November 2006, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Worth Reading:  Byron York asks a good question:
Does the new Democratic leadership in the House have a clue about what to do in Iraq?
And, after going through Nancy Pelosi's positions on the Iraq "situation", as she calls it, gives this answer:
Now, while it's completely fair to say that Pelosi does not appear to have any idea what to do in Iraq, it's not fair to say that she's alone in that.

Most Republicans seem to be in roughly the same boat.  And in the days ahead we'll probably find out that the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group doesn't really know, either.

But the difference is that Pelosi and her colleagues are now in power, and their policies will be subject to greater scrutiny than before.
(He may be too hopeful on that last point.)

What do I think we should do?  I think we should win, and that the best way to do that is to build up the Iraqi army.
- 11:37 AM, 16 November 2006   [link]

NOW, He Tells Us:  In an interview on the Imus show, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham admitted that his magazine (and journalists generally) had been wrong on President George H. W. Bush.
What's important is journalistically, one of the mistakes we make is we kick people in the shins and we tend to make instant judgments and act as though our judgment is infallible and absolute.  It's not.  See 'wimp factor,' see the mistakes and the misperceptions of the first Bush at the time when everybody was saying he was out of touch and was no good.  Now we see with hindsight that he'd done pretty well.
And then Meacham immediately goes on to make instant judgments about President George W. Bush.   Will he, fourteen years from now, realize those might be wrong?  Perhaps.

What has interested me for years is how often these "instant judgments" are contradicted by easily available evidence.  For instance, it is absurd to believe that a man who had been an aviator, the head of an independent oil company, and the head of the CIA could be a "wimp".  Yet many journalists didn't see that in 1992.

(After the 1992 election, ABC received so many complaints their about bias that they did a program in, as I recall, the spring of 1993, exploring them.  I don't know of any similar effort since then, even though we have had many, many examples of bias since then.)
- 8:34 AM, 16 November 2006   [link]

Does Your Congressman Tolerate Corruption?  Thanks to Nancy Pelosi, many of us will be able to answer that question.  If you are represented by a Democrat, and that Democrat votes to make John Murtha majority leader, then your congressman tolerates corruption.   It's as simple as that.

In this area, for instance, David Postman reports that Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott intend to vote for the unindicted Abscam co-conspirator, so we can conclude that both congressmen tolerate corruption.

The test is, unfortunately, one-sided.  If a congressman does not vote for Murtha, then we can not conclude that he does not tolerate corruption, since he may have other reasons for voting against Murtha.

If Pelosi had not backed Murtha for the position, many Democratic congressmen would have been able to avoid taking a stand on Murtha, and so we can be grateful that she has given us this useful test.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Need a review on Murtha's flaws?  Here's one from the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus.   Marcus says she is puzzled by Pelosi's decision to back Murtha, but she would not be puzzled if she had read this 2002 post in which I argued that Pelosi is a typical machine politician, just like her father.  Machine politicians have never been much bothered by corruption.)
- 7:19 AM, 16 November 2006   [link]

Sometimes Bias Shows Up Most Clearly In The Smaller Things:  For example, in the choice of editorial cartoons at the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI.  Some time ago, I began thinking that I never saw a pro-Bush, pro-Republican, or pro-conservative editorial* cartoon in either paper.  This morning I decided to find out whether that tentative conclusion was correct and went to the Kirkland library, where they keep both newspapers, going back about 4 weeks for the daily newspapers, and about 6 weeks for the Sunday newspapers.

All together I found 92 editorial cartoons in the stacks of the two newspapers.  (Not including the Doonesbury cartoon strip, which the Seattle Times runs on the op-ed page.)  Just one cartoon made a conservative point, a Canadian cartoon showing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il wondering how he would know if UN sanctions were imposed.  Just one cartoon, a Devericks cartoon in the Seattle Times, attacked a national** Democrat without also attacking a Republican; it showed Senator Maria Cantwell being reluctant to debate — as she was.  A few of the other cartoons were not on political subjects, and a few more attacked both parties, or both Senator Kerry and President Bush.  Half of the cartoons were attacks, almost always heavy-handed, on President Bush, the Republicans, or both.  Two cartoons on one side; 46 cartoons on the other side.  I would not call 46-2 balanced.

