Friday, September 30, 2005

Beware of super-pork

Anne Applebaum has a must-read (and now 2 day old) column regarding the need for vigilance in the process of throwing money at New Orleans. Here is a taste.

[C]orruption comes in many forms, and in this country it comes in the dull-sounding, unglamorous, switch-off-the-television form of infrastructure appropriations.

Exhibit A is the Louisiana congressional delegation's new request for $250 billion in hurricane reconstruction funds. As a Post editorial pointed out yesterday, this money -- more than $50,000 per Louisiana resident -- would come on top of the $62.3 billion Congress has already appropriated, on top of the charitable donations, on top of the insurance payouts. Among other things, the proposal demands $40 billion of new Army Corps of Engineers spending, 16 times more than the Corps says it needs to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane.

Justice Ginsburg: Roberts right, Biden wrong

Transcript from Day 2 of Roberts' confirmation hearings.

ROBERTS: Senator, I think nominees have to draw the line where they're comfortable.


BIDEN: You're not applying the Ginsburg rule.

Justice Ginsburg this week.

Ginsburg also said she agreed with a position taken by federal Judge John G. Roberts during his confirmation hearing to replace the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Roberts invoked Ginsburg when he refused to speculate on how he would rule in cases before the court."Judge Roberts was unquestionably right," Ginsburg said.

"My rule was I will not answer a question that attempts to project how I will rule in a case that might come before the court."


Picture of the day

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hindrocket's tinfoil hat

I thought that left-wing loonies at the Democratic Underground had laid exclusive claim to wild political conspiracy theories. I was wrong. Check this out from Hindrocket at Powerline.

A year ago, and apparently as recently as two weeks ago, Earle did not choose to take that risk [i.e., to indict Tom DeLay]. So--once again--what changed? My guess, and it's only a guess, is that it has to do with the impending battle over the Supreme Court. It appears that the Democrats have decided, barring the extremely unlikely possibility that President Bush nominates a Democrat, to filibuster the next nominee, whoever he or she may be. Such a move would be unprecedented in American history, and carries considerable political risk.

I believe that the Democrats think they can get away with a filibuster because they have the Republicans on the run--nothing but bad news from Iraq (untrue, but that's the impression you get from the media), the fiasco of Hurricane Katrina (also untrue, as we're learning), Bush's sagging poll numbers, etc. In order to lay the groundwork for their filibuster, the Democrats are doing everything they can to create an anti-Republican frenzy in the press. My guess is that the DeLay indictment is part of that effort.

It would be interesting to subpoena Ronnie Earle's telephone records and see what Democratic Senators or representatives of the Democratic National Committee he has been talking to over the past couple of weeks.

Earle may be a hack, but this theory is ridiculous and Hindrocket hurts his credibility by suggesting it.

How hard is it to measure 26.2 miles?

This marathon was too long. This marathon was too short. I hope that the distance of this marathon is just right.

Picture of the day


The case of Laci Peterson, the pregnant California woman who was murdered and whose body was dumped in San Francisco Bay, is once again making headlines. But this time, the issue is who will collect Laci`s $250,000 life insurance policy. Her husband Scott Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death last year in connection with her murder and that of their unborn child. He wants the money, but so does Laci`s mother. A hearing has been set for October 21st.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Drum has got the right beat

Kevin Drum is often a lonely voice of practical thinking on the left side of the blogosphere. Here is an example of him pointing out the facts of life to his blind friends.
George Bush is failing miserably, his approval ratings are in the tank, the liberal base is seething with anger, and yet it's all translating into....nothing. E.J. Dionne explains why today:

[The Democratic] party's problems are structural and can be explained by three numbers: 21, 34 and 45. According to the network exit polls, 21 percent of the voters who cast ballots in 2004 called themselves liberal, 34 percent said they were conservative and 45 percent called themselves moderate.

Those numbers mean that liberal-leaning Democrats are far more dependent than conservatively inclined Republicans on alliances with the political center.

These numbers have been rock steady for decades, and their meaning is simple: energizing the base just isn't enough for Democrats. Even if every hardcore liberal in the country votes Democratic, we have to win about three-quarters of the moderates to gain a majority. That means we have to win support pretty far into the conservative end of that moderate center, and people like that simply aren't going to respond to anti-war rallies and screaming campaigns against John Roberts.

Read it all.

Tom DeLay

The indictment may well be bogus, and I would never condone an abuse of the criminal justice system to extract political revenge. Nonetheless, I just can't seem to conjure up too much sympathy for the guy. "What goes around comes around" comes to mind.

