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Saturday, August 10, 2002

Josh, Mainstream Pundit

Will Vehrs
Granted, Josh wasn't given many opportunities to repeat his best smashmouth Talking Points Memo lines by Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz. Still, cleaned up and in the company of strong reporters, Josh seemed almost ... mainstream to me. He was reasonable and fair without betraying his liberal leanings. It's really possible to talk politics without ad hominem arguments.

Thanks for the suggestion on Quote of the Week--Barney Frank always gives "good quote."

My Pick for QOTW

Tony Adragna
"Remember term limits? John Dingle has been in Congress longer than most term limit advocates have been alive" Barney Frank, Capital Gang, Saturday August 10, 2002

Josh's Performance

Tony Adragna
Josh cleans up nicely ... shaved and combed his hair...

Hey, I ain't a stenographer....

OK, I did take a few notes on the Gore - Lieberman question:
"Most reporters have contempt for Al Gore... disdain..."

Doesn't matter whether perceptions of Al Gore are correct, "it's [the perception] a reality"

Lieberman won't run if Gore does. "[Lieberman's] played up his personal integrity" and he won't back off his own standard.
I also got a good line on Gore from Dana Milbank:
"Sanctimonious... thinks he's better than us... Bush knows he better than us..."
I'm not gonna try this again... I probably got it all wrong and out of context!...

"Future of the U.S. Constitution"

Tony Adragna
C-SPAN covered two ABA panel discussions today. The one I watched -- moderated by Arthur Miller -- addressed the question, "Will September 11 Change the U.S. Constitution?"

My sympathies to Judge Sporkin... He sat in the center of the panel, and really presented a moderate view of where things are headed in the tension between "National Security" and "Civil Liberty": So long as the Judiciary capitulates not to extemists -- neither in the Executive nor in the Civil Liberties community -- then we ought be OK.

However, the extremes (hence, my sympathy for Sporkin) on the panel were represented by Walter Purdy with the law enforcement perspective, and [Angela J Davis not Angela Y. Davis -- I wasn't paying attention the first time] and Judge Andrew Napolitano tag teaming with the civil liberties perspective... Judge Sporkin was getting a little annoyed with the panelists to his left -- he half jokingly commented that their arguments were pushing him to change his mind in favor of the other extreme...

Anyway... the reason why I decided to say something 'bout the discussion was because of a suggestion that one of the panelists (don't remember his name, but he was immediately to the right of Sporkin -- Update: his name is Rodney Smolla) made in re why, notwithstanding all the folks who ended up in custody, we've only seen -- so far -- one indictment out of the investigation into September 11: the government's case against others who might be guilty just isn't strong enough to prosecute.

There may be enough intelligence to warrant detaining "on "National Security" grounds non U.S. persons" suspected of terrorism, but no judge would even allow a criminal case to be brought on the evidence... this seems to me the point of separating National Security Law from Criminal Law -- 'tis the only way you're going to be able to strike a balance...

In order to do this, though, the discussion needs to stop confusing the purpose of National Security Law -- it's not about law enforcement...

p.s. I'll be back later with observations on Josh's appearance tonight... gota pen... need some paper...

To All Refugees


Compared to David Brooks...

Tony Adragna
... Lowery is a wimp ["girly boy"]... Well, maybe it's a juxtaposition since there's really no comparison...

Undoubtedly, a book by Rev. Falwell would be met with screams from the left. But, Mr. Glover's argument on that point -- while correct -- is disingenuous. This isn't the first time that the "balance" argument has been put forward by Mr. Glover's group in what is not an attempt at fair treatment, but an effort to shut down presentatrion of a viewpoint that differs from that of his group. Just look at what Family Policy Network has done on the issue of homosexuality -- they've gone after every business and government institution that has dared to present a position of tolerance.

What is FPN's own position -- just follow the precepts of the Bible... Now, I don't abhor FPN's speach, or their efforts to sway political opinion, but there is an agenda FPN is working...

Will, you missed my point -- I'm for no "tracking"...

Reno's a lost cause [ did that pronouncement just improve her chances of winning?]...

Off to breakfast now...

Addendum: I, too, noticed that Mark was a bit annoyed... I think it was more due to having to share the table with a young pup yapping at his heels -- Lowery is smart, but I prefer wisdom...

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
After watching The News Hour last night, I succumbed to the lure of two murder stories on NBC's Dateline. I know I should have been watching CNBC's WSJ Editorial Board with Stuart Varney, but sometimes the Punditwatcher just has to shut down.

I don't know exactly what's meant by calling someone a "girly man," but it sure appeared to me as if Lowry got under Mark Shields' skin a little bit. It's tough to fill the shoes of the sainted David Brooks, that's for sure.

I also come down on the side of the University of North Carolina and academic freedom, such as academic freedom is these days. This is a run-of-the-mill, start the academic year little exercise that's been going on for years. When I was an incoming freshman at William and Mary in 1971, we had to read a feminist tract and a black power tract over the summer. I really got converted .... While I think that Glover was right to say that reading something by Rev. Falwell would be met by screams from the left, the fact is that Falwell isn't timely right now. Islam is. Fortunately, the issues raised by Islam have gotten so much attention that even the most clueless students should have heard about it. If they haven't, they aren't going to read the book anyway.

I'm not sure how I feel about putting every student in a college track in high school. Our economy demands that we probably put more students in a vocational track. Of course, vocational tracks have notoriously been used to keep students away from tough standards in liberal arts. I think there's a way to blend the two.

Interesting on the ground report from Janet Reno's strange Florida campaign in today's WP. The word "quixotic" comes to mind.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Speculari Speculorum

Tony Adragna
'Tis odd, Will, that "speculate" means "to conjecture something based on incomplete facts or information", but the root "speculari" means "watch, observe; spy out; examine, explore". I prefer to engage in the latter, then offer best guesses once I've gotten a good idea where things might be headed.

