Posted at 2:38pm on Jun. 14, 2007 This Is But One Of My Favorite Things

Trumping Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

A Supreme Court Justice who is a friend of free speech:

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. made it clear as he began taking questions at yesterday's National Italian American Foundation luncheon that he couldn't reveal any of the Supreme Court's forthcoming opinions.

But did he at least give a hint?

Two of the court's biggest remaining cases focus on the First Amendment, and while Alito didn't mention either, he did make it clear that any restrictions on speech face a high hurdle with him.

"I'm a very strong believer in the First Amendment and the right of people to speak and to write," Alito said in response to a question of "where's the line" on what can be posted on the Internet. "I would be reluctant to support restrictions on what people could say."

The newest justice, who was protective of speech rights as an appellate judge, added that "some restrictions have been held to be consistent with the First Amendment, but it's very dangerous for the government to restrict speech."

Read on . . .

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Posted at 2:28am on Jun. 14, 2007 Nancy Pelosi: Wannabe Jedi Master

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Speaker:

"Why don't we just leave this room today forgetting the word 'earmark'?" suggested Pelosi. "This is a way for . . . members to come together, sometimes in a bipartisan way, to have the Congress of the United States determine some of what is in the appropriations bills instead of just leaving it up to the White House."

Compare with this:

TROOPER: Let me see your identification.

BEN: You don't need to see his identification.

TROOPER: We don't need to see his identification.

BEN: These are not the droids your looking for.

TROOPER: These are not the droids we're looking for.

BEN: He can go about his business.

TROOPER: You can go about your business.

BEN: (to Luke) Move along.

TROOPER: Move along. Move along.

Evidently, the Speaker is trying to pull a Kenobi. Jedi tricks, of course, only work on the weak-minded, so perhaps it is time to show that the public is made of sterner mental stuff.

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Posted at 2:27am on Jun. 14, 2007 All About Shoes . . .

Tariffs Are Not Superfantastic

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Well, actually, all about the free market. Shoes are used here as an instructional tool to remind us--and isn't it sad that we need reminding?--that tariffs get applied almost exclusively to cheap goods. Meanwhile, expensive goods escape tariffs. People who buy cheap goods end up seeing the costs of those goods increase dramatically as a result of the tariff. People who buy expensive goods pay little to no cost in terms of tariffs.

Poor people, of course, cannot afford expensive goods. So they buy cheap goods and see their costs increase thanks to the application of tariffs. Rich people may see their costs increase thanks to the application of tariffs, but if they purchase expensive goods, they end up paying little to no tariff costs and pay instead only for craftsmanship and quality, as the story points out.

Remind me again why protectionism is a good thing. Because I just don't see how it is.

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Posted at 2:23am on Jun. 14, 2007 Your Worthwhile Daily Condemnation Of Economic Antediluvianism

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Washington Post justifiably slams Hillary Clinton for rejecting a free trade deal with South Korea:

THERE ARE pluses and minuses, it's often said, to having a former first lady running for president. On the debit side, for example, is the oligarchical aura of two families passing the presidency back and forth for 24 or possibly 28 consecutive years. On the positive side is the experience Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) gained during eight years in the White House, experience that ought to translate into a broader national perspective than a senator or governor can attain.

But has it? That's the question raised by Ms. Clinton's announcement over the weekend that she will oppose the free-trade agreement with South Korea -- and for the narrowest of special-interest reasons. It's hard to imagine an issue where the national and international benefits weigh so clearly and heavily on one side. Yet Ms. Clinton, sounding more auto salesman than statesman, has joined many of her Democratic colleagues in Congress in opting to jettison those benefits.

Read the whole thing to discover just how appallingly bad an idea this is. And bear in mind that the would-be First Gentleman of the United States actually did a lot to move the Democratic Party to a free trade position. How far they have regressed.

Of course, those who have been closely following Hillary Clinton's statements on economic matters should not find this to be a surprise.

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Posted at 1:35am on Jun. 13, 2007 "Tear Down This Wall"

You Really Can't Cover This Story Enough

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

It was twenty years ago today that this speech was given:

And amazingly enough, we almost missed out on it.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 1:32am on Jun. 13, 2007 The Earmarks Debate Is Reaching A Fevered Pitch . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

And Congressman David Obey is just not happy about it:

A top House Democrat delivered a promise -- and a threat -- on Monday about the disclosure of the pet projects known as earmarks.

