Friday, November 17, 2006


Webb of Intrigue

Two views on why Jim Webb may turn out to be the most interesting of the Senate freshmen:

From the right, Andrew Ferguson:
I will be directing my attention to the back benches. I'll be watching Jim Webb.

With his stunning upset of George Allen, the heavily favored Republican incumbent, the newly elected Democratic senator from Virginia arrives as the most exotic bird in the Washington aviary.

Unlike most modern politicians, Webb hasn't spent his entire adult life running, or plotting to run, for political office. He is a man of unimpeachable physical courage and battlefield heroism, having been awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for his service as a Marine in Vietnam.

As the author of six novels, most of them bestsellers and all of them bristling with interesting ideas, he enters the Senate with a record of creative and intellectual accomplishment not seen there since the death of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

And best of all, his election last Tuesday makes him the most deeply conservative national Democrat since Grover Cleveland.

Mr. Webb, meet Ms. Pelosi.

From the left, Joe Conason:

If Webb's own writing indicates his priorities, then he can be expected to speak up loudly and eloquently next year when his Democratic colleagues seek to repair the constitutional vandalism wreaked by passage of the Military Commissions Act in September. Like the military officers who tried and failed to preserve habeas corpus, due process and the Geneva Conventions from the zealous authoritarians of the Bush administration, Webb believes strongly in upholding those protections and feels that the excesses of the "war on terror" have damaged the honor of the U.S. military.

During the final days of his Virginia campaign, Webb's Republican adversaries attempted to
smear him as a sexual deviant by using carefully selected passages from his novels. Of course they ignored the real meaning of his written works (no doubt because it was well beyond the comprehension of desperate buffoons like George Allen and his campaign manager, Dick Wadhams). But it is worth noting that years before 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, Webb examined the same kind of moral risk we now face when he wrote "The Emperor's General," his 1999 historical novel about the prosecution and hanging of a top Japanese officer by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the aftermath of World War II.

"The Emperor's General" is a dark tale about the corruption of MacArthur and of the book's narrator, a fictional aide to the legendary American general named Capt. Jay Marsh, who learns that winning wealth and power requires the sacrifice of justice, integrity and love. As he elucidates those sweeping themes, Webb delves into the details of the war-crimes trial of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, who commanded the Japanese forces in the Philippines and was eventually hanged for atrocities committed in Nanking and Manila. But Webb believes that the Japanese general was a scapegoat executed to protect Emperor Hirohito. He is unsparing in his description of how MacArthur framed Yamashita -- or at the very least deprived him of a fair trial -- through the bureaucratic instrument of a "military commission."

Some of the most telling passages occur in an exchange between Marsh and Yamashita's lawyer, Witherspoon, whose rebuke of the military commission as "a sham" echoes into the present:

"We're Americans, Captain. We're supposedly bringing an accused man into the American system of justice. This is a capital case. Yamashita's life is at stake. I know a lot of people died in the war, and life was cheap, but the war is over. Tell MacArthur if he wants to kill Yamashita, why hide behind us? Why doesn't he just come down here and shoot him in the fucking head?

"You're not a lawyer, MacArthur's not a lawyer, and this isn't a court! He's convened a military commission! [italics in original] ... It's his own little creation ... I don't even have a military judge to object to on points of law, like I would in a regular court-martial, for Christ's sake! Do you think any of them [the five generals serving on the commission] are even going to understand the rules of evidence? Admissibility? Relevance? Probity? And MacArthur is the sole reviewing authority for their actions! ... He's waived traditional rules of evidence ...

"They [the prosecutors] know as well as I do that it's not going to matter! Do you realize what this trial -- if you can call it a trial -- this illegal, judgeless commission is going to look like? It's going to be nothing but a public circus!"

At the end of this tirade, Marsh recalls, "Witherspoon had now stunned me into silence." Now this fictional passage doesn't necessarily reflect Webb's view of the present circumstances, although he spoke out against the Bush administration's usurpation of constitutional rights during his campaign. It is important to point out as well that the Yamashita case is of more than academic or historical interest. In 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Yamashita's petition for a writ of habeas corpus to overturn his conviction, but the dissents by Justices Wiley Rutledge and Frank Murphy have outlived the majority opinion.