Religion is the problem?

This study is not going to be too popular.

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. . .

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies."
I'm not going to endorse the specific results of this study, but it is indisputable that religion is not always a force for good in the world.

My view of religion is simple: Faith and modesty in your limits as a human being are good. A conviction that you possess the absolute truth and that people who don't share your beliefs are going to hell is bad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bette Midler is a putz

Quotes from a Katrina fundraiser:
"I could sit up here and talk for hours about ineptitude, stupidity, blame, in-e-qual-i-ty, global warming, the dangerous destruction of the wetlands . . .

I am telling you these are not just dangerous times, these are disastrous times . . . we're surrounded by disasters - the war, the hurricane, Fox News. . .

A terrible thing happened to me. Today, I got a letter from the Republican Party thanking me, thanking me for supporting this Administration's policies. I did what any self-respecting American of intellect and class would do. I wrote, Go f--- yourself and sent it back - postage due. . .

I would never pick on George Bush because, you know, he's a big fan of mine. He came to see me in the Seventies. A coke dealer of his got him some tickets."
Obviously, none of this had anything to do with raising funds for Katrina victims. But beyond that, it is just blabbering.


CAPTION: "A request for ice sets outside a Hurricane Rita damaged home in Lake Charles, La., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)"

Democrats on Roberts

There has been a lot of speculation that Sen. Leahy and others decided to vote to confirm Roberts in order to strengthen their ability to oppose the next nominee, assuming that he or she is "out of the mainstream." In other words, it is all part of some grand Democratic strategy. Think again.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, vented frustration with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) during a closed-door Democratic meeting last week before stunning colleagues and liberal activists by announcing his support for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

A day before his surprise declaration, Leahy expressed his irritation at being blindsided over Reid's position, finding out about it from the news media rather than from the minority leader, said lawmakers who attended the meeting. . .

The Reid-Leahy split has opened the door for Democratic defections.

The New York Times reported that Leahy's decision had "cleared the way for a possible free-for-all among Democrats still wrestling with their decisions."

Is anyone listening?

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told France's Finance Minister Thierry Breton the United States had "lost control" of its budget deficit, the French official said on Saturday.
Is Alan Greenspan the only grownup in Washington?

Believe it or not

This is not from the Onion.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A congressional panel on Tuesday is expected to scrutinize the decision to keep ousted Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown on the federal payroll.

Brown told congressional investigators Monday that he is being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a senior official familiar with the meeting.

That is right, they are paying the guy to investigate what he did (and didn't do) that led him to lose his job.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Stupid lawsuit of the day

Evelyn Davison, 74, of Austin, Texas, filed a lawsuit in June against a neighbor who had failed to bring in her empty garbage can after a pickup. Davison discovered it in her driveway, and, attempting to move it by herself, she said she was seriously injured when she accidentally fell into it.

Gang of 13

A watchdog group, naming what it calls "the 13 most corrupt members of Congress," is calling for ethics investigations of some of the most prominent leaders on Capitol Hill in a report to be released Monday.
Read the whole story for the ugly details.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Another political typology test

My test results below provide further self-affirmation that I am, in fact, a "centrist" on domestic issues.

Take the test yourself by clicking on "The Politics Test" link below.

You are a

Social Moderate
(56% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(55% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

(For related post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Waiting for disaster

Most disasters or tragedies, whether caused by nature or man, are sprung upon us with little or no warning. This waiting and watching for days as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever creeps toward shore, where it will cause an unbelievable amount of destruction, is a very strange experience. For me, it certainly makes focusing on anything else extremely difficult.

Here is a picture that was emailed to me of what Katrina looked like as it came ashore in Mississippi.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Sen. Feinstein is a putz (for today)

Generally, I like Sen. Feinstein quite a bit, but this is ridiculous. Apparently, she is openly basing her "no" vote in significant part on the fact that she doesn't think John Roberts talked enough about what kind of husband and father he is.

What would of the reaction been if Sen. Specter had announced that he was voting "no" to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she didn't talk enough about what kind of wife and mother she is? I think that I know the answer, and I can't stand such a blatantly obvious (and stupid) double standard.

UPDATE: John at Powerline had the same thought.


This is going to be real ugly.

Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Rita, the third-most intense storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, bore down on the Texas coast as residents moved inland. The Category 5 storm is more powerful than Katrina, which left more than 1,000 dead last month in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Rita, with winds of 175 mph (280 kph), is ``potentially catastrophic,'' the National Hurricane Center said today in an advisory on its Web site at about 3:45 a.m. Houston time. The storm is forecast to hit land near Galveston, Texas, late tomorrow or early Sept. 24. Rita's center was 515 miles southeast of Galveston, and moving west-northwest near 9 mph.

