The Coming Democratic Takeover

Or not, perhaps. I still think the most likely outcome is one that will disappoint all sides, with both parties losing some close and apparently winnable races and the GOP returning narrowed majorities in both Houses. How damaging that will be to the Republicans depends in large part on which races we lose – Lincoln Chaffee, for example, almost never comes through on close votes of significance, whereas people like Santorum and Talent always do (a similar dynamic exists in the House).

Blame The Dead Guy

When I first wrote about Bob Menendez’ ethical troubles (at least the ones that are currently under federal investigation, his receipt of $3,000/month in rental income from a community group while he was working in Congress to get them millions in federal grants), I figured it was only fair to quote his explanation, claiming that “[t]his transaction was already approved by the House Ethics Committee”.
Well, well, well. It turns out that alibi is shakier than I could have imagined, which goes a ways to explaining why this is under investigation. Menendez claims not that the House Ethics Committee had approved the deal, but one staff lawyer for the committee, and there is apparently no documentary evidence of the approval. And the staffer:

Menendez said he sought and received verbal approval for the transaction from Mark Davis, an ethics lawyer with the House ethics committee, in 1994, when he was a U.S. congressman. However, an obituary for Davis in a Capitol Hill publication says he left the committee in 1993 and died last October.

Isn’t that convenient?

Staying in the Back Seat

Now, I’m not one to put a lot of stock in anonymous quotes that are against the speaker’s interest and fit perfectly into the reporter’s storyline (much less declare myself a member of a movement built around such a quote), but Chuck Todd in the Atlantic Monthly ($), in explaining why some strategists in each party are hoping not to win a majority in the Congress in 2006, has a quote from “[o]ne Democratic Senate staffer” that so perfectly captures the Democratic attitude that it hardly matters if it’s a real quote or not:

It’s the difference between demanding a plan for Iraq and having to unveil one.

(Emphasis in original). Yes, and it’s easier to be “tough and strong” or “tough but smart” or “strong at home and respected abroad” or whatever the latest slogan is, than to take responsibility for getting the job done.

Karl the Avenger

Rove personally intervenes to go after a spammer:

The White House political adviser and deputy chief of staff took time from his busy schedule early last year to personally track down a bothersome spammer who made the mistake of hitting subscribers to President Bush’s campaign site, the Daily News has learned.


“His voice was chilling,” McAllister recalled in an interview Friday. “He says, ‘Look, I got a Web site here called and I got 900 subscribers and every one of them is getting e-mail from you.’ He said, ‘You gotta stop this right here and now. You’ve got to leave my subscribers alone.'”


On Jan. 17, 2005, at 9:12 p.m., Rove e-mailed an assistant in the Bush campaign, B.J. Goergen: “Find where this company is headquartered,” with the attached spam for Voicescape.
Subsequent e-mails and phone transcripts show that Rove contacted McAllister, president of Millenium, and at least three stock promoters involved in hyping the Voicescape and Millenium stocks.

Good for him.

The President, Still Fighting

Paul Gigot interviews President Bush in today’s Wall Street Journal. Some excerpts – on Palestine:

Take the Palestinian elections that elevated the terrorist group Hamas to power. “I wasn’t surprised,” he says, “that the political party that said ‘Vote for me, I will get rid of corruption’ won, because I was the person that decided on U.S. foreign policy that we were not going to deal with Mr. Arafat because he had let his people down, and that money that the world was spending wasn’t getting to the Palestinian people. . . . They didn’t say, ‘Vote for us, we want war.’ They said, ‘Vote for us, we will get you better education and health.’ ”
Mr. Bush concedes that Hamas’s “militant wing,” as he calls it, is “unacceptable.” But he says he sees a virtue in “creating a sense where people have to compete for people’s votes. They have to listen to the concerns of the street.” The answer is for other Palestinian leaders to out-compete Hamas to respond to those concerns. “Elections are not the end. They’re only the beginning. And, no question, elections sometimes create victors that may not conform to everything we want. . . . On the other hand, it is the beginning of a more hopeful Middle East.”

On his management of the Iraq War:

“Now, my view of the country is this: Most people want us to win. There are a good number who say, get out now. But most Americans are united in the concept–of the idea of winning.”
On that point, I ask Mr. Bush to address not his critics on the left who want to withdraw, but those on the right who worry that he isn’t fighting hard enough to win. “No, I understand. No, I hear that, Paul, a lot, and I take their word seriously, and of course use that as a basis for questioning our generals. My point to you is that one of the lessons of a previous war is that the military really wasn’t given the flexibility to make the decisions to win. And I ask the following questions: Do you have enough? Do you need more troops? Do you need different equipment?” The question I failed to ask but wish I had is: Does this mean that, like Lincoln, Mr. Bush should have fired more generals?

On the nature of the war:

“[T]his is a different kind of war. In the past, there was troop movements, or, you know, people could report the sinking of a ship. This is a war that requires intelligence and interrogation within the law from people who know what’s happening. . . . Victories you can’t see. But the enemy is able to create death and carnage that tends to define the action.

Read the whole thing.

With Kerry, It Broke

Andrew Cline at the Weekly Standard doesn’t think much of the Democrats’ move to abandon Iowa and New Hampshire as the presidential primary kickoff. There are plenty of reasons to question whether IA/NH’s lead role makes sense, although there are at least two reasons to leave them in place. One is the immediate fact that, at present, both states are very closely divided (they are two of just three states to vote for George W. Bush in one but not both of the 2000 & 2004 elections) and they are fairly representative of the demographics of a number of the other “purple” states like Wisconsin and Minnesota. The second is the small-c conservative answer: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The system has served us well in selecting nominees, so why ditch it?
The second of these reasons is why the Democrats’ rush to abandon the old calendar is, implicitly, such a damning indictment of John Kerry, the winner of the only seriously contested Democratic primary season since 1992. Whatever else may be said about the decision, if Democrats had faith that the existing system could be trusted to pick the right man (or woman), they would not depart from it. Their willingness to do so speaks volumes.

Bob Menendez Steered Millions To Group That Paid Him

Yes, I know: corruption investigations into New Jersey Democrats are a dog-bites-man story. But New Jersey voters have to ask themselves how many times they are willing to throw the bums back in. WNBC reports that federal investigators are probing whether there was a quid pro quo in Menendez receiving $3,000 a month from an organization as he was helping them receive millions of taxpayer dollars – your dollars:

The U.S. attorney’s office has subpoenaed the [nonprofit] agency’s records pertaining to a house once owned by then-congressman Menendez, sources told NewsChannel 4’s Brian Thompson.
Menendez, a Democrat, has denied there was anything wrong with his renting the house to the North Hudson Community Action Corp. for more than $3,000 a month, even as he was working to obtain millions of dollars in federal grant money while he was a congressman.

Now, I don’t know; $3,000 a month may be a fair market rent for the property, in which case this isn’t outright corruption, just a too-cozy relationship between a Congressman and a major recipient of federal largesse. That’s Menendez’ defense:

Menendez campaign spokesman Matthew Miller released a statement saying the senator’s dealings with the agency had already been approved by authorities in U.S. Congress.
“This transaction was already approved by the House Ethics Committee, and the U.S. attorney will find that Bob Menendez did nothing but support a well-respected agency in the exact same manner that he has supported other non-profits in the state,” the statement said.
“We’re troubled by the timing of this subpoena in the middle of a political campaign, but the facts are that the NHCAC has received federal funds for over 35 years because they provide education and health care services to New Jerseyans who need it the most.”

On the other hand, above-market payments for real property is a convenient way to launder a bribe – you will recall that was where the Duke Cunningham investigation started.
Will the Democrats pull a Torricelli and end up having to drag some geriatric retiree out of mothballs if Menendez implodes under the weight of this story? Stay tuned.

Yet Again, Less Accurate = Less Favorable To Republicans

Stuart Buck and Megan McArdle explain at length why a widely-circulated Detroit Free Press graph purporting to show a dramatic drop in median household income from 1999 to 2005 isn’t reliable. (Of course, we all know George W. Bush was responsible for the dramatic decline of the stock market that began in March of 2000 – in the interests of even minimal accuracy one would begin with 2001 rather than 1999).

