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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Has Saying "Merry Christmas" Become a Subversive Act? Let the Revolt Begin With Bloggers!

Judging by the way the mainstream media, Fortune 500 corporations and the retail industry are replacing "Merry Christmas" with the Extreme PC-permissible "Happy Holidays," it's pretty clear that the traditional holiday spirit is increasingly being trampled by the Speech Nazis of the Left.

For several years now, I have made it a point to say "Merry Christmas" as often as possible when shopping and not once have I ever received anything in response from a store clerk or fellow patron but a smile and often a "Merry Christmas to you, too."

I never dreamed saying "Merry Christmas" would be an act of political rebellion, but that's what it's becoming, thanks to the Speech Nazis of the Left.

California Conservative is doing something about it, including a petition you can sign and a letter to send to retailers everywhere asking them to stop caving into the Speech Nazis - who likely represent about .000001% of the public on this issue - and restore the decorations and reminders of the real reason for the season.

It's a great letter that, among much else, makes this superb point:

"Would you re-brand 'St. Patrick's Day' as 'Irish Holiday' or 'Easter' as 'Holiday Egg Day'? How about replacing 'Valentine's Day' as 'Mutual Affection Day' and 'Mother's (or Father's) Day' as 'Legal Guardian Day'? And since we just celebrated them, why not change next year's 'Halloween' to 'Dress-up Day' and 'Thanksgiving' to 'Turkey Dinner Day'?"

Also, don't miss John Gibson's "The War Against Christmas." Makes a tremendous gift for anybody who cares about the nation, its traditions and culture, and its future political, social and cultural health.

Has the Blogosphere Properly Acknowledged the Mainstream Media's Katrina Corrections?

Check out New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Brian Thevenot's superb and lengthy analysis in the current American Journalism Review looking at the reaction of the mainstream media to his newspaper's Sept. 26 piece debunking many of the myths reported as fact during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Remember the stories about bodies being stacked up in a freezer at the Superdome? Thevenot explains how that story happened and why - he accepted the word of two National Guardsmen when he should have looked for himself - and what happened in the weeks after his paper corrected it and many more of the myths reported throughout the mainstream media, both print and broadcast/cable.

"I retell this story not to deflect blame - factual errors under my byline are mine alone - but as an example of how one of hundreds of myths got reported in the early days of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
"I corrected the freezer report - along with a slew of other rumors and myths transmitted by the media - in a September 26 Times-Picayune story coauthored by my colleague Gordon Russell.
"In that piece, we sought to separate fact from fiction on the narrow issue of reported violence at the Louisiana Superdome and the Convention Center.
"We hadn't anticipated the massive shockwave of self-correction that story would send through the international media. The examination of myths of violence - and their confirmation by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and then-Police Superintendent Eddie Compass - became the story for days on end, a moment of mass-scale media introspection that ultimately resulted in a healthy revision of history's first draft.
"The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post followed up with similar, well-researched efforts debunking myths and coming to essentially the same conclusion we had:

"While anarchy indeed reigned in the city, and subhuman conditions in the Dome and the Convention Center shocked the nation's conscience, many if not most of the alarmist reports of violence were false, or at least could not be verified.
"Dozens of other newspapers and television outlets joined in, offering news and opinion pieces, many doggedly questioning what they and others had earlier reported."

Thevenot goes on to detail the massive amount of self-criticism that occupied a prominent place in the MSM's reporting for several weeks and looks at how the critique was reported by the same MSM. It makes for fascinating reading for anybody interested in how MSM journalists reacted to the criticism and reported - or mis-reported - it.

Thevenot also makes this point about the response of the Blogosphere:

"Even as I became temporarily famous (for the standard 15 minutes) in the television news world, I was taken aback to find myself vilified by a few bloggers. In the blogosphere, I served as a target for a seemingly unquenchable disdain for the MSM.
"Some branded me a hypocrite for writing about myth-making after I'd earlier reported one of the myths, the '30 or 40' bodies. But what's curious about much of the criticism is that reporters from the dreaded MSM often did a more thorough and sober job of correcting mainstream reports than did their sworn enemies in the blogosphere.

"Indeed, because most bloggers do little or no original reporting, they used my story about myths, along with those of The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, as the tools with which to beat us about the ears. They clubbed us with our own sticks.
"Some blogs offered fair criticism, but others hyperventilated with unchecked rage that contributed little or nothing to the larger public good of finding out what had really happened. Some simply piled myth upon myth, developing media conspiracies out of what in the vast majority of cases were honest mistakes."

I believe Thevenot has a valid and important point that deserves serious discussion in the Blogosphere, discussion that, incidentally, has yet to take place. That fact deserves some discussion, too.

HT: Romanesko

UPDATE: On the other hand ... why is MSM ignoring this Times-Picayune scoop?

The MSM has been notably silent about the continuing revelations by the Times-Picayune of apparent incompetence (or worse, it being Louisiana) in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work in building the New Orleans levees.

Wizbang's Paul has been all over this since before the first of many T-P articles on the issue appeared. Why is it significant? Consider just this one point:

"This makes the case against the Corps (i.e. the federal government) seem to be a slam dunk. Contrary to what the arm-chair lawyers will tell you, the government can be sued for negligence. I've been saying it since days after the storm, we are going to see a lawsuit against the feds the likes of which we've never seen before. (Can you cay $300 billion?)"

And this:

"It simply amazes me the MSM is missing this story. 60 Minutes runs some whackjob who claims New Orleans is sinking but they ignore who flooded New Orleans?!?! I can't help but wonder who is making those calls.
"If there was an engineering failure on a aircraft that made 3 of the same model aircraft crash and it killed 1000 people, the media would be in full circus mode."

It will also be interesting to see how the professional journalism organizations treat the Times-Picayune's reporting on this story when it comes time to hand out awards. More to come.


Polimon agrees on the need for the Blogosphere to address the issues raised by Thevenot and offers this observation:

"Did I contribute to the hysteria after Katrina? Yes, at least once that I am aware of. Interestingly, that particular blog entry was carefully crafted, in hopes of getting some security into an isolated (and apparently forgotten) part of New Orleans.
"It worked, too, because the very next morning saw the troops roll into Algiers. However, it was also a very scary piece, because although it was fundamentally factual, there was a fair amount of hyperbole.
"I was called out immediately by one of my readers, who commented: 'please do not post speculation. People are worried enough.'"

How Much Is Your State's Gas Tax?

Find out here at ThePeriodical.com blog, which ought to be added to your blogroll as well.

HT: Amy Ridenour

More Friggin' Problems With Blogger!

Is anybody else having this problem? I edit a post and make four or five changes in the text. But when I publish the post, only one or two of the edits actually appear. And sometimes they all disapear later when I re-open the post to again make the one or two that didn't appear or to make additional edits.

HELP! I am beginning to hate Blogger!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

FBI Showed Joel Hinrichs' Father Photos of "Headless Body" but Eyewitness Said Only "Bottom Half of a Man" Left After OU Bomber Exploded

Michelle Malkin performed a signal public service in going through the laborious process to obtain the FBI's search warrant in the OU Suicide Bomber case and all of the supporting documentation. She has spent a great deal of time to going through the documents. Michelle Generation Why's Jason Smith is also going through the documents.