``You're talking about a catastrophic disaster, with extensive damage,'' Dave Roberts, a meteorologist at the center in Miami, said today in a telephone interview. ``Look at the impacts of Katrina: You're going to get that all over again.''

Link. Godspeed to those in its path.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Protection, Chinese style

I kind of doubt that Bill Clinton is going to find this flattering.
BEIJING -- A rubber company in China has begun marketing condoms under the brand names Clinton and Lewinsky, apparently seeking to exploit the White House affair that led to the impeachment of America's 42nd president. . .

"The Clinton condom will be the top of our line," he said. "The Lewinsky condom is not quite as good."

Liu said the company had chosen to use the Clinton name because consumers viewed the former president as a responsible person, who would want to stress safe sex as an effective way to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.

"The names we chose are symbols of people who are responsible and dedicated to their jobs," he said. "I believe Bill Clinton cannot be unhappy about this because he's a very generous man."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It took one day . . .

. . . for North Korea to try to change the deal. I'm shocked, absolutely shocked. (Link.)

Picking stocks

This explains why I decided a few years ago to put all new investment money into mutual funds rather than try to pick individual stocks.

Roberts: a sampling of op-eds

There is no suspense in the Roberts confirmation vote. It is not a question of whether he will be confirmed, but by how big of a margin. Still, it is interesting to see what the editorial boards around the country think.

This is from the liberal editorial board at the L.A. Times.
IT WILL BE A DAMNING INDICTMENT of petty partisanship in Washington if an overwhelming majority of the Senate does not vote to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next chief justice of the United States. As last week's confirmation hearings made clear, Roberts is an exceptionally qualified nominee, well within the mainstream of American legal thought, who deserves broad bipartisan support. If a majority of Democrats in the Senate vote against Roberts, they will reveal themselves as nothing more than self-defeating obstructionists.
The Washington Post concurs.
JOHN G. ROBERTS JR. should be confirmed as chief justice of the United States. He is overwhelmingly well-qualified, possesses an unusually keen legal mind and practices a collegiality of the type an effective chief justice must have. He shows every sign of commitment to restraint and impartiality. Nominees of comparable quality have, after rigorous hearings, been confirmed nearly unanimously. We hope Judge Roberts will similarly be approved by a large bipartisan vote.
From what I have seen, the New York Times is the only paper to come out against confirmation. Its weak reasoning is as follows:
If he is confirmed, we think there is a chance Mr. Roberts could be a superb chief justice. But it is a risk. We might be reluctant to roll the dice even for a nomination for associate justice, but for a nomination for a chief justice - particularly one who could serve 30 or more years - the stakes are simply too high. Senators should vote against Mr. Roberts not because they know he does not have the qualities to be an excellent chief justice, but because he has not met the very heavy burden of proving that he does.
UPDATE: Democratic Leader Harry Reid has announced his opposition.

"I have too many unanswered questions about the nominee to justify a vote confirming him to this enormously important lifetime position," Reid said during a speech on the Senate floor.

"I like Judge Roberts," Reid said. "But I have reluctantly concluded that this nominee has not satisfied the high burden that would justify my voting for his confirmation based on the current record."

Reid and the New York Times are reading from the same talking points.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Headline of the day

Gay Penguins Break Up

North Korea deal

The White House is "cautiously optimistic" about the new nukes deal with North Korea. Scrappleface sums up my initial impression.

Reasoned opposition to the war

I willingly seek out the opinions of people who initially opposed or have come to oppose the decision to go to war in Iraq on a cost/benefit basis (i.e., the cost in terms of money and lives was not worth the benefits of enforcing the terms of the armistice that ended the 1991 war, removing Saddam, eliminating a believed WMD threat, and spreading democracy). What infuriates me is when people suggest that there is some moral equivalance between the United States and the "insurgents." I recently cited the example of Helen Thomas:
Did Bush think that at least some Iraqis some would not stand and defend their country? Is patriotism simply an American phenomenon?
There certainly have been others, but here are some from the better known spokespeople for this point of view.
“The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow—and they will win.” - Michael Moore.

"Now that we have decimated [Iraq], the borders are open, freedom fighters from other countries are going in . . ." - Cindy Sheehan.