Questioning the Questioners, Part I

Jeff Goldstein discusses why it’s a good thing that President Bush’s Tuesday speech laying out the Administration’s past successes in interrogating Al Qaeda detainees in CIA custody and proposing a new strategy for dealing with detainees in light of the Supreme Court’s Hamdan decision represents a political strategy to put Democrats on the defensive and force them to take responsibility for either agreeing with the new policy or advocating a less aggressive approach to collecting intelligence from detainees. (Via Instapundit). (Ironically, of course, getting less information from detainees would only make us more reliant on our other best source of information, that being electronic surveillance). Goldstein focuses on the hypocrisy of critics like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald (and they’re not the only ones) who have been beating Bush over the head with the detainee issue for at least two and a half years now and have suddenly decided that it’s not fair play for Bush to make a political issue of the standards for holding, questioning and trying detainees. Of course, Bush would have been perfectly happy to stick with the prior detainee-interrogation standards and keep them from the public eye, so it’s absurd in the extreme to suggest that he chose to politicize this issue; all he’s doing is taking an issue that’s been used against him and making the best of it.
In fact, Bush is trying to replicate two of his signal accomplishments from four years ago. First, he’s replicating his strategy in dealing with the Department of Homeland Security. You will recall that Bush initially opposed the creation of a massive, labrynthian new bureaucracy as part of the response to September 11. The Democrats thought they had the perfect strategy: advocating the new bureaucracy could, in one fell swoop, (1) put them to Bush’s right, (2) without having to support more aggressive policies or give more power to their old foes the Defense Department, NSA and CIA, and potentially set up a countervailing power base to those agencies and (3) create lots of new job opportunities for their core constituency (government employees). But when Bush realized that opposing the new leviathan was politically untenable, he instead made demands (removing civil-service protections from DHS employees, a position anathema to the Democrats’ union backers) that placed him once again on the side of greater emphasis on security, and in a way the Democrats couldn’t support. The issue ended up helping sink a number of Democratic incumbents who put the interests of the unions first, most notably Max Cleland in Georgia. In short, Bush took up a battle he never wanted and found a way to turn it to his advantage.
Second, Bush is doing here what he did with the Iraq War vote in the fall of 2002: more than using national security for political purposes, Bush used partisan politics for national security purposes, counting on the fact that Democrats’ principles were sufficiently pliable that they would vote for the war out of fear of being held accountable by the electorate for opposing it. And it’s the Democrats whose partisan calculations are exposed by this maneuver, as Goldstein notes:

Sullivan characterizes this as a gambit to “legalize torture” and despairs that those who secretly wish they could vote against such legalization won’t be able to now, because politically they would see doing so as a liability.
In other words, voting their consciences might lose them an election -and when the choice comes down to a vote between conscience and appearance, the people Sullivan wishes us all to vote for will of course choose appearance and sacrifice principle.
Talk about fathomless cynicism.

Valerie Plame Wilson Revealed

David Corn, the Nation writer who launched the Plame story with an interview with Joe Wilson back in July 2003 and now has a book out (with Michael Isikoff) in which he tells the tale as if he were a disinterested observer rather than a prime mover in the story, has an excerpt up on “What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA“. Corn’s article, probably unintentionally, confirms much of what obervers on the Right have been saying all along.

Continue reading Valerie Plame Wilson Revealed

Racial Hardball and George Allen

First of all, blogospheric congratulations are in order for QandO’s Jon Henke, who has been brought aboard the George Allen Senate re-election campaign as “Netroots Coordinator”. Jon gets quickly to work with a post explaining how Democrats threatened to cut off contributions to historically black colleges to pressure the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund not to give Allen an award for his work on legislation benefitting the colleges. After all, it just wouldn’t fit the narrative to have Senator Allen honored with a “Thurgood Marshall Award” for his actual record, as opposed to his Democratic/media caricature.

Silly Ned

Governments aren’t businesses. They’re governments.
The Wall Street Journal humors Ned Lamont with some prime op-ed space to make his case to business-minded voters, with unintentionally hilarious results. Here’s his #1 “lesson” he draws from his experience in business:

[E]ntrepreneurs are frugal beasts, because the bottom line means everything. In Connecticut, voters are convinced that Washington has utterly lost touch with fiscal reality. We talked about irresponsible budget policies that have driven the annual federal deficit above $300 billion and the debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Meanwhile, the government is spending $250 million a day on an unprovoked war in Iraq while starving needed social investment at home. I am a fiscal conservative and our people want their government to be sparing and sensible with their tax dollars.

Let’s say you owned a bank, and you noticed that the bank’s security guards were costing money, and weren’t bringing any revenue into the bank. Would you fire them on the theory that “the bottom line means everything”? Maybe Ned Lamont would. But to the rest of us, the bank’s security guards are there to protect the parts of the bank that make the money. This is one reason why the obsession with equating deficits to private businesses or households is so silly – there are reasons, yes, why it is preferable not to run deficits, but the idea that government should be run with an eye to its own bottom line is not one of them. The purpose of government is to protect the rest of society, enabling private citizens to make money and do all the other good things of life. Once you treat government like an enterprise with value and profit motives unto itself, you head down a very dark path.

Abuse of Office Claims Yet Another NJ Democrat

Jon Corzine’s Attorney General resigns “after a state investigation found that she had violated her own department’s code of ethics by going to the aid of her live-in companion during a traffic stop.”. This is not to be confused with Bob Torricelli’s shady use of his Senate office, or Jim McGreevey giving his lover a state job for which he was unqualified, or Corzine himself having an affair with the head of a key state employees’ union and paying her off to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.
“Culture of Corruption,” anyone?

The Ugly Underbelly Of An Emotional Topic

Hello again. This piece below probably won’t seem too controversial in this forum. In fact, I suspect it’ll summarize the opinions of a lot of Crank’s readers. Nonetheless, I put it up on my site early last week after observing an alarming trend on both the left & right extremes of the blogosphere. On my blog I labeled it “We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming,” because I tend to cover things from a humorous/entertaining angle, but I felt I had to do what I had to do. Here it is, in it’s entirety (one or two minor edits for grammar/spelling):

I promised myself a few weeks back I wouldn’t post on the current situation in Israel/Lebanon. And I’m sticking to my guns: too emotional, no resolution, no chance for people to see past their ideology; no opportunity for entertainment.

That said, I want to weigh in briefly on something that’s been more than bugging me: a creeping, metastacizing anti-semitism in otherwise neutral blogs. Mostly from commenters, but from the authors themselves at times. I’m not talking about criticizing Israel’s current policy, and I’m not even talking about writers against Israel in the big picture. I certainly don’t mean commentators who question Israel’s role in US foreign policy, and I don’t overly scrutinize authors who wish to hold Israel to normal levels of accountability.

No. What I’m talking about are folks who need to say “Zionists” or “Jews” in place of “Israelis.” Or people who can’t stop saying “Neo-Con” when they actually mean “Republican” or “The Administration.” Which says nothing about the growing hoards obsessed with the “Jewish make-up” of the “Neo-Cons.” You know what I mean; the writers who need to allude at all times to Wolfowitz or Perle, but seem to conveniently forget that “Quayle,” “Fukuyama,” “Rice” and others fit well within the “Neo-Con” group as defined by the PNAC.

Other symptoms of which I speak: obsession with “AIPAC control” of the US government. The over-representation of Jews in the media, among the roll of US billionaires, in the financial world. The way that Jews will ultimately “support Israel over the US,” or “send American boys” to do Israel’s dirty work in the Middle East. Anyone who frequents the left or right reaches of the blogosphere knows what I’m talking about. For those of you not familiar, let me assure you: while not directly quoting, every phrase I’ve included so far is a faithful paraphrase of multiple posts I’ve read. And these sentiments are anything but rare.

I’ll admit that beyond massive disappointment (and a small dose of fear), I’m mostly surprised at this. And I feel like an idiot for being surprised. I’ve long taken pride in my historical perspective on events, for always viewing events through a skeptical (some would say, cynical) lens. I know as well as any Jew the history of anti-semitism, of it’s roots, its manifestations, its effects.

And, despite all that, I thought that the United States in 2006 was different. I honestly believed that the European left, the European ultra-right nationalists were capable of discussing what I’ve been reading. But I thought that in America, our faults notwithstanding, we’d moved beyond the most base forms of ethnic hatred, of racism. That these ugly phenomena had been “Americanized,” turned into tools of economics, of marketing, of cultural compartmentalization.

Maybe I was right in that regard. Maybe, like so many otherwise well-intentioned people will tell me, I’m just paranoid.

But maybe I’m not. And I firmly believe that the final line from propaganda-to-action is shorter than that initial road from open mindedness-to-fear. Yes, you’re following my point. As said, I harbor a small amount of concern.