"I cannot believe in the face of this record that the petitioner has had the fair trial our Constitution and laws command," Rutledge wrote.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who clerked for Rutledge in 1948 and 1949, cited that dissent extensively when he wrote his blistering majority opinion in
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld last summer, overturning the Bush plan to try terrorist suspects before military commissions. In that opinion, Stevens referred to the Yamashita prosecution as "the most notorious exception" to the principle that military trials of enemies must afford them the same rights as American soldiers had.

Webb -- a most fun man to watch.

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Take My Leader....PLEASE!

Given the outcome of the various leadership contests, it is begining to look like the predicted "dumb-off" for the next few years. However, I think my colleague, John Podhoretz, makes a good point when he says that, as unseemly as it may look from the outside, the Democratic Party public debate is a good, healthy one.

Nancy Pelosi may have made a serious error in error in judgment by backing the very flawed John Murtha. However, the Democrats eventually made the correct choice in selecting Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is a conventional liberal (ironically, more liberal on most issues than Murtha), but fairly "clean" (or at least has never been named as an unindicted co-conspirator). Furthermore, he has shown due deference to the Blue Dog (conservative Dems) Coalition.

On the other hand, the Republicans have brought back both John Boehner AND Roy Blunt as their leaders. Wonderful! Hey, the American people may have voted for change, but why the heck should the House GOP vote for GOP? So, for those keeping count, of the four Republican leadership positions in the House and Senate, three (Boehner, Blunt and Trent Lott 2.0) are also-rans with various sorts of baggage that they are carrying around. In that sense, that puts the Republicans ahead (which is to say, "behind") in the "dumb-off" sweepstakes.

Losing minority leader and whip candidates, Mike Pence and John Shadegg, will be around for a while, but their rejection by the Conference suggests that House members have a long way to go before they get their reform-minded mojo back.

Republicans can't just depend on Democrats continually screwing up to regain power The House Democrats already showed that they're not willing to play that game -- even if it is to the temporary detriment of their incoming Speaker.

(Sorry for the late post -- this was written before 11 this morning -- but there was some problem between Internet Explorer and Blogger today. I am rapidly seeing the value of Firefox!)

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Pick the NFL Winners - Week 11

Time to pick the winners again in this week's NFL games. Feel free to post your picks in the comments. No money, just bragging rights. My picks are in red:

Atlanta at Baltimore: Quoth the Raven, "Not in my house!".

Buffalo at Houston: An intriguing matchup, even if neither of them is any good.

Chicago at N.Y. Jets: A Bear trap.

Cincinnati at New Orleans: If I have to pick a winner, I will take the Saints, but this one is a toss-up.

Minnesota at Miami: Time for the Dolphins to come back to Earth.

New England at Green Bay: If Green Bay wins, I will eat cheese. Not that I wouldn't eat cheese anyway...

Oakland at Kansas City: At least the Chiefs won't have to worry about covering Randy Moss, since he is depressed. Not that the Chiefs have a whole lot to worry about going into this game.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland: The Brownies prove their true value in this game. The Brownies ARE the better team here.

St. Louis at Carolina: The Rams cannot beat the Seahawks. You don't think they have a chance against the Panthers, do you?

Tennessee at Philadelphia: Gotta love the Titans in this trap game.

Washington at Tampa Bay: Welcome to the NFL Jason Campbell. Unfortunately for you, the rookie quarterback on the other side will get the win.

Detroit at Arizona: The question here is who will NOT lose? Both of these teams would lose against nearly anyone else. I will take the Lions to look past this game to their annual Turkey Day game. Of course, when the Lions are playing, EVERY day is Turkey Day!

Seattle at San Francisco: Not even close.

Indianapolis at Dallas: If Indy gets surprised by anyone, it will NOT be Dallas.

San Diego at Denver: The game of the week. I have to go with Denver at home, especially with Shawne Merriman still out on suspension.

N.Y. Giants at Jacksonville: A loooooong night for the Jags.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006


Ranking the NFL - Week 10

COLTS: Squeaking by Buffalo is a bit worrisome. But a win is a win is a win. And the Colts have won all of them.

BRONCOS: Here come the Chargers.

CHARGERS: Watch Phil Rivers. He is slowly moving into the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady class of NFL quarterbacks. He is THAT good.

RAVENS: The Ravens, without Ray Lewis, slipped by the Titans. Now they have to go against the Falcons with Lewis listed as questionable again. If Mike Vick shows up, this could be an interesting game to watch.

