250,000 in Hsu-connected money that came in through the PAC and Senate committees, simply because the official bundler of such donations wasn't recorded, the Clinton campaign seems to signal it's forgetting (or dismissing) the fact that these funds aren't tainted only because they were solicited by a career criminal and serial fugitive. The funds are tainted because that criminal is accused of reimbursing some of the nominal "contributors". Further, the criminal complaints against Hsu allege that he financed his massive and fraudulent contributions with money he swindled out of more than a hundred investors. The FBI, the SEC, the FEC, and at least one U.S. Attorney's office are investigating and the alleged victims are hoping to recover the $60 million they say Hsu stole from them.
For Clinton to be winkingly holding on to hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be quite readily linked to Hsu (as easily as referencing her own refund roster) shows an abundance of something, but it's not caution.
Update: Commenting on yesterday's post about 47% of Hillary's Q3 refunds being sent to the wrong ZIP code, reader and postal worker Terri confirms, "Wrong zip code with correct address will be RTS, Return to Sender. The post office does not take the time to look up the correct zip code and manually fix and re-route."
What a financially serendipitous series of 118 clerical errors for the campaign to make.
Update: I've e-mailed the campaign, asking if they have any insights into what happened with the bum ZIPs and whether they plan to re-issue the refunds if they're returned to sender. Some of the 118 were for nearby or possibly synonymous towns, but 66 of them were clear out-of-state (accounting for more than $140,000 in refunds issued). I've put those 66 into a new tab in the spreadsheet, available here, which I also pointed out to the Clinton campaign.
I've also asked one of the SFI (the New York fund) investors who did receive his refund check, despite being listed with a bad (though nearby) ZIP, to check the paperwork and see which one the campaign used in the actual mailing. If it shows his correct ZIP code, then this issue appears to be just a matter of a hundred or so clerical errors in the filing itself. If it shows the wrong one, then it's a good bet that much of the $140,000 will have truly gone astray (and as a result, will be retained by Clinton, unless she fixes the addresses and re-issues the refunds).
Update: I've heard back from one of the NYC donors listed in the filing with a bad ZIP code. While he didn't keep the envelope, the letter enclosed with his refund reflected his correct ZIP code, so it seems likely that this was a foul up contained at the disclosure level. The campaign ought to file an amended report so the database will be accurate, but hopefully the refunds (while frequently partial) will all reach their addressees.
Which Candidates Truly Have the "Fire In the Belly"?
The Onion pinches off some pungent electoral analysis.
Do you care to make a prediction for November 2008? Who's the top bulls**tter so far in this election?
Difficult to say, no one party has a monopoly on bulls**t.
Right. I've always been a big fan of Hillary. She's... so full of bulls**t.
Not just talking bulls**t, but actually living the bulls**t. That's the earmark of a true candidate. And of a winner.