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Tuesday
Nov232004

Sparse Matrix: Politics is Ugly, Politics is Dirty, Politics is War

David at The Sparse Matrix provides a Cliff's Notes version of the debate between Professor Bainbridge and I over the House GOP rule change.



He then concludes we're both wrong.



Interesting.



I'd love to say he's wrong about politics, but, alas, I cannot.

Tuesday
Nov232004

Commonwealth Conservative: Worth a Visit

If you are interested in Virginia politics, as we DC-area conservatives tend to be, this blog may interest you.



Actually, it may interest you even if you don't care about Virginia politics.

Tuesday
Nov232004

Chocolate as Cough Medicine

Will this be coming soon to your druggist's shelves? Hershey's Chocolate Cough Syrup.

Monday
Nov222004

Another Horror Story

How many babies are going to die horribly in Texas (and elsewhere) before people take post-partum depression seriously?



Death penalty.

Monday
Nov222004

CBS: No DeLay Indictment

CBS News reports (almost sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it?) that all the kerfluffle about the House GOP changing its rules for Tom DeLay was just that: Kerfluffle.



Says CBS:

The powerful GOP chieftain is unlikely to be indicted by a state grand jury probing alleged campaign finance violations in Texas, according to an official involved in the investigation.



"No, no, I really don't think DeLay will be indicted," the official told CBSNews.com. "And to be quite honest, [DeLay's] lawyers know that."
Of course, the source here is CBS, and a sidebar to the story uses the phrase "even if convicted by grand jury." Of course, grand jurys can't convict.



For what it is worth, however, I doubt he'll be indicted as well.



Addendum: Instapundit has some good CBS jokes up today.

Monday
Nov222004

Shocked

A college student writes us to say she is shocked, shocked to find that not every aspect of the policymaking arena is controlled by the federal government:

Hi, I'm a college student who recently accessed the Envirotruth website while researching a science topic, and I was very confused. I noticed that Envirotruth was sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which sounds like a some sort of government office, but I was appalled when I realized it was a conservative propaganda group! I am upset that I was tricked by your official-sounding name when looking for real scientific information for my report. Real scientific information is nonparisan, obviously. Even our conservative-run federal government offers nonpartisan scientific information (see the EPA).



I am forwarding this email to everyone I know, conservative and liberal, for them to explore your websites and discover that your information is not "fair and balanced" at all. You should indicate that Envirotruth is partisan so as not to trick other students (or is that the point?!) How horrible.



Stella Bergman

srstadtherr@stthomas.edu

Minneapolis, MN

Monday
Nov222004

Strengthen The Good: Building a Future by Building a Library

Strengthen The Good's newest charity is a book-donation project.



Visit here to read the story of a little school in a land that once was communist, where the children are trying to build a library of books so they can learn English.



Strengthen The Good has a list of books the school is seeking. You have have some on your bookshelves already, especially as some of these books are widely assigned in U.S. schools. Why not clear a little clutter and help some deserving young people at the same time?


Monday
Nov222004

I love Jet Noise: Offended on Condoleezza Rice's Behalf

The I Love Jet Noise blog has a good post about the way Dr. Condoleezza Rice is being treated.



Good comments in the comments section, too.

Sunday
Nov212004

Power Line: 'DeLay Rule' a Good Thing

Hindrocket understands.



Critics of the House GOP rule change, it seems to me, are putting more faith in the judgment of prosecutors (any prosecutor) than in the House GOP caucus.



Not me.



I know it is fashionable to deride Congress, but I still prefer to be governed by an elected body.



Political philosophy aside, I believe critics also are misjudging the, to use an overworn phrase, situation on the ground.



Professor Bainbridge, for example, believes GOP caucus members would be unwilling to vote Tom DeLay out of his leadership position, apparently even if a credible indictment were to be handed down. I read the dynamics of the House entirely differently. (Members wake up every morning with the Washington Post front page, not with -- however much they may like him -- Tom DeLay.) I also believe they would not have to. If a credible indictment occurred against Tom DeLay, I believe he would voluntarily surrender his leadership position.