If I were to run Ockham's Razor -- also know as the Law of Parsimony -- through the reams of writing that attempts to explain the thinking of Supreme Court Justices, then I'd better have a good strop handy... Simplest explanations are always a good place too start, but aren't always the correct answer...

Thanks for reminding me 'bout Joanne Jacobs -- haven't visited her site in awhile... She didn't pull that observation on lowering standards out of whole cloth: It's the natural extension of trends at lowring college admission standards...

I don't like "tracking" -- I think every student should be required to meet the same standards, and those standards should aim at prepping every student for college. If some students don't make it, that should be because the student failed against the standard, not because the standard failed the student...

I watched the Newshour segment on the current flap over Chapel Hill's summer reading assignment. I happen to come down on the side of the university. This clearly isn't a case of "indoctrination" -- Mr. Glover's arguments were nothing but polemic with a bit of nasty ad hominem thrown in.

Example: Mr. Glover referred to Michael Sells as an "Islamist" -- Fact: Michael sells is Professor of Comparative Religion at Haverford College.

Example: Mr. Glover implies that Prof. Sells is wanting to only put forth the peaceful side of Islam -- Fact: In early 2001 Prof. Sells called attention to what the U.S. was facing vis a vis Saudi Wahhabism and the Taliban.

Example: Mr. Glover refers to "Approaching the Qur'an" as a "religious text" -- Fact: The publication is a scholarly work that no more preaches Islam than studying the 1st millenium of the Common Era in WesternCiv preaches Roman Catholicism...

Mr. Glover does have a point: If the only perspective that the students at Chapel Hill had put before them was Prof. Sells' work in the particular book in question, then I'd have a problem. But, Prof. Sells' work isn't the only perspective these students have been presented -- there has indeed been an effort to paint all of Islam with the same broad brush that Pipes et al have dipped into Saudi Wahhabism, and I'm all for putting some balance into the debate "What is Islam?"...

Not that Prof. Sells needs me to defend him: His own response to Mr. Glover ought -- but won't -- put the debate to rest..

I'll leave you to sum up the "Political Wrap" when you get a round tuit on Sunday. I will, however, comment on an observation: Me and Coulter actually do agree on one point -- Rich Lowery is a "girly boy"!...

BTW: I didn't note WorldCom's disclosure of an additional $3.8 billion error because my response was the same as the market's -- 'twas the biggest bankruptcy in history, and still is...

Addendum: I'm planning to watch Josh on Reliable Sources tomorrow at 6:30 PM

A Blogger on NPR

Will Vehrs
I just finished listening to the first Joanne Jacobs education commentary on NPR. She really knows her stuff and will be a great addition to the network, especially now as students and parents gear up for school. I think her worry about putting all high school students in a college prep curriculum--that it might cause schools to lower standards--is a valid one. I'm sure she'll be tracking the data.

Thanks to Instapundit, quick to react as always, for tipping me off to Joanne's schedule.


Will Vehrs
Let's see, Tony ... the Supreme Court justices, ready to choke each other across the 5-4 Bush v. Gore divide, decide to do the country another favor by not rocking the boat. I suppose it's possible.

Let one party get a working majority (say, 52 votes) in the Senate this fall and let's see if a few grizzled justices don't pack it in.

I don't think the Amar and Calibresi thesis needs the current court to make its case; Justice Douglas was a sickly man before he resigned and the fact that so many justices seem to die shortly after their retirement tells me that they might have hung on too long. It's August, Tony, and a deserted Washington lets us speculate on all sorts of things.

Great Minds...

Tony Adragna
Unfortunately, mediocre minds are put truth to that bromide, too...

Yeah, those were the first two items I read this morning...

Kinda hard to have missed the "fiscal discipline" item seeing as it was front page above the fold under the photo of Rookie Ramsey [ Coach Spurrier's comment to Ramsey, "It means they love you if they tie you up", coulda come right outa that Marguis de Sade's playbook] Nota Bene -- the story picked on Landrieu (D-La.) first…

The Hammer is factually correct, but remember that ethics in politics are less about “facts” than perceptions… Ethics rules are partly to blame insofar as the purpose of those rules are to avoid the appearance of impropriety rather than any actual impropriety.

Buchano it don't matter what gets written or whether it's true, because people oft don't read the whole story and end up missing details that make their responses look stupid. There's an example of the point at – read the the passage and find the clueless responses... what score did those folks get on the reading comprehension part of their SATs?... [The mind is a terrible thing!!! Let's go get wasted!!!!]

I have only a minor observation on what the Amar and Calabresi. [ the latter is a toponym from the Italian side of the Strait of Messina -- the Wise Guys didn’t go away… they’re just lawyers and bankers now…] The gentlemen don’t take into account a possible explanation for the dearth of Supreme Court retirements: Could it be the justices have come to an unspoken agreement to wit: Knowing the closeness of political division, neither party in possession of a mandate to push the federal judiciary -- and, therefore, federal law as practiced before the bar -- toward where partisans would like the Court to go, the justices have wisely decided to maintain the status quo ante (which, contra partisans in both camps, is fairly balanced).

I’ll leave to others the debate on whether the explanation I offer is probable, but if you’re gonna have an honest debate on the proposed solution, let’s first examine whether the problem is as asserted…

I haven’t said anything on the Hamdi case… I can’t find a perfectly analogous precedent… Chief Justice Taney -- sitting in Baltimore as head of the Circuit Court – did take Lincoln to task in Ex Parte Merryman over habeas corpus where the government was making similar arguments. But, Taney’s holding was limited to “a person not subject to the rules and articles of war.”

However, I think the argument against “second guessing the military in the field” is a strawman – Hamdi isn’t “in the field”, he’s in custody. I see absolutely no problem with requiring the government to show that Hamdi is an “enemy combatant” where that assertion is made in re a United States citizen.