"I think the decision the Iraqis have made to resist foreign occupation is a heroic decision." - George Galloway.
To all of these people, I now simply offer this quote from the "heroic," "patriotic," leader of the "Minutemen"/"freedom fighters," a man who is not even an Iraqi.
The threat of further massacres was sharpened last week when the architect of much of the killing, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared a "full-scale war on Shiites all over Iraq, wherever and whenever they are found."

IDs for voters

WASHINGTON - Warning that public confidence in the nation's election system is flagging, a commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III will call today for significant changes in how Americans vote, including photo IDs for all voters, verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines and impartial administration of elections. . .

Critics of voter ID cards say the requirement could intimidate or discourage some Americans, particularly the elderly, the poor and minorities, from participating in elections and raises privacy issues.
I just don't get it. How does having to prove who you are in order to prevent voter fraud raise "privacy issues"? And what is "intimidating" about being asked to show an ID?

If there are good arguments in opposition to an ID requirement for voters, I'd like to hear them because these objections are really lame.

News of the weird

This is extremely odd.
SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked, leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building. . .

Firefighters cut electricity to the building thinking the burns might have been caused by a power surge.

Clewer, who after leaving the building discovered he had scorched a piece of plastic on the floor of his car, returned to seek help from the firefighters.

"We tested his clothes with a static electricity field metre and measured a current of 40,000 volts, which is one step shy of spontaneous combustion, where his clothes would have self-ignited," Barton said.

Any questions?

Just about every political cartoon is unfairly simplistic, and this one is no different, but it is still funny.

The image I had during the hearings was of a cat toying with mice.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

From fascism to democracy

The United States and its allies deposed a fascist regime in Germany 60 years ago. The United States and its allies deposed a fascist regime in Afghanistan much more recently. Today, citizens of both of those countries went to the polls. This should be a proud day for the United States and its allies.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Saturday puppy blogging

We have a new Golden Retriever puppy in the house a bit sooner than we had initially planned. There was an opportunity to get a puppy with CCI dog family history (see here for explanation) -- something that was extremely attractive to my wife -- and we decided to act.

By the way, Cole opted to name the puppy "Fenton." Why? See here.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Roberts' Box for Democrats

I bet that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee now wish that they didn't have to vote. If they vote to approve Roberts' nomination, their base will accuse them of falling for a slick sales job from a guy who, in his heart, approves of the bombing of abortion clinics. If they vote against, they will signal in clear terms that no Bush nominee will be acceptable and, thus, invite Bush to reject moderation and nominate a firebreathing conservative for O'Connor's seat. Perhaps for the first time ever, I counsel Democrats to listen to the editorial board of the StarTribune.

This week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings . . . showed that Roberts is both qualified and fit to serve as chief justice of the United States. Barring any last-minute bombshells, the Senate should confirm his nomination.

Of central importance in confirmation hearings, said Specter, is "for the Senate to engage in a public exploration of the judicial philosophy of Supreme Court nominees." In the committee's inquiry, Roberts came through as an open-minded, mainstream conservative jurist -- a believer in judicial restraint who several times set his philosophy apart from the more doctrinaire approaches of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

Unwritten rule: don't shoot

Dave e-mails.
As a lawyer, and sort of Minneapolis resident, you should like this.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

As police released more details about the shooting of a Qwest Communications worker in north Minneapolis, they also spoke about its repercussions within the community.

An unwritten rule against harming people whose work brings them into different parts of the city was broken when the telephone repairman was shot as he did his job, Assistant Minneapolis Chief Tim Dolan said Thursday.

"If that line starts to be crossed, the quality of life here is going to be seriously affected," he said.

Shooting a telephone repairman in Minnesota breaks "an unwritten rule"? In some states it would actually be against the law.

Well, obviously, shooting anyone without justification is against the law in Minnesota. But Dave does have a point regarding the warped premise on which the story is based. Doesn't the "unwritten rule" of "don't shoot" apply to everyone, not just "people whose work brings them into different parts of the city"?

Manhattan gridlock

Despite my general aversion toward crowds, I usually love going to Manhattan. This week's trip, however, was not particularly pleasant because the level of congestion was simply unbelievable. Here is why:

NEW YORK -- While world leaders were gridlocked on charting a new course for the United Nations, New Yorkers faced a different kind of jam Wednesday: a traffic nightmare from what was billed as the largest gathering of its kind.

Inside the glass edifice of U.N. headquarters on the East River, more than 150 leaders _ including President Bush _ butted heads. Outside, vehicles all over Manhattan inched forward bumper to bumper as limousines and luxury cars bearing dignitaries whizzed by in lanes kept clear by police cones. . .

