Posted at 1:15am on Jun. 29, 2007 In Which We Debunk The Canard That Ken Starr Is The Root Of All Evil

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Johann Hari thought it would be fun and enjoyable to pay good money to go on a National Review-sponsored cruise, see all of the conservatives, record all of the comments they supposedly made and then come back and write an article (subscription required) whose headlines reads as if Hari went on a right-wing Titanic.

You see, Johann Hari believes he has quite the splendid sense of humor.

Meh. Whatever. It's a time-honored tactic to act like one is on some sort of safari in the enemy's jungle and then to come back and write about it. Hari's article isn't exactly innovative in form. As for the snark he so generously dishes out, even if Hari recorded the comments he reports on with 100% accuracy, so much of it reads as him saying that the people on the National Review cruise are crazy because they don't agree with him.

So I chuckled through most of the article, thinking it a rather predictable exercise in sneering and sarcasm. Hari won't impress or persuade anyone with this piece. The people who like it already agree with him. The people who Hari sneers at won't exactly warm to him or to his side of the political divide.

But the following part of the article pretty much stood out for its childish and ignorant tone:

. . . one morning on the deck, I discover Kenneth Starr, looking like he has stepped out of a long-forgotten 1990s newsreel. His face is round and unlined, like that of an immense, contented baby. As I stare at it, all my repressed bewilderment rises, and I ask: Mr. Starr, do you feel ashamed that, while Osama bin Laden was plotting to murder nearly 3,000 American citizens, you brought the government to a standstill over a few consensual blow-jobs?

He smiles through his teeth and says, in his soft, somnambulant voice, "I am entirely at rest with the process. The House of Representatives worked its will, the Senate worked its will, the chief justice of the United States presided. The constitutional process worked admirably." It's an oddly meek defense, and, the more I challenge him, the more legalistic he becomes, each answer a variation on, "It wasn't my fault."

Where to begin?

Read on . . .

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Posted at 2:26pm on Jun. 28, 2007 In Case You Missed It: Bush Says Amnesty Bill Is Dead

President: 'It didn't work'

By Bluey

President Bush finally admitted today that his comprehensive approach to immigration reform "didn't work" -- a strong indication that we won't be seeing another bill anytime soon. Here are his remarks:

I thank the members of the Senate and members of my administration who worked so hard on the border security and immigration reform bill. I'm sorry the Senate was unable to reach agreement on the bill this morning.

Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people and Congress's failure to act on it is a disappointment. The American people understand the status quo is unacceptable when it comes to our immigration laws. A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find a common ground -- it didn't work.

Congress really needs to prove to the American people that it can come together on hard issues. The Congress needs to work on comprehensive energy policy and good health care; make sure health care is affordable without inviting the federal government to run the health care system. We've got to work together to make sure we can balance this federal budget, and not overspend or raise taxes on the American people. We've got a lot of work to do.

When they come back from the summer -- from the July recess, before the summer break begins, we'll be focusing on the appropriations process. And I look forward to working with Congress to balance our budgets and to be wise about how we spend the people's money.

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Posted at 11:37am on Jun. 28, 2007 House Republicans Choose Money Over Majority

Congress to get a $4,400 pay raise

By Bluey

Just when House Republicans started to regain the trust of conservatives on fiscal restraint, they decided to team up with Democrats to vote themselves a $4,400 pay raise. It's almost laughable, but in Washington it's business as usual.

For starters, the notion that members of Congress deserve a pay raise is just remarkable in itself. Just 19% of Americans think Congress doing a good or excellent job, a pretty clear sign that the average Joe wouldn't support boosting congressional pay to nearly $170,000. Do a better job, and then you can get a raise.

Yet when the vote came up yesterday, 99 Republicans joined 145 Democrats to approve the pay hike. Nearly the entire House Republican leadership was complicit.

Supporters of the pay increase argue that it's a cost-of-living adjustment that's no different from what other government workers get each year. They also argue that some members aren't wealthy and are forced to sleep in their office or make other personal sacrifices.