The court has gotta be able to review the governments assertions, but I agreed with WaPo’s editorial board when they said, “[…]the judge should not risk making bad -- maybe dreadful -- law in a flamboyant attempt to hold the government's feet to the fire.’

Gotta go toke a smoke now...

Quick Quotes

Will Vehrs
I've written recently about my bias against bitterly partisan viewpoints. Today I stumbled across something Bill Quick wrote that expresses my disdain much better than I have managed:

Many on the left have assumptions so unexamined they don't even realize their words are insulting. Of course non-leftists are baby-killing psychotics and racist greedheads whose only goal is to grind the faces of the poor and the ethnic in the dirt. Why would anybody even be insulted when the lefties point out something so obvious (to them)? Why, you'd think they'd be grateful a lefty condescended to take the time to apprise them of their horrible failings.

Sorry, folks, it doesn't work that way. Spend all your time calling somebody an asshole, and eventually they may decide it's a good way to look at you, too. They sure won't be rushing to spend a lot of time considering your arguments - assuming, of course, your arguments ever manage to rise above the level of simple insult or sneering innuendo

The emphasis is mine. If he had mentioned that there are some on the right who resort to calling those who disagree with them "assholes," this would be perfect.

Quick had a different take than mine on the cancer-stricken Eszterhas's NYT op-ed:

I'm sick of these deathbed conversions, where, after a lifetime of some potentially self-destructive habit, the expected outcome occurs, and the new convert begins to wail, "Do as I say, not as I did until I was forced to stop."

I smoked for forty years. I quit more than a year ago. If I end up dying from lung or throat cancer, I'll know who is to blame: not Joe Esterhaz for "glamorizing" smoking, but me for taking it up in the first place, and not quitting a hell of a lot earlier than I did

You have to admire Quick's brutal honesty.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Lots to talk about today, Tony. I feel invigorated now that I've shaved off the beard I've been cultivating since June 14th--a beard that I thought would "invigorate me" back then ....

Rosy Scenario Tony, thank you for making my point that most political snafus are bi-partisan. It was in Clinton's interest to publish the most optimisic economic forecasts possible--things were slowing and Gore needed the "boom" to continue. Bush needed those numbers to justify a tax cut along with continued spending. Of course, partisans on both sides will only see one side of this game. Good article in the WP today on a possible budget "abyss." I think it's good because it shows the duplicity of both parties,using a Louisiana Democrat and a Maine Republican as examples:

Landrieu and Snowe represent a remarkable trend in both parties, lawmakers willing both to cut taxes dramatically and to raise federal spending significantly. The trend goes a long way toward explaining the growing budget morass the government finds itself in after four years of surpluses, and it turns political conventional wisdom on its head.

The Democratic orthodoxy once held the line on tax cuts to free up spending on federal programs that the party saw as vital. The Republican orthodoxy tried to restrain spending so that taxes could be cut and the overall size of government would shrink

Let's be honest, here, though. We, the people, don't want to hear that we can't have it all. If only one candidate used that message, he or she would be swamped. If both did, the press would tell us they were bland candidates in a boring race and no one would vote.

The Vicar Defends Cheney Strong defense of Vice President Cheney today from the Vicar of Bellicosity, Charles Krauthammer:

It may turn out that there is damning evidence that we have not yet seen. But until someone produces it -- say, that Halliburton's cost overrun revenues were knowingly and crookedly inflated -- we are left with the following syllogism: It is open season on CEOs; Cheney was once a CEO; therefore, it is open season on Cheney.

It's Time for Them to Go Provocative op-ed in the WP by Akhil Reed Amar and Steven G. Calabresi suggesting that Supreme Court Justices should be term limited:

Congress should try to nudge the justices toward a better model of judicial independence based on fixed judicial terms.

Currently each justice is tempted to time his or her departure with one eye on the political calendar and one finger in the political wind

That "timing" compromises judicial independence, or at least the appearance of it, according to Amar and Calabresi. I don't disagree. They suggest several alternatives for achieving term limits that work around the life tenure enshrined in the constitution. It's an idea worth debating.

Hollywood Conversion I've never smoked and don't particularly like the habit, but I'm enough of a libertarian to accept that others may choose to smoke and they shouldn't be castigated. I am, however, offended by the frequent hypocrisy of anti-smoking forces. For example, I've never understood why so many anti-smoking crusaders embrace Hollywood moguls whose films glorify smoking. Today, in a NYT op-ed, Joe Eszterhas, a screenwriter, author of "American Rhapsody, and a throat cancer patient, writes:

So I say to my colleagues in Hollywood: what we are doing by showing larger-than-life movie stars smoking onscreen is glamorizing smoking. What we are doing by glamorizing smoking is unconscionable.

If we're going to beat up billboard owners and convenience store clerks in our anti-smoking zeal, we ought to beat up Hollywood, too.

A Shell of A Contest Dodd Harris sure didn't patronize me in this week's Caption Contest. Looks like he's getting some new talent to enter, though, and that's a good thing. Of course, I haven't seen too many "newbies" who can compete with the likes of our Refuge stable: Rags, Dan, and the AWOL JulieC.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Auld Lang Syne, My Friend...

Tony Adragna
Pert' near close to a year, Will -- does seem an "old long since", but those times never were worthy the fondness that some would assign... I wonder if I'll ever feel nostalgia for the '80s and '90 the same way the old farts feel for the '50s... Que lastima...pues...

I'll play nice today... I'll start by admitting that Clinton's economic forecasts were a little rosier than reality has turned out to be. Where I depart, however, is in the implication that Clinton was "cooking the books"... if that is indeed what Mr. Novak meant to imply.

Problem is that pointing back to problems with those old forecasts doesn't address the criticism that some of us made on the tax cut. Sure, if everything turned out as forecast, then we wouldn't have any problems. But, remember when those forcasts on surplas tax collection grew form $3 trillion to $5 trillion? Don't know 'bout you -- I wasn't trusting those forecasts any further than they would fly as paper airplanes...