After going through the materials, Malkin concludes there isn't much of interest there, though she describes a number of potentially key elements that aren't included in the documents made public in connection with the search warrant:

"None of the hundreds of e-mails in Hinrichs' Yahoo.com account accessed by the FBI/JTTF are included in the release. Nor are the names or URLs of any of the websites he visited from his home computer or any of the nine campus computers searched by the FBI/JTTF.
"The last line of Hinrichs' suicide message is reported, but not the rest of the text document.
"So, was he simply a troubled soul, a freelance Islamist bent on mass murder at the OU football stadium, or something else? The unsealed papers neither prove nor disprove any of these theories."

Meanwhile, CBS News blogger Vaugh Ververs is taunting bloggers with a post headlined: "Hey, bloggers, it' s okay to correct the record." Since Ververs appears confident there is nothing left to wonder about in this case, he must have answers to questions I believe are raised by the FBI search warrant documents, beginning with this:

Joel Hinrichs father told The Daily Oklahoman that on Oct. 15 when he was informed by investigators of an alleged suicide note left by his son the FBI also showed him "photos of his son's headless body." (I can't provide a link to the Oct. 16 article because it is only available via a paid search of the paper's digital archives.)

But in the search warrant documents unsealed last week, we find this statement from FBI investigator Jennifer Baker described what she was told by eyewitness Donald Wayne Laughlin who walked past Hinrichs a few seconds before the bomb attached to his body detonated.

When the bomb detonated, Laughlin looked back at the bench where he had just walked past Hinrichs. According to Baker, "Laughlin saw what appeared to be the bottom half of the man that had been sitting on the bench."

There simply is no confusing a photo of a "headless body" with a witness's description of seeing "the bottom half of the man" an instant after the detonation.

I have additional questions, but in the meantime I look forward to hearing Vaughan Ververs and the FBI's explanation for how a headless torse could be confused with a body without a torso.

Where's the Outrage? Angeles Times Spreads Utterly Offensive New Meaning for "Born Again"

It seems almost purposely intended to offend. My buddy Dale Baker out in sunny LA explains why it is offensive and more. Given the politically correct obsessions that rule the typical MSM newsroom's editorial leadership, surely at least one desk editor at the Times thought about the possibility that thousands of the paper's readers daily use the term "born again" to describe the most profound experience of their lives?

Yes, it is true the main player in the Times article abused the term, not a Times reporter, but can you imagine the uproar if the newspaper had made a similarly offensive misappropriation of an Islamic term the centerpiece of a "news" feature?

And these folks in the MSM still have no clue why they are losing readers and rapidly becoming relics of the paper past?

Incredible Photos of the Universe Being Produced by NASA's Hubble Telescope

Ever see the Eye of God? Probably not, but you can, at least the one seen by NASA's Hubble telescope.

Professor Claude Marriottini has started a new blog and this post includes some examples of the amazing photography being sent back to Earth by the Hubble telescope.

The good professor has some interesting observations about some of the photography being produced now by the Hubble and some of the insights produced thousands of years ago by an obscure writer in Asia Minor. Go here. The photography is worth the visit, regardless what you may think of the Asia Minor guy's work.

Action, Not More Words, Needed on Border Security, Mr. President

Michelle Malkin explains why the Bush speech on his new initiatives on border security and immigration reform MUST be followed up promptly with concrete and sustained actions. Others in the Blogosphere are reacting in much the same way. There is a message in that, Mr. President.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving. There is so Much to be so Thankful For Today

Thanksgiving is a big day in our home. It's my favorite day of the year because it's the one day when our son and daughter, Marcus and Ginny, plus our god-daughter, Brittany, are all home. With a June wedding now behind us, Marcus also has his wife, Morgan, with him. The six of us were up till midnight last night playing Rook, eating, telling funny stories on each other, laughing our heads off and just generally enjoying our time together.

This morning, we will drive to Claudia's parents house in Bethany Beach, Delaware. Claudia's sister and her son Jon come, too, as do Claudia's brother, Ted, and his wife, Charlene, and their kids Nicky and Teddy. It's not unusual to have one or two boy friends or girl friends of one of the kids as well, so it makes for a loud, crowded, funny and well-fed day.

It is impossible to say how thankful I am to the Lord for blessing me so incredibly with such a wonderful family and to be born and live in the freest nation on earth. It is good that America still sets aside a day for thanks, even if we have in many respects made this holiday into something rather different from what it was when it was first celebrated.

Thanksgiving, like families, has a history. Rich Glasgow at Isn't it Rich, brings together the documents that tell the story of Thanksgiving. There is much here that many Americans know little or nothing about these days. Thanks for reminding us, Rich.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Study Finds Bible Belt States Are Most Generous Givers, High Income Areas Least

It may not get much play in the MSM, but the Catalogue for Philanthropy's latest National Generosity Index finds a clear majority of the most generous states are in the Bible Belt where evangelical Christianity is strongest and household income is lowest. The least generous states are mostly in areas in which evangelicals are least common, but household incomes are highest.

Here are the Top 10, including six that are the heart of the Bible Belt and two more that are strongly influenced by it. The dollar figure in parenthesis is the U.S. Census Bureau's latest available (2004) household income figure, followed by the state's national ranking for that factor. The B indicates Bush carried in 2004. K indicates Kerry carried in 2004:

1. Mississippi ($31,642)(50)(B)
2. Arkansas ($32,983)(49)(B)
3. South Dakota ($38,472)(42)(B)
4. Oklahoma ($35,357)(45)(B)
5. Tennessee ($38,794)(41)(B)
6. Alabama ($36,709)(43)(B)
7. Louisiana ($35,110)(48)(B)
8. Utah ($47,074)(17)(B)
9. South Carolina ($39,837)(38)(B)
10. West Virginia ($31,504)(51)(B)

Now take a look at the second 10, which includes another six that are either clearly part of the Bible Belt or strongly influenced by it:

11. Idaho ($39,934)(37)(B)
12. Texas ($41,759)(31)(B)
13. Nebraska ($41,657)(32)(B)
14. North Dakota ($39,447)(39)(B)
15. Wyoming ($44,275))(23)(B)
16. North Carolina ($39,428)(40)(B)
17. Kansas ($41,638)(33)(B)
18. Florida ($41,236)(36)
19. Georgia ($43,037)(24)(B)
20. Missouri ($41,473)(34)(B)

Now, scan the Bottom 10 least generous states, which includes eight Yankee states where Southern Baptists are as scarce as common sense at a Michael Moore fan club meeting:

41. Michigan ($44,905)(21)(K)
42. Hawaii ($53,554)(7)(K)
43. Colorado ($48,198)(14)(B)
44. Minnesota ($50,860)(10)(K)
45. Connecticut ($60,528)(2)(K)
46. Wisconsin ($45,315)(20)(K)
47. Rhode Island ($48,722)(13)(K)
48. New Jersey ($61,359)(1)(K)
49. Massachusetts ($55,658)(5)(K)
50. New Hampshire ($55,580)(6)(K)

The states with the lowest household income are in the Bible Belt and that is where people are the most generous givers to charitable causes. Every one of the Top 10 most generous was carried by President Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

The most secular states with the highest household incomes are the least generous. Nine of the 10 least generous were carried by Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Go here to view the Catalogue for Philanthropy's Excel spreadsheet of study data for 2000-2003, including extensive data derived from the IRS's Statistics of Income datasets on the characteristics of tax returns received from each state.

It Was a Bloggy Week That Was

Beltway Blogroll's Danny Glover surveys the smoking ruins of the Blogosphere's coverage of last week's doings in Congress., especially the explosive debate and vote on the Murtha Iraq Withdrawal resolution, or rather the GOP's allegedly gutted version of same. Glover has a keen eye for revealing detail. Keep you eyes on him because he may write the next great American novel.