Read the rest on the jump ...

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Posted at 12:24am on Jun. 28, 2007 Fighting The "Fairness Doctrine"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Republicans should welcome this fight, not only as a way to motivate the base against the Democrats in Congress but as a way to return to first principles as well. Government control of the airways should be considered intolerable, especially in light of the most recent reports on media bias. Any revival of the "Fairness Doctrine" only serves to reinforce bias, take away diversity of opinion and place the heavy hand of government in a realm where the marketplace is supposed to reign.

In short, while the Fairness Doctrine is an utterly objectionable piece of legislation, fighting it should be a joy for Republicans. Here is a good piece of political land on which a flag can be staked and a battle can be waged.

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Posted at 5:14pm on Jun. 27, 2007 Earmarks in the Amnesty Bill: Trading Votes for Pork

How Sen. Bob Bennett -- and Utah -- Would Benefit

By Bluey

There are all sorts of goodies in Sen. Harry Reid's clay pigeon amendment, but two pork projects -- one in Utah and the other in Alaska -- stand out. Why? Three of the senators who would benefit from the earmarks voted in favor of cloture.

Let's begin in Utah, where Republican Sen. Bob Bennett would get a satellite U.S. attorney office in St. George, Utah. "The primary function of the satellite office shall be to prosecute and deter criminal activities associated with illegal immigrants," reads the amendment. By the way, it's not the only government office in St. George. Bennett has a district office there, too.

Then there's the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, which, according to Reid's amendment, would be located "within the vicinity of the intersection U.S. Highway 191 and U.S. Highway 491 to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the interior of the United States." It doesn't identify where that intersection is located, so I looked it up. Sure enough, it's Monticello, Utah.

If those projects in Utah aren't enough to raise your suspicion, then there's always Alaska to suit your fancy. Although it's separated from the continental United States, Alaska's pork-loving Republican senators, Ted Stevens Lisa Murkowski, still managed to bring home the bacon. According to Reid's amendment, they'll get a Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Fairbanks, a city that's located in the middle of the state.

You, too, can have fun finding these projects. A searchable version of the clay pigeon amendment is now available on the Heritage Foundation website thanks to the hard work of N.Z. Bear.

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Posted at 2:20pm on Jun. 27, 2007 Reid's Rules of Order

Why this process is a sham

By Bluey

Is it too much to ask that our U.S. senators be afforded time to read the legislation they're voting on? Under Harry Reid's rules of order, that's not happening. The Corner has an amazing story about what's taking place right now behind closed doors in the Senate.

This type of behavior is precisely what turned off so many Republicans the first time around. Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) explains the consequences in this floor speech.

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Posted at 1:33pm on Jun. 27, 2007 'There's Nothing Fair About the Fairness Doctrine'

By Bluey

Senators Dick Durbin (Ill.) and John Kerry (Mass.) are the latest Democrats to call for reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, but they'll face a tough fight from conservatives if they're serious about bringing back this disastrous policy.

Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) is leading the charge. Today the former radio-show host introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act, legislation that would effectively prohibit the FCC from imposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. Pence credited Rep. Tom Price (R.-Ga.) for coming up with the name "Freedom Doctrine." During a conference call with bloggers this morning, Pence said bluntly, "There's nothing fair about the Fairness Doctrine." (Michelle Malkin has more and Amanda Carpenter reports on the latest at Townhall.)

To cover all bases, Pence has also teamed with Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R.-Tex.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.) to offer an amendment to the financial services appropriations bill to cut off funds from being used to enact the Fairness Doctrine for fiscal 2008.

While Pence is clearly ready to fight Democrat attempts to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, he's well aware of the tough ask ahead. Even some Republicans have turned against talk radio in recent weeks, threatening GOP unity on this issue. Personally, I still believe that Democrats would have a hard time pulling this off given the market forces at work. Then again, anything is possible in Washington.