[Wait a minute... the forecasts were on "before tax profits", so why am I talking about government "surpluses"? Because it's the growth in income -- both corporate and individual -- from whence those surpluses were supposed to materialize...]

Anywho... Mr. Novak needs to be remembered that while Mr. Lindsey was warning the Bush campaing about a downturn, the same campaign had subsumed those same Clinton admin forecasts about business growth into surplus projections, and made argument for "returning" money that the government hadn't even yet collected... Hence, 40% of the projected 10 year shortfall is due to the tax cut...

On the other hand, things could turn around next year -- nobody knows for sure, it's all "educated guessing", but still just guessing...

Jim Hoagland isn't averse to "Making Hussein Squirm", and neither am I. Hoagland concludes as I would:
[...] if the windstorm turns into a real storm next winter, no government near the path of destruction can afford to be unresponsive to U.S. war needs and goals. That would be choosing suicide.
I hafta disagree with Kevin -- I dont think "the strongest argument for war with Iraq is the old fashioned one of the balance of power." That argument might appeal most to conservatives, but I think there a stronger argument: There IS causes belli!.

Hussein never did comply with the terms that were to bring the previous campaign to its close, and we've been militarily engaged against Iraqi forces in a sporadic warm war ever since the cease fire was agreed upon. Those agreements were not acquiescence to U.S. demands, but to compliance with Security Council resolutions -- resolutions which Mr. Butler reminded (during Biden's hearings) carry the force of international law (something about the UN Charter compelling member nations to comply).

'Course, this is another sitch where those opposed to U.S. action argue that our efforts to force compliance would actually be illegal...

I don't mind the show of force argument: Hell, that's what navies are for, just read Mahan. Kick some butt, then show the flag once in awhile to let people know you're still on patrol and ready to do it again. That's where we've been vis a vis Iraq for the last 10 years... The "balance of power" argument is a little too cold warishy for me -- we don't want "balance" against thuggery...

Has It Already Been a Year?

Will Vehrs
Well, Tony, you got me good with that nugget culled from the archives. I guess now I am bored by the lull in the war and the trivialization of homeland security, so imagining political "dream teams" is the best game in town. Those I spoke of were early adapters.

Congratulations to Glenn Reynolds, the "Godfather of Blogs," on the one year anniversary of the always excellent Instapundit. It's hard for me to recall what it was like before Glenn started blogging and helped change the world as I know it. Here's to many more years of Glenn's wit and wisdom!

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Who's Playing?

Tony Adragna
Didn't you read the memo, Will? We liberal DNC Democrats (screw those faux-liberal DLC folks -- they're corporate shills) -- we're prepping for class warfare: Down The Elite... Up The People...

When you say "small kernel" are you talking 'bout my hyperbole, or what's spinning around in Mr. Bush's noggin -- you're correct in either case...

[Okay, I've been sarcy enough for today... I really do respect the Honourable Members opposite... Republicans are OK... Publicans are even better...]

"Are we that bored with war and homeland security that we have to imagine political 'dream teams?'" [Yeah, I finally broke down and pulled a Vehrs quote outa the archives...]

I'm betting on Kerry/McCain... or McCain/Kerry... considering I was completely sdrawkcab ssa on KKT, maybe I oughta stay away from forecasting races...

Roads are for busses!! I was thinking 'bout the whole road constuction v. mass transit debate while riding home on the Green Line. Honestly, I think both extremes are wrongheaded: We can't keep building roads forever, but we can't make mass transit available for everybody, either. The effort at trying one approach alone is wasteful.

There is something we can do about getting more people off the roads. Truth is there are a lot of people for whom mass transit is both convenient and cheaper than driving. Many of these people would rather commute on the trains and buses, but don't for a very good reason -- piss poor customer service. I know this for certain because it's the reason I've most often seen for loyal ridership leaving mass transit: If you can't even handle a simple customer service solution like a workaround during service interruptions, then you can't be surprised at losing customers.

It's not the infrequent (relative to total hours of operation) delays or the crowding -- it's the unapolagetic attitude of system operators vis a vis what they consider a captive audience. Those of us without cars ar got by the gonads -- we really are captive -- but if I had a car I'd probably drive too...

Talking Politics

Will Vehrs
Tony, thanks for reminding me of what Machiavelli has really come to symbolize. What I meant was that Kaus sees all the possible Machiavellian moves that might be behind the things politicians say and do.

Are you getting JBS ... Josh Marshall Syndrome? Bush as Orwell? Come on, Tony, play nice. That's a might small kernel.

I suspect a lot of Republican hearts sank today when Dick Cheney's remarks were publicized--he wants to be on the ticket in '04. I suppose he has to say that--he's got some Machiavelli in him, I suspect--but I think he's off the ticket. Whether it's another health incident or just a general "my doctors recommend that I retire," I think Cheney will withdraw and Bush will put someone else on the ticket. Bill Frist and Condi Rice are my frontrunners.

I haven't weighed in on the Al Gore situation. I still see him as the odds-on choice to be the Democratic nominee for President, but I think one of his strongest platforms--bring back the Clinton economy!--has been tarnished. The economic doldrums we're in would be tailor-made for Gore except for the corporate scandals. CEO and accounting chicanery was occurring during the Clinton-Gore years and I think that fact has taken some of the bloom off the Clinton economic record in the eyes of the public. Anything that takes some of the blame away from Bush hurts Gore.

While Gore seems to be running circles around the other Democratic wannabes right now, remember that none of them have really "gone negative" on Gore. Some of them eventually will, and a sharp guy with a fresh face like John Edwards might be able to do it better than the subtle but clumsy effort Lieberman just tried.