Nevertheless, even for those who think that America is just exercizing some well-needed analysis of Israel’s role in US policy, I think they need to admit to themselves that an ugly underbelly has been exposed for the first time in a while. First time in my life, and I’ve been politically/culturally sentient for three decades or so.

Now I know there are those who’ll tell me that this element is always there. They’ve always been there. Just ignore them. They’re the lunatic fringe. I hear you, you’re right, they’ve always been there. But what’s blowing me away lately is how they’ve all crawled out from under their rocks, and have started to speak. To yell. To pontificate.

And not only are they rarely called out onto the carpet for this by the rank-and-file in the cyber-community, but they’re often encouraged. It’s become a rather popular rallying cry among disparate communities of commentators. And it has me stunned.

I’m gonna keep my eyes and ears open. I wish I didn’t have to. But, as I said, I know my history, and any Jew who chooses to pretend he doesn’t at least recognize what he’s seeing is a fool. And any American who chooses to see otherwise is fooling himself as well.

About That Schools Study…

The Department of Education released a National Assessment of Student Progress (NAEP) study last month comparing performance of students in private vs. public schools nationwide, based upon tests conducted in 2003; the study compared a total sample of over 6,900 public school fourth grades and over 530 private school fourth grades, with a similar sample for 8th grades. As the study itself notes, NAEP tests “typically show a higher average score for private school students than for public school students.” (at 7) This study, however, found that when you adjust for various characteristics of the student body, the usual advantage of private schools seemed to disappear: the average performances of private and public school students were close enough as to be, for statistical purposes, identical.
Predictably, this finding was trumpeted by many on the left who oppose private school choice, on the theory that it showed that there is no benefit to sending kids to private instead of public school. (See here and hereand here for samples from the blogosphere, and here and here for a big-media pundit and the New York Times making the same claim). In fact, this argument overreads the results of the study and entirely misses the point of the case for school choice.
Read on.

Continue reading About That Schools Study…

Red? Blue? How ‘Bout Red, White & Blue?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a couple months, or are so apolitical that I advise you to stop reading this post right now, you know that Joe Lieberman’s been in the political fight of his life against an outsider, Ned Lamont, for the Connecticut Democratic Nomination for the Senate.
And unless you went out and got hammered last night, passed out at 8:00, and slept in this morning to nurse your hangover, you also know that Lamont won.
I’m not gonna go off on a ideologically driven political rant here at Crank’s site, nor am I gonna try to make a bigger point about the War, right vs. left, or even the balance of party power in the Senate. There are plenty of sites doing so (in fact, my post on this topic on my own blog gets a little deeper into such issues, if you’re interested).
I’m neither Democrat nor Republican, so I’m not really interested in those topics.
What interests me is the ability of American voters to get their message across. Whether right or left, I think we can all agree that things aren’t perfect in America right now. Whether one’s shibboleths revolve around the so-called Culture Wars, the fiscal profligacy both parties engage in, the monetary shenanigans of the ostensibly independent Federal Reserve; the War in Iraq and our inability to either win outright or withdraw honorably & intelligently; concerns over Executive Power; worries about Judicial Power; the list goes on and on.
And I challenge anyone — left or right, Democrat or Republican — to think of a time in their politically sentient lives when they felt that Capitol Hill was pulling less weight than now. A time when our political leaders were as far out-of-touch with the electorate than now.
And, to me, Joe Lieberman is a symbol of that failure. Not because he’s a “conservative” Democrat, not because he supports the war, or is pro-choice, or because he’s a God-fearing man. Oh, I have my opinions about those things, believe me. And they’d be enough to convince me of his relative worth, or lack thereof, as a candidate.
But more importantly, he’s shown a capricious disregard for the will of the elctorate.
I know a primary doesn’t represent the entire electorate. But Lieberman has never before rejected the support of his party, he’s never expressed any interest in “going it alone.” Yet, last night, following his defeat, he “conceded” by declaring:

For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand.

(Emphasis added). There’s your fealty to country. There’s your loyalty to his constituents. And, while hardly a respectable trait in my opinion, there’s the loyalty to party that so many seem to value.
The man is out for himself, and obviously the “patrons” who’ve supported him in the past (and may again do so in November should he run). I want officials who put the country ahead of themselves.
By the way, Joe wasn’t the only incumbent to go down in flames last night: moderate Michigan Republican, Joe Schwartz, lost to a more conservative opponent, Tim Walberg, in his House primary; and Cynthia McKinney lost her Democratic House primary to a less-insane candidate, Hank Johnson (which says little, as Mel Gibson’s slightly more sane than Cynthia).
And you know what, I like both those results too, even though it should be clear that I’m not a Walberg fan (to the degree I know much about him, which admittedly I don’t). Why? Schwartz had the support of the Adminstration. I want outsiders who’ll challenge the status quo. Are Walberg & Johnson the answer? I dunno. But unlike Schwartz & McKinney, we know they might do something other than play politics-as-usual.
Finally, I’m aware that many (if not most) of Crank’s readers are conservative, and probably Republican. That’s fine. But as a fellow American, I hope we all vote for the candidates that mean to do something to get us back on track, even if only a little bit: balance the budget, return balance to the tripartite government, demand accountability from the Fed, follow the Constitution. Whatever your particular issue.
But we’re gonna need new blood on Capitol Hill to pull it off.
* * *
Unless I’ve horribly misunderstood his e-mail of last week, Crank should be back tomorrow. (Ok, you don’t have to cheer that loud, do you? This hasn’t been that bad, has it?).
I’ve enjoyed this guest blogging stint a lot, and I hope you enjoyed reading what I had to say as well. I’ll continue to comment here on Crank’s posts, and I hope some of you decide to come check out my site from time-to-time.

Voices In The Wilderness

I’ve beaten the drum lately regarding entrenched, out-of-touch incumbents, more interested in securing their own fortunes & legacies than in working for their constituents, so it’s only fair that I draw some attention to a couple of Representatives actually doing something.
I’ve also written a few time about Ron Paul, the only politician in Washington who seems completely outside the standard influences. Paul’s an odd collection of characteristics: a libertarian who holds to a very archaic notion of governance that many of us wouldn’t like, but also a degree of honestly & consistency I admire very much. For instance, his opposition to the Iraq War is coupled with a genuine repulsion towards large, federal programs for . . . well, just about everything.
Anyhow, here’s an excerpt from a speech Paul gave, as cited in a Whiskey & Gunpowder piece dealing with oil prices & the situation in Iraq:

We must reassess our foreign policy and announce some changes. One of the reasons we went into Iraq was to secure oil. Before the Iraq war, oil was less than $30 per barrel; today, it is over $70. The sooner we get out of Iraq and allow the Iraqis to solve their own problems, the better . . . We must end our obsession for a military confrontation with Iran. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and, according to our own CIA, is nowhere near getting one. Yet the drumbeat grows louder for attacking certain sites in Iran, either by conventional or even nuclear means. An attack on Iran, coupled with our continued presence in Iraq, could hike gas prices to $5 or $6 per gallon here at home . . . We must remember that prices of all things go up because of inflation. Inflation by definition is an increase in the money supply . . . the Fed creates new dollars out of thin air to buy Treasury bills and keep interest rates artificially low. But when new money is created out of nothing, the money already in circulation loses value. Once this is recognized, prices rise . . . this contributes greatly to the higher prices we’re all paying at the pump.

(Emphasis added). The piece also goes on to include a letter that Representative John Murtha wrote to President Bush. You may remember that Murtha, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, has spoken out rather vehemently, demanding that we withdraw from Iraq and bring the troops home. In his letter to the President, he states:

Despite the latest evidence that your administration lacks a coherent strategy to stabilize Iraq and achieve victory, there has been virtually no diplomatic effort to resolve sectarian differences, no regional effort to establish a broader security framework, and no attempt to revive a struggling reconstruction effort. Instead, we learned of your plans to redeploy an additional 5,000 U.S. troops into an urban war zone in Baghdad. Far from implementing a comprehensive ‘Strategy for Victory,’ as you promised months ago, your administration’s strategy appears to be one of trying to avoid defeat. Meanwhile, U.S. troops and taxpayers continue to pay a high price as your administration searches for a policy. Over 2,500 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice, and over 18,000 others have been wounded . . . American taxpayers have already contributed over $300 billion, and each week we stay in Iraq adds nearly $3 billion more to our record budget deficit . . . We believe that a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin before the end of 2006. U.S. forces in Iraq should transition to a more limited mission focused on counterterrorism, training and logistical support of Iraqi security forces, and force protection of U.S. personnel . . . Mr. President, simply staying the course in Iraq is not working. We need to take a new direction. We believe these recommendations comprise an effective alternative to the current open-ended commitment, which is not producing the progress in Iraq we would all like to see.

