Saturday, January 07, 2006


DeLay Equals Defeat

The post-Abramoff House clean-up begins.

The erstwhile House majority leader
abandons hope of returning to his previous post -- as the writing on the wall from his colleagues becomes all-too-clear.

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Lion In The Lake

The phrase, "worth the price of admission" is an overused -- and usually inaccurate cliche. Nowadays, as the debate of free vs. paid 'Net content increases, it also has a slightly different meaning. The New York Times believes that their "TimesSelect" opinion writers are significant enough that they justify an admission fee. We shall see. So far, there isn't a Brooks or Dowd column that has tempted me to sign up for it.

On the other hand, the much, much, much smaller competitor to The Times -- The New York Sun -- actually printed such a column in its Friday edition. Eli Lake
has put together a subscription-required piece on the opinion page that is must-reading for those on the write as they wrestle with the NSA/leak/wiretapping issue.

I will excerpt here as much as I hope I can legally get away with:

In the coming months it is all but certain that more reporters will once again be called by Justice Department investigators to give up their anonymous sources. This time, instead of the case of secret agent turned cause celebre Valerie Plame, the new investigation will focus on who told the New York Times about a top-secret program to eavesdrop on calls between America and terrorists abroad.

Conservatives in particular would do themselves a favor by resisting the urge to champion this all but inevitable prosecution. It is true that the disclosure of electronic surveillance meant to detect potential sleeper cells is a graver matter than the outing of a CIA officer turned analyst whose identity was confirmed by the CIA to the reporter who broke the story. But a greater principle is at stake. If the Bush administration succeeds in making journalists a party to anti-leaking cases, then the necessary emergency conditions enacted after September 11 will become permanent and almost impossible to dismantle. Worse still, the public will not get a second and third opinion on the vital questions of whether the government still needs the extraordinary powers it now uses to defend us.

...... (interesting historical material on how the leaking law was recently expanded)....

While nearly everyone can agree that it's important that some things remain secret for the proper operation of statecraft - the nuclear launch codes, for example - the question starts to get interesting when we ask how many secrets are really necessary? Last year, the federal government made more than 15 million separate decisions to classify material. The effect of all of this secret information is to create a new class of people with proper clearances empowered by that fact alone to make more informed decisions on national security. The over-classification of information neuters not only the public's right to know about its government's foreign policy and war strategy, but its ability to even fully participate in that discussion. To support the anti-leaking prosecutions of this administration is to essentially support the notion that the government alone should be the sole arbiter of what classified information the public can know.

....(interesting defense of The Times and criticism of conservatives calling for the paper's prosecution)...

The worry of the NSA program is not that it represents an unconstitutional power grab or that it will lead inevitably to excesses of J. Edgar Hoover's domestic spying of the last century. Rather, if left unchecked by the public, the NSA and other agencies will never voluntarily relinquish its new powers and declare America to be free of sleeper cells. The incentive to warn of lurking threats is ingrained in every budget justification the intelligence community submits.

Since September 11, 2001, the president has rewarded an intelligence bureaucracy that failed America before September 11 with unprecedented authorities, and also by allotting another $14 billion to the community's $30 billion annual budget. The funding and powers of the secret bureaucracies are necessary for the prosecution of the war. But we cannot expect those prosecuting the war today to let us know when we no longer need them. For that we need a press unfettered by the threats of federal prosecutors.
It cannot be overstated how astute and intellectually courageous Eli is in pointing this out. Because, aside from the civil liberties/keeping-the-government-honest aspect of the argument, he also touches upon the least-discussed aspect of this entire "different kind of war" meme that has been the most problematic legacy of 9/11. If the United States is "at war" with an invisible, mercurial, chameleonlike enemy, how can the war ever end? To whom does the United States demand total surrender? Bin Laden? Zarqawi? Zawahiri?

If al Qaeda can be almost anyone, this has the makings of a never-ending war -- and thus calling for the never-ending expansion of a "war-time" president/executive's powers. In the context of what Eli is discussing, preventing "leaks" in the name of "national security" simply enhances the power of the executive and decreases, not merely the independent checking power of the press, but also that Congress which has an institutional role to act in oversight. The media is a force that can allows the various levers of constitutional government to click into action. As Eli also notes, "[I]t looks as if the Justice Department's 2004 audit of the program was likely spawned by the fact that the Times was on the story."