Oh, and on the issue of taxes ... you've tied in the "wasteful spending" angle. I think in the case of the Northern Virginia transportation referendum, some people will not only oppose tax increases, but they'll also oppose giving VDOT more money for cost overruns and endless construction delays that really don't seem to improve things even when they're done. And don't forget that a lot of environmentalists oppose additional funding for roads.

Machiavelli With A Blog?

Tony Adragna
I don't see the likeness... lets see, Machiavelli's "[...]amoral, but influential writings on statecraft have turned his name into a synonym for cunning and duplicity"... is that Kaus? How 'bout Kaus' thinking on "benevolent despots[...] who consolidated state power and deployed it in international affairs"? We are talking about the same Machiavelli?...

I think the "cunning and duplicity" does Uncle Nicolo an injustice. He was, after all, nothing more than a government official arguing that The Prince -- heir to the family legacy and leader of the nation -- ought do whatever it takes to ensure survival of the Republic... Nicolo wouldn't be happy with our "prince" -- Mr. Bush can't decide whether he want's to sound like Hoover, Churchill, or C.S. Lewis... We do know where he got his model for running the government -- Orwell...

[ some sarcastic hyperbole above... but hyperbole does have some kernel of truth buried in it...]

Taxes & Trade Offs I'm not so sure that everybody's as "anti-tax" as the anti-tax lobby wants us all to believe. It's not even true that "the wealthiest 1%" are unanimous on wanting tax relief for themselves. Seems to me that what "Joe Sixpack" -- and Tony Adragna -- are "anti" is wasteful spending -- i.e. any spending that doesn't go to our pet projects. I think most people are willing to pay if they think they're getting value for their money...

Of course, the people who want to see their own tax burden reduced are of also oft the same people who decry the fact that there aren't enough cops on the beat, teachers in the classrooms, troops on the front...

No Slapdown and Kwitcherbichin...

Drill, Part II

Will Vehrs
Bottle Bill Tony, that Bud investment strategy only works in states with bottle bills, like New York. Get your Maryland gubernatorial candidate of choice to support a bottle bill and drink to good environmental policy ....

Intelligentsia Tax The intelligentsia of Northern Virginia--mostly well-heeled developers, but high tech businesspeople and scattered other special interests--have fought years for a sales tax increase to fund transportation improvements. If they had their way, it would be higher and fund education, too. Given the money and PR effort they've expended, it's no wonder you perceive that Northern Virginians favor an increase. Joe Sixpack, to the extent that such creatures exist in Northern Virginia, is probably not as enarmoured of raising the sales tax. Turnout will be critical in November, but conventional wisdom holds that anti-tax forces will be more motivated to turn out, especially since there are no real contested congressional seats (Jim Moran's antics still aren't enough to make him vulnerable) and Senator John Warner is running unopposed.

Interest Group Politics Tony, the Dingell-Rivers contest was more a cultural contest on the issue of guns than anything else, although I'm sure autoworkers wanted to keep Dingell as a barrier to Henry Waxman taking over his committee. It's a shame the way primaries are too often just proxy fights for hot button issues that don't really have much impact on ordinary people's lives.

Kelly's Korner I started reading Michael Kelly's column this morning, hoping he'd really address some substantive "disclosure" issues that have arisen, but it just seemed to me to be dog days of August fluff.

Vehrs & Kaus v. Adragna & Marshall Let the smackdown begin! I can't help it, I just love Kaus' style and his recognition that issues and positions aren't always black and white. He's Machiavelli with a blog. Did I spell that right?

Good Investment Advice

Tony Adragna
Ann Salisbury posted some good investment advice the other day
If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock) one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the 5-cent deposit, you would have $107.00.

Based on the above, the best investment advice is to drink heavily
and recycle.
You mean we can trade those cans in for cash (which is just as good as money)? As much Bud as I've drank[drunk?] over the years I'd be a millionaire by now...

Maybe not... I think I would end up reinvesting my dividends...

I got a Dingleberry I watched part of a debate between Dingle and Rivers, but quickly lost interest when all the responses I heard -- from both candidates -- were more about which group was endorsing the position rather than the merits of the position. I like Dingle as a character, but he is sorta a hanger-on who has managed to escape the fate of some others of that bygone caucus...

Adragna v. Kaus Sorry, Will! Kaus would be higher on my list of good guys if he ever unequivocally admitted he was wrong about anything, or changed his mind on something after listening to argument and considering the merits -- like Josh did on "regime change". [Full Disclosure: I've a beef with Kaus that admittedly colors my opinion...]

More Disclosure Michael Kelly has written some really witty sarcasm recently, and today's column doesn't disappoint:
WASHINGTON -- In a climate where the "dismal science" seems ever more aptly named, Wall Street's relapse into the land of the diminishing Dow has sparked fears of a so-called double-dip recession -- fears that are quite justified and have their roots in a systemic and decade-long abuse of the public trust by corporate malefactors and their political enablers.

(Full Disclosure: The author knows diddly about the stock market. He went through college on a journalism program, for God's sake. He last understood the mathematics curriculum in the fourth grade. Like most journalists, he only vaguely and dimly grasps the economics of his own business. He did not know the difference between a bull and a bear market until he was in his mid-thirties. His father-in-law has several times explained to him the concept of a "put," yet it remains to him a mystery. His wife handles all aspects of the family's financial life. He does not even have his own checkbook. He has an ATM card, which he frequently loses.)
One thing that's always irked me on the news pages and during my CSPAN press briefing viewage is the question evidencing a complete lack of even the most fundamental understanding of the particular body of knowledge in question.

I don't see the problem on the Op-Ed pages quite the way that Kelly does. Yes, the regular columnists oft delve into matters they don't fully understand, but there's enough inclusion of expert opinion -- even experts appearing on the same page looking at the same issue but coming to different conclusions -- that readers end up with reasonably well informed debate.[n.b. my observation on "expert opinion" oughtn't be construed as endorsing the logical fallacy of "Argument from Authority"]

On the other hand, some people read the Op-Ed pages as if they're "reportage", so maybe a little "IMHO"ing mixed in with some "correct me if I'm wrong" verbiage wouldn't be so bad... I don't think "Full Monties" are necessarily the best way to go, and I do believe Kelly doesn't think so either...