Here's My 10 Most Inspirational Movies Ever Made

From Mary Katharine Ham at Hugh Hewitt's site comes news that the American Film Institute is in the process of selecting the most inpsiring movies of all time, as part of its upcoming "100 Years, 100 Cheers" television special.

Mary Katharine follows Right Wing News' John Hawkins, Constrained Vision and others in taking the opportunity to list their personal favorites. Sounds like something that might become a carnival or some other sort of blogomenon (let that one come trippingly off your tonque five times fast!).

Here's how AFI defines inspirational movies:

"Movies that inspire with characters of vision and conviction who face adversity and often make a personal sacrifice for the greater good. Whether these movies end happily or not, they are ultimately triumphant--both filling audiences with hope and empowering them with the spirit of human potential."

The movies you like say something about your values, personality and life experiences, so some enterprising academic somewhere off in the distant future might come across the results of this budding sociological experiment and use it to study the Blogosphere.

So with that in mind here are my top 10 (subject to revision as other, more suitable entries are recovered in my alleged memory):

The Passion of the Christ
Chariots of Fire
The Patriot
A Man for All Seasons
Stand and Deliver
Red Dawn
Saving Private Ryan
My Name is Bill W

And yours?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Today's *IYRNE: John O'Neill Weighs John Kerry and the Summer Soldiers on Iraq

John O'Neill has a superb piece in today's New York Sun. Among his several points is this:

"As for many veterans and military personnel, they remember well the politicians who voted to send us to war then 'Kerried' us while we were locked in combat, dishonoring both our service and our dead.
"And they ask - is this all to happen to our soldiers again? Are the politicians like Mr. Kerry who led the campaign to send our kids to war (when it was popular) now to withdraw support while they are locked in combat and apparently succeeding because the task is difficult or unpopular?

"Will Mainstream Media 'Kerry' our troops by portraying Abu Ghraib or isolated cases of prisoner mistreatment as the rule to demoralize our troops and nation, while ignoring the beheadings and butchery of those peacefully praying in Mosques or shopping in a Bazaar?
"Will the press's selective glorification of isolated figures such as Cindy Sheehan, Mr. Kerry, or Mr. Murtha drown out the actual voices of the large majority of our servicemen? I hope not. We pay our troops little and subject them to considerable danger. We can at the very least support them with stability of mission and honesty of reporting."

The Sun only allows subscribers to read the full column on its web site, but you can go to Democracy Project where O'Neill's long-time buddy, Bruce Kesler, has kindly reproduced it in full.

* If You Read Nothing Else Today

State Revenues Booming, But Bush's Tax Cuts Don't Work?

The states are rolling in new tax revenue, according to USA Today. Was it that long ago when the MSM and a bunch of Democrat governors were telling us Bush's economic policies were wrecking state governments' tax bases? And please explain to me again why the Senate GOP leadership is faltering on making the Bush tax cuts permanent?

A Carnival of Pre-War Intelligence is Up at OSM

This is very, very impressive.

Discriminations.com Has Murtha Vote Tick-Tock

John Rosenberg of Discriminations.com has been closely following the Democrats' changing (should we rather say "evolving"?) definition of Rep. John Murtha's call last week for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the media coverage, especially that of The New York Times' Eric Schmitt, of the ensuing House debate.

Newspapers often publish what is referred to in the newsroom as a "tick-tock" of a significant news event. Essentially a blow-by-blow accounting of the event, the tick-tock typically is concise, to the point and brief.

Rosenberg's Murtha tick-tock, however, is detailed, comprehensive and analytical. It is in other words tremendously valuable for anybody seeking to understand what really happened following Murtha's call, rather than than simply accepting the MSM's warped reporting of things on the issue.

Go here for the complete Discriminations Murtha tick-tock. You might even email the link to it to your favorite newspaper editor with a suggestion that Rosenberg's is an excellent model to emulate.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pork and Principles Fly As Congress Appropriates, Dances The D.C. Two-Step on Spending

Pork and principles take wing whenever the media's beloved "mainstream" and "moderate" Members of Congress - liberal Democrats and their moderate Republican first cousins - start dancing the D.C. Two-Step around an appropriations bill.

The pork heads to the Members' districts in the form of costly "earmarks" that send sacksful of greenbacks to pay for things like that $223 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. The principles have a much shorter trip - they just fly out the window.

If you doubt me on this, take a look at what happened in the U.S. House of Representatives this past Thursday when the 2006 Labor-HHS-Education appropriation bill came up for a vote.

At the outset, it began to look like Congress was getting the message about too much pork barrel spending because late Wednesday night congressional negotiators for the House and Senate agreed on a $142 billion Labor-HHS-Education spending bill with no earmarks.

No bridges to nowhere. No rain forests for Iowa. No federal grants to build a new music conservatory in wealthy Westchester County, New York. A pork-free bill sounds like a great idea, right? Some senators and congressmen were upset that they didn't get their pet projects funded but it's time they learn to sacrifice a little like the rest of us taxpayers out in the real world.

Anyway, things looked great until the House brought the conference report on the bill with no pork barrel earmarks to the floor for a vote. There were 209 votes for the conference report, every one of them cast by a Republican.

But there were 224 votes against the conference report, including 201 Democrats, 22 moderate GOPers and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who votes with the Democrats. The no-pork bill went down to defeat, as Democrats and their GOP first cousins - aka "Republicans-in-name-only" - went woo-hoo on the House floor.

So where do we see the D.C. Two-Step in that vote? Take, for example, Rep. Michael Castle, the Delaware Republican who voted with the Democrats. His official web site lists one of his priorities as "deficit reduction." Wouldn't a no-pork spending bill be a step in the direction of deficit reduction?

That's the D.C. Two-Step - you promise constituents you will vote for deficit reduction, but when you get an obvious chance to do so, you go the other way. It's an easy dance, too, because no Washington or Delaware journalist is going to ask you a pointed question like: "Congressman Castle, why do say one thing on your web site but vote the other way?" And most constituents have short memories come election day.

Castle was far from alone Thursday. Go to Rep. Nancy Johnson's web site and you find that the Connecticut Republican "has worked successfully to cut taxes for Connecticut families and level the economic playing field so small businesses and manufacturers can compete in the global economy and create good jobs."

Again, the Washington and Connecticut media aren't likely to ask Johnson tough questions like how does her voting with Democrats against a pork-free appropriations bill help small businesses, manufacturers or families. So Johnson dances back to Congress for term after term.

Then there is Rep. Mark Kirk, R-IL, another of those 22 GOPers voting with the Democrats. Kirk's web site notes that he "is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, the caucus of mainstream Republican Members of Congress. In that capacity, Mr. Kirk works to advance a suburban agenda that is pro-defense, pro-personal responsibility, pro-environment and pro-science."

By the way, "mainstream" and "moderate" are Washington Establishment and national media code words for "not a conservative" and "is a liberal."

So don't hold your breath waiting for a Washington or Illinois journalist to ask Kirk to explain exactly how science, defense, the environment or the suburbs benefit by his helping Democrats kill an appropriations bill without a bridge to nowhere? Or why he wasn't for setting a new precedent that all appropriations bills would have to be pork-free?

Like Castle and Johnson and so many others in Congress, Kirk keeps dancing the ole D.C. Two-Step to re-election after re-election.