The NYPD dubbed it "gridlock squared."

And with the leaders come the protesters, which made the gridlock even worse. In fact, I was stuck in a taxi in the same spot for 30 minutes yesterday while we waited for a protest against the Chinese government to pass.

Still, it wasn't all unpleasant, as my argument before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals went well and I had a brush with fame when I saw this person pass by on the sidewalk.

Now that I am back, more regular blogging should resume.

UPDATE: By the way, when I said in a pre-trip post that "I will be staying within blocks of the WTC site," I was wrong. It would have been a good 30 minute walk from the hotel to the WTC site and, because my plane was late getting in and it took forever to get from the airport to the hotel, I just didn't have the time to make a visit.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Two reasons why I like John Roberts

Reason #1.
Simply put, Roberts has not met his burden. He has not demonstrated that he is in the mainstream as a jurist. He has not demonstrated that his judicial philosophy is in the mainstream.
Reason #2.
WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s testimony about the existence of a right to privacy, the importance of respecting precedent, and the need for the Constitution to adapt to changing conditions has alarmed some rank-and-file conservatives, who are filling up Internet message boards with predictions that Roberts may turn out to be a moderate justice.
Having both the far right and the far left scared is about the best that I could hope for in a Bush nominee.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Roberts hearings - Blogging hiatus

I have spent a couple of hours (so far) tonight watching the replay of today's hearing on CSPAN. Here are a couple of random thoughts from a lawyer with a fairly active federal appellate practice.
  • Roberts is not a reincarnation of Rehnquist. At this point, I think that what Stephen Breyer is for liberals, John Roberts will be for conservatives. Sympathetic to the cause, but with a recognition that judges are not supposed to be policymakers.
  • Roberts and Breyer will be the most influential justices over the next 15 years, and look for them to form an alliance in many important cases. Here is why: Breyer and Roberts will look at each case meticulously from the bottom up from a limited factual perspective, albeit through different ideological prisms. Conversely, Scalia/Thomas and Stevens/Ginsburg will continue to look at each case from a top down ideological perspective where the limiting facts of a particular case will not now dissuade them from trying to force sweeping conclusions.
In the meantime, I'm off to NYC tomorrow for an argument on Thursday before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It will be my first visit to Manhattan since 9/11 (I was last there in May 2001), and I will be staying within blocks of the WTC site. This is going to be a memorable trip in many ways but, since I won't be bringing my computer, it also means that blogging will be very light until at least early next week.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Message to John Kerry: don't waste your time trying again

According to Zogby, if a presidential election were held today, Jimmy Carter would beat George Bush by 8 points. But Bush would still beat John Kerry. Astounding.

I don't really believe what I believe

Here is a classic quote from the "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" department:
"We ought to have more women on the court. Two is the bare minimum... But I don't believe in a quota system."

-- Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), quoted on Meet the Press, of a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Rise of the center?

Quote from David Brooks last Friday on the Newshour.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, my first reaction was that there are a lot of people like me -- that is good, I guess, for the country, yes, oh yes -- people who support Bush generally but who are angry with him now.

I actually think he may be able to come up again. I mean President Reagan in '82/'83 was way low, 20s and 30s. Carter, Clinton went way up and down in the way this president hasn't. But the crucial question to me is something frankly I'm not quite clear sure about, do, -- you know we're in an emotional period, a passionate period and things are going to be moving around.

David BrooksDo, in two months, -- do we snap back to essentially the political structure of the past six years, really, which is this big hunk of Republicans, this big hunk of Democrats and very few people in the middle -- in other words, the polarization that we've seen - and if that is the case than the parties will continue to play their base -- or has something fundamentally reshaped and we really begin to see a center?

I begin to think that something has been fundamentally reshaped. That is my instinct but so far you wouldn't say there is a lot of evidence for that.

As much as I am intrigued by Brooks' suggestion of a move to the center among the electorate, I see two basic flaws with his theory. First, contrary to Brooks assertion that there are "very few people in the middle," approximately 50 percent of the electorate are moderates. The real question is whether the existing center can shape the debate and cause an increase in the number of centrist elected officials. Second, why would the government response to Katrina cause Democrats to start sounding more like moderate Republicans?

Holocaust, schmolocaust

ADVISERS appointed by Tony Blair after the London bombings are proposing to scrap the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is regarded as offensive to Muslims.
Yeah, why must we obsess about the systematic extermination of 6 million people? I mean, that is obnoxious.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four years later

It has been four years, but the images of that day are as clear in my mind as if the events had happened yesterday.

