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Saturday, February 09, 2002
I Know Alex,
and Alex He Ain't
Tony Adragna
I thought Byrd did O'Neill a courtesy comparing him to Mr. Hamilton - the comparison coulda been to Salmon P. Chase! "Grandstanding and browbeating" I already stipulated - but I still maintain that O'Neill set himself up for it, and he lost his cool. Besides, the criticism was on point and nowhere near as offensive as O'Neill's response - I'm still looking for the evenhanded outrage at O'Neill's nasty little barb.

Yes, Dick's terrain is politics, and he sure chewed Greta a new one - is that something to be proud of? He makes an argument that's only relevant now. It's an ex post facto indictment of Clinton for not doing something that at the time would have been politically unacceptable to the GOP controlled congress. Morris knows that he's wrong, and that makes his ranting even more offensive.

The cheering on of Morris is even more puzzling in that he does call for things -- like "Federalizing Airport Security" -- that most of us agree don't solve the problem. Just look at what's going on with Airport Security right now...

p.s.: I was gonna make some kinda joke about Byrd being around so long that he probably knew Hamilton personally, but I think that story might originally have been told about Strom Thurmond...

It Really is "Talking Points Memo"
Will Vehrs
I cover Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo for Blog Watch II. I'd say he lived up to the name big-time tonight. Senator Kent Conrad was on the Capital Gang and he hinted that several prominent people would be revealed to have been tied to Enron partnerships. Josh has been putting that word out for the last three days and he didn't even bother to report on Jeff Skilling's testimony, preferring to stick to the partnership issue. Either Josh has great sources ... or he is the source!

Here's a portion of a review the Washington Post did of his blog:

Joshua Micah Marshall, creator of the Talking Points Memo, sometimes checks in several times a day to update the world with his thoughts. Marshall, a television pundit as well, makes no apologies for his liberal stance. Bush backers, beware.

Sometimes funny, sometimes biting, Marshall's musings are a quick fix for Dems looking for an opinion on any given subject. Though the Talking Points Memo often poses more questions than answers, the writing is sharp and unpretentious.

Marshall is my favorite "liberal" blogger, after you, of course, Tony. You are willing to at least consider the possibility that the other side has a point.

Oh, Brian, I love you, too, at least when you're not talking dirty .....

"You're No Alexander Hamilton"
Will Vehrs
So, Tony and Ron, what did that "low blow" by Senator Byrd have to do with "essential and institutional and constitutional perogatives?" You two can defend high-minded concepts all you want, but the fact remains that Byrd was grandstanding and browbeating Secretary O'Neill for no apparent purpose. Any non-cognoscenti who see the tape will recognize this. Nobody will remember what the fight was about, but they'll remember the doddering old Senator haranguing the Treasury Secretary during a week when all Congress did was preen in front of the cameras and get nowhere on the Enron investigation.

As for Greta and Dick, I'm afraid Dick ate Greta's lunch. They were on Dick's terrain--politics. Get on Greta's playing field--the law--and Dick would flounder. Jeesh, Tony, I can't believe you brought up the "Federalizing Airport Security" issue that way. Only Republicans thought it was a 'bad thing," but they changed their tune. Democrats were all for it from the get-go. Clinton demonstrated his greatest strength--keen political antenna--by not taking Gore's recommendation when it was made. Absent a 9/11, proposing "Federalizing Airport Security" would just be seen as a return to big government when he was trying to create a whole different image for the party. There was no "wedge" for him to exploit--people were flying like crazy during an economic boom--why rock the boat? I'll grant you, though, that Morris has been a pit-bull in Clinton-bashing. Hell hath no fury like a consultant scorned.

Byrd Hunting is outta season
Tony Adragna
Our Seattle correspondent tackles the Byrd/O'Neill exchange:
The O'Neill/Byrd exchange (I have not seen it in full) had bizarre qualities, but cognoscenti across the aisle will know Byrd was standing up for essential institutional and constitutional prerogatives. More on that below.

What was O'Neill doing? Fighting for rule of men over rule of law, proceeding on immature instinct ... "the rule that gets in my way is a bad rule". And he was fighting foolishly ... fighting without knowing the stakes, the terrain, or the opponent.
And "Refugee" Mark Dahley raises some valid concerns:
Sure O'Neil was appointed, but he was appointed by a President elected by an ENTIRE country, and was addressing the committee as said President's elected representative, meanwhile, Byrd was elected only by the people of West Virginia, and has been raiding the taxpayers of all 50 states for the benefit of just this one ever since, and he got his present position as Chair of appropriations committe when the Dems took control of the Senate not by election, but by making Jim Jeffords an offer he couldn't refuse. Advantage O'Neil.
Sure, take issue with Byrd's taste for pork, but Byrd is quite correct on the point that his lecture to O'Neill covered. Congress controls the purse, and makes the rules: that's what legislators are elected to do. If O'Neill wants to make law, then he oughtta run for a seat in congress.

OK, Will - I'll go easy on Ben. But, I won't go easy on dysfunctional school boards. I'm extremely pleased that the folks in Annapolis finally got around to doing something to correct the situation. Is there some kinda "Conference of School Boards" where they exchange ideas? Firing a teacher for teaching is an idea I haven't seen before. These knuckleheads oughtta be arrested - they're doing more damage to children than any TV network or computer game could ever be responsible for.

I'm a bit disappointed over what's going on at FOX with Greta. Did anybody not see this coming? When she sat with O'Reilly (just as Geraldo did), I got the sense that he didn't think she was right for FOX. The Dick Morris episode understands my thoughts. I have a bit of a problem with the defense of Morris, though. Several people have pointed to the transcript and cheered on Morris. Fine, Morris was there (only giving passing reference to the fact that he wasn't totally there, acknowledging that he didn't have a security clearance - makes me question just how much he really knew), but where's the critical analysis of what Morris is saying? Here's an example:
So, Clinton refused to "Federalize Airport Security", and now he's being criticised for it. But I thought that "Federalizing Airport Security" was a bad thing. In this same statement Clinton is criticised for not following a poll. Again, I thought that one of the major criticisms of Clinton was the fact that he paid too much attention to opinion polls. Am I confused, or am I right about this being an instance of Clinton-bashing opportunism.

Catching Up
Will Vehrs
Hey Tony, I like what you've done, moving BW II and ATF to separate sections. The downside, of course, is that now our occasional bouts of writers' block (or real life block) will be more obvious. Oh, well--have to take the good with the bad.

I've not responded to you on a number of a issues:

Linda Tripp I have very mixed feelings about Ms. Tripp. I'm not as down on her as you and not as strong a defender as some in The Refuge. I suppose I wanted her to be more noble through it all, but perhaps the tawdry circumstance precluded anybody from nobility. It's amazing how strong the passions remain about her, about Monica Lewinsky, and, of course, about President Clinton. Even so, it all seems very far away now and for that I am thankful.

Michael Bellisiles I have only the mildest of interest in this controversy, although I'll be eager to read the William and Mary Quarterly article--love to see the old alma mater in the news for something besides protests against Henry Kissinger. I'm with you, Tony, on the irrelevance of the book to current 2nd Amendment issues. As far as I'm concerned, each proposed restriction on firearms must be judged on its own merits. I usually lean toward an expansive reading of the 2nd Amendment, but I'm willing to listen. And, speaking of William and Mary, ease up on Ben! He's just a college junior and he's taking on some tough hombres. You may be right on the law of the VMI prayer case, Tony, but, as someone once said, sometimes the law is an ass.

Byrd v. O'Neill I stand by my comments on Senator Robert Byrd--that he seems to be losing it. I'm no fan of O'Neill, although I think his mannerisms and his voice are two of his biggest problems. He just doesn't come across as authoritative or unflappable. The whole confrontation between the two of them was a spectacle with no redeeming political or policy value. I understand and respect Byrd's skill as a parlimentarian, but that was then. I am in awe of his insatiable appetite for and success at pork barrel spending, but slowly that sort of skill is finding the disrepute that it deserves.

Inspections What's the use of military service if you can't tell stories of getting "over?" Shiny always worked for inspections and I'm sure you've heard of the old "if it's not moving, paint it" school of inspection preparation.

Moving Day Redux
The Staff
QuasiPundit's Above The Fold has completed it's move.

What's hot today: Taliban Foreign Minister surrenders; Winter Olympics open; Global Crossing scrutinized

Extra: Princess Margaret dies at age 71

Moving Day
The Staff
Something that we had been thinking about, but hadn't gotten around to (OK, I hadn't gotten around to), was moving Above the Fold and Blog Watch II out to their own pages. Thanks to some prodding from readers (yes, I do need a swift kick once in awhile), the Pot Stirrin' Man has finally gotten off the pot. Blog Watch II now has it's own page, and so will ATF come tomorrow morning.