The result of permanent, unquestioned and unexamined war can be nothing more than a fundamental changing of the dynamic that has governed the United States for nearly 220 years. Yes, it is fine -- and accurate -- to note that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. Yes, it is fine -- and accurate -- to note that Roosevelt interned Japanese-Americans. Fair-minded people could even argue the contemporary and historical "correctness" of those decisions. But, how many are ready to argue that the expanded-executive powers represented in those actions should be the state of affairs in America for 20? 30? 50? 75? years?

If that were to be the case, would it remain "America."

Eli Lake is deep, not shallow.

Dive in.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I hadn't noticed that "recognizing the never-ending-wartime- presidency's-powers" meme seems to have been several people's New Year's resolution: A Wall St. Journal article discusses upcoming congressional hearings on the topic. And Jonathan Rauch goes after it as well. And, not surprisingly, my pals at Reason can always be counted on to stir up the, uh, pot. And, no, I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon either; I've been here for years. What took y'all so long to catch up?

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Friday, January 06, 2006


Dobson Hits The Jackpot!!

Josh Marshall quotes James Dobson on Abramoff -- and gambling!

Josh notes it "without comment" (though, a link -- or some citation -- would have been nice! Josh, hello?!?!?).

I will comment -- and it will be probably the only time you will read these words here: James Dobson is absolutely correct. Gambling -- legal, illegal, Indian casinos, lotteries, the whole thing -- is the undiscussed elephant, ahem, in the current cultural "room." It is something that I have been planning to discuss over here at RT for some time. Expect to see many posts on the topic in the days and months ahead.

Let the games begin.

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The WSJ (Noonan & the Edit Board) Nails It Dead Solid Perfect

Miss Noonan gives this excellent rejoinder to Republicans who want to make the Abramoff scandal about "Washington" mores in general rather than the GOP -- and hope the public will see it similarly:

There's a lot of talk among Republicans that since the Abramoff scandal involves politicians and staff on both sides of the aisle, the public will not punish the Republicans. This assertion is countered by the argument that while the public will likely see the story as one of government corruption, Congress and the White House are run by Republicans, so Republicans will pay the price. I think this is true, but I think it misses a larger point: In some rough way the public expects the party that loves big government to be pretty good at finagling government, playing with it, using it for its own ends. That's kind of what they do. They love the steamroller, of course they love the grease that makes it run. But the anti-big-government party isn't supposed to be so good at it, so enmeshed in it. The antigovernment party isn't supposed to be so good at oiling the steamroller's parts and pushing its levers. And so happy doing the oiling and pushing.
I think that's exactly right. Besides, it doesn't exactly help when there exist quotes from leading conservatives boasting about how they control Capitol Hill and the lobbying houses had better recognize that reality:

Until the mid-1990s, the K Street corridor, where Washington's top law firms and trade associations are located, was a largely Democratic domain. But the 1994 GOP takeover of the House changed that, especially after Republicans began suggesting - often not so subtly - that the big lobby shops and trade associations start hiring more Republicans or risk disappointments on Capitol Hill.
"Ninety percent of the new top hires are going to Republicans; it should be 100 percent," says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, an antitax group. "It would be suicidal of them to go to a Democrat."

Hmm...perhaps, but it might have minimized the GOP's exposure to the "one-party rule" aspect of the corruption in the capital city.

The Journal's
editorial board gets it too:

What's notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled "conservatives," who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won't surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better.

When we first wrote about Mr. DeLay's travails last March ("
Smells Like Beltway"), some of our friends said we were unfair. But Republicans would be far better off now had they taken our advice to do more to distance themselves from the Abramoff taint. The prospect that Mr. DeLay might still return as leader has contributed to the GOP's recent dysfunction; he and they should move on separately.
More broadly, however, the Abramoff scandal wouldn't resonate nearly as much with the public if it didn't fit a GOP pattern of becoming cozy with Beltway mores. The party that swept to power on term limits, spending restraint and reform has become the party of incumbency, 6,371 highway-bill "earmarks," and K Street. And it's no defense to say that Democrats would do the same. Of course Democrats would, but then they've always claimed to be the party of government. If that's what voters want, they'll choose the real thing.
Message to the Republican Party's congressional wing: Clean up -- or wash out.