Now my point here isn’t whether I do or don’t agree with both Paul & Murtha, though I think they’re both on to something.
No. My point is they’re doing something: speaking out, addressing problems, challenging executive power, looking out for their fellow citizens. And, at least superficially, these ideas seem based on something other than pleasing their “patrons” or looking for the next round of campaign dollars. I’m not denying that Murtha’s riding the wave of anti-Bush sentiment. He is. But a look at the issues he supports (and doesn’t) indicates a man with at least a shred of integrity. Not sure how many in the big building he works in can say the same.
As I (hopefully) read tonight that the voters of Connecticut said No to Joe, I’ll remember what I’ve been saying and hopefully will say until November: unless our elected officials come out explicitly and demonstrate that they’re looking out for their country or their constituency, we need to kick them out. If I lived in Texas or Pennsylvania, Paul & Murtha would’ve just gotten their stays of execution.
* * *
This piece is cross-posted on Mike’s Neighborhood.

Right With the Roots

For those of you who, like me, want to see more Republicans (and particularly more new Republicans) elected in 2006, now have a convenient place to donate money to Republican House and Senate challengers – RightRoots, an effort to identify four Senate challengers and 14 House challengers, all in competitive races, endorsed by a group of conservative bloggers. The roster of candidates is here, John Hawkins’ longer introduction to RightRoots is here, and Congressman Jack Kingston’s challenge to raise $26,000 by Friday is here (we’re close). I’ve already kicked in money to a handful of the House candidates, and will be coming back later for the Senate candidates (hopefully, more will be added to the list after the late Senate primaries in Tennessee and Michigan). And if you want to make a difference, spread the love; Diana Irey is getting more than her share for her race against Jack Murtha, but there are other candidates in lower-profile races who need the money just as badly.
To give some perspective on the four Senate candidates endorsed by RightRoots, here are the latest figures from the National Journal’s roundup of FEC filings showing these candidates’ cash on hand (in millions) compared to their opponents as of June 30. As you can see, Kennedy faces a well-funded opponent, as will Steele if Cardin wins. And Kean and McGavick are both in danger of being hugely outspent, even when you account for the fact that McGavick can probably pump some more of his own money into the race (remember, Cantwell is a multimillionaire). And in Kean’s case, New Jersey races are prohibitively expensive because no TV stations reach the whole state – NJ candidates need to do ad buys in both the NY and Philly TV markets, each of which is very expensive. In short, all four need your help.

State Party Candidate Cash on Hand
MD R Steele $3.04
MD D Cardin $2.33
MD D Mfume $0.23
MN R Kennedy $4.06
MN D Klobuchar $3.51
NJ R Kean $2.28
NJ D Menendez $7.39
WA R McGavick $1.09
WA D Cantwell $6.43

Machiavel at Red State notes that Chris Wakim, one of the RightRoots-endorsed challengers, is running against the notoriously corrupt Allan Mollohan.

The Plame Complaint

So, Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame have filed suit against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby, among others, over Bob Novak’s disclosure that Plame worked for the CIA. I’ve read the complaint, which is posted over at NRO; it alleges various theories of denial of civil rights, essentially on a theory of retaliation against Plame, as a government employee, for Wilson’s exercise of his free speech rights. Thoughts:

1. There’s a good deal of predictable partisan posturing here, and big chunks copied from the Libby indictment and press accounts, but Plame and Wilson cagily allege as few additional facts as they can. Basically, a blogger who had never spoken to Plame or Wilson could have written most of this. In particular, there’s no detail on Plame’s career at the CIA other than that she was “an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations” and “her employment status was classified,” neither of which necessarily implies any covert activities.

2. Fitzgerald’s press conference is quoted as providing a basis for a civil lawsuit against people who were not even indicted, giving a good example of why prosecutors should not give press conferences about topics outside the four corners of their charges.

3. There’s a cause of action for violation of a “Fifth Amendment right to privacy,” and while I’m not familiar with the caselaw on constitutional torts, that sounds like a stretch. The complaint does not reference the Vanity Fair photo shoot or what happened to the profits from the book deal Joe Wilson got out of all this.

4. The complaint provides nothing to connect Cheney or Libby to the actual press disclosure of Plame’s identity.

5. It appears from the “JDB” docket number on the NRO version of the Plame complaint that the case was initially assigned to Judge John D. Bates, a George W. Bush appointee. However, it may be that Judge Bates would recuse himself from a lawsuit naming Cheney and Rove in their personal capacities, and it is possible that the case could be sent to Judge Walton, who is handling the Libby trial.
6. The initial issue in the case, before the legal sufficiency of the allegations and before any discovery is taken, is whether some or all defendants (or other interested parties) will ask for a stay or dismissal of the litigation. There are three bases for doing so. One, the liberal quotation from the indictment underscores the fact that this suit overlaps substantially with the subject of a pending criminal trial. Fitzgerald may well intervene to ask for a stay of all proceedings – he won’t want his trial witnesses deposed in a civil suit. Second, Dick Cheney in particular has duties as the Vice President, including dealing with an unstable and dangerous world potentially lurching into another war on top of the two-front war we’re already fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under Clinton v Jones, there’s no absolute bar to such a suit but the district court can balance the intrusion of the litigation, among other factors – here, with the case focusing on Administration foreign policy, the level of intrusion could be significant. And third, there’s the state secrets privilege, described extensively in this opinion (later upheld by the DC Circuit) dismissing claims by Sibel Edmonds, who charged retaliation by the FBI relating to her work as a translator of national security documents. Basically, if a civil suit would involve discovery of national security information (such as, for example, details of any covert activities by Plame, to say nothing of discovery directed at Cheney), the court can dismiss it in the greater national interest. The Bush Administration has been loath to press the envelope on the kinds of legal privileges asserted by the Clintons to deflect personal scandals (as opposed to expanding the rights of the Executive Branch more broadly) but the desire to get this lawsuit out of the way may compel them to seek a stay or dismissal on this basis.

Novak Shows A Little More

Via Drudge, Bob Novak has now come forward with a fuller – but not yet complete – account of his column on Valerie Plame. What’s frustrating – in the purest sense of wanting all the facts out – is that he doesn’t identify his main source or give a detailed account of his conversation with Karl Rove, who apparently was a confirming source for the information. Key quotes:

[O]n Jan. 12, [2004], two days before my meeting with Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor informed Hamilton that he would be bringing to the Swidler Berlin offices only two waivers. One was by my principal source in the Valerie Wilson column, a source whose name has not yet been revealed. The other was by presidential adviser Karl Rove, whom I interpret as confirming my primary source’s information. In other words, the special prosecutor knew the names of my sources.

When Fitzgerald arrived, he had a third waiver in hand — from Bill Harlow, the CIA public information officer who was my CIA source for the column confirming Mrs. Wilson’s identity. I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow and my primary source.

Note that this means that Fitzgerald had the names two and a half years ago; the rest of his investigation has been about figuring out who said what and when, and who knew what and when. And, of course, it confirms the role of the CIA’s press office, which in retrospect was at least severely negligent if this was information at all worth protecting.

I have revealed Rove’s name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection. I have revealed Harlow’s name because he has publicly disclosed his version of our conversation, which also differs from my recollection. My primary source has not come forward to identify himself.

Bob, could ya tell us what your recollection is?

In my sworn testimony, I said what I have contended in my columns and on television: Joe Wilson’s wife’s role in instituting her husband’s mission was revealed to me in the middle of a long interview with an official who I have previously said was not a political gunslinger. After the federal investigation was announced, he told me through a third party that the disclosure was inadvertent on his part.

Following my interview with the primary source, I sought out the second administration official [Rove] and the CIA spokesman [Harlow] for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in “Who’s Who in America.”