Hopefully the change will let us focus here on our "'Shouting", and make y'all's visit a bit less cumbersome...

Friday, February 08, 2002
Byrd on a High Tension Wire
Tony Adragna
So, O'Neill got "The Byrd" - good on him.

Senator Byrd is not somebody to trifle with, especially on matters of legislative prerogative. He's famous (or infamous) for lecturing people who appear before his committee, and is universally considered the master parliamentarian. Secretary O'Neill is likewise famous (or infamous ) for saying exactly what's on his mind, regardless of the implications. Despite the truth of O'Neill's statements, he set himself up - if he can't handle Byrd, then he's in the wrong line of work.

Why is everybody beating up on Byrd's very proper defense of "the power of the purse"? He may be an insufferable lecturer, but he happens to be correct. The administration has never submitted a "budget" - the administration submission is a "request", but it's always been congress' Constitutional duty to decide how money gets spent. The administration may not like what congress says the administration can do with money, and dislikes even more the notion that money must be spent on programs that the administration would like to see disappear, but that's the way our system of government works. Complain if you must...

Now, let me raise the spectre of "conservative bias". What liberals are doing to Judge Pickering is repugnant, as many conservatives (and this liberal ) have correctly pointed out. But, if we're going to stomp on nastiness, then why not jump on On'Neill's words from that same WaPo article:
O'Neill then took two more deep breaths before adding pointedly: "We had rules that said, 'Colored Don't Enter Here.' That was a man-made rule." Byrd, in his youth, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Nobody likes to be lectured at, but if you want an example of somebody "crossing the line", then you've got it right there in O'Neill's response to Byrd.

I respect O'Neill for being a straight talker, but he lost his cool -- definately flappable.

I haven't been following the Bellesiles dishonesty because I don't think that his book -- proven or debunked -- has any relevance to the question of the 2nd Amendment. Whether or not guns were ubiquitous (and I think both sides overstate the case ) the right to keep and bear arms was recognized as an individual right at common law before the Framers wrote it into our constitution. The fact that not every individual had the right at common law ( it was restricted to "the Kings loyal subjects") isn't a strong argument for restricting gun ownership, since our revolution ( I understand some still consider it a "rebellion") was all about securing liberties for every citizen.

Thanks for pointing me to Ben's site! I read his article on prayer at VMI, and I must take exception:
From a legal perspective, Moon’s ruling makes little sense, and newly elected Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore is already mounting an appeal. Short of naming a "Designer of the Universe," the VMI prayer is close to being as nonsectarian as possible. True, it is monotheistic. But it is even less specific than the prayers offered every morning by the U..S. Senate or House Chaplains. The VMI prayer does not even specify itself as Christian, while all official Congressional Chaplains have been Christians, with the vast majority hailing from the Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist and Presbyterian denominations. Surely Moon would find this a more egregious instance of "religious indoctrination" than a short saying of grace before a meal.
Several problems with this passage. First, Ben can't deny that prayer is in fact a religious observance. That the prayer is nonsectarian doesn't make it any less a religious observance. I wouldn't go so far as Judge Moon in calling it "indoctrination", but it need not be "indoctrination" for it to be Constitutionally impermissable.

The second problem has to do with Ben's assertion that Judge Moon ought be just as offended by morning prayer in the legislative forum. I have to question how Ben comes to the conclusion that "Moon’s ruling makes little sense" when it doesn't seem like he even read the ruling. Maybe he did, in which case he should have noted that Judge Moon dealt with that issue as a matter of legal precedent. The case that distinguishes prayer in legislative chambers is Marsh v. Chambers, which Judge Moon cites at page 10 of his opinion:
Marsh involved a challenge to the Nebraska State Legislature's pratice of opening each day's session with a prayer by a chaplain paid with public funds. The Supreme Court held that the practice was constitutional. The Court was specifically influenced by the fact that in September of 1789, the members of the First Congress voted to send the draft of the First Amendment to the states in the very same week that they "voted to appoint and to pay a Chaplain for each House" of Congress
In other words, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Burger found that prayer at the opening of a legislative day is distinguished from other case law holding that state sponsored prayer is unconstitutional. People might have a problem wrapping their minds around the distinction, but the precedents at law support Judge Moon's ruling.

Ben goes on to recall the story of Daniel and King Darius. Darius sought to entrap Daniel by outlawing all prayer -- public or private -- knowing full well that Daniel couldn't abide that law. Ben's argument is a bit of a strawman - the ruling doesn't disallow personal prayer in public, it merely respects the rights of people who want nothing to do with prayer. To say that the "Cadet Chaplain" is merely offering personal prayer in a public place is disingenuous - everybody acknowledges that the prayer is part of a larger compulsory activity.

I won't touch Timmy rhis week!

Your story of passing an inspection is not dissimilar from some sea stories that I've been heard telling. I learned quick how to pass inspections: WOW 'em. Most effective fake-out is the "deck you can eat off of." The same thing holds for shoes during personnel inspections. For some reason people are impressed with shiny things.

I'll sign off with a bit of Maryland news: Gov. Glendening went under the knife today to have a malignant melanoma removed. Guess who's in charge...

Gotta watch the rest of the opening ceremonies now

p.s.: On the Bellesiles story I must confess that my interest was piqued by one aspect of his research - I grew up in Contra Costa County. Spent alotta time in Martinez (don't ask why). Other than that twinge of nostaligia, the Bellesiles story does nothing for me...

Whopper of the Week Reminds Me ....
Will Vehrs
Tim Noah has an entertaining "Whopper of the Week" in Slate today (usually the whopper is just a strained effort to pin a lie on a Republican). This time it's Enron spokesperson Peggy Mahoney, who claimed Enron wasn't trying to mislead anyone when 75 employees were rounded up and sent to an empty trading floor to "fake" sales calls and busy work activities for 10 minutes while a group of Wall Street analysts walked through.

Of course, it's a whopper and emblematic of Enron's unethical culture, but who among us hasn't been a party to a great "fake-out?"

When I was a platoon leader in Germany, my company commander came up to me and said we were going to have an "energy conservation" inspection from headquarters the next day. He ordered me to get ready for it. I did the usual--made sure the "turn out when not using" stickers were everywhere and that we had an "Energy Conservation Plan" notebook on file. I also made an energy conservation bulletin board in the day room. Then I had a brilliant idea. I put a handmade "Energy Conservation Suggestions" sign on the First Sergeant's suggestion box that had more or less become an ashtray. I left a couple of butts in, then I took a scrap of paper and wrote an obscene note. On another scrap of paper I wrote a suggestion as it might be written by one of my GED-bound troops. I then put a little sign on the bulletin board urging the troops to put suggestions in the box.

The inspector came to our barracks as scheduled, looked at the notebook and checked some obscure places for "turn off" stickers, then asked if we were doing anything else to encourage conservation. I showed her the bulletin board and she loved it. "Have you gotten any suggestions?" she asked. "I haven't checked it lately," I said. She wanted me to go look. I opened the box up and shook my head as I took out the butts. I opened the obscene note, balled it up, and threw it away in her presence. Then I opened the "real" suggestion. "Wow!" I said. "Pvt Ricks really made a suggestion." "What is it? she asked. I read it to her: "Those people that live offpost see if they can car pol." "That's a great suggestion! Are you going to do it?" I assured her we'd look into it.

We got the highest possible rating for energy conservation even though we never got the offpost people together. Luckily, Tim Noah wasn't working for the Inspector General back then.

"Assisted-Senatoring" Needs to be Expanded
Will Vehrs
It's tough to suggest that a US Senator might be getting senile when Strom Thurmond is the standard, but at least old Strom has an "assisted senatoring" arrangement. Strong young aides surround him 24/7 in an attempt to keep him from saying or doing something embarassing.

I'm afraid Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia is in need of "assisted senatoring" after another bizzare performance, this time at hearings with Treasury Secretary O'Neill. I think Byrd has crossed the line from being a "character" and descended into something clinical.

Teetering on the brink of the "Thurmond Zone" is the "junior" Senator from South Carolina, Fritz Hollings. Hollings' remarks on the Enron donations he received--that they were an "insult"--indicates to me that this veteran is losing the capacity to calibrate his comments, a sure sign of embarassments to come.