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Posted at 12:27am on Jun. 27, 2007 It Will Be Tremendously Challenging To Reform The World Bank

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

This article explains why . . . through omission. It certainly tells us that corruption at the World Bank is a serious problem. It does not tell us how incoming President Robert Zoellick is supposed to fight corruption--save mentioning the need not to cut off money to corrupt countries for fear of endangering programs for the poor. There is a vague comment about how "suspicious bank officials" ought to be "enlisted" in Zoellick's agenda . . . which hardly does much to satisfy the reader that those "suspicious bank officials" will be investigated or called to account for anything they may have done to justifiably raise suspicious. And there is a comment stating that "you can't make the bank into the attorney general of the world." Certainly not. But can't the Bank investigate itself? Can't it enforce standards of honesty in its own ranks?

I drew up an anti-corruption agenda for Robert Zoellick here. I think that it is a good blueprint to follow in fighting corruption. Doubtless, there are other good blueprints out there but the problem with the New York Times article linked above is that it makes no effort whatsoever to provide one. And by the way, the good people at the Times really ought to know better than to call the shenanigans that have gone on at the World Bank "minor graft." It was--and is--a tad more serious than that.

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Posted at 12:23am on Jun. 27, 2007 The Call For Withdrawal Does Not Fail To Appall

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

So now, in addition to wanting us to leave Iraq, some members of the Congressional majority want us to quit Afghanistan as well. Note that I said "some" members--thankfully, this is not yet a large scale trend. But even the fact that only a few members want to leave Afghanistan and that certain senior members of the Democratic Caucus have not put the kibosh on such arguments should amaze and astound. I mean, let's think about the last time we left Afghanistan to its own devices, right after the Soviets left.

That turned out poorly, if memory serves. Are we to believe that history won't repeat itself if we make the same mistake again?

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Posted at 4:17pm on Jun. 26, 2007 Don't Despair, Amnesty Bill Faces Another Hurdle

Focus Shifts to Cloture Vote on Thursday

By Bluey

I'm sensing widespread disappointment among conservatives this afternoon in the wake of the 64-35 cloture vote on the immigration bill. I'm here to tell you not to be discouraged. An even more important vote will take place on Thursday, and there's already an indication that some of the senators who voted for amnesty today could switch in a couple of days.

There are two reasons this might happen: 1) several Democrats promised Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) they wouldn't embarrass him on this first vote, and 2) several Republicans wanted to have some cover in advance of Thursday's vote.

Conservatives need to continue educating their senators about the dangers of the bill. "We need to give it all we've got over the next 48 hours," one conservative ally told me. "The second cloture vote will be the most important vote of the year."

The list of the top 10 defects of the amnesty bill would be a good start. Haystack has provided a list of Republican "sell-outs" and Mark Krikorian identified on The Corner six targets: Sam Brownback, Kit Bond, Richard Burr, John Ensign, Judd Gregg and Ben Nelson.

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Posted at 10:26am on Jun. 26, 2007 Top 10 Defects of the Amnesty Bill

What the White House Doesn't Want You to Know

By Bluey

The immigration bill is back on the Senate floor today. To help opponents of the legislation educate their senators about its disastrous consequences, I’m sharing this list of the bill’s Top 10 defects. You’re welcome to use it however you’d like -- share it with family, friends, co-workers, whoever.

1. It repeats the mistakes of the 1986 immigration law.

• Like the 1986 law, this immigration “reform” measure grants amnesty immediately while promising security and enforcement in the future.

• Actually, the old law was tougher. Back then, illegals had to show they had lived in the United States continuously for five years. The new bill would give amnesty to anyone who lived here for the last six months.

• This isn’t fair to those who have “played by the rules” to enter the country illegally. Nor is it fair to those who are currently waiting proper authorization to enter the country.

There are nine more defects on the jump. Read on ...