RINOs like these three and indeed most current Members of Congress at one time or another get away year after year with the D.C. Two-Step because Congress has also rigged congressional elections so they have become essentially an Incumbent Protection System.

Remember the Contract with America back in 1994? It included term limits as the best way to insure a continuous flow into Congress of new blood, fresh thinking and recent experience in the real world. But the federal courts said terms limits are unconstitutional.

It's time for a term limits constitutional amendment.

UPDATE: Was Clinton's PNGV Pork Detroit's Bridge to Nowhere?

Remember the Clinton administration's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles? That was the "government-industry partnership" that was going to help Detroit leap ahead of the Japanese and create clean, fuel efficient cars based on advanced new technologies like fuel cells.

Billions of tax dollars went into PNGV, but today Ford is announcing another round of job cuts as it desperately tries to figure out a strategy for survival and General Motors is the focus of intense speculation about its prospective bankruptcy.

Looks like Clinton's PNGV was Detroit's "Bridge to Nowhere." I have much more to say on these topics over at "Tapscott Behind the Wheel." Check it out here.

UPDATE II: 30,000 GM Jobs, Nine Factories Shut Down

Is this what we find at the end of the bridge?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

THOMAS Adds New Features to Aid Using Congressional Web Site

Some great new features have been added to THOMAS, the official web site of the Library of Congress, including:

* A revised home page to increase visual appeal.
* A left-side menu for quick access to major sections of the site.
* The ability to "browse" legislation by sponsor from the THOMAS home page.
* Links in presidential nomination records to Senate hearings.
* Links to related Library of Congress resources, such as the Law Library.
* Webcasts of public-affairs lectures and other events held at the Library.
* Links to the full text of treaties from treaty records.

THOMAS has been getting a new look and redesign to make it more accessible. This ought to be one of the Internet's most visited sites and these new features are a step toward making that a reality.

Have You Signed the Stop the Madness Petition?

Democrats in Congress want to cut and run from the War in Iraq. Republicans in Congress Seem to have forgotten why we are there. The mainstream media is obsessed with Viet Nam Syndrome, again.

Do you ever want to just yell at them - Wake up, people! 9/11 happened. Saddam Hussein supported terrorism, inflitrated terrorists into America, financed suicide bombers against Israel and who God only knows what else to aid the enemies of freedom.

Support our troops. They are putting their lives on the line every day for us. Stop the vicious partisanship. Stop the madness in Washington. Wake up before it's too late.

Here's something you can do to help keep them awake. Sign the "Stop the Madness" petition. Go here. I did. And tell your friends and neighbors about it, too.

PAUL MCMASTERS: Leaks Keep the Ship of State Afloat

Why does it apparently never occur to folks who decry the recent flood of leaks in government that perhaps a significant contributing factor is that officials classify millions of documents every year that clearly ought not be put behind closed doors.

First Amendment Center columnist Paul McMasters takes up this point in his latest weekly column:

"The recent revelation that for the past four years the CIA has operated a 'covert prison system' in Eastern Europe for the interrogation of terrorism suspects has prompted angry demands for investigations - not of the interrogation prisons but of the leak of classified information that brought the system to light.
"Shortly after Dana Priest’s article appeared on the front page of The Washington Post, the CIA sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting an investigation into the leak that made the 'black sites' story possible.

"A few days later, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert fired off a letter to the chairs of their respective intelligence committees, demanding they launch an immediate probe into the source of the leak.
"They may not have far to look. On Nov. 8, CNN reported that former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott pegged the possible source of the information as someone privy to a closed-door briefing for Republican senators by Vice President Cheney.
"That would not surprise veteran journalists on the nation’s capital beat. They will tell you that leaks of sensitive information regularly spurt from the offices of high officials and their staffs in both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
"As investigative journalist and government-secrecy expert Scott Armstrong has described it, 'the ship of state leaks from the top.'
"ittle noticed in the uproar over the secret-prisons leak was news that the government had ended its investigation into a leak four years ago about two classified messages intercepted by the National Security Agency on the eve of the 9/11 terror attacks.

"The target of inquiries by both the Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee: Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a member of the intelligence committee at the time.
"Then there is the long-running saga of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative exposed by sources in the White House. Lawyers for I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the vice president’s former chief of staff indicted for obstructing the investigation into that leak, are exploring some ominous options.

"They may want to compel reporters other than the three immediately involved to testify - without any of the limits agreed to by the special prosecutor in the grand jury probe. What began as a leak has turned into a flood of alarming and unanticipated consequences for the public, the press, the courts and the federal government.
"Is this any way to run a railroad, let alone the ship of state?
"Why do government insiders leak sensitive information? Why do journalists grant confidentiality to such sources and then suffer painfully, including going to jail, to protect those sources?
"The answer is no big secret, or rather, it’s too many secrets. Over-classification of material, ever-more restrictions on unclassified information and increasingly sophisticated news-management techniques combine to allow top officials unacceptable control over information that goes out to the citizenry.
"This culture of secrecy in the federal government expands every day.
"For example, legislation moving quickly though the U.S. Senate right now would create a new agency called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency to encourage private industry to develop countermeasures to bio-terrorism attacks or disease outbreaks.
"Despite giving the agency sweeping powers and lots of money, a recipe for abuse that begs for oversight, the bill would exempt the entire agency from federal open-records and open-meetings laws. No other agency or department in the government has such an exemption, including the departments of Homeland Security and Defense and the CIA.
"Over at the Environmental Protection Agency, officials are proposing dramatic changes in the frequency and scope of the Toxic Release Inventory, which has been indispensable in reducing the deadly poisons released into air, water and land.

"If the rules are implemented, more than 4,000 plants and facilities would no longer have to report toxic-release details and more than 2,000 communities would be denied specific information on half of the chemicals threatening their citizens.
"There is a constant clamping of such restrictions on the public’s need to know.
"Without an elaborate system for circumventing secrecy and information management and manipulation, there would be no way or no one to hold accountable those entrusted with our government.
"Without unofficial sources of information, there would be no context for the 'official message.'
Without government insiders who leak information to the press, which passes it on to the public, government officials’ control over information flow would be near-absolute.

"That would threaten severe damage to the machinery of government and the promise of democracy.
Certainly, a 'leak system' is ponderous, frustrating, costly and counterintuitive for a nation that values its democratic traditions. But it is absolutely essential as long as our leaders keep secrets that don’t need to be kept, and as long as they can’t resist putting themselves in the best light by keeping the rest of us in the dark."

The Washington Post Mugged by Reality on Woodward's Plamegate Disclosure

Some folks just don't get it until they are mugged by reality. The Washington Post got mugged this week after it was disclosed that Bob Woodward was told by a Bush administration official about Valerie Plame's CIA employment weeks before Lewis Libby, Vice-President Cheney's former Chief of Staff, told The New York Times' Judith Miller.

Woodward's revelation blew a hole roughly the size of a Mack truck in the credibility of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Plamegate investigation because in explaining his indictment of Libby he pegged Miller as the first journalist to be told about Plame.

Woodward should have told his Post bosses long before he did, so the dressing-down he received from Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie was appropriate. But Woodward and the Post are being excoriated by fellow journalists and the liberal commentariat. And it ain't pretty.