Let's remember (as some who send me emails apparently don't realize) that Tom DeLay has not been indicted. The caucus is responding to the possibility of an irresponsible indictment by a prosecutor who is perceived to be acting as a rogue agent. The caucus is quite properly refusing to be dictated to by someone whose professional judgment it does not believe it has reason to respect.



I do agree with Blogs for Industry that the new rule isn't quite what it should be (I don't agree with Blogs for Industry's opinion of Tom DeLay). Like Blogs for Industry, I would prefer a mandatory vote of the entire caucus to a vote of the Republican Steering Committee. But I don't want to overstress this, as I think the Steering Committee would tend to reflect the views of the members. I also think that most cases of indictment have facts that are far more cut and dried than in this hypothetical indictment, in which it is assumed that there would not only be doubt of guilt, but even that a crime took place at all.



Finally, Professor Bainbridge has opined that right-leaning bloggers "have lots of incentives to stay on the reservation. Inauguration balls. CNN and Fox News appearances. And so on..." The incentives implication is misplaced. There's the little matter of integrity, for one thing. However, even if we folks on the pro-rule change side didn't have any of that, as a practical matter, inauguration tickets and TV bookings just aren't being affected by this rule change. Emotions aren't running that high on this matter on the Hill. Even if they were, inaugural tickets and TV bookings aren't Congressmen's weapons of choice.

Saturday
Nov202004

Charge of the Light Brigade Mangled by So-Called "Jesus Freaks"

American liberals are in such good humor these days...

To Whom It May Concern:



As always, I find many errors on your web pages, but understanding that your group knows very little about history (and usually tries to re-write it), you may want to correct the contents of one page (referenced below) that cites the date when Tennyson's poem was written.



Your page claims it was written on April 10, 1864 when, in fact, the poem was first published in 'The Examiner' -- an English newspaper -- on December 9th, 1856.



http://www.nationalcenter.org/ChargeoftheLightBrigade.html



"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it". Do you think that Bush would like to learn some history regarding the Iragi conflict?



I don't think so -- you 'Jesus Freaks' have a hard time with reality...



Jon Mattes

jmattes@hydrosoft.net
He's right -- we did list 1864 instead of the correct date of 1854 (Mr. Mattes had an incorrect date, too: the Examiner actually published it on 12/9/1854). In our defense, we got the date from a University of Virginia special collections manuscript of the poem, but further investigation reveals Tennyson wrote that particular copy in his own hand on that date, not the first edition ever published.



BUT, what does any of this have to do with Our Lord and Savior, President Bush or the war in Iraq? Must everything be about politics, and, if so, must it be so hostile?



P.S. We did correct the web page. Future generations are safe from this particular bit of our right-wing malpractice.

Saturday
Nov202004

Sean Gleeson's Autorantic Virtual Moonbat!

Now this is original.



Hat tip: Sparse Matrix.

Friday
Nov192004

Everything I Know Is Wrong: Changing Minds

Sean at Everything I Know Is Wrong tends to have fresh perspectives on the issues he discusses. It is one of the reasons I like to visit his blog. Sean's take on the discussion between Professor Bainbridge and myself on the House GOP rule change is no exception.



(By the way, Sean, it is no stretch for me to be respectful toward Professor Bainbridge. I suspect he is smarter than I am. And, you may have a point about communism being a personality disorder.)

Friday
Nov192004

Racists Stalk Condoleezza Rice: Open Season on Conservative Minorities

To hear certain liberals tell it, Condoleezza Rice belongs in the kitchen.



With all due respect to Dr. Rice's cooking skills, the black conservative network Project 21 disagrees:

Black Activists Condemn Anti-Rice Hate Speech; Civil rights Leaders Criticized for Ignoring Attacks on Conservative Minorities



President Bush's nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state has resulted in harsh liberal criticism that members of the black leadership network Project 21 consider racist.



Along with their condemnations of offensive commentators and cartoonists, Project 21 members also are critical of self-professed civil rights leaders who are remaining silent on current and previous racial attacks on black Bush Administration officials.