UPDATE: The GOP shows signs of getting the message. Off in the distance, I think I hear the bubble-gum strings of Steam's number one hit...

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Thursday, January 05, 2006



In one of the greatest individual performances of all time, Texas upset USC to win college football's championship game. The final score was, perhaps appropriately, the same as one of the NFL's "greatest games ever" -- San Diego's 1982 playoff victory over Miami.

Longhorns QB Vince "Mr. 467 total yards" Young has established himself as the best player in college football and -- if he chooses to go pro (GO PRO, VINCE!!!) -- may have catapaulted himself over USC's Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

All that said, how on earth could USC head coach Pete Carroll go for it on fourth-and-two, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter -- and leave your best player (Bush) on the sidelines!?!?!?

Going for it on fourth down was the correct call. LenDale White had a great game. But, when the frickin' game is on the line, you need to have your best player in there. For one thing, the USC offense was unstoppable in the second half; Texas' defense was worn down. Bush, arguably, would have had an easier time taking the ball in the backfield and running to the outside, rather than -- as USC did -- have White try to run it up the middle.

But, even if Bush was used as a decoy, it would have forced the Longhorns to account for him on the field, possibly opening another hole for White.

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Book 'Em, Danno!

Blogosphere, welcome Dan Gerstein and his -- ahem! -- Dangerous Thoughts! (Nice name, Dan, but I think you mis-spelled "thoughts"!)

Dan is Joe Lieberman's former communications director and has become my partner-in-crime on a dinner conversation series here in the Big Apple! Dan's a smart guy and we welcome his provocative -- and most decidedly overdue -- take on the issues of the day!

Welcome aboard!

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Big Chief Edwards & the NFL's Race Thing

It seems that the Kansas City Chiefs were determined to recruit New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards from the get-go -- to the point of not bothering to seriously interview anyone else, including their current assistant head coach Al Saunders.

For those paying attention, this is almost exactly the same thing that happened with the Detroit Lions two years back with Steve Mariucci, then late of the San Francisco 49ers. Except the Lions got in trouble --
and fined by the NFL -- because the organization violated league policy in not at least interviewing a minority coach.

So, should white coaches -- again, including Saunders -- have a legitimate beef with the NFL's hiring policy, given what the Chiefs have done?


Ironically, fines aside, the Lions -- and general manager Matt Millen -- may have actually done themselves a disservice by NOT interviewing minority candidates: At least one coach Millen could have looked at -- the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith -- managed to get his team in the playoffs this year, while the Lions fired Mariucci in the middle of the season.

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Monday, January 02, 2006


All Urban Legends Fit To Print!

Too funny!

Steve Lubetkin catches the Old Grey Lady
running an 'Net-spread urban legend as a real, live, anecdote in its "Metropolitan Diary"!

Oops! Next thing you know, their writers will buy some story about weapons of mass destruction from some Iraqi exile.

Oh, wait...

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Media Sl*t Heads-Up!

*UPDATE*: Never mind. Communications breakdown!! I'm not on the air today! Oh well..College football, here I come! Readers in the New York area can tune in to WWRL-AM 1600 this afternoon to hear the humble (yeah, right!) host of RAGGED THOTS. If you're not in the area you can catch the streaming mix online!

From 3-6 p.m., I'll be filling in for Armstrong Williams and jousting with Sam Greenfield! Alas, this will not be underwritten by the Dept. of Education. (Oops! Should I have said that?)

Anyway, check it out.

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Happy New Year!

I hope everyone's 2006 is off to a fine start.

Regular posting resumes tomorrow. However, for the time being, I shall say that I actually filled one of my main resolutions for 2005: Write more stuff, even more frequently -- and on a broader variety of topics! Quantity, quality and variety.

Well, this little blog marks the fulfillment of that particular resolution.

For 2006, I resolve to do more of the same and build upon this humble enterprise. I also resolve to do more comic-book blogging (Friday Comic Book Blogging will appear more regularly).

I further resolve to do more to keep those in positions of power more accountable!

I also resolve to keep in as much communiciation with you, my faithful readers!

Cheers to all!!


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