Under pressure from Republicans, the Democrat, Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that this year all earmarks and their sponsors would be listed in The Congressional Record a month before they come up for final approval.

Lawmakers and the public can raise questions, sponsors can defend their projects, and the Appropriations Committee will make final decisions.

Mr. Obey warned that he would bar earmarks completely if Republicans attacked individual projects to score political points.

"If they think they can demagogue the earmarks process all year long and expect Democrats to carry the burden of passing earmarks, they're wrong," he said. "Then there will be no earmarks for anybody."

Fine by me. Oh, wait . . . was that supposed to be a threat?

Of course, it is more than a little ridiculous for Obey to take such a hard line against criticism of earmarks when the promise was given earlier this year at the beginning of the 110th Congress that there would be no earmarks. But then, so much in terms of promises has been abandoned by this Congress, hasn't it?

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Posted at 1:27am on Jun. 13, 2007 Meet The New Boss . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Even less popular than the old boss:

Fueled by disappointment at the pace of change since Democrats assumed the majority on Capitol Hill, public approval of Congress has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

Just 27% of Americans now approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the poll found, down from 36% in January, when Democrats assumed control of the House and the Senate.

And 63% of Americans say that the new Democratic Congress is governing in a "business as usual" manner, rather than working to bring the fundamental change that party leaders promised after November's midterm election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first woman to hold that position, has also failed to impress many Americans. Only 36% approve of the way she is handling the job, the poll found.

In contrast, 46% of Americans in the current poll said they approved of the way Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia handled the job after he led the GOP into the majority in 1994.

Thus far, Republicans still have not profited from Democratic mistakes. But if they take a page from the Gingrich Insurgency Playbook of 1994 and adapt it for modern times, they could begin capitalizing on the disillusionment with the new majority. All of those editorials stating that the GOP was dead in the water may have been a bit premature, no?

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Posted at 1:26am on Jun. 13, 2007 "Fred Thompson Doesn't Run For President Without A Plan"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

I imagine that once Fred Thompson enters the Presidential race, he will find his position as Savior of the GOP buffeted by the charges and arguments of his opponents.

But until then, he's doing rather well:

Republicans antsy for a conservative standard-bearer in the presidential race have begun to rally behind Fred Thompson, propelling the former Tennessee senator to within hailing distance of the lead for the party's nomination, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll has found.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani holds first place in the survey, with support from 27% of the Republicans and independents who said they plan to vote in the party's 2008 primaries.

But Thompson, an actor who played a prosecutor on NBC's "Law & Order," runs just behind, with 21%. Indications are he will join the race within the next month.

The two other major GOP contenders, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, fall well short of the leaders and are in a battle for third place. McCain was backed by 12% of those polled, Romney by 10%. The rest of the crowded field is mired in single digits.

This reflects, of course, the dissatisfaction Republicans feel about the current crop of candidates. But Thompson has identified his stance on positions sufficiently to let those who want to support him feel that they are supporting someone who is more substantial than the standard Savior-candidate. You know the type, the one who ensures that his/her positions remain vague enough to serve as an empty vessel for the hopes, dreams and policy preferences of those desperate to follow the Savior-candidate to victory.

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Posted at 6:44pm on Jun. 12, 2007 President Bush Continues to Antagonize Us

Elites of Washington vs. real people of America

By Bluey

Conservatives who are already frustrated with President Bush should be even more upset with him after seeing his remarks in recent days. Yesterday, he antagonized us by boasting, "I'll see you at the bill signing." Just as Bush had angered the base by telling us that we "don’t want to do what’s right for America," he once again put his foot in his mouth with this latest quip. The remark prompted Eagle Forum to release an action alert titled "No Means No, Mr. President."

Bush's argument that the status quo won't work is an embarrassing admission of his administration's failure to enforce existing laws. Today during a visit to Capitol Hill, Bush told reporters, "We've got to convince the American people that this bill is the best way to enforce our border." Convince us? Why doesn't the administration use the laws already on the books to clean up the border?

There's a growing desire for the administration to act on this front. Today, for instance, nine senators, led by Republican Jim DeMint of South Carolina, sent Bush a letter that asks the administration to "enforce the border security laws that have already been authorized by Congress regardless of whether the Senate passes the immigration reform bill." The other eight senators signing the letter were Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), David Vitter (La.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Jim Bunning (Ky.), Charles Grassley (Iowa), John Ensign (Nev.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.).