Whoever chose the cartoons at the Times and the PI in that time period made no effort at all to tell both sides of the story, no effort to let their readers see cartoons from both the left and the right.  I don't think that either newspaper did this as a matter of deliberate policy, but I do think this imbalance shows a deep-seated bias at both newspapers.

Not only were the cartoons biased, on the whole; they were often misinformed, based on false assumptions.  Worst of all, the cartoons attacking Bush and the Republicans were rarely funny — and I generally love political cartoons, even those I disagree with.  (There were a couple of amusing Oliphant cartoons, but they were the cartoons that did not make a partisan point.  And he also did two of the very worst cartoons.)

Some might wonder whether the pattern of bias that I found was the result of choices by the editors at the two Seattle papers.  You might get this same pattern if nearly all editorial cartoonists were partisan Democrats, and the editors just picked cartoons randomly.  In fact, many editorial cartoonists are conservative.  The best editorial cartoonist in the United States (and perhaps in the world) is Michael Ramirez, who now works for the Investor's Business Daily, and is very definitely conservative.  (For a sample, see his November 9th cartoon, which you can find here.)   And there are other good conservative cartoonists; today's featured cartoon at Townhall, by Mike Shelton, is nasty — and very funny.  And it is easy to find many more examples.  So the editors at the two Seattle papers could run conservative cartoons — if they wanted to.

And for purely commercial reasons, they should want to.  They could sell more newspapers if they showed, by their choice of editorial cartoons, that they understood that they still have readers on right and in the center.  And they could definitely sell more newspapers if they ran funnier cartoons, and these days most of the funny cartoons are drawn by conservatives.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(*Both the Times and the PI run comic strips with generally conservative points of view, respectively, Prickly City and Mallard.  But neither strip appears on the editorial pages.

**The Times and the PI each ran a cartoon attacking the Democratic mayor of Seattle, but since Seattle is a one-party town, neither made a partisan point.

I found two odd patterns in the cartoons.  Both newspapers ran a bunch of cartoons attacking negative ads, which is both amusing and ignorant.  It's amusing because the best cartoons are mostly negative, and often unfair, just like those ads.  It's ignorant because negative ads are generally more useful to the voters than positive ads, something I discussed here.

And then there was this oddity.  From time to time, Eric Devericks of the Seattle Times would do a balanced cartoon, or one with no partisan message.  When he did, the Times almost always put a hyperpartisan cartoon on the op-ed page.  That may be just a coincidence.
- 2:46 PM, 15 November 2006   [link]

Congressman John Murtha has A Position On Corruption:  He's for it.   And if you need more evidence, see this John Fund column.  Here are the beginning paragraphs and the final paragraph.
House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's endorsement of Rep. John Murtha for majority leader, the No. 2 position in the Democratic leaderhsip, has roiled her caucus.  "She will ensure that they [Mr. Murtha and his allies] win.  This is hardball politics," Rep. Jim Moran, a top Murtha ally, told the Hill, a congressional newspaper.  "We are entering an era where when the speaker instructs you what to do, you do it."

But several members are privately aghast that Mr. Murtha, a pork-barreling opponent of most House ethics reforms, could become the second most visible symbol of the new Democratic rule.  "We are supposed to change business as usual, not put the fox in charge of the henhouse," one Democratic member told me.  "It's not just the Abscam scandal of the 1980s that he barely dodged, he's a disaster waiting to happen because of his current behavior," another told me.

Gary Ruskin, director of the liberal Congressional Accountability Project, told Roll Call that "when it comes to institutional policing of corruption in Congress, John Murtha is a one-man wrecking crew."   Now with the support of Ms. Pelosi, that "wrecking crew" stands just one ballot away from becoming House majority leader.  Should he win the sealed-ballot election of his peers tomorrow, Democrats may have a hard time explaining just what has changed regarding the Congress's "culture of corruption."
And there's lots of juicy stuff in between.