On to Richmond I'll leave Virginia politics to you, Will. I'm just curious about something in re the local sales tax issue: correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Northern Virginians favoured that idea... In my humble opinion, Gov. Warner's on the right[correct] side of the issue...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Embarassment of Riches Tony, there are so many good blogs out there that it's scary. We should at least link to all the good folks that link to us.

I've always wanted to go back to Blog Watch some day, but it's too daunting a task now to select a group of blogs to cover. I am trying to think of some way to establish a "Best of the Blogs" feature, recognizing original work or particularly cogent analysis of punditry or news coverage ....

Dingell Coasts I was surprised by the margin that Congressman John Dingell rolled up in his battle against Congresswoman Lynn Rivers in that 15th District Michigan Democratic primary yesterday. It was far above the margin predicted by Bill Ballenger, a Michigan political analyst, who appeared on last Saturday's Capital Gang, as reported in Punditwatch. David Bonoir lost his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination; I had never been able to figure out why he made that race. Michigan will now likely have a Democratic Governor next year, but definitely lose the liberal voices of Rivers and Bonoir in Congress.

GOP Not Hurt in VA Special Election The Virginia Republican Party has suffered a series of scandals recently, but a special election for a Northern Virginia State Senate seat yesterday was won by a conservative Republican who was outspent by his Democratic rival. The seat had previously been held by a moderate Republican who endorsed Democrat Mark Warner for Governor last year and endorsed the Democrat seeking his seat. This special election bodes ill for Governor Warner's signature issue, a sales tax increase for transportation referendum this fall. The winner opposes the sales tax increase. Of course, turnout was only 16%, considered high for an August special election! In Tidewater Virginia, a Democrat won a special election to replace a Democratic delegate who took a job with the Warner Administration.

Marshall v. Kaus I may have gone off a bit on Josh Marshall yesterday, but I stand by my basic point: Marshall would be more effective if he wasn't so invested in a jihad against Bush and Republicans. Today Marshall takes on the blogger I thought he should emulate, Mickey Kaus, and demonstrates my point. Marshall attacks the parts of a Kaus piece that show some understanding of the Republican position and attempt to give the benefit of the doubt where it's warranted. To Marshall, there's nothing to understand and no benefit of the doubt should ever be given to a Republican. Advantage, Kaus!

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Aw crap... I guess I oughta better just do it...

Tony Adragna
Still not getting satisfaction from my host service, I've hadta resort to adding to the link list over there to your left... Max Sawicky's blog shoulda got added long ago (Max is another person I initially ran into at "the fray")... Brotha B's on the "Blogs of Note" list, as are Charles Kuffner and Ginger Stampley and Jim Henley and Joshua Micah Marshall and Mickey Kaus and Matt Welch and KEN LAYNE... more to come...

Any suggestions, Will?

Fairness to Josh

Tony Adragna
Has Josh ever claimed to be an "objective journalist"? I'm not sure, but I think the answer is: No. In fact, I remember -- I can't find the entry -- Josh admitting that he's a partisan Democrat (I did find the entry where he describes himself "a Clinton partisan" -- scroll down).

I don't think Josh is pretending at anything...

You know where I stand on The Market -- I said it last year and reiterated the same recently. Congress' action on corporate reform only fixes the obvious that oughtn't be allowed. But, there's a lot of other stuff still legal -- and should remain legal -- that's gotta be kept inside the envelope: Some reform of the corporate culture is in order... I don't think the uptick was an effect of the legislation, but the result of analysts speculating on "capitulation". And we're still waiting to see what other restatements -- not due to fraud, but resulting from changes in accouting practices -- are going to come out...

Presidential pronouncements and legislative action don't affect the economy or the market unless what's being done and said has some implication on long term fiscal policy: i.e. the tax cut that I railed against last year. I think that what's missing vis a vis convincing people that things are going to get better is some long term proposals other than more tax cuts -- we heard that already, and I'm not buying it...

You liked that interview?...

No Hyperbole, No Legs

Will Vehrs
Hey, Tony, congrats on a great interview!

Calling Josh Marshall "a Paul Krugman-like caricature" is not hyperbole. He's supposedly a professional journalist, but he's really a partisan pr guy. I respect a lot of his commentary on Democratic politics, but that's because he's writing from the "inside." Here are a few examples of what I consider to be just knee-jerk Carvillizing:

The attitudes the administration brought to handling criminals and alien detainees are seeping into the way it treats other branches of the government, even if it is now only slightly and at the margins. It's not simply that the administration is indifferent to civil liberties, there is a contempt for constitutional propriety. They seem to believe that 9/11 frees them from any concern with precedent or discretion.

And if you thought the people who invested in stocks lost their shirt, just talk to the folks who put their money on the Bush team's rep for competence.

this one just perfectly captures the mix of ideological rigidity, bizarre denial and whistling-past-the-grave trash-talk which is now the coin of the realm at the White House.

What makes this all really unsettling is that the executive branch, frankly, seems not to have any idea what's going on.

That's a strong statement and obviously I make some of my living being critical of Republicans. But it's really true. I think most honest observers are starting to see that. And frankly that's scary

Cheney is like the mob goon who comes to your house, looks at you with maniacal eyes, wrings your neck with his clammy hands and tells you if you don't cool it he's not just gonna kill you, he's gonna wipe out your family, knee-cap your nephew, saw your dog in half, and pour salt and bleach all over your lawn so nothing grows on it again for another hundred years.