As critics of the Senate bill begin to offer alternatives (as my colleagues at the Heritage Foundation did today), it's going to grow even more difficult for Bush to convince conservatives that his approach is the only option. As Jessica Echard of Eagle Forum puts it , this debate is shaping up to be a fight between the elites of Washington vs. the real people of America. The question is: When will the elites start listening to the people?

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Posted at 3:34am on Jun. 12, 2007 The Honeymoon Is Extended

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

So, Nicolas Sarkozy is doing rather well, attempts to downgrade his political triumph notwithstanding:

President Nicolas Sarkozy appears to have won a mandate for change after his party swept first-round parliamentary elections, and he is picking up speed in his plans to overhaul France's welfare state. But rivals say he should watch out.

Sarkozy's expected parliamentary majority is inflated by French election rules and because many opponents threw up their hands and did not vote in Sunday's first round. Immigrant-heavy suburbs are still seething after 2005 riots, and students are dead-set against some of Sarkozy's reforms.

A major misstep, critics warn, and the streets again could explode in anger.

Sarkozy's conservative UMP party dominated Sunday's vote, the opposition Socialists fared poorly and fringe parties all but disappeared _ leaving the UMP well-placed to expand its majority in the National Assembly in Sunday's decisive second-round vote.

Sarkozy, well aware of the risk of resistance to his plans, has reached out to the people most threatened by them: negotiating with unions, bringing a leading Socialist into his government and naming a woman of North African descent as justice minister. On Monday, he bowed to labor union demands and scrapped longer hours for teachers.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 1:25pm on Jun. 11, 2007 Who Really Runs The Pentagon?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

That was the subtext of an earlier post of mine. This editorial, picks up on the theme and runs with it:

There's a rumor going around that Robert Gates is the Secretary of Defense. We'd like to request official confirmation, because based on recent evidence the man running the Pentagon is Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. For that matter, is George W. Bush still President?

We can't help but wonder after the Bush Administration's refusal last week to renominate Marine General Peter Pace to a second two-year term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mr. Gates had earlier sent the names of General Pace and his deputy, Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, to the White House for approval as his choices for the nation's top two non-civilian military posts. Mr. Bush had agreed.

But then on Friday, Mr. Gates, or some impersonator, declared at a Pentagon press conference that he had decided not to renominate the two men because he wanted to avoid a "quite contentious" debate on Capitol Hill over Iraq. Mind you, said Mr. Gates, his decision had "absolutely nothing to do with my view of General Pace's performance or that of General [sic] Giambastiani whatsoever."

It's just that General Pace was Vice Chairman for four years and has been Chairman for two more, and was one of Mr. Bush's main Iraq war generals. So Mr. Gates, the ostensible leader of our fighting men and women, concluded that he didn't want to do any political fighting of his own for General Pace. The veteran of combat in Hue City, and the first Marine to hold the Chairman's job, will now be the shortest-serving Chairman in more than 40 years.

Mr. Gates nominated Admiral Michael Mullen to replace General Pace, and because the Chairman and Vice Chairman don't typically come from the same service branches, Admiral Giambastiani also had to go. To his credit, the Admiral declined Mr. Gates's offer of another job and will retire as well.

Of course, the fact that Admiral Giambastiani's career has to come to an end as a result of the fact that Chairman Pace's tenure will not be renewed is yet another reason why the Bush Administration ought to have gone to the mattresses on behalf of the Chairman. Instead, they have allowed Senator Levin to dictate personnel--and soon, perhaps policy--at the Pentagon and have emboldened their critics to obstruct and usurp at every turn and every opportunity.

No one who is even remotely passionate about the display of administrative competence on the part of the Executive Branch ought to be happy or impressed with this state of affairs. No one.

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Posted at 1:49pm on Jun. 9, 2007 Wrong. Totally, Completely, Terribly Wrong.

I Propose The Creation Of A New Rule: "No Good Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Ever Goes Unpunished."