Over the past few months, and peaking this week with her appointment, cartoonists have been using Dr. Rice's race as a point of ridicule. Demeaning political cartoons by Pat Oliphant and Jeff Danziger accentuate Dr. Rice's black features and feature her speaking in rural southern dialect. Garry Trudeau called her "Brown Sugar" in his "Doonesbury" comic strip. Earlier this year, cartoonist Ted Rall questioned Dr. Rice's race in a comic suggesting she was President Bush's "house nigga" and needed "racial re-education." Universal Press Syndicate distributes Oliphant, Trudeau and Rall. The New York Times distributes Danziger.



On November 17, radio host John "Sly" Sylvester called Dr. Rice "Aunt Jemima" and secretary of state Colin Powell "Uncle Tom" on his WTDY (Madison, Wisconsin) radio show. Sylvester, who also is the station's program director, is refusing to apologize, but has said, "I will apologize to Aunt Jemima." The station's owner, the Mid-West Broadcast Group, is declining to discipline him.



In late October, a conservative host at WISN in nearby Milwaukee was suspended for a week for calling an illegal Mexican immigrant a "wetback."



While some local leaders have condemned Sylvester's comments, the Madison chapter of the NAACP has so far declined to make a statement. Project 21 asked the NAACP's national leadership to condemn Rall's racist cartoon in July, but no action was taken. Jesse Jackson and the National Association of Black Journalists were also contacted at the time. They took no action.



"To hear the leftists tell it, conservative blacks have become the new 'trash class' of American society," said Project 21 member Michael King. "And with the continued cricket-filled silence from the professional civil rights crowd, the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons give tacit permission and acceptance of such language and tactics."



King's comments are echoed by Project 21 member Mychal Massie: "The recent racist attacks and mimicry of Condoleezza Rice are infuriating and despicable. Even more insufferable is the deafening silence of the elite liberals. I believe their silence is proof positive of their personal racist attitudes. Obviously condemning racist attacks against a man and woman who are conservative and black is not a worthy undertaking for them."



Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice in the black community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 371-1400 x106, e-mail project21@nationalcenter.org or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.
Some people just can't stand it when blacks do well.



Too bad the NAACP leadership appears to be among them.

Friday
Nov192004

Darwin's Theory of Evolution: Public Says the Jury is Still Out

Gallup has today posted a new poll showing that only one-third of the American people believe the theory of evolution is "well supported by evidence."

Thursday
Nov182004

Reed Irvine, RIP: Funeral for a Friend

NCPPR executive director David W. Almasi eulogizes conservative movement icon Reed Irvine:

The conservative movement is mourning the loss of Reed Irvine, the founder and long-time chairman of Accuracy in Media. Irvine was a thorn in the side of the liberal media for decades, and it will be a long time -- if ever -- before the aches he caused them go away.



It wasn't until this year's forged document fiasco that many people realized the extent of the contempt CBS News and Dan Rather hold for conservatives. Not so with Irvine. He was said CBS was "Rather Biased" and urged the network to "Dump Dan" back in the 1980s.



He was wise to Peter Arnett long before CNN fired the veteran reporter for his sloppy and politically-motivated reporting. During the Gulf War, Irvine led a protest in front of CNN's Washington headquarters where someone dressed as Saddam Hussein manipulated another person representing Arnett like a marionette.



I remember it well. I was the one in the Hussein mask.



Reed Irvine gave me my first full-time job in Washington. I was fresh out of college and looking to make my way in the conservative movement. For two years, I edited Campus Report (to complement AIM, Irvine founded Accuracy in Academia to fight political bias in college classrooms).



Irvine should have been taking it easy. He was retired from a career as a government economist, and others his age were kicking back and watching the world go by. Irvine instead dedicated himself to fighting for conservative values and against communist expansion. He worked well into the night -- every night -- editing his columns and newsletters that exposed media misdeeds and their detrimental effects on our society.