So this morning the Post editorial page editors aim a large dose of common sense in response to these new critics, and in the process allude to the double standard seen so often for so long by critics of the mainstream media:

"But over the years innumerable cases of official corruption and malfeasance have come to light thanks to sources being able to count on confidentiality. It's astonishing to see so many people -- especially in the journalism establishment - forget that now. Many of those who condemn Mr. Woodward applauded when The Post recently revealed the existence of CIA prisons around the world, a story that relied on unnamed sources." (emphasis added)

There it is - For so many mainstream journalists and liberal advocates, it's good when stories damage conservative politicos and their causes but God help those responsible for stories seen as damaging to liberal politicos and causes.

So among the more interesting questions to come out of the Woodward flap is whether this new recognition of the reality of the liberal double standard in the mainstream media will be reflected at the Post in more balanced editorial commentary and more even-handed reporting from the newsroom.

We'll see.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I Don't Often Recommend Books ....

But "Home Invasion" by Rebecca Hagelin, who just happens to be Vice President of Communications and Marketing for The Heritage Foundation, is one that gets my heartiest recommendation.

The fact that she also happens to be my boss here at Heritage understandably might raise a question or two in some minds about the sincerity of my enthusiasm for "Home Invasion." So let me direct you to another, vastly more important and influential guy who also thinks you ought to read "Home Invasion."

He just happens to be Paul Harvey, and, as he might well say, here's the rest of this story:

"Have you yet seen the book called 'Home Invasion'? A young wife and mother named Rebecca Hagelin in Washington, D.C. says there is more than one kind of terrorism threatening our children and us: the perversions of sex that we see in movies and on TV and of course on every news stand.
"They made it so difficult for Mrs. Hagelin to shelter her family from this social sickness that she chose to warn us with authority and certainty that our homes are being invaded now. TV with some degree of sex content in 70% of its programs, with 5 overtly sexual scenes per hour, has to know what it's doing.
"I read her book and I found myself sharing her indignation and this morning I began to share her urgency. When I heard that the LA times had launched a regular pornography feature on the page reserved for entertainment.
"A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation concludes that we are being engulfed by sex with 70% of all TV programs symptomatically sick and infecting all of us. I'd like your input before discussing the subject any further though.
"Matter of fact read the book 'Home Invasion' by Rebecca Hagelin. Read the book, then let's talk about it."

You can get started by going to this link:
Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad by Rebecca Hagelin.

This is a timely and important book, especially if you have kids or care about somebody who does or think the day may come in the future when you will have kids.

And that's ... news!

Senate GOP Leadership Can't Even Write Their Own Anti-Iraq Resolution

Conservatives who came of age politically in the 1960s will recall the "Me, Too" Republican phenomena. One of President Eisenhower's advisors (Arthur Larsen?) coined the phrase "Modern Republicanism" to describe Ike's brand of GOP thinking.

Others took a look at the specifics of Modern Republicanism, realized it was simply an attempt to do the New Deal on the cheap and said it was merely a way for Republicans to claim they would do the same things as Democrats but more efficiently and at less cost. Thus, "Me, Too" Republicanism.

Now, along comes PoliPundit's D.J. Drummond with some very disturbing, but on reflection not at all surprising news about the Iraq "timetable" resolutions:

"First off, note that the Democrats' resolution was the template for the Republican version, to such a degree that the actual document presented for the vote simply scratches out the names of the Democrat sponsors and replaces their names with "Mr. Warner" and "Mr. Frist."

"Let me say that again; the actual Republican resolution was actually nothing but a modified version of the Democrats' own demands!"

Frankly, between the ANWR debacle, the Iraq withdrawal shame and yesterday's House defeat of a pork-less Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation bill, it is impossible to imagine how the Republicans could so a worse job of "leading" Congress.

Go here for the rest of Drummond's post.

Rob Borsellino Looks At An Editor Who is the Real Thing & Laments The Des Moines Register's loss

No, Richard Tapscott is not my brother. That was a question I was often asked during the years he was at The Washington Post. Given our common last name, however, odds are good we are 12th cousins or something.

Anyway, Richard is leaving The Des Moines Register where he ran the newsroom for several years for a job in Delaware in order to be closer to his kids in the Washington area. That's bad news for the Register, good news for a bunch of readers in Delaware. Register columnist Rob Borsellino explains why here.

A Real Journalist Looks at Mary Mapes (And Winces)

Rem Reider is the top editor at American Journalism Review. He's a smart, tough, no-nonsense editor in the classic mold. He's not afraid to ruffle feathers when it's required to publish what appears to be the truth of a matter. I don't always agree with him, but I've respected him for years, ever since he was managing editor at States News Service.

Put another way, Reider is the kind of journalist former CBS News producer Mary Mapes will never be.

His review of Mapes new book on the "60 Minutes" attempt to deliver an October Surprise last year that might well have kept President George W. Bush from winning a second term is thus especially worth reading.

Reider is brutally honest and cuts through all the rationalization, the smokescreens and purposeful evasions to reach exactly the right conclusion:

"What she doesn't do is accept any responsibility at all for putting on air a report based on questionable documents furnished by a source with an ax to grind, papers that three of CBS' own document experts warned were problematic.
"The independent report on the ill-fated program by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and ex-Associated Press chief Lou Boccardi was a withering look at a piece of shoddy journalism.
"But it's clear Mapes hasn't learned anything from the debacle. All she wants to do is attack."

Go here for the full Reider.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

How Many MSMers Are Doing This?

I Missed My Own First Blogiversary

One year ago yesterday, Tapscott's Copy Desk entered the Blogosphere with a post entitled "Can the Blogosphere do for government what it has done for the MSM?" That question has been the basic theme of this blog ever since.

But I was in Houston yesterday, with the bulk of the day devoted to preparing a speech before the Houston Petroleum Club Foundation in the evening on blogs and the future of the energy industry. So the one-year blogiversary passed without recognition or comment in this space. I note, sheepishly, that the world did not stop in the absence of that oversight. :-)

On the other hand, what a great evening it was. The Houston Petroleum Club Foundation is made up of a bunch of the nicest Texans you can find anywhere, including especially Jim Woods, who arranged the evening. He's actually a Brit but lived much of his life in my native Oklahoma and retains the relaxed grace one expects in an educated gentleman of the sceptered isle.

Jim also "gets it" with blogs and wants to see the oil industry take advantage of the incredible opportunities presented by the Internet to help the mainstream media and the general public get all the facts about things like why gas prices go up and down, how much profit the oil industry is actually making and similarly timely issues.

I also met and talked a bit with Charlie Davis, a Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers and now a security consultant in Houston. Charlie has a huge heart, is blessed with a great deal of discernment and has a special passion for helping underprivileged kids learn to read.

And I got to meet and talk at some length with John O'Neill of Swift Boat Veterans fame. The audience gave him a much deserved and prolonged standing ovation when I thanked him from the dais for his service to America during the Viet Nam war and during the war that was the 2004 presidential campaign. Quite a remarkable, and a remarkably humble, man.

So all in all, I would say there was no finer way to spend one's first blogiversary than among such stellar folks in Texas talking up the future with and about blogs.

It's a Miracle! House, Senate Adopt Spending Bills With No Earmarks. Or Is It Just More of The D.C. Two-Step?

OK, maybe miracle is a stretch but something rare and needed has occurred on Capitol Hill in the past day. Senate and House negotiators agreed last night on a 2006 $142 billion Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation bill that has no earmarks, or pork barrel projects.

Is that progress? Well, the 2005 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation bill contained nearly a billion dollars worth of pork.

Is there a dark lining in this silver cloud? Could be because Washington politicians in both parties long ago perfected the art of appearing to be doing one thing while actually doing something entirely different.