I can't help reminding you that when Democrats chose Pelosi as their leader, I said that she would behave like the boss of an old-fashioned machine.   Corruption was almost always an accepted part of those machines, and it is obviously not something that bothers Nancy Pelosi.

(Fans of bipartisanship will be pleased to learn that Murtha is perfectly willing to make deals with Republicans — and that, too is common in old-fashioned poltical machines.  We should be suspicious of any Republican who has had many dealings with this deeply corrupt man.)
- 8:07 AM, 15 November 2006   [link]

The Most Popular Guy In The Room is . . . Joe Lieberman.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman strode into a Democratic caucus gathering like he owned the place or, at the very least, like someone who is a flight risk and could leave at any minute, taking the Democrats' new majority with him.

In other words, everyone was extra-special nice to the wayward Democrat on Tuesday.

"It was all very warm, lots of hugs, high-fives, that kind of stuff," said Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon marveled, "One senator after another kept coming up and shaking his hand."

And Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas noted, "I gave him a hug and a kiss."
(Shame on you, Senator Lincoln; Joe Lieberman is a very happily married man.)

If he hadn't promised during the campaign to stay a Democrat, he could have made them sweat even more.  And I suspect he is going to exact revenge from time to time during the next six years.

(And, yes, it is silly to describe Lieberman as "wayward"; the party left him, not the other way around.)
- 5:36 AM, 15 November 2006   [link]

Religious Bigotry At The Washington Post:  The Post's William Arkin is calling for Lieutenant General William G. Boykin to be removed from his postion as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Warfighting Support.  Why?  Because Arkin disapproves of Boykin's religious beliefs.
In October, 2003, I wrote an article in the Los Angeles Times and worked with NBC News to expose what I thought were the extremist views of Boykin, who had recently been promoted and assigned to the Pentagon as the man in charge of intelligence and warfighting policy with regard to the war against terrorism.
And those extremist views?  They sound to me like views common among American evangelicals (and evangelicals in many other countries).  And Arkin gives us not one reason to believe that Boykin has not done a good job in his present position; it is Boykin's beliefs, not his performance, that Arkin objects to.

This is bigotry, plain and simple.  It is also, as Arkin does not seem to realize, against the spirit of all our civil rights laws, which protect religion in the same way they protect race.   In nearly all jobs in the United States, Boykin could no more be fired for his religious views than he could be fired for the color of his skin.

(As soon as I put up this post, I will be sending an email complaint to the Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell.  We'll see if I even get a reply.

If you read our civil rights laws, such as the most famous, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, you will find, again and again, this kind of phrase: "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin", which names the protected groups.  Although many journalists seem unaware of this point, our civil rights laws protect members of religious groups in exactly the same way they protect members of different races.)
- 1:11 PM, 14 November 2006   [link]

Honest Graft:  Not entirely by coincidence*, last night I was re-reading William Riordan's classic description of machine politics, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.  The book begins with Plunkitt's explanation of the difference between honest and dishonest graft.
Everybody is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft.  There's all the difference in the world between the two.  Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics.  I have myself.  I've made a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every day, but I've not gone in for dishonest graft — blackmailin' gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc. — and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.

There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works.  I might sum up the whole thing by sayin': "I seen my opportunities and I took em'."

Just let me explain by examples. My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements.  Well, I'm tipped off, say, that they're goin' to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it.  I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood.  Then the board of this or that makes it plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight?   Of course, it is.  Well, that's honest graft.
With that definition in mind, take a look at some of the land deals that Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, and her son, Paul, Jr., have been involved in.  Here's a key paragraph:
And it appears that very lucrative contracts for development are being awarded to individuals with significant links to both Pelosi and [San Francisco Mayor Gavin] Newsome.  It also appears that Nancy was involved in transferring The Presidio from the Army to the city [San Francisco], where it would eventually come under control of the commission with lucrative contracts going to firms staffed by Pelosi confidants, as well as family.
I think it fair to say that the Pelosis not only saw their opportunities and took them, but created some of those opportunities.  (Just as soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have done.)  Are any of these deals illegal?  You'd have to know far more than I do about the law to decide that.  But they are, unquestionably, unethical, even though Plunkitt would call them "honest graft".