Reasonable people differ as to how to minimize the risk of such a horrible event ever happening again, but those are disagreements over means, not ends. On this day, we should simpy honor the memories of those who died.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Not too bright

Below is a recent history of Minneapolis City Councilmembers engaging in stupid criminal acts for minimal financial reward and then ultimately finding their butts in federal prison.
  • 2001: Councilmember Brian Herron pled guilty to extorting money from a business owner having problems with the city's inspection department. Total take: $12,000. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
  • 2002: Councilmember Joe Biernat was convicted on federal counts related to his acceptance of $2,700 in free plumbing work. His sentence was 21 months in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Now we have the latest embarrassment.

Minneapolis City Council Member Dean Zimmermann took $7,200 cash in exchange for support on zoning changes, according to a federal affidavit filed Friday.

The search warrant affidavit claims the FBI had probable cause to believe Zimmermann violated the law by accepting "bribes in exchange for official acts."

In a highly detailed six-page portion of the affidavit, the FBI claims to have both audio and videotapes of Zimmermann taking cash from an unidentified cooperating witness on three separate occasions in June, July and August. Zimmermann, 63, discussed with the witness cash contributions for his campaign and for personal debts in exchange for zoning help, the FBI said.

I really feel sorry for the residents of Minneapolis. They are taxed to death in comparison with the surrounding suburbs, yet consistently find that two bit hacks are running their city government.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tom Delay is a putz


Blogged live from the Astrodome, a charming photo-op exchange between Tom DeLay and three young boys evacuated from New Orleans:

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

Unscientific poll

kos is taking a poll that asks the following question: "Overall, do you approve, disapprove or have mixed feelings about the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President?"

Here are the shocking results. Can you say "echo chamber"?

Rep. Richard Baker is a putz

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

-- Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA), quoted by the Wall Street Journal, "overheard" in a conversation with lobbyists.

Report card

Unlike in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, no one in the uppermost levels of local, state or federal government has particularly distinguished himself or herself in the response to this crisis. This is the fairest report card I have seen so far.

Let's be clear. The author of this calamity was, first and foremost, Nature (or if you prefer, Nature's God). The suffering was augmented, aided and abetted in descending order of culpability by the following:

1. The mayor of New Orleans. He knows the city. He knows the danger. He knows that during Hurricane Georges in 1998, the use of the Superdome was a disaster and fully two-thirds of residents never got out of the city. Nothing was done. He declared a mandatory evacuation only 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit. He did not even declare a voluntary evacuation until the day before that, at 5 p.m. At that time, he explained that he needed to study his legal authority to call a mandatory evacuation and was hesitating to do so lest the city be sued by hotels and other businesses.

2. The governor. It's her job to call up the National Guard and get it to where it has to go. Where the Guard was in the first few days is a mystery. Indeed, she issued an authorization for the National Guard to commandeer school buses to evacuate people on Wednesday afternoon -- more than two days after the hurricane hit and after much of the fleet had already drowned in its parking lots.

3. The head of FEMA. Late, slow and in way over his head. On Thursday, Sept. 2, he said on national television that he didn't even know there were people in the convention center, when anybody watching television could see them there, destitute and desperate. Maybe in his vast bureaucracy he can assign three 20-year-olds to watch cable news and give him updates every hour on what in hell is going on.

4. The president. Late, slow, and simply out of tune with the urgency and magnitude of the disaster. The second he heard that the levees had been breached in New Orleans, he should have canceled his schedule and addressed the country on national television to mobilize it both emotionally and physically to assist in the disaster. His flyover on the way to Washington was the worst possible symbolism. And his Friday visit was so tone-deaf and politically disastrous that he had to fly back three days later.

5. Congress. Now as always playing holier-than-thou. Perhaps it might ask itself who created the Department of Homeland Security in the first place. The congressional response to all crises is the same -- rearrange the bureaucratic boxes, but be sure to add one extra layer. The past four years of DHS have been spent principally on bureaucratic reorganization (and real estate) instead of, say, a workable plan for as predictable a disaster as a Gulf Coast hurricane.

6. The American people. They have made it impossible for any politician to make any responsible energy policy over the past 30 years -- but that is a column for another day. Now is not the time for constructive suggestions. Now is the time for blame, recrimination and sheer astonishment.