Bellesiles Controversy Moves to My Alma Mater
Will Vehrs
Tony, many bloggers have been following the controversy over Michael A. Bellesiles' "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture." The debate will soon be centered at The College of William and Mary, my alma mater and the current home of blogger Ben Domenech. A story in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch explains:

Bellesiles' thesis was so opposite the conventional notion that Americans have always owned and loved guns that editors at the William and Mary Quarterly decided even before controversy broke out to publish a forum subjecting his research and conclusions to critical analysis by a panel of leading scholars.

The forum initially was scheduled to be published in April, but the intensity of the debate in academic circles and beyond forced the Quarterly to move up publication to its January issue, which is now at the printer.

For the "Arming America" forum, organized by Robert Gross, four leading experts in the fields of violence, military history, probate records and the Second Amendment (which protects the right to bear arms) agreed to write essays to which Bellesiles would respond.

Each essay had to be edited and checked for accuracy, sent to the author for revisions, edited again and then sent to Bellesiles. Then Bellesiles' response had to go through the same process.

Here's how to get a copy:

Single copies of The William and Mary Quarterly are available for $10 each by calling Peggy Manger, the subscription manager, at (757) 221-1124. The journal is also available in many libraries. The January issue will be available later this month.

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

What’s hot: Jeff Jarvis' idea. ***Pick: The IOC, Joanne Jacobs.

Joanne Jacobs: ***IOC, floating above the spittle of toads; no common sense in zero tolerance; people who can take it are on "Fear Factor."

Charles Johnson. Lowry and me, dumping the Saudis; horrific terror attack in the Jordan Valley; BBC slant unbearable.

Jeff Jarvis Reports from London, San Francisco, and NYC; Ridge and the NYT; cockpit attack.

Libertarian Samizdata What's in it for Jordan, Glenn?; Lagwolf reviews sex news, hints at Summer of '42 experience; stuck in the middle with Perry; Rush and Ted, clown and joker; Brian's BBC Punditwatch?

Steven Den Beste Loans won't help sub-Saharan Africa; Vegas beckons because of unfriendly skies; "Strange Victory" finished--it's mistaken; sexism in Iceland; read joke; read the fine print; a utilitarian on utilitarian IP law; bizzare show and tell.

Dawson Tune in at 10AM EST.

Kathy Kinsley Jarvis' idea is great--pass it on.

Kevin Holtsberry Sobran on the outs; Kaus and Holtsberry, great minds think @#$!$!; pet peeve: "victimless" crimes; Blog Hop ratings are in, "suck" and "hate" are critic words of choice; workin' for the mucky-mucks. [protege, not protoge--ed]

Fritz Schranck John Doe and the statute of limitations.

Andrew Olmsted Thanks, Tom, for killing the stimulus package; that crazy kid read Clancy.

SGT Stryker Thanks for the hits; intercourse with Europe.

Blog watchin's just another word for nothin' left to lose,
And nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free.

Thursday, February 07, 2002
PM Blogwatch II is taking the night off

Lock Me Up Before I Pick A Fight!
Tony Adragna
"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country." ~Winston Churchill
I honestly don't know who is saying what on prison reform, Will. I can safely assume that the ACLU is still fighting to ensure that prisoners don't have their limited Constitutional rights infringed, and the conservative mirrors to ACLU are still fighting against the waste of taxpayer dollars to provide HBO to prisoners. The conservative opinion that the penal system should be more about punishment than rehabilitation, and prisons ought be more austere, isn't antithetical to the notion that prisoners should be treated humanely. I'm sure there are conservative groups who take an approach that balances the two demands, I simply don't know who they are. Let me do some digging...

One trend in penal reform that disturbs me is privatization of our prisons. I understand the reason behind the trend: efficiency. There was a fair discussion of the pros and consat the Hoover Institution back in the winter of '99. I won't deny that the private sector can do some things better than government, but I'm very cynical when it comes to entrusting the private sector with performing a government function.

My favourite example of prison reform is Sheriff Joe Arpaio's approach. He's been yelled at, but never shouted down. I don't think he's being excessive, and his method seems to work.

I am familiar with the history of penal reform in the U.S., going back to the Pennsylvania system. I'm not sure when the move toward "rehabilitation" started, but I did find a report on the proceedings of a prison reform conferrence held in 1877.

On reform of the justice system in general, my biggest problem is with so called "mandatory minimums". I do agree that, except in truly exceptional instances, a person should do the full sentence. But that's "truth in sentencing", not "mandatory minimums". I see two things happening with mandatory minimums: (a) in order to pay off cooperative defendants some prosecutors end up charging something less the full scope of the crime committed, and (b) they don't allow a judge to exercise discretion with regard to mitigation. The former is a workaround, and there are workarounds for the latter, but I prefer a system that you don't need to cheat at in order to get something approaching justice.

Don't even get me started on "three strikes"...

I'm not familiar with Judge Pickering's record, but I've never had to take exception with Legal Times (yet another print subscription that I sorely miss). I'm of the opinion that sins of youth oughtn't be revisted except to the extent that they might lay the foundation for some ongoing pattern of practice. Judge Pickering's record as a jurist seems to prove there exists no cause for concern. In fact, on "race" he's probably more sensitive than liberals (I still don't understand how that works with Southerners, but it's a phenomenon that I've noticed in some). I'll need to see some fairly questionable orts on his table before I take a stand against.

I have my disgreements with Judge Pickering on things like abortion... uh oh, do we see what the real problem is? 'nuff said...

I don't agree with Rand on Linda Tripp. What whistle did she blow? Correct me if my memeory is wrong, but the only "whislte blowin'" I remember her doing is when she betrayed the confidence of a friend who was crying over the fact that she wasn't successful at the quid pro quo game of sex for power (it's an old game, and women aren't powerless in it - read the Old Testament folks). Tripp then claims that the "friend" threatened her life. I don't doubt that Linda Tripp considers herself a martyr - I won't use the word I'm thinking of...

Clinton shoulda been punished for what he did to Paula Jones, but what happened to Ms. Lewinsky had no bearing on the case: it was a completely distinct scenario.

Maybe Rand is talking about Tripp blowing the whistle on "filegate". Let's see: she made those allegations on Dec 15 '98, House votes a Bill of Impeachment on the 18th, but the "filegate" investigation had been going on since '96 - was she using one of those silent whistles?

And, what happened to Linda Tripp? NOTHING! She was already at the Pentagon when Lewinsky confided in her. She kept her job at the Pentagon, recieved promotions and salary increases (started at 47K and ended at 100K), wasn't sacked after she "blew the whistle" in "filegate", even refusing at the transition to ritually tender her resignation just like the rest of the political appointees were supposed to do, and just like the others who refused, she got fired.

Do I have any sympathy for the likes of Linda Tripp? Nope, only contempt...

Please, spare me the comparison between self-serving Linda Tripp and the truly courageous Sherron Watkins...

From the Seattle Pouch:
"Camp Enron salutes Camp O.J."
RonK, Seattle
Michael M. Thomas, a Yankee Optimist and Texas Oil Patch kindred spirit of GWB ( "I Understand Bush Men" ), shares priceless observations on the The Roots of Enron [current in New York Observer; perm archive link will differ]. MTM recalls long-past encounters with Vinson & Elkins ("more concerned with 'Yea!' than 'Nay!'"), traces the whole financial bloodbath to O.J. Simpson -- by way of W.J. Clinton -- and wraps up with a cite from J.R. "Rudyard" Kipling:
... They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market who promised these beautiful things. ...
(read the rest of this Dispatch From Afar)

The Way It Is, Or The Way It Ought To Be?
Will Vehrs
Last night I wrote that I thought Maureen Dowd's good women v. evil men take on Enron might spawn "follow-up articles on the relative honesty of women versus men, profiles and interviews with the distaff whistleblowers, and maybe even a comparison with the women of the Clinton years, such as Susan McDougal."

Glenn Reynolds, in his final post last night, disagreed: "I think he' s wrong. That stuff -- much like Dowd herself -- seems so very dated and early-90s to me."

Glenn might turn out to be correct ... I'll be searching to see if the media interest I predicted will be there and, if it isn't, I'll be the first to admit my wrongheadedness. But Dowd's column, by virtue of NBC News covering it, already was fulfilling the prediction. The media is nothing if not derivative. The Dowd thesis is the stuff Oprah, 20/20, Dateline, and a host of other shows live for. It's perfect for talking head psychologists to discuss. The battle of the sexes is good for ratings. I think Glenn is basing his opinion more on how he feels, rather than on the reality of what drives ratings. Again, we'll see who has his hand closer to the pulse of the times we live in. By the way, I think Dowd was floundering for a long while post-Clinton, but Enron has given her a new lease on life--it's a scandal perfectly suited for her ascerbic with.

Glenn also linked to Rand Simberg's take on my prediction. Rand zeroed in on my admittedly not well-thought out fragment about the women of the Clinton years. I would agree with him that the media won't go there.