More grist for the mill, but we’re not yet all that close for any of the people involved to line up (1) what they said, (2) what they knew, and (3) what the truth was about Plame’s status. Which is what matters. Also, note the very un-Clinton-Administration-like extent of the cooperation with Fitzgerald’s investigation.
I still tentatively think there’s much to recommend Tom Maguire’s thesis that source #1 was Richard Armitage, a Powell deputy at the State Department who is pretty much the antithesis of a Cheney-supporting neocon and who is unlikely to have been taking marching orders from the White House or the Veep. The facts may yet bear out the conclusion that Rove said things he shouldn’t have, but assuming Novak’s account is accurate, there’s not much evidence to support the claim that there was some sort of organized campaign to disclose Plame’s status as a CIA analyst, nor any sign that anyone involved in the disclosure knew that she had ever been a covert agent. (That conclusion can be revisited if we ever do see evidence pointing in that direction, but it’s still not there).

Champions of Free Speech

You know, if you compare the roll call votes, only two Senators voted against the flag burning amendment and voted against the free-speech-suppressing McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” bill: Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Robert Bennett. If you are looking for an example of Senators truly and consistently committed to free speech even when it’s not popular, that’s the whole list right there.

The Borough of Immigrants

Nice NY Times article on Queens’ immigrants, the 4th of July, and all their other national holidays:

Independence Day is celebrated once a year in most of America. In Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the nation, where an estimated 44 percent of the 2.2 million residents are foreign born, it is celebrated again and again and again.

The article is pro-immigrant, of course, like all NYT articles (I consider myself fairly pro-immigration, but the Times is too typical of mainstream press organs in treating the issue as wholly one-sided). In fact, one could read the ode to diversity here as making another point less palatable to the Times: that places in the Southwest where the immigrants all come from the same place are not so easy to assimilate.

Hype For Hire: Where Are Warner & Brown?

OK, it’s all been good fun following the interesting coincidence of Kos supporting candidates after they hire his friend, co-author and sometime business partner Jerome Armstrong, and watching Kos’ subsequent meltdown trying to contain the damage. But as I have said from the start, the real story here remains Armstrong himself and the revelation that he was – according to the SEC – the paid front man touting a stock whose trading was dominated and controlled by the participants in a classic pump-and-dump scam that cost investors millions. Dan Riehl rounds up more on this story, including what appears to be a rather lame “they didn’t really pay me” defense by Armstrong before he settled with the SEC.
The question of the day is how presidential contender Mark Warner and Ohio Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, both employers of Armstrong, will react to the news of his involvement in such a scam.
To Mark Warner: you are still in the process of introducing yourself to the American people. Is Jerome Armstrong representative of the kinds of people you will appoint to important jobs in your Administration? We’re waiting for your answer.
To Sherrod Brown: are you planning to bring Jerome Armstromng’s ethics to the Senate? If so, how can you say things on your website like this?

We’ve got to put a stop to the pay-to-play system that runs unchecked by Republicans like our current senator Mike DeWine.

The people of Ohio deserve an answer.

The Left’s Townhouse

So, it turns out that Kos tried to use a discussion group including “many bloggers and other representatives of the netroots as well as a large number of partisan journalists and grassroots groups” to coordinate a conspiracy of silence on the latest series of stories on (1) Jerome Armstrong’s run-in with the SEC and (2) speculation about the pattern of Kos supporting candidates who hired Armstrong. The relevant excerpt:

My request to you guys is that you ignore this for now. It would make my life easier if we can confine the story. Then, once Jerome can speak and defend himself, then I’ll go on the offensive (which is when I would file any lawsuits) and anyone can pile on. If any of us blog on this right now, we fuel the story. Let’s starve it of oxygen. And without the “he said, she said” element to the story, you know political journalists are paralyzed into inaction.

Now, there’s nothing sinister about having a non-public discussion group – I belong to two such groups, one just for the RedState contributors and a more random, open one run by Jon Henke of Qand) and including a bunch of mostly conservative and libertarian blogs. But it really is revealing of the minset at work here that anyone would even try to get not only bloggers but journalists to not write on a story. Trust me, the idea that you could get, say, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Jeff Goldstein, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Krempasky, Ed Morrisey and John Hinderaker to agree on a single approach to a story or, more particularly, to not touch a story – the idea that you would even broach that topic across a list of the top conservative and libertarian blogs – is inconceivable. Despite the Online Left’s insistence that conservative bloggers march in unison on an agenda handed down by Karl Rove, it’s apparently the lefties who are the ones seeking to enforce message discipline behind the scenes.

Hollywood/Dilettante Lefty Follies

*When the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces needs testimony on the best military equipment for soldiers in the field, who should they call as a witness? Why, Cher, of course.
*Stephen Colbert asks RFK jr, who is still peddling discredited conspiracy theories about the 2004 election (the presidential election, not the Washington governor’s race), “Was it easier for Bush to steal Ohio in 2004 or for your uncle to steal Illinois in 1960?” No word yet, I assume, from the people who demanded laughter at Colbert’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner routine.
*A judge wants Alec Baldwin’s head examined. I’m sure they won’t find anything.

A Little Demographics

I’ve been playing around lately with the CIA Factbook, which has, among other things, reasonably up-to-date population and demographic data for every country on earth, and I thought I’d pull together a chart that hopefully can serve as the basis for some interesting analysis. Looking to narrow the list to major/significant countries, I focused on the 53 countries of 20 million or more people. I started with the CIA’s figures for existing population density (expressed in people per square kilometer – yes, the data uses the metric system) and birthrate per 1000 people, and combined those two to come up with a rate of births per square kilometer – a truer measure of the potential for future population density (although of course future population density is also affected by infant/child mortality, adult life expectancy, and net immigration rates). I present here my results and just a few observations, leaving a more extensive analysis (including the consequences of this data for debates about abortion, immigration, entitlement reform, the environment and the War on Terror) to others or to another day:

Country Population Area (Sq Km) Pop/Sq B/1000 Births B/SqKm
Bangladesh 147,365,352 144,000 1023 29.80 4391487 30.50
Taiwan 23,036,087 35,980 640 12.56 289333 8.04
Philippines 89,468,677 300,000 298 24.89 2226875 7.42
India 1,095,351,995 3,287,590 333 22.01 24108697 7.33
Nepal 28,287,147 140,800 201 30.98 876336 6.22
Pakistan 165,803,560 803,940 206 29.74 4930998 6.13
Nigeria 131,859,731 923,768 143 40.43 5331089 5.77
Uganda 28,195,754 236,040 119 47.35 1335069 5.66
S.Korea 48,846,823 98,480 496 10.00 488468 4.96
Sri Lanka 20,222,240 65,610 308 15.51 313647 4.78
Vietnam 84,402,966 329,560 256 16.86 1423034 4.32
Japan 127,463,611 377,835 337 9.37 1194334 3.16
N.Korea 23,113,019 120,540 192 15.54 359176 2.98
Ghana 22,409,572 239,460 94 30.52 683940 2.86
U.K. 60,609,153 244,820 248 10.71 649124 2.65
Indonesia 245,452,739 1,919,440 128 20.34 4992509 2.60
Ethiopia 74,777,981 1,127,127 66 37.98 2840068 2.52
Kenya 34,707,817 582,650 60 39.72 1378594 2.37
Afghanistan 31,056,997 647,500 48 46.60 1447256 2.24
Iraq 26,783,383 437,072 61 31.98 856533 1.96
Germany 82,422,299 357,021 231 8.25 679984 1.90
China 1,313,973,713 9,596,960 137 13.25 17410152 1.81
Egypt 78,887,007 1,001,450 79 22.94 1809668 1.81
Thailand 64,631,595 514,000 126 13.87 896440 1.74
Yemen 21,456,188 527,970 41 42.89 920256 1.74
Malaysia 24,385,858 329,750 74 22.86 557461 1.69
Italy 58,133,509 301,230 193 8.72 506924 1.68
Morocco 33,241,259 446,550 74 21.98 730643 1.64
Uzbekistan 27,307,134 447,400 61 26.36 719816 1.61
Turkey 70,413,958 780,580 90 16.62 1170280 1.50