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Posted at 1:42am on Jun. 26, 2007 A New Push For A Different National Iraqi Makeup

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Bush Administration is concerned that it will be forced to fight repeated battles aimed at keeping the reconstruction effort in Iraq going. Naturally, much--if not all--of its concerns stems from the belief that eventually, one of those battles will be lost to a Democratic Congress and the reconstruction effort will be short-circuited.

As such, the Administration, along with various members of Congress, are looking to make a deal. And the specifics of that deal may involve a heretofore verboten plan concerning the makeup of Iraq:

The White House has opposed proposals in Congress to partition Iraq, or sharply decentralize its government.

That idea -- what proponents of decentralization call a "federal system of government" -- is favored by an unusually broad bipartisan group of senators. They were pulled together this month by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), a presidential candidate, to cosponsor a nonbinding resolution supporting the federalism plan.

There is much more. Read on . . .

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Posted at 12:11am on Jun. 26, 2007 The Supreme Court Speaks

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Supreme Court handed down a spate of decisions today. They are well-summarized here.  I am quite pleased with the way in which Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life was decided since it enhances speech protections that should never have been curbed in the first place by McCain-Feingold. Speaking of which, I believe that the analysis found here is both reassuring and on the mark:

Finally, at the level of holding, the Court essentially - albeit only unofficially - overturns McConnell's judgment upholding BCRA's definition of "electioneering communication" and substitutes BCRA's "backup" definition - the definition that McConnell declined to reach. That is the only possible interpretation of a decision that creates an as-applied exception whenever an ad "may reasonably be interpreted as something other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate." This is no mere as-applied exception but an effective gutting of the law. Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts's language is the "functional equivalent" of the BCRA backup definition's requirement that an ad be "suggestive of no other plausible meaning other than as an exhortation to vote for or against the federal candidate." The seven concurring and dissenting justices agree that the backup definition is now, de facto, the law. The constitutional definition of election-relatedness has been moved back towards where it stood before McConnell, with a large dollop of vagueness thrown in,

Although the Roberts opinion tries to hold together McConnell's rejection of a facial challenge to the electioneering communication restriction with the creation of a sweeping as-applied exception, the exception will surely devour the rule.

(Via Adam C.)

At the same time, perspective is called for. While this term shows that the Court has taken a conservative direction, today's cases are perhaps a little less philosophically extraordinary than meet the eye. Stephen Bainbridge properly notes the impressive result and far-reaching impact of Wisconsin Right to Life but as for the other cases, the rulings were either relatively narrow, entirely expected or less pleasing to conservatives than many might initially believe.

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Posted at 12:07am on Jun. 26, 2007 The Inaptly Named "Fairness Doctrine"

If You Can't Win, Change The Rules!

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Just you wait. This issue is going to be pushed hard by the 110th Congress:

U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday she is "looking at" the possibility of reviving the fairness doctrine for U.S. broadcasters.

Feinstein, speaking on "Fox News Sunday" with Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said talk radio in particular has presented a one-sided view of immigration reform legislation being considered by the Senate.

U.S. talk radio is dominated by conservative voices.

"This is a very complicated bill," said Feinstein. "Most people don't know what's in this bill. Therefore, to just have one or two things dramatized and taken out of context, such as the word amnesty -- we have a silent amnesty right now, but nobody goes into that. Nobody goes into the flaws of our broken system."

Feinstein said the measure before the Senate "fixes those flaws" but that doesn't get presented on talk radio, which she said "pushes people to ... extreme views without a lot of information."

Asked if she would revive the fairness doctrine, which used to require broadcasters to present competing sides of controversial issues, Feinstein said she was "looking at it."

Nothing like solidifying the advantages of institutional media bias, after all.

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Posted at 5:31pm on Jun. 24, 2007 Shorter "Reality-Based Community"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

We have given a school voucher program in DC only one year to operate. The results are about the same as those that one would see without vouchers. Voucher programs need at least two years to show results. Parents are happy with the voucher program.

Therefore, voucher programs are failures.

No, you are not sniffing glue. These are the actual arguments being made against the voucher program.

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