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Ever since Donald Rumsfeld left the Pentagon and was replaced by Robert Gates, I hoped that the change in personnel--traumatic as it was--would at least cause official Washington and the rest of the country to stop focusing on personalities connected with the reconstruction effort in Iraq and start focusing instead on the reconstruction effort itself, with an eye towards making it succeed. Part and parcel of that effort involves a greater and more vigorous public relations effort in order to convince the American public of the need to see the reconstruction effort through to a successful conclusion. That effort would have to be spearheaded by none other than the Bush Administration, starting, of course, with the President of the United States.

So you can imagine, perhaps, how I feel about this:

Switching course, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Friday he has recommended Adm. Mike Mullen, currently chief of naval operations, to replace Gen. Peter Pace as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gates said he had originally intended to seek another two-year term for Pace, but concluded that would have resulted in a divisive Senate confirmation focusing on the Iraq War.

"It would be a backward looking and very contentious process," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

Pace has been either chairman or vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs for the past six years--a period that covers the Iraq war.

But Gates said that after consulting with senators in both parties, he had concluded that "the focus of his conformation process would have been on the past and not on the future."

Gates said that Mullen has the "vision strategic insight and integrity to lead America's armed forces."

At the same time, he conceded he wished "it were not necessary to make a decision like this."

It was not necessary to make a decision like this. By refusing to fight for Pace's confirmation due to the fear of "a backward looking and very contentious process," the Bush Administration has once again surrendered the rhetorical field to opponents of the reconstruction effort.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 11:35am on Jun. 9, 2007 Mel Martinez's Approval Rating Sinks to 37%

He was at a high of 48% before immigration bill

By Bluey

President Bush isn't the only Republican suffering as a result of the immigration bill. A Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey reveals that just 37% of Floridians view Sen. Mel Martinez favorably, his lowest score ever. The sharp decline for the pro-amnesty Martinez is notable because he's also chairman of the Republican National Committee, which had to fire all 65 of its telephone solicitors due to a grassroots revolt over the immigration bill.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Martinez hit a high of 48% in February. Martinez's selection by Bush to lead the RNC inspired a rebellion in January, but until the immigration bill took center stage, he did little to stir the pot.

Martinez, meanwhile, says he's shrugging off the poll numbers. And according to Bloomberg, he wants Bush to "roll his sleeves up and get to work" to revive the stalled immigration bill.

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Posted at 10:27am on Jun. 8, 2007 Four Senators Who Deserve Our Thanks

Cornyn, DeMint, Dole and Enzi

By Bluey

Last night's defeat of the immigration bill came after three weeks of intense grassroots activism against the legislation. But this bill may not have gone up in flames had it not been for the craftiness of four Republican senators who voted with Democrat Sen. Byron Dorgan to sunset the temporary-worker program after five years.

The "poison pill" amendment was considered a deal-breaker by supporters of the bill. Having failed by just one vote on May 24, it came up again Wednesday; only this time, four Republicans who had previously opposed it voted the opposite way. As the Washington Post notes this morning, they realized that siding with Democrats was the only way to kill the legislation.

So who are these Republicans? Senators Jim Bunning (Ky.), John Cornyn (Tex.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) took a stand against the immigration bill and faced tremendous pressure for doing so. They held firm, however, and deserve credit for using a crafty strategy to sink the legislation.

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Posted at 10:14pm on Jun. 7, 2007 Applauding the Jihadists on YouTube

By Bluey

I was at George Washington University this afternoon for the Future of Political Communications conference. For the most part, it was no different from any political technology conference -- lots of talk about using new tools and repeated pleas for politicians to do more online.

The last panel of the day, however, featured some unusual fireworks when a student from Brandeis University asked panelist Steve Grove of YouTube how his company handled hate-filled videos from jihadist and terrorist groups. The student cited reports by Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs about the extreme nature of the videos.

Grove, who was seated beside representatives from MySpace and Facebook, gave the boilerplate answer you'd expect. He called YouTube a "platform" that features all sorts of videos, noting that it's a "meritocracy," meaning the best videos bubble up to the top. Finally, he cited free-speech concerns and said YouTube's policy for removing such videos adequately serves its purpose.

What followed Grove's answer was utterly amazing. The audience began applauding. The befuddled Brandeis student seemed shocked, looking around the auditorium in disbelief. I, too, was taken aback. Aside from the courtesy applause at the beginning and end of panels, this was the only other time the audience clapped. Could they really be in favor of jihadists and terrorists posting their videos to YouTube?

Read on ...

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