Prison Reform in The Refuge
Will Vehrs
In The Refuge last night, a see-saw discussion of prison rape as an object of humor versus as a reality led one poster to suggest a discussion on prison reform. (Good thing they didn't suggest we do a book club--I think Andrew Sullivan has that cornered.) In case anybody's interested in starting that thread, I looked at a few prison reform web sites for possible review before launching into a discussion:

Prison Reform Unity Project Has an "issues" section with full text articles from US papers

Prison Reform Trust A British site

ACLU Needs no introduction ....

Granted, these three are "liberal" or "leftist" approaches to prison reform, but in many ways the whole issue is being championed by the left without a "conservative" or "right wing" alternative to the status quo, although there might be one. If there is, please share it with The Refuge. I know if Tony jumps on this, the "King of Internet Searches" will find the best stuff ....

Who Is Charles Pickering?
Will Vehrs
I was going to discuss the nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today, but Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds beat me to it. Pickering's nomination gets taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee today--he's the first of Bush's "controversial conservative" nominees to get a hearing because he's sponsored by Trent Lott.

All I would add to Sullivan and Reynolds is that James Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, has a WSJ op-ed today entitled "A Brave Judge's Name Besmirched." Evers says, "I can tell you with certainty tht Charles Pickering has an admirable record on civil rights issues ...Those in Washington and New York who criticize Judge Pickering are the same people who have always looked down on Mississipi and its people ...."

Evers' op-ed contains more positive examples of Pickering's actions than Bob Herbert's NYT column has on the negative side.

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Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Tenet Says Al Qaeda Still Poses Threat ( CIA Director George J. Tenet offered a sober assessment yesterday of al Qaeda's capabilities, warning Congress that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has not been destroyed and is working on plans for new attacks against the United States.

U.S. Frees 27 Afghans Held in Raid ( U.S. forces yesterday released all 27 people captured in a deadly commando raid in southern Afghanistan last month, acknowledging that none of the prisoners was a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban as the Pentagon originally claimed.

Enron Lawyer Says Company Ignored Alarm ( A senior Enron Corp. lawyer raised red flags more than a year ago about the corporation's approval of supposedly arm's-length deals with partnerships managed by Enron insiders, new documents show. He has told House investigators he was rebuffed

New York Times:

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Al Qaeda Still Able to Strike U.S., Head of C.I.A. Says WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 — George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, said today that Al Qaeda was trying to reconstitute itself and remained capable of another large- scale attack against the United States.

Lawyer Warned Enron Officials of Dubious Deals a Year Before Collapse WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 — In a series of memorandums to high-ranking Enron (news/quote) executives that began nearly a year before the company's collapse, a senior lawyer warned about the appearance of sweetheart deals and dubious transactions.

Bush, in New York, Affirms $20 Billion Aid Pledge President Bush flew into New York yesterday and declared that he would stand by his pledge to provide the city with at least $20 billion to help rebuild from last summer's terrorist attacks, moving to dispel doubts raised by Democrats about the depth of the White House's commitment to help New York recover.

U.S. Releasing 27 Captured in Raid WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 — American forces in Afghanistan today released to the Afghan authorities 27 prisoners captured in a raid north of Kandahar last month, saying they were not Taliban or Qaeda fighters as the Pentagon originally said.

Washington Times:

CIA warns of new al Qaeda threat -- The Washington Times CIA Director George Tenet said yesterday that al Qaeda terrorist attacks remain a real threat, with cells working secretly around the world on new and more deadly strikes.

U.S. eyes unilateral action on Saddam -- The Washington Times The United States acknowledged yesterday that it was actively considering unilaterally ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Los Angeles Times:

Front Page Image(pdf)

Tenet Defends CIA's Fight on Terrorism WASHINGTON -- In his first public testimony since Sept. 11, CIA Director George J. Tenet vigorously defended his agency on Wednesday, refusing to characterize the terrorist attacks as an intelligence failure and proclaiming that America has thwarted other planned strikes and succeeded in Afghanistan largely because of the "heroic effort" of the nation's spy community.

Bank Accuses U.S. Trader of Losing $750 Million Ireland's biggest bank said Wednesday that a rogue employee involved in currency trading secretly lost $750 million at its U.S. subsidiary, jolting the European markets and triggering a federal criminal investigation into another financial debacle.

Parks Defends Performance, Calls Hahn Stand a Surprise A day after Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn announced his opposition to another term for Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, the chief defended his credentials as a reformer Wednesday and said he was surprised by the mayor's stance.

No Oases for Saudi Youths RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Majid Korni is sipping a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, his mobile phone resting beside a makeshift ashtray where a Marlboro slowly burns. His eyes casually take inventory of the Faisaliah mall, looking past the food court and the storefronts as he searches for love.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs
What’s hot: Festivals. ***Picks: Argentina and the IMF, Perry de Havilland @Libertarian Samizdata (via Will Allen); Local Property Taxes, Fritz Schranck.

Joanne Jacobs: Diagrammers come out of the closet; how bad is "The City?"; Maine, Vermont vouchers work.

Joshua Micah Marshall Aggressive + Deceptive = Enron accounting; "The Big Jerk: Jeffrey Skilling, A Life."

Charles Johnson. Johnny Jihad's snake oil; Friedman's memo.

Jeff Jarvis Friggin' big Olympic gesture; trying to scratch a living inhibits blogging; French WTC video released; Norman Mailer size-it; Tariq Ali, unbeliever.

Libertarian Samizdata Another pic for Kathy K.; Chris Pellertio surfaces to skewer Ted Kennedy; Ax the evil Iranians; Ted Kennedy, buffoon; Libertarians establish beachhead in Costa Rica; ***let governments go broke--no IMF meddling; jail for Jean; my id card; Queen's Jubilee, fire for effect!

Steven Den Beste NY child rape raises questions; save golden hoverflies, but not smallpox?; medical decades confused; Taliboy is toast; leftists can't accept improvements in Afghanistan; "Strange Victory," more wordy than Den Beste himself; another auditor, another scandal.

Dawson Blog of the Week and Honorable Mention; shout-outs; who's hung, er, who got hung?; Anne Coulter Festival.

Kathy Kinsley Homeland Defense up to us; Bellycose; Safeway hit by PETA; irony v. satire.

Kevin Holtsberry Pat Buchanan Festival; Steeler fan clears the grief-stricken air [that's my protoge!--ed].

Fritz Schranck ***Low local taxes not necessarily fair.

Andrew Olmsted Reagan challenging Adams' record; Orwell and Staerk; more on Black History Month, continued vitriol likely.

SGT Stryker Saudis suck up to AF with ad; vote early, vote often on Nobel nominees; Olympic ennui; don't waste gas, or jet fuel, on bombing the French; Bin Laden's dog takes to Seals; Marines anxious to wash their goat-smelling ....

Blog Watch I ... is the opium of the people.

A specter is haunting ... Blog Watch III.

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Dawson feeling better; Ginger is nice

Andrew Hofer: Good & bad regulation; I was a novice hit-slut

Damian Penny: Bruce Ward invented the Holocaust, slavery, and caused the potato famine, too; the American invasion has begun; evil and leftists

Dr. Frank: Erybody's hittin' on me!; spreading the true Tenet at cafes

Tim Blair: Pilger the Pugilist; Winona shoplifts to support drug habit

Duncan Fitzgerald: Yucky Mountain; Whitman rollover on Energy Plan; praise for poo poo

Alex Knapp: Refute Realpolitik - Reform Relations

protein wisdom: ABA regurgitates; Meta computing 1984 style; prison speak

Daniel Taylor An intellectual cuts himself off from the rest of America

Ginger Stampley: Rounding up Enron; the truth about blogging; Dick thinks he found the missing link

Reader, attend! whether thy soul
Soars fancy's flights beyond the blog pole,
Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,
In low pursuit:
Know, prudent, cautious, blog watching self-control
Is wisdom's root.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Update: Just as an experiment, I checked Will's usage of "lables": in the last 6 issues of Punditwatch "conservative" has been used 4 times, and "liberal" twice. Who is using these labels? Not Will, the labels are all in quoted language.

"Conservative" used by
Gerald Seib
Al Sharpton

"Liberal" used by
Geral Seib

It should be noted that only Hoagland and Sharpton apply the labels to individuals - the president (Hoagland) and himself (Sharpton).

Simmer Down Now, People!
Tony Adragna
What is it that people really want, Will? If they wanna read somebody with whom they already agree, then what's the point?!

Will Vehrs uncritical? 'Tis a good thing I didn't get that letter!