(*As I have been arguing since 2002, to understand Nancy Pelosi, you have to remember that her father ran an old-fashioned machine in Baltimore.  And I believe that her political views come, mostly, from him.  So, to understand her better, I have been reviewing some of the classic works on machine politics.)
- 6:58 AM, 14 November 2006   [link]

Why Not Go Whole Hog?  That's my half-serious advice to Nancy Pelosi.   Having chosen to back Alcee Hastings, who was impeached and convicted by a Democratic congress, for head of the Intelligence Committee, and to back unindicted Abscam conspirator John Murtha for majority leader, why stop there?  Pelosi should limit leadership positions in the new, "clean" House to congressmen and congresswomen who have committed enough crimes to deserve time in prison.

If she imposes that rule, would there be enough Democratic congressmen to fill all the committee chairmanships?  I think so, though for some of the minor committees, she might have to accept congressmen who are just guilty of misdemeanors.

(Would Pelosi herself meet that standard?  Perhaps.  Her husband's businesses have certainly benefitted from her political connections.  You can find some hints here about possible illegalities.)
- 5:30 AM, 14 November 2006   [link]

Nancy Pelosi Says She Wants To Clean The House:  And that she may be better suited to do that than alternative leaders because of her sex.
Maybe it takes a woman to clean house," said Pelosi, a mother of five.  Asked if her remark was deliberately sexist, she replied, "It is.  Because the fact is a woman represents what's new, because it's never happened before."
(I like it when bigoted politicians frankly admit their bigotry.)

And she just showed what she meant by cleaning the House by backing unindicted Abscam conspirator John Murtha for majority leader.  Here's a brief description of some of Murtha's ethical lapses.
Murtha's lowest percentage came in 1980, when he received 59.6 percent of the vote against Charles A. Getty.[citation needed]  This challenge occurred during the Abscam investigation conducted by the FBI.

The sting involved undercover FBI agents posing as representatives of wealthy Arab sheiks willing to pay to obtain asylum in the United States.  During the meeting in a Washington, D.C. townhouse, the agent offered Murtha $50,000 cash, and he refused it, stating "I'm not this point."[4][5]  The charges against him were dropped in return for his testimony against Representative Frank Thompson.  A grand jury did not indict Murtha; on a 6-6 tied vote, he was eventually cleared by the House Ethics Committee in July 1981.  Murtha has always declared he was innocent and has said, "I met with two men who I believed had a substantial line of credit that could provide up to 1,000 jobs for the district. I broke no law. I took no money."[6]
. . .
In September 2006 the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) listed Murtha under Honorable Mention in its 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (one of only four Democrats listed on the site).  The report cited Murtha's steering of defense appropriations to KSA Consulting, which employed his brother Robert, and the PMA Group, founded by Paul Magliocchetti, a former Murtha senior aide.[7]
If this is how Nancy Pelosi cleans house, we can only hope, for her family's sake, that she employs a competent cleaning woman.  (She almost certainly does, since she grew up in a wealthy family and married a wealthy man.)

(More: In spite of this being a Democratic year, Diane Irey held Murtha to just 60.7 percent of the vote , and to fewer votes (119,873) than Murtha received in the 2002 election (124,201).  I hope she runs again in 2008, when she may have a better chance.)
- 1:49 PM, 13 November 2006   [link]

Shifting Party Balance?  Michael Barone looks at the exit poll numbers and doesn't see much evidence for that.
A couple of numbers from the EMR exit poll.  Party identification was 38 percent Democratic, 36 percent Republican.  That's only a point different from 2004's 37 percent Democratic, 37 percent Republican.  Republicans did worse because they had less support from independents this time.
Baron's analysis is incomplete.  In the past, the exit polls were biased toward the Democrats, and they apparently were in this last election, too.  But were they biased by the same amount?   I know that those running the exit polls tried hard this year to reduce their bias, but I do not know whether they succeeded, even to a small extent.  (I'll try to come up with an answer to that question when more complete returns are available.)  Without knowing the amount of bias in the exit polls for both 2004 and 2006, you can't accurately compare 2004 and 2006.  (And I would be more comfortable comparing 2006 to another off year election, such as 2002, since off year elections are so different from presidential years.)