In this case, it is possible pork barrel projects that would have otherwise ended up in the bill may yet appear in other legislation. There are no emergency funds in the bill for combating a potential avian flu outbreak, for example, and Congressional Quarterly (available subscription only) reports talk that some pork could show up in an separate bill addressing the flu issue.

Aha, that's the D.C. Two-Step: First, the politicos point to the pork-free Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation bill and proclaim it as proof they heard and responded positively to the public uproar over excessive pork barrelling in Congress.

Step two comes later with approval of other bills containing the pork that would otherwise have been in the bill. The hope is people have short memories and won't realize step one was just smoke and mirrors.

More evidence of the D.C. Two-Step in action is provided by Roland Foster, a key aide to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK. Remember the Coburn amendment reported here last week as a small victory because it capped how many federal bureaucrats could attend an overseas conference simultaneously?

House and Senate negotiators dropped the Coburn amendment, according to Foster, who emails these details:

"The Labor-HHS-Education Conference Report (109-300) strips a provision contained in the Senate passed version of the bill to reduce travel and conference expenses of bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by $15 million in 2006.
"HHS estimates that it spent $68,487,604 on conferences in 2005. This is a nearly 50 percent increase over the $46.7 million spent in fiscal year 2000.
"According to the American Institute of Preventative Medicine, the average doctor visit costs $55. The $15 million savings that would have resulted from a reduction in bureaucrat travel and conferencing costs could have paid for nearly 273,000 doctors visits in the next year.
"The 2004 Census Bureau report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance in the United States shows that 45 million Americans are without health insurance. The annual premium that a health insurer charges an employer for a health plan covering a family of four averaged $9,950 in 2004. For single coverage is $3,695 annual average premium.

"The $15 million that would have resulted from this reduction in bureaucrat travel and conferences could have provide 1,500 American families of four or 4,060 single Americans with health insurance for a year.
"HHS conference report language:
"The conference agreement does not include a general provision proposed by the Senate reducing the appropriations for travel, conference programs and related expenses for the Department of Health and Human Services. The House did not include a similar provision."

What does this tell us? Washington politicos have to be watched like hawks all the time. That is why the Porkbusters campaign is only the first step towards the second great achievement of the Blogosphere - forcing the same transparency and accountability on government that is already being forced on the mainstream media.

UPDATE: Uh-oh!

It appears the House has voted against adopting the conference report on the earmark-less Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation bill 209-224. That's the GOP-led House. More details to come. For now, here's who voted how on the rollcall.

On the GOP side, 209 voted for the conference report, 22 voted with 201 Democrats and Bernie Sanders against the report. Not a single Democrat voted for the report. Looks like "GOP-led House" is a thing of the past. This is the reverse of the 1960s when coalitions of Republicans and conservative Democrats were a major road block to liberal proposals for more government programs.

UPDATE II: Rep. Flake Smells Pork

This is yet another illustration of why this town never surprises me. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, says that Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill actually does have lots of pork in it. Andy Roth at Club for Growth posts the congressman's warning: "Never, never, ever trust appropriators" here.

UPDATE III: Townhall.com's Tim Chapman At Senate Blog Event

Sen. John Thune, R-SD, tells Chapman "we are told that the earmarks have been stripped out. I know there are a lot of unhappy members in the Senate who did not get their projects. Whether it is completely free of earmarks, only the appropriators know for sure."

Keep scrolling with Tim as he is querying the parade of senators coming to the Senate's first-ever blog conference. I was scheduled to attend as well, but "stuff" came up. No matter as Chapman is doing a fine job.

UPDATE IV: Murkowski's White Flag on Bridge to Nowhere

If you are still wondering whatever happenned to that promised PDF of the Ketchikan Daily News story in which Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski appeared to be waving a white flag, well wonder no more because here it is, finally.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Says 9/11 Commission Missed Most Important Post-9/11 Fact By Ignoring Able Danger Findings

The more we know about the 9/11 Commission, the less credible is its work. Clinton administration FBI Director Louis Freeh has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal today that cuts to the heart of the commission's biggest failure - ignoring Able Danger :

"Recent revelations from the military intelligence operation code-named 'Able Danger' have cast light on a missed opportunity that could have potentially prevented 9/11. Specifically, Able Danger concluded in February 2000 that military experts had identified Mohamed Atta by name (and maybe photograph) as an al Qaeda agent operating in the U.S.
"Subsequently, military officers assigned to Able Danger were prevented from sharing this critical information with FBI agents, even though appointments had been made to do so. Why?
"There are other questions that need answers. Was Able Danger intelligence provided to the 9/11 Commission prior to the finalization of its report, and, if so, why was it not explored?

"In sum, what did the 9/11 commissioners and their staff know about Able Danger and when did they know it?
"The Able Danger intelligence, if confirmed, is undoubtedly the most relevant fact of the entire post-9/11 inquiry. Even the most junior investigator would immediately know that the name and photo ID of Atta in 2000 is precisely the kind of tactical intelligence the FBI has many times employed to prevent attacks and arrest terrorists.

"Yet the 9/11 Commission inexplicably concluded that it 'was not historically significant.' This astounding conclusion - in combination with the failure to investigate Able Danger and incorporate it into its findings - raises serious challenges to the commission's credibility and, if the facts prove out, might just render the commission historically insignificant itself."

I would dissent from Freeh's suggestion about the consequences of the commission's Able Danger failure. If the Able Danger scenario is confirmed, and I have little doubt that it will be, the only possible conclusions are that 9/11 represented one of this nation's most colossal intelligence failures and the inability or unwillingness of the 9/11 Commission to even consider the Able Danger facts is indicative of the Washington Establishment's deeply ingrained refusal to assess honestly its role in the 9/11 disaster.

Otherwise, Freeh presents a highly disturbing assessment that deserves close reading by every one who cares about the outcome of the Global War on Terror.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

How the Once Mighty of the Right Have Fallen ...

World magazine has a devastating investigative report by Jamie Dean on former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed. With Jack Abramoff, Reed once formed a dynamic duo of emerging young conservative leaders.

As head of Pat Robertson's political operation, Reed was also a very visible spokesman for evangelical Christians.

World's Dean cites numerous examples of Reed leveraging his reputation, visibility and contacts in the political, government and evangelical communities on behalf of interests to whom he was beholden.

For example, Dean describes Reed's work in generating support among evangelical missionaries for extending China's Most Favored Nation trade status but on behalf of corporate interests that stood to make millions:

"In 1998, a group of U.S. companies, including Boeing and the Business Roundtable, hired Mr. Reed to help get China's most favored nation trading status extended another year, a move aimed at bolstering the companies' international business markets.
"The extension was controversial: Some believed China shouldn't be rewarded with the recognition in light of its government's human-rights abuses. Mr. Reed had opposed extending China's favorable trading status just one year earlier when he was still director of the Christian Coalition.
"In March 1997, he told Fox News that China was the most brutal of "any nation in the world outside of Sudan." He said the Christian Coalition would oppose extending the trade status.
"A year later, he apparently changed his mind and turned to Christians to help his corporate clients. He hired the Georgia-based DeMoss Group, a public relations firm representing dozens of large evangelical organizations, to help form 'The Alliance of Christian Ministries in China.'
"Mark DeMoss, president of the DeMoss Group, told WORLD that his company sent letters to about 48 U.S.-based Christian ministries with staff or missionaries in China, asking if they would join an alliance supporting China's favored trade status.
"The message: 'A nation open to trade is a nation open to ministry.'
"The letter that the DeMoss Group sent to ministries asking them to join the alliance did not mention Mr. Reed's firm or the business interests behind the effort. About half the organizations signed on, and the DeMoss Group developed radio spots and print ads for The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and Roll Call, urging Christians to call for the extension of China's favored trade status.
"One ad said that denying the status to China would provoke 'an ill-advised and counterproductive trade war with China that would close the door to the Gospel.' Another ad claimed: 'The progress of democracy and the salvation of millions of souls depends on it.'
"What the ads didn't say was that the business interests of Mr. Reed's corporate clients, who were behind the ads, depended on it as well.
"The advertisements did not mention Mr. Reed's firm or the DeMoss Group, but only The Alliance of Christian Ministries in China. Later that year, Congress voted to extend China's favored trade status.