I need to sound off for a bit on some issues that have been raised by that correspondence and some items The Refuge.

Issue 1: Will Allen opens an anti-statist can of something or other in response to David Gergen - I don't know what Will was reading, but it couldn't have been Gergen's piece. Will says:
There seems to be some misinterpretation as to how some of those with an anti-statist or libertarian stance view government's role in light of the Enron debacle. Lying to investors is fraud, and no one, except those of the anarchist persuasion, believes that that the state should not use force to prevent fraud.
Gergen was refering to Mr. Bush and his administration's reaction to "Enron". Last I checked this administration is no more anti-statist that the previous administration. Mr. Bush is a Republican, not a Libertarian - not even a libertarian. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans is what the government is going to do, not how much it's going to do. Just look at the budget, and if you believe that this administration has anything approaching a "libertarian" or "anti-statist" stance, then you're in la la land.

Yes, Will is right to insist that we have laws on the books to cover fraud. But, does Will need reminding that laws don't prevent anything? Might a proactive approach be better where the public interest is concerned? I assert that it is better! We're not talking about some typical case of fraud - it's the biggest case of book-cooking (if you don't include the federal budget process) in history. It's nice to know that these people will be punished, but had we some effective oversight we most probably wouldn't be in this position. Will goes on to say:
It is therefore a straw-man to use Enron as evidence that those who oppose expansion of the state into areas that have nothing to do with the prevention of fraud are somehow oblivious of the need for government action, or that the the anti-statist or libertarian stance is somehow discredited by the Enron debacle.
I would agree, except that Will builds himself a straw-man. Accounting practices and off-shore investments are the tools that Enron used to perpetrate the fraud. Strengthening accounting standards and tougher enforcement of the regs related to off-shore investments can go a long way toward combating the type of fraud that Enron engaged in. Even if these actions don't prevent fraud, at the very least making it harder for a public company to hide questionable dealings from the public is a valid role of government.

Issue 2: "It all happened on Clinton's watch" is spin. The former SEC chairman fought hard, with Clinton's support, to issue regs related disclosure, independence, and off-shore shelters. There was bipartisan opposition to new regs - Democrats like Schumer weren't alone in their opposition: the leadership of both houses was Republican. Spin it however you want, but tell the whole truth.

Issue 3: Why isn't anybody talking about Global Crossings? Well, I'll tell you why I'm not - Terry McAuliffe didn't do anything illegal. There's no indication that Global Crossing did anything illegal. What's to talk about?

Ditto for Kmart...

Political connections? Is that what everybody wants, that we should go after GC's political connections the same way that some in the Democratic party have gone after Enron's political connections?

Sorry folks, that's not why we're here. Enron is news to me because it's the largest bankruptcy in history, and there's fraud involved. I haven't pushed a connection between Lay and the White House - In fact, both Will Vehrs and myself have asserted that there's nothing to that story. So, what do our readers want, that we should be as crass as everybody else?

Issue 4: Punditwatch is the only objective summation of the talking heads that I've ever seen. You want criticism, come over to Shouting. Will Vehrs has consistently been critical of nonsense: liberal and otherwise. I, a liberal, have been critical of the liberal press, and I've praised conservative pundits. OK, we're objective and reasonable, rather than ideological and whacked. You want demagoguery, won't find it here.

Issue 5: Some people don't like Brian Linse. So tell Brian - he's got an email link right there on his blog! Brian knows that I have a problem with the language he uses, and I poke at him about it (saying the same thing in different words). I'm a Tim Conway kinda guy, and Brian seems to be a Buddy Hackett type. Don't think he's funny, no problem - just don't take him the wrong way!

I certainly agree that rape isn't funny, but comparing Brian to Bill Lockyear is a long stretch: They're both Californians, and both have used an offensive expression in voicing their anger at a crime, but the similarity ends there. Lockyear is a public official who made the remark in connection with a matter that his office was working. What Brian said really doesn't matter, so get over it!

Besides, Brian was being sarcastic - you want a shocker try reading what one of the writers at ["protein wisdom"] put forth on the subject of prison rape in re Walker.

Quasipundit's "gimmick" is that we aren't one-sided. That was the whole point of my invitation to Will Vehrs, rather than a person who leans my way. What we try to do here -- and we're pretty successful in my opinion -- is put things in their proper context. We do it fairly and rationally. If that's not what's being sought, then go look someplace else...

Maureen Dowd Scores Big
Will Vehrs
It's not often that a syndicated pundit's column makes news on a major network, but Maureen Dowd's "Barbie" column (covered in Punditwatch, of course!) was the subject of an NBC Nightly News segment tonight. Dowd noted this morning that all the "good guys" in the Enron case--the whistleblowers--were women, while all the "bad guys" were men.

Ms. Dowd didn't appear on camera, unfortunately, but look for any number of follow-up articles on the relative honesty of women versus men, profiles and interviews with the distaff whistleblowers, and maybe even a comparison with the women of the Clinton years, such as Susan McDougal.

"What Has America Ever Done For Anybody?"
Will Vehrs
Isn't there a saying that people shouldn't put anything into an email that they wouldn't want to see on the front page of the New York Times? I guess John Walker Lindh, or at least his attorney, is wishing he'd followed that adage.

Mr. Lindh was denied bail today and NBC Nightly News reported that the words in the above headline were in an email he sent to his mother while he was "abroad." He was urging her to leave America for England.

Score a big setback for Lindh's attorney, James Brosnahan. His "John loves his country" defense is in tatters, along with a big chunk of his credibility.

Punditwatch, Cheerleader for Liberal Media Bias?
Will Vehrs
Since I started Punditwatch way back when, I've been gratified by the number of readers it has attracted and the support I've gotten from other bloggers. One thing that has disappointed me is the lack of discussion that PW inspires. I've chalked that up to the fact that I try to "play it straight," just reporting the major issues and highlighting the pundit commentary that I find the most insightful, outrageous, or humorous.

Well, the long drought of discussion has ended with a bang. It started when "JRK" wrote to Glenn Reynolds:

Glenn: I don't know why the blogging community, which consistently pats itself on the back for its deconstruction of media hypocrisy and liberal spinning, continues to give a free pass to the Democrats on Enron. Remember, Enron's egregious practices occurred on Clinton's watch.

Punditwatch is the worst, uncritically affirming the pounding the Republicans continue to take from liberal Sunday talk shows..Shields, Hunt, et al continue to echo the Democrats 'talking points' memo without a dissenting word from so-called critics of media spin.

Glenn kindly forwarded the note to me and I responded to "JRK." I tried to explain and defend what I did. He expanded on his critique in reply to me and here is what he said:

Will: Thanks for the courtesy of your reply. My larger complaint is your lack of context for these Pundits you watch.

I was hoping you would be more forthcoming about their political affiliations--and I'm not just talking about the guests.

I long ago stopped viewing due to the overwhelming leftward tilt of the shows, but now that I blog I find your digest is often rather shocking to read. Not only are the familiar guests predominantly Democrats/Liberals, but the hosts and correspondents from the networks surveyed are invariably unidentified former members of Democratic Party administrations or long-time Democratic party supporters. No wonder people are beginning to watch least they identify the participants.
Tim Russert, your favorite, is never labeled as a Democratic apologist, yet his fawning treatment of the left is unmistakable. He's a smiling bobble-doll whenever he lobs softballs to a favorite Democrat seated across, but like a stern and frowning prosecutor as he browbeats with a Republican. Surely, you can't miss that. But perhaps that is your simply agree with his tactics. You see him as the 'best'--a national treasure--since he forwards your own affiliation. Fair enough...but don't billboard your site as a "watch," perhaps a little truth in advertising would clarify? A more impartial estimate would note that the questions posed to administration officials rarely rise above the "when did you stop beating your dog" level of inquiry. Enron, prisoners at Gitmo, "axis of evil," quagmire, the Afghan winter....each topic is developed with the presumption of guilt. Russert sounds like a sock puppet for a Carville/Daschle "talking point" memo. Moreover, a Clinton lackey like George Stephanopolous (sic?) is now simply disguised as yet another impartial ABC correspondent, but his questions and commentaries are inevitably skewed to the left. Thus, when guests and inquisitors are apportioned for an ABC show, George is never counted as a Democrat. Add up this "sleeper" strategy across the morning spectrum and one has a majority of Democratic "journalists" with the consequent effect on content of each show. Yet this point is rarely--make that never--critiqued on your site as you assay the context of each "debate."

The Watch should be more savvy if it is to be taken seriously...we should have at least one media critic who aims for accuracy.