SEAHAWKS: Welcome back Shaun Alexander (and maybe Matt Hasselbeck). While you were out, the Hawks built up a two-game division lead. At this point, the Birdies are clearly the strongest contender in the NFC.

BEARS: I admit it: I was too rough on the Bears last week, knocking them down to "average". They did a number on the G-men.

GIANTS: No Toomer. No Strahan. No win.

PATRIOTS: Someone complained that I had the Patriots rated below the Saints. Does the loss to the Jets explain why? Regardless, I have to rate them above the Saints this week.

BENGALS: I still like the Bengals, but I am completely confused as to what is wrong with this team. It could be all the parole officers interfering with practices.

PANTHERS: If Steve Smith is on the field, healthy or not, the Panthers are dangerous.

SAINTS: After losing to Pittsburgh, it is clear the Saints ain't. Their loss to the Panthers drops them to here.

CHIEFS: Will the real Chiefs please stand up? They beat the Chargers and Seahawks, but lose to the Dolphins. Do you think that loss could be why Trent Green is coming back this week?

BROWNS: The MOST underrated team in the NFL. Romeo Crennel has this team playing as a unit now, not unlike the Patriots. However, the Browns still don't have the talent of a team like the Patriots. But at least they are moving in the right direction. Definitely a team to watch for next year.

JETS: Splitting the Patriots series is a good sign, but not enough to push them beyond the "average" category.

FALCONS: The Dirty Birds are still too inconsistent to be a contender, as they proved against Cleveland.

EAGLES: The Eagles better not look past the Titans this week. Even though the Eagles have the Colts next week, the Titans could easily beat the Eagles if they take the Titans lightly.

COWBOYS: Speaking of Indianapolis, Dallas will have their hands full this week. Even in Dallas, I cannot see the Cowboys beating the Colts.

BUCCANEERS: In spite of the numbers, I like Bruce Gradkowski. As rookie quarterbacks go, one touchdown and two interceptions against a solid Carolina defense is not bad at all.

JAGUARS: Is it just me, or does it look like the Jags are practicing for next year? How do they lose to Houston twice?

STEELERS: Their win over the Saints was more of a commentary on how overrated the Saints were. Granted the Steelers played a good game, but they still have not won two games in a row yet this year. Do I even need to remind anyone that the Raiders beat the Steelers?

RAMS: At least they made a game of it against the Seahawks. They are slowly dropping into "wait until next year" mode.

VIKINGS: The Vikes are another head-scratching team. They beat the Panthers and Seahawks, but lose to the Bills, 49ers, and Packers.

REDSKINS: Welcome to the NFL Jason Campbell. By the way, you won't have Clinton Portis to hand off to for the rest of the season. Have fun!

DOLPHINS: Who lit a fire under this team? In two weeks, they beat both the Bears and the Chiefs. Before that, the best team they could beat was the Titans. Look at these losses: Bills, Texans, and Packers.

49ERS: For you fantasy footballers out there, get Frank Gore. He is the next Marshall Faulk. Even on a bad team like the 49ers, Gore rocks.

LIONS: Ouch! A loss to the 49ers last week. If they cannot beat the Cardinals this week, they need to just go ahead and fire Matt Millen.

PACKERS: Please tell me the Packers are NOT serious about bringing Brett Favre back next year? Granted, Favre is playing better this year than last year. But he is still NOT the old Favre. He is just old.

TEXANS: Beating the Jags shows this team is starting to come around...sort of.

BILLS: You didn't honestly expect them to beat the Colts, did you?

TITANS: Does anyone really care about Albert Haynesworth coming back? What he did was wrong, but it is hard for me to get up much ire over a second rate defensive lineman. He did his suspension. If he does it again, the NFL should ban him for life. Period.

RAIDERS: Boo hoo. Randy Moss isn't happy, so he's dropping passes. The Raiders need to drop him.

CARDINALS: The Cardinals are the one reason I can feel good about being a Raider fan. There IS a worse team, with a worse owner, than the Raiders. Al Davis could be in a coma and still run the Raiders better than Bill Bidwill.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


NFL & Time Warner: Get off our Backs! [J. Mark English]

This comes from Les Carpenter of the Washington Post:

Just days before the NFL Network broadcasts its first game on Thanksgiving, one of the league's top executives sat in a Senate hearing room yesterday trying to explain its decision to put games on a channel that many cable subscribers won't be able to see.