He founded AIM, AIA, and the Conservative Leadership Conference and oversaw the Council for the Defense of Freedom and the monthly McDowell luncheon group. He kept light shining on underreported issues like the strange death of Vince Foster, the threat of Soviet intervention around the world, global warming, acid rain and countless other issues.



He was 82 at the time of his death, but had the heart and the stamina of someone half his age even in his final years. He will be missed.

Thursday
Nov182004

Letters on the House GOP Caucus Rule Change Debate

Two letters on the House GOP rule change debate:

With all due respect, Ms. Ridenour's rationalization for changing her point of view on the recent change in the Republican rule on leaders who get indicted is exceedingly weak. Despite her pride at "running a D.C. think tank for 22 years" it seems to me that her argument reflects very little thought but is flush with an abundance of ideology. Her argument envelops itself in a legitimate concern for the perils and price of an inappropriate or politically motivated investigation. However, it is a thin envelope indeed, one whose commemorative stamp bears the image of the Great North American Red Herring.



The rule that has been discarded, no doubt through the efforts, influence and, I submit, arm twisting of Mr. DeLay, disqualified one from a leadership position, upon indictment -- not upon the initiation of a criminal investigation. Prosecutors often launch investigations, in D.C. and elsewhere, that do not result in indictment. Such investigations may be launched for political reasons or public relations reasons or other reprehensible reasons, as well as legitimate ones. As one who has been a criminal defense lawyer and a prosecutor for 30 years, I can assure Ms. Ridenour that the nation's capital does not have the market cornered on investigations motivated by less than legitimate criminal justice reasons.



In our system, the grand jury is supposed to act as bulwark against improperly motivated prosecutors. The way things were designed to work, when the grand jury acts, by finding that probable cause exists to charge someone through an indictment, it does so after hearing and deliberating upon some of the evidence that has been amassed, or not, by the government. Of course, an old trial lawyer like me is neither idealistic nor naive enough to ignore that famous dictum to the effect that a skilled prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich, if he/she so chose. Notwithstanding that sage and accurate observation, the grand jury does still represent an initial hurdle that a prosecutor must leap to bring a criminal charge. A hurdle that DOES NOT have to be negotiated to initiate an investigation.



Thus, a group of at least 12 people who are not prosecutors must agree with a prosecutor that probable cause exists that a crime was committed and the accused committed it.



Many public officials, police officers most readily come to mind, are relieved of their duties, if not their incomes, upon indictment. Why should the likes of Mr. De Lay enjoy a privilege that others given the public trust do not?



The reason, plain and simple, why it happened is RAW POWER. Neither justice, fairness, nor any other laudable reason was the cause. Too bad Ms. Ridenour chooses to serve as an apologist for it.



-Anthony Zarrillo
My comment: It seems to me that Mr. Zarrillo's argument comes down this: Other public officials suffer if they are unjustly indicted, so why shouldn't Tom DeLay? But isn't it better to stop injustice when we can?
I agree with Amy about DeLay, despite my great respect for Prof. Bainbridge. If we allow a positive benefit as reward for bringing up trumped-up charges, we will soon have nothing but.



In Minnesota, the Democrat AG, Mike Hatch, has been desperately trying to position himself to run for governor for about 10 years. Now that it is "his turn" (the other pretenders have lost big in the last two elections), he is facing a personable incumbent, Tim Pawlenty, who has a 60% approval rating. His response was to invent a charge and get an obscure local Democrat DA in a rural district to file an indictment against the highly effective head of the Minnesota GOP, for the sole purpose of generating a headline in leftist Star Tribune newspaper. After which the indictment was thrown out of court by the first judge who saw it, as nonsense.



Politics of personal destruction anyone? For Dems with media sycophants at the ready, it pays. We shouldn't reinforce their ugly instincts.



-Duane Oyen

Thursday
Nov182004

House Rule Change Blogging Debate Covered in Washington Post

Howard Kurtz quoted this blog and others about the House GOP rule change in his Washington Post column today.



My argument doesn't seem very coherent in the excerpt, but that's my fault. I should have been more concise.



Thanks to Professor Bainbridge for getting the discussion going and the incomparable Instapundit for bringing the conversation to the attention of the Post.