A liberal/"lefty" like Brother Linse doesn't pretend to be an objective journalist. I have no problem with that. I just find that Marshall, who writes for major publications, has become so virulently anti-Bush that he no longer has any credibility. He's just firing one screed after another, a la Krugman. I challenge you to show me where Marshall disagrees with Democratic orthodoxy even as half as much as Andrew Sullivan disagrees with Republican orthodoxy. Yet Sullivan is the one always vilified for his partisanship!

Obviously, my bias is with writers who acknowledge that there is always another side to a story. That's why I like Kaus.

As for political "legs" to the Time story, I think you've seen all you're going to see. Just like corporate reform, anti-terrorism failures before 9-11 is an issue that both parties can use. In the end, the public just sees muddy water.

Speaking of corporate reform, I saw some crowing that it was the Sarbanes bill being signed that caused that big market upswing last week. Now that the stock market is back in the tank, is it the incompentent Bush Administration again?

Interview With A Lefty

Tony Adragna
I've been meaning to note Brother Brian's The Lefty Directory, but hadn't gotten around to it -- there's an interview posted that's prompted me to get off the pot. Highly recommended reading...

Josh Marshall "a Paul Krugman-like caricature"? -- Please tell me that's hyperbole, Will. As for the story: It's got legs, the only question is where it's walking to and how far it's gonna go...

Josh was right, the TIME story was "fair to the Bush administration" -- the author even concedes that immediately implementing the plan would "perhaps not" have made a difference vis a vis September 11. But, fairness also demands that Bush supporters/Clinton haters concede a) the claims that the Clinton administration wasn't doing anything are patently false, and b) claims that the Bush administration came up with a novel idea and was doing all that it could -- whether or not September 11 would have been prevented -- are not wholely accurate.

The story has political legs, Will. Disagree as you do with where some wanna walk that baby, don't deny that it's a story...

I agree, it's a bi-partisan failure to the extent that there was a real failure to prevent September 11 from happening, but the story stands as a rebuttal to certain statements from the current administration...

Where has this story been? Well, WaPo wrote on what the Clinton adminstration started: "Broad Effort Launched After '98 Attacks" on Dec. 19, 2001 and "Clinton's War on Terror" on the following day. I noted on May 20 that "'Twas Clinton who in '98 made a 'presidential finding' that going after terrorists with covert action, even killing terrorists covertly, doesn't violate the prohibition against assassination. Clinton so authorized action aganst bin Laden, and Bush reauthorized on that same finding as soon as he took office."...

Won't come right out assert the Mr. Bush screwed to pooch -- I don't believe there was an individual failure on his part -- but we know that there was a campaing in progress long before Mr. Bush came into office, and what happened to that effort after the transition is a valid avenue of inquiry..

Wriston is correct on accounting standards, as I've previously noted. Myself has never claimed that the Bush assertion on gray areas was untrue. Rather, I've tried using that statement to impeach Mr. Bush rhetoric of moral clarity. Here, too, there are legs -- they won't walk up to the dock, but they'll definiately make it to the polling place...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Prayers for Cokie NPR correspondent and This Week co-anchor Cokie Roberts is battling breast cancer. Fortunately, the prognosis is good--she has been an advocate of mammograms and other early detection exams for years, so hers was found early. Our prayers go out to this respected pundit.

Kudos for Kaus The more I read Mickey Kaus, the more I am convinced that he is the best professional journalist blogger out there. Despite being a liberal-leaning Democrat, he analyzes all the angles of a story, not just the ones that fit the views he holds. Joshua Micah Marshall, fast on his way to becoming a Paul Krugman-like caricature, could take a few tips from Kaus.

Blame Game I'm sick of the continuing blame game in Washington, especially the one regarding the current corporate scandals. If ever anything was bi-partisan, it was "the decade of greed" that was the 90's. Bill Clinton played a particularly egregious bit of "blame game blaming" demogoguery the other day, equating Somalian military operations with corporate responsibility legislation. The Wall Street Journal takes down the former President's argument very effectively today.

Black and White Former Citicorp Chairman Walter Wriston made a good point in yesterday's WSJ:

When President Bush recently suggested that all accounting decisions are not always black and white, he was attacked as if he had made an obscene statement, when in fact he was dead right.

The Financial Standards Accounting Board has, at last count, enshrined generally accepted accounting principles into 4,530 pages. Some of the FASB rules run to over 700 pages on how to book a single transaction ... It should surprise no one that two skilled accountants, looking at the same booking of the same transaction, and using their knowledge of teh same rules, come out with different results.

It happens all the time in legal matters. Learned judges hearing the same testimony and reading the same briefs often render split opinions of 5-4 or 2-1. It is rare that they are castigated by the media or Congress for failing to agree unanimously, but in the accounting profession a difference of opinion is often reported as if a fraud has been committed

Wriston calls for simpler accounting rules along the lines of the International Accounting Standards Board, which "has just 34 standards instead of thousands of pages ...."

Hoping for Legs Refuge poster Guy Cabot, with a little encouragement from you, Tony, seems to be hoping that the Time magazine article claiming a Clinton plan to battle al Qaeda was left with the Bush Administration but delayed in getting to the President until just before September 11th. This is another skirmish in the blame game. Again, failing to truly appreciate the threat of terrorism was a bi-partisan failure.

I don't think this story has "legs" because it is so patently obvious that it was "planted" by an ex-Clinton official in hopes of helping Democrats and rehabilitating Clinton. Where has this story been for 11 months? Several times since 9-11 the issue of what Bush knew/what he did in advance has been raised--if this information were solid, it would have come out. I suspect that someone like a Sandy Berger reviewed a bunch of old documents, found enough of a thread of information throughout them that might have been read of Bush's team to provide plausibility, and went to Time with the story.

If you want to play the blame game, though, check out the differing takes of Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall. Tell me who's more fair-minded.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

What's Happenin' in Congress...
and What Oughtn't Be Happenin'

Tony Adragna
Will, you did see Sen. Levin pull the rug out from under Bob Novak on the question of bias being behind the decision not to call Rubin before the committee. Zing!