Barone's analysis is incomplete in another way.  He is right to say that independents shifted against the Republicans, but so did Democrats — and so did Republicans.  Ordinarily, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to stay loyal to their party; this year, the Democrats had slightly fewer defectors, 6 percent versus 8 percent.  In contrast, to use the exit poll closest to hand, in 2000 8 percent of Republicans voted for Gore, but 11 percent of Democrats voted for Bush.

Incidentally, the close party balance found in the exit poll shows that many, many polls done for media organizations during the campaign had far too many Democrats in their samples.
- 10:59 AM, 13 November 2006   [link]

Who's Helping Control Health Costs?  The Medpundit knows; it's Walmart
According to this story, the elderly are looking to Democrats to reduce their drug costs.  If they want help in the here and now, they should be looking to Walmart.

Walmart's $4/month generic drug offer is having significant ramifications.  They've induced Target to lower prices, as well as grocery store chains.  Even mail order giant Medco has been spurred to offer low-priced generics.  They've done more in six weeks by slashing prices than Congress could do in six years with legislation.
(The Medpundit is kinder than I would be toward Congress.  I think many of our health cost problems have been caused by Congress, and in many states, by state legislatures.)

As I am sure you know, many Democratic leaders are hostile to Walmart — but maybe they could learn something from this success.
- 5:58 AM, 13 November 2006   [link]

Some Kind Words For Donald Rumsfeld:  From Douglas Feith:
Much of what you know about Donald Rumsfeld is wrong. I worked intimately with Rumsfeld for four years, from the summer of 2001 until I left the Pentagon in August 2005.  Through countless meetings and private conversations, I came to learn his traits, frame of mind and principles -- characteristics wholly at odds with the standard public depiction of Rumsfeld, particularly now that he has stepped down after a long, turbulent tenure as defense secretary, a casualty of our toxic political climate.
. . .
If an ideologue is someone to whom the facts don't matter, then Rumsfeld is the opposite of an ideologue.  He insists that briefings for him be full of facts, thoughtfully organized and rigorously sourced.  He demands that facts at odds with his key policy assumptions be brought to his attention immediately.  "Bad news never gets better with time," he says, and berates any subordinate who fails to rush forward to him with such news.  He does not suppress bad news; he acts on it.
. . .
What Rumsfeld believed, said and did differs from the caricature.  The public picture of him today is drawn from news accounts reflecting the views of people who disapproved of his policies or disliked him.  Rumsfeld, after all, can be brutally demanding and tough.  But I believe history will be more appreciative of him than the first draft has been.  What will last is serious history, which, like serious literature, can distinguish appearance from reality.
I am inclined to think that Feith is right in his assessment.

He does not mention one part of Rumsfeld's long career of service that I think is significant; like President George H. W. Bush and Senator John McCain, Rumsfeld was a carrier pilot, or aviator as the Navy calls them.  That is an insanely dangerous job, and the men who choose to do it are brave (or if you prefer an academic phrase, risk acceptant) to an extent beyond ordinary imagination.  In his essay on carrier pilots in Vietnam, "The Truest Sport: Jousting with Sam and Charlie", Tom Wolfe explained just how dangerous:
Even without going into combat career Navy fighter pilots stood one chance in four of dying in an accident before their twenty years were up and one chance in two of having to punch out, eject by parachute, at some point
There is no civilian job with comparable risks, none that even comes close.  (Mountain climbing, at the highest level (in both senses of highest), is about as dangerous as flying carrier planes, and the top mountain climbers share some psychological characteristics with aviators.)