Addendum: It turns out that Glenn Reynolds has written a book on a closely-related topic. I just placed an order. (How prolific can one guy be?)

Wednesday
Nov172004

House GOP Rule Change: The Right Action

Here is my promised response to Professor Bainbridge's reply to my response to his post opining that the House Republican Caucus should not (as it did later today) repeal their 1993 rule requiring persons serving in a leadership position to leave their post if indicted. Rather than take the good Professor's points on a case-by-case basis, I am simply stating what I believe, and leave it to others to judge.



I believe it is bad public policy to let law enforcement authorities determine the leadership of Congress. Voters and caucus members should do so.



I agree the caucus should eject a leader they have solid reason to believe may be corrupt, but believe there are not so many caucus leaders and indictments to make it impractical for members to make case-by-case assessments.



If the caucus could be 99 percent sure no Member ever would be indicted except on the basis of reasonably sound evidence (as I believe was the assumption when the automatic-ejection rule was adopted), it might not matter overmuch if the ejection were automatic, but that is not the situation now.



The DeLay matter is taking place in an atmosphere in which political and policy differences too often (in my view) are criminalized instead of being openly debated and then put before the voters.



In my view, inappropriate and unwarranted investigations, not just indictments, are a key tool of what I believe is an increasing, and non-partisan, problem.



Imagine being accused of criminal fraud because you wrote something about a public policy issue. Would this have a chilling effect on your speech?



Would you be comfortable knowing that your fellow citizens, in the course of expressing their opinion, might face criminal probes?



Would you consider such a state of affairs good for democracy?



If you would, you can stop reading now. I've lost you. But if not, let me say this: The use of criminal probes as a political tool doesn't stop with targeting Tom DeLay, and it isn't used exclusively by Ronnie Earle, or by just one political party.



Government officials have very many ways of chilling speech.



For you bloggers out there who have a link on your blog asking for contributions: How many of you have even considered whether you might run afoul of laws in several dozen states requiring that persons/entities who solicit contributions register with that state -- even if you don't live there? When you write posts, do you think about the possibility of facing a criminal investigation for fraud by these states if someone disagrees with one of your posts?



I bet most of you take it for granted that this won't happen.



In the think-tank world, we used to assume that things like this wouldn't happen, either, but we don't anymore. Consider these real-life cases:

* A non-profit organization mails a letter stating a position on a foreign affairs issue, and requesting voluntary contributions in support of a project relating to it. An associate at a law firm whose partners made political contributions to the relevant state official sees the letter, and disagrees with the foreign policy position taken. Using his law firm's letterhead, he formally requests an investigation. The elected official complies.



* A different non-profit organization includes an illustrative, fictitious federal tax invoice in a letter advocating the privatization of certain government services. A liberal lawyer complains to a liberal state official who received campaign contributions from the complainer's law firm. The elected official hires another law firm -- one that also contributed to their campaign -- gives them de facto subpoena authority, and conducts an investigation costly to the non-profit group. No wrongdoing is found. However, the state informs the non-profit group that it will only close the investigation if the non-profit pays the bills of the law firm that investigated it.



* After a recent federal budget is signed into law it is discovered that someone who advocates nationalized health care has secretly inserted a provision in the legislation limiting the ability of Americans over 65 to purchase certain health care services outside of Medicare. The provision is unpopular and is a hardship to seniors who need services not covered by Medicare. Think tanks and columnists alert the public and advocate its repeal. A national seniors group sues the federal government, saying the provision violates the civil rights of seniors. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a respected Senator jointly introduce legislation to repeal the provision. Then, one of the think tanks receives a subpoena and a visit from federal law enforcement. A Congressman who supports federalized health care has asked the federal government to open a mail fraud investigation against the group. The Congressman doesn't say the group misled the public about the provision's impact in publications it mailed around the country, but claims -- laughably -- that the provision simply doesn't exist. The think-tank is forced to "lawyer up" -- an expensive and time-consuming process. Funds that could have gone to public education projects instead go to lawyers, and the group remains in legal limbo for over a year.
If nothing about these stories bothers you, then you can quit reading this post. But if you think America can do better, then I hope you will agree that cases of alleged wrongdoing in today's heated political atmosphere should be judged on their individual merits and not by a blanket rule that rests on the assumption that all government investigations and indictments have equal or near-equal merit.