Scam of the day

A couple who faked weather damage to their crops by having workers throw ice cubes onto a tomato field and then beat the plants were ordered Thursday to repay more than $9 million they received fraudulently.
That is a lot of ice.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rep. Diane Watson is a putz

"These are American citizens, plus they are the sons and daughters of slaves," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). "Calling them refugees coming from a foreign country does not apply to their status. This shows disdain for them. I'm almost calling this a hate crime."

Required reading

David Brooks today.

Why you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper

Associated Press.
An analysis of the confidential medical report on Yasser Arafat's death reveals three main possibilities as to the cause: poisoning, AIDS or an infection.
New York Times.
The medical records of Yasir Arafat, which have been kept secret since his unexplained death last year at a French military hospital, show that he died from a stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unidentified infection.

The first independent review of the records, obtained by The New York Times, suggests that poisoning was highly unlikely and dispels a rumor that he may have died of AIDS.

I'm feeling sick

Democrats, ready with talking points and working closely, went into full battle mode Wednesday.
Initially, I perceived that the federal preparation for and response to the Katrina disaster was an unmitigated disaster itself. But the more I have learned, the more I have come to the conclusion that, while much of the continuing criticism is very well justified, many things that the feds (as opposed to local, first responders) were actually responsible for were handled competently, if not perfectly. I also can't help but conclude that given the scale of the disaster and the needs to be met (remember, it wasn't just New Orleans; the Mississippi coast is gone), the type of response we would all have preferred in a perfect world would have been almost impossible.

Rather than fair but tough constructive criticism, the Democrats have apparently now decided to try to politicize completely this human tragedy. I was repulsed when that happened on both sides with the 9/11 Commission public hearings (see here), and I am similarly repulsed now.

UPDATE: This, too, is sick.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good news from Iraq

The Katrina disaster has understandably distracted the media's attention from Iraq. Still, this particular item of good news requires special notice.

NAJAF, IRAQ -- U.S. troops withdrew from this Shiite holy city in southern Iraq on Tuesday, an initial step in the military's effort to pull back from the country's urban centers and turn over authority to Iraqi forces.

Under waving Iraqi flags, U.S. commanders formally turned over control of Forward Operating Base Hotel, a square, concrete-walled American base on the edge of Najaf, a shrine city about 100 miles south of Baghdad that saw intense fighting last year.

"The Iraqi Army is operating successfully throughout the region," said Lt. Col. James Oliver, the outgoing base commander, as he handed over the ceremonial keys to the base. "They are fully independent and capable of responding to all security needs. We are now here in a strictly advisory mode."

The handover of Najaf scarcely could have been imagined last summer, when thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi troops fought a pitched, three-week battle in the city to suppress the militia forces of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Progress has been slower than any of us would like, but progress is nevertheless being made. Look for more stories like this over the next few months.

Rethinking about Wal-Mart

As I have said before, I have never thought much of Wal-Mart. Seeing this, maybe I should reconsider.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

John Derbyshire is a putz

[T]o say, as Steve Sailer does, that African Americans "tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups," and "need stricter moral guidance from society" does not seem to me very outrageous.

"Breaking News"

For the last few years, I have subscribed to CNN's "Breaking News" email notification service. It is how I first learned about Paul Wellstone's plane crash and other important news. Over the past week, I have received several emails regarding Katrina developments and Chief Justice Rehnquist's death and the nomination of John Roberts replacement.

Here is the "Breaking News" email I just received.

-----Original Message-----
From: BreakingNews@MAIL.CNN.COM [mailto:BreakingNews@MAIL.CNN.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2005 1:43 PM
Subject: CNN Breaking News

-- Actor Bob Denver, 70, of TV's "Gilligan's Island" fame has died, his agent tells The Associated Press.

Watch CNN or log on to and watch FREE video.
More Americans watch CNN. More Americans trust CNN.
If this fits CNN's current idea of "Breaking News" that I need to know about the minute it happens, I'm going to soon unsubscribe to this service.

Rehnquist's legacy

Here is a nice tribute to Rehnquist by Lawrence Tribe, perhaps the leading liberal constitutional scholar in the country and one of Gore's lawyers in 2000. And here is an interesting story about Rehnquist's different approach from Warren Burger to fulfilling the responsibilities of Chief. These articles make clear that Roberts has some giant shoes to fill.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Atrios is a putz

Well, I suppose it will be nice having an openly gay man for chief justice.
To quote his favorite closing line to a post, "f*cker." No, maybe the better description is "[s]oulless f*ck."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Chief Justice dies

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who quietly advanced the conservative ideology of the Supreme Court under his leadership, died Saturday evening. He was 80.