I'm wondering if anyone else shares JRK's critique. I probably could make Punditwatch more ideological, or more of a "fairness" scorecard. I'd probably get a lot more email if I turned into a partisan who went into the shows looking for bias and set-ups. I don't think I'm kidding anybody--I lean right, I lean Republican. Somehow, though, advancing an "agenda" doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as looking at the partisan battles and trying to figure out what each side is saying, how they're saying it, and how effective it seems to be. If all the best lines in a weekend are shots at Bush, that's the way it is. If the best lines are from the conservatives needling Daschle, that's okay, too. Usually both sides manage to score some points, and I hope I convey that. It's the battle in the arena that is my passion, not the team I'm rooting for.

Click on The Refuge ...Now!
Will Vehrs
Tony, we've been muddling around here for the past week or so and our readers have noticed--and decided to rescue us. Excellent posts by Joe Britt, Will Allen, and SandyC are up, ready for full-throated threading. I think The Refuge is where the action is right now. What are QP readers waiting for? Jump in!

PS--Brian Linse, didn't you check out the post about you?

Print Punditwatch: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Print Punditwatch is up. Should Bush have added Enron to the "axis of evil?" Some of the pundits thought so, at least those who weren't playing Barbie or reminiscing about the good old days in Uganda.

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Senate To Shelve Stimulus Proposal ( Senate leaders conceded yesterday they will not reach an agreement on legislation to bolster the economy and plan to shelve it today, signaling the tough battle ahead over the president's just-released budget and economic plans.

Six Found Dead in the Cold ( The first report came at 6:54 a.m. yesterday: A homeless man, cold to the touch, had been found at a bus stop in Northwest Washington. Five more reports soon followed, as District officials grappled with what seems to be an unprecedented number of deaths in the city in a single day due to cold weather.

Enron CEO Felt 'Betrayed,' Panel Told ( Former Enron Corp. chairman Kenneth L. Lay told investigators for the Enron board that he should have paid more attention to his company's bookkeeping but felt "betrayed" by others at the company who kept information from him, the board's lead investigator testified yesterday.

U.S. Mistakes Cost Innocent Lives, Afghan Leader Says ( KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 5 -- U.S. military forces killed innocent people in two controversial operations in southern Afghanistan recently, and in one case were intentionally deceived into believing a targeted convoy of vehicles included Taliban officials, according to the Afghan interim leader, Hamid Karzai.

New York Times:

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Powell Says U.S. Plans to Work Out Binding Arms Pact WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today that the United States expected to meet Russia's demand for a "legally binding" agreement on reducing nuclear warheads, whether that takes the form of a treaty approved by Congress or some less formal document, but he left most details unspecified and officials said they were still being worked out.

Lindh Coerced After Capture, Lawyers Assert WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — Lawyers for John Walker Lindh, the American captured with anti-American forces in Afghanistan, said today that Mr. Lindh had been treated harshly in "highly coercive conditions" by his American captors after being abused by forces friendly to the United States.

Enron Executives Say They Debated Freeze on Pension WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — Enron (news/quote) executives acknowledged today that before they temporarily prevented employees from selling company stock in their retirement accounts last fall, the executives had sharply debated delaying the moratorium because employees could suffer heavy losses from a plunging stock price.

Washington Times:

Enron gave 'retention bonuses' -- The Washington Times Enron Corp. gave $55 million in "retention bonuses" to selected managers two days before filing for bankruptcy protection, but it said it could not provide severance pay to 4,500 laid-off employees, company officials testified yesterday.

WTC flag banned at Olympics -- The Washington Times Olympic officials have banned U.S. athletes from carrying the fragile American flag recovered from the World Trade Center in the opening ceremony of the Winter Games Friday.

Los Angeles Times:

Front Page Image(pdf)

Enron Execs Sold Stock as Losses Grew HOUSTON -- A handful of senior Enron Corp. executives sold $44 million in company stock while concerns were growing inside the company that losses racked up by a group of obscure partnerships could spill into public view, records show.

Stimulus Bill on Way to Its Death WASHINGTON -- A bitterly divided Senate is expected today to shelve a key part of President Bush's domestic program: legislation that seeks to boost the economy by cutting taxes and expanding aid to the unemployed.

U.S. Plan Aims to Stem Pipeline's Flow of Trouble ARAUCA, Colombia -- It may have been the damp in the earth seeping into the bomb, or a faulty connection. Alex Ramirez is convinced it was the five amulets he wears around his neck. But for some reason, when he stepped on a rebel land mine three months ago, he survived the blast.

Lindh Faces Added Grand Jury Charges WASHINGTON -- A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted John Walker Lindh, leveling new charges that the young Northern Californian willingly shouldered a rifle at the behest of Osama bin Laden and was taught at an Al Qaeda training camp how to kill Americans.

Cutting Edge of Secrecy Two decades ago, Iranian students who stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran found a mountain of paper shredded by American diplomats who were trying to hastily destroy secret documents. The enterprising students brought in carpet weavers, who reassembled the papers, strip by painstaking strip.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

What’s hot: Zip. These bloggers were all over the map.

Joanne Jacobs: Downside of reducing class size; labor union goals conflict with educational goals; experts try to shut out parents; sentence diagramming makes a comeback; Happy Birthday, Mr. Potato Head.

Joshua Micah Marshall Fastow and the mysterious "other" Enron investors; Argyros heeled by Marshall, advantage, TPM!; Lay missing, acting like a five year old?

Charles Johnson. "Blogga of the Week" rocks boats, Dr. Frank first honoree; SGT Stryker, sharp pawn; anti-semitism is back; blames goes back to Nixon; Palestinian courtroom atrocity; Quick coda.

Jeff Jarvis Layne on Pearl.

Libertarian Samizdata Wit and wisdom of Napoleon; Perry corrects Noam Chomsky; Solent digresses, then joins the aircraft fray with help from spouse; Bloggin' Balkan Buffy.

Steven Den Beste Saudis confess; baseball at last; "coalitions of the willing"; Powell's role; why a suspect isn't a suspect.

Dawson Reagan; Natalie Solent; Frost poll; cartoons.

Robert Musil Possible Gore, Metropolitan West, Global Crossing nexus?

Kevin Holtsberry Marshall salivating over Enron potential; Megan's Krugman takedown; reviewing Taft's State of the State; starter marriages shocking; bitter Steeler fan dismisses Patriot miracle.

Fritz Schranck You, long suffering taxpayers, just helped Loudoun County, Virginia restrict development.

Andrew Olmsted Kessler's partisanship; freedom of choice for burqas; Cohen's comparison; disband Civil Rights Commission.

SGT Stryker Meet me at Border's--Tom Clancy might be there, too; tax dollar recycling.

Well, it's Blog Watch I for the money
Blog Watch II for the show
Blog Watch III to get ready
Now go, cat, go,
But don't you
Step on my blue suede shoes

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Must not be any Enron news today...

Andrew Hofer: I'll explain later...

Damian Penny: Unremarkable Palestinian woman; Newfies aren't anti-Newfie; Super Bowl scandal

Dr. Frank: Said Said Terrible; anti-"Evil" lefties

Tim Blair: WAKE UP, TIM!

Duncan Fitzgerald: Fish Farming is Klamath's answer; curmudgeon, cannabis, canine

Alex Knapp: America favours the little guy as billion to one odds; irony of ironies..

protein wisdom: A Boy and His Dog; probably 'cause Johnny's evil; Human Right's Irrelevancy

Ginger Stampley: Research basics; split-personality tech writers; history is politics

“Lord, who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am;
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan,
if I were a blogger man?

If I were a blogger man..."

Tuesday, February 05, 2002
What To Do About Rogues...
Tony Adragna
I still miss David Gergen on the NewsHour, Will, but at least I can read his columns. His latest U.S.N&WR piece is on target.

Gergen explores whether "Enron" is an anamoly, or indicative of a systemic problem. The answer is yes, "[...]there may be as many as 10 major corporations that could fall without warning.":
No doubt, many of them could fail because of tough times. That's how capitalism is supposed to work--as economist Joseph Schumpeter said, it periodically unleashes "gales of creative destruction." We shouldn't worry much about those failures. But others could implode like Enron, companies that have lied to investors and then, when the bubble burst, allowed top executives to walk away with millions while leaving employees and investors holding the bag.
What do we do about it. Gergen argues that government is the answer. I know, more government isn't the answer to everything, but there is a public interest here, and self-regulation is too often synonymous with finding a way around regulation so as to make things easier on self.