Nor does Feith mention Rumsfeld's age — he was born July 9, 1932 — but that also tells something about him.  At an age when many would think they deserved a comfortable retirement, Rumsfeld took on the tough job of reforming the Pentagon.  And he did it, as far as I can tell, because he liked the challenge, and because he wanted to serve his country.

(More: John Rosenthal discusses the incident that got Rumsfeld disliked in much of Europe, his calling France and Germany, "old Europe".  The outrage after the remark was, Rosenthal thinks, "fabricated".)
- 4:54 AM, 13 November 2006   [link]

Voting By Mail Is Becoming More Common:  That's a mistake, in my view.  Election law expert Richard Hasen explains why.

Fraud problems would not go away if we switched to vote by mail, as Oregon has.  Such voting — let's call it mandatory absentee balloting — takes the voter out of the polling booth and puts him at home or elsewhere, someplace where votes could be sold to the highest bidder.   Most of the documented cases of voting fraud in the United States in recent years involve absentee ballots.  At the beginning of the last century, voter turnout declined as states adopted secret, in-person balloting, most likely because corrupt politicians stopped buying votes since they couldn't verify that people were really voting for their candidate.

(I added the emphasis.)

Those who have read my site for some time will not be surprised by what Hasen wrote, since I have been making the same point for years.  In fact, I would go farther than he does.  Mailed ballots encourage fraud because ballots need no longer be secret.  (And encourage intimidation for the same reason.)  But they also make fraud harder to detect in both the voting and the counting.  So most cases of vote fraud that we detect are done with absentee ballots, but it is likely that we detect a lower percentage of those cases.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Hasen thinks that we need honest people running our elections, and wants to get them by switching to election bureaucracies, rather than partisan election officials.  I do not object to that in principle, though it is not unusual for bureaucracies to get captured by party officials, especially in areas dominated by a single party.  What I think we need to do is to make both voting and vote counting public — and we can't do that as long as we use mailed ballots so heavily.)
- 6:25 AM, 12 November 2006   [link]

Yesterday Was Veterans Day:  Or, in some other nations "Remembrance Day".  Or, originally, Armistice Day.  I don't have much to add to what I said in earlier years; here are my posts for 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005.  (The 2002 and 2004 posts are the best of the four, in my opinion.)
- 5:39 AM, 12 November 2006   [link]

Think Our Politics Is Dirty Now?  It was, in our first century, much worse.  I was reminded of that when I ran across a definition of "cooping" on my "Forgotten English" calendar, taken from the 1877 Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms:
Collecting and confining [voters] several days previous to an election in a house or on a vessel hired for the purpose.  Here they are treated with good living and liquors, and at a proper time taken to the polls and "voted," as it is called, for the party.
I knew about the practice, but had not heard the term.  That there was a term for it shows that the practice was not uncommon.

Now, of course, because of registration laws and much larger electorates, "cooping" would rarely be practical, which is just as well.  (Though I must say that partying for several days sounds like more fun than getting all those automated campaign calls.)
- 2:47 PM, 8 November 2006   [link]

Mt. Washington:  On my second disaster area tour in September, I got a look at the north side of Mt. Washington, having seen its south side last year.  As I mentioned then, Mt. Washington is thought to be extinct.  It certainly has not been active for some time, or it would not have been carved down so completely by glaciers.

(The colors in the picture are a little off, because I had set the white balance in my camera to manual for landscape pictures earlier and had not realized that I had to reset it.  There are supposed to be simple ways to correct this, but so far I haven't succeeded in doing so.)