And I hope, also, that we can agree that rules which tend to encourage the worst instincts of those (thankfully, rare) prosecutors who are politically motivated are not in our national best interest. The one-strike-and-you're-out rule of the GOP caucus did tend to encourage overzealous prosecutors (under the rule, Ronnie Earle can get Tom DeLay ejected from his leadership post just by getting an indictment, even if the indictment is later tossed out of court -- as Earle's greatly-publicized indictment of Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was). A check on the system, in the form of a caucus vote before indicted leaders are ejected, is a reasonable step.



Moreover, consider this, fans of clean government: What sends a better message? A vote to eject a genuinely corrupt leader, or the automatic ejection of one who can claim he was tossed out on a legal technicality?



Finally, this: Some say Congressmen will not vote to oust one of their own leaders. I believe they will, but, typically, they won't have to. A party leader who sees a truly serious tempest brewing (think Newt Gingrich following disappointing election results) will leave on his own. If one facing serious ethics charges doesn't do so, and his caucus doesn't vote to oust him, the voters will see them all for what they are, and be enlightened. There is value in that.

Wednesday
Nov172004

House GOP Rule Change: Recommended Links

I'm about to reply to Professor Bainbridge's response to my disagreement with his post saying the House Republican Caucus should not (as it how has) repeal their rule requiring persons serving in a leadership position to leave their post if indicted, but before I do so, I wanted to recommend the following posts on the matter by others:



"Rule Change Controversy," posted on Neutiquam erro, and "The Intersection of Criminal Law and Politics," posted on Crime & Federalism.



Good points made on each, in my view.

Wednesday
Nov172004

Professor Bainbridge: I Dissent

It seems to me that Professor Bainbridge is failing to take something to account: Specifically, the degree to which political disputes and rivalries are becoming criminalized.



In other words, it is increasingly common in Washington now for lawmakers and others who disagree with someone to call for -- and obtain -- a criminal investigation of them.



Professor Brainbridge, a great blogger and one I read very often, nonetheless is a professor at UCLA and not (to my knowledge), particularly close to DC political circles (apologies to the Professor if I am wrong about this). As such, I assume he may not be aware of the extent to which this is happening. Few are. It is the nature of the beast. The minute an investigation starts, a target's lawyers immediately urge them not to talk to anyone -- and that includes telling the press and allies what one has been accused of, even if the charge is laughably bogus. By the time a subject has been cleared, the matter is old news. Plus, there is a natural reluctance to go public with the news that one ever was investigated in the first place.



When the House GOP caucus originally approved the rule saying a party leader should step down if indicted, I agreed with it. I no longer do. I've seen too much use of the criminal justice system as a political tool here over the last ten years, the vast majority of the cases never receiving media coverage. Keep in mind, too (as I suppose most of you don't know), that I've been running a DC think-tank for 22 years, so I have some basis for comparison. There are good, honest people in town you've never heard of (let alone the high profile targets) who could probably wallpaper a room with copies of subpoenas. And put their kids through college on the legal fees they've paid.



Is there corruption in Washington? You bet there is. Is it possible to become the target of a criminal probe just because of the position one holds on a public policy issue? Regrettably, this is true as well.



Wait 'till the blogosphere starts getting subpoenas -- and not just the big guys. I wish I didn't think it will happen, but I do.



With this in mind, do you think, fellow bloggers, that if you become a target, that you should give up your day job before the verdict comes in?



Addendum: Professor Bainbridge has kindly responded to my thoughts. I'll reply a little later today, after I think about how appropriate it would be for me to reveal some of what I've seen in this town over the last few years. And, maybe, if I take the time to write thoughtfully, I can make a stronger case.



Meanwhile, thank you, Glenn, for mentioning this discussion.