Gergen takes the administration to task for being "lackadaisical" in responding to corporate "predators":
[...]Its response to Enron has been modest at best. To be sure, terror is more dangerous to life and limb. But companies like Enron are dangerous, too: They rob our financial system of public trust, which has always been an essential part of its magic.
Maybe if the administration hadn't been busy defending itself from silly charges of improprieties committed as payoff for campaign contributions, then we might have seen a better response. I think there's a little more going on, though, evidenced by Paul O'Neill's "that's business" response. You wanna show you care, you don't use Marie Antoinette as a model of compassion.

Now, despite the fact that McCain-Feingold ain't gonna fix what ails DC, there is still a problem with the amount of money that comes into the city:
[...] the record is plain that by flooding Washington with cash, Enron was able to create a "regulatory black hole" so that regulators couldn't see what it was doing. It's also no coincidence that the accounting profession blocked a Clinton-era reform that would have prevented Andersen from performing a $25 million audit and simultaneously receiving $27 million in consulting fees from Enron. Most politicians aren't bought, but until we get campaign finance reform, they will remain on long-term lease.
At least Gergen softens bought to lease, but I still have a problem with the image. As you know, I prefer the chamber of commerce analogy. Yes, the way that the money gets to legislators, despite the fact that the sources of contributions are individual, does buy companies what I believe is undue influence. You tell a company that you're not interested in it's concerns and just see what happens next election cycle - remember all that money we raised from our employees last year... (sure, apply the same argument to unions)

The finale says it all:
Coming to the World Economic Forum, one saw, once again, that America is the envy of many other nations for reasons that extend far beyond our military might. By the standards of much of the world, we are an open and resilient people, remarkably free of corruption. To others, our values help explain why just 5 percent of the world's population produces some 28 percent of the world's wealth. Enron deeply offends our values, and we must act now to stop any encores.
That's why I'm so pissed off at Enron: It's not capitalism run amok - it's capitalism raped. Everything about this story "offends our values", but there's an even bigger offense waiting down the road. The government's refusal perform a function that only it can -- protecting the public's interest -- leaves us vulnerable to being sodomized coming and going...

The Political Will
Tony Adragna
So that's what he's up to, Will. I caught the end of a Q&A after one of his recent appearances, and right before George left the podium he utterred a hearty "Defeat McCain-Feingold!" I can't fault him for pointing out the "legislator so-and-so got money from Enron" fallacy (did we go there? - I don't remember). Has somebody been under the impression that McCain-Feingold applies to hard money?

I do hafta take exception with George's final paragraph. The Supreme Court may have made the point, but it has also upheld contribution limits. George sees limits as an abridgement, but the court considers them a reasonable means to ensure the integrity of the system (read: anti-corruption). If we get a Chief Scalia that might change.

I still maintain that there's a problem with the amount of money in politics. For those who haven't heard me say it yet, I'm all for public financing.

Since we're talking about money, let's turn to the budget for a moment.

I knew we were going to see some funny things (why should this year be different?). What's particularly funny this year is the number of items with "security" attached to them: Food Security, Economic Security, Transportation Security - are we that insecure?...

Found another good letter today:
Despite Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick's plea that we not blame the test for the poor showing among so many schools on last year's MSPAP test ["Md. Reports Broad Decline in Key Test Scores," front page, Jan. 29], the evidence is building that the test is at least part of the problem....
I'm remembering what I had to complete for highschool graduation: a certain number of days in class, passing all of the required classes. There was no question of graduating a student who didn't deserve to be graduated, our curriculum was tough.

My problem with standardized tests - not the standardized testing per se, but what's being tested. I think this teacher hits it right on the head when he talks about teaching by rote...

Update: I forgot the whole point of the headline! (silly me) George makes good points, and so do the editorials critical of the budget proposal - is anybody gonna have the political will to go after the things that really matter, or are we just gonna get more politiking? (he asks rhetorically)

Will Hammers Campaign Finance Reform
Will Vehrs
George Will's Newsweek column this week takes on the simplistic notion that campaign finance reform--McCain-Feingold--somehow would "fix" the problems raised by the Enron scandal.
Media coverage of Enron relentlessly stresses how many legislators received campaign contributions from “Enron.” Small wonder people think the corporation itself gave vast sums to candidates. But the total of the corporation’s contributions to candidates was: 0. Corporate contributions to federal candidates have been illegal since 1907.
Of course, Will notes that Enron contributions came from individuals contributing to Enron's Political Action Committee (PAC).
But if McCain-Feingold had become law when first proposed seven years ago, it would have had no bearing on any contribution from Enron’s executives or its PAC to any legislator. All those contributions were “hard” dollars—to particular candidates. McCain-Feingold regulates only “soft” dollars, which cannot go to candidates. Such dollars go to parties, which can use them only for “party-building”—voter registration, get-out-the-vote drives, issue advertising—and not for advocating the election of particular candidates.

However, if the version of McCain-Feingold that passed the Senate last spring becomes law, it will change what corporate executives can give to candidates: they will be able to give more. The bill doubles the amount individuals can give to candidates, from $1,000 to $2,000.
Will goes on to shed some light on the financial shenanigans of Senator Maria Cantwell, a McCain-Feingold supporter, and Senator Feingold himself. Will's suggestion: no member of the legislature should be allowed to solicit or receive campaign funds while the legislature is in session.

Campaign finance reform may be a worthy goal, but its advocates need to be more honest when they suggest that it will "cure" whatever is the problem du jour.

From the Seattle Pouch: Snipe Hunting with Ken Lay
Ever been on a snipe hunt? You know, that's where people in the know take suckers around on a quest for fictitious animals. Our Seattle correspondent has one helluva campfire tale...

How the Editorial Page Works
Will Vehrs
Tony, the other day you were wondering about how letters to the editor get selected at a major newspaper. Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist and editorial board member A. Barton Hinkle must have heard you, because today he has written an informative and entertaining column on how the Times-Dispatch editorial department works. He also addresses my pet peeve--people who don't separate the editorial page from the news:

A high wall separates the Editorial department from the News department; the departments interact almost solely when we forward a letter critical of the news operation for review and possibly an editor's note. This division serves important purposes, one of which might be to protect the physical safety of editorial writers who have just hammered someone from whom a reporter needs information.

This is a good read for anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes at a newspaper.

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Bush Proposes Defense Boost, Cuts Elsewhere ( President Bush yesterday issued a $2.13 trillion spending plan for next year that would fundamentally reorder federal priorities, navigating the government into the largest defense buildup in a generation and imposing new constraints on many domestic programs.

Enron Witness Points to Lay ( Enron Corp.'s collapse was the result of a "a systemic and pervasive attempt" to inflate profits and hide losses, not of a few rogue employees breaking company rules, a member of Enron's board of directors told a House panel yesterday.

Emergency Oversight Of Schools Supported ( Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday endorsed a proposal to create a crisis management board to oversee the Prince George's County Board of Education and approve all major personnel and policy decisions for the school system.

New York Times:

Front Page Image

Senators to Vote to Issue Subpoena to Ex-Enron Chief WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 — After Kenneth L. Lay, the former chairman and chief executive of Enron (news/quote), refused to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee this morning, Republicans and Democrats on the panel said they would vote Tuesday to issue a subpoena to compel his appearance.

President Submits $2 Trillion Budget That Raises Deficit WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 — President Bush sent Congress a $2.13 trillion budget proposal today that would squeeze much of government to bolster national security and continue cutting taxes, even at the cost of increased deficits for a few years.

Electricity Crisis Eases in New York New York City, which faced a looming electricity crisis last summer as more computers and air- conditioners bought in a booming economy bumped up against the limits of the local power supply, now has all the energy it needs through at least the middle of next year and perhaps beyond, electricity experts say.

Muslims Feel Sept. 11 Chill as Mecca Plays It Safe JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 4 — As the hajj pilgrimage season gets under way, the Saudis are seeking security in the blink of an eye

Washington Times:

Defense gets boost -- The Washington Times President Bush yesterday sent Congress a $2.1 trillion budget proposal that spends billions for the defense of America, cuts dozens of spending projects and provides relief for millions of taxpayers.

South Korean foreign minister dismissed -- The Washington Times South Korean President Kim Dae-jung fired his foreign minister yesterday amid deterioriating relations with the United States over President Bush's State of the Union speech that labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil."

Los Angeles Times:

Front Page Image(pdf)

Bush's Budget Opts for Debt to Fund War WASHINGTON -- President Bush submitted a $2.1-trillion budget Monday that sets aside debt reduction and squeezes domestic programs to finance homeland security, the war on terrorism and another round of big tax cuts.

Don't Tap Into Social Security WASHINGTON -- Although Americans express resounding approval of President Bush's performance at home and abroad, an overwhelming majority would rather cancel later stages of his signature tax cut than tap Social Security revenue to pay for other government programs, a Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

L.A. Workers Held Back by Low Education Rate Reyna Lavariega's parents were too poor to buy a pencil or a notebook. That's why they never sent her to school.