Tanzania 37,445,392 945,087 40 37.71 1412066 1.49
France 60,876,136 547,030 111 11.99 729905 1.33
Burma 47,382,633 678,500 70 17.91 848623 1.25
Congo 62,660,551 2,345,410 27 43.69 2737639 1.17
Poland 38,536,869 329,560 117 9.85 379588 1.15
Mexico 107,449,525 1,972,550 54 20.69 2223131 1.13
Romania 22,303,552 237,500 94 10.70 238648 1.00
Spain 40,397,842 504,782 80 10.06 406402 0.81
Colombia 43,593,035 1,138,910 38 20.48 892785 0.78
Iran 68,688,433 1,648,000 42 17.00 1167703 0.71
Ukraine 46,710,816 603,700 77 8.82 411989 0.68
S.Africa 44,187,637 1,219,912 36 18.20 804215 0.66
Sudan 41,236,378 2,505,810 16 34.53 1423892 0.57
Venezuela 25,730,435 912,050 28 18.71 481416 0.53
Peru 28,302,603 1,285,220 22 20.48 579637 0.45
United States 298,444,215 9,631,420 31 14.14 4220001 0.44
Saudi Arabia 27,019,731 1,960,582 14 29.34 792759 0.40
Brazil 188,078,227 8,511,965 22 16.56 3114575 0.37
Argentina 39,921,833 2,766,890 14 16.73 667892 0.24
Algeria 32,930,091 2,381,740 14 17.14 564422 0.24
Russia 142,893,540 17,075,200 8 9.95 1421791 0.08
Canada 33,098,932 9,984,670 3 10.78 356806 0.04
Australia 20,264,082 7,686,850 3 12.14 246006 0.03
Averages 5,782,219,612 103,238,461 56 111,640,086 1.08

1. For the most part, countries are grouped here by region – trends in population tend to be more regional than national.
2. The eye-popping figures for Bangladesh really stick out – there’s no country on earth close to Bangladesh’s overpopulation problem. Bangladesh squeezes half the population of the United States into a land mass smaller than Iowa.
3. Russia is well on its way to being uninhabited. By contrast, the fairly high rate of births per sq km for a number of the developed countries like Japan, Germany and the UK, suggesting that (a) their falling populations are a reasonable and natural correction for excessive population density and (b) they are, Steynian doomsaying to the contrary, in no danger of being depopulated. The real problem those countries have is not too few young people but too many old people, especially in light of their public pension systems. I should stress that I’m not at all questioning the reasoning of Mark Steyn and other demographic doomsayers, especially as to the consequences for Europe’s and Japan’s economies and welfare states and the resulting economic pressure to take on immigrants without being choosy about who. But the data suggests a little caution in extrapolating to sweeping generalizations about those countries ending up depopulated.
4. The U.S., Canada and Australia are in no danger any time soon of having the kind of crowding that Europe and Japan face. Wide open spaces should remain the norm here for some time.

Amnesty, National

On immigration I’ve long been in the President’s camp in the mushy middle, looking to use the countervailing pressures for enforcement and “legalization” to cobble together support for a comprehensive bill that deals with both. More recently, though, I am – reluctantly – beginning to drift into the camp that thinks that the recently passed Senate bill is so bad that we’d be better off just getting an enforcement-only bill now and deal with the rest later.
As we stand at this pass, though, with the legislative process still fluid (House GOP stalwart Mike Pence is promoting an alternative of his own to the House and Senate bills), it’s still worth considering the merits of “legalization” – i.e., the process of allowing illegal immigrants to become legal residents and, ultimately, American citizens. And that means confronting the question of amnesty – what it is, what it isn’t, why you would consider any sort of amnesty, and under what circumstances.
First of all, when you speak of amnesty, you need to remember that you may be talking about two different things, because there are two different types of amnesties. Under one view, an amnesty means that an individual has no liability or penalty whatsoever for a prior crime – the same as a pardon. This is what I would call “Complete Amnesty.” Under another view, an amnesty is any mass reduction in the prescribed penalty for a violation – what I would call a “Partial Amnesty.” The distinction can be a significant one, and given the bad reputation of amnesty in the immigration arena, the distinction is often blurred both by politicians eager to explain that they are not supporting anything that could be called an amnesty when in fact they are supporting a Partial Amnesty, and by critics who accuse supporters of Partial Amnesty of supporting amnesty, without clarifying that they are not talking about a Complete Amnesty.
It is a misconception to suggest that amnesty is somehow unheard-of outside of the immigration laws. In general, there are three main reasons why governments may rationally choose to offer an amnesty for violators of some particular type of law.
1. To Correct an Injustice. If a law is unjust, and society has recognized that injustice by repealing the law, it often makes sense to wipe clean the records of those who were unjustly convicted; the classic examples of this are releases of political prisoners after a change in regime or, in the U.S. context, the amnesty for violators of the Alien and Sedition Acts by the Jefferson Administration.
Granted, there are a few groups around the fringes who would argue that laws against illegal immigration are unjust: hard-core open-borders libertarians who object to any restriction on the free movement of people and “reconquista” Leftists who argue that parts of the United States are the rightful property of Mexico. And some liberals, by making emotional appeals regarding the harshness of deporting hardworking immigrants or breaking up immigrant families, implicitly argue that the consequences of actually enforcing our immigration laws are too cruel to face. But the first two are not reasonable, mainstream positions, and the third isn’t even an argument, just a collection of anecdotal sob stories. Most Americans would agree that we need to have some sort of laws regulating who can enter the country legally, and that necessarily implies the ability to punish and/or remove the people who enter illegally.
A variation on the idea that the law itself is unjust is the notion that an otherwise just law has been applied unjustly – for example, I believe that some of the arrests and prosecutions of protestors against segregation were under laws prohibiting trespassing, breach of the peace and similar offenses. Nobody would argue that trespassing laws are unjust in themselves, but clearly they are unjustly applied when the purpose is to enforce segregation. Jimmy Carter’s rationale for amnesty for Vietnam-era draft dodgers (a whole ‘nother can of worms in itself) was, at bottom, based on a similar theory: not that the draft was unjust but that its use to send people to Vietnam was unjust.
Now, there are fair arguments that the current system for legal immigration is so broken and dilatory that the difficulty of navigating it is a mitigating factor in the decision to come here illegally, especially for people who are very poor and willing and able to work when they get here. But the fact is, people from countries poorer than Mexico line up at consulates the world over to try to come to America legally; it would be unfair to the people who play by the rules to grant too easy a path to those who disregarded them.
Finally, there is the argument that America’s lax enforcement of the border has conveyed a wink-and-a-nod message to prospective illegal immigrants, especially those who crossed the border on foot or by truck from Mexico, that we would look the other way; some would argue that it is unfair to take away the lives they built here in reliance on this state of affairs. I’m sympathetic to the situation of illegal immigrants who have made a home, family and career here, but this argument ignores some basic facts: first, that it’s always been clear and well-known that illegal immigration was, in fact, illegal, and those who have prospered here have had to repeatedly and consciously evade and in some cases deceive the long arm of the law to do so; second, even as lax as enforcement has been, people are still arrested and deported by the thousands every day in this country; and third, deporting illegal immigrants isn’t so much a punishment as a restoration of the status quo – the fact that we didn’t enforce the law in the past is no reason to expect it won’t be enforced prospectively, and long-time illegal residents are still illegal.
2. To Remove A Source of Social Tension. A second reason why amnesties are sometimes granted has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with peace: sometimes, a society simply finds it easier to look the other way at certain past crimes than bring everyone guilty to justice. Countries like Chile and South Africa (and, less formally, East Germany) have taken this route at least to some extent after a change away from a repressive government, concluding that too many people were complicit to prosecute them all without expending massive resources on a backward-looking process and undergoing the wrenching process of tossing huge numbers of people in prison.
Certainly, fear of social disruption is why nearly all of even the most aggressive opponents of illegal immigration blanch at the notion of mass deportations of millions of people (including whole families and long-term residents), despite the fact that we have the perfect legal right to do just that. (The preferred solution is generally an ‘attrition’ strategy of gradually drying up the opportunities for illegal employment)
But we have had millions of illegal immigrants in this country for years without massive social unrest; if we simply continue the status quo or replace it with moderately more vigilant interior enforcement, that is unlikely to rend the fabric of American society. Thus, a “path to citizenship” isn’t needed for that purpose.
3. To Bring People or Activities Out of the Shadows. One of the most common types of amnesties is tax amnesty; go here, for example, for an explanation of how a recent tax amnesty in California operated. Tax amnesty isn’t about justice – nobody is seriously arguing that tax evaders had a legitimate excuse to avoid oppressive taxes that the rest of us paid. Nor is it about social peace – it would be difficult, yes, to lock up everyone who underestimates or avoids paying taxes, but the Republic would survive. No, the main reason why tax amnesty is regularly pursued by state governments is to make money. Governments understand that a lot of activity takes place off the books, and that giving people an incentive to report that activity and pay taxes on it is worth the cost to deterrence of allowing people to pay those taxes with little or no penalty. Part of the theory is also that people who have taken advantage of an amnesty in the past will no longer be afraid, in the future, to report income for fear of being investigated over their prior years.
Much of the theory of providing a legalization/”path to citizenship” process is similar – not a sense that illegal immigrants necessarily deserve to be rewarded for illegal activity or even that we need to allow them to become legal residents or citizens, but that bringing a big chunk of that population out of the shadows, where they pay little or no taxes, fear cooperating with the police, are beyond the reach of laws governing the workplace, etc., will be an overall benefit to society and government in the long run.
Is this worth it? That’s an empirical question, but the first thing that needs to be asked is what society is getting in return. Absolutely non-negotiable, in my view, is that anybody seeking legalization must pay all back taxes of any sort, including Social Security and other withholdings, and that any doubts presented by the scanty documentation many workers have should be resolved against the applicant for citizenship (perhaps by establishing a minimum level of presumed income). That is the bare minimum for tax amnesty, and it should be no less for prospective citizens who seek amnesty both for unpaid taxes and for being here illegally. (Also, requiring full payment of all back taxes reduces the incentive to exaggerate how long you have been here, since a longer term of residence means more tax liability).
Of course, to some people, any sort of amnesty in the immigration area is out of the question, period. Partial amnesty treats citizenship as a thing of value: if you are willing to pay enough (not just in money but in other efforts such as learning English), you can have it. If you view illegal entry fundamentally not as a debt, a forgivable sin or a crime for which society can choose at its discretion to negotiate or remove the penalty but as a stain that can never be washed away, then you’re not going to go for anything that looks like an amnesty. But if you accept the possibility that amnesty can have positive practical consequences, then it’s worth putting aside those objections and focusing on the practical pros and cons.
That said, the practical objections to many of the plans that have been mooted about are considerable. The main line of argument goes like this:
1. A record of past amnesties – like the 1986 fiasco – encourage more people to come here illegally hoping and expecting future amnesties.
2. That’s not a problem if we can radically improve border enforcement, but (a) it’s not clear we can ever do that, (b) we should try out enhanced enforcement first and see how it works, and/or (c) unless we hold the legalization process in limbo, there won’t be an incentive for the political class, which tends to be lax on this issue, to get serious about enforcement.
These aren’t unreasonable objections, but as to #1, at least, I continue to believe that the best check against the vicious cycle of repeated demands for amnesty is, paradoxically, to create a legalization process – rather than have one-time amnesties, set in place a permanent process by which future illegal immigrants can become legal residents. Any process that is too lenient to set up as a permanent, ongoing process is too lenient to do as a one-shot deal, precisely because there will always be future demands for more one-shot deals.
A final thought along those lines; I’m not an expert on the ins and outs of all the pending bills. But the idea that we should treat citizenship as a thing of value that could be sold is one thing; the idea that we should sell it for $1,000 is ludicrous. A New York City taxi medallion sells for many multiples of that, and certainly many immigrants manage to at least rent one. We haven’t seen an economy car retail for under $4,000 since the Yugo, and if the Yugo isn’t the symbol of a devalued birthright, I don’t know what is. The fact is, if we are letting illegal aliens buy their way into citizenship mainly on the theory that they will become sufficiently productive members of society to be worth looking the other way at how they got here, we should treat that citizenship as a valuable asset, not a discount appliance.