My CSPAN viewage this week included Biden's hearing on the potential (or, eventual) war to depose The Butcher of Baghdad, and the hearing on FISA reform.

On To Iraq

The Foreign Relations Committee hearings were a good start. I haven't read any other opinions on the matter, but I suspect some member comments have been characterized as latently anti-war. I don't remember hearing any member actually make an argument against war -- even amongst panelists the sentiment was overwhelmingly in support of the need for military action against Iraq.

But, there were some real concerns -- would Saddam use WMD in a last ditch effort, how long would we need to stay in occupation, etc. -- that need addressing. To blow off the questions simply as looking for an excuse to not go just doesn't cut it -- even if the questioners motives are suspect, the questions are still valid.

I would liked to have seen Scot Ritter on the panel with Richard Butler. I suppose the committee didn't call Ritter for one very good reason: They've already heard Ritter's arguments from another source -- Saddam Hussein. That's not hyperbole. Ritter consistenly repeats the Iraqi lie that Iraq's WMD program is for self defence -- ommitting the critical fact that Saddam's government has used chemical weapons -- nerve agents -- offensively in his campaings against Kurds.

And what does it matter whether the purported use is defensive rather than offensive -- according to the terms of the cease fire, and in accord with Security Council resolutions, Iraq isn't supposed to have any nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare capabilities.

Mr. Butler put his finger on the button though: Hussein is a liar.

Why not continue containment? Because it doesn't work. In general, containment never works because it's never absolute -- look at both Iraq and Cuba. In specific, containment in the case of Iraq wouldn't work even if it was a complete lockdown. Iraqis arent the technologically anachronistic Taliban -- there's native scientific and technical expertise supported by the government in Iraq. Closing the door on Iraq does nothing more than locking a scientist up in his own fully stocked lab.

Does the fact the possibility of Saddam using chemical weapons against U.S. troops concern me? Hell yes, it does! I remember the drills aboard ship when I was out there -- the thought of an NBC attack scared me more than a shipboard fire. We knew that it was a possibility, and we trained for it.

The possibility of chemical warfare -- though I think it improbable -- is really the only awareness issue that came out of the hearings. Definitely something to consider, and for the nation to be prepared to accept in a war against Iraq, but ultimately not a reason to shy away from what needs to be done.

I'm Reasonably Suspicious

On the other set of hearing, I'm concerned about both attempts -- removing the "agent of a foreign power" language, and inserting "reasonable suspicion" into the code as a legal standard -- to change FISA. I think both changes are inane at best, but open the statute to challenge at worst.

The change to "reasonable suspicion" might be inane if that is already the correct standard and it were being correctly applied where agents want warrants under FISA. I haven't been able to find a definitive answer on exactly what the standard is currently, but what I've read suggests that it is what's being proposed (at least in cases involving non U.S. persons):
John Lewis, former assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Division, says "The standard is ‘reasonable suspicion’..."

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association, summarizing the [USA Patriot] acts effect on wiretap and other surveillance in criminal investigations, says that "the required showing would be just 'reasonable suspicion' before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" as opposed to the normal showing of "probable cause" before an Articel III judge.

Agent Rowley's memo asserted "reasonable suspicion" and mentioned the "more than a hunch" language normally associated the standard.
I'm pretty sure that "reasonable suspicion" is already the standard. [ If so, then I repeat the assertion that DoJ is hiding its failure behind a torured reading of the statute]

But, if there's disagreement, then maybe it's not so pointless to add the language -- it will clarify to DoJ lawyers that they aren;t supposed to be trying to meet the normal 4th Amendment "probable cause" standard.

There is still cause for concern here: Since FISA warrants may now be used in crimnal matters where foreign intelligence is only "a purpose", then what we have is undoubtedly an act which might not survive 4th Amendment challenge on "probable cause" grounds.

The solution seems plain to me -- since the act already requires a higher standard on elements for U.S. persons, then simply make clear that "probable cause" only applies to U.S. persons, and "reasonable suspicion" applies to non U.S. persons.

Removing the "agent of a forieng power" language is a stretch. The "lone wolf" argument is made for this change, but I'm not buying that argument. If the person truly is a "lone wolf", then the criminal statutes ought be sufficient. If there's a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an international terrorist -- included in the definitions who the act applies to -- then the act as it stands suffices.

The problem here is that the act has been read to require proof that the individual is a member of a particular organized group on a list of such groups identrified by the State Department. Nevermind that the act doesn't actually say that, includes language meant to include groups not recognized, and doesn't even require the target individual to be identified by name.

The act is about collection of Foreign Intelligence for national security purposes -- the amendment changes the act so that it might apply to some "lone wolf" who is neither controlled by, nor connected with in any way, elements of "international terrorism".

The solution here also seems plain to me -- simply make clear that the statute doesn't require proof of membership in a particular recognized group.

Off To Bed


Tony Got A Band Of Broads

Tony Adragna
Sorry for my absence the last couple days, Will: I've been fussing with setting up the ehternet network here at home -- complete with Comcast broadband access -- and that meant running cables all over hell's half acre [read: my room -- all roads lead to Rome, and all cable runs go through my spartan cell].

But, I'm very pleased with the results. I never knew just how kewl this internet thingy could be when you're not spending most of your time waiting for data to transer 'cross a phone line...

Anyway... I've done some thinking 'bout current issues -- Biden's hearings and the FISA reform hearing -- so I'll have something up later this evening...

Gibberish & Innuendo Awards Added to Punditwatch

Will Vehrs
It was a relatively slow weekend for the pundits, so the just-posted Punditwatch found a few new award categories that seemed appropriate. There's also a surprising choice for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a recycled easy rider, and a little-known Senate Papacy.