"Mr. DeMoss says his company 'declined to work on the campaign the following year. . . . I don't disagree with the premise [of the campaign], but there are very good, evangelical Christians that would take either side of this particular argument, and a number of them happen to be our clients.'"

Hypocrisy masquerading as virtue is not a new story, of course, but it is still a sad one. Go here for the full World story.

Is Anybody Surprised ....

That Bill and Hillary Clinton have done a 180 and now oppose the War in Iraq? You think there is any connection with the Senate GOP leadership's astounding move yesterday in pushing through a watered down version of the Senate Democrats' shrill demands for a "timetable for withdrawal" from Iraq?

Absent a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the GOP's Washington leadership, is there really any reason left now for conservatives to continue supporting the party?

At the national level, this party is morally bankrupt, intellectually lost and politically incompetent. Hugh Hewitt points to the Democrats who understood instantly the true nature of this craven cave-in.

The 13 Senate Republicans who voted against the Iraq should form a separate caucus as a first step towards a new party.

Why is Club for Growth Linking to Sierra Club (And Being Quite Happy About it?); Will Ted Stevens Resign?

Because "the bridge to nowhere" does indeed appear to be on the way to being defunded and the Sierra folks have some important details. Go here for Andy Roth and Club for Growth blog's wise observations therein.

Earlier this week, Tapscott's Copy Desk reported Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski appeared to be waving a white flag about the bridge pork funding because the feds were still $100 million or so short of what is needed. Murkowski's comments now have the look of a strategic surrender, don't they?

In any case, defunding the bridge project is a victory and it follows the small victory l reported last week in which the conference report on the foreign operations appropriations bill that includes a limit on the number of bureaucrats who can make a foreign junket to the same conference location at the same time.

Small victory here, small victory there and pretty soon you've started a movement.

UPDATE: 10:20 a.m.

Congress Daily, a National Journal publication that is available only to subscribers, is also reporting good news on the defunding:

"Republican leaders have agreed to strip $223 million from the recently enacted transportation reauthorization bill earmarked for a bridge linking Ketchikan, Alaska, with sparsely populated Gravina Island.
"The move comes as Republicans struggle to pass FY06 appropriations bills that are squeezing other homestate projects, as well as a budget-cutting reconciliation bill targeting mandatory spending.
"Dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere" by critics, the Alaska project has become a target of conservatives, and a provision in the FY06 Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill expected to reach the floor this week would instead give the money directly to the state of Alaska to allocate as it sees fit.
"Alaska lawmakers have defended the project, but public opinion has turned against it. Rep. "Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, likened his group to heroes of the World War II classic 'Bridge on the River Kwai,' while telling reporters there was a general consensus that 'we should blow this bridge.'"

More to come today.

UPDATE II: Will Ted Stevens Now Resign?

That's the question being asked by Dr. Ron Utt, my colleague at The Heritage Foundation who has forgotten more than I will likely ever know about transportation spending, the follies of urban planning, government privatization and much else.

Stevens did vow to leave the Senate if the bridge project wasn't funded. Must be true because it was reported by The Washington Post.

Of course, his out will probably be that the money stays in the federal budget but is called something else. Only the earmark language goes away. None of the money is re-programmed to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery projects.


Andrew Grossman of The Heritage Foundation's Policy Blog explains it all here in an excellent post that includes this important message for Members of Congress in both parties, but especially those on the majority side:

"A cynic might speculate that killing the Gravina Island bridge allows Members of Congress to sleep easier at night, comforted that the most potent symbol of their profligacy is no more. Now the American public can move on and leave them to squander taxpayer dollars in obscurity.
"There is no 'Bridge to Nowhere' for unfunded liabilities. No symbol so effectively symbolizes the coming drain of Social Security on general revenues, as President Bush learned this year. And yet the bridge represented all of these things: a government run amok.
"So the bridge was useful, and maybe, for that use, it will be missed - after all, in the grand scheme of things, what's a couple hundred million dollars? But Members of Congress would be wrong to think that the pressure will dissipate with the bridge's demise.
"There is, as yet, no sign of that. Quite the opposite - the death of the Bridge to Nowhere is already buoying the spirits of the online activists who dug its grave."

You got that right, Andrew!


Another Direct Hit Scored Against Plamegate; JustOneMinute Says Left Reacts With Anger, Denial

For two years we've heard the MSM obsessing that outing covert CIA operative Valerie Plame via conservative columnist Robert Novak was part of the "Bush Lied/Kids Died" fraud that got the U.S. into the war in Iraq and that anybody who leaked Plame's status to the media should go to jail, as well as the journalists who published the information.

Plame's husband is Joe Wilson, the former Clinton and Bush administration National Security Council/Kerry for President official who has been the key figure in peddling the "Bush lied/Kids Died" meme, via a controversial op-ed in The New York Times, a best-selling book and countless softball-laden interviews by MSM journalists.

But then Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was unable to indict anybody for the crime of revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent, mostly because Plame wasn't and hadn't been for years.

Only Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's now-former Chief of Staff, was indicted and only for allegedly lying to investigators about his conversations with journalists. President Bush's brain, Karl Rove was the big fish the MSM wanted, of course, but he remains unindicted.

And now along comes Bob Woodward of The Washington Post revealing that he was told of Plame a month before the Novak column appeared. As Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey puts it, the Woodward revelation means Plamegate is essentially all over:

"Woodward also testified that he never discussed Plame with Libby or Karl Rove. That answers the question that would have come up, which is whether the two officials may have heard Plame's status from Woodward instead of other government officials.
"It doesn't exactly excuplate either, especially Libby of perjury and obstruction, but it does make the indictment look even more foolish if the CIA itself outed Plame to Woodward, one of the most famous journalists in America.
"Woodward's story shows that the leak did not come from some back-door effort to punish Wilson or his wife for their efforts to discredit Bush and the war effort."

The remaining shoe to drop is withdrawal of the Libby indictment.

UPDATE: How the Left Sees It

JustOneMinute's Tom Maguire has this lengthy assessment of the implications of Woodward's revelation, particularly for Fitzgerald and for folks on the left side of the Blogosphere. The latter are either turning every shade of red or burying their intellects in the sand.

Maguire also offers this pungent revision of the Watergate cliche:

"With Bob Woodward as a potential witness, the [Libby] defense can have fun with an updated version of the old Watergate question - 'What else did Fitzgerald not know, and when did he not know it?'"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

First Amendment Freedom of Religion Repealed by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for Dorm RAs

Administrators at the University of Wisconsin have decreed that resident assistants in dorms on the Eau Claire campus not only can't host Bible studies on their own time in their rooms, they are also prohbited from "leading, organizing or recruiting" students for any organization or activity in their dorms.