Never Mind

No indictment for Karl Rove. The statement from his attorney, Robert Luskin:

On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove.
In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation. We believe that the Special Counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct.

Chairman How isn’t taking very well the news that he did all that digging in that huge pile Fitzmas morning and there was no pony. Hopefully, in time, we will find out what really happened – the true extent of Valerie Plame’s “covert” status, how well known it was, who knew what and when and who said what and when. Assuming Scooter Libby goes to trial, much will likely come out then, but probably not everything. In the meantime, hopefully this will clear Rove to do more public appearances – he’s actually a very sharp and impressive guy, and a strong spokesman for the president’s agenda, his reputation as a secretive sorcerer notwithstanding.
UPDATE: The MinuteMan, of course, has been the go-to guy on this story for years, so go check out his review.

What Causes Global Warming?

*As I’ve said in the past, I accept that the Earth has been getting warmer as a historical matter, but there are several more steps required from that simple proposition of historical global warming to the proposition that such warming (1) constitutes a man-made phenomenon (2) with predictable future consequences (3) that can be altered by future human actions (4) at a cost we can all live with compared to the marginal benefits of such actions. Dale Franks at the outstanding blog QandO offers a lengthy look at reasons to doubt that the current climate models have really proven much of anything about (1) and (2). Among his less technical objections:

1. Despite the fact that, since the end of the 19th century, human produced CO2 emissions have increased exponentially, the earth’s temperature has increased in basically linear fashion since 1800, despite the fact that modern industrialization did not add any signifigant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere until well into the 20th century.
2. Despite the fact that huge increases in fossil fuels—and commensurate increases in CO2 output occured during the last part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, global temperatures cooled signifigantly between the 1940s and 1960s.
3. The abrupt global temperature rises in the last few years of the 1970s occured far too fast to be the result of any linear relationship with CO2 output.

Nancy Pelosi’s Plantation?

Remember when Hillary Clinton argued that Republicans ran the House like a plantation? Well, looks like it’s the Democrats who are facing a revolt along racial lines for high-handed tactics:

A drive by the Democratic leadership to strip embattled Rep. William Jefferson of his committee post triggered a backlash Thursday as the Congressional Black Caucus opposed the move and said the Louisianan deserves a “presumption of innocence.”
The caucus chairman, Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina, told reporters that some black voters might ask why action was sought against “a black member of Congress” when there was neither precedent nor rule for it.
Jefferson has not been indicted and has denied all wrongdoing in connection with a federal bribery investigation that has netted two convictions. He has rebuffed repeated calls from Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others to step aside until any involvement is clarified.

In point of fact, Pelosi is actually trying to do the right thing as well as acting in the best interests of her party. But she who lives by the race card . . .

Hawaiian Punch

There’s been surprisingly little attention paid to Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka’s race for re-election, but wavering Republicans thinking of voting for the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act should consider – in addition to the general distatefulness of supporting an apartheid bill – the potentially beneficial political impact that a defeat of the bill would have in this race. The 81-year-old Akaka is being challenged in a September 23 Democratic primary by 53-year-old Representative Ed Case, who has painted himself as an outsider challenging the Democratic machine:

“Clearly the bunker mentality of the shrinking Democratic status quo in Hawaii has been resistant to my candidacy,” Case said. “Can you micromanage voters and spoon-feed them on who should represent them in the Senate? This campaign will be a referendum on what is a broken political culture.”

Hawaii races tend to be lightly polled and fly under the national political radar – the Bush-Cheney campaign hastily arranged to send Vice President Cheney to the islands near the end of the campaign when the first poll in months showed Bush within striking distance of Kerry (who still won the heavily Democratic state, albeit by less than 10 points). Hawaii elected a Republican governor, Linda Lingle, in 2002, although her record since then has been mixed, at best.
Case – like Lingle, for that matter, who is also up for re-election in 2006 – supports the Akaka bill, but its defeat in the Senate would be a severe blow to Akaka’s efforts to paint his seniority and Senate experience as assets in getting things done (Time Magazine recently labelled him one of America’s 5 worst Senators). It’s unclear how this race will poll after this vote, and no incumbent Senator has ever lost an election in Hawaii, but a SurveyUSA poll showing a drop in Akaka’s popularity rating from 60 percent to 50 percent in just the last month has to be a concern for Akaka, as well as other polls, which may or may not be reliable:

Three recent polls, including one conducted and made public by Case, show the 53-year-old Case is ahead of Akaka. The other two polls (one done by a Congressional candidate and the other by a non-profit) also show Case is in the lead (one the Big Island by a 2-to-1 margin). However, the challenge for Case is to win the support of enough independent and moderate Democrat voters to make it through the primary election this September.

Would Akaka’s defeat open up a safe seat to a possible Republican challenger? Given the state’s partisan tilt, that seems a stretch – I’m not sure the GOP even has a candidate (someone feel free to correct me on this) – but a Case victory would be good news nonetheless. Unlike Akaka, he has been willing to support the Bush Administration on the Iraq War, the Patriot Act and other legislation. Chris Bowers of MyDD has labelled the race as the opposite of the Lieberman-Lamont race in Connecticut – here, the “progressive” is the incumbent and the more moderate Democrat is the challenger. (H/t) (There are also Republicans looking to replace Case in the House – former state House Minority Leader Quentin Kawananakoa and state Sen. Bob Hogue.)
GOP Senators shouldn’t be lining up to throw a life preserver to one of the most liberal members of the Democratic caucus.