You can find my earlier disaster area posts from this September here, here, and here.  You can find the last post from the 2005 disaster area tour, with links to all the other disaster area posts, here.
- 2:28 PM, 10 November 2006
Mt. Washington should look a little better now, though you may have to refresh the page to see the new version of the picture.  It really was that hazy when I took the picture, if you are wondering about that.
- 5:05 AM, 12 November 2006   [link]

Just As Michael Scheuer predicted.
A statement purportedly from the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq hails the defeat of Republicans in the US mid-term polls.
. . .
The Democrats' victory in Tuesday's Congressional elections was a move in the right direction, the speaker said.
(Here's my post on Scheuer's views.)
- 9:33 AM, 8 November 2006   [link]

Fun Reading:  Bill Whittle demolishes a whole set of bumper sticker ideas popular on the left.  Fun, even though his conclusion about what we face is the same as mine — and just as grim.
This ongoing burden is a miserable solution to an ugly problem, but I believe it is the best of a series of very bad choices brought upon us not by our own doing, but by megalomaniacal lunatics who we will have to fight either now, over there, which is terrible and bloody, or later, here, which will be worse.  Walking away from this fight now is like quitting chemotherapy early: immediate relief at the cost of long term consequences that are far more unpleasant.
And don't miss that picture of the fighter cockpit.  It's not the cockpit of the F-102 Delta Dagger that George W. Bush flew in the Texas National Guard, but it is similar, and will show you that, whatever his faults, he is not a stupid man.
- 8:49 AM, 8 November 2006
More:  While reading a Tom Wolfe essay for this post, I ran across this bit:
Flying, particularly in the military, involved an abnormal risk of death at every stage.  Being a military flight instructor was a more hazardous occupation than deep-sea diving.  For that matter, simply taking off in a single-engine jet fighter, such as an F-102, or any of the military's marvelous bricks with fins on them, presented a man, on a perfectly sunny day, with more ways to get himself killed than his wife and children can possibly imagine.
That George W. Bush flew the F-102 shows, not only that he is smart, but that he is far braver than the average man.  And he informally volunteered to fly one of those bricks with fins in combat in Vietnam.
- 7:30 AM, 13 November 2006   [link]

Open Letter To The New York Times #4:  This one a reply to yesterday's editorial giving advice to Nancy Pelosi.
To the Editor:

The New York Times calls for Nancy Pelosi to name Jane Harman, rather than Alcee Hastings, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.  (editorial, November 9)  Since Hastings was impeached by the House of Representatives, and convicted and removed from his position as a federal judge by the Senate, this would seem to be a no brainer — at least for those concerned about national security.  In fact, many wonder why Hastings is even allowed to be a member of this ultra-sensitive committee.

Republicans (and open-minded Democrats) will wonder why the Times waited until after the election to bring this matter to our attention.  And the reason that the Times gives for not appointing Hastings will strengthen our suspicions.  The Times apparently believes that Congressman Hastings should not be made chairman of the committee because the appointment would damage Nancy Pelosi politically, not because he might damage our national security.

James R. Miller
Kirkland, WA, November 10, 2006

Full Disclosure;  This letter is one of a series that I have written to the Times, not because I expect them to publish them, but to criticize the letters editor, whom I have taken to calling the New York Times censor.  (In every case, I would be delighted if the letters editor proved me wrong and published the letter.)

The fact is that the New York Times is much less willing than most American newspapers to publish letters critical of its own work.  And they are completely unwilling to publish letters with the kind of abuse directed at the Times, or Democratic officials, that they routinely publish directed at President Bush and other Republicans.  (I am thinking especially of the columns by Dowd, Herbert, Krugman, and Rich, and many editorials.  The Times is even unwilling to publish letters pointing out factual errors in these columns and editorials.  And, let me assure you, it is not hard to find factual errors in those places.)

This policy is, of course, bad for the country.  But it is also bad for the Times.  It may make the letters editor happy to publish, almost every day, his "Two Minute Hate" directed against President Bush — as he did today.  But it is not something that anyone other than the most partisan Democrats look forward to reading.

Even worse, this unwillingness to publish letters critical of the Times removes the feedback that might keep the newspaper from being, so often, just plain silly in its attacks on Bush and Republicans.   How can they learn that they are wrong — and they often are — if they won't listen to those who disagree with them?

(I borrowed "Two Minutes Hate" from Orwell's 1984, in case you are wondering.