Foundation for Individual Rights Education President David French made the school's stance public yesterday by releasing the text of a Nov. 8 letter from UWEC's General Counsel which claimed the school has "consistently followed" a "viewpoint neutral" policy that prevents RAs from organizing or leading "all organization [sic] or activities."

The Nov. 8 letter was in response to a request by FIRE that UWEC stop violating the First Amendment guarantee of the right to free exercise of religion by prohibiting RAs from hosting private Bible studies in their rooms.

The Nov. 8 letter contradicts UWEC's own job description for RAs, which gives RAs the responsibility to "help organize and promote educational, recreational, social, and cultural activities that the students want and need," according to FIRE.

The same job description encourages RAs to "actively assist" in the "political" programs organized by students living in the school's dorms. The latter policy was apparently behind UWEC officials praising a female RA who helped organize an official production of "The Vaginina Monologues" in 2004.

"UWEC's response to FIRE defies rational explanation," French said. "Faced with intense public criticism over its repressive policy, UWEC has announced an even more repressive policy. Further, for UWEC to argue that it has 'consistently followed' a policy banning RAs from leading or organizing 'all organizations or activities' flies in the face of the evidence and logic."

For additional information on how the UWEC situation is indicative of a more general trend nationwide of officially sanctioned discrimination against First Amendment rights, go here for my most recent Townhall.com column, entitled "How long before they ban private Bible reading?"

Don't think it can't happen here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski Waving a White Flag on the Bridge to Nowhere?

Looks like maybe yes, judging by some of Gov. Frank Murkowski's comments in the Ketchikan Daily News, which has a news story accompanied by a a photo of him holding last Sunday's Parade magazine cover feature on the Bridge to Nowhere.

In the newspaper article, which is not available on the newspaper's web site, Murkowski notes that the $223 million appropriated by Congress is at least $100 million short of what is likely to be needed to build the bridge.

"The legislature will make a determination on that. Very frankly, we'll have to see how this thing plays out," Murkowski said of the project that would erect a bridge comparable in size to the Golden Gate to connect Ketchikan with Gravina and Pennock islands. Ketchikan has about 8,000 residents, the islands less than 100.

That comment about the legislature sounds like a politician looking for a way out to me.

As soon as I can get a web link to a PDF of the newspaper piece, I will post it.

NOTE: You may be wondering why there seems to be no banner above this blog, which usually has "Tapscott's Copy Desk" and a distinctive colonial-era quill pen gracing its top. We are having some server communication problems today with the banner's host. As soon as that is worked out, I expect to see the banner back up.

In the meantime, trust me, it's a really neat banner! :-)

UPDATE: 7:55 p.m.

Thanks to Hank Osborne for identifying the banner problem and to Brian Scott for getting a temporary fix up while the search commences for a permanent solution.

UPDATE: 11/17/05

Here's the promised PDF.

Who Stole My Banner? Or is it Just AWOL?

This is really strange. When I logged on last night, the banner for Tapscott's Copy Desk was nowhere to be seen, even though the rest of the blog was just fine. A check with Blue State Conservatives Brian Scott, who designed and hosts the banner, turned up nothing.

But this morning, the banner is still AWOL. Anybody have any ideas? Anybody else not seeing my blog's distinctive quill pen banner (designed, by the way, by Scott)?

I am puzzled.

They Still Don't Get it!

Beltway Blogroll's Danny Glover has links to conference reports and much else illustrating the appropriations bills now coming out of the House of Representatives are still chock full of "earkmarks," spending increases and other evidence of arrogance, political deafness or both.

The Agriculture Appropriations bill is full of pork, Glover notes, then adds:

"The same is true of the conference report for the Commerce, Justice and State departments. The earmarks for that measure are so abundant that the House Rules Committee has divided some of them into handy, topical charts for: Edward Byrne discretionary grants, methamphetamine and enforcement grants, law enforcement technology grants, juvenile justice grants, and ocean service grants.

"The conference report to the energy and water bill, meanwhile, is rife with the kinds of Army Corps of Engineers earmarks that some experts say could have gone to more worthy projects, like bolstering levees around New Orleans."

Well, at least they are making it a little easier to find the bad stuff.

Good Monday Morning! I'm Going to Houston Tuesday to Speak Wednesday

Blogging was light over the holiday weekend as Claudia and I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday with her folks - the incomparable Ted and Martha Randall - at Bethany Beach cleaning gutters, raking leaves, washing the porch and doing lots of other stuff in preparation for the huge Thanksgiving Day family bash.

Everybody comes at Thanksigiving, including Claudia's brother and sister-in-law, Ted and Charlene Randall of Raleigh, North Carolina, and their son and daughter, Teddy and Nickie, and Claudia's sister, Linda and her son, Jon, and daughter Jessie, with her husband, Josh.

Plus, our son Marcus and his new bride Morgan, and our daughter, Ginny, who is a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington, and our god-daughter, Brittany.

And our chocolate lab, Abby, and Ted and Char's black lab, Tar Heel. Makes for a chaotic house and a wonderful family gathering that is eagerly anticipated by everybody.

Now, if I could just figure out how to persuade my mother, brother and sister and their families to come up here from Oklahoma and Texas for Thanksgiving ....

But I digress. Tomorrow afternoon I fly to Houston to speak to a group Wednesday at the Houston Petroleum Club. They want to know how they can use the Blogosphere to tell the petroleum industry's side of the story in the media.

I've got lots of ideas for them, but it never hurts to have more. If you know of a good blog that already does a solid job of representing the facts about the "awl bidness" and other energy issues, shoot me the URL. And if you have an idea(s) for what could be done with a blog for the energy industry that isn't being done now, shoot that to me, too, and I will use it, with proper credit of course!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Study of 99, 03 Recruits Shows Military "Looks Like America;" More Affluent Recruits After 9/11

Contrary to assertions constantly heard from congressional liberals like Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, and mainstream media editorials, a comprehensive statistical analysis of 1999 and 2003 recruits demonstrates not only that the U.S. military is remarkably representative of America, but the proportion of recruits from America's most affluent neighborhoods increased dramatically after the 9/11 attacks.

The study was conducted by Dr. Tim Kaine of The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis, using the U.S. Department of Defense's data on the 1999 and 2003 recruits, as well as in-depth demographic data from the U.S. Census.

Kaine's findings refute the stereotypical image of the military as being made up primarily of uneducated poor minorities with no other job prospects except becoming "cannon fodder." The caricature is not just off a little, but by a whole universe:

"In summary, we found that, on average, 1999 recruits were more highly educated than the equiv­alent general population, more rural and less urban in origin, and of similar income status.
"We did not find evidence of minority racial exploitation (by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). We did find evidence of a 'Southern military tradition' in that some states, notably in the South and West, provide a much higher proportion of enlisted troops by population.
"The household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population. There are slightly higher proportions of recruits from the middle class and slightly lower proportions from low-income brackets.
"However, the proportion of high-income recruits rose to a disproportionately high level after the war on ter­rorism began, as did the proportion of highly edu­cated enlistees. All of the demographic evidence that we analyzed contradicts the pro-draft case."

Regular readers of Tapscott's Copy Desk will recall the graphic that appears with this post from a post earlier this year that provided an advance peek at the Kaine study. The complete study is now available here.

You can also watch Kaine and a panel of experts, including the Pentagon's recruiting boss, discuss the study and its implications during a program held earlier this week at The Heritage Foundation.