As a young adult, she cobbled together as much education as she could in Oaxaca, Mexico. Still, she was barely able to read and write when she joined her husband in Los Angeles 12 years ago.

Corporate Debt Drags on Economy A new wave of corporate bankruptcies is reminding workers and investors that the fallout from the recession isn't over.

Battle for Room on the Range SPRING VALLEY, Nev. -- The whisper quiet of the snowy valley was broken by the distant flutter of an approaching helicopter. Flying 15 feet above the pinyon, juniper and sage, it weaved and bobbed, herding a dozen wild horses toward a holding pen.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

What’s hot: Rushdie, WWII aircraft debate.

Joanne Jacobs: Wal-Mart, site of avant-garde sculpture; lazy student and parent hell; Enron employee greed, let's invade France--a reader comments.

Joshua Micah Marshall: Endless out of the loop, conspiracy building blocks.

Charles Johnson. Enron-free zone ends; Israel and India; support for Israel based on values; Rushdie: no peace a smokescreen for Muslim nation failures; Apostates: don't ask, don't tell if you want to save your heads.

Jeff Jarvis Rushdie: jihad's not cool; sick of Olympics.

Libertarian Samizdata Perry battles Den Beste in the air; Kipling, author of ancient libertarian cyberpunk chant; more odd searches; helpful translation; Natalija hears snarling voice of global gestalt; Brian and Dale wax nostalgic.

Steven Den Beste Perry's British sensibilities; History of War, Civil War episode; empty Iraqi threat; end of evolution? Good riddance.

Robert Musil Are Dems hurting the economy by harping on Enron?; Levitt's spin job.

Kathy Kinsley Afghans starving--must be US' fault, not grain lenders; terrible journalism.

Fritz Schranck Farmers and suckerfish, go back and do your homework.

Kevin Holtsberry Ben's broken link; spending, not tax cuts, fuel state budget crises; beer challenge; nobody nekkid here; Super Bowl epic.

SGT Stryker Perry forgets sex appeal of P-51; candy links; UAVs; universe can't handle the Pats.

Andrew Olmsted The clueless Ms. Sims; Black History Month sullies history; game for the ages; Gov. Keating's brave stand on profiling; Brian Linse's appalling grandstanding on Lay.

All essential knowledge relates to Blog Watch I existence, or only such knowledge as has an essential relationship to Blog Watch III existence is essential knowledge.

Monday, February 04, 2002
BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Spinsanity unspining; got hold of Megan's thread

Andrew Hofer: Dead links can be funny - dead PCs never are...

Damian Penny: Alternate version of Super Bowl coverage - the constabulary is involved in both cases; Hit Fisk on the Bottom with aRock; musical interludes instead of Super Bowl commercials; Canadas Minister of Funny

Dr. Frank: Want Westernism?- Win the War; translating Weeniese into English

Moira Breen: Accounting scandal at Indian Affairs

Tim Blair: Catchy tune this "Pilger Man"; You are the 100,000th visitor; Australians on the State of America; DailyBlah is too generous a description

Duncan Fitzgerald: Producing Child Boys; nationalizing volunteeridm

Alex Knapp: If we lose the fight to legalize drugs, the the terrorists have won...

protein wisdom: The Day After - throwing up [posts]; What wrong with "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue"?; Terrorists Tech Manual

Daniel Taylor A blog in time might be worth a dime

Ginger Stampley: A Broad, a Band, and a Blog; when things slow down enough people will get moving

I think that I shall never blog
a post as ugly as a frog.
A frog whose sticky tongue is longer
than the longest post's of this brave blogger

"Lay"ing Low
Reuters | Breaking News from Around the Globe WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional committee trying to serve a subpoena on former Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay said on Monday his personal attorney does not know where Lay is and could not accept the subpoena...

One Eye On the Commonwealth....
Tony Adragna
... the other eye, and both ears are tuned into The Free State.

We don't really worry about transportation, here. If you knew the portion of Williams bill for filling up the chariot goes into state petrol taxes (it's higher than D.C. and Virginia, and that on top of the Federal tax... don't get me started on the cigarette tax).

You know that "open container" law failed in Virginia again. We have an analog - that perenial bill to outlaw driving while on the phone. It's time to propose the darned thin again!

I'm not usually one for "emergency legislation" - when lawmakers rush to get something -- anything -- done, they invariably screw it up. However, being an exceptional fellow, I hafta make an exception: I hope they get this one done quick, for the sake of the kids.The PG County School Board has been allowed to go on about its dysfunctional way for far too long. Dr. Iris Metts is a very well qualified educator and administrator, and the anti-Metts faction on the school board is behaving worse than a room full of crying babies...

Hot Virginia Issues
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm glad you're keeping a close eye on the Old Dominion. Virginia is both blessed and cursed by having its General Assembly in session only 60 or 45 days per year (it alternates; 2002 is a 60 day session). Being a legislator is a part-time job and the best and the brightest are not always attracted to it. Even those who are the best and the brightest can only give it so much time. The "rascals" can barely keep up with the thousands of bills they consider; for citizens, it's close to impossible.

The legislators and perhaps the people want state government to do what it's doing and to do more. Prioritizing is not looked upon favorably, so the answer is to seek more money in the least offensive way possible--by asking the people to authorize it themselves. I have my doubts that a referendum on increased sales taxes will pass the General Assembly because proponents can't decide what priority--education or transportation--will be funded and because the true split in Virginia politics is between the rural areas and the suburban areas. Southwest Virginia doesn't want any of its money going to Northern Virginia. It will be tough enough to pass the bond referendum.

I think it's a mistake for Virginia to pursue a major league baseball team. Put one in downtown Washington if one is coming at all.

Primaries are infinitely preferable to conventions. I think it will make general elections more competitive--candidates will have survived a real election and won't be creations of interest groups.

Are Politicians Smarter Than Their Constituents?
Tony Adragna
Interesting letter came into the Post from Virginia today, Will
The idea of having a statewide referendum on raising taxes [Metro, Jan. 30] is wrongheaded and only provides Virginia's elected leaders with another reason to avoid making the tough decisions they are paid to make[...] Their job includes being close enough to their constituents to know what is needed[...] If they cannot make the best decision for the commonwealth, why do they think individuals without access to that information can? [...]
If our elected officials can't do the job they asked us to elect them to do, they should resign and not run again.
I agree with this writer, with exception: I think it's the taxpayers responsibility to be self-informed on where the money's going. Let's go a step further, though: it's the voter's responsibility to pay attention to what those rascals are doing.

I'll tell you what I think the problem is - voters don't hold the legislators accountable. We're really good at ranting against the other guy's guy, but my guy is like Ceaser's wife. If we all act like that, it's no wonder that we have so many professional politicians. I realize that's not always the dynamic, but it's a phenomenon that definitely comes into play at election time.

As long as we remember that when I say none of my guys are stinkers I'm preaching the Gospel...

[Update: I often wonder exactly how much politicians know, or are allowed to know. What brought that to mind right now?- I was thinking about that BritTV comedy "Yes, Minister" (later "Yes, Prime Minister), where the "Private Secretaries" engage in a cabal to keep government Ministers from knowing too much - lest they actually get something done, which would throw the workings of the bureaucracy into chaos. The show is a great satire, and like all good satire I gotta wonder how close it comes to truth ]

In other Virginia news:

• Warner sent a letter to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that reiterated the state government's support for relocating a team to Northern Virginia.
"While the greater Washington region is without a doubt the best overall market area for relocating a franchise, it is clear that a location in Northern Virginia, the region's economic hub, will best position the team to take full advantage of the market's promise," Warner wrote.
He cautioned during his WTOP show that Virginia's budget woes made it impossible for the state to commit significant sums to help with a team relocation.
"That's not in the cards for this year," Warner said.
If I can't have my ball club, at least you can't have your's either (yes, I can be a spiteful little pot stirring man sometimes)
• The Senate today approved a bill to require political parties to nominate their candidates in primaries, rather than in conventions or caucuses. The vote was 26 to 12. The legislation now goes to the House, where lawmakers say support is unlikely.
What are the implications, Will? Gonna make any races more competitive, or less?
• The Senate Finance Committee gave unanimous approval to a $1.6 billion package of bonds to pay for construction and renovation of college buildings and to acquire state parkland. The bill now goes to the full Senate. An identical bill is under consideration in the House.
Hadta happen! What's the effect on outyear budget battles? What you don't pay for now you gotta pay for later...