I have rather different policies than the Times.  If the letters editor wishes to reply to me, I would be happy to post his reply here on my web site.)
- 6:38 AM, 8 November 2006   [link]

More On Alcee Hastings' crimes.
What this autobiography omits are the reasons Hastings' judicial tenure, normally a life appointment, was cut short after only a decade.  Barely two years into office, "Judge" Hastings accepted a $150,000 bribe in exchange for giving a lenient sentence to two swindlers, then lied in subsequent sworn testimony about the incident.  The case involved two brothers, Frank and Thomas Romano, who had been convicted in 1980 on 21 counts of racketeering.  Together with attorney William Borders Jr., Hastings, who presided over the Romanos' case, hatched a plot to solicit a bribe from the brothers.  In exchange for a $150,000 cash payment to him, Hastings would return some $845,000 of their $1.2 million in seized assets after they served their three-year jail terms.

Taped conversations between Hastings and Borders confirmed that the judge was a party to the plot.   Hastings was also criminally prosecuted for bribery, but his accomplice Borders went to prison rather than testify against him.  Hastings was acquitted thanks to Borders' silence.  [Borders was then pardoned by President Clinton, confirming the wisdom of his refusal to testify.  In a remarkable display of chutzpah, Borders then applied for reinstatement to the District of Columbia Bar, claiming that Clinton's federal pardon eliminated his local disbarment.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit did not agree, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.  To former D.C. delegate Walter Fauntroy, Borders' case had a spiritual quality to it. "Being pardoned by the president is like being pardoned by Jesus," Fauntroy sermonized.  Thankfully, the Supremes evidently disagreed with this "theology."]
(I had not known that Clinton was part of the cover up, but I should not have been surprised.)

The authors of this piece, J. Peter Pham and Michael I. Krauss, believe, as I do, that a man with this record should never even be considered for the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.  And they give enough evidence from Hastings' recent activities to convince anyone that Hastings was not "scared straight" by his impeachment and conviction.  He's still a crook — and an extremist.
- 8:28 AM, 8 November 2006
More:  Even the New York Times thinks that making Hastings chairman of the Intelligence Committee would be a bad idea.
Ms. Pelosi, who does not get along well with Ms. Harman, is said to be considering Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida, a former federal judge who was impeached on bribery charges and removed from the bench.  If she wanted to put her wrong foot forward, that would be a good way to do it.
Note, by the way, the reason the New York Times gives for their stance.  Making Hastings the chairman of the Intelligence Committee is bad, not because it would be bad for the Untied States, but because it would damage Nancy Pelosi, politically.  I agree with that, but I don't think it's the main reason he should not be on the committee, much less chairman.
- 5:02 AM, 10 November 2006   [link]

Election Tidbits From Barone:  Unlike me, Michael Barone stayed up late on election night and came to some tentative conclusions about the election.  Here are two:
If the Democrats do have a majority in the Senate, then, it'll be because they won almost all of the close ones.   That happens sometimes.  In 1980, Republicans won 11 of the 13 closest elections to the Senate.  They ended up with a majority that almost no one in Washington expected a week before the election.   In 2000, Democrats won five of the closest five elections. They ended up with a 50-50 Senate, which, with the party switch of Jim Jeffords in May 2001, became Democratic, and which almost no one in Washington expected a week before the election.  This time it's a little different.   Almost all of us in Washington expected that it was within the realm of realistic possibility, though a bit against the odds, that we would end up with a majority-Democratic Senate.  And so, it seems, it will likely be.
. . .
The Edison/Mitofsky Research exit poll proved somewhat misleading, as past exit polls have.  The Fox News decision desk personnel decided to abandon the exit poll entirely as a guide to calling winners on the grounds that it overstated Democratic percentages by 6 to 8 percent.
Election junkies will want to study the whole thing.

On one point, Barone and I disagree.  He is, I think, too inclined to see a single election victory as evidence of significant change in the electorate.  As he admits, in 2002, he thought that the nation was evenly balanced, in 2004 that the Republicans might be gaining a permanent majority, and now speculates that the Democrats might be gaining a majority.  My view on this question remains the same; the nation stays closely balanced, and who wins depends on candidates and issues.
- 5:26 AM, 9 November 2006   [link]