Time For Hastert To Step Aside

Quin Hillyer at the American Spectator argues that it is time for Dennis Hastert to step down as Speaker of the House. Hillyer focuses on two issues: the Contract with America-era promise that no Republican Speaker would serve more than the 8 years to which the President is limited, and Hastert’s bad in intervening to object to an FBI search of the offices of a Democratic Congressman who’d been caught on tape taking bribes (and who’d had a history of interfering with FBI searches).
In general, I’m not a fan of throwing the leadership overboard for minor infractions, and as bad judgment as Hastert showed in the William Jefferson affair, neither that alone nor the generally adrift nature of the Congressional GOP is reason enough to toss Hastert over the side. Besides, it’s hard for those of us outside the Beltway to really judge the role that the low-key, personally honest Hastert has played behind the scenes in various policy battles. But Hillyer does make a good case that Hastert should be bound to the promises that built the Republican majority in the first place, and certainly his record hasn’t otherwise been so covered in glory to justify the idea that he has earned a special exemption. Time for Hastert to keep his promises and let someone else take the helm.

The Stupid Party

House Republicans, apparently determined to hand the Democrats a majority, have decided to circle the wagons around a corrupt Democrat; see here for the tip of the iceberg of RedState’s comprehensive coverage of this idiocy.
Handed a golden opportunity to fight corruption and score political points at the same time, Speaker Hastert instead basically recorded a Democratic campaign commercial – on behalf of a corrupt Democrat! He has acted like a Congressman first, a Republican second, and a defender of honest government and the rule of law not at all. This is one of the poorest examples of political judgment I have ever seen.
You know, I’ve been as big a critic as anyone of the tendency to declare political obituaries over 1-week news stories; how many times, for example, have we read that thus-and-so will be the end of John McCain or Hillary Clinton? But this Hastert/Jefferson thing has just about broken the back of my remaining optimism about the 2006 elections. It’s appalling to see the GOP concocting bogus legal privileges to stonewall an investigation, and doubly so to see it done on behalf of a Democrat, in a situation where there could not possibly be less to gain. It is impossible to watch the GOP leadership’s behavior here and have any faith that the relevant decisionmakers have any political instincts at all.

Dean 1, Drudge 0

In the face of the DNC’s denials of Matt Drudge’s story on Howard Dean supporting Ray Nagin’s opponent in the New Orleans mayoral race, Drudge says cryptically that “[t]he DRUDGE REPORT takes chairman Dean and his spokesman at their word.” Which is a frustrating response, since if Drudge thought he had good sources and has since decided to retract the story, he should say so, and if he never had sources he had faith in, he shouldn’t have run the item. But then, Drudge’s record on retractions hasn’t been terribly consistent, despite the obvious fact that he’s had to do a number of them.

The Black Sheep of the Democratic Party?

So, New Orleans has re-elected Ray Nagin, defeating fellow Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco’s #2, the brother of Louisiana’s senior senator, Mary Landrieu, and son of former New Orleans Mayor and Carter-era HUD Secretary Moon Landrieu. There are many things to be said about this race, and what it says about New Orleans’ voters and Louisiana’s byzantine politics after Hurricane Katrina and the relative standing of Nagin, Blanco and Mary Landrieu. For example, Paul at Wizbang – who knows New Orleans first hand – says that a Nagin victory spells doom for Mary Landrieu’s hold on her Senate seat in 2008.

What’s interesting tonight is that Matt Drudge is reporting that the Democratic National Committee worked behind the scenes against Nagin. (Paul’s response: “Duh!”). This being Drudge, one can never be 100% certain, and of course Howard Dean is hardly going to publicly admit that he not only tried to run a Democratic incumbent out of office, but failed miserably in the attempt.

Why did Dean try to unseat Nagin? If you buy Paul’s logic that this is bad news for the national Democrats because Landrieu wanted to rebuild New Orleans’ slums and a Nagin-led New Orleans may not be as friendly turf for statewide and national Democrats who need it to have a chance in Louisiana, then the partisan logic is clear. Moreover, Nagin is a former Republican who endorsed Bush in 2000, and DNC loyalists may have felt he was an unreliable party man.

Or, perhaps the pull of family and the DC social circuit was a factor here: Landrieu’s father and sister both served in Washington, and nobody in Ray Nagin’s family has those kind of ties with the DNC old-boy network. Which brings us to why this could be really embarrassing if (hypothetically, of course) other news sources actually looked into this, and if they then discovered that the DNC did what Drudge said they did. Because, you see, Ray Nagin is black, and Mitch Landrieu is white. White like nearly everyone in Howard Dean’s administrations in Vermont. White like Howard Dean’s senior campaign advisers – and most of his supporters in 2004. And even forget Dean: imagine if the national GOP backed a member of a prominent Republican family against an African-American incumbent Republican elected official. We would never hear the end of it. It would be Selma, Alabama all over again. (Heck, some Democrats still complain that Republicans are racist for supporting George W. Bush over John McCain, who is roughly the color of Elmer’s glue, in the South Carolina primary in 2000). And let’s not ask how many Maryland Democrats are supporting Ben Cardin over Kweisi Mfume, when Maryland has never elected an African-American Democrat to statewide office.

Like I said: it’s Drudge, and Drudge isn’t always right. Further investigation is in order. But will the national media dig into this story and ask Howard Dean what Ray Nagin did to become the black sheep of the Democratic party?
UPDATE: The Raw Story (sorry, no permalink) says that, unsurprisingly, the DNC is denying any involvement. There are also rumblings about consulting lawyers, but if the Democratic Party files a lawsuit that opens up discovery of its activities in a Louisiana election, I’ll eat my hat.

All About Oil: A Short and Long-Term Energy Strategy

Gas prices are high, very high, and keep getting higher. The fact that they are still much lower, in inflation-adjusted terms, than they were in the late 1970s is not much solace to the average consumer suffering from sticker shock at the pump. We need a short- and medium-term strategy to lower prices of crude oil and retail gasoline and a long-term strategy to replace oil as the principal source of energy for transportation (there are already competitive alternatives for home heating and industrial production).
High crude oil prices in the world market and high retail gas prices in the United States are bad policy and bad politics for four main reasons:
1. Bad for the economy. People travel by car, and if gas prices go up they travel less. Goods travel by truck and by plane, and if gas prices and jet fuel prices go up that has a ripple effect on inflation throughout the economy. Overall, the high cost of oil and gas is a choke point that acts as a drag on economic activity.
2. Bad for consumers. Lots of people – indeed, the majority of American adults – drive cars and buy gas. High gas prices hit them in the pocketbook. Government doesn’t exist to solve every economic problem or every bite on the family wallet, but when the economy as a whole and lots of individual consumers are feeling a pinch from high gas prices, the government should at least take a look in the mirror and start by asking what it’s doing to exacerbate the problem.
3. Bad for national security. High crude oil prices mean lots of profits – not for oil companies that refine and market gasoline but for the owners of the oil as it comes out of the ground. Yes, that includes American and European oil companies and friendly powers like Iraq, Kuwait, Canada, Mexico and Norway. But it also includes an awful lot of governments that range from the unstable or semi-dysfunctional (Russia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan) to passive-aggressive hostile and subversive (Saudi Arabia) to openly hostile (Iran, Venezuela), and the stream of oil revenue – because it depends so little on the existence of free people and free markets – often winds up propping up despotic or corrupt regimes and financing terrorism, extremism and the development of weapons of mass destruction.
4. Bad politics. From a Republican perspective, people are upset at high gas prices, and with a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president and vice-president who spent years working in the oil business, people are – fairly or unfairly – going to blame Republicans for high gas prices. In fact, the case has been made that President Bush’s approval rating is closely tied to gas prices (for a dissenting view, see Gerry Daly here).
The answer is not trumped-up investigations or tax hikes that cripple American oil companies while giving a free pass to the Iranians and the Venezuelans. The fact is, American oil companies aren’t even all that profitable compared to other industries, and really the last thing we want is punitive measures that just outsource even more of our energy production and make us more dependent on foreign concerns. The answer, instead, is doing something that will actually cut prices, now, and do something to put downward pressure on them for the foreseeable future.
So, how do we solve the problem? I don’t have all the answers. But a few things seem obvious.

Continue reading All About Oil: A Short and Long-Term Energy Strategy