Jeffrey Pash, the NFL's executive vice president and legal counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the cable systems should not have to charge viewers extra to carry the NFL Network on its main tier of service even as it is embroiled in disputes with Time Warner, Cablevision and others over that very subject....

...The hearing was part of a larger inquiry by the committee into the 1961 Sports Broadcasting Act, which allows joint broadcasting agreements between networks and sports leagues to exist despite antitrust laws. The committee is looking into whether the legislation is outdated, and next month it will examine cross-ownership between sports teams and cable systems.

And this comes from
Steven Zeitchik of

Legislators questioned not just the disagreement, but whether the league violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by essentially selling itself a package of eight late-season games in the first place...

...Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who reps a state with two NFL teams and called the relatively last-minute meeting, flogged the antitrust issue hardest...

...Specter also questioned the agreement that allows DirecTV the exclusive right to offer all out-of-market games via its Sunday Ticket Package.

No offense to the honorable senator from Pennsylvania, but aren't there more important things to attend to then the business of football on TV?

Both parties involved in the hearing had this to say:

"The government should leave the solutions to the marketplace..." - Landell Hobbs, executive with Time Warner.

"These disputes are generally resolved because one or both parties reassess and modify their positions. They do not raise antitrust issues and do not require intervention of the Congress." - Jeffrey Pash, NFL executive veep.

The two sides that are against each other in this dispute both agree that the goverment should focus on more important matters such as war...then on overstepping their authority with respect to the open market place. I couldn't agree more.

Also, I think that the Senator should consider the following. The National Football League is the only league that allows all of its games to be seen for free by the fans. For every local team, the fans are allowed free access to the team on TV. If the game is either on ESPN or the NFL Network, a local broadcasting network must air the game. The MLB, NBA, and the NHL do not allow for this to occur. Back in 1994 I had to listen to the New York Rangers win the cup over the radio since I did not have cable TV. Was this a violation of the broadcasting laws? Should that have necessitated an investigation of Congress?

Of course not...

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The GOP Casts Its Lott

A bit under the weather today, but I had to take note of this return to Senate leadership of an "old friend."

I'll discuss this more later, but I'll just repeat something I said in the Comments yesterday. There's something painfully ironic about Trent Lott being named
"minority whip."

UPDATE: John Cole explains why Lott's return means more headaches for the White House.
Prior to the Senate election, Captains Quarters explained why Lott's comeback would be bad from a spending/corruption perspective. Of course, given the option of taking the smart option and the alternative, Senate Republicans again proved, why the GOP is, as John Cole notes, "the Stupid Party." Oh well, at least those Republicans have managed to "unite" the base (in the sense that Cole, the Captain, Red State, Andrew Sullivan and I are all in agreement tht the return of Trent Lott leaves us as white as, uh, a sheet)!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Mel, Kiss Mah Grits

Not the warmest of greetings for the new RNC chair: "lobotomized sea lion" and "Harriet Miers of RNC Chairs" are some of the nicer things Red State is saying about the former Cabinet Secretary.

I thought
Michael Steele would have been a good pick (for one thing, he won't also already have a full-time job -- as is the case with MM). Apparently, Karl Rove has other ideas:
....President Bush's political adviser Karl Rove, who is Mr. Mehlman's mentor, would rather see Mr. Steele serve in the president's Cabinet, perhaps as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. These officials said no one has actually offered Mr. Steele either the RNC post or a Cabinet post.

Steele as head of H.U.D.? Isn't that, like just bit too obvious? Black guy? Housing, yeah, I get it!

Bush and Rove want Martinez to be the point man on a comprehensive immigration bill (because, of course, all Latinos look alike and it doesn't matter that Puerto Ricans and Mexicans don't necessarily automatically get along with Cubans (which Martinez happens to be).

This line is rather amusing:
By tapping Martinez to be the party's public persona, the White House turned to a lawmaker who has been a staunch supporter of the president — including on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a guest-worker program — and one of the more politically savvy Republican senators.
"Savvy?" Oh, you mean like during the Terri Schiavo story? A Republican memo (initially denounced by many bloggers on the right as a likely forgery) surfaced calling the controversy "a great political issue" turned out to be written by a Martinez staffer. The senator was shocked that this sort of behavior was going on in his own office. He dismissed the staffer.

"Savvy"? Compared to whom -- Elizabeth Dole?

Ah, more reasons for congressional Republican to hate the White House.

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