The justice, diagnosed with thyroid cancer, had a tracheotomy and received chemotherapy and radiation as part of his treatment.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Rehnquist had "continued to perform his duties on the Court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days."

Earlier this summer, I opined as follows:

Rehnquist's answer to the retirement question: "I am not about to announce my retirement. I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits."

The reality is that his health does not permit him to continue now, at least in a capacity that the nation is entitled to expect from its top judicial officer. In fact, he recused himself in a substantial number of cases from the last term because of his health and a dramatic turnaround in that regard seems unlikely. It seems clear to me that Rehnquist is addicted to the power and prestige of the office, and he has decided to have his death certificate serve as his resignation notice.

If you look at the comments to that post, you will see that opinion was not popular. But I still think that it was somewhat selfish for Rehnquist to deny the country an opportunity to have a new Chief confirmed before the start of the upcoming court term in October. Now, assuming John Roberts is confirmed, the Court will have only eight members for several months, at a minimum. That is likely to mean that instead of 5-4 decisions, we are going to have a number of cases in which a 4-4 court either takes no action or puts the case over until the next term.

That aside, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to Rehnquist. He was certainly more conservative than my ideal Supreme Court justice, but there is no disputing that he was a principled man and a dedicated public servant. He will also be remembered by history as a hugely important figure.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Goodbye Thor

About six weeks ago, I offered this post regarding a deathwatch for one of our dogs, Thor. After coming down with a mysterious aliment in July that left him totally incapacitated, he begin to rebound after he was placed on a heavy dose of steroids to try to get his low red blood cell count back to where it needed to be. He was soon eating voraciously, and he gained 15 pounds in 4 weeks. We took him into the vet weekly for blood tests and, until two weeks ago, the red blood cell numbers kept improving. Then, the improvements stopped and, soon, things started getting worse again.

The vet ultimately concluded that Thor most likely had cancer somewhere and, given his age, there was little we could do that would make any sense.

Starting Thursday, Thor needed help to get up and, given his 115 pounds, that was no easy task. Yesterday, he started refusing food (including a ribeye steak that we cooked just for him) and we then knew that the end was near but, because he did not seem to be in pain, we decided to let nature take its course. Despite his condition, last night he made the effort to let himself outside to join us while we had company. He was a people-dependent dog, and one tough SOB (literally), to the end.

Sensing that he would not make it through the night, we decided to all sleep in the living room with him. We found him dead at 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Tonight at dinner, we will have toast in his honor. We will all miss him.

Friday, September 02, 2005


On vacation in January 2004, we flew into New Orleans and spent a couple of days there. We stayed within a few blocks of the convention center where CNN is reporting a convoy of supplies has just arrived. While there, we spent two evenings walking Bourbon Street with our two young children. Our 2 year old dubbed it "The Party."

From New Orleans, we spent 3 days driving across the Gulf coast, stopping in Gulfport and Biloxi on our way to Disney World. Except for the too frequent bickering in the backseat, it was a delightful trip.

Obviously, I'm glad we took that trip when we did. Biloxi and Gulfport have been effectively wiped off the map, and New Orleans will never be the same.

Today, I decided to go through the pictures from that trip and to share a couple of my favorites here.

Here are the kids at "The Party."

And here is one of the things that Daddy loved about "The Party."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

My state government

The State of Minnesota is going to stop paying for sex change operations. Yeah, I know, why was it paying for sex change operations in the first place? But some will fight the change.

Minnesota has tried to end Medicaid payments for sex-change operations for 10 years. But activists have challenged the restrictions in court. As a result, two to three people a year have had their sex-change operations paid for by state programs, at a total cost of about $15,000 in state funds, officials say. The new law, which took effect Aug. 1, "completely closes the loophole," Geroux said.

State lawyers say they expect court challenges to continue. Phil Duran, a lawyer for OutFront Minnesota, an advocacy group, says he's appealing the department's denials to five patients awaiting sex-change surgery. "It's certainly our position that this is not about saving money," he said. "This is about imposing a [penalty] on politically unpopular people."

Give if you can

"Cries for help spread across New Orleans"

"The Equivalent of Armageddon"

Donate Now!


Shorter Michelle Malkin: "Let's all be pissed at the rest of the world for not showing sufficient pity in response to Katrina."

To use her word, "sheesh."

UPDATE: See here.
VIENNA, Austria (AP) — From papal prayers to telegrams from China, the world reacted with an outpouring of compassion Wednesday for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in messages tinged by shock that a disaster of this